S: What are you doing this weekend?
R: I’m gonna be hanging with the fam! It’s Durga Puja. Super excited!
S: It’s like an annual event of chaos! People are just going to flood the streets, stuff their faces with food and take part in stampedes! Very exciting!
R: Why are you being sucha moron about Pujo! What’s not to love about pandal hopping and stuffing our faces with all the special pujo delicacies?!
Both S and R are Probashi Bangalis. Just that S is a recent Probashi. R has grown up a Probashi.
A Probashi Bangali is a Bengali that lives outside of Bengal.
Being a probashi is like being an NRI. You live outside of your state. You’re kinda the foreigner. You speak in accented bengali, you may not dig rossogollas and could also hate FISH! Hell, you could be a vegetarian, which could be quite the scandal given Bengali brahmins consider “fish” a vegetable! (It’s just a very Indian way of saying “fish is a Bengali’s staple diet.”)
A probashi’s way of living is a complex socio-cultural affair. There are days one could be eating dosas with “alu posto.” Days when the morning “cha” is replaced with coffee or a glass of spirulina juice. “Shakhas” and “Polas” are done away with. “Shidoor” is just a vermilion dot on the forehead. Where ever the probashis settle, they try to blend in, to adapt but also want to hold on to their own culture, values and traditions dearly.
Pujo! Pujo! Pujo!
When Durga Puja arrives, the “Bong” in the probashi bangali goes bonkers! This is one festival that brings together all the bengalis, irrespective of their geographical boundaries. Even the most snobbish of probashis get off their high horses to join the normal huntsmen in the bangaliana jungle! (We’re all tigers!)
A little mythology
Indians celebrate the festival of Dushhera as per the Lunar Calender. It is celebrated differently across the country. Usually, in North and West India, the festival is called “Navaratri,” which means “nine nights” that signify the number of days Goddess Durga battled evil forces. She emerged victorious on the tenth day.
Durga Puja or “Sharodiya” (as the season is called in Bengali) is celebrated from the last five days. Why? Apparently we follow Lord Ram’s way of celebrating the ceremony! Several years ago, when Lord Ram was desperate to kill Raavan, he decided to pray to Goddess Durga to find a way. He performed the Puja on the last 6 days of the Navratras. On the tenth day, he managed to kill Raavan – the same day the Goddess defeated mahishasur – the buffalo-headed monster!
The Probashi Swagger
During these few days, every Probashi heads to a pandal – a decorated podium where a statue of Ma Durga is set up and prayed to. The idols are usually imported from Bengal.
Outside the pandal, there are food stalls selling authentic bangali khabar, book stalls selling bangla books right from literature to comics and other sponsors advertising their products and services, trying to cash in on an exuberated bengali’s wallet! Bhog prasad is served in the afternoon at all pandals to every person that comes to the venue.
And what is a Bengali without some naach-gaan? Expect several music and dance concerts at these pandals. Artists (relevant and not-so-relevant) come to perform at these pandals, all for the sake of some probashi happiness and a good amount of money and publicity.
The Probashis keep a close watch over the news to draw inspiration from the “bashis” as well. But the truth is, every probashi misses home during this time. All that ceremonious swagger is just an attempt to feel at home!
S is a recent probashi. He might not miss the ceremony as much this time. R understands. R misses home. R knows –
You can take the Bengali out of Bengal but you can never take the Bengal out of a Bengali!
Sharodiya’r Onek Onek Priti O Shubbehccha! ❤