Diligently listened to program for next four days and nodded head like dutiful daughter-in-law. All events were scheduled with military precision. Looked over shoulder and yes, the program was written down in triplicate. Only thing I was required to do on Day 0 was to get to Pujo pandal across the street sometime in the evening and show face. The Kid was also supposed to show face but he's managed to get himself excused. Big, evil companies can be good once in a while, I guess.
Recognized only Durga and Ganesh. Checked who the others were and why they were there. The two women on either side of Durga sort of looked like Saraswathi and Lakshmi but you know, where I come from, a veena looks like a veena and a lotus looks like well, a lotus. Also couldn't figure why these two women would be there in the pandal anyway. What have they got to do with Durga ma? They are her daughters? Oh, I see. And who the hell is this other guy on the right? I can venture a wild guess but my beloved Chola land will disown me completely. Siva Siva! This is how they caricature the most adored of all Tamil Gods - is this really you Muruga? Vetri Vel, Veera Vel, where is your Vel kandha? Karthikeya, Senthilnatha, Mayilvahana what have they done to you? Will you ever forgive these sinners?
Wandered over to food court and hogged fish chops and cutlets. Bery Bong food, I was told. Of course. Chops and cutlets are so Bong just like bread and butter. Walked over to cultural stage - an audio play was in session. Least understood but most enjoyed of the day's events. Picked up words here and there (like I actually figured that the play was centred around hilsa) and had good fun trying to figure out the rest. Day done.
Day 7 of the Pujo. Required to show face both morning and evening. Which wasn't so much of a problem except that moi's supposed to wear sari in the morning. Now, I don't have anything against saris, I tell Mrs. S, in fact I like them quite a lot and think they are nice and airy. I am also not one of those people who think that invisible Dushashans walk around pulling my sari from every direction; instead I am super comfortable wearing one and would love to wear one today. But Mrs. S, there is one minor issue though, you see, moi never learnt how to wear one. Amma dear at home and A~ dear in college have kept myself from learning all these years. So you see I really cannot wear sari for this event. Salwar kurta will do, right? No, really? You? No, no you can't help me wear one. Yes, I know you have been wearing them for more than 30 years but you have no experience in helping other people wear na? Comes from having two sons. Maybe if you had a daughter but what use in talking of such things now? Boys don't like to wear sari no, that is true. You dressed up the Kid in a sari when he was a real kid? How about Bill? Do you have pictures? Do you have a scanner? No, no never mind about that. I have this nice salwar kurta which I am sure will do fine. You want to try to help me anyway? Really? Especially since I am very comfortable in one? You sure you have the time? Okay then.
Thus turned up in sari at pandal. Mrs. S kindly told me to come late so that I didn't need to stay long. Very thoughtful of her. Didn't have to introduce evil daughter-in-law to everyone you see. Worked for me too. Turned up right before the puja ended, smiled at a few faces, hogged food and headed back. Evening, the Kid put in appearance and was promptly told to take care of me and take me around the pandal. I was all happy as the Kid, unlike Bill, doesn't believe in image building. He wouldn't stay there more than 10 minutes. So I just had to tag along and I would be back home in 15. But we finally ended up staying for a good hour or so. There was a Calcutta folk band singing Bong folk songs which were quite entertaining. Reminded me of long forgotten Tamil folk songs my Dad used to sing long ago. Again, it would have been nice if I could understand what they were singing but as some people keep telling us, it is a lot of fun listening to a song sung in a foreign language where you can recognize some words and would have to guess the rest.
Day 2 - Ashtami
Same schedule as Day 1. This is turning out to be a little too much. The evenings are good but I need to get out of the morning Puja nonsense. But Ashtami is supposed to be the Day. Can't wiggle out of this one. Mrs & Mr S leave in the morning for the puja. I am told to wake up Kid and get there by lunchtime. I go back to my reading. Hours go by. Finish Cuckold. 11 AM. Talk to Bill. Take a bath. 12 Noon. Do some work. 1 PM. Decide to leave for Puja lunch. Hang on, aren't I forgetting something? Oh yes, the Kid. Insomniac early riser that I am, I am sure the Kid has fallen sick. Or worse, maybe he died in his sleep. No, he seems to be sleeping peacefully. He is definitely breathing, he is just sick then. I try to wake him up and ask him if he is alright. Its just 1 PM for God's sake, can't a Kid get a good night's sleep anymore?
Its 3 by the time we get to the pandal. We gobble up leftovers. The Kid gets shouted at. We all get back home. We will all rest now, I am told. What? In five minutes, the entire family goes back to sleep again. Amma, I told you, this family is strange. Do you know they sleep for 4 hours in the afternoon after waking up so late? How dare you get me married off to such a family? What are we to do now? Calm down? What do you mean calm down? No, they will not hear me. They are all asleep I am telling you. Yes, yesterday also they slept so much but I just thought they were tired or something. Who knows how much Bill sleeps? Its not like I live with him. I used to live in Chicago remember and he in Pittburgh remember? Of course, I will find out soon. And you will see why this marriage was doomed from day one.
Day 3 - Navami
Program was to go visit other pujo pandals across Bombay. But that was in the evening, first we had to go for morning Puja again. Enough is enough, I am not doing this anymore, I decided. So conned the Kid to take me book shopping though not like he needed any conning for that. He tells parents and gets shouted at but soon we are on our way. Took the train down and the Kid didn't stop talking about Bombay. We got to the New and Secondhand bookshop and spent an hour there. The Kid picked up an illustrated edition of Through the Looking Glass and I immediately started telling him about Jabberwock, Falstaff and Ludwig. He looked at me like I was mad. I shut up. We had lunch at the Kid's favorite Parsi joint and went to Strand only to discover that they were closed. How dare they close the store on Sundays? No choice now but to go to that lifestyle store on Peddar Road. Spent the next couple of hours there but most of the time we were in the Children's section. Bought the entire St Clare's and the Naughtiest Girl series among other things and headed home. At home, we had a minor issue getting in the door when the books we were carrying were sighted. We were told that because of space constraints, either the books get in or we get in but not both. I had to promise to take all the books with me when I leave next week which of course I had no issues with. The Kid sulked the entire evening.
Evening, it was pandal hopping time. Quite ostentatious. Here are some pictures:
Day 4 - Yeah, its over!
Apparently, Durga is to be sent off with all kids to husband's place now that her vacation is over. All married women apparently have to go do Puja, feed her, put sindhoor on her and send her off from the pandal. Men have to take her to the sea and get rid of her there. These Bongs are really funny. Didn't have to do much except show up for lunch, so it wasn't too bad. The Kid got into a nice, little argument with parents about why he wouldn't go send her off which somehow went on to how he has no Bong identity or respect for Indian culture - a very entertaining "discussion" for a peaceful onlooker such as moi.
Meanwhile, my mother's laughing her head off. She cannot believe that daughter is visiting more Puja pandals in a week than she has visited in the last 25 years. Such, I must say, is life.