My childhood was not all that fairy tale nor was it extraordinarily hard. It was a normal phase with its haves and have-nots but the highlight of this childhood was ‘Avenue House’. It was essentially the center point.
Avenue House of my childhood days was bustling with life and its various oddities. I had friends of all age groups and I had friends who came and went. There was a ‘kakima’ on every floor and there was life as one could possibly imagine. We played in the landings and on the steps. We played in the backyard of the building and between the parked cars in the garage. Our footprints and laughter resounded from the nook and cranny of this apartment block. Most houses had an open door policy which meant they were accessible at most times.
People intermingled freely and we children were given the free run and so we ran with all those we could gather around us and wove a fantastic world filled with laughter, joy and the occasional cry.
In those days having flats were not all that common, so we the residents of apartments were considered special. Hence we reveled in our own glory and lived in a bubble. The peak moment was always defined by the Durga Puja celebrations in our building.
Yes, we all studied and went to schools were equally focused and had our term exams. But the advent of autumn meant, Durga Puja celebrations must begin and so we began. It began with the Pujo meeting conducted by the elders in the building and one of them was my grandmother, my thakuma. That was all we needed to start thinking of cultural activities.
Those days saw active participation from adults and children alike. More than having practice sessions these cultural meetings was just another excuse for us kids to meet up at an odd hour and catch up on gossip and giggle. Fun was in the air and we all loved the camaraderie and shared the excitement. There would be easily around 15 children performing with the adults and the elder ‘didis’ guiding them.
Four days marked the celebration and that entailed 4 days of fun filled performance. There would be dances, dance dramas, songs, fancy dress, a play and of course the all encompassing antakshari. To be honest I am not too much a follower of Rabindra Sangeet, but all those years in my childhood, dancing to Rabindra Sangeet as made me very aware of most songs.
The pujas begin and so does the never ending ‘pandal –adda’. Even before the Goddess has taken residence we have began our celebrations. Parked on chairs and benches what followed was four days of glorious adda.
Of course one can’t eliminate the superb performances delivered on each day which kept the audiences enthralled, so good they were that passersby would stop to appreciate and watch.
Durga puja saw the entire ‘Avenue House’ come together as one, as one family putting aside their individual differences and coming forward to make each year a pleasant one to remember.
Even after I have left this place, got married and had kids I would return like ‘moths to a flame’ to take part in the celebrations all over again. The faces have changed, the enthusiasm has dimmed, and my friends have long gone. But what remains is the house echoing with memories, jubilant celebrations and of course Ma Durga herself.
This year marks the fortieth year of celebrations and as I sit thousand miles away penning my thoughts I wish one last time to be taken back in time to perform one last time on that famous rickety stage, wishing for my children that they are exposed to such warmth as I got in ‘Avenue House’.