That Time Of The Year

It’s that time of the year.

Durga Pujo.

Jostling amidst insane crowds. Craning necks trying to catch a glimpse of the protima (the idol). Getting my feet trampled by 200 lb mashima from Titagarh. Having my behind worked over by the pickpocket expecting his pujo bonus. Consuming boiled rice sold as “biriyani” and canine meat as mutton roll. Being awash in the bleary-eyed punch-drunkenness that comes not from good old bubbly but from the positive energy that pervades the air.

Not for me.Not any more.

Settled across the Atlantic in Obamaland, a “family man” no less, things are very different.

Very much so.

Durga Pujo is now a social event, something that no longer knots the stomach in expectation, something that no longer quickens the heart. No it is not. It is  just yet another diversion on an autumn weekend (Lord Rama may have done “akaal bodhon” but the NRIs go one step further—“weekend bodhon”) when you bring out that kurta (“Punjabi” we Bangalis call it) get into your Honda Civic, consult Mapquest and drive to the venue (usually a temple or a school rented out for the purpose).Once there you nod your head, fold your palms and smile vacantly at assorted strangers, do a few “stop and chat”s, take a Patel shot in front of the protima to be sent back home (“What did you do during Pujos?”), stand in the line for the  food and then drive back, stop at Giant Supermarket to pick up milk, bread and turkey slices for Monday lunch and sink down in front of the TV, just in time for Dateline NBC.

Of course this is just my experience. I am sure many people thoroughly enjoy the whole rigmarole of the  NRI Durgapujo, especially the Bangali Association types, the “organizer”s who bark the orders and the “performers” who put on the programs and the “editor” s who compile the Pujo brochure.

It’s just that I am not one of them.

Not that I don’t enjoy anything. Far from it.

For instance there is the unalloyed joy I derive from reading the “supposedly intellectual” Bangla “poems” (my sure shot formula for enjoying those lines of airy nonsense is to do the old Jadavpur edit i.e. inserting rhyming swear words every third word. Trust me it gives a whole new meaning for even the most moronic juxtaposition of words). Then there is  the sheer assault on sensibilities otherwise known as “singing by local talent”, an euphemism for the wife/daughter of one of the Pujo’s chief patrons given the privilege of hogging the mic before the “guest artists” come on to the stage. Not to forget the vicarious pleasure of watching energetic Bangali bhodrolok and bhodromohila trying to be “Punjabi” hep by dancing in a ring-a-ring-a roses pocket full of poses style to the tune of Bhoomi’s “Barandaye Roddur”.

But all this gets boring after a few minutes as I sit on a chair surrounded by other men, whom I just got introduced to (but who all know each other quite well) as they discuss mortgage refinance rates, proposed H1B legislation, Green Card retrogression, spelling bees and IRA accounts. Totally out of it, I overhear scraps of female spousal conversation—animated discussions of  mothers-in-law, house decorations, saris and jewelery, where in Germantown do you get Pabda fish and why their kids just cannot speak a word of Bangla.

To break the tedium, I look desultorily over the room—–I see kids running around and harried fathers running after them while some of the other born-in-the-USAs stand in front of a table and enjoy a typically Bengali meal of chicken pizza and Mountain Dew, brought especially for those kids who just cannot eat Bangali food (Jaano to amar Khokon-sona na just cannot eat any bhaat babaah….how so naughty. He wants only peeja and McDeee).

And around this time, my mind starts wandering blotting out the surroundings as I get transported to another place. Another time.  Of that Pujo where a friend got lost from our group of seven and announced on the public address system that his six friends are lost in Muhammed Ali Park (yes such was his self-confidence that he was convinced that it was not he who was lost but the six other people who were with him).  And of that time when another friend was accosted by an irate father for staring at his daughter and his fumbled attempt at conciliation consisted of saying ” What is the problem sir? This is Pujo. You are here to look. I am here to look. Let us both look.”  And this other Pujo when I had a mutton cutlet and ate something that was slightly alive inside it.

