Thursday, September 17, 2009

Our Eid, Their Durga Puja

The religious demarcation does not leave as much an unfathomable impression on the aged mind as it does on a young soul. Being grown up, you make a choice and take a decision, but for the younger ones, who are yet to conceive the true essence of religion, it is baffling as well as sometimes heart breaking not being able to realize why Durga Puja is “their” festival where as Eid is “our”s.

All my close friends till date are from non-Muslim background & I never seemed to have questioned why. Neither had I any prejudice of considering their religion before making friends, nor my traditional parents ever forced me to be friend with “Muslims” only .They were my closest circle and they still are and I never found difference in religious beliefs making any interventions ever into that sacred territory.

But it was that time of the year, when the two biggest festival of both these religion, the Durga Puja & the Eid, were celebrated I used to find myself secluded from this known circle of mine. Neither did they do it intentionally, nor did I keep myself away. I was never fascinated about wearing new clothes during festival, but when they used to boast of their increasing count of Pujo’r Jama (Puja shopping), I wished the same for me, too. When I saw all their houses coming to live with pre-puja preparation, it was the usual day-in-day-out in our house. The gentle touch of the sweet breeze without the suffocating humidity from the previous rainy season, the blue sky above except a cluster of clouds scattered throughout, the huge puja mandaps being built and the roads being lit up to embrace the Mother Goddess, everything in the whole environment seemed to have gone for a facelift except my nearest vicinity being the usual same, everywhere I used to sense that pujo pujo gandho (I could not translate it into English, but here are the ingredients to make that "pujo pujo smell" in the comments section of this post ) , except no activity, no hustling bustling in and around our house.

Of all the four days, I missed the Ashtami the most. All the people used to gather at the pujo pandels to offer the Anjali to Debi Durga. While for the elders, it was devotion time, it was that unique golden opportunity of the year for the Gen Next. The boy would anxiously wait for her since morning and plan the timing for Anjali together (the girl will obviously come with her family, so the enactment had to be perfect with precious timing as if they just bumped into each other to sweep away any suspicion). Therefore, on the D-day, while all my friends would be rigorously working on their self made assignment, I would be trying my heart out to concentrate on my studies, just to distract myself from being left alone, just to brush off the despondency of not being able to offer my Anjali with her, not being able to contemplate that rare glimpse of her in those gorgeous sarees (Well…for those looking at me with a suspicious look, you know most of these were one-sided that time & today I don’t have slender idea of where she is & I am happily married, happy ha?).

Nabami night is the one, I would be earnestly looking forward, when all of us would go for our puja darshan. This was the only breather for me in those suffocating four days, when, I would be among them again and enjoy the festival, which is as much of mine as of theirs. We would roam around the town for Debi darshan with most of us eagerly looking for the "other" debi, the love of our life, how fabulous they look in their puja dresses, we would also keep an vigil so that we don’t get caught off guard by any of our teachers, and we would finally end our excursion by having an sumptuous meal in a restaurant (in those days we did not have cultures of eating at places every now and then and so we would look for this day to have a full meal outside, of our choice and most importantly sponsored by parents :D)

And when it was Eid for us, my day would start with praying Eid er Namaz at the nearby mosque in the morning, taking blessings from the elders and giving blessing to my younger sister too, a 100 rupee note,and then having delicious meals in friend's & neighbor's places. Somtime it also included various sports competition arranged by a local club. But amidst all these, I would still feel solitary, my celebration being incomplete and would be impatiently looking for the afternoon, when all my friends would visit our house. Then only, my Eid celebration would be in full swing. Without them, it would be just another day gone by.

Today, staying away from Kolkata I don't miss Durga Puja as much as I did then and I also don't miss Eid without my friends, for my very own circle has grown up with my wife, brother-in-law, nieces and likes. I have also realized friendship is not about meeting them day in day out, more importantly be there when they need. But the silent solitariness of those 4 days still scrape my inside, and the ineffable pain of missing those precious moments makes my heart tattered at times. My sacrosanct childhood questions my profane adulthood "Was I incomplete? And why was me different from my coevals"? Is it because the month long Puja'r chuti, the family vacation, the Rabindra Sangeet being played out at almost every Puja pandels, everything created an exuberance that wrapped the whole ambiance which Eid never did for me.Or is it because somewhere the thin underlying religious difference played its part, if I was to offer Anjali
with them and if they were to pray Eid er namaz with me, religion would have reached the pinnacle of divinity. If i had Muslim friends, would the celebration be different? Whatever it may be, the aged me never had an answer to the question of that effervescent child and I will never have the answer...


