As the Goddess Durga steps foot on this earth and brings her children along for five full days of partying, (Oh c’mon! It IS a party for them. Being donned in the best outfits, doted on and fed throughout the day – that’s hell of a party for me), I often wonder what Durga pujo has meant to me and my family for several years.
I remember my grandfather and his search for the earplugs as the day commenced. He was extremely annoyed with the blaring microphones playing tasteless Bollywood songs. In fact he was annoyed with almost all Pujo celebrations, maybe because most of it was not related to worshiping Durga at all. The crowds, the noise and even the youth population knocking on every door asking for donations trying to raise money for the pujo in their community. He did enjoy going to my aunt’s who hosted a pujo at her house. There he was able to actually worship the Goddess in his own way and was one of those rare people who along with my uncle actually knew what the priest murmured.
My Grandmother on the other hand is what made the pujos so symbolic to me. We woke up to the sounds of an old radio playing Mahalaya or Pujo songs. She would have already had her bath and would be donned in a new and crisp white saree with a red border. She loved the bustle of the city during those days and would often sit in the varendah during the evenings and watch the streams of people out pandal hopping.
Pujo was special to me not because of the Goddess herself. But because it was time for Baba to visit Kolkata with a suitcase full of goodies for me. Also because school/hostel was closed for a month which meant I would be able to spend some uninterrupted time with him and get to take the taxi instead of the bus wherever we went. Truly, the simple luxuries of life back then. ☺
Then of course there was my aunt’s house where you could witness the actual (as in non-commercial) version of the pujo. It bustled with family, friends and neighbors non-stop for those five days. As I grew older, hanging out with my school friends and flirting with neighborhood dudes became of prime importance. Donning the latest Bollywood fashion, partying, eating good food and just plain “adda” equated to celebrating the pujos.
So, was there anything closely religious during Durga Pujo? To most people I knew or know, being religious is fasting till Anjali, eating vegetarian food with no garlic and onion, wearing something new (can even be your underwear) on the first day of puja, lip-syncing anjali mantras with no clue as to what it means etc…etc…
To me all of this is not religion. The practices we follow blindly have nothing to do with worshiping good over evil. Wasn’t that why the Goddess herself came to this earth? Then why do we harvest evil thoughts within ourselves? Why do we intentionally hurt others and why can we not stay together in peace and harmony as a community? How about this puja we embrace the true meaning of our religion. How about we adopt, volunteer, donate, inspire, or in other words really make a difference.