Ashtami @ New Delhi Kali Bari


“O, Jayanti, Mangala, Kali, Bhadrakali, Kapalini, Durga, Shiva, Khama, Dhatri, Swaha, Shwadha, my earnest dedication to you all. Ma Durga, salutation to thee!”

At the conclusion of each mantra, pushpa, flowers were offered at the Goddess’ feet.

Shanti just loved the overall feel and smell of Durga Pujo, replete with the incense of Dhoop-dhuno, flowers, folks adorned in new clothes and jewellery and the heavenly rhythm of the dhak.

Having offered pushpanjali, Shanti ate the prasad being distributed with great relish. He then slowly limped down the stairs onto the road where food stalls and makeshift cafes were vying with each other to attract the Pujo visitors with snacks. Shanti had fasted since morning to offer his anjali and now looked forward to having his customary Mughlai paratha, peas ghoogni and a soft drink.

Food stalls at Kali Bari Durga Puja pandal at Mandir Marg in New Delhi on October 05, 2019. (Photo by Qamar Sibtain/India Today Group/Getty Images)

That evening Bina’s condition worsened. It was almost as if she had been waiting for this day.

Snippet:  Durga puja at New Delhi Kalibari started in 1925. mainly by the Indian Babus who had relocated from Kolkata to Delhi with the British administartion. Kali Bari continues to follow the traditional ekchalar thakur and sholar kaaj.

The Kali Bari Durga Puja features in the story, ‘Ashtami’, part of my forthcoming book ‘The Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories’. Should you wish to receive exclusive previews and the chance of winning a free copy of the book, do write to me @ author.esgee@gmail.com

The Company Puja


‘On the appointed day of the Pujo, Robert Clive drove in his carriage to Nabakrishna Deb’s residence in Shova Bazaar and participated in what was to become the biggest festival in the Bengali calendar. He was accompanied by a number of Englishmen. The pomp and grandeur of the pujo were such that it became a talking point and something to aspire for by the upcoming rich merchant class. The Company Pujo, as it became known as, was not the usual conservative ritual based Hindu puja. Instead, it became known for its dance parties, elaborate menu of meats from the Wilson Hotel and unlimited drinks!

It is also said that Raja Nabakrishna Deb’s guests were regaled with the performances of the best nautch girls of Calcutta, one of them being the sensational new courtesan Rajni Bai who also responded to the name Joba……..’

Shova Bazaar Rajbari and its Durga Puja features in the story ‘The Chronicler of the Hooghly’, part of my forthcoming book of the same name. Should you wish to receive exclusive previews and free copy of the book, do write to me @ author.esgee@gmail.com.

The Tonga wallah and his tonga


The tonga wallah had duly arrived and was waiting near the door when accompanied by shrieks of joy, Niren and Suren ran out with Roma toddling behind. Both the boys were scampering to get up on the front seat of the Tonga before the other; this gave a vantage view of not only the road ahead but also the horse and this led to a huge competition of who will sit in the front. Along with the tonga wallah, Sujit could sit with only one of the children. Usually, it would be one of the more vociferous boys.

“Niren! Suren ! Behave yourself. Do not leave your sister behind like this”, admonished Sujit, as he came out of the quarter. “Today, Roma will sit with me in the front”.

Snippet: The ubiquitous tonga-wallah and his tonga remained on the Delhi roads for more than a century till in 2011, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi banned their services. The ‘clip-clop’ sound of the horses’ hooves is no longer heard on Delhi roads!

The tongawallah and the tonga feature in the story, ‘Ashtami’, part of my forthcoming book ‘The Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories’. Should you wish to receive exclusive previews and the chance of winning a free copy of the book, do write to me @ author.esgee@gmail.com

http://www.shaktighosal.com

The Burning Ghats of Keoratola


Reaching the cremation ghat at Keoratola, Dipen and his accompanying group were confronted first hand with the immense tragedy and the pain arising from the pandemic tearing through the city and the province. Dead bodies were lying in every conceivable place; on bullock carts, on both sides of the narrow pathway going to the burning ghats and under makeshift canopies. In some cases, there were people around the dead bodies but in other cases, it seemed the bodies had been left there and abandoned. There were hordes of dirty, soot covered urchins accosting groups who had come to do the cremation. The oppressive smoke and the odour of burning pyres were all pervasive. Jostling for supremacy with the putrid smoke and smell was a cacophony of crying, moaning, shouting and Vedic chants.

Keoratola cremation ground features in the story Pandemic, a part of my forthcoming book, ‘The Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories ’. Should you wish to receive exclusive previews and the chance of winning a free copy of the book, do write to me at: author.esgee@gmail.com

Birthday @ Pavo Real


‘Getting into Madinat Qaboos, Anjan drove to the Al Madina Plaza, where Pavo Real was located.

As they reached their assigned table, the waiter pulled out the chair for Jaya to sit. He placed a bottle of mineral water and asked what drinks they would prefer.

“Two large Margaritas please with a plate of tacos and chicken enchiladas”, said Anjan. Pavo Real was a favourite of Jaya and Anjan knew what she liked.

The margarita is a cocktail consisting of tequila mixed with orange-flavoured liqueur and lime or lemon juice, often served with salt on the glass rim.

After the waiter had gone. Anjan pulled out the birthday gift and handed it over to his wife. Jaya opened the gift box and gave a squeal of delight when she saw the pendant set.’

Pavo Real, also known as “the Mexican”, is an exclusive restaurant in the up-market neighbourhood of Madinat Qaboos in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. Commencing operations in 1993, it offers special evenings with changing themes, great food, music and Margaritas !

Pavo Real features in the story Fault Lines, a part of my forthcoming book, ‘The Chronicler of the Hooghly and other stories ’. Should you wish to receive exclusive previews and the chance of winning a free copy of the book, do write to me @ author.esgee@gmail.com

A spear came whizzing out of the trees………


A spear came whizzing out of the trees and pierced the ground barely ten feet from the palanquin. The shaft vibrated giving out an ominous hum. Almost in unison the tree branches and leaves started to rustle all around. It sounded like an army getting ready to strike.

“Alert! Hold!”, ordered the captain to his men as the guards immediately formed a protective circle and cocked their guns. They peered into the trees to try and spot the hidden enemy, knowing that hidden eyes were watching their every move.

The palanquin curtain drew open and out stepped Rani Rashmoni………..

Rani Rashmoni (1793—1861) was the founder of the Dakshineswar Kali TempleKolkata. A Low caste Hindu by birth but exceptionally beautiful, she was married to Babu Rajachandra Das (Marh) of JanbazarKolkata, a member of a wealthy zamindar family, when she was eleven years old. After her husband’s death she took charge of the zamindari and finances.

Rani Rashmoni features in the story ‘The Chronicler of the Hooghly’, part of my forthcoming book of the same name. Should you wish to receive exclusive previews and free copy of the book, do write to me @ author.esgee@gmail.com.