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আজ মহালয়া - Swarnali Chakraborty

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Aaj Mahalaya.

Another 7 days and as a Bengali the most colourful and longed for festival 'durga pujo' will begin. This Pujo's feeling is very different to me than all other pujo's that I have celebrated till last year. Reason being I have been blessed with the most amazing  experience of womanhood. I am a mother of my 2 month young son with whom I will be celebrating pujo this year.

It is overwhelming to celebrate 'ma durga's agomoni' as a mother and with my mother(who is here with me this year) I do not miss home much. And I should have. Even AnandaMela or Desh does not excite me this year may be because now I hardly find time for a good read in between feeds and diaper change. I did not even book an online copy. Anyway it is only "Sirshendu" and "Bani Basu" that is worth a read, maybe I will borrow later I say to myself.


Sometimes I pine for my lost childhood, a childhood resplendent with glamor, light, excitement and happiness of Pujo. I miss the fervour, the excitement which would begin early with the colourful print ad of the annual Pujo Shankhya AnandoMela and would go on late after Lakshmi Pujo lingering on till Diwali. I miss the last minute shopping, the new clothes, the jostling crowd, the 'kash phul',the 'pyaja tulor moto megh'the pujo-pujo gondho... Or maybe I don't. I sometimes think I have just put a facade on the 'bangali' excitement by celebrating it in North American style. But I cannot deny the excitement of the month ahead pujo preps even today. I miss those trips with my brother to the pujo pandals flocking with people in their best dresses and the road side hawkers with their'roll','chat','ghugni' and 'phuchka' stands.

I try to enjoy Pujo here, for sake of myself and it has been a little different from last year when we (a group of friends) decided to celebrate our own Durga pujo. Later when my son grows up it will let him know where his parents came from, where his roots lie.

I try go to the other pujo's in the vicinity almost every day, back from work decked up in finest silks and chiffon and at the mandap for 'adda' and keepsake facebook pictures with friends here. The dhup-dhuno, the flowers, the Mother's glistening face enchants the little ones, they play round the mandap with their friends like I did. There are Navratri celebrations at other hindu temples and in midst of the chants I feel contented. Back home I use to string up twinkling Christmas lights with my brother on the porch, pick flowers to offer to the tiny idols sitting on my Puja shelf and light a lamp.

I cannot pass on to my son the pleasure of waiting for all those months for Durga Pujo, they will not know the excitement that Pujo can bring but I can redefine Pujo for him and that is what I will do. Maybe in the process I will also redefine my home here in Canada. Maybe I am home this pujo.

And in my own way I will make one special dish for the five festive days .I will make some 'ilish mach-er dum pukt'for Saptami, 'dhokar dalna' for astami,'mutton kasha'for nabami and some sweets like 'bhapa doi' ,'narkel naru' and 'elo jhelo' at Dashami, after the immersion, to sweeten lives and memories.

Lucky this year to have my Ma with me who has passed on all the recipes of these delicious aforementioned dishes i would like to share with you one fish recipe and one sweet dish so that the Bengali festive spirit is extended to all bong homes.

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