Durga Puja in Arizona
By Roshni Dasgupta
This was my first Durga Puja on foreign soil, made possible by the Fulbright Classroom Teacher Exchange Program, 2013-14 funded by the Washington Department of States.
Arizona, both my friends Angela and Nick say, is about as American as it gets. The burning sun and sands here and the torrential rains in Kolkata I kept hearing about in October made the time seem unreal and somewhat sad.
Discarding the two most apparent options- denial and despair- I decided to create a less morbid third - giving sophomore Honours English kids of Perry High, my host school, a dose of the five happiest daysof a Bengali’s year.
I had two things to go on. First, thanks to Greek tragedy and the knowledge of Greek Mythology that it’s study necessitates, the idea of a complex system of divinity which reflects the Indian system(if not in anything else, then in the number and variety of Gods and Goddesses), is not alien to most Literature classes in the US. And second, children everywhere like stories.
The story of Mahishasura the demon warrior, the creation of Durga, her subsequent battle with and victory over Mahishasura, as expected, was happily received, though the names were quickly forgotten; while forming any comprehensiveidea of Puja pandals, thronging crowds in blingy clothes and squeaky shoes, lakhs of Rupees worth of idols and decorations and year-long planning and organization for a period of no longer than 5 days proved to be challenging- challenging because the average American teenagers had no American counterpart to equate a celebration of this scale with.
The Indian snacks in class helped establish reality. Toothy American grins lined with the brittle adornment of sohanpapdi strands, was reminiscent of other children in another country twelve- and- a- half- hours away I loved and missed.
The success of such an exercise for me? Natalie, Blake, Connor, Doma and their friends today have Indian pictures and words in their heads which might just peep into their dreams now and then where they shall remain woven like tiny but sparkling sequins in their familiar beige desert fabric.
- The author is a part of Bichitra Pathshala team and is now a participant of the Fulbright Classroom Teacher Exchange program
|Part of Roshni's presentation about Indian Festivals can be seen along with snacks|
|Americans enjoying Indian snacks after listening to story of Durga Puja|