– By Angana Sengupta
“Esho hey baishakh esho esho…” as I turned and twisted on my bed, I could hear this faint music coming from a distance. The advantage of being a bong is that no matter where you and where you have grown, you will always know Rabindrasangeet by heart. As the realization dawned over me, I got up with a jerk. It was Naba Barsho, the beginning of Bengali New Year.
Baishakh had set in and I wasn’t even aware of the fact, thanks to our laptop lives. As I ran down the stairs I was filled with the aroma of puris and aloo sabji along with Rosogolla and Payesh(Khir). Mom was all decked up in her new saree and dad in his new pajama panjabi. My aunts, uncles, grandparents had all landed in our house for celebrating Naba Barsho. All stunned eyes stared at me as I was the only sleeping beauty that day. Even my cousins were all dressed up. Bloody traitors! They had also taken part in the Prabhat Pheri which is an early morning procession.
I could easily sense my mom’s anger and only to appease her, I rushed for the customary dip in the nearby pond and then had to sit for the Puja. Since we have a family business worshiping goddess Lakshmi and lord Ganesh jointly is a must on this day. As the Mantras began, my stomach’s demand for food became louder and louder. For the Bengali businessmen, Naba Barsho is the beginning of all the business activities. They purchase new accounting books and start new accounts known as Haalkhata.
Finally, the Puja got over and I along with all my cousins jumped on the puris. It was just the beginning of the festivities. Dad along with his brothers began their business and on the other hand the ladies of the house started the cultural activities. Age was no bar as kids, uncles, aunties even grandparents were seen dancing, singing and reciting poetries.
Since Poila Baishakh marks the first day of the Bengali calendar, we welcome it by cleaning our houses and decorating it with earthen handmade decorations. The entrance of the house is decorated with alponas (rangolis) which are generally done by the women. These rangolis are made up of rice flour and in its centre an earthenware pot is placed. The pot is decorated by the vermillion swastika and is filled with the Ganga water. On top of it, mango leaves are placed which symbolizes a prosperous year for the family. The household kitchens are filled with the aroma of sweets as it is believed to be a good omen.
Soon it was time for lunch. From fish to mutton to Payesh (Khir), well, we had it all. You know how a dream of a foodie comes true? When he or she gets to eat all the favourite dishes in one meal. And my day had come. This is among one of those days of the year when the entire family along with friends come together and celebrate. Be it food or adda or celebrations, everything is done together. Children touch the feet of their elders and take their blessings. Gifts are shared. Everyone wears new clothes. It’s like one big fat celebration happening.
Oh did I mention adda? Yes, how could I forget that? After the lunch, all the family members sat together in the courtyard and the adda session begun. It is said that if you are a true Bengali then your fish, rosogolla and adda are inseparable from you. These long sessions of adda began with what are the dates for Durga Puja this year as the new Panjika which is the Bengali Almanac comes in on this day. It consists of all the dates and timings of the festivities. Then there was politics to who’s getting married when to music to dance, all in one!
As the day came to an end, the realization that again tomorrow was a working day brought me almost on the verge of tears. One by one all the relatives and friends were leaving with the hope that this year too will be good, at least better than the previous year. The house now looked empty. Tired, I was lying down on the sofa when I felt something wet on my feet. I looked down and found a small puppy licking my feet. I couldn’t believe my eyes. That was my parents gift for me and hence Goofy’s first day in house. The year now surely will be great!