Durga Puja as I Remember It
"Is this how it's going to be from now on?" I asked myself before making peace with the fact that Puja doesn't feel the same anymore. In a full somersault from denial to acceptance, I have let the inescapable monotony of adulthood set in.
I remember the time when I used to wait for Durga Puja all year around. The lingering rush of picking out outfits and showing them off to the cousins is no longer there. It took so little to be happy back then.
I would spend Panchami on a bus, munching on Potato Crackers and the sickly sweet, sticky delicacy known as til er khaja, falling asleep on mydad's lap and repeating the same question until he got tired of answering, "Are we in Jashore yet?"
Then a van ride to the village. After about an entire day's journey when we finally reached, I always felt like a celebrity. That was the time before migrating to Dhaka was the norm. Pretty much everyone in the village and their grandma (literally) would be there to greet us.
Puja at my ancestral village was the highlight of my year. It came with promises of things I couldn't enjoy in Dhaka. Everyone would gather around the yard conceding to the darkness of the routine power cut that would last for hours – catching up with local politics and relatives drifting around in Bangladesh and India. I could be found in a corner playing antakshari with my cousins, my dull city heart enthralled by the occasional sighting of a firefly.
Ashtami came with colossal amounts of luchi and naru. On Nobomi we would do a make-believe sacrifice with a white pumpkin filled in with red colour. Bijoya Dashami was an extravagant affair where everyone would showcase their usual and unusual talents of singing, dancing, Geeta recitation, Ululudhvani and everything in between.
The night grew deeper as the melancholy of bishorjon would set in with everyone chanting "Ashche bochhor abar hobe, Ma tumi abar esho". The last thing I would do before going to sleep on Dashami was watch the customary BTV programme about Mahishasur Vadh.
Now that my days go by in a strange urgency, I struggle to feel the excitement that made me wait all year. Families being scattered around in the country and the globe make it harder to fill in the hours. With every passing year the ancestral home gets lonelier.
In recent years, I have been guilty of wanting to spend Durga Puja in Dhaka. As wholesome as my childhood experiences were, when I figured out that I had outgrown the time I used to once cherish, the idea of spending it in the city, meeting up with my friends felt like a more tempting option. As years go by, I realise it may never come back to the way it once was. In the race between time and memory, what I now feel is a responsibility to retain the relationships and the keepsakes from home.
If not for the fun of Puja,that seems like a good enough reason to go back once a year to what my passport still lists as "permanent address."
Anupoma Joyeeta Joyee would like to know about your Durga Puja memories of childhood. Email her at [email protected]