Durga and Dystopia

In the autumn of the pandemic,
At the holy occasion of Durga Pujo,
Goddess Durga will wear a mask,
And descend on the
Blue-saffron turf
of volatile Bengal,
Amid white, wispy surf
Of quivering Kash
And a tally of co-morbidities.

The goddess will unite with the chimes,
Of followers, bhakts and trolls alike,
In a corporate copyright of the coronavirus—
What bigger theme, reason or rhyme?

The fiery locks of the goddess—
DIY-streaked in auburn,
Or highlighted in Balayage gold—
Her zardozi in gold or green modest
Or red-cream garads—drapes of divinity;
Studded golden treasures and
Navel-hugging necklaces
Outsmarting Sensex surges.

Bronzed, highlighted cheeks
Or plum, rotund faces,
Flashes of Greek girl bold or
Bengali motherly gleams,
All bearing the signature of labels,
Party patronage or contested claims;
Only the eyes—the artist’s hallmark—
Perched above masked fables,
Untouched by the propaganda
Will express a visual poetry;
Angry yet kind, pained yet not judging,
Dark yet glowing, doe-like but not distant.

The anti-national painted in phobia,
The asura, the other—
Will be clothed in coverings
Of our collective xenophobia,
Masking class tensions old and new—
Like the pandal entry fences,
Lines cordoning off pedestrians
from privy VIP gates,
Guilt perfumed in cherry and blue—
Like the status-coded shindoor khela,
A sisterhood of the uppity ups,
Cushioned in a vermilion embrace.

The pundit will
Sanitise his hands before
Commencing the purifying rituals—
Science over the sacred bill.
Visitors too will wear masks
And maintain physical distancing
In remembrance
Of the petty bourgeois cask,
And a downward appreciation of the
Revered Slayer and Domestic Mother.
For Durga was held captive,
Divine hostage to the mortal virus,
A meek mother to the mutiny unborn—
Mute Chimera of the crying lot.

Sanitiser booths will be stationed
across mandaps
Oozing creativity in shapes and sizes—
There will be themes too—
Themes of migrant marchers,
Of trains crushing bodies,
Of women delivering babies on roads—
Corporate blood will boil then
As brands will sponsor themes of
Disease, desolation and disparity,
Local leaders will join
To wrap the themes in neon bubbles
Of social responsibility—
Awakened well in time.

In the autumn of the pandemic,
At the holy occasion of Durga Pujo,
The vanquisher will be a mute spectator
to the virus of the ego—
Played out in the blue-saffron turf
of diseased Bengal,
Of political factions and sub-factions,
Of groups and sub-groups littering localities.

The goddess will wear a mask
When she will have to depart for home;
She will burst out of her quarantine at every
Instance of her untimely invocation
Akal Bodhan
She will be the masked neutral judge;
Voiceless for the suffering and
An indulgent Mother to ignorant voters of faith—
The clubs where peers unite in crimes
Of colossal apathy and gross inequality.

Sanhati Banerjee is a Kolkata-based independent journalist.

Featured image credit: Boudhayan Bardhan/Unsplash