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Saturday, January 23, 2021

The Goddess is coming

Reading Time: 4 minutes

How to ignore your insensitive Facebook friends and tackle your Durga Puja blues

durga puja.Indian Link
Photo: Abhirup Chakrabarty

It’s that time of the year again,” read one of my friend’s status on Facebook. “The time of the clear blue autumnal skies back at home in Calcutta, Sharatkaal and the agomoni (homecoming of the goddess Durga).”
A pious one read, “Ma ashchhen (The Goddess is coming).”
I could not help a pun on that and chuckled to myself and said, “No, winter is!” while the GoT soundtrack played inside my head and I marvelled at my own abilities at quipping.
A few seconds past, I hid posts from the former and decided to unfollow the latter.
Another friend’s post, who like me is away from it all but unlike me would rather indulge in brooding about it, read, “The orange-stemmed pristine white shiuli in my neighbour’s garden will be in full bloom now. My mother will have brought out her lal-paar (red-bordered) saris and made quite a few trips with my scowling dad in tow to the bank lockers for her jewellery. Tooni bulbs will light up the lane on which my house stands. The loud speakers will be blaring with welcome notes for the passers-by in the voice of a random volunteer who is selected on the basis of his vocal virtues and the bass of his baritone. It will also play raspingly, forgotten yesteryear songs featuring the heart-throbs of my mother’s generation till a brave roak-baaj chhele (often meant to describe a youthful man who whiles away his precious time indulging in the infamous Bengali lyadh or indolence; and brave because he would audaciously take on the genteel old folk in the neighbourhood who think theirs was the only golden age) would come to the rescue of his generation and quietly put us out of our misery and stop playing the songs I used to think of as background noise. And today, I miss all that background noise.”
This time I felt more betrayed by her than the first two. I snapped at her indulgence and then unfollowed her.
I sat all day yesterday and scoured the internet to read all the tales of awe and wonder and nostalgia that surrounds Durga Puja, while alternatingly snapping at, avoiding, hiding and unfollowing festive posts on my Facebook wall – pretending that I remain stoic and unaffected by this festival and dissing the faceless crowd that indulges in pandal-hopping and the silliness of it all, only to see my own face fixed in the torso of that fox who declared the grapes were sour.
Then, I cried myself a river.
When there were no more tears to shed, I made a plan for both the brooding and the vengeful to tackle those Durga Puja blues.
Durga Puja.Indian Link
A man passes next to a huge art installation by painter and sculptor Sanatan Dinda made with mud, bamboo and fibre ahead of Durga Puja festival in Calcutta.

The plan for the brooding

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You shall indulge in everything Bengali. You must doll yourself in ethnic wear, buy your copy of the Pujabarshiki (the annual festival copy of a popular magazine) for triple the price of course, take part in the festivities and act like it is better than Kolkata for you have the clean air and the backdrop of Sydney and the intellectual and natural bon homie of Bengalis. You will serve bhog, wallow in lyadh and adda (group chats that could range from mild and malicious gossip to intellectual Kafkaesque worldly views).
And when you begin to miss the real deal, here is my real plan for you. Drown yourself in all the misery by watching home-bred movies that will make you come to terms with your best joys and the worst fears at this time of the year! And I promise you that it will purge the melancholy out of you.
You will be one with the celebrations back at home if you follow Apu and Durga’s journey in Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali in the wee hours of the morning. After a long family lunch, you must play Rituparno Ghosh’s Utsab or Aparna Sen’s Parama or even Pradeep Sarkar’s Parineeta and reminisce about the extended family you despise mostly yet miss relentlessly.
For your dinner date with the festival, opt for a thriller like Ray’s Joy Baba Felunath or Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani. In all these films, you will find the signs ushering in the festival, in the midst of it or the promise of next year; and you will find life’s aspirations, the construction and deconstruction that happens in an event of this scale, our madness for this much awaited time of the year, or if you look closely enough, fragments of your own story.
Durga Puja.Indian Link

The plan for the vengeful

You will unabashedly live life these five days of the festival and put it out there for your Facebook posse. You will hop the best pubs, sip on the cleverly crafted beer and wrap your saree over a bikini and let the wind make love to you on the shores. You can also live your Bollywood dream of the slow-motion sprint in a wet saree on the sands of Bondi. That will surely beat the blues out of you!
You will do Durga Puja the Aussie style with barbies and sun tans galore. And you will poke fun at the pious and the goody-two-shoes who put up inane status updates and better still troll them!
And when all the brooding and the vengeance is over and all the hurly burly is done and all the battles lost and won, you will make sure that you book your tickets to Calcutta much in advance for next year. Unless of course you enjoy tales of frustration from a writer sorely afflicted with nostalgia for home at this time of the year.

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