Simhasta…shashi shekhara…marakata preksha…his clear melodious voice wafts through the house as he sings unconsciously while twisting the playing clay into an unsightly pink caterpillar.
Last year. Shashti evening. There we were, the entire troupe. Seven of us crowding the stage. He was there too sitting diagonally behind me. White panjabi and pajama with gold buttons dazzling. Dida had given the buttons as ashirbaad when he was born one rainy July evening. The pajama had to be folded and so had to be the sleeves of the panjabi. They didn’t have his size. ‘Itna chota larka ke liye nahin hai’. White panjabi apparently starts from size 7 which are for 7 year old and above and he was only 5 and a thin 5 at that. Get real I tell myself. This is not Kolkata. There they would have white panjabi even for a new born!
The pajama till his knees and the back of the panjabi already sports huge splotches of mud brown. It had rained an hour back and obviously he has made the most of it by running around in the muck that the ground had become. Thankfully it doesn’t show when he is sitting on stage with his legs folded like a pretzel.
For the entire month he has religiously accompanied me for the rehearsals and knew the songs by heart. Most were amazed as how he could pronounce the long difficult sanskrit words with ease but tripped on much simpler bangla. Men irrespective of their age will always remain an enigma to me.
The agomoni is on its way and we concentrate on the sequence and pray we don’t miss our respective cues. Almost towards the end, in the middle of the song I feel a nudge on my back. Ignore. The song is not over yet. Next comes the frantic tug on my sari anchal. Ignore again. I fumble on the words and almost miss the third line of the second last para. Suddenly. All eyes are on the left corner of the stage. I pray. Thank you, Durga Ma. No one noticed my near miss. Except of course for my mother but well she wasn’t sitting there that day. Life was good despite the occasional hiccups. But why is everybody looking at the wrong end of the stage? And why are they smiling? I freeze. There he was, mud splotches and all ambling towards the fore corner of the stage and gesturing to no one in particular that he wants to take a leak. Little finger waving just like they have taught him in school. The light guys are localities and in their inability to comprehend the language thought this must be a part of the show and shine a bright focus light on him. The people sitting on the first row were trying hard not to roll on the floor and I did hear a gushing ‘Oh! he is so cuteeeee!” The rest of the troupe is staring at me and I was hoping I transform into a thermocol cutout that they have decorated the stage with. Why me? I have never been faithless, atleast during the Pujo. Then why me? A family member finally carries him offstage and I can’t pretty much figure what happened after that.
The song got over and so did the program. We clear the stage for the next performers. My face had turned as red as the border of my sari. I find him. Stillness. I am finding it difficult to form words in my head. He runs towards me with a cotton candy in his right hand and a big smile. “Mommy, see this is pink like your face!” Then he hugs me. His hands around my waist. His head nuzzling my stomach. My eyes sting. I look at Ma Durga. Isn’t she smiling? Or it must be the tears…