Tag Archives: bengali

Pujo in USA

Goddess Durga

Goddess Durga

The biggest festival that a bengali looks forward to, for the entire year, the Durga Puja 2016 is going on. It is a celebration of the victory of good over evil. This is the time when the air smells of festivity. This year I had the opportunity of visiting the Durga Puja at Pittsburgh, USA in Hindu Jain Temple. Once inside the hall, I felt as if I was in India. The rituals, the decorations, the people and of course the food, all made it a lively place to be. Durga Puja is the time when people get together and discuss on all topics ranging from sports to food. Here also it was so, the hot topic of discussion was Pittsburgh Steelers. Simply proves no matter where they are, bengalis just love sports.

The Hindu Jain Temple

The Hindu Jain Temple

It was raining yesterday night and so the weather was cold from the morning. Thankfully it didn’t rain after morning. Once I reached the temple, the serenity of the atmosphere filled me with happiness. I offered my prayers with flowers. The most admirable thing was, the priest translated the meaning of the prayers to the people in English, thus explaining the prayers to everyone. After the puja we had the delicious meal(Puja Bhog) which comprised of Khichadi, fries, veggies and sweets. Also there was a small exhibition of clothes, accessories and jewelry. Cultural programs were held afterwards. The children were playing around dressed in traditional attire. It reminded me of my school days. I thank the Bengali Association of Pittsburgh(http://bengali-pitt.org/bap/) for keeping the culture alive so far from home. Happy Durga Puja to Everyone. May Goddess Durga bless everyone with happiness and fulfill all their wishes.

Vasant Panchami

Goddess Saraswati

Goddess Saraswati

Today was Vasant Panchami. It means the fifth day of spring. In eastern side of India, it is celebrated as Saraswati Puja and falls generally in the month of February. The academic session in India begins from June and ends in April. The tension of exams starts clouding from February. Goddess Saraswati is the Goddess of learning. Hence Saraswati Puja is very important for every person learning something be it studies, music, art, etc. It is a very special day for 3 year olds. They are dressed in traditional attire of dhoti or saree. The priest makes them write a few alphabets on a slate with chalk. This is called ‘Hathe Khodi’. It marks the beginning of education in a person’s life. During our school days we used to dress up in new clothes mostly yellow and go to the venue with our school books. We offered our prayers with flowers to Goddess Saraswati. Then we used to have competitions for drawing, poetry recitation, etc. The flowers used for the ceremony were often taken by the students to be kept in books. I used to make sure those flowers are placed in all my textbooks, particularly those of mathematics. I still remember once a classmate in college started teasing me when a rose was found in one of my books. But the entire joke came to an end when I said its the flower from the Saraswati puja ceremony.

Detailed view of decorations

Detailed view of decorations

This year I wanted to attend this ceremony. It was going to be organized by the Bengali association of Pittsburgh. I was glad when my friend Sahana said she too was also going there and I can join them. It was -12 degrees Celsius as we drove. All the way there was snow on both sides of the road. I was reminded of my school days as soon as we entered the hall. The goddess was decorated with bright flowers. People were dressed in their traditional best. The kids looked elegant in their cute dresses. Everything was just as I had always celebrated, the prayers, the flowers and ofcourse the food. It was the super tasty khichadi with mixed veg curry, chutney, sweet, papad and fruits. We immediately felt at home inspite of being strangers. Below is my platter:

The delicious prasad

The delicious prasad

I am very thankful to my friend Sahana for taking me there. Kudos to the Bengali association of Pittsburgh for organizing this event so far. I just hope Goddess Saraswati blesses us all with knowledge. Happy Vasant Panchami and Happy Saraswati Puja.

Shubho Mohaloya (Happy Mahalaya)

Jai Ma Durga

Jai Ma Durga

Yesterday night, before going to sleep, I told my mother to wake me up before 5:30am. It was Mohaloya, the first day of Navratri. As a school girl this used to be a yearly ritual. We used to get up early and watch the Mohaloya presentation. Every year the story of Goddess Durga destroying the evil Mahishasur was presented with songs, dance and chandipath. It used to begin at 5:30 am and get over by 7:00 am. I always felt watching the programme made a pious start of the day.

The most amazing part was the Mohaloya Chandipath recited by Birendra Krishna Bhadra. His recitation is so unique that even today the same recitation is played in all the channels. All the songs of the program made me feel that festivity is in the air. I was brought up in Gujarat in western part of India. The festival of Garba begins from Mohaloya and continues for the next 9 days. In east of India, today is the day when the sculptors paint the eyes of the Goddess Durga. The markets are flooded with traditional clothes of various designs. The beating of the dhak(traditional drums) would give a feeling of the arrival of good times when we would be with friends and family. The tension of studies would be placed aside for a while. It would seem as if festivity is in the air.

