I read the following article in The Times of India in its edition dated 19th Oct 2007:
Durga For All - Abantika Ghosh
It was that terrible time in every teenager’s life — the period before the Class XII pre-board examinations. Puja had just ended and some of us friends were waiting for our English tutor to arrive, contemplating the horrible things that were going to happen to us when we sat for our papers a month later after the five days of mindless revelry. There was just one composed person in the room — my classmate Emmanuel. He made a smug statement: “Nothing can happen to me. I will pass with flying colors’’. What audacity, we thought. “What makes you think so?’’ was the almost instant and disgusted chorus. “Aami thakur tulechi (i lifted God)’’ was the answer. It took a while to register. And then we realized. His supreme confidence stemmed from the simple fact that he had helped organizers of his neighborhood Durga Puja lift the 12-odd-foot idol onto the podium and he hoped to clear the examinations by the grace of Devi Durga. He was dead serious about it. He had managed to silence us. He was the only Muslim in the room, and also the only one who had been so actively involved in the religious aspects of the Puja.
After 31 heady Durga Pujas, this has come to be my everlasting Puja memory, even though the incident did not happen during those precious five days filled with the intoxicating fragrance of new clothes, bamboo pandal, dhuno and everything else all true-blue Bongs associate with the festival. It is special because it drove home the real essence of the festival — the fact that it is not about religiosity at all. In fact, it was fairly late in life that i grasped the religious connotations of the festival. As a child it had been all about this superwoman who looked pretty and meant five days of no studies. Puja is a celebration of culture, a celebration of everything beautiful, including falling in love with your sari-clad classmate at 16 and exchanging furtive glances in the midst of drumbeats during the aarati. One does not have to be a Hindu or Bengali to enjoy the delights of the Puja. All one needs is the willingness to join the festivities with gusto. Because the Puja is a celebration of life.
It was just a week back that we had gone and had enjoyed lip-smacking, authentic Hyderabadi Biryani and an equally delicious preparation of Sheer-Kurma in Amma's small, freshly painted room, on the occasion of Ramzan Eid. Amma is the house maid who works at our place.
It is Dussera today- and my mom offered some sweets as prasad to Amma when the latter came to our place in the morning. Amma did not hesitate at all- she removed her footwear and took the pallu of her saaree over her head as my mom put the prasad in her hands.
As I watched it all, I realized that the place has changed- the occasion has changed- the delicacy has changed- but the essence of celebration and the festive spirit has remained the same. And that it has nothing to do with where one was born- which language one speaks or which form of God one worships.
Because the joyous spirit of a celebration has no caste- no creed- no religion. As the title for this post asks- "Tyohaaron kee kaun jaat" - meaning- "What is the caste of a festival?".. Amen!
Here's wishing everyone a very Happy Dusseraa :)
Labels: Inspiration, Perception, Religion