Puja in the House

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Asan Bibi Puja

There are times when you need to turn watchman. This morning, for instance. There was a puja (Asan Bibi) at home, the kind in which only married women can take part. So I was up and about early in the morning, err, earlier than usual, and all set to receive people at the door. A whole battalion of ladies came along. In thick, summer defying saris, with packets of sweets and agarbattis in their hands. “How are you beta?” “Very well aunty.” I nodded at them all, showing them to the puja room where preparations were on. 

Now, the rules for this puja are interesting. You cannot speak or move from your place, but only make sounds in your throat if you need something. When I was younger, these aunties would make all kinds of gurgling noises and exhibit their expertise with gestures. Such was the expertise that I could hardly ever decipher what they wanted. Titters would follow and several “arey beta….”(s) would go off in succession after the puja was completed. By now, I have a protocol. If at all you need something, there is a writing pad and a pen. No gestures please.

Cups of Tea

After prayers, it is time for tea and snacks. Packets and packets of wafers and namkeen were bought yesterday, a few of which I smuggled in secret containers. “Who is going to eat all that?” I demanded, as Dad brought some fresh maal in the evening. But I found out as the day went by. Stocking up is always wise, come rain or women-brigade. The packets vamoosed over gossip. “Our maid’s daughter ran away with the milk wallah, can you imagine?” “Seems to me our maid has joined your maid’s daughter. She hasn’t been to work for over a week.” “Then how do you manage to go to office with all the housework pending?” “Oh I have put my husband to it. He does a neat job of cleaning up the dishes.” Munch, munch. Giggle, giggle.

“So when are you getting married beta?” “There’s time aunty.” “Don’t be too long, you know. As is, few men have your kind of height.” Tell me something I don’t know. This is what you have been repeating since I was in prep school. Wait till she measures R with her ruler and finds out he is a few centimetres shorter than me. “Oh hardly an issue, didi.” Mom puts in. “We will have her man in heels on the wedding.” Really, sometimes there’s no way you cannot love my Mom.

There will be a time when I will also be part of such a puja. I will put on a traditional sari and line my feet with alta. There will be fasting in the morning, feasting after noon. When I am the hostess, I will need to cook an elaborate lunch menu for everyone. Complete with dessert and chutney. R will have to help me if he wishes to retain people. With my cooking, they may very well politely say “we can do without the lunch D…the tea was very filling.”

No matter what, when the house is fragrant with sandalwood agarbatti and oil lamps are aglow, I cannot help but smile. When people get together to pray to the Goddess, it becomes elementary to believe that there indeed is a healer of woes, soother of pains. As Mom goes about placing the puja flowers among my books, I walk outside to the balcony and look up at the blue, summer sky. There are patches of white clouds here and there, fluffy and playful. Even as I look on, a slender ray of the evening sun falls on the tulsi plant, lighting up the green leaves in a twilight glory.

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About Deboshree

~D.B. The one who loves to cook up abstract stories about all and sundry.

53 responses »

  1. Hello dear,
    Thank you for sharing your lovely story with us all. I have a question though please.. If I want to get a copy of the katha where can I go n what do I ask for? As in what is the books name n author’s name.. My mom had attended n even hosted this puja when she was newly married but cannot remember much about the katha.. Would you be able to please give me an author name or even share the katha here for us if you have the time.. Sorry for the inconvenience in advance but I am getting married next month n would love to host this in my new home..
    Thank you again..
    Lots of love n wishes,
    Desperately waiting for your reply,
    Swati

    Reply
    • Hi Swati, thanks for writing in!
      The katha-book is back at home; I have asked my Granny to look it up. I will definitely let you know the details on that in a while – certainly by evening today.
      My best wishes for your marriage. May God bless you both.
      Hope to see you around more often. :)

      Reply
      • Hi Swati,

        Please note the details of the book:

        “Mushkil Aasan Vrata Katha”
        Author: Pandit Shayamacharan Bhattacharjee

        We got our copy from Kolkata. I hope it will be available at your place. Let me know if you need any more help with this.

        Reply
  2. the last para? it stole my heart !!! Hugs Deb!

    Reply
  3. Deboshree can you give some more details of this pujo, I need it urgently and plz also let me know if you have book in bengali or hondi

    Reply
    • Hey Rajat, welcome to Saddi Delhi. :)
      What exactly do you need to know? Feel free to write in. We have the Vratkatha (book) in Bengali. I am not sure if one is available in Hindi as well but ideally, there should be translations.

      Reply
  4. Is that a Bong tradition?? never heard about it!

    Reply
  5. This puja is new to me… never heard of it before… but sounds interesting! :) It’s always fun to have such celebrations/puja’s at home… :)

    Reply
  6. What a lovely, wistful post, Deboshree. I don’t really know why, but I had tears in my eyes when I read this.

    Reply
    • Thanks a lot Sudha. :) Really. :)
      About the tears – you know, I still always find my eyes wet on Dussehra every year. After four days of Durga Puja festivities, when Ma has to return home, it is a moment that is preoccupying.

      Reply
  7. Hearing about it for the first time :(
    It does sound interesting due to the concoction of religion..
    I think Karan Johar should include this puja in his next movie so that I get a better visualisation :P

    PS:Your Mom rocks!!

