Some years ago, while on an assignment in Calcutta, I met a group of youngsters bubbling with energy, most of whom I had recruited to handle the formal processing of US visas (the company that had deputed me was then authorised to process visas for the US Consulate General in three Indian cities, including Calcutta). One day, I received news while at work in the newly furnished office that one of the youngsters had met with an accident. There were too many things driving me up the wall, and now with the accident, I was left wondering why there had to be so many twists to the assignment.
That youngster was Pratik Tarafdar; he was unconscious when a senior office colleague and I rushed to the General Hospital where somebody had ‘deposited’ him. We decided to shift him to a private hospital and getting him discharged took time, which included tipping all and sundry (we hadn’t heard of Anna Hazare’s voice then!). Until we managed to wheel him into a private hospital, which took hours and where a known doctor immediately took charge, Pratik remained unconscious and I had given up all hope. Miraculously though, he survived. And much later, after I had returned to Madras, he continued to keep in touch. He had never forgotten that accident and the efforts we took to give him a new lease of life.
Well, Pratik, I understand, is doing well these days in good old Cal. And at a time when I keep blurting out nostalgia, I receive an email that shows what Durga Puja means to the average Bengali, how times have really not changed in Calcutta, and how, sadly, the romance of letter writing has almost disappeared. Here it is, unedited (he seems to be a fairly good writer, much better than some of the reporters who send me stuff):
Exchanging Bijoya greetings are no more the "only for Bengalis" affair. Globalization has successfully made Ma Durga cosmopolitan. My friends who love Bangla more than many things, be rest assured about my affection and respect for my mother tongue. I still say "Uffff" or now famous "Ishhhh" instead of "Ouch" or "Alas" :) The mail is written in English to reach out to my friends who don't understand Bangla but truly adore and admire the spirit of Durga Pujas.
Let me wish you and your loved ones 'Shuvo Bijoya' and pray that you could steal some time from your super busy schedule to stay connected to people who matter to your happiness, who bring smile on your face when you feel low.
Of late we have mastered the art of reducing the length of our messages to 160 and then finally to 140 characters but do we always succeed to pour our heart into it? I can't, as a matter of fact and hence is this slightly longish mail. Can't help as I love it.
Seldom we wish to share our thoughts these days and restrict it to micro blogging and clicking on the 'Like' buttons. Does anyone write personalised letters any more? I remember my Baba used to buy inland letters and post cards in bulk before the Pujas and Bengali new years. All four of us - Ma, Baba, Dada and I used to write to all the relatives and wish them. It used to be a fun-filled affair - writing them and receiving from others. Now we live in "real time". It has certainly changed many things for better along with ruining certain simple yet special pleasures of life.
Hope you had a great time enjoying the holidays. No work, good food and latest gossips about the friends and acquaintances must have kept you in good spirit and humor. What about the pandal hopping? Did you have shoe bite? It would be interesting to know what special did you do this puja that you would cherish for many years.
Thanks to the weather that it didn't spoil the mood of the festivity. I missed the typical puja weather to a great extent this time. The fragrance of 'Shiuli' and the beauty of dew drops were found only in the SMSs and updates. They have rather started making their presence felt now, right after the pujas. For me it was purely family time. Lazy days spent with mother, brother and wife. Met few friends after ages just at the onset of the pujas and realised how radically the topics of our discussion change with the passage of time. The hot topics of our younger days are not warm any more.
I find Durga Puja to be probably the greatest festival of all available on earth. One event, generates so many opportunities of work. Long live Durga Puja. Long live the tradition of touching base on Bijoya Dashami. I love this sweet excuse to re-connect.