Yesterday I went out with my family to CCD. With no intention of pandal-hopping. I start showing horrifying withdrawal symptoms if I am deprived of cold coffee for too long--- y'know... those symptoms the cranks like to call tantrums, greed, obsession. But anyway, my family understands me, so off we went to CCD. And on our way home, my dad casually suggested we stop at the BJ Block pujo.
When we arrived at BJ park, the first thing that thrust itself upon my attention was a pompous, omniscient tone echoing around the street- 'Do not push. Do not try and occupy anyone else's place in the line. If you lose your shongi, shathi, or any belongings, please contact....."
Pessimist, I tell you! I was about to make a remark on how low-down it is to worship under the guidance of a loudspeaker.
But then I was distracted. Crowds of people, I saw, were just bypassing the park altogether. In fact, they were walking rather PURPOSEFULLY away from it. Then I realised, that each of these people were ready to clink and clatter across three whole lanes, just to get to the entrance. THEN, they would have to travel throughout the length of the line to get to the back of it, make it longer, and add to the misery and exhaustion of another few hundreds. Oh, The Line! Longer than the last lesson of the afternoon, longer than a bad Bollywood movie, it made every molecule of my high heels cry out in protest.
But my parents wanted to see the pujo. So we joined The Line. I was suddenly struck by how smoothly it was moving. There was NO formation of the usual clusters of sequins, squeals and beads of sweat . There was was no interminable pause. As a prefect, I had to give it to the organisers; they'd managed it rather well. Of course, I'd have been able to move faster had an old man not been standing directly in front of me. But he was such a delight to watch, I couldn't complain!
He was flying solo, that was plain to see. And he was wearing the plainest white pajama-panjabi. I could have been more poetic by saying that the sparkle and crispness of his simple attire had a dignity of its own, but it was not even so. And he had the most RANDOM look I've ever seen. His aimless, zig-zag walk; the way he blinked from behind typically dadu spectacles. Even the back of his head was random! He'd suddenly stop to watch the lights, or calculate how long we were taking. And just when I thought there would be a collision, he'd drift ahead again.
Another thing that was highly entertaining was to grin maliciously at all those people who had just arrived and were gaping at The Line. 'Gueeess who got here bee-fooore youuu??' I warbled, in the tuneless tune that only bathroom singers can use to perfection.
If you're wondering, yes I did reach the pandal. And I LOVED it. Tasteful and intricate, it really deserved more than the a hurried glance from a hurtling queue. But I suddenly realised that it wasn't about an elaborate critical appreciation. Even less was it about worship. If you want to pray, or meditate, you can do that anytime. But what's important about the pujos is the atmosphere. Everyone's unflinching determination to enjoy themselves. So what if half the women are ricocheting light beams? So what if boys in shorts act macho by displaying their hairy legs? So what if there are kids wailing their little lungs out and shoving candyfloss into my face? In fact, it wouldn't be pujo without all of that.
All of a sudden, I felt very much at peace. Crushed ice, caffeine, and the overwhelming dhaker baajna. 'Ei toh jibon.'
It would be ideal to end on that didactic note. I could visalise my readers nodding their heads to it in agreement, and praising my uplifted soul. But I have to mention what followed. We bought balloons!!! After YEARS. Man, I love balloons. I made my dad carry the biggest one. And what a sight it was!
Justice Sen of Calcutta High Court, walking merrily down the street with a gargantuous, orange globe. The other 3 were gas balloons. The whole of the car journey back home was like some weird rave party. Eyes and nostrils stinging with helium, rubbery squeaks at the slightest movements, and all vision- a shiny haze of myriad hues.
The big balloon burst before I could play volleyball with it :(
But funnily, I didn't feel too bad. In fact, I comforted my mother, saying I had fun protecting it while it lasted. So see, you can still praise my uplifted soul :D
I am jaast too spiritual to be true.