Stories, photographs and thoughts from a travelling couple taking walks and mapping their routes, while backpacking around India, and parts of the world.
The imagery of the carnival spirit of the Durga Pujo celebrations in Calcutta which was painted by every Bengali friend’s repertoire of stories had always remained just that for me — stories. Stories of colour, chaos, beauty, spirituality, camaraderie and food. Delicious tales that embody the spirit of this mad, wonderful city. But the stories finally came to life for me in the most intense way possible this year, when Lovell and I decided to book our train tickets to Calcutta two months in advance so that we could witness the Durga Pujo fervour with some of our closest and craziest friends who gave us the most intimate look into the heart of the Pujo and the celebratory joy that surrounds it.
We realised the stories pale in comparison to the real deal. No form of expression or storytelling does justice to the intense experiences we had over the span of our stay here. Words pale in comparison, pictures hardly capture the hysteria that envelops the city and its people during this time. But we will still attempt to tell our story. For what Calcutta has offered us today will turn into the most intense nostalgia tomorrow. And we want to chronicle this experience the best way we can.
During the 10-day Durga Pujo, the chaos and colours of Calcutta animate to life to become this colossal pulsating being that is buzzing powerfully and constantly to the rhythm of the festivities. The Durga pandals across neighbourhoods are larger than life, dazzlingly brilliant, delightfully bizarre and flamboyant. It’s all great fun, of course. But we were fortunate enough to experience the actual essence of the festival by being part of a Durga Pujo inside a home in Calcutta. Not just any home, but the ancestral home of my precious Mad Chatter, whose insane, noisy and an immensely affectionate family welcomed us warmly into their home like we are one of their own. We got an upclose and personal look into how this large family celebrates the Pujo in their 100+ year-old home, bang in the heart of Gariahat, a booming bazaar area in South Calcutta.
It was Chaturthi (the fourth day of the 10-day Dussehra celebrations) when the family packed a whole bunch of us on a tempo and head on a trip to Kumortuli in North Calcutta to fetch their Durga Maa who would preside over the frenzy that would ensue over the next one week in their household. ‘Kumor’ literally translates into ‘potter’, making this place the ‘The Potter’s Lane’. The artisans from this village have been shaping the Durga idols from mud and clay for the whole of Calcutta for centuries now. In fact, Kumortuli has over the years become a hot destination for photowalks or for anyone who is looking to capture the flavour of the Pujo. And when it’s not Durga Pujo, the God-makers of Kumortoli are creating everything from idols for different festivities to even bizarre zoo zoo sculptures! Such is their life. And here are some snapshots of our early morning journey into this fascinating place.