It’s just past midnight. Family is pottering around me, getting ready for bed. A husky contralto sings ‘500 miles” on the CD player. It’s been a long day, and a good one.
Arriving at the farmhouse, to be greeted with cocktail sausages and beer, is enough to get anyone’s’ mood on an upswing. A gentle, relaxed conversation later, washed down with lunch, and 40 winks, we were off to the ‘poush mela’.
This is a humungous affair, held in Shantiniketan, around Dec-Jan. It coincides with the “dhaan-katar shomoi’ (when the crop was cut) and signifies festivities for all around. One has to get down from whatever transport that one is using, and hoof it quite a way inwards, to the actual field, which hosts the mela.
The sound hits you, before anything else does. Songs and recitations, made sonorous with the mike. Its interspersed with announcements by frantic people, who have gotten separated for their group, and is trying to locate them at such-and-such place. As we draw closer, the rhythmic beats come to our ears. The streets are lined with men selling little drums. One boy starts beating out a rhythm. A few others pick it up, and soon there is a interwoven percussion being flung across the street. Deep beats, and short staccato bursts of sound, they make me want to tap out a quick rhythm with my feet.
Voices and people accost me, all at the same time. A happy, yelling, jostling crowd, that sweeps me along, without even trying. I look around to make sure that I can see at least one more of our group. Moving from stall to stall, fingers made happy examining little trinkets, silver and brass jewelry, little dolls and unusual ganesha morthis made of wood, metal, stone and terracotta. They are indigenous to this area, I have never seen any like these. I buy up things, for my friends and family and me, till my wallet tells me I have nothing left. I promise myself, to come back tomorrow, to see more stuff.