Friday, October 17, 2008

With all due respect....

If it’s a holiday, I prefer waking up to a “good afternoon” rather than to a “good morning “and tune in to some non-sense on the television for at least an hour, lying there like a lazy lizard on the couch. Relieved to be placed early, this October, I came down to my (now Bangali :)) sister’s house at Bangalore. My plans to fully “utilize” my vacations were all set.

But the very next day of my visit – was the day of “Asthami” of the Durga Puja festival, and the house was abuzz since early morning with a lot of activity. My sis (who is a brave woman, I must say) woke me up at 7, asking me to get dressed up in a costume that looked 5 kgs and actually weighed half a kilo over my estimate. Everyone in the house was decked up in flashy attires and jewellery.

It was futile to argue, at this moment with my family, that such religious events do not appeal to me --and I just gave in to their wishes. As a symbol of my rebel, I put on my 3/4ths and oshos, looking more like a hippie-and set out for the pujas in the car with everyone else.

We started by visiting the pandhals at one of the most plush areas of Bangalore. I must say, the sight was impressive- fleets of flashy SUVs were lined up outside the pandhal looking for parking space. High security and cams all around made it look more like a high risk zone.

Women were decked up in sarees looking more western than Indian and flaunting chic jewellery with faces caked under layers of foundation. To me, it looked more of a fashion parade than a “puja”.

Everyone was in high spirits to have met their friends after a long time. Chats over business, gosspis over somebody’s daughter were on. There were groups all around, with aunties talking and showing-off their “High NetWorth” marriageable sons from IIMs – in search of the perfect ‘bahus”, teenage girls sharing their secrets and “out fashioning” each other, while the young guys obliquely trying to catch a glimpse of the pretty girls , in presence of their momma – dada--it looked like a good platform for unpaid matrimonial service.

The pandhal was beautifully made, with every colour possible finding a place there . In the middle of it all stood the master-piece of durga. It was a beautiful piece of art, with eyes so lively that it could speak. It wore a red saree with mirror-work which reflected the lights around and managed to shine like diamonds . Hats off to the artist who crafted the piece! To my surprise however -this place was not the centre of attraction. It lied somewhere else...

The more popular corner was a separate canopy- where the loudspeakers shouted “ Rock On “ songs and food stalls laid out the bangali delicacies. The entire place smelt of delicious luchi allu , illish bhaja and kosha mansho.The prices were 3 times higher than market rate but nobody seemed to have noticed that -as men are happy to have a break from their wives cuisines and women happy to get a break from their chores.

Suddenly something and Something Spanish or latino ( I don’t know what ) started. Amusing it may sound but -“Kingfisher” had organized “salsa” dance show over here!!! Men hooted as the troupe (esp. when the troupe girls did cha cha) danced to the Spanish tunes. Some of our family friends, I guess, even missed noticing the actual puja area, in all this exciting commotion…

It was quite funny to hear people confirming – if pujo bhog was served free , before proceeding to the next pandhal. The durga idol waited alone in a corner while everyone enjoyed the food spiced up even more with the gossips.

Banter all around, it looked like a page 3 set-up. The day ended …we saw atleast 7 pandhals that day. One thing took my notice was – those pujas were most popular where food stalls and EQ ( entertainment quotient ) was high. In others , where these things were missing- the durga idols stood solemnly waiting for its bhakts.

The last day – Dashami arrived , pople wished each other Shubho Bijoya with a heavy heart and I saw all the glam-babes shedding tears as the idol was brought down from pedestal for Bisarjan (sorry to use lot of “o” as bongs pronounce it ).

While this was happening I wondered – were the tears being shed for the durga? or for the farewell of the fun and frolic that had spiced up the days? Whatever it be- I will look forward to the party next year.

19 comments:

isha said...

hmmmm, so you had a good experience at puja...and nice use of your analytical skills.

Sarang said...

Hilarious!
U gave me a vision. A time will come when all the poojas are gonna vanish into thin air. The Durga festival will be celebrated by organizing rock shows with the band members adorning tattoos of the Goddess Durga. The pujari will be the lead vocalist. The mantras will be synchronized with the drums and the guitars.

:sigh:

DestinyFavChild said...

Nostalgia..the last time that i ever visited a Durga Puja Pandal was way back in 2004...you bought back memories...thanks ! :)

Unpretentious Diva said...

well the tears were the melodramatic psychological sickness of theistic groups with irrational sentiments and ideas.
\
Another form of similar psychological illness comes in view during muhharram days at Tazia, when Mohammedans beats themselves and cuts there boies with knives in gorups just to show there reverence and sadness at the killing and death of Hazrat mohhm. who died some thousands of years ago. I wonder how can someone be so sentimental about a person who died thousands years ago that he starts crying beating himself and cutting himself to show sadness at the old historical man's death anniversary.
But then thats religious madness, and a person sick of religion can do anything.
In delhi last year two engineers killed there mother during a Durga pooja because they suspected she was suffering with a ghostly evil soul and to cure her, her own sons beat her to death, while the sons were thinking that they are trying to help there mother.

