Community Pujas in Kolkata abound in every narrow alley and vacant field and park. I remember Bangur Park being taken over by the organisers one year for a couple of months so that a terracotta mandir could be built, thereby depriving the underprivileged children who use it for a playground , had to twiddle their thumbs in the football season. The same theme is repeated across Kolkata and organisers sweat it out so that their Puja is designated on of the many Pujos of the year . The fact that many "Pujas of the year " abound is another matter .

Amader Pujo is on a different level. It is more of a family Puja - the larger family embracing a muber of families in the locality. All of us have a responsibility towards ensuring that the days of festivities are complete in every way - from the worship of the goddess to the planning and execution of the puja and the entertainment in the evenings . The ladies congregate in the morning armed with their knives and bnotis to cut the fruits , pick the flowers and separate the clean flowers and bel leaves , arrange the puja thalis , ensure the altar is clean and everything is ready and prepared so that the purohits find everything close at hand when they sit down to perform the puja. The level of involvement is phenomenal and no less than what one would find in a "barir puja.

Saptami evening

Saptami morning


Waiting ....


What Pujo means to me

When I was small and growing up in Jamshedpur, Durga Pujo had no special significance other than new clothes and a visit to the pandals each day .Later on for a brief while in Calcutta , we took in as many pandals as we could - I especially remember the Sanghashri Puja and the Sputnik at Gol Park one year . Ashtami meant pulao and kosha mangsho made by the inimitable Ruby my mother , a culinary genius of sorts and then Thakuma used to be bundled into the car , carried down two flights of stairs by Durga da and Baba and we would be off.

It was only after mariage that I was initiated into the nuances of an involvement with the Pujas ,which is such an integral part of our lives now that children who grow up and go away from the nest return like migrant birds at the same time each year - such is the charm ,mysticism,enchantment and involvement at some level of one's consciousness.

Over the years people have shifted , loved ones have left us leaving gaps that no one can fill. I still remember attending Sukumar Kaku's rehearsals with Tupu. A n obedient child, she would sit quietly and watch while the adults went about their paces . And woe betide anyone who talked out of turn or showed the slightest hint of indiscipline. And there was none , actually. Everyone accepted him naturally as the conductor of whatever masterpiece he executed each year .

In the early years I remember ,people refused to budge from the pandal so much so that we had Tupu then 2 rubbing her eyes heavy with sleep and screaming that she would not go - Ami ekhon jabo naaaaa" at 1 pm .

Pujo therefore over the years has come to mean a lot to me . From the time the kash flowers ,the clouds change shape and the skies change colour ,when little paper quadrilaterals dot the blue skies and the smells are sharper and the breeze is dry ...

(Taken on NH 6)

And you know its time for Durga to come ..

A Durga not yet resplendent in her finery , her head bald, her arms and hands , bare of ornaments and weapons, raised in supplication .Her shoulders bare and naked , her figure adolescent with prepubescent breasts and hips too slim for child bearing - strangely defenceless , a girl -woman ...unprepared for any eventuality that might befall her - her multiple arms a bizarre burden...And yet as I took the photograph from below , she seemed to rear up above me into the night , arms held aloft for all the gods in the Hindu pantheon to arm her .

Meanwhile her family huddled together like refugees

Durga Pujo 2007- Meetings and confabulations

I wish I could impose restrictions as we do in corporate meetings , viz. mobiles on silent( a cardinal rule), no smoking and only 1 speaker at a time . At this meeting there was plenty of cross talk and cross walk , note Krishna Mazumdar's blurred figure as she hurries past , a lot of planning about naru kora on panchami from the revered elder ladies whose hands have a lot of magic and to whose handiwork one used to bow one's head in the older days - the groundwork for the Anandamela was laid here , the rostering of pre puja work amongst the ladies and other integral men's jobs with which we lesser mortals do not worry our heads . I managed to capture some of the activity with old Trusty , aka my camera phone