Mayor pips Mamata in pop stakes
Misty memories and mishti doi
Fire destroys 3 pandals
The City Diary
Bangla songs rule Puja charts
Watch the shopper to catch the change in the air
Oft-told tales of heroism, spun in pith and board
IA flight frequency up for winter
MLA monitors university interviews to quell unrest
Breakthrough in heart treatment

 
 
MAYOR PIPS MAMATA IN POP STAKES 
 
 
BY SUVRO ROY
 
Calcutta ,Oct. 23: 
One is very close to the top; the other is languishing near the bottom. Subrata Mukherjee is around 30 ‘inaugurations’ above Mamata Banerjee on the puja totem pole.

Ever since the countdown to the festivities began, the mayor has been among the ‘most wanted’ — cutting the ribbon or posing with fellow-celebs. In stark contrast, Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee has been conspicuous by her absence in the great Puja bazaar.

Mamata loyalists, however, are quick to justify their leader’s absence from the Puja bandwagon.

“Didi is pained at the persecution of her supporters by CPM cadre in rural Bengal and the atmosphere of war following the US attack on Afghanistan. Under such conditions, she has decided to steer clear of this pandal-hopping business,” they explain.

Sources close to Mamata said she had turned down requests from about a dozen pujas, including Bosepukur, Babubagan, 95 Pally and Samajsebi.

On Saptami, Mamata rushed to SSKM Hospital, where party councillor Ratan Malakar was admitted with high fever and jaundice.

Mukherjee, meanwhile, has gone on a puja-inauguration spree. “I have inaugurated nearly 30 pujas in Calcutta since Saturday,” announced Mukherjee on Tuesday.

But in the same breath, the mayor declared that this was “no indication” of their respective positions on the popularity stakes.

“Mamata is far more popular than me… Especially when we visit the rural areas, we never cease to be amazed at the kind of popularity she enjoys there,” the mayor said, displaying uncharacteristic modesty.

Over the past three days, Mukherjee has hopped from pandal to pandal. Some of the major pujas he has inaugurated include Park Circus, Santosh Mitra Square, Bagbazar Sarbojonin, Beleghata CIT Park, Sribhumi Sporting Club. “In least at two places, Santosh Mitra Square and Park Circus, Governor Viren J. Shah was present with me, while filmstar Mithun Chakraborty was there at Sribhumi,” said Mukherjee.

Last Puja, too, Mamata was nowhere to be seen. She had been caught up in the political turmoil within the NDA, which saw her resign as railway minister following the hike in petroleum prices.

Trinamul sources, however, admitted that this time was “different”. Over the past few months, they said, the mayor’s popularity graph has risen steadily, while Mamata’s has slipped dramatically.

“Mukherjee has successfully projected himself as a modern, pro-development politician, who is trying to implement measures for the improvement of Calcutta. But Mamata, post-Tolly’s Nullah eviction, has been labelled a crusader without a cause,” said a Trinamul leader.

   

 
 
MISTY MEMORIES AND MISHTI DOI 
 
 
BY LEANDER PAES
 
Calcutta ,Oct. 23: 
It’s really tough being a professional tennis player, as you have to sacrifice a lot of things — associations, ties, events.

I had to leave home when I was 12, as I joined the Britannia-Amritraj Tennis Academy in Chennai (then Madras). I started travelling the circuit after turning 17 and since then, have been living virtually out of a suitcase. Naturally, I haven’t had the luxury to spend birthdays, Pujas, Diwali and so many other occasions at home, so many times.

A lot of fans and well-wishers ask me what it is about Calcutta that I miss the most, since I am rarely in town, hopping from one Tour stop to another all over the world. Well, I miss so many things back home, since I am essentially very much a Calcuttan at heart. But certainly, Durga Puja has to be very high on that list, even though, sometimes, I can’t even make it back home for Christmas.

Although it’s been ages since I’ve been in Calcutta at this time of the year (the last time I was home for the Pujas was when I was 18), it never fails to flood me with fond memories of the city I grew up in, no matter where I am. Like now I am in Basel, Switzerland, working hard on my game and my fitness. I’ll be training and playing matches this whole week in the cold Swiss clime, even as Calcutta hits the autumn streets, dressed in Puja finery, hopping from one pandal to another.

