The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Puja pushback

There has been enough of fun and festivity, high spirits and hangover. Snap — here’s how you can get out of it and get back to life. Till next time, that is

Stare long and hard. At the empty Puja pandal, which will be there till Kali puja in many places. Or just stare at the spot where the pandal was and contemplate the blankness. Seek out darkness. Avoid everything that is embellished, sequinned and beaded. This isn’t a reference to saris or designer stuff alone. This is a reference to the look that defined the Pujas this year.

Knock off those kilos. Take a long, hard look at yourself. You have put on an obscene amount of weight in these few days by knocking in heaps of biryani, chow mein, double egg mutton rolls, ice cream and probably washing them down with bottles of Coke spiked with more bottles of rum. Plus the mishti, payesh and malpoas at home.

It’s showing on your face, and…. Nimbu Paani now, every morning, and only two chapatis for dinner. Or salad. Just plain salad.

Special warning for women. Reduce. Now. Because the countdown has begun for the Christmas-New Year season. You can hide your weight behind folds of saris during the Pujas, but where will you run in that hot hot dress on New Year’s eve'

So, time to starve (by Puja standards that is) and sweat it out.

Contemplate. Something as far removed as possible from the Pujas. A bar of soap' A scrub' The bathroom floor brush' No, the credit card. Count the dues on your credit card. Your eyes will clear. Call your credit card helpline. They offer payment in easy instalments now. Then try to recall what you have spent the money on. It will put you off the Puja spirit further. Remember that five-star lunch you were forced to buy your new-found festive friends... Think. Cringe.

Reconnect. Start watching TV. Start on the newspapers again. A lot has happened while you were away — Shashi Tharoor has dropped out of the UN chief’s race, thanks to the machinations of the evil US. An e-mail message with the full text of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s address to the UN General Assembly in New York on September 20, where he called Bush a devil, has started to circulate. Dengue has entered the Prime Minister’s home and chikungunya is the latest password for you to sound ‘with it’. Plea for Mohammad Afzal’s life has reached the President. Sourav Ganguly may well have played his last match as a serious Team India aspirant. Kapil Dev is backing players to go putt-putt against the establishment — on the fairways, of course...

Closest home, Mamata Banerjee’s lungs have been allegedly affected from the police treatment at Singur. Trinamul didn’t attend the all-party meeting on the issue called by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Mamata has called a bandh tomorrow.

Ask yourself, what can I do'

Look at the clothes… you wore during the Pujas. One terrible thing about the Pujas ending is that new clothes turn old during these five days. But face them. Don’t gloss over stuff. No hiding your dirty linen. That stain on the formerly pristine white kurta won’t go away unless you own up to it and send it to the laundry. You sin, you wash it. Areas that require special attention are the circular patches that form around the underarm in silk blouses and kurtas.

And with Lakshmi puja also over and done with, it’s high time you slipped right back into those comfy tees and jeans.

Avoid people… who are still asking “Pujo kemon katlo'” Stop saying Shubha Vijaya or Shubho Bijoya or whatever kept rolling off your tongue for the past week. Get out of the Puja conversation mode and stop smiling and nodding at every familiar face. Get tough. Get real.

Don’t mind… if someone you know had his office closed on Lakshmi puja. Or if he will get a two-day break during Diwali/Kali puja. Do not get angry with your colleague who has pipped you to the post by getting the day off on Bhai Phonta. Accept that the next official holiday is on December 25.

And then, count how many sisters and female cousins you have. Resolve to buy each one of them a nice, expensive gift. A perfume should not be downgraded to a body spray. Now think of Bhai Phonta, again.

See the brighter side. There is no prospect of ear-splitting ulu-dhwani or conch-blowing contests, silly para fashion shows, off-key antakshari programmes and boring quiz contests for one whole year. So, you can get back to doing your own thing, and silently.

Do the toughest thing. Snap out of the adda mode, something that really makes Bengalis and Calcuttans. The closest analogy to adda probably is a long, meandering piece of thread. Or muted Hindustani classical playing in the background, with just a little bit coming back and back again. It’s a lilting, lingering thing, which refuses to die. What if the para rock has rolled on at most places except a few old lanes' Adda as a way of life remains.

That’s why a week after the Pujas are over, the pandals, or the empty spots where the pandals were, are still drawing the residents in small huddles. Men in the morning, women in the evening. They haven’t yet got over who looked best, who sang best, who danced best, who got drunk easily, who didn’t give the chanda — and what is going to happen next Puja! Avoid them. Think of work, promotions, increment, bonus — yes, next year’s Puja bonus.

Brave the bandh... to beat the Puja blues. Trust Mamata Banerjee to call a bandh in this season — and on the Monday after Friday Lakshmi puja! But don’t think of the good old days when a bandh meant mangsho-bhaat lunch after a good para cricket session. Go to work on Monday morning. And before you know it, the talking point will be the 12-hour bandh — and not the five-day Puja.

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