We are at the threshold of the grand Durga Puja week, but this time, the sky is a little less blue, the lights are little less bright and the dhaak beats are a little less mystic. Well, yes, our city is not only getting decked up for ma Durga’s arrival, but is also fighting hard with the pandemic. Still, amidst all the death toll, unemployment, economic loss, Durga Puja brings a sense of positivity in this pandemonium. ‘Pujo’ is not a ritual, custom or even a religious practice, but an emotion, an experience - a euphoric celebration of joy, mirth, and harmony. It is a time when heaven comes down to this soil when a mother’s child returns home after a year, when a group of school friends meet at their annual Saptami adda or two young hearts bond with Ashtami’s anjali. Most importantly the magnificent week of Durgotsav curbs the hunger of many families; there are people from various professions, large part of whose annual income depends on our festivity.
However, apart from the surreal covid situation, there have been other disturbing recent events which are robbing the festive mood of our city. The societal hypocrisy, misogyny and violence are breaking records every day. The peak of virus affected people will gradually slope down, but the growing hatred, intolerance, rape culture and injustice towards specific communities are alarming. What name but hypocrite, suites a culture, where, on one hand, women are placed on divine pedestals to be worshipped as Goddesses and on other, they are ripped off from their basic human rights and are groped, molested, raped and killed almost every minute of every single day? Justice, goodness and morality are nothing but phantoms in a society, where we fold hands before Goddess kali to celebrate women power, but those folded hands are perfectly steady while cutting off her tongue. Well, patriarchy has always attempted to silence our Khonas, but their voices never die.
Studies show that on an average, one woman is raped in every fifteen minutes, on this land of Goddesses and according to last year’s statistics there have been an average of eighty-seven rape cases per day. These figures are only of those which have been recorded and are only of the most monstrous crime against women. In our mundane life, in buses, streets, schools, prayer halls, work places and even inside the safety of our homes, a Lakshmi, a Durga, a Parvati, a Kali is elbowed, stared at, touched, molested or passed rotten comments at, by strangers, friends, colleagues, teachers, boyfriends, husbands, uncles and even fathers. We are so accustomed with these “normal” behaviours, that we hardly find them disturbing anymore. Every year, in the same nook and corner of our city, where a girl’s life is eroded with acid, a boy is bullied for not being “manly” enough, a transgender is harassed- ‘Mahishasura Mardini’ is played and performed because we enjoy Ma Durga’s killing of the Asura. Strangely, when there is an asura in front of us, in our household, sitting beside us in an auto, we are shushed, told to “compromise”, “adjust” and we are trained to live with the asuras beside us. This falsity and duplicity of our society has been penned down very accurately in the article ‘শক্তিরূপেণ সংস্থিতা' by Shubha Mitra.
The problem is deep rooted. A long hegemonic history of subversion of values and customs, patriarchal authoritativeness, cast-class division, colonialism- everything play a huge role in constructing our present. We have constantly put women in a high position of Goddess and have dehumanised them; made them wonderful mothers who are bound to take care of everyone around her, beautiful and dutiful wives and sisters, obedient daughters and what not. In the process, the individual, the unique is no where to be found. Irony is, this false notion of identity of being someone’s something is so prominent and rigid, that we suffer from identity crisis once that position of “something” is gone. We are dual faced hypocrites, worshiping and symbolising Goddess Durga or Kali as women empowerment in a milieu where the bravery of Rani Lakshmi Bai has to be described as “Khoob ladi mardani vo to Jhansi wali rani thi” (Rani of Jhansi fought like a “Man”) and a popular commercial film on womanhood has to be named ‘Mardani’ (Manly) to celebrate women empowerment.
Bagbazar Sarbojanin 2015
In spite of all the massacres, we still find solace in our believes that Ma Durga will come and revive us and probably this hope blinks like a light of a brighter tomorrow in the darkling sky of 2020, in every Bengali’s mind. But, as it is said, God helps those, who help themselves. Probably a complete ban on this huge festival would have created more economic crisis for various communities of people, but we must not forget, though in our merry making, the sound of the dhaak can subside the howling cries of death, nevertheless they still exist. The already overpouring crowd in the market places are no less a threat. The total active covid cases in India is almost eight lakhs, deaths crossing one lakh. The covid conundrum is as prominent today as it was few months back; we are just learning to make our peace with it. Having said that, we must not forget the adversity of such a situation and should not let our excitement make us forget the basic Dos and Don’ts. The featured article of this issue, ‘Puja 2020 - An Innocuous Revelry' by Apollo Blackwood, gives a detailed discussion of the same.
Let us take a step back and try to enjoy together this time a little differently. Why not have our pujo adda within the safe periphery of our home this year? Let’s sit back and pick up the book we never finished. Golden Cauldron Literary Magazine offers its readers a plethora of quick and good readings that they can enjoy and uplift the festive spirit in a very unique way. One such instance is Ipsita Das’s article ‘যেভাবে গঙ্গামাটির প্রতিমা নির্মাণ হল...’, which will take you on a historic and mythological ride to the kingdom of Jagat Malla. Order your favourite dishes, scroll down the pages of the magazine and take a vow this pujo, to keep yourself and your family safe.