My reverie is interrupted by a Pizza-chomping kid running into me, excusing himself with a quick “Sorry uncle” as he keeps hopping about. Giving him a benign avuncular smile I realize I have been engaging in the stereotypical nostalgia for ‘good old times’, the kind typically engaged in by the “uncle” types, those whom we used to keep at arm’s length many years ago, the ones who while they rail at the world changing refuse to recognize the fact that they themselves have changed.

Yes yes I know.

But surely you will accept that I am allowed this indulgence.

Because after all it’s that time of the year.

Durga Pujo.

95 thoughts on “That Time Of The Year

  1. “Giving him a benign avuncular smile …” lol.

    A nice nostalgic uhmm… coming-of-age post.

  2. 🙂 homesick are u ??

  3. Ah, this time I an understand. In Bahrain for a longish project, this is the first time in my life I will not be attending a Durga Puja in India. As Shoshti arrives, I am getting more and more depressed each day.

    Apparently there is a Bengali Association here that conducts a Pujo. Let’s see… 🙂

  4. @Arjun,

    I guess I would be kind of detached from Durgapujo at home too since for me its primary enjoyment came from “being with friends” many of whom have moved on in life in various ways.

  5. Priceless. Especially the lost and found part.

  6. Real nice post gb. A nostalgic experience I must say.

    On a lighter note, the last paragraph did remind me of the old Godrej Powder Hair Dye Ad… “Hi Hello Uncle” .. “Uncle?” “Kaichi se …”

  7. an euphemism? surely it’s ‘a’ euphemism?

  8. “inserting rhyming swear words every third word”

    interesting way !!

  9. GB, that friends bit was AWESOME.

    No wonder you turned out the way you did 🙂

  10. Sounds much like my experince here in Sydney. Its my first time away from india during Pujo. The feelings associated with NRI Pujo are so much like yours. And these are not bitter feelings. Its just not the same old feeling. Lovely one.

  11. Can we have an example of “inserting rhyming swear words every third word”?
    It’ll be intellectually stimulating for slow folk like me 🙂

  12. Had always heard the rumours of Kolkata s canine population being drastically reduced during Pujos. This is the first written reference to it and the mutton roll phenomenon.
    The Mohammed Ali Park anecdote is outstanding.

  13. Hi Arnab,

    Been reading your posts regularly. Agree with you, you would have been homesick during Pujas even if you were staying “At home”, I mean Kolkata. I presume we are approximately of the same age group and even staying in Kolkata makes me nostalgic for “those good old times”. Durga Puja is best enjoyed between the age group of 7/8 to 20/21. And those are the real good old times!! Happy Durga Puja anyway. May the Devi bring back good old memories for you!

  14. Sharadiyo Shubhechha Arnab!

    Did I ever tell you about the very first Durga Pujo I attended in this country? I went over to one of the Pujos here in the morning and sat down to watch the arati in progress.

    The boy sitting next to me, a second generation Bangali, struck up a conversation about how terribly boring these do’s were for him and then basically proceeded to describe how he had managed to sneak in an entire bottle of whiskey in the family car, and emptied half its contents on his way to the Pujo.

    Then he invited me to go out with him to the car so I could get appropriately wasted as well. The boy looked like he was in high school and not a day over 15.

  15. Hi GB,

    Nice Post…..I have seen the Pujo in Kolkata and I m sure there is nothing like it…..I miss navratri the same way since I m not in Mumbai…..

    On a different note…….have you seen “O Darling Ye hai India”…..nice material to review……

  16. Is there any chance that the friends you mentioned is now known by the name GB? Just wondering.

    Durga pujo among Bengali community is one of the most stirring thing I have witnessed in my life . And being from one ,if you don’t miss them being in US, you have to be either heartless or a rather severely amnesic.:)

  17. I meant the friend not friends.
    Sorry for the typo…..

  18. I agree with GB’s comment as well.
    Friends have moved on in life in various ways & things have changed.
    For 3 years I missed the puja at home, the para-r club er adda & every other associated aspect of the Durga Puja.
    As I pack my bags today on Panchami(hoping to land up on Saptami), why do I have the same feeling as 3 years before ? Fervently hoping for a deja vu…

