Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mahalaya 2011

As a kid, waking up early was always a torture, except on two occasions – an early morning trip to Howrah station, from where a train would take us away from school, homework, Complan and forced music lessons with a very boring tutor. Baba took us on holidays every year. Except the south of India, we travelled to most of the popular tourist destinations - Rajasthan, Shimla, Manali, Goa, Bombay, Mount Abu, Puri, Digha, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Agra, Delhi, to name a few.

I remember waking up to see dew drops on the window and crawling to the bathroom to brush my teeth, and then packing my toothbrush into the suitcase (the last item to be placed, along with the house slippers). The taxi ride to the station was always the best....brimming to my mouth with anticipation, excitement and of course the butter-toast that Ma had somehow forced into my mouth (warning me that the next meal would only be in the train...that too, close to midday).

The other time I did not mind waking up early was, of course, Mahalaya. It was not really “waking up” as such. Ma, Didi and I would lie on the bed as Baba tuned into the radio station. And as soon as he could get the magical voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra clear and loud, he would come and fight for a place in our bed. We let him in, eventually.

And then all four of us would lie on the bed... with our eyes shut and hearts brimming with anticipation. I would plan my pujo days in my head. Who I’d meet, what I’d wear every day (a pretty complex calculation, as I would have about 17 dresses...and all had to be worn during the five days), where I’d go and what I’d eat. I would inevitably shed a tear or two...probably reminded that this would vanish in a blink, and we’d all have to wait for a whole year for the next pujo. That’s how negative I’ve always been. Even before the fun begins, I cry because it’s going to end!

I would find myself dozing off sometimes...and then I’d wake up to ask Ma if I had missed a certain song. And when the radio program ended, Baba would get up straight away for his morning newspaper and tea, while Ma and we would cuddle together for some time.

It was pretty special. And I wanted to keep feeling that way about Mahalaya for the rest of my life. I’d love to continue the Mahalaya tradition with my kids (when and if they are born). But with a husband who doesn’t really “get it”, born and brought up away from Kolkata all his life...I don’t think it’s going to be easy.
But I tried. This year...just like last year.

I set the alarm clock at 5am and placed my laptop and the Mahalaya CD on my bedside table. As the alarm rang, I fumbled for the “Start” button on the computer...and then the “Play” button on the CD player. Very different to tuning into a radio station....but things change. And as soon as Birendra Krishna's voice filled our room, I received a kick. K.I.C.K! From the Man-Who-Does-Not-Get-Mahalaya. “Can you please not ruin my Saturday morning sleep?”, he barked. Angry and upset, I stormed out of the room with my laptop...and headed straight to the guest room, picking up a box of tissues on the way. I knew I would need them. And I did.
I cried on my pillow for a good part of the chant and songs...sometimes almost choking at the thought of “how my life has changed”. Missing ma, baba, all my friends...and the little room in our Kolkata home, I cried till the sun was so bright that I could not be in bed anymore. The box of tissues was empty by then, anyway.

At around midday, I called Ma to check if she has listened to Mahalaya too. And she told me that she would have...only if it was Mahalaya that day. “What!, I thought Mahalaya was 7 days before pujo. And by that calculation, it HAD TO BE today!” Ma said, “Just because you guys have pujo over the weekend, doesn’t mean we should celebrate Mahalaya on a weekend too.” She was right. Pujo in Perth was on a Saturday...and I had therefore got all my dates wrong.

All this yearning and nostalgia and crying...all for nothing! I couldn’t even get the day right! From a tragic queen who cries on her pillow at dawn, I suddenly became the C-grade comedy artist who always gets things wrong.

So I ran for a new box of tissues.


Ani said...

When shedding your very legitimate tears have become a part of your Mahalaya tradition, following through with it does not make you a comedy queen. And any day can be Mahalaya if you believe it to be so. The K.I.C.K. made me chuckle though! Get him to Kolkata and around the gang some time. We'll get a kick out of meeting him too!

And Nonz, Shubho Mahalaya to you too.

Saroni said...

Shubho Mahalaya to u. Doesnt matter if u got the dates wrong. What matters is u hold this tradition dear n have tried to continue even in a far away land all by yourself. For that....kudos to u. Have a happy pujo! :)

The Ketchup Girl said...

Scribbler, i feel ,like hugging you and then laugh a full hour just imagining your expression after your conversation with mashi. Hahahha. But i also empathise whole heartedly with you about the husband who just doesn't get it. I am probashi and not a bong. But traditions are traditions. My husband had no clue why i was making such a big deal out of it. I tried telling him its not making a big deal- its just the spirit of pujo. I cant explain...but who wants to be understand anyway!

Scribbler :) said...

Ani - Your words are reassuring, for sure. But wish I could take myself more seriously. The blunders I keep making are making it pretty hard at the moment :(

Saroni - Thanks dear. Next time around, will check the calendar first :)

KG - I swear. Our husbands need to be sent away on a "Learn to Respect Your Traditions" retreat.