Are the puja celebrations still held on a small scale as they were when your grandfather did it?

Yes, actually nothing much has changed. The pandal is in our home compound. From our balcony we can see the festivities. It was a puja started by my family. And even now it is referred to as our puja. This time I'm travelling to Kolkata for the puja after a gap of a few years. I will be there on Saptami, Ashtami and spend a few more days. I have become spiritual of late and I intend to participate in all the rituals. I also love Bengali food.

Is there anything else planned on this trip to Kolkata?

Yes, I will visit Kalighat and offer prayers. Other than that, I don't think my family, friends and neighbours will allow me to step out much. I'm actually a prisoner during the puja season. The entire neighbourhood is protective about me. They don't want me going too far because the city is very crowded in this season. And, also because they are very possessive about me and they would rather I spend time with them than loiter here and there. Frankly even I like it that way. There is something about home that binds you. Everytime I'm in Kolkata for puja, the entire family takes a trip down memory lane. Childhood memories come flooding back. It's nice.

It is stating the obvious. But for a Bengali, Durga Puja is that special time of the year, right?

Yes, it is. When I was growing up, we lived in New Delhi. I must confess that the most exciting time of the year for my sisters, my parents and me, was the train journey on the Rajdhani Express from Delhi to Kolkata for our family puja. Mum would pack goodies for the train journey; sometimes we children even slept on the floor of the compartment with our chaddars (bedsheets) and through the journey, we chatted like excited magpies about how our cousins and grandparents would be waiting for us on the other end.

You once said that the puja holidays were straight out of a fairytale for you. Do you remember the details?

Of course, I do. As I said my grandmother, Thama (Dad's mom) was a petite lady with silver hair. She would be sitting on the bed and we children would run around the room. She bought us new clothes, gave us pocket money to spend in the puja holidays and stuffed our mouths with sweets. I was a tubby child; I resembled a rossagolla. And I was nicknamed siren. All the neighbours, aunts and uncles would pull my cheeks and every time they did that I would wail, letting out a sound that resembled a siren.

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