Human Sacrifice

pooja said...

hey thank u all .glad that i cud create the picture which i see at such religious events..however this is meant to be on a very light note ..

Arpita said...

hey nice one babes...had heard about these pujas from one of my friends...but never got to know the REAL picture...thanks for opening my eyes..!!!!!!!;-)))))

stuntman mike said...

ok hold on , this is gonna be a long one .....i wouldn't mind if you don't approve it but at least read through it

i have never experienced Durga Puja outside of Kolkata , and i'll pray to the goddess that i never have to . so i'll not comment on what you experienced in Bangalore. let me give you a little peek into what the durga puja is for the bengali ... and i'll quote Vir Sanghvi ......

"""
What 'Pujo' means to a Bengali

Most modern Indian cities strive to rise above ethnicity. Tell anybody who lives in Bombay that he lives in a Maharashtrian city and (unless of course, you are speaking to Bal Thackeray) he will take immediate offence. We are cosmopolitan, he will say indigenously. Tell a Delhiwalla that his is a Punjabi city (which, in many ways, it is) and he will respond with much self-righteous nonsense about being the nation's capital, about the international composition of the city's elite etc. And tell a Bangalorean that he lives in a Kannadiga city and you'll get lots of techno-gaff about the internet revolution and about how Bangalore is even more cosmopolitan than Bombay .
But, the only way to understand what Calcutta is about is recognize that the city is essentially Bengali. What's more, no Bengali minds you saying that.
Rather, he is proud of the fact.Calcutta 's strengths and weaknesses mirror those of the Bengali character.

It has the drawbacks: the sudden passions, the cheerful chaos, the utter contempt for mere commerce, the fiery response to the smallest provocation. And it has the strengths (actually, I think of the drawbacks as strengths in their
own way). Calcutta embodies the Bengali love of culture; the triumph of intellectualism over greed; the complete transparency of all emotions, the disdain with which hypocrisy and insincerity are treated; the warmth of genuine humanity; and the supremacy of emotion over all other aspects of human existence.

That's why Calcutta is not for everyone.
You want your cities clean and green; stick to Delhi . You want your cities,rich and impersonal; go to Bombay . You want them high-tech and full of draught beer; Bangalore 's your place. But if you want a city with a soul: come to Calcutta.

When I look back on the years I've spent in Calcutta - and I come back so many times each year that I often feel I've never been away - I don't remember the things that people remember about cities. When I think of London , I think of the vast open spaces of Hyde Park .When I think of NewYork, I think of the frenzy of Times Square .When I think of Tokyo , I think of the bright lights of Shinjiku. And when I think of Paris , I think of the Champs Elysee. But when I think of Calcutta , I never think of any one place. I don't focus on the greenery of the maidan, the beauty of the Victoria Memorial, the bustle of Burra Bazar or the splendour of the new Howrah Bridge.
I think of people. Because, finally, a city is more than bricks and mortars, street lights and tarred roads. A city is the sum of its people. And who can ever forget or replicate - the people of Calcutta ?

When I first came to live here, I was told that the city would grow on me. What nobody told me was that the city would change my life. It was in Calcutta that I learnt about true warmth; about simple human decency; about love and friendship; about emotions and caring; about truth and honesty. I learnt other things too. Coming from Bombay as I did, it was a revelation to live in a city where people judged each other on the things that really mattered; where they recognized that being rich did not make you a better person - in fact, it might have the opposite effect. I learnt also that if life is about more than just money, it is about the things that other cities ignore; about culture, about ideas, about art, and about passion.
In Bombay , a man with a relatively low income will salt some of it away for the day when he gets a stock market tip. In Calcutta , a man with exactly the same income will not know the difference between a debenture and a dividend. But he will spend his money on the things that matter. Each morning, he will read at least two newspapers and develop sharply etched views on the state of the world. Each evening, there will be fresh (ideally, fresh-water or river) fish on his table. His children will be encouraged to learn to dance or sing. His family
will appreciate the power of poetry And for him, religion and culture will be in inextricably bound together.

