Kalyan Sangha- yes, that's what my 'para' (neighbourhood/mohalla) is called. The pujo turns 39/40 this year (need to confirm this from baba). 40 years since the time when it was a peace loving predominantly bengali locality in an up and coming area of the city. 40 years down the lane (truly! only a lane.....it is often called the 'snob' neighbourhood which sleectively chose only 22 houses/many more households since the multistoried invasion, to call itself a close knit communiy) it has metamorphosed in to one of those very cosmopolitan parts of the city, posh and upmarket. Only the peaceloving bit has been taken to the hilt to the point that we often get to talk to our neighbours on Ashtami morning (and the following bhog ceremony) with the very formal- "kemon achho?" needless to say the rest of the connversation most of the time flows in anglicized bengali. (well, atleast we communicate once atleast!)
I have heard numerous stories from pishimoni about the para love affairs or the drama they used to stage every year for bijoya sommiloni. I have never witnessed anything of that sort in my 21 years of existance. There were sporadic Bijoya sommiloni and I particularly remember one where I was made to dance on stage with Miss Jojo singing (*shrink*), but then theye were very very formal occasions. and bout the love affairs, the least said the better. I guess we had moved into a generation of being very conscious bongs.
But then again I love them, my neighbours I mean...I love them being around, or is it just a habit that we have just grown used to.
My father is actively involved with all the para pujo activities (be it in any capacity), so I have seen my drawingroom turn into a virtual control room before pujo, or the editorial office just before the commemorative issue of that year's pujo comes up. yeah! we dont even have a proper club-ghor, lol...we have a registered address though. In fact all the utensils needed for pujo are those which my family use for all other religious purposes. similarly the sondhi pujo lamps are given by another friendly neighbour or the Baikali bhog prepared by an always smiling jethi or the jethu-jethi couple I quite like who supervise the entire pujo. Our para pujo is not a big affair. Contributions, even the amount sounds big, do not add up for the entire expenses. So a favourite family of mine sponsor the Durga idol, a kaku sponsoring the Ashtami bhog or people like my baba and others using their official contacts for advertisements. That helps, since our para is very strategically located and the hoardings can be placed at the right places to grab attention. I guess this is the armth that keeps the pujo going in between the continous rants every year in the pujo meeting that its increasingly becoming an exercise of the elderly, with hardly any participation of the younger generation. and with so many new faces in the para these days, very few actually understand the sentiment. But then again, there are a few amongst them who really want to mingle and interact....new blood or not, Kalyan Sangha stays on.
We had won the competitions for best pujo in the area in our 25th and 26th year of celebrations, but the pomp seems to be waning by the day...what remains though is fond memories and warmth. ah! yes, the warmth..even after talking about lack of communication through most of my post. Why so?? may be because this is the place most of us still call home, yes, the proper home....not the multistoried ones......well the giant has nice old sprawling houses falling prey to it every now and then, but may be because of our relative snob status ( :P), am proud to say that my neighbourhood has preserved many a memory of a by gone era. :-)
Also, for most of us this is the place where we understood what the atmosphere of pujo truly is (pujor hawa). I remember how much i used to bawl ove rthe issue that I have to visit my mamabari to be a part of a pujo where everybody is back home by 9. No, that didnt work out for me. For me my pujo is still being at my para mondop 10'0 clock sharp on nabami night where Baba will do his famous dhunuchi naach. one of my parar dada who stays in hyderabad but makes it a point to return to Calcutta every pujo once told me that it was impossible to think of Kalyan Sangha's pujo without Baba's dhunuchi naach on Nabami :-) That also paves the way for the younger generation to take over with their forms of the traditional dance form and trust me I also witnessed a certain somebody doing what we termed as the "jog dance". Just that the young need to come up and shoulder some responsibilities too. will happen...am an optimist you see.
Also, this is the place where you can expect to catch up with your childhood buddies with whom you rarely get to meet these days. Many like me and Masume, my childhood friend, are away from home (both of us dont get to attend the pujo this year. sigh!). Many have migrated to different parts of the city. But whenever you meet them you feel good and happy. May be its all because of the fake pistol firing competitions that we had or the guys v/s girls big fight (seriously we made a vow not to talk to each others groups after that and it does bring a chuckle to think about it right now) or the fight over the microphone about who will make the next announcement. It has all been a part of our growing up. just like those horrible nicknames (i love them though) by which we know each other.
It was not only us. My mom told me about her meeting with a very pretty aunty who was once our neighbour in the metro. She was still very nostalgic about the neighbourhood she had stayed in for 22 years...and it has been some 8 years since she left it.
May be this is the place I first fell in love. May be I did (completely head over heels type :P)
Kalyan Sangher torof theke agoto dorshonarthider janayi sharodiyar preeti of shubhechaa. :-)