  1. I loved the way you penned your thoughts so effortlessly, about a topic so sensitive that only someone who has really been through can write with such conviction. I know what you r talking about. I grew up in a colony where every thing was celebrated but still a demarcation remained. There was hesitation to rejoice in a 'muslim' festival. I remember I waited for eid for the sheerkorma n haleem n double ka meetha..I wish these barriers vanished.

  2. I know you for years, so expected you to write something like this... but the way you expressed your thoughts... feelings... really amazed me... staying away from our hometown, friends, family, festivals... see it makes us miss our place in the same way... even when we are from different communities, culture etc...

  3. I must say Mustaf, youve come out with beautiful expressions for your feelings :) Every festival has ite essence..the very essence of joy, that increases when celebrated with friends. You crossed the barriers and have made the bridge possible...Its imp to rejoice in each others happiness, after all we are a part of a single whole called India!
    Eid Mubarak in advance!

  4. Mustaf, I really have no words to commend this post of yours! I have been your friend for more than 10 years now, but still I got to know about such an important facet of yours through this blog! Reading this, I was wishing if I could be there beside you offering both 'Ashtami-r Anjali' and 'Eid-er Namaz' together in our childhood! Then, our friendship would also have become divine. Maybe, our children could do those together if they are lucky:) Thanks friend for such an amazing masterpiece!

  5. ur simplicity of this post amazed me...the way you captured ur feelings was beautiful...where I stay right now, we have 2 muslim families on each floor...and we all look forward to eid for the delicacies that reach our home all the time...and they all wait for diwali and other festivals likewise...this combination i have seen rarely and m glad to be staying at such a place...:)

  6. Heart wrenchingly beautiful Mustaf! One of ny closes friends in college was a girl called nageen, and we were in bhopal then..with her, i first got an inside glimpse of islamic rituals, of the reasons behoind many practises that I had seen before but never understood, with he I ate during her iftaars, I can still smell and taste the her mum's food that was specially packed for me in a small tiffin box. Do not really know where the prejudice starts or why.

  7. Everybody has already said this, I can only join in and say beautifully expressed! This post is touchingly simple, and I agree with the Ketchup girl, that effortlessly, about a topic so sensitive that only someone who has really been through can write like this.

    I never gave this a thought, and while reading it, my thought was which ones of my friends could have felt this way?

    I hope this changes, and we join in a lot more in each others celebrations... more completely. We received biryani and seviyan from friends on and off, and loved that too, but that was the only way we joined in any celebrations.

  8. That was really very well expressed.
    Even all my friends are non muslim and we enjoy all festivals.

  9. That really was a beautiful post Mustaf.:)Even I have wondered what Eid is like. What fasting is like...I guess, this post of yours touches a very sensitive topic as well. The people of our country are very secular. At least that is what your thoguhts and the comments of the people on this post reflect. I wonder, where then, the communal disharmony comes from...

    LOvely post...:)

  10. Nice one, Mustaf :)

    Although I had never gone pandal-hopping when I was in Kolkata (I was born and brought up there), I can identify with the sense of happiness that accompanied the coming of that festival. And I loved the soft blue sky of the 'shorot' afternoon, with the cotton-white clouds floating on it.

    When I choose friends, it is based on similar values. So, my friends come from various backgrounds. Since I practise non-denominational faith, this has never been a problem for me.

    I miss Kolkata because some of my happiest memories are assossiated with that city. I miss being in India because that is the only place where I feel I belong. Not that India is perfect (far from it); but I love my India.

    Eid and season's greetings to you. Best wishes :)

  11. To All,

    Just came here to wish Happy Eid & Durga Puja to all of you as i forgot to mention that in my post :(

    I will reply to each one of your comments, but just got busy with the festivals nowadays & that too being in hometown


    In Kol now, will call you tomorrow.

    And thank you all for the appreciation, I am overwhelmed (feeling shy admitting it though :()

  12. hey no problem Mustaf...eid mubarak...and I got that template from are plenty of them there...enjoy the festive season..:)

  13. This is one of the best posts I have ever read on the our/their divide. As you say, if only we could share our festivals and celebrate them together (as adults and as children) India would be a more united place and we would have reached the pinnacle of divinity.

    A very happy and prayer-filled Eid and Durga Puja to all of us, across any divides.

  14. I don't have anything more to add. Almost everything has been said by others. The style in which this post is written is really good. Perhaps, this is to do with the depth of the emotions you described.

