Day 87. When I draped this soft cotton from Jharkhand, a gift from my Mami Madhumoni Dasgupta this Puja, the only plan was to say hello to the para deity. I had just finished folding my hands in a silent prayer, when my cell phone beeped. “Ashbo?” read the message. A single word that lit up the evening for me. After all, that’s what friends are for. As I waited for him to drop in, my mind went back to all those years back when I first met him. We were new to college and it was a day after my birthday. I had called some of new friends home and one of them came up to me at the canteen, as I sat there having my second (I never had just one) tea in a chipped cup, and said “he wants to know why you didn’t invite him yesterday”. I looked at the guy my friend was pointing to and remembered seeing him in college. I smiled, all the while thinking to myself “I don’t even know him. Why on earth would I call him?” But it took weeks, may be days, for that to change. For, that day I got my greatest birthday gift. A dear friend. He was the first, and probably the only, friend who gave me a name, refusing to call me by my own. So much so that there were some who thought that was my real name! He was Mr Popular, with innumerable friends and a word or two to share with everyone and at times I would be annoyed that he was always busy. But I also knew he was Mr Dependable. So when a relative was in urgent need of blood for a surgery, I knew who to turn to. Chatting, fighting (to be truthful, it was I who would do most of that), taking a friend who had just had a surgery on a drive, watching the disappointing World Cup inauguration at Eden…many a moment shared, many a memory treasured. At times, we have drifted apart, sometimes keeping in touch, sometimes not, but every time we have spoken even after a gap of many months, or may be years, it has always warmed my heart and made my day. Today was no different as he dropped in with his wife and daughter. I missed a get together with friends this Sasthi but ended up getting my greatest Puja gift for this year on Ashtami. Thank you Devi. Thank you Gupi Anindya Dasgupta and Sudha for making my day. The dhaak sounds just a little merrier and the scent of the dhuno has just got a bit sweeter.

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