The Bengali Extravaganza.

                              Mahalaya is round the corner, the festive feeling has set in already and the Bengali heart is beating fast and the countdown has begun. The splendid attires are chosen, accessories that goes best with them are all set aside as  the beautiful ladies and gentlemen are ready to walk the ramps and usher Goddess Durga to her Pedestal which the community rightly considers to be highest among the Gods and celebrates Her homecoming as  their biggest extravaganza.
                             There is no fun like stroll and eat and pandal hop during pujo in Kolkata when the entire city turns to one big ongoing carnival for full five days. The mega city is totally intoxicated and  is drenched in  boundless joy all unified in a frenzied mood. The young or old, rich or poor,man or woman,  all the divides of being a  Hindu or a Muslim or a christian,  takes a back seat during this joy ride and all seem to be driven by one euphoric spirit that Dominique Lapiere had found here and rightly named it "A city of Joy". The  dazzling city twinkling with festive lights, the brilliant neon sparkling and flashing actually  depict a rather unique and unusual  form of art in light as they unfold  for each street a narration of tales or current events. The multitude walks in a daze nightlong absorbed in admiration of it all unearthing stories told in manifold in the hundreds of pandals staged all across the city.

                                 Kolkata, at the time of Durga Pujo, could well be the "Rio Carnival" of the Eastern world !! Traffic and all mundane chores of life come to a stand still during these five days. Life centers around the festivities of worshiping Goddess Durga, considered to be the greatest of all deities in Hindu belief. There is much show and pomp as it is undoubtedly the most important celebration in the Bengali calendar. The community  takes this opportunity to show case the  biggest socio-cultural event as well.  Every few hundred meters is a different neighborhood in this city, a different "paara", and each "paara" clamors and competes with the other to revel the crowd with their artistic endevours in all aspects of the festivity. The organizations or clubs try to outdo each other right from setting up of the "pandal" with their innovative themes and decor to intricate sculpturing of the Goddess Durga.
                                 As for the populace, Life is but one ongoing party for five days, immersed in gaiety. Revelry and reality becomes one. The streets are lit up with cheer and exuberance of the beautiful bengali women parading in the most spectacular of ensembles and gorging on the most delectable of street food. There have been no curfew hours at home and I could stumble in and out  as often as I wanted and every time it had to be  in a different outfit, saving the best one for the "ashtami" evening. I recall those sneak away with friends and all the clandestine rendezvous in  my days of yore  in Kolkata, o so many years ago. And now as I reminisce those fun filled yester-years, I do miss all the fan fare and merriment back home.

                               As I retrospect, I do think I am happy for many a reasons. As turn of events happen to be, sometimes  are as amazing and fairy tale like. Facts proved to be stranger than any fiction one more time.  Strangely enough, more than a dozen of school mates from a humble convent snugged on the banks of the river Hooghly in the quaint French town of Chandannagar  lands at the shores of New Jersey. Blessed with a fate that had routed our paths to converge  here  to recreate a miniature Kolkata  every year at one Durga pujo ground. School time comes alive, one more time, albeit in an abridged version. I get to relive those days of fun and fervor with my bestest of buddies at the time of Durga Pujo, I am transported back to a past once again ,to my care free girl hood days. Dolled up in all nine yards for three full days with peers of childhood is sheer joy. I much look forward to  this frolicking yearly fiesta. It takes me back to another time, where I can become the "school going teenager" like once again. The constant prattle among old time pals, whisking back and forth chattering with comrades of an old swarm is nostalgic and some what remindful of the " pandal hopping"  back then.

                             Browsing through every item in and out at the various stalls selling sari, jewellery, bags. books, cd can be fun, as helping each other out with the best of choices in the best of bargains, providing for the retail therapy that we are perennially in need of. The hoopla continues as we gather to gorge on "mohabhog" at the tent outdoors, comprising of pulao, khichuri. mangsho and dimer dalna. As the dusk sets in with the chill in the air amidst a riot of colors at the onset of fall in Jersey, the pack is ready to huddle up indoors for the annual dose of culture and entertainment  that  feeds and keeps the Bengali diaspora updated and abreast with Kolkata. The drop dead gorgeous ravishing beauties in their  vibrancy of color in attire  and character keeps the venue bedazzled. It is indeed a wonderful time to introspect and marvel at the joy of being a Bengali. One could just grab a chair, sit aside with coffee in one hand and a copy of " Sharodiya Desh" picked up from the book stall and be self entertained in a typical "bong" style. Better still, to circle up and be at a Bengali's best, with the "adda" sans the" Charminar cigarette" of course. Or take a break by looking around and admiring the charming bevy of beauties. Needless to say that as a race we could  unwind just by a walk to the food stalls,sniffing to inhale the aroma and devour on the pleasures of the Phuchka, shingara, chop, cutlet, roll and  biriyani... and more..which are all available in their limited editions.
20131012_175115.jpg 20131013_162914.jpg                         Days at the pujo seem to fly by in a whirlwind. Much before we realize, the curtains are drawn to end the show.It is time to take the idol of the Goddess Durga and her family from her three day pedestal of a make belief Kolkata in New Jersey, and pack them up for the next year.  We bid adieu to the deity with our sincere prayers to be continued to be blessed. The pleasures and merriment  of  the five day festivities back home  are all crammed in the three days and we feel the  pain of its short liveliness. But then, the pretty smiles of the vermilion smeared radiant and glowing beauties do seem to spread enough warmth to the Bengali heart to make another year long wait worthwhile. Yes, Life's pleasures sometimes do come in small packages for some, especially for those across the seas. "Shubho Sharodutshob" to All.