The weather is really nice today...the sun is shining in full glory...the sky is blue...the birds are chirping...ahh the pujas are coming!!! The heart of the bengali starts skipping a few beats at this time of the year, and even though its the same thing every year, and every year i've the feeling that i've had enough of the puja festivities, i just cannot hold back the child inside me from imagining those "dhaks" and the "ashtami-r anjali" chants as i look out from my balcony!
The pujas are the time when the bengali spends his four most enjoyable days of the year, going out, having fun, no home-cooked meals, meeting friends and family, the whole gamut really! However, the bengali's idea of fun is quite far removed from how a north indian might rejoice. And this is where i come back to the topic of my previous post. A little difficult to pick up the threads from where i left off (blame the b-school time crises), but lets give it a try.
So the bengali celebrates in his quiet home-centered style whereas the up/bihari bhaiyya celebrates in his boisterous style. Quite distinctive but difficult to say which is better. A bengali "biye-baari" will be much more quiter and even a week before, u will not notice much difference apart from the hustle bustle of the family members. Whereas you have all these sessions in other communities where you have the ladies singing and dancing, loud music and what not. And booze.
Booze flows like water in north indian weddings, i mean you have to be in one to believe it. If you suggest booze to a bengali during a wedding, he would be offended, think you are a cheapo or pervert or something. I was literally taken aback that its all so transparent out there, i mean it was even being served in the place where the baraatis were put up while waiting for the groom to turn up and proceed to the mandap. Eventually, i could make sense of all the boisterous merrymaking and enjoyment i had seen in the countless hindi movies associated with the baraat and the shaadi. Booze, that's what. Should have struck me earlier but poor me, brought up in the conservative bengali household (where its okay to booze as long as the information that you booze is restricted to your parents, but society should be kept blissfully unaware of the fact), how could i have known. You may be grown up enough to live on your own 500 kms from home, you may deliver excellent academic results, but all that is nought when someone you know accidentally catches you at the local bar where you and your friends are drinking at one hidden corner at some obscure time of the day...well society turns its nose up and declares you as a dysfunctional juvenile addict and your parents are looked at as failures. That's how hypocritical traditional bengali society is about youngsters and drinking. That's why you wont find any booze at a bengali wedding (well you might, but you'll have to look very hard). And that's why its all so quieter, and it takes the groom only d/v time to reach the mandap (where d=distance from groom's home and v=at least 40kmph)compared to what seemed like an eternity at the meerut wedding!!!
But (yes there is a but, in case you were wondering), what also struck me on that trip was that the wedding did not seem like a family celebration, it was somehow, too contrived. I don't know why, perhaps it was too showy, and perhaps it was the fact that the actual wedding was witnessed by at most 30-40 people (of course, the fact that it was at 3 am cannot be ignored). From experience, a bengali wedding house is a chaotic place. Nothing is as organised, and should not be. Where's the fun then? So you'll find 10 people looking for the groom's "topor" when its already past the official hour of the wedding to start. And countless hours put in by the young people in arranging the "tattwa" (that's the gifts to be exchanged, remember there's no dowry here, a fact i'll dwell upon some other time) and there are so many people in the house and there is so much utter confusion that you might give up on the chances of the wedding actually taking place!!! And in most cases, we still have the wedding happening at the bride's own place instead of some contrived showy mandap, which adds the flavour of homeliness to the proceedings. The groom's household has its own share of festivities at "bou-bhat", a tradition not many other communities have sustained till today. And there's the "bashor-ghor" after the wedding, where all the young people from both sides have a nightlong fun session with the newlywed couple (still, no booze). Bengali society is still, largely free from the adverse effects of materialism, and so weddings may be less boisterous and boring for the casual observer, but look deeper and you'll find there's a lot of fun to be had!!! And oh yes, i almost forgot, the food is awesome!!!
~Disclaimer: No offence meant or intended. To be taken at own peril.