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