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brings joys and gaiety. Children and local artistes participate in plays, -dramas and other cultural extravaganzas. , the protagonist, too was busy rehearsing a dance-drama authored by Tagore. Amod Kaka () touches and gaze disturbed her. Will she be able to foil the evil designs of Amod? Here’s a story by Sudeshna that’ll make you pause and think, as part of the feature, exclusively in .

“Devi Durga Dus Bahu Dharini

Daanav Daitya Dushtt Sanharini”

(The ten-armed Goddess Durga

Slayer of monster, giants and evil)

Adrija, a precocious ten year old, loved playing with her friends. She burned all her energies in playing robust boisterous games. A spirited single child loved by her indulgent baba and groomed by her loving mother .

Sati, a working mother, spent quality time with Adrija inculcating in her the values handed down from generations. She often told mythological stories to her , taking pains to explain their present day relevance and symbolism. Adrija would listen with rapt attention. Theirs was a typical normal middle-class household.

With the onset of Sharad ritu, the autumn season, preparations for Durga Puja was in full swing. Shopping, cleaning, visiting relatives with gifts, left little time for anything else. Adrija was excited – getting up early in the morning to the lingering perfume of the ‘shiuli’ flowers and that typical azure sky so particular to this festive season.This year the children of their housing society were going to present ‘Bhanusingher Padaboli,’ a dance-drama by Gurudev Rabindranath. They had been practising hard for almost a month. Hers was one of the central character. One of her friend’s uncle Amod Kaka and his wife, the proficient Parboti, were directing the play. She wanted to give her best in front of the huge idol of Ma Durga atop a lion with her ‘Trishul’ (trident) piercing the evil ‘Mahisasur’ (a powerful demon disguised as a buffalo).

Every day, the children would gather at Amod Kaka’s sprawling marble floored drawing room and practice under his expert guidance. He would personally come and correct their stance with an eye for detail. A shadow seemed to cross over Adrija’s face whenever Amod Kaka would touch her to correct her posture or stance. What clammy hands he had, always damp …eeeks! She thought.

Celebrations started soon enough. Excitement peaked with the blowing of conch shells, ‘Dhakis’ (drummers) with beautiful feathers that adorned the drums playing the rhythmic beats and dancing with tapping feet. Aartis amidst chanting of Sanskrit shlokas with ‘Dhunuchi naach’.  Ma (mother) has descended from Kailash Parbat to rid the world of demons and dispel gloom. Adrija felt a shiver of thrill run down her spine.

She loved offering ‘pushpanjali’ on Saptami, Ashtami and Navami, on empty stomach, wearing a new dress with matching accessories meticulously selected, for each day, having ‘phal-prasad’ and then feasting on the hot delicious ‘khichudi, labda, beguni, papad, tomato chutney with paayesh and bonde’ thrown in good measure. Then there would be endless rounds of chatting and playing with friends. All the uncles and aunties would converge in the pandal to have endless rounds of talk to catch up for the rest of the year.

The evenings would be full of cultural pragrammes. Artistes from various fields of excellence and from various corners of India would come to perform in front of appreciative audience.  Local talented children would showcase their tapped-untapped skills and abilities too.

Adrija’s performance was scheduled for Dashami, after the immersion. In the morning, she had wanted to accompany her mother to the puja pandal for ‘darpan bishorjan’, yummy dadhi karma and utsav for the married ladies amidst much revelry and bonhomie. However, Amod uncle’s call had come for rehearsal so she had to go, albeit grudgingly. When she reached uncle was already at the doorstep smiling his welcome. She smiled back politely asking about the others. Amod uncle assured her that soon all would arrive, in the meanwhile, they could practice.  But where was Parboti aunty to sing the songs she questioned? Uncle switched on the music system telling that nothing could stop aunty from applying sindoor on Ma Durga’s head.

Loud songs filled the air. Adrija requested uncle to tone down the volume but it seemed uncle didn’t hear. So shrugging she started to dance within seconds Amod was next to her and on one pretext or other started touching, fondling and groping her. Disgusted she pushed him aside only to find herself overpowered. She kicked him in the shin with full force and ran but he intercepted her. Quickly dodging him, she ran inside only to find herself in the dining room with the huge marble topped dining table. Alive to the danger, her eyes took in everything before Amod uncle overpowered her and placing his clammy hands on her lotus lips dragged her atop the dining table. Suffocated, and totally out of breath, she drew in from her inner reserves of strength. In the distance, dhakis had started their drumrolls, beating in rhythm. Her flailing arms found what her eyes had noted. With one mighty heave she plunged a fork between the lascivious eyes glazed with lust. One, two, three jabs she struck in quick succession with her puny hands. And she ran like she had never run before heading full tilt into Parboti aunty and her mother, Sati, totally unrecognisable in their sindoor smeared faces.

Amod uncle tottered towards them blood spilling in chilling streams down his face, proclaiming his innocence and blemishing Adrija’s character. Adrija’s hand still gripped the bloodied fork, her little trishul. Calmly Parboti went towards her husband and hugged him, shouting loudly to Sati and Adrija to quickly tie her husband up with curtain tassels, while she pinned him down before calling the police.

On that day, another Durga was born!

©Sudeshna Mukherjee

Pic from Net.

Sudeshna Mukherjee was born in Kolkata but grew up in the beautiful Jharkhand (Ranchi) and it was here that she learnt to admire and appreciate Nature. Educated from Loreto Convent and St Xavier’s College, she majored in Economics. She always contributed articles and stories for magazines. Post marriage she moved to Mumbai, a cultural melting pot – here she observed, absorbed and assimilated. Sensitive and emotional, her journey in her Poemotions continues to grow…