The end of October draws near, that much awaited month of celebrations. The monsoons are long gone and there is a sudden crispness in the air, particularly in the late afternoons. True, one doesn't have that quintessential kaleidoscopic autumn of the West here, but the air still smells as much ripe. It is plump with expectations - of days of revelry and restlessness, of streets thronged with enthusiastic faces, and of homes filled with a harmonious warmth. During this time of the year, a meaningless mirth floods the city, reaching to its very nooks and crannies, even to its most hideous, unsightly of gutters. After all, joy never differentiates between the beautiful and the ugly, the rich and the poor. Joy is joy, unpretentious and a shade of pristine white, like the untainted heart of a five-year-old.
Today marks the tenth and final day of Durga Puja, the time when the goddess Durga completes her annual journey in the world of mortals. Ten days of her overwhelming presence take one to another world altogether - the charged, carnivalesque atmosphere (not so much here as much as back home, the eastern part of India that is); narrow lighted streets chocked with busy hawkers; the air smelling of incense, ghee and happiness... The three-eyed and ten-handed goddess is the harbinger of good times for the Hindus, and for us women, she is the Maa (mother) from whom we draw the strength to battle evil and the fortitude to bear the worldly burdens.
After the immersion of the idol this afternoon, though not many here in the southern part of the country, there's a sudden, pervading emptiness. Perhaps it's the accumulative nostalgia of the void since one's childhood, when we would all utter bittersweet sighs after seeing the idol sink and reappear, before finally disappearing into the silty depths of the nearby pond. Time hangs like a giant caged bird, still, yet breathing, and even the blaring highway right next to the apartment cannot wipe out the uncomfortable silence. The wind-chimes in the balcony make the only din in this otherwise empty evening.
Here's a lovely painting of Maa Durga that I stumbled upon in a nearby community puja. Until next year then...