Well, Durga Pujo came and went but for us unlucky peeps here who didn’t go back home and had to go to college during the days of Maha Soptomi – Maha Doshomi, most likely for the first time when you went to any educational institution during these 4 days, things couldn’t have been worse. Submitting the assignments or preparing for them while looking at the Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp feed full of pictures of your friends and family back home celebrating Durga Puja and uploading pictures of the authentic Kolkata Biryani and pandals, both of which you do not get anywhere over here and missing out on the Shalimar Pujo special ad, it might feel like a part of you just died.
I personally have been suffering from the same, from hopping 70+ pandals in 2018 to not even seeing a single pandal / statue of Maa Durga with her kids away from my phone screen while trying to do an assignment during Soptomi, knowing that I have to attend college on Doshomi because this year Dussehra is falling on Nobomi, I felt dead inside. Even though a lot of places in an around Manipal celebrates Dasara and there is Dandiya Nights, it can never really fill the void in your heart that gets created due to the lack of any kind of authentic Durga Puja feeling. And that is when I realised that I will not end this year without seeing a single statue of Maa Durga and suddenly the plan was made. I was gonna go to Mangalore.
Around 60 kms from Manipal, Mangalore boasts of a big Bengali community who hosts Durga Puja every year. Even though my plans were ready for going to Mangalore on Ostomi while sporting the only new set of clothes I had left, I had no idea about the city that covers around 120 square kilometers. But determined still, I woke up at 6:30 am on the only rainy day in a while in Manipal (Damn my luck) and set out for the unknown city.
Taking a KSRTC Volvo AC bus is your best bet as a round trip from Manipal to Mangalore costs just Rs 150 while each side costs around Rs 90, while the non AC counterparts hardly costs Rs 60. Getting into the random bus alone and getting down along with 7 other Bengalis from Manipal itself who were also going to experience Durga Pujo in Mangalore was nothing but a beautiful experience and I realised that even though you might feel you are the only Bengali not going home during Durga Pujo, you are mistaken and there will always be a lot of people who are sharing the same feelings like you.
Lal Baug, a stop that comes right after entering Mangalore is one of the places to go during Durga Pujo for any Manipalite as the place boasts of a huge Bengali community and you will most likely be able to see more Bengalis from Manipal than you ever got to see in your entire college tenure. The place gives you the full Kolkata’s “Parar Pujo” vibes. Even though it misses a temporary themed pandal, the speakers spewing old Bengali songs like “Chiro din e tumi je amar” and the option to give Onjoli along with delicious bhog and most importantly, A PROPER DURGA MAA’S STATUE ALONG WITH ALL HER KIDS SEPERATELY. I personally almost cried when I saw the beautiful sight that took me back home momentarily and I felt like I wasn’t missing out.
The rest of the journey didn’t include Pandal hopping ofcourse due to the lack of pandals, but we went out food hunting (Searched for proper biryani and failed horribly, yet it was a fun experience) and roamed around a major hunk of the beautiful city in the next 4 hours.
Obviously, the Pujo over here is not comparable to the ones we see back at home, but then again we left our homes and traveled more than 2000 kilometers not to celebrate Durga Pujo but to get a proper education at the end of the day which we do get and comparing your life when you were back at home to what you have now personally does not make sense in any way, so the best thing you can do is to make do with whatever you get and enjoy to the fullest. Do not miss out on an experience and a slice of home during Durga Pujo by just lazying around the hostel enjoying your 1 day Dussehra holiday, go to Mangalore, see the pandals, have food and enjoy feeling like you are a proper Bengali again for one day because something will always be better than nothing.
Subho Bijoya, Bhalo thakun bhalo rakhun.