It’s Ashtami today, the eighth day of the Durga puja festival. Former Miss Universe and actor Sushmita Sen, a single mother of two adopted daughters Alisah 3, and Renee, 13, talks about her strong connect with Maa Durga.
Are you a huge Maa Durga devotee?
Maa Durga has been an integral part of my life. I want to be a mother, a wife, a daughter and a woman like her. We have a saying in Bengali, whenever you are missing courage, if you feel weak or you panic, just say, ‘Durga Durga’ and Maa enters your body. And when she’s there, fear leaves you.
How do Renee and Alisah celebrate the puja?
They go shopping for new clothes and look forward to the festival. The first time Renee came to this pandal, she asked me, ‘Where is Maa Durga’s husband?’ So I pointed to a small photo of Lord Shiva above the protima. ‘But why doesn’t he come? Is she a single parent?’ she asked. I told her that some people believe Durga is a single mother. Her reply to that was equally interesting. She said, you have Lakshmi and Saraswati (she meant herself and her younger sister), now get two sons like Ganesha and Kartikye and our family will be complete. I will always have a lovely memory of my Renee seeing Maa Durga as a single parent.
What’s your earliest memory of Durga puja?
Even if I am not in the country, I fly down for the Shondi puja, which begins at 12.05am on Ashtami. That’s the time Maa Durga kills Mahisasura. This is the moment when all the evil in yourself goes away and good comes in.