The festive season starts with the fall of October. This is the season of unity, excitement and devotion. People from all socio-economic strata buy new clothes, celebrate, eat and travel. Even though the range of celebration differs according to their economic conditions, the intensity of the celebration is always high. It is an absolute matter of pride that, in this diverse country of ours, festivals keep us together, bringing a feeling of oneness.

Durga puja commences from the day after. With the arrival of the festivities, I am driven down memory lane by their nostalgic charm. Just a few decades ago seems like yesterday. I lived in a remote village called Kalarabanka. The time was when my family had no money or facilities to luxury. People from our village and the nearby villages used to shop, go out for dinners or vacations with their family, buy new clothes and renovate houses. The puja’s arrangement in the local arena was a thing that itself was good enough to cherish. All the exhibitions, lighting, food service, crowd control, security, idol arrangements — everything requires coordination and effort, which people love to do. The festival marked the beginning of something new and pure.

My eldest brother would send us new clothes, once a year, right before Durga Puja. This was the only time we had new clothes to put on. Iti, my younger sister, and I would wait eagerly for the rare delight to happen in our lives. Buying new clothes, once a year, was a luxury for us.

Being brought up in a village, I knew of no other vehicle except a bicycle. As a child, I attended a school that was 7 kilometres away. I would walk the distance every day. While coming back I had to purchase some groceries or essentials for home. I would carry it in my hands and walk the long distance. Occasionally, I would ride a friend’s bicycle, take him as pillion to school. We didn’t have money to buy a bicycle. My mother understood that I needed one without which I had to face a lot of pain of walking in the sun, carrying heavy bags of essentials and school bags after long tiring days at school. I still remember that my elder brother had sent a saree for my mother during Durga Puja. I had just graduated to Grade VII at that time. My mother, realising my pain, sold the saree at Rs 50 and bought me a second hand Norton cycle. That was a day of joy for me. I was so happy that Maa got me a cycle and understood how dear it will be as Maa sold her saree to a neighbour and bought it for me. Maa for once, didn’t show her sacrifice. My joy knew no bounds and I was glad that even I had a cycle like my friends. This was when I was in Grade VII. It made my life easy. Going to school and running errands became much easier for me. Sometimes I would take Maa or Iti as a pillion rider as well.

When I reached Grade X, Maa got me another cycle after saving each pie – Hercules Cycle. I remember it had a basket in front and I used to keep my books there while going to high school.

During, the formative years of KIIT & KISS, I bought a second-hand Hero Honda Sleek and today, I travel for work in a Mercedes. God has been very kind to me to have brought me from a level of a second-hand cycle to a luxury Mercedes standard. Even today, when travelling in this German-made car, I still cherish my days of the cycle. These memories of struggle keep me grounded and help me remain attached to my roots. My mantra is simple, a man who has achieved a lot in life should never forget who he was when he had nothing. Materialism should not change a man but rather develop his ability to empathise and be humble.

I remember what I was, I know what I am and I can foresee what I can become.