  19. Oh come on.. you cannot mean that Pujo at home and Pujo at Obamaland would exact the same excitement and emotions from you. “Aaye re aaye, logon bohe jaaye…” 🙂

  20. Very enjoyable read. The bit about Peeja and McDee had me in splits as did the bit about spellbees.

  21. Interestingly, here in Gurgaon, my experience has not been from your’s of the USA. The pizza and McDees swarm the clubs converted into pandals. And this time again I will be missing the Asansol pujo, though am looking forward to introducing my wife to Shoshti-Doshomi in C R Park and the Gurgaon club pandal.

  22. I am not a Bengali. but i can understand the feelings. been away from home for last 10 yrs or so, i also go through similar kind of feelings during public festivals that i used to enjoy (Ganesh puja, Navaratri and Deepawali). during this period, even when i was at home, i felt nostalgic.

  23. btw after reading this, i am almost choking now. so much longing for good old days.

  24. Loved the post. So you haven’t lost touch with the Jadavpur edit 🙂

  25. I agree; Lovely post; I’m going to miss the Pooja as well…

  26. ROFLAMO..”I am here to see.You are here to see.SO let’ see” wonder what was the reaction of the father 😛

    Happy Durga Puja or as we Punjabis call it Happy Dusheera 🙂

  27. Awww. You sound so sad.

    And you make me feel better for being in Bombay. There are Durga Pujos here as well, but nothing like Cal 🙂 I was in Cal this weekend, and leaving the city just as the pandals neared completion was sad.
    At least I still get bangla food and deplorable ‘sandesh’ at the ‘pujo pandal’ of Shivaji Park.
    But what is pujo without groups of bangali (or pseudo bangali) frnds?

  28. True Nostalgia! sharodiyaar onek onek suvechcha!

  29. u just made me nostalgic and ‘feel’ old at the same time!!!

    very nice post nevertheless 🙂

  30. I have similar feelings about Ganpati. It just meant cousins, friends, aarti times, housie in ganpati pandal, visarjan. I would miss all of it even if I am in Mumbai for next Ganpati. Can never be the same again 😦

  31. Khaanti kotha. I just stopped going to these NRI pujos few years back. I’d rather live with my memories and watch Seindfeld re-runs. 😛

  32. Good one, amaader jibon tai stereotypical tai na ?

  33. The first paragraph of your post aptly captures all that is there about pujo in Kolkata…we all love to get trampled in the crowd, stand in queue, eat utterly rubbish food and still manage to have fun during those 4 days.

  34. You mis-spelled “Puja”.

  35. Brilliant post, GB. Lovely thoughts, beautifully put. BTW, you didn’t mention ‘thakur dekha’ as an euphimism for seeing girls in pandals. And all the movies that would be shown on the cable…

  36. Nice post, sir. As usual, hilarious observations mixed with nostalgia. Made my day!

    I have undergone the same transformation as you, GB, as an immigrant student in the US attending local prabasi pujo, smirking at the whole enchilada, and yearning for the real deal back home. However, in the last few of years, I have gone other transformations, viz., being a father of a US-born child, and more recently, a “kormokorta” in the local community pujo. I must say that most of the existential contradictions of our folks that you highlight so admirably in your essay are natural progressions of our lifestyle in this country.

    I hope when you will look back a few years down the line, when you are a parent and an organizer of your community pujo (who knows? stranger things have happened), you will recognize that there is warmth in the festivities of these NRI pujos as well.

  37. Theek bolecho! i hate the concept of weekend Durga pujos and the worsdt aprt is they do it before or after actual pujo… it would be nice to read a post on the actual kolkata pujos instead of these NRI idiocy!

  38. Being a Madrasi married into a probashi family, I have now in the US for several years experienced a very different sort of Pujo, not like the probashi pujos I am used to in my in-law’s town, but the look and feel of Kolkata Pujo transplanted to a new continent. I know that even if go back home, it won’t be the same. It’s a new century, so I had better get used to it.

