Monday, October 13, 2008

A city for all seasons: Durga Pujo in Mumbai

I moved to Mumbai ten years back. So technically it is not a 'faraway place' I have made this lovely city my home and it has welcomed me with open arms.

But there is one time of the year when I feel very home sick. That is during Durga Pujo, the biggest festival of us Bengalis. The first time I realised how far away I was from home was when I had visited the Durga Pujo at my adopted home of Bandra at Mumbai ten years back. That's when there were boulders in my throat.

There were just too many memories of Durga Pujo in Calcutta - the year long anticipation, the new clothes, the hair cut two weeks before the festivities, no studies, countless hours spent with friends, the puja in my building - Debjan Apartments, the food, the pandal hopping through the city with friends - all of these came back back in a rush of black and white images as I stood at the Bandra Pujo, fresh out of Calcutta.

I have tried to make it back to Calcutta most years since then during the Pujos. Though I must say that a bit of the magic has gone with the friends I grew up with being available only on Facebook and Orkut, if at all.

I didn't go back this year. But I did see a couple of nice Pujos at Mumbai. I went to the Balkanjibari pujo for the first time at Santa Cruz on my way to the prayer meetings for Mamma (Kainaz's grandmom who had just passed away). I said a prayer for her. The setting was just right as the Pujo was very well organised. I got a a fairm amount of peace and quiet in the pandal that afternoon to be alone with my thoughts. A far cry from the community Pujos of Calcutta which are like big fairs with streams of people pouring in. This reminded me of the pujo in our apartment complex in Calcutta.

I went to the Bandra Pujo on the penultimate night of the festival. Again, I entered the premises peacefully. Something one could not imagine in the big pujos of Calcutta. I went to the prayer area and was there for quite a while. I am usually not very religious and don't leave offerings at religious places. But this year I left some money at the Santa Cruz pujo for Mamma and at the Bandra pujo in appreciation of the way Bandra has welcomed me over the last decade.

I waited for almost an hour for Kainaz to join me. During this time I was seeing the entertainment programme which was going on and was part of the Pujo celebrations. It reminded me of the the programmes we would organise in our pujo at Debjan Apartments, the skits, the songs, the 'orchestra' to which we all danced.

Once Kainaz came, we made a beeline for the food stalls which are a part of our Pujo pilgrimage at Bandra. As you can see from my picture I really enjoyed the lovely food and downed chicken rolls, mughlai paratha, kosha mangsho (mutton) and sweets with great glee.
The prices were a bit extreme (Rs 50 for a roll) but I guess that's the price one paid for nostalgia. The quality of the food was largely pretty good. Though it's smart to stick to the snack items which are fried in front of one instead of the cooked meals.

The most famous Pujo of Mumbai used to be the one at Shivaji Park. I have been there a couple of times. It is quite huge and is filled with people. It reminded me of the Md Ali Park pujo in Calcutta as it is one of the older pujos and the crowd was comparatively less up market than the Bandra one. The equivalent of the Bandra Pujo would be Maddox Sqaure or Jodhpur Park in Calcutta which have a comparatively younger and trendier crowd.

I guess the most famous Pujo in Mumbai now would be the one at Lokhandwala. This is supported by the Times of India now and is patronised by the filmi or Bollywood crowd. I have never been there yet. The famous Lokhandwala traffic snarls are too forbidding.

And if you are at Bandra you don't really need to go anywhere else for anything in Mumbai!


Scarlett said...

If you're at Bandra (a predominantly Catholic suburb), you don't have to go out for anything in Mumbai - not even for Durga Pujo!! Where does the Bandra Pujo take place btw?

The knife said...

@Scarlett: Bandra has been a wonderful home to and I too agree that it's tolerant Christian base holds the key. Its all inclusive though one misses the history of South Mumbai and the malls of the North here. Still the day I need to move out of bandra would be the day I leave Bombay. The pujo here happens in the lane behind Croma at Linking Rd, opposite National College

Anonymous said...

Can I have the address for each puja you have listed in the blog?

I am missing Kolkata, and may have to stay back this year during Pujo.

Thanks in Advance!

The knife said...

Hey KD,

Here are some directions for the Pujos including one very detailed one for the Lokhandwala one. I had to text a friend for that as I have never been there:

1. Shivaji park: This is a famous landmark at Dadar which is in between Nariman Point and Bandra. It is the equivalent of Brigade Prade Ground of Kolkata as a lot of political rallies happen there. It is also considered to be the school of Indian cricket and has produced Gavaskar, Vengsarkar, Shastri & Tendulkar. The pujo happens beside the small Kali temple at one corner of the ground. There is a much larger Navratri (Guajarati) Durga puja which happens at the same time

2. Bandra: this is on Linking Road at Bandra West. It is opposite National College and beside Patwardhan Park. There is a left on the main road opposite National Collegeif you are coming from South Mumbai. The junction has a Baskin Robins outlet and a Barista and a Subway. It has a stream of hawkers selling women's shoes too. Take a left into the turning and take the first right and you will reach there.

3. Balkanji: This is on the road from Bandra to Juhu at Vile Parle. There is a children's park called 'Air India Park (named after a concrete plane for kids to play in)'at Vile Parle, Linking Road. You take a left turn here for Juhu. The pujo falls on your left once you take the left turn before you hit the next traffic light

4. Lokhandwala (I owe the very comprehensive directions to the Lokhandwala Pujo to Nikhil who responded to a frantic text from me):

First go to Fame Adlabs at Andheri. (You can reach Fame Adlabs by driving down from Juhu. It is quite famous at Andheri.) Take a left at the second signal (1st signal is the one at Infinity Mall). Go straight and you will reach a T junction where you need to take a right and left immediately at the circle. You will then cross a bridge over a nullah. Pujo is on the left side immediately at then end of the bridge



(PS parking at any of these is a nightmare unless you have a driver. Most are accessible by autos except Shivaji Park for which you need to take a cab)

apartments in kolkata said...

Great post! I’ve been trying all the above advice and, little by little, it seems to work!
Thanks again for posting!

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