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December 31, 2020: Outgoing President’s Message
In the next few hours 2020 will come to an end. With it the current executive board’s term. On behalf of the outgoing executive board I take this opportunity to express our sincerest gratitude for giving this opportunity to serve.
That 2020 is unprecedented is now an understatement. Pandemic notwithstanding, with ‘I can’t breathe’, with the election chaos, with the economic depression, with the most active hurricane season on record, from flames to flash floods, from Kobe Bryant to Diego, from PK, Chuni to Amalashankar to Soumitra – Netflix calls 2020 ‘the most historic year in history’ in one of its latest shows. We had the enviable task of managing Durgabari through this, and I am relieved that we did it without any major crises. Ma Durga kept all of us – our priests, our volunteers, our patrons safe and secure.
2020 has ruptured our collective conscience so much that it is hard to even remember the normal boring 2019. Through the last two years we have enjoyed memorable events – sacrosanct pujas and excellent cultural programs. I thank all my executive board members and council of trustee chairs for their leadership and guidance, all our volunteers for the countless hours they put behind the scenes, and all our patrons and donors for their financial support, that made all those possible.
I also take this opportunity to congratulate the new board that will take us through 2021-22. Earlier this month we had the biggest election in Durgabari’s history. In my opinion it is one of the best signals for an institution. It signaled that participation is strong, our institution is healthy, and that the democratic processes are working as they should. And the community spoke emphatically. A new team with new dreams will take this institution forward and I offer them my complete support. For those of you who have not yet volunteered or served on Durgabari’s board I assure you that it can be a very rewarding experience if you approach it without any preconceived notions. It trains you to deal with people, teaches you to handle conflicts, and above all, if you truly put your heart into it, gives you that wonderful feeling of serving without an agenda.
I have now served Houston Durgabari’s executive board for three consecutive terms. When I joined in 2014, Durgabari was going through a dark phase. It had just come out of the lawsuit only to stare into a debilitating contract that, if left unattended, would have pushed the institution towards bankruptcy. Volunteers were looking away and patrons refused to donate. Today, as I take leave, we are financially secure, the place is bustling with activities, with a robust leadership pipeline who I have no doubt will lead us to an even brighter future. I take satisfaction in knowing that I gave my best through this. I grew as a person in the process, and however short I fell as a leader, whatever projects I hoped for but failed to accomplish, the organization is still in better shape now than it had been when I started, an organization where the institution is bigger than the individual.
It is going to be hard for me to break the Sunday morning ritual of heading to Durgabari at 10 am. But break I must, as all good things come to an end. I thank everyone for a memorable six years, my family for their support and sacrifice, and above all Ma Durga for bestowing her blessings in giving this opportunity to serve.
Wishing you all a very Happy New Year.
- Diptabhas Sarkar
- HDBS President
The thing you need to remember about Durga Pujo is that it is like a quicksand. I find no other way to define it. Once you step in you are done. Slowly, imperceptibly, like the bandit in the spaghetti westerns of the sixties, you give in. You wont even know it, but something will hit you come autumn. When even the most wretched greyed-out urban cityscaper will start longing for the pastel blue skies, and that undefinable, uncontrollable feeling of ‘Pujo’ wraps all. I was about eleven when it first hit me.
It was 1986. The ‘hand of god’ had burst out of colour televisions in Kolkata that year, and the tuni-lights of college square had ‘him’ up on the pedestals. We had just moved to the then ‘dhar-dhare gobindopur’ – Saltlake, on the eastern fringes of the city, where the Pujo was a distant cry from the halogen washed shores of the Ekdalia Evergreens. The ‘Puja’ there was strict and sacrosanct while ‘Pujo’ was innocent and lively. I started by handing out flowers during ‘anjali’, serving salt and lime quarts on ‘kola pata’, acting in children’s dramas and forgetting lines on stage. Gradually, as the years passed, along with the first strands of facial hair, I grew into getting thakur from Kumortuli, stepped into the first trepidatious flirts of Ashtami, and earned that trip to Baghbajar ghat for bishorjon. Saptami’s bhog, nabami’s dhunuchi, nightlong pandal hopping, adda, bijoya dashami, Durga Pujo funzone had me thoroughly stuck in the quicksand.
All good things come to an end. The next ten years went by paying my dues and earning my stripes. I left the city in 1996 – in search of degrees … and more degrees ….. and even more degrees. International student life, with its penury and its yearning for stability had pushed Pujo to a back seat. And just as I thought I was out of the spell, along with a doubling of family size came Houston Durgabari. Its been fifteen years since that day in 2005. Today this is my own Pujo. Today, though my four-year-old is yet to comprehend the charm, my eleven-year-old is beginning to relive the same jouney I started in 1986. He and his generation are discovering in our Durga Bari what Durga Pujo means to a Bengali, walking those same innocent and lively walks as they grow up in this six-acre plot at the end of Schiller Road.
This year was going to be special for us, when we were going to celebrate the 20 years of achievements of this community. We were going to thank all the past patrons whose sacrifice and spirit got Durgabari to where it is today. We were going to take funzone to the next level. Instead we got a year that no one imagined. But the celebrations are still on. Because after all this, Ma Durga is still back. Back with that unescapable quicksand in which you want to give in, back with that undefinable, uncontrollable feeling of Pujo that you want to wrap yourself in. She’ll take care of us. No doubt she will.
I take this opportunity to thank the volunteers without whom Durgabari wouldn’t survive and thank the donors without whom Durgabari wouldn’t sustain. Yes, we have differences. But your love, care, and devotion unite us and made Durgabari what it is today. Let’s pledge to keep it that way.
From me to you, from my family to yours, from Houston Durga Bari to all our patrons, Shubho Sharodiya.