Utopian Bongfest- Durga Pujo
Us, Bengalis, we get the license to be noisy, overwhelming, blissfully happy and let our bellies stretch to the brim of the sudden noise of something tearing, that would be our trouser/ jeans buttons, during the last four days of Navratra. Not that we don’t do the very same all year round, but when its Durga Pujo, everything seems legit.
And why not? It is that time of the year when our mashi-s and mama-s, kaku-s and pishi-s all gather together with a bunch of cousins whom we probably meet for the first time and we all chatter like we have known each other all our lives. Mothers’ get busy making delicacies in the kitchen like there is no tomorrow and every meal, right from breakfast can take you to food-coma. Also no meal is complete without a serving of mishti doi (sweet curd) or mishti (bengali sweets).
Even though, I was away from Bengal this time, my relatives, thanks to my great grandmother’s extra long lineage, left no stones unturned to give me an amazing pujo experience, luckily for me, my mother and brother were also visiting me. Delhi, might not celebrate the festival with the same exuberance as Kolkata or Siliguri does, but nonetheless the Bong diaspora here makes sure that our culture is beautifully presented for the non-Bong communities to enjoy too.
Starting from exquisitely made pandals to concerts held by famous singers, Delhi does it all, Pujo “ishtyl”. The “bhog” given at every pandal is a must have. Their “khichudis” and “labras” along with chutneys are to die for. On Ashtomi or Nobhomi, you might even be lucky enough to have “pulao”, “panner er torkari” and some lovely “mishti”.
We did it all this time, not just the Bong food but also anything else we could lay our hands on. After all of us gathered together on Saptami, we did not waste much time and went ahead to look at all the pandals at CR Park, the hub of Bongs in Delhi who settled here since partition. Once you reach there, you will be led to believe that you are in some part of Bengal. The food at CR Park market bears no other competitor. From “kobiraji cutlet”, “moghlai porotha”, every Bengali’s favorite food- biryani, proper Bong meals to the best golgappa anyone can ever have-“puchkas”, they have it all. The market also sells a variety of fish or “maach” that Bongs’ can’t live without, so my mama decided to grab some rohu to make us “doi maach”, those who know what it is, I can see them drooling.
Ashtomi was a feat of its own, starting from the morning anjali to afternoon bhog and roaming with cousins around the city, this day is everyone’s favorite. What more? We even managed to have a breakfast comprising “loochi aloor dum” and “chholar dalna”.
Nobhomi meant, mom was taking Ron and me out for lunch, and ahoy, we got to enjoy incredible Afghani cuisine with the most wonderful hosts you can ever meet (more on that later). After a little bit of shopping at Select Citywalk, we came home to relish saffron “pulao” with “kasha mangsho”.
Dashomi, the last day, where Maa Durga is given visarjan after married women apply shidur on each other and children take their books and keep them at Maa’s feet, hoping that they will make their ever proud parents prouder by getting outstanding marks in their exams and adding some more negative/ positive power to their eyes and breadth to their spectacle glasses. We Bongs love our education, even more, the high we get by being able to speak about politics, art, culture, history and physics- all at the same time. So on this day, with heavy hearts, we decide to eat even better food and bid Maa goodbye. After all food makes everyone feel better, doesn’t it?
That in all, sums up our four days of craziness exempted through food. Being a Bong can be astounding and bewildering all at the same time, the love we shower on people might be smothering to some, but once in a while, everyone deserves to be spoiled. As for why all this hullabaloo over a festival, Vir Sanghvi has a better answer to that:
“A man in Delhi once asked me “What is so special about Durga Puja In Kolkata? It’s just as big as Diwali is here in the North”. I simply smiled and replied ‘You have no idea’.
Waiting for my late evening flight to Mumbai at the airport, I thought that there probably isn’t any festival in any city in the world that can match Kolkata’s Puja in intensity.
You can take the craze of Diwali in Delhi, Christmas in London, Summer Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Valentine’s day in Paris and then add it to the month long madness of Olympic Games or the World Cup and cram all that into a span of 5 days and you still wouldn’t know what you are missing if you haven’t been in Kolkata during Durga Puja”
To know about the mythological significance of Durga Pujo, read what Whitney has to say.
Till then, aaschhe bochhor abar hobe!