You can take the Bangali out of Bengal, but you can’t take Bengal out of the Bangali.
Being a probashi, I find myself in complete agreement to this statement. We may be living miles away from our homeland, but we remain very deeply connected to our bangali culture and traditions.
The Durga Pujo celebrated annually in my para in Jamshedpur stands testimony to this fact. It is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm and ardency. With the beat of the dhakis, and dhunuchi dance, the presence of the goddess fills everyone with the spirit of religious fervour. The dawn of Mahalaya breaks to the tune of Chandi Path playing aloud from every household. Pankaj Mullick’s voice reciting the hymns from the ancient scripture, ushers in a grand home coming celebration of Goddess Durga that lasts ten days. The festivities also mark the death of the mighty Mahishasura, who meets his end at the hands of the powerful goddess.
The preparation start as early as a month before, with every member armed with their shopping list. For the kids, it means new clothes, footwear, and lots of pocket money. The elders are happy enough to let go of us, and have their own adda sessions.
Once the pushpanjoli (flower offerings to the goddess) is over, it is time for lunch. Amongst all the fanfare, food remains the most eagerly awaited part of the event. The bhog served in earthen pots with labra (mixed vegetable), and payesh has a different flavor altogether. Try what you may, this flavor is impossible to replicate in your kitchen at home.
Now that paying our respect to the goddess, and partaking of the bhog is done, we move to the next activity of pandal hopping. The pujo spirit makes our favorite uncles and aunts become more generous as we get treated to that extra bit of cash, which is to be utilised for this very purpose of pandal hopping. We not only explore the pandals that line the nearby areas, but also the different roadside stalls that sell goodies.
Durga Pujo is indeed a special time for all of us, young and old alike. The goddess’s home coming is a very joyful event, even more tearful is the moment when we have to bid her farewell. Those ten days brings all of us together in a mysterious way, it’s her way of telling us about the importance of family and how they will be there for you even when you are away. My probashi self completely understands this feeling. And I still remain, very much, the bangali at heart.