Category Archives: Festival
A typical Bong (Bengali) will always look forward to buy new clothes or other associated things just before the start of the Durga Puja. That’s a tradition that is there for centuries and some of these traditions are good to keep – I don’t have any problem with that. But when this annual thing becomes a big blister on the poor backside of myself, that’s when I feel the pain. Shopping is an activity that is generally loved by all women and absolutely loathed by majority of the men (at least that’s what I have observed over the years). Again, I have no problem with that fact of life. But being induced into “forced shopping” mode is something that can bring in sweat even in the coldest of the winters.
It all starts with the sentimental bombarding of “you need to go as this is a tradition where the entire family buys stuff for the rest of the family”. At times, I give a damn about traditions – and this is definitely the most appropriate timing to exercise that. When that foils, then comes a rapid fire intense round of negotiations with kind of risk-reward scheme of terms and conditions.
“Ok, lets do one thing – we will visit New Market or Gariahat for 2 hours and after that we can still have that mutton biryani, even though your doctor has advised against it”. Never before I have witnessed such Mother Teresa equivalent kindness – this is that historic moment of individual’s life when the Home Minister can overrule the doctor’s years of acquired knowledge and experience. That’s the only time when that elusive “mutton biryani” suddenly becomes devoid of all cholesterol, LDL’s – even though the same biryani is served for the rest 364 days a year. But that’s when lesson’s learnt are applied and I think of the last year when I was butchered like an innocent lamb who just fell for that extra bit of ‘lush green grass’ coming free. So, I stand up tall like Netaji Subhas Bose and counter that satan-like greed for biryani – “You just give some space and I will get freedom for myself”. Normally that statement is followed by a nasal humming of “amake amar moton thaakte dao, aami nijeke nijer moton ghuchiye niyechi”.
But as always, it’s the home minister who passes the law and as a common man, inspite of how much rebellious you can be, its the time of execution. The only hope in all of this is the agreement on three contractual clauses of:
– the ordeal will be not more than 1 hour maximum and limited to one shop only. So the participation will be in the final selection round and not during the initial never-ending rounds of shortlisting things
– playing mobile games are allowed even during the exercise – not because I don’t want to participate, but I claim that I am good at multi-tasking
– this clause is more of a request to be complied on a “best effort basis” – very feebly the petition is raised that if this happens in an non-air-conditioned environment, this poor soul will feel very near to Satan. That always is met with a steely ice-frozen look (without words) – and that’s when you can not only hear the sound of silence, but also realise the power of silence !
Now I enter the shop with a mood that can scare the friendliest of any living being. Because just being dragged out of a half-sitting-half-sleeping stupor while watching a nonsense movie like Housefull-3 is not always energising. Nevertheless the ordeal starts. This is normally accompanied by unique characteristics like:
– running around like a headless chicken with the only rule of “follow thy master”
– pausing to check Facebook or Whatsapp amounts to threatening of “the time spent on these useless activities will be deducted from the 1 hour negotiated time”. Nawaz Sharif will also be looked upon as a toddler, given the intensity of these threats
– hands should be occupied by holding dresses. You will never realise that even after “short listing”, there will be still so many dresses to be tried out
– looking at oddly shaped women in front of trial rooms. 80+ kg women darts out of the trials rooms wearing skin tight dresses only to get a nod from an impatient husband waiting outside the room, who just happened to hide a big yawn before giving a million dollar smile and saying “looking too good” … and then the transition from that smile to a big frown comes in a lightning speed, that will make even Usain Bolt feel proud !
– once the trials are over, then comes a period of intense subjective and objective analysis on which 3 dresses out of 12 are the best. If you try play smart and want to end the ordeal by quickly selecting any 3, then you will be virtually guillotined by the AK47-like spraying of bullets of defending the selected 3
– finally standing alone in the queue with 3 ladies dresses. Why alone ? Well usage of idle time has been recommended by all. The waiting time in the queue can be executed by any dumbass like me while a last minute tour of the remaining store can be utilised.
After all this, when you come home, sip a cuppa on the sofa with a game of football on, and then thank God by saying “thanks for giving me strength this time”, you hear from another room that I need to go again tomorrow as we have forgotten shopping for a loved one !! Why do we have so many loved ones ? Why, why ?
