Today is Maha Ashtami-the eighth day of Navratri. This day, being one of the most auspicious days of the long Durga Puja, is special for a lot of reasons to everyone. The serpentine-long queue, waiting impatiently, out there. Brothers, sisters, couples, “just good friends”, the family of three with that cute kid, constantly wanting one more balloon , and then the group of college buddies with that unending chaos, fun and enthusiasm. Everyone had the best ever make up, one could afford.
I had just been senior to all those teenagers. Breaking the fast after “pushpanjali”(the offering of flowers to God after reciting the mythological chants), my dad and I had a beautiful conversation. I saw the change in people, faces, their attitude, their way of enjoyment and life. People had been so specific to each and every event in the proceedings, which maintained the occasion quite well. My father used to live in a joint family and they had seen old, rigid, hard and fast customs. It was definitely absent that day. People had been casual. They had found an alternative to everything. But how does one get an alternative for the best and the permanent! There had been loud music, with much pomp and show. But, definitely I don’t mean that it was unsuccessful.
The “chosen” wives had to keep their mouths shut and prepare the tasty “bhog”(the food offerings to God after pushpanjali). Yeah, literally, they had to keep themselves dumb! And, those amazing grooving to the “dhak”(percussion instrument widely famous for Durga Puja). The “Sandhi Pujo” was quite well managed by all the aunties out there. They were all so devoted and dedicated in their schedules. All the girls were busy helping them and the ambience was perfect. But, still something was missing.
The gathering of lots and lots of people, was undoubtedly less. Owing to various reasons, whether personal or professional, the unity was lacking. Everyone understood, but all of them pretended it well. Well wishers had taken the swift way of social media to meet and greet their loved ones. The Internet had every amazing puja-pandal under its claws. The craze had decreased and that was visible. People, being so busy, lost the charm and misunderstood the Puja from an occasion to leisure. But, I still remember Anuj & Simran quarrelling over the last golgappa at the Maddox Square. Peter, had never seen the Durga Puja so close and he was capturing every moment in his lenses. Deepali was busy with her selfies.She went to be the perfect fashionista with the perfect blend of dress and smile.
Now I am seventy, and amidst all these years, I still have my constant companion- The Durga Puja. My daughter had a wonderful family, settled in Seattle. Actually, this trend had started from our very own days and its still continuing. The same craze and happiness in the hearts of people, which used to be there , was diminishing. Rather, I would say, they were shy to express. Everything went virtual and viral- greetings, proceedings, enjoyment, dedication and love. People used to leave for weekend getaways and enjoy their vacation. There were huge idols with lights. Maybe I would say, everything was present except the devotion of a devotee. Some downtrodden kids, got their collars on and madly danced to the local “noise”. People didn’t like the overloaded metros and pandal hopping and preferred being lazy. Rather, some used to keep themselves busy in overtime and the rest at sleep. There was money and credit cards, but people had no intention to spend.
Simran passed away many years ago in a road accident. As far as I remember, Anuj was too in the same quota as my son-based in Frankfurt. Distance and age had separated us unknowingly. Peter, went on to become one of the millionaires and had his own studio. This time, status played a spoilsport. Everything can’t be said, some are sensed better! And finally, I was left with Deepali, who turned out to be my wife fortunately!
Some great Puja experiences are still playing in our hearts, down these years. Slight back pain and knee problems couldn’t hinder me from gulping those spicy “puchkas”(golgappas dubbed in Bengali) with her this time.
The same Maddox Square , those same puchkas and ice-cream stalls, those little kids selling toys here and there. The divine deity, blessing all of us, was also present. New dresses, shoes and watches had filled the racks as before.
Then, what went missing?