The Puja Paradigm- Then and Now

All good things come to an end. And so does Durga Puja. No matter how much we manage to squeeze in to those 4 days of pujas (or is it 7 now?), the pain following Bisorjon is excruciating. And that’s why ‘Pujo asche’  always beats ‘Asche bochor abar hobe’.

Infact, the preparations for it begin almost 2-3 months before the Devi arrives. And I’m not talking of only the shopping part here, though that does constitute the most important aspect of our pre puja activities. Regular visits to the salons, crash diets to lose those extra kilos (that we again manage to put on, in those 4 days), a visit to Kumartuli (which is almost  mandatory by now), texting friends to see who will be in town- these are all very much a part of the Puja preparations !

So when the ‘real thing’ gets over in a matter of days, nothing short of a vast emptiness grips us all. Our souls, bereft of the vitality that Pujas bring, feel lost and confused. The dipping late October temperatures also add to that cold and clammy feel.

So scrolling through the recent pictures, looking at our yet to be worn clothes, biting away on the Bijoya sweets – are what we do, to make us feel better.   Bijoya visits ? Well, that’s what brings us to this article. Not a better time than this to pen down a few lines on the evolution of our Puja habits over the years !

  1. For starters let us begin with our shopping activities. Earlier Puja shopping was incomplete without that mandatory visit to New Market. The purani shops are almost deserted, and people are mostly to be found in the adjacent lanes of the old market complex, where the Junk Jewellery shops make a killing. But then, that’s true for most times of the year, as the ladies have a tremendous fascination for that kind of junk in their homes. The ‘real shopping’ crowd can now be found in the plush malls, which is obviously a far more comfortable experience (our pockets too feel considerably lighter after the haul), or in front of the laptops, where every day is ‘some’ deal day!!
  2. And what happened to those customary Adda sessions in the Pandals, or in the club houses adjacent ? They have now shifted to the CCDs and Baristas, leaving only the Dhaakis to ‘make some noise’. The legendary Dhunuchi nach, thus has also lost its sheen, due to lack of participation from Gen Y. (No wonder our Bollywood directors now focus on getting their kicks from other stuff).And whole night plans meant intense walking, with a post traumatic sore limb syndrome being the norm the day after. But now these cafes have decided to lend their helping hand (or rather chairs) all night, and hence pandal hopping has now taken the back seat to some hookah smoking or coffee sipping.

    Dhaakis in action, trying to keep that spirit up
    The Dhaak earlier formed the backgrond score for intense addas in the pandals. But now the Dhaak beats have been reduced to mobile ringtones. However the Dhaakis still continue their tradition in the para pandals, sometimes even when they are the only ones giving company to the Devi
  3. Infact, Pandal hopping has now become more of a weekend affair. Thus this year the maximum rush was seen on Friday and Saturday nights which marked the 4th and 5th days post Mahalaya. Earlier, such huge crowds were only seen post Saptami (the 7th day). So people now no longer go by the Puja Tithis (Days), but by their work schedules, which is understandable, given the fact that our overseas clients won’t be satisfied by a gone-for-a-pandal-visit kind of excuse. So it’s more like that in the western countries now, where Pujas are celebrated at some weekend, and not according to what the Panjikas dictate.

Hence the ‘World’s Biggest Durga Idol’ organisers were left unprepared for that massive rush on Panchami. What followed there-after was a tragedy.

  1. Chowmein and Biriyani were the only two food options for lunch and dinner even a few years back. And may be mangsho-bhaat for the hard core Bengalis. But now the Panjabi clad Bangali Babu can be seen gorging on steaks and pastas, cutlery in hand and napkin on the lap. And for sweets we have the deconstructed Mishti Doi kind of things.
As Salmon and Potato mash replace the Ilish and Alu Bhaja on the Bengali's Plate
As Salmon and Potato mash replace the Ilish and Alu Bhaja on the Bengali’s Plate
  1. Even a year back we had to get hold of those VIP Passes by hook or by bhai-chara. But now you can buy them online, albeit for a ‘small’ fee. Tickets for a pandal visit ? That’s a novel concept !
  2. And then comes Bijoya. Dashami onwards our pandal visits were replaced by visits to our relatives’ homes, Kochuris and Mishti in hand. Kolakuli, pranam and asirbad, followed by some bhuri-bhojon continued for quite some days to come, till Diwali in-fact.But now Mr Zuckerberg has come to the rescue of the new generation. They no longer have to bend their stiff backs for the pranam, or be physically present for the Kolakuli.
    Emoticons and stickers do the task for you. Welcome change for some, but a tragedy for people like us. The only warmth we feel nowadays is from our smartphones getting hot on our palms (from intense watsapp-ing) !


    (This blog has been developed by DevlinaDevpurna and Archya. If you like our write-ups, you can follow us by clicking the Follow button below.

    You can also reach us at mailblongshong@gmail.com )

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