Bong Connections: The Probashi prep for Durga Maa

Bengalis are usually calm, peace-loving, knowledgeable, a little bit politically inclined, and not to
forget they have an innate love for music, art, and poetry. Usually, you will find them holding a
warm cup of tea on one hand and the other placed thoughtfully on their chins as they appreciate
some sort of art or, literary work with their keen eyes.

However, when they hear the Durga pujo’s (pooja) dhak, around the fall months of September
or October, the Bengalis, drop their analyzing self and start to naturally follow the dhaki as if
someone has cast a spell on them. Their mind and body follow the beats like the children in the
story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin following the sound of the flute.
It is their time of the year, wherever in the world they might be, the sound of dhaks are bound to
bring them out to enjoy the pre-Durga pujo anandamela; a mela (fest) which all the Bengalis
wait for throughout the year. In this mela, the Bengalis come together and exhibit their culinary
talents by putting stalls of home-cooked scrumptious foods. All the Bengalis work secretly in
their homes throughout the year to concoct a Bengali dish with a twist to win the annual food
competition, or if not win at least to earn some money to buy an extra dhoti/ pajama or a saree.
It is a fest that one should not miss at any cost.

I admit it; it is tough for the probashis to uphold the authenticity of the Bengali culture. The
elements such as the fragrance of the Gondho Kash Phool which once indicated the arrival of
Durga Maa, cannot be re-created in any other part of the world. However, as long as, there are
few people around to understand the nostalgic feelings of the phrase “Bolo Bolo Durga Mai ki,
joy!”, it is enough to rekindle the cultural roots. This phrase is like a mother’s lullaby to a
Bengali’s ears. When they hear it, they fall into a trance-like state where all they can think about
is eating bhogh, wearing new clothes, and going for pandal hopping with their friends.
The preparation for Durga pujo starts one month in advance, like, the building of pandals,
making the construction of the sculptures of Durga Maa, the formation of the stages for various
cultural programs, and the installation of the festive lights on the streets. Also, for usually about
fifteen days prior to the Saptami, the echoes of various Bengali folk music and poetry fills the
air.

I don’t know about other Bengalis but having begun bhaja (bangan fry) while watching the
cultural programs is just being next level Bengali. I bet, even if the non-Bengalis try this, they will
transform into a Bengali for a short moment; the fusion of Bengali songs with bangan fry in
mustard oil, topped with chaat masala, is a transformative experience.
To be honest, this is the time when it is fun to see the Bengali’s play a festive role out of their
usual character. They become loud and feel ecstatic. They dance on the rhythm of dhak er
aavaj (sound of the dhak) for days. To explore more, all one needs to do is, find the nearest
Bengali, and say the magic words “Durga Pujo”; and there you go, you will be all set to explore
the Bengali culture first hand.

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