For a person who has lived in Delhi all of his childhood it is almost impossible to ignore the Bengali community that lives there. All my childhood, come October and there would be nine days of festivities (Navratri as it is famously known). The joy and energy among the people especially the Bengali community is something one can hardly miss. Being a Non-Bengali, I hardly had any connection to the tradition of the Bengali people apart from the fact my neighbours were from Bengal and if I remember correctly they were from “cooch behar” region of the Bengal province, the “Kar ” family. These nine days were a part of the festive season and we used to have holidays from school. So these nine days my parents always used take me and my sister to the pandal, in fact we used to go there in the morning as well as in the evening during the aarti time.
One great thing that I liked at that point of time were the various cultural and competitive events that were held for the kids like us and also for the grown ups. So it was not merely a puja but, for me was a cultural meet in which people used to gather and showcase their talent and for the kids like us it acted like an event which boosted our spirits and made us more confident as a person.
I haven’t seen the Durga-puja of Bengal and but I am sure it would be even more grand. This year it was a bit different for me as I was in Bangalore and I really wanted to see the pandals in Bangalore, so I managed to take out some time from my busy schedule to see the celebrations of the Durga-puja. The proud community the Bengalis are, they had set up the pandals in Bangalore too, still the pandals of Delhi hold a very special place in my heart. If I remember correctly the pandals in every area of Delhi were endorsed by a core group of Bengali community who used to work for months to make the pandals as impressive as possible and every year there used to be something new to it. At least for Delhi I can say that there used to be breath-taking creativity to embellish the pandals with vivid and artistic details. I am not a very big fan of the Bengali food but the Khichadi they used to serve at the pandals as prashad, was really lovely.
Though it is was religious event it was quite fascinating to see the plurality of it as it used to serve as the meeting place for many families. People used to get dressed in the traditional dresses especially the ladies with their big round bindis on their forehead. The environment used to be charismatic to say the least. Finally the day of Dashami came every year and it was that part of the festival when it was time to let go goddess Durga or Maa Durga.
All in all it used to be a very integral part of my life and those nine days used bring lots of joy and happiness and when it ended it kind of used to leave some kind of a void as we used to get accustomed to going the pandals and after those nine days it used to take some time to again get accustomed to the normal life of ours.