    Reply
    • It is a very niche Bengali puja and that is probably why you haven’t heard of it…but the basic essence is one that unites all faiths. :)
      Ha ha… it is indeed a splendid idea! Long time since KJ worked on a typical, family drama.
      Oh she does, doesn’t she? :D Thanks Bhavia! :D

      Reply
  8. ow…I love reading about your culture…but I have some questions.

    Why only married women?
    Why cant they talk?
    Is there a specific time to do it?

    sorry for giving more than one question ;)

    Reply
    • Novroz, while my knowledge of the finer details is still sketchy, I can quote from here:
      “Asan Bibi brata, which, according to the author, “ was the most popular of the pledges taken by the women in the small Bengali community of Delhi to which Shashishekhar and Mrinalini belonged.”

      Even today this brata is celebrated by many in Chittaranjan Park, which is called the “little Bengal” of Delhi. Chakravarti tells the reader about the origin of the brata. To quote, “The legend was woven round a Muslim woman with extraordinary powers. She could make anything easy for anyone who invoked her aid—be it for the birth of a male child, the marriage of a daughter or the health or fidelity of a husband.”

      The puja entails reading of the whole story and generally takes an hour or two. About the not talking part, it could be to maintain the sanctity of the story… (more reasons I will find out from Mom) :D

      Reply
  9. wow…i’ve never heard of this one before :)
    hehe…sounds like the women have a lot of fun in the name of puja ;)
    and i LOVE these lines…
    There are patches of white clouds here and there, fluffy and playful. Even as I look on, a slender ray of the evening sun falls on the tulsi plant, lighting up the green leaves in a twilight glory.

    Reply
  10. That must be interesting to host beautiful pooja’s and watch all type of aunties showering advices on you…your beautiful post reminded me of Maharashtra specific married ladies pooja at my moms place every year..it was fun :-)

    Reply
    • Ha ha yes… advice sessions are fun in their own way. Gives a lot of scope for, you know, observation. :D
      The Maharashtrian Puja sounds interesting…wonder what it’s called?

      Reply
  11. hmm in our house early morning waking up is to the scent of agarbatti’s :)
    Hmmmm Now now how tall are you , the conversation has made me a wee bit curious …

    and heels offcourse :)

    Reply
    • Oh yes, mornings beginning with agarbattis are lovely. That’s how my nani does it too and I am glad. :)
      Ha ha… I am pretty tall if I say it myself. Without the heels too. :P

      Reply
  12. Notepad and pen is an intelligent improvement alright :)

    Kudos to your mom, she is a rockstar! :D

    As long as u enjoy being part of this it is fine. And yes, switch to tea and snacks. It’s easier for u ;-) :lol:

    Love the way u described that gossip session… I could imagine it! :mrgreen:

    Reply
    • This time I had two different writing pads and two different pens, just to be safe. :)
      Oh yes, Mom is a rockstar. She does a great job of silencing motor mouths. :D
      Tea and snacks sound simpler but you know what Ashwathy, tea in such bulk was a little dicey too. Still scores over dal makhani and paneer pakoras though.

      Oh the gossip session. I thought it would never end. The maid’s whereabouts couldn’t be traced even by the end of it. :P

      Reply
  13. I have never heard of this puja bfore, being a bong this comes as surprise for me..pardon my ignorance.
    it is the ambience of puja that makes it so special, I liked it more than the actual rituals.
    Loved the last line of your post and u expressed it so beautifully, makes me wistful..

    Reply
    • Perhaps you have missed out on a chance to be a part of Asan Bibi till now. Don’t worry, I will keep you in mind when I will organize a puja on my own. ;)
      The ambience is indeed lovely Sukanya. The day gets coloured in splendid, animated hues.

      Delighted the post got you wistful… nothing like wistfulness on a lazy, summer afternoon! :D

      Reply
  14. Loved the last para too!! :)
    you write so well Debs! the way you convey your emotions is simply amazing :)

    The ambience on a puja day is something very special isn’t it? :)

    Reply
  15. So beautifully written. Every word towards the end of the post, I felt. You are a charmer

    Reply
  16. You made me wistful in your last para. Loved it. Poetic it was :)

    Reply
  17. The first pic looks very nice…. :)
    I can imagine what all gestures they would be making… Pen n paper sounds perfect… :D

    Reply
    • The first pic is of the ghada that is placed. Depending on the number of people, the number of ghadas goes up.
      Pen and paper is ideal as I have found out. Saves a lot of trouble! :D

      Reply
  18. This puja is new to me, but all pujas do serve to unite the partcipants & break angst or monotony.

    Reply
  19. Wow, sounds like an interesting ritual :) Made me think of Karva Chauth when all Aunties come to our house to sing the story and all. It’s always so much fun.

    Lovely post, as always.

    Reply
    • It is very interesting Jyoti and even more interesting is the feasting over lunch. Err. :D
      Yes, Karva Chauth is similar in the context of married women taking part and getting together to sing the story. Somewhere down the line, all rituals converge. :)

      Reply
  20. Notepad & pen, good idea.
    Love the last paragraph.

    Reply
  21. aaah asan bibi..have been quite a few at my house and i understand the ‘ambience’ of the whole day!!

    http://sushmita-smile.blogspot.in/

    Reply

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