"Emphasising on Value of Bondhutava - Friendship
Tryst with Saraswati Puja
The members of Bondhu Mahal were a worried lot after Met predicted rains on February 4 – the day of Saraswati Puja. Last year was a bad experience when the celebrations were marred by continuous drizzle forcing us to shift bhog preparations under a shade. What will happen if it rains this year too?
The question was pertinent but no one wanted to discuss it in detail. Mini, my wife, probably overheard us so three days before Saraswati Puja she cleaned the covered area of our courtyard. She got it washed and declared:
“If it rains we will cook bhog here.”
This gave us confidence. Of Februaray 2 - I alongwith Sen Da and Ravi brought a small protima of Ma Saraswati. Next day Chandan, Babu and Sen Da did the purchasing for bhog. Sachin Wantoo and Mitra Da did purchasing of puja material. Chairs and tables came from a tent house – in short we Bondhus were all geared up for Saraswati Puja.
On Basant Panchami – February 4 – the darkness of confusion evaporated in bright sun shine that bathed the courtyard of my house. The Mandir for Ma was decorated with merry gold flowers. Nandi Boudi was first among the women to reach B-26, Indira Nagar, Lucknow – the venue of Puja. Slowly people started trooping in. Monitosh – the Pujari – came bit early but we were ready.
Puja began. By that time bhog preparation had begun too. Our two cooks – Sen Da and Chandan – set up their wares under a mango tree. Prateek and Ravi were their helpers. Nandi Da and Acharya Da were cutters – people who chopped cabbage and potato. Work began and it was punctuated with joyful and friendly banters. People came and joined them, while women were active with puja.
Once Puja was over the focus shifted to Aarush – the two year old tiny-tot who stated his three R’s with blessings of Ma. In Bangal this process is called Haate Khori. Sitting on the lap of his nervous father Prateek, Purohit made Aarush to write customary A,B,C … while Milly clicked pictures. With over a dozen pair of eyes following Aarush he wrote A, B and then gave his signature amid thunderous applause.
After Puja women were busy with their customary gossip and in between played two games of Housie with Boorie boudi, in her inimitable style. Once Bhog was ready by 1.15 pm – the distribution started. Everyone took turn in distribution of bhog. This year we were expecting 100 people – but the number shot up to anything between 125-140. This year too, we though we will fall short of bhog – but Ma Saraswati saved the day for us.