  15. A very heart warming post. My closest friend in Mumbai is a Muslim and our kids celebrate eid and diwali together. As she is a non bengali(see, I did not say 'bong' this time!)she really can not understand our feelings for Durga Puja,diwali is easier for her to identify with.
    I think Durga puja is more of a bengali festival, the feeling of isolation that you mentioned here, perhaps a lot of hindus from other communities also feel, I do not think it is to do with religion. If you had expressed your wish to join the ashtami anjali to your friends, i am sure they would have taken you. As your friend suggested here, may be you should try that with your children. Only then this barrier will be bridged.
    Eid Mubarak to you. May be you should come over to Mumbai during Durga Puja, some of them are truly awesome.
    Oh, and instead of 'smell', use fragrance. Thats a much better word. 'The fragrance of autumn, the fragrance of Durga Puja'

  16. You have written so candidly about the unseen wall. A touching post.
    Happy puja and happy eid to you. :)

  17. Okay. This will be a long one.

    We live in a practical world where we live by certain norms. If we had lived in Eutopia, there would not have been any religious festivals and all ceremonies or festivals would have been enjoyed by all together. Like the New Year (though that is also partially religious)

    With religious festivals, though Durga Puja has for a long time ceased to be a religious one but has become a social one now, it is nearly impossible to celebrate it together with people from other faiths. Principally because, the extent of dogma or rigidity or suspicion is the highest while viewing the other faith. Plus, we hardly have any exposure or knowledge of what those festivals stand for in the other faith.

    So till the time we have religions, you will continue to enjoy the festivals of your faith and we, of ours and we will continue to think with dreamy eyes how the world could have been a better place and write blogs on that!

  18. @The Ketchup Girl,

    I wish the same too. And I am lucky that that "hesitation" or the "thin line" never became a big barrier for me as i grew up. But not everyone may be not be as lucky as me and for them I believe all these small incidents do pile up and leaves a permanent impression of "us vs they" in their mind.


    I am lucky that you finally got time to visit my blog. Missing festival staying away from your near and dear one is equally painful irrespective of which community you are from, but i tried to convey how I missed Durga puja in spite of being among my friends and how significant my friens in my celebration of Eid.

    @A New Beginning,

    Yes, I was able to cross the bridge thanks to my upbringing, but I wished as a whole the bridge itself was not needed. In many cases, that bridge however narrow it is, gives birth to radically opposite viewpoint towards each other...

  19. @Samik,

    Everyone of us has some secrets in life, some of themy might come out at some point of time and some of them might just get buried along with us. May be this was one of them, which, had blogging not been there, would have never seen the light of the day. Religious restrictions, if need be, should be imposed after we are matured enough, otherwise as I mentioned in the beginning of my post that we don't realize why the differences and still we suffer :( And thanks for the appreciation, you know much I value your opinion whether it is appreciation or criticism :)


    Thank you for your kind words:) Even I have mentioned as far as spending the time together/sharing the delicacies among us is concerned I was never away from that.They enjoyed Eid's mithai as much as I enjoyed the after Puja sweets at their place.But still sometime, there are those thin lines, which even go unnoticed. Who knows, if I had enjoyed the Eid with a muslim friend clrcle of mine, may be even I would have never realized this :( This is no one's fault and still it hurts us and that is the most unfortunate part of it.

  20. @Sraboney,

    Thank you...


    You are lucky and so is your friend that you got to know each other's religion in a much better way and that actually strengthens the relationship.Often i find that we are so much ignorant about each other's religion (both Hindu Muslim and for that matter even Sikh, Jain, Christian and likes) that we have huge misconceptions, sometime we just form our opinion listenning to others and that is root of the majority of the problems.

  21. @indianhomemaker,

    I admire your candid admission when you said "I never gave this a thought" and there are so many others who never realizes such thin demarcations.

    And i just could not agree with you that "I hope this changes, and we join in a lot more in each others celebrations... more completely". To me the true essence of celebrating each other's festival is to celebrate their festival just like you celebrate your own festival. Sharing delecacies and sweets are just walking a few miles and we still have miles to go...

    @Nazish Rahman,

    Thank you :)

  22. @Destiny's Child,

    I agree this is a sensitive topic, so I was apprenhensive about touching this, this could have well turned out to a controversial one,too. There were so many factors to be taken care that I dropped the idea once, finding no proper words to put my thoughts onto paper.But luckily i could make it.

