“Are you not missing Durga Pujo this year?”,  facing this question became a daily habit to me and my reply would be ,  “of course not “.I had literally made a template  to answer these questions which flooded my Fb inbox and whatsapp as  Kolkata Tilottama started her Pujo preparations from late August. Except for a few close friends who knew me personally, the rest were curious and poured in their infinite sympathy upon me  for no reason at all ; it was just because of the simple fact that I was staying with my dada during Durga Pujo 2014  and the place was Wichita, a beautiful city of lakes and jet planes, far in mid-west USA, safeguarded from the hustle and bustle  of Kolkata Tilottama.

I took the decision of staying there, out of my own volition ,for Durga Pujo in Kolkata had lost its charm after dada came to USA when I was 12 and the final detachment came with the demise of my jyatha ( my uncle , who is also my godfather) , four years after that. When I was booking my flight tickets, I knew I was going to miss the Durga Pujo but that didn’t clot a single cloud of sorrow in my heart. I was rather happy and perhaps , for the first time, I felt it would be the best pujo of my life. I got the inkling even before we knew the existence of the small community of Bangali in Wichita, even before we anticipated that we would get involved with the Durga Pujo of Wichita.

Everything has a first time. So did that one arcane positive side of my loquacious nature which never failed to get me into trouble. This time, however, it did the otherwise.  The ‘ Bangali get together ‘ in August drew the canvas of what I call, “ the best pujo of my life “, held on 4th October, 2014.  All 5 days, punched into one !! “What are you going to do ? “ , “You will miss all the fun !! “ All these questions had only one answer, “ I am with my family and I can’t be happier “. Yes, I was looking forward to my pujo with dada after 11 long years. It was a dream come true for me . Unlike other years, when I would sit at home, refusing to go out for pandal hopping, Durga Pujo 2014, even it be just a single day,  became the ‘El Dorado ‘version of  a day.

Well, it took me almost a week to struggle with the idea that I will be actually performing in the cultural function  with people whom I didn’t even know a month back. It took me some time to believe that this was a dream come true and perhaps, some dreams do come true and my dauntless belief that dada makes fairy tales come true was affirmed again. From the very day I was born, he has been guarding me like his own child, filling  in the voids of best friend and guardian and also, gave me a sister, by marrying someone, who has always been a sister to me, from the day I met her  6 years back  and never for a second, made me feel that we were not biologically connected to each other.

Group mails among Moonmoon di and Kallol became frequent and so did Mukul Aunty’s phone calls. Who would have ever thought that someone, who was just here in Wichita for a few months, would anchor the cultural function? And then direct and act in a ‘sruti natok’ ?  So this Snow White became the queen of the woods. The prince of course can wait !! He was not needed.

September 2014 revealed me the beauty of life and I saw the miracle of God in the smile of my newborn nephew, Baakyo. After so many years, I laughed during the days of Durga Pujo, even if it meant sitting at home, working on the script and rehearsing in front of the mirror. I was overwhelmed by  Mukul Aunty’s faith in my abilities even though she had not seen any before. The call from Mithu aunty on 1st October 2014  placed the last primary color of  happiness in my canvas. I and didi were invited to string the garland of the Devi !! Was it a dream?  Stringing the garland of Ma Durga ? Perhaps not. It was  the living reality and an opportunity, I thought would never come in my life. Miracles do happen. Perhaps, this was just the effect of the one that happened on 4th September, 2014 , with the birth of my Baakyo. 3rd October ,when everyone wished me ‘Subho Bijoya ‘ became a busy day for me.

