September 26, 2009

Flavor Changes, Love Remains

As we grow older, the sugar-coatings and the gift wraps start coming off until the innermost skeletons of life start showing. The flavors change and everything starts smelling, looking and tasting different. Not everything attains bleakness or takes a turn towards the worse, but the ‘feel’ of everything changes.

It’s a Durga Pujo Saptami evening. Despite not having essentially been a Calcuttan throughout my life, I’ve always been in the city at this time of the year(apart from in 1998 –the year my family had insisted on touring the Garhwal and Kumaon hills). Exhaustive pandal-hopping to visiting relatives, scaling heights and attaining elevation with friends to donning those new-colorful attires- I’ve had a taste of everything that Pujos in my city are famous for. Yet some of the flavors of the yesteryears are no more. No dhaaki at Maddox Square, no Pirate-ship at Deshopriyo Park, no long queue at Bosepukur Sitala Mandir can replenish the certain warmly cosy and stomach-and-heart-churningly happy feeling in the crevices and recesses of my mind anymore. I wonder why? I’ve not undergone any major tragedy nor have I come to derive immense pleasures from any other quarters of my life. The various puja committees still contend for the position of the ‘Best Pujo’ of the city but the entire excitement surrounding the diversity of themes on display, like in the past, is no more. People still wear those new black tees, and girls still get their faces made up, and hair straightened, and cling to their boyfriends(and their potbellies) while riding pillion on their bikes, and the rains still come and wash off the decorations off some pandals, and the puchka-wallahs still make the extra profit, and the Pre-pujo sales still happen, but what the heck?? The flavor is different.

It’s like it was a different Pujo-time me then, and the me of 2009 are entirely different people. I hardly go out with my parents anymore. The memories of the Pujos of the past come back to visit me like visions of another life. These memories are generally lined with inexplicable silver coatings and red hues in my mind… I also terribly, terribly miss the car journeys that we would make from Maithon to Calcutta on Panchamis every year, after school would give over for the vacations. The music playing inside the car, the numerous small-pujas dotting the highway-sides, the awesomely cool(although sometimes smoke laden) air would keep streaming into the car when we would keep the glass-panes open. The highway-dhabas, the occasional tea and aloo paratha halts, the cold-drinks and the Anjan Dutta/Mohiner Ghoraguli or the corny Hindi songs, the plans surrounding the celebration of the festival- all of this would be enough to transform me to a different realm altogether… I fail to understand why I never derive joys from such little thrills anymore. Big city life, maybe?

Having said all this, this season still stays one of my favorite phases in the entire year. And Bijoya Dashami is still the day that makes me feel like I am losing someone very close to me. The wait of one more year-the newspapers say. The year will fly past without your realizing it, they add. “Yeah right!”, I say. A WHOLE EFFIN’ YEAR. Yet, indeed the year whizzes past. Birthdays come, exams come, depressions come, desires to go jump off the terrace come, happiness and excitements come, crushes happen, heartbreaks happen, differences arise, drifting apart from close ones takes place, patching up with certain other people happens, Diwali,Christmas,New Year,Summers,Monsoons go by, until it’s Pujo again. Flavors have changed, but the love remains. I know that even today if I happen to be compelled to stay this time of the year in anyplace other than this city of mine, I will suffer immense mental ‘monkemon’ and trauma-related-to-missing-the-festive-Calcutta…

P.S.: I know I’m an atheist, but sometimes I like to believe Ma. Durga and her family is a real concept. Not because I depend on her to resolve my life-issues, but somehow the entire concept of her family is very cute, especially in these times of fragmented families, where one constituent hardly has time for any of the others(and no one complains).

1 comment:

Trisha said...

I can't explain how, but you put down exactly what i've been feeling for the last two pujos.....bittersweet regret, and kind of hollow too, now that we've lost the essence of that joy...once again, i'm reminded of how deeply a good writer can move one..thanks for a brilliant, *soulful* (in the best possible way :P) and deeply familiar piece! :-)