Durga Puja commemorates the slaying of a demon king by lion-riding, ten-armed female deity Durga Image Credit: AP

‘It’s that time of the year … time to bid adieu to Durga,’ Srinjoy told himself as he glanced through the e-ticket on his iPhone screen.

Holidays — particularly if one happens to be visiting family back home during a major festival — seem to be gone too soon. The four days of festivities over the autumnal Durga Puja were gone in a flash.

A tinge of sadness swept through Srinjoy’s mind as he heard the announcement on his housing society’s public address system for the umpteenth time: “Residents keen on ‘boron’ [farewell-rituals performed by married women over the idol of Durga, to mark her symbolic departure from her earthly ‘home’ to her ‘abode’ in the Himalayas] are requested to be at the pandal at the earliest.”

It’s the day of immersion and if we do not reach before evening, there is every chance that Kamdhenu will run out of stock and your friends in Singapore may have to do without a whiff of Kolkata

- Sanjib Kumar Das

Like a truant schoolboy being goaded by his parents into going to bed early at the fag end of a long vacation, just to make sure he doesn’t miss the bus the next morning, the announcement was a prickly reminder that Srinjoy too would have to be back at his workplace after a week of unwinding. No escaping the inevitability of returning to the dull drudgery of everyday life, Srinjoy tried to reason with himself with an almost stoic resignation.

But his transitory stoicism was forced to play second-fiddle to something more urgent. Like every other Vijaya Dashami day, since morning, Srinjoy had been issuing repeated reminders to his better half not to miss the ‘boron’ — Meenakshi’s reluctance to be a part of such rituals being legion!

“Do I have to be there? It’s all in the mind, Sri. Try to be a little more rational with these,” was Meenakshi’s curt reply even as Srinjoy reminded her, for one last time, about the approaching deadline for the immersion of their housing society idol. “Right now, ticking all the boxes on your ‘must-carry’ list for Singapore is what is making me jittery.

It’s the day of immersion and if we do not reach before evening, there is every chance that Kamdhenu will run out of stock and your friends in Singapore may have to do without a whiff of Kolkata,” Meenakshi reasoned. Srinjoy gave up, realising full well that Mee had made up her mind to push ‘boron’ to the back burner and accord a higher priority to be at their favourite sweet shop near Lake Market to make sure hubby dear’s carry-on baggage didn’t miss those sugary dollops of sheer bliss wrapped in layers of cottage cheese.

But Srinjoy was upset. Those were precisely the moments and occasions that convinced him that Meenakshi was an atheist, no matter what she claimed. Or else how could she ignore the fact that Durga won’t be back until another year and so ‘boron’ was non-negotiable. An absolute must. But then someone said conjugal bliss is all about compromise and negotiation. The art of the deal?

Be that as it may, Mee’s steadfastness in skipping the ‘farewell’ kept gnawing at Srinjoy’s heart.

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About an hour-and-a-half later, once inside Kamdhenu, Meenakshi is in her elements. Her choicest sweets and savouries are all neatly packed for Sri’s flight to Singapore next morning. As Srinjoy and Meenakshi are about to step outside the shop, Meenakshi suddenly stops. Srinjoy follows her gaze to meet the eyes of a street child, helplessly looking at her, his open palms resting on the glass door panels, his hungry eyes fixed on the shelves inside the shop.

Meenakshi turns back, swiftly places orders for two hot samosas, four different varieties of her favourite sweets and asks for a glass of water too. The guy behind the till is a bit confused. “Ma’am, haven’t we already got you your order?” he queries, half-hesitant. “It’s for that little boy outside,” Meenakshi replies, pointing to the seven, or eight or maybe nine-year-old. She herself carries the plate and the glass of water to the boy. He grabs the stuff with both hands, sits down on the steps and immediately starts munching.

Srinjoy swiftly plucks his iPhone out of his pocket. But Meenakshi stops him in his tracks. “For once don’t embarrass the kid,” she chides. “And by the way, Sri, you always wanted me to go for ‘boron’, right? So there’s my ‘boron’, my ‘Pujo,” Meenakshi says, taking one more glance at that happy face on the steps. Srinjoy slides his iPhone back into his pocket.

—Sanjib Kumar Das on Twitter: @moumiayush. On Instagram: @sanjibshares