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 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!