Ani: Shubho Bijaya, buddy.... hope you had good times...
Bonnie: Shubho Bijaya to you too. Ya, the Pujas are fun, no matter what.
Ani: Why the 'no matter what' tag?
Bonnie: Because of the simple reason that different people enjoy it differently.
Ani: That's true. But it is enjoyment that matters, and I think no other festival involves so many people all at once and helps them let down their hair and have fun. People just let go of their stifling routines and enjoy, in the collective spirit.
Bonnie: Oh.... that's a tall order, but yes, more people are seen smiling than not.
Ani: Come on, don't be an exclusivist, you scowl like a cynic!
Bonnie: I know, I may sound cynical, you know that the religion and the dictates might take a backseat here and there.... however, basically, DurgaPujo is all about a certain majoritarianism. It's not as inclusive a festival as we might think it is.
Ani: Hmmmm..... you have gone deep in your analysis.
Bonnie: Ohkkkaay..... won't spoil your mood. So, what exactly do you want me to talk about?
Ani: Look, since childhood, I have never been much into the exhaustive and wholesome celebration of DurgaPujo, and it was much like the accounts of Rituparno Ghosh, where he talks about the innocent questionings and the simultaneous personalized fancies.
Bonnie: But, I thought, you were more like the Chandril of yesteryears (Ekla Pujo Folkla Pujo, remember?)....
Ani: Hahaha..... that was a phase in my adulthood.... the University days.
Bonnie: Speaking of Chandril reminds me of the giant billboards seen this year at major Pujo pandals where he is seen embracing his friends with the toothy grin on his face, all for the lure of lucre, eh... that too for a coconut oil giant!
Ani: That's a way of looking at things, maybe he has evolved. All artistes should, else they might stagnate. Pujo has evolved too, no?
Bonnie: True, DurgaPujo is much more than an annual faith-based ritual now, it's a mammoth social event in Kolkata's calendar. Hence the flow of big money, the corporate giants, the muscle power of the political goons, the hysteria for Pujo themes, the tug-of-war for getting the high-profile celebs for inauguration and even for them showcasing the event as brand-ambassadors.....!
Ani: But don't you think pandal-hopping has become even more difficult a task in general, with the chaotic traffic and the crowding at the big locations?
Bonnie: Absolutely so.... but then, there's the soft option for the unwilling to have a peek at all the big Pujo pandals and the extensive affairs therein right from their drawing rooms, courtesy numerous television channels and their sponsored live broadcasts.
Ani: By the way, what was the latest and most striking feature that came to your notice this year? Let's round up our discussion with that....
Bonnie: Easy-peazy... lemon squeezy... that's an easy one. The most electrifying part of the Pujas is definitely the immersion ceremony, better known as visarjan, or bhaashaan, and this year reached a new high with the disco bhaashaan that beat the immersion blues like crazy..... young guys, often bare-bodied - displaying their well sculpted gym-bred torsos, and gallant girls grooving in a brazen manner on the roads which got converted to mobile discos thanks to strobe lights and what not cruising along gently, right in front of them in a separate lorry, or tempo, blasting the latest remixed tracks at full volume..... unbelievable raw sexuality.... beats the inebriation of intoxicants of other kinds that have been otherwise rampant over the ages.
Ani: Good heavens!
Bonnie: It's not for nothing that Durga Puja has now earned the moniker 'the Rio carnival of the eastern hemisphere'!
Ani: Wow! I thought that the Pujo trends this year had just ranged from the techno-savvy (be it solar lights and bluetooth facilitated, and air-conditioned venues) displays to the umpteen Tagore tributes, but you have narrated a whole new dimension for me.
Thanks, for all the blabber. It was fun chatting up the festive pomp and show. I hope my readers like it too.