As a new Bengali bride, I found the hullabaloo around Durga Puja quite silly. The compulsive need of people to discuss Pujo weeks in advance, the inevitability of a week long vacation from work, the madness of shopping, planning, gifting — all for a festival not even celebrated at home!
As it is I disliked the commotion the festival created. Disrupted traffic, blocked roads, unnecessary crowds, choked trains. The entire thing made me want to retreat in my little room and not emerge for 10 days.
But I could never escape the beat of the dhaak, the call of the conch, the chants of the priests, the fragrance of the dhonuchi. I could not escape the joy on people’s faces and the happiness in the air. It was nothing like anything I had seen before.
Slowly, rather than going to the Pandal begrudgingly, I started to go there out of my own will. I started looking forward to the annual trip to my small home town in law, to participate, if not actively, in the celebration that Bengalis await all year.
I also started planning, shopping, buying gifts.
This year, I did all that too, but could not go home. So I sulked and sulked and also secretly shed a year or two. I looked at the Durga and asked her why did she do this, knowing all along that must have been a larger reason for our not going home. I went to all pandals possible and attended all programmes I once laughed at. I made bhog at home, and churchuri, and payesh. I also dressed up in nice clothes everyday.
As a new Bengali bride, I’d always be amused at the stories of my ma in law crying when Pujo ended. Today, only 15 years later, as I hid my teary eyes, I seem to have become her.