    Your comment atleast partially answers your question of where the communal disharmony comes from . Just like you wondered about Eid,fasting same is applicable for me, too as I also dont know so many other practices of the other religion.Therefore, without proper knowledge, it is very much easier for us to get influenced by what people say and what we get to hear. We might not support regilious fundamentalists, but we might not be able to protest, too at times because we ourselves are not confident of our stand and knowldge..

  23. @Ayesha Parveen,

    If religion was not there, majority of the problem we face today would no longer be there.

    But surely, we can't do away with religion, that has become integral part of our life, at least to most of us. In spite of having individual religious belief, is it possible to narrow that gap further?


    I just echo your thoughts, nothing could have been better.


    Thank you:)

  24. @Aparnadi,

    First of all, I told you I do not mind being called "bong" any more :), so you free to call me "bong", I don't mind.

    Now, I agree with you when you said "the feeling of isolation that you mentioned here, perhaps a lot of hindus from other communities also feel," but I might not agree that religion has nothing to do with it. Durga Puja appeared on my post because of myself being a Bengali. But if I was in Punjab with all my sikh friends, would not i feel isolated on their festival or would not the same be felt for a Marathi boy staying in Tamilnadu with all his tamil friends on the day of Pongal?

    And at that young age, neither I had the courage to ask my friends and I am sure if asked, not all of them would have responded same way. Nothing communal about it, being religious sometimes, we just accept certain things (good or bad) without questionning.

    Thanks a lot for your invitation to visit Mumbai, but you know I am really panicked for this swine flu thing nowadays.I sm still maintaining no shopping, no unnecessary outside hoping :( May be some other time:)

    And the last part of your comment i liked the most :). Even if you don't comment on every posts of mine, but please suggest these corrections, whenever you feel so.I really appreciate.

  25. @Tanima,

    I had no choice other than being candid, that was the life of the post:)


    I agree with you that it is practically impossible today to celebrate each other's festival together, but with everything changing, who knows it will change tomorrow. But you hit the nail hard when you said "Principally because, the extent of dogma or rigidity or suspicion is the highest while viewing the other faith. Plus, we hardly have any exposure or knowledge of what those festivals stand for in the other faith."

    There is no logic on earth to justify that suspicion, that lack of knowledge. May be my religion does not allow me to practice rituals of the other religion, but it never prevents me to acquire knowledge about other religion & I am sure this holds true for all the other religion too. I have a follow up post in mind about such ignorances, not sure how the quality of the post would be, but some of the incidents of ignorance will be an eye opener for many of us...

  26. I guess everyone has already said this, wonderfully written Mustaf...never thought about this way. But I can understand exactly what you are trying to say! Kudos to you, for handling such a controversial topic with so much sensitivity!

  27. Happy Belated Eid.It was such a pleasure reading your post. Simple and beautiful So delicately you brought out the beauty of 2 cultures which are celebrated immensily.Your post also reminded me of my pujo days when I was in calcutta.Personally I never felt any religious conflict within my self. I loved going to gurudwaras and dargah and church and felt the same peace and faith within me everytime I went to any of these places.When I was a kid I use to think God as one and still I feel the very much same. Its just that we follow difeerent paths to reach him. A beautiful post indeed.I just loved reading it.

  28. You have done a fabulous job in penning down the comparison and about the diverse thoughts among people of our society.

    I loved the puja celebration very much cuz i did not know that in the first place and reading it here was more of a surprise to me...bcuz u were so accurate in that :)

    Barriers will always be there.. these are like those invincible forces which are evil and strong too. Its been from ages....i can only pray it can happen :)

    Happy durga puja and Eid Mubarak..hope you had a great day..


  29. I got goosebumps reading this exceedingly well written post of yours, mustaf. It's so heartening to have come across people, who cross barriers, and long to enjoy the festivities of other religions. Actually, only after reading your post, I feel I've missed celebrating Durga poojas; since in Tamil Nadu, Durga Pooja is not grandly celebrated as in Benagal :-)

    And I, too, earnestly wish, at least in the future, that religions shouldn't be a barrier to celebrate a festival. After all they're festivals, isn't :-). Also, am very happy that you've sowed a wonderful seed of harmony :-)

    I salute your brotherhood, brother!

    happy celebrations!

  30. That was an awesome post!! :) I simply loved the way u hav written abt two distinct festivals so lucidly. Wonderful!! :)

  31. I feel if religion as not there, we would have fought over language, colour, political choices, the kind of music we love... if we have to fight we will find something to fight about. If we want to live in peace, we will, religion o=r no religion.

