Saraswati being a goddess of knowledge and arts, it is natural that it is celebrated in educational institutions and homes. What is alarming, is the rise of the 'barwari culture' in celebrating this puja, or for that matter, any Puja in the city.
To the un-initiated: 'barwari' literally means twelve friends, and traditionally people who did not have enough wealth to celebrate a festival on their own, used to pool their money and celebrate together. The concept is great, the problem is we have screwed it all up.
So what are my complaints:
- The main goal of a barwari has been transgressed from its original intent to a mechanism of pomp-and-show
- While there may be nothing wrong in showing off, the main complaint is that the money is extorted out of people in the neighbourhood, who have little (or no) part to play
- A lot of money collected out of peace loving people in the neighbourhood, goes to the cost of buying booze, food for the people involved in the committee. I may be generalizing too much on this point, not all barwaris do this, but many do
- In many cases, the money collected as subscription inflates the bank-balances of the members of the organizing committee
- The number of barwari's have mushroomed to an unimaginable number. People are often forced to pay subscriptions to many
- Most of the organizers have little (if at all any) to do with knowledge and art. They are often school drop-outs and their only artistic skill is to play music on a CD player
- We bengali's love to avoid work at all costs. Consequently, the festivities drag on-and-on, much beyond the dates specified in the scriptures. This causes traffic disturbances, noise pollution, and makes life difficult for people who have to work.
To draw a conclusion: barwari puja's had started with a noble intent. We however have transgressed to satisfy our own goals. The political leaders add fuel to the fire, to hoodwink the people about the real problems of the city. And, to top it all, deliberate lack of empathy for other people, causes a lot of problems in getting their work done.