Sr. T and I belong to families who have a strong faith in the Supreme power. In his family, we worship the two hundred plus year old family deities of Krishna and Radha known as Shaam Rai. Despite the fact that both my parents believed in puja and prayers, my faith suffered a massive hit when I lost Ma overnight in 2011. I had stopped believing in God and refused to even pray for some years.
Our faith is often triggered by our own fears and insecurities. And I happen to be the kind of mother whose life is defined by her son’s happiness to a great extent. After Tuneer was born, I was back at our puja room although not whole-heartedly. I had made it amply clear that I still had unresolved conflicts with Her (my God is a woman).
Other than the grand celebration associated with Durga Puja in Bengal, my all-time favorite Goddess has always been Ma Saraswati. Every year Baba would perform the puja, Ma would make a lot of delicacies, the house would be decorated with flowers and alpana (hand artwork using rice and flour paste) would be drawn on the floor. I would finish giving pushpanjali and eagerly wait for the bhog prasad.
A part of the ritual involved keeping books in front of the idol during the puja and letting it stay overnight. In my house, it would mostly be a couple of Mathematics books(belonging to my Professor Dad), a few pens and my complete set of textbooks for that particular year. I had this strange notion that if I left out any book, that subject would end up not being blessed by the Goddess. Keeping rationality aside, I couldn’t afford to take the risk.
Last year, we celebrated Saraswati Puja in a grand way since Tuneer had his hathe khori (the ritual of writing for the first time) before starting preschool. Because the kid had still not started any kind of learning then, I had decided to keep his story books in front of the Goddess. My justification was that the Goddess needed to know that Her next student was getting ready to take the plunge. I am not going to share the kind of reactions I received from my father, in-laws and Sr. T on that. All I can say is that I am glad that they didn’t remember it long enough.
This year, the Goddess and I both have tougher tasks at hand. The boy was already in the middle of his series of interviews. Some had gone well and a few could have been better. But the interaction of the most coveted school interview was scheduled immediately after the puja. So, without any second thoughts, we took off for a week to visit my in-laws’ place at Berhampore. I wanted the puja to be performed there following all the rituals in a perfect way.
The priest uncle at my marital home had already given a longer than usual list of items needed for the puja (Tuneer special, he had said!). Those items started arriving forty-eight hours in advance. The Goddess made her visit in the form of an idol on the night before the puja. This time, I had dutifully packed Tuneer’s preschool books of pattern writing and coloring. The pencil, eraser, sharpener and a set of crayons had also traveled with us. Looking at these items during packing, my father had sarcastically asked if I intended to purchase the NEET entrance examination syllabus for next year puja. But as a mother totally focused on her son’s future, I decided to ignore the jibe.
On the day of puja, the boy was dressed up in an orangish yellow dhoti-kurta (the color is called Basanti in colloquial Bengali and is assumed to Her favorite). His books, writing set topped up with a pencil box and pen (purchased by Sr.T ‘s cousin brother – the only one who found my ideas acceptable) were placed in front of the Goddess. Everything went on smoothly except Tuneer’s refusal to let go of Sr. T even for a second. It was as if he had uncannily discovered his father’s embrace to be the safest zone for that day.
By the end of the puja, we stood up to offer prayers. Despite not understanding the mantras, the boy repeated every single word that the priest uncle pronounced. As we opened our eyes chanting “Jai Ma Saraswati”, he realized that the puja was almost over. So he decided to get down from his father’s lap and spoke in a loud and clear voice, “Happy birthday Ma Saraswati. I will get you my favorite butterscotch cake but you will have to let me cut that with you.” Everyone looked surprised as Sr. T and I burst out laughing.
The truth was that until this admission frenzy took over my better senses, I had the habit of correlating every single occasion of a puja with the respective God’s birthday like Shivaratri for him was Shiva’s birthday. I had forgotten those childish connotations in the process of helping him move towards bigger things in life. But my ‘not so little’ boy had shown me the little joys of life at that moment.
That evening we ensured to get a tiny butterscotch cake for his ‘friend’ Saraswati. He not only took up the responsibility of cutting it on behalf of his friend but also gladly ate it immediately. Apparently, his friend Saraswati had told him that she was too full after eating so many delicacies throughout the day. The books and writing set waited as we had the maximum fun with his friend this year. Of course, I went back to pestering Saraswati for admissions again the next day onwards and our association continues in a similar fashion even today.
I hope you had a smile on your face while reading this. I will be back with a new post on ‘K’ tomorrow. In the meanwhile, you might want to check out my other posts in this series here.