It is one am (night of ashtami/ navami) as I write this piece sitting on the terrace of our house. I can see streams of people making their way to the neighboring Puja pandal walking up-and-down wearing new clothes. Old people, kids, boys and girls…all! And this in an otherwise quiet street whose residents go off to sleep at 10 in the night.
That is the excitement of Pujas in Jamshedpur. My mother, who wakes up very, very early says that the only quiet time is after four in the morning!
Maha Ashtami was a relatively quiet day for us. Quiet in the sense that we did not venture too far from the house today.
I woke up rather late (Pitaji had organized the bhog coupons again!) and lazed around listening to the sonorous chants of the Durga Path emanating over the loud-speaker at the nearby pandal.
The ladies of the house, my mother, my wife and my sister who stayed over at our place went to participate in the puja in the morning carrying their puja offerings. My contribution to the proceedings was accompanying my sister later in the day to the pandal to collect their puja offerings and, yes, the bhog!
While I got the offerings, my sister queued up for the bhog (the ladies’ line for the bhog collection was shorter, hence this arrangement!). As I was waiting for sister to surface with the bhog, I could see a queue of maybe a hundred men standing patiently in the sun with their empty jholas over their heads as a sun-shield awaiting their turn for the bhog.
And it was the heavenly khichudi moha-prosad again for lunch!
Then in the evening a stroll (if you can call weaving your way through massive crowds a stroll) to two neighbouring pandals with my father for darshan of Maa Durga. Father needs assistance in negotiating the roads in the evenings and I was the guide. A far cry from the days 30-35 years ago when my father would hold my hands and gently move me through the crowds at multiple pandals.
And what a crowd it was at one of the pandals. See the long queue here:
The high point of this trip was that we could see the arati at leisure. I have taken a few videos of the arati, and especially of the dhakis but the file, alas, is too large for me to post it here in the absence of a broad-band connection. There was this troupe of 5 dhakis who put up a mesmerizing show complete with a hyper-active kid dhaki and a couple of dhaks with the traditional plumes.
Later in the evening a trip with my wife to the “Bot Tala” pandal which is a little further away from my house.
And back again to the para’s puja pandal to hear some fine Asha Bhosle adhunik songs. “Mohua jomechhey”, “Phooler gondho nei”, ete etc; all songs from my teenager days!
As I was watching the proceedings from the terrace later at night, the pandal had a Kishore Kumar clone who sang passably well first in Bengali (again my favorite adhunik songs of Kishore Kumar) and then some Hindi ones from movies like Amanush.
I understand there are no jatras nowadays, at least not in our para puja. Wonder why, and since when it has been discontinued. Must check tomorrow.
Tomorrow is Navami and it is reserved for some big sight-seeing, Telco area, Kadma, etc. We will yet again have the able brother-in-law to steer us through the day.
And yes, I did keep a keen look-out for the spring monkey. No luck. But then today I was only revisiting the pandals, maybe tomorrow’s location would prove lucky!
I keep my fingers crossed!