December 6, 2023


Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Essay: Puja Vacation by Antara Mukherjee

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In this personal essay, Antara Mukherjee captures a moving memory of losing her father during Durga Puja, Bengali’s greatest festival in the first wave of COVID-19.

Drip ran slowly, and so did time.

Standing outside the ICU I heard the drum beats from a nearby pandal. Loudspeakers, announcing the timings for numerous rituals, gave me a sense of the day. My father, however, struggled inside to regain his senses. His brain could hardly register the revelry.

Like most Bengalis, Durga Puja, an annual Hindu festival honouring the goddess Durga’s triumph over the demon ruler Mahishasura, provided him with the necessary yearly tonic. A busy doctor himself, he hardly had the time to rest throughout the year. Durga puja was his most coveted time for vacation. But multiple cerebral strokes in the last two years brought significant changes in his personality; from an active, enthusiastic traveller he became a shaky, inactive, unresponsive, person with the least desire to travel. More so, he started to forget trivial things initially, and then vital memory lapses followed.

‘Short time memory loss due to cerebral stroke’ – Borda, my elder brother, finally told me the truth one rainy evening.

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