Will be adding pictures to the post when Tall Guy sends them over! 🙂
Pujo in Calcutta is a special time. I could compare it to the carnival of Goa or the Ganesh Puja of Maharashtra but, that wouldn’t quite capture the real essence of my city during these ten days.
You know Pujo has arrived when the tiny, winding, twisting lanes of Calcutta have Pandals on every end. Calcutta is a city full of streets which are so narrow that if 2 cars were to pass through simultaneously, there would barely be enough place for a person to stand and just miss getting scratched. And these aren’t lanes I’m talking about here. Some of the “main roads” are kinda like this. Now in such minuscule areas, the most spectacular Pandals are created.
The beauty of the pandals lie in the fact that the slum dwellers regularly come up with the most ubiquitous creations. A pandal made out of Lac Bangles ONLY, or earthen pots, or designed as a cave are just some of the creations. Some which particularly stood out for me, were the one where you entered into a dinosaur’s mouth and came out his tail, (it even moved its jaw, as if eating you up and roared every few minutes); or the one made entirely out of recycled paper and my personal favourite continues to be the one made out of puffed rice(I bet I wasn’t the only one wanting to eat it all up!). All of these pandals were fully functional and easily occupied by a bare minimum of 150 people at any given moment of the day or night.
The entire city is lit up. All the “yo” songs are played, as loud as possible, transcending the language barrier. You’ll hear Munni Badnaam Hui and Zor ka jhatka interspersed liberally with Bengali Rock Music, which, if I were to translate…would suffice as a separate conversation. Safe to say, some Bengali music is better than Bhojpuri music. 🙂
The entire city comes out of its houses and onto the streets. You’d expect the outcome to be even more chaotic than Calcutta usually is. But in its own brand of being, the people surprise you (only these few days…don’t expect it ALL the time) and follow rules. Enter from assigned gates and almost, almost follow queues.
Amongst all this, I’ve ignored the deity herself. Now if I were to try to describe Maa in all her glory, I’d fail miserably. No words could ever come close to explaining how painstakingly she is created. Every nuance of her expressions in all her incarnations is captured dramatically. If you look closely enough and try having a conversation with her (as I frequently do), you’d notice her eyes gleaming with love and how her smile engulfs you. She is adorned in the most extravagant saris and jewelry. And yet, its probably always the last thing that you notice. You don’t notice anything except her aura.
Pandal hopping is probably the one thing I miss the most about Pujo. Moving all across the city with friends, from one Pandal to another and soaking in the revelry is a high no dose of ecstasy can match.
Imagine watching a rock concert by your favourite artist up close and personal and having back stage passes and spending an hour in their company. Now compound that euphoria for every person in the pandal and then magnify it by 10 times. And you now have an inkling to the kind of zing in the air.
Then comes the Mela…
(for a detailed description of the Mela…come back later.) 🙂