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Until the Next Year

by Sowyadeep Chatterjee

Durga pujo, the biggest celebration for the Bengali people, brings with it a gift of hope, fills up everyone’s hearts with it, and then even before one realises, gets over. All in four days. One such Durga pujo is spent by a lost soul at the ancestral village home of a friend. Does he find hope? Does he find peace? Or is it all mere mythology? Sowmyadeep writes the story.

Where are you now? Why did you leave me? Why? I miss you. I want to be a child again, and play in our garden, roll over the green surface, inhale the intoxicating scent of the grass and the flowers. I want to travel back in time…

“Are you even listening to me?”

“Yes, I am.”

“So, are you coming with me? Say something. Come on, it will be fun.”

“I think I should spend the vacation indoors.”

“Nobody stays at home during pujo. And I know how unsocial you are, which is why I won’t leave you alone. Come with me. Trust me, my family is nice. All good people, bro. It won’t be bad, I promise…”

I never could understand what friendship is. All I knew, all I cared about, was the fact that you were there for me. As a friend, a guide, a mentor, a protector. You were my only friend, don’t you know that? Then how could you leave?

“So as I was saying, our pujo is more than fifty years old. Not the theme-based ones you see in the city. Every aspect of the occasion is strictly in accordance with tradition. Yes, the idol is ekchalaa. My grandfather himself performs the rituals, he is very orthodox about these matters. But what I like about this, which I’m sure you too would once you witness it, is the calmness and serenity of the entire rural environment, in contrast to the glitter and grandeur and, if I may say, loudness of the city-based celebrations. I’m not against it, but somehow the true essence of Durga pujo is out there, in the rural areas. Are you listening, or are you lost again?”

Indeed, I’m lost. I’m in an unknown city, without any friends. Wherever I look, everything I see is unfamiliar. Every face I see is that of a stranger. Strangers all around.

“You know, I always thought you had a lot hidden inside that brooding silence, behind those scared eyes. I think my parents would like you, especially my mother.”

“You don’t need… just don’t do that. I’m fine. I miss my mother, but I’ve accepted her death. You don’t need to sympathise all the time. I know, your mother must be a wonderful person. Don’t try to…”

“I wasn’t. And I won’t bring that topic up. Sorry.”

“No no. I’m sorry. I should thank you for bringing me along, and here I am ravaging about…”

“Don’t say anything else. I understand. Let’s change the topic. You like mohaloya. Oh, of course you do! Who doesn’t, right? Oh, man! That wonderful feeling when you hear it, ‘baajlo tomar…‘, and then Birendrokrishno comes in with his irreplaceable voice and tone. I can already feel it. You know, the feeling of pujo. Don’t you feel it?”

I used to, perhaps. Remember how I would doze off halfway through mohaloya?. And you would slowly put a pillow between my head and the stiff wooden chair. Then you would put a blanket around me. I missed so many mohaloyas. I wish I hadn’t slept so much.

***

“Oh, so you are the friend he speaks so much about. Come come, son. Sit here. I heard about your mother’s death and it’s…”

“Maa, please. Just avoid that topic, na”

“Of course. You will love our pujo. I have made chicken for lunch. Is it okay?”

“Yes, Maa. He loves chicken.”

“He doesn’t speak much, does he?”

“Nope. He’s like that, can’t help it. Oh, look, there’s the idol. Isn’t it beautiful? Oh man!”

***

They say God does everything for good. Tell me, God, what good did you do by taking my mother away from me? You are a mother too. The mother goddess. You know what she meant to me. Then how could you let her die? Are you there, in this clay idol? Are you everywhere, omnipresent, omniscient, as they say? Why did this happen? Can you answer me? Do you hear me? Do you exist?

***

Saptami.

Ashthami.

Nabami.

Dashami.

Why is it that the mother stays for just four days? She loves her children. Her children love her. Then why can’t she stay forever? Why must it all end? Why begin in the first place if it has to end? Why?

***

“Aren’t you ready? It’s almost time for the immersion. Come on, get ready. Quick!”

“Aschey bochor abar hobe, aschey bochor abar hobe…”

Until the next year.

When the Mother will return to her children. She will return, bringing happiness and prosperity. So now she must go. She has to go, so that she can come again, and again, for eternity. It is time to let her go. It is time to bid adieu. Until the next year…

“Yes, I’m coming.”

“Great. Get ready quickly.”

“I think I am ready. Yes, I am…”

Picture from https://www.flickr.com/photos/rishi_roy/

Soumyadeep Chatterjee is an engineering student from Kolkata with a strong interest in writing, particularly short fiction. His writings have been published in online magazines.
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