It's one of those busy days of September or October. You are going to tuition classes, work, or anywhere else. Suddenly you notice some large bamboo structures in the middle of the road. To anyone else, it probably makes no sense, but the sight brings a tsunami of joy for any Bengali. Durga puja is just around the corner. It won't be an exaggeration if I say that Bengalis start planning for Maa Durga's homecoming months before it. After all, it is the biggest festival of the year.
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My family does the puja shopping a few weeks before the festival. The plans are made on such a short notice that no one knows anything about the plans half an hour before they are executed. Suddenly after returning from the office, my mother would just storm into my room and say, "Get ready in half an hour, we are going shopping... and comb your hair, it looks like a bird's nest." Over the years many things have changed but the last-minute shopping plans and my mother's compliments for my hair remain the same. Anyway, the roads at this time are more crowded than ever and so are the public transports. The lines at the auto stand are so long that it makes you wonder whether you will get an auto before the next day. Buses will conduct the best physics classes as you will understand Newton's Laws and force better than ever. The taxi drivers will ask for a puja bonus despite their price hike and even the no refusal ones will refuse you straight on your face. Moreover, if you are a person who wants a comfortable ride, public transports are the last thing you want to opt for.
A few weeks before the pujas you can see the idols being taken to the pandals. The famous clubs bring their idols weeks before they are inaugurated while the local ones bring them a few days prior. Usually, for my neighbourhood's puja club, young adults of the neighourhood would go to bring the idol accompanied by some of the children. As a kid, I always wanted to go with them but was never allowed.
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And then the puja begins. The four days of absolute joy. You can bid your monotonous life adieu and tell them "see you after four days". Honestly, during pujas, I feel as light as air. That pressure of exams, pending assignments all seem like a lifetime ago. Pujas also present to us the best opportunities for family bonding. Every year our family chooses one of the four days for a family outing. From puja pandal hopping, to family lunch and debates over the menu card, these small things keep on strengthening our mutual bonds even today.
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Pujas open for us a mine of fun and all fun is incomplete without friends. After staying in the same section for five years, at the end of the 10th standard, some of our friends went to different schools. It was after this drifting that we decided to have our reunion on sasthi every year. Now each of these reunions is a box of memories. Even today as I am writing about them, there is a smile on my face. I will share one of them with you. This event dates back to 2017. There we were about to have lunch at Aminia. None of the tables there could accommodate 13 people together so we had to split up. All the boys sat together. Now before going into the following events here are some things one must know about our reunion. The amount of money one needs to bring for lunch is decided long before the outing and except one all the boys are huge foodies. So there we were, all the boys sitting together while all the girls occupied our adjacent table. We were the loudest group there. So much so that the waiter came once or twice to tell us not to make so much noise. Now when we, the boys, ordered food, we didn't quite stop to calculate the bill. We ate, we chatted, we relished the time we got together. But after the bill arrived, we realised that we were in big trouble for it was more than what we were supposed to have together. Suddenly we found ourselves, standing in the circle in the middle of the restaurant thinking how to pay the rest of the amount. Finally, we borrowed some money from the girls, which we returned to them back obviously. My dear friend Abantika probably has a lot to say about this incident too since she was the one doing all the calculations and settling all the accounts.
Amidst the day's fun and tiring nights, puja ends. These four days pass away so quickly, it feels like not even a whole day has gone by. Suddenly I wake up in the morning and there is a knock on my mind's door. When I open it, I see my monotonous life standing outside. He is carrying all the assignments, pressure of exams and with a smirk on his face he would tell me " Pujas are over and I am back".