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Night At The Thakur Dalan

What Was It?

By somsubhra banerjeePublished about a year ago 7 min read
Painted by Anwar Chitrakar, Medinipur, 2019

The sights and sounds surrounding your sensory nerves as you traverse into a Durga Pujo* mandap* can easily flabbergast you. So many things that go on simultaneously, and as you make your way through the happy cacophony, the cheerful hullabaloo of people, their smiles, the thread of energy that each one of them possesses at that very moment, and manages to share the same with everyone who visits Maa Durga*, is beyond anything that you'll ever feel. You'll slowly and slowly give in to the divine feeling, your brain, and your heart shall seep in everything, every single detail around and you'll enter a zone of your own, a meditative, a zen feeling, where everything else doesn't matter for some moments, it's only you, and the goddess, as you bow your heads in prayer, for a minuscule second or more, the overpowering sounds seem to fade, fade into the distant horizon, and it's only your soul, in front of the goddess, and the chants of prayer that you utter, eyes closed, pin drop silence, you feel there's a certain wave of cosmic and divine energy playing around you, your human senses aren't able to fathom what it is, where it is coming from, where shall it go after some time, nothing. You just keep praying, and after a moment, the sounds slowly return back, and things are normal.

Ilakshi's eyes scanned through the entirety of the Thakur dalan*. Such an architectural marvel. She stopped writing her article on the Durga Pujo. It's well over 3 am at the night. The faded hue of the sepia-tinted lights fell on goddess Durga. The rest of the lights have already been switched off. Only this and some candles, that are almost on the verge of shutting down. The goddess's valiant face stared back at her when Ilakshi tried to go closer to get a good view of the structure, intricately created from clay, to precision, by so many talented artisans, across the city. Then her eyes fell on the five-hundred-year-old zamindar house. Astounding, although dilapidated, carrying memories of times of pomp and joy, and hoping to carry them for another five hundred years. Restorations have been in place in a lot of areas in and around this mansion, but on a non-festive day, this shall look definitely like a haunted house. The current owners, consisting of Ilakshi's father, and his five brothers, visit the place for a month during Durga Pujo and that's when the dimly lit courtyards, the damp infested rooms, the depressed Thakur dalan, all wake up to the sounds of people, of dhaks*, and what not. Only that lone owl, and probably some bats feel bad, but they adjust nonetheless. Normally, every single year, Ilakshi went to sleep very early, to get up in the morning and help her mother, but this was the first time she was here, this late, only because the security guard, who's supposed to guard the idol, hasn't arrived yet. Her cousins were here too, but they went for a small cigarette break, so in the whole mansion, it's only her at the moment. Not that she's afraid, but old buildings take a shape of their own at the night. As if their heartbeats suddenly start, as if they feel a little bit more intimidating as if they seem to engulf her more and more. Honestly, she'd have felt a little bit more frightened, if not for the lights, and some noise of firecrackers around the neighbourhood. She looked right and left towards those empty, black rooms where no one stays. The second floor is where all are. Probably asleep, probably not. Whenever there was a slight sound, her senses warned her, she looked around, but couldn't find anything. A solitary laugh, a faint whoosh of winds, and some footsteps of unknown beings kept twisting with her thoughts, sending goosebumps across her skin. She hoped her cousins are back soon or probably the security guard.

Probably everything's in her head. Maybe she's sleepy. She thought. There was a chair nearby, that she took and sat on it. Before sitting she took it near the lights, and near the goddess. She made sure she sat properly, as she was wearing her grandmother's beautiful saree for the first time. Her tired eyes closed out in no time, as cold winds touched her cheeks, her face, and her hands. A quilt of sleep engulfed her senses in a matter of seconds, she slept with her head tilted to the sides.

Suddenly, a faint commotion. The sounds kept increasing, bit by bit, beat by beat. Laughter, cacophony, a mixture of vocals, music, chants, and the smell of the atmosphere, triggered her all of a sudden and she awoke with a jolt. She was stupefied by what she saw.

The courtyard was full of people. At least fifty-odd. But they seemed to be from a different time period. They wore traditional dresses which no one generally wore now. Kids played in and around the place. A sea of people entered through the main door, and they were not Indians or Bengalis. There were many foreigners, looking around the entire festivity with bated breath and an eye full of interest. Everyone went near the goddess, offered their prayers, and stepped away. She looked at the goddess. It was so different from the one they have now. The faces, the painting, the structure, everything, every single thing is different. How did it get changed? Who are all these people? Why did they arrive now? Of all places? And why doesn't she know anyone of them? A gentleman seemed to notice her, staring at them. She tried moving towards that person. And she did and tried asking him who he was. He smiled, but crossed her and moved to someone else standing to the back. Beads of sweat formed on her forehead. Is this all a dream? Or real? There's this aura emanating from all of them. The sounds of laughter and happiness continued, and her headache seemed to get the better of her. Still, she tried shouting, wanting to know what was going on. Alas, it fell on deaf ears. She felt dizzy and looked for the chair. But it had vanished, mysteriously. She walked a little bit, here and there, towards the goddess, still figuring out what was amiss. The goddess kept looking at her.

Suddenly, there was a sound of the grandfather clock in their home. It struck 4 probably. She looked around. The commotion started to decrease. As if someone has rung the school bell. Indicating the end of the tiffin period. The fifty-odd audience hastily started moving out. Some went through the door, others, Ilakshi couldn't understand, where. She followed a few through the doors, but couldn't trace them outside. They seemed to evaporate in thin air. Her mind couldn't take it anymore. She came back, and found her chair, reappearing. The place returned to pin-drop silence. Only the owl hooted in the distance. She sat down on the chair, more tired and certainly shocked by what happened. She looked at her wristwatch. 4:05 am. Then she heard some sounds around.

Her cousins were back, with the security guard, who profusely apologized. She tried hard to conceal what she saw, knowing no one will believe her. She needed time to register the events that occurred. She needed some sleep.

As she was going towards her room, her eyes fell on the goddess Durga. For a fraction of a second, she seemed to see that old idol which she had seen sometime back, then on looking again, no it's the new one. She climbed the stairs, slowly, as the sun started rising on the horizon.


*Durga Pujo/Maa Durga:- Durga Pujo, also known as Durgotsava or Sharodotsava, is an annual Hindu festival originating in the Indian subcontinent which reveres and pays homage to the Hindu goddess Durga and is also celebrated because of Durga's victory over Mahishasur.

*Thakur dalan:- A public courtyard, often with pillars and verandahs reflecting influences of European architecture. This is where the Durga Idol is normally kept for the reception of visitors.

*Mandap:- A temporary porch which is set up for the Maa Durga Idol to be kept for worship.

FantasyHistoricalHorrorMysteryShort StoryFable

About the Creator

somsubhra banerjee

Loves mountains, sea waves, old buildings, petrichor, sound of night crickets, haiku, kintsukuroi , books, dogs, silences and also cacophonies!

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