Today is Saraswati Puja, the last noteworthy festival in this Bengali calendar year. The air is rife with strains of popular songs wafting in from everywhere. For the para young the day has started very early in the morning, if only to start the loudspeakers to play the songs. School-goers too are quick to begin their day (without being called to wake up), while some of them (the ‘proud’ group of few) would have spent the night in the company of the goddess.
Today is that rare occasion when parents do not mind if their young ones spend the day on their feet, shuttling from here to there. For girls saree is a must-wear, and their mothers would have heavily pinned the attire at strategic places lest it opens up without any warning. Few boys will however wear dhoti-kurta, but may prefer churidar-kurta instead, if not just casual dressing.
What though clinches as the day’s top priority for would-be teen lovers is to express hitherto unspoken love to sweethearts. Tips are freely given by ‘veterans’ as to how to go about. Boys trail the girls from school to school, and for once the latter don’t mind (rather they enjoy). If the lovebirds do meet face to face, it’s seldom that they can actually speak love, for they are aware they are being closely watched by curious friends.
Perhaps just a letter will exchange hands, and if in the process there’s a small touching each other, the joy knows no bounds. Vows are made to extend love in the future.
Indeed, Saraswati Puja is the lovemaking day for the young, much like the now-favorite Valentine’s Day. But it is also the occasion when young parents take their tiny ones to priests for hatay-khori, initiating the child to the world of learning. It’s a ritual rarely missed by first-time parents.
The last in the category of eager expectants on this day are those who will appear in school board exams in a couple of months. Today they carry books of those those subjects to keep at the feet of Maa Saraswati in which they do not expect to fare well, hoping fervently that Maa’s blessings would help them sail through with good marks.
Hatay-khori in Melbourne puja [Picture source]
Puja feast at Bengal Cultural Association, London [Picture source]
Today is also Netaji’s birthday, and if you leave the routine garlanding of his statue in Shyambazar, Netaji Bhavan (on Elgin Road) and elsewhere, it’s only in schools that the great son of soil is remembered with fervor. This year Saraswati Puja has overtaken the importance of remembering Netaji.