The year was 1988, we had shifted to a rather huge house in a small district of Assam called Tinsukia. The Britishers of course made sure that wherever you stayed if you are working with oil..it has to be massive.. As a little girl, settling into that house was rather cumbersome. Everything seemed to be so huge for the tiny me. Walking down lawn tennis courts and garden full of Hollyhocks I found myself keeping a distance from them. In those days, your house was yours only as long as your dad's next transfer..and under the circumstances, I always founded a nook in the garden that I could make mine. Strangely even three months after the shifting I had not found my nook.
But one fine day, something happened that changed everything. I woke up in the morning, it was early October, a lovely chill in the air surrounded by early morning mist. I shivered a bit in the chill, and went up to the window. Suddenly I saw a vision in white. In the driveway of our home, a rather ordinary green leafed small tree had been standing for long. It had neither the beauty nor the flowers to attract one. But suddenly that day I saw it anew. On the ground near the tree was a carpet of white! Every bough in the tree was covered with tiny little white flowers with a trimming of orange as if defying their colorless existence and laughing in mirth at the foolishness of man for not having noticed it for so long. As I stared at this wonder in stupefied silence..I suddenly ran down to see the tree, to touch it in loving reassurance that this was reality.
As I stood beneath the white tree, I was in for more surprise. from the tree came the sweetest of smells that wafted into me a dance. I closed my eyes and in reverence of the white bed took of my shoes and sat on the bed of flowers soft.
Ma told me later that day that these little flowers called 'Shewli' in Bangla were the first heralder s of the Durga puja..perhaps the quintessential welcome of nature to the Godess with ten hands. Over time plenty of things have changed for me..the house, the childhood, the dreams..what didn't was the memory of the Shewli tree that had welcomed me to the Pujos and the essence of their beauty..till today every Durga puja has me searching for Shewlis..the little white flowers that welcome the Goddess.
© 2011 Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury
( Image courtesy Google)