It’s Pujo time

Like most Bengalis Durga Puja is the festival I look forward to, or at least I did then as a girl in Agartala. Puja vacations were the most awaited vacations, four days sans studies, only pandal hopping and showing off our new clothes. Yes, we were given at least one new dress for each day, in fact that was the only time in the year when we were given new clothes (except may be birthdays). Mostly our moms stitched our clothes, we knew nothing about brands, couldn’t dare ask our parents for branded clothes even when awareness grew.

Shiuli_phool_-_panoramio

Back then the anticipation and the excitement of Durga Puja was built days in advance, with the first bloom of shiuli phool (night jasmine/coral jasmine) or the first site of a puja pandal being constructed. We would happily watch white autumn clouds float in clear blue sky and eagerly wait for the festivities to begin. Every house had a shiuli plant then and the ground below the plant would be strewn with sweet smelling flowers in the morning. As a girl I would pick up those flowers and string them into a garland, my most coveted morning task as long as the flowers bloomed.

There would be a puja pandal coming up in every corner, special sale and discounts were announced in every shop. That was the time when we would start bargaining with our parents for new clothes, shoes, pocket money during puja days etc. As kids it was a matter of great pride to have earned more newbies than your friends and peers during puja.

Mahalaya that announced the advent of Goddess Durga was a very significant occasion. AIR would play Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s “Mahisasura Mardini” or “The Annihilation of the Demon” very early in the morning. In my excitement and eagerness to not miss the Mahalaya recital I would hardly get any sleep the night before. None of the modern editions of Mahalaya that now come in various TV channels match Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s magic.

Barir Pujo

Puja days were spent at my maternal grandparents’ place as they performed Durga Puja every year. I remember waking up as early as my grand mom and other ladies of the house, towing them as they rushed through the elaborate preparations of Devi puja. Children were sometimes allowed to gather flowers, a job that was performed with much pride.

In the evening we would go pandal hopping. As Agartala is a small place we could even walk from one pandal to other, buy mutton chops or rolls from roadside vendors outside the pandal. Visiting the maximum number of pandals was kind of a competition. Pandals even then where very well decorated and lit. Some of the well known pandals got idols from Kumortuli and light decoration from Krishnagar, but they were nothing compared to the fancy hi-tech pandals of today.

dhak image

Smell of shiuli and dhuno (camphor), sound of dhak (type of drum), dhunichi dance are strongly associated with my memories of Durga Puja. We could hear dhak through the day from every nook and corner. Dhakis (dhak players) would go from house to house playing for a small sum. Even in Agartala most houses don’t have shiuli plant anymore, dhakis are making way for more hi-tech music!

Having stayed away from home for years I really miss the flavour and the spirit of Pujo. Durga Puja days are usual working days here, though I make it a point to wear a sari everyday and visit a Pandal in the evening. CR Park in Delhi almost replicates Kolkata during Pujo but somehow falls short of the frenzy and the excitement, or maybe is just me missing my childhood Pujo!

Happy Birthday Mickey Mouse

MM

It’s Mickey Mouse’s birthday! I didn’t know that till I came across an automobile company’s commercial doling out special offers to customers celebrating Mickey’s birthday (smart strategy to lure our generation). In fact, I had almost forgotten Mickey, his arch rival Donald (duck off course😊) and his love interest Minnie.

The commercial took me back to school days when we were allowed to watch Mickey & Donald every Sunday morning. It was aired in Doordarshan for about an hour. We only had DD then which was not 24X7 and our TV watching was rationed to certain hours and certain shows only. We looked forward to the Sunday ritual of watching antics of Mickey & Donald, the fluttering Minnie mouse and the pranks of Donald’s nephews.

I also remember watching Flintstones & Jetsons and Tom & Jerry. Those were my favourite shows growing up, and we eagerly waited for Sundays to watch these cartoons. Even in the early days of Cartoon Network these shows were frequently aired. I remember watching Tom & Jerry for hours even after I started working. Watching these shows I thought I loved cartoon. Our T shirts and merchandise had these cartoon characters. Mickey was my favourite!

Then one fine day Cartoon Network and whole lot of other kids’ channels stopped airing these cartoons, and I stopped watching cartoons. They are not prime time popular cartoons anymore.

The kids’ channels are flooded with Pokemon, Doremon, Shin Chan, Ben 10 and what not. For me, these shows somehow lack the simple fun of Mickey & Donald and Tom & Jerry. Today’s kids are of course hooked to them. There’s also Chota Bheem and Little Krishna and Motu Patlu which bring in the Indian flavour, I watch these once in a while. Mickey Mouse and his cronies don’t excite kids anymore!

I am glad that the automobile company thought of using Mickey Mouse. Marketing gimmick it may be but at least they are making an effort to revive the character. Disney Channel has also started airing Duck Tales. May be our good old cartoons are making a comeback!