Having spent the majority of the life in West Bengal, it is but natural to feel bad to miss Durga Puja and visiting pandals. It started at Birlapur in West Bengal, where I had my schooling since 1948. What I remember of those days of Durga Puja was the yatras, the open stage theatre that used to go on for a fortnight or more. Yatras based on good historical and social subjects in those days were good entertainment. With school closed in a long vacation, I with my uncle used to enjoy the yatras. It used to start late in evening and go up to almost early morning. We had learned good enough Bengali by then to appreciate the dialogues and story.
At Hind Motor, Durga Puja again became interesting when we had our sons. I remember of at least two Durga Pujas. In one, Seshar Singh, my Hanuman managed a car from Mathews, one of my colleagues in Hindustan Motors, and who was a senior from IIT itself. We started around 10 PM and went to many good Puja pandals in Calcutta with all the three kids. My main task was to manage the kids in the crowd, particularly with separate queues for men and women. Calcutta is still at its best during Puja. I wish India and West Bengal had marketed it to attract foreign tourists. We remember one of the Pujas’ days, when a servant of one of the neighbours took Rajesh, my second son who was about five-six years old then, to see Puja pandals outside our residential area and we got worried. Those were the turbulent days of the factory. I had a bad name as production manager and had many enemies in unionized workers. We went on a search and even got the cinema show at Deepak stopped to find him out. But very soon we found Rajesh coming with the servant on the road. The servant got some thrashing from me.
At Salt Lake, with sons away, the Puja became a routine affair with community Puja getting organized in the park of our CJ block. We had to pay huge subscriptions, as I used to work for a reputed company. I hardly went out and visited any other pandal.
In Noida now, Yamuna organizes a ‘kumari puja’ on Ashatami, and we go to either the pandal in Sector 26 or that in Sector 50 where Bengali community organizes Puja.
This year we are in US during Puja and it was a unique opportunity to visit a Durga Puja pandal in US on Maha-ashatami. Anand took us to Livermore Hindu Temple. We had been to this temple in our last visit to US too in 2005. It is a special place for Anand and Shannon, as they got married here. Anand had also proposed Shannon in front of goddess of wealth in the temple. Last week also we visited the temple. Its large number of mini-temples, under the main roof, presents a great example of integrating the Hindu Gods and goddesses.
According to the wishes of Yamuna for this Ashatami on Tuesday, Shannon had made the packets of candies to be given to girls as the part of ‘kumari puja’. Yamuna was very happy to find her in a totally Bengali surrounding there. She blew the conch shell and mixed with the Bengali ladies. Shannon was all the time with her and then Anand also joined, when I came out to look after the two kids-Emma and Krish. It was difficult to keep the kids inside because of the smoke screen created by the burning of essence that is seen in photo. More than hundred people- men, women, and kids, mostly Bengalis constituted the crowd in the hall where the priest was carrying out rituals of worshipping Durga in traditional Bengali manners including some ‘ulur dhwani’. Tuesday being a working day, young men were few in number. Quite a large number in the crowd appeared to be those visiting their children in US. A gentleman who was from Tollygunze, Kolkata started talking to me. He has come to his son who works in San Francisco somewhere. They had driven to come to Temple on this auspicious day. Shannon and Anand had some ‘prasad’ that is available here on all days. Yamuna and myself were on fast.
It is a very fascinating experience of Maha-ashatami of Durga Puja in US for us, so far away from home.