Thursday, November 03, 2005

Bhai Phonta

Bhai er kopaale dilam phonta

Jom duarey porlo kaata…

Bhai phonta as I remember it always started out the same way. A crisp November morning when you wake up knowing that school would reopen the following day and the Final exams would be in less than a month and that the month long Pujo vacation was over. Bhai phonta marked the culmination of the seasonal festivities and celebrations.

Mamu-dadu would be the first one to arrive. He was my grandmother’s brother, elder to her by a few years. He was remarkably fit for his age and would take a longer than usual morning walk and travel the entire distance from his house in New Alipore to our place in Kalighat on foot. Didibhai (my grandmother) would be all ready for him, showered and dressed in a crisp white cotton saree with a bright red border. She would have the prodip lighted, the five essentials for phonta: ghee, doi, white chandan, red chandan and kajal, and a bunch of freshly plucked grass (durba) along with a few grains of rice (dhaan) for the ashirbad. Mamu-dadu would sit on an aashon that Didibhai had stitched herself and she would give him a phonta wishing him a long and healthy life. Then she would touch his feet and he would be given a plate full of sweets to enjoy.

By that time Mamu (my mother’s brother) would arrive. And it would be my Mom’s turn to give him phonta. And the whole routine was repeated. Mamu was always a little pressed for time because he would have to leave right away for work. So right after that there would be plates of luchi and alur dom and fish fry that would be served to the brothers which they ate before they left for their respective offices. By this time my Dad and uncle would have left for their phonta at my Pishi’s house. They would take the phonta, have breakfast and leave for work from there. The big feast for Bhai phonta would usually be a dinner at my Pishi’s place later that evening.

Meanwhile I would be getting ready for my share of phonta dewa. I always started with giving a phonta to Dadubhai (my grandfather). Next in line would be my Kaka’s son, P. P was younger than me and we’ve grown up together under the same roof very attached to each other. P would dress up for the occasion in one of his new Punjabi’s from Pujo and I remember how serious we would try to be and not burst out laughing while we sat there for a few minutes staring at each other’s face, with me reciting the lines praying for his health and long life while the rest of the family stood watching and blowing the conch shell when we were done. My Mashi would bring her two sons over, for the few years that they lived in India. So B and T were next in line, followed by two other cousins A and R. I happened to be the only sister available to give phonta which worked well for me because with every phonta came a little gift as a token of love, which for me more often than not turned out to be books, given that everyone knew that I was an avid reader. So every Bhai phonta would mean at least five or six new books that I would be craving to devour since I would not be allowed to read any once school reopened until the Final exams would be over.

Every Bhai phonta I would be introduced to a set of new books, a new series of unexplored delights. I went from strength to strength starting out with Enid Blytons, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys to Agatha Christie and Alistair Maclean to John Grisham and Robin Cook. These would be interspersed with some bangla treats from Satyajit Ray: Feluda, Aro Baro, Professor Shanku. The hardest part was waiting the next month to start reading the books while studying for my finals.

And now years later I remember those days with nostalgia. Things are not the same. I live in a land far, far away. Dadubhai has passed away. Mamu-dadu is old and frail, just went home after spending the last month in the ICU and cannot leave his bed. P is in Indiana, B is in Minnesota, T is in Australia, A is in Chennai, R is in Pune. It would be a real stroke of fate if we ever got together, all of us, for Bhai phonta. May be we won’t. But I will always cherish the memories that I carry from those days and will wish them the best of health and a long life, no matter where they are:

Bhai er kopaale dilaam phonta......

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Blogger Dipanjan Das said...

you bring back similar memories. though over the last four or five years circumstances have marred my involvement in festivities, memories of great food, family getting together after long whiles and the bitter feeling of the pujor chhuti getting over will haunt back.

great post!

12:05 PM  
Blogger Dreamcatcher said...

That was so nostalgic. I gave phonta to my cousins today. and your post brought back fond memories of my grandmother giving phonta to her brothers. the sweets, the festivities.
My mom has 25 brothers and siters and each year the number decreases but its still a noisy and lively affair.
Can i link you?

2:23 PM  
Blogger Ratna said...

If we could only relive our memories :)

5:51 PM  
Blogger BD said...

Nostalgic indeed. I've been having online bhaiphotas since 6 years :(

7:34 PM  
Blogger Miss M said...

Very very very nostalgic! Let me tell you something. When i was a kid, i would JUST refuse to give bhai phonta! For some confounding reason, every year, i would start crying and bawling before giving phonta. And then the whole family would cajole me, and sweet-talk me and convince me to give phonta while all my cousins are all ready and waiting for me.

And now, after i moved to Singapore, i have not given phonta for the past 8 years!! I always think that its God's way of punishing me for doing all that naatok while giving phonta when i was a kid!

Oh well, i guess someday i will be able to give phonta again, to all my 8 cousin brothers!!

Brilliant post! =)

10:23 PM  
Blogger Priya said...

Tumi simply oshadharon. The post makes me very nostalgic. Especially because, despite being an only child, I've always had a very happy bhai phonta with cousins, just like u. I have been missing it since I've settled in Bangalore, but this year was especially sad. One of my cousins, despite being in b'lore and just 5 minutes away from home couldn't make it, thanks to work and traffic. All my "ayojon" went waste. Khub kanna pachhilo, coz I was really looking fwd to it after so long.
Another thing that made me nostalgic in your mail was yr "mamudadu" in New Alipore. I had an identical relation in the same locality and in fact have spent a large part of my childhood with him and his family! He is no more, nor are his sons, but his daughters -in-law are still around.
If u don't mind sharing information, uni kon block'e thaken? Amra, maane amar parents live in F block and my mamudadu's family in G.

2:48 AM  
Blogger Subhrajyoti Mukhopadhyay said...

aah ! like this post !

6:24 AM  
Blogger Casablanca said...

Reminds me of my cousins and tying rakhi. And how I felt sad once each of them grew older and left for different places... and then I left too. I miss those times.

5:19 AM  
Blogger That Girl said...

sigh.. ive been way too far from any pf my family to have these things...


1:27 AM  

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