If I were to paint her , I would first sharpen my pencil to the finest point to draw her features - slanting eyes , a small sharp nose , a curved mouth set in a heart shaped face that we call paan pata in Bengali which literally translated means betel leaf shaped in prosaic English . She would be an intriguing blend of demure daughter , a minx and a raging fury .
On Panchami , which is the fifth night of Navaratri , the image comes - a small clay statuette , slim hipped, many armed , bare of any embellishment .
Over the next two nights , artisans work to create her finery - decking her out in her beautiful clothes , adorning her with traditional jewellery , creating a work of art which is an absolute wonder.
The flower trays for the worship
The seasonal flower - shiuli - small white stars with bright orange centres
The one hundred and eight lotuses for the sandhi puja ,Rama's worship of Durga before his battle with Ravana, leaves of the bel tree , three to a stalk carefully checked for any blemishes ; the blemished leaves go into the basket for the anjali
Flowers - jaba and aparajita traditionally a part of the ritual worship
More flowers used in the worship , this time marigold, lotus, tulsi and bel leaves
On Dashami , the puja before Durga is prepared for the journey ahead back to Kailash, from her parents' house . The bhog comprises of panta bhaat , cooked rice with water poured over it and gandharaj lebu and slit green chillies for frangrance , kochur saag ( stalks of the arvi plant ) cooked with coconut , flaked rice mixed with mishti doi and batasha ( sugar candy ) - ,( all these are cooling foods which are appropriate for the journey ahead ) sweets made with chhana , naarkel naaru and fruits - banana , sweet lime , grapefruit , apples ,pomegranate and cucumber.
There is a pathos in the mantras which the priests chant - the lament of Durga's parents as their daughter prepares to leave , the invocation to nature to be gentle as their daughter takes the long path home to her husband's house, the entreaty to come again the next year - the priests are in tears as they prepare the bowl in which the symbolic immersion takes place - water is mixed with turmeric and a small silver mirror is angled so that the tiny aalta ( a red liquid used by married women to paint their feet and toes) smeared foot of Durga can be seen .
It is now time to bid adieu
Babughat is a total mess . The idols are taken out of the lorries , one after the another , and then carted unceremoniously by the coolies - there is a strange helplessness about the idols and they look almost human as they are hauled to the river bank hurriedly - the more they dump the more money they get- and then eased head first into the shallows, to be immediately stripped of the trappings , separated from the wooden frame and straw , and left to disintegrate back into the mud. On the banks there are huge piles of shiny toxic weaponry and finery , hopefully to be carted off in the morning .
For now the memories of the revels remain - the shining lights , the glimmer of light on the idol's face from the spotlight , the new clothes of the children , the childlike dressing up of the adults - a surreal setting . Today the market has crashed , there is an explosion in Pakistan .. so it is really back to reality with a bang