Durga Puja in the high-school chapter, was mostly about meeting friends in the neighboring puja pandal while persuading my parents (with obvious help from friends, a favor that I returned during their turn) to visit the nearby restaurants. A success in these efforts would mean long-hours of gossips with friends, devouring chicken chow mien and coca-cola. Wearing the best suits and heels in the puja evenings became the definition of Durga Puja in the following years, and I still remember those eyes that searched for the glimpse of that ‘special friend’ and a heart that beat so fast the moment the eyes met.
Over time, as I moved out of town, making it back home every year during this time of the month, became impossible. However, studies and then jobs in new cities started taking me to different Puja mandaps, giving me the chance to try out local-cuisines and to explore diverse customs of Durga Puja, Navratri, and Dussehra. In some years away from home, I found myself struggling with my company's manager and HR to get a few extra days off from work, and in some other years, I spent lonely Ashtami evenings, crouching over the laptop and binge-watching episodes of Friends.