The torrential rains could have clogged the roads, forced schools and offices to shut down but it could not dampen the spirit of the people to go out for Durga Puja shopping. Umbrellas in hand, people by the droves swarmed to favourite shopping destinations at Kolkata.
Flavour of the season
Lime green is the flavor of the season, said an up market shopkeeper at Gariahat. The lady at the counter paying off her bill deferred and said it was lilac. Had we asked a few more around am sure we would have got all shades found in a paint box. That is the colour of Durga Puja – all colours of the rainbow - the entire spectrum.
The festival lasts for 4 days only but the music in the heart of Bengalis start playing months ago. Team M3 met with Manju Banerjee aged 72 years. She told us that she begins her shopping in June and all is completed by July. She does so before the shops and streets get crowded. But speaking with her, we left with the idea that it was not the traffic that she wanted to avoid, but perhaps, the wait for Durga Puja is what she cannot avoid - that gets her going so early.
Children and adults for once swim on the same side of the pool. Both have their bucket list firmly in place. Like the onset of a fresh season, shop-displays get magically transformed and it is difficult to stay away. Bargaining is often the high-point in one’s day’s purchase. End result of bargaining is unique where the buyer and the seller both feel satisfied and seal the deal thinking they have made a kill.
Munch on as you shop
No Puja shopping is complete without munching on an egg roll or gobbling puchka. This too is budgeted in the cost list for most.
Wayside stalls and small eateries make a quick buck during the season when the appetite of the average shopper goes up bargaining and lugging bags. In the evenings it would baffle anybody seeing the long winding queues in front of food stalls as well as in garment stores.
One has to wonder is it the food with some shopping thrown in or is it shopping with some food is the agenda for most shoppers.
The spirit of giving
Most city dwellers now shop round the year as their only weekend destination is some mall. But then how is Durga Puja shopping different than window shopping, impulse buying and retail therapy that goes on year round?
While the entire year goes in “I, me and my family” mode, this is one season that Bengalis have carried on with the tradition of “gifting”. There is a sense of fulfillment in giving than receiving. Most families out on shopping have Thakuma, Pishima, Jethu on their list and this is one time of the year when clothes for them are bought before they buy for Khokon (youngest son).
It is also a season for visiting the bhule bisre relatives. That toothless smile when chot -Thakuma opens her weary eyes to find her “near” ones holding a pot of rasgullas and a sari in a crisp packet for her is priceless.
This too is a part of Durga Puja, and the preparation towards it.
New shoes for kochi-kacha are a must. The youth buy it anyways because the focus is on matching accessories. The elderly generation has been buying that one pair each year at this time. “Pujo-e chai notun juto” after all is a line that was coined decades ago but followed to the T even now.
For the traders it is the only season when the sun never sets.
For three months many come from distant villages of Bengal to hawk their fare on the streets of Kolkata. Every item - crude, machine finished, handwoven or handmade finds a buyer. People often wait for this auspicious season to buy anything new for their home.
For many traders this is the season when they earn the bulk of their yearly income. It is for this, that in some distant corner of Bengal - on Durga Puja day some little boy who perhaps roams bare bodied most months of the year, would have a colourful shirt on… or some “ganyer bodhu” will wear a tip-top laal paar sari to give anjali on Asthami Day, beaming with pride – unnoticed by city revelers.
If this is the excitement a trailer generates no wonder the people of Bengal are counting the hours for Durga Puja to begin. Never mind the days in between, shopping would keep everyone busy right until Shasthi.
Usually all shops and stalls shut down at dawn of Saptami and reopen only after Durga Puja.
People can shop till they drop, but if you listen in a day before Puja, do not be surprised if you hear “Ei Jaah! Jhumko ta toh kinte bhulei gechhi… anarkali ta’r saathe ki porbo?!” “Shotti boro shomoshha - next year make a list and then begin shopping,” says Boro Kaka in a serious voice.
Then again, that is the essence… Durga Puja shopping never really ends!