I grew up in Berhampore, the only place I call home. The rest are only residences. I spent countless afternoons reading books as Ma spoke fondly of more new plants in her garden. Neither Baba shared her enthusiasm, nor I inherited her love of plants, flowers, and nature. Her garden misses her warmth, care, and love as much as we feel its absence in our daily lives.
Last afternoon, I came home from my in-laws’ house in the same town. The kid couldn’t wait to spend the weekend with his grandfather, who he calls Dadan. Today, something unusual happened. The kid spent this morning gazing and querying about trees and flowers. He refused to move away, mesmerized by the greenery. A decade after her demise, she has her successor in her six-year-old nature-loving grandson. If only I could turn back time and make them meet, the boy and his Dimma would’ve made a perfect team.
In the last three posts, I wrote about my experience of celebrating Durga Puja in Mysore, Bangalore, Kolkata, and Berhampore. For the last post in this series, I wish to speak about the way life and the idea of celebrating a festival changed for us this year.
Life during the pandemic taught me perseverance and resilience. My son and I hadn’t taken a trip outside Kolkata since March. It was more out of compulsion than by choice that we decided to return to Berhampore after more than a year this October. Leaves were canceled at my husband’s workplace during the festival. Both my father and in-laws weren’t in a position to travel back to Kolkata at such short notice.
After the mandatory isolation period, the only distance that I traveled in Berhampore was from my in-law’s house to Baba’s home for a couple of days. I consciously decided not to step out of home for pushpanjali or pandal hopping. We offered our prayers at home. The bhog preparation for our para pandal happens on the ground floor of my home. Thus, we weren’t deprived of the delicious food options during the festival.
While I have a couple of pictures of Tuneer celebrating with my father and in-laws, I could only click a single picture of Ma Durga in the pandal near my home. I took the snap standing 10 meters away from the pandal while I was leaving for my in-law’s place. My husband clicked the other picture of their UCC Durga puja, which has entered its third year since inception.
We missed out on meeting friends, enjoying the endless adda sessions, visiting multiple pandals, and eating out at restaurants. But it was a conscious decision to stay indoors, not just for our safety but also for the ones who are most vulnerable to this deadly virus. I wish to remember 2020 as a year that showed us the importance of minimalism and sensible choices.
I hope you had a grand Durga Puja, celebrating in your way but without compromising on precautions. Here’s wishing you and your family a Shubo Bijoya Dashami/ Vijaya Dashami and Happy Dusshera. May we overcome the hurdles to go back to the old normal very soon.
For the past four years, I have spent every Durga Puja in Berhampore, a place where I grew up and also happens to be my husband’s home town. Last year, we decided to explore puja in Kolkata for a couple of days before heading to Berhampore on the sixth day of the puja.
In Berhampore, the puja near my house smells of childhood nostalgia. It was a delight to see my son soaking in the festivity and ambience, just like I would relish these four days in my childhood. My husband and his school friends started a new Durga Puja in 2018. The experience of watching grandeur unfold in front of my eyes, and showing my son the strength of sustainable friendship was mesmerizing.
This post will take you on a tour of my puja experience in 2018. Happy Maha Ashtami to you and your family.
As we race towards the finishing line of the A2Z challenge now, I thought of touching upon a different topic related to the admission frenzy. I have often spoken about my anxiety and stress related to the process in the initial days, especially when Tuneer faced a problem of the language or before his first interview. While Sr. T seemed unfazed on the surface, I am quite sure that I had successfully managed to pass on a bundle of my worries to him. Tuneer was trying to balance his preschool life while riding on the roller coaster wave of admissions. Just before the winter break arrived, all three of us were physically and mentally exhausted beyond the limit (kind of what most of the A2Z participants feel now).
By the time the holidays started, the kid had already faced two interviews and one rejection. We were sure that the only thing that could lift our spirits up was a family holiday. In the X post of my last year’s A2Z challenge, I had written about the way all of Kolkata comes together to celebrate Christmas in a grand way. X’mas, as the city still prefers to call Christmas is about midnight mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral, eating cake from Nahoum’s, trying out street food delicacies on Park Street and visiting Bow Barracks on December 25th. We have done all of these for the past two years and it wasn’t meant to be any different this time as well. But a desperate need for a mini break landed us at my in-laws’ house in Berhampore this December end.
“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”
I was five years old when I went on my first trip to Darjeeling with my parents. Higher studies and corporate stints made me a resident of cities like Delhi, Bangalore, and Mysore. This was also the period when I traveled with my gang of girls to places like Chennai, Pondicherry, and Ooty and groups of friends to Pune, Khandala, Lonavala, Panchgani, Mahabaleshwar, Ahmedabad, Agra, and Goa. Once I discovered that I was essentially a nomad at heart, my solo trips took me to Hyderabad, Mumbai, Mangalore, Coorg, Madikeri, and Chickmagalur.
