Even as I bristled with anger and helplessness at the brutal murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh today, another distressing piece of news crept up on my timeline. It was wrapped under the guise of everyday news-'Hairstylist Jawed Habib Apologises For Hurting Religious Sentiments With Latest Durga Puja Ad'.
For a journalist in a newsroom, reading about celebrities being made to apologise for hurting religious sentiments is like having daal chawal for dinner. It's boring and, let's face it, unimaginative. By the time I finish typing this sentence, I am sure some mullah or some chaddi has taken offence on some innocuous thing or the other.
I suspect readers too have grown a thick skin for news like these. Or maybe not. This is the same country where Ram Rahim's arrest caused riots.
However, most Bengalis, even of the jaded-journalist variety, will take notice of this piece of news. And it will make them shake their heads in dismay. I will soon tell you why.
First, let's check out the "offensive" ad.
The ad shows Durga, Ganesh, Karthik, Lakshmi and Saraswati enjoying a spa day at a Habib's parlour. The tagline reads, "Gods too visit JH salon."
Needless to say, a Twitter outrage was manufactured within a few hours.
Now this is perfect.@JH_JawedHabib pic.twitter.com/UKZ84cn6Bt— Atharva 🇮🇳 (@_Shivoham) September 5, 2017
The trolling got so bad that Jawed Habib had to put up an apology on Twitter.
Now, before I explain why most Bengali Hindus won't find anything offensive about a picture of Durga and her children indulging in some spa time, let me show you something.
Here are some Puja special covers of Bengal's most popular children's magazine, Anandamela, with a circulation of over 1.1 million.
In the latest issue of Anandamela, you can see Karthikeya indulging in some selfie-taking while Saraswati contemplates *gasp* playing an electric guitar.
In this issue, you can see the whole gang indulging in, horrors of horrors, Western music. Please note that Ganesha is wearing a basketball cap here and Saraswati is sitting in the same posture that got Priyanka Chopra in a whole lot of trouble during her meeting with Modi ji.
The less said about this particular cover, the better. Here, Durga and her ilk are taking speedboat ride. Need we say more?
I know, the Hindutva brigade must be fuming by now.
But hold on to your chaddis good sirs, don't take offence on our behalf just as yet. The thing is, most Bengali Hindus are brought up to believe that the deity Durga, is a part of their family. She is, what we call, ghorer meye (daughter of the house). Her yearly visit to her earthly abode from the snowy Himalayas is accompanied with the same sense of abandon that one feels when a daughter makes her yearly visit to her maika.
There is food, there are new clothes, there are all-nighters. Did we mention that there is food?
Durga, is not a holy cow for us. She is a part of the family. So, we chide her, tease her, pamper her and make fun of her too.
Our deities have a sense of humour and we sincerely believe that they deserve their leisurely hour in the spa too (you would too, if you were to partake in the madness that is Puja in Bengal).
The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of ScoopWhoop.