In this beautiful narration of Durga Puja in Dubai, the writer delves into some unknown and untold segments of the celebration in such an alien country as the United Arab Emirates
By Pompy Dutta Das
“Bolo, bolo Dugga Elo…..”
The fever and excitement which build up for the Bengalis as Durga Puja approaches, can be compared with none.
For me too, having grown up in the north-eastern city of Guwahati in Assam, the celebration of Durga Puja evokes countless memories.
My father had a humble job in LICI and we lived in a small colony comprising a few families. We as kids grew up together and our lives intertwined with each others in a way like no other’s.
There was an overwhelming community feeling and a sense of belonging to that one big family of Debkutir which I called home for twenty-three of my maidenhood years. Durga Puja in Debkutir brought out the best in us. The spirit of bonhomie and camaraderie lingered on for days after the Puja ended.
Marriage meant moving to the sprawling metropolis of Mumbai. Fascinated as I was by the grandeur and hustle-bustle of the city, I nevertheless tried to adjust to the busy city life.
Durga Puja in Mumbai also meant visiting the numerous Puja pandals and celebrating over food and ‘adda’. After a eight year stint there, a lucrative job offer for my husband made us move base to Dubai, the land of dreams and opportunities, some eighteen years ago!
And behold! To my utter surprise and delight, I discovered Durga Puja being celebrated by the Probashi Bengalis here. The Sindhis are a dominant community besides the Malyalees. They have a community hall which is rented out for different celebrations.
The social organization called the Bharatiya Bangiya Parishad or BBP, one of the oldest registered organizations, has been organizing the Durga Puja in Dubai even before my arrival here.
The Puja is celebrated following the rituals with the utmost devotion and fervour. Unlike in the United States where the Puja is observed during weekends, it is held here in the actual days of the puja. Bhog prasad is distributed among the numerous devotees thronging the Puja.
Believe it or not, my first ever MA DURGA Darshan in Dubai was in this quaint old Sindhi Ceremonial Hall, nestled in the busy and crowded market place called Meena Bazaar.
I was well into my second pregnancy then and it was there under the ever watchful eyes of our ETERNAL MOTHER, the nourisher of all, we were doubly blessed with some long-standing friendships of a few like-minded people who hailed from the North-east and happened to be Sylhetis.
A common cultural ground saw us blending seamlessly with them. A few years down the line, we invited all like-minded Sylhetis in and around Dubai and the other Emirates under the umbrella of our organization called the Bharatiya Srihatta Sammelani or BSS.
Our friendship has grown since then and we have become like a close -knit family than mere friends. Every year, our Durga Puja celebration would consist of visiting the Sindhi Ceremonial Hall for “Pushpanjali” and Devi Darshan and later on gathering at each other’s place for ‘pet pujo”(satiating the tummy).
Another highlight would be to hire a bus and travel together to the Emirate of Abu Dhabi to see the Durga Puja being held there. Our celebration was only limited to visiting Devi Ma and of course catching up and feasting. But our hearts always longed for a more-fulfilling involvement during this celebration.
Over the years, as the Bengali community grew in Dubai, it saw the mushrooming of different socio-cultural groups who celebrated their very own Durga Puja. As they are privately held, entry to the Puja is by invitation only.
Three years ago, it was this yearning for being more involved in Pujo which led us to conduct our very own Durga Puja under the banner of the BSS group.
Planning for the same started months in advance with the arrangement of funds and deciding the venue. We would take the summer vacation as an opportunity to visit Kolkata and do the necessary marketing for Devi Ma.
Each member family took responsibility of transporting the puja items, right from the idols to the Dashakarma Bhandar (puja materials). Our Purohit flew in from Mumbai.
During those days, starting from Shosthi our excitement knew no bounds. We could see all our planning unfolding in front of our eyes like a beautiful kaleidoscope!
A roster was made for ladies and gents for the ‘Pujo Duty’ which was followed diligently. Bhog for Ma Durga was prepared by the ladies in turn.
The terrace of the hotel premise which served as our venue for the last two years was turned into a sprawling and grand Mandir. As respectful citizens, we followed all the protocols laid down by the Government.
Hence, we had the liberty to invite only a limited number of guests. Starting from Shosti dinner, all meals were served at the hotel. Luckily for us, the chief chef at the hotel turned out to be a Bengali and he catered to all our gastronomical demands, starting from ‘Basanti Pulao’ to ‘Anarosher Chutney’, not to mention every Bengali’s favourite Ilish Maach!(Hilsa fish)
The dawn of the Dashami morning saw us getting ready for Debi Boron and Shidur Khela (ceremonial send-off of Ma amidst offering of vermillion) with mixed feelings – a feeling of jubilation at having been able to conduct the Pujo without any major glitches, a feeling of bewilderment of how fast the days passed by and a feeling of renewed hope that “aasche bochor abar hobe”.( We’ll celebrate with equal grandeur next year).
Bolo, Durga Mai Ki Jai!!!!!!
Pompy Dutta Das
Born in the beautiful green city of Guwahati, Pompy loves teaching & interacting with kids… She is an M. A, B.Ed from Guwahati University & has worked as a teacher in Mumbai & Dubai. She has been a Probashi Bengali since the last 18 years.