When T and I got married in 2011, it was a delight to discover that we shared the same enthusiasm for travel. Munnar was the first place that we visited as a married couple. Unfortunately, I lost my mother in the same year and life came to a stand-still. In 2012, an impromptu road trip from Trivandrum to Varkala and Kanyakumari helped me get a grip on my life again. Together we managed to visit Thekkady, Periyar, Alleppey, Athirapally, Cochin, Wayanad, Goa, Coimbatore, and Kodaikanal. If writing helped me cope up with my mother’s loss, traveling gave me the reason to live.
Three years back after my son was born, the trips became more planned and less on an impulse. From Goa and Mumbai in Central India, Mandarmani, Tajpur, Shankarpur, and Digha in the East, Delhi and Noida in the North to Guwahati, Shillong, and Cherrapunji in the North East, the three of us have explored both the tranquility of nature, humdrum of the city, sea and mountains alike.
I have enjoyed getting into this throwback mode and pulling out the best moments of 2018. In the last post of both the recap series and this year, I talk about December – the month of joy and holidays and bring forth my goals for 2019. The previous posts related to this series is available here.
In this month, I was delighted to have made it to the list of top twenty writers in the categories of Travel Writing and Humor at the Orange Flower Awards conducted by Women’s Web. To be shortlisted among 1600 writers was nothing short of a dream come true moment for me. While I might not have won the award this year, it gave me the right kind of boost and motivation to stay focused and work harder.
This was also the month when the Indiblogger #TheBlindList contest winners were announced and I was pleasantly surprised to find my name and post in the list of winners.
I grew up as a single child in a small town in Bengal called Berhampore. Every year my Professor father ensured that we had two vacations. The first one was always planned and it took us to Kolkata, then Calcutta. My mother had her parents staying in that city and I was amazed at how different a metro city was from my town. But what I would look forward to was the unplanned vacation to a new destination during summer holidays. My parents would keep me guessing until we reached the spot. As I grew up, I would try to open the bags to see if winter clothes were packed because that would mean a vacation in the hills. Every year that I went back home, I took back fond memories of places I have visited and left a part of me in those places.
Much later, when I asked them about this game of suspense, my Dad had disclosed that he wanted me to feel the thrill of exploring the world without any preset ideas. He believed in striking a balance between bucket list, which helped tick off items after fulfilling of wishes and #TheBlindList which taught me to keep my heart and mind open to experiencing new things. This is how began my journey of travel to explore new destinations. Darjeeling, which was one of the first ever vacation spot for me is a personal favorite even today.
As I grew up, I moved to Kolkata for higher studies. This was my first date with the world. An eighteen-year-old was trusted by her parents and Permitted to stay on her own so that she could pursue her dreams. There were deterrents in the form of discriminatory behavior in college, heart breaks in the form of relationships gone wrong, harassment by random men that led to cringeworthy moments but I didn’t let the negativity ruin my journey.
Knowing my obsessive fascination with food, B for Biriyani should have been the ideal choice. But I had too many choices again. Birla Planetarium in Kolkata – the largest planetarium in Asia and the second largest in the world, the historical Belur Math founded by Swami Vivekananda, the age-old Botanical Garden in Shibpur, Howrah, Bengal’s Baul music (folk) that unites Hindus and Muslims alike and famous places to visit like Bolpur (houses Visva Bharati – the university set up by Rabindranath Tagore) and Bishnupur (famous for Terracotta temples). But there were two subjects that defined Bengal for me – Byomkesh Bakshy and Berhampore.
Byomkesh Bakshy –
Created by author Shardindu Bandopadhyay, Byomkesh was one of the first and finest detective (though he preferred to call himself Satyaneshvi or the truth seeker) characters in Bengali literature. Accompanied by his best friend and writer Ajit Kumar Bandopadhyay in almost all the cases, he was unique in having a family of his own. The stories of Byomkesh were set during the time period of 1930-70 and the author managed to capture the vibrancy of Calcutta through his writing. While the television series starring Rajit Kapoor brought the detective closer to audiences nationwide, the curiosity about this character grew manifold when director Dibakar Mukherjee made a movie Detective Byomkesh Bakshy starring Sushant Singh Rajput in 2015.
It’s been raining cats and dogs since last night. Only two days have passed that we have returned to Kolkata. After holidaying for close to two months in my hometown, amidst fun and chatter with my joint family members, the emptiness of this flat was haunting for Gogol. It was evident that he was struggling to cope up with the new environment. I had quite a rough night,kept up by the continuous downpour and the intermittent waking up of the toddler.