  32. @Starry-eyed nut,

    As Ketchup Girl said, only those who have gone through these, can relate to it.Thanks for your comments..

    @Butterfly Thoughts,

    Even I accept the fact that we just follow different paths.I have not yet got opportunity to visit Gurudwaras, but I have visited temples,church. I love reverberance of the temple and that soothing calmness of the church, very similar to we have inside our mosque. And that Ashtamir Anjali was more of being with my friends and enjoy those moments and nothing to do with religious rituals.

    BTW, I don't know your real name, are you a Bengali?


    It would not be an understatement if I say everyone should just feel the essesnce of Durga Puja being in Kolkata and just get yourself drenched in that vivacious environment, atleast once in your life time:)

  33. @Manivannan,

    Even though I mentioed I do not miss Durga as much today, but as I am writing these comments sitting alone, i know everything of mine is far away in Kolkata. I am just praying that these 3-4 days just pass by before I wink(I know all my Bengali friends will get disappointed, they all want these days to remain forever:)), every single feeling of missing the celebration is stinging me.


    Thank you :)

  34. @IHM,

    I realize while reading the old comments that I missed a small word but a significant one while replying to your comments.

    I had written

    "And i just could not agree with you that..."

    And I wanted to write

    "And i just could not agree with you MORE(this was missed) with you that... ", rest being the same. I hope still you got the message that I am completely agreeing with you:)

    I also agree with you for reasons of fight,sometime I wonder what I was taught in schools that "unity in diversity", does it still hold true or it is actually the other way around today:(

  35. hey mustaf, thx for dropping by my blog and leaving comments, thx for the appreciation man, hope to c more of you there

    and the post was great yaar, it shows how man is fascinated about the things which he cannot do or get, i too in many ways am the same yaar, nice writing too mate

    take care and keep writing............

  36. as'salamu alaikum, Mustaf Bhai.

    First of all, a belated Eid Mubaraq to you and your family. This is my first visit to your blog. That 'invisible wall' would remain as long as the writing about 'dar-ul-islam' and 'dar-ul-harb' would remain inscribed on it. Come let us erase it to make "OUR Eid and Durga Puja". Will you please? :-)

    Wish you all the very best for everything.

    Allah hafiz


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  38. @Thousif,

    Thanks you :)

    @Ashoke Kumar,

    Welcome to my blog :)

    I am equally comfortable in as'salamu alaikum as well as in Namaste as well as a simple Hi, so you are at your liberty :)

    You seemed to have more knowledge about Islam than I have, because believe me it took me good 15 minutes in google and in twiki to find out what that 'dar-ul-islam' and 'dar-ul-harb' means to understand your comment.So I never had those border lines & I am always with you to make it "OUR Eid and Durga Puja". Thanks for your wishes and wish the same to you, too:)


    Thank you.


    Thank you :)

  39. Shubho bijoya to you Mustaf.

    Hope you have a wonderful time ahead.

  40. Hmmm my name is Manisha:-) No I am not a bengali but born and brought up in calcutta. So most of the bengali traits are inherited you see:-)

  41. MUSTAF,
    all my thoughts after reading this was penned by others. Am thinking of wht to comment..
    oh yeah..
    i got it!!
    EiD Mubarrak!

  42. Hey, don't know what took me so long to visit your blog after you dropped the invitation (wish I had visited earlier). This is such a heartfelt and honest post...I almost relived your childhood days in flashback!

    Hope each day turns out to be "festive" for you...and fills you with the motivation to write many more beautiful posts like this.

    Thanks for using my pujo-pujo smell recipe :)

  43. @Shruti,

    Belated Eid mubarak to you, too :)


    Better late than never :), glad that you came. But I was sad to know that you did not enjoy your puja that much. It is correctly said that 'the home is where the heart is' and there is no second thoughts about that specially on festive occassions.Hope you enjoy coming festivals with much more fun and enjoyment :)

  44. Belated Eid Mubarak!

    Very beautifully penned down thoughts!

  45. @Solilo,

    Thank you for dropping by :)

  46. Musta,
    The best expression of feelings that we all share and know but as you said, we accept somethings without questioning. It is the same feelings I share with Rabiul, Ahmed and the new friends from "them" in Pune.

  47. @Pinku,

    Welcome to my blog:)

    I used to feel "them" during only those 4 days & that's why I wished those 4 days to pass by before I could realize. But with hair growing grey now, it's all "us" & this is what I should teach to the next to come :)

    BTW, do I know you? because only my friends call me by "Musta", so I think you know me but I am not able to recognize:(


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