Durga Puja in This So-called Land of Diversity

Durga-Puja-artisticIt is now raining here in New York.

It is the peak time on the four-day Durga Puja celebration. We went to a Bangladeshi Hindu temple last night, and absorbed as much fun and music and spirituality as possible, being outsiders. They even invited me to sing a couple of songs.

But, on this morning, we are back to reality again. Not even a remote aura of any festivity in this capital city of the so-called American diversity. Dhaaks (drums) won’t be heard. No decorating lights will be seen anywhere. No Indians or Bengalis will be seen walking on the street in their festive dresses; in fact, we practically never buy anything special at this time. Not a single news item on CNN or New York Times or local media about this wonderful, colorful religious and cultural show.

I am not a “religious” person in the conservative sense: in fact, I am as anti-fundamentalist as possible. But Hinduism is a critically important part of my identity, and I am not anti-religion at all. Especially this immigrant life is so intense with alienation that religion often is essential to hang on to our identity. Just like Tagore, Ravi Shankar, Bengali poetry, Satyajit Ray, or even Hindi film songs.

Life in USA is impossibly bereft and empty, when it comes to mainstream compassion or understanding of our history, tradition, and culture. On these special days, watching on Indian TV channels the incredible, rich social gathering of millions of people of all religions, castes and classes, it feels like I am standing on an American street, homeless and naked.

I am shivering in this cold emptiness. Indian or American media won’t tell our real-life stories.

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