The Pujos 2009

"The Pujos" is a way I see these holidays described sometimes.  I'm unclear why that spelling or phrase.  Blogging during Puja 2007 I went through the meaning of each day. This is our third Puja season with the children, and each is different.  They have grown up!  This year they wanted to be in saris.  Meanwhile the little ones fit in the clothes that the big ones wore in 2007.  It's too fast. 


Above, 2009; below 2007 


This was Puja 2007. The girls look so young.  We were not yet adept at taking everyone.  We had no strollers.  I had no idea where we were going or what it would be like.  It was my first Puja in India, my on job training.  The year before, during Puja 2006, I had been in the US, thinking about the girls whose voices played in my head, and planning for Shishur Sevay.  It still feels like a miracle.

We are seasoned now.  We rarely leave the little ones behind.  We have strollers. We decided to carry the two smaller ones as it's easier for them to see.  And here is what they all get to see:


This is the pretty traditional Durga Puja Pandal.  This particular pandal is in the park near Shishur Sevay.  It feels like "our" pandal as I am President of the Puja Committee.  On each of the four days we went out, we stopped at this pandal first.

I write now on the day after Lakshmi Puja, which means we have had many many activities and I have taken hundreds of pictures and I don't even know where to start.  So typical of writers who procrastinate,and clean up after yesterday's Puja.  We moved Lakshmi to the top of the steel cabinet next to the wooden pandal.  That's for the Gods who don't fit in the little temple made for little brass statues.  And of course the girls like the large idols, so we have to do some shifting.  Some Gods go to the sea after one year, but I learned this morning that Lakshmi doesn't go to the water.  She stays in the house.  So, we had to find a place for her too.  I also learned that Loki is the Bengali name so our Lakshmi is really Loki, which is good because I've been trying to figure out why I was so confused.

So I think I will be a bit random, just some pictures and notes about what the last week has been like..


The evening before the dressing up… a visit to our pandal.


Opening night…. the community religious part.  And then, after a few pandals, we came to the community social part — reflecting the mood of these celebrations. 

Three of us have been together since the beginning of Shishur Sevay: Gibi, Bijoy, and I.  This year was just more celebratory for us.  We have achieved so much.  I don't think anyone in India really believed all this was possible.  I realize that more and more as I look back and think about how everyone around me reacted.  So, this third Durga Puja has been quietly celebratory for us.


Gibi and one of the girls on the Ferris Wheel

Rani, Bornali, and me on the seat of the merry-go-round.


Bijoy and me with the prizes we won in the balloon shooting gallery.  I won two stainless steel spoons, and he won two scrubbies.  They are in our prizes/trophy cabinet.

This is me shooting at the balloons.


I'm a good shot.  I learned to shoot when I worked as a doctor in rural South Carolina.  It was a necessity then.  I don't like guns but I like being a good shot… human contradictions. 



This is OUR pandal. The structure is of bamboo, then covered with thin cloth. 


It is huge and towering, and is already gone.   We ate puchkas outside and the girls peered into a variety of hand powered gramaphone that also had moving pictures inside.



Back inside the pandal for prayer and music — mingling.  Each year when I file for license renewal I have to describe what I'm doing to "re-integrate" the children into the community. 

The girls had never been in pandals before they came to us.  They knew about the pujas, knew about Maa Durga and the other Gods, but there were no pandals they could visit.  They were outsiders to Indian cultures.  They could look, but not enter.  Then a nice Jewish lady came from the US to take them into their temple and teach them the rituals of relating to their Gods.  It IS funny to think about.  The local women showed me what to do.  I showed my girls what to do….

I am comfortable in our local para.  People are friendly towards me, and helpful, and very happy when I take part in the social and religious life here.  I am ambassador for my children.

Another evening and another pandal:




 Ganga made friends with some kids there. They decided it was great fun to push her stroller back and forth.



She didn't want to leave, but everyone else was already waiting for us outside.


The next night, the last night of Durga Puja, is the night when Durga is bid good bye for the year.  


Women, particularly married women celebrate by putting sindoor on each other's faces.  Sindoor is the vermilion powder that symbolizes marriage.  On this day women pray for blessings over the next year, and particularly for blessings for their husbands, to keep them well.

I try to understand my comfort among these women, a comfort I've had throughout the Pujas.  It's not that I feel Indian or want to be Indian.  I feel like a welcome visitor though.  I am an outsider, but a welcome one.  Most of my life I have been an outsider, and not always a welcome one.  Here I am also the welcome visitor who helps her children to belong.


My children offering blessings to Ma Durga


Good Bye to Ma Durga for this year.  We will be waiting for your return.  Safe Journey.








1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. c.
    Oct 06, 2009 @ 23:45:23

    Wonderful. Maybe someday I will get there during the Pujos!


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October 2009
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