Durgotsav: Puja ideas that beat routine!
Puja means limitless pandal hopping and feasting for most of urban Bengal but for those living in a sleepy hamlet in South 24 parganas, it hardly makes any difference. Unless of course they get a ticket to see the glitz and glamour of the Kolkata, already dressed for the occasion, the pandals coming alive with dhak beats and the celebrity inaugurations stepping up the puja fervour by quite a few notches.
Sanoli Sen, Bengal's ace female piano accordion player, is dreaming up a different kind of puja for the villagers of Langolberia in south 24 Parganas. There, the villagers have barely tasted electricity. Kolkata, especially a Kolkata under the magical spell of the Durgapujas, are a far cry for them. But this Sasthi, at least 25 residents of Langolberia will get a taste of Kolkata's best-known pujas in its full glitz and glory, thanks to Sen and the musical institution she runs, 'Musical Fingers'. All the villagers from Langolberia are senior citizens and hail from poor families.
On the first day of the pujas, they will be picked up by the musician and her associates from the village in a luxury bus and then taken around South Kolkata to taste the big ticket pujas, like 'Ekdalia Evergreen', 'Singhi Park', 'Tridhara', 'Ballygunge cultural', 'Samaj Sebi' and 'Mudiali', 'Shibmandir'. Then subsequently, when the group reaches 'Mangalik Housing' next to Hiland Park, they will be gifted with new clothes and dinner packets. Refreshments will be on board the whole day. "Kolkata's old age homes still get a taste of the Durga pujas since their inmates are taken out by a few welfare associations every year. But it's the elderly from the villages who don't get to see the splendor of the Kolkata pujas, the theme driven pandals, the lighting arrangements and the gorgeous pratimas. It is our way of returning something to society, year after year", Sen told Millennium Post.
Another offbeat thing to do this puja is to go watch giant sized sea horses (installations) on D H Road under the theme of "Bindute Sindhu" (Behala Sporting). Three sea horses will bring alive the marine theme as will the beautiful sea wave decorations which will be ruled by a traditional Goddess and her family. "The concept is that it is small water drops which accumulate to form an ocean, which is the philosophy behind the community puja", said an official at the Club, completing 39 years of celebration this time around.
Also, one could hop into the 'Chetla Agrani Club pujo', resplendent with mahogany carvings – both in the pandal décor and the idol. The theme is 'Antaheen', depicting the life span of a tree. The Goddess has also been sculpted from a single piece of mahogany by artist Bhabotosh Sutar. The low lightings highlight the Goddess and the ceiling, which has Durga Stotra written all over it. "The Club enters its 25th year this time and has already bagged the Asian Paints Sharad Samman in 2015 and 2016," said Secretary Sandip Mukherjee.
For an offbeat lunch, pandal hoppers can check into the 'Afraa Lounge', 'City Centre', and Salt Lake during any of the puja days. The buffet could be an experiment with fusion Bengali cuisine. For starters, there will be items like quesadillas with stuffing of mochar ghonto, tomato garlic chutney and sour cream, miniature of makhuni topped with shapla narkol, kadamkua mutton kebab, chicken kobiraji and loytta jhuri pantharas with tomato kasundi.
The main course includes dishes like chhanar mohima, kadhai spiced spinach, mushroom cannelloni with saffron makhani, char grilled moong daal steak with gandharaj infused basanti gravy, chhanar dalna, baigan dahi sarso and kanch kolar kofta. From Bengali favourites, they are serving tel koi, murgir morich roast, murshidabader laal maas, pomfret er morich roast, mourola macher bati chorchori, old kolkata mutton biryani, doi katla, joshorer chital muittha, chingri narkol bhapa, tulai panjier bhat.
Savour their desserts, including rosogolla bar (chocolate/kanchalonka/beliphul/anar/mango), warm chhana poda with caramel sauce, shorbhaja tiramisu,
laldoi, amdoi, chilled gandharaj and misti doi mousse and a very unique concept of kheer fountain. So dig in!