Monday, October 25, 2004
Livinghigh was here at 11:25 AM /

That time of year again

That time of year again, when the Bong in me resurfaces with a dash of colour. Think about all the past puja holidays, what they have meant for me, how I've spent them all with my family and my friends, a few key moments, a few key mementos.

The drawings, for example. My earliest puja memento is this stick-figure rendition of Durga and her entire family, all very ceremoniously arranged around a sprawling mahi-shashur, who is crawling out of his buffalo's body, like some ancient alien creature. That picture still adorns the glass door of my mum's cupboard, and I pause to look at it sometimes, at the amateur brush of gold and silver paint that a ten-year-old had slathered on a sheet of white writing paper in an inspired moment.

I remember walking in an endless queue of people, waiting, waiting, waiting to come up in front of that raised platform in the pandal to see the goddess... those little novelties in a pandal made a world of a difference - whether the pandal was air-conditioned or not (nowadays, of course, most of the hoity-toity pujas in Calcutta are) , whether the ornaments of the gods were of sholaar kaaj (traditionally made with paper and silver thread) or in golden mesh, whether the goddess had the conservative round face with long eyes that stretched on till the sides of her face, or she had the more latter-day goody-goody smiley face... small, simple things that evoked much heated discussion in the car, as we went to the next pandal, hoping to catch yet another spectacular glimpse of Durga in yet another spectacular avatar.

I remember the nava-durgas, specially. This mega-pandal in Garia, a satellite town of Calcutta, which had Durga and her family presented on a huge central pandal, flanked by nine smaller enclosures that depicted the goddess in each of her nine chief avatars... aaaa, the Hindu religion is a fascinating, spellbinding thing. I remember needling my mum and dad to drive us all the way out to Garia to see the puja, and the fights on the way, as my mum grumbled at my dad for his back-seat driving, and my dad complaining that mum had not paid enough attention to parking in her driving classes... and my brother and I naming the two of them Tom and Jerry. Deciding who-was-who was, of course, quite difficult altogether!

Or the time I stood in front of the Park Hotel, one Navami (the night before Dashami-Dussehra), waiting for my friends to show up, before we all went gallivanting late into the night, pandal-hopping and merry-making, and having a story to tell them when they finally did arrive twenty minutes late, of the pimp who kept asking me to sample his 'girls'... I remember that time, when we finished our pandal-hopping into the wee hours of the moring, and walked over to the Ganga, to see the sun rise from the ghats. I remember thinking that this must possibly be the most beautiful sight I had seen.

Scattered fragments, all, and yet many more within me, simply too numerous to ever recount in one single story. This is that time of year, and that's all I can say. Just... that time of year.

To everyone then: shubho bijoya


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