Come on !! Not again !!! “Bidroho aaj, bidroho charidike, bidroho aaj” ….. that’s the only time when the socialistic concept of rebellion comes to life for me
Happy last minute Puja shopping everyone !
The year was 1981. A ten year old kid arrived at a new place, new home along with his family. The feelings were quite mixed – happy to see a new and bright, bigger home; slightly depressed for being uprooted from old friends. Feeling of sadness got increased in a couple of days when Sunday came up as that was the time to play, but where are the friends ?
Coaxed out of home by his parents, the kid trudged along reluctantly to the play ground that was near to the new home. Probably sweat started to roll out – not just because of the month of July in a typical tropical Indian weather, but also because of the enormity of the challenge that lies front of the kid. Unknown environment, unknown park, all alone, degree of being introvert scaling new heights, yet expected to gain company and friendship from a place which is absolutely unknown. Happiness lies on a thin thread – it was a do or die situation.
The kid saw some kids of his same age playing football in a small area as the bigger park was occupied by seniors playing the same game. Probably the seniors booted out the juniors who were now forced to take refuge in a small piece of plot, which was difficult to define as a play ground. Yet, the guys were playing football so happily, running around the ball and kicking it with some venom.
The kid just stood silently holding the rails of the big gate watching the game. Inside him, the eagerness to join the match was so immense, but his shyness prevented him to run to them. After all, he did not know anyone of those running around the play ground. It was probably the biggest ordeal faced by him. Seconds felt like minutes, minutes hours. And still he was standing all alone, clutching on the rail as if holding that will give him great mental strength.
Finally one of those playing saw him. The game was stopped. He came to the kid and asked “you new here ?” Reply was quick but monosyllabic “Yes”. Conversation started “where do you stay ?” “That house in the corner” …. And finally the million dollar awaited question “do you want to play ?” A big smile appeared for the first time. But there was a quick twist to the happiness “okay, go stand as a goalkeeper”
The kid was not absolutely elated in hearing that. After all, being a goal keeper is looked upon as a novice in the game, who cannot even kick the ball, but can just hold it, that too for some few seconds only. But who cares ! The ice was broken, new friends being created, life is definitely bound to get better, more happier. The new place, new environment looked more radiant and bright for sure.
That’s how the journey started 34 years ago. The friendship grew into great relationships and even today, the friends remains as true friends, united in happiness as well as crisis situations. Those kids grew up to become adults, professionals, having their own families. But the common bond of friendship grew stronger and stronger, year after year.
The kid was me and home was at BD Block, Salt Lake, Kolkata. On this day when the world celebrates Kali Puja and Diwali, I think of those days and the still-strong friends. Let this friendship grow, stronger every year to celebrate at least 34 more Kali Puja / Diwali’s.
এক রাশ ওণুভুতি
নতুন কাপড়ের স্পর্শ
কাশ ফুলের দুলুনি
প্রতিমা দর্শনের হুড়াহুড়ি
পান্ডেল আলোকসজ্জার চমতকার
চিন্তার উপর জয়
গান বাজনার সময়
সকলের হাসি মুখ
ভুলেছে সবাই তার দুঃখ
পাশের বস্তির ছেলেটা
সে তো পেলো না জামার গন্ধ
ঢাকের বাজনা মেটাল না খিদে
কুকুরের সঙ্গে বেঁচে থাকার লড়াই
জানালা তাই তার বন্ধ
তাঁরই মাঝে আধ খাওয়া আইস ক্রীম
খুঁজে পেল জীবনের এক চিলতে আনন্দ
নিল সে এক মহান ওংগিকার
যতই হক বড় উতসব, যতই হক টাকা খরচ
যা থাকবে হাতে, ভাগ হবে সবার সাথে
থাকবে না কোন ওপচয়
কারণ এটাই তো চিরকালের মানব ধর্মের পূজা
With another Durga Puja coming in a few days, it is time to celebrate life as a Bengali, as nothing signifies more Bengali than gearing up for “Dugga” Puja. Thought to bring out some of the best moments that I used to enjoy a lot as part of growing up as a Bong !! The list can be endless, but to restrict that, I will just write on 12 such moments of a typical Bong – they may not be the best of the lot, but whatever comes in mind first is what is penned below:
