Go back to
Home » My Kolkata » Durga Puja Special » The ritual of listening to Mahalaya on radio is important: Prothoma Rai Chaudhuri

Durga Puja 2023

The ritual of listening to Mahalaya on radio is important: Prothoma Rai Chaudhuri

Why the author-professor has a special connection with Mahalaya and what she plans to do in case she gets 10 hands like Durga

Priyam Marik | Published 13.10.23, 02:59 PM
Prothoma Rai Chaudhuri will be spending her Durga Puja this year in parts of Jammu and Punjab

Prothoma Rai Chaudhuri will be spending her Durga Puja this year in parts of Jammu and Punjab

Courtesy Prothoma Rai Chaudhuri

A senior professor of political science at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, by day and the author of multiple novels, short stories and micro fiction by night, Prothoma Rai Chaudhuri (who writes under the pseudonym of Shrutidhora P Mohor) can churn out words almost as fast as Ma Durga can slay demons. While the rest of the year usually proceeds at breakneck pace for Prothoma, Durga Puja (with her college on vacation) is a time for some pause, if not reflection.

My Kolkata spoke to Prothoma to learn about her Puja plans for 2023, her favourite memory, which power of Durga can help her multi-task and more.


My Kolkata: Do you usually spend Durga Puja in Kolkata?

Prothoma Rai Chaudhuri: Generally not. I get a long vacation during this time and this is always the occasion for a family trip of nine to 10 days to any part of India outside West Bengal. This year, it’s a trip to parts of Jammu and Punjab.

I used to visit pandals with enthusiasm when I was in school. But, over the years, my tolerance of crowds has gone down sharply. I detest the chaos that takes over the city from two months prior to the actual festive time and routinely grumble over the mess that roads and pavements become, the traffic jam which is the unmistakable highlight of the entire episode, and everything that gets held up because of the festive days!

Any special outfit(s) for Puja this year? If not, what do you usually wear?

I’m not much of a buyer, and certainly not one for festive occasions. I avoid shops and the crowds that invariably gather there. My eternally boring look stays the same for all 365 days. I’m always in salwar-kameez. However, I do gift a few things to those of my friends who may not be able to do their shopping as extensively as they would’ve liked to.

Is there a special event or tradition (personal or ritualistic) that you follow during Puja?

The personal tradition is to listen to the Mahalaya presentation on the radio. I associate that programme with a sense of loss and departure, mentally connecting with everyone who has left me and gone, within the family, in my circle of friends and relationships. The nip in the air at 4am is a sensation that I feel every year and this annual ritual is important to me for its other-worldliness. The rest of the days, as long as I’m at home, are meant for a slightly relaxed routine and for clearing pending work.

Do you have a special memory associated with Puja in Kolkata or elsewhere?

Puja memories are tied up with long stays at my grandparents’ home when I was in school. I’d be the only child in a group of adults there. Those stays were the basis of interesting, precocious exposures to adult discussions and debates, to the first phase of political socialisation that I underwent, and to the undisturbed trials of absurd imagination, which used to take my mind in any and every direction.

What is your favourite Puja-time food?

I’m not a foodie, so no specific excitement about that. The goal is rather to have slow meals without having to look at the clock and run for work!

One power of Durga you wish you had and why.

The power to have and use all 10 hands together! That would make it possible for me to finish a lot of my work ahead of time. I could then have room to stare out of the window. On a more serious note, I’d choose the power to eliminate evil, as it’s the most compelling and necessary capability.

Last updated on 13.10.23, 02:59 PM

More from My Kolkata