I did not write a blog post on Durga Puja this year. Although I was very much a part of the Durga Puja celebrations in New Jersey with my cousins, I never felt that it was Durga Puja I was attending. A few nights of cultural programme perhaps, or a large social gathering of Bengalis resident in New Jersey. But not Durga Puja. With all due respect to the organizers of these Durga Pujas, I did not feel the familiar vibe that I always associated with Durga Puja. And this comes from a person who spent more pujas outside Bengal than inside. I did not want to write a blog post on the whole experience which was joyful to a certain extent, but not exactly up to my expectations.
Yesterday was Saraswati Puja for us Bengalis and I am surprised that my experience this time was really good. The feelings that I did not get from the big budget Durga Puja with big artists performing and sumptuous feasts everyday, I got them from the tiny home pujas this time, with the US-born Bengali children reciting the mantras giggling and the home prepared prasad of fruits and khichdi.
I do not approve of many things in the way the Bengali children here are growing up, despite the best efforts of their parents. However, when all of them lined up in neat little kurta-pajamas and performed the pushpanjali with torn fragments of yellow tulips, I actually remembered my childhood Saraswati Pujas and got that familiar feeling and enthusiasm which was so conspicuously absent in the Durga Puja.
I also enjoyed going from my cousin's house to the neighbour's house to attend another puja wearing only a kurta-pajama in the sub-zero temperature. Much of the feeling of Saraswati Puja (or Vasant Panchami as it is called in north India) is lost if one does not feel a little cold. Spending a day completely without studying felt good too, for a change. I only wish I could eat the cold gota-siddho the next day as well!