The Pujas in Calcutta are really, really fun. There is something on offer for everyone, and the city assumes an all-embracing character during the festive week. I remember, there would never be a dull moment during the week of illumination, colours, mithais and endless celebration. I have plenty of Bengali friends in Calcutta and together, we used to look forward to the holidays to have a whale of a time during the Pujas.

In the mornings, we used to hang out at DI or CC&FC, playing soccer or going for a swim. The evenings were spent driving around, pandal-hopping, catching up with school friends and spending quality time with the family.

Dinner was usually at a Bengali friend’s place, as I simply adore Bengali food. Prawns and crabs remain my favourites, but no dinner was complete without mishti doi, which, for me, is the most delicious dessert in the world. Mithai, the sweetshop near our home in Beckbagan, makes great mishti doi, although many other shops in the city are also good. I remember polishing off whole handis of the stuff, and still craving for more.

The colourful pandals and the bright lights of the Calcutta Pujas fascinate me. I remember we used to look around in awe, marvelling at the intricate designs inside the pandals and the brilliant workmanship behind those creations.

My friends from Calcutta keep calling me up with stories of the Pujas. I guess, this time of the year is their chance to rag me. I tell them to wait and that my time will surely come to pay them back. But there’s no denying the fact that it makes me nostalgic, almost jealous.

I long to be home, to be part of the gaiety and the splendour that is Durga Puja in my hometown.

   

 
 
FIRE DESTROYS 3 PANDALS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta ,Oct. 23: 
Like Sasthi, Saptami too was greeted by a string of fires and related incidents of violence. Three pandals were gutted and at one place, irate residents shut out fire brigade officials.

No one was injured in the incidents early on Tuesday.

On Narkeldanga Main Road, local people hurled brickbats at fire brigade officials after they arrived to douse the flames at a local puja pandal, which caught fire early in the morning. The pandal and the idol were both gutted.

Another pandal at Ramkrishnapur, under Bishnupur police station, was reduced to ashes after a big fire broke out around 4 am.

The pandal of Belal Sangha, in Naihati, was also destroyed in a blaze.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 
Superfast special to clear Chennai rush lIndira Gandhi National Open University and Netaji Subhas Open University have launched a weekly programme on All India Radio, Calcutta, to interact with their students. South Eastern Railway (SER) has decided to run an additional superfast train between Howrah and Chennai to clear the extra rush during Puja vacation. The train will leave Howrah at 2.15 pm on October 28 and will reach Chennai on the following day at 6 pm. The return train will leave Chennai Central at 10 am on October 30 and will reach Howrah at 4.25 pm the following day. The train, in addition to 14 other superfast specials already declared by the railway, will stop at Kharagpur, Bhadrak, Bhubaneswar, Khurdah Road, Palasa, Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada and Guntur. The special train comprises 16 coaches — 2 SLR, 10 second-class sleepers, one composite coach (AC-Ist class and AC 2-tier), one AC 2-tier, one AC 3-tier and pantry car. SER has also decided to run two pairs of EMU specials from Tuesday to Friday to combat the rush during Durga Puja between Howrah and Panskura. The trains will leave Howrah at 12.20 am and 12.10 pm.

Puja prizes announced

ATN Bangla-organised Sharad Shiropa 2001 announced the results of successful Pujas. The winners are:

Shibmandir Sarbojanin Durgotsav (Best Puja)

Karaya Park Circus Sarbojanin Durgotsav (Best environment)

Bosepukur Talbagan Sarbojani (Best idol 1), Trishakti Sangha, Behala, (Best idol 2) and BRS, Bagmari (Best idol 3).

Bosepukur Shetla Mandir, Kasba (Best pandal 1),

Chalta Bagan, Lohappati (Best pandal 2)

Santragachi Kalpataru Sporting Club (Best pandal 3).

