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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Holiday Hangover...

First and foremost - Thank you all...for all the wonderful words of praise and encouragement that you've sent my way...

I had been away from blogsphere for almost a month....
A month which had started with the anticipation of Pujo vacation, followed by Pujo shopping. Then came the cleaning and washing spree - a must-do before the festive season sets what if the festivities are not celebrated in this house itself? Moreover, I have this fetish of returning after vacation to a sparkling clean and tidy home..otherwise the already down-in-the-dumps post-holiday mood crashes into a state of severe misery and depression. My husband calls me "Baatik-grostho" which if translated into English would be something of a mild psychological disorder.

And finally came the week before the trip.

Last moment packing, last moment shopping, last minute office work, instructions to the was a week bustling with activities. To add to all the craziness, just three days before the journey, the cooking gas decided to get over at late evening 8:30pm. And what with the 21 days Gas booking cycle and all (as if the Gas Company has been authorised to ration the quantity of cooking I do at my home!!!!!), and as already mentioned in my last post, the microwave being stranded at the service centre, I was left with no fuel to cook!!!! I was just short of having a nervous breakdown when my husband walked into the house after office and was quite unperturbed upon hearing the calamity that had befallen us!! And that made me even more mad, if that's possible! Well not only was he least bothered, his very patronising suggestion of "we can always eat out the next few days" had me boiling mad! I left the house hyperventilating (I always do when I'm tensed and without a clue as to what is to be done).

Suddenly I had a brain-wave, patted myself on my burst of commonsense, went to the nearest local market, asked around for a "Chhota Gas" and finally said yippee when I could locate the right store. There stood only one set of locally made, crude mini-gas cylinder with a burner fitted to the top. To me it was the most precious and coveted object at that moment! Very unsafe, but in circumstances like I was, it was like a God-sent! Lucky me...had I been two minutes late in reaching the shop, I would have missed it. Another sullen faced man frantically entered the makeshift shop in search of a similar "Chhota Gas" just as I was making the payment and expressing my doubts over its safety! The sullen-faced-prospective-buyer must have been in the position of my husband...bombarded by the wife to take some proactive disaster management measures and was decent enough to actually make an attempt to do so ... in glaring contrast to my husband, who had found the situation and especially my condition, quite amusing. Well.. though I brought the "Chhota Gas" home with a lot of fanfare, I couldn’t rest in peace till I somehow got the Gas Boy to deliver a full cylinder before I left for vacation. Well a price though!! This was one occasion when I had no option but to indulge in bribery!!
I wonder when basic amenities like cooking fuel will become a matter of right for any ordinary citizen instead of us having to resort to bribery or the black market!

Thereafter, reached Kolkata for the much awaited vacation without any further excitement or untoward events.

As usual, Pujo vacations are never long enough. So ten days passed in a jiffy. Short, enjoyable, hectic..with Momo's (my daughter) double birthday celebrations, Pujo rituals, Pandal hopping, Belur Math trip, meeting family, Bijoya Dashami lunch & dinner parties, Lakshmi Pujo, the vacation was chock-a-block with activities. There wasn’t a moment to sit, relax and let the holiday mood to seep in...Pujo vacations are nothing but a mad mad sea of hundreds of activities that just have to be packed in during the five days.

Durga Puja, I feel, is not only about religious fervour. It is a blend of art, creativity, skill and a celebration of our life in general! By art and creativity, one has to see to believe the awe-inspiring craftsmanship and skill that go into making the Pandals which are just temporary structures dismantled after five days of the Puja. It's a shame that they have to be dismantled. We should have a museum to preserve these masterpieces by the unsung master craftsmen. What is more fascinating is the conceptualization of the themes for the Pandals which are both topical as well as innovative.

For example, one of the Pandals I had visited was based on Global Warming and the entire material, colours etc were environment friendly.

Another Pandal was a prototype of Tata’s much-maligned Nano factory at Singur. This pandal, which looked like a factory from the outside was tied with a chain and a lock to symbolise West Bengal’s industrial doomsday. Wish circumstances were different and Bengal had had the opportunity of celebrating the launch of Nano from its backyard......

The variety, the beauty and the grandeur of the clay idols of the Goddess and her entourage leaves one speechless. They too are immersed, as is the custom, at the end the the Puja. If one happens to pass by the Ganges the day after Dashami, one finds thousands of remnants of the grandeur ... the carcasses littering the water and adding to the already over-polluted river.

As I said, THE PUJA is a time for celebration ...not necessarily and exclusively religious It is a social potpourri where the whole community and society, irrespective of religion, caste, creed get caught up in a festive gaiety so unique to this particular festival. I am not exaggerating when I say irrespective of religion - I have seen Muslim families in Kolkata dressing up, renting cars and going from Pandal to Pandal, enjoying the lighting, decorations, and in general getting immersed in the celebrations. That is what I feel is unique and the very essence of any celebration…where no one ought to be left out! Happiness should not be ethnicity/religion specific….it should be all-encompassing!

Lastly as I end this piece, I can't help but write about a section of the society we love to hate but without whose tremendous support, the non-stop travelling within the city, commuting between my two homes (parents and parents-in-law) in two corners of the city would have been nothing short of a series of nightmares. THE KOLKATA TRAFFIC POLICE!!!
I was amazed and very very pleasantly surprised to see their super-efficient handling of the enormous bulk of traffic. Fantastic manning of the roads, supported by widely publicized road maps leading to the Pujas, aided by SMS helpline resulted in smooth flow of vehicles. The whole scenario could have and would have turned nasty if this daunting task had not been handled deftly…Kudos to the Kolkata Police…

We're back in our Hyderabad home with suitcases bursting with gifts of new clothes and various goodies. Life has gone back to normal. Office, home, cooking, …the list is monotonous and common! The holiday hangover is gradually receding to the background and the orderliness of day-to-day life is coming to the forefront. Ordeliness is boring and commonplace...but that's reality, I guess!!!

Looking forward to next week’s festival of light …DIWALI!

Bibliography :
Baatik-grostho-A Bengali terminology referring to a habit bordering on obsession/fetish for a particular characteristic/way of life;
Durga Puja-The most important festival in the Bengali calender celebrated during September/October;
Pandal-A structure made of bamboo, plaster-of-Paris, canvas and various other material meant for housing the Idol of any Hindu deity;
Pandal-hopping-Pandal visiting spree to have a look at the decor and the Idols;
Belur Math- Headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission, founded by Swami Vivekananda. Situated about 15kms from Kolkata on the banks of the River Hugli;
Bijoya Dashami-The fifth day of Durga Puja, after immersion of the Goddess, friends and family meet, exchange greetings and offer sweets to one another;
Diwali-A major Hindu festival celebrated all over India. Fireworks, Lighting of oil-lamps, candles and worshipping the Goddess Lakshmi /Goddess Kali are significant aspects of this festival