woops......those were really hectic one and half months. Could not squeeze out enough time and will to update the blog, and I do feel sorry about it. Now for reasons. First was Durga Puja in 1st part of October, no sorry, the last minute Puja shopping was first. And then it was Durga Puja. Followed by business trip to Vizag, Diwali, Bhai-Phota and so -on. During Puja, I had planned for too much of activity, with the 4 day vacation (3 CL and 1 holiday on Dussera). Looked like I needed 48 hour days and not the regular 24 -hour ones to fulfill my ambitiuos timeplans!!!! The proposed agenda included... well of course going out to visit Ma Durga, lot of cooking, reading the Pujo Shankhas (Every reputed Bengali publication brings out special issue during Pujas which we call by this name), watching lot of DVDs, and lots of relaxing.
But unfortunately I completely missed the project timelines, and succeded in only 1 of the activities successfully - which was darshan of Ma Durga at variuos pandals. But undoubtedly I do not have regrets in not being able to fulfill the other planned activities. This time we decided to have a peek at famed CR park pandals in Delhi. But to avoid the infamous crowds and traffic snarls that are notoriuos for this area at Puja time, we decided to play it safe and go out on shashthi itself - that too in day. But surprisingly the pandals were almost empty this time around - 2 elements playing spoilsport - 1st the weather, which surprisingly remained extremely uncomfortably hot and humid even in October, and 2nd the fear factor induced due to recent terror attacks around the coountry.
But even then it was great going around in CR park - we went to 5-6 pandals there. In the evening we went to Sector-22/23 Puja in Dwarka, which is organised by my cousin didi-jijaji and their friends. Jijaji was particpating in the Agomoni - welcoming Ma, which is mostly a combination of songs, verses and narration, in the glory of the great Ma. He sings really well. And then there was is group dance of my little niece shirin - on the song "o o o o o aai re chhute aai pujor gondho esheche"....Does it sound familiar? Bengali children in good old days of yore, when we were growing up, were raised on a staple of children's song sungs by Antara Chowdhury in her childhood. Anata Chowdhury has since long grown up to be a singer and she is the daughter of the legendary composer Salil Chowdhury. And then, on the "professional" performances, there was something really interesting. It was from a troupe from bengal which practices "gouriya nritya", which they say is the classical dance form of bengal which was somewhere lost along the paasages of time and buried deeply in pages of history. This lady, who is a renowned scholar and teacher of music (extremely apologetic for not being able to remember the name.....so typically disgraceful of me ). She performed with her troupe - a bunch of very talented dancers - with the amazing danceform, which I had never seen or heard of before. Though I am a "kala akhar bhais barabar" (it is a saying in hindi which means illiterate) as far as dance is concerned, but I felt that it had similarities with Orissi but was still unique in many ways. Keep it up madam, will look forward to more of your performances.
On Saptami, there were some initial plans of visiting the nearby Pujo at Sector-6 in the morning, but the scorching sun outside actually led to cancelling of plans. The destination on this day was Matri Mandir at Safdurjung enclave. This is one of the many kali baris in Delhi, and one of the oldest and most famous. We do visit this mandir at other times also, and the ambience is really soothing. Here the Pushpanjali was on around the time we reached - 2 pm. And then there was aarti. There is something magical about the way mantras are chanted here, it is very very different from regular community pujas that we visit more frequently. And then there was bhog on offer. "Bhog" is the offering to the Devi, which is then distributed as a community lunch. During Durga Puja, more so in places outside West Bengal or "probashi" pujos, every day there is a community lunch and ALL are welcome, irrespective of anything, no one is turned away. As we were not very sure if we would be on time for the "bhog" we had already had brunch and hence were full. So we collected little bhog in the small tiffin box we carried to savour later. The menu was Khichudi (rice and lentils cooked together in mild spices), labra (a mixed vegetable dish), chutney, payesh (rice cooked in sweetened milk), laddu (a common Indian sweet). This is the most common menu across puja pandals for bhog. After spending some more time in the pandal, totally exhausted from the heat and sweat, we came back home to refurbish some energy for the evening out.
In the evening we decided to catch the cultural program in the nearby Sector-6 Pujo (by Dwarka Bangiyo Samaj). Somehow the programme was no where near expectation. There was a dance program by young girls from the area, which was pretty good. But the so called "proffessional" performace was what was disappointing. The start attraction of the evening was "Sanchita" - the winner of the childrens' version of the reality show "sa-re-ga-ma-pa" on Zee. But the evening was prolonged by some songs from another unknown reality show participant, and people were getting impatient at non-arrival of the real "star". And finally she arrived with a bang, with a popular bangla folk song "sadher lau banailo more boiragi", but unfortunately that was it. Rest of the time she kept the "interested" part of audience happy with her rendition of new popular hindi songs. But nothing interesting for me. These hindi songs are actually done to death every day on FM radio, on TV promos, and in hundreds of reality shows in all possible channel. There is no fun in listening to same hindi songs again on a cultural program organised on the occassion of Durga Puja and that too outside West Bengal. There are hardly any opportunities to enjoy Bangla gaan (song) live anyway here, only CDs and cassettes. So for me, live hindi songs do not have any appeal in this setup, but unfortunately singer after singer goes the same way, and organisers chose to close their eyes and ignore it. It is really alarming how Bollywood is eating into our culture and traditions, and the one of the most important constituent for the same - Music. I am sure people from other states would be going through similar emotions...