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Durga Puja as a Homecoming Metaphor – Prasanta Chakravarty

(This is a guest post. It was also published in Hindustan Times, October 2, 2008)

Tagore’s short tale Kabuliwallah concludes right in the middle of autumn—saratkaal. Mini’s marriage takes place during the puja holidays, and Rahman’s own Parbati awaits her father’s return in her distant mountain home. Even as Mini prepares to initiate her journey to her in-laws, Rahman, having been released from his own figurative abode-of-the-in-laws, the jail, seeks home afresh in his “… mountains, the glens, and the forests of his distant home, with his cottage in its setting, and the free and independent life of far-away wilds.” Uma’s arche story is reinvented by Tagore and a secret bond is established between two fathers. But such weaving of the puranic akhyan as a homecoming narrative is realized, or used to be realized shall we say, at a different order where home is also a matter of participating in a certain generous spirit during the pujas. The essence of Kabuliwallah lies in basking in such an aura of human generosity. So, the fundamental question to me is whether such a spirit can be glimpsed during the pujas even today without being overly sentimental about it.

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