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Pujabarshiki Anandamela and the Child in me

'The only constant in life is change' - Some 2500 years ago, a Greek philosopher named Heraclitus said it when the idea of 'change' was probably very different from what it is today. But it rings true even today! Today's world is changing faster than the blink of an eye. It is changing significantly in every aspect viz. socially, politically, economically, environmentally, as well as technologically. So to keep pace with the changing world, we need to embrace change.

We go through many changes in our lives as we grow up - our situations change, our thought processes change with age, we accumulate knowledge and experiences, our responsibilities change, the people around us change, and with these various experiences, we change internally as well as externally to adapt and evolve into better human beings. These changes are a continuous process that defines us and makes us who we are.

I often feel that I'm always changing - I change with every book I read, I change with every experience I gain, I change with every new thing I learn, I change with every new person I meet, I change with every show I watch. With each of these things, I get a new perspective of seeing things, questioning things, or thinking about things, of analyzing them, and adapting them if they make me a wiser person. Hence, I often find myself becoming a little different person than the one I was a year before.

However, amidst all these changes I go through, the childlike mind residing in some corner of my brain has been a constant companion to this day. It comes out when I visit a fair and pesters me to shoot 2-3 rounds at the balloon shooting stall, to enjoy a few rounds with the giant merry-go-round; it enjoys coloring books when I sit with my nephew and niece; it enjoys solving puzzles with my 5-year-old niece; it makes me stop and watch every Tom & Jerry video I come across when scrolling through Facebook even if it's for a few seconds; it enjoys watching me when I stain my hands with paints; most importantly, it makes me buy the Pujabarshiki Anandamela (the special annual (barshiki) Durga Puja issue of the children's magazine 'Anandamela') every year and enjoys reading it. It probably likes to remind me of the simpler times of childhood without a care in the world.

That feeling of holding a new thick Pujabarshiki volume with its peculiar (new book) smell wafting through my nostrils always gave me an adrenaline rush not only during my school days but also during my college days and later, and that feeling persists even to this day. And I still read the book in the same order as I used to during my school days.

As soon as I could get my hands on the book, I would shuffle the fore-edge of the book to get a peek at the locations of the comic stories and immediately start reading the first one I would come across. I would complete all the stories in comics following the same process.

And no! Up-till then I wouldn't bother to peek into the contents of the book.

Oh! there would always be such vividly presented comic strips of Tintin, Gablu, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, other Walt Disney characters, and many more.

Once, reading the comic series were over, I would then open the contents to check what detective novels were included. And then start with my favourite detective story and move on to the others one by one.

I could never get enough of 'Kakababu' by Sunil Gangopadhyay, 'Arjun' by Samaresh Majumdar, 'Pandab Goyenda' by Shashtipada Chattopadhyay, 'Gogol' by Samaresh Basu, 'Colonel Niladri Sarkar' by Syed Mustafa Siraj, the eccentric 'KiKiRa' by Bimal Kar, and later 'Mitin Mashi' by Suchitra Bhattacharya. Even if I've read the complete collection of 'Feluda' by Satyajit Ray before, I would read it again when it came in Pujabarshiki Desh.

What can I say - I have always been a sucker for Detective stories!

As a reading break, I would pick up the 'Shobdosondhan' (Bengali crossword puzzle) to solve, and at times my sibling(s) would join me. While solving 'Shobdosondhan', I would often get stuck and eventually seek my father's help who would happily join in with me in solving the crossword with a cup of tea on one hand and a Bengali dictionary on the other. My mother would occasionally chip in with her suggestions, in between her kitchen chores. And she also has a brilliant memory and can easily recall names and places. (That's probably because she still has a childlike mind which is very trusting, simple, and innocent.)

What fun and beautiful days they were! And our happiness would know no bounds once we could complete the puzzle!

While those fun times are not there today in the same way as before, as situations have changed, I still love solving those Pujabarshiki crosswords as they evoke nostalgia.

After the detective stories, I would delve into either Professor Shonku by Satyajit Ray or Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay stories. One of Mukhopadhyay's stories 'Gosai Baganer Bhoot' remains one of my all-time favourites.

With time, as I moved away from home, I'd still get my fill of Pujabarshiki Anandamela whenever I visited home during Pujas or my father would courier it to me at my place but not a single year has passed by that I didn't read Pujabarshiki Anandamela; it has become a tradition. Even though with age I have gravitated more toward non-fictional and historical reads, I still jump at the sight of Pujabarshiki Anandamela the moment it reaches me and read it in the same sequence as I used to during the schooldays.

Does that make me childlike? Probably...

As Carroll Bryant said,

Growing old is mandatory but growing up is optional.

As we grow up, we tend to stop taking pleasure in the little things, and stop enjoying a book or two without stressing about time management. But we forget that enjoying the little things and unadulterated laughter are huge stress busters and de-clutters our minds.

Though the satisfaction, that the older versions of Anandamela Pujabarshikis used to give, has waned a bit because I no longer get to read the stories of my favourite detective characters, the childlike thrill of holding the Pujabarshiki and then the whole reading process hasn't.

What brings out your inner child? What childlike tradition do you still follow? Do you still read Anandamela or other children's magazines? Do you follow any certain pattern in reading them? Please share your stories and experiences....

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