The Magic of Maddox Square

It’s Durga Pujo (and no I will not spell it as “puja”). And that means being struck, once again, by what I referred to last year as the realization of how far away from home I am both in terms of time and space. Of course any walk down the path of Pujo reminiscence for someone growing up in South Calcutta in the mid-90s would be incomplete without a homage to THE Pujo destination—a place where the ethereal beauty of the Goddess in clay and the ephemeral iridescence of the angels of flesh and bone who flitted around Her, the sound of the dhak and the musical cadence of laughter , the smell of perfume and oil-dipped “telebhaja” (pakoras) all combined to cast a synaesthetic, magical spell on all those present—-especially if you were early 20s, male and single.

Yes I am talking about Durga Pujo at Maddox Square which for five glorious days became Calcutta’s trendy fashionable hot-spot (according to the Express, food stalls at Maddox Square now serve “dieter’s sandwiches” keeping in mind their sophisticated clientele)—a place to see and be seen in. Why Maddox Square of all places we know not— Pujo historians opine that the venue being a park gave people a little more space to congregate and wander about as opposed to the Pujos that take place on the street where you fight for every inch of standing space to anguished cries of “Cholun dada cholun” (Move on sir, move on). Plus its location in a transportationally well-connected place in Calcutta together with it having decent place for parking cars (in comparison to the rest of the big pandals) may have also contributed significantly to its popularity, especially among the so-called ‘bhodrolok’ (moneyed gentry) of Calcutta.

Whatever be the reasons, the fact remained that for people like me in the late teens and early 20s too old to be holding Ma’s thumb and asking for a balloon and too young for having someone pulling at my thumb asking for a balloon, one of the single biggest attractions of Durga Pujo was in ensconcing oneself in Maddox Square, along with an all-male group of friends (I was in Jadavpur University Computer Science which had 55 guys and 1 girl), often on the few rickety chairs the organizers had strewn around the pandel and sometimes on the ground and testing the flexibility of our necks for some live “pratima darshan”. Old Calcutta hands will recognize this as the noble art of “jhaari-mara” (English translation: looking at someone of the opposite sex) with the subtle nuances that come with such a developed occular art form: the paraxial, the normal and the angular jhari reflecting different levels of coyness and confidence.

Amidst the “pariyon ka mela” there were the college-going beauties, suitably dressed for the occasion, some bold ones with even with an off-shoulder or a Maggi two minute spaghetti strap, in girlie groups, giggling and talking among themselves— some with astute good-girl detachment from their surroundings and some others intensely conscious of being in focus. There would be the ravishing boudis (married women) with their 15,000 rupee sarees and their god-knows-how-much worth jewelery blotting out the statue of the goddess with the glitter of their youth and wealth. There would be couples meeting on the sly and separating out from their groups discreetly (not that it escaped our eyes) and then there would also be the brazen khullam-khulla twosomes holding hands —-a sight that always made one of my friends, needless to mention burning in the fires of envy, say in a tone of consolation “These girls from Arts may go out with the Arts guys but they will marry us engineers”. Not that it really helped.

And how could I not mention the fashion. If you wanted to see what Calcutta was wearing, whether it be the “Dil To Pagal Hain” neck or the “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun” sari ensembles, then Maddox Square would be the place to be. Of course there were fashion disasters too —women who had white-washed their face or had worn a frilly dress about a hundred years too late but these sore thumbs were the exception than the rule. Or maybe I say that because we were always favorably biased towards the ladies—–mostly focusing our ire on the menfolk, the ones who, unlike us, had beautiful women on their arms or luxuriated in overwhelmingly female dominated groups (a friend used the generic label “advertising-r public” [i.e. people in the advertising profession] to refer to them).

Maddox Square was also unique in a sense that it had a profusion of members of a particular sub-culture of Kolkata [Rituporno (with whom I share the same school and university but nothing else let me add) being the most famous representative of them] wearing ornate dhotis and Punjabis resembling more a red Banarasi sari than anything else (I once heard a snarky comment telling one of these gentlemen to mind his pallu), speaking in stilted Bangla accents who were to us as much a subject of derision as well as of wonderment. Most of our bile was of course reserved for those men (and sometimes women) who just when they came in front of the idol would whip out their cellphones (this being mid 90s bringing out a cellphone was about as much a flaunting of wealth as bringing out a diamond studded Iphone would be today) and pretend to be lost in conversation—–we usually dismissed them with “That’s not a cellphone that’s a pencil box” (loud enough for them to hear) because there was a type of pencilbox made to look like a cellphone that sold on the streets of Calcutta.

Recently in 2005, I visited Maddox Square again after 7 years and it felt strange , though of course nothing unexpected, at not being able to recognize any of the faces or find old friends (in the mid 90s I would be able to find at least one person I knew in the crowd at any randomly selected moment), with the spots that we used to occupy once being now filled by a new generation of young men. Their names and faces I did not know, but strangers they were not. Call me a typical expatriate wallowing in maudlin nostalgia but I saw reflected in them the person I used to be, a long long time ago. With that feeling came the realization that no matter how far I am from home or how old I will have become, a part of who I was shall always remains alive, for those five days in autumn, amidst the glitter and joy of that magical place known as Maddox Square.

[Maddox Square courtesy this flickr page]

95 thoughts on “The Magic of Maddox Square

  1. never been there, but want to – just for the women, if nothing else!

    but again, i’ve known engineering types to exaggerate.

