Rathin Bhattacharjee



Rathin Bhattacharjee


Durga Puja at 41, Deblane

Durga Puja at 41, Deblane

7 mins

Ma Durga, Ma and Purity :

(Written just before The Pujas)

I'd been thinking about the color of the paint to be applied to the images of Ma Durga and Mahisasura a lot just before The Puja. I even remember having spoken to my Sister about talking to the mritshilpi (idol-maker) regarding the exact colors to be used just before Panchami (the fifth day of Goddess Durga's arrival at her Maike) as we were supposed to bring the image of The Goddess to 41 on that day. 

I told Sister in the morning. She called the mritshilpi and informed me that the man was perhaps asleep as the phone kept ringing, unanswered. 

Sometime later, I heard Sister talking to the man over the phone. He was telling her to refer to the bill as the color mentioned there in is 'dudhe alta' or some kind of milky or pinkish red. Finding the man trying to act smart, I asked Sister to hand me the phone. Agreed, he wrote down our phone numbers, the advance money paid and the weapons to be provided for the ten hands of Ma Durga. But he didn't discuss anything regarding the color of the paints to be used for the idols. 

I know that Mahisasura is painted green (Envy). Whether Ma Durga was to be painted pinkish red, yellow or golden yellow, I wasn't sure. Somebody then asked me to send some photos of Ma Durga snapped last year. Problem was that the man,Jagannath, couldn't be contacted through WhatsApp. So, sending the photos of the previous years was just out of the question. I was also losing my cool listening to the man blaming us for not checking the color and the argument that he had noted down everything in the bill. I gave vent to my feelings when Sister handed me the phone. I told him that nothing was discussed between us regarding what color Ma Durga was to be painted in. 

My elder daughter, Akanksha, took the mobile from my hand then trying to pacify me by remarking that I wasn't adopting the right tone while talking to the mritshilpi. She politely asked the man to try to paint Ma Durga in golden yellow, if possible. I thought to myself that if the image was ordered at the last moment, this was what was expected. I know there is no point complaining. One brother has undergone the pace-maker surgery. I know how risky it will be for him to come and climb up the stairs to Sister's Room on the first floor. Whether he would love to stay in our room, I wasn't very sure. The other 2 brothers have literally washed their hands off The Pujas, so far as any manual work is concerned. One of them will come to Deblane, do whatever he is asked to do. Problem is his whole family was afflicted by severe type of Corona and they are yet to recover fully from the shock and the aftermath. 

The brother who played an important role till recently, don't even bother to come to Deblane during the Pujas any more. Things are in a critical situation indeed, so far as the Durga Pujas at 41, are concerned.

I complained to Sister about keeping things pending till the last moment. But I realize now that there is no point complaining. The 3 brothers I have now, are all in their mid-60s or above. There is no knowing who, amongst the siblings, has his foot planted in the grave first. It could very well be me, myself in the queue next. So, why complain? 

I remember what I told Sister recently. I told her that thinking about The Pujas had started affecting my health. I even reiterated to her what a brother close to me had told me when he left Deblane in 1997, after the twin blows dealt by Fate in the form of the loss of my Sejda and my nephew within a span of two days.

He told me and let me quote his words : "Ami ar parchhilam na re, Bappa." I couldn't continue any more, Bappa (heavily burdened as I was at that time). I told Sister that I can't carry on like this any further. The decision to conduct The Pujas at 41, gets taken only few days before the Pujas. Had I been staying out, I would have asked others, "Why Swagata Kaka is there, no? Why can't he play a role in the conduction of The Pujas?" 

I can't blame any one. Some people who haven't spent a night in 41 for long, have reasons to blame me. I am reminded of what a well-wisher cum family friend remarked once. He never came to my room. As far as I know, I am the only one who still touch his feet to show some respect. I get upset every time he comes and takes his seat on the marble rock at the entrance of 41.

That day, he was sitting on the steps near the Thakurghar. I was about to take two blankets to the nearby Dry Cleaners for a dry-wash. He found me with the giant blankets and wondered why I didn't think of washing them under the tap in the courtyard. I was about to give him a piece of my mind. I didn't though, for the simple reason that my late Ma loved him. Besides, during his university days, when he spent some time at 41, he must have seen my Ma doing the washings with the help of the water from the tap in the courtyard. 

God must have loved Ma a lot that's why things which are now become well neigh impossible, could happen so smoothly, despite all our apparent poverty and squalor! 

Anyway, right now the Sister-in-law I was very fond of not so long ago, has come to 41 and she is busy making a list about the groceries and saris to be bought for The Pujas. Why Ma Durga has been so kind to my late parents and their extended families when we, adhom santans, useless children that we are, have been continuously insulting Her? I have no doubts in my mind that my parents were good-hearted people. Ma Durga has been aware of their goodness and that's why She still keeps visiting 41.

Ma believed that as long as The Pujas were performed in 41, no diseases, afflictions of any kind, would visit the inhabitants. I sincerely believe that if this idea was ingrained in me by my late Ma, she must have tried to do the same so far as her other children are concerned. Now, there is no point talking about Ma and her beliefs, especially with my own siblings. I can't say that we all looked upon her from the same perspective. I told my Mejdi once that I looked at every thing from my Ma's viewpoint. Mejdi surprised me by remarking that it was the same with her, with all our siblings. That Mejdi was not far from The Truth I found out when I was talking to Barda through Skype. 

"Ma, Ma je ki chhilen re, Bappa. ( Ma, was a different kettle of fish, Bappa.) 

Towards the end of his life, Barda used to get very emotional every time he talked about Ma. Torn apart by the struggles of Life, Barda, who had seen much and travelled much, left the best message about Ma for me. Ma was a lady with a pure heart.

This Puja, let me offer my respect and homage to Ma Durga and my Ma, a truly wonderful lady.

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