The conch shells were being blown from some distant land, it seemed. Somehow that very sound struck a chord in my heart every time I heard it. I could hardly believe that ‘Dashami’, the day of immersion, was under way. I peeped out of the balcony to glance at the ecstatic people who danced to the rhythm of the dhaak’. Maa Durga bade us farewell once again.
I lay on the bed with tears rolling down my cheeks incessantly.
Pujo happened to be far more blissful last time around. Oh, how I used to participate in pandal hopping enthusiastically, perform in the cultural programmes of our society and be drenched in joy for those four days. A couple of glaring differences were that I had less company this time as my grandparents couldn’t spend the festive season with us. Also I parted ways bitterly with the person who I found to be my solace. There were plenty of issues to worry about. It was our final year of school which endowed several herculean responsibilities on our shoulders.
Did I just say “our”? Well, most of my wise friends must have already realized that in the journey of life, we are always alone. Whether we choose to be solitary or deserted, depends on our perspective. I chose to be deserted, I thought.
Maybe I was in a sub conscious state of mind then. I didn’t know when I translated all these bizarre thoughts into text. My phone beeped. I woke up from the virtual sleep. A message said, “Not only do you overthink but also you over-dream! It’s not even ‘Shashthi‘ yet. The festive season is yet to follow! Either toss on your bed introspecting or make it a purple patch. Remember our plan tomorrow?”
Somehow this broke the shackles and cheered me up. I sprang up eagerly to text her back but something resisted me. She had an examination on the following day but didn’t bother to devote any effort to boost my morale. Another myth which tells us that counsellors have to be professional and grim, was shattered. I chalked out a strategy then and there to make it an occasion that my family and friends would never forget. The optimist in me had been resurrected with flying colours.
“All that matters is a magnanimous approach towards life”, I thought to myself, “and a creative mind.” I had tentative intentions but a firm will. Mammoth threats to the society, namely communal disharmony, discrimination against women, child labour and so on, could be addressed under the banner of this carnival where good people of all sort would definitely raise their chorus of approval for a noble cause.
To concretise this plan, I had little resources up my sleeve. I remembered the person who can truly suggest a feasible framework to my proposal. I called on Towfik kakai, a genius who could light a myriad of lamps with a seemingly little idea. He said in a jovial manner, “You have grown up to be an amazing personality, my little Babu. You will stand and deliver. Just keep in mind, charity begins at home.” And he postulated certain techniques which could work wonders in no time. I needed a group of workers who would willingly step out of their comfort zones and provide me with moral and practical help. Touchwood, I had such a group of friends and family members who stood up to do it. Our pandal was a magnificent one, people from far and wide came to visit it. It hence gave us better scope to implement what we had in store for everyone.
First and foremost, an event would be organized in the cultural programme which would lay emphasis on the fact that Maa Durga resides in every good woman and the Goddess ought to be worshipped in her human avatar. Proficient actors catered to the demands of the script I had penned down for all the four auspicious days. We charged a meager five rupees as an entry fee for our pandal. Several grumbled and showed reluctance but we were adamant. The guard collected the money for us. By sunset, we had enough to fund meals for the labourers who served us and the security guards who did their duty efficiently amidst the chaos and cacophony. The smiles that the elated children wore were the best rewards for us. We wondered how to carry out a peaceful campaign against the despicable social evil, communal disharmony, wherever it applies. To our utter astonishment, Towfik kakai arrived with his team of cinematographers. He said it was a surprise for me and that we would act in his film.
It was a short film which took a couple of hours to be shot and edited. I was spellbound and not in a state to figure out whether I had done my job well. Towfik kakai patted me on the back, which was a relief. The film was a simple dialogue between two strangers belonging to different religions, who differed with each other regarding the means to accomplish their philosophy of life initially but eventually they came to a conclusion that their destination was the same and that humanity united everyone. A giant screen was arranged within the premises of the pandal and people did stop to watch the 10 minute film. It was uploaded on Youtube and the response was tremendous.
Quite naturally, we were awarded “the best society” by the municipal corporation. The Chief Minister came to congratulate and felicitate us.
“Oh yes! We did it with ease!” I said to myself, overwhelmed. “Don’t forget your co-actor, Priyo Shokha (dear friend)”, she whispered to me in an undertone.
“Oh you are the apple of my eye”, I laughed.
It was her message which beeped to change the course of events entirely, during that Pujo. Yes, she too was at the helm of affairs apart from me.
As the women played with vermilion, I was overjoyed to see her amongst them, wearing her sublime smile, contented with our effort and success. I too danced to the tune of the dhaak, accompanying everyone for the immersion of the Goddess whose blessings always enlighten us. I bowed down before the deity four times again.
From then on, I set foot on a novel path; the path less trodden. Immersing my worries and regrets, painting my thoughts with vermilion, I set forth in quest of being a complete human being. “The game is afoot. Ashche bochor abar hobe (we will celebrate again next year)”, I affirmed.