We have 2 main holidays in Saudi Arabia – one for Ramadan and the other for Bak-rid. This year the Bak-rid holiday, which also coincides with Hajj, was scheduled between 23rd and 27th of Oct12. However, this year our HR announced a poll to obtain opinion regarding when the staff would like to avail the Hajj vacation. Majority polled in favour of holiday between 27Oct12 to 02Nov12 and the HR obliged. This was a great gesture by the HR and the first of its kind in our company.
I was planning on going to Turkey during the week long Hajj vacation. This was because Deepshree had an assignment in Kolkata and Ranoo was scheduled to go to Hyderabad for a Basketball Tournament during the period of my holidays. Then I decided to stay put in Riyadh as I realised I needed time to complete my assignments for the online program that I am attending with Massachusetts Institute of Technology. When I told Deepshree about the change of our holiday schedule, she demanded that I come to Bangalore as she would postpone her Kolkata visit by one week. So, at the last moment, I started looking for a ticket to travel to Bangalore. I finally managed a Business class ticket by Emirates on 23Oct12 and return ticket on 04Nov12. I wrote to my boss for 4 days vacation with 2 days on either side of the Hajj vacation and next morning he agreed.
22Oct12 was a very busy day in the office. In the evening, I worked on completing my assignment for the week. I was through with 7 questions at 11PM when my house owner called to announce that he had returned from London and was waiting for me to pay the house rent. I still had 2 questions to complete and 1 hour for the same. However, I abandoned the mission and packed up to join my house owner in his car to reach home and pay the house rent. So, I could not complete my assignment for the first time during this program. I had dinner at my favourite Kerela Restaurant and returned home. The taxi reported exactly at 1AM and I was flying at 0410AM as scheduled. I had around 4 hours in Dubai Airport and thus booked a massage for 90 minutes from 0830AM. During the massage, I had a sound sleep and was all refreshed. I went to the Business Class Lounge and had coffee and some fruits and boarded the flight to Bangalore. On board the flight, I saw a wonderful movie – Ferrari Ki Sawari.
I reached Bangalore at 0530PM as scheduled. A Mercedes car took me home as was arranged by Emirates. So, I had managed to reach home on Navami – the ninth day of the 10 day long celebration of Durga Puja. Durga Puja is our main festival and it was the will of the goddess that I could take part this year. At 0930PM, Deepshree, Ranoo and I started from our home to reach Bengali Association Durga Puja Pandal at RBANMS college grounds by 10PM. It was a huge challenge to find a spot for parking our car as the Pandal was packed with Bengalis and non-Bengalis. After 30 minutes, I found a spot and proceeded to the Pandal. The idol of the Devi was awesome. I prayed asking for all sorts of comforts from The Lord. I went to the Association office and paid Rs. 1001 as Chanda (donation). Having done this, I spotted the huge area where there were many food stalls. This is the favourite part of the Puja.
On entering, I found a stall selling Rolls. So, we ordered Egg Rolls for Deepshree and I and Vegetable Roll for Ranoo. Having devoured this, we moved forward to find a stall selling Galda Chingri (King Prawns) cooked in typical Bengali style. I ordered one and then thought it would not be sufficient and ordered another one. Deepshree and Ranoo do not eat prawns and so they ordered Mutton and Palao. I also saw that the stall was selling Fish Chutlet and ordered 1 for each of us. The bill was Rs. 950 and the shopkeeper said that he did not have Rs. 50 change to return. So, I told him to give a fried Ilish Maach (Hilsa Fish) piece. We found 3 chairs next to the stall and sat down to enjoy the dinner. By the time, we reached home, it was 1230AM and so we slept.
Next day was Dasami, the last day of the Puja. We decided to go to the Pandal at 4PM. On reaching the Pandal, we found it absolutely deserted and decorators breaking the samiyanas. We were late as the organisers had finished the Puja and taken the Idol for immersion. We took off in our car towards Ulsoor Lake where all Idols are immersed in Bangalore. We reached Ulsoor lake in 10 minutes. However, we were more than 2 KMs from the immersion spot as there was a huge traffic jam. The police had cordoned off the area and were only allowing vehicles carrying the Goddess from different parts of Bangalore. We caught glimpse of some Idols from different Pujas and paid our last homage for this year to the Goddess. Then, we called home in Kolkata and conveyed our Pranaam to our parents and best wishes to Riya and went home.