Durga Puja | Siliguri

24-25 October 2023 

On the 24th of Ocotber 2023, I woke up at around 6AM. I stepped out to have my usual morning tea. Dada who sells tea in front of Hotel Saluja, on hill cart road was not to be seen. I assumed that he might have taken a day off considering that this was the last day of Dushera festival. I had tea and took a short walk around the town. 

The pandal at Ramakrishna ashram was empty. I had visited this place a week ago when the work was still in progress. Now, it was finished and the decoration looked spectacular. I had breakfast and then got ready to explore the other pandals

I walked to the post office hoping to send my postcards at least from Siliguri. But the place was obviously closed on the day of festival. I visited a few pandals on the way. 

I also stopped at my favourite sweet stores in Siliguri and packed some Sondesh for home. 

Even before noon, people had already started the visarjan of the Goddess. Most of these were families. The idol would be dipped in the river Mahananda. Family members were dancing in front of the procession. They applied colours on each other’s face. Beggars joined them dancing hoping for some treat.  People were confused whether they were to see the idol or the dance. 

I had my lunch and then followed the crowd to Mahananda river. As I stood there, many idols made its way to the river. Here, I witnessed something shocking. 

At the river, the devotees removed the flowers from the idol and then performed a final arati and dropped it into the river. As soon as the idol hit the water, several children from the neighbouring slums ran towards it. They pulled apart the decorative items from the idol before pushing it aside to make way for other idols. They pulled apart the hands, snatched its decorative pieces and garlands. I believe they will sell or reuse them for next time. I realised something very important that day – Religion and God are for the privileged. The poor do not give a damn about them. They have to fight for food and survive each day. They have no time for all this nonsense. 

Some men were heavily drunk. After immersing the idol, they splashed water at everyone standing at the river bank. A photographer requested the kids to turn the broken head of the Durga idol so that he could capture a beautiful picture. 

It all seemed utterly childish and heavily chaotic to say the least. As I walked back, more and more people came dancing towards the river. Behind them, the Durga idol was being carried in a vehicle. Suddenly, this joyous moment of celebration appeared very depressing to me. 

There was a man screaming at the procession. He shouted- “Mera koi jaath nahi. Mai kush hoon. Nachte raho, kush raho!” (I have no caste or religion, I am happy. Keep dancing. Be happy!) Now, everyone would consider him crazy. Because he was the odd man out there. But to me, everyone else appeared crazy. 

Not only is man mad, but he has also found creative ways to celebrate his madness. 

I went back to my hotel and did not wish to watch anymore of this nonsense. The processions kept coming all night as if a video clip was playing on a loop. 

Next morning, when I woke up, the entire town was quiet. I decided to walk back to the river. Here, I found a heap of idols , now in a dilapidated state, lying carelessly by the side of the river. Without the loud noise from the drums, one could hear the clear sound of the flowing water and chirping birds. It was so peaceful with no noisy humans around. I am sure that earth would not miss mankind, if we were to go extinct. 

I walked back from the ghat to the town centre and saw that the entire place was covered in trash. The celebration was over and people had left behind all the garbage that someone would have to come and clear. 

Dada who makes excellent tea was back. He was wearing a new Kurta. I had my cup of tea at his stall. I had already packed my luggage. After breakfast, I struck a deal with an auto rickshaw driver and made my way to the airport. I do like Siliguri as a town. This is not about a town, this is about humans in general. No matter where on earth you go, you will find one or other form of stupidity. In several ways, we are damaging and exploiting nature. Recognising our acts as stupid is indeed the first step to change. 

In the matter of a week, I had seen the effect of mankind on nature very clearly. From peaceful mountains to crowded and chaotic cities, I have closely observed the influence of mankind on this planet. I hope that someday, most of the humans would realise the futility of all these acts.

My Video on this event: