The kind of Durga Pujas that I thoroughly enjoyed ….especially Hasimara!
I was born in Chandigarh (1970) and then my father (Army Officer, Doctor) got transferred to Delhi, after Delhi, we went to Dehra Dun and in 1980, father got transferred to Hasimara (a small place near Siliguri (North Bengal).
Being part of West Bengal, it was here for the first time that we witnessed Durga Pujas with a whole lot and pomp and show! In Delhi or in Dehra Dun all we did was visit a pandal somewhere far, maybe eat bhog and come back home. Just couple of Bengali Officers used to meet at each other’s house after Vijaya dashami and the festival got over.
The Durga Puja Festival @ Hasimara
Pujas were about 2 months later…but already a lot of excitement was in the air – different Units were rehearsing – dance and dramas…we used to catch glimpses of rehearsals and it was a major topic of discussion – like who is doing what!
Panchami came and the phone rang – ‘Mother has arrived’! We all jumped into the Jonga and went to see the Goddess – her face was covered – the entire team had their faces hidden in fact! What a great feeling it was – a great news to tell my friends…like ‘We were the first ones to see Goddess – she is wearing blood red saree, Lakshmi Ji is in pink and Saraswati Ji in yellow-orange….sorry to say this but what Ganesh ji or Kartikeya Ji were wearing was not really noticed…..women will be women after all – lol!!
After Panchami – rest of all the 5 days were spent outside the house! Lunch, dinner…sometimes even breakfast arrangements were made near the pandal! There was an Airforce school nearby which had been vacated for collective bhog and we all sat on the floor (on daris of course) and food was distributed on banana leaves. In the evening we had entertainment programs, dance, dramas and even Bengali movies themed around Goddess.
All this followed by Vijaya Dashami Celebrations …and since there were many Bengali families so our Durga pujas easily extended to more than a month – like get-togethers were organised at every Bong house!!
Whew! Some excitement was that!
Image ctsy – www.orissaguide.com
Durga Puja Celebrations @ Presently in Kolkata –
Don’t want to sound rude…but priorities have definitely changed! Locality wise organisers are more busy with the theme and 80% of the money collection (chanda) from the neighbourhood goes into decoration and buying expensive idols! They have turned Durga Pujas into some kind of a corporate event – they are more interested in the number of TV channels who approach them and how are they being rated! Really!? What is more important? Happiness and enjoyment of people or whether their pandal and theme is appreciated by couple of celebs and covered by cameraman?!
Food is arranged only once – on the 9th day and some sweets on the 10th day! On top of collection, people have to pay for the plate when they arrive at the food (bhog) pandal or enclosure! Like chanda is different plus extra for the food !
Wait..there is more to come! I was standing in a queue for food when one of the guys who was serving (buffet arrangement) told the person standing by my side ‘ You have already taken 2 fish pieces, you cannot get anymore!’
Oh My God!! How embarrassing is that! How can you deny food to someone who has come for more!? If something like this was told to me – I would never ever have gone to the pandal ever! In fact I discontinued going too – if it can happen to one…it can happen to me as well!
Priorities are all wrong – whether you agree or disagree!!
The idol and pandal theme is not as important as the satisfaction of the people who visit it and how they were treated. Nowadays every 2 miles we have a pandal – so a check can be kept on the member – whether he/she belong to the same locality…usually people like to eat in their respective para (area) – so the number of plates can easily be calculated and food can also be prepared accordingly. The amount of money that gets wasted on pandal decorations, themes and idols should rather be used on bhog (eating) arrangements for the people of the locality. It’s really amazing to see that in a place like West Bengal where majority lives hand to mouth – how come people readily splurge on wasteful entertainment!? And oh yes! Another way to waste money during pujas is inviting celebrities to the pandal and making them speak 2 words – they take money for all this of course – how ridiculous is that!?
A lot can be done if people stop splurging on wasteful things!
Festivity should continue throughout the year – why only 4 days a year!? Who has stopped you to celebrate life continuously? Cleaning and distemper/ painting etc. is only done during pujas…why not maintain throughout? Where is the harm in keeping the drains clean and roads/ alleys well-lit, smooth and proper? Why not keep a cleaner locality wise..instead of waiting for the municipality to send once every 2 months….who half-heartedly performs his duty…Govt. job after all! Organise a treasury and keep the extra money collected during pujas to pay the person who keeps the locality clean.
Educated the slum dwellers, teach them to be independent. Organise Electrician, plumber, mason, driving training for them – boys especially. Teach stitching, knitting, cooking, baby sitting etc. to girls. Not everyone has brains to become doctors and engineers or advocates – so instead of opening non-functional Govt. schools and wasting more money – be practical and train children according to their calibre. Of course they should be able to read and write too – at least the local language to begin with!
So many worthwhile things can be done with surplus money…if of course they do not spend it on alcohol, chilli-chicken and blue film cds!