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I am a professional and a cook,rather a cook by choice and passion.Cooking is something I fantasise about.When I first thought of starting a blog,a thousand ideas coursed through my mind,albeit,none stood the sands of time.Except for the thought of a food blog accompanied by subtle nuances from daily life and from the world around me!



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Thursday, October 7, 2010

There is something about Pujo!

This post of mine goes to Preeoccupied's lovely event titled 'Beyond five days of Durga Puja' and the 5th edition of 'Of Chalks and Chopsticks' hosted by PJ of 'Seduce Your Tastebuds'.Thanks PJ and Aqua for hosting this wonderful event.Wish you all a very happy Pujo!
I woke up quite early in the morning and drew the blinds aside. The wooden window panes open out to our neighbor’s garden, to the heady essence of nascent ‘Shiuli’ dripping from the early morning breeze. I stood with the window ajar as the balmy autumn breeze grazed my rested and still fresh skin. It was this time of the year again – the time when Maa Durga would travel back home to her earthly abode, kids in tow, and all hell would break loose for the quintessential Bong. 

It would be that time of the year when Bongs would come back home to be with family, do themselves up in all gorgeous finery, hang out with friends, gorge on delectables until the shirt buttons would threaten to go asunder; and the time when all memories of near and far would throng the senses and take one back in time to the times lived through.

 I was a moffusal girl long before I started calling Kolkata home. To as far as my memory reaches out, the cosmopolitan ambience that hung around the place seemed slightly removed from the ‘Sharodotshob Bangaliana’ but nevertheless, that would in no way be any less charismatic. The last day of exams would usually be on the threshold of Pujo,maybe just the day before Sasthi.Our little hearts wallowed in excitement as the exam days passed, albeit not timelessly. The post-exam animated conversations would revolve around the count of new dresses rather than the number of questions answered correctly. Who cared when ‘Pujo’ was just days away!!

With the silvery stalks of slender ‘Kashful’ swaying to the changing winds, the air would be heavy with the ‘Pujo pujo gondho’.A willowy breeze would tingle the senses towards evening and a thin blanket would inadvertently need to be curled around our sleeping selves towards morn – the beauty of autumn, the ushering in of winter.

As the weather readied itself for the Pujo, so did we. Hopping through each others places, we would marvel at the ‘Pujo collections’ from Mamas,Mashis,Pishis and Kakus. More than us, it would be a routine affair for Aunties to be at each other places, apparently to exchange pleasantries, but more so to make sure that nothing in-fashion had managed to elude their entourage!’Pujor Bajar sesh?’ would be the ubiquitous question to almost everyone we crossed paths with.

Finally on Sasthi morning, the resounding beats of the ‘Dhaak’ would make us jostle out of our slumber.Pujo finally! In our part of the world, there would just be one ‘Pujo pandal’ where everyone would gather together. It would be a community hall more or less decked up in ceremonial grandeur but very unlike the concept of ‘theme pujo’ that would be and still today is, the hallmark of Kolkata pandals. Sprinting from one pandal to another to catch an eyeful of the ‘Shilper shilpokari’ was something alien to us.For us, it would be just that one place, a piece of utopian bliss, for the four days to ensue.

While Sasthi passed on relatively unheralded,save for the beat of drums and ‘Bodhon’ to welcome the Goddess, Saptami morning would see us start getting into Puja finery.Bathed and clean, there would be a flutter in the heart as the first crinkle appeared on the new dress;the smell of starch in the folds infused with the light scent of the wardrobe mothballs.It would be the first time we saw the Mother Goddess, powerful and glorious in all Her splendour. Wide-eyed in awe, we would stand with our hands folded and marvel.It would not be much about what adorned the ‘Chalchitro’ or what color the Goddess wore her Sari or how fair was her daughter Saraswati – it was just about Her – the Mother Goddess.The sheer embodiment of woman power and the victory of Good over Evil – it felt as if ‘Maa Durga’ said it all with her expressionful eyes and Her message rang through.

