As usual, I will start with my usual quota of excuses for being absent for more than 2 months !!!I am again getting erratic in my posts, however hard I wish to be regular. The problem is that I only "wish" and not "try" hard enough to be regular :-)
Had a great Durga Puja in Delhi this time. Thankfully the weather gods were also not as harsh as we had anticipated - though days were HOT and SWEATY, evenings were tolerable. This time, the Puja committees also took a cue from the agony of last year and put up more fans inside the pandals.
In some small ways, the recession was visible in the way Pujas were organised. My cousin brother and brother-in-law being senior members of organising committees of 2 different Pujas in Dwarka area of Delhi (where I live) - had similar stories to tell. It was difficult to raise funds from sponsors this time. Even the cultural programs were not too star-studded this time around. Only "Star" performer in whole of Dwarka this year was Nachiketa, whereas every other year, there are quite a handful. In another Puja, announcements were made frequently that nobody should waste "bhog" (the community lunch which is to typical of Durga Puja celebrations), as everything is expensive. Some committees also cut down on the bhog menu - and did away on "luchi" altogether and replaced it with "khichudi".
But a little tightening of budget cannot dampen the spirited Bengalis from venturing out and enjoying thoroughly all through these 4 days of festivity. The activities are Pushpanjali in morning and aarti in the evening to satiate the religious appetite, & cultural programmes for the culture conscious Bengali in the evening. But no discussion on bengalis would be complete without a mention of the most important part of a bengali's life - FOOD !!! The community Durga Pujas take utmost care to ensure that no true-blue bengali is deprived of this - to be able to satiate their true appetite!! Community meals are served all 3 days consisting of Khichudi-vegetable-bhaja-chutney-misti and other variations like khichudi replaced by pulao and luchi on other 2 days, depending on budget and taste of organisers. The dinner on these days is mostly enjoyed at one of the food stalls that are setup mandatorily around the Puja Pandal.
The best part of Durga Puja is wearing new clothes on all 4 days!! And the associated shopping for oneself, family and gifts for near and dear ones. Though over the years, I have become cynical of life in many aspects, but I am amazed to find that Durga Puja still manages to excite me - almost equally as it did years back when I was little. I am still happy to shop for new dresses, matching jewellery, shoes and then dress up in all finery in those 4 evenings. I am happy to forget all my lows and negatives and transform myself to a magical dream world fully for 4 days....I suppose all of us become Cindrellas and enjoy an escape from reality for these 4 days...
I am not sure many communities in the world have such a festival with 100% participation from the community over a 4 day period. Though things are changing fast, with things no more like the good old days, but still we have managed to retain the festivity and true spirit of the Puja. Thank God for that!!!!