Oh, how I wish we kids had cameras back then. I tried going through all my old photos and am bummed to find out I have absolutely no pictures of us friends in our famous pujo attires of yesteryears. Those pictures would be priceless based on our sense of fashion back then.
Pujo fashion in Kolkata was of course dominated by the latest Bollywood styles. I think it was 1990 - the year of Maine Pyar Kiya - pujo shopping in Gariahat, the street vendors crying out loud, “didi, come take a look at the kabutar ja salwa kameez” - the one Bhagyashree wore while singing that famous song. No, I DID NOT purchase that. I cannot remember if it was my choice to not buy it or I wasn’t allowed to. But whatever the reason was - thank God!
That definitely did not stop us from trying to pick up some of that fashion when it came to our hair and makeup. I have specific images of those big hair bows with nets at the bottom to hold your hair into a bun. I think that rage started with Divya Bharti in the early 90’s as well. Anyone remember her? I also remember sporting that hairdo at the Golf Green pujo pandal one year - got a non-facebook “friend request” from one of the senior dada’s there - SCORE! I wonder if it was the hair or those big button-style (for lack of better words) earrings that did the trick - LOL!
Now I cannot remember who started the whole matte lipstick phase paired with a darker shade of lip liners - but boy oh boy - we were all over that one, especially me. I had every shade of brown matte lipstick there could ever be. Followed by those pastel, short-sleeved churidar kameez from Dil to Pagal Hain.
I was surprised to see the same trend after I moved to Sacramento a decade ago. The year of Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam - Jaya Bhaduri sarees selling like hot cakes at the Berkely saree stores for aunties and the Kareena Kapoor outfit for the youngsters. Now, now, aunties - please don’t get mad at me for calling you an auntie. If its any consolation to you - I think I’m one now as well.
So, its that time of the year and I miss all the craziness. I have no idea what’s “IN” these days anymore. I mean, based on the recent Bollywood movies I’ve watched there is no way on earth I can sport some of those outfits worn by Kareena Kapoor or Deepika Paudokone. I miss those days when Bollywood actresses had some meat on their bodies and wore clothes maybe some of us could carry off. I guess I really AM an auntie now.
If you haven’t already guessed, the first thing pujo is all about amongst many other things is fashion. The crazy shopping and planning of new outfits to be worn all 5 days of Durga Pujo - that includes separate morning and evening wears. As kids, we used to keep a tally amongst friends as to who had the most number of new outfits that year. Ronita almost always won.
As much as pujo was a time to spend with family, our friends always got precedence. Our group of friends had a schedule down for those few days. Mornings were to be spent with family and anything remotely religious that was expected out of any of us. Evenings were reserved for friends and pandal hopping with them. As we grew older, we convinced our parents to have sleepovers and were out all night in the city going from one pandal to the other with expectations to out number last year’s count as well as to determine which locality had the most number of good looking males.
Pujo was also about relationships. Extended families came together and it was a time to reunite with cousins you would normally not meet the whole year. It was about friendships – both old and new. It was also a time for romance. I think the last one took precedence over the rest. It was a time for folks to fall in love – time for the guys to muster up the courage to finally tell a girl they liked them. It was a time to feel giddy with excitement knowing someone had the hots for you, a time to openly check out and be checked out without being judged.
Bengali’s are foodies. So it comes as no surprise pujo was also all about food. I still wonder how the “bhog” always tasted as heavenly as it did, without fail, each and every time, year after year. But what was most delectable were the rolls and fuchkas being sold on the streets. You can never go hungry those five days of pujo since street food is available all night long.
Apart from these pujo to me was waiting for baba to arrive along with waiting for Durga’s face to be unveiled, Thamma's crisp white sarees with red borders, going to see the new protima at mamoni’s house in Tallygunge, Dadubhai’s ear plugs, those blaring loudspeakers, narkeler naaru, maangsehr jhol on nabami, the beating of dhaaks and dhunuchi naach, the friendships, the lights and sounds, Jodhpur park, Babubagan, Golpark, Ekdalia, Mudiali, Maddox square - the heartbeat of my most favorite city – Kolkata.
I wonder if I could ever explain to my daughter what these few days meant to us. Starting this year, mainly because she is beginning to understand things better and has opinions (how did that happen? She’s still 5!), I plan to introduce some of my pujo experiences from back home. It will of course not be the same, pandal hopping will have to be substituted by pujo parikrama on the internet – but we can start our own new traditions and it will be as much fun for her as it was for me growing up.
I guess its time to start with shopping…
Disclaimer: Photos have been randomly picked from the web