Durga Puja: Where the heart and the mind stand divided...
It is that time of the year again when the brain gets into a fierce fight with the heart. While on the one hand, work and prospects for a ‘better, brighter future’ keep clouding the mind, on the other, nostalgia attempts to tear the heart apart. Silent sighs and sweet memories are all that one is left with.
The striated autumn sky, the waft of the frequent, gentle breezes, the slight chill in the air, the ubiquitous sight of kash and the fragrance of Shiuli flowers… and then the arrival of the Goddess. The juxtaposition of the carefree, Puja-laced days spent at ease then and the hectic, work-laden days now. The memories of staring out of the window for hours at a time, merely gazing at the formation of the white cirrus clouds. The biting, painful nostalgia speaks from deep within, urging the mind to give up its rationalities and dive into the pleasures of the heart.
For a Bengali out of Bengal, Durga Puja is an occasion that is perhaps the most loved and the most missed. Delhi sure has its own Durga Pujas here and there, peeping out of some corner somewhere, but the mad, crazy fervour that Bengal dons during the five-day long festival is nowhere to be found.
Sitting all evening in mandaps, simply watching people; paying their obeisance to the Goddess at times and furtively glancing towards the girl in the royal blue saree at others; the incessant fights with the kakus and kakimas about the songs to be played on the days of the festival, and finally settling down 3:2 – for three days we get to choose our playlist, two days the elders do.
Being literally pushed out of bed early in the morning, the haldi-baths that followed, and finally, once the ritualistic ablutions came to an end... new clothes. The many days and nights spent in anticipation, in mad planning, in just being able to decide which clothes to wear on what day, keeping the best ones aside for Ashtami and Nabami, selecting shoes and the like were what kept us occupied most of the time. The number of relatives, which always sent a shudder down our spines when there was a family get-together, suddenly appeared all bright and beautiful: plain simple maths meant one dress for one relative, and hence the beauty of the numbers. As children, we never had to worry about the other face of the coin – parents were there to take care of that!
Back then, life was easier, rosier and prettier. As children and teenagers, we had our own share of worries. Which all pandals were absolutely un-miss-able, and which all could be afforded a miss, what exactly would the menu be – mind you, the menu had to be different all five days from Shashti to Dashami, with the most delicious food reserved for Ashtami and Nabami. Ashtami, undoubtedly would be reserved for the paradisiacal home-made Polao-Mangsho. The outside liaisons with restaurants were usually reserved for the evenings. Gradually, as we moved out of home, that tradition too faded away somewhere into dormancy; only to be resurrected when we got back home once in two/three years during the festival.
As years pass by, everything else tends to lose its glamorous sheen. Something that has shone on like a pole star in this dark firmament of broken hopes and disillusioned realities are these five days. The five days when everything else takes a backseat. All that we care about is how exactly to spend the one festival that we so eagerly wait for all year long. The glitz and charm of Durga Puja still holds strong... a thousand miles away from home, from Bengal.
And the heart and the mind decide on working out a truce. So while going back home is something that the brain opposes, being a dismembered part of some Durga Puja celebration somewhere is the realm of the heart. And that, is what will take place with as much pomp and show as is in one’s hand.