(This post is by Sandeepa and is shared in parts with Bong Mom's Cookbook)
While discussing Durga Pujo, memories, food etc at my other blog, I forgot to tell you the most important thing, the one thing I liked most about Durga Pujo since I was a little girl of six. It was a tradition if you let me use the term, every year since I was six.
It is the Pujo Shankhya or the Annual Puja Numbers. Now Bengal being the literary state that it is, it has a very rich history of art & literature. So during Durga Pujo, the publishing houses like Ananada Publishers, Deb Sahitya Kutir etc. bring out special editions of the monthly magazines published by them.
These special editions are thick volumes with literary gems from all renowned Bengali authors. Packed with writings by the best authors, these Puja Numbers are something I and every Bengali child in their right mind would look forward to.
When I was a kid, my Ma in her effort to teach me Bangla would get me monthly subscriptions of the very popular Bengali children’s magazine Anandamela. During Durga Pujo this AnandaMela would come out in its special edition with colorful, glossy jacket and stories & articles in different flavors from all famous, almost famous, trying to get famous authors. It was the biggest treat a child could ever have.
Those days these were published and available in the market around Mahalaya and in our small town we would book our copy with the local paper wallah days in advance, in fact right after summer. So while Mahalaya meant getting up at 4 AM to listen to Birendra Krishna Bhadra, it also meant pestering the Paper wallah every day to see if the coveted book had arrived. I cannot quiet explain the excitement, the waiting, the longing for the book to arrive. Days were spent thinking what “Gogol”* might do and where “Santu”** might land up with “kakababu”**. The book would finally arrive along with My Ma’s copy of Desh or Anandabazaar patrika and many blissful hours would be spent in its magical pages.
Even now Durga Pujo for me is incomplete without Pujo Shankhya and I either buy them here or get my Ma to send them. With the Sharadiya being published way in advance these days, my ma easily finds someone to send me the copies and their arrival heralds the onset of Durga Pujo.
Along with shiuli and kashful, the Sharadiya Pujo Shankhya means Durga Pujo to me.
I do not think I will get around teaching my daughter to read Bengali or maybe I would, but if I didn't, I know she will miss out on the wait for these special editions which with their glossy jackets and mesmerizing tales carried the fragrance of Durga Pujo.
*Gogol -- fictional character by Samaresh Babu, another legendary author
** Santu & kakababu -- fictional characters by Sunil Gangopadhyay, a very famous Bengali author