Sunday, September 27, 2009

To Kill A Demon

You can’t be in Delhi and miss out on its myriad occasions of merrymaking. People from all over India inhabit this city. They make it one crazy, chaotic, chintzy city that wakes the dead. Bengalis play first fiddle. They love a fierce looking, multi-armed, lion-riding, wildly gesticulating mythical goddess called Durga. Last night she was worshipped in CR Park, Delhi’s very own miniature Calcutta.
I was invited to the spectacle.

I’ll be crisp. Myths don’t really excite me. I am however a huge habitué of culture and Bengali savoir-faire fascinates me great deal, much like their classical music which is more western than Indian. All entry points to CR Park were sealed. That did not prove to be a deterrent because I’d a media sticker on my car and a resident Bengali accompanying me. I drove in while hundreds of Achakan Pajamas and the Shamla Pugree wearing Bengalis walked to the Pandals [temporary structures where the goddesses are worshipped]

Devout men and Baluchari Sari clad women stood in serpentine queues waiting for their turn to get into the very elaborative Pandals. The workmen, I was told, labor throughout the year to make the statutes for the occasion. The virtuosos compete with each other to depict Durga -- in plaster of Paris -- attempting to slay the demon, Mahisashur [whose dad was a demon and mom a water buffalo – precisely the reason I detest mythology]. Since Mahisashur was a good guy to start with [hence blessed with the boon that no human could kill him] and became bad only later, the gods conspired to create Durga to finish him off.

CR Park, like 399 other spots in Delhi where the Puja is performed annually, was lost in noisy revelry. Children were jolly as sand boys, vendors shouted their wares, big bindi-ed women walked about talking hurriedly in Bengali and for once no one sold fish. If I had a sweet tooth I would have bitten into Shôndesh or an authentic Bengali Rôshogolla. I had neither. A fat little kid was scrunching something sweet, much to my chagrin.

Being influential helps. Always. We breezed though the security manned gates without having to bear the torture of standing in never-ending queues and got smuggled to a prime spot to witness a special dance [to please the goddess, I surmise]. Select boys and girls gamboled with open top earthen pots and burning coconut husk in it. If I recall well, they call it Dhunuchi. The drummers, called Dhakis, slowly accelerate the beats. Gradually the Dhunuchi dancers balance the earthen pots delicately in their mouths. Everyone swayed, I noticed. The priest, doing the sacred prayers, too gyrated.

Outside the Pandals it was almost carnival like. Everyone hopped, ate, clicked, queued, giggled as if tickled pink. There is a certain method to this shindig. I think in the end Durga does kill the demon. It was waxing moon, so the myth goes. It was half-moon last night.