- Let me start with Durga Puja itself. It was not the Puja itself that attracts a Bengali – it is the feeling of “Puja is coming” that perhaps excite more. As a person not too much interested in clothes, it was the “Puja-barshiki”s of Anandamela and Sandesh that attracted me most. The time when you get a thick “book” with new, fresh smell filled up with stories of Felu’da, Prof Sanku, Kakababu and Tintin. My brother and I used to fight for that special Anandamela edition – so much, that my father was forced to buy another one named “Sandesh” … and I got the taste of “divide and rule” first-hand
- I grew up in a disciplined atmosphere, when my father ensured that I need to study for some hours every day, even if the school is closed. While I appreciate the value of the same today, I used to hate that – any teenager thinks parents act as the worst enemies, isnt it ? :-) But Durga Puja was special – as those 5 days starting from Sasthi was exempted from that rule and hence those five days were simply glorious
- Bong’s have the reputation of spending more than half of their income on food. Anything that is exquisite is something a Bengali yearns for. And it all started with Sunday’s mangsho-bhaat (mutton curry with plain rice). A Sunday was not categorised as a “Sunday” unless you have mangsho-bhaat followed by a great siesta! And if the stomach grumbles, Bong’s love for Gelusil is exemplary
- Before 1905, in 1905 and after 1905, Bengal has remained united and will remain united. Almost. Ahem – Bong’s actually split into two when two clubs start a match – East Bengal and Mohan Bagan. That rivalry has been for ages and will remain for ages. Even during a local (para) football match, a dull game suddenly becomes live with viscous tackles when the locality decides to play a “East Bengal – Mohan Bagan” match by making the teams based on your support. I grew up in that atmosphere thanks to my uncles … and that has now in my DNA so much that in the time of Messi, Ronaldo and many greats, I will still watch a East Bengal – Mohan Bagan match rather than an Champions League final ! And East Bengal is the best – if you don’t believe, just check the records, you macha’s !
- If your food accidentally gets into the breathing channel and you start to choke and cough, common sense says you look at the ceiling so that gravity helps that part of the food slide down quickly. But Bong’s have made that famous by telling their children “opor’e dekh – laal tik-tiki” (look up, red lizard). Of course you don’t find any red lizard, but at least I had perhaps tried 100 times to look for a rarest red lizard in Kolkata :-)
- Bengali and sweets is known to everyone. My highly diabetic aunt used to have two rosogolla’s after a Sunday breakfast stating to her doctor son “You guys dont know anything. After luchi, you need to have sweet to digest”. I don’t know if ever any doctor, irrespective of how mad he is, will ever certify that statement
- The most irritating and yet innovative winter wear I have ever seen after visiting so many places in the world is Bong’s monkey cap. When the mild winter has not even started, all non Bong’s are keeping their fans on, here comes the proud Bengali with his “monkey cap” on. That part of the dressed worn from the head covers everything except for one slot – where your eyes to lips is exposed. The entire head, ears, chin and even neck are covered by that woolen cap. And that display is up at a temperature of 16-17 deg C – when the rest of the world feels relaxed and says “it’s a nice weather now”
- Whether you like it or not, a birthday cannot start without a “payesh” (imagine a sweet pudding with lots of rice in it). And worst part is your mother will cook payesh, your aunts will cook payesh and even the maid will cook payesh when you have your birthday as a child. I now know the reason behind my revulsion towards “payesh” – my birthdays!
- In Bengal, if you visit for the first time, you will probably find that the distance is measured in time and not in km or miles. Ask someone – how do I go to Gariahat ? Answer “take the auto – maximum 10 minutes”. How far is the airport from Jadavpur station ? “Well, by taxi, around 45 minutes, but for the traffic in Baguihati, it will be 75 minutes”
- I still cannot understand why our Prime Minister or United Nations head or even President of USA do not consult Bong’s for a solution of the most complex problem. Bong’s know everything, every Bong is an expert as well and every one of us believe the rest of the world are fools not to consider his opinion. Debates are the strong love of Bong’s and topics can be anything – financial market crash to Angelina Jolie to upcoming elections in UK to why potholes are increasing during monsoon season. We are the best – at least, we believe our opinion’s are the truth and only truth. Period.
