It’s that time of the year again when the wait for the biggest celebration for a Bengali household comes to an end with the arrival of Mahalaya. For the next ten days, all that one can hear a Bengali talk about is how Durga pujo is nothing short of an emotion. It doesn’t matter in which city you are going to celebrate pujo this year. It could be Berhampore/Murshidabad, Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, New York or London because the level of excitement always stays the same.
Mahalaya in my childhood meant the beginning of school holidays. Preparation began the night before as Ma pestered me to sleep early while ensuring that Baba kept the radio station sorted out for the wee hours of the morning. Sharp at 4 am, she woke up every year to turn on the radio. I would snuggle up to them with sleepy eyes as Mahishashur Mardini was aired on All India Radio. Birendra Krishna Bhadra chanted the verses of Chandi Kavya/Path while devotional songs played during intervals.
And then Doordarshan came up with a Mahalaya special episode of Mahishashur Mardini. My parents would watch till the end as I dozed off intermittently. Baba would next go to the local sweet shop Mitali and get us Kachori, Aloo Dum and misthi. I still feel those were the only motivating factors for me to wake up so early.
I normally spent the day reading books that I would stack up for the last few months. These were called pujabarshikis because these annual magazines were published only during pujo. For me, Anandamela pujabarshiki meant the world though we also got Shukhtara, Desh, Sananda and Anandalok. This hasn’t changed over the years. Last year I had written a post on how this is a gift from my father that I eagerly wait for every year. This year, I am hoping to get it when I travel to Berhampore this 12th.
2008 – I was in my first year of B-school. Four of us took an all-girls trip to Chennai followed by Pondicherry. The trip was my first sojourn with my girlfriends and the city mesmerized me with its beauty, cleanliness, and calmness. The sea was both rough and serene here. And the environment of the Aurobindo ashram had a deep impact on my thoughts.
2011 – After the sudden demise of my mother, grief had engulfed my life in a way that rendered me static at Mysore.
2012 – this was the first city that my husband had coaxed me to visit. He insisted that a change of location was needed for my mental health.
This picture was clicked from the room of the hotel in Pondicherry where we had been put up. The balcony had the most gorgeous view of the sea. I sat out for hours gazing at the sea. Probably it was the enormity of the sea here that absorbed some of my pain during that phase.
Today when I look at this picture, I see a perfect frame of a beautiful world captured by a person in the most imperfect state of mind, fighting her inner demons.
This is the twelfth and last post (nonfiction) written as part of the #MyfriendAlexa campaign on the theme ‘Shades of Perception’. You can read the previous eleven posts here.
Delhi is the first city that gave me a feeling of responsibility that comes along with freedom. I had spent three years at the Presidency College Girls hostel in Kolkata during my graduation. But, in 2002, when I moved out to Delhi for my first post-graduation, it was also for the first time that I realized the state of being very far away from home. During my two-years stay there, I made some wonderful friends and was exposed to multiple cultures, languages, cuisines, and festivals.
After moving out to Bangalore in 2004, I never had a chance to return back here. Two months back, my husband had an opportunity to visit the city for his official work. Knowing my attachment to Delhi, he booked tickets for both the toddler and me. When we checked into the Taj hotel property, little did I expect the room to become a personal favorite! It wasn’t just the huge glass window pane that provided a gorgeous view of the Delhi sky but also the corner of the room dedicated as a working space that stole my heart. In the game of peek-a-boo between light and darkness, I sat down to write my second detective thriller.
This is the ninth post (nonfiction) written as part of the #MyfriendAlexa campaign on the theme ‘Shades of Perception’. You can read the seventh flash fiction around this picture prompt hereand the eighth one here. For the first six posts, you can click here.
If you ask me what gift can make me the happiest, I would always say books. The smell of a book or the feeling evoked from touching it is sanctimonious for me. That is why if someone asks me to choose between a paperback or e-book, I will always choose the former.
Books have been an integral part of my growing up years. My father, now a retired Mathematics Professor has always been fond of Bengali literature. My mother would read out stories from the children’s books and my fascination for the written word began. Once I discovered the love of reading on my own, I sucked into a world of my own.