It started with stringing the long garland of Ma Durga , with didi , at Mithu Aunty’s place and evening was all about decorations, rehearsals of play and of course, food, at Andover High School, the venue of our Pujo. Helping out dada in the freezing cold of an October Wichita evening  and then the long drive with him , gave me everything  I could ever wish for, ‘ be with dada during the Pujo .. just like good old days .’ Back home, we met didi’s childhood bestie, Apa di and her family. Now I have two more angels in my list : Anisha, my little princess of Nebraska and Arjun, the prince. After a session of adda, we decided to go to sleep and looked forward to the Saturday. Dada dropped me early by 9:30 am and familiar faces of Mukul aunty, Mithu Aunty, Ashish Uncle, Sen Sharma uncle,  Ruma aunty, Sobha di and others greeted me. Managing my black saree, I got involved with decorating the 108 diya,  and distribution of food. By 11:30 , the venue was filled with the chatters of people and I was joined by my family and friends , including Kuljeet didi ( who, in spite of being a non- Bengali was excited for the Pujo like us ) , Promit, my junior from J.U. who came to our  Pujo from Lawrence, thanks to the free ride, offered by Ranu Pal. Even before I could pinch myself, I was standing beside dada and giving ‘Oshtomir anjali’. It was followed by the sumptuous lunch with all the Bangali delicacies , starting from labra, khichudi , jhur jhurey alu bhaja, to Bangali mishti , made by the multi talented  people of our Bangali community who happened to be wonderful chefs too.

And then , it was THE TIME for me : THE CULTURAL FUNCTION. Ashish uncle, husband of Mukul Aunty, introduced me to everyone  , as the anchor  and then, I took over the microphone, trusting on the fate that brought me here. It was a two-and- a half hour cultural fantasy with some memorable performances by the talented performers like Lipi Dasgupta ( song), Moonmoon Chakraborty ( Song ), Bhadhuri uncle ( song) , Anusha (dance), Kaveri ( recitation ) and others; well, the list goes on. We had our share of fun while performing our sruti natok, “ AROUND THE WORLD IN 14 DAYS “,  making on-spot dialogues and then laughing backstage. Writing the script, revising it again and again, editing it , adding the suggestions of dada didi, then last moment rehearsal and the final performance : every color of it enriched my blooming petal of happiness; I stood on the stage, the diamond in my ears  sparkling proudly by the applause as I dedicated the performance to my one and only little bundle of joy , Baakyo; yes, it was the day he became one month old.

Things didn’t end there and it was the day when I had the “1st time “ of a lot of things, most of which were unexpected. After the cultural function, the Nabami and Dashami Pujo were carried out. And then I found myself dancing “ dhunuchi naach “ along with didi, Kuljeet didi, Lipi di and others. “ Me and dancing ?  Since when ? “ The thought is still resounding in my ears as I write the blog post. I was never ever a girl who would dance. But even the pictures show I was dancing. Magic? Fantasy ? Reality ? Or perhaps I was experiencing Garcia Marquez’s ‘ magic realism ‘. I can still feel the rhythm that captivated my legs, I can still feel holding didi and Kuljeet didi’s hands and dancing and singing “ bolo Dugga mai ki joy; ashche bochor abar hobe “.  We danced and danced perhaps for more than half an hour; in circles we danced; together we danced; me and didi, who herself is an excellent dancer. Then it was sindur khela and I, the “ crazy-girl-in-love – with –Flash- Gordon “ could not be a part of it. I wasn’t totally left alone by didi as she gave me a little round ‘ tilak ‘ of sindur in between my two eyebrows. I was never ignored by her and even if her best friend was there, she didn’t forget her lonely princess; a mother, best friend , a sister …. she too, like her husband, means everything to me and even on that busy day, she didn’t leave her little princess.  Adda was followed by dinner and I took my place beside Kuljeet didi as we served dinner to everyone, and on that alibi, got to meet more people which was eventually followed by more appreciation. “Good bye “ is just a countdown of another meeting.

We all have to say good bye. John Denver’s song played in my heart ,

“So kiss me and smile for me,

Tell me that you’ll wait for me,

Hold me like you’ll never let me go “.

Yes, it was the last time I had the opportunity to meet these wonderful people for this year. I was leaving the next Friday.However, I do know I will come back, perhaps next year. I had promised everyone I will .

As I bade good bye, Suvessa, dada’s post graduate student said , “ Next year, all of us will perform a drama “ and I had replied , “ I will start writing the script soon “.  My little princess of Nebraska , Anisha too promised me she will dance next year.

Every fairy tale has a happy ending but not mine. It is just ” to be continued ….. ”  As Tilottama Kolkata keeps on giving me a new reason to leave, everyday, even though, somewhere   my heart wants to stay, Wichita allays me with her cornucopia of love, faith, family and a living fairy tale , without Prince Charming , of course 😛 😀

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