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Aabaar Esho Ma

The best part about being Bengali is not the fish or Roshogollas or football or the ‘intelligentsia’ label or the fact that we share our heritage with two Nobel laureates, Oscar winning filmmakers, well-loved musicians and performers, critically acclaimed authors, (Wow, the list is long. We’re just that awesome!) it’s Durga Puja.
It’s that time of the year when Bengalis draw themselves away from drawing room debates to put on their best clothes, so that they can continue it at a social gathering out in the open. There’s plenty of gossip to be exchanged, opinions to be shared, imposed and refuted and then there’s always the food. The food is incomparable, heavenly almost. Don’t ever think otherwise! We’re not labeled as ‘cultured’ people for nothing! We just need an excuse to put up plays, dance dramas and musical performances for the non-philistines.
But that’s the whole issue. It’s become more of a lifestyle event than a religious one. I know festivals are a good excuse to socialize and have fun, but it’s being robbed of its spiritual aspect. At the Puja Pandal, people just give the idol a passing glance, maybe stand in front of it for a few minutes and then walk away. Some people don’t even deign to do that. I’m not pointing fingers at anyone, as I’m not exempt from such transgressions as well. All I’m asking is what does Durga Puja mean to us Bengalis now? In this age? Has it lost its true symbolism amidst the frivolity?
But no matter what the neo Bengali does nowadays at the Pandal, be it smoking or targeting someone’s bald pate (trust me; I’ve seen that, done by adults, no less!), deep down he will always feel a special connection with this festival. It’s a heritage that has been passed on through generations and it can’t be destroyed so easily.
Something tugs at your heartstrings when you see the idols brought down from the pedestal for immersion. The divine aura radiate by them is somewhat lessened when you can see the straw poking out from the unpainted backsides of the idol. It drives home the point that they are really nothing more than mud and clay. But as you see them floating away like discarded waste, in an almost sorry-like manner, you can’t help saying one thing, “Come again, Mother”
Aabaar Esho Ma.

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Sayonee Ghosh Roy
I humbly profess to be spoilt, pampered brat with old-school upbringing. You could let me loose in a book-store and I'd never come out, except if you lure me out with coffee and Italian food.


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