  2. When will the engineer groups realize most of the girlie groups are equally desperate as them?

  3. Damn straight, Pujo it is! Puja sounds like some skanky anoerexic Maru woman attending Durga Pujo in 2-minute straps.

    LOL at the engineering student’s aspirations. Leads me to believe engineers everywhere are more similar than dissimilar. As stated in the Shawshank Redemption, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

  4. “These girls from Arts may go out with the Arts guys but they will marry us engineers”,,,really good!

  5. LOL … even for a probashi (Delhi) bong like me.

    But i have to take issue with one thing though -‘bhodrolok’ = ‘moneyed gentry’ ? Hmm … something lost in translation methinks… i thought the whole point of being a “bhodrolok” was that you had no money – in fact were slightly contemptuous of the moneyed classes, but were culturally inclined enough to read “Remembrance of things past” in the original French… 🙂

  6. @Andthirtyeights: Of course I exaggerate.

    @AdLibber: Ahem can we have some supporting evidence? Like some testimonials and confessions from the “Arts” ladies?

    @ArSENik: Love that line from Shawshank Redemption

    @Nanga Fakir: 🙂

    @Ujjwal Deb: No the whole point in being a bhodrolok was that even if you had money to be contemptuous of it. The word is but a legacy of our feudal past where the zamindars (historically rich) who had time and the financial resources to spend the time doing “kultur” were the bhadrolok and those that actually worked for a living were the “chotolok”.

  7. Since you are from JU, do you remember mahayan (Mahabharat Ramayan) by any chance ? Or do you have a link to it ? It was Maddox Sq, on a Puja Day, that I first read it. What a coincidence. Didn’t it come out of JU ? Or was it Shibpore BE College ?

  8. Just an off-track comment I thought of. Why Calcutta/Kolkata is the only place Bongs tell others about. I mean I never ever met a bengali guy who is not from kolkata. I know this is not entirely your problem, but the fact is that there is no other place in Bengal other than kolkata which can be talked about. That itself is the biggest polictical failure of last 3 decades. And that too when rest of India knows even that city is also on death-bed. Nothing to offend, just a silent observation.

  9. @Bengali Guy: I dont have a link unfortunately. However there is a version of it on the Orkut “Bangla Khisti’ community which you may want to refer to.

    @Last Commentator: “I mean I never ever met a bengali guy who is not from kolkata.”

    Maybe thats your problem rather than the Bengali nation’s. My dad, now a visiting prof at U of Pittsburgh, is from a place called Birbhum. Of course I could go on but its useless talking to someone who, based on pure ignorance, sprouts the line of one Rajiv Gandhi about a city being on its death-bed. I would ask you to come to Calcutta and see the IT parks and the real estate development but then why bother convincing someone who thinks he is the “rest of India”.

    And no nothing to offend you also—this being a topic on Durga Pujo and all that.

  10. Why Arnab? Why do you do this? Sitting miles away from home on a Soptomi evening(by EST), I can only feel jealous of the kids who would now be sharing such nirbhejal (or should be the other way!) adda at the heaven of all pujo pandals. Had sat there & witnessed a transition from my late teens to early 20s, had blazed in the fire of an youthful spirit, those endless flirting & heart-breaks too, with often an intoxicated nobomi midnight madness at a nearby friend’s house, – everything happened within the five days of pujo. It was as if there were no tomorrow. Live it or let it go! As friends went out of state, out of country, I have seen the faces change through the years but could always find a recognisable face among the crowd. I doubt if I go back now, would any of my old pals be lurking somewhere.
    You are right, they are no stangers, they are the same souls, they are us – only in a new package.
    Do they still sit around in their college gangs – JU/Presi & the strummer plays his guitar while the others join to sing a Porosh-pathor number – I wonder?
    Sharodiyar anek shubechcha roilo!

    PS: In my times, those spaghettis changed to handkerchief tops & even after so many years, I can almost still recall the greedy gleam in most of my male friends’ eyes. And why not! Pujo-r kodin to saath khyun maanf!!

  11. Ah Pujo, new clothes, Anandomela Pujobarshiki, loud speakers announcing ‘Bablu tumi jekhanei thako eikhane chole esho tomar maa tomar jonno apekkha korchen.’ special pujo’s new movie…I am told this year Mithunda’s Tiger is making waves. Yes, I do miss Pujo, haven’t been home for Pujo in 12 yrs.

  12. last_commentator October 19, 2007 — 1:11 am

    I understand Arnab. I think what I wanted to tell that whenever I meet a bengali guy he tells that he’s from Calcutta though many of them are actually not. I was pointing to this attitude that they are ashamed of telling other places for the simple reason that those are so backward that they don’t want to feel embarrassed.
    and certainly i’m not rest of india nor i’m sprouting some comments by rajiv gandhi. if you think that its progressing then its good for india, but i had some other feedback i received due to my close interactions with lot of bongs people for whatever reasons here in bombay. so either they are telling lies or haven’t gone there in last few years or totally anti-communists.
    anyway, happy durga puja. enjoy.

  13. Though I am neither a Bong (let alone GB) and I have lived my life in Kanpur I used to love the pandals and the small toys sold near them.

