I have often written about how my mothers demise changed my approach towards Durga Puja – the biggest festival for any Bengali. But things changed last year after I realized that I need my toddler to enjoy moments of celebration so that he grows up creating memories. This year, our return trip to my home town and also my husband’s native Berhampore was decided months ago because we wanted the toddler to enjoy puja with his grandparents.
When I decided to go pandal hopping last year, the venue and pandals were predecided evety single day because of my meticulous planning. It wasn’t meant to be any different this year. But like the saying goes, man proposes and God disposes. The toddler who had been unwell for the last one week fell critically ill after reaching Berhampore on Friday. His respiratory infection aggravated so badly that we had to nebulize him. The families were of the opinion that he needed to take rest and might be able to visit pandals only after getting fit which probably meant on the last couple of days of Puja.
Haridasmati impressed me with the Kerala style temple
It was really difficult to see the disappointment on my son’s face. With new clothes meant to be worn on days designated to be enjoyed, it was so painful to see him sit at home. Day before yesterday when his condition improved slightly, I decided to take him on an impromptu visit to few pandals. Some were the famous ones like the Puja at Bhattacharya Para which came into limelight for the 25kgs gold jewelry gifted by Senco Jewellrs but some took my heart away through the minimalist approach and some impressed my toddler with innovative Asuras (he calls Asura his friend even today) . We ended up covering six pujas before heading back home.
I grew up in a household where speaking the truth was not just encouraged but diligently practiced. Baba always believed that when one speaks the truth, one always stays true to their conscience. Besides the stated facts always stay the same. Ma had the same version personalized when she had asked me to always be the first one to let them know the truth, even if it was something that might leave them appalled. Such principles shaped my nature and character in such a way that I grew extremely close and comfortable with my parents. I knew that I was believed in my house and was one of the strongest factors that built my confidence. The only not so likable attribute that I developed because of speaking the truth was my inability to sugar-coat my words or be diplomatic in my approach.
#MeToo was a movement started last year by Tarana Burke that exposed monsters like Harvey Weinstein. Since then, there have been skeletons tumbling out of closets everywhere. However, it is only recently that this movement gained mass momentum in India after Tanushree Dutta called out Nana Patekar in a decade-old case of harassment. And for the past few days, there have been stories about media personalities, journalists, writers and stand up comics. People like Utsav Chakraborty, Gautam Adhikari, Kiran Nagarkar, Kailash Kher and many others have been called out by women who have faced harassment in their hands. India has finally woken up to #MeTooIndia and #TimeUp movement.
Amidst all this, I realize how pathetic the state of affairs is in our country. Is there any girl who has not faced harassment at any level ever? Right from being groped in crowded buses, receiving unsolicited pictures of private parts, getting masturbated at and being felt up, the list seems to be endless. Beyond a point, every girl has learned to keep her sixth sense in the maximum alert mode and be armed with a device for protection like a pepper spray. Even I have had the most horrible experiences. Most of these abusers were random people whose perverted minds derived pleasure from such sickening acts. But what does one do when this kind of sexual predator lurks in their closest circle!
S has been a family friend for ages. His father had been my Baba’s friend and mentor. Despite the huge age difference, I grew up calling S as Dada (elder brother in Bengali). I had met him many times as a child and always found him to be affectionate and caring towards me. So, I was taken aback when I felt his hands brush my chest area on the pretext of picking up a paper from the table. I was barely thirteen then. But I was so sure that it had happened by mistake that I forgot about it soon. Unfortunately, this started becoming a pattern very soon. I met him during family functions and festivals and each time he made me so uncomfortable that I started avoiding him. The mere sight of him would make me run indoors. Sadly, my parents loved him like their own son and they could never understand my sudden disappearances. The hide and seek game went on for another two years till it was my board exams and I was excused from attending all events until I completed my exams.
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.
W could have been the iconic Writers’ Building with a historical and political significance, Waldorf – one of the oldest Chinese restaurants in Park Street or the Walking Tours that give a glimpse into the heritage and history of the city. But I couldn’t let go of an opportunity to cover an interesting topic that is essentially all about the Bengali culture and rituals – Wedding(biye in colloquial Bengali).
Wedding (Biye) –
A host of deep, meaningful rituals seeped in culture and tradition are performed amidst colorfully elegant and immensely creative decorations. The Bengali weddings are celebrations of colour, camaraderie and beauty . They are elaborate affairs with celebrations spanning for 2-3 days from morning till night. The rituals and their executions are subtly different among the two main subcultures in Bengal, the Bangals (Bengalis with roots in Bangladesh) and the Ghotis (Bengalis with roots in West Bengal).
Pre-Wedding Rituals –
Paka Katha or Pati Potro– Generally applicable in arranged marriages, this is a formal meeting between the family members of the bride and groom to agree upon the various aspects associated with the marriage. Paka Dekha is the term used by the Ghotis while Pati Potro happens among the Bangals.
Ashirvaad – The bride and groom are blessed by the elders of the family along with gifts pertaining to jewellery, saree and other items. This is followed by an elaborate feast. For certain households, ashirvaad happens only on the evening of the wedding.
The A2Z blogging challenge with Blogchatter is all about blogging on every single day through April except on Sundays. So essentially there’s an alphabet associated with every single day. A on the first day, B on the second and so on until it’s Z on the twenty-sixth day. When I took up this challenge, I had already been posting two to four blog posts every week. However it looked like a Herculean task to post every single day and that too on the basis an alphabet. I felt challenged and there’s no best way to overcome the fear than to face it. So, here I go with my theme reveal of my first ever A2Z challenge.
Through a series of twenty-six posts, I am going to help the readers enjoy a journey down my state West Bengal through ‘A dollop of Bengal’. My blog belongs to a multi-niche category and through this theme, I intend to cover cities, places, food, restaurants, personalities, characters, festivals and a lot more that define this state. So that looks like a huge list right?
Wait, there’s a twist! Among the multiple options in various categories starting with any particular alphabet, I am going to choose and write only about the one that has a connection to my life. Stay tuned to know who makes it to the list and what is their significance in my journey.
I am waiting to make this my biggest project till date. Can’t wait for you to come sooner, April to get this started.
Feminist by the day today, abused by her husband night after night,
But she wasn’t ready to succumb her fate to such plight.
People saw her grit to save victims, no one saw the scars running buried within,
To the world she was a messiah, no one knew the story of her fight for surviving.
Truth be told, there never existed a mirror in her house,
Lest she accidentally comes face to face with that turbulence hidden in her mind.