Hailing from a Bengali family, the most awaited time in the year for me has apparently been the ‘agomoni of maa’. Apart from the usual zest to buy new dresses and the two-week long vacation to meet almost every cousin, pujo has been more about waking up at 4am during Mohaloya to watch the special television program that streams on that very day. As the childhood echo of early morning journey to our hometown every year through the lush green fields decorated with what Bengalis call ‘kash’ flower flashes by, I swear I can almost breathe in the soothing, cool breeze in the cloudy sky that would tell you ‘maa aasche’. The very aura of the spring morning would warm your heart for the arrival of the long awaited festive.
Pujo has always been more than simple pandal hopping in new dresses and your refrigerator being filled with sweets of all sorts or having a grand family lunch somewhere in a sumptuous restaurant you hardly ever visit. The long queues in Ramkrishna Mission for the throat burning khichdi or standing for hours in the crowded pandal for ‘onjoli’ even if you were sweating is the real essence of pujo.
How would I ever describe the joy of threading shiuli flower for Maa, giggling with my cousins and competing for who makes the best garland? How could I ever paint the beauty of maa in that red and white saree with vermilion on her forehead, laughing and gossiping with the neighbours? Oh, and my favourite part was sitting in the varendah at night with a cup of tea in hand to watch people dressed in their best of attires and jewellery and judging them for who had the worst of make-up on. The four day long festival filled with colours and lights and vibrancy and everything in between is what we wait for throughout the year.
Pujo has always been my favourite part of being Bengali. Yet, somehow, I wish this year Maa had spared me of visiting her maternal house. For it reminded me of you, papa, and that never again would I go for pujo shopping with you and hear you crib about how long maa and I were taking to choose a single pair of clothing. For it reminded me of how you would buy the costliest fish in the market on the last day and literally try to fit the entire sweet shop in the refrigerator. Or that this time, I had been snatched away the opportunity to sit in the backseat of your car while you drive through the traffic and complain about how we should have left early.
They tell me that you would never want me to stop loving that one beautiful festival. But how could I not, when you were the one to teach me that family is and always will be the best part of happiness. How would I smile, knowing that neither will maa play ‘shidoor khela’ this year, nor will you be handing me the phone to wish every member in our unbelievably large family ‘shubho bijoya doshomi’.
I am scared, papa for I know that Pujo will probably never be the same again. I am scared that I won’t be able to wear the mask I have artfully mastered for Pujo, this year.