- Irrespective of the results one achieves in school, parents will always say “abar faaki dichhish ?” (“again you are not willing to study”). You can top the class or the board exam or be a genius, you will hear this statement from all parents. And if you are a dull boy with negative IQ like me, then you will hear this 10 times every day
- Sleep is impossible with a pillow and the most comfortable bed ever – unless you have the “paash-baalish”, how on earth can you sleep ? For those who don’t know “paash-baalish” – it is a big pillow, cylindrical in shape, with length big enough so that you can embrace that with your legs. I wonder what happens to the habit after marriage (cannot go into more details please!), but till you are a teen, this sleep catalyst is a must, otherwise your entire childhood will be sleep-less and you will be a child-insomnia person
Each one of the above brought a smile in my face … hope it brings in yours as well ! Wish you all Happy Puja’s !
Like many of you, I too have a lot of friends and colleagues who live outside India – either they are settled down in a foreign country or they work there for some years now or they are on short term assignments for a year or two. Recently, due to the summer in Europe, a couple of my friends are going back to India…. and it is defined as “vacation”. That made me think that when going home is a vacation, then something’s wrong , isn’t it ?
We normally associate home with something that we see at the end of a tiring day…. when you return weary and sleepy… when you see your family… when you relax on your comfortable sofa…. when you switch on the television and watch the news… when you have a relaxing dinner with your family… and finally when you retire for the day in your comfortable bed and go to a peaceful sleep…. well that’s home…
So home is a daily phenomenon, it’s a life as usual activity, it’s as regular as daily sunrise and sunset, it’s like your breathing – you don’t even sometimes realise that you are actually breathing…..
In such a scenario, why will going home be a vacation, when it is supposed to be part of your daily life?
Well, I think this happens only when you miss something so deep and so intense when you are abroad, then you call going home a ‘vacation’ …. Probably modern life, definition of opportunities and work has evolved so much over years that while pursuing the inevitable thing called work and career, you pay a hefty price … a price of leaving your actual “home” and trying to build a new “home”, which in spite of your best efforts does not replace your original “home” ……
And then we say happily and proudly “I am going on vacation, I am going home” ……..
PS> I too am looking forward for my vacation to go “home” … hopefully soon :-)
With just a few weeks to one of the biggest celebrations triggering off across the Bengali community in the world, the first thing that comes to my mind is the evergreen creation of Mahisashur Mardini played at 4 am on the Mahalaya day. This creation still appeals to all generations, still is as popular as ever and still is one of the best ‘classics’ created by Bengal – scripted by Bani Kumar, music directed by Pankaj Mallick and rendered immortal through the unique recitation by Birendra Krishna Bhadra.
To me, this atmosphere at 4 am, every Mahalaya actually paves in the festive spirit of the Durga Puja and it symbolises a charm that even energises the most lethargic people as well.
You wake up at 4 am, switch off the alarm, grope your way in sleepy eyes to put on the radio, start listening to the fantastic recitation of Biren Bhadra and the songs of legends, sometimes go to a peaceful slumber, then suddenly wake up to another song, see the morning rays enlighten the blue sky, hear the first chirps of the birds, again go automatically for another short nap, waking up to the final crescendo of “Ya Devi Sarbabhuteshshu, Saktirupena Sanksthita, Namasteshwai Namasteshwai Namasteshwai Namo Namahah”, then take the morning tea and realise that the celebrations has just been kicked-off.
Durga Puja cannot be the same without our “Mahalaya” and the Mahalaya cannot be the same without Biren Bhadra and his immortal creation ! By listening to the same in next 10-14 days, let’s pay a tribute to the creator of this unique creation.
Being a resident outside Bengal, it has been always a great occasion to come every year during the Puja’s with my mother and other brothers and sisters. Actually, with so many relatives and close friends and families in Bengal, I look forward to this visit every year. You know when the excitement starts for me ? Not during the pandal making nor during the puja shopping (as outside Bengal, I do not see that actually happening) – the actual build-up inside me starts when the Mahalaya comes up. I know many of you are so fond of getting up at 4.00 am, putting on the radio to hear Biren Bhadra starting to stay “Namastashyay, Namastashyay, Namah Namah hah …..”, multiplexing between sleep and the songs – what a wonderful feeling – isn’t it ? In older days, I did not hear that but once this came up and are broadcasted throughout the world (via internet, FM radio, etc), I have actually fallen love with that …. Now, please don’t make that public – as my sisters will pull my leg – you know why ? In our world, we are not supposed to be so much emotional with earthly things – but who cares ! I do love all good things – irrespective whether my society classifies them as “earthly” or “non-earthly” ….
