Durga Puja in Kolkata is a little like the bull market in Marwari households. Everyone has an opinion, everyone must participate, and everyone has to either feign extreme happiness at its start or extreme sadness at the end of it. So one can thank the RBI governor for giving us a 50 Basis point hike just on the eve of Durga Puja. The markets are feigning happiness at the start and it’s anyone’s guess how they will end up once the festive air is gone.
As I write this article I am waiting for my Bengali caretaker to arrive, who follows Kolkata standard time even in Mumbai. My only saving grace is that I am expecting her to provide suitable inputs on the article for a change as opposed to her disapproving views of my Marwari bachelor lifestyle. Only the fact that it’s the end of the month prevents her from shouting “Aye naahin cholbe”.
She informed me that during the months of Puja people must not sleep on the mattress but on the floor. Which makes perfect sense for a Marwari family given that’s where we keep all the cash hidden from the tax authorities. You can say we observe Durga Puja out of respect but we worship Lakshmi out of fear of losing her. We don’t wait till Diwali to worship her as we don’t want to go Diwaliya.
Much has been said of course about the insanity/excitement/stress/joy/mental health crisis of shopping for new clothes for Puja. As a perennial sufferer of thyroid problems, my attempts at buying new clothes are defeated at the altar of trying to determine my current measurements. My waist size has swung all the way from 26 to 36 and weight from 59 to 87 kilos and back in a little over a decade. I doubt even the share markets of Sri Lanka and Pakistan have seen such wild fluctuations.
Over the next five days, we will see kakus, kakis and dadas we haven’t seen for almost two years during the pandemic and lockdown fever. And once they have left at the end of the five days we will realise sadly…..exactly why we didn’t miss them for the last two years. An article on the best Durga Puja menus in Bengali restaurants has gained much viewership for this publication. Which tells you that the priorities of the typical Bengali are pretty sorted. It saddens me when my Bengali friends are more interested in my Swiggy order history than my international stock portfolio. “But you can buy hundreds of ilish if you had invested in Vietnamese fish plantations before the boom!” I want to scream at them. “You could drown yourself in imported vodhka soaked puchkas till the end of time, or till Subhas Chandra Bose returns if you had invested in USD”, I feel like crying at them…while re-checking the stash under my mattress.
I am reminded of my younger nephew’s anna prassana. Apart from freaking me out when the Bengali side of the family did the ‘ulu’ without preparing me for it, I was more interested in ensuring that he chooses the coin at the end when you are supposed to determine your future. Unfortunately, under the glaring peer pressure of Bengali elders, he chose the book. “But you can buy the whole of College Street with money” “Hell you can even hire an actual Penguin to publish your book from Antartica,” I whimpered, while shoving some US dollars under the mattress in his cradle (for tax purposes only).
Now there’s Navrati and Garba as well when everyone is too busy dancing around each other while our RBI governor dances around inflation, current account deficit and soaring interest rates. So let the musical game of chairs go on in Garba and in the stock markets. It’s only when the music stops will we realise whether the goddess is a Bengali or a Marwari.
(The author is a Marwari investment banker turned corporate comedian. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website)