Durga Puja is currently on.It is a beautiful festival with all ingredients of bliss thrown in - lovely statues of the goddess, well-decorated pandals, music, good food, colourful crowds and hawkers selling ‘jhal muri’,roasted ground-nuts/gram/pea-nuts.. The festival is neither too long to bore you nor too short to leave you un-satiated. The four-day festival culminates into ‘visarjan’ when the statue of the goddess is immersed in a pond or a river amidst great fanfare.
Every year, I wait for the Durga Puja and make it a point to visit at least a few pandals at least in the neighbourhood. Although Delhi is no match for the small-town Durga Puja that I have fond childhood memories of, the festival still has a lot to offer here. Large crowds, decorated pandals, music and delicious food- some elements of Durga Puja remain the same wherever you go.
This year, I went to a neighbourhood pandal on the ‘Ashtami’ day which is considered a very auspicious day and which therefore draws huge crowds. I could hear the sound of ‘aarti’ from a long distance. ‘Aarti’ time is the time when people prefer to visit pandals. I was expecting a huge crowd and was wondering whether I would get some place to park my car. But to my utter surprise, the pandal was deserted. There was no one except a couple of organizers. Playful children were nowhere in sight. There were no hawkers around. Why will hawkers come if there is no one to buy their stuff ?
I went to another pandal in the neighbourhood and the story was no different there. I returned home disappointed.
I wonder what is wrong this year. Is it the fear of swine flu? Or has the quality of evening TV serials improved ?