Autumn Memoirs

Today was a bright sunny one – clean, smooth, flawless autumn blue sky.  Not even a single spec of cloud, crisp sunshine with a little coolness in the air and trees fluttering in the wind, all green (yes green, and not the so-called “fall” colour). I could hear the wind bumping into my ears when I was walking back from the lab, walking against the wind. It played like a broken flute all along, rumpled my hair like my father would sometimes fondly do. Nevertheless, the sky attracted me more, as always. I think if I’d have to design a colour catalogue for paints, I would do really well with the blues. Just look at the sky, it’s a different shade of blue each time I’ve seen it. Right from staring through the barred windows of Barasat-Hasnabad ‘deluxe’ bus on a Nabami morning every year, to gazing at the brilliant crystal blue while standing in a queue at Belur Math on Ashtami afternoon, again each year. Times change. The un-intimidated ritual for nine years, of reaching Belur Math before the Kumari Puja at nine o’clock has long been replaced to watching the puja live on television. We prefer the change nowadays to avoid the excessive crowd, the pushing and jostling for a view of the kumari, two hours of journey from our present home, and the unstable health of my ageing parents. But we miss the ambiance  and the inexplicable khichuri bhog prepared since ages by some Ghanashyam from Ghusuri. I’d trade anything, simply anything, for an earthen cup of that divine bhog. Nobody has been able to explain the reason behind such taste till now, though he makes it with no special ingredients or procedure. Somethings are better forever unexplored, I guess.

Having spent thirteen years of life in a mofussil, durga puja for me always meant visiting Calcutta, and Belur Math. The scent of autumn would bring the second terminal exams with it for most of the school years, making me suppress all eagerness for the sharodiya Anandamela while writing boring essays for English grammar. Saptami would generally be a tour of the Calcutta pandals, preceded by a fight between me and baba about which part to visit – north or south Calcutta. He’d ask me to choose any one, and I would always want both, and we’d end up arguing, with ma intervening in between. After moving in to Calcutta, autumn meant crisp sunny Gariahat mornings, walking past happy faces, each shop glowing in the evening in it’s own puja glory, bustling with people, mashimas and mamonis, shopping and bargaining together. The shortcut lanes via Garcha to Hazra Law College didn’t seem so quiet, sleepy with occasional gully cricketers. They would somehow transform during the puja. The autumn sun painted the steep walls of the old houses with its slight orange tint. Those same walls on the five puja nights would be embellished with innumerable necklaces of tiny bulbs, often wrapped with red, blue, green, purple cellophane. It seemed to be a different place on those few days, in some wonderland where everyone was ebullient and celebrating. The one thing that I can distinctly feel even thousands of miles away are the autumn sunsets, during the durga puja and diwali days. The twilight would gradually give away to chains of small electric bulbs, or candles in every window, every balcony that I could see from our fifth floor terrace. The transition of light into dark would infuse me with a queer melancholia, I don’t know why. That is perhaps the loneliest moment of an autumn.

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