Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Durga Puja fervour in Calcutta!

It was 4:30 in the morning. The birds hadn’t even started chirping. Something disturbed my sleep. I awoke with a start. I could hear the dhak (drum beats). Durga Puja had arrived!

Covering my ears with the pillow, to muffle out the sound, I tried sleeping again, a smile on my face.
The Pujas had come! The next five days Calcutta would swirl and dance in the revelry of worshipping the Goddess, the city would shine bright through the night, people from the nearby towns would come to visit, sell, and soak themselves in the merriment!

One could see people anywhere, anytime! At 7 am, there’re people on the road. At 1 pm, again people. At 10 pm, still there! At 3 am, no the crowd doesn’t thin out!
These five days — dusk or dawn, morning or evening, noon or midnight – you just couldn’t make out the difference. The city didn’t sleep!
On the few tours made of the various pandals (temporary bamboo structures to house the Goddess), it was hard to miss that the traffic police personnel were having a tougher time manning the crowds than the vehicles!

One of the parks near my place had set up rides along with the pandal. Giant wheel was the hot choice! Not only did it give me the much needed adrenalin rush, but when I looked towards the sky, while my capsule was on the upward journey, I could almost feel myself reaching out to touch the moon. Those few minutes symbolized freedom more than anything! And then came the reality check. As soon as I stepped out of the dark and seldom used back gate of the park, I saw myself staring at a family of a mother and two children. Lying on the footpath, with tattered blankets barely covering them, the mother was trying to put her children to sleep amidst the din of celebrations in the land beyond!

The Pujas mix all hues of reality and of the realms beyond. They mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but to me it’s the time when my city looks and feels surreal!

The Pujas define Calcutta, its old-world charm, its people, its warmth, its serenity, its culture, its madness, everything!

As I sit here writing this, the roads outside are unusually silent! I hear the distant drum beats occasionally as the idols are being taken to the Ganges for immersion, marking the end of Pujas. A year to go, before She comes again!

May the Goddess bless us all!
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