Birth of a new child in me

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 28 Sep 2017 09:21:16

As we completed one full round of the crowded place, darkness fell and every nook and corner lit up with countless hundreds of electric lights of all shapes and sizes and exuding all sorts of colour shades -- yellow, white, red, blue, green. When we had arrived there, evening shadows were lengthening but lights were still not on. By the time we roamed around to return to the spot where we had begun three quarters of an hour earlier, darkness fell almost suddenly and the whole place was ablaze with bright lighting. For a four-year-old boy, it was something like waking up in a dreamland.

More than sixty-four years later, the place still gives that same sense of dreamland every time I pay a visit to the Durga Puja Exhibition at the grounds of Dinanath High School in Dhantoli. My mind darts back to that first impression of the brightly-lit evening of the exhibition. Standing between parents, holding Father’s index finger tight in my little right fist and playing with Mother’s nine-yard saree’s border with left hand, I tried to take in that glitzy world through my eyes full of wonderment. Every shop, though made of temporary material that would somehow last for fifteen days of the duration, looked so attractive, so magnetic in nature that I wanted to peep at every counter.

That happened at least three-four times every year when we siblings would drag parents and Grandmother to the exhibition. And each time we went there, we first went into the school building that hosted the Durga idol for the festival. Pushing through hundreds of devotees milling around, we somehow managed to reach the barricades that separated us from the resplendent idol whose face was bathed in anger as she trounced the demon under her foot. Despite that mood, her face often looked strangely and
paradoxically serene, forcing me to have my eyes fixated on the wonderful spectacle.

Once inside the shopping arena, buying those small things -- toy cars, dolls, balloons that never went home intact, small-time kitchen equipment or home decor items which Mother was fond of ... -- was a ritual we went through with missionary zeal, or a fundamentalist zealoutness on
every visit.

As we grew older and got engaged in our respective pursuits, visits to the Durga Puja Exhibition became rarer. We never stopped altogether but visited the place only occasionally. Yet, deep inside the mind, I missed those heady moments when we bought things, sat in the giant wheel or merry-go-round or bumping cars, ate spicy stuff from the vendors who carried huge platters on their heads.
Of course, Ganesh Exhibition on the Cotton Market Ground also was an oft-visited place with a similar feel. There, too, we spent hours every year. While the Ganesh exhibition was closer to us from our home on Sitabuldi Main Road, the Dinanath High School grounds were a little farther. To the Ganesh exhibition, we would often walk, but to the Dhantoli show, we had to pile into the car or get into a rickshaw.

But once inside the exhibition, we found ourselves into a land of wonder and grandeur of its own kind. We did not mind those long hours of fun and frolic before returning home late Saturday and Sunday evenings, managing to grab a little grub and then collapse in the bed for the
delicious sleep.

So, when the exhibition opened this year, I felt like sneaking in for a feel of the whole thing once again, only half sure of what I may encounter. But once inside, I found myself getting sucked into the same old feeling that I used to get as a child. Even now, the Durga Puja Exhibition on the Dinanath High School ground in Dhantoli is the same old place with a heady feeling -- brightly lit and densely crowded and basking in general happiness that spills from faces. I had feared that my enthusiasm about the exhibition might not last for even half hour.

But three hours on, I was still steeped in the place, unwilling to move out. I kept moving around clockwise or anti-clockwise watching shops and sales and people and their moods and the children and their laughter and their cries for things and the obstinacy of parents in not buying things for the little ones and an equally diplomatic kids who would even roll over on the ground to embarrass the elders

Every moment got etched in memory, and evoked old memories once again.
There was not one single boring moment. There was not one single point when I felt disgusted.
Those three hours gave birth to a new child out of me, generated a fresh bout of enthusiasm for small joys, and new zest for life. It was one evening I would never forget. For, in my consciousness, that evening was just in continuation of the evenings I had spent in the place decades earlier for decades.