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November 14, 2007

Greener Pastures - The Trip - II

A hastily-written entry. For my friends…

As I entered the house, the smell of gobar (cow dung) and straw hit me. In a nostalgic way. You may wonder if I was brought up amidst cows and cow dung. Well, when I was a kid, I had cows accompanying us in the playground as well as on the roads, at times. I spent my childhood in a house that was surrounded by greenery. We lived in a town, but in an area where we were still witness to the earthy culture. We had a potters’ community living a stone’s throw away. My next-door neighbours, though rich, affluent, and educated had a couple of cows with them. The lady of the house used to take care of them. My friends and I were used to a cow treading the boundary line in a kabbadi match, or one sitting right next to the wickets in a cricket pitch.

The smell of the wet earth and the straw and the cow dung all brought me closer to the sentiment of association with my gramin nation. In a single moment, I had breathed the fresh air. I felt free, away from the chaos of my daily life.

I looked at the two calves lazing in the cow shed and smiled and exclaimed, “I love the smell of gobar”. My husband made a face and wondered if I had gone insane.

We entered the house to find a few elders chatting away on the charpoi in the verandah. They screamed in chorus when they saw us. (I cannot say that they exclaimed, because when it comes to my mom’s khandaan, it’s voice is its identification. If you don’t speak loudly, you do not belong here!) We were greeted with the usual – three or four elders enquiring at the same time, same thing being asked by everyone, we being asked to change, we being asked to eat. It was such a chaos. And I was loving it.

I told them that we would go to the Durga Mela (Durga Puja Mandap) before sitting with them. My mom, my mama, my cousin, her husband and her son accompanied us. I was taken aback to see a massive crowd at the mandap. I had never seen the place so crowded before. (I had forgotten that I was visiting this place after a decade.) I was told that there were a lot of people from other villages present there.

I need to tell you a little more about the family puja before I proceed. This village had only two families initially: the Mukherjee family and the Bannerjee family. Later, tribals from other places settled here. I have been told that my mom’s pisi (fua – Father’s sister) was married into the Bannerjee family and that’s how the two families got related. These two families have been celebrating Durga Puja for almost 150 years. The Durga Puja celebrations showcase the healthy rivalry between the two families. It is amazing to see how these families have held on to their tradition and kept the spirit of festivity alive.

In cargos and a tee, I looked an outsider amongst the crowd. Thanks to the frequent visits by outsiders and firangs, the villagers were familiar with this kind of dressing and I found nobody staring.

My husband is a bhagwan-bhakt, though he does not show any enthusiasm in festivals. I wondered if he would enjoy the celebrations in Dhawani. I saw him bowing down in front of the idol. In a few minutes, I saw him shooting with his camera, and I knew he would have a great time. We came back to the house, changed into festive clothes (My husband wore Kurta-Pajama!), and left for the evening aarti.

After attending the aarti at the Mukhorje paada (Mukherjee colony), we headed towards the Badudje paada (Bannerjee colony). The blaring music and the absence of people at the Badudje paada was in complete contrast with the hustle and bustle at our Durga mandap. Years ago, I wanted my family’s Puja to surpass theirs in all respects. This day, however, I felt sad to see their place empty. I was later told that the extended family of theirs no longer contributes to or takes part in the Puja. I left the mandap with a terrible sense of loss. We uprooted ourselves from the earth a long ago. Now we don’t even realize its worth.

To be continued. :)

November 13, 2007

How lost am I... - The Trip - I

As I sit down to write this post, I wonder if I am writing this with a reason, or it it going to be random blabbering? I know not why I type out these words on my screen. I have a thousand things that need my attention right now, but I choose to ignore them for a silly blog entry. I know not why people write blogs. I know not why I write blogs. I know not why I keep that journal at my bed side when I haven't looked at it in ages.

I sound delirious as I type these words. I sound hilarious as I type these words. Rather, I feel pathetic as I type these out. WHY? I do not know. Several friends have been pestering me to post a new entry. I guess this is to honour them. So, here's to Megs and Gops and the others who have been coming to this blog hoping to see a new entry.

Forgive me if this turns out to be as uninteresting and boring as I appear right now. But then, these words reflect my current state of mind.

Exactly how lost am I...

I was away from my chaotic lifestyle for some time. I spent a few days at my maternal ancestral village in Bankura in West Bengal. The village is called Dhawani. I am told that there are several villages with that name in and around Bankura. I was given proper directions to reach 'our' Dhawani. The cab guy at the Durgapur station (We had to take a bus or a cab from Durgapur to Dhawani. Being the 'healthy' people we are, we opted for the cab.) asked if we would be ok with being dropped at the bus stop in the village. I readily agreed, telling him that that's where I wanted to be dropped. The guy further enquired if I wanted to be dropped near the tetul gaachh (tamarind tree). I could not recall seeing an imli ka ped there. But I somehow trusted the guy and nodded my head in the affirmative.

Forty minutes later, we were at the door of my Mama's house. And though I always claimed that I could identify it in seconds, I could not identify it immediately. The door was painted red. Well, the entire wall was painted red. The front wall was promoting a famous cement brand. Or was it a toothpaste. God knows! Given the state of mind, I can't remember anything.

My husband, being the second non-Bong (the first being my father) in my Mom's khandaan was extremely sceptical of this entire expedition. Gaaon aur upar se Bangali! He screamed at me when he saw me knocking at the red door. He really thought we were going to get beaten. The door was open, and I saw a young girl inside. Kept wondering if she was a part of the family. Later I found out that she was one of the maids helping my Maima (Mami - Mama's wife) handle the inflow of guests during the Puja time. Oh that reminds me, I forgot to tell you the purpose of our visit. (See how well structured this entry is!)

My mom's family have been celebrating Durga Puja for over 150 years. I had last visited the village during the Puja about 10 years ago. I wanted to show the family Durga Puja to my husband.

Ok, that's that... will write about the second part of this trip tomorrow.