The Durga Pujo is a very special occasion for every Bengali. The very first thing a Bengali searches for upon obtaining a calendar is the day on which it falls. And once that is known, plans are made for it to be celebrated with the near and dear ones, back home. For a working professional it translates into advance leave application, for a student hoping that exams are not scheduled during those days and so on. I however have not been quite as fortunate. Being a student has its own constraints owing to which it is not always possible to be with your family during this festive occasion. That said, it is pretty exiting to experience the pujo in a different location and witness the cultural nuances that shapes it according to the local flavor.
This year I attended the pujo in Shillong which has got a fair share of the Bengali diaspora. Asthomi started off with a feeling of excitement and euphoria in the air. The Bengali community gathered together in the hostel at around 10 am, most of them dressed in the traditional Panjabi. After this we left for the Pandal. The Pandal really was a sight to behold. Even though it was not built on a scale I had grown accustomed to, back in Mumbai, yet it lent a breadth of fresh air away from the taxing and demanding burden of academics. This really was an occasion to revel in. Pushpanjoli ensued followed by the most important part- “The Bhog”. The significance of the bhog to a hostelier cannot be described in words. It was hardly a surprise to see the non Bengali community join in for this one, after all who would want to stay back and have mess food when such delicious khichdi , torkari and chutney are being served that too for free.
Upon completing the bhog it was time for the second leg of the journey- Pandal hopping. We visited a good many number of Pandals in and around Shillong, soaking the atmosphere in as much as possible, hopefully enough to sustain for the next one week when things get back to being ”boring”. The third and the final leg for the day was having dinner in an authentic Bengali restaurant in Shillong. The sequence of events was much the same on novomi too.
What the pujo succeeded in amongst other things is to foster a feeling of togetherness and bonhomie in an otherwise mechanical setting of an MBA college.