Mother, I will build for you a ceremony of words.
Intonations, as I gather the brick-dust fallen from the heads of those burnt men and women filing tearless in the heat. They were building the bricks some of us will use to build our ‘havans.’ And I will chant under my breath as I run to gather the threads fallen loose from the dyed fabrics and the dyed hands of those who make our celebratory garments. I will, Mother, pant alongside the cattle being driven to market, waiting for the celebratory feast. I will walk with the farmer who dons his drums and feathers and travels to the city to make coins for his fickle harvest. I will heave and shout with the dark energetic boys on lorries who run the neighborhood shows, a few days to focalize youthful energy and rage. I will watch the crowds and the carnival, their emotions and their doubts sharpened by display. I will watch those who religiously abstain from such topsy turvy opiate festivals.
And I will etch with a little stick the altar I want to make for ‘you,’ the bricks of my lists, the chants of my queries. For nothing else makes sense of this senseless earth, its thrashing lives, its vast solitude in the cosmos. Without an accounting, this mind-hull of heaven is Nothing.
Ref: Durga Puja in West Bengal, India. They say it assumed it present ‘sarbojanin’ or community-affirming celebratory form in the 18th century, when it was a means of uniting the countryside against the British Raj. Sometime in the last few decades in Calcutta it became a carnivalesque city-wide festival. For the Bengali diaspora, it became a means of re-creating the social-hierarchical structure they knew in their childhood and youth, usually in conscious contradiction of the meaning of the festival. Recently, it has become a way to re-affirm culture and unapologetic heritage. Here, above, I have tried to wrest prayer from festivity.