Not the very apt time to write about the quintessential 'Pujo' of Bengalis but with 'Poila Boishakh' (Bengali New Year) coming up tomorrow, I have suddenly started feeling very 'Bengali'!!! This, in a world where we are so cosmopolitan! In fact, coming to think of it, tell any Mumbaikar that he lives in a Maharashtrian city or any resident of Bangalore that he lives in a Kannada one and s/he will take immediate offence. S/he will immediately launch in a tirade of how high the pot-purri of cultual mix exists, of the wide roads, the night-life, the wi-fi and the wide and diverse set of people that inhabit the cities.
But then, there are those cities that are far away from the techno-babble (and bubble); that are rooted deep in their identity as a non-cosmopolitan, traditionalist city that takes pride in being just the way it is. Kolkata (or Calcutta as I have always called it, inspite of the fact that the Bengali pronunciation is Kolkata) is one such city.
I have not lived in this city for an extended period of time. A visit for a few weeks every alternate year was just about, more than enough for me - I always found the life there very slow and laid back compared to the fast life in Mumbai. But the true way to explore a city is by staying there on your own and I was given the opportunity to do so during my post-graduate internship with ITC. The two months that I spent there alone, without my immediate or extended family, taught me a lot about the city, its hues and cultures, its people and most importantly, changed my perception about the city.
Calcutta has deep passions, cheerful chaos, utter contempt for commerce and fiery responses to the smallest provocation. And at the same time, it has the love for culture, arts, intellect; it is bare in all its emotions - it is humane and exudes warmth and comfort. It truly is the City of Joy in many ways! We define most cities by the infrastructural / financial / cosmopolitan outlook and growth but Calcutta is one place which is defined by its people.
And this is where the 'Pujo' comes in... and it so much more than just worship! Calcutta immerses in the joy of celebration, of artistic expression and the brightness of colours and music of the 'dhaks'... the 'fragrance' of fried fish, the 'shidur khela', the 'Anjali', the competition between pandaals to see which is better, the riot of colours... The 'Pujo' is simply a celebration of life, for the City of Joy.
I was told that the city would grow on me. And guess what, it did. Without knowing, it quietly stepped into my heart and won over my soul!!!