Culture · India · Kolkata · Letters · Nostalgia

Dear Kolkata,

MA Durga in Kolkata
The Forgiven Form

There are times when you go though few million phases and you pick that one thing which has remained constant. When we were young, travelling by plane was a luxury and the best means to travel to you was the almost 48 hours train ride. The best thing about the gruelling travel was that the first thing that you see when you get out of station was the magnificent Howrah bridge on the Ganga. The city has not moved with time and somehow I love it! The old world’s charms still make me come back to you.
This year was the year of Pujo for me. Durga Puja is not an event or a festival. It is a legacy left by the rich long forgotten and carried on by traditions of future.

I went to Kolkata after a long time to see the Pujo. After I reached the airport and took a cab, I saw the city burning with happiness. The whole city was adorned by lights. The kaccha roads, the wide roads, the dirty roads and even the road which led to the brothel had garland of beautiful lights of joy. I couldn’t wait. It was 1 am in the night and somewhere I could still smell the fragrance of dhuno. With great delight I entered my aunt’s place. This story starts from a family which still believes in being true and simple.

The Neverland
My uncle and Aunt had lived all their life in Kolkata. I went to see a pujo mandap with my aunt. We both sat on the chair. She showed me all the places where she used to play and where she saw my uncle for the first time. Theirs was a love marriage unlike my parents which was an arranged one. I asked her why she never felt trapped being not only in the same city but also in the same area for more than 50 years. The Dhak had started. This goddess had the form of a fairy and she was mounted on a blue sky. Her children were also mounted up. The whole set up was extremely surreal with fairies floating around us. She told me ‘It’s a myth that one place can trap you. I have travelled in all the parts of the country and yes I have not lived anywhere except here. But the only person who can trap me is me. This place defines me’. My aunt and uncle like me have been travel freaks and have travelled around India, but they have lived all their life in Kolkata. I always thought they did not know what it is like being free.  In front of me, the 4 men were dancing with dunochi with dhak beats in the background. The lord in front of me started glowing and the whole cave was under the spell.

Indian Cinema
It was 3am in the morning and I had gone out with my dad and my aunt and uncle to see the Durga in her various forms. We sat in the palatial mandap of 100 years of Indian cinema. Here Durga is not killing the asur who is the villain. The asur is looking at her with folded hands and she is looking at him as if she will forgive him which is not like the real story. I sat with my father and he gobbled mishti doi. He was like, ‘I miss this. You have no idea how glad I am that I left this city when I was young and still how I yearn for this city. I think I feel I am back home, more because you are here with me. But I can’t have too much of this city. I feel something is holding me back.’

The sureal form
The sureal form

The Prayer
I was walking back to my aunt’s home with my fiancé. I saw a small mandap which was very quiet. Hardly anyone was there inside the tent. We both went inside. I looked at the Devi. My fiancé whispered , ‘There is no way you will be at peace, will you? You are still searching something. You are trapped, aren’t you? I was still looking at the most simplest form of Durga. I finally looked at him, ‘Yeah maybe I will find what I seek someday. But right now. I feel like this is a place to be.’

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