Durga puja is safely behind us. Four days of fun and food and frolic have come to an end for most of my Bengali brethren. And for me. So, while everyone’s still recuperating and my true-blue bong friends look wistful and restless one could, maybe, get away with some things that may very well be considered nothing less that sacrilege if spoken about during the days of festivities and “devoted” puja.
As a sub-editor (for the uninitiated that’s the most menial job in a news organisation) on a slightly under-staffed desk, leaves are few and far between. However, I was kindly given two days off for the most important festival in the Bengali calendar. Two much-awaited days! And so began another tryst with the famous pandals of C.R. Park.
Bright sunlight, the kind that peeps through the curtains only during durga puja — fresh and warm and blindingly bright — was the first thing i noticed. Though it’s strange how this is beautiful only so long as you don’t have to step into it. But come afternoon and we trooped to the nearest pandal for bhog. Its a community affair. People come together lured by the prasad and drawn in further by the irresistible opportunity of some adda, flirting, showing-off, gossiping and general merry-making.
After waiting for about half an hour in a queue for bhog, which i suspect stretched for miles and not just in length (people filled in from everywhere..the traditional Indian queue), I found myself about two feet from where I started. Women in silk saris and sequined-clothings flashed by, giggly teenage girls discussed their boyfriends and the men discussed commonwealth. All in all it was the ideal setting for some good entertainment.
Fast-forwarding another hour. Finally, just as we sit down to eat, Rafi-saab’s joyful voice fills the pandal…”O haseena zulfon waali jaane jahaan..dhundti hai kafir aankhen kiska nishaan..” How could I not smile?
Was it just in my head? “Haseena zulfon waali?” I couldn’t help but look back at the only figure that could fit the description. Sitting amidst the milling crowd she did seem oddly watchful.
Some voice chirped in proudly “I bought it in…”
The ever-beautiful Asha ji continued to croon “Garm hai tez hain yeh nigahen meri…”
No one seemed to notice. It was a private joke.