Once upon a time when life was without its whys and what ifs, a little girl lived in her own magical world in the southern part of Calcutta (which we now know as Kolkata). The locality she lived in was inhabited by simple middle class people with mediocre dreams and aspirations. There were no high rise constructions overshadowing the sky and trams tinkled and trundled on their defined paths.
Her house, lovingly built by her grandfather, had a huge shiuli(small white flowers with an orange stalk . It is associated with Durga Puja and blooms only once a year between September – October) tree. Every year at a certain time, the tree went into full bloom and the world around her was suddenly coloured in the orange and white hues of Shiuli flowers. She did not know why but every year the blooming of this small flower heralded the onset of festivities.
A few days later the roads would be draped in multi-coloured bulbs depicting mythological or current events. Temporary stalls would be constructed all along the pavements where there would be people, mostly her brother’s friends, selling varied refreshments.
Finally when early one morning, the strains of Mahalaya (a radio broadcast comprising songs and recitation of slokas heralding the onset of Durga Puja) slokas and songs resonating the prowess of the Goddess Durga woke her up, she knew it was the time for Durga Puja.
From then till the next 15 days, her locality would light up as Singhi Park and crowds of people would mill in to see the Goddess in all her finery raging her fury on the evil Mahisasur as her four children serenely looked on.
As she grew up, the pujas acquired a new look and meaning. It was the time to dress up just to see admiration light up the eyes of the special person. This probably held more importance than anything else around her. It was the time of absolute liberty to return late nights when nobody would question “why”. Life then would be a riot of colours.
Several years later that young woman is now a mother herself. However, the magic of the pujas have not ceased. Even today the strains of Mahalaya wakes her up to a fresh morning, and the beat of the dhak (A traditional Indian drum) puts a rhythm in her feet.
Nevertheless, the magic of her childhood has metamorphosed into reason in her womanhood. She now knows, why the shiuli blooms at that time of the year and what makes the streets so much more colourful. As she looks back to peep into her lost innocence, she realizes that life has moved on and so has she. Her simple, ordinary locality today figures among the posh localities of Kolkata. Flyovers and highrises have changed its skyline. She, herself stays in a different locality with a different family, which is now her own. She has moved into a new house which has a shiuli tree, but somehow it does not create the same magic. With her new found reason she has realized that some things probably cannot be re-created. That is why we call them memories to look back and feel nice.
During Durga Puja, she, along with her beloved, now her husband, deck up the new person in their lives. Once again, both their eyes glow with pride on seeing their little daughter prance around in her new clothes. The lights are there and so are the stalls. It will just be a different neighbourhood and new people she will be celebrating it with. Nevertheless, the magic will still be there albeit in a different form.
Every year, at about this time, something in the air tells us magic is about to happen. No matter where we are, the Pujas bring in a new enchantment, a new thrill and we start all over again with a smile and a cheer.