Durga Puja is an emotion for a Bengali which only a Bengali can understand. But this year, an invisible virus has entered our lives, forcing us to adjust to a new way of life — ‘the new normal’ of maintaining social distance and wearing masks.
So what are we missing out this year?
To start with, puja shopping starts a month ago or even more for some. This time as it was not safe to visit crowded markets, most of the shopping was done online; at least the sensible ones did so. So we already missed the craze of puja crowds in markets, trying out dozens of clothes in trial rooms. Though some disturbing pictures are doing the rounds where people are seen crowding markets for last-minute puja shopping even amid the corona threat.
Before puja days, we all ask each other “kota holo”, (how many dresses this year?) and fashion is one of the main topics of discussion. This year we can’t do that in our puja pandal but we can always video call our friends and relatives and show off our new dresses.
We will miss eating bhog, especially khichuri-labra in community pandals. Yes we can make it at home but we will miss for sure that taste and the wonderful community feeling.
The late risers will miss the Ashtami puspanjali as in most pandals, only limited people will be allowed, so first-come, first-served basis will apply mostly. So the late comers, this year you don’t have the chance to request the purohit (again and again) to do another round of puspanjali!
Witnessing and experiencing puja rituals sitting in front of Ma Durga give us goose bumps. This year, most pandals will live stream those moments. So at least something is better than nothing, the perks of having internet.
Puja evenings mean eating out and having all kinds of food — rolls, biryani, chop, cutlet and what not. This year, there are no food stalls in pandals. But you can always put on your chef’s hat and fulfil those food cravings.
Cultural programmes are a major attraction during puja, staying at the pandal till the wee hours and indulging in a lot of adda (chit-chat). This year due to restrictions, we have to behave like early birds. But nobody can stop us from playing antakshri at home and dance to the dhak beats, chanting “Durga Mai Ki Jai”.
Pandal hopping will take a backseat as it’s no use traveling the whole city to each and every pandal as most won’t allow any sort of crowds. But at night, you can try to visit one or two nearby pandals and have Ma’s darshan.
Wearing mask is compulsory, so a no make-up look will also do. Especially, lipstick would be of no use. So ladies, don’t dig a hole in your pocket on make-up. But I am sure as it is Puja time, most of you will put full make-up, even below the mask.
Kola kuli (hugging each other) on Dashami gives us a warm feeling after bidding an emotional adieu to Ma Durga. This year we have to say Shubho Bijoya only with a nomoskar. But we will definitely say “Ashche bochor abar hobe” (Ma Durga will visit us next year as well), with the hope that everything will be back to normal in the next Puja and we Bengalies will again go crazy, asking “Pujor koto din baki re” (How many days left for Puja) — months before the actual date.