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When Winter Comes

  • Sometimes it’s just that wind, a cold icy wind that freezes every single hair on your body, though it’s covered by a blanket of warm clothes and penetrates your skin to touch the bones. You feel the air, still you are happy. Why? Because you are reminded of your home, a home, a place where you were born, a place where you grew up, a place where even during summer, you feel the cold winter wind and what you need is warm woolen clothes to wrap up your skin.
  • I remember our skin drying up as we are now made aware by the weather that Winter is on the way. We are ready to welcome her. Every home now make a space for room heaters, new technologies. Before it was hand made mud and tin hearth where coal would be lighted and fanned for hours. It’s embers warming the whole house…
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Some meetings

I walked down the streets of my dear hometown, tired is she by now because time an again she is being used as an object for gambling. A few more paths and I came across the same old Wall, this time painted with a different colour. I felt a little bad because the wall looked handsome in its ancient yellow attire. 

That place is special because it was the one who had permanently adopted her and it is the same place where I first saw her. And today the same street, the same good old wall knocked the door of my memory where she still breathes.

But this is not the only place to have reminded me about her. When I was doing my masters I came across this old woman, living in one of the streets of Jalpaiguri. We often saw her, mostly while coming back from the classes. She looked old, a little hunched back, thin and dressed in an old saffron saree. She had a mixture of dry grey and few black hair that was loosely made into a bun. Her dusky face,those small smiling bright eyes,dark lips with one teeth protruding out, everything , everything was strikingly similar that she just reminded me about my old friend. Once again the long forgotten friend came back before my eyes. But the one striking difference that I noticed between them(one who was past and had become a history and the other who was present and alive)was that the unkempt,shabby appearance of my old friend made her look more attractive than the divas on the street. Compared to her this new woman was surprisingly pretty clean and tidy . She usually carried a 

Most of the time when we passed by her we would exchange glances and smiles. Like my old friend she too lived in the mercy of local food stalls, selling sweets, tea or momos. Everyday she lived the same day. Of course,we were curious to know where she slept and later we found that she used to spend her night inside an unused shop. Time passed so fast and we finally finished our masters programme. Me and my friend once made a promise to give her something with our pocket money. So when our last days in Jalpaiguri arrived we contributed whatever little amount we could and purchased a new saree for her. We gifted  her our small love and care just the day before we left. I felt immense joy like her when she received it with a soft smile. At first she could not understand because she was not a regular beggar. She did not know begging, just like my old friend. We could not understand each other’s language but we felt something. The food stall owner who was providing her with dinner told her in bengali that we were gifting a new saree for her to wear. By gifting her I felt as if I was giving​  something to my old friend. 

Superstition – the fear underneath

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In a world where we brand ourselves as the modern people, where the gifts of science and technology lightens our daily work, still do we carry the very old and heavy load of Superstitions from the past.The hereditary chain of superstition never ceases to end and it is superb in its performance from the day it was born. The roots of this tree has buried deep into the soil and its branches are spread far and wide,  the only difference is that it does not produce oxygen that would help and benefit the entire living beings on Earth. But sadly the seeds were sown by no other than the human hands.

Merriam Webster dictionary defines superstition as a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation. In our country and in all the corners of the world we encounter a variety of superstitions; some are minor like we think a cat crossing our path might bring bad luck, so we  usually  stop until and unless another person walks before us. So, it kind of ignites the selfish nature within you and sometimes it is major, a super societal issue, like a woman , accused of being a witch and so she is burnt with the unanimous approval of the whole village or the sacrifice, be it of animals or babies and children for what a superstitious believer would call “for a good purpose”. Actually it is the fear within us that drives  the superstitious impulse of men. As far as we are alive, we do not want evil of any kind evil to befall upon us or our family. And so we believe in superstitious manuals or the magical remedies of what we call in our vernacular, the Dhongi Baba’s and other people who are  skilled in manipulating the uneducated lot. Sometimes even the educated lot fall prey to their art. We can get pages of information about the consequences of superstition in the Internet. Until and unless people uproot the tree of superstition (whose fruits we have been eating and drinking down the ages) and think in a more rational way, it will continue to stirr the fear within and stay as a social stigma, a scar in a civilised society.
 
In my home town in the hills of Darjeeling, superstitious beliefs are still in vogue but it is not of a major kind. Many stories are told by our parents hinting us not to be superstitious and I remember them, the most touching one was the story of a very old woman in a village who because of being very old with a shaggy wrinkled face was accused of being a witch; she lived alone in a small hut. She had a son who after being married had left her. Children in the village were scared with her but sometimes they would go and peek through the door. One day to her surprise, her son returned home with his wife and her grandchild. How happy she was to receive her family, more happy to see her grandson. But happiness did not stay long in her home because  when the child caught fever, her daughter in law thought that it was her witch mother in law who was ruining their life. So the next morning they left her once again alone and empty. No body cared, except few who sympathised with her grief. That night the sky poured down heavily accompanied by thunder and lightening. The next morning, the weather was calm and quiet and the whole day there was not a single sound from the old woman’s house. In the evening few children curiously ran towards her house to peek in through the window and saw her pathetic old body lying on the floor, cold and lifeless, only lices in her hair seemed alive. She had tried to warm herself with few clothes and sacks she had. All the villagers saw what was before them but it was too late for them to realise that they had ignored a living flesh for some kind of superstitious beliefs.
This story filled my eyes with tears.  And we would think the son must have regretted too.

Superstitions in our vernacular is called ‘Andhabishwas’ or simply ‘blind-faith’. We would ask our Thulobaba (Grandpa ), “ठुलोबाबा , तपाईलाई अँधोबिस्वास्  मन्पर्छ ? ”
(Grandpa, do you admire superstitious beliefs?) And he would narrate one anecdote from his life. He said , ” it was our tradition to organise sacrifical ceremony in memory of our ancestors whom we believe would look after us after their deaths. I still remember how our baba and your great grandpa sacrificed animals like goats and hens and the blood offered to the ancestral spirits  upon a rock, impersonated as our ancestors in order to please them. There would be blood everywhere and the sight was not so pleasing to the eyes. I did not belive in such superstitions so I had made up mind not to follow it and so you all never got to see it.”
Unlike others, grandpa never did believe in dhami jhagris or local priests so he never took any children to them, instead he chose doctors. But my grandma would secretly take us for the local check up when we fell ill. But without superstitious beliefs, some fraud people would lose their share of profit. When I was about fourteen years of age, my Ama had shown my birth horscope paper to a local pundit who planted in my Ama’s mind that her daughter would get married at an early age of sixteen and to avoid such ill circumstance he had prescribed her some remedies and in return had received some good number of cash. My poor anxious mother, she did all the remedies. By now I would have become a mother if only the so called future prediction was true. Thus, I believe that the Fear sometimes of future provides fuel  to superstitions.

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  Now in the present scenario , it is the hot time of Elections and not Superstitions. But the branches of superstitions have stretched towards the political arena and it is able to showcase a magical  mirage before the majority that is similar to the works of  the fraud priests and babas , manipulating the minds, earning maximum Votes and laughing out loud after they have succeeded in fooling the public. It is in the power of the public to see through the knitted hole what has long been knitted by the political parties and polticians by shedding off the long old veil of Superstitions and ‘Andhabishvas’ or blind faith we have in political parties and their sentimental speeches. In a world where trust  is hard to find , we must be rational , careful , smart and witty enough to judge what is right and wrong because our precious votes voices our hopes and aspiration.

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(Pictures compiled from Google)

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