I am feeling hyper-excited. I will be visiting Jamshedpur for the Pujas after 18 years! 18 whole years! I stay in Bangalore and I will travel with my family to be there in Jamshedpur for the Pujas. My sons, now 14 and 12, will be there for the Pujas at Jamshedpur for the first time!
I know I will miss the Mahalaya at Jamshedpur, that joy of waking up before dawn and listening to Chandi-Paath in Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s voice in the old Murphy radio. But I will pull out the two-volume set of cassettes I have and listen to the paath pre-dawn in Bangalore just as everyone is around the country!
I am looking forward to sitting on the terrace (“chhat”) of my parents’ house listening to the beats of the dhaak through the evening. That throbbing beat which makes you want to jump up-and-down, swing sideways, clap and generally get into a trance. I want to dance and give myself up to the joyous excitement of the pujas.
I look forward to seeing endless streams of men, women and children, all clad in their festive clothing, walking up and down our “road” visiting one pandal and then the other. (There are four puja pandals in a kilometer’s radius of my house)
I would have liked to be there arguing with the localities donation (chanda) collectors about the amount of contribution we could make. But perhaps I will be too late for that. The chanda would have either been committed for or collected already.
I look forward to wearing a set of new clothes each day of the Pujas, Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Bijoya. I have ensured that my children and my wife too wear new clothes. And as a surprise I have planned for my parents who are in their 80’s and 70’s, (father is going on 84 and mother on 79) they will wear sets of new clothes each day of the pujas. Just as my parents ensured with my father’s meager earnings that all six of us siblings could do so.
I will buy all the pujo-barshikis and try and read some of it. So what if my fluency with Bangla script is a bit rusted now. And I will certainly read Shankar’s (Mani Shankar Mukherjee of Chowringhee fame – among many others) story if he is still writing.
I look forward to the trips to the puja pandal where I can bow to the Goddess and seek her blessings. Not before I lift my children (I am sure much to their amusement, and embarrassment) to enable them to get a darshan of Ma Durga. Just as my father did when I was a kid.
I have planned to buy for my children the small toys I used to enjoy when I was a kid. That water-filled rubber balloon slung on a thin elastic rubber tube which served as “yo-yo”. That plastic monkey which slithers down the spring-like stalk as you turn the toy up, and then down.
I want to be a part of the aarati competition each evening. Not as a participant, of course, but as a member of the audience. I want to smell the sweet, intoxicating aroma of dhoop as I stand in the crowd watching the aarati dancers to the beat of the dhaak. The dhaakis going round-and round in their own trance. My youngest sister who won all the aarati competitions she took part in will not be there as a participant but I will still cheer all those who do participate.
I would like to treat my family to phuchkaas, son-papadi, ghughni, chicken-rolls and other such heavenly snacks from the sundry vendors stationed around the pandal.
I would love to buy the coupons for the khichudi moha-prosaad and have the prosaad for lunch each day. That heavenly sweetish khichudi with kumdo vegetable.
I look forward to hanging around the para’s pujo pandal in the evenings. Who knows, I may be lucky and able to spot some of those girls who I used to eye when I was a teenager! Never mind if they are all married and with grown-up kids! I can still introduce my kids to their “aunties”!
I plan to sneak behind the pujo-pandal and grab a few surreptitious puffs of a cigarette away from the vigilant eyes of Jethi-mas, Jethu, Kakus, Kakis, Pishi-mas, pishi-moshays and everyone else.
If they still have jatras, I will watch at least one show braving the late night chill. And cry unabashedly at the predicament of the hero and the heroine.
I do not have text-books any more but I will carry whatever books I will have with me for reading in the vacation to the puja-pandal on the Bijoyadashmi day to seek Durga Maa’s blessings. And watch the women of the para applying sindoor on each other.
I shudder to think of the women crying on that last day of the pujas grieving about Durga Ma’s departure for the year. I think I may end up crying too!
My kids and I would line up the street and watch the immersion procession with me holding my kids’ hands. Cheering each grand statue as it passes by.
I would go to each of our neighbour’s house in the evening and touch the feet of the jethus and jethi-mas and do kola-koli with all my childhood friends. And eat mehidaana, sondesh, ghughni and loochi.
The day after Bijoya, I will go over in my mind the days just gone past reveling in the memories. And plan my trip to Jamshedpur for the next year’s pujas.
Oh to be in Jamshedpur, for the Pujas!