Its festival time again and i would like to talk about one of my interests here.
Come October and festival spirit ensues all over Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and the other north eastern states. Although not as magnanimously as in Kolkata, durga puja is celebrated with as much gusto in my native place as well. May be because of the Bengali influence here.
Large statues of goddess durga mark the festival. The murtikars start making the clay idols months before the puja starts. The goddess is depicted with ten hands, carrying different weapons in each hand to fight the evil mahishasur. Sometimes she is shown in an angry mood and sometimes her eyes pour out her love and compassion for the devotees.
As a kid i used to adore the statues. I would go from one puja pandal to another to have a sight of the various forms of Durga. Slowly, the praise for the statues turned into a desire to carve a statue myself. At our place there was abundance of red clay, best for carving clay idols. I picked it from the temple itself or go pick it from the farm land, recently wetted by the monsoon rains.
In those days, the dreams were easily acheivable (by present standards) but the hands to realise those dreams were too small (by past standards). My only desire then was to make a statue of durga with all her hands intact. Many days spent in the backyard trying to carve a statute of durga, with no less than ten hands, but no success found each time i took up the venture.
The ten hands made the statue heavy and every time the statue fell down. In the past years, I had compromised with the situation by having a couple of hands less. Mahishasur, the demon who was killed by Mother Durga, often got a step motherly treatment. By the time it was time to make the idol of mahisasur, i was entirely drenched of energy and my back pained like anything from sitting continuously. Also most of the clay was over. So, the idol of mahishasur was made half-heartedly. But this year i had bigger plans and without compromises.
Durga Puja mostly fell during the monsoon vacations, after the second term exams at school were over. So there wasn’t pressure of studies. But this particular year, the Durga Puja fell a little earlier and students were not particularly happy since the second term exams were immediately after school resumed.
I wasn’t happy either. The puja celebrations were banned at home. There was a bit of a relaxation – you can return home at 7 instead of 5 in the evening. There were strict instructions from father to concentrate on studies – mother was strictly instructed not to interfere.
For me it was a double whammy – no enjoyment and also no time to devote to my dream – of building a durga idol with all hands intact.
But that didn’t stop me from following my desire. I did build one – after father left for office – and with mummy shouting that father will be very angry. surprisingly, this one stood intact although it had all the ten hands and the mahishasura too was carved with patience.
Once completed, i safely kept in the verandah, away from father’s attention. I would let it to dry tomorrow. Soon my mind veered to how beautiful it would look once it is dry and painted. The image of the painted durga, with big black eyes, a red sari, fake jewellery, and weapons (in those days i used to make weapons with aluminium foils collected from tin cans) started revolving in my mind.
Between studies at evening, i couldn’t stop myself from having a sight of the divine creation. I still couldn’t believe that the statue was standing intact.
However, father was annoyed by my restlessness during study time. Every time, i would go to the verandah giving some or other excuse. He was worried about my preparation, although i had assured him many a times that i was fully ready for the exams.
Papa soon learned what was diverting my attention. He came to the verandah and instantly pounced for the durga statue. Ma tried to stop him. I was all in awe when father grabbed the statue in his hands and threw it in the drain outside.
All my dreams were shattered in a moment. I didn’t know how to react. It looked as if i had been struck by a deep grief. It was food time in half an hour and i refused to eat. Ma scolded me for acting childishly. Father was feeling guilty now for his act. That night i was revengeful for papa.
In the morning, i tried looking for the statue; still some hope of restoring it for the festival. On close observation. I did spot some parts of it. However it didn’t look as appealing now with black drain water flowing over it. That year Maa Durga departed for her heavenly abode much before visharjan.