Saturday, 22 December 2018

Aamsotto, a fiction




"Autumn has arrived. 'Pujo-Pujo Elo', is how people describe it out there. No doubt, it's truly the city of joy. Once the intellectual and cultural capital of India, Kolkata still has an attractive old-world charm. Durga puja in Kolkata is simply out of the world. There’s unique euphoria and people can almost smell it in the air. The only thing we can say about Durga puja out there is, 'Crazy Kolkata'.

Long holidays... and it’s not only limited to schools and colleges. Even offices across West Bengal remain closed for at least a week. Jubilation all around. Everyone is in the mood of festivity and joy. The puja celebration is simply amazing. It’s a very significant socio-cultural event. Kolkata puja is all about the streets and the backstreets. The entire city celebrates. Even the deadliest corners and congested alleys are illuminated with lights. Every nook and corner of the city remains overcrowded during the 4 days of puja celebration. To control the traffic, bamboo barricades are built to create effective walkways. This is the time of the year when the City of Joy truly lives up to its name. Lights, food, music... so colorful! Not to forget the puja bell sound ‘Ting Ting’, the long sankha sound 'Poooooooooo ...', drums and dhunuchi dance.

People come out on the streets in the evening, with their best attires to experience the carnival. Several pandals are built in localities, neighbourhoods and in housing complexes where the goddess Durga is installed and worshipped. The pandals are decorated very beautifully with host of lights and designs. People usually come out in groups, with friends and families. They do ‘pandal hopping’ throughout the nights and enjoy themselves. Restaurants and food stalls stay open and cater to visitors throughout the nights. The young, old, men, women and children together celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm. Wearing new clothes is a must to grace the occasion. Perfect time for the youngsters to hang out with friends. 

The food stalls do some real solid business during the puja days. Varieties of eateries all over the place. But the Jalebis, chicken cutlets, egg rolls and mutton chops are simply out of the world. Instant happiness with the very first bite. Food stalls remain open till late in the nights. People are found to be standing in the queue in almost every stall."




              "Life has changed so much over the years. But every time I come to this place I feel as if time has simply stopped, and I go back to my school days...” said Shantanu. He was settled in Bangalore with his family, working for a software company. He met his childhood friends after a long time... almost fifteen years. Well, it was Shantanu who planned and coordinated with all to make this get-together a success.

Shantanu, Shuvham, Indrajit and Jiten grew up together in the same colony, popularly known as ‘Natun Para’. The place is still known by the same name. Shuvham was settled in US and Jiten in Germany. Indrajit has established himself as a renowned businessman in the locality. He was the guy who was in touch with most of their schoolmates, particularly the ones from Natun Para.  
It was afternoon and all the friends were having a great time on the terrace. Shuvham lit up a cigarette and was smoking it while slurping his tea. He took a few long drags and passed it on to Shantanu. 

"Devika should've come by now", commented Shuvham. This grabbed everyone’s attention. Well, Devika Dutta was also their schoolmate, same batch. But somehow the guys lost touch with her. She was settled in US along with her husband and two kids. 

"Why are you looking so serious?" asked Indrajit to Shantanu. 

"Of course he would be serious. After all, he’s Devika’s first boyfriend..." Jiten commented. 

A smile appeared on Shantanu’s face, "What dudes, what topic have you brought in?"

Actually, Shantanu had proposed Devika when they were in their ninth grade in school. Devika had accepted, and they had dated for almost a year. Later they had some kind of fight, followed by their breakup. Shantanu had been quite serious about her. It had taken him quite some time to console himself, and then he had come back to life again. In their twelfth grade, Devika was dating Jiten. Shuvham and Devika studied in the same Engineering College in Pune. During that time, Shuvham had regularly updated his old buddies about Devika. Whenever Shuvham had visited Natun Para, his friends would discuss about Devika with him.

