To leave the city when She is coming…

Pujo has always meant to me the end of another year. True, a couple of months remain after the Mother Goddess arrives, stays and departs, but they are more like the endnotes than the body of a composition. Pujo is the evening – when the party is in full force, when the activities reach a peak. Post-Pujo days are the time to go home and to bed.

From September, if not earlier, one can sense it in the air. Many regard Bishwakarma pujo to be the official and final signal that Ma is coming. Soon. Weeks before that, the hoardings start hinting which locality has what plans to adorn the Mother this year. Every advertisement begins to incorporate Her face or at least the image of a few kaash flowers in its layout. The word ‘sharadiya’ appears so often that one stops noticing it. Every time I get out of home, the pandal structure at our field has developed a little further, and guessing what the final shape is going to be is one of the happiest games I’ve ever played.

To go away when the pandal’s almost complete…

After all, when a day draws to an end, we should be heading home, not setting out from it. Friends and family in other cities are negotiating with their bosses whether at least a couple of days cannot be spared during that special week. For no, coming home at Diwali is not quite the same thing; not at all. Friends and family at home will be saying that it’s much too soon to make plans for Pujo, but in reality they’ll already have a very good idea of what they want to do on which day at which hour. My dad, for instance, pushes aside fatigue and physical weaknesses to stand before the majestic idol at Santosh Mitra Square every year. This year, I won’t be standing before Her, beside my family…

So much has been written about Pujo; I am not even going to try. Who the hell wants to write about it rather than living it? I wanted to try to describe how it feels to be packing my bags when the winds have begun to hum that She is coming. I am trying to pinpoint the slight ridiculousness of the idea. This will probably be the first time that I’ll be away during all of it – the mounting, delightful anticipation; the heady, astonishingly short six days (it starts from Panchami, no matter what anyone says); and then the contented recapitulation. I’ll miss all of it. Will She miss me at all, I wonder?

Does that sound absurd? I think it is a valid question. I am inclined to believe She remembers all Her children who cannot make it to Her festival. For mothers can sense their children’s loneliness. Yes, I may have asked Her to help me reach a certain place to achieve a certain goal, and I am thankful to have been given what I wanted. But that in no way implies that I will not deeply miss meeting Her in my city. No matter where I am, no matter how different the place looks from “Pujor Kolkata”, no matter how oblivious the people around me are to the celebrations going on in my home, do not doubt that during those days, I will be thinking of Her. I will be thinking of home.

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