Friday, April 16, 2010

A Noboborsho Morning Revisited

My earliest memory of the Bengali New Year was waking up at 4am. My parents had a business of their own. According to the custom of businesspersons, they woke up early on this day to pay a visit to the temple. This was the starting of the business year. Hundreds of small and medium scale businesspersons and their spouses would gather on the temple premises very early. They carried a big wickerwork bowl (called jhuri) filled with flowers, a new copy and assorted items needed for the ceremonies. Tucked away comfortably in the jhuri was an idol each of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and her elder brother Ganesh, the god of prosperity. The bro-sis duo is the deities the businesspersons worship in this part of the world.

My parents would blend in with the crowd. My mom, in a crisp new saree which sometimes retained the glued brand tag because she was always in a hurry and desperately careless, would spend the time at the queue chatting away happily with the other women around. My dad, irritated at having to wake up so early but never complaining in fear of a spat with mom, shifted uncomfortably on his feet. He couldn’t bring himself to talk to the others around him. He was a complete misfit there. He wouldn’t even get inside the cramped temple. He would wait outside as mom got in with the jhuri. When she came out with sweat trickling down her face, she had this look of triumph: finally she had got it done before many others!

The jhuri now contained lesser flowers. Red vermillion was painted across the forehead of Lakhsmi, the mark of a married woman. A red dot was marked on Ganesh’s forehead too. This was one was a tika, different from the one on Lakshmi. The copy’s first page was smeared with the same red and a red swastika shone through. There were flower petals inside the pages as well. Mom would open the lid of the paper box containing the sweets and thrust one in my mouth. Her palm smelled metallic. Dad would take the sweet very gravely, as if it was made of the most brittle material. He would then lop that in his mouth and chew it even more gravely. Mom would call on a thousand gods in an indecipherable mumble and eat her share. The rest would be distributed among close family members and the workers who helped the business. We would then be on our way home.

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