Saraswati Pujo and the city of 16

There are days when I feel extremely bored and tired with this city that I have known since my birth. I want to get rid of that invisible umbilical chord which does not let me leave her and yet I cannot bear the sight of her any more – happens quite often nowadays.

But then there are days when she makes me fall in love, again…..and for a lifetime. Just like the unmatched euphoria of discovering the bling in the red from the first bloom of “Palash” across my balcony. I increasingly find it difficult to describe my relationship with Calcutta. She has almost taken the place of that unknown neighbourhood aunt whose turmeric soiled sari is often the most comforting factor in your life – that you have reached home at the fag end of the day and while the world around you might conspire to give you a tough time, you can sleep in peace for the night here.

Why I say this, is again a difficult story to explain. Last weekend was a super busy one for the city. The omniscient Bengali Panjika had wreaked havoc in the average Bengali’s life and the market prices soared with the thought of keeping the goddess of wisdom happy. The Bengali who always find a dilemma between keeping the two mother goddesses happy – Lakshmi and Saraswati and whom to prefer while making a career choice, was again trapped in that debate.

And then there was the Kolkata Literary Meet happening against the backdrop of the majestic Victoria Memorial. The Lit meet, in its essence- epitomised Calcutta. Unorganised yet extremely rejuvenating…sessions which only could happen here in this city which is known for its eccentricity.

So while me and my husband man rushed to attend a particular session at KaLam, 2015 while walking past the beautifully designed Mohor Kunjo (earlier known as Citizen’s Park), we caught a glimpse of the Bengali Valentines Day madness. And truth be told, I was super happy to see all those sweet 16’s clad in their first yellow (“Bansanti) coloured saris and their counterparts in the oddly worn dhoti.

Continue reading “Saraswati Pujo and the city of 16”

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Relinquished

I

Dalia stood at the very end of the balcony that she once called her own. Like this city, this house, the family- this balcony too did not belong to her anymore. She had left the city and this house out of her own will. Customs told her that she had severed all ties with the family that had been her own since birth. Apparently, she had relinquished her own “Gothra” to take up her husband’s one, during her wedding.

All that happened, ties of a lifetime were severed and nobody noticed, not even Dalia. Her one business decision could determine the accountable balance sheet profits and losses, but here she was unable to perform the last rites of her maternal grandmother during her “Shraadh” ceremony as she belonged to a different “Gothra”. The Purohit told Dalia that she could have performed the ceremony along with her mother, who herself had curtailed rights of mourning for her own mother, if she was still unmarried.

And that precisely gave her the freedom to not offer ritualistic holy water to the soul of  one person who had seen her journey from the shy girl in the primary section of her school who felt scared about informing her teacher that she needed to use the toilet to the one who could herald the attention of an entire board room full of people.

Dalia had heard stories that even before she was born, her maternal grandmother had started stitching dresses for her as she was almost sure that Goddess Lakshmi would bless her eldest daughter this time. Dalia had two elder brothers who enjoyed almost as much attention from her grandmother, but it was she who was her ‘Dimma’s’ favourite. She was almost overjoyed when Dalia got through one of the premium B school of the country and fetched a big ticket job. She was even happier when Dalia got married. It was on that fateful day that Dimma had told Dalia that all her wishes had come true and she could die peacefully now – the day Dalia officially relinquished her right to ritualistically mourn Dimma’s death.

II

A few guests had arrived. Dalia’s parents had preferred not calling many guests as her maternal uncle’s family was still in mourning. Some of them asked Dalia about her life. She smiled and they smiled back. From a distance she watched both her brothers and her mother completing the rituals and offering a “Pranaam” towards the departed soul.

She offered a prayer too.

It was that moment when she realised that she could manage mergers and acquisitions at ease, but for her own self a mere “Kanyadaan” is enough. Enough to relinquish her right to mourn her own grandmother’s death whom she was most attached to and probably sometime later in life, her right to mourn her own parents’ death too.

