I am in a very irritable mood. I have been this way all through the evening. It is the first of November, but the temperatures seem to have no intention of coming down. Winter feels like a distant dream here in Kolkata, and instead of ordering boots and dreaming about hot cups of cocoa, I am still in my summer shorts and tees. But this is only an incidental cause for my present state of mind. What is really making me prickly is the seemingly never-ending season of festivities in this part of the world.
I belong to the tiny section of the population that cannot wait for the celebrations to end and life to go back to its routine of working days and weekends. The entire month of October has been one long period of limbo when it came to any sort of work getting done, be it in college or outside of it. People are ‘happy’; they are ‘taking a break’. A break from what, can someone tell me? As it is we Bengalis have a remarkable reputation for being lazy and unwilling to work. Anything that can be done in a week (or a month or more) will never, not even by mistake, be completed in any less time. And then there is the annual, month-long, socially acceptable excuse for dropping all work and wasting as much time and money as humanly possible.
Durga Puja did not annoy me too much. In fact I enjoyed shopping for clothes, going out with friends, going pandal hopping in Kolkata and Durgapur, the usual during festivals. But for some reason, the Diwali long weekend has driven me to tears of anger and frustration. It all started since last Friday, which was bhoot choturdorshi. I did not go to Durgapur for Diwali this year because I had to study and finish assignments and papers and I never seem to do any productive work at all when I’m back home with Dad. So on Friday I went out to Lake market to buy some abir for the mandatory Diwali rangoli (for the uninitiated, abir is coloured powder used to make designs on the ground – rangoli – during Diwali, and smear on each other during Holi). Lake Market is a busy shopping arcade on all days, but on Friday it was a sea of humanity. People old and young were crawling all over the area. Every second person seemed to have come in private cars, which led to traffic snags and parking lot shouting matches. Trying to navigate one’s way through cars and stalls and beggar children and dogs and cows was nightmarish. I did get the things I was looking for, and came away as quickly as I could. But the experience left me drained of energy and good humour. I spent the rest of the evening snapping at family and friends.
Kali pujo and Diwali (Saturday and Sunday respectively) would have gone fine enough, except that all around me people decided that the best way to enjoy themselves was to burst a whole lot of kali potkas and chocolate bombs and dodomas. Diwali is supposed to be the festival of lights, not sounds! It is deemed to signify the triumph of good over evil, light of darkness, hope over despair, not cacophony over silence! So many aspects of the celebration are beautiful – cleaning and decorating the house with fairy lights and oil lamps, drawing of the rangoli, making of mouthwatering sweets like laddoos and halwas, even the firework displays. I have nothing against real fireworks – fuljhuris and rongmashals, chorkis and tubris, various kinds of rockets that form coloured stars and parachutes and designs up in the sky. All of these are pretty to look at, reason enough to be used during Diwali. But what, pray, do you get from the bursting of bombs? Nothing but noise. It is beyond me why people enjoy the ear splitting explosions emanating from these pointless crackers. Why would you want to be reminded of battlefield bangs and booms for entertainment?
Diwali is one big reminder of how little Indians care about public inconvenience. The tyranny of majoritarianism becomes an ugly reality. So what if the elderly and the animals (and a few oddballs like yours truly) find the din physically painful and palpitation-inducing? The majority wants to have fun, the rest can go to hell. Then there is the added nuisance of songs blaring out from the speakers, volume turned up to the maximum. In fact, it is the middle of the night now, and still the scoundrels in my neighbourhood show no sign of turning the volume down. Just because they like to get drunk and dance like zombies to Bhojpuri songs, I have to listen to them too. Democracy and egalitarianism are nice concepts to think about and support; but right now if I could lay my hands on a gun I am pretty sure I would have caused a bloodbath here.
I just went over this post from four years ago. So much has changed in these four years, and yet so little. That Diwali was a happy one. The rangoli was beautiful. This year, I did make one, but it was uninspired and asymmetrical, an apt reflection of my state of mind.
I can sense that I am rambling; this sort of writing is more suited for the private journal I keep than the blog. But I had to vent out my anger in public. I feel much calmer now, and though the idiots here are still at it with their speakers and their crackers, I think I will be able to turn in for the night without shouting out my entire stock of expletives at them. Also, I had not written for such a long time. It feels good to be back at my writing. Maybe, just maybe it will not be months before my next post here.