A few “Happy New Years”

Sona looked at the clock on her desk yet again. It was one of those fancy corporate gifts she had received this year on Diwali.
The clock said that only 5 minutes were left to ring in the New Year. She could hear some joyous chants and sounds of fireworks outside.
She smiled and submerged herself to finish the pending work. In her mind, she was thinking about the car she planned to gift her parents in the next 2 months. The “best employee” award also had to be taken care of again.


Mrittika enjoyed dancing. One day she dreamed of taking the centrestage. One day the world would be her stage, but as of now she had to satisfy herself by being a background dancer. She waited for her act to begin. This was one of those elite parties in the city where the who’s who visited to celebrate the new year.
It was cold outside. Everyone submerged themselves in gallons of alcohol while a few like Mrittika entertained then to make it a party to remember for the who’s who. The skimpy clothes and flashbulbs of lust were their tickets to fame on Page 3 the next day.


“Business has not been good today Raju bhai”
“Yes, hardly any sale in this holiday season too. Everything is available online these days”.
Raju said while counting his day’s earning. His son wanted to buy a new mobile phone. Kamala, his wife wanted to go for the picnic organised by a few of their neighbours. Each person needed to pay 300 rupees for the picnic.
300 Rupees – a figure that his sale of posters and canvases during this entire festive season had failed to achieve. He had set up a small roadside shop near Victoria Memorial. Thousands thronged the place everyday during the winters, but few bought the pictures.
He needed the money. He had promised his family to bring home the money in return of their permission to be absent during this time when the entire city indulged in being happy.
Raju wanted that money to buy a smile for his family.

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Refugee

“Basically, you are a Refugee!”

A huge round of thunderous laughter serenaded Shambo’s living room in Gurgaon.

It was the occasion of the house warming party for the new apartment that Shambo had managed to buy in one of those luxurious apartment blocks in this new city. The EMI will cut a deep hole inside his pocket, but the name plate on the door would more than make up for it.

Shambo’s mother still refers to Gurgaon as “Dilli”. Shambo had failed to explain that Gurgaon was more of an excuse in the name of a city. He went out one day to find a proper book store nearby his house, but had failed to find one. The look of disgust on his face was so palpable that the “autowallah” had to ask – “Kya hua bhaissab, sab thik to hain na?”

Yet, this place was his home now. He has managed to buy his own house here, with his own money. For every single thing that he hated Gurgaon for, he respected the place for giving him a job, an identity and the financial independence that his home town could never give him. Gurgaon valued his hardwork and tenacity.

“What happened, Refugee? Can we have some more beer please?”

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A trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia – A bit Closer to ‘Heaven’

Last Sunday, I returned home after completing an epic Euro Trip of sorts. For most of the part of my trip, I was travelling with my best friend, one who is known as ‘the husband’ for the more mundane and prosaic world, to some places which have been on my bucket list for quite long.

To tell the truth, a year and half of my stay in Europe, did change my perspective towards life. I love the utter chaos of Calcutta but somewhere down the line I do miss the quaint little coffee shops and those cobbled streets of European cities. The story with omnipresent ‘honking horns’ of Calcutta is that I abhor when I am here and I miss them when I am outside where driving on a road is actually a civilised affair. Alternatively, I miss the serenity when I am back in my hometown. The traffic itself is a a jarring reminder of the adventure ahead on the road.

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Memory Closet

Piu stopped to look back. He did look familiar.

There was a glint of “recognition” in his eyes too. Did he smile? Was it that same impish grin.

Piu started hurling out those cardboard compartments from the memory closet really fast.

Somewhere deep down, that smile brought about a lot of happy memories. The smile was almost like the touch of her grandmother’s, her thamma‘s, hands which smelled of Boroline. The touch that she yearned for when that long drawn divorce battle drained her off, emotionally and financially.

And now she was back in the city where her thamma once lived, the city which always made her feel at home and at peace.

This time she had a mission. She wanted to get rid of that very house where she had met Ranjeev. That same very old house on Southern Avenue where Ranjeev asked her out for their first date. She remembers that Ranjeev tried hard to impress his father’s ‘Tolly Club’ membership, while she continued being snooty and explained to him why ‘Calcutta Club’ was a class apart.

Ironically, Ranjeev’s father wanted to bring down her thamma’s house and develop the property. That was a decade ago. They fell in love and the house remained to stay on, as per her wish.

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Durga and Uma – 2 stories, 2 faces

(This post was originally written as a part of the “Pujo Voices” competition organised by Wedoria, an initiative actively supported by the ABP Group. I won the Critics’ Choice award for another entry, but this was my personal favourite among the five I submitted. And what better day to revisit it than today- the day everyone is busy celebrating as International Women’s Day – the day marked by heavy discounts on consumer goods and “Happy Women’s Day” messages all over social media. Not that I mind the discounts, but the irony is almost satirical. In case you have time, read, share and leave a comment. We can all go back and fill up our shopping carts afterwards 🙂 )

The row of lights that adorned the streets leading to the Pujo Pandal welcomed ‘Durga’ back home. It was almost a year that she had been here last. Her house back in Greater Kailash had all the trappings of luxury, but none could match the simple joy of seeing the ‘devi’ idol being carried into the pandal from her old and almost bedridden North Kolkata home’s balcony. The conch shells announced the arrival of the festival in the city.

This year was also special. The glitter of her community or ‘Para Pujo’ will stand out in the crowd with the ‘Devi’ idols being adorned with heavy gold and diamond jewellery, sponsored by one of the biggest jewellery retailers of the country. She was so happy that she was the one who sealed the big deal of corporate sponsorship for her ‘Para’. Everyone from the locality gave her a smiling nod of approval in the pandal where the ‘Devi’ was being adorned in all her glory. Suddenly she spotted a ‘known’ face among the bevy of workers busy making the last minute preparations. She called out-

“Rontu Kaku, How are you?”

“Arrey Shonai, Kemon acho? when did you come back?”

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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.