Durga Puja Begins

Today, the festivities for Durga Puja started. All around the city, communities are erecting “pandals,” small houses to worship the gods, especially Durga. Durga is an incarnation of Devi, the female manifestation of the supreme being. If I’m not mistaken, she’s quite a strong willed, you might say ruthless goddess. This is great. How many cities can claim that their most important religious festival of the year centers around a powerful female goddess!?

At the festivities today, which involved sand painting and a DJ, I finally met a fellow squash player. I’m stoked to play him. Couldn’t be happier. I was struck by how much life at Hiland park resembles that of a suburban US town, and how Durga Puja so far seems to be a form of a block party, where family get together and meet. I’ve also been surprised so far by how accessible and down to earth people are. Most people are willing to give me time n Calcutta and exchange plesantries.

Durga puja is also like an odd variation of Christmas. The giving is such that you tip staff and workers. By giving them a bonus, you spread the good cheer.

The next week will certainly be an interesting one. I’m told the city will be awash with festivities, which will span a week. Given my previous knowledge of India. This means noise, crowds, colors, traffic, and revelry 24/7. On a scale beyond anything from home. It’s uniquely Indian. Uniquely Calcutta.

Last night was an interesting one. My housemates and I went to the consulate to visit a friend. The consulate residence is swank, and it’s nice to see a little bit of America—or America in the type of quality of life that I’ve dreamed of, but would need either the patronage or income to afford.

After some meats, cheeses, fine beers (stouts!) and some imported licquers we took a car to Jadavpur University of watch a concert that our friend S, a fantastic guitarist, was playing in. We went from the privileged life of the consulate to wading through mud and muck in a wet outdoor concert with more than its fair share of bromance—hordes of men dancing with each other, etc. It’s fun, but there’s only so much I can take.

As an aside, right now I am listening to Alexi Murdoch, and I have to say, that he is an excellent musician to fit my mood. Thank you to Sean for introducing me to him while we were in Sri Lanka. I miss that time a lot.

Calcutta has an amazing variety of live music and cultural events which makes it a truly awesome city for the arts. Just in the past two weeks, I’ve gone to see a play (in hindi/english/bangla/french and spanish) starting Kalki Koechlin, a fantastic modern dance performance, both at Tollygunge club as it celebrated Tagore. I’ve also seen a live table concert running from 10am one day to 6am the next. Non stop drumming. As well as the concert I mentioned earlier.