Autumn heralds the arrival of Durga Puja, a festival that we all look forward with bated breath. After Ganesh Chaturthi that marks the beginning of the puja season, it is Vishwakarma puja that sets the mood for the spiritual days that lies ahead. And since childhood Lord Vishwakarma had occupied a special place in my heart too. Bless my father who had started the tradition of observing the annual Vishwakarma Puja in our house. Yeah it has been a tradition that has been going on in our house since I can remember and after dad, it’s my brother who is taking it ahead. Every year we would await its arrival with bated breath and enthusiasm. Lord Vishwakarma is usually associated with machinery, construction etc and since my father was connected to a transport business, Lord Vishwakarma was a reigning deity in our household.
Our childhood was spent around dad’s city busses that he used to ply on the city roads. And he had quite a few, in fact our long driveway resembled a garage or workshop of sorts with three to four buses lined up one after the other. We and perhaps our disgruntled neighbors too always woke up to the ruckus created by the handyman and drivers of the busses who would invariably wash the busses till they were squeaky clean and only after offering prayers to Lord Vishwakarma would they leave the premises. Mornings would be noisy in our compound with the sound of water being splashed on the buses and the sound of the buses’ engine revving up. And my father would watch the buses leave the compoundone after the other as if bidding goodbye to one’s own children. Yes, he treated them like his own children. In fact they were given names too. I remember, one was called Aidew, one Baidew and when they retired for the night and came home to be parked in their spots did our day end.
We grew up playing hide and seek inside the buses playing driver and conductor… sigh those were the days! We would shout like the handyman of the bus who would shout at the top of his voice every time the bus was steered into the compound with words like Ahibo diyok, jabo diyok, etc. And once the bus reached its spot, he would bang on the sides of the bus signaling the driver to stop. We were familiar with every part of the bus as often if something was not right the mechanic would be called and the parts of the machinery would be lying about for our prying eyes to inspect. The gearbox, the shock absorber, the Voxel, etc. And my father often ended up giving nicknames to his staff that would be parts of some machinery! I remember one who was christened Boltu after a Bolt. And these names became so popular that they stuck and everyone would call them by these unusual names. Though Aidow, Baidew and the others are long gone these names have remained. And one such person who my father had renamed as Voxel has remained even after ages. In fact no body recognizes Voxel by his real name, which is Prabhat, but Voxel. His nickname is quite popular and has become a household name!
Obviously we were regular visitors to the garages too as often Aidew or Baidew would develop a technical snag and my father would make frequent visits to the workshops. And I used to tag along with him too as we sat for hours in the garages awaiting the quick recovery of the vehicles. Sometimes dad would just by the chassis and then turn it into a bus from scratch. The metamorphosis of the chassis into a beautiful public transport used to be a delight to watch.
Obviously, Vishwakarma Puja was a big deal in our house. It all started with choosing the perfect idol after a visit to the idol maker in Panbazar. Other things included consulting the pujari sending out invitations to friends and family, deciding the menu which was always the Khichri and kheer, etc. And on D day our house would beam with mirth and laughter. The aroma of freshly made khichri added with the scent of incense and dhuna was what we waited with bated breath. It was heavenly to say the least…my parents busy catering to the guests, me and bro busy with our friends and cousins are now a major part of our golden childhood memories. And evenings were solely dedicated to hopping
Vishwakarma puja pandals across the city mostly held in all the garage and workshops. Most of the pandals would be lit up with beautiful lights and often they would compete with each other in terms of decorations and miniature models of vehicles, etc.
Now the tradition is still being carried out in our house, though those days and those people are no longer there the new generation is observing it in their own unique ways. For us Vishwakara puja is the harbinger of the Durga puja festivities and this year would be no different. The Principal Architect of the Universe blessess all of us and grant us the power of knowledge, working skills and efficiency to celebrate life in all its goodness.
The countdown begins for Maa Durga’s arrival as Lord Vishwakarma is bid adieu and the half carved idols of the mother goddess nears its completion. The puja pandals are in various stages of construction that doubles the excitement in every devotee’s heart. The markets are abuzz with shopping festivals and discount melas, the traffic on the roads, the sudden showers, the waterlogged streets… nothing, nothing can dampen the spirit of the reveler that awaits and prepares to welcome the Shakti Rupini in their lives. And this year is no different we are all set to welcome her amidst us… is that the strains of the Mahishashura Mardini and Chandi Path I hear…..I can’t wait for the dhaak beats to fill the air.
Rituparna Goswami Pande