Temperature seems to have dropped down without a Facebook update. The rustling of the Maple leaves against the cold wind is reminding me of those not-so-often-vehicle-transacted peaceful Pine-alleys of Shillong. It is Thursday evening. I have grabbed a cup of hot chocolate and a Cranberry Blueberry Bran (muffin) from the Tim Horton’s outlet (a quick service restaurant chain in Canada specializing in some awesome coffee, baked goods and home-style lunches) at the University Centre. On checking my FB account, I find myself getting tagged by my friends back in India on nearly a dozen of Durga Puja images. So, the autumn is on full swing. This is my third week as a visiting researcher (Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship under Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada –DFAIT program) in the University of Guelph. And, I am starting to miss my home. Basically, I am celebrating my Durga Puja with a cup of hot chocolate. Not bad at all.
I am supposed to cross the road. Out here, the management of the traffic on the immaculate roads with well demarcated paths for the cyclists and the motored vehicles has really impressed me. Here, the pedestrians are given the first preference to cross and the wheeled transports stop (whatsoever speed they may be on) to let the pedestrians go. Boys and girls do take the chance to exchange a ‘big’ (pun intended) hug when the red traffic signal is on.
There goes some Mrs. X with her Greyhound for an evening stroll. I send her a smile. She turns towards me. “So! Big boy, having hot chocolate! Have a great time…” I am overwhelmed by the unique bond these people share with their pets. They are also trying their level best to ‘go green’ and manage waste.
People know the manners of standing in queues, without the hullabaloos and push and pull, so explicitly exhibited in India. I have my University monthly bus pass of CAN $ 60, which permits me to travel as many times as I wish to in the city. I am in the bus now. I am sitting in the middle of a 20-22 year old Asian girl and a hunky African guy- both busy on their iPoDs. I am once again busy with my FB account. So, it’s ‘Bijay Dashmi’ today. Kim aunty (my apartment owner) told me about Durga Puja celebration in Toronto, about an hour drive from my place. Huge affairs! Great celebrations! It’s the Bong connection! I could not make a single minute to visit the pandal and have the devi-darshan (receive blessings) all these days. And, today I am repenting. Whatever!!
Aunty is a caring Bengali lady, staying in Canada for almost three decades. Son works in Toronto. Daughter is going on some student exchange program to some Asian country this November. Kim aunty is a widow. She is a working lady. She works in Subway. She toils day in and day out to keep her small world geared up. I am supposed to dine with her tonight. I have got down from the bus and heading towards the small market standing at the road-crossing. I am buying a small wall-hanging- a mother pushing a loaded shopping cart home and her daughter holding onto a balloon string– for aunty.
Hey! Who is calling? “O! Ma! I am good. Happy puja!” ….”Yup! I’m having food in time”…. “And, I’m also keeping myself warm! You need not worry. Hope deuta (father) and dada (elder brother) -both are good!! “After reassuring about my well-being, I have taken my home-way route.
So, people out there are finally bidding adieu to the Goddess today- the final day of Durga Puja. I am missing the fun of Bhasan (immersion of the idol) – people dancing to the song, ‘Are you Ready, Nakabanddi’ that has gained the status of ‘isme nahi nacha toh kya nacha!’ (if you have not danced to this, your dance means nothing) over the years. I am missing the throwing and bursting of water-balloons onto some unknown person on the river banks and mass participation in the final idol-immersion in the Brahmaputra. But more than that, my feet, my eyes- they are becoming heavy. Am I going to cry? How can I? A few minutes ago, Mrs. X had said that I am a big boy.
I am lost. I am leaving my village. I am leaving my catapult. I am leaving my white copy white. I am leaving my borokhi (fishing rod). I am leaving the magic of bhaona (dance-dramas) of the Namghar (prayer house). I am far from togor and xewali (flowers, known for their fragrance). Far from the husori (inseparable part of Rongali Bihu)! I am in black. I am leaving my father’s love and spectacled watch over me… I am entering into those tropical jungles- in the dark night.
I am the ‘thousand sons’ who had said a silent goodbye to ‘my mothers’ ages ago.
I am writing to you because I love you. And Ma, I know you still wait for me in the evenings. I am sorry for I could come neither in Bihu nor in Puja. Nevertheless, we have Holi almost every alternate day. It is 5 or 6 in the morning now. I miss the wood stove and the morning smoke when you use to prepare the zinger-flavoured black tea.
Ma. Do not cry. Your son won’t go unread in tomorrow’s history.
I want to bring the change. I am the one preaching for the liberation. I am the leader. You know- I am ‘the leader’. I do not like insubordination, collapse, disintegration, disorder and desertion in my group. I have to be with ‘my people’ in the forests all the time. They are my people now. I cannot return back – to the main-stream.
Your son is a good leader. I do not know much about the world outside or the white-clad masked marauders – always preaching for across-the-table talks. Their strategy is never a direct bite, it’s always bait. Whatever they are, they are cunning. Their children grow in some hybrid sanctuary. And, we live on fish bones thrown at us. They have different dictions of poverty and freedom. Poor, never to be free!
I can see my brothers’ skins hung on the portico of their bungalows. They stretch out like trampled flowers hanging on tensed lines. I shot those shooters yesterday.
Today, I need to cleanse myself. Sweat, soil, the gun powder and the red fluid- stain me. This evening, I am to plunge into the Brahmaputra. Do come to meet me. I have some real muscles now. I need to show them to you. Do not laugh at that!!
Ma. You know I often feel chocked. Sometimes, some bada-sahib (big boss) comes deep into the forests with some red bottles (branded liquor). Our throats get real dry. It’s getting cold as well. Please bring some Xazpani (rice beer prepared by Ahom community) and pour over me. You will na, Ma?
I will then sleep for some time.
“Boss, you have a text message!!’- beeps my mobile. Dipankar’s SMS. “Hy bro! Wtzup? Bhasan ws rockin’. M comin’ 4rm d’ river-banks. Finally bid bye 2 Ma Durga. Puja-khatam. U tk cre.”
Hmm… What is writing if not catharsis – the emotional cleansing of the tears and other fluids, of someone’s absence, of acute recall of million jarring traumas?
Hey guys! I hope it’s OK. I am good (pals- and self-proclaimed) at preparing pork dry-fry but writing for Fried Eye – Holy ****!!
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