Shopping culture of Kolkata during the Durga Puja festival
When Durga Puja festival is round the corner and pandals are being erected with bamboo sticks at every nook and corner of the city, my mind only thinks of shopping at this moment. This year the Durga Puja begins on October 1 which is Saptami. There was a time when buying clothes during this time of the year was indeed something very special when school gave us vacation to welcome the arrival of the Mother Goddess Parvati from Kailash to her father’s home and worship her with utmost reverence on those five days when she stayed in her father’s home. That was the time each and every day was a long wait to prepare myself for the half-yearly examination and time and again taking my mind off from the pages of the books to count how many days were left for the puja shopping. Those days are now memories but the habit of buying new clothes and wearing the same to soak into the puja fervor still remains alive in our family culture.
|Puppet models inside a pandal in Kolkata.|
Kolkatans know where to shop since the city is known for her markets which have not only pampered us with a bountiful but business that takes place particularly during Durga Puja strengthens her economy and this has been the scenario since ages from era of the British Raj till today except those times when rain played a spoilsport for three to four days flooding streets and main roads. But that doesn’t deter the city people to feel less enthusiastic to start shopping which begins from now on till the festival. The open markets or ‘bajars’ have become healthier over the years and have taken the shape of markets across the length and breadth of the city. They have particularly developed along those belts of the city where residential localities have thrived with people coming and settling down from other parts of the country. This is the time shops offer huge sales on every item they are selling to the people and the public of Calcutta. Shopping, particularly clothes, can be really fun even one has to spend the whole day almost on his legs. The excitement of hopping through the markets is real fun if it can be done in the evening but a very few people have such the privilege for marketing after the scorching Sun gives a relief at the end of the day; but those who have markets in the vicinity are really lucky. Shopping experience in Kolkata during this time can save people from the suffocating crowd that can make the same activity very tiresome after some months. One will get to see a variety of new designs, cuts and new colours on dress materials especially for women and select their own choice of colours if they walk into plazas, arcades and malls at this time when two months are left for the puja. We can shop at Gariahat market while walking by the side of the road and drop in at any big store which we like. We can also visit the very-old and favourite of all, New Market, or just find the world in the glitzy malls of Forum or South City.
During my stay in the city of Banglore as a student I had got a chance to enjoy the Durga puja festival in the southern state of Karnataka where many Bengalees spend a quality period of their lives to gather a different feeling since Bengalees are also known for their migratory habit. There are associations and clubs of Bengalee community who conduct the Durga Pujo at the heart of the Bengaluru city and make the festival a real grand affair. Unlike Kolkata and her citizens, Bangalore has a prosperous shopping life since the cosmopolitan culture has led to a number of malls across the Silicon Valley of India. The big brands draw the youngsters to the stores and hook them to a colourful life which is apparently possible when men and women of all ages drape themselves according to their selection. The Kannadigas celebrate their own Ganesh Chaturthi festival and Yugadi (New Year in Karnataka) while Bengalees shop for the same to mix with those people who speak a completely different language. By dressing like their South Indian friends, a Bengali changes himself to a perfect South Indian.
I got so used to the shopping at glamorous malls in M. G. Road, Brigade Road and occasional visits at Commercial Street that even after coming back to the city my heart keeps missing those roads where I had walked to simply shop jeans and t-shirts.