A “play-dough” Durga Puja – a mother’s story in 2020

‘No words – action’ was the lesson my mother taught me: as artists, we have the privilege of holding a mirror to the world, to engage, to question, to bring beauty to a complex universe.

Mira Nair

The Covid-19 pandemic have turned our usual life, upside down in more than one ways. The biggest impact it caused is in the way we celebrate our festivals. Our festivals have always been more about social bonding than being overtly religious. But when everything else was getting affected, how can our biggest festival – Durga Puja remain in the “old normal” world?

Across the world, Durga Puja celebration has been a muted one – social distancing norms, second wave of Covid have prompted government authorities to either have a very minimal celebration or just cancel it altogether. Quite surprisingly, while back at home, in city of Kolkata and state of Bengal, in the run-up to the festival, we didn’t initially see that degree of strong self-restraint among the masses to ensure this doesn’t become another catalyst to our ongoing wave. Beyond the borders, however, some of the “probashi” Bengali communities have shown more restraint, even cancelling the festival altogether.

This one is about a Durga Puja celebration in the town of Basel in Switzerland. After many deliberations, the Bengali community decided to cancel this year’s puja altogether. While for grown-ups like us, we just tend to accept the fate but for the little ones, the reasons remained forever elusive. The time of the year, the little ones wait, to dress up in new clothes, play all day along with friends in the puja pandals but this year, it wasn’t the same.

So one of our Honumans, Sayani and Balmiki, staying in Basel, had a real hard time making their two little daughters understand why this year there won’t be any Puja. The two angels, aged 4 years, couldn’t really get to understand why just because of a disease, their Maa Durga won’t come home – did they do some naughtiness which made Maa Durga angry and not visit their home?

When one Maa is not coming to their home, then the other Maa rises up to the occasion.

What came out is a magnificent idol of Maa Durga, made with the little ones’ play dough.
Yes you read it right – the usual play dough you get in a toddlers home!
While Sayani gave shape and form to the idols, Balmiki made the ostros (weapons) for Maa Durga and next day, when the little kids woke up from their sleep, their little sleepy eyes found Maa Durga with her lion, sitting on the study table.
I will let you all, just imagine that moment – the smiles on their faces, jumping around in joy. They were so happy that this team also made some luchi for our Maa Durga as part of Oshtomi prayers!

But then this is not a “story”, a reality not too far away from us.
All it took was a Mother’s courage to do something to make her kids smile in these troubled, isolated times. This really proves that Maa Durga exists in every Bangali household, anywhere in the world, quite literally!

Beyond the current despair and sufferings, let Maa Durga shower her blessings for that brighter tomorrow with a cure available soon for the world.

Till then, stay home and stay safe (and leaving you with image of the team who did this!)

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