  39. Has there been any occasion when you missed attending the community Durga Puja (because of work or any other reason) and then wished you had been there, despite the disconnectedness and nostalgia that you feel in these gatherings/

  40. @Shan

    Lol!!! I’ve lived in Bahrain my whole life and have been working in Kolkata for the past two years, and I probably miss the Bahrain December celebrations as much as you miss the Pujo celebrations here.

    Not to worry though, coz the Bengali community there is pretty passionate about Pujo as far as I know, so even though it might not be the same, at least you’ll get a nice taste of home!

    Meanwhile, do you know a place where I can get a good shawarma in Kol?

  41. “To break the tedium, I look desultorily over the room—–I see kids running around and harried fathers running after them while some of the other born-in-the-USAs stand in front of a table and enjoy a typically Bengali meal of chicken pizza and Mountain Dew, brought especially for those kids who just cannot eat Bangali food (Jaano to amar Khokon-sona na just cannot eat any bhaat babaah….how so naughty. He wants only peeja and McDeee).”

    F U man. This kind of humor can be deadly. You should be banned from blogging. :))))

    Loved the ending too.

  42. Can relate strongly to the nostalgia, not so much the Durga Puja celebrations. Comes by on Diwali

  43. Amazing post. All those words, descriptions, feelings… all of them could have come out of my keyboard – not your inimitable style though! I saw the US Puja for the first time last year and felt the same. However, I would like to add that I saw a similar attitude among people (they want to discuss only business or show off their stuff to others) among IT professionals in South India as well.

  44. You missed the part where Pujo Committee gulo bhangte thaake, almost 10 yrs back there were hardly two Pujo in Bay Area, now we have 5 to 7.
    I am sure in next 5 years there will be more than 10, bet anyone ?

  45. GB,
    Very nicely said, i can completely relate to your feelings on such events specially around this time when Navratri is being celebrated.
    Every year, for the last few years seeing navratri celebration in Canada, brings a tinge of sadness. Even though as much you like to enjoy the festival, there always is an underlying sense of detachement – same people, same talk and usual weekend raas garba program. And still you go through the same rhythm because as you said it is that time of the year and you somehow convince yourself that yes, i did enjoy the festival just like others.

  46. Great job ! Couldn’t have agreed more !

  47. Sharodiyo Shubheccha..
    I totally agree with your post.. Pujo in the US, even in bay area where there are so many pujos is not like back in India. I so miss pujo back home in Bombay…hopefully i can go back home during pujo next year.

  48. Nice post, GB. Indeed, its a time of the year when there is really something in the air, you can feel it.
    My take on Durga Puja here:

  49. Hey why don’t you write a post giving us example of a Jadavpur edit? Or will it loose its charm when translated in english?

  50. Vasabjit Banerjee September 24, 2009 — 5:29 am

    First mention of the NRI Pujos that I have ever read. However, to the point with almost everything. Almost everything because you may have missed out the USA-born kids’ sudden proneness to do Bollywood numbers dressed in outlandish costumes for the talent shows. Also, the internal cliques of these Puja committees, which have led to old Pujas being broken up into two or more Pujas. Finally, if you attended these when single, then you may remember the not to subtle enquiries about your bachelor status, followed by “My niece, Tumpa, ki jeno naam (what’s her name), Sonali, just graduated from Calcutta University with a degree in Comparative Literature. Accha, what is your gotra?”

    I was wondering the other day that the last Puja I celebrated in Calcutta was in 1997. The best aspect of this was obviously the “jhari” or “Protima Darshan” (ogling to the uninitiated). There was also another aspect, I think you missed out on: the Para Committee Tent activities. These included just staying there for the adda, meeting friends of friends, eating sundry deep fried food and left-over prasad and, last but not the least, literally hijacking folks to perform (usually elocution or singing). Introductory conversations such as the following took place on the hot microphone. Sorry, there’s a lot of it lost in translation, so, here’s the Bengali/English version with a fast and loose translation.

