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The golden sun is back in the azure sky, casting longer shadows before disappearing on the horizon earlier than usual and the listless fleet of clouds lazily floats around, empty of their carriage. My window has a visitor every afternoon, who comes to play with my curtains and the wind chime and flirts with the nippy wind, a dragonfly. I find myself in Sharat again in my exile, in Pawrobas, in another’s land, waiting with bated breath for those five magical golden days of Anandamoyee‘s descent upon mother Earth, among us Bengali mortals.
Watching the long rays of the sun casting a spell upon the dragonfly, a desire arises to return to the golden afternoons of yore, when I would, in my careless days of girlhood, find joy in the pages of the new Pujabarshiki, a collection of novels, stories, poems by the leading literati of Bengal, published about a month ahead of the festival.
Those would be in the days that preceded the days marked in red on the calender as the days of Durga Pujo. In between drowning in and surfacing from the Pujabarshiki, I would flit between rooms, touching the softness of my grandma’s Gawrod, admire yards of my mother’s swishing tussar, swoon over her crisp Tants and Dhakais, try on her new slippers and yearn to grow into them, smell her new perfumes, try on her new nail paint. All this while two neat piles of crisp, new clothes and two Pandora’s boxes awaited to be handed out to us, my sister and I, on the morning of Shashti. Those boxes would remain a well kept secret till then. And when we did open them in all our girlhood eagerness, out would tumble things that the two little girls wished and prayed for, to transform into grown-ups for those five magical days.
The hneshel, or the family kitchen would be a buzzing bee-hive, my grandmother would already be filling up her korir boyam or ceramic jars of all shapes and sizes with various forms of delicacies – gawja, , kucho nimki, labanga latika, dalmut, pnaraki and sandeshes of various flavours and designs, for all those who would visit us during the festive days with or without a reason. A month had already gone in the ritual of exchanging Ruli, sindoor and alta among the much married womenfolk. The drum rolls on the dhak would start in the little hearts already when my grandfather would spend the Shashthi morning counting crisp new notes of small denomination and set them aside, with my grandma, to be handed over to the his brigade of grand children of all shapes and sizes.
But a score and a few years later, the known boundaries had suddenly changed into the unknown, the accepted norms and rituals had become distant as I found myself in another’s land, in pawrobas. That year, on a fine Sharat morning, there I was with tears streaming down my cheeks, sitting amidst a pile of photographs, some coloured, some black and white, full of smiling faces, stolen moments, frozen loving glances from the life that had gone by Festivity was once again in the air and the sun was sharp and golden in the heart of the Bong ghetto in the South of Delhi.
It was Shashthi, on that day of Sharat in 1998 and a pot of Shiuli was in full bloom in Roy Mashima’s balcony next door. It was Durga Pujo in the Bong ghetto, in Chittaranjan Park but it was business as usual for the rest of the city. This Bangalini, in her Pawrobas was yearning for home. It was my first Durga Puja away from Kolkata and away from my loved ones and it seemed as if the world had come to an end. To make things a little more difficult the Bee had left for a short trip the previous evening with a promise to return on Saptami. A box had arrived by courier that morning, neatly wrapped in brown paper which lay unopened, my new silks, tussars and dhakais lay strewn on the bed, crying for my attention and DD2 Bangla blared away with a live telecast of Kolkata Durga Puja Porikroma.
And then as if to answer my prayer, the telephone rang and my mother’s soft voice asked me, “Have you received the brown paper box as yet?” Realisation dawned and a long conversation later I happily returned to the unopened Pandora’s box, revisiting the wonders of my girlhood again. And among all things womanly and festive lay the edition of that year’s Pujabarshiki.
The Bee too decided to return an evening earlier, just to surprise the grief-stricken Probasini and to make her Pujo with him a memorable one, in Pawrobas.