Durga Puja is the biggest celebration of the Bengali’s. More
than being a festival it’s an emotion and part of our identity for Bengalis. It’s
five days of fun, food, pandal hopping, meeting friends, attending cultural
programs, new clothes and a lot of fun.
For those readers who are not aware about a ‘Pandal’ – it is
the temporary outer structure where the idol is kept and worshiped. It is
decorated and lit up in the most beautiful ways. Every locality of the city has
their own Pujas and their own Pandals. These days they are crazy for themes.
When we were younger we were crazy about visiting pandals and
almost made lists of how many we are going to visit. When you want to visit
numerous pandals across the city you have to be geared with map and mark the
routes. Since these pandals crop up on roads and streets many roads are blocked
for those 5-6 days and traffic is diverted. In short – if you have not visited
Kolkata during pujas then you will not understand it!
Now, you already know how prone I am to getting lost. You
missed that part, did you? Worry not, read my lost stories.
This one time all of us cousins had planned to visit a few
pujas late in the night. Durga Pujas are whole night affairs, in anyways. I was
the youngest in the group of 12. That Time I myself was some 10-11 year old. We
were led by my eldest cousin brother who was big enough that time. This
particular pandal is very famous for their decorations every year and each day
of the festival they usually have a footfall of more than a lakh people.
You don’t even need to walk because you’ll be invariably
pushed by the crowd. We entered the pandal through the entry way and within
minutes we had to walk out along with the crowd in the same flow through the
exit. There were two exits one to your left and one to your right. Once you are
out and in that flow of the crowd there’s no way you can go in the opposite
direction. It’s like a human river.
Me and three of my cousins came out through the left exit way
and stood near one of the stalls waiting for the others to come out. Time flew,
thousands of people passed by my other cousins were still not out. We got a
little worried. Those were not the days of mobile phones. We realized they must
have gone out of the other exit. I made one of my brothers climb up a wall of a
nearby house to check if he can see the other group over the sea of crowds! We
didn’t spot anyone familiar.
After almost 45 minutes we visited the inquiry box and made
an announcement – “Amitava Bose, who has come from Behala, your young brothers
and sisters are waiting for you at the inquiry box please contact immediately”.
[It sounds hilarious now, but we had to do all this back then.]
I was the only one in the small group of four who stayed in
Kolkata. The others stayed in different cities and were visiting Kolkata during
the Puajs. Imagine my plight. Even after waiting for a long time we didn’t see
or hear anything from the other group. We searched for our car at the parking,
the cars were missing too. We thought they must have forgotten about us!
One of our house was nearby and we decided to walk. But
waking up someone at 2:30 AM in the night and announcing we are lost wasn’t a
great idea. We waited in the garage amidst mosquitoes and light flies hoping
this other group will come there looking for us.
But then we had to ring the bell and wake my grand mom up who
came down worried with the bell ringing at that deathly hour. Guess what few
minutes after ringing the bell we heard the cars honking and the other group
How I wish we had mobile phones back then!
Meanwhile check out a crunchy salad recipe