the very meaning of Pujo is:
the unmistakable slight chill in the air that indicates the enervating summer days are history. The sky looks bright, the air feels fresh, the heart sings with the first autumn notes.
the scent of shiuli flower floating in from the tree outside the house every evening, signaling the coming of Durga.
waking up at 4 am on Mahalaya, the invocation that seeks Durga’s descent on earth. Even before dawn cracks through the sky on this day, All India Radio broadcasts a special audio programme, featuring scriptural chants, classical songs, and the story of how Durga annihilated Mahisasura, the demon king.
the memories of taking part in pre-pujo competitions all over the neighbourhood. Recitation, music, art, sports, fancy dress…the competitions that introduced me to Rabindranath, Nazrul, Sukumar Ray, Sukanto. The competitions that brought me books in the form of prizes.
gorging on the most delectable food at various pandals. From spicy jhalmuri to egg-rolls dripping with oil to biryani and kababs. And of course the traditional, delicious bhog.
the inimitable sound of Dhak overtaking the entire atmosphere, silencing the crass automobile horns with its nostalgic beats.
the staying up late in the night at pandals, watching cultural shows. The shows that brought folk theatre like Jatra, folk music like baul and bhatiyali as well as “modern” songs to urban Bengalis. The nights that wrapped you in the cozy aura of black and white Bengali films featuring the never-fading, ever-endeared Uttam Kumar.
coming across friends and acquaintances you haven’t met in ages. Like your social studies teacher from middle school whom all the students loved. Or the physics teacher you would have done anything to avoid back when you were her student.
that inexplicable happiness and widespread camaraderie that mingles with the crisp autumn air.