We went for the Durga Pujo at some California suburb. Wandering about in San Francisco, where I dont know a soul except my husband and have noone but my sister on another coast on my speed-dial, I could never imagine so many bengali's existed somewhere nearby. Resplendent in red, white and gold, smeared with sindoor and smiles, I could not help imagine what they would look like tomorrow, back in their "normal life".
As I got ready to leave, I thought about watching my mother get dressed every morning. The whole process had its own grammer. It was made up of little things she did, like holding the sari pallu with one hand and the pleats with the other in a final adjustment, before she turned away from the mirror.
I never thought - maybe I dreamed and wondered - but I never really thought, that my life will end up so different from hers. I wore a Tashor sari today for Ashthami, and in my head I could hear the litany of voices explaining every thing that made the material special. Usually followed by a smooth segue into how everything is a metaphor, Hindusim is philosophy and not a religion, etc. I think about how noone will tell my my children - or rather my sisters children, more likely - these things. They will grow up in a different world and inherit another.
Sometimes when she was in a specially good mood, my mother used to say "I took flesh from my flesh, bones from my bones, heart from my heart, and I made you. My grandmother as she washed and fed me, and caught out my ridiculous lies, used to say something like I made the womb that made you. I know you because you are a part of me. Thus I carry them in my flesh, and in my heart. As long as I live, their hearts will go on. As long as I talk, dream, think, their stories will live.
But then our ways will die out. the saris, the ululation, the stories, the romance, the madness. Maybe my grandmother felt like this too, moving into a virgin south calcutta flat in salt lake with a man from another world. Maybe the world changes on every generation. But it turns slowly, so we don't get giddy and feel too scared to go on.