Kolkata is fiery red all over. Conches are sounding all over. Hindi filmy music mixes with Bengali new Poojo sangeet Radio Mirchi is buzzing with new excitement. There is jubilation in the air. - She is coming. Only for four days. She is coming home. The rains continue to lash the streets. The little ponds laugh. The greens cannot be hidden by the growing grey of the city. The idols of Durga are in their finishing touches period. From where I am, I am floating on the Ganga….
It has begun with a hair message. Warm hair oil is poured over my head and I feel the circular movement of gentle hands as they rub the oil into my scalp…slowly…round and round…turning my head this way and that…. a soft Rabindra sangeet playing in the background…..I breathe deeply…..and let go…floating inward….still conscious of the hands working around my head…behind my ears…and at the nape of my neck. Slowly I am fading out…..my breathing has become heavy …and slow…….soundless…..with gaps in between…..and moments I am not breathing at all…….yet I am alive……I know it despite my deeply relaxed state of being. Fresh mud from the banks of the Ganga river flowing through Hoogly, touching Kolkata, has been brought, to be laid on a new terrain, my body. I have asked for a mud bath..the grey-brown, ever so soft silt from Ganga’s river bed. Handfuls of it are being laid out on my ………face to be follow by my body. It is cool..smoothe..creamy. I guess my face, leaving my eyes, and lip are laden with soil. To enhance the breezy coolness, I can feel two slices of cucumber being laid out over my eyes. Now I cannot open them …my ears have become sharper. I can hear the sizzling sound from the kitchen as seasoning is being done to dhaal. The haunting aroma of paanch phoran fills the air and my olfactory glands take a deep doze of the fragrance of Bengal’s unique but simple five-spice seasoning. I can also hear the poojo songs on radio…the hands that are today’s guide to the celestrial are on my neck and my shoulders are now being turned to the banks of the river Ganga……slowly the silt spreads through my torso..the overwhelming feeling is that of a cold paste. How easy it is to feel cool in the middle of summer! My intestines are freezing as the mud spreads over my stomach.
My legs and thighs are in a let go….perhaps I will never walk again as they cannot be willed to move any more…I will only float like a plank of wood, without direction, on the body of Ganga……just float aimlessly…. The hands are rolling over my thighs and legs. Together with the coolness, I can simultaneously feel Ganga slowly but surely taking a firm grip of me, first my face and then the rest of the body as the mud dries over my body, slowly embracing my skin in its pores. No! It is not pissible to be away from Her too long….She has caught me today and will not let me go…..These hands are driving me closer to Her bosom…I don’t have to make any effort to come close to Her – She grips me to her bosom. I am in a let go…I cannot resist. My feet and toes are now covered by Her soil. There is a hand that is transporting me, transforming me……..the hands that now message my arms in a downward motion… …and before my fingers move into the soil, spreading themselves in the cool water of the earth of Bengal, I feel her lips touching the tips of my fingers….I feel the kiss of death….the kiss which will make me die to myself. In my head I hear my English School Headmistress, Miss Thomson read in her clear and British accent, " The Touch Of The Masters’ Hand" The story of the man who driven by poverty puts his guitar out to auction. But nobody buys it till he comes and tunes it. At the touch of the Master’s hand, the guitar fills the room with such melodious music that it is auctioned at a very high price.
The music in the room has changed and I can hear Beethovan as I am dying to myself….the Lady takes over what belongs to Her………I am powerless. I am Hers. She has gripped me now firmly. My fingers are firm and even the web between them are now cast in her soil. Gently, the cucumber slices are lifted and I open my eyes…….my vision is filled with Kolkata. My jaws have fallen slightly and the song on her lips is the song we sang together at midnight on the 10th of September, 2006 – the night of poems and song lyrics –
Mamma, when I look at the clear waters of my soul
I see your face
Mamma, when I hear the voices in my head
A thousand voices speak like you
Tell me mamma,
Is loving another woman, like loving myself
When Kolkata plays on her guitar, your ears can feel like they have got so finely tuned, like as if you’d smoked some pot…...gently strumming on her guitar, the strong embrace of the earth over me and around me….I drift off into a deep slumber……..Daughters of the soil, I see my mother merging into the beautiful idol of Durga, floating over the large breast of the Ganga.
I am Her.