By Porni Banerjee
Durga Puja in Kolkata has been unusually quieter this year with no big budget puja and unimaginably very little dynamism.
Kolkata’s Durga puja reminds me of delectable chicken or an egg rolls or even mutton biriyani with chicken chap from the stall outside the puja mandap that remains flooded by foodies. Kolkata’s puja gives me the flavour of pushpanjali in ashtami morning after quickly freshening up yourself and taking a perfect selfie with your ‘bestie’ in your favourite dress.
The festival is all about keeping the signature hour-long chats (adda) alive at Maddox Square and signifies upholding the city’s very own ‘theme pujo’ that certainly adds extra oomph in the city. This festival means executing plans for puja parikrama at North, South and Salt Lake for pandal hoppers.
And most importantly, as we say, Durga puja is equated with the ‘cute, innocent love’ among young couples and the pure vibes that connect the two souls in the city of love.
Yes! Why not? We Bengalis love to not only celebrate but embrace Durga Puja and wait for this very moment every once in a year. For us, Uma’s homecoming implies celebrating togetherness with our loved ones. For us, this festival is not just following all the rituals, but Durga puja is an emotion.
However, the scenario was quite different this year. Unlike every year, Kolkatans, with heavy hearts, could not celebrate in a pompous manner as many restrictions dictated the festival because of the pandemic.
With fewer lights, and minimal food stalls on the streets, Kolkata looked less vibrant and colourful. There was the least possible crowd on the lanes which compelled the mandaps to wear a somewhat naked look. Neighbourhoods and colonies were also unusually calm and quiet.
In a crux, the city had no theme puja.
Instructions as laid down by the Calcutta High Court that the idol shall be placed in a way so that it could be viewed by the common men from a distance of ten feet away from every pandal. Gathering in front of any pandal was forbidden.
While a major part of the civil society enjoyed the festival responsibly as they wore masks, kept sanitisers with them and maintained social distancing, few tried to act smart asses without having those.
Even restaurants made a fairly good business amid the pandemic maintaining all the safety measures. Additionally, for many pandal hoppers, devi darshan from inside their cars was a much preferable and comfortable option this time.
Nonetheless, people showed up in moderately large numbers in South Kolkata such as Bosepukur (Kasba), Tridhara, and in few pockets of North Kolkata. Durga Puja in the city was such a low-key affair that even the police personnel ‘were able to have a somewhat easy access to their phones’ compared to other years when they are too overwhelmed and overworked.
Visiting relative’s house and whole night party at friend’s places and having a gala time were ‘cooler’ and preferable options for people of all ages. After all, Bengalis’ adda culture is evergreen just like their love for Maa Durga that can never fizzle out.
Nevertheless, keeping the pandemic aside, if you are trying to find a soul in Durga Puja, Kolkata is the place. Feel it and she will not let you down. Creativity speaks!