The last week was special to every Bengali. My alarm woke me up early on Mahalaya morning so I could listen to Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s Mahishasur-Mardini on the radio. I grew up hearing Mahishasur-Mardini playing on the radio in every house in our para (neighborhood) in north Kolkata. Even today, when I hear “Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu”, I am instantly filled with positivity and happiness. A relaxed autumn sky, Chandipath blaring in the wee hours, and the fragrance of Shiuli flowers create the feelings of “Ma Asche” goddess Durga is coming.

Mahalaya and Durga Puja this year are even more meaningful to me, as I have the privilege of spending the festival with my family and parents after several years. For people living far away from their hometown, working remotely can have its advantages. I awoke at 4 am on the Mahalaya day, turned on our radio, and Chandipath began playing. I felt like I was reliving my childhood. Music has the power to bring back memories. I walked up to the other side of the room and opened the old louvered windows. The air felt a bit nippy in the morning. There was something familiar in the air, like that old friend you haven’t seen in a long time but have loved all your life. It’s Autumn in my favorite city.

This year’s Durga puja is different for another reason. Amid the ongoing pandemic, people aren’t allowed to gather at pandals. Durga puja is expected to remain a low-key festival for the second consecutive year. The festival is most likely to be observed with strict COVID protocols, as it was last year. For traditional artisans who earn a living from making idols for Durga Puja, this has been especially difficult. Normally they receive orders and begin crafting Durga puja idols five months before the festival, but this year there were only a few orders. There are fewer promotional banners and gates on the road than in the past. The brands had to be creative with their marketing. Video content has redefined brand storytelling for many brands. I have curated a collection of ad films depicting themes of love, courage, belonging, and hope in my recent blog post.

Happy Durga Puja!


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