The greatest thing about Durga Puja, according to me, is the sense of home coming. When I came back to Second Chance House after exactly 2 months, it felt like loving arms had embraced me. The trees recognised my need to be to be silent and to rest. The sun was comforting and requested the wind to be gentle. No banal or rhetorical questions were asked.
While new books, new clothes, new friends and new experiences arouse a sense of excitement, it is the old and familiar that help you to recuperate and regenerate. A well-worn cardigan, a steaming cup of tea and the dear, familiar world of birds……. added to this, was a dilapidated book from the library.
Some people give shelter to, or rescue different birds and animals. We, as a family, like to do the same for books. Abandoned and castaway books find a welcome space in our many bookshelves. Amidst these, I encountered a really old book – Desiree by Annemarie Selinko. It is a historical novel describing the rise and fall of Napoleon through the eyes of his first, true love. The 650 page book has tissue thin pages with minute print. As I read, some of the pages disintegrated with the touch of my fingers much like the wind and sand which partially blow away the past and partially preserve titbits for the future.
Due to the Durga Puja/Dussehra holiday, we had no help for a few days. It all seemed orchestrated. Needs were simplified. Our badly cooked meals could not be criticised and often led to peals of laughter. The few friends that visited us were happy to be part of the imperfection. Somehow Selim Hill Tea Garden teaches us again and again to appreciate the mis-shapen nature of life and the beauty therein.
In Calcutta, I avoid Pandal hopping simply because it can get quite crowded. But the lone pandal near Selim Hill had been organised by 3-4 neighbouring villages. It was perfect. A really small village fair. Everyone knew everyone. Amazingly, we were also part of the inner circle of Namaste nods and smiles. Close enough, I touched Maa Durga’s feet and asked for her special blessings. After which I joined the community of Fuchka eaters. It is probably the only snack where people are connected for those few minutes, awaiting their turn and partaking the lip-smacking mini spheres.
The next morning was a bright, glorious Dussehra. As I followed the sun, shifting my chair to the best angle, we had an unexpected visitor. The hoarse, growl of the Hornbill shook me out of my reverie. The majestic bird sat around on the old elm trees. The queen had come around to check on her subjects. We bowed and saluted Her Majesty. She seemed to declare that vacation was over and it was time to get back to work. As the bird regally glided away, I knew the time for self-pity was over.
I opened my laptop and started typing as I sipped a large cup of Dorje Original Milk Chai.
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