Wednesday, October 8, 2008
My first NRI pujo...(Part 2)
Back in the hall, I felt strangely secure. Amit wanted another ‘jilipi’, so he trotted to the food queue again. Sanjana, Sonali’s 5 yr old daughter, was most helpful. She got us chairs to sit on, which is a luxury in the crowd. But the problem was, we couldn’t stop her till she got all the chairs she could lay her hands on. So there we were…four-and-a-half people and 14 chairs, smiling embarrassed at those who wondered at our compulsive-chair-collection syndrome.
With a belly full of ‘khichudi’ and eyes full of ‘bheto-bangalir-dupurer-ghum’ (the afternoon naps that Bengalis are particularly fond of), we decided to head home, only to come back a few hours later.
In the evening, it was time for some serious ‘bhakti’ with ‘dhunurchi naach’ (a particular kind of dance in front of the deity in which it is assumed that the deity isn’t watching…as most of those dance steps these days are neither pious nor decent…at least most of the times). So we watched people dance to the beat of the ‘dhaak’. The smoke-filled hall reminded me of my ‘para pujo’, where year after year, Nitai da won the first prize for ‘dhunurchi naach’, as he could balance three dhunurchis at once: two in his hands and one on his chin. I missed my friends back home and all the fun we had on Dashami…the truck full of enthusiastic people dancing their way for the ‘bhashan’ (immersion of the goddess).
But I couldn’t complain. I had already made some cool new friends. Sonali, Anirban and their daughter Sanjana were a great company to have (especially when I found out that Anirban makes amazing kebabs and Sonali cooks awesome fish curry). As the evening ended with the community dinner consisting of ‘luchi’, ‘begun bhaja’, ‘alu dum’, ‘pulao’, ‘chatni’, ‘mishti’, we planned to meet for breakfast the next morning at our place.
After a continental breakfast of cheese burger, bacon, scrambled eggs, sausages, tomatoes and mushrooms, we headed for the pujo hall again. On our way, we stopped at Anirban’s place, wondered at his beautiful house, rejected his offer of beer, and took a ride on Sanjana’s swing in the lawn.
Back in the hall…more people…and more colours, as it was time for sindoor-khela (a tradition in which married women spill sindoor on other people’s wives…including Lord Shiva’s wife, Durga). Obviously, this tradition makes a good photo-session event…as husbands click pictures of their wives…and other people’s wives as well!
Anyway, for me, the sindoor khela reminded me of the Holi excitement (except that there were no water-filled balloons, which I generally love shooting at others). I screamed at Amit for not carrying his handkerchief with which I could wipe my red face (I need to admit that generally there is no space in his pockets to carry even a toothpick, as I usually use his pockets as my handbag…and stuff it up with stuff you would typically find in a lady’s handbag (well…not all of it, of course).
A kind lady took pity and offered me some tissues. And that was the start of yet another great friendship! Enter Priyanka, Suprotim, and their 8-month old daughter Rheanna. It seemed as if we were long lost sisters…sharing common surnames, ancestral roots, house locations in Kolkata, dislike for cooking, love for watching movies ‘back-to-back’ all night, among many other things!
So our new gang…Sonali & family, Priyanka & family and Amit & wife …enjoyed the rest of the pujo. We watched Antakshari in the evening and danced to popular Bollywood music. Amit even did the unthinkable…served food at the community dinner! What a performance that was!
Back home, today (October 9, 2008) is Dashami. But we were in a time machine last weekend and have already been there…done that. In fact, we did a lot more since then. Our gang met each day this week at Priyanka’s house after work…and celebrated pujo and our new found friendship….with booze, ‘adda’, KFC, ‘luchi’ and ‘pathar mangsho’ (not all on the same day, of course).
We still haven’t overcome our pujo hangover…and I doze in front of my computer at work these days…waiting for it to be 5 pm, when I can rush for Priyanka’s house for yet another great evening. Anyway, another weekend is almost here…and this Saturday, it’s time for the official Bijoya Sanmelani organized by BAWA (Bengali Association of Western Australia). Bijoya or no bijoya…we are sure to have many more ‘sanmelanis’. So we have slightly modified the popular ‘asche bochor abar hobe’ to ‘asche weekend abar hobe’…as that’s what life is all about away from our homelands…living our weekends as if there is no Monday!