My grandfather’s house is in Shantiniketan. By the virtue of having a house at Tagore’s ‘abode of peace’, there are a lot of cherished memories surrounding my childhood years spent at “Shantiniketan”, mostly during vacations. We would quite often visit our beloved family house “Rakhi Bandhan” those days especially during "basanta utsav" (spring festival or holi), summer vacations, and the winter vacations. During winters, the famous “Poush Mela” would definitely be an occasion for all of us (extended family) to be together.
People, who wish to visit Shantiniketan during this time, often ask me, “How is ‘Poush Mela’ like?” “What are the things to see?” “Where can we stay?” “Are there good accommodation facilities?” Well, I answer them aptly, providing every minute detail that might benefit them, but one thing that I never get to talk about, (due to its sheer irrelevance), is about my earliest memories of Poush Mela.
Well, my earliest memories are quite queer and bizarre which probably only the ones who have been through the same (while they were kids themselves), can relate to.
So, it would go like this, before every 'mela outing' in the evenings, we as kids would be safely 'packed' inside the heavy woolen clothes covering us from head to toe. Sometimes the count of woollies would go up to 2-3 in apprehension of the temperature dipping further (it would be very chilled during December in West Bengal). I would be huddled into a rickshaw, where I would sit on the lap of one of my parents (cycle rickshaws in Bengal have seats for two adults), always complaining as to why I am never given a separate seat. Once in the rickshaw, throughout the entire journey, my parents would put in all their energies in making me memorize the name of my father!
So, in those days, kids mostly of around 3-6 years often got separated from their parents in the hugely crowded mela ground(it still happens these days), and with no mobile phones, the situation was grave. Me and my cousins were all tutored to by-heart the name of our fathers or mothers so, that we can atleast tell someone, while we are lost, so that he/she can help us out to reach our parents through the help of Volunteer's Club, very active in the Mela Ground. It was basically a precautionary measure taken by parents with young kids. Kids these days are way more intelligent and knowing how to operate a tab by the time they are just 2 or 3, we weren’t so bright :-)
Having said this, there was lots of fun for us kids in the mela ground, the massive swings, the huge rides and the just-made, hot jalebis were few amongst a host of other excitements that kept us waiting for the next year’s league of fun.