ravings, rantings and ramblings
Those similar stirrings of the heart.
Today, I was up and about at 4 in the morning. Set my laptop to the speaker and put on ‘Mahalaya‘. For the uninitiated and the non-Bengali, ‘Mahalaya’ is a classical invocation of the Mother Goddess or Maa Durga as we all know her. She is the embodiment of power, slayer of evil, the divine feminine energy and thus, depicted with 10 arms! Mythology aside, I was reminiscing my earliest memories ‘Mahalaya’ and ‘Durga Puja‘.
I remember my father getting up before 4am to labour with the AM frequency on his black Philips transistor so that we could listen to the special transmission of ‘Mahalaya’. Mom would quickly make us some tea and then would start her day early. I would nibble my cookie and then fall asleep again, listening to the strains of the Indian classical raga based songs.
One week after the ‘Mahalaya’ starts the big celebrations. Dad and I used to take early morning walks, collecting ‘Shiuli’ flowers (biological name Nyctanthes arbor-tristis) on the way. Every Bengali becomes a poet with the whiff of the night jasmine in the autumn air. I remember picking up traditional Bengali breakfast and taking a peep into the Puja Pandals or the elaborate tents that house the idol of the Goddess; just to check on the preparations.
Puja holidays in Kolkata used to be a complete party. Cousins and relatives coming out of all corners and crannies. Food being made or ordered in almost all the time; endless rounds of tea and the insatiable desire for sweets! Evenings used to start early and end late with all family members, irrespective of age, would go from one ‘pandal’ to the other, eating every possible thing under the shiny lights.
I remember Dad would take me for a long walk by the banks of the Ganga and then walk into Kumar Tuli (the town of the potters who make the most incredible clay idols year after year). I used to stare at the clay torsos of the Goddess and the Asura (the demon). Dad would explain that the face would be done later. I would walk amidst the arrays of idols, in what used to be and still is, one of the best exhibitions ever, with amazement writ large on my face. I used to be really scared of the lion (the steed of the Mother Goddess), interestingly made of ordinary towel as lion-skin.
Yes, those familiar stirrings of my heart. The annual ritual of feeling Bengali starts today on.