Between Durga and Kali, my heart is always conflicted.
Durga ma listens to rabindrasangeet while dipping Marie biscuit in her morning tea, and puts on alta, sindoor, and pond’s cream after her bath. Her wooden almirah has sarees of kantha, batik, gorod, jamdani. She tucks naphthalene balls in the folds of her favourites though, her biyer red benarasi.Those greasy yellowed chaapa sarees of rannaghor are put in the alna. The almirah does not have much space – Saraswati and Lokkhi push in their sarees these days. On days when Durga ma visits my home, she wears rajnigandha perfume. It is not a coincidence that ma always comes in the afternoon – we both love bhaat with rui maacher jhol. Sometimes I sneak in tetulmakha (tamarind mashed with green chillies, black salt, gur). Some days, ma gets me mistidoi.
This year I told ma I wanted to buy that dhakai jamdani with shuili phool design. But the house needed repairs, and I did not get permanent appointment, again. Ma said I look fabulous in the pink saree from Shobhabazar, dhakai is uselessly overpriced anyways. Sree Leather sandals are comfortable, why waste on heels. We argue about LIC schemes. For Ganesh and Kartik and my baby. By the time they grow up, post-graduation education might be expensive. I heard something about NEP in the news the other day. Ma thinks PPF account is a better option. Post Mahalaya, we forget these worries though. On Sapthami ma taught me a new way of frying pabda maach without bruising my arms; my hands have tiger prints I joke. On Asthami we tried aam doi for the first time – ‘a silly renovation’ ma remarked. On Navami I skipped lunch – we had too many guests at home. Dashami was special. Ma and I wore laal saree. Then sindoor–khela. We laughed. Monohara misti was a big hit at our paara. And then she waved me goodbye, said ‘aschi’, and I giggled: ‘asche bochor aabar hobe’.
Kali ma comes with the green insects and open magi hair. She listens to loud hindi gaan, eats kosha mangsho, wears red lipstick, and her saree always has the smell of stale cigarette smoke mixed with sulphur of phuljhori and dhoop. She has Hettich cupboards with lace, brocade, and net sarees. Odonil is put in the corner of the door. Her favourite ones are the vintage organza, the embroidered Muga silk saree, and kanjeevarams. I will copy the design of block printed blouse with frilled sleeves from ma. But Aviator sunglasses, jhumkas, and turquoise saree look good on ma – chiichiii – what will paara-r lok say if I wear these.Ma always visits me for dinner, never lunch. These dinners are special. We sip on cold lemonade, and eat patha-r mangsho and rumali ruti. While I feed my baby, she tells me to put Boroline on the nipples; these days my breasts are gorged and hurting I say. Kali ma thinks I should buy that cream for stretch-marks, and book an appointment for pedicure. Will she be angry if I tell her about my SBI recurring savings-account? I never ask.
This year ma and I did not talk much. We ate. Sat silently. I held her so tightly, my fingers were numb. I was mourning. For letting go of dreams I once had. For losing friends I trusted upon. For a job that would let me sleep without worrying about the next EMIs. For losing my baby last year. For losing the man whose smell I loved. For losing the need to sit down with books anymore. For losing a bit of myself perhaps.Grief, distress, disappointment, fatigue.I am so tired ma. I know, she said. We sat in silence together. And just before waving me goodbye, she scolded me for not replying back to that ill mannered colleague last month, and told me to cook Illish maach when I am alone at home.
Between Durga and Kali my heart is always conflicted. For Durga is what I am every day. And Kali is what I dream to be someday.