I must have been in class 5 when I was introduced to Satyajit Ray. During summer vacation that year, one of his Detective novels ‘Sonar Kella’ adapted to a movie kept playing on TV. I was enthralled by it. I remember studying hard for the final term exams that year because Baba had promised a double treat of books by Ray if I ranked in the top three.
Thus began my journey with the razor-sharp and intelligent sleuth Feluda aka Pradosh C Mitter. Assisted by his cousin brother Tapesh Ranjan aka Topshe and friend Lalmohan Ganguly aka Jatayu, they traveled from the banks of the Ganges in Benaras to the Thames in London.
Each year, I would eagerly be waiting for the book fair held during winters. I would pick up all the new Feluda books, Ray’s other books, and some more detective thrillers. These books were then kept in Ma’s custody until my second term exams were over. I can never forget the way I would rush back home to claim my most cherished possession after the last exam.
Throughout my growing years, winter afternoons had occupied a special place in my heart. I remember sitting on a carpet spread over the veranda floor, sipping coffee and reading books. Ma would give me company some days and so those afternoons were spent narrating a story from any of my favorite books to her.
I woke up this morning with a bad migraine. The wall clock announced the time as 6 am. Looking at the toddler sleeping beside me, I felt guilty. Yesterday had been an extremely depressing day for me. The editing part of the first novel has been pending for quite a while. The boy had been falling sick quite frequently for the past one month. Last week he had come down with viral flu and had to be confined inside the house for the whole week. Yesterday he wanted to go to the nearby play zone quite badly. Fear of an infection again made me discard the idea. When every mode of trying to make him understand failed, I yelled at him. My son is generally a very sensible kid and so, I try to be as gentle with him as possible. The sleepless nights for the past few days and the slack in my working schedule finally got on my nerves and I vented it out on the hapless boy last evening. I regretted it immediately and apologized to him. I don’t think he even remembered the incident when I put him to sleep last night but I stayed up feeling extremely annoyed with myself. Few drops of tears ran down my cheeks at this moment as I ruffled his hair. That’s when I saw the writing on his magic slate. It read,
Today is your last day on Earth. You have ten hours left and so go ahead and do whatever you want to.
The countdown to say goodbye has already begun.
P.S. – This is not a joke.
I read the message couple of times to ensure that this was not a prank on me. I tried deleting it by pressing the delete button above the writing area on the slate. The words were still prominently visible. It took me a while to understand what was happening. I was going to die and had only a few hours to savor my last moments on this planet.
Looking at my toddler and husband sleeping peacefully, I started shedding silent tears. Oblivious to the grief ahead, they were cuddled up. To get a grip on my emotions, I decided to walk out of the room towards the balcony. My father had arrived here a couple of weeks back to spend some time his grandson. I saw him reading the newspaper in the sitting room while passing through this area. After my toddler started school, I rarely had the luxury of spending time appreciating the beauty of nature. But today I decided to relish every single moment.
The world knows me as a mum and how much I love it! But I also want you to know there’s #MoreToMe. Here’s my #MoreToMe facet, that reflects my passion and gives me so much fulfillment. Last few days this is what has been one of the most trending topics on Facebook. An initiative by Momspresso, this is a way of letting women rediscover their individuality. So here goes my story of #MoreToMe.
The first time that I met T, I was coming out of my chemistry tuition classes. A lean fellow then, he looked way more arrogant than his seventeen years. Our twelfth board exams were due to begin in three months and he joined my tuition batch for joint entrance examinations. I had already lost my heart to chemistry and the only reason I was part of that group was because I wanted to pursue higher studies in the subject from a premier institute. I don’t remember ever interacting with him while he always nurtured an irritation towards me for consistently topping the class tests. I got through my dream college in Kolkata for pursuing Chemistry Hons. He got through the most coveted medical college there for pursuing M.B.B.S. The funny co-incidence was that our colleges were adjacent. The day we went to bid adieu to our Professor was the only time we spoke wishing each other luck for the future.