This beautiful woman stood with me for nearly an hour off to the side of a huge pandal (temporary structure erected to house festival idols) watching an endless crowd of pilgrims prostrate and make offerings before the clay painted statue of the Goddess Durga. Every once in a while she would gently tap me on the wrist to point to some interesting group of people or to explain what the priest was doing. She spoke hindi, which I don’t speak – but somehow we managed to communicate.
It is said that the Durga Puja, which honors the Mother Goddess Durga, cannot come to an end until all the women have had the opportunity to make offerings and receive her blessings – and this includes all the women who may live or work on the streets. So, although i’ve been to probably a dozen or more ceremonies over the past few days, from lavish affairs in private homes to simple blessings in neighborhood temples, for me, this small spontaneous gathering on the side of an incredibly busy street was one of the most memorable ceremonies.
A typical street scene in one of the more affluent neighborhoods of central Kolkata.
A young boy endures soapy water and a solid scrub from his older brother. Although this shot seems like it’s a private little corner of the city, there’s actually cars and buses and taxis and carts rushing by and people all around. It’s just another day in this crowded, chaotic, intensely hot city.
I was drawn to the strength in this woman’s expression and in her hands. She had just finished washing a load of clothes when a loud crowd of men carrying very large, very heavy “idols” passed by the ally.
These two fellows had their hands full cooking up tons of incredibly delicious Bengali food for several hundred guests who’d gathered in a private home to celebrate Durga Puja.
This city (and all of India really) is full of paradoxes but there’s one thing for sure – these folks sure work hard… This guy is carrying a basket full of leafy greens to a large communal kitchen where about 20 men and women are preparing huge bowls of bengali food for a festival feast.