Pujo Perspective

6 years had passed since I had last been in Kolkata for the Pujos. 6 years is a long time….back then Ganguly was still loyal to his wife, Sachin’s batting was still enjoyable, Abhishek Bachchan was the biggest failure of Bollywood, LK Advani was the future face of BJP, the World Trade Center was an overpriced tourist trap and I was still slim.

Indeed “a long long time”.

I had been away from the city I love for 6 years pursuing my PhD in a land far away missing one Pujo after another. I refused to visit websites with pictures of Durga Puja and indulge myself in that monstrosity marketed as “e-darshan”—-what a load of IIPM.

I also never attended fatuous “NRI Bengali Durgo Pujos” because I knew I would never feel at home in an assemblage of overweight “mashima”s talking about their glittering diamond and gold appendages, overtly serious “uncles” wallowing in self-importance and reluctant ABCD babes and dudes enduring a few hours of “getting-back-to-the-roots” torture from their culturally apologetic parents. (My apologies for this harsh assessment of “Bengali Associations” in US—-I had an extremely bad experience the only time I attended one of their jamborees).

In short, for me it would be the real thing or nothing.

This year was it. My first opportunity after 6 years and I grabbed at it with the eagerness of a teenager who gets his first copy of Debonair/Playboy.

Oh to be in Kolkata now that’s Pujo is here.

You see the reason I like Pujo is the crowds. Not that I am a bottom-pincher or a pickpocket …oh no no.

Let me explain. I am an agnostic—-or more precisely ” I do not believe in God but am afraid of Him”(Usual Suspects). For that reason, the Pujos have no religious significance for me. The pandals and the statues are stupendous works of art no doubt (most of them at least) but no work of art would make me take unpaid leave from my work and rush across seven seas. I did not come back to partake of the purple pleasure of pandal-hopping with my friends —-namely because I never had many friends or brothers/sisters/cousins and my Puja activities were almost exclusively with my parents.

Again let me repeat: the reason I went back was for the crowds. Or more precisely the enthusiasm and joi de ‘vivre they radiate. There can be nothing as exciting as watching millions of people trooping tirelessly all through the night–braving serpentine queues stretching for kilometres with no complaint; waiting to catch a glimpse of something they have seen, with minor variations, countless number of times. I have never seen more happiness in the air than I see on Ashtami night—–and this is what makes Pujo worth everything.

And the small things of course—-the kid with glowing eyes standing in line in 1998 hoping to catch a glimpse of what he called “Titonic” (a pandal constructed based on the Titanic), the eggrollwallah catching a few last desperate seconds of sleep on Panchami night before the deluge of humanity begins, the shouts of “Nescoffee” and “Ashun dada ashun” (Come here sir) from the hospitable stallowners, the muttonrolls of doubtful provenance (I swear I once saw a stray dog go into a Pujo food stall and NOT come out ), the mobile circuses (come see the three headed girl), the deadpan announcements on the public address system :” Kusumkanan-r Panchu…tumi jekhanei thaako na keno office-e chole esho tomar bondhura tomar jonye appekha korche….” (Panchu from Kusumkanan…wherever you are come to so-and-so your friends are waiting for you).

[Reminds of a famous person whom I knew who went with 7 of his friends and got lost in Muhammed Ali Park. His friends realized that the “famous man” was lost once they heard on the PA system: ” So-and-so from Anwar Shah is here at our office and his 7 friends are lost.”]

Some things have surely changed in Kolkata Pujos—-there is more money in them, the profile of advertisers have changed in the big-name Pujas (Gallop Hawai Chappals , glycerin soaps have been displaced from the billboards by Airtel, Hutch, Allen Solly), traffic is better controlled, the eggroll/muttonroll stalls have been supplanted in many places by Arambagh Chicken (our Bengali version of KFC) and Dominoes and the old purutmoshai (priest) now has a cellphone—that too with a ringtone of “Dhoom Macha Le Dhoom Macha Le Dhoom”.

Some have not: Maddox square and Ballygunge Cultural are still chock-a-bloc with beautiful faces, aerodynamic backsides (Maddox Square and the backless choli—-never understood the close relation), giggling college girls, and heart-wrenchingly voluptous boudis (difference: before 1998 I would lust over them as the “mature senior woman” stereotype …..now in 2005 most of the glam boudis were my age) with “nekamo” (faux-femininity) dripping from their exaggerated movements.

