How have you all been? It has been just a week but seems to me a very long time as I have been away from active blogging all this while and I’m missing it. There wasn’t much I could do about it because sometimes, life takes precedence and that is okay too! Autumn skies are very beautiful in the eastern Indian state of Bengal. In the south of the country, where I’m presently based, the sky brings in plenty of rain and some gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. It might have been a dull grey cloudy sky if not for the streak of sunshine spreading across to make it a dramatic one. I watched another beautiful day unfold right before my eyes and felt a silent prayer rising within me, thankful for the sight.
I’ve been very busy this past week, as we celebrated Durga Puja, the biggest festival mostly for the Bengali community, although many in North and East India also follow it. But for the Bengalis, Durga Puja is that time of the year when they long to go back to their roots and their traditions to be part of the five-day festivities.
The dates for the festival are decided by the almanac and this year luckily two of the five main days fell on a weekend, which meant most people could join in, without having to take leave from work, which was a big relief for many! Thanks to the good weather, there were no rains to act spoilsport as the ladies donned their best silks and crisp cottons and the men dressed in smart block-printed kurtas and little girls and boys a little too conscious of their new attires, as they joined in the festive mood and enjoyed being part of the milieu. The festival days flew by in a jiffy! The mornings and the evenings were completely dedicated to enjoying the sounds of the “dhaak“ and the “dhol” and offering flowers at the feet of the deity for “pushpanjali” amid the chanting of the mantras, to be followed by visiting other pandals in the other parts of the city (‘pandal-hopping’.)
There were almost 35 pandals in Bangalore this year and that gives everyone an idea about how widely it is celebrated here. In the afternoons all devotees were provided free lunch in all the pandals. This comprised of a traditional “bhog“, that included khichdi, a medley of vegetables called “labda“, chutney made of ripe tomatoes and “payesh” (kheer). In the evenings, it was an amazing experience to watch the “arati” by the priest. With the camphor wafting in the air as the men and women did the “dhunuchi“dance, one was reminded of one’s childhood and the feverish excitement of the puja days in the years gone by. It was as if, stirred by the sights, sounds and the drum beats one was transported to another world. On most evenings there were cultural programmes, comprising of skits, classical dance performances, songs, often including local and outstation performers to entertain the public.
As all good things must come to an end, so did those magical days of the puja. But, not without leaving us happier, albeit a little mellow; recharged and rejuvenated nonetheless.
As my twelve-year-old enjoys his last few days of the vacation, reading story books and getting ready for another busy term, I am hopeful I will be able to bring in some much-needed changes to my writing and life, in general.
That’s all from my end. I’d love to hear about you and what has been keeping you busy over the week. As another weekend approaches, I’m sure you all are looking forward to something different or perhaps, something special. Do share your thoughts in the comments section below. I look forward to hearing from you. See you again soon!