Ode to Shaarode

Prasanta's post left me overwhelmed and helplessly reconstructing my particular Bengali bourgeoise trajectory of wading through the economic/academic/intellectual pie, all the while carrying around a synthetic communitarian sentimentality, reproducing it in the cosmopolitania, very often peddling it to peers as exotic authenticity.

Let me also try to fashion my own South Calcutta memories (embedded in North Calcutta roots) of Pujo growing-up in the nineties. Prasanta's article mysteriously overlooks the Cultural Institution, that is Maddox Square. The hub of the social institution that is Pujo Prem. Boys aged between sixteen and twenty-five have to find a Pujo Girlfriend to show off in the Maddox Square see-and-be-seen festival. For budding intellectuals (all of fifteen-sixteen) like my brother, Pujo meant huddling in the periphery of the pandal with fellow-nonchalants, making approriate pooh-pooh noises to the mashi-kaku-ultramodernmeye outpour of Rabindra-enthusiasm. As a young adult, Pujo meant wrapping a sari and smiling coyly at a friend’s mashtuto dada, and huddling with lost friends in a mashi’s empty flat (for mashi is busy training five-year-olds to hold a complicated Robindro-note) rolling maal…

I am chewing on Prasanta's reflection of the leftist secularisation of the Durga Puja- sharodotshob to durgotshob… for doesn’t the shaarode also translate in terms of a cultural/linguistic universe of Shaarodiyo Shubhechha, Shaaridyo Desh, Shaarodiyo Aanondomaela? Is the Shaarode really so compartmentalised and secular? Is it also not inextricably enmeshed in recreating/reproducing/re-embracing material cultures, cultural materialisms?

Coming from a ghore shaakto clan of pathha-sacrificing Kali devotees, Durga Pujo was always more material/sensual/cultural for me, less religious…

But his Buffalo-Bangalore imagery leaves me with a recent Jersey memory of watching newly-married, jamdani-clad boudis in various stags of the run-up to childbirth? A friend’s fiance explained the trend thus- the sooner you give birth to an American citizen, the better your chances at the Green Card… I am compelled to think about this travelling material culture of the Pujo sentimentality which has to be repeatedly performed, reproduced, reconfigured, peddled, disseminated, indoctrinated- that maybe beyond home and homecoming, it is also part of the desperate attempt at home-building…. this way Kumoretuli and Birbhum artisans, and Kolkata rockbands find livelihood in the home-building industry through the expanding coffers of the Global Authentic Bengali… in the way I felt a moral/cultural obligation to buy Chaundrobindoo’s latest album, as they recreated the misogynist nonchalant cultural universe of  my adolescence in Jersey… it was like throwing in the handsome chaanda for the promise of manufactured communitarianism amidst Jodhpur Park multitudes...

Glossary:

Shaarode- autumnal

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