Thursday, October 13, 2005

Kobe je ele Maa, kobe Maa gele...

Oshtomi'r shokaal, Mashi'r bari'r Pujo

The second day of Pujo; in an aunt's house. I hadn't been there in 20 years. The experience was faintly Proustian. Old polished floors, dark looming rooms, louvred windows. A paved yard outside, with a patch of earth where old trees hunkered over flower bushes. The coolness under a fan that ticked and groaned. The smell of old thick faintly damp walls, ghee (clarified butter) burning in the lamps, chopped fruits and khichuri in the proshad (votive offering).

And the subdued hubbub of a hundred people or more, wandering round the old house,
sitting in the yard ( ...playing games with the faces).
Occasional shouts to "bring the fritters, what ARE you doing!" or "Rice, more rice here!"
as the family served lunch to the visitors on long trestle tables under a cotton awning.

This is one Pujo we have visited every year for more than 20 years. The old red house has given way to two blocks of flats in pristine white, but the Shib mondir in the corner and the thakur dalan (the verandah where the image is installed) remain unchanged. The Pujo evenings still pass in adda and tea from little earthen cups. I can now, however, light my pipe in the presence of the elders; another generation now slips away to the corner behind the Shiva temple to light up.
Shondhi Pujo'r por, thakur dalan-e adda.

I'll miss Kali Pujo there this year. Midnight pujo and a feast afterwards. That strange Bangali phenomenon - non-vegetarian food, goat mutton in fact, but cooked 'the vegetarian way' without onions or garlic.

Just up the road from my friend's place, Ekdalia Evergreen, one of the largest 'community' Pujos. A fairground atmosphere rather than a religious occasion. I'm always awed by the crowds. Not just from Calcutta, but from Noihati, Bongaon, Diamond Harbour, even from as far away as Purulia.
Keeping their annual promise to themselves.

Oshtomi'r bhog.
As a friend put it, 'I meet you twice a year - once here and again in January at our cricket match"

Park Circus. Nice details. Reproductions of old pot paintings high up on the walls. I liked the cool white look.

This year some abstruse astronomical calculations led to a 3-day Pujo instead of the usual 4 days. Nobomi and Doshomi were both on Wednesday.

Durga Bari in Ballygunge. I used to go there every Pujo till 1987. This was the first time since then.
I felt so OLD.
Also very avuncular and nostalgic at the sight of the milling multitude.
. While the aunties jostle for their shnidoor khela.

All over now.
I never go for the bhashaan
(immersion of the idol). Very depressing, such a finite ending to the annual magic. Instead, I sit near the window and listen to the immersion processions shouting as they pass.

The Bangali equivalent of "Next year in Jerusalem".
A communal promise.
"Aashchhe bochhor abaar hobey"


The few years that I've been away from Calcutta during Pujo,
I've sought vicarious fulfillment through others' descriptions and images.
Does this effort strike a similar chord?
Comments invited.



joyee said...

Thank you

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Have only heard of Calcutta's Durga Puja - never seen it till now. Thank you

Prerona said...

thank you. thank you very much. :)
shubho bijoya. aar chhobi aachhe? mudiali? (my old para) or gariahat or south ave?

Prerona said...

joyee - are you from Cal? i had a friend from cal called Joyee (Deb)

babelfish said...

Would you believe me if I said your post brought tears to the eyes of this little fish? All the things that pujo mean to me and I can never put into words or describe came alive through your pictures and words...thank you...aamar pronam japda

M (tread softly upon) said...

chokh phetey jol aschhe chhobi dekhe. God how I miss Pujo in cal. Bijoyar priti o shubhechha roilo. Did not go to the DC area Pujo because Pujo mane aamar kachhe Kolkata and there is nothing that can reproduce, replace or simulate that. Thank you for posting the pictures that can sustain the lost souls like me for yet another year.

Srin said...


(I'm quite against typing in CAPS,but for THIS,there can be no other way.)

Shubho Bijoya everyone.

thalassa_mikra said...

JAP-da this is the first time in decades that my mother saw Pujo in Kolkata. I of course have never seen Pujo in Kolkata, but when I spoke to her yesterday there was palpable excitement. Thanks for translating it into images.

In Durgapur, my great-grandfather's para has Pujo in the Shibtala. It's a very different atmosphere from the one in community Pujo in cities, more intimate and plain, but endearing.

Warriors of the Rainbow said...

Although my association with Pujo is not Calcutta but Shillong (a familiar Bengali outpost!) these wonderful photographs and very evocative post did bring back wonderful Pujo memories from years ago. After a few years, I did go to the local Pujo in Dallas but in these "Imaginary Homelands", we can only "pine for what is not"!

Plumpernickel said...

Dada, now you ARE the elders. Heh! I walked down (Me! Walk! Argh!) to ekdalia 2 days back at 5:00 am (the only time when there aren't any milling crowds) and the place was still crowded.

A fool on the hill said...

Away from Calcutta; away from Jamshedpur
How I missed the dhaaker baddi,
The homecoming,
the dhunuchi naach,
aar Bijoya’r kola-koli.

Bubbled said...

Liked your Post so much, had to write my little account, I usually read more blogs and post after a hiatus of sorts.Usually.
Thanks for the inspiration. I have never seen Kolkata'r Pujo. Only heard about it from Mesho in Kolkatta.
Lovely picutres.

rimi said...

wonderful. wonderful. wonderful. all pretensions of pedantry forgiven ;D JAP, thank you. and i mean it.

Suchi said...

Very evocative and moving post. As a "probasi bong" (more probasi than bong), puj-oh (not puj-ah)has always been the annual event to look forward to. As a kid, pujo meant new clothes (morning and evening)and old black and white Uttam Suchitra movies. Marriage helped me discover my bong roots and pujo became a mood rather than an event.
Your post and your photographs (especially the thakur dalaan and the bhashaan) defined that certain feeling that comes during every Puja. Suddenly, there was this urge to book tickets to Calcutta and see the pujas.
Maybe we'll do that next year.
Shubho Bijoya to you and to everyone passing through...(kept my part of the deal :-))

Ph said...

I'm not exactly Bong. Not exactly religious. But having just returned from India and about a few dozen pujas (like we call it!) your post makes me YEARN to be back. So much atomosphere JAP kaku. Lovely! (If I had known you were going to be picking up the tab, I would have come down at least for the blog meet.)

Anonymous said...

please post blog meet pics my good man.

- Wooster

Parna said...

it did. thank you.

Anonymous said...

u left me with a wet eye JAP da. those pics are really beautiful.why not some pics of Kumortuli park for the non- calcuttans??
after KP on Oshtomi nite my partners were unanimous" NO MORE PANDALS ,,,WE HAVE SEEN THE BEST ONE"

satchisgod said...

Lovely snaps.'s that whole ambience than anything else that I miss.

pru_frocknomore said...

Thank you for your beautiful tour of Durga pujo... this particular tour barring your family pujo , of course , is one we used to take as children - thanks for bringing on the nostalgia ..

progga said...

Did you see the lights on Lake Road this time? Chinese lanterns strung up among the trees instead of just tuni bulbs. Looked magical at night. All of cal looked magical at night. What is it about Cal that makes me think, "home", each time I'm back? (Other than the fact that I grew up there, that is!)
Thanks, JAP, and a very outdated Shubho Bijoya.