Maa has returned to her heavenly abode, as did mine, almost 20 years ago.
When we were little, the joy of pujo lay in waking up at the crack of dawn to Birendro Kishore Bhodro’s rendition of Mohaloya broadcast over All India Radio. It lay in the anticipation of more than a week off from school, wearing new clothes, eating bhog, and most of all meeting friends and family.
After I had moved to Delhi, pujo was a time to be with my parents, who had moved to Kolkata by then. Kolkata was a big change from the small town I had grown up in. The pandals of Raurkela were neither as creative as Kolkata, nor were they as crowded. The madness that grips Kolkata during pujo is not something anyone outside of Kolkata can understand or imagine.
This night was pujo’s biggest night – Ashtami. After offering our morning Anjali in the paaraar pandal, we decided not to venture out in the evening.
“Knock, knock, knock!!!” It was Monoronjon, our local rickshaw puller.
Those who are familiar with Kolkata, know that rickshaw pullers are our solution to getting to various modes of an otherwise efficient public transit system. Within every few blocks is a “rickshaw stand” marked only by a huddle of rickshaws. If you live in that neighborhood, you start using the same rickshaw puller to take you places, or to run errands. In our case, that man was Monoronjon.
“Ki Boudi, pujo dekhbeyn naa?” (Brother’s wife, don’t you want to go and see pujo?)
“Naa, eyi bheedeyr moddhey aar beyrotey bhaal laagey naa.” (No, its too crowded to be enjoyable)
“Sheyki??? Oshtomir din, protimaa dekhtey jaabeyn naa. Ey ki kothaa? Cholun. Aajkey keyu baadi boshey neyi. Cholteyi hobey.” (How can that be? Its Ashtami, Pujo’s big night. How can you not want to see Mother Goddess. No one stays home on Ashtami. I will take you through the backlanes. You have to come.)
And, so we did. Through the narrow back lanes of Selimpur to all the pujos in Jodhpur Park, Jadavpur park and even as far as Santoshpur. My sister and I hung on to our mother for dear life as Monoronjon expertly swerved his way through the winding streets and impenetrable crowds. A good three hours later – we were home.
“Eyyi jey, Monoronjon. Eyto ghoraaley. Koto holo?”(you took us around quite a bit. How much?)
“Sheyki baudi? Pujor din. Aami aapnedeyr ghora tey niyey gaychhi. Aapni to amaakey daakeyn ni.” (How can you even ask me that? Its pujo. I asked you to come with me. You didn’t ask me to take you.)
And with that, Monoronjon, our illiterate, dirt-poor rickshaw puller reminded us that pujo is so much more than new clothes, food or commerce. It is about sharing joy.