Kolkata during Durga Puja......The Prelude

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Photo of Kolkata during Durga Puja......The Prelude by Soma Majumdar

A laid back city, the year round....traffic jams, honking horns, afternoon siesta, trudging trams and sweaty busloads......suddenly becomes this pulsating, exciting, all-dressed-up, can't-keep-me-indoors place during the puja times in September/ October.

The first signs of excitement are felt on #Mahalaya Day ...with the radio (and nowadays TV telecast) programme on Mahishashur Mardini...an oral narrative of how good wins over evil, handed down through the generations....a story- telling that uses a narrator, The Story and lots of songs....the narrator is synonymous with the name , Birendra Krishna Bhadra....none other..it is his rich baritone that I can even hear now as I think about Mahalaya...

For most of our generation, it is associated with......setting the alarm at 4 am ( a time... nowadays when my son ends his day), getting up early in the morning, curling up in Ma's lap and trying to keep awake amidst the folds of her sari pallu......punctuated by ...my mothers gentle/violent (dependant on the intensity of my nap) reminder to wake up....or her sing alongs with the familiar songs...

The excitement picks up with the at-your-face sales and discounts and the hordes of shoppers thronging the shops in their search of the latest- trends- this- puja.

Photo of Kolkata during Durga Puja......The Prelude 1/8 by Soma Majumdar
...the crowded Gariahat markets....
Photo of Kolkata during Durga Puja......The Prelude 2/8 by Soma Majumdar
Photo of Kolkata during Durga Puja......The Prelude 3/8 by Soma Majumdar
Photo of Kolkata during Durga Puja......The Prelude 4/8 by Soma Majumdar

Basaks and Meera Bose boutiques....in and around Gariahat, out of the many others, are flooded with some amazingly beautiful creations of the Bengal Tangail Saries ranging from Rs 1000 onwards, during this time.

Photo of Kolkata during Durga Puja......The Prelude 5/8 by Soma Majumdar
Meera Bose boutique....began as a two room affair in the 80's.. to this famed boutique
Photo of Kolkata during Durga Puja......The Prelude 6/8 by Soma Majumdar
Indian silk house in Gariahat...waiting for the footfalls...

It gathers momentum with the sound of nails on bamboos....to build the mandaps, the temporary abode of Goddess Durga and her family

Photo of Kolkata during Durga Puja......The Prelude 7/8 by Soma Majumdar
Photo of Kolkata during Durga Puja......The Prelude 8/8 by Soma Majumdar

....you know the pujas are round the corner when you hear the familiar..... oh-they-are-here knock on the door.... para (locality) boys (strange how we still call them para BOYS despite them being well into the prime of life) smiling with their subscription books , tearing out a page with a sheepish, rueful smile...

"this time we have increased your contribution....you know...costs have gone up"

....only to be followed by the electrical support guys...with their yeh- humara -haq -hei attitude.....requesting, no demanding..

".....mashima....we are taking a line from this switch board in your balcony...for the street light decorations.....this year it will be fatafati"

......and then the cultural soceity ladies floating in.. with their breathless laughter and lingering perfumes....

"...so this time would you like to perform?... a song? a dance ?..a recital...Tagores Shesher Kobita maybe?"

There are those intangible sounds fragrances in the air.....puja associations..., the smell of shiuli (jasmine) in the autumnal breeze from the south, the smell of dhunuchi or incense sticks.....

The nearness of the occasion is atlast heralded by sounds....sounds of the drummers...making their way to the cities from nameless villages.....slinging their dhakkies around one shoulder and spinning out rhythms to catch the attention of the puja organizers....and then the sounds of the familiar....mike testing, mike testing...of loud speakers with all their collection of puja songs old and new....don't know how these two numbers.....even so many years later...are stuck in my memory of pujo in kolkata.....aamar pujor phool bhalobasha roye geche, tumi jeno bhool bujho na and tomar neel dopati chokh aar shet dopati hanshi...

...and then comes panchami.....the last prelude night.....suddenly nights are no more dark and private....they are a continuous stream of lights from near and far.....entering into your bedrooms....where all mandaps are illuminated as soon as the last rays of the sun dips in the horizon....

Kolkata suddenly becomes this 24/7 alive, adrenaline pumping experience.....of smiles that never leave the face.....when dreams and expectations of romance thrill the senses......when all troubles, worries, rifts are set aside for ....four days of mad pandal hopping, getting in and out of ensembles, of continuous food tasting.....in short.....total seduction of all the senses...sight, smell, taste, fill and feel....... "#kolkata, #durgapuja, #cityofjoy, #kolkatashopping "

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