Durga Puja Primer
Today is “Mahasasthhi” – the kickoff of the biggest festival for Bengalis – Durga Puja. For my American friends who might land up in such a Puja with some Bengali friend of theirs – I have compiled a ready reckoner to understand the various aspects of our Durga Puja.
“SAREE”: Nine yard of colorful cloth commonly used by Bengali women to wrap their husbands/boy-friends around their fingers. One of the rare objects known to exhibit three different properties at the same time – (*) Pauli’s Exclusion Principle – No Bengali woman shall ever be seen wearing the same saree twice, provided the audience remains constant (*) Lavoisier’s Law of Conservation of Mass – Pauli’s principle notwithstanding, no saree, even if it has no chance of ever being used again shall be evicted from its rightful place in the closet and (*) Associative Property of Value – Ceteris Paribus, a saree carries no value unless accompanied by innumerable accoutrements.
“6 PM” : See “9 PM”
“PANDAL”: also known as “Mandap”. Refers to the geospatial location – invariably a high school – where all the Bengalis congregate. The exact choice of high school is delicate in so far as it has to be at least twenty miles away from the nearest Bengali inhabitant. Such a location must have an auditorium for the really important part of Puja to start at “6 PM”.
“PARKING LOT”. This is a regional definition – valid only for the Puja I go to. This refers to any place that can fit a car that is outside the four walls of “Pandal”. We might drive for fifty miles to go to our “Pandal” but there is no way in God’s errr…. DurgaMa’s green earth that we will walk a few steps. Especially if we are in our “Sarees”. So if you see a lot of cars standing next to each other with nary a space to open the door and blocking all access to emergency vehicles, then you know you have reached our “Parking Lot”
“9 PM” : This is when all programs scheduled to start at 6 PM, 7 PM or 8PM start. There is a reason, “eeesh” is part of the Bengali dialect. For example, we start at “9-eeesh”!
“STAGE” : Where all Bengalis will get up to demonstrate their talents. (which admittedly they have a lot of). Also refer to “Auditorium Seats”.
“PHONE”: Curious looking device in every Bengali’s hand. Also considered an accoutrement for “Saree”. Originally used to make phone calls, was later used to take pictures of Ma Durga. With the advent of the front camera, it is used solely to take selfies. With the “Sarees”, of course.
“SELFIE QUEEN”: That lady going around like the Statue of Liberty all the time. Works best with “Phone”!
“BARS”: This is used to mention the strength of the cellular connectivity. Its original purpose to make reliable calls has been abrogated to today’s single minded determination to upload the selfies to Facebook.
“AUDITORIUM SEATS”: Chair like structures in the gallery used to prop up video cameras on tripods. The purported audience, meanwhile, are all onstage!
“AASCHHEY BOCHHOR AABAR HOBEY”: When the next edition of this primer will be published.
“BOLO BOLO DURGA MAI KI… JAI”: Salutation to end any primer when you have nothing more to add.