A Bong and Durga Puja

It is hardly few days left for Durga Puja and like a typical Bong, I have gone into the puja mode. I have started cleaning my house and shopping clothes for the entire family. I am also preparing the pandal hopping schedule and making a mental note of things that I am going to eat during those four days of Puja. Food is any Bong’s Siamese twin.

 Durga Puja is a special occasion for Bengalis all over the world. A Bengali anywhere in the world starts preparing for Durga Puja much in advance. As a child, I remember that Ma used to start preparing for puja almost two months ahead with the quintessential puja shopping. First, she used to buy the clothes that were to be given to relatives. Shopping for us took place one month ahead of Puja. That day Bapi (my father) accompanied us.  I wouldn’t be able to sleep the previous night of shopping out of sheer excitement.

Those were simple days before shopping malls. At 10 am we used to board the public bus and reach New Market. After that, Ma used to go on a shopping spree hopping from one shop to another looking especially for my clothes.  She usually bought clothes from Rehman’s, shoes from Bata and accessories like wallets, bags, table clothes, curtains etc from Hog Market. Shops were fixed and the shopkeepers knew us well. They used to genuinely share greetings and ask about the well beings of family members. They never called my Mom, Madam but Boudi (sister-in-law or bhabi in Hindi). There was a certain warmth that I miss in today’s designer stores.

Lunch was always the yummy Biryani from Aminia. My parents unlike our generation considered eating out sacrilegious. In the entire year we used to eat out only thrice, once during Puja shopping, once on their anniversary and once on Christmas day at Park Street. My mom would have got a heart attack if she had seen the number of times me and my husband eat out, or get take-aways. After lunch we did the remaining shopping. We usually wrapped up by 4pm. Before boarding the return Bus, Bapi often bought me a kulfi from Rallis or an ice cream cone from Scoops. Sometime we used to go for a movie after shopping, only, if my parents found the movie suitable for my viewing. Once, when I threw serious tantrum they made an exception and went to watch Rocky V (they were scandalized as it had few “scenes”).

After the shopping part was over the distribution part started. That meant we went to the houses of various relatives and similarly relatives visited us. I used to look forward to what clothes I would get from my umpteen Uncles and Aunts. Well, there was also little bit of recycling involved. If one dress was not particularly liked it went to someone else. Only, we had to be careful that if something came from my maternal side it shouldn’t go to the same side but to my paternal side, otherwise it would be a huge goof up.

Before wearing them on the puja days, I used to take out my new clothes and shoes everyday out of the cupboard and have a look. The smell of crisp new clothes makes me nostalgic even today. I made plans when and how to wear them during the Puja days.

Things have changed now. We do not go to Rehman Chacha’s shop but do them online or from some retail store in a fancy mall. Shopkeepers do not speak to me in my native tongue or call me Bhabi, rather they speak in fluent English. Neither they remember me nor I remember them after the shopping is done. Unlike Rehman Chacha they do not get worried if I am late to visit his shop. His worry was not that he lost a customer but that his customer maybe unwell. We do not buy clothes for relatives rather we send them gift cards because we are now scattered all over the globe. Yet, the only thing that is still unchanged is the smell of puja or pujor gandho. I am sure my Bong readers would agree.







33 thoughts on “A Bong and Durga Puja

  1. Esha M Dutta says:

    So true…how times have changed. I no longer feel the same excitement that we used to have during those growing up years celebrating puja in Kohima. It is very different now but then, everything has changed now, so I guess I just have to take it in my stride. I remember just one puja when I was in Kol after Dadu passed away and I was heartbroken! Was so nice reliving your memories through this write-up. I remember mami very clearly, her voice, how she smiled and everything about your place…the layout of the rooms, the balcony view, the walks we would take in the evenings! Aro koto ki…!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. flavours2017 says:

    Loved reading your post , took me back to my childhood days , when we used to live in Kolkata — shopping in new market, hog market, treasure island, of course Aminia’s biryani — those are the memories I cherish — thanks for the lovely post ❤❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. the bespectacled mother says:

    Sheer nostalgia! Childhood memories of the festivals are the happiest stories. Sometimes I wonder why don’t I enjoy the festivals now and I know the answer very well. Now if I did them I would have to do everything and that will be exhausting. I think I will still enjoy if I didn’t have to do anything and just eat, sleep and be merry 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Moon says:

    Great post, Balaka .
    It , however, makes me sad in a way . I feel our children are so utterly deprived of the joys of life that last forever . I am sad I am not adding enough to the my daughter’s childhood memory bank , a visit to a mall or an expensive toy or dress can never measure up to collecting shrfali flowers from the garden , making garlands and celebrating the pujo with neighbours and extended family as one large unit .
    I wish I could give these soul-foods to my daughter

    Liked by 1 person

    • Balaka says:

      I wish the same for my son… however I feel they are making their own memories…I am sure when they grow up they will have their own stories to tell to their children…maybe it would be different from ours nevertheless it would be ‘their’ story.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Shilpa Gupte says:

    Balaka, I SO loved this post! Ah! Those olden, golden times when we were kids…life was so beautiful and charming, isn’t it? I was reminded of my childhood, especially the days leading to Diwali. The love of the shopkeepers who truly cared (a couple of them still do!), the doting relatives we could meet in person and spend lovely moments with…All of that seems so lost today, lost as if it didn’t even exist and was a mere dream!
    Your post made my day, Balaka!
    And, I too love visiting the Durga Puja pandals…I make it a point to visit at least one day. The entire atmosphere fills me with ecstasy!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. excellenceshouthub says:

    Feeling blessed after reading your post, took me back to my childhood age when we used to live in Kolkata — shopping in the new market, hog market, treasure island, of course, Amina’s biryani — those are the memories I cherish —Thank You For sharing this wonderful article….

    Liked by 1 person

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