Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Shubho Mahalaya!

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“Who in his sane mind lets go of such an offer? We need the money, don’t we?” asked Mishty, as she placed the plate of rice and curry before her husband.

 “Give me some ilish, there’s none on my plate” said Taranath searching for a piece of his favorite hilsa in the curry.

“You are worried about the maach? I don’t believe you! Spare a thought for Rudra. My poor baby is fighting for life and… ” Tears were beginning to well up in her eyes.

Tara sighed. He could sometimes be so lost in his own world that he could be oblivious to the pain of people around him. He brought her close and patted her head. “What has to be will be, Mishty. Have faith in Maa, has she ever let go of our hand?”  He was aware of his wife agony and he had been numb with pain himself, but tomorrow was an important day. His duty was paramount.

Their 8 year old son Rudra, had fallen from the top floor of an under-construction building playing hide and seek with his friends. Now he was battling for life in the ICU of a local hospital. Until last year, Mohun Pal, Taranath’s father had been performing the Khuti puja, where the first set of wooden planks would be nailed together. This would become the platform on which the idol of the goddess would be erected. Due to his father’s failing health, this year the onus was on Taranath to ensure that the journey of the Mother was held as per his family’s tradition. There was no way he was going to give up his duty and be by his son’s bedside. There wasn’t much he could do anyway.

 “I’m going to get puja items for the Chandi paath tomorrow”, he told her as he finished his lunch, “Do you need anything from the market for making the bhog?”

Tomorrow was a special day. It would mark the annual journey of the goddess, beginning with the Ratha Yatra. As was their family tradition, Maa Shakti would be invoked in the form of Chandi, amidst the chanting of the Chandi paath or recitations from the Chandi scriptures and artisans would seek permission from the divine mother so that they could create her out of clay.

Community pujas and market demands, including the recent demand from foreign shores had made most artisans go the mass production way, dumping the age old family traditions. It was a great way to make quick money. Indeed as Mishty had pointed out, no one in their sane mind could let go of such an offer. They needed that money for Rudra’s treatment. But Tara was adamant. For him, bringing the goddess to life in the most traditional way was far more important than making quick money.

Wiping her eyes, Mishty gave him a list of things she would need to make the bhog tomorrow. Tara smiled and touched her cheek lovingly, “Bhaalo, I will get going now.”   

As the sun dawned amidst the blowing of the conches, the beating of the dhak and the recitation of the Chandi paath, Taranath bowed his head in reverence to the divine mother as he performed the ‘Khuti puja’. “Permit me to make you in clay, mother, as our scriptures specify. Come alive and watch over me, so that I commit no error in sculpting you as majestically as you should be.” He watched as Mishty laid down a grand bhog for the noibiddo or the holy offerings. He was glad she had not allowed her emotions to rule over her duty.

That evening, they received a call from Mishty’s brother, Prasanto, who was looking after little Rudra in the hospital. “Tarababu, shubho samachar,” said her brother excitedly. Rudra, who had been lying comatose for the past 3 months, had wriggled his little toes and the doctors had been excited with the development.

Mishty and Taranath wept like two little children, it was indeed miraculous that Rudra should respond on the day of the day “Khuti puja”.

Every day after that, Taranath with his team of artisans got involved in sculpting the idols of the divine mother graduating from one step to another and from one age old ritual to another. He sourced the Ganga Jal from the Hoogly, though it would have been more convenient to use tap water that was so readily available.

Mishty watched the structure being formed each day as she came to the workshop carrying food for her husband and his artisans. The headless structure of the goddess in straw and bamboo stood towering several feet above her in its entire splendor.

 The straw structure was complete and it was now time for the 'ekmaati' stage, when the structure would be covered in clay. It was time for Tara to visit the house of Yashomati, the courtesan in Sonagachi, and beg for permission to collect clay from her house. He would then mix this clay with the mound that would go into making the idol. The idea was that Durga puja being an all encompassing festival everyone had a right to be a part of it in their own distinct way.

Mishty had been against Taranath’s visit to the city’s red light area, but being the head artisan, it was his duty to complete the ritual. Taranath prayed that she would understand the significance of the ritual. It was a miracle again, that made Mishty change her mind. And this time too, the miracle came from the hospital. “Mishty, we found a kidney donor for Rudra” said Prasanto. “But there’s an issue. The donor is the deceased daughter of….” he struggled with words, “umm…..her mother is from Sonagachi.”

Mishty’s eyes filled with tears as she understood what the divine mother was trying to convey to her.  “Go ahead with it dada”, she said, her heart heavy with gratitude, “It is Maa’s gift to me this Durga puja.” She sat before the photo of the divine mother begging for forgiveness, tears rolling down her eyes.

She took out the new saree she had brought for herself, for the puja, and handed it over to her husband. “This is for Yashomati, give this to her and get the first handful of clay from her backyard.”

As the clay was beginning to mould the straw structure into shape, it was breathing life into little Rudra too. The Idol was almost ready. It was the day of the “mastak daan”, when the head of the goddess would be attached to the rest of body, amidst blowing of conches and pujas. The deity would come to life with that. And as Mishty had come to expect, the goddess showered her with a miracle yet again. Rudra’s body had been responding miraculously well to the treatment. His CT scans had shown that the clot in his brain had dissolved, as if on its own. Doctors at the hospital had been amazed with the progress.

Amidst tears, Mishty blew the conch over and over again that evening, throwing sindoor over the photo of the divine mother and dancing like one possessed.

“I want to go to the hospital,” she begged her husband.

