Lights,colours and sounds! It is the festive season once again,but this time with a difference.
She walked about the streets,the packed malls and shopping hubs.Every where she could see ladies,decked up as though on a fashion parade, navigating with miraculous swiftness from one shop to another while their haggard looking husbands following them with caution.There were young couples walking with complete oblivion to the surroundings and earning disgusted looks from middle-aged aunties.
Everything had a happy and gay look.The shops were decorated with frills,ribbons and what not.There were sweet boxes piled up and colourful banners which tried to lure customers with promises of heavy discounts.There was an infectious happiness in the air.
But this time,it was different too.This time,the Saptami morning started not with the sound of distant speakers blaring out Kishore Kumar or Bengali oldies(the puja mornings always hear melodies while evenings are reserved for cacophony) but with the alarm tone of “wake up wake up!” Thank god,Durga and family doesn’t use flights from come from Kailash, else Shiv would have been broke long back.
Anyway,lesser mortals who cannot use elephants or palanquins to go home during Puja had to spent the three days searching for cottony clouds on sky and liking Durga Puja posts on FB. “Welcome to the shitty life of grown ups” she remembered the remark of her friend as she looked at the sky on AsThami morning as she entered the building.
The days were sluggish and the lunches bland.So nothing much to write about it.
The descend of evening that day was not so easy like other times.Darkness had to find its way through the numerous lights that skirted the building and streets.A smell of burnt oil and ghee hung loosely in the air due to the number of diyas that were lit up all around.
By the time she arrived at her stoppage, a number of kids with bright clothes and loaded with crackers thronged the area.Courtyard is a luxury here and you cannot light a Sivakasi rocket just under your flat ( might get Brocade Handcrafted curtain of the first floor flat discoloured).These crackers are so intricately linked with our childhood.Every year,the Dashami of Durga Puja became bearable because there is Kali Puja & Diwali to look forward to.
After Dashami,the streets of Janiganj would turn into a huge cracker fair.The stores which sold usual puja stuffs the entire year would pile up crackers.The names of the boxes went like “Aishwariya 7 stars” or “Rani charki” depending on the bollywood quotient of the current year.But there were two packets that never underwent any change till she bought crackers.One was “Montu Atom” in a black,red and gold paper box and the bunch of loud cackling crackers called ‘ATaish ‘(28 in local language) that had a tiger drawn on the packet. And most of these came from Sivakasi Fireworks. Whenever she thought of Diwali,even years down the line, that was the first thing she remembered.
Here the loud crackers of her bygone days were replaced with the colourful modern ones (say NO to sound pollution campaign).One packet of these modern crackers cost approximately the same as our entire Diwali shopping,the old shopkeeper from whom she takes her daily packet of milk remarked.
Diwali in her place meant the so many things.Diwali meant it is time the sweaters and blankets,smelling of naphthalene were taken out.It meant that the price of cauliflowers in market would start dipping soon.Diwali meant most Kali-Puja pandals to be designed as caves and getting scared by some funny thing that tries to pass itself as ghost.It meant the morning anger of mothers who tried to tidy the courtyard that is littered with plastic wrappers,burnt sparklers and empty cracker shells.
She threw open the windows to let the sound and light permeate her den.She could see the boys and girls being shepherded to their homes by parents as the road gradually assumed a desolate look.Only Katrina , Munni were left to be swept the next morning before the first bus arrived.