Durga Puja.

I think I was thirteen the last time I was in Calcutta for Durga Puja. So I really don't know why I'm suddenly missing it so much this year. I don't even know what I'm missing. 

Is it watching, wide eyed, as Durga and her four children were reverently brought into Nabakailash on a battered old truck? I remember the black, coarse curls of her hair and the red silk of her sari and the silver foil at the end of her trident. And I can see her slanting eyes, so terrible and so gentle. The pink of Lokhi's sari and the green of Saraswati's and it took me years to understand why her skin was white while the others' were gold. They all stood- no, stood is the wrong word- they occupied, the rough wooden stage and sometimes it seemed to me that they really were alive, that they were watching all of us, smiling secret smiles that we were too blind to see. 

I remember going out in Dad's jeep, inching our way along roads taken over by people- fat women, hot and sweaty with make-up streaming down into the crevices of their faces and little girls and boys in crushed clothes and laughter in their eyes. Vendors selling steaming food, oily and crispy and hot. Plastic whirring toys and gas balloons. Green tube lights turning the trees a harsh, terrible green. The sky was never black, not even at night, it was always a deep purple because of all the noise and all the lights and it was as if the excitement on the streets had slowly wound its way beyond the clouds. 

And I remember waking up every morning to the noise of drums, a noise that managed to find its way all the way up to the eighth floor, through my closed windows to trumpet me awake. It didn't even bother me, it gave me a fierce rush of energy and I'd gulp down my breakfast and rush downstairs to join the crowd already there, scooping up a handful of orange flowers and getting ready to throw them to the thakur- an offering and though I didn't know why I did it, I did it with faith. 

The last day, I remember sitting on the cold white marble steps watching the thakur being put back in the truck. Wailing women and grave men and smiling boys climbed on as well, to accompany her to the river- the last part of her journey. I remember feeling a tug of sadness because she was gone, with her red silk sari and her black curls, and with her, the drums and the marigolds and the incense and the priests and the chanting crowds and the games and the wooden stage were gone too. 

I remember one particular Doshomi watching Bobby get on the truck to go with her to the river and I wanted to go so much, to see the final act of putting her in the water and watching her wind her way down to the sea, back to the Destroyer. 

All this was so long ago and now, when I look back, I see it through someone else's eyes. A lifetime ago and I've lived a lot of lives since then. 

But tonight, just tonight, I'm turning back the clock. Just for a little while. 


Clezevra said...

Nostalgia transforms the past.

joey said...

Lovely as it would be.Can one?

Radiant, by the way.