In the olden days whenever I, Durga, came down to earth to visit my father's home, the astrologers and priests would figure out how I was coming each year.
Was it by boat? Oh no, that meant floods
Was it by elephant? That meant good harvests.
It was not easy going all over India on an elephant from the pandals in Chittaranjan Park's Bengali corner in New Delhi to Jaymahal in Bangalore and of course, the hundreds of pujas all over Kolkata.
But now it's truly getting out of hand! America, Canada, London, Tokyo.
How is one goddess, even with 10 arms supposed to keep up with all this? The problem, dear Bengali in the Diaspora, is I know how much all this means to you. And I hate to disappoint you. So I come every year across oceans and continents.
But here is my Pujo list of things that would make my life easier:
~ I know Kolkata shuts down for five days during Durga Puja. But now it's turned into a month long affair with you Diasporan types. I am sorry, I just went through my booking schedule. I have to be on call from September 27 in Hayward, California to October 19 in Torrance, California. In between I am going to have to make it to Phoenix, Stamford, Atlanta, Tampa, Chicago, St Louis, Washington DC, Dallas and more. I love you all but it's getting a bit too much. Really, does one Bay Area need five Pujos one the weekend before the actual dates, one on the days of, one the weekend after and two others just because you are too lazy to drive to the other three? I mean what next? You'll be having Durga Puja in your private two-car garages. Remember I am a festival, not a block party.
~ All your children are very talented and I bless them all but they don't all need to be in the song and dance show. I cannot, just cannot sit through another talent competition listening to your little darlings lisp through Bengali songs. And most of all I am afraid that the stampede of mothers in their new saris trying to make sure their Pinky or Neel gets the limelight is going to knock me off the stage. And don't even get me started on the daddies in their raw silk kurtas trampling over each other as they try to get the best view of the stage with their camcorders.
~ It took me the longest time to get those Calcuttans off the what-can-we-make-Ma-Durga-out-of-this-time gimmick. I've suffered, yes suffered as I've been made out of newspapers, matchboxes, bottles, pins and god knows what else. But just as we were all getting back to good old fashioned clay here you guys come. I am not a plaster of Paris goddess. I am not a fiber glass goddess. You can paint me all you like to look like the earthen goddess I am. But I know my smile is painted on as I stand in some draughty school auditorium. Inside I am just fiberglass.
~ I don't really mind the two-day Pujo. But ohh the jet lag, the jet lag. I just can't be blessing you in Los Angeles one day and take the red-eye to New Jersey. It's not easy to travel with an entire family and pets, you know, not to mention a demon. Could you guys coordinate with each other a little more? The Bangla bands you are flying in from Kolkata also told me to tell you the same thing.
~ And did I mention what a pain it is to fly these days? I mean gone are the days when all I worried about was whether or not someone had booked the Hindu vegetarian meal for all of us, except for Mahisasura who eats anything. Now there are all these baggage charges. I mean charging for the first bag! My heavens, I cannot believe it. And have you ever tried to get your array of weapons through the X-ray? Good luck. I am sorry but I was asked by YOU to come save mankind. Now I am being treated as a potential terrorist. And what about those immigration people asking me every single time if I am bringing animal or plant products into the United States?
~ Also could you people stop fighting? I don't care whose wife said what. I don't care if you think because you are vice president for sales at Intel Corporation and got an ad for that programme brochure you should have more clout on the Puja committee. I come home once a year and I would like a little less bickering please. Let me make this clear. I don't know why the Bengali Association of New England won't talk to the Bangla Sangha of New England and I don't care. But I'd rather not be in the middle of your little tug-o-war. Could you sort that out before I get there, please?
~ No more bad tinny Rabindrasangeet. And absolutely no more also-rans from Zee's Sa Re Ga Ma Pa contest. A contestant on Sa Re Ga Ma Pa is NOT Manna Dey! It gives me a headache because you can wander in and out and go queue up for shingara and chai. I have to just stand there and suffer.
~ Please stop with those e-mail Bijoya cards that burst into loud dhaaker-drumbeats as soon as you open them at the office. If you want to wish someone happy Bijoya, call them, write them, go visit them with some Sondesh. Don't spam them. It doesn't make me feel more benevolent towards you. Stop. Right now.
~ Figure out the food please and the parking. This is my party and I have had enough of all those complaints about how the food line is too long, how the food ran out, how the mutton curry tasted Punjabi not Bengali like your mother made it in Shyambazar! And if you overflow from the parking lot don't park in places you are not supposed to park and then complain when the city gives you a ticket. I am a goddess, I am not a parking ticket miracle worker. I have other demons to slay.
~ I know at the end of it all you are going to pack me into a big box and load me into someone's garage for a year. I know it. I am resigned to it. But could I get a television in there? With cable? (Give me a break, I have five children to entertain!)
Text: Sandip Roy
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh