Written on 5th September, 2017
Last week at Dad’s place,I was pleasantly surprised to see my annual copy of Anandamela Pujabarshiki gift wrapped. It felt so emotional to see three decades of this tradition continuing this year as well.
Growing up in a small town , books were my friends forever. Ever since I started reading, Baba would ensure he buys me this annual gift. But pre pujo would have me studying for my 2nd term exams and every time during my school days, this magazine would be kept well hidden. My Ma would always feign ignorance as to where it was kept and I would desperately wait for my exams to get over. The moment I would finish my last paper, no body could hold me back for a conversation. I would return back home only to find my copy of the much coveted magazine gift wrapped and kept on my bed. Every woken up hour was spent on relishing the stories for the next 2days. And those were indeed the golden days of literature. From Pandov Goyenda to Kikira to Kakababu o Santu, we were spoiled for choices. There was always a lingering effect of the stories and while we would spent our pujo in pandal hopping, gastronomic expeditions, dressing up, a major part of my time was spent discussing the stories with like minded kids. When Kakababu went to Egypt, it felt like we were traveling. When Feluda traveled to Hong Kong, it felt like my own journey. That was how strong the connectivity was.
1999 was when I moved out of my house for graduation . Dreams in my eyes, ambition to make it big, fire in my belly, it was the first time I was on my own. Kolkata was very different from Berhampore. And we were hostelites-the ones with limited access, forcefully imposed restrictions that they had no choice but to accept . While life moved on at a faster pace, it was that time of Pujo that would see me yearning to get back home. Ma, with my copy of the magazine would be the first thing to greet me once I covered those 200kms to reach home.
2002 was when I shifted to Delhi for post graduation. My parents had come along to get my admission done. On the day they were due to leave, our lab sessions had already started and I was in the basement collecting my apparatus. I couldn’t even come up to say a proper goodbye to them. I could only see my Ma’s red and green bordered Murshidabad silk saree fade away in the distance. That night I came back to the p. g. (I was yet to get hostel accommodation) and teared up. That moment when reality hits you hard and you understand the implications of your decision. That you are 2000kms away and could just not go home anytime you wished to hit me hard. Cell phone were a luxury then. Luckily our semester breaks in both the years fell during Puja and I would happily take Rajdhani express to reach Kolkata. From there another 5hrs to reach Berhampore. Every homecoming during Puja was greeted by Ma and my magazine. It was an expected surprise that managed to retain its charm. The magazine had changed. Mitin masi had replaced Kikira, Dip Kaku had replaced pandov goyenda yet there was something distinctly familiar about it.
August 2004 was when I moved to Bangalore. Puja was just 2 months away and I couldn’t ask for leave at IISc. It was my first puja away from home. I could sense the pain in my parents voice whenever we spoke yet I was helplessly stuck. On the morning of saptami , I received a courier. It had my Anandamela and a hand written letter from my parents. The trend continued next year since I started my 1st job in May 2005 and couldn’t get leave that year as well. By 2006 I had gotten accustomed to not going home for puja. So I skipped puja that year as well. Little did I know that the schedule at my MBA institute for the next 2 yrs will not allow me to visit home. The packages kept reaching me at different addresses on time. Baba never forgot.
2009 was when I passed out of XIME. I had my offer letter from ICICI. Due to recession , the joining was delayed and I spent puja in Berhampore. My parents were delighted. I had a mixed bag of emotions. A part of me wanted to escape from the familiarity of small town while another part of me was relishing the narus and nimkis. In the meanwhile I figured out that a lot more authors have changed in my magazine .Oct end was when I moved to Mumbai and then to Khandala for training. Nov end I got my posting in Mysore. Baba had already retired in March 2009. Jan 2010 my parents shift to Mysore.
While Baba shuttled between Mysore and Berhampore every 30 to 45days, Ma stayed on with me. There was nothing that could stop Baba from going home on pujo. No amount of coercion, emotional blackmail or pleading helped. So 2010 puja saw me and Ma visiting the only puja held in Mysore while Baba celebrated at our para’s (neighborhood) pujo .
June 2011 was when Tanmoy and I got married. As a newly married couple,we were royally welcome when we went home for puja. Ma and my magazine were eagerly waiting. Nov 2011 I lost Ma . From 2012 till 2014, I moved from the Mysore back to Bangalore but I consciously stayed away from visiting Berhampore during festive season. It was very hard to pretend happiness when you’re suffering within. I was still coping up. Strangely, even in those years of utmost sorrow, my copy of Anandamela reached my address every year. Sometimes Baba brought it personally, some years he couriered it.
Two years back, Tuneer was born in September 2015 in Kolkata. Due to a complicated ceaserian section, I was advised to keep travel at a minimum. I had to spent my pujo in kolkata. For the first time ever, Baba stayed away from his home during pujo for his grandson. For the first time the magazine was purchased outside Berhampore. Ma wasn’t there with my magazine the year I became a mother. Last year, with a year old Tuneer we decided to celebrate puja in Berhampore. Memories rushed as I hushed up my tears. Unfortunately, kiddo had a severe chest infection throughout pujo keeping me well occupied. The copy of the magazine stayed untouched.
Last week I received this year’s copy while staying at Dad’s place. This year, we intend to spend pujo in Berhampore itself. While flipping through the magazine pages, I realized that the only thing that stayed constant from my childhood till now is author Sirshendu Bandhyopadhyay’s fantasy stories. Mitin Masi and Kakababu have long retired due to the untimely death of their respective authors. The magazine in my hand had reinvented itself with the right mix of freshness and nostalgia. So, while the loyalists like me still got to experience Feluda and Goyenda Gogol through comic series, the new gen also had their Rappa Roy. My son, who is due to turn two in 2 weeks is getting introduced to the new world of picture books slowly. It was amazing to see him flip pages to understand the story behind pictures.
As I start reading the stories with the same eagerness as that of a 8year old today , I sincerely hope that I pass on this love and joy of reading to my son. That in the years to come, the tables will turn and I would be the one gift wrapping his copy of the magazine finding a place to hide it and surprise him. Pujo for me will always be the vision of Ma standing with Anandamela. I am only trying to start creating some memories for my child. Let the love flow from the father to the daughter who’s also now a mother to her son.