“Durga Pujo: The Occupation of Space and Time in My Head” by Ronald Tuhin D’Rozario



Time — I see its impatience — from the first rays of light almost between the interpretation of raag Bhairavi spreading carefully across the skies of my city in a slow yet steady process like making an omlette in a saucepan fold by fold till the dominance of night turns deep and I close my eyes.

As I grow older I gradually discover the presence of ‘timelessness’ stuck in the throat of time. I exist between two contrasting polarities for unknown reasons — my body begins in the month of April but my heart dwells between the Autumn of October.

I spell T- I- M- E between my fingers almost in a sense of search like Helen Keller. ‘Search’ is a lonely word — filled with anticipation but no certainty. And this search too sometimes turn futile and it seems impossible, and lost to me.

Light drags along the streets of the night. It stretches and moulds the iris as it wish to be perceived. I prefer to use the word ‘darkness’ as a synonym to sleep, for in light — my thoughts which are often ‘Hoh-Joh-Boh-Roh-Loh’ (in a clutter and a chaos) would retain sanity and form a shape which is easier to interpret, only in the dark.

I look at the street of the night and can almost feel the desperation in its inability to hold back human footsteps of the day. There is a sense of loss all over its surface. The mind begins to interpret the isolation of the street a little deeper — unconsciously, as if almost in tune with the senses. What I’ve discovered about human tendencies is that we always save a bit of us to live for the next day — we never tend to exhaust ourselves completely. In pillows, we end and from it, we begin. The head seeks something to lean on — for it is not only the thoughts that it carries but also the control of the entire body begins with it. In it, we conclude the ‘Pitripaksham’ within it creates the ‘Debipaksham’:

‘Baajlo Tomar Alor Benu’ /  The flute of your light plays on…

Ma comes home.

The final touches of the pandal are on. I can hear the rhythmic ‘Thok-Thok-Thok’ (knocks) of a hammer over a nail in the quest to fix the blocks. Perhaps, all these sounds are a part of the ‘Agomoni’ (Advent) too. I consider these sounds a prequel to the sound of the ‘Dhak’.

I look at the pandal of my locality — which is only a few yards away from my house. I always had a fondness for Durga pujo and have many memories attached to it. All these memories are raw and intense. This keeps me connected to my real self.

‘How can they identify the landmark years after years to occupy for a few days of prayer chants, smell, and worship? If it is their senses which confirms them to choose the space or the belief?’ I wonder about this reoccurring question in my mind. I look at the space that owns — vacantness, dust, and neglect for most of the year, suddenly gets a new face that draws attention during this time of the season and never fails to be the ground on which constructs a temporary shrine made out of — bamboos, cloth, ropes and tireless hardwork. Somehow — the earthen face of Ma Durga in the Kumortoli getting her details marked by the artisians turns prominent on my mind.

The rawness of halogen lights falling  over the pandal reminds me of a colloquial term in Bengali. Whenever there’s an excess usage of electricity, they say ‘current poorche ‘ (electricity is burning out). I draw to a conclusion — everything in use is burning out. Life is burning out and so is the tea when the kettle turns hot under the flames.

I discover autonomy in creation and into creating something and gradually come in terms to the understanding that — there’s a lot of giving away involved in the process of creation and creativity. A lot of the self gets burnt out, like this phrase in Latin: ‘Quod me nutrit me destruit’ (What nourishes me, destroys me.) and no longer remain in one’s inheritance alone, but divides to becomes a shared object between the admirer.

That’s how a work of art detatches from the creator’s ownership and becomes an observer’s admiration — That’s how a mother’s nourishment becomes the meal for her child in the womb, and her love for self gets traded between the family members. The image of Michelangelo’s ‘Pietà’ flashes in front of my eyes.

I begin to understand why the goddess doesn’t comes alone to her father’s house on earth but with her children.

While standing in front of the pandal, I inhale deeply the smell of this bamboo structure and the wood and the saw dust and all other things that forms this pandal. It takes me into the space of my childhood. I supress the emotions with a stiff jaw and savour the taste of it on my tongue for the remaining part of my life.

Strangely, these memories come alive in my mind only when I am standing in front of the pandal. Otherwise I fail to recollect them while sitting at home. There’s something about this place.

I imagine about the formation of the goddess from the soil and turning back to soil once the religious rites reach its conclusion — doesn’t it signifies destiny?

My mind repeatedly questions about the space: the pandal occupies — the soil that formed the goddess and the water she would return to after the festival — Can all these space be identified? Shall it be forgotten with heat, dust, and rain?

It amazes me how we create our own space within the space (universe), almost like rooms in a house and yet we eventually die in spite of putting in so much of effort in survival. If the space we occupy could be quantified, I wish to souvenir it.

Isn’t this what life is? To make memories and leave a part of us into everything so that we are remembered, when we are gone?

The rituals of Durga pujo comes to its closure. I remain awake to see the first rays of pre – dawn appear on Bijoya Dashami, as I have watched on Mahalaya while listening to ‘Mahisasuramardini’ on the radio. There is sadness in the sound of the dhaak just like the heart that feels heavy to bid farewell.

I feel a sense of tiredness in its sound as I try to listen very carefully and understand the pattern of its rhythm. I recite: ‘Dhina dhin dhak dhak, Dhinak dhinak dhak’ it goes in a repetitive slow and endless  cycle. Lights — sound — and the flames of sondhey arati, completes a full circle like drawing a diagram on paper using a compass from the geometry box — ‘Bisarjan’ / the immersion. Until next year. The worship with fire concludes in the ritual of water — sailing the goddess to her home in Kailash. I look at the water in my glass. I see a ripple inside the diameter of its circle as an insect struggles to survive after a fall.

By water we are blessed to life — into  water, we detach from life. It gives. It takes away too.

But I shall be buried like my ancestors. Shall I remain on earth like a tree to soil detached from all that has migrated to water? 

These rituals may not have any scientific reason to it, still, we believe in it because of our attachment to the person performing it or to the person for whom it is being done.

Every day before I left home for school, I would touch Ma’s feet for blessings followed by throwing my arms around her neck and kissing her cheeks. And she would not only touch my forehead marking a sign of her blessing but also bite the tip of the little finger on my left hand spitting on me, ‘Thoo, Thoo’ to ward off any danger.

The longing grows prominent to be amidst the known territory. Perhaps that’s how the brain confirms it as being safe — Home.

The longing turns distant gradually.

Like this line from Tagore’s poem: ‘Raat’er sab tarai ache diner aalor gabhire’ /All the stars of the night remains within the depth of daylight — I believe somewhere a mother still performs this ritual for her children.




Ronald Tuhin D’Rozario writes from Calcutta, India

One thought on ““Durga Pujo: The Occupation of Space and Time in My Head” by Ronald Tuhin D’Rozario

  1. Loved reading this..my eyes and heart dwelt upon each and every word. Durga Puja invokes strong feelings in all of us; this write up has the reader responding with both his intellect, as well as with his heart.
    The writer takes us within the “spaces’ of his mind as he dwells upon the experience of the world outside: the sandals created with bamboo, cloth strips, saw dust and a lot of hardwork
    His narrative reverts back to his children, to his present experience, as well as to days when like his ancestors he will mingle with the Earth.
    What gives a deeper appeal to this work is that the Goddess, becomes symbolic of the mother who gives nourishment to her children, even she reminds the author of his own mother.
    So the yearly homecoming of the Goddess creates an overwhelming sense of nostalgia. No wonder the author’s heart remains in the autumn of October.


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