    In the bygone era mobile used to be a status symbol and one used to get charged for missed calls (What is it like a dinosaur age? Which eon was it anyway?) which some of my friends told me that is still the case in US of A. There used to be a joke that some random dude was trying to impress some girls by pretending to be on call over his cell phone and suddenly got a incoming call’s ring tone for it! I heard this from many sources and none of them used to remember who told them or who was the guy (neither do i, nor will you if you retell it)

  14. eta lekhar ki dorkar chilo arnabda??? ekei pujo te ekhaane…. puro jole geche… tobe ki jaa bolecho eke baare hok kotha…

  15. @ last_commentator
    I agree what you are saying is true to some extent. There is only one recognizeable city in Bengal and in the period 1977-2000 Bengal didn’t see any sevelopment as such. But things have changed past 2000 and would only get better, albeit at a slower pace than expected due to the omnipresence of a infectious disease called Mamata Banerjee.
    Now, your other point -there are some people who despite being from other parts of Bengal claim they are from Kolkata. But the reason you have stated is not correct. I’ll give you the example of myself. I have spent a considerably long time of my life in Kolkata but originally I am from a small town called Contai which I’m sure you’ve never heard of. It’s not that it’s your fault. Now suppose I meet a fellow Indian at a faraway place (may be NY)and exchange pleasantries. If he/she asks me where I am from, I would say I’m from Kolkata. Unless I feel it’s really necessary I definitely wouldn’t tell one that I’m from a small sub-divisional town called Contai in Purba Medinipur District near the Digha beach. To put it in a straight and simple way, Kolkata is the most noiceable part of Bengal and just by saying ‘I’m from Kolkata’ or ‘I stay near Kolkata’ you can give a rough idea of the location of the place you belong to. Like all Pawai-ans are Mumbaikars, all Ghaziabadis are Delhiites, almost all Bengalis are Kolkatans.

    @ Arnab
    That’s all I can say about my feelings after reading such posts of yours. It’s the 5th straight year that I’m away from home at the time of pujo.
    Anyways, Sharodiya’r shubhechha roilo, tomar jonne ebong tomar somosto pathok der jonne.

  16. Khasa!

    Btw, since Bangla (in WB) & Bhojpuri (in Bihar, West UP) picked up their penchant for ‘o’ rounding of words from Ardha-Magadhi (via Pali) having long been centres of non-Aryan traditions (Sakta & Bauddha: remember Pali ‘Gotama’), ‘pujo’ is indeed quintessentially Bangali! In fact, my linguist’s dhamma (Pali) makes me suggest the perfect term here — Dugga pujo — Two thumbs up to Dugga pujo Maddox^2!!)

  17. Sort of my ideal Pujo (I hate ‘Puja’!) – sitting in front of my laptop, in a cold city in the Midwest, on a Shaptami night (make that Ashtami morning, in reality), reading your blog about Maddox Square !

    Don’t get me wrong here, your blog is the only silver lining in the above sentence.

    Have often wondered what – historically – drew people to Maddox. You explanation sounds quite logical (as with all your dissections of topic). Maddox being bang in the middle of ‘posh’ area of Kolkata doesn’t hurt, too. Another Pujo which readily comes to mind is the Durga Bari one. Very nice ambience, more homely. But the open grounds of Maddox scores over the covered, at times, claustrophobic, atmosphere.

    Eagerly waiting for the week to get over so that I can visit the weekend Pujo organised by the Bengali association here.

    Shubhechha roilo.

  18. Is the timestamp of comments in GMT ?

  19. Awesome post… i have been away from this mother of all festivals for the 9th year now and the wound of nostalgia is just as ripe…. although i was not a south-calcutta-ite, coming to Maddox square all the way from Salt Lake was well worth the effort of waking up at 2am (yes, 2am… dad & i figured that to be the best time to beat the crowd and still see the lighting extravagnza) and driving down there…. and trust me, i would still see a bunch of people engaging in the pristine Bengali ritual of “nirbhejaal adda”, enjoying the pujo with the carefree elan that you so appropriately illustrated…..

  20. Hello Arnab,
    Nice post. The subculture of which Rituporno is a part of, could you explain it a bit? I am quite fond of Sharbari Dutta’s designer clothes and I don’t find anything peculiar in that. They are fairly reasonably priced I think. What is that you were trying to say? Everyone wears a bit expensive stuff in the pujas, nothing to harp about.


  21. Awesome post…if you have been there & done that; I haven’t been to Maddox Square during Durga puja(o), but we have Dussehra celebrations at Bangalore where frustoo adolescents live similar moments.
    But boss, during these hypomaniac times, one always imagines that the coy, deer eyed beauty is stealing glances at oneself, but you console yourself that, the lass isn’t talking to you because of that Ravan-look-alike brother or father alongwith…your heart is aflutter with her thoughts for the next few days & each time you go back to the pandal you eagerly search for her.
    Every guy lives this imagination atleast once and if you had confessed to your episode this post would have been complete!

  22. i wish i could write like you…your the best!:D

  23. “It’s Durga Pujo (and no I will not spell it as “puja”).”
    “Damn straight, Pujo it is! Puja sounds like some skanky anoerexic…”
    “Pujo (I hate ‘Puja’!)”

    Incidentally being Bangal, it’s frequently referred to as “Puja” in our family by my father and his generation and above. Of course our generation of cousins being more comfortable with the Ghoti-bhasha, only refer to it as “Pujo”.

    As I was mentioning to a colleague the yesterday, for a long time (even years after I’d left home and no longer quite participated in Pujo), I had a hard time getting rid of the habit of “saving” new clothes for Pujo. The thrill of wearing all the sets of new clothes saved over the year (including those received just before Pujo as gifts) in just 5 days is something that I kinda miss.

