I have always celebrated Diwali as Kali Puja, just like any other Bengali family in West Bengal. And I was always scared of this festival. The night before Kali Puja is celebrated as bhoot chaturdashi:the night of ghosts(somewhat like an Indian halloween). Of course, as a kid I absolutely dreaded this day and thought that all the ghosts were let loose on this night to haunt the living.

I never thought much of God at that time, I have always liked God and felt somewhat devotional on certain festivities like Durga puja and stuff but that was all. I didn’t think God could protect me from ghosts or would even bother to do so, even if He could. So my only protection from ghosts,  as a child was “choddo shaak”. Choddo shaak is a special dish made of 14 kinds of leafy greens like spinach, mustard leaves etc. and it is a mandatory tradition to have this on the day of bhoot chaturdashi in every Bengali household to ward off evil spirits.( I still follow this tradition even though I’m not particularly fond of this dish because, let’s face it, I’m a scaredy cat). I somehow managed to sleep through the night with my leafy protection on bhoot chaturdashi. 

Then came the night of Goddess Kali when she would be worshipped with full vigour on the new moon night. My mother always told me not to be scared of ghosts because Maa Kali would save me from them. But the sight of a fierce Goddess with eyes wide open and a crimson tongue hanging from her mouth as she wore a garland of human skulls and held a severed head on one hand and a bloodied weapon in another, didn’t invoke much faith in me. I have always been scared of darkness. And I was always scared of Maa Kali.

Towards the beginning of this year, my fears got the better of me. I grew very scared of darkness. It got so bad that I would turn on 2 yellow bulbs, one tubelight and one white led bulb(basically all the lights in my room) at night and would still be too scared to close my eyes and fall asleep. Because as soon as I closed my eyes, darkness would descend and I would be terrified. This went on for a few months. I was 19 yrs old then(I turned 20 this month so… yaay!) and was too ashamed to talk about this to anybody because no one would understand. It’s not like I was always this scared of darkness but these few months were unbearable. And when you have no one around you, that’s when God steps in. One day I decided enough is enough and God helped me come out of it in an instant. I would not like to disclose the details because it is very personal. But this was the first time when I experienced God’s Grace come in cascades and I don’t think I’m grateful enough for that. I guess this was my very dramatic spiritual awakening.

But now I’m not scared of darkness. If you make me sit in a pitch black room, it would still make me uneasy but it would not make me go crazy. Because, I know there is someone who will listen to my desperate pleas and help me out however He deems fit. Although I avoid watching very violent political content like ‘Mirzapur’ or horror shows because I am still sensitive to such content and it gives me nightmares (I’m a vivid dreamer so its 10 times more scary). But I guess it’s all a part of my spiritual process. I would say I’m still scared of Maa Kali but it wouldn’t be the right word to use. I’m more like in awe of Her. I know I’ll be the safest with Her. I wouldn’t want to evoke her wrath but even if I do, mistakenly, I think it will all be okay if I say sorry to Her. She’s my eternal mother after all. There’s something in me now, that’s restless. Restless to meet that Divinity that makes me cry and sends shivers down my body. I see light at the end of the tunnel and am trying to run towards it, fully realizing that this run is a marathon and not a sprint but I hope I’ll get there someday.

So, this Kali Puja is different for me. I won’t be scared of Her this time but would celebrate Her in all Her glory. I can’t hold grand pujas or yagnas for her but I can light diyas and pray to her with all my heart. Pray that, may She bring me closer to Her and whenever I go astray, may She box my ears and put me where she wants me to be. 

So that was my journey from darkness to light. If you’re still reading, then, thank you so much for giving me your precious time and forgive me for any silly mistakes I have made in the article. See ya.

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Ahana Banerjee

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