“Wait until Mahalaya, it is important for me to do the ‘Chakshu daan’,” said Taranath. He had been craving to meet his child too, but the final ritual had to be completed. “Let me draw mother’s eyes and bid her goodbye. We will go to the hospital after that.”

On the day of Mahalaya, between ululations and the chanting of the Chandika stotras, Taranath drew the eyes of the divine mother even as tears streamed down his face. The divine mother looked astoundingly beautiful. His hands trembled as he brought them together in prayer.

They would bid goodbye to Maa for yet another year, while people would take her to their homes to be worshipped for the next 10 days. Taranath had completed his duty as was expected of him.

When Prasanto called that evening, Mishty knew what he would tell her even before she took his call. “Rudra has opened his eyes, isn’t it dada?” she beamed.  “Yes, but how did you know?” asked Prasanto surprised.  "Shubho Mahalaya, dada," she said smiling. "Shubho Mahalaya, Mishty." he replied.

Together they bowed before the idol of Maa Durga. Mishty knew she had been naïve not trusting the mother enough. The divine mother had not let go their hand. She never would.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Serial Killers!

Mom’s keenly watching a daily soap. I haven’t watched one in years, and from the recap that mom has so generously given me, I find it interesting. Looks like a good story line. It’s only half an hour, I tell myself. If that means getting time to chat up with mom, even on a pretty useless topic, why not! So I settle down next to her watching what happens next from where she’s left the story. (and by the way, there was no chatting up during that time, I had almost forgotten that opening my mouth was akin to hara-kiri, especially when mom’s watching those soaps!)

Scene one. Bushy eyebrow. And then, slowly the camera pans to the....the...the other bushy eyebrow. He’s supposed to be that mystery man, right? Hmmm….Someone asks a question and the shot is again on our man…I mean, on his bushy eyebrows….he doesn't speak, his assistant answers for him. Another dialogue…and zoom to the bushy eyebrows….yet another dialogue….zoom again to the bushy eyebrows….imagine having to be just content watching the man’s bushy eyebrows for the entire half hour. Eyebrows that looked like a mountain…sorry, two mountains. Man….! Why couldn’t you trim them a little? Especially when they were to be shown endlessly for half an hour! You could give Kroor Singh a run for his money!! (Kroor Singh, who? Chandrakantha... remember? Yep the same guy) And no, our man does not, as much as, mouth a single dialogue the whole time. The voice could be a giveaway, right? Yeah! The whole world wants to know who the man is…. And people wait with baited breaths….

Aah mistarees!!! The warldh louse tham, doan’th thaeey?

 But no, for today that is all we will get to see. The wait continues to the next day. The next day, we get to see a shot of his majesty’s shoes…. shiny, pointed, and black, with a dotted partition running like a creek from the center to the sides.  Ah! Now you are marveling at my ability to be such a keen observer of accessories, no? Don’t be! As much as I would be liked to be called hawk eyed, I am more like a nursery kid who has been taught to learn by rote! I saw them, the shoes, I mean, for a full 30 minutes!!! They walked back and forth, the heel making a perfect angle before being laid at 180 degrees on the floor. I swear the shoes made exactly the same angle with the floor each time they were lifted! And wow, the sound they made! slow motion….crunch….in slow motion…crunch…in slow motion…they went each time he lifted those heavenly feet and blessed the floor with them! As for the identity of our man….nah...not so soon love…he continues to be a…..mistaree!! If there was a knife nearby, I could have driven it straight into my belly!

Now I wanted to desperately see who that mystery man was. It is said all good things come to those who wait….yeah right!! Because, cut to the next day, and we generously get to see a shot running from the shoes up the trousers, slowly....if an ant were to be climbing up his trouser, I bet we could have traced its path upwards! There’s more….Yay!! I do a mental flip! The shot shows us every crease on his whiter-than-milk trouser and the camera’s going up…yeah, we’re there, almost baby, keep going...keep going…I try to be encouraging. Oh yeah, the tie, beautiful… yellow floral tie, eh?whatever….but you are doing good, keep going…! Matches with the trouser and the blazer….well not really…but who cares….just keep going….come on you can do it….ah!! I can almost see the nape of his neck!!

And then…. almost liked a ruined orgasm….arrrrghhhh…..those stupid bushy eyebrows again! What the…?!! Really? What is he? Monalisa?  Why can’t you just show the bugger’s face?

How much free time do those producers think we have? They really expected us to watch such insanely stupid soaps, while they take their own sweet time (3 full episodes!!) to just show us that mystery man’s face?? And no, the face that will launch a thousand ships has still not been unraveled, mind you!

I throw a scornful this-is-what-you-watch look at mom, and she pretends not to have caught that look….I remember seeing such an insane shot 15 years ago in one of the first ever, longest running daily soaps on television. We haven’t walked a single step in last 15 years, have we? 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Over the top parenting!!

We were having a get together at a friend’s place, and while the adults were busy chatting, the kids were busy bringing the roof down with all the noise they were making! All of a sudden one of the kids fell down and the kid’s mom and dad both let out a short scream!

Even as I wondered whether it was the child which fell down or his parents, the mother ran to him, consoling him and the father frantically rubbed his head. To me it looked like the mother needed more consoling than the child! In the midst of that entire hullabaloo, I saw the child suddenly freeze in shock for a short while, before crying so hard holding his breath that I was sure he would turn blue if he held his breath any longer! Even before anyone could say anything, the harried parents made an abrupt exit with the child in tow and the other parents nodded sympathetically!

To read the rest of the post go

And no, this is not the graffiti wall...the scribbling continues everywhere in spite of having a wall earmarked for him!

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