Birthday and Pujo have been synonymous for me, on most years. The year I was born, the day was what is known as the “Kojagori Lokkhi Poornima”, the first Full Moon, a week after Durga Puja. Needless to say, my very first Durga Pujo was spent in my mother’s womb. As Maa narrates, the last few days of her final trimester did not stop her from the ritualistic Pandal hopping that year. So, technically my first experience of Pujo was seemingly comfortable, crouched inside my mother.
For me, Pujo is all about celebrating the homecoming of Maa Durga with my Maa. With every passing year, the celebrations evolve, the priorities change and so do our prayers. What remains unchanged is the “Maa o Meye bond” throughout the 5 days. Here’s narrating the story of Pujo with Maa over the years.
The first 10 years of my life was spent in a beautiful town by the Ganga, Uttarpara. Maa would never miss picking me up from school on the last day before our Autumn festive break. As I would walk out of my class in a disciplined queue, she would smile and whisper in my ear, “Baajlo Pujor donka (Let the Pujo beats start)”. The mere statement would make me squeal in excitement! I remember this one-stop jewellery store on the GT road, called “Fashion”, which used to be our next stop for the last minute accessories shopping. Maa would carefully match her sarees and jewellery while I would select my handkerchiefs (all of which I would eventually misplace) and hair-bands. She would carefully organise them in a turquoise pouch, like treasures, to be used in the next couple of days.
When we shifted to South Calcutta, Maa’s ritual of picking me up from school evolved slightly. We would tour the famous Durga Pujos around my school (Ekdalia, Singhi Park, Bosepukur).
During my college days in Sikkim, the essence of Durga Puja became way more relatable. While Goddess Durga visited her Maa on Earth, I would come back home to mine. Her excitement would know no bounds at the Railway Station. She would hug me tight and whisper the words, “Baajlo Pujor Donka”! That moment would make me squeal and cry, all at the same time. As soon as I would reach home, she would show me all the sarees and jewellery that she had bought over the weeks to make me look Pujo perfect. The next few hours would be spent deciding on our outfits for each day of the Pujo.
The “Maa o Meye Pujo” was never limited to Pandal Hopping and deciding outfits. Over the years, we bonded over spiritual rituals as well. Our days would start taking in the essence of the morning Chandipaath. While the priest waved the lamp during the Devi Arati, Maa would always touch my head muttering her prayers. We bonded over our Sandhi Pujo fast and Sandhya Arati, the Nabami yagna and the Pushpanjalis.
This Maa and Meye duo bonded till the last day. The last day of Pujo, Dashami has always been an emotional affair for us. Each year, as the priest immersed the Devi’s reflection in the water, signifying her journey to the Heaven, our eyes would swell up with tears. I would see my own Maa in the Devi and Maa would feel the pangs of her daughter’s departure. She whispers in my ears, “Ebar tui o chole jabi (You’ll go away one day)” and we share our moment of silence.
As I write this, anticipating yet another year of Pujo with Maa, I cherish these moments in my heart. How many times do we realise that we aren’t merely living the moment, we are making memories of a lifetime?