And one other thing that has not changed—yours truly. Sure he has become fatter, older, cynical, worldy-wise but the things that moved him many years ago still pack the same punch. He still gets fuzzy from the adrenalin shots of pure joy that permeate the air, still enjoys watching the milling crowds and still appreciates the boudis.

Whether that is entirely a desirable thing — I leave you to judge.

33 thoughts on “Pujo Perspective

  1. Now I know that you are 29 from one of your replies to the comments made in your blog. Here is something that you should know.

    You have written that you did not have many friends/brothers/sisters/cousins and your Puja activities were almost exclusively with your parents. You may not have brothers/sisters/cousins but you sure are a really lucky chap to have parents(who I presume are not very young souls) with whom you had your puja activities almost exclusively! This means you mean an enormous enormous lot to your parents and visa versa. How many of us are blessed that way!! No matter how many brothers and sisters one have, eventually most of them drift apart – mine did – of course there are exceptions.

    I just laughed so hard to read your reason of ‘not being a bottom pincher—-’ to like the crowd of the puja that tears started rolling off my eyes. By the way, I saw your pics posted by another blogger. You look handsome ( I mean it) but you need to shed a bit of weight – then you will look devastatingly smashing. Go for it guy!

    My last comment is that to be able to enjoy simple moments like the ones that you described is something which you should be proud of. It takes a lot of spirit to be happy.So be happy and enjoy everythings including the boudis.

  2. as usual, damn good… and of course more sensible than is usual. 😀

    and you totally put me off mutton-rolls in pujo pandals!

  3. [GreatBong], you write and make all of us feel as if we were there. Tears rolled off my eyes 🙂 and I decided to write a spirited piece in defense of Bappi-da and Mithun-da


  4. Man, you have good flow. Let it grow.

  5. Never knew you also have this aspect in your personality. I felt a lump in my throat.

    There are many additions made to the vocabulary post IIPM saga. Few days back I read about a new word

    To Gaurav: (verb) to leave a job because of blog posts which you do not and should not regret.

    And now IIPM : (n) crap , Obscene words for unacceptable behavior. Obscene term for feces.

    You are outdoing yourself these days. 🙂

  6. Great Bong, you write really well and you are hillarious!!!

  7. I wonder by my troth
    what you and I did before we met!

    Okay, I know we haven’t met, but at least I met your blogs [some of them .. I haven’t read the whole thing yet .. can’t promise either to do that ever ]. Anyway, the reason I’m posting a “Comment” and thus ‘impregnate,’ for the first time, your not-so-virginal blogspot is this: you were , on December 21, 2004, yearning for a smattering of readership for your not-so-random thoughts, and I am hoping the wish hasn’t yet died down.
    [That was the ‘comment’ part, which will not stray from its traditional requirement of being laudatory.]
    Now a few ‘observations’in which I’m going to agree with everything you outlined in your Dec 21 2004 blogessay:

    A. your point 3) Be a woman who uses men’s words. By that I mean swear a lot albeit in a feminine way. Call yourself a “bitch” , ” a slut for love” , ” attention whore”——-and you got yourself a ready-made audience lapping up every pearl of wisdom from your lips (or as they would call it—“verbal vagina”)

    Excuse me? “men’s words?” Are words patented? [Of course they are, by God, how silly of me to come up with this Seetalwadesque crap!]

    B. 4) Be an intellectual woman who uses men’s words

    Tsk tsk now that words are patented an ‘intellectual’ woman must have acquired the intellect not to mess up the copy-paste rights and continue to use publicly ‘men’s words’ to avoid getting sued for infringing into their domain by ‘feminising’ the lang, [the errant ones, however, all begin with the slangs].

    C. 5} Be an intellectual woman who uses men’s words and smokes.

    Of course the Smoke factories, including the thermal power stations, are by the men, of the men, for the men. Women, born thieves, can only hope to steal the fag, the fad, the show [albeit in a Mona-darlingish way]. As you see, they were ribbed apart at the very outset and God didn’t pardon Himself for stealing Adam’s rib thereby confounding the womenfolk and condemning them to keep stealing forever. Suitably applesaucy, hmm?

