I am a Bengali. And for a Bengali, the festival to rule 'em all is undoubtedly Durga Puja. We can have different Pujas around the year, celebrate Id and Christmas in Calcutta with a vigour that would put other Indian cities to shame, and just strike once in a while if we feel that the Government holidays list is a bit (the word just comes to my lips and disappears, but for the lack of creativity) short. But nothing beats the atmosphere of Durga Puja in Calcutta. It is an experience. And my experience is made better because my neighbourhood Puja is Maddox Square, which is grand. Unfortunately, the last time I was there was 2004.
2005 and 06 were in Ahmedabad. Was enthusiastic enough to go pandal-hopping one year, and see only three (could have been four, am not sure), and also participated in getting a Puja organized on our campus for the first time.
2007 was a damp squib. I was in Malaysia.
Bombay ('08) turned out to be better. Managed to visit 5 different pandals, and also get drenched in the rain - a memory that I shall always cherish.
And now, it's Delhi's turn again. Last time was 6 years ago, in 2003, when I was in college.
Visited 13 pandals in all this year. Ok, I am staying in Kalkaji, so CR Park is near. One day I just walked around for an hour and was able to see 4 Puja pandals. CR Park itself has so many - Mela ground, Shiv Mandir, Pocket-40, E-Block...
Mela Ground is supposedly one of the best, but I didn't see what the big deal is. Really liked the idol at a pandal further down the road near a Gurudwara - supposedly a GK2 puja. J Block, CR Park was a bit creative with the interiors done up like a cave, with rock-cut statues. The lights were obviously a bit dull. Kali Mandir near Gole Market was ok. Saw the Aarati there one evening, but was disappointed because there were too many Dhaakis (drummers) blocking the view. The Aarati at Minto Road was good, with some girls also doing a Dhunuchi dance with the Dhaakis. The Kashmere Gate puja completed 100 years this year, and had an eco-friendly idol. It still looks just as I remember it from 6 years ago, and also from what I remember from my childhood. The most creative puja had to be the Matri Mandir puja at Safdarjung Enclave. It had an Egyptian theme with hieroglyphics painted on the walls. However, they had not messed around with the idol.
With any Durga Puja comes its share of junk food. But didn't have a lot. Tried galauti kababs with roomali rotis at a stall at Mela Ground, and some Shawarma at Minto Road. The kababs were dry and the shawarma was a bit too spicy.
Definitely an enjoyable Puja with family around every day, pandals to go to, good food (at home). But miss getting wet in the rain in Bombay.