How COVID failed to dampen the Bharati Pujo spirit

My husband and I moved to Bangkok in August 2018, and were immediately welcomed into the Bharati Community. We got involved in the cultural programs and hopped from one rehearsal to another, which were always accompanied by delicious food and fabulous adda. We thoroughly enjoyed the first two years of Durga Puja, but then the pandemic hit in 2020, we had to compromise on the scale and have a much smaller celebration. However, after the second wave of COVID in 2021, Thailand increased restrictions and it was clear that we would not be able to hold the Durga Puja celebrations at all. Understandably, this was heartbreaking news for all of us – in the true-blue Bengali spirt, we didn’t want to give up on Pujo fun and we were determined that COVID couldn’t stop us.

Of course, we couldn’t break the government-imposed restrictions (yeah, Bengalis are generally a law-abiding bunch after all :D), so we decided to do the next best thing – have an online Durga Puja, pretty much like what every other Bengali in the world was doing. But we Bharatians are an innovative bunch that take fun seriously.???? So we decided to go on holidays in smaller groups and join the online pujo celebrations together. Saikat and I joined 5 other families and headed to Toscana Valley, a beautiful resort in Khao Yai National Park. We decked up in all our Pujo finery (including banarasi face-masks) much to the surprise of the resort staff and had all the usual Pujo fun. While the food was primarily Thai, we carried the taste of Bengal with us in a boxful of bonde courtesy Sudeshna and macher kochuri courtesy Pompi. The Bengali tradition of whole-night pandal hopping was replaced with night-long adda, games and even antakshari, in which one of our committee members regaled us with drunken renditions of Rabindrasangeet and three others with their melodious snoring :D. Our evening addas were accompanied by jhalmuri (yes, we carried all ingredients, including shorsher tel – nothing can beat our food committee’s attention to detail). On Ashtami morning, we collected flowers and did our Pushpanjali with due diligence. We also celebrated Sandhi Pujo in true Bharati tradition, decorating one of the larger rooms with flowers and lighting diyas (of course, we had to convince the resort staff to switch off the fire alarm first :D). As our retinue of cars made their way back on Dashami, it almost felt like we were going together for bisarjan. And we all agreed that it was a great idea to celebrate online Durga Pujo the Bharati way!

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