Wednesday, May 22, 2024

My feelings and experiences about Durga Puja

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When this time comes I remember my childhood It can be said that I was born and raised in this city of Toronto

Durga Puja has a special charm. The time of preparation for the arrival of the mother is in no way inferior to the joy and excitement of the festival in terms of importance and emotion. For those who are involved in the cultural world, a ‘momentum’ is built up during these preparations, which culminates in the puja.

When this time comes, I remember my childhood. It can be said that I was born and raised in this city of Toronto. Rehearsals for Durga Puja started from the end of August. On the one hand, school starts in September, on the other hand, the preparation for Puja begins. Autumn has arrived – it is the fall season in the country. How many colors around – the plants are red, yellow, orange, green. Let nature also be decorated with the message of mother’s arrival. The color of summer is slowly spreading in our mind. Which chorus will be performed by all the friends, which dance will be performed on the Ashtami day, which song will the singer-uncle give for the puja – we are very busy with these various things. Weekends mean hours of rehearsals and chats at temples or someone’s house. The studies were arranged in advance – the rehearsals could not be skipped, right? And what a rehearsal – singing, dancing, reciting poetry, drama, chanting, nothing was left out. I was waiting for this time all year.

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Every puja has a goal – this time we will do something completely different. This was our group project. The elders also indulged our interest a lot – it made us even more drunk. Vyasa, who else stops? Only curiosity and endless excitement in mind. Well, how will the stage be arranged? We will wear any saree episode, what color saree? Who will be Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh and Karthik Tagore in the song “Durge Durge Durgatinashini”? I remember decorating Maa Durga one year after a long wait – oh, what happiness!

But our preparation was not limited to performance. In the magazine that came out during the puja, several pages were always reserved for our little ones. What was the age of writing then, what did I understand! If you write one line, there will be ten mistakes. We all used to write something according to our heart – about mother, about puja, about our feelings. Some would draw pictures of mother, make art about puja. When those writings and drawings were published in the magazine with our names and pictures, I used to see everyone with joy. Although there was no skill at that age, there was a tenderness of feeling – a love for Puja was born. My mother still keeps those childhood magazines. It still brings a smile to my face.

On the day of Puja, mothers were busy with Puja arrangements from that morning – they had less time and a lot of responsibilities. But what will the children do then? We used to go around the whole temple, see Thakur Mashai’s puja, if we were very gracious we would get permission to garland Maa Durga. Hatat Tagore mashai used to feel very important when he gave a task. Who else sees the feeling then! Every time Anjali was offered, we were present – first batch, second batch, third batch – sometimes even fourth batch. I used to help collect the flowers. As a result, almost all mantras are memorized today. Puja in the morning and Aarti and cultural programs in the afternoon. The four days of Puja went like this. Hooray, joy, furti – all together the puja is crowded.

I feel that today I am a bit culture-crazy, blind to Bengali culture because I had the opportunity to do these things in my childhood. My friends sometimes jokingly tell me, “You are a bit too cultural.” Maybe, but I have no inferiority complex about it. My culture, my heritage – my pride. exceptional

This year, Barora took charge of the Durga Puja cultural program at Toronto Durgabari and Subrata Uncle took charge of the youth segment in the ‘Sharad Anand’ program organized by NRB TV. Needless to say – this is a great achievement.

Most of all, it is a joy to think that I have grown up with the taste of Puja, and now I have the opportunity to share the same experience with my younger siblings. To the elders who trusted me and gave me this golden opportunity, I have no end of gratitude. My respected mentor and mentor – Subrata Uncle said something to me during a meeting about the Sharad Anand program – in his words the inspiration for today’s writing – “Anything not documented, becomes lost” – that which does not remain in written form, vanishes. So I dare to write about my experience, so that I can remember some lessons myself.

“At the end of the day it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished… It’s about what you’ve given back.” How true Denzel Washington’s words are, I realized this time by conducting the youth program at Scarborough Folkfest. Strange but true – I have loved playing music, being surrounded by cultural activities since childhood, but the joy I have experienced in pushing children forward, encouraging them, highlighting their talents – I have never found performing myself. Or should I say, didn’t get that much. The satisfaction found in accompanying the efforts of younger siblings is not self-centered. I’m used to being in the spotlight forever, now I realize that there’s so much joy to be found in the background. This is my talk, now let’s talk about my little stars – around whom I have this learning experience.

There is no counting the wealth and hidden treasures of our community. Little Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartik Tagore are growing up in our home premises – but we don’t even look at them. Every child has its own characteristics. They have the talent, but it is our responsibility to provide the space, time and opportunity to develop that talent. It is often heard, “Children don’t want to do anything, they have no interest.” This doesn’t seem right – at least that’s what I’ve learned this time hosting a children’s show. For the past two years, while conducting the children’s program ‘Ghasfaring’ on another TV, I have noticed the great dedication and enthusiasm of the children who have grown up abroad. Interest also needs to be planted like a seed. If you take care of it, one day the tree will bear fruit.

As many kids, teens, or young women I’ve approached, I’ve never heard a ‘no’ from anyone. There is probably another factor here – youth are more prone to be influenced by youth.

Regardless of the medium, the onus is on the entire society to pass on the next generation – because they are the future of this society. Engaging the new generation has another benefit – along with cultural practices comes a newness – innovation and creativity. It moves us forward in a big way. Youth demand is very low. They just want some respect and importance. By giving them space, we are not doing them a favor, rather we are strengthening the future of our nation. This next generation is bridging the past and the future.

My personal lesson this time is this – that not only should I move forward, not only should I be involved in the cultural front, but it is also my responsibility to call my younger siblings and friends by the hand. Call them, they come. As I always see Subrata Uncle doing.

Last but not least, I express my utmost gratitude and love to the elders, who have lovingly laid the platform for the next generation and are inviting them to come forward. History owes you.

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