The nip in the air and the azure sky take Lekha Sengupta back to her childhood days of Puja festivities. A short, ruminative essay on the auspicious occasion of the upcoming Durga puja.
Irrespective of the accent we speak in or the soil we pick up beneath our shoes, for all Bengalis across the world, Durga Puja brings in that special feeling of belonging to our roots. Nature gives us the indications in its typified manner each time… year after year… and bids us get ready to celebrate!
There is a nip in the autumnal air around this time and the azure skies look pristine with white cottony pieces of clouds floating around merrily, loitering in love with the cool breeze. Meanwhile, Mother Earth seems to adorn itself in pure whiteness, as the kaash phool (feather grass) shrubs come into full bloom with white voluminous trusses. The rhythmic chant of mantras and rolls of the dhaak (traditional drums) bring about a strange kind of happiness, which carries our souls to a domain of blissful ignorance from mundane, worldly affairs. It is very difficult to express this feeling, because it is best experienced than put to words!
When everybody around me feels happy about the festivities, I nestle a lacuna within me that wrenches my soul, even as I wear a smile for the sake of the loved ones around me. I miss my Maa…especially this time of the year! So many thoughts flood my mind … those that I love to recollect and ponder upon. The reminiscences are treasures for me now, and I wish I could share them all with our children… for, in this world of artificial intelligence, fast track technology and material greed, they will unfortunately never experience the flavors of simplicity and satisfaction.
I was brought up in a simple family, for which celebration meant buying new clothes, new shoes and cosmetics only this one time of the year. We would plan the five days of Puja meticulously, so that nothing was missed out and we got to wear the best of outfits each day. Maa would comb our hair and dress us up with the right accessories to make sure we looked prim and proper. She would always be the last one to get ready, because she needed to attend to our whims as we would keep fussing over something or the other.
Maa herself would buy the simplest of sarees so that the family budget wasn’t disturbed and would often just pick up a random blouse to go with it… though it is a fad today, those days it wasn’t! I have never seen my Maa wear lipstick, eyeliner or even perfume! She would drape her saree, dab some powder on her face, put on a red bindi on her forehead and adorn the parting of her hair with red vermilion… and that was all! She was our Durga incarnate… her persona had the same grace, energy, affection, anger and of course, the radiant beauty!
A lot has changed over the years but what remains intact are the memories…The five of us never get to gather together for celebrating Durga Puja anymore…the siblings are busy with their own families and work in three different places. Baba is with Dada (my elder brother) and Maa, who had always been in a rush to accomplish the milestones of life, has happily crossed the last one, more than a decade ago.
When I stand in front of Goddess Durga’s idol ever since, I look into Her eyes and search for my Maa. Now that I am capable of doing so, I wish I could buy her the most beautiful saree and dress her up with matching accessories and cosmetics, just for my own pleasure, a humble, yet loving token of my gratitude for all that she had sacrificed for our joys. I try to feel the vibe of her presence through the powerful aura of the Goddess, for I know she is here … a mother can never forsake her children.
The fervor of festivities has started settling down in the air around already …and once again, my mind compels me to smile for my loved ones … Let Mother Durga fill our hearts with love and abundance, and gratitude for the life that we often take for granted.
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