Ah religion! Tell outsiders about the importance of Puja in Calcutta and they'll scoff. Don't be silly, they'll say. Puja is a religious
festival. And Bengal has voted for the CPM since 1977. How can godless Bengal be so hung up on a religions festival? I never know how to explain them that to a Bengali, religion consists of much more than shouting Jai Shri Ram or pulling
down somebody's mosque. It has little to do with meaningless ritual or sinister political activity.
The essence of Puja is that all the passions of Bengal converge: emotion,culture, the love of life, the warmth of being together, the joy of celebration,the pride in artistic expression and yes, the cult of the goddess. It may be
about religion. But is about much more than just worship. In which other part of India would small, not particularly well-off localities, vie with each other to
produce the best pandals? Where else could puja pandals go beyond religion to draw inspiration from everything else? In the years I lived in Calcutta , the pandals featured Amitabh Bachchan, Princess Diana and even Saddam Hussain! Where else would children cry with the sheer emotional power of Dashami, upset that the Goddess had left their homes? Where else would the whole city gooseflesh when the dhakis first begin to beat their drums? Which other Indian festival - in any part of the country - is so much about food, about going from one roadside stall to another, following your nose as it trails the smells of cooking?

To understand Puja, you must understand Calcutta . And to understand Calcutta ,you must understand the Bengali. It's not easy. Certainly, you can't do
it till you come and live here, till you let Calcutta suffuse your being, invade your bloodstream and steal your soul. But once you have, you'll love Calcutta forever.

Wherever you go, a bit of Calcutta will go with you. I know, because it's happened to me. And every Puja, I am overcome by the magic of Bengal .It's a feeling that'll never go away.

'Aamar vitor o bahire

ontore, ontore,

Aachho tumi hridoy jure..............................'..."""

it is a very nice post ....and you're right ...Pujo is the biggest party for a bengali.... but i think i've done my part in trying to defend the craving for food, the melodramatic tears, the sick theistic groups and the point of going gaga over a religious event.

i invite you to come experience it in Kolkata .. maybe then it will seem different.

and never apologise for the 'o's ... we love it that way

---- a very proud Bong :)

pooja said...

hey i think u got me all wrong ..my post was never meant to hurt the feelings of any community ...it happens every where ..even in mumbai's ganesh festival nothing is different ..
and let me tell u something ..i have lived in Kolkata and trust me i LOVE the city and its people...its a place i would love to spend my life ..
i have witnessed the puja's there and its mind blowing ...
this post was just to draw a picture of the entire festival in front of the eyes of the reader...
i apologize if it sounded rude..but that wasnt the intention..
thanks for your time..i appreciate and equally in love with the "city of joy" as u are!!

stuntman mike said...

hey pls you need not apologize .... your post was taken in the right spirit ... and it was never ever rude ...i really was trying to present another perspective and maybe got i bit too worked up ... can't help it can i ... we bong's do get a bit carried away at times .. he he ! :)

pooja said...

i very well know how touchy bongs are about cal ..so jus clarified ..
peace!

'A' Rod said...

In the age where joint family concept has become obsolete,Durga pooja is a good time for a family get together. Fondly recall my school days when everyone used to congregate at our village for Navratri pooja.

It certainly can be lot of fun as you said.

Naval said...

hey pooja very nice description of these pooja pandals..I experienced it sometimes in some of the garba pandals as well in Ahmedabad..and this marriage fixing etc. is associtated with temples/pooja places in our societies even in past....hope we will soon see the next post

Vivek Menon said...

Hehehe..really good blog...Unfortunately pujas have become the latest Fashion week of the year..also loved the one about the MCP's and the glass ceiling hypocracy...Cheers and hope to see you at my blog sometime
http://marketing-myopia.blogspot.com

Arwindh said...

Hey..are you serious...
Salsa in Durga pooja pandhals?!!
anyway...that was a cool recapture of things..
thanks for dropping by my blog..

http://neospace13.blogspot.com/

i thought of adding you in my blogroll!!

pooja said...

i swear ..it was totally a shock for me to see salsa in a puja , was intensely entertaining ...and yeah u can add me if u like , ciao

Arwindh said...

Hi..added you to my blog roll :-)

Kakoli Mukherjee said...

ha ha..pooja..very well written..u have captured it very well..thats exactly what happens..I remember I had also written about it in school..in puja..people generally forget about its whole essence and use it as a platform to show their new dresses and style..though it is not the case with everyone..durga puja is a very tough thing to perform and organize..needs a lot of dedication and devotion to the mother...so people who are directly involved with it are very devoted..as per the salsa..its all the touch of modernity..bengalis are very culturally inclined and since time immemorial, be it durga puja or a marriage, you will always find song, dance and drama to be an integral part of the celebrations..earlier there used to be " jaatra"( local theatres) and rabindrasangeet, now it has evolved to salsa..and aur pata nai aage kya:)
but, it was really interesting to read a non-bengali's account, it was very candid and honest..
keep writing..

Kakoli Mukherjee said...

@Sarang,
Dont worry..it will never happen..it is said that if you get one sloka wrong while performing the puja..you incur the wrath of the Goddess..and people believe that:)

pooja said...

thanks kakoli , very few of my bengali friends really liked this post ,..most ended up gving me well- "galis" :lol. but i appreciate ur opinion on it . plus i myself really love the durga puja , its one of the most vibrant and exciting times of kolkata :ciao