Month: February 2019

When I Walked with a cool Man

I am the dude super cool, I walk around the campus humming tunes in the ears of cool guys & gals. Be it soft romantic melodies, rap or hip-hop, I play you songs that make your hearts flutter, your feet tap joyfully, and your lips whistle. Be it walking around the campus, hanging out in the canteen, sitting under a tree, studying in the library or just sitting quietly in your hostel room, I am your hip companion who sings you your favourite song. From my huge collection of music cassettes, I choose one that suits your mood.IMG-20190222-WA0000.jpgWalkman, the dude super cool I am, the most aspired gadget of all the cool guys & gals. No matter what, they never part with me, they are unwilling to share me with their friends and peers. I am forever stuck to their belts or waistband, with my stylish friend Headphone stuck to their ears or hanging around their neck. Together, we make a deadly pair!  The cassettes change hands, they are passed around, but Walkman & Headphone, no way, get your own pair!

Then one day I wasn’t so cool anymore. I lay ignored on the study table or bookshelves while cool gals & guys rushed in and out of their rooms. “Didn’t you hear the rumour,” whispered a hip-hop cassette in my ear, “kids are moving to CDs now and the much cooler Disc-man.” I raised my eyebrows in disbelief, “Don’t pay too much heed to such rumours.” But soon the shelves were flooded with CDs and the haughty Disc-man adorned the waistbands of my cool friends.  I sat there sulking with my friend cassettes, to be drowned under the jazzy CDs.

IMG-20190222-WA0002.jpgTo my surprise, the haughty Disc-man came and sat next to me one fine afternoon. I turned my face in disdain, “Oh chill! I am just taking a break. I will be soon gone.” “Haven’t you heard,” said a CD sounding alarmed, “the cool kids are moving to iPods now, CDs and Disc-mans will be soon forgotten.” “Stop spreading such malicious gossips,” snapped the Disc-man angrily, “Kids are busy with their mid-term exams, they will come back to us soon.” Exams got over, kids went home, leaving the sulking Disc-man and the CDs behind and came back with smart and digital iPods!

“What’s happening?”, the Disc-man yelled, “Who’s that? Why aren’t they looking at us?” “Oh, stop whining,” chided a CD, “Music has gone digital, can’t you see? We are too bulky and outdated, they don’t want us anymore.” The Disc-man looked around in disbelief, as he sat listlessly next to me.

Yes, music has gone digital indeed! There was a whole line of cool iPods that the boys & gals proudly owned. Then one day they dumped the iPods for even cooler iPads and mobile phones! Chic kids today download music & music apps, create their albums and listen to music on their super cool and hi-tech mobile phones, paired with sleek and stylish ear plugs. Walkman, Disc-man, cassettes and CDs are relics of a time gone by!

Love Letter

Valentine’s Day it is! Love is in the air, literally. FM channels are humming love songs, restaurants & cafes are serving special menu that are high on love potion, parties are being organized to celebrate love (even break-ups), brands are luring love-birds with special packages – what a day to be in love!

Love Letter

Amongst all the discourse around love & heart breaks, all the love tunes being aired, the red roses, the pink pastries, the heart shaped balloons and the lovey dovey teddies, I suddenly yearn for those sweet love letters. They were once considered the ultimate expression of love – handwritten love letters on ornate papers, sometimes even on perfumed papers. Letter writing pads, in different colours, with floral designs and mushy love quotes used be available, especially designed for love letters, with matching envelopes. As a girl I fancied those letter writing pads, I would buy and hoard them, hoping to use them some day.

writing padsThe idea of love letters still stirs my imagination. The image of a lovelorn girl eagerly waiting for a letter from her beloved. Once upon a time, doves or pigeons used to be the deliverers of missives of love. With a letter tied to their feet, they would land on the windowsill or the garden of the sweetheart. Special emissaries would carry letters of kings and princes to their lady loves.  Then came the daakiyas and the postmen. As a girl, I remember looking forward to the postman for a letter from my college time    boyfriend. May be the wait made those letters even sweeter!

From snail mails the world moved to e-mails. We would just e-mail each other, the long periods of waiting for a letter was over. Soon there was SMS & WhatsApp, Facebook & Instagram, more pictures and less words. And with Snapchat there were no words at all. The whole world is digital now, it’s all about short & sweet, about catchy phrases, interesting hashtags, pictures and selfies. Handwritten love letters are long gone, nobody even has time for elaborate e-mails.

