The Tiff Between the Heart and Head

By Chandrima Sikdar

It is incredible how much our world has changed since March this year. All thanks to a little bioparticle which invaded our happy world turning it topsy turvy. We have experienced unprecedented shift in our way of life over the months and have seen new normal getting defined. Masks, gloves, sanitizers became common place; sneezing and coughing started calling for a double take; packing in large crowds became a strict no; staying away from loved ones for their benefit became the routine; greeting a friend by a wave from a distance or with an elbow bump began replacing the usual hugging and shaking of hands.

The initial days of the global pandemic witnessed some grieving over these old normal, But, seven months into it most people have moved on and adjusted to these changes. Life is gradually returning to normalcy, albeit certain restrictions.

Many like me have been religiously following these restrictions and no matter how much extra effort it takes or how much ever one dislikes doing the same, we are convinced that this is in the best interest of us and our loved ones. And by now most are pretty much settled in this new wayof life. But for many true blue bengalis like me, what may not easily seep in is the fact that dugrapuja (durga pujo as a Bengali would like to say) celebrations are going to be hardly any this year. For a bengali this perhaps is the most difficult restriction to accept and follow.

Durga pujo in Bengal is much elaborate, animated, and almost like an annual carnival into which the city immerses for a week or so. The celebrations in other cities of India are relatively quieter and mostly limited to five-days. But, irrespective of its place of celebration, these five days bringforth very special feelings, unabashed excitement, and intense emotions for the local bengalis. Personally, I have lived in many cities of India and have celebrated many local festivals with equal excitement and involvement, yet none could ever match this emotion that came so naturally every year during pujo.

To most Bengalis pujo is hardly about the religious rituals; it is more of a five-day long celebration involving, food, friends, adda and bonding over music, dance, poetry and cinema. And the weeksand days leading up to these five final days is about shopping for new clothes for family and friends, planning with friends for the timings to meet at the puja pandal. The religious rituals which most Bengalis are usually part of are the Ashtami pushpanjali and the sindoor khela on Dashami.

This year we will not see any of these. Many pujo organizers this year had spent much of their time debating and discussing how to do the pujo while abiding by the restrictions imposed by the regulator. Many pujo committees including ours at North Bombay Sarbojonin Durgotsav have managed to meet all regulatory guidelines and come up with the five day of pujo celebration plans. But will the happiness be the same? With restricted timings of darshan, virtual darshan instead of physical darshan, pushpanjoli without pushpo, no crowd at the pandal, no bhog to sit down and eat, with no friends visiting at the pandal, with no stall food - will this really be the pujo that welook forward to every year.

Ma is the goddess of divine forces, positive energy, Shakti and feminine power. And this year perhaps we needed all these more than ever. Our lives had been full of negative sentiment, fear and uncertainty not just due to the pandemic but due to many other things happening around us, Durga puja could have been a much needed break and could have helped to rejuvenate the mind and invigorate the mood.

Alas! This was meant to be a different year. Even Ma decided to arrive one month after Mahalaya, instead of the usual sixth day from Mahalaya that she usually arrives. So, this year positivity and happiness continues to elude the human race. Ma’s arrival and stay this time would be a rather quieter one without we getting to celebrate with the usual joy and cheerfulness of every year. She will also leave us quietly on Dashami without the usual ritual of sindoor khela and mishit mukhand our wait for her would begin all over again.

So, no matter how upsetting it might be, this year we choose to make do with whatever we can make of the special five days while being mindful of the safety concerns. But we can definitely pray and hope that when Ma comes back next year, she brings with her the much-needed health, happiness and prosperity that we had been yearning for some time. This year it has been a tiff between the heart and the head; while the heart wanted the usual celebrations, the head chose otherwise. Hopefully, the year next both the heart and head will be aligned, and it will not be the hard task of choosing one over the other.

Chandrima Sikdar

An alumnus of Jadavpur University, Kolkata, Chandrima was born and brought up in Kolkata. Currently she resides in Mumbai with her family. She works for the School of Business Management, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai. She is a Professor and Associate Dean at the School. She is a member of North Bombay Sarbojonin Durgatsov Samity.