Upasana Gohain

For quite some years, there were just a few special occasions in a year that I eagerly waited for. My birthday, my exam dates, Bohag Bihu, Durga Puja, and, of course, Saraswati Puja. As a student, I remember how special Saraswati Puja used to be – the memories of waking up early in the morning, then plucking white jasmine flowers from our garden, and making beautiful garlands out of those to offer to Goddess Saraswati, the memories still fill my heart with nostalgia.

I remember being told to wear a mekhela sador for auspicious occasions. And, Saraswati Puja was one of those special events. All young and old alike, would be decked up in their best mekhela sadors, and would indulge in some gratifying pandal hopping. And, then, suddenly came a day when we all came across a live telecast show in our local news channel titled “Saraswati Sundori”. The following years, we have all witnessed the ‘upgrades’ of this live show to panelists sitting together, ‘judging’ and picking that one beautiful young girl from the crowd in front of schools and colleges who was just walking, talking, and enjoying the day with her friends. Soon, it became a competition amongst the news channels to cover this event in their own unique ways. While some channels focussed on covering “Saraswati Sundori”, others tried grabbing the attention of viewers by inviting celebrity panelists to judge the competition. Soon, this show ‘upgraded’ to that level where it became all about how many young couples went to the parks, and organising “intelligence check awards” by asking questions like the other names of Goddess Saraswati to random girls in the crowd.

I can assure you that journalism never teaches us to practise sensationalism, the way our local Assamese channels do. Neither does it give us the freedom of mocking, humiliating, and invading the personal space of random people on the streets. It definitely doesn’t allow taking of pictures without consent and using it to create sensational stories.

Saraswati Puja is so much more in itself. And, it definitely is of great significance for young students. So, rather than creating a disturbing environment for the young people, it would be better if the media covers events that truly matter. Many students come up with initiatives like “no plastic”, “biodegradable idols”, and “puja mandaps made from recycled material”, etc. So why not try to know more about such initiatives? Questions on where the idols will be disposed after the puja, is it a good idea to dispose it in the Brahmaputra, or abandon it by the street side, or what significance does this puja have in the lives of young students, are just many of the important features that can be covered.

My prayers to Goddess Saraswati this year will be: may this wrong trend come to a halt, may we stop prioritising trolls and humiliating people. This year, may we understand that every human being is beautiful, and eventually, it’s what on the inside that matters!

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