Old Pictures of Durga Pujo

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When we were in high school, most probably Class 12 but this was oh so long ago that it could well have been class 11, we started this little tradition. That being that on Saptami (the day Pujo officially starts), we, some friends from school, would meet at a specific time at Anandamela, an electronics shop in Gariahat and then go pandal-hopping on foot. The first time we did it, there was quite a crowd. It was so much fun that we kept on doing it every pujo. Over the years, fewer and fewer of the original group attended the annual ritual, college group alignments washing out the high school ones and couples forking out on their own. I religiously showed up though in front of the glass display windows filled with Aiwa sound systems and Onida color TVs because Pujo wouldn’t be Pujo without it. Then I came to the US to study. And that, as they say, was that.

A few days ago, while going through my home PC in a Pujo funk, I alighted upon an old scan of a picture taken at Maddox Square, one that I had almost forgotten I had. I posted it on Facebook and another friend, who used to be part of that group, posted a few more pictures taken another year (the one in which we had our biggest attendance), pictures I didn’t know existed, taken once again in front of Maddox Square.

There is something about those old pictures that just put me through an emotional roller-coaster. First the amazement—who is that thin guy wearing my old shirt, looking wondrously optimistic back at the camera? Then the embarrassment at the outsized glasses and the multi-colored, flashy, straight-out-of-Hero-Number-1 waist-coat which had seemed such a great idea at the time. Then the quiet chuckle recalling the small romantic pins-and-needles and the politics of juvenile friendships. The furtive glances. The “Did she mean what I think she meant” insecurities.

All of which had seemed earth-shaking in its importance.

Once.

Then the sadness. Of the roads not taken, the words not said, the time not spent. The inevitable melancholia of gazing into the past with the certitude of the present.

The knowledge that we, as a group, will never have such times again.Sure, we can try to “schedule” a reunion. But it won’t happen. It won’t happen because the group is dispersed all over the globe. It won’t happen because everyone has moved on. Brutally put, we do not have anything much beyond a few minutes of memories to share any more. Even in those few minutes, I am sure we will hold ourselves back, wondering whether it would be politically correct to say that which is dancing at the tip of the tongue. At least I will.

Because I am now an adult. And adults are supposed to be conscious about the feelings of others.

Which means I am more studied in my interactions with fellow human beings, more wary of being judged. Which means I will possibly never be in a group like that any more, as unfettered and as carefree. Which means I will possibly never take a cap gun and burst it close to…never mind. Even though there is a part of me, the Peter Pan corner that never wants to grow up, which still wants to.

This, I suppose, brings me closer to the truth. The chest tightens not because I miss my friends but because I miss myself, the outrageously thin, flashily dressed and absolutely uninhibited dork standing in front of Maddox Square.

I look once more at the scans. The thing about pictures is that they don’t move. That’s perhaps why they are so comforting. But life keeps walking. Forward.

And it is then that I feel happy.

No not happy. That’s not the word.

Glad. Glad that I have moved. Glad that I am what I am today. (Okay may be not the weight).

Because progression is the way of the universe.

That person in the picture, I suppose, he is better left there.

Not that I don’t miss him. And all the others. Especially during Pujos.

So then, finally, slightly fogged up in the mind, I minimize the picture window, catch my breath, close my eyes, and move on.

The sound of distant dhaak, the aftertaste of over-oiled egg rolls ,the giggles, the scraps of conversation, and the music of happiness—they still keep playing for some time.

[Pictures—1, 2 and 3]

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41 thoughts on “Old Pictures of Durga Pujo

  1. These days all pujo does is fill me with nostalgia. Such a relevant post. Ebar jai – nijeke prepare kori for next weekend – baki auntie-der shathe shari tule munni badnaam hui nachbar – sigh!

  2. oh why? why do you have to write such an article just before the ‘pujo’ ? for bongs outside their homes; it just brings a sense of melancholy.. a dream unfulfilled..so ‘out of the corner of my watery eye’ i just wish to be there next week; though not in person but in spirits..and seriously:thanks a ton for the post..’dhaker awaz to shunte pabo na; tomar lekha’i hoye uthuk sei panacea’

  3. Ashadharon hoyeche… I don’t know how much have I changed as a person or whether or not I miss being myself… I surely do miss u guys!!!!