Pouring your feelings over a letter, waiting for the postman or checking the letter box every day for a response from your sweetheart, that is a feeling that the digital generation will never know. Sometimes I feel we have lost a bit of our eloquence and depth with those letters…or may it’s just me being nostalgic…

Childhood memories of invoking Goddess Saraswati

ma saraswati

Of all the Pujos that used to be celebrated at home during my childhood, Saraswati Pujo was perhaps the most awaited. Children of the family would collect donations from elders’ a week or so before the Pujo. We would then sit with our grandmother and mother to make a list of things required for the Pujo, right from rice, dal, fruits, gur, muri, chire (chirva), flowers, etc. Then started the shopping, every day after school, supervised and accompanied by elders of course. Usually our youngest uncle would guide the gang of cousins to the right shops. Advantages of growing up in a joint family, company of cousins made every occasion so much more fun, and indulgent uncles & aunts forever shielded us and gave in to our demands!

idols of SaraswatiOn the evening before the Saraswati Pujo, we would make a small pandal in our courtyard with my mother’s and aunts’ yellow saris and strings of yellow marigold flowers. Saraswati Pujo, also known as Basanti Pujo, falls on the day of Basant Panchami that marks the arrival of spring. Bright yellow happens to be the Goddess’s favourite colour. Going to the market to pick up an idol used to be another important task of that evening. I still remember walking through the lanes with so many magnificent idols of Vac Devi displayed by the potters, in different sizes and styles. The clam expression and the benevolent smile was however the hallmark of every idol of the fair goddess. After much deliberation, we would pick up an idol that would appear to smile benignly upon us. It was perhaps our childish fantasy, or perhaps a sense of connect with the divine that we felt then!

kashorOn reaching home with the Goddess we would proudly announce our arrival. Goddess Saraswati would be ushered in with the blow konch and the beat of kashor and placed respectfully on the vedi made for her worship. As the ladies of the house would busy themselves in the kitchen preparing naru (nariyel laddu), moa (laddu made of murmura and jaggery), khoier upra (sweetened parched paddy) etc., we would gather around the pandal finishing the decorations and placing our books & pens at the Goddess’s feet. Saraswati Pujo day was one of those rare days when we were forbidden to open our books (that made the day very special for us). On that day, we would invoke the Goddess of knowledge to grant us eternal wisdom.

On the morning of the Pujo, we girls would line up before pandal in yellow saris (borrowed from mom and aunts, tied over tops & t shirts). An elaborate bhog would be laid out before the Goddess – kichdi, labra (mixed vegetable), fried vegetables, puri, sabzi, kheer, moa, naru, fruits, sweets etc. Ber, khoi (parched paddy) & curd, a few items without which the Pujo is considered incomplete, would be placed before the Goddess. In fact, as kids we were not allowed to eat ber before Saraswati Pujo. We were told that we would do miserably in our exams if we didn’t listen.  A thakur moshai or Panditji would come to perform the Pujo. On Pujo days Panditjis’ were in high demand and needed to be pre-booked.

After the Pujo we would all sit down to have the prasad, starting with khoi & curd and ending with tomato chutney, kheer and other sweets, what a feast that was. Somehow the same items cooked on regular days never tasted as delicious.

Having been away from home for a while, the fervent excitement that I once felt during Saraswati Pujo is just a fond memory. Since all the children are away, my mother now does a very small Pujo at home. An elaborate Saraswati Pujo is performed at my sister’s place for the sake of my nephew. A single child, with cousins in other cities, my nephew will never know the fun and the excitement of participating whole-heartedly in Saraswati Pujo with siblings and gang of cousins!

 

 

 

Those rain-soaked days…

Jhiri was reclining on the bed, face down, her cheek rested on a pillow and a book lay open next to her. She was staring out of the window watching the light drizzle, rain drops falling on the green leaves, water droplets like pearls falling from the leaves on the green grass, rain drenched trees that looked so green and beautiful. It was one of those days in Agartala when heavy rain brought life to a standstill. It rained heavily the night before. As the roaring thunder woke her up, she could see flashes of lightening before her mother rushed into the room and shut the window. She was awake for a while listening to thunder clapping, wind lashing, sound of heavy rain falling on the tin roof.

