I’m talking about another time. A time of bulky transistors and Eastman coloured mornings. When I’d be woken up by my grandfather, as he gently dragged me out of a flimsy mosquito net, our footsteps often colliding as I then sat perched atop his lap, staring out into a mist smudged October morning. Madhu dada, our Oriya driver’s son would soon turn up the volume as Shanti mashi, my toothless nanny brought Dada (I called my grandfather that) a steaming hot cup of Darjeeling tea, as we all sat in a curious semi-circle, listening to Mahishasuramardini – a two-hour telecast rendered in the overpowering voice of the late Birendra Krishna Bhadra – the saga of Ma Durga’s agomoni (arrival) on the auspicious day of Mahalaya that marked the start of Devi Paksha – the most sacred time in the festive almanac.
Durga Puja helps us forgive Kolkata for what it has become and soak in what it will always be. These five days are about looking back and looking forward – the only time the city can carry the weight of both on its weathered arms.