The time to come home is also excellent – the harvesting of rice and food is over, the skies clear up after all the great rain, the grounds flutter with “Kaash” flowers and I can literally “smell” the great festivity :-) Actually, when I come from the North towards Bengal, I feel that the entire earth is dressed up in white (kaash flowers), great blue skies on the top and the entire Bengal actually welcoming be to come to my home and meet my relatives … what a great feeling ! Even the eagles seem to be more gracious during their flights over the land – ha ha ha .. just kidding – they are always gracious, isn’t it ? But nowadays, I am getting a little concerned with the change of weather patterns – you can actually feel that every year. This year there was less rain in Bengal, quite hot and humid compared to last years – am I right ? Well, what are you guys doing then ? Earlier we used to joke that anything that goes wrong, blame it on global warming. But now I think we are actually feeling the change – so I urge you all to be conscious and do something. If you need any help from me, just call me out – I will be the first volunteer. But you need to start acting first – isn’t it ?
Offfffffffff .. sometimes I get carried away giving so many lectures :-) Do forgive me for that. So just after the Mahalaya’s, we all get excited to come home – believe me, my Mother also becomes so excited even after so many years. And don’t ask about my sister’s – they start looking for what’s the latest trends in Bengal and how they can plan to enjoy that while we are in Bengal. Again, in our society, we are not supposed to express our feelings – so, you will not see any expressions whenever we come home every year. Even if you send sting operations, you will not see that in our faces – we are so much trained up … ha ha ha ha
Finally we arrive at Bengal and what a welcome we see from every friend, every relative of ours … this is really amazing – all of them decks up in their best clothes, the entire localities gets lit up with lighting and the pandals – how to describe ? Sometimes, even I get fooled to think that this must be an actual Rajasthan Fort or the great Konark temple :-) Fantastic work done by the people – only at occasions I feel that the real architects, the real workers – do they actually get justified compensation for their great thinking, hard labour and work ? I have heard complaints from some of them – would really request the organisers to look after them. After all, they are very often exploited and when the entire state celebrates on the basis of those people’s hard work, I sometimes feel sad. But I am sure my friends and relatives will definitely look after them – I am really optimistic on them.
The next thing that strikes me is what you call as “the next generation”. Every year, I come to Bengal and I see a more confident, a more bold, more aggressive (in the right way), more technologically savvy, more educated Next Generation. This really makes me feel proud. Years ago, whenever I used to come, I thought that most of you seems to be unsure when it comes to face the entire country, forget the world. But, now I see a confident India ready to face the world – pursue the right things quite strongly and if need comes, quite firmly as well. However, I still don’t understand one thing from the “NextGen” – their language through the internet chats, SMS’es, etc …. ha ha ha … have to do lot of learnings, I must say :-) What I have noticed from some of the older generations is that they feel that the older era was much better than the current one and the future will be much worse. If you ask me a frank opinion – I do not agree at all … One thing that I have learnt very early is that there is one thing that is constant in life – that is Change ! So the earlier we accept that, the easier it will be to see the good things of the present. All generations had their own share of positives and negatives – hence, no one can say “mine was the best of the best”. Tastes, cultures, behaviour, confidence, values – all will change with generations after generations. But I am very optimistic that if you draw up the balance sheet of overall values, happiness and progress each time a new generation comes, you will see net progress happening. I am always for the younger generation at all times …. I know all of you say that I am always “evergreen” and always symbolise the “youth” – well, I take that as a compliment only – after all, who doesn’t like the attention from younger generation ? Ha ha ha ha ha
The love that I see for me and my family during my homecoming is simply amazing. It becomes difficult to visit all family members and friends – but I definitely try to meet them during these days. And when I do visit them, I see only love and emotions. Fantastic feeling for everybody. I see so many people praying for their well-being, for their relatives well-being – that speaks of humanity and fellow-feeling. I know there are some sporadic incidents of hatred happening now-a-days, but as we always say good will prevail over the bad, I am sure we will progress as a community, as a country, as humans. My Mother gets so excited once she comes here that she actually puts on different dresses, even different looks while she visits all the pandals. This year, I have even seen her dressed up in a saree which resembles the colours of Kolkata Knight Riders …. ha ha ha … But whenever I seen my Mother looking at the traditional pratima’s like at Maddox Square, Baghbazar and so on, she actually becomes nostalgic for a moment :-)
Finally, as all good things comes to an end, the time comes for us to return back. I know we don’t show much emotions – but believe me, inside all of us, we feel so sad to leave all the relatives and friends. However, the good thing is that we need to just wait for another 365 days … sometimes I feel that it is so good to have this every year and not like the world cups, which happens once in 4 years :-) :-) Whenever we go back, I always think of the great learnings that I have gathered from the “NextGen”, appreciate the artistry in display throughout Bengal, think of the taste of the great Bhog, listen to the great music and read the literature burst happening this time of the year and overall – the great love of the people of Bengal. No doubt, my Mother, brother and sisters feel sad – but as life needs to go on, we need to take that in our stride and move on – isn’t it ? Only thing that we keep behind is happiness for all with the wish that next year when we will come again, we will see more happiness, prosperity and growth for all people, across all levels of the society.
