For the last few days, a hoard of messages wishing all of us Happy New Year in a variety of languages were seen to spring up in my facebook inbox. It was surprising for two reasons. Firstly, sitting in a foreign country, it is extremely exciting and melancholy at the same time to see languages of your motherland strwen casually about all over, not something we see everyday. Secondly, for some reason our generation has the reputation of lacking patriotism, cultural integrity and any respect for our values whatsoever.... well, doesnt look like it !! Anyways, the festivities might not have yet begun, but my memories sure have been juggled.
Poila Boisakh is and will always be celebrated with a familiar enthusiasm at home. Where I grew up, Happy New Year was wished face to face, hand in hand, smile to smile...it still is. All my cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents would gather together in the house, not because it was New Year specially, but we just needed an ocassion to make a big family even bigger. From flowers to sweets, from Ray movie CDs to Tagore Books, from mangoes to jackfruits, it was an all out Bengali Affair. This fortunately not being a religious affair, we were allowed to be 'children' without any restrictions whatsoever.
I remember one particular night before New Year vividly. My cousin sister, whom I call didibhai, and I had planned to stay up all night just for fun. For us mortals, that was what adventure was all about. We did not let in anyone else on the plan, and went to bed feeling all excited about what excitement lay in the hours ahead. We stole whatever food we could, food that was prepared for the day after, in our palms, and hid it in the folds of our frocks as we pretended to sleep. With unlimited patience, we waited for the whole house to fall asleep. But...it wasnt a small house!! As an aunt would doze peacefully off, another would stir, as one uncle would snore, the other would suddenly decide to feel thirsty.
This went on for we dont know how long, and before long, we were asleep on our sticky frocks, unaware of how it would betray us the next morning. But I guess NewYear didnt wa nt us to go that easy. It must have been around 3 in the night, when didibhai and I woke up simultanously.And as we realised we had lost 3-4 precious hours of our plan, we jolted up on the bed, all sleep gone, charged to make the most of what was left with us. We spent the whole night playing all wiered sorts of games, I dont even remember them now...but they must have been interesting, given that we managed to stay up all through the next hours. We must have been around 8 at the time, and you can imagine what our conversation would have flown. I am surprised I managed to have a conversation at all :)..
I am sure we must have spoken all we could, and heared or pretended to hear all that we could not ignore, but a few hours later, we were silent, looking out of the window, into the sky that was turning from black to red to pink to blue. Slowly, ever so silently, I saw the colours change. Thinking back, I had a looot of time on hand.. the brightest star ( as we knew it then) was all the more bright in the red sky, and just lying there, by the open window, with the balmy wind playing with us, with the flowers in the garden shedding their dews, with the lone owl going back to sleep, with Lalu, the stray dog, streching her beautiful back, and licking her three puppies, with the cool light streaming into sleeping faces in the room, with the catterpillar becoming a butterfly, we saw the sun rise, we saw the NewYear. My first and last till date.
Its a different story altogether that we started such a day, stealing mangoes from a garden nearby, and went on through the year with a lot more such deeds,it was the most innocent day of my life.e ran from garden, with our hand filled with whatever we could carry, our calves scratched with the stray barks, our hands stained with the juice, our frocks with the sweets, our hair flying wild in the wind, barefoot we ran, but our face held a glee, of childhood's inherent happiness, of the faith that we live in a happy world, a satisfaction that we finally achieved what we wanted irrespective of how we achieved it. For what is innocence if not the acceptance of guilt??
That year, we grew up. We went to higher classes, learnt things not included in the syllabus, faced death in the family, came to a different, wiered and loud city without any friends, and left my innocence behind. It seemed as if that New Year dawn, we ran from a lot more than just the gardener...We ran as fast as we could, not looking back, doubtless, fancy free, jumping into the unknown...but we ran from our good times, we ran from our peace of mind, we ran away from innocence.
We ran away from our childhood.