    D. 6) Be an intellectual woman who uses men’s words and smokes and professes to be bisexual/bicurious.

    But women, especially intellectual women [that’s a preposterous claim anyway, do they admit women in CERN, NASA, IITs yet? If they do, that’s a dastardly mistaken miss-intake!]
    can’t, mustn’t, shouldn’t, con-profess their declamatory sins before an audience of faceless bloggers, which incidentally comprises, rather led by a) intellectual men using men’s words and smoking Goldflakes or Malboros, b) intellectual men doing ditto but also at once delving into the depths of Smirnoff, Johny Walker, Chivas Regal et al, c) intellectual men who profess to be anti-intellectuals and Pulitzer material in one breath, d) intellectual men who righteously feel a tinge of sadness at the world going rightwing but never fail to banish the Leftists to distant galactic asylums, e) intellectual men who rail at non-intellectual men [read non-IIT, non-IIM, non-JU, non-Presi, non-Stephenian brigade] who post the ‘May I do frienship with u?’s to intellectual women and show signs of gender-heresy by deciding to learn from thieving women and not the self-taught prodigees that God made and named ‘intellectual men.’

    Er at the end of it, all I got to say is that intellectual women are a weed-like, parasitic breed proliferating like viruses and should be barred from blogging absolutely. The preaching rights were at all times held by men and this time is no exception either. Women should not be allowed to poach in the intimidating Arthurian jungles and the onus of ‘enlightening’ the humankind was ordained by God Almighty to be carried out by these eminent Augustines.

  8. @yourfan: That comment just made my day. Yes you are absolutely right about my parents—-they have spent a lot of time with me and even this time (my wife could not go due to a status problem), I spent the whole night (from 10:00 to 6) pandal-hopping with my not-so-young parents. And I love the company of my parents–let me also say that. As to the losing weight thing, I am huffing and puffing on my virtual treadmill right now—just have to drop the virtual part. Again your comment made my day.

    @aparna: The stuff that goes into Pujo food….we are better off not knowing

    @GHE: thanks and posted a comment to that on your post.

    @Rudro and Anon: Thanks

    @Ritzy: IIPM has indeed entered the English language…Rok Sako To Rok Lo as they say.

    @Sillybele: (putting down dictionary)….

    Firstly, I know you know that it is against blog-etiquette to post comments on “unrelated posts”—this comment should have gone on the Dec 21 post. Alternatively, the comment could have been mailed to my email address and a response guaranteed.

    However you want attention which is why you end up unleashing your verbal diarrhoea on my “latest” post. This is my reply.


    The point in my article was not whether men had exclusive rights over some words or whether intellectualism is a prerogative of a few select institutions. Nor
    was it to castigate female bloggers in general—its only a handful of them who were being talked about.

    The point was that some people (women—if men said these things they would be laughed at, branded as perverts/leches and worse) seek to attract attention to themselves by name-dropping, hold up their boozing and smoking as “badges of honor” and calling attention to their sexual activities/preferences just to show that they are “cool” and “with it”. And then there are of course many guys who love this stuff—-and that’s abs fine for both of them —freedom of expression and all that.

    But its also my freedom to make fun of these kind of bloggers and their fans…..just as its your freedom to strike back. Just do it in the proper place and we will all be fine.


    [PS: Any subsequent comment on my Dec 21 post in this thread will be deleted with prejudice. Thank you]

  9. ROTFL @ your bitingly accurate description of the ‘NRI Bengali Association Pujo’.

    Completely agree that no amount of e-darshan can substitute for the ‘real thing’. I did however indulge in and immensely enjoy Prufock[-Kaku ? ;-)]’s srisp description of the pujo days – quite the nostalgia inducing stuff.
    And of course this post…..now excuse me while I wallow in the despair of missing out on seven pujos in a row.

  10. blog-ettiquetes? am sorry i’m new to them n am not a blogger .. that is i don’t keep a site myself .. at times i post these suitably outrageous comments n yes very deliberately in ur case to attract ur attention .. since u so wanted it .. but now i see that u have enough ‘yourfans’ to ‘make your day’ n u can always delete a post that smacks of anything irritable to ur delicate composition

    ps: i did have things to say to your response to my post, but i don’t see any use in typing them .. deletion is great as long as it’s happening elsewhere

  11. @Jatayu: Next year…do try to go. I cannot stress how much Kolkata has changed (for the good)…

    @Sillybele: or Silly Belle? Or Silly Belly? In any case, my composition is far from “delicate”—-I wish it was though.

    And if you bother to look through my archives, you will see many highly critical comments that have not been deleted and instead been answered. I love a verbal scuffle actually.