  24. Emni tei aaj sakal theke ami prochondo dookhi, ekhon-o pujo dekhte jete parini bole. Eto soto pore to ami bus bag tag guchiye ekhuni berochhi office theke. This is the 4th year ami pujoy Bangla’r baire. Ekhane B’lore-e pujo hoi, pujo mandope gele pujor hollagulla te darun maja hoi. Bnagla’r eto dureachi bujhte parina, kintu kich jeno ekta missin thake. May b it is the comfort circle around – jeta kina nirvejal adda’r mooldhon 🙂

    Sakkolke pujor onek onek subhechha janiye ekhonkar mato katchi, [afterall office theke palachhi ;)]

  25. the reason why you are a God amongst bloggers is that you have cut straight to the heart of the matter.

    that Pujo’s are not about religion, they’re not as the Commies claim, about culture (to justify their participation) and they’re not about art – they are first and foremost about chicks.

    i often tell people that there’s a secret government horde of hot chicks that are only 1. allowed to study literature at Jadavpur University and 2. stray out during the pujos.

    awesome post as usual.

  26. That feeling of missing old friends during Durga Pujo is universal I think. Reading your statement about “”wearing ornate dhotis and Punjabis”, just recalled an old joke about a bengali boudi asking for a Punjabi in Delhi Karolbagh cloth shop and the shop keeper offering himself! Sharodiyo subbhecha to all.

  27. cubicle-bound Misfit October 19, 2007 — 1:07 pm

    I am too late to response. But without any of my ‘cubicle- bound’ abstruse adjectives I could tell you that this is the most touching, most human, most beautiful article I encountered so far in your column. I had a respect for your sneers and satires, for your melancholy of an era bygone often smoothen with layers of saucy humor.
    But this year for the second time of my life, sitting somewhere far away from India, you opened a hidden rooms for my fastly decaying memory.
    The only thing that comes from my moist heart after going thru your poignant memoir is this couplet:
    “Ik Puranaa Mausam Lautaa/Yaad Bhari Tanhayee Bhi/Aisaa to Kam hi Hotaa Hain/Tum Bhi Ho, Tanhayee Bhi”

    Keep Writin for everyone, Arnab, specially for ‘Cubicle Bound’ eat-shit-die creatures like us.
    Auf Widersehen

  28. @GB
    I am really nostalgic after reading your post. 😦
    I was raised on Durga Pujo of Bangalore (dont wince at the thought of probasi pujo, naak shitkiyo na), but in spite of it, your post rekindled my memories, of pujo get togethers, group songs that we used to sing, skit presentation, just everything and how we used to wait for those five days.


  29. If I go to a temple, they better offer me some god damned Bhang is all I got to say.

  30. Nice post. Was waiting with much expectation ( just like anandomela of the bygone days) for your Durga Puja post with all the nostalgia dripping. I guess this is your third post regarding Puja. Yes, I am going with the word Puja, consciously( subconsciously I know, I use all of them) because that is what I grew up hearing from my grand parents and parents and anywhere outside Bengal it is puja or pooja, so nothing skanky about Puja, actually nothing can be skanky at all about Puja. Wish that you did not stress on whether to spell it Puja , Pooja or Pujo. All sounds equally sweet.
    Had been to Bengal few months back after a long hiatus and was happy to see the progress. Just the ride from Dumdum to my Ma’s house in Durgapur was wonderful, no more, bumpy back breaking rides. The roads, I would say is comparable to US standards. There was even a well maintained rest area between Dumdum and Durgapur. I am proud that I did not have to make my son pee on the road side.
    Frequent response to your commentators says that you are in Saptami mood and is in no mood to work, so am I. Did you manage to attend the Probashi Pujo yet? Do attend because I will bet that few hours of dhak & dhunuchi do elates your heart.

  31. I can’t say how wonderful it feels to read so much about the pujos in several blogs. i guess that is something we bengalis cannot live without, wherever in the world we may be. Being a south cal girl myself (jodhpur park to be precise – and no i was not the high nose kind;) – i visited maddox square pujo every year with my group of friends mainly because that was supposedly the hotspot for handsome young guys. now its been eight long years since i’ve been to kolkata for the pujos – and i’m scared that when i eventually do get a chance to go back during that time – i will be disappointed with the pujos being no where near the same as what we experienced back then.

  32. Excellent article Arnabda. I used to tell my parents how all trains out of Howrah are sold out in order to stay back in Cal for those 5 days ….just to check out the “jyanto protimas” of Maddox Square.

    I used to love the entire experience … girls strutting around … teenaged boys trying to show off …. college kids trying to do their “chok”

    The last paragraph kinda reminds me of that famous song – Coffee house by Manna Dey. Yeah, I haven’t been to Maddox Sq since the 3rd year of JU (2001) ….. mon ta kharap hoye gelo hotat ….

    Anyway Subho Mahastami …… am going to New Jersey’s biggest Pujo Kallol tomorrow ….. dudher swad ghole metabo ….

  33. @Suzi: Don’t take everything you read so seriously, man (about Puja).

    @Mala: As far as Probashi Pujos go, I accept that amader Muscat-er Pujos that I grew up on didn’t hold a candle to the Calcutta ones I last attended 16 years back, but they had their own charm. So far from what I have seen, the Muscat ones were better than the Bay Area ones I have attended so far, which sounds strange I know.

  34. Sorry, I meant madhuri, not Mala.

  35. @AS
    Oh I still religiously wear new clothes during the days of Pujo irrespective of whether I am in this part of the globe or in the other. Just 2 days ago I ransacked Toronto for my Soptomi, Asthomi, Nobomi wear.

    Boyosh to holo, tai tin-dinei restrict korlum 🙂

  36. @ArSENik: thanks for clarifying! 🙂 btw, which bay area pujo do you go to – probashi or sanskriti? this is the first time i did not attend the ay area pujos.

