It was the day of Shasti.
Every Puja pandal, every locality, and every home was alight with bright lights and great expectations.
But Soma felt as if she plunged into despair.
There is no puja at her home, nor at the residential complex where she started to live just before the Pujas with her family.
It looked like an island of despair.
But she hoped otherwise.
She expected that the community would come alive magically as soon as they started living.
But she was wrong, like everyone else in the community.
You have to give your time and your heart to develop a family.
And once you do that, the magic really happens.
Adjusting to a New Way of Life
Soma, the only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Animesh Chatterjee, studies in a reputed college in South Kolkata.
She was born in North Kolkata but shifted to a new swanky gated community in the South.
In North Kolkata, the traditional para itself doubles up as a large family, especially during the Pujas. And you know, it is said that the Goddess first comes to Bagbazar Sarbojonin.
The sounds and lights of Puja are so close, so overpowering that Soma always felt that her locality Puja, parar Pujo, was the Puja of her home. She used to be involved in the Puja day in and day out — from Kalabou snan, chanting of mantras, puspanjali, cooking bhog, sandhyarati, arrangements for Sandhi Puja, dhunuchi nach, sindur khela to the sad event of Bisarjan.
She, along with her friends and neighbours, participated in every part of the Puja for these 4 days.
After shifting to her new home just before the Pujas, she felt like a fish out of water. No sounds of chanting mantras, chandipath, no dhaker awaz, no arati in the evening — he mind went blank.
Tears welled up in her eyes.
She wanted to create a new extended family of her own with everyone in the complex. All her neighbours, uncles, and aunts can create magic again.
And she knew the best way to unite them all into a huge family is to organize the community Durga Puja. Nothing else can be so powerful as the 4-day celebrations.
She shared her ideas with her parents.
“We just shifted. Let everybody settle down. We will discuss this in our committee meeting after the Puja is over. Maybe we can organize a Bijoya Sammilani and talk about next year’s Puja,” said her father.
“I think that’s a good idea,” agreed her mother.
Durga Puja Creates Large Families in Gated Communities
Not only the Chatterjee’s, but everyone who starts living in a gated community feels lost and lonely in the initial period. Slowly, social festivals bring them together, and over time, everyone feels that he is part of the extended family.
A decision to organize Durga Puja starts with forming a working group with responsibilities of fundraising, shopping, task management, cultural events, etc.
This is the first step in building a team, trusting each other, and working together toward a common goal selflessly.
As time goes by, more and more residents jump into the fray for making the Puja a success.
It becomes everyone’s Puja, everyone’s responsibility.
In every community, every resident goes out of his/her way to contribute far beyond the financial commitment.
Someone donates the cost of the idol, someone donates the cost of Sandhi Puja arrangements, and someone sponsors the cost of prasad. Always, the effort of the residents far outweighs the expectations.
Gated Community Puja Spirit
Some felt it in every minute of the Durga Puja next year in their community.
Yes, when she participated in their community Puja she felt the attraction, the bonding is far more than anything she experienced in her North Kolkata parar Pujo.
The striking part is that she could participate in every action unlike in her erstwhile parar Pujo where only local club members used to do everything.
It all started with the Puja meeting where she put forth some important suggestions which were well-appreciated.
She talked to her college friends and even got some sponsorships for the souvenir, and some ads. Earlier, she never bothered to do these things. But now it is different. She felt so good.
Mrs. Chatterjee took the initiative to cooking bhog while Mrs. Roy, Mukherjee, and Dutta joined together for the opening song.
The young ones staged a small drama.
The dunuch nach, the evening aratis were amazing. So many of the community participated, enjoyed, and clapped.
They ate together in these four days. Spent hours in the pandal. Spent hours chatting.
For once, Soma realized real life can be so much more enjoyable than the virtual one on Facebook and Instagram.
Of course, she uploaded hundreds of pictures and videos on them.
A Big Family is Born in the Mandap
Durga Puja has turned into a festival of creative themes, and professional execution boosted by huge amounts of money.
In all the show-off and the race to outdo the others, the sincerity of the heart lost its simplicity.
But those residential complex Pujas have kept alive the tradition, the purity of thought, and the spirit of sharing.
They don’t have huge budgets; not much corporate funds flow into these community Pujas. But the lack of fund flow is more than made up by the unique combination of fellow feeling, honesty of purpose, and hearty devotion.
It will be absolutely fitting to say that the true spirit of Durga Puja is found only in the residential complexes, or rather, in the large families called residential complexes.