Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Anand - mayi Durga Puja of Anand Lok

It seems like only yesterday that I was in Delhi, living in the great Anand Lok society, with my family and the bestest of friends around. Most of us have lived there for over a decade, and thus the bonds forged are for a lifetime. Personally speaking I think the biggest agent of this assimilation was definitely the most celebrated event of the year - Durga Puja. It was during these 5 days that we all came together - across regions and religions. Children spent more time with parents watching the cultural programs, childhood sweethearts got some extra time hanging out, participating in morning and evening events made our friendships everlasting.

Anand Mela:

The hoopla started on Panchami day, the day of the Anand Mela. It was one of the most anticipated days, with games and food stalls by the residents, dotting the pandal gardens. We all prepared for it weeks in advance, planning who will put up which game, gathering all the material, deciding what the prizes will be. Lucky 7, lucky dip, glass pyramid, candle lighting,.. so many games to choose from!
The mum folk would have a similar preparation and discussion, albeit for their food stalls. Given the diversity of the people, we always had food from all corners of the country, from dahi bhallas and chhola bhaturas to idli dosa coconut rice, shrikhand and dhoklas to fish tikkas, momos and chowmein to a variety of homemade sweets - no one cooked food that day!

After a fun filled evening followed by tons of yummy food, the revelations closed with a few rounds of tambola. Grannies, uncles, aunties, teens, kids.. all sat down with 1-2 tickets each and waited to call for a line or go boo whenever someone else was a game for the whole community and much enjoyed!
On that night also, came our dear Durga Ma, to get settled in the pandal, ready to be revealed the following morning.

Aartis and bhog:

Starting shashthi, the day Durga Ma was revealed,, every morning and evening, the pandit would do the puja and aarti every morning and evening. Residents and visitors would keep visiting the pandals during the day to pay their respects. Chubby aunties in beautiful sarees spent all morning and evening doing puja and aartis with the pandit. The amazing smell of the aggarbatti etc used wafted into our houses and reminded us of the pujo everyday.

The other highlight of the day was, the Bhog. Starting shaptami, for 3 days, there was a bhog arranged every afternoon. It included typical bhog items, like khichdi, luchi, paayesh, rosogulla, paneer etc. The food was simple yet tasty, to us at least. Almost everyone came down for lunch, and met their friends and neighbours. Even though we ate outside under the sun with no air conditioning, the communal meal was so much fun we did not even realise the heat. Although later it was turned into a buffet style meal, it was the best earlier - serving style. All the elders would sit, and the bhaiyas would lug around huge buckets of food, serving people on the tables themselves. We lil ones were incharge of setting the banana leaf plates, plastic cutlery and glasses, and serve mishti or water. Although it was hard work feeding hundreds, it was so much fun we forgot about our own hunger!

Morning events and Evening shows:

From Shaptami to Navami, for 3 days we had morning events. All children had school holidays and were sitting at home making their parents' lives difficult. So the committee started games and competitions, We had games like 3 kegged race, egg race, lemon race etc for all age groups. We also had competitions like fancy dress, art, dancing etc. We also had block-wise teams for quizzes, tug-of-war etc. What fun! It was amazing to see kids wake up and get ready to go on a holiday by 10am!! We had prizes for 1st 2nd 3rd positions but everyone else got consolation prizes so no one felt bad!

In the evening we had a cultural show which ended late in the night. Again from the elderly to the uncles and aunties and of course kids, we had performances from everyone - across music dance, singing, plays, etc. Everyone came dressed up to attend the show every evening, and food was available for purchase outside the main pandal. Months in advance we all would start practising, to perform in all 3 languages. Mind you we were very professional - with experienced directors, elaborate sets ans costumes :) These shows over the years provided amazing opportunities to witness extraordinary talent everyone had!

Bijoya Dashmi:
Finally the festivities would come to an end on Dashehra when we would bid goodbye to Durga Ma amongst fanfare, gulaal and emotions. And the only thing that was on every one's mind was... how will we wait for another year for this to come again!! Sigh those were the days.

Ive been away from home for past 8 years. But still every year I tried to attend Puja in Anand Lok. But now that all the people in our gang have moved out, the place seems empty and different now. Almost unrecognizable. The fervour and excitement of our times seems missing. Youngsters shun the events and festivities, preferring to gather in some shady corner and using the opportunity to drink, smoke up etc. The uncles and aunties of our time have grown older and taken a bow from participation. What used to be a community event where everyone volunteered to do everything, has now become a commercial affair where professionals cook, serve food, setup games and perform shows. Its no longer the Pujo I used to know. I guess that's life. I do hope some day my children are able to be part of something amazing like this in their lifetime, like I was. It surely is a memory to cherish forever!!

1 comment:

Freya Vûlk said...

Wooow pretty amazing!