    However you need to post it *in the proper place*. I am amazed that someone with such a bombastic vocabulary and keen understanding is unable to grasp such a simple fact.

    Again: Post it in the proper place…..or write a mail with your objections and it shall be answered and not deleted. However if you insist on barfing on a thread related to the Pujos I will be forced to delete it.

    I hope that is clear enough.

  12. Very well written description indeed. Thank you for such a lump-in-the-throat-smile-in-the-eyes piece. Took me back a good 15 years back when I was the gawky teenager in uncomfortably new clothes, armed with a mutton roll, staring at the pretty young things from the corner of the pandal. I never realized the fact that so many years have gone by. Thanks for a rather refereshing wakeup call.

  13. Never really got the chance to catch Durga Puja in Calcutta, but I did wind up pandal hopping in Chittaranjan Park in New Delhi. CR Park is the prolly the only place in Delhi where you get those original non-papery non-canned non-haldiram ros(h)ogollas — dropping that extra H coz i’m an oriya guy 🙂

    And of course the backless cholis and the associated 2-minute mental love epics 🙂

  14. Great Bong,

    Part of the charm of your writings is the bluntless. The words you have said in your December post are excellent and true. Unfortunately it touched a raw nerve in some female’s body who took it out on you. She conveniently generalized what you wanted to about a small subset of females ( as feminists often do) and unnecessarily tried to stir a hornet’s nest.

    I am slightly afraid though. If you get influenced by her comments and try not to write anything that will irk feminists, you will gain lots of asinine “ish ki bhalo chele” female fans but your appeal will be lost to a fan like me, who likes your shooting-straight -from the-hip -style. And I know that you are not a chauvinist, but that you just call a spade a spade.

    From Dec 21 to one of the world’s best bloggers- hats off. Your pujo post was very sentimental.

    On second thoughts, after seeing your handu picture and not discounting the complexity of the female mind, it might well be that the ranter is actually a pained fan who loves you and then, in a strange way loves to shout at you. The apparent antagonist therefore, may well be a secret admirer.

  15. Ah those days… which would be spent at Maddox Square, doing what you used to do in your heydays…. Greatbong… you have made me nostalgic!

  16. really envy u, u know that 😦
    lol at the comment by anonymous above … but seriously – it would be sad if u go PC bcz its great reading u – just the way u are. anyway, what abt some pujo snaps? are u done with ur studies and back or are u on holiday or is that a dumb q? what were u studying, if i may ask?

  17. @bald monkey and Nirav: Yes the years *do* pass fast—I know thats a cliche but that doesnt make it any the less true.

    @devdutt: On my list of to-dos—-visit a CR Park Puja once.

    @Anon and Prerona: No chance of me ever becoming politically correct—I guess the fact that I did not have many friends is a sign that I have shot from the hip once too often. I havent been a nice guy for so many years—and 29 becoming 30 is too late to start 🙂

    @Prerona: I am back now mainly because I am no longer a student. If I was a student, I would still be in Kolkata :-)…..I graduated with a PhD a little more than a year back and am currently at my second job.

  18. This post has been removed by the author.

  19. cool 🙂 tumi ki likhechho pore dekho.

  20. Konta pore dekhte bolcho—if you mean the student part…if I was a student (ie a research assistant) I would have been able to take a 1 month leave —no probs. However once you start working that is no longer possible.

  21. “what a load of IIPM” – priceless!!

    having spent this durga puja away from (global) home, and having visitted nri durga pujas in bangalore, this article of yours was particularly enjoyable and identifiable!

    keep up the great (literary) work!!

    – a regular reader.

  22. Deklum, porlum, onubhobh korlum. Even tho’ I was in Cal, didn’t really try to elbow my way through the milling crowds, even tho’ we did go out on a night-long protima-dorshan with friends on panchami nite. Primarily coz my daughter fell asleep and someone had to be in the car with her and also coz I don’t like the dhakkadhakki. But just being there, even as an observer means a lot. Pujo in Calcutta has a different charm.
    Can’t really identify with your “boudi-baji” but yes, 15 yrs ago, we also looked fwd to finding our knights in shining armour!!
    Finally, echo Somsubhro on “NRI durgapujo” in Bangalore…an absolute pile of IIPM indeed!
    Btw, u are indeed a very very lucky child…to have such wonderfully sporty, yet not-so-young parents. Hope you can give them many more small pleasures in life.

