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Gone are the days when Puja barshikis carried a pujo fragrance

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I had fallen in love with Arjun as a teenager. That smart guy from North Bengal, who had chased drug pedlars and hippies. But he was in love with US-based Sita. That truly broke my heart! Yes, Arjun was my first crush. I have never seen him though. He was there in every paragraph of Samaresh Majumdar’s detective novel, who stared at me from the pages of a famous Puja Barshiki. Every lazy Puja holiday was spent gorging him up. Gogol was my friend too. His serious take on criminology had an impact on a serious student like me and I was sure I would meet him some day, somewhere. Never did though, other than the silver screen recently, when Samaresh Basu’s child detective Gogol found place in a couple of movies. 

That was the impact Puja Barshikis had on us. If you have seen a thirsty crow on a summer afternoon, you would understand the wait of a child of our generation for those colourful books to arrive. They were our companions for the Puja Holidays, when we would lap up each and every tale and day dream on an autumn noon. In those days falling in love with characters of fiction kept our day-dreams alive, for we were a generation who knew to weave silent tales around our thoughts. We hardly ever got a chance like children of this sci-fi age to hold the characters in hand where words take a backseat and characters are transformed to attractive merchandise --- be they bags, caps, pens, hats and even dresses, that are sold with a high price tag. Puja Barshikis never allowed that! They kept the protagonists at a distance and at the most I got a chance to talk to them on my own, in my own world. That gave me a sense of wishing for more and may be laid the foundation of a future author in me.

The Puja Barshikis also brought to us a world of comics. In those days channels on television never brought the characters to life, TV was more about news and a very few serials. Hence the sketches and colours of comics and their expressions on paper gave us the fun that we treasured. Be it Suktara’s ‘Baatul The Great’ or ‘Nonte Fonte,’ we were mad to steal that scope of laughter. Frankly, the cine magazines were a strict no-no and hence their Puja releases never caught our attention. Academic interests brought in literary Puja Barshikis that had stories of well-known Bengali authors. Thus, they were a treasure trove of literature and contemporary ideas. But what surprises me these days are the release of Puja Barshikis as early as July-August, when even the monsoons haven’t given way to autumn clouds! That smell of the morning shiuli falling with the dews on a rustic path, that scorching Bhadro sun with white clouds, those kaash flowers peeping here and there, also do not get a chance to be introduced through Puja Barshikis.

Hence for me such releases made in advance, keeping in mind the sale quotient and profits, have made the whole market of Puja Barshikis a complete farce. After all, can books released in July carry the Puja fragrance of an October autumn? These days I go with the tide too and keep a watch out for online magazines. One such I would love to flip across this Puja will be on Bengal’s positive aura, with stories of achievers from across the world on www.bongodorshon.com. 

A little girl will no more wait at the gates for her father to return from High Court with a bundle of Puja Barshikis on Shoshthi, nor will she day-dream characters. Consumerism even kills dreams.  

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