The Goddess arrived, and barely a blink later, it is time to say adieu. The thing about Kolkata is, she serves as a reference point for change, since she never really does. Everytime I come back, there are a few new spots in the landscape, but the core is exactly the way I have always seen and witnessed.
I realise then, what has changed within me. I saw pandal hoppers throng the roads at midnight, and the simplicity of that family and friend moment did not fail to charm. There was the wife, in her bright red gorgeous glittery sari, aalta circumferenced feet, nosepin and long plaited hair. There was her husband, with sleeping child flung over a shoulder, new shirt, trousers and sneakers, automatically checking on his wallet every now and then.
Wide eyed excited children are exactly as particular about the two new outfits for each day rule as I used to be back in the days of shopping with my mother at New Market.
This involved: getting out in the morning, shopping a bit, an invariable lunch at either Amber or Embassy, and then some more shopping and we would be done. The second bit now strikes me as hilarious. Once home, I would dress up in each outfit, complete with hairband, shoes and earrings, and parade before my mother and grandma. Compliments were profuse and heartfelt, irrespective of the evidence offered otherwise in the form of photographs that would be taken later (I looked exactly the way I was back then - very thin, pale, with enormous owl spectacles and frizzy hair).
Now, I venture out at midnight. The more experienced eye can spot trouble in the form of leery youths and cheeky elbows. I consequently refrain from jostling, content with a glimpse from afar.
Somewhere, the people I sometimes find a little funny, are holding on to a tradition that I unwittingly let go off at some point. That thought is bittersweet. It tells me, we all grow up. I suppose, there is very little correlation between actual age and being an adult for most of us. While there is relief at the idea of no longer feeling paralytic with shyness and overcome by gawkiness, I also miss the simple joys and catastrophic sorrows that only the in between years can bring.