    Unknown local youth Nos. 1: “Nomoskar, eybar apnader Putki”…
    Trans: “Namaskar, now Putki presents to all of you”…

    Putki: “ey amar naam Putki, na, Sornali”.
    Trans: “My name is not Putki, it’s Sornali”.

    Unknown local youth Nos. 1: “Nomoskar, eybar apnader Sornali Rabindrasangeet sonabey.”
    Trans: “Namaskar, now Sornali will sing a Rabindra Sangeet to you.”

    Putki: “Na, na, Nazrul Geeti”
    Trans: “No, no, songs by Nazrul (Islam)”

    Unknown local youth 2: “Na, na, Nazrul Geeti impossible, eta Durga Pujo, mairi. Eid bhebechis naki?!”.
    Trans: “No, no, Nazrul’s songs are impossible, this is Durga Puja, by Mary. You think this is Eid?”

    Unknown local youth 1: “Okay, taholey adhunik geeti, ektu Lata janish-to?”
    Trans: “Okay, then modern/pop songs, you know some Lata (Mangeshkar)?

    Putki: “Hnya”
    Trans: “Yes”.

    Unknown local youth 2: “Ey, oy bhodrolok dakchen.”
    Trans: “Hey, that gentleman is calling (for attention).”

    Unknown local youth 1: “Hnya, maney na, aapnar meye paliye faliye jay-ni to? Oder onke-dinér alap kintu.”.
    Trans: “Yes, I mean, no, I hope your daughter hasn’t run away? They know each other for a long time.”

    Unknown local youth 2: “Hello, Jhilik ebong Rathin, tomra jekhaney thako Pujo organizing committee’r stand’ey choley esho. Jhilik tomar baba ekhaney opekkha korchen”.
    Trans: “Hello, Jhilik and Rathin, wherever you are, come to the Puja Organizing Committee Stand. Jhilik, your father is waiting here.”

    Unknown local youth 1: “Oh, bhuley giyechilam, ja, Nomoshkar, ey-barey amader Putki, maney Sornali, apnader ekta Hindi adhunik gaan sonabey.”
    Trans: “Oh, completely forgot, Namaskar, now our Putki, I mean, Sornali, will sing a Hindi pop song for you.”

    Now, there’s a bit of nostalgia,




  52. just saw a bhoomi gig at durgabari in delhi ytday…. and yes, there was bhadrolok and bhadromohilla dancing ringa ringa to “baradaye roddur”.. probashi pujo is just not the same … sob !

  53. I have no words to express what I feel.
    Thanks for the post GB.

  54. Indeed it’s that time of the year where each and every Bengali people around the world. It’s Durga puja, festival of Joy. This puja is a very special occasion for Bengalis. Simple proof is the number of pujas that happens around the world.

    Shubho Sharadiya Arnab da.

  55. Brilliant. I can completely identify with the milieu (albeit on the basis of ONE Markeen Pujo, that year we first met on Long Island).

    Being a non-smoker, you missed the keening melancholy of smoke breaks in a cold parking lot with the bloody autumn wind inserting cold fingers down the collar and freezing the fingers.


  56. hey man, that was an excellent post… absolutely loved it… Am waiting for you to write something about Rahul ka swayamvar… sequel to Rakhi :):)…

  57. Wow what a wonderful post. i have avoided this NRI functions in Austria for just the reasons you mention. and how one even remmembers the “1…2..3 mike testing” sermons back home. the lost and found part is great. thanks

  58. Would like to add a few lines from my end. I have been to and stayed in different places in India and have come across people, to my surprise and sad feeling, especially so called ‘Gen-X’ varieties, being proud of not eating ‘bhaat’. Yes! And of not being able to speak Bengali as well. Of course i am referring to the Bongs. Just cannot figure out the reason behind. Severe identity crisis.

  59. Great post GB.

    My friend had a term for the self important, mike hogging uncles- “Mike Das” he called them.