  37. @Mala: I attended the ‘Probashi’ one two years back and the one at the Sunnyvale Temple yesterday for the first time. Don’t know who organizes that one. You can read about yesterday’s visit at my blog.

  38. last_commentator October 20, 2007 — 1:10 am

    @ dEbOLiN

    “But things have changed past 2000 and would only get better, albeit at a slower pace than expected due to the omnipresence of a infectious disease called Mamata Banerjee.”

    Sorry for bringing ugly politics into the festive mood, but couldn’t help pointing it out. I wouldn’t call Mamata an “infectious disease” just because she’s opposing Tata’s project. I’ve no sympathy for her but in today’s context I think she would have been better. What the use of a broad-minded CM when all your policies are nullified by anti-nationals called karat and yechuri and a rogue group called politburo. Have you ever asked why should politburo decide a state’s policies? then why do the people elect the CM?
    Her policies are as regressive as communists but at least she’s not a Chinese agent.

  39. yes, being an engineer, being in and out of maddox square, being out of calcutta for the pujos, being socially(esp with the opp sex) challenged, so much to relate to!

    thanks for the post1

  40. a punjabi by heart but always fascinated by durga puja (reason: frequent visits to chittranjan park, delhi)
    and regular reader of greatbong’s posts….
    here something i found on net …..showing the various puja pandals in calcutta including ‘Maddox Square’

  41. Hi Greatbong
    have been reading ur blog for quite some time now. share two things with u- am a JU CSE 2005 passout and have been taught by Prof Ray at Joka(his last year there)
    There were many posts where I felt like posting a comment. Like the one where u talk of nasipuri’s lab,hehe(comp games).Somehow couldnt find the right words :D.
    But this post suddenly made me so nostalgic that i couldnt resist myself. Great, absolutely great post. was already senti that cudnt be in Kolkata during DP and ur post just added to the feeling.
    Am obliged that u can put in words what i wud have major fights explaining to others. I am using ur post to make my non bong friends understand the essence of pujO 🙂
    Shubho Bijoya.
    ~aasche bochor aabar hobe

  42. Happy Dussehra People!

  43. Never heard of Maddox Square before. But then I have never been to Kolkata. Will make it a point to visit if I am in the city next Pujo.

  44. Sadly, haven’t seen pujo in ages. Only went to Maddox once, but then the place was muddy. But I think close competition comes from the `poris’ at Ballygunge Cultural, walking distnace from my house 😀

  45. Arnab, I’m late on this, but I would still like to know how “These girls from Arts may go out with the Arts guys but they will marry us engineers” is a good thing. The Arts guys seem to have it best, don’t they? 😉

    Aaj shondhye o raate onek paratei protima bishorjon hochhe, tai eishonge bijoyar shubhechhao janalam.

  46. @Oliveoyl: Yes I forgot to mention the groups of friends sitting on the ground or on chairs singing “Nilanjana” or “Mary Anne”…

    @Aditi: I wish I could see “Tiger”.

    @Last_commentator: From my own experience when I studied CS, more than 50% of my class came from districts other than Calcutta who had done well in their JEEs. The list of state toppers see a large proportion of students from the districts. Now I dont know why, except for the reason DebOLIN said, they would be reluctant to talk about where they are from.

    And while I would agree about the pernicious effects of Communism on the state,the situation has improved somewhat under the sagacious Buddhadeb…..if you look in my archives I have discussed this in some detail.

    @TheQuark: I do not think people in the US are charged for missed calls. They are however charged for calls that make it to voicemail.

    @Joyjit: Hmm

    @DebOLIN: And a sharod subeccha to you too.

    @S.Pyne: Right ! Dugga Pujo !

    @Krishanu: Exactly.Durga bari….was bang opposite my school and had an atmosphere too. But being covered and much smaller than Maddox Square, never really took off. Yes I suppose the comment timestamps are in GMT…not sure.

    @SKDB: 2 am !

    @Arijit: I have never heard of Sharbari Datta and what I am harping about is the “over fashion”—-however I would say that I have been a fashion victim myself many times.


    @Venky: I hear you ! Yes a common fantasy among us….

    @Escapista: Thanks

    @AS: Hmm

    @DGTalDiva: Subeccha to you too

    @WTF: Thanks

    @Bhopale: 🙂

    @Cubicle-bound Misfit: Thank you

    @Madhuri: Probasi Pujos are awesome too…my wife tells me how great the Pujos at CR Park used to be

    @Teabaggins:Bhang?Wrong festival for that.

    @Suzi: Saptami mood—I actually took leave from work (used up a “personal day”) to be able to sit at home and wallow in remembrance.

    @Mala: Handsome young guys ! Have we met by any chance?

    @Dibyo: Mobile protimas…yes ! So did you see Miss Jojo (wasnt she performing in NJ?)

    @Saptaswa: 🙂

    @Dheeraj: Thanks for the link

    @Joydeep: Great to have a reader from my juniors….you sure got the teacher name right…and MTK also used to be there along with Ms. Nasipuri. And thanks…

    @Akhil: Happy Dussehra..

    @Toe Knee: Please do.

    @Killerbee_qa: Maddox Square becomes muddy at the slightest sprinkling of rain.They also pour water to prevent the dust from being raised by the footfalls of millions.

    @SD: Subho Bijoya

    @Rimi: I know —but for a generation of engineering students growing up on second hand books from Golpark and College Street we put less premium on first use and more importance on permanent ownership. A totally wrong approach may I add.

