May I Make A Few Requests Pliss?

[This was an invited article in Sunday’s Telegraph in their special Pujo edition. At the time of writing, the electronic version is somewhat garbled. So am cross-posting the entire article]

Pujo is perfect. But then as my geography teacher would say, perfection can always be perfected. And I know exactly how that can be done. Everybody just has to listen to what I have to say and follow through accordingly. Of course, I need to couch my “to-do”s as requests and gentle suggestions, since people are more likely to listen to me that way.

So here they are, my ten “requests” to the world, made with the noblest of intentions, which if honored would make this, the most joyous of seasons, even more joyous for everyone.

Well if not for everyone, at least for me.

1. When you claim that I gave your club chanda (subscription) last year and hence am obliged to double the amount this time because of inflation, please do take the trouble of copying the name correctly off the door name-plate while forging my “signature” on to last year’s receipt stub. Bad spelling makes me slightly cross, even more so when you try to convince me that it is I who cannot spell my own name. And oh yes. When my neighbor, the brave skinflint, slams the door on your face without paying his hafta…err….homage to Ma Durga please remember to ask which of the cars in the garage is his. I am sick and tired of you slashing the tires of my car in retaliation.

2. I know that for the community of pickpockets, Pujo is to them what the IPL season is for Indian cricketers.  Which is why I do not grudge them their rights to make a living but can I request these honest men to not misuse my credit card after picking my pocket? Just take the cash and please throw away the plastic. It’s not losing my hard-earned income that bothers me but the nightmarish prospect of dialing the customer service number of my credit card company to report the loss and fight the fraudulent charges.

3. When someone gets lost in the crowd and you, as a Pujo organizer, need to announce his name over the loud speaker, do not use his real name. Always and I repeat always refer to him by his nickname, the more embarrassing it be the better. Anyone who has been a fool enough to get separated from his group in a pandal, deserves to have the world know that he is “Panchu from Paikpara” or “ Bhonda from Bikrampur”. Honestly.

4. The organizers of the Pujo at Maddox Square need to put padding on the bamboo poles that hold the pandal up. For some reason I have yet to fathom, young men there, typically in the evenings, just seem to walk without looking ahead. As a result, they often bump their heads against the bamboo supports.  What surprises me is that the beautiful women, who flitter about nearby at the same time, seem to do just fine.

5. The people who supply food during Pujos, staying awake night after night, indeed do a yeoman’s service and I do not want to sound ungrateful. So please do not get me wrong when I request them to not sell boiled rice and call it biriyani, label sweet bread as cake, and present living organisms inside the stuffing and call it “special” mutton roll.

6.  I totally endorse the practice of having separate lines for men and women in pandals. My only problem is that the young men, who man the Puja committees, are almost always found managing the “leddiej” line leaving the young brats and early teens in charge of the Dada’s queue. Nothing wrong in that of course. It’s not that young boys  cannot manage a massive crowd.  The problem is just that I never much cared to be called “kaku” or “jethu” in a public place, which is what these little tykes inevitably refer to me as. Now thirty-four years old, I don’t mind it so much but when I was twenty-one, this quite riled me up. Respect for age is all fine but this is too much.

7. Totally understand the urge to be different but can we do away with the post-modernism in Durga idols please? I think you know what I mean—-the missiles and the doves and the other expressions of non-traditionalism. I realize the need to be novel but aren’t some things best left unaltered, if only so that our link with the past may be maintained? Thank you. What? You want to make the face of Mahish-asura look like Greg Chappell? Oh do that by all means. And make the buffalo look like John Buchanan while you are at it.

8. The desire to win a “sarod somman” is understandable—-after all who wouldn’t want to get their name in the papers and a few more footfalls? But for that, please do not suppress your natural urge to play Himesh songs full volume. Personally, one of the fondest memories of Pujo I have is of me, fresh in Class nine, feeling totally adult and badass, firing my cap bondook (gun) while pandal-hopping with my friends.  Each place we went to was playing the very same song, “Dekha hai paheli baar sajaan ki aankhon mein pyar” from Sajaan. Sheer joy. Yes I understand the need for tradition —after all was I not arguing for a bit of it a while before? So let’s just make a compromise. Shehnai during the evening and if the urge is too strong, a bit of jhinchaak in the mornings. Sound good?

9. Commercialization and corporate sponsorship of Pujo is welcome, more so if it gets us common people off the hook for “voluntary contributions”. And that of course I realize means more obtrusive advertising at the Pujo venue. But can we all decide not to put advertisements inside the pandal itself like for example not have Kola Bou “being brought to us” by Banana Republic”?

10. A final request. I know that we often don’t have the best things to say about Kolkata. And for very good reasons too. But can all of us agree that for these four golden days in autumn, despite the traffic snarl-ups and the bad food and the pickpockets and the insensitive people who delight in stomping your feet, there really is no other place in the world we would rather be ?

51 thoughts on “May I Make A Few Requests Pliss?

