Dashami 2012. Voorschoten, the Netherlands.
It was the only time that I 'performed' the "eiyo stree" (the married woman) to perfection -- wearing every item that stamped my status: from sindur, sakha-pala & mangalsutra (this, a nod to the Bihari bahu I was) to donning the saree sadharan-style.
It was the 3rd year of our full-blown, 4-day Bengali Association Durga Pujo in NL & the 1st for us as parents. Our baby was only 5 months then & we were still trying to get used to the vast change in our lives 13 years after marriage. She was most definitely a bundle of joy, who gave us hope... that henceforth, things would be better - for us, between us.
With her in our midst, that Pujo was very special. And Dashami was somehow extra gregarious. We, at KALLOL, had developed a ritual for this day: apart from the customary 'sindur-khela', couples (some 20 of them) would pose for photographs, in as much of PDA as they could muster.
Shekhar & I had very few photographs together. And in all our 4+13 years as a couple till then, he would pose in only one way -- with an arm held gingerly round my shoulder, looking into the camera with a smile (which, depending on who was behind it, would range from formal to friendly to spontaneous).
He did the same this time, too, but something more intimate was demanded. I tried negotiating a middle ground... but then we both gave in... holding each other close: heads touching, shoulder & waist encircled, palms clasped.
There are 4 photos that mark this progression; each, unfortunately, low-resolution photos, with the last - and sweetest one - the most blurry of all. I bemoaned this fact for many years... but now find it symbolic.
Of all the festive occasions of the year, Pujo has been the toughest for me to reinvent in the past 5 years, as it has overpowering familial & marital associations.
Festive occasions are never moments of unalloyed joy, though they are supposed to be that. For many, in fact, the relentless "fun" of almost a week-long Pujo can be both difficult & tiring to deal with, because of the prologed effort it requires to keep up & mesh in with the joy of others, when they are not feeling it within themselves. Joy can't always be drummed up with the beat of the dhak.
And yet, life goes on & we learn new ways of living.
শুভ বিজয়া, friends!
May the goddess give us all the strength to fight our battles and slay the demons, both within us & in society at large.
May she also give us the resource to create our own happiness & prosperity.