Every year, after Durga Puja is over and a pall of gloom has descended on the city, and on my heavy heart ó one enjoys being overly dramatic every now and then, and there probably arenít very many occasions more apt for brooding theatrically than the post-apocalyptic days after Durga Puja ó I find myself searching for the next big thing to look forward to. Never mind that Iím usually sleep deprived and cranky after a week of sleepless nights, and probably in serious need of bland home-cooked food (I just may have stopped by the roadside junk food stall near the Ekdalia puja that serves some delicious, ajino-moto-laden, not-very-good-for-your-health schezwan noodles every year). I have what I can only call withdrawal symptoms, and I end up needing my fix. I think of Kali Puja, that comes soon after Durga Puja, and its promise of fire crackers and some more revelry. Anticipation for the day keeps me going ó till that, too, is over. Come to think of it, itís a little sad.
Itís all over the city in the form of hoardings or advertisements on vehicles and random walls. Itís on every channel on television and is increasingly taking up whole newspaper pages. Itís coming, itís coming, and youíre getting closer to being able to grab fistfuls of it lustily, and be transported to heights of ecstasy youíd never dreamed of. So what if itís a festival, a time for celebration and worship, and comes along every year? This time will be bigger and better than the last. Just you wait. Youíve never seen or felt anything like it before. True, itís not a drug or a nubile nymphet or any such guilty, forbidden pleasure youíd like to get your itching hands on, although the way youíre being encouraged to hanker after it certainly seems to point in those directions. But thereís no harm in making it seem as if it is the only thing in the near future that can make you happy, is there? Donít stop to think; just give in to your senses and wait with growing anticipation for what is slowly, tantalizingly, inching your way.
Unfortunately, it doesnít quite work out that way for me, year after year. I end up doing ó or wishing I had done ó things just the way I had always done them. The shopping, the shiuli phool, the blue skies, the unmistakeable headiness in the air, the swelling crowds, the dhak, the pandals, the bhog, the friends, the family, the goddess ó they all remain the same. I donít, at any point in the days leading up to ó or during ó the Pujas, find anything to grab lusty fistfuls of, unless itís the Ekdalia noodles we speak of. And on the couple of occasions that Iíve allowed myself to be swayed by promises of decadent excesses of Iím-not-quite sure-what, Iíve ended up spending the puja days trying to ascertain whether or not Iím having as much fun as I was promised I would by Iím-not-quite-sure-who. And while I waste precious time searching for something that is not there, time decides to slip past me, leaving me feeling like an idiot. An idiot who has forfeited her right to turn to the greasy Ekdalia noodles for comfort anymore, because thinking that there can be a joy greater than those noodles during the Pujas is a real offence.
It doesnít end well. Life, unfortunately, is what happens when youíre busy making other plans.