And she still did not understand how can a few mantras change her “Gothra”, her lineage and the very bloodline she belonged to, since her birth.

(In)Dependant.

I tried to convince myself about not writing this particular blog post but could not resist. The point of writing a post titled ‘(In)Dependant’ when your phone does not stop beeping and your inbox is full of messages titled “Happy Independence Day”- is pure gimmicky. Yes! I am sorry but my nationalism/patriotism is not all aboutmy facebook display picture donning up the shades of the Tiranaga or sending ‘Happy I Day’ messages full of bulk sms writers wisdom laden meaning of what “Freedom” means. Seriously, it doesn’t. Also, I have nothing against Valentines Day or for that matter any day and I love all those celebrations and goodies on V Day that randomly show up every year, but it’s a humble request- Don’t kill the spirit of this Day, the 15th of August, the one we always pray to coincide with a weekday every year (This year it wasn’t). Don’t make it another Valentines Day. ‘I Day’ sounds hep- don’t know what Surjya Sen would have thought about it, but please don’t send me those sms es.

For every individual the term ‘Independence’ has a strict set of connotations attached to it. For me Independence is all about being yourself and supporting what I think is right. It’s a moral decision somewhere. And factual too. When you send me all those messages about India celebrating it’s 63rd I Day- get your facts correct. Count 15th August, 1947 too! Yes, dear…it is our 64th Independence Day and the 63rd year of Independence. subtlety you see-bulk doesn’t work every time. Also, when you fly that tricolour outside your house or buy a paper version of it (am sure, many did that today considering our fetish for everything Karan Johar produces and that includes the mass copies of the Manish Malhotra creation found in KarolBagh and Burrabazar)- show it  it’s due respect. I have seen the tricolour being drenched in the rain or being put in a half mast(not deliberately but may be due to the wind) long after the ceremonial flag hoisting and the bhashanbazi is over. Or paper flags strewn all across the street. Try picking them up on 16th August or tey to stand up every time the national anthem is played in your 200 bucks worth Multiplex. These are very symbolic day to day measures which count in favour of your independent spirit. The one that separates you from the herd. The herd that goes on to study Engineering (while craving for Literature). No offences meant there. But that’s one very apt example which I thought will make sense for many young souls raking their brains over making a decision.
I am a law student and it’s part of my coursework to dissect the Constitution and research over all  those tomes written over the haloed principles of justice, liberty and equality. Somehow in Law School, one thing I really enjoyed was studying the Constitution and everything related to it. But as a nobody I will suggest to everybody to read up the document. No, dear am not mixing up ‘I Day’ with ‘R Day’. It is one of the most succinctly (I am aware of it’s original length) put and brilliantly drafted piece of literature I have ever come across. Never mind all those ninety five and counting amendments that our legislators decided to put across. We have a habit of screwing brilliant stuff. Ask Sourav Ganguly, Shashi Tharoor etc. Nothing puts forward the true spirit of Indian Independence as beautifully as the constitution. When we had dominion status between 15th August 1947 and 26th January, 1950- our Constitution framers took extra effort to make sure it is an ethereal document out of bounds of time and space (I mean it. We do no need those amendments or those debates over basic structure.) It reflects the aspiration of a country born after it’s ‘tyrst with destiny at midnight’. A country which was torn apart and the flame lingers on till date (Kashmir anyone). A country where there was versatility of thought from the very inception (?) of the freedom struggle. A country we call our own. our Home. And even when that NRI jerk presumes over that matrimonial chat that the lady on the other side of cyberspace is homely and does not know what biking means you give him a piece of your mind and say dude! come to the Himalayas. Also, it’s the ‘reverse’ gear you know- let’s make that a trend. 
Be the Generation ‘W’. Respect the fact that worshiping goddess Durga on one hand and stiffling the voice of your daughter in case she wants to marry in some other caste or play football is passe’.
Be Independent.