Saturday, November 17, 2012

Diwali Greetings

This year the festival season went rather well for me. Being the home bird that I am, I did not go out much during the Durga Puja. My friends had come to my house on Shoshti, and I had gone out with my parents and Abhirudpa on Shoptomi. That was about all the pandal hopping that I did. The rest of the days I spent reading “Speaks The Nightbird” by Robert McCammon that Abhirupda had lent us earlier. And that was the best way I could possibly have spent the Pujas.

Diwali was a nice way to wrap up the festive month. Like every year, I made a rangoli  on the ground floor verandah. This year I used gulal for my rangoli. Most years I don’t get gulal at this time of the year, but this year I had saved some from Holi. But this year I was not so happy with my design. I felt that mine had become a little coarse and gaudy. The ones I have made in the previous years were much prettier, like the one with only the lamps. My friend Shivangi had made a beautiful one though. Here are their pictures.

I made this one last year

This one is Shivangi's

This one is mine

This year I had intentionally bought fewer crackers. I don’t like the sound of any of the bombs. Even the whistling charkhi (‘catherine wheel’) bothers me. Neither of my parents is particularly keen on burning crackers, and in any case I don’t fancy all the noise and smoke they create. After finishing with the rangoli I went to Shivangi’s house. I took some of my crackers with me, and left some behind. At her house, they had organized Lakshmi Ganesh Puja. They do it every year on Diwali, and it is an informal family affair. I had never attended a Marwari puja before, and I enjoyed my first time. What I liked best about it was that there was very little pretension: the family members prayed for each other’s well-being. There was no loud chanting and ringing of the holy bell (what we call the ghonta). The faith was in their hearts, and they did not make a huge show of it. 

What was even better than the puja was the food! Shivangi’s mother gave me a small dinner of puri and two different preparations of vegetables. There was also desert made of lentils! I do love Marwari food, and if some day I manage to learn how to cook some of their dishes, I might even consider becoming a vegetarian! After the very welcome meal, Shivangi, her younger brother Nikunj, her father and I went to their terrace to burn some of the crackers. But by that time it was getting late, and I knew that dad would be getting worried, so I called him up to come and take me home, and we managed to set off some of the fireworks before he arrived. While I was leaving, Shivangi ran to her kitchen and brought me a packet of Diwali tidbits, and I came back home with that much-loved gift held tight in my hands. 

At home, I persuaded my parents to come up to the terrace to watch while I finished off the rest of the fireworks. Dad took some photos while I lighted the tubris (fire fountains) and the charkhis. Then he went downstairs. Mummy stayed back for half an hour more, as I desperately tried to use up all the crackers. But at last both of us got tired of it and came back even though some of the crackers were still left unused. When I was much younger, dadas, especially those of Abhirupda’s batch used to come to our house on Diwali. They used to light the fireworks while I watched. That used to be fun. But nobody comes these years, and it is boring to light them all by myself. I think I won’t buy any crackers at all from next year. 

The skies looked beautiful with the real stars being complemented by the man-made stars from the rockets and other fireworks. Despite the unpleasant noise, I couldn’t help being mesmerised by the spectacle. The streets looked beautiful too, with most of the housing being decorated with lamps and fairy lights. I wonder whether those who live in the Americas and the European countries have such colourful and lively festivals. The only sad thing about the evening was the nagging feeling of guilt that kept reminding me about how much air and noise pollution we were causing. Our one evening of fun would leave permanent scars on Mother Earth…

That is all for now. This one is a short post, just to let everyone know that I haven’t got tired of blogging and forgotten about writing here! And do let me know how you spent your festive days. 

Ps: My father was telling me just now that I should have written something reflective about what I feel about this festival season every year. I just told him that I don't feel anything much at all: nothing seems to me to be very out of the ordinary. People are being 'excited' about something or the other throughout the year; only the object of thrill changes, human manners (or the lack of the same) don't change. If this view makes me hugely misanthropic and unsocial, so be it. 


Tanmoy said...

Dear Pupu

The last time I attended Durgapuja celebration in Bengal was in 2001 and the last time I attended any sort of Diwali celebration in India was in 2008 – so this post of yours along with the lovely photos made me nostalgic.

I have very fond memories of the festive season as a child (and as an adolescent). My father and I have had great time walking the streets of Kolkata, pandal hopping and eating.

I think I lost touch with the celebration as I entered college. May be because I did not have the “correct” female friends to hang out with (and foolishly I stopped going out with Baba), my Pujos became boring. Thankfully, I left Calcutta in 1999 and did not really mind missing Pujo in Bengal every year. Diwali was much bigger in Delhi but I was never a fan of the noise, so most of my Diwalis (as a grown-up) were spent behind closed doors.

Yes, I was very much out of touch and did not regret it at all.

