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Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Subho Bijoya

In Bengali tradition, the meaning of the term Bijoya, means Victory in the literal sense. Shubho Bijoya, thus, means "The Positive Victory". Bijoya is celebrated from the final day of Durga Puja, that means, from Vijaya Dashami till Kali Puja or Diwali. That is, it has a celebration time of about almost a month. Vijaya Dashami signifies Maa Durga’s victory over the demon God, Mahisasur. This signifies the conquest of good over the evil. Shubho Bijoya is the way of greeting each other after the Durga Puja to mark this victory of positive energy in our lives.

‘Is he here too?’ asked Khuki to her sister-in-law, Bokul. Bokul was the epitome of motherly grace and charm, the perfect Bengali wife, yet too refined and sophisticated in comparison to her contemporaries. Being the eldest daughter-in-law of a renowned zamindari family had its own pros and cons. She effortlessly fit into the requirements of the character. She was subtle yet strong, sensitive yet supportive of all the decisions taken by her husband. Never once in her 33 years of marital life had she fought or rather quarreled with her husband disgracefully. She had her opinions, and quite strong ones, so to say, but she had her own way of asserting them. Yelling and fighting was too below her. Being a daughter of a zamindari family, she had the restraint and the mind equivalent to a royal Princess.

 ‘Yes, Khuki…. We are all here for the Pujas. How are Samiran and your children? By what I know, both your sons are doing quite well’ offered Bokul. ‘Yes, Boudi (sister-in-law in Bengali)…. God has been graceful to us….but dada (elder brother in Bengali)…. How is he? Is he still angry with me? When I come to think of it now…. I think it was my fault…. I shouldn’t have fought with him regarding the distribution of property rights….’sighed Khuki. Khuki was the youngest of five siblings with Binoy Mohan being the eldest. Of five siblings, one was no longer alive, cancer killed Juin. Binoy was not only the eldest he was the only son, followed by four sisters. After Juin’s death, Binoy had wanted to sell the ancestral home and move towards the city. It was then that the last day of the Durga Pujas, Bijoya Dashami, culminated in an unpleasant row in the family pushing them away from each other forever.

 It’s been 10 years since the last Durga Puja, which the Mitra family had attended together as a family. The misunderstanding or the fight or the quarrel or the event or whatever that infamous event was known as, had successfully split Binoy Mohan Mitra along with his wife and children away from the rest of the family. Khuki was Binoy’s favorite among all his sisters. When she had fought face to face with him demanding equal rights in the property, he could not take the insolence easily. He said nothing and retired that night early to his room. He suffered a massive heart attack in the middle of the night. Although with U.S return and city bred doctors present in the extended family, his life was saved with timely medicines and immediate attention, Binoy was scarred for life. He could never recover from Khuki’s verbal attacks that evening. During the one month, after the Durga Puja when Binoy stayed at their ancestral home to recover, Khuki never, for once, visited him.

 Today, after 10 years, for the first time Binoy decided to visit his ancestral home in Midnapore for the Durga Puja. In these ten years, life had changed a lot: now his daughter was married and was a resident of Seattle, U.S.A, while his son had secured a job in one of the prestigious companies in Mumbai. On the insistence of his Seattle-born Bengali son-in-law, Binoy decided to show them around at their home in Midnapore. When he had checked with the housekeeper, he was informed that no one else was supposed to come at the same time. However, with a sudden shift of plans the rest of the extended family with their husbands, wives, daughters, sons, son-in-laws and daughter-in-laws reached the ‘Mitra Bhaban’ on Ashtami evening (the eighth day of Durga Puja celebrations). The old house suddenly came alive with so many voices, laughter, yelling, smell of food and most importantly, people. People of three generations in different shapes and sizes thronged the house. Needless to say everyone was enjoying the sudden, unplanned reunion as a respite from their daily clockwork lives.

 The caretaker, Topon kaku (uncle in Bengali) was particularly happy to have so many people around him and was happy to serve their many demands. Off late he had started thinking of himself as a mute furniture like all the old furniture in the big zamindar house. It was the last day of Durga Puja, the ladies of the house bid farewell to Durga in the traditional way of smearing vermilion on the goddess and each other; while the young boys and the men in the house physically accompanied Ma Durga and her children to Bisarjan (Immersion of the idol) to the family pond. It was Bijoya Sammiloni then. This event marked the departure of Ma Durga and signified the coming of prosperity and happiness till she returned next year. The younger generations touch the elders’ feet to show their respect while the elders blessed them generously and treat them with sweets. The festivities continued and were more evident in the kitchen; with every daughter or daughter-in law of the house trying to show their finesse in cooking.
Khuki watched Binoy from the corner of her eye and did not try to confront him face to face. Instead she asked Topon kaku to call Bokul aside. Seeing her, Khuki bent to touch her feet and take blessings. Bokul stopped her mid-way: ‘First touch your dada’s feet. He is waiting in his room for you.’ Khuki was too stunned to react and she blurted out: ‘Are you sure he is waiting for me and not anyone else?’ ‘No, he has not mentioned your name but after staying with him for 33 years I think I can read a little of his mind. He is old now and too tired to carry on the fight.’ Khuki could feel the tears welling up in her eyes; she knew that Bokul was right. They were old now and neither had the will or the strength to carry on in life without each other. ‘Come with me!’ said Bokul and tugged Khuki at the elbow. Outside Binoy’s room she asked her to wait and went inside to inform him. Binoy was furious. How dare Bokul reconcile with his sister on his behalf. ‘If she wants she can come but I will not talk to her…. That’s for certain!’ declared Binoy in strong words. Knowing her husband’s temper she did not object to him but went out of the room to send in Khuki.

 ‘Subho Bijoya, dada’ said Khuki touching his feet. Binoy instinctively held out his arm to bless her by touching her head. Doing so, he met her eyes and was shocked initially to look into the old face of his youngest sister.  ‘You look older than me!’ exclaimed Binoy with a sparkle in his eyes. ‘Yes, of course, as if you are getting younger each day!’ retorted Khuki. ‘I can still challenge you to climbing the stairs as many times as you want. Do you remember dada, how we played in the afternoons when everyone was asleep. What silly games were they? Climbing stairs…. then marbles at the back of the house….Do you remember?’ questioned Khuki. ‘Yes I do…. How have you been Khuki? It’s been so long..’ the moment their gazes met, their hearts connected and all the anger and bitterness of the past ten years melted away in tears and concern for each other. Conversation flowed effortlessly and it was not before dinner that they were disturbed by their children and they started sharing childhood memories with the younger generation. Bokul smiled knowingly, as she stood outside the room listening to her husband cite funny anecdotes.
Satisfied, she started walking across the corridor. 
‘You know what happened after that…….’ trailed off Binoy’s lively voice as Bokul walked towards the kitchen in preparation of the grand dinner!  

1 comment:

  1. A nice peep into the Bengali tradition...a heart touching story