  60. Why do you do this everytime ? As it is I am sick at home, recovering post brain-surgery, now you make me home-sick too! Doesn’t help.. sigh:(

    As you say, pujo back home will also not feel the same, for everybody has moved on with life. Tao Maddox Square-er shei jhari mara, eksaathe gaan gaoa, arr tulley hoa lives on… albeit in memories.

    @Rajeev – You bring an interesting point. This has only one answer “Bangali ekai eksho, kintu eksho Bangali ek noi”. Rough translation – One Bengali is equivalent to hundred others, but hundred Bengalis cannot become one.
    So, it is not surprising that one local pujo committee in a decade or two becomes multiple. Bay Area, New Jersey are fine examples.

    BTW, excellent post, Arnab. Sharod Shubechcha (happy pujo) to you & all RTDM readers.

  61. Loved it and can so identify with it.

  62. wish u all on this occasion…but I was wondering whether GB has decided to give DBH a miss or what!!!:P…

  63. Ki GB…Kirsten ki bolche. Eta to mukhorochok. 🙂

  64. My experiences have been similar when I had gone to NRI pujos the last two years (although I dont feel like an uncle yet). I realized that a major part of the NRI pujo is the blatant and borderline shameless announcements of which patron is giving a “pujo” worth what amount (in other words who has donated how much money to the organizing committee). Not going to a pujo this time. But thinking about the “good old days” of pujos in Kolkata nonetheless.

  65. Seriously Arnabda, aar bhalo lagche naa! ei post ta ekhon naa korlei parte!

  66. on the contrary, I love pujos in US, I am more bonded inspite of whatever similar experiences I undergo during/ after pujo….I feel bad for you guys….I am in US, my kids speak both Bangla n English…love pizza, McD as well as neem begun and mach- bhaat…its after all what values you preach at home..u practice at home…stop pretending yourselves to be Americanised and the kids would still learn to be proud of their roots.

  67. All you nostalgic homesic NRIs.. How about COME BACK HOME..
    I made the decision 6 months back and I am happy I made it.

    In India things are not same and the actual charm of Holi, Ganesh Puja, Durga Pujo, Navratri etc etc is lost with people having moved on but its still not the kind of deja vu we see in US. Still the pendals, crowd, noise have the at home feeling than the NRI pendals..

    May be the hassles, struggles, chaos, unstructured way of what we call life in India is so much in itself that it doesnt allow the feeling of steriotype where as the comforts, conveniences in US brings in that. Here everyone has different issues to address on weekend unlike the routine Patel store, Walmart visit of Sunday afternoon. My maid invariably falls sick on saturday, the paperwork for loan I had submitted last saturday still needs some more signatures, need to get hold of a plumber for some work in bathroom, my gas cylinder needs refill and they are not delivering at home since they dont have staff for puja so on and on.. life is about the choices we make..

  68. I wonder what would be nostalgia for the NRI kids growing up in US…

  69. Not sure which Pujo the author likes – the Pujo in Obamaland or the Pujo in Singh-land, or if at all the author likes both or neither. In Obamaland the order of hosting the Pujo in weekends and blending into a system is something that has been put in place by attendees and organizers – not something simply handed down by tradition. In our shastra it is specially mentioned not to follow rituals in foreign land (probashe niyom nasti). There is greater joy in finding alternative flavors. We all have pleasant memories of Pujo in our childhood days. But that was because we were children then – not so much because Pujo was differently observed.

    Pujo is a social meet primarily in both places. Interestingly, organizing the Pujo in Obamaland is based on donations but in Singhland it is nowadays based on corporate sponsorships. Very few in either place know or understand the symbolism of ‘Ma Durga’ with 10 hands and 3 eyes seated on a lion. But social harmony is more important for a community or nation than ritualistic unity (so taught a sage 2500 years back).

