E is for Entranced by My Enigmatic Roots
November 2015, Katwa, District: Burdwan, West Bengal, India
The river Ganga lay lazily sprawled by the banks of the little township, Katwa that
bustled with wonder and activity. The drums reverberated with booming splendor, at every by nook and corner.
The drums had made a grand comeback with the arrival of Goddess Kali’s puja, which was celebrated each year with enthusiastic fanfare a day before Diwali (the Indian festival of lights). Almost every by-lane would boast of the Goddesses idols in various shapes, sizes and styles, their images characterised by her jet black face and protruding tongue. Popular legends say that Kali, drunk on the blood of the demons, is about to destroy the whole universe when, urged by all the Gods, Shiva, her husband, lies in her way to stop her. She steps on his chest and recognizing Lord Shiva beneath her feet, she calms herself. It is believed Kali was ashamed of keeping her feet on her husband and stuck her tongue out in regret.
Memories of Kaali puja will always remain etched in my heart and soul. They have an indescribably entrancing effect on me and make me retrospective. I have spent innumerable days at our ancestral home, Kaalidham (Goddess Kaali’s home), our grandparents majestic abode, in Katwa. We visit Katwa every alternate year, to celebrate Kaali puja with our relatives and family.
The Kali puja Inivite / Video Credits: Abhijit Mukherji (do watch to get a deeper understanding on the rituals and the family)
Braving distances and time zones, the family comes together on the auspicious occasion of Kaali puja to pay obeisance to the Goddess, dance to the drum beats, engage in mindless banter, catch up on the long-lost years and distances, exercise our vocal chords to Rabindra Sangeet, Bangla rock and even Carpenters and Abba, indulge in various Bengali gastronomic delights which boast a variety of fresh water fish netted in the wee hours of the morning from the River Ganges, fresh produce of vegetables that probably are grown as organically as possible, and a choice of Bengali sweets like langcha, rosogolla, sondesh, raj bhog, chanar misthi and not to forget the priceless mishti doi (sweetened yoghurt).
I hold a plethora of incredible memories from Katwa close to my heart. Some when we were kids. They include chatting with my two closest cousins, by the window that overlooked a pond where flocks of ducks swam and waddled around, young boys patiently sat with their fishing rods, and some folks came to wash their clothes and carry out their morning ablutions.
Dadu, my grandfather, would relax in his comfortable reclining chair and narrate fascinating stories from his yesteryears, as all the children sat huddled around him, inquisitively listening and gaping in fascination.
In the afternoon, when the elders would retire for siesta; we would be found wandering around in the back yard or the Bagan badi (garden house) scanning the Batabi lebu (Pomelo tree) for pomelos, looking for that cat with big, broad whiskers, patting the cattle in the cow shed and engaging in some lofty, endearing banter with their clan.
Then on some sunny afternoons all the cousins would conspire to go fishing to Tili pookur (pond), Dadu’s pond. We would return lucky and some days unlucky with our catch of Tilpaias and the likes. The family would also take laid back boat rides together on the Ganges, scanning for the not so distant Bangladesh border, and soaking in some meditative calm. The the gentle river breeze would playfully ruffle our hair and caress our skin, as we would dig into freshly prepared some jhal muri (puffed rice with an assortment of savouries and spices) from the paper holder.
Visarjan (immersion of the idol) in the river Ganga would be a gala affair. After the Goddess Kaali’s boron (ceremonial send off) and sheedur khela (vermilion play) we would walk through the streets of Katwa to reach the banks of the holy Ganges, for the visarjan with the drums beating to a resounding gaiety. A certain sadness would envelop our being as the Goddess was immersed into the river and we bade her adieu. It would be two long years before she visited us again. The visarjan also portended the end of our trip, a time to part with our relatives and return back to our respective homes and routines.
These entrancing roots will always continue to hold a special place in my heart for many life times to come, so I suppose. Our roots are an integral part of who we are. They define us. Though we may have moved away from them in a bid to explore fresh horizons, start a new life, and imbibe new cultures and life styles but our origins are as much a part of us as we are of them. They are where our families came from. My Father was born in Katwa in 1940. Though I have never lived there, it’s one place that cannot be isolated from my being. For that is where my heart resides.
Disclaimer: My journey into the memory lane of Katwa has been written by me in the past as well, but this post captures my experience in a different light altogether.
My theme for this year’s Blogging from A-Z Challenge is Travel Epiphanies that are my very own tales of adventure and revelation. I will be writing 26 posts throughout the month of April. You can read my theme here.