Here’s wishing all my readers a very happy Dussehra. And wishing all my Bong readers a very “Shubho Bijoya”. The last time I messaged my bong friends on Bijoya I wished them “Shubho nabo barsho” instead, making a fool out of myself and proving what a lousy bong I am. Atleast this year I have the phrase right!

Although I am bong by birth but except for my exceptionally loud voice, my passion for reading and classical dance and my strong love of food, there’s hardly anything that’s bong about me. I hate eating fish, the only sweet thing I love eating is dark chocolate, my singing capabilities can make a donkey seem like a superstar and my Bengali makes me sound like a british trying to roll her tongue around a foreign language.

Growing up outside of Calcutta, my only association with my “heritage” and “culture” would be either during the summer vacations where we spent 15-20 days in Cal, or during the Durga Puja when my mother dragged me to the pandals after dolling me up in new clothes and absolutely abhorring jewellery ( I know it was just a gold chain and earrings but I hated it!).I never got involved in the puja except for maybe performing a dance piece during the stage shows. The first time a friend at college wished me “shubho Mahalaya” I called up my dad to learn what it exactly meant. Yeah he laughed his head off while explaining it to me, but I could atleast blame my ignorance on my sad upbringing…

All through my growing years I came across a lot of bong people and every time puja was around the corner, there would appear a slight crazed and glazed look in their eyes while they spoke about their beloved puja celebrations. They went nuts with shopping for it. They cribbed endlessly about the lack of holidays around it… and they would turn so nostalgic at the smallest reference to it that I often wondered why. I have never looked forward to the puja holidays. In school I did wait for them cause I knew I could finish preparing for my half yearlies in that span of time (Nerd alert!!!). In college I never even realized when they came and went away ( the only indication being my friends running off to Cal bunking all their classes… or everyone protesting near the dean’s office for a vaction during puja). Job definitely didn’t change a thing. After marriage too I never really had the urge to go shopping for stuff or fasting or doing anything about it. I did go and visit pandals around wherever I stayed but it was more for the food than anything else.

My nanu always made sure we wore new clothes all five days of the puja. My ma tried… but I rebelled and said no… cause one… I hate shopping for them… and two… it hardly makes sense cause I usually visit the pandals for like a minute or two. This year though my in laws and my own relatives handed me new sarees for puja (since I am married and all that). Plus my parents were around this year for puja after a long long time. So every evening I managed to drape a new saree and go for puja. Although I mostly roamed and ate stuff most of the time we were in or around the pandal, it did seem to satisfy my family.

Since my hubby too isn’t that fanatic about the pujas… it saves me from the whole charade of pretending to “like” and be “excited” about the puja. All said and done, I do like the festivities around this time of the year… the way people come together from various strata of the society to hug it out and wish each other. The way young kids return to their innocence at such a time and become an integral part of their family’s celebrations. the way all the women folk suddenly get together forgetting al their differences to cook and feed others. The way people sit for “Addas” around the pandal while munching of fried luchis and Aloo bhaja. The bright lights, the dhaak, the dhunuchi dance, the siduur khela and the bhashan… it all probably rekindles the bong in me… of course I don’t go gaga over it… but it feels nice to belong to a culture so rich and vibrant in its tradition.

So in spite of turning-my-nose-at-silly-things, I did enjoy this years pujo…

Jai Ma dugga… asche bochor abar hobe!!! ( even if this doesn’t make much sense… bhawnao ko samjho!!!)


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