    Bijoya’s subeccha.

    @All: A happy (subho) Bijoya to all of you.

  47. GB, greetings to you too.

  48. Hi,

    Although years your senior, I went to South Point and JU as well and now live away from Kolkata. Thought your post was brilliant, really. And the nostalgia it generated cuts across generations. Your descriptions were perfect and nothing seems to have changed through the generations — I belonged to the Bobby and Sholay days when long hair, bell-bottoms, loud shirts and wide belts were the fashion for the guys. we thought they looked so good then…:-)! Changed our minds for a while after that but horror of horrors — the trend is back. Bottomline — nothing changes finally..what goes round comes back. Keep writing, as someone on this blog said –“Awesome”.

  49. Maddox Square was like home for those 5 days of Durga Pujo. Your post brought back fond memories of intoxications (all sorts…….booze, siddhi deoa Kulpi, visual intoxicants), night outs and friends. And school, which was just opposite the park. 🙂
    Great post!

    Shubho Bijoya-r onek shubhechha.

  50. ebaar er Jhaarbaati ta oshdhoron korechilo. You must also admit that one of the star attractions of the pandal was the enormous chandeliers they used to put up. Though a probashi now (in delhi), i was informed in great detail about the lothon, the pakhis, and the rolls that were available this time.

    and, I completely agree with the pencil box theory. Remember, commenting a few times myself on those lines. The other alternative was to classify them as radios. eg:
    “dada, score ta koto holo ???? ” har har….

  51. ps: subho bijoya to you and family….

  52. Awsome Post always! I wholeheartedly agree with oliveoyl’s comments “Why Arnab? Why do you do this? Sitting miles away from home..” as this post brought back many many fond memories of Maddox square. (Even though I am not a Bangali, Pujo and Maddox square have/will hold a special meaning to me. I am Sikh but have always been a very proud Calcuttan)

    I just lived about 5 mins walking distance from aamader Richie Park (AKA Maddox Sqaure) and have spent many-a-pujo’s Just ‘adda maraoing’ (on those rickety chairs) there from 8 PM to 4 in the morning (..and yes during the mid nineties as well when I was in my early 20s and single). The last Pujo I enjoyed there was in 95 after which I moved to Melbourne. Maybe my group might have sat next to your group! 🙂 I have been dying to get back but never have been able to go during Pujo. I always end up going around late Dec but I hope to get back one day…

    Getting back to my nostalgia – Maddox Square does hold a very special place for me as I have always lived in that area and have been going there ever since I was a little kid (holding Ma’s thumb and asking for a balloon) and all the way to my early 20’s with an all-male group (adda, jhari, jhaal muri, phucka, egg-roll/thums-up combi included). At around 1 or 2 in the morning we would walk all the way to Azad Hind and have chicken bartha, naans etc and then walk back, then have another adda session & cha before walking home and then do it again the next day and the next! Even if we did venture out to Ekdalia or Beck Bagan or Mhmd Ali park, we would find our way back to Maddox Sq. and stay there till early morning! Sigh, those were the days!!

    SIMPLY Loved your ending paragraph – Call me a typical expatriate wallowing in maudlin nostalgia but I saw reflected in them the person I used to be, a long long time ago. With that feeling came the realization that no matter how far I am from home or how old I will have become, a part of who I was shall always remains alive, for those five days in autumn, amidst the glitter and joy of that magical place known as Maddox Square. VERY Nicley worded!

    PS: Went to the Melbourne Durga Pujo on the weekend. Even though, its nothing like aamader ‘Richie Park’ (nothing can be), It felt great to be there just soaking up the atmosphere, listening to the ‘dhak’, just relishing those memories.

  53. @Arnab and everyone else:

    Shubho bijoya to you! Hope you all enjoyed this Pujo to the hilt.

    We had our own pujo at Hiranandani, Powai in Mumbai on a rather grand scale and it was great fun. I was actually oen of those people who were announcing for lost watches, keys, children, and parents, besides the usual timings of “Mukto Moncho” and evening programs where we hosted Shreya Ghoshal and Bhoomi.

    And guess what? I (and our group) got to sing three original sings in front of the 5000 strong Navami crowd? How cool is that!

    Can’t wait for next year.

    Arnab, I hope you got to visit some good “bideshi-probashi” pujo.

  54. Shubho Bijoya To you Arnab and to all others.

    Coming from Durgapur, I was initially apprehensive about whether I would get the same fun attending (read Birdwatching) the Pujo in Kolkata , like I used to freak out in the famed Vivekananda, Anand Vihar, Cement park pujo pandals. Any old Durgapurean would know of these hallowed areas.

    However, Maddox Square was Kolkatas answer to my quest . And what an answer it was. The impact was so great that even a pot bellied, balding, middle aged, married me struts off to the famed pandal on Asthami and Nabami, even today.

  55. Shubho Bijoya to everyone.

    @ Anirban Mitra
    ‘birdwatching’……heard that word after a long time….brings back interesting memories 🙂

  56. Shubho Bijoya everyone !!!

  57. The bombardment and high frequency of responses suggest one thing. This was a highly anticipated post and it was worth its salt. Really dude, you struck the right chord with everyone – boys and girls, teenagers and Aunties, bangal and ghoti alike. Congratulations on a wonderful piece of writing.

  58. Subho bijoya to everyone !

    Arnabda, missed Jojo’s performance. Had to leave early. There was a time when she was really “dobka” …dunno how she is these days.

