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Durga Pujo Away From Home and the ‘Ostrichian’ Principle

Pujo is all about a sense of belonging, in the company of people you know.

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Finally, Durga Pujo is here in full earnest. 
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(This article was first published on 20 October 2015. It is being reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark the beginning of Navratri/Durga Puja.)

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a true, blue-blooded Bengali. I was born and grew up in Kolkata. The literature of Tagore holds a very special place in my heart, as do Satyajit Ray films. I know Kolkata like the back of my hand. I have spent many happy hours extolling the supremacy of Bengali over almost every language in the world. But whenever I am away from home, I impose a total ban on all things related to Durga Pujo. Friends and colleagues often question my Bengali credentials over this.

On these beautiful five days of autumn every Bengali can think and speak to little else. (Photo: Reuters)
On these beautiful five days of autumn every Bengali can think and speak to little else. (Photo: Reuters)

On these beautiful five days of autumn, when every Bengali can think and speak to little else, I refuse to do Protima dorshon or pandal-hopping and hardly ever remember when it’s Mohaloya.

That’s why when Mohaloya passed by us, I did not take to YouTube to rake up Birendra Kishore Bhodro’s endearing recitation of Mahishashur Mardini, a tour-de-force of raw, tremulous emotion where the interlocutor is reduced to tears at the end.

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Pujo means being at home, in the company and among the cacophony of people and places you know. (Photo: Reuters)
Pujo means being at home, in the company and among the cacophony of people and places you know. (Photo: Reuters)

None of this is because I am a snob or that I have not fallen in love with the magic and spirit of Durga Pujo. Quite the contrary. By blotting these things out, I try to convince myself that Pujo does not exist and the illusion helps me get over these few days, whenever I spend them away from home. As I see it, I am only following the Ostrichian principle that if I bury my head in the sand and censor the flow of information about a certain thing, that thing ceases to exist anymore.

In the last few years that I have been away from home, I couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm to go pandal-hopping in Delhi or Mumbai or wherever else I was at the time. The reason I have not, I think, is simply because if anything, Pujo means being at home, in the company and among the cacophony of people and places you know – I suppose the sense of belonging a cat gets when it curls up on its favourite rug.

The mad, crazy fervour that Bengal dons during the five-day long festival is nowhere to be found. (Photo: Reuters)
The mad, crazy fervour that Bengal dons during the five-day long festival is nowhere to be found. (Photo: Reuters)

And for me, Pujo in any other city would not evoke that same sense of belonging nor the same frenzied joyousness. Delhi sure has its own Durga Pujos here and there, peeping out of some corner somewhere, but the mad, crazy fervour that Bengal dons during the five-day long festival is nowhere to be found.

And so, another Pujo will pass, with me denying its existence, cheating once in a while, by reminiscing about my childhood and teenage days, when no time of year seemed more exciting than these five days of autumn.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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