Change, they say, is the most constant thing in the world. And then we come back to an un-changed October, in a world that has changed so much with the new normal. Yet, we are back to welcoming the un-changed, amidst the echoes of perspiration, nausea and nostalgia, holding shivering fingers in the crowd in ecstasy, noisy lanes that turned noisier but with a rhythm to it as the dhaki returns in the usual like the annual, the hopes of a few new clothes promised in cycled distances of a father and a daughter travelling from afar, and then in tired returns in peopled buses as a boy leaves his sleep on his mother’s shoulder, the mother clutching on to the overhead handrail carefully balancing the boy and the clothes, bought from a year of hopeless, paltry savings – but at least something new for him, for her, or maybe nothing at all for the countless faces on the streets who immerse in short-lived happiness under the lights that be illuminating the city for a change, yet again. And in this frenzy of the tradition and theme, the grandeur turns 103.
Baghbazar Sarbojanin Durgotsav, synonymous with heritage, has for over a century now, embraced tradition, renewing it every year with the old it is known for. It’s a Pujo in the life of its people, and for all those over the world, for whom faith is the word. A constant over the years in the buzzing North Kolkata neighbourhood, Baghbazar Sarbojanin, with its illustrious history – Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was once its president – rests in the hearts of those past their prime, who have been watching the goddess depart from the balconies, amidst tears of what could have been but age has come visiting restricting one only to tears of adieu and hope for the next year.
Every year as one old face goes missing from the balcony, the goddess comes back in all its tradition, renewing the solemn resolution for all that is old and gold. North Pujas has come a long way since then, adapting to outstanding themes. In a stiff competition to the startling South Kolkata Pujas, the name that has come closest to matching the grandeur is Tala Park Protyoy. ‘Unrestricted’, is what they have tagged themselves as this year.
The ingenious Sushanta Pal, who has been crafting the vision for many big-budget pujas for quite a few years now, is the craftsman who gifted Tala Protyoy the theme. A gargantuan exterior structure shielding the deity inside was taken down on Mahalaya to liberate the soul symbolised by the goddess, a predicament of the current times when each one of us wants to unrestrict the soul from restrictions.
Down south, Babubagan reminds one of the city’s biggest love. Books that make up a fragrance breaking the air, floating like spectres on a street, flaunting the sepia-toned lexicons, classics loved, dust settling on them, bought in cheap bargains. Babubagan pandal this year is a tribute to Calcutta and its books, and to the libraries, their home nestling, protecting them from wear tear, and longing for a human touch since last year.
The city does also know how to etch out beauties in small holdings. As the streets wear brightest lights, the lanes and bylanes come alive in housing societies. The pandemic has cut down on their budget but the societies have retained, bringing Durga home and prepare to sing together for the five days this year.
To mention a few, Anada Lahiri Purbasa Apartment’s Pujo, stands as a testament to the small housing society Pujos that have survived the test of times. In a year that was broken apart by cries and memories of the dead, in all its uncertainties that still prevail, the artisans putting the last coat of paint on their creation hoping for a gain, and all our remaining days waiting for happiness, in the heat of late-afternoons, and in unseasonal rains, we need to breathe her again – a carnival like no other.