The good thing about Durga Puja is that you get an excuse to meet your close family and friends you genuinely like. The bad thing about Durga Puja is that your OTHER family and friends (whom you DON’T like so much) get to meet you. Usually during the year, I avoid meeting this species by making excuses like distance, long hours at work, severe venereal diseases: basically anything to escape any awkward conversations on marriage, babies and other people’s marriages/babies.
But since it was Ashtomi, favourite uncle is in town and I really wanted to meet him, I had to bear with the OTHER species as well. Now on a normal occasion I would simply take an auto and travel halfway across the city to their place. But given the recent spurt in auto fares AND rampant cheating by auto drivers over and above, I have been taken for a VERY EXPENSIVE ride on several occasions. So this time, I decided to take a bus instead. The peculiar thing I notice is that while most of my friends are moving on to better lifestyles, bigger houses and swankier modes of transport, I am on a downward spiral. Anyway that’s a story for some other day.
Coming back to Ashtomi, I decked up in my best salwar suit, and then very casually walked for 20 minutes to the highway, boarded a crowded bus and reached my destination two hours later, as the bus decided to take the most traffic-laden, roundabout route. By the time I reached, I was a picture of disaster with messy hair, kajal streaking down my face and my pretty salwar suit sticking to me in the humid October evening. But the silver lining is that it cost me only about thirty bucks, and in bad times like this, I shall live with it. I managed to get through the rest of the evening, pandal hopping, posing for happy family pictures and finally squeezing ourselves in Out of the Blue, JUST before the last order. I am not quite sure what happened after that, as I busied myself with the food and alcohol, blocking out all the discussions on marriages, babies and other people’s marriages/babies.
The next day was Navami, i.e. the last day of Navratri and a Gujarati friend of mine took us to a Dandiya event. Now, as I have reiterated several times on this blog, I am no dancer, and especially when it comes to dancing with sticks, let’s just say I would do a better job with a baseball bat. But since I have never been to a Garba before, I decided to tag along anyway, taking pictures and helping myself to some Gujju ‘snakes’ in the food stalls, as the colourful crowd whirled and twirled effortlessly in synchronized circles.
Finally, yesterday being a holiday for Dushera (Bijoya Doshomi as we call it), we made the most of it, watching Chakravuh followed by a sumptuous Bengali lunch of fish fry, loochi and kosha mangsho at Oh Calcutta! after waiting for 40 minutes to get a table. By the time we finished at 4:30, we were the only people in the restaurant. We also went to the newly opened Starbucks at Fort, and I was simply blown away by the décor of the place. Now, I have had the Starbucks coffee and muffin at multiple places each time I have traveled abroad, and blame it on my middle class lack of refinement, I have never understood what the big deal was. I was happy with my filter coffee at the Madras Café at one-fifth the price. So when I read about the huge hype generated when the chain opened its first store in India last week, I dismissed it yet another instance of our wannabe mentality. But now that I have been there, I would unwillingly admit that it was a good experience, despite the complicated ordering/paying/service mechanism. I am sure it was devised by some nerdy, MBA graduate from Tamil Nadu who used all sorts of Queuing Theory algorithms to come up with it.
Then, just to keep up with tradition, we went to Tejpal Hall and Shivaji Park to watch the last minute paraphernalia, when hordes of Bengali women dress up in the traditional red and white sari and do all the sindoor jazz, just before the visarjan. There is something extremely nostalgic about Bijoya Doshomi which manages to break down even a hardened agnostic as me. As irreligious as I am, I couldn’t help feeling a little sad, a little depressed and a little homesick, with glimpses of my childhood days flashing in my mind.
So we did what any self-respecting Probashi Bangali would do on Doshomi: go to Hard Rock Café and get drunk.
And for a change, the music wasn’t loud, the silence wasn’t deafening and the calm wasn’t stormy…