You’ve seen him strumming up a storm during concerts of Fossils. But you probably won’t see him at many a pandal. Allan Temjen Ao, lead guitarist of the legendary Bangla rock band, finds joy in the subtleties of Durga Puja. The musician spoke to My Kolkata about his relationship with the festival.
My Kolkata: How do you celebrate Durga Puja?
Allan Temjen Ao: Pujo for me is about spending time with family and friends, and eating a lot of great food together. I’m not much of a pandal-hopper, but I do enjoy seeing everyone decked up and revelling in the awesome festive mood.
Which are your favourite pandals?
I don’t really like crowds, so I refrain from pandal hopping. We typically just go to the neighbourhood pujos – including Maddox Square, Ballygunge Cultural, Tridhara, and Samaj Sebi Sangha.
What is your favourite thing about the festival?
Definitely the build up. I love seeing pandals being constructed in every lane and park of the city. Besides that, my complex ropes in dhaakis, and I wake up every morning of the festival to the sound of the dhaak. There are other simple joys, like eating delicious food in the local stalls, and catching up with people we haven’t met in a long time.
Any Pujo gig stories from over the years?
Many! I have been to the US a few times for gigs during Durga Puja. They don’t have an extended holiday period there, and I was amazed to see how they cram the entire celebration from Sashthi to Dashami into a three-day period from Friday to Sunday. I was also in awe of how they recycle and reuse their protimas. Closer home, playing in Bangalore has made me feel like I’m still in Kolkata. Such a huge Bengali diaspora! Another story I remember is from a few years ago at Samaj Sebi Sangha, when they had built the longest ramp. While performing there, I got in the zone and walked so far ahead, that I literally had to run back to change my processor (laughs).
Do you have any special pujo traditions?
Every Ashtami, we have friends and family over for a community lunch. After that, we host a long adda session at home, followed by some dumb charades. In the evening, if my friends and family can convince me to go out, we visit the neighbourhood pandals and just soak in the atmosphere.
Your fondest Puja memory?
When I was growing up in Nagaland, there would be a Durga bari there where all the Bengalis would celebrate. There, toy sellers would sell pistols with replaceable caps, which could be fired to simulate an actual pistol. I always associate those pistols with pujo. Another memory I hold sacred is from my high school days, after moving to Kolkata, when I took off with my friends for two consecutive all-nighters, visiting all the pandals and going on all the rides. It was amazing!
Basanti Pulao and mutton kosha – a favourite of Allan’s
What is your favourite Pujo food?
I love all the chops, fish fry, mutton cutlet, dim’er devil, and luchi and chholar dal. My favourite, of course, is the Basanti Pulao and mutton kosha combo.
What is one power of Maa Durga that you would like to imbibe?
The ability to do everything with absolute passion, devotion and love, while leaving the rest to the will of a superior power. I want to focus on my actions with intent, without thinking about the outcome.