Thank you all for your love and affection. Thank you for giving the opportunity to talk to you from my heart … Take care, keep smiling, work hard and be a great person. Bye
By Karthik Thakur as told to Ayan Majumdar
Interview date : Aug month, every year
The preparation for the Durga Puja has already started in Kolkata (even though almost 100 days are still left) with an occasion that all Bengali’s wait for an entire year to come. Apart from the religious significance, which still plays a major role in terms of its popularity, lies the broader context beyond normal religion. Religious stories associated with Durga Puja, the traditional beliefs and the trust towards this Goddess makes this festival a tremendous one. I personally believe that this festival will be definitely one of the most popular festival in India, if not in the world. To me, this actually signifies the resemblance towards a worship of not a Goddess but to remind mankind of the significance of a nation. It is a festival which finally champions the very cause of a nation, of a republic in action.
The various Goddesses apart from Durga represents the fundamental pillars that needs to be developed to build up a strong and independent nation. Goddess Lakshmi depicts the country’s Economy, Goddess Saraswati depicts Education and Literacy, God Kartik depicts the Youth and the Army, God Ganesh depicts the Wealth and Commerce. Leading the entire process is Goddess Durga – who depicts the ultimate concept of a Nation. The various “bahaan’s” of the different Gods and Goddesses actually complement each other – for example the peacock complements or balances the population of the rats, and so on. Hence, the “bahaan’s” actually depict the importance of an Ecological balance. So, in one point of view, Durga Puja is worshipping the very cause and fundamentals of building up a nation. This is an attempt to bring together the people within a nation and trying them to guide towards development and supremacy of the same nation.
The direct and indirect impact of this festival is huge. The first thing that strikes me is the impact of the economy. It is the time when there is a complete economic cycle – starting with the spending of excess money in terms of buying clothes and other accessories and this ending to the earnings of people who make the Gods and Goddesses in terms of idols. There are many families who actually thrive on this Puja and earn their living once in the entire year.
Then there is the impact of social togetherness. People will stop cooking food for these four days and will go out either to have the “bhog” or dine outside. This enables neighbours to catch up with each other – which normally lacks because of modern lifestyle. The younger generations tend to come close to each other and if there is a Valentine Day in the western culture, I believe the occasion of Durga Puja can definitely be termed as the second Bengali Valentine Day – to me the first Valentine Day maybe belongs to the Saraswati Puja.
The timing of the Puja is also normally at a time, when you do not have sweltering heat nor the actual winter in Kolkata. This is the best time of the year – with blue skies and occasional clouds, temperature much in the pleasant side than the normal weather experienced for the rest of the year.
Then comes the impact on literature and culture. This is the time when all the budding writers and also the established ones come out with the work of the years. Puja’s are always associated with fights within individual families on who will get the first shot at reading the Puja magazines. The cultural programmes that gets triggered in the evenings actually comes out with the budding artists of tomorrow. This is how a Kumar Sanu got recognized in the Indian musical arena.
For others like me, this occasion calls for two things – fun and relaxation from a hectic office life. So effectively, each and every Bengali pray for the entire year for these four days of celebration, worship and festivity.
Wish you a very happy Puja’s in advance to you all !
PS > I would also suggest readers to go through a fantastic article on Puja’s by Vir Sanghvi