Sounds of mantra chanting and chimes was filling up the puja pandal. There was people everywhere and the whole place was filled with smoke and freganance.
But it was not disturbing the old lady that was standing in front of the line. She was almost in her nineties with all white hair. Her eyes were still well enough at this age to gaze at the idol in all that smoke.
She had seen this same puja from times of British India. Those days it was more of a village festival than a event. People use to gather as a community rather than spectators.
Then came the newly independent India where every festival was like a festival of freedom. Then it has past through 70 s, 80 s and 90s and seen every change possible. But still it’s getting upgraded and is still relevant in this digital age.
She has lived through it all and was still going on. She often wonders that how long this mortality is gonna hold her. Will she be able to see the next year’s durga puja. Who knows!
Emersed in her thoughts she moved along, as the line infront of the idol was moving. Slowly and gradually she came at the end of the line.
She stood there as she was expecting her family to come through the line as well. But she stood and stood and stood but no one came.
Almost 15 minutes had passed when she started feeling scared. She turned back and saw a huge crowd in all directions and his family was nowhere to be seen.
She knew that her family will found her anyhow but still she didn’t knew how long it will take. She went ahead and sat on a chair.
As she sat there, she gazed at all the crowd that was hustling around the pandal. Some were eating, some were dancing, some were with family, some with friends and so on.
So many times she has come to these places but always has been surrounded by people. Now sitting there at a distance she really felt like she was sitting at a vantage point.
She saw so many people infront of her moving in diffrent direction with different purposes. As she sat there she looked at this crowd. Even after such a long life and having seen it all; she was still was amazed by the whole environment.
All the sounds that were coming from all sides mixed with each other was creating some uncanny but magical sounds.
She was really thinking about her long life and how the pictures have changed and transformed into what she is seeing now. Still it seemed like yesterday as if everything happened and yet 90 years have passed.
She was really questioning that what there is to live for more after such a long life. Does she still needs to carry on and for what!
As she was sitting there, emersed in her thoughts, another old woman came and sat beside her. Her presence distracted her. She looked at the fellow woman.
She had really worn up clothes and a dirty bag with her. The second woman looked at her and smiled. The old woman could see that she was missing some teeths in the front and the rest were really dirty. Inshort she had poverty written all over her.
The first woman was hestitant to talk to her, as she was from an affluent family but anyway she started talking.
She asked – my name is uma what’s yours. The poor one replied mine is aarti.
After some formal talks uma asked aarti , “who are you with”.
Aarti said “no one”.
Uma was bit amazed by this. she asked again “at this age you are coming here alone.”
Aarti answered “yes who will come with me.”
Uma “why your son or daughter.”
Aarti with a bitter smile “no, they have kicked me out of my own house.”
Uma was amazed the way she smiled while saying it.
Uma – so how do you get by.
Aarti – right now by doing some works in pandals later who knows.
Uma – how you do that at this age.
Aarti – well after my son’s and daughters kicked me out I wondered on streets. There I met many kids who live on street. On one such day I was going along the railway line when I heard a cry. It was a baby girl left on the tracks by someone. I took her and now I raise her. We live in the slums on that side of the city so I am working hard to make a good life for both of us.
Uma was amazed from the ease at which the women told those painful truths. Shr asked, “after you got kicked by your own you still want to raise another child on your own at this age.”
Aarti – “well she needed a mother and I needed a reason to live. I might have failed as a mother for the first time but may get it right the second time.”
Uma – “don’t you want to die after all that.”
Aarti – ” sometimes yes, but anyway I will die someday and the day is not far. So trying to do something for myself so I can die with bit satisfaction.”
“When my family threw me out I thought it was the end and I wanted to suicide. But somehow I still lived and carried on.”
“So when I saw that girl on the tracks that day I thought may be before dying I can create someone who would miss me.”
At this moment a kid came rushing towards Uma. He said “grandma, we were looking all around for you. I thought we have lost you. I was missing you so much.” The boy teared up as he spoke. Uma saw his family also coming towards him.
Aarti said – well you have someone and so many to miss you.