  70. Sanyal-didi..daroon likhecho….liked it!

  71. Hi GB,#
    a really nice one indeed.. staying in UK I see similar faces. But ekhane weekend pujo r concept nei… thik thik dinei hoy.. we r lucky in that regard 🙂

  72. GB, you are getting OLD !!

  73. You know, I was looking for Anandomela Pujabarshiki the other day. Found it but then lost all interest in reading it. When I was a kid all I wanted was to keep jars of candies in my house when I would grow up. But somehow those candies don’t work at all for me anymore. So, perhaps now if you ate the mutton cutlet with something alive inside it you will get angry, upset and critical. That’s why the lines ‘Yeh lamhen yeh pal ham barson yaad karenge, yeh mausam chalein gaye to hum fariyad karenge’ is so so relevant.
    Singing by local talent however has always been a major cause of concern.

  74. “And this other Pujo when I had a mutton cutlet and ate something that was slightly alive inside it.” – that made me laugh out loud… at work! But it was horrified laughter nonetheless…

  75. Shubho Bijoya!

  76. hi Arnab,
    bijoyar shubhecha!!!
    even being in the same pujo for the last 17 years makes me nostalgic of all the good old times anyway… friends have got married /moved on. people have become cynical, showoffs, kids eat domino’s pizza instead of good old roll or mughlai parantha… or maybe back then i never noticed all these things. parents of most kids drag them back home at 12… i remember how we used to sit around till 4 i n the morning for adda… only to wake up a few hours later for anjali in the morning.
    miss all that, but this year was fun. specially cause i dont have to think about going to office or college in the morning tomorrow.
    just came back infact… 3 am ist!!!

  77. Shubho Bijoya to everyone here!!

  78. shubo bijoya Arnob!!!. hope you make it to kolkata next year.

  79. Subho Bijoya. Ashche bochhor, bari esho!

  80. Ranjan Chakravarty September 30, 2009 — 11:25 am

    @Arnab, Yourfan2, Sayon, Swati, Shan, and Yourfan,
    Shubho Bijoya!
    I had almost forgotten the Pujos in the States, spoilt as I have been for the last decade doing Pujos regularly in Kolkata. This essay brings it back in its full glory, and due to it’s trenchant description, makes me still shudder … even at the memory, I’m afraid.
    I did U.S. Durga Pujos almost every year I lived there, so I can share a few tips: it’s marginally better in parts where the weather’s nicer, because you can step outside during the proceedings, and take a break. The East Coast Pujos are the most painful. It gets much better out West. Mainly the weather, the fact that you can have larger open spaces – where you’re not nodding off on your neighbour’s parka – and not invade each others’ space, that kind of thing does help a bit. But only a bit.
    I used to marvel at them when i lived there and I marvel at them today: the doughty and brave Pujo organizers in the U.S. How do they do it year after thankless and ridiculed year…. facing non leave granting bosses, all round sniggers and their own kids’ growing and in-your-face embarrassment. All with stoicism and studiedly cheerful equanimity.
    Coming to Singapore, my other NRI experience, they have a smashing Pujo. Three reasons: 1) It’s for the actual 5 days, by Panjika, and I wonder how the same Goldman Sachs or Credit Suisse gives the New Yorkers no leave but the Singapore folks all the leave. So IMHO the American weekend Pujo crowd are passing along a 3 dollar bill for a long time now. 2) Awesome Khichuri and Labra, and NO pizza please. 3) A permanent hall/pandal with a ground. It works.
    I read above, with amazement, the argument about corporate sponsorships supposedly driving the excellence in India’s pujos but that is a) blatantly untrue for the by-far vast majority and b) there is enough evidence to the contrary. For instance, Singapore had no corporate sponsorships, and there are tons of Pujos in Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi without corporate sponsorships and they all do fantastically well.
    So I wish that some of you take on the mantle and do it right in the U.S. Or there’s the less hassled and vastly more joyful experience of just coming on home. For more than the weekend.
    Shubho Bijoya, All.

