Mumbai’s Bong Connection


By Papri Das

The resonating beats of ‘dhak,’ the clear blue skies of autumn, the alluring essence of ‘shiuli’ and the decked up streets with creative pandals spell out the festive fervour that the five days of Durga Puja brings to every Bengali. Be it big puja associations hatching cutting edge concepts for pandals, ladies planning weeks in advance on what to wear for the five days, or youngsters lapping up stories from the ‘pujor shankha’ editions of magazines -- these five days transform Kolkata as a city, and see the people of Bengal hailing Maa Durga in all her glory.

However, some don’t have the luxury of celebrating their roots in its true essence at home. They are called ‘Probashi Bengalis’ or Bengalis who live away from Bengal. And if you are part of the media industry, you are bound to come across quite a few of them. 

As Kolkata gears up for the five festive days, Exec Lifestyle caught up with several Bengalis in the media industry to find out how they are living it up this year. Here’s what they had to say:

Anita Kaul Basu

Durga pujo is very special to our family, Siddharth (Basu) being a hard core Bengali. We usually celebrate the festival together every year, but this year seems a bit uncertain with both of us travelling. We are a bit all over the place this year. Usually we get decked in traditional clothes and visit the pandals, including some of the biggest like Mukherjee family pandal in Andheri. The whole day goes in catching up with friends and family and other bongs within the industry. Then trying all the delicacies is part of the fun.

Pratap Bose

I am not the type of Bengali who goes overboard with Durga Pujo. I like to keep things simple and real as much as possible. For me, the Durga Pujo is not the hustle and bustle of Kolkata. It in the smaller pockets where the community is more interlocked and bonded. For example places like Midnapore and Jamshedpur, where the pandals are smaller and less but the puja is done with more passion. There aren’t too many pandals to go pandal hopping, but just the serenity of the pujas appeals to me.

Having said that, for those who want to relish the true flavour of pujo and have a sense of belonging to their roots, migration to Kolkata, which is the mecca of festivities in these few days, is a must for every Bengali. But unlike me, there are a lot of Bengalis who can’t go back to Kolkata even if they wanted to. For them, wherever they are, even outside India, there is always a community that celebrates the festival in its own unique way.

In Mumbai, my wife and I are associated with the Pujo that is organised in Goregaon East, and we take part in the planning and arrangements.

Pratik Seal

I prefer the Durga pujo in Mumbai than Kolkata. As a probashi Bengali, I have no regrets. I don’t feel Durga pujo back in Kolkata is fun any more. It is very commercialised and money minded. It doesn’t feel your own, or as if you belong there. Most big pandals are owned by some political organisation or the other. I actually miss Delhi pujo more, where all the industry guys would arrange for the pujo themselves. There is a certain beauty in it.

This year, my wife and I plan to shut down our home kitchen for starters, as Durga puja mostly means eating out all the time. There is Durga pujo that happens next to our house in Mumbai, so we plan to spend most of our time there. Then maybe pandal hop a bit to Vashi, Navi Mumbai and Powai areas. Our plan is to basically chill with family and friends, have fun and roam around. 

Nivedita Basu

The Lahiris (Bappi and Bappa Lahiri) are family friends who have been organising one of the biggest Durga pujos in Mumbai along with the Mukherjees, and we have been ardent patrons of their pandals over the last few years. Our bong gang comprising me, Shumona, Kavita Kaushik, and a few others celebrate the puja with Kajol (Devgn) and her family. It’s fun to attend all the cultural activities and programs at night. For example, they would often organise an Usha Uthup night, that totally cheers us up. The best thing is the bhog that this particular puja serves, which people lap up after standing in line for hours. All thanks to the Mukherjees and Lahiris, who bring in a Bengali cook specially for these days.

I know there is a lot riding over fashion on the last three days in Durga specially in Kolkata, where preparations start over a month before. But for us, who hardly get time from our busy schedule our stylists and designer friends come to rescue. I plan to wear a saree on at least one of the days, mostly because my friends get after my life if I skip that ritual. My friend Roshini Chopra has designed a saree for me so I will probably wear that. For another day, I will be donning an outfit designed by Sabbah Sharma.

Sumonto Chattopadhyay

For me and my family, Durga Pujo has always meant mutton curry and rice on Ashtami (eighth day of the puja). That’s like the biggest thing to look forward to. I usually end up being in Bombay most of the years, but this year, my work might actually take me to Kolkata. If I do end up in Kolkata, I will make sure to check out some of the creatively done pandals. One of our clients have been organising ‘Sharad Samman,’ which basically acknowledges the artisans for their creative inputs in the pandals. I feel like checking that out this year.

It is interesting to note how the Durga pratima or idols have evolved from being very traditional to topical and even edgy these days. It’s more of an expression of art and social cry in some cases than just an idol you worship. So if I make it to the city, pandal hopping is definitely on my top agendas. Otherwise, I will definitely be eating very well (chuckles).

Pradeep Guha

I was born and brought up in Mumbai, so I guess my perception of Durga Puja and the excitement around it is a bit different. It was never a huge event in my life except that as a kid I would go buy new clothes for the occasion. I see many Probashi Bangalis organise Durga puja in Mumbai, and their passion really amazes me. Most of them have been in Kolkata and came and settled in Mumbai so it's natural they want to recreate the celebration here, and I am all for it too.

Having said that, I don't go all out during Durga puja. I do go and give 'anjali' on Ashtami at Ram Krishna Mission. That is my small way of celebrating the festival.

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