In my school days it was only national television Doordarshan. Today different channels have different representations, each leaving its own signature on the event. I would like to show this to all the people who say culture has gone for a toss. Even today, entire families get up and watch the mohaloya presentation. The demand is so much that all the channels take the initiative to create their unique presentations, thus generating opportunities for creativity. With this year’s dhak I want to wish every one a Happy Mohaloya.

A call that changed my world

It was 15th september’2014, 11:15 pm sharp. I received a phone call from my mother. She spoke with a strange tone, which I had never heard before. Her first statement was “Make yourself heart strong, I have a news for you”. I felt strange and said “What is the matter mom? Why are you so serious?”. Again she said “Make your heart strong.” This was getting on my nerves “What is it mom?”. Her reply changed my world “Your father is no more”. I was speechless and shocked. I couldn’t believe my ears. Aloud I said “Mom what are you saying? Just two hours ago I called and you said he is fine and watching TV. You must have had a nightmare”.

She replied “Its true. He sat for dinner and asked me to fetch water in a glass. When I returned with a glass of water, he was unconscious. We rushed him to the hospital where he was declared dead. It seems he got a massive cardiac attack.” I was numb. My world was shattered. My father, my hero, my biggest strength was no more. No matter what I did, nothing would bring him back. Everytime I closed my eyes moments spent with him kept flashing before me. Memories which have become precious for me. The next day his funeral was held. All the arrangement was made by our neighbours and community members. Baba was a very cheerful person and always helped people whenever possible. That is the reason his funeral was attended by every person who had ever interacted with him be it the grocery store owner or my mom’s earliest colleagues. Inspite of being in a state away from his home state and not having any relatives around, he recieved an honourable farewell. My life is never going to be same again Baba.

We bengalis always touch our elder’s feet on VijayaDashami and take their blessings. This VijayaDashami, I am unable to touch your feet Baba. But wherever you are please accept my respect. Wherever you are, I just pray you are happy and contented.

I will always always and always miss you Baba. Shubho Vijaya Baba.

Yaa dil ki suno

Today is Hemant Kumar’s birthday. I still remember my early school days when cable was not there in many houses and Vividh Bharati from AIR still dominated. There used to be one voice which had its own identity.The voice was so unique that one could identify the singer from the song itself. It had a strange attraction as if it just pulled all the attention of the singer. It was Hemant Kumar, a singer who would create emotions from his voice.

Be it the loneliness of “Tum Pukar Lo” from Khamoshi or the “Yeh raat yeh chaandni” from Jaal or awareness of “Yaa dil ki suno” from Anupama, each song had so much emotion that one would feel it even without seeing the movie. The first hindi song of his that got engraved in my mind was “Beqaraar karke hame”. This song is so immortal that it is used even today in an advertisement. Not only as a singer but also as a music director. No one can forget his work in Khamoshi, Anupama, Bees Saal Baad. Being a bengali I had the fortune of listening to his works in Bengali as well. My grandfather used to have an amazing collection of Hemant Kumar songs in a Gramaphone disk. Today Hemant Kumar is no more but his works will keep him immortal. His works were so unique that hardly any singer in reality shows ever attempts them. As for me, I can sing endlessly “Ei poth jodi na shesh hoye”…

Music is Eternal

My grandfather moved from our home state to a state in another zone of the country. At that time my mother was a child. He was very fond of music. He carried our bengali culture through music in his gramaphone disks. These consisted of traditional songs to folk music to movie songs. The gramaphone was very precious to him. He used to ensure it gets cleaned up and played daily. As a result I used to hear those songs daily. He passed away when I was seven. The gramaphone was still played by my grandmother on alternate days to keep it running. This time we used to decide the disk to be played. There was a disk containing some old movie songs. One of the songs was my favourite “Ek poloke ektu dekha”. It was from the movie “Lookochuri” based on “Comedy of errors” theme. Below is the song:

In the video, the central character (played by Kishore kumar who is also the singer of the song) is alone at home and is happily describing his interactions with his love interest. The video is no less than the song and clearly reflects the mood of the song. One can’t help smiling at the thought of this song. I vaguely remember my grandfather listening to his gramaphone with a tranquil expression on his face. As I grew up, taperecorders and CD players entered and the gramaphone was packed and kept in the attic. Years later I heard that song on radio, I felt so happy. It brought back the memories of my childhood when there was no hurry, no tension, no responsibility but pure happiness. Today the song is there in my phone. Everytime I am upset or stressed, I hear that song. It relaxes me. When I got access to youtube the first thing I searched was this song as it always manages to move me.

When I sat to write this blog, it just reminded me, the listeners changed from grandfather to me, the devices changed from gramaphone to smartphone, yet the music and its effect remained the same. Music is above life and technology. It is eternal.