Fun, frolic,laughter on Saptami night would give way to the sacred Ashtami morning.Time for Anjali!!Jostle,jostle,push,push…everyone had to make way through to the front. Who would want the sacred ‘Anjali’ flowers to miss Maa’s feet and land on someone else’s head!!I felt sorry for myself everytime - should have practiced hurling javelin maybe, just for this one special day!!’Purutmoshai’s baritone voice would ring out over the microphone as he seamlessly mouthed out the tough Sanskrit ‘Slokas’. Would feel bewildered.Ohh my,I could not get even half of the words right!I desperately hoped, with eyes tightly closed in howmuchever reverance I managed to gather within me,that the Mother Goddess understood my message,however gibberish it might have been.And I knew She would.

Anjali would be followed with the ‘
Proshad’ of ‘Luchi’ and ‘Bonde’. The ‘Luchi’ would be oily and shriveled, having being churned out eons ago, and would lose their girth, but yet the ambience would somehow infuse the same ‘Pujo pujo gondho’ in them and they would taste so good.The ‘Bonde’ would have the same pearly glisten on them and would taste lovely with the ‘Luchi’.The ‘short and sweet’ Proshad would be followed by ‘Astami bhog’ of piping hot Khichudi on skillfully woven ‘Shal patar thala’ (plates woven from the leaves of the ‘Shal’ tree). Often a crevice would peep out among the leaves of the ‘thala’ and the hot Khichudi would trickle down,searing the fingers. Some concerned Kaku nearby would dash off to bring another ‘shal patar thala’ and place it underneath to stave off the loss of Khichudi! With the Khichudi fiasco briskly tackled, the roving eye would now look around for the Beguni, very thinly cut slivers of aubergine or ‘Begun’ dipped in a viscous batter of Gramflour or ‘Besan’ and Rice flour, for the extra crispiness, and deep-fried in bubbling hot oil.All said and done, only after the Khichudi,laced with the leafy smell of the Shal pata, would be wiped clean off the ‘thala’ that we would remember to do the ‘Pronaam’.The ‘Pronaam’ would be a gesture of reverence shown to the Mother Goddess for the food at hand, and the sacrilege done would stealthily be dismissed with a humble reference to Maa Durga’s magnanimous ability to forgive and forget!What less from us opportunistic humans!

The ninth day of the Goddess’s stay on earth, or ‘
Nabami’ would turn out to be a tricky mismash of emotions. A part of the heart would bear an unsavoury heaviness – the Goddess was almost at the end of her itinerary.But then, there would be one WHOLE day that She would stay with us!Uptil Ashtami, everything would have a sacred touch to it. But come Nabami, and the fashion fairy would rule our wardrobes!Eluding admonishing glares to refrain from walking over the fence, the most ‘happening’ attire would make its way out from the ‘Pujo collection’.A mesmerized look here, a coy smile there - everything would leave a magical trail of sugar and spice! It felt like the Mother Goddess was emptying out even the smallest speck of mirth in her kitty before she bid her final adieu!

The strains of the ‘Dhaak’ would have a mellowed and mournful beat on Dashami morning.Finally time for Maa Durga to leave – another year, another autumn, another circle of life.

It would feel like the past few days had passed off in sheer euphoria, but reality now poked in its ugly head. Time to go back to books, to exams, to school with stern teachers belting out nerve-wracking Math problems.

Something would get caught up in our throats, as Maa would leave the ‘Pujor pandal’ amidst heavy hearts and strains of ‘Aschhe bochor, abar hobe’. ‘Purutmoshai’ would be on his toes,  literally hurling the sacred ‘Shanti jol’ with a three-sprigged ‘Belpata’ on everyone in sight, taking care that no mortal in his vicinity was left dry!Bijoya Dashami would ensue and so would the long wait for another long year to pass by.For Pujo to come, for ‘Kashful’ and ‘Shiuli’, for Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s ‘Mahishasur Mardini’ on Mahalaya….for ‘Dhunuchi naach’, for ‘Anjali’…for Maa Durga to come home again!

1 thoughtful musings left behind...:

Jaya said...

Lovely, just loved reading it .Shobho Bijoya janae tumake O W3 ...darun lekha hoyeche :-)..hugs and smiles

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