  1. First… no ipod… just wanna read 🙂

  2. Ah… the italics in the last line!

  3. Brilliant Arnab_Da, the Pujo (ee)-spey-saal . Telegraph was down since morning, and true this is much better formatted than the telgraph one. I suspect they removed the formatting to accommodate the pics.

  4. ahh the cap bondook! total badass! i think i still have a bondook left from my childhood days. Commercialization and corporate sponsorship of Pujo is good but cant seem to get hold of the fact that when i walk around my para pujo pandal it seems more like an admag than a pandal. and more sharod shomman gives the young tikes almost a license to do dadagiri in the name of helping the pandal hoppers form a proper queue, or may be its a way to impress “oi parar meyeta”.

  5. Yes. There is no better place than Kolkata………atleast these 4 days!

  6. hmmm … “sajan ki aankho mein pyaar” transported me back to my school days … BTW i do not belong to kolkata but ranchi … DP in ranchi is just as big and loud as in kolkata and just as exhilarating … sad that for more than 10 yrs have not been in ranchi during DP … even if i were there is no guarantee that my old friends wud also be there at the same time …

    and oh yeah … my bandooks .. had many of them … and wud persuade my sisters also to ask for bandook from my dad … after it was obtained obviously it was mine … never got tired of owning as much as i cud even if they differed only in color. … alas i am not sure if those guns are still in my home and if yes where are they stashed :((

  7. niice.
    Pujor shubechha

  8. Good one arnab…ur book’s too good..takes one back to the good old days…

  9. So in Class 8 you…umm ‘studied’ in the Hindi class, and you used the cap bandook in Class 9. And watched porn in class 10? :)Nice. If you were born in the USA, who knows what you would have done in high school. Real guns, bimbos and yet ace the SATs? Maybe you would have been a famous pornstar instead of a blogstar. Happy pujo.

  10. Oh wow You wrote that? I read it this morning.
    concur with all the points… esp the one where only men seem to hit their heads while the ladies seem to manage fine.

  11. awesome–dats all i can thnk of rt now—i just sailed back to my childhood —growing up days. Thnx a lot .

  12. Fantastic. I’ve been to Cal just once, and not during Pujo, but your description made it all come so alive. And it was a laughter riot too. Btw, this line is what I looooved .. ‘nightmarish prospect of dialing the customer service’

  13. I’ll agree with you on 10…and i’ll just say that its the best place o be in, at any given point of time!!

  14. Have to agree with you there. During the Puja nothing beats Kolkata.
    I have a few more requests to add.
    1) Just make sure that the bhog doesn’t give people food poisoning.
    2) The TV ads wishing us a happy puja should be on Puja days only. It should not continue throughout the month.

  15. I grew up not in Calcutta, but in Dhanbad. And in faraway Pune, this post makes me miss Pujo days so much. 😦

  16. the last line says it all

  17. Arnab-da, Im of the same age as yours, and i remember those “saajan ki aankhon mein pyaar” days. in fact, to impress the “oi paraar meye”, we have all made some extra efforts to be noticed over so much ‘stiff’ competition.

    i remember once having donned the ‘jeans-jacket’ before going to the pandals with friends, even though calcutta is not so ‘cold’ during pujo days. but the effort was only to make sure of being noticed, and the fact that it wud simply advertise i owned one. in those days, having a denim jacket WAS a great deal, especially for the generally humble para-folks crowding the pandals… thanks for transporting us all back to the golden days.

    n yes, calcutta is the best place to be in the whole world during these magicak days…!

  18. Amazing work. “Saajan ki aankhon mein pyar” seems incomplete without the French toast musical beats we mouthed, though.

  19. @Abhishek: r u by any chance referring to “deem-pao-ruti” stuff? man, if thts a yes, its big time deja vu.

  20. Loved Debashish Deb’s illustrations in the Telegraph version, and getting him to draw for one’s article must be an honor! … Well done Great Bong!

    Missing Pujo and as an 80s and 90s child, sharodiya Anandomela 😉 badly…

  21. Dumdum_er_Aantel October 10, 2010 — 4:54 pm

    Thank you Greatbong!!!!

    We miss Durga Pujo so much and still, always find stupid reasons not to visit Kolkata in October.

    Shobai ke, Sharodiya r priti o shubheccha !!!!!

  22. I like! Different from what people usually write about festivals.. the cliché stuff like traditions, customs, how to prepare for the puja, etc.

    And some revelations for a non-kolkata person :))

  23. hey. not allowed. enuff time for pujo specials. where is our Robot review thambi? having said that there is no place like Calcutta for the Pooja holidays.

  24. Off-topic but Dravid must go.

  25. phataphati arnab!!! Love it….kintu, cap bonduk in class 9?????? CLASS 9????????????????????????????

  26. Whoa!

    Everyone loves you and just can’t seem to get enough! 😛 Awesome…good going!