"What Shantanu dada, are you still serious about 'Aam Sotto'?" Commented someone. The terrace jolted with their laughter. From the very first semester, Devika was popularly known as 'Aam Sotto' in her college. There was an interesting story how such a tag name got attached to her. Just after a few weeks of their fresher’s party, Devika went to college wearing a beautiful, brand new skin tight T-shirt. On the front it was printed, 'Tasty Mangoes'. From that day, she was popularly known her as 'Aam Sotto' in the campus.

Shuvham started talking about her…  just the way he used to do earlier, to refresh their memories, may be. 
"She was one of the most attractive lady in the college, quite popular among the boys. She made a boyfriend towards the end of our first semester. The guy was in his eighth  semester. After passing out of college, he showed up a few times. Later in her sixth semester, she made a new boyfriend. After we passed out, I lost touch with Devika."

"So, did she marry the same boyfriend from college?" asked Indrajit, curiosity was increasing.

"No yaar, she married someone else. Once I got to know that she’s also in US, I sent her a Facebook friend request to her. To my surprise she accepted it immediately." Proudness appeared on Shuvham’s face. 

"Have you met her in US?"

"No bondhu. She lives thousands of kilometers  away."

"Shantanu dude, you still look serious. Hoechhe ta ki?"

"Looks like, he's missing his good old days with Aam Sotto. After all, he was her first boyfriend,' Jiten uttered, just to pull Shantanu's legs.
Shantanu was pretending not to listen. There was a silence for a while. And then Shantanu reacted, "We were just friends, guys."

The conversation continued for more than a couple of hours. The friends almost completed a pack of cigarettes and three cups of tea per head on the terrace. Apart from Devika, they also discussed on several other topics... about their families, kids, work, politics, sports, and what not! 

"Shantanu Da, Bhog is ready..." a small boy shouted below. The guys were having ‘Sutta’ session at Shantanu’s house. It was Navami. Everyone was simply waiting for the Puja Khichuri. They missed it for so long! The menu itself was mouth-watering for them. Khichuri prepared with ghee, crispy Begun bhaja, Sweet and savoury typical Bengali tomato chutney. 

Bhog was being served in Natun para. It was crowded. The aroma of bhog Khichuri was mesmerizing. And then all of a sudden the guys encountered Devika.
"Aree! Shantanu, Shuvham, Indrajit, Jiten. How are you guys? I'm seeing you after so long!"

Everyone was happy. They talked about themselves, about other friends, batch mates, even about Natun Para. Devika introduced her husband, Bapi and her kids to her childhood friends. Both her kids looked quite playful. The elder one was eleven years old and the younger one was six. Devika had maintained herself well. She still had the body of a dancer, lithe and beautiful.

Everyone ate together. After such sumptuous lunch the guys wanted to have a fag. 

"Cigarette ta chole to Bapi dada?" asked Shantanu.

"Are ki bolchen!. Nischoy! Chalun. Kothai jachchen?"

"Aei to pichon dike"

Devika eyed her husband, "You all guys are just the same!" The guys went at the backyard. Bapi seemed to be quite friendly. They smoked together, spent some good time.

"Are Rustam, where are you going? Eat you bhog first." Indrajit said to Rustam as he was passing by. Rustam was the idol maker. He’s an artist. He’s designing and creating new versions of Maa Durga since last 3 decades. He’s quite well known in the locality for his talent. Every year, the pandal organizers think of new themes while constructing pandals to win prizes. Pandal artists work day and night to make unbelievable gigantic idols of Maa Durga in various shapes and situations. 

Next day was Dashami. Once again it was the time for this wonderful festival to conclude. But yes, with a new hope for the next year.


The article was first printed in souvenir 2018, Srishti Cultural Association, DLF Westend Heights, Bangalore.


Grab a copy of my debut book Story of Tublu from Amazon or Flipkart. It is a Contemporary Fiction novel, published by LiFi Publications Pvt Ltd. The book has its share of drama, that entertains; humor, that makes one reminisce; love, friendship and emotions that defines the amazing journey that is, life.




17 comments:

  1. Brilliant article Jahid bhai.

    ~DJR

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  2. Enjoyed reading it, being a Bengali can connect with it deeply, very much familiar with the conversations, very nice one.

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