She is at her gorgeous best this evening. Resplendent in her new rani sari. Decked in her jewellery. Her silver owl polished to a dazzling shimmer.
I stand amidst the hullabaloo in the thakurghor. A little me lost in a crowd of grown-up faces. Busy in their universe of prayers and worship.
I look for things to do.
Back yet again to the alpana Grandma made with rice paste this afternoon.
And she allowed me to add those dots.
Isn’t it beautiful ? I beam in innocent creator’s pride.
The dots made the alpana so pretty, I am confident.
And make a mental note to flaunt to my friends in school tomorrow.
Bored with the alpana. I now try to find meaning in the sonorous chants of thakur moshai. In vain. I give up.
I must be hungry, I wonder as I smell the khichuri cooking away in the kitchen. Then longingly look at the tempting mound of gorgeous golden narkol narus Maa and Grandma laboriously prepared all morning. And unlike other days, they did not let Dada or me indulge on even one. That’s not been fair, a suddenly annoyed me reminds myself.
Dhuno smoke has engulfed the room now. I can no longer see the crowd of faces. Or Her. Or Her owl. I close my eyes and take in the intoxicating fragrance of the the dhuno. My eyes still burn though.
Someone takes the dhunuchi out of the room. I move on. To counting the marigolds in the garland that adorns Her. Yellow. Orange. Yellow again. Orange again.
When suddenly my eyes rest on the owl. I now gawk at the owl on the cover of Maas lokkhi pnaachaali.
Impatient, fidgety, restless and not finding anything else to occupy myself with, I balance myself on one foot. Then put that foot down and try to balance myself on the other foot.
Maa pokes me. Hard.
I make a face.
She returns a frown.
I know I shall not win this contest.
Grandma comes to my rescue.
What did you wish for ? She asks me in a hushed tone.
That I be rich, I respond in a flash.
You never pray for wealth, Grandma asserts.
But you told me she is the Goddess of Prosperity and Wealth, I counter.
Yes, but you never ask for riches. Grandma patiently explains with a smile. You ask for health. And you ask for knowledge and wisdom. Wealth shall follow on its own.
Grandma does not make sense at times. Especially when she speaks in arcane riddles. Leaving me to untangle the knots.
This is one of those occasions.
I run to the window.
Outside on the expansive canvass of the clear autumn sky, the pristine full moon smiles.
As I prepare for lokkhi pujo this evening, my khichuri and labra simmering on the stove, a stack of finely cut eggplant waiting to be dipped in batter and fried, I go back to kojagori lokkhi pujo of childhood, Grandma’s allegories and metaphors, her philosophy and parables, (which I found incomprehensible as a child, but which became more and more relevant as I grew up) her divine khichuri and labra, her legendary narkol narus and her intricate alpanas.