This year though was very different. I missed home in the festive season. Every time, I looked at my little boy, I was reminded of my own childhood spent with my father. Times have changed, and I know I would struggle to walk the streets of Calcutta during the Pujo days. However, I couldn’t avoid thinking about times gone by and how the streets were less crowded twenty-five years back.

Strangely, the festive season did mean a lot to me this year after so many years. I made a few calls to my elderly uncles and aunts and wrote more emails than I usually do during this time. I felt a trifle sad but then I felt quite good doing these things too. I felt I could reconnect (although through phone and email) with many people from my childhood.

True that I enjoyed but I may not get too excited to start participating in the local Durgapujo in Auckland from next year as yet. But then I must tell you, funny things do happen.


Urbi Chatterjee said...

Dear Tanmoyda,

I must tell you that you had me going with that last paragraph of yours. A local Durga Pujo in Auckland! Of course I know that there are such festivals everywhere in the world where there are a large number of Bengali settlers, yet somehow the idea of celebrating Durga Puja in a place where most of the visitors would be English speaking people still seems rather odd to me. I don't suppose they make such an elaborate affair there in Auckland as they do here though, do they?

My mother too tells me about the personal homely touch that used to be there in the pujas in earlier day. Nowadays everything is so commercialized that the actually religious essence of the festival is lost in all the glitz and fanfare. I can understand that you miss what is certainly a big part of our culture, but if you came back for the festival now, you probably won't have a very nice experience. All I can say is that it is better if you remember the pujas as you experienced them while growing up. What you will be seeing now would only mar some nice memories.


Saikat Chakraborty said...

Dear Pupu,

Your post brought back so many memories. Just a few years back...when Sanket, Sayan (your 'Hataash' dada), Arghya, Abhirup and me (I think there were a few more from our junior batch too) used to go to Sir's house on Diwali and light crackers all evening. That was followed by a lively conversation with Sir and Boudi over plates of sweets and cakes. Not being a pandal hopper, the only thing that got me going during the Durga Pujas and Diwali was the 'adda' that I had with Sir. If any close friends were present at Durgapur during that time, it was an added bonus. When we were in eleventh standard, some of us from Sir's batch organized gathering at Sir's house during the pujas. Sir, Boudi and especially Sudhir da was so enthusiastic about it...we chatted the whole day, watched movies and ate a hearty meal prepared by 'Nimai Caterers'. I don't have any photographs of those beautiful days that we spent but they will be forever etched in my memories.

Then slowly many of us moved away from Durgapur and such gatherings could not be organized anymore. I have not been to Durgapur for last two years during the pujas. This year I had hoped I would get holidays during the pujas and again get the chance to spend hours with Sir and you and Boudi. Anyway, that didn't materialize and I spent the pujas in the laboratory.

The rangoli designed by you and your friend was really nice. And you can go ahead and try to cook some Marwari dishes too...I feel that you will do well as you have a culinary aptitude (the chocolate cake made by you that I had last June perhaps was really delicious).

With best wishes,
Saikat da.

Urbi Chatterjee said...

Dear Saikatda,

Yes, those days were indeed lovely. Most of the fun I had on those festival days was thanks to you people. And the Puja picnic was wonderful too. I wish we could do it again. But now all of you have gone away all over the globe, so the chances of everybody being here at the same time are slim.

I didn't think you'd remember the cake that I had made! But thanks again, and if I do learn Marwari cooking, I'll make sure to let you taste some of it!


Rashmi Datta said...

Dear Pupu,
This is a lovely post. I am glad to hear that you had a good time this festive season. The rangoli made by you and your friend look very beautiful and colourful. Thank you for putting up their pictures.

Coincidentally, Ma and I make rangoli using flowers and diyas in front of our house every Diwali too. This time we made wax diyas at home using the earthen diyas available in the market and molten wax. We used them instead of the traditional oil diyas this year. This year was special because all the four floors of our building were decorated beautifully with lamps and flowers.

As children, Diwali crackers meant a great deal to both me and my elder sister. We used to wear new clothes in the evening and after a small Lakshmi Puja, my mother used to decorate our balcony with twelve diyas which was followed by the bursting of crackers. Bombs and rockets were never allowed by my father and crackers were bought in very limited quantities. But nothing could dampen our excitement. But after my sister left for college, Diwali lost its charm in her absence for all of us. That combined with all the noise and air pollution it causes, I had stopped buying crackers. I loved and still love the bright lights and lamps though.

Nowadays, I am literally scared of Diwali. The many insensitive people who live in our neighbourhood are responsible to a large extent for it. Crackers that make noise well above the prescribed decibel limit are burst in the name of enjoyment till 4 in the morning making it impossible for saner people to sleep or work peacefully. I have also heard accounts of many severe accidents involving very little children in particular.

However, if celebrated in the right spirit and if the bursting of crackers done in strictly moderate limits and by taking all precautions, Diwali is indeed a beautiful festival of lights.

Keep writing.

Take care and best wishes.