“So you have completed all the shopping? What all garlands and flowers did you bring?”
“Have bought two large Jaba one for the Ma Kali, and lots of Bel pata for the pujo”
“Did you get the aparajita mala”
“Yes dada and a white garland for Bagaladevi too, and two large marigold one for your parents photo”
“What about my wife’s? Did you bring for her photo?”
“Yes dada, bought one thick big Jui (Juhi) garland for her”
“That’s good, she was very fond of good fragrance, we used to have perfume for her from Paris you know”
“Yes dada, all bought; how about your finger? Heard you injured it?”
“Yes, I was trying to crack the index finger and it got sprained; see its swollen!”
“But dada, I thought its in the left hand; that’s the one which is swollen, and you are showing the right hand.”
“Oh! Is it? I am all of 94, so sometime forget which is left and which is right.”
“And it’s the same hand which was stronger than thunder?”
“Yes when the new employee from Kolkata bragged about his hand being as strong as thunder, we had a wager; I took his hand in my left palm and slapped it with my right one. He needed 9 stitches across his palm”
That was Mr. Indu Bhushan Chatterjee of present. In Benras, Ganesh Mohalla and the four mohalla around it, knew Indubabu, and just being grandson of Indu babu was enough to get access to all the shops and restaurants and sweet shops.
Two sisters bent over the rough stone plates, making chandan paste; the one with white one making good progress, while the red takes longer to make. The eldest of the brothers were given the task of assisting the elders in decorating the mandir, the gates and the sinhashan. This time it was decided to do the decoration with flowers. The next three brothers were given all the silverware, and other articles and utensils used in worship. They need to clean them with ripe tamarind and dry detergent. They are happy competing with each other in bringing the brightest of shines. The youngest one was not given any task in particular, and moving around asking every one, “Ki kori? Ki kori?” (what do I do?). Some of the elders busy in bringing all the vegetables from the Mandi, while another group was making sure that the kirana wala has supplied all the materials as per the list given. The sounds of laughter can be heard from the ground floor mandir. They were in the kitchen in the other corner of the house, beyond the garden preparing the Bhog, at least 200 people are supposed to get them at night. The elder women shouted from the floor above asking them to not to forget the salt in all their laughter, while preparing the coconut naru and cutting the fruits.
All the vegetables and the raw materials were bought from Lake market, a few trips on Taxi with Ammi and Pishi (Bua), were all that were required to complete. The women were busy since the night before to cut the vegetables and fruits were completed in the morning. Later, it was just Ammi, and two Pishi, that were all that required to prepare all the bhog, while I did the Mandir, cleaning, decorating and completing the preparation for the night.
While the Puja started, the elders were busy making sure that all are welcomed, and the children were behaving. The children were impatient, waiting for the Laksmi Puja to be over; you are not supposed to make any noise during Lakshmi puja. The noise of kasor, ghonta, and shnakh can only happen once Kali puja starts; and also the crackers – they can only start after Kali Puja starts. Oh by the way! Rockets were dangerous, they were not allowed. So one single piece were bought without permission, and in absence of a bottle to use it as its base, it was placed on the “chabutara”, lying down, some papers placed near its wick, lit, and all waited impatiently behind the door. The rocket was pointing towards the phatak, far end of the galli, it made a swishing sound, raced towards the corner and… a loud bang, followed by a high volume, hurling of abuses from he hapless victim, who found himself in the path of that horizontally flying rocket!
Impatient wait for the elders to permit the small crackers to be lighted in the courtyard, the charkhis, snake tablets, phuljharis and rang mashals. And then wait again for the Pujo to be over, so all can go to the terrace and then light the rockets, the bombs and the tubri (anar). While helping the elders with the serving, the eldest gets the chance. His role is to serve the salt, lemon and water. Oh they also unloaded the utensils from the chamber between the floors, while Didi kept the tally od all that were taken out. The children were the one which could enter that chamber of 3 feet height.
While the guests kept coming in, the puja started. Babai sat for Puja, as the son had to make sure someone was available for the errands. But with all the people, all the action and all the responsibilities, he still was impatient. With mind wandering off, he was vanishing off from the scene, now and then, found only in the darkness of the garage having a few puffs of smoke and calming down his nerves, and coming back.
While the graceful figure of Indu babu completed the puja and sat for the hom (havan) in front of the fire, all gathered around. Soon the puja will be over, with the black teeka on the forehead and breaking the day long fast with the bhog, all will leave for the terrace. The children enthralled at the fireworks lighting the sky, the noise deafening, and the excitement of being able to light those special crackers themselves.
The excitement came when the gang arrived one by one; two with their wife and children, and one alone with the news that he has become the father of a son a few days back. A joke about the increasing waistline, graying hairline and the always-fashionable one sporting white streaks, that was the excitement. A suggestion of having a few hands of bridge as all four are around – two has forgotten the calls, two still remembers, as they come together on Sundays on the lobby of Yahoo Bridge. An agreement on coming together on Eid with two more of the lost members of the gang was chalked out.
The next day was marked by the two sisters helping elders preparing the portions of prasad for distribution, and the five brothers moving from door to door of the entire neighborhood, with the huge iron plate holding the portions, distributing the prasad.
The next day morning was a scene of rearrangement of the house. The old members of the house wishes to return to their set pattern of life as soon as possible. The two Bua’s who came to lighten their lonely lives parting in tears. The elder son with the parents and Indubabu sitting in front of the TV sharing cups of tea chatting about the recent tours the eldest of the present generation.