Everyone loves Durga Puja. Being a Bengali helps loving it more. One can comprehend small and big activities being performed in and around the Puja pandal. Being a Bengali and visiting your home makes one love Pujas like a mad possessive lover. You are a localite and yet a visitor. So, people don’t expect you to work and yet you get all the benefits of a volunteer!! Parents being old time members of the Bengali community, it is always Double Decker fun. Added advantage flows in if one of the parents became an office bearer for the current year. You can enter any area of the pandal. You don’t have to stand in a queue for ‘Bhog’. There is constant supply of refreshments. You show off the ‘volunteer’ badge to all at sundry. I am the deadly combination of all the above.
Not to miss the Double Decker trip this year, I begged, pleaded and threatened my Boss to grant me leave for Durga Puja. My boss being a hard task master, made me do all the three pretty hard. The first step was ofcourse requesting for leave about three months before Puja. When it was time to book tickets, I reminded him yet again and informed that am going ahead with booking tickets. There was no response. Silence is consent I presumed; I went ahead with my travel plans. About a month before my departure, my Boss called me in and told me I cannot go as there are pending issues and also a tentative but very important meeting and discussion during the Puja week. I knew this was his way of saying NO. It was here that I started pleading. And I begged till he actually said NO in as many words. That was the turning point. The Bengali in me rose. I played my trump card. I told him in cold blood, I would resign. He did not respond. I knew this time, silent was consent.
I reached Lucknow well before the four most important days of Puja. Infact, when I got to the venue, the pandal was not even erect! Senior citizens nodded in appreciation, people known to me complimented me on my commitment to make it for Puja every year. And there were some non-sense people who did pass some comment on me helping them around the preparations. I ignored them with a smile. How can someone who works from 0600 hrs in the morning till 2300 hrs in the night with a couple of hrs of break get to enjoy Puja? What is the need for new clothes if one has to wear the same old ragged clothes and slog all day? Anyhow, without burning any more hearts let me get to the fun part!!
Sitting at vigil all day flaunting our volunteer’s badge, but helping people who genuinely need it. That is the motto of our group. And who needs genuine help? That is simple. Pretty people! I mean, if someone with a low cut blouse, a swaying pallu and pencil heels on; add to that the glossy make up and flowing open hair to manage, you sure need help when in a crowd. Right? That’s exactly where “visiting localites” make an entry. We make them at ease, show them the way around, keep them in good humor and on occasions, save them from eagle eyes, sudden shoulders and lightening fingers. We can read the mind of the mischief monger. We know exactly what his next move would be and quickly get into rescue mode. Without either party getting uneasy, we ensure ‘everything’ is under our ‘control’. Do I sound like one of those hooligans? May be they are “visiting localites” too? Just that they are a more adventurous lot and venture out to other pandals. We may not be contributing much. But we sure try and maintain status quo. We may be the lazy, lousy and non productive members. But we do add some value.
As some great saint said, “If you can make even one human being smile, your life’s worth living.” We chose self.