Happy Puja Holidays
Oct 16, 2015
The anticipation of the big holiday season is upon us here and it's got nothing to do with Christmas. In Kolkata it is the religious festival of Durga Puja that takes the spot light.
This month in Kolkata is Durga Puja a week long religious festival that is especially significant for Bengalis. Much like the build up to thanksgiving or Christmas in other parts of the world, the city begins to anticipate the arrival of the festival season.
The City of Kolkata also comes to life during this time. It is normally very colorful and vibrant but during this season it climbs to a whole new level. This mega city is decorated with amazing ‘pandals’ (a stage to display an idol) where Durga and her family will be worshiped. The ‘pandals’ are community efforts and money is collected to decorate them. A decoration theme is selected and the more spectacular the better. Family puja (worship) generally happens in the mornings and then the evening is for celebrations, It is meant as a celebration for all, rich and poor alike, rubbing shoulders as they wander around the city visiting all the different ‘pandals’. The women dress in beautiful new sari’s and children and men get dressed up in new outfits for this special occasion.
For many Freeset staff this is also once a year opportunity to visit family and friends. Many excitedly share plans of 18 hour bus rides and long train journeys, returning to their family homes. For others it can be a lonely time with a renewed sense of loss when visiting family is not an option.
The staff of Freeset come from many different places within India and outside of India. But two main locations, Murshidabad (five hours north of Kolkata) and Bangladesh, are where many of the Freeset women originate from. For the women of Freeset their new work not only means freedom from the sex trade and a life with dignity but it can also lead to reconciliation and new found acceptance within families they may have become estranged from, so a visit home is extra special.
Being able to save money for a train or bus ticket is a huge achievement when you have previously existed day to day. Setting goals and making choices like this, is immensely satisfying to someone who has previously had no freedom to choose and little hope beyond making it through another day.
Happy Puja Holidays!