The holiday schedule of school would have a ten or twelve days vacation for ‘Dussehera’. Once that particular period of time approached, it used to usher in multitudes of emotions, leading to an extended period of festivity.
It would begin with a planned trip to Cuttack for Shopping. Yes shopping for clothes formed a very important and integral part of Durga Puja. While grownups would have to be satisfied with one or two pairs of new clothes, we as children would demand at least 4 pairs of new clothes for the major four days of Puja.
The day of the trip for shopping would begin in wee hours of the day, continue with fastidious selection of clothes, up to a point of great irritation sometimes, ending with return in the evening the boot of the car packed with packets and packets of new clothes. The excitement would however reach pinnacle when all the newly acquired items would be displayed to those who could not accompany for shopping.
The days leading to Durga Puja would have mandatory trips to the Pandal to view the ‘progress’ that was happening with the idol making or setting up the gate and other temporary shops. It was indeed a great feeling to have witnessed something being built and finally having all the festivity centred on it. School holidays would mean catching up with cricket both in the mornings and evenings.
There would be a day earmarked to visit Puja Pandals of other nearby collieries (read towns). That would eventually lead to having the above mentioned items on those places and draw quick comparisons and arrive at a top 5 or top 10 lists. This activity used to happen long back with rented cars even when no one in the family possessed four wheelers. And all these in the newly acquired clothes, which most of the time happened to be ‘differently good’ thanks to the meticulous choosing.
Durga Puja would also primarily mean coming of family together. Relatives would pour in, and thus would begin fun at home, with demands of various dishes to be cooked, with continuous gossips, trips to Pandal, buying new toys, balloons, having food stuff dished out be temporary shops, ice creams, so on and so forth. A big family getting ready to venture out in the evening can be a very arduous and later-to-be-smiled-at activity.
It is very hard to precisely describe the feeling. Something in the air changes. The coming of goddess Durga, cooler environs of October, the sound in the air, the clear blue skies, the family coming together, the food, the going out with friends, the new clothes, all of it combined in varied proportions and a perfect recipe emerged. A recipe for what can be called as good-times-in-life.
And when you do not have those ingredients together, you can just have reminiscences and be nostalgic about that recipe.