  81. I smirked and laughed and nodded along while reading this. My pujo nostalgia while I was on the East Coast led me, only once in 4 years, to actually GO to a pujo. We drove from Brooklyn through Bed Stuy to some strange mondir where the pujo was the side dish, caught each other’s eyes and left promptly to get a drink somewhere. This year though, in London, I actually managed to attend Ashtami anjali (recycled flowers, no throwing them at the protima, all very environmentally friendly and hygienic), which was nice, but not quite the pujos of my youth! As to eating live things inside cooked things – Shivaji Park in Bombay has a big pujo, and one year, after wandering around lusting after fish fry (more important than the protima or pandal, you understand), we found ourselves confronting a fillet from which the fry part had slipped away. Said fillet was certainly entirely raw. This, though, is the wonder of pujo nostalgia: we ate it anyway!

  82. Exhibit #1

    Exhibit #2

  83. Arnab, You steal my words and printed here! True!

  84. @RM,

    Priceless. Simply priceless.

  85. i am just back from kolkata and it was everything you mentioned and more. i am a not so young female, and yes i would often get bugged by these ogling kids. not anymore. it’s harmless looking after all.

  86. Fantastic post!! Got stuck as I read the first line…and kept reading… and lines –

    “(Lord Rama may have done “akaal bodhon” but the NRIs go one step further—”weekend bodhon”)” and “(”Punjabi” we Bangalis call it)” …reveals that u possess gr8 sense of humor! 🙂

  87. off coast malacca October 4, 2009 — 9:12 am

    inspiring post….inspired the less initiated like us tp pen down a few…

    i guess with durga and her five chhanaponas and the osur (is the shib thakur potrait at the backdrop included)….pujo brings with itself many others…lost kishore kumars…RDBs…(i meant sachin katta’s son)…never had anyone imagined that the managing director of some shipping corporation can sing “mere bhigi bhigi si”…with such flair…(thank god they didn’t cause he’s imaginably a horrible singer)….

    for the long lost poetic skills…or the ruby roy humming…pujo is a great revival….for the less fortunate married lots…its time to make sure your handycam battery does not run out when your better half is enjoying the oh so lovely sindurkhela….

    these five days are fun…(i live in singapore….so we have a five day time on pujo..just a two and a a half hours sprinted ahead slot)….no cooking at home…the wonder of getting to play dhak with kettle drum sticks…(they get almost everything but the dhak konchi sticks)….for a change this country is safe and heavily P.C.Chandrad women can be seen getting off at carparks even at mid-night, fearlessly…

    RDB stays….kishore always does….they should be placed as photographs along with shib thakur in the backdrop….and as we wrap the 4 feet idols and shove them into wooden caskets smelling heavily of insect repellents….we smile at the divinity …her three eyes and ten hands….”abar eso maa”

    inspiring post…as i said…

  88. grt one…

    me too having awesome memories of Navratri season 🙂

  89. Shubho Bijoya to all.

    Coincidentally, an NRI gentleman I know wrote about similar things just yesterday – how pujos in US don’t have the feeling of ‘native’ ones. I’ve been a probashi bangali all my life in and around Delhi, so perhaps can’t relate to the Kolkata fervour (left on a Shashti just once). But Suhel, why go all the way to CR Park? Gurgaon has good pujos, among them DLF-1, Palam Vihar & Sushant Lok.

    Yes, puja committees do sadly keep breaking up all the time, Rajeev. I’m part of one which broke up five years back. But as regards dependance on corporate sponsorship, that is not true for every pujo. We make do with corporate/small business sponsorship for components like gate, (sometimes) protima and cultural enclosure, but not for the pujo as a whole. But my cousin in Patna (involved in pujo there) tells me that it IS catching on there.

    The last para does (regreattably?) force me to accept that I’m getting old – you’re right Sin.

  90. A bit late with my comment but rest assured this phenomenon is not restricted to your part of the world.

  91. GB,
    We actually managed to find a bARir pujo near NYC that is not weekend bound, and with the pre-registration c%^p at kallol et al, is fairly uncrowded. Tho, we manage to give the slip before the “local talent” starts at full blast. (The hosts are exceptionally nice people who throw open their home to all and sundry, but the generational gap being what it is…)

  92. I so much miss pujo too 😦
    Such a touching post.

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