  4. Wow. Lots of glasses.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist. I was a loner through most of my growing years, and ‘groups’ of this kind were never my thing. It’s something I feel I missed out as a teenager, but I did have some good friends – the kind of friends that never go out of touch.

    You should be happy you experienced this as a teenager – and that’s the only time this kind of masti ever really happens. There are friends and gangs who never move on, who never leave the city or the maholla they grew up in, and even then, the groups are never the same once everyone grows ups, starts working, gets married etc.. damn, I’m rambling.

    And yes, I do agree that the Hero No 1 jacket was not your smartest investment.

  5. Beautiful post, Arnab. For some reason, I got all emotional though I have nothing to do with these pictures, pujo or your experiences. But it just feels like we have all grown up and now those school/college days wont ever be back. And look at you in those pictures :)) Haha… I like!
    Keep writing.

  6. love the post…had a similar experience when i was going through my old photos and all memories came back..and it was like revsiiting anothr era..but yes in the end i too fell the same.glad to have become what i have become! n good to move on :)

  7. gb…can you tell us which one in the 3 photos is you? i have seen your recent pics, but difficult to recognize you in these pics since you were young.

  8. the number of folks wearing glasses in the second photo dazzled me…))) light reflects back…nice post though…BTW weight is easy to shed..No processed carbs at all + squats with weights = weight loss (check mike geary on the web…spot on)

  9. Always miss Kolkata during Pujo. Like you said, it’s more about missing the old me rather than those pandals. Goosebumpy. Growing up comes with a heavy dose of cynicism and a part of you always wishes the world was simpler.
    For all its faults, today I so wish to go back to Kolkata.

  10. Wanted to write about this exact emotion and this exact Pujo activity but you did it much better than I could, I guess.

    The thin boy in my pictures would have got a lump in his throat if he had read this post.

  11. Thinking of the insecurity that you mentioned, I heave a sigh of relief assured of the fact I’m perhaps not the only one who used to have it.
    Who decides to move on first, us or the people we thought will always stay the same? And then, if it’s them, then the fact that “we are glad that we have moved on” becomes justified. However, don’t we still wish that, had none of us chose to do so, we would have been truly happy rather than just glad.

    That’s why 2000 kms from home, I tell myself that “I’m not of the Durga Pujo type, all these frivolous activities are not meant for me.”

  12. Nice post.

    Nostalgia…makes us miss the past. But we feel nostalgic because the past is past and there’s no turning back. What’s left are only nostalgic moments, magical. Definitely old, but then old wine tastes better.

  13. Hey GB!!

    Reminds me of wonderful memories!!

    Wow! So many spectacles!!
    You guys must have been from the “studious” gang.

    Happy recollections!
    Thanks for the share!!

  14. Arnab, your spectacles I think followed the same economic logic as the Law of Bong Housewives and School Uniforms – Buy two sizes large, so that there is no need for replacement for the next 2 years. :)

  15. after making endless efforts to make myself free for a couple of days during this puja…i come upon this post..nothing could be as heartbreaking and so true at the same time…this will just keep me waiting for that reunion that finds is all together, weight immeterial…sharing the same glorious moments..TOGETHER. Will miss u arya

  16. Beautiful post!
    Feel sad at reading tho…lost time, innocent childhood never return…and yes, the road not taken…wish I had the courage then :(

  17. Is it the two of us or do all out station bongs feel the same way? What you wrote was what we did – met up at MG Rd metro station on oshtomi and pandal-hopped all the way across to Maddox square on foot. Now that all of us are dispersed – we do look back at those memories and react in the same way that you described. This piece brought tears to my eyes on sashti. Well done :)

  18. Talking of school-college days reminds me of an obscure Mithun song. Wonder if you have ever mentioned in any of your posts

    Prabhuji in drag and villains in white suites unable to recognise the hero. Only saving grace is Usha Uthup.

  19. Arnab, That was great.I belong to Delhi but I guess as far as the feelings and emotions are concerned Maddox Square and Chittaranjan Park all merge together,so potent is the flavor.

  20. I never went to maddox square pujo as a teenager studying in jadavpur university, i went back home to bihar. But I saw myself in the girl with the heavy eyeliner. And remembered the times when I was 18 and 19 and feeling monstrously grown up. And maybe pretty too. Lovely post. Thank you.

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