AN OLD CHARM IN NEW TOWN
With the cumulus clouds in the sky and armies of tall kashful swaying to the rhythm of the breeze, only the heart of a Bengali knows the relevance of this beautiful time of the year - Durga Puja.
Even though the ultimate motto is to worship the goddess and pray for the destruction of evil, Durga Puja has more in stock for the community around the world.
It is not simply about being a believer in god or being an atheist but it is about being a part of the festival of brightness, food and happiness.
As the ‘City of Joy’ is expanding, today New Town is what Salt Lake used to be 20-30 years ago, the hub of all the new residences and apartments of NRIs and “probashi bangalis” from around the country.
This annual festival brings back several such Non-Resident Bengalis (NRB) to the city to enjoy the fervour, food and essence of Durga Puja along with others. The madness of pandal-hopping and tasting every little snack from the vendors is something most NRBs miss.
With New Town growing under Mamata Banerjee’s governance, there have been quite a few celebrations in the last few years. With the growing population, return of youth to the city and the popping up of cinema theatres and restaurants, New Town is becoming a major attraction for Pujo.
New Town and Salt Lake Sector V are also hosts to a number of IT offices and multinational companies, because of which most of the employees have found homes in the nearby areas.
These residents include people from various cultural backgrounds from all over the country as well as from around the world.
“Durga Puja is an opportunity for a lot of people to get to know the culture here. We do not usually go for pandal hopping to different places because of the distance. We enjoy within our housing complex with some cultural programme or the other every day.
We have breakfast and lunch together and participate in dances, singing, plays and dhunuchi naach during the days of the Puja,” says Priya Arora, a resident from Kolkata who has recently moved to New Town.
“Every year, we plan a theme and take part in competitions among the pandals around the city. We also get sponsors for our ‘fashion show’ which we enjoy on the last day of the puja.
We also have an Anando Mela where we sell and purchase things from the residents of the housing complex,” Arora added.
“We celebrate it with everyone – the security guards and the dhakis – as Puja is for everyone. This area of the city has multicultural people and some of them experience Durga Puja for the first time here. We maintain the essence of Puja even in our housing complexes though we do not have normal pandals in New Town as such, the housing complexes only celebrate Durga Puja.
People from other states who have no idea about Durga Puja get a rich experience here during this time,” she further added.
“I have been organising and celebrating Durga Puja for the past five years. I have faith in god and I respect my religion but more than that I believe in unity and peace,” said Sweta Singh, another resident.
Rishiraj Pathak believes: “Durga Puja is more than just a ritual; it is a socio-cultural event that brings people together. During the festival, there is no class or caste barrier; everyone is welcome and it is a festival of joy and happiness”.