Monday, October 22, 2007

Durga Puja

This was my first Durga Puja, and definitely an important one, as I'm officially a Bengali now -- how strange is that? I was actually quite excited about it, and we came to San Jose the night before so that we could easily make it to the Sunnyvale Temple in time the next morning.

Jhumi aunty had given me a beautiful silk & brocade sari that I was looking forward to wearing, especially when I found a blouse at home that matched perfectly with it. I have tied chiffon/georgette saris on myself before with reasonable success, so I figured, if someone helps me with the pleats, I should be able to handle a silk sari, right?

Wrong. After about 5 attempts over the course of 45 minutes, I still looked like a big, poofy ball of silk -- not at all the classy, svelte Bangali Bou I had envisioned when I saw the sari. I finally had to make a desperate emergency call to Hina aunty, and drove over in a rush to have her tie my sari. She had two customers sitting around, waiting, as she tied my sari. Embarrassing to say the least, but a huge relief at the same time.

We headed out for the temple -- 2 hours later than the scheduled time. Lucky for us, we were just in time (IST zindabad). I couldn't believe how crowded this place was. Hundreds of people stood in front of the stage where all the idols stood, and a man on loud speaker said something in Bengali, that I of course could not understand. When he finished, Jhumi aunty grabbed my arm and said 'Come, let's go.' And we began fighting through the crowd to get to the front. I lost King to three aunties behind me -- I guess he was being slightly more polite about getting through than us. I'm glad we fought to get to the front because I got to see the entire stage -- Durga in the middle, and her four children, 2 on each side -- Saraswati, Laxmi, Ganesh, and Kartik. I didn't even know Durga had kids. Probably because I didn't realize until that moment that Durga is an incarnation of Parvati.

We grabbed flowers from the aluminum (pronounced 'aluminium') trays being passed around, and then started repeating the words of the Pandit ji. That was a fun challenge for me. We repeated the entire thing 3 times, by the third time I knew what was coming next sometimes. If it's the same thing said every year, then in a few years I might even get it all down! Understanding it is another issue however.

Traditionally, you are supposed to throw the flowers on the goddess. But, the lazy organizers at the Sunnyvale Temple didn't want to bother with cleaning up flowers on the asphalt parking lot below, and found another solution they deemed suitable. After distributing the flowers from the aluminum trays, they simply collect the flowers back into those same trays, and one designated person will offer some of the flowers onto the goddess. Is it me -- or is that just LAME? They've taken away the whole essence of the 'pushpanjali,' the offering of flowers.

And that was my first Durga Puja. Oh, and during lunch I tripped and dropped a whole tub of sambar onto my chest, and was stuck with wet and dry dal all over me for the rest of the afternoon. And then when we were leaving, I had a parking ticket waiting for me too.


  1. Oh My God...That's a hilarious experience. I am sure one that you will not forget in many respects...

    I couldn't stop laughing at the pushpanjali story..that's so lame and so DESI...I agree..what's the point???

    I remember the fist few times, I had to wear a saree after I got married and was still in Delhi going to lunches and dinners..Sometimes, I had women from 3 different generations (didi, mom, naniji) fighting on how I should waer the saree and which one. It was quite amusing and rather special cuz I couldn't care less as to which saree I should wear and how. And then the funniest was trying to get Sid to help me tie a saree and do my plates when I was back in LA. I must say, he was not bad, unlike the sindoor he put in my maang the day after we got married..I went for a romantic scene from the hindi movie of him putting sinoor in my maang the morning after our suhag raat. He not only dropped the sindoor all over my forehead but in the efforts of cleaning his mess, he rubbed my forehead with a towel so hard that my skin peeled and started sad but also don't feel bad..we all have our share of these newly married fiascos. :)

  2. Hahahaha. Sambar. How jaurment. That's a cute story Shilpa didi. I can imagine Sid Bhaiya nervous and dropping the sindoor. Cute!

  3. what do you mean "hahaha.sambar." vaishali? i was gonna say that it was such a waste...jk!

    but antara, the sari story is so funny..i cant believe you had to drive somewhere to get it tied.