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. :)