There are things you take for granted. And before you realize it, people are gone and there is no one else to carry forward the tradition.
Durga Pooja was always celebrated with traditional fervour at home. My memories of my mother tuning into All India Radio in the wee hours of the morning to listen to Mahishasurmardhini in that lovely sonorous voice. Mummy sitting down with her wet hair in the prayer room reading the Durga saptashati. And then the phalahari—fasting with only fruits for the next nine days. No cereal. No salt.
When I grew older I have memories of fasting with Dad and trying to emulate my mother. Even more special memories of going to the Bengali Pooja pandaals. Both in Bangalore and in Chandrapur. Loving each moment. The gorgeous sarees. The smell of khichdi. The stalls. The smell of dhoop. And the most exquisite statues from Calcutta. Gazing into the mesmerizing eyes of Durga.
The cultural programmes. Thinking back, I even saw Salil Choudhary perform live one year. Didn’t realise as a kid what a precious experience that was. The image of Hema Malini dressed as Durga dancing away so elegantly cannot be erased from my memory. One year it was a traditional yatra. Another a kavi sammelan.
Though I saw it in the 1970s, the vision of Durga being immersed into Ulsoor lake still makes me teary-eyed and emotional today, as it did to me as a kid. After seeing her decked up so beautifully everyday I just couldn’t understand the concept of visarjan then.
Today I wonder if we can carry that tradition forward. Feels too heavy for my shoulders. Don’t even know the meaning of rituals well enough. No one I can ask either. But the memories tug me on — some memories from childhood which cannot fade away too soon. Wish I hadn’t taken all this for granted then and asked some more questions.