Rainy day

When Jhiri woke up in the morning it was still raining, their courtyard and the road along the house was waterlogged, at least knee-deep water. “Your school bus won’t come today, so just stay at home and finish your projects,” said her mother. Jhiri would have loved to venture out, wade in the water, get drenched in the rain, but the stern expression on her mother’s face made her go back to her room. She sat on her study table, opened a book and stared out of the window. Jhiri loved rains, she loved that it rained so often in Agartala. On usual rainy days, even in ankle deep water, she would head to the bus stop in her raincoat with her schoolmates who lived in the vicinity. She liked to feel the wet breeze with drops of rain on her face. She liked to splash in the rain water, soaking her Bata ballerina school shoes & socks, sometimes even her uniform. On such rainy days, after reaching school she and friends would remove their shoes & socks and leave them to dry under the fan.

Last night’s rain was however too heavy that left the city inundated. It was still raining, Jhiri could hear the steady pitter patter on the tin roof, breeze would sometimes carry droplets of rain through the open window. She moved her books away from the window and put her face on the window frame so that she could see, hear and feel rain. “It’s going to be a while before the rain stops and the water recedes,” she thought. Jhiri thoroughly enjoyed these rainy days, being marooned at home and losing herself in the lyrical beauty of the rains. Sometimes she would make paper boats and watch them glide away in the water.

Jhiri relished everything about rainy days, including kichudi & daler bora (khichdi & dal pakora) usually served for lunch. She could make out from the smell coming out of the kitchen that mom was making delicious kichudi. After lunch the whole family would sit together in the living room and play Ludo, Chinese checker or Carrom. She would sometimes play chor police or kata kuti (noughts & croses) with her sisters.

For Jhiri, however, favourite part of the rainy afternoons was when she would slip into her room, listen to the pitter patter rain, gaze at dreamy cloudy sky and the rain-washed trees in the garden. There was something mesmerizing about these rainy afternoons, and she knew she would miss them one day!

The train ride to Lucknow

The train ride to Lucknow every summer! That was our annual ritual. Our dadur bari (maternal grandfather’s house) was in Lucknow. During the summer breaks, my mom would head there with her three little girls in tow (my twin sisters and me) – two identical 2-year olds and one 5-year old. Those times are etched in my memory, travelling to Lucknow in the first-class coach of a coal engine train, a journey that I used to so enjoy!

train

Train ride was a ritual then. We would first fly to Kolkata from Agartala, stay with our boro pishi (bari bua) for a couple of days before boarding the train to Lucknow from Howrah station. I remember my mom and boro pishi staying up late the night before, preparing food for the long train ride – tiffin carriers full of puri, sukha aloo sabzi & achaar and home-made sweets. And of course, there would be bread, cakes, biscuits, toffees, powder milk and what not. Our older cousins, who would come to see us off, would buy a ghara from the station that would be washed and filled with drinking water and placed in our first-class compartment. Clamouring with excitement we would board the train with mom, all set for the journey that used to take two days and one night then.

I remember waving happily at our cousins as the train would start moving. “The station is moving back,” my sisters would excitedly yell. I would wait for the train to move out of the city to the country side – trees, mud houses, acres and acres of rice or some other crop growing in the fields, cattle’s grazing. I remember trying to imagine the lives of the people living in those villages and small towns that the train would pass through. I remember imagining, even wishing, I could live in small hut in one of those villages. Viewed through the window of the train, those green villages looked so beautiful and perfect. Sometimes I would crane my neck out of the window, lost in those sceneries, to be chided by my mom. Sometimes, flying fragments of coal from the engine would get stuck in my eyes, much to my mom’s annoyance. I didn’t mind the discomfort though.

We would go to bed after a delicious puri sabzi dinner in the moving training. Somehow nothing can match the taste of that cold puri sabzi & achaar. Mom would make beds, railways didn’t provide beddings then, so she used to carry bed sheets and air pillows. After a dreamy night in the moving and whistling train we would be woken up in the morning by tea vendors and various other hawkers. Queuing up before the washroom in the morning, brushing our teeth in the steel wash basin before a breakfast of bread butter, there’s something unforgettable about those train rides. Something unforgettable about those villages and towns that I will probably never get to visit, those small stations, strangers waiting for their trains at those station looking at us or maybe through us.

tangaFinally, our destination would arrive. We would jump at joy as dadu (nanaji) would approach our coach, get us off the train and take us home in a horse drawn tanga.