I did make it to the Durga pujo finale yesterday, held in Oakleigh. While I understand that comparisons to Delhi's Chit Park are stupid and there weren't as many people here, it was quite awesome to see so many Bengalis in Melbourne. :)
It was a perfect Sunday, the sun was out, the wind under control (can get quite mad here) and families milling about with kids, parents, pets and everyone wanting a bit of the sunshine. So there on Drummond street you had Melburnians wearing their typical uniform -- assorted clothing in greys and blacks -- and jogging or walking or doing their thing. And then a couple of cars stop outside the Oakleigh (Mechanical) Hall and out step women wearing bright saris (one was bright-bordering-on-fluoro orange with silver sequins all over), HUGE bindis, lovely gold bangles, shanka-pola and kids wearing the tiniest of dhuti-panjabis.
I was expecting cars to screech to a halt and everyone to stare: Here were Indians being 'flashy', speaking in their native tongue and clearly not integrating. Since Oakleigh is a Greek-majority area and the pujo venue was right next to an Egyptian church, I was pleasantly surprised when Drummond street happily carried on with its business and no Indian was beaten. :) So much for Australia being a racist country... I wish the media would look at the positives as well when it goes on harping about the nasty things.
The first question I was asked? "Tumi Kolkatar mei?" (Are you a Kolkata girl?) My response was of course that I'm not and I'm a probasi* Bangali, to which I was instantly introduced to a couple of other girls who were probasis. Now probasi means expatriat and I found it quite amusing that even though we were all sitting in Melbourne, there was the usual
My internet search had led to two pujo links: one by the Bengali Association of Victoria (BAV) and another by the Bengali Puja and Cultural Society of Victoria (BPCSV); I ended up going to the second one. The ladies I met there were very curious and very friendly and despite not knowing me at all, were quite ready to 'refer' me to their association. They were also very sweet to Partner, who was the only white person in the pujo hall. And no, he wasn't stared at either. Who says all Indians stare? ;)
And after five years, I finally participated in the pushpanjali ceremony. Strange that it should happen so far away from home... All in all, a very happy event and a rather long, eventful day after that. Satisfied.