Kolkata and the suburbs were for vacations and family functions..My brother and I have spent our growing up years,until he went off to being a techie and I got married,in various small towns of West Bengal and Jharkhand.My dad is a Civil Engineer ( now a new retiree since April 2010 ) and we grew up in townships which formed around some Thermal Power Station or Hydroelectric Power Plant,located in the outskirts of some important city..We were detached from many things which normal city life might present on a daily basis-some were disadvantageous and some were a blessing in disguise for us and our parents..
|SHIULI from Ma's garden |
During Durga Puja,we almost never went to Kolkata,mainly because Baba almost never got leave from work and we didn't want to spend this time of the year apart..and then also because we got used to the quiet life of a small town and we wanted to avoid the crowd,sweat and traffic jams of big city Pujo ..And surprisingly,we never missed it-all the big pandals,all those hopping around all night long which our cousins gave vivid descriptions of.Well,maybe Ma missed it..She had spent her entire life in kolkata until she got married ..and when I was in college,she confided in me that when we were younger ( and she was younger as well ), she used to terribly miss Kolkata-all the hustle-bustle,all the sounds,smell,crowd..everything called her home.I feel so bad when I think of all those times when she had to cancel her plans of going because of us !!
|Ma calls this JHUMKO JABA|
So,we spent our Puja days in our small township,sitting all day long at our Officer's Club Durga Pujo Pandal or making quick rounds to other mandaps which our township had to offer..Saptami and Ashtami were days reserved for going out-to nearby towns and cities for Pandal Hopping...
Dad was so enthusiastic about all these-We used to look forward to these trips during Puja-sometimes with other families,sometimes just the four of us-we used to go visit pandals in Chittaranjan,Burnpur,Asansol,Durgapur,Raghunathpur,Bankura,Panchet..and so many other small towns and cities surrounding us.And then eating out on these days were also part of the attraction !!
Sometimes our grandparents visited to spend the puja days with us..sometimes other relatives visited us to experience the small town puja thing ..And if on one hand,they were bored with the not-so grand pandals and almost inaudible sound of the " DHAAK " and blaring microphones..they loved the quietness and less crowded streets for a change on the other !!
When I was considered fit to be called a grown-up and was eligible to spent some time away from the constant supervision of Maa ( but only when there are Ma's friends present to supervise me in her absence ) - I used get up early ,bathe and Dad used to drop me off at our Officer's Club Pujo Pandal....I brought supply of flowers from our garden-which Dad had picked up even earlier in the morning,when he did his morning puja ..I helped all the Kakima & Kaku in their prepwork for that day's pujo,whatever way I could- That was the first time I cut fruits and the only time before marriage..which was fun-because Mom never allowed me to do anything at home ( And now I know,that cutting fruits is not fun at all-now that I have to do them all the time !! ). Making garlands,chosing perfect " Bel-pata " and " Dubbyo Ghaash " , " Chandan Bata " , making garlands of 108 Hibiscus flowers in the evening of Ashtami,for Sandhi Puja ...And then Dad used to come after about 2 hours to pick me up..I used to go back home,dress up and come back with family for Puspanjali,prasad,chatting,planning for the evening and so much more fun ~
Fun,which meant eating the " Niramish " ( vegetarian ) delicacies Ma was having on Shoshti and Ashtami and then going out and having non-veg food as well ~ wearing new dresses right from Panchami...and even after going through 2-3 changes of clothes on all the 5 days,we had new dresses left for diwali and bhai-phonta..
|Lonka Jaba from Ma's garden|
Durga Puja was fun..although there were times when we had Half-yearly exams when school reopens,in which case we had to study and then only allowed to go for the Puspanjali..But no matter what happened,the two weeks following Lakshmi Puja ( Kojagori,the one which comes immediately after Durga Puja ) were always set aside for our trips to different parts of India..Dad used to start planning for this trip well ahead of time,specially because tickets had to be booked promptly on the day the reservations opened ( which was typically 2 months ahead of the day you are planning to set out )...Books were brought out from Dad's huge collection,which Dad researched in details..and then when those huge road maps ( Dad has this collection of road maps of entire India ) where ultimately spread out on the living room floor,we knew we are all set ..Although we would travel by train and later on other conveyances,Dad always made it a point to know the names of all the stations we would be crossing,all the roads,junctions,by-lanes and everything a person can possibly want to know..
I loved this part when Dad called and pointed to us different things on the maps..we used to run,leaving our homeworks and books aside,because that reminded us of the vacation we are about to go on,very soon !! And throughout our 2-nights journey on the train,I wrote journals and I always knew even if I failed to look at the name of a station we just passed-Dad would know it and he did..He remembered all the stations that we left behind and the ones we are about to pass...
I feel sad that I'm not able to share any of the photos from all those times..Everything is in albums at Ma-Baba's and I don't have their soft copies.
Those were the days of fun,frolic and enjoyment..So much happens around one festival like Durga Puja for bengalis..So many memories are created to be cherished for days to come...
My hubby and I enjoyed our 1st durga Puja together in Pune.It was another beautiful experience ..wandering around the beautiful city of Pune in our bike..After moving to US, we had a very sad 1st Pujo here...We didn't have a car and couldn't go anywhere...
|Pujo in Austin,TX|
From a small -scale one day pujo at the nearby Hindu temple..to not-so-small One and half day pujo - We are now about to celebrate two whole days of pujo this year ..Our local Bengali Association is getting bigger and better with each passing year.My hubby and I are active members of the Pujo committee this year,which has given us an oppurtunity to experience a lot of things apart from having fun and actually feeling like enjoying Durga Puja to the fullest,maybe for the 1st time outside India. And we are so happy that although like all other years,we are celebrating Pujo on the weekend - this year those dates have coincided with the actual days of Nabami & Dashami ~ ~
I'm sending this post off to Pree's " BEYOND 5 DAYS OF DURGA PUJO " event. She has a beautiful space here . Thanks again Pree for this wonderful event..