By Dr. Prabhas C. Dhar
Agartala, the capital of the tiny State of Tripura in North East India, offers a unique combination in many ways. The most important aspect of the phenomenon is that it is the combination of a rural and urban society. The small town has a population of less than four lakhs. But this small population is comprised of the descendants of hill-dwellers and plains people. Quite a sizeable number of the denizens of Agartala are first generation educated people. But on important occasions they forge ahead as a one person phalanx.
Durga puja is such an important occasion. In fact the puja is the most important event for the Bengali Hindu people and their friends and neighbours wherever they may live. Even a few Bengalees try to organize a puja at their living place, however distant it may be from Bengal in India. So the puja is celebrated all over India and abroad by the Bengalees with equal enthusiasm. The puja is held in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangaluru, Chennai, London and Washington and in many other places just as it is celebrated in Bengal, Tripura and Bangladesh. The main organizers are the Bengali Hindus. But many of their dear ones, from other communities, also extend their helping hands with gusto and partake the joys of the puja.
The Puja is coming. Although the main Puja will be held for only three days-----21st to 23rd October, 2012-----the festivities will begin on 15th October, with Mahalaya and continue till 15th November the day of Bhratridvitiya (the well-wishing for the brothers by the sisters). It is a whole month-long period of festivities.
The puja is coming. The whole town of Agartala, like many other places, is agog with expectations and speculations. The streets are crowded; men, women and children jostle in the shops selling garments, foot wears and jewelleries; to buy things for themselves and for friends and relatives. It is a gift-giving festival like the Christmas and the Eid. Everyone tries to do their best to bring smiles to the faces of their friends and dear ones.
But it is not an unmixed joy and enthusiasm that one sees in the faces this year. The inflation bug is biting hard. The Indian Rupees has been losing its buying capacity steadily and fast. People are hard hit as the prices of things soar high. Yet they manage to look joyous as the puja is coming. The girls are praying to the rain-god not to come down during the puja days and mar their jollity. The boys are also praying to the same god not to mar the spectacle. Everyone is expectantly happy.
What can the septuagenarians like me do? They can chew the cud of memories like Old John in William Blake’s poem ‘The Echoing Green’.