  27. Grew up as a half-Bengali kid in Madras. The post brought back the memories. Fondest memory is during one pujo, when we were supposed to present a play. IIRC it was called “Shamanyo Khoti” and rehearsals were at our place since our house was centrally located around all the local Bengali families. Since we didn’t actually have enough Bengali speaking kids for the play, the director took the unprecedented step of drafting all my friends (mostly Tamil and Telugu kids) and their younger siblings to do the pujo play in Bengali! So every day, kids would do a crash course in their two or three lines they were supposed to speak. Most of them remember their lines to this day.

    The play turned out to be a smashing success. Supposedly there was some grumbling from some of the other groups who did plays in the pujo that never thought we could pull it off successfully. Biggest gripe they had was because one of the kids’ father brought his personal video camera along to record the momentous occasion. This was in the late 80s/early 90s when personal hand-held video cameras were very expensive and almost no one owned one. Another thing they were miffed about was the high quality dance routine in a court scene. We’d drafted one of my classmates who lived in the same street as me, who happened to be a trained Kuchupudi dancer and had done professional shows before.

    Your reminiscing about “Dekha hai paheli baar sajaan ki aankhon mein pyar” brought a bad taste in my mouth though. I absolutely HATE that song. Especially since the person singing it invariably feels the need to hum the god awful tabla-beat notes after those words. No soul, no feeling, just mass-produced bolly crap. Back in those days, I loved to watch a local band called “Nemesis Avenue”, which had a talented keyboard player named A.R. Rahman.

  28. Shubhro,

    The cap bonduk had a purpose. Whenever we saw women that we liked, we would fire our bonduks. They would definitely look up and smile, amused at least by the ridiculousness of the whole thing. And as they say, haseen to phaseen. In our case, it never worked. Not that we stopped trying.

  29. @ greatbong
    “Whenever we saw women that we liked, we would fire our bonduks…..In our case, it never worked. Not that we stopped trying.”

    Firing blanks… eh!
    Yeah! I also realized by the time I was in 9th grade…it never works.

  30. Some Nostalgic Moments October 11, 2010 — 3:58 am

    Can’t stopping laughing GB….What a fine start to the morning….by the way its raining heavily in Mumbai right now…so double dhamaka….

  31. Have you heard the notty-notty Bangla version of “Dekha hai Pehli Baar”? I would post it, but it’s slightly NSFW.

    Would you believe it, if all goes well, this would be the first year ever that I’d actually be in Cal for Pujo. So I’m looking forward to it, and I think the two things I want to do most is visit Maddox Square Pujo and sample Arsalan biryani 🙂

  32. I think it again varies.

  33. could u not mention “Do ghut mujhe bhi pila de sharabi…” which is a very popular number played in all the pandals…n the last line is the clincher..:D

  34. Kola bou sponsored by banana republic… LOL

  35. No other place we wld rather be. I have been out of Calcutta for 16 years now, but make it a point to be home during the Pujo. However interestingly quite a few travel bug bitten Bengalis leave the city and go to Shimla and Ooty and Tirupati(?) and Gangtok and Kathmandu during these four days.

  36. Lovely piece!

    Liked point #3 the best 🙂

  37. GREAT BONG IS BACK!!! Awesome stuff man…am still LMAO!:D

  38. Ends with a bang, totally awesome!

  39. Dada, a totally unrelated one, but a schocking news. “Gunda” has fallen to sub 8 levels in (7.7) in imdb ratings from its heydays of 8.6/10. Should be the result of conspiracy hatched by C-Bag and his ilk. Please do something……..

    One of your gretaest fan and a neo-Gunda convert

  40. the cap bonduk and Dekha hai peheli baar…..was awesome….
    had a great start to the morning…all thanks to you!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  41. Nice post. May Durga fulfill all your wishes. I fully agree with your pickpocket point. Happy Puja.

  42. Typical Greatbong finishing..Aha!! Shubho Durga Pujo to you, your family and all the readers out here..wish all of you have a great time 🙂

  43. It so makes me feel like visiting Kolkata during “these 4 days”

  44. All your pujo articles are sooooo awesome, this one too 🙂

  45. Though I am a regular at your blog, I usually do not comment. This post made me smile all along and could not stop sharing my thoughts. In my home town of Jamshedpur, everything comes to a stop other thatn Puja festivities. I was home for Puja this time with my 4 year old and guess what I bought him from the Durga Puja stall – a bandook! just because it is so much a part of my growing up days….thanks for bringing those memories back!

  46. Though I am a regular at your blog, I usually do not comment. This post made me smile all along and could not stop sharing my thoughts. In my home town of Jamshedpur, everything comes to a stop other thatn Puja festivities. I was home for Puja this time with my 4 year old and guess what I bought him from the Durga Puja stall – a bandook! just because it is so much a part of my growing up days….thanks for bringing those memories back!

  47. Awesome post…….took me back to my childhood…..feeling sorry for all the years I am missing this festival….. 🙂

  48. True…. its the best place …..

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