Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pujo days

The Pujo days are passing in a frenzy of people, of culinary delights, of sharing, of getting ready and reaching the pandal(temporary temples built for the days of the Pujo with a life size clay model of the Goddess Durga) for the anjali(prayers chanted in sanskrit for the Goddess) followed by scalding hot khichuri bhog,
the queue for which is actually the penance part, if you consider the temperatures here now, hovering around 44 degrees, with at least a minimum of 30 people ahead of you, Your sins are definitely getting paid for here. The temple precincts do not allow footwear so we just about barely stand, most of us, me included are continuously doing a jig to help keep the feet in minimal contact to the burning marble floor, and inspite of this there is laughter every where, not much of spirituality beyond the anjali though.. its only then that we bow our heads and concentrate on the mantras, once that is through and the flowers we held in our hands have trajectorily reached the feet of the Goddess, we are back to watching who's wearing what, how deep are the blouses this year, or how wide, what's the latest in jewelery and who adorns the biggest shades, yah I know.. it sounds terrible when I put it down in words.. but believe me its great fun, its bonding too, when a group of us stand jiggling our burning feet, waiting for our turn to reach the end of the queue for the bhog. Entertainment is also found in the stream of announcements on the mike saying things like "Many of you have not yet paid the annual membership fees, please reach us at the main gate counter and pay your subscription', there are also announcements like,"Children please refrain from refills of the bhog, there are many waiting', the children I notice are really not very keen on the bhog anyways, they just want to go back to the air condition of their homes, its just the pull of their parents that has dragged most of these kids from school and brought them to the temple in the crazy heat of the afternoon. These announcements never go without a loud rejoinder, which is most of the times taken in good spirit. A lot of laughter, a bit of bitching, seeing new faces and missing ones that have left, is usually the synopsis of Durga Pujo days of an expat like me.

Away from home, I can hear the bells and the dhak only when I call up and my mother in law holds the mobile out for the dhaki's beat to travel all the way from Jhargram to Muscat, the beat makes my son dance and it brings to my mind the house, the people, the joy of those five days, the phone is snatched at times by a family member, urging us to return, to be there for the pujo, saying repeatedly that very few hands to work, the elders are really getting old again before a response the phone is filled with the aaroti mantra and the dhak beats the clanging of the cymbal and the mood just sets in like every passing year that I have stayed away from Jhargram, its a mix of sweet nostalgia, of pride, of belonging and of being away from it all.

Its Maha Ashtami today, the most looked upon day of the Pujo, the best Saree, the best jewellery, the best food, the best of everything is saved for this day, itsthe day when the Goddess is worshipped with 108 diyas and garlanded with 108 lotus flowers, for me this day, the Goddess comes to life, when I look at her eyes, I can feel her looking right back at mine, and the difference between time and space suddenly ceases.

Take a look at this video to get the feel of the Durga aaroti