# Perth, Australia: Sitting about seven thousand kilometers away from the country, Pujo is a lot like not being in the country, suddenly when I see cashew flowers in exile, I think this country is also my own. I live in Perth, Western Australia. The autumn sky here is not understood separately, there are clouds and blue sky like cotton wool throughout the year. However, in the arrival message of Birendra Krishna Bhadra on YouTube, the sky I know also spreads the smell of puja.
Perth is a very small town. The capital of the state of Western Australia. Quite the opposite of Sydney, Melbourne or other cities in Australia. So maybe Perth It is said to be the most isolated, secluded, isolated city in the world. But even then the gathering of Bengalis here is not less. And what does it mean that Bengali will not be our best festival of all time? The census of Bengali heads in Perth with a total population of 24 lakhs is done during this puja.
At first there was a pujo committee here, the Bengali Association of Western Australia (BAO). Later the number of Bengalis increased, with which the number of pujas increased. Now there are a few more pujos besides the Bengali Association. One of which is ‘Expatriate Bengali Pujo Committee’, ‘Bangladeshi Pujo Committee’. Not only Bengalis, but also all the festival-loving Indians used to celebrate the festival with their pujo committee ‘United Indians of Western Australia’. All this is an excuse to take the joy of these few days a little more.
Let’s have a weekend puja here. According to the calendar, worship cannot be done. Friday evening 6th, Saturday morning Mahasaptami, Saturday evening Mahastami, Sunday morning 9th and 10th. Of course, there is a reason why there is no holiday in the middle of Pujo week, and since everything from ‘shoe sewing to chandipath’ has to be done by oneself, it is not always possible to observe the day. I think Pujo’s sari has to be brought from the Punjabi country. The sari Punjabi stored all year round comes down from the cupboard. Padma is not available, so pujo is usually done with local orchids.
Bhuribhoja is an integral part of Bengali puja, there is no shortage of it. However, there is no harm in Tagore and Jogandar. Floating with emotion, even after wearing sari make-up, some of them laughed and shook their heads. Pujo is cooked by at least two hundred and three hundred people for two days. A large Bengali family in Perth eats rice and goat meat soup on the evening of Dashmi, starting from khichuri, labra and tomato date chutney. However, the responsibility of cooking is mainly for men.
Well known Bengali artists like America do not come to program. On the contrary, rehearsals have been going on among themselves for several months in the organization of Pujo’s ‘Cultural Evening’. Just like in the pujo pandal of the neighborhood, a little bit. There may not be the glamor of a famous artist, but there is a story of a boy or a girl suddenly becoming a one-day artist. Dhunuchi is danced here but without fire (that the fire alarm will sound). The evening pujo arti has to be fertilized with electric tuni, the drum does not come, but there is a cover. There they play to their heart’s content like ‘How long will Thakur stay, Thakur will be abandoned’. Dance in the game of vermilion. Idols are not floating here. After Dashmi the idol is preserved for the next year.
The Australian border has been closed for corona since March 2020. It is not yet certain when it will open. Australia is a deltaic island. An uninterrupted country surrounded by the sea, now that the border is closed, we really feel like we live in another world. Since last year, the planes carrying expatriate Bengali passengers to Kolkata have stopped during Pujo. These wishes of ‘going home during Pujo’ now seem like a fantasy. However, to keep Pujo’s passion alive, let’s assume that a handful of Bengalis are stuck in a huge delta island and worship the goddess like themselves.
However, due to the closure of the border, the effect of corona is not very much here. At least Western Australia is almost corona-free. So it is not mandatory to wear a mask here. However, some changes have to be made in the organization of Pujo. Earlier there was a free movement of Bengalis in the pujas, but now there is a limit of 300 people. Pujo committees have had to make their presence known for several months in advance, so that they too can abide by the 300-person limit rule.
‘When will the epidemic end?’, ‘When will I be able to go to the country?’ We do not have the answer to this question. But what is there is faith, trust – just like a child sleeping peacefully in the mother’s womb, what is the mother thinking? Survive this belief in everyone’s mind. On behalf of this large Bengali family in Perth, I would like to convey the love and best wishes of Shubh Shardiya. Stay well, stay healthy.
(Author Ipsita Majumdar is a resident of Perth, Western Australia)