Puja came and went by. I knew it was there, by the time I realized it was here it was gone. I managed to offer anjali on Asthami at a nearby pandal, old times floated by for a moment of mirage-like happiness. You grow old but it only seemed like yesterday when Papa gave me a hundred rupee note each day of the puja and you could spend it the way you wanted. I blew it up most times, my sister saved hers. I thought I heard Bunty and Guddu calling out my name, let’s go!! I can see Ma talking to other aunties of the colony, complimenting each other- nice saree, nice this and nice that.
It is still the same, only I was not home. Ma was reluctant to tell me how they spent Puja, knowing I will probably cry. My new clothes were at the tailors, did not feel like following up like I used to.
I missed home so much this time, you have no idea. I missed being at home during puja, all the action and just being in tune for those 4 grand days, I missed everything.
My puja was quiet here, deeply engrossed in work and reminiscence, observed my abstinence of onion/garlic/eggs like they do at home, that was the closest association I could bring myself to with home. My homage to the Goddess is not an ounce less if not devoted. The night of Navami, I felt a certain hollow, felt a lil’ wretched, was a lil’ angry at myself for not being able to live Puja the way I love to. Mehndi-wet hands, some trivia shopping with a girlfriend, did I catch dinner at work? I don’t remember, but mobility in an alien city that I now call a working home is still pretty much full of constraint- traffic, a full day at work, a million Murphy’s laws should take care of the rest. I don’t blame anyone, including myself.
When I was going home, at some signal crossing my eyes just welled up. I just felt like crying, neighbouring passers-by and bikers and autos gave me that "is all ok?" look. That lil’ girl who ran across the road with a balloon came by, asked me to buy it since it was Puja. I told her to go, there is no kid at my place (that kid grew up long ago). Here, I was struggling to hold back my tears and here, you want me to buy that balloon. Yes, that bubble burst sometime ago. It is never the same.
Waiting for the next Mahalaya with folded hands.