  59. Shubho bijoya to Arnab & all Bongs/ non-bongs.

    Even though a Probasi bengali, Pujo has special memories. But being in Bombay, the exams were always after the Pujo….oh how we cursed the timing of the exams.

    For us, Pujo used to start from listening to Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s Mahalaya on Radio. In Bombay the Pujo mandals always used to have khichori bhog in the afternoon. In the UK its even better, you get bhog for lunch & dinner 🙂

    I heard bhog is not served in Calcutta, is that right?

    TitBit : Did you guys / gals keep an eye on what Maa was coming & the consequence of that (e.g. Gaje asche, Nouke jache) ?

  60. Dugga Maa came in a dola (famine) and went back on a pachyderm (bumper harvest!).

    Bhog is still served, but usually for the chanda givers.

    For me, Maddox Square was a brief visit as we were taken pandal hopping by parents. I used to look longingly at the foodstalls as I was unable to see any signs of cool dudes.
    (That explains my tastes and shape.)

    Now settled at the back of beyond, I have great fun staying glued to the club pujo at Pragati Sangha. I look at the coverage sported by the daring young things ( tsk, tsk, Ponchuda’s younger daughter Tina seems to instructed the tailor to do away with the back altogether) and take special note to see which young man seems to take a swig too often in the dark corner behind the pandal ( tsk, tsk, Biloo is drinking way too much, but then — so does his father!)

    Wearing awesome new saris and sporting ethnic jewellary, I had a whale of a time Miss-Marpling away.

    And the local cool dudes were decidedly uncool after they had danced boisterously. They were UGH! dripping with sweat.
    The girls simply glowed (with er, sweat).

    And Tina got the green insects down her back. Made her wiggle a lot. If this wasn’t the case, I can’t explain her dance moves.

  61. BHASKAR MUKHERJEE October 22, 2007 — 8:38 pm

    great post

    maddox square rocks

    till thinking of calcutta pujo but the birmingham (uk) walsall pujo is catching up,especially the adaa

    the art babes did not marry the engineers but the docs like me.

    the loretto girls knows this


  62. @Bhaskar- Whats the use? The arts guys pumped and dumped them when they were young and thin, but you got them when they were churlish and fugly (fat ugly). 🙂

    Shubho Bijoya to Arnab and others on this blog.

  63. Hey great bong and others. Check this news story by Somini Sengupta and the picts in NY Times on the Pujo.

    Happy advance Kali Pujo wishes.

  64. coming back to your blog after a while. wonderful read; made me terribly nostalgic. and yes, it’s pujo!

  65. Hey..
    Maddox Square is my para….and I’ve been an expatriate only for the past 6 months… so ur entry made me extremely nostalgic. But really well written…and anyone who has a true passion for the pujo will relate to this!

  66. @Swati: Thanks for the info.

    “Dugga Maa came in a dola (famine) and went back on a pachyderm (bumper harvest!).”

    Didn’t you do the same as Dugga Maa is doing this year.

    Bolo Dugga Mai ki Joi.

  67. Shuvo Bijoya, Arnab-da.

    Your last para is in the same vein as ” Borshey borshey…doley doley……ashey biddya motho toley….choley jay tara kolorobey…” .

    I am sure nostalgia is always pleasant visiting Maddox square.

  68. @yourfan2
    The arts guys cannot “pump” nobody ….it takes the engg men with ample knowledge of their tools and machinery to do that …… the arts guys can simply sit on the bridge and say things like “tomar choke koto kobita lukiye achey” ……

  69. Oma, Arnab tomra Birbhumer lok? Dekho kando!! Now, I have a sneaky suspicion we may be related. My entire extended family is concentrated within Bardhaman and Birbhum.

    And to answer Mr. last_commentator, I always insist on telling people that my family’s originally from Bardhaman, which results in having to give a long-winded explanation about where Bardhaman is. So I can completely empathize with those who do away with the hassle of explanation and just say Calcutta instead.

    Debolin, I now know where Contai is, because I went to Digha this summer (and had an amazing time there). Ish, Contai er daab – ki darun mishti!

  70. Bhang should be a part of every religious festival, from Yom Kippur to Ramadan

  71. You are right. Some things never change. I went there at 4:30 in the morning and it was littered with JU engineering students. All seemingly in a drunken stupor until a group of girls arrived to sufficiently wake them up to whip out their camera cell phones.

  72. @Dibyo….LOL. :))) And don’t think that the arts girls were not aware of that. If the guy said any other part than “chokh”, the girl would have given him a scornful look and said, “I thought you were Prince Charming, but you are just like that big bad wolf GB. I’m sure you watch Desibaba”. Eye references are however “cho romantic”. They were merely trying to evade people who wanted to get in their pants, while relishing every iota of attention they got, and waited for the moment to loan themselves to the highest bidder via a contract called marriage. Engineers and doctors in India on an average make more money than Arts guys and hence they were the highest bidders. Although going by the salary trends in recent years, MBAs seem to have displaced engineers from the coveted bidder post.

  73. Arnab, Swati, Shan, Sayon, yourfan2:
    Arnab, just got back from Cal. Posting just as the Shiddhi wears off….. I have good news for you, even as you get older, and even as your focus changes (as hormones sadly do wither away) Pujo just keeps getting better and better!!!

  74. @R.C.
    just glad to know that you have emerged from cyber-hibernation.

  75. geo arnabda, nice answer given to last_commentator….guys like these(maximum people from ‘rest of India’) deserve such a thrash on their face……kudos 2 u……

  76. @Ranjan Sir,

    SHUBHO BIJOYA to you too! Yes there is nothing quite like Pujo for a Bengali.

