This is the second time I am spending Durga Puja outside my country. In 2009, I was in the United States. This year I am in UK. It feels bad not to be at home during the time of festivities, particularly during Durga Puja. However, it gives an opportunity to look at the most celebrated festival of the Bengalis from a different perspective.
Here, there is no exotic and expensive pandals, no swarming crowd, no blaring microphones, no serpentine queues and endless waits to have a glimpse of the goddesses. Bengali communities organize only one or two pujas in a city instead of hundreds in Kolkata and other large towns of Bengal. The idols are small and some are re-used year after year. The puja here is most often a weekend affair rather than 5-6 day ritual in Bengal. However, the puja here is more intimate. It's not about boasting how many pandals you have visited, it's about participating and enjoying the only puja in your city with fellow Bengalis. There is no exorbitant chanda (fee) imposed on you but you are requested to pay reasonable donations as per your wish.
However, what you miss here is the creativity displayed in the pandals and goddesses, which are built over months - for examples, pandals built with plastic cups or those which replicate famous temples or structures. You also miss night-long pandal hopping with your friends and relatives. You miss the tasty foods. And most of all, you miss the annual opportunity to reunite with your family and old friends.
Still, all things considered, it's good to sometimes experience this grand Bengali festival differently!
|Sandhi Puja Aarati in Leeds, UK (2013)|