  23. @Somsubhra: NRI Pujo in Bangalore? You mean NRB (B=bengali) Pujos….I have heard the Delhi ones are quite nice.

    @Priya: I hope so too….

  24. hey…u indeed r a great bong…infact, i shud say a great blogger bong! loved ur blog…n the way u described the NRI pooja thingie was soooo true… just dont understand…they just pick a day…n celebrate everything…oshtomi, novomi…n all….on tht single day…n then, its like buh bye…maa durga….

    its weird, man! but yeah…me personally hfe never been 2 kolkata n thus, hfe not witnessed the “famous kolkaatar durga poojo”…

    but then… i guess…the plc doesnt matter…its basically all abt the bhakti u hfe, rite…n delhi’s durga pooja celebrations r great too….

    fine then…keep up the good work….


  25. you did it again…as usual…this time even i had been in kolkata during pujas after 2 loooong years (to spend pujas in bangalore…yukk!!!!)…gr8 work boss, keep it up!
    thinking of all those mutton rolls I have jad….hmmmm….


  26. Well, the real story was that “Golf Green’er Rintu” was called and not “KusumKanan’er Panchu”, 🙂 But since the writing is so good, you’re discounted.

  27. hello! long time …
    kemon achho?
    shobho bijoya …

  28. Hai Great Bong it was really nice what you have written about NRI pujas, but I feel it almost the same thing in all the Non-Kolkata(Non-Bengal)pujas, I also really had bitter experiences here in Mysore.
    But I need to tell you that at how much distance we may be,
    during the pujas we have the liberty of getting a little nostalgic!
    Can you tell me till now why the 50 /60 people go to Coffee House and intentionally feel nostalgic when they know that, time that are gone never comes back.
    So, I feel where ever we may be during the Durga Pujas we should take ourselves to as much proxity to the celebration as much as we can.Now even you can check the day to day Kolkata newspapers every morning with a cup of tea, Rabindrasangeet in the background in ETV bangla.
    The age is to close away the distance not to increase it, with our dear and near ones.

  29. Its a pleasure to read blogs so well written.you should try and make a job of it,i mean try writing on a regular collumn or some thing.
    About pujos in Kolkata,this is my first pujo,after ages for being probasi….but the rush around makes one jittery abt facing the crowd.Hats off to ur parents for being with u on the streets,best of luck to ur wife as well.Being in kolkata doesnt vouce for a great pujo,esp when one hears jabberings about ur sari being ugh or the neighbours neckpiece being cheapstuff….brings back memories of the childhood one spent with the true values pujo and the eye contacts one made with shy glances…these days its only boudis who hold attention… even in blogs! 😉

  30. hahhahaha you wrote it in 2005 and this is 2008 and still when i now cought hold of your “perspective” makes me feel so bloddy same now..coz i too related my self sooo god damn much in what ever u said..took me dwn memory lane..

    and more I am returning to 2008 pujo after 2 yrs …so managed some leaves ..and i am so excited and even more after reading ur stuff

    cheers bosss u rock!

  31. good one but please do think that there is no effort involved to create such kind of atmosphere—-……..its sheer enthusiasm and yes this is only in Bengal.there can be thousand places which can be more attractive and more glittering during the festival season but none of them have the ingrediants to create the madness

  32. Hi GB,
    I have been a regular reader of your blog since the past 6-7 months..and looking for your articles on Kolkata came across this one!
    A little too late though(only 3 and a half years)…
    This article has left me joyous, nostalgic, enlightened, and so on more than any of the other articles..(maybe when you are away from beloved Bongland you feel ecstatic with such articles) just because I found a person who has enjoyed the pujas exactly as I have..that is pandal hopping with young at heart fabulous parents..
    I too never had enough friends/cousins to go out with, for which I was always accompanied by my parents during pandal hopping, occasionally with mashi/pishis.
    I have always loved the pujas just because of the crowd, who’s undying enthusiasm made them brave the heat, sweat, fatigue, long queues at the pandals, rain, traffic, any possible obstacle. Perhaps they are not even as enthusiastic and as courageous when facing their own problems.
    And we get to see all these because of the relentless work of another crowd who also have to brave any possible obstacle to have their pandals, pratima everything glowing on time…the aura of divinity along with pure madness, happiness, delight, (pleasure of the taste buds too) makes the Pujas so special, so Bengali!!

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