  77. @Ranjan:

    Thanks and same to you too!

  78. Why only Maddox Square Arnab. Look at Ekdalia..the crowd rocks as well.! I myself reside in Maharashtra and have betted my colleagues that there is no festival as big or has a carnival like atmosphere like the Durga Pujo.

    When they mentioned about the shutting down of the economy for 4 days, I gave them a dosage of my own “Freakonomics” about the shopping and buying that goes on on a large/small scale even during those days..

  79. GB, you have been too charitable to last_commentator, who clearly believes in spouting off nonsense. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if this worthy has ever lived in Calcutta. I’m not Bengali and I’ve lived there a few years and a lot of people from other parts of India come to Calcutta with a warped view of the city and the local culture and never quite manager to widen their horizons. People who say things like the city is on its death-bed astonish me. And there is no need for defensive responses about the economic development. The fact is many millions live there, many of them quite fulfilling lives.

  80. “Maddox Square was also unique in a sense that it had a profusion of members of a particular sub-culture of Kolkata [Rituporno (with whom I share the same school and university but nothing else let me add) being the most famous representative of them] wearing ornate dhotis and Punjabis resembling more a red Banarasi sari than anything else (I once heard a snarky comment telling one of these gentlemen to mind his pallu), speaking in stilted Bangla accents who were to us as much a subject of derision as well as of wonderment.”

    let me say that Rituparno ghosh does not speak in ‘stilted Bangla accents’- he speaks in clear, normal and intelligible bengali like a normal educated person should do. Let me add that this whole trend of Rituparno ghosh bashing on grounds of his individualistic choice of dress and style reeks of lack of taste and tolerance.It is infantile and trite to concentrate on an artist’s ‘eccentricities’ rather than on his art. Don’t you think so ?

    Also , can you/someone analyse the reasons behind the evolution of the body of arts girls-JU lit girls-engg
    students related myths? Somehow feel that these myths reveal a kind of regrettable contempt possessed by many male ‘good students’ towards arts streams students/women in general .

  81. Stumbled on (or rather INTO) your blog from the “parnab defense” post (u hit bulls eye there!) and have just been transported back to Calcutta (pronounced kolkata but NOT written) in the late 90’s.
    Had a similar experience this pujo…nameless faces at maddox…strange feeling – nostalgia coupled with a sort of resigned envy at those holding the fort now 🙂
    Lovely scribbles…will watch out for more!

    P.S. And for anyone reading this who have never experienced it…this post is not about engg guys, jhaari, spagetti straps or even maddox really. Its a way of life which we will never ever be a part of again 😦

  82. Amrita Chakrabarti November 15, 2007 — 5:58 am

    Ah! This potrayal is just perfect. I went there this pujo … it was immensely crowded as usual… but the “phuchka” still tasted the same… the taste you will never find here in delhi :(….
    and well… as my namesake has aptly commented above “Its a way of life which we will never ever be a part of again 😦 “

  83. Find it hard to believe noodle straps were in vogue in mid 90-s.Sounds more like modern day fash being fitted into the post.

  84. Nice post man. Made me very nostalgic. However, for us growing up in the late 80s (I left in 1991), the best live protimas were almost always spotted in various school/college “fests” around the city. Reserved admission always added up to quality jhaaribaji. Coincidentally, SPHS had its first fest in 1990 that I was pretty involved in. But if you were really lucky, you would venture upon the Tolly Club New Years Eve or Christmas Eve bash. That my friend was something else. God promise.

    Good days…

  85. Your posts on Calcutta (and in general, others as well) are simply awesome ……. your non-judgemental way of narrating your thoughts makes your thoughts relevant to other people as well …….. wonderful writing …. and my fvorite line from this one …. “too old to be holding Ma’s thumb and asking for a balloon and too young for having someone pulling at my thumb asking for a balloon” …. LOL !!!

  86. amar lekha ta bepok legeche……maddox square e na gele pujo complete hoyna…..eta je geche she bolbe…..maddox e giye ami nabami r din 2 ghonta dhore khali dhaak bajano shunechi…bepok feeling ekta….

  87. How True, and a universal kind of feeling, for all moddhtobitto bangalis who grew up in Calcutta 🙂

  88. chodon chodon mon

  89. In my 20 yrs spanning life i first kept my long waiting stride onto the ground of maddox square full of teenagers,college guys and girls and exuberant people but i shockingly was missing the old uncles,grand fathers and mothers and hardly a septuagenarian.May be unofficially the youths have made them feel awkward to revel in with them.
    For the first time i feel contempt on myself for having a potbelly sticking out at the perfect age to be paired with someone very beautiful girl,it is the first and only requirement for that 4 puja days.
    The instant i went into the pandal one bye one pair caught my marauding eyes and my heart made no late ruing for itself and reviling them.
    Not a single beautiful,gorgeous looking girl was not waiting for me and for my friends but there were ample good looking guys may be waiting for someones or fallen in that same kind of sadness like us.
    If you are a single and having heard the hearsay that you will be paired here with someone waiting for u or you are not a handsome with smartness then you are going to get completely a painful,saddening,incinerating blow into your heart.

  90. Nicely written. Loved every word of this post. Durga Puja really makes us nostalgic about those good old days. There is nothing on earth which can be compared to an Ashtami evening at Maddox Square.

    I have just uploaded my post on Durga Puja in my Blog. Please read it when you have some free time. And please write some comments there if you want to. Thank you. Here is the link :

    Wish you a very happy Durga Puja. May you enjoy to the fullest and have the best time of your life… 🙂

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