Jagorani, Selimpur (Best lighting 1)

Kumartuli Park (Best lighting 2)

Dum Dum Park (Best lighting 3). The judges were Sambaran Banerjee, Santu Mitra, P.K. Banerjee, Amrik Singh Arora and others.

Exam dates

The admission examination for engineering, technical, medical and dental colleges of the state, commonly known as JEM, will be held on Saturday, April 20, and Sunday, April 21, instead of April 27 and 28 as declared earlier, according to a notification issued on Tuesday.

CalTel clarification

The Calcutta Telephones will charge 50 per cent less on STD calls during the Pujas (October 23 – 26) between 9 am to 8 pm. In a late-night development on Tuesday, the Calcutta Telephone authorities decided not to extend the happy hours till midnight, as planned earlier. In another departure from the plans, ISD calls have been kept outside the purview of the Puja bonanza.

Anniversary

More than 5,000 Ananda Margis gathered at the Tiljala headquarters to celebrate the 11th Mahaprayana Divas of its founder, Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar. The programme, which started on Sunday, is scheduled to conclude on Friday. It will include kirtan, meditation sessions and video of Sarkar’s discourses.

Infantry Day

The Eastern Command will observe Infantry Day on October 27, Saturday. On this occasion, wreaths will be placed at Vijay Smarak near Fort William at 9 am. Senior Army and civilian officers will attend the programme.

Youth convention

The Indian Catholic Youth Movement will host the National Youth Convention (V) from October 25 to 31 October at St Xavier’s College and Loreto House. Fr Dominic Gomes said there will be programmes for the betterment of the individual, his health, environment and the world. Programmes will include disaster management, inter-religious relationships, youth solidarity rally, voluntary activities, cultural functions and exhibitions from all regions of the country.

Award for teacher

Prof Tushar Kanti Sarkar has been chosen for ‘Acharya Tulsi Anekant Samman’ for 2001 in recognition of his social and spiritual work. The award will be presented to Sarkar on November 17.

Painter feted

Painter Ganesh Haloi has been named the recipient of the ‘Rotary Vocational Excellency Awards-2001’ by Rotary Club of Salt Lake Central. Other recipients include industrialist Tejomoy Roy Chowdhury.

Mill workers protest

About 37,000 workers of Dunbar Cotton Mill at Shyamnagar, in the northern suburbs, held a week-long demonstration in front of the mill gate demanding bonus. Thumbs Up TO Anandalok for distributing clothes among poor children for Durga Puja    

 
 
BANGLA SONGS RULE PUJA CHARTS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta ,Oct. 23: 
Riding on the recent crest, Bengali songs have managed to break fresh barriers this Pujas, scaling a new high in popularity. Sales figures of Bengali music, in both cassettes and CDs, have doubled, compared to last year’s Pujas at MusicWorld, the city’s leading music store.

According to data released by the store, recently voted the number one outlet of the retail chain, sale of Bengali music during Debipaksha, the week leading up to the Pujas, accounted for 42 per cent of the total sales, as against the normal average of 21 per cent. Another clinching piece of statistic is that last Saturday, Bengali music tripped Hindi in sales at MusicWorld.

“This is quite a unique phenomenon and is fresh indicator to the continuing upswing in the demand for Bengali music which has been growing steadily of late,” says Dipra Jha, storehead and area manager, operations, MusicWorld. Smashing all previous marks, sale of Bengali music cassettes grew more than 51 per cent in the week October 15-21, while in CDs, the growth was an even more encouraging 121 per cent.

The trend this year is predominantly towards new songs as opposed to remakes that ruled the charts last Pujas. A clutch of young, home-grown artistes like Indranil, Srikanta, Lopamudra, Sreya, besides folk, rock and pop bands like Bhoomi, Paras Pathar, Cactus and Chandrabindoo, have been able to create a new, captive clientele, holding their own against the golden oldies and giving Bangla gaan a shoal of hits this festive season. “There have been very few enquires about Mumbai artistes like Udit Narayan or Kumar Shanu this Pujas and people have embraced city singers wholeheartedly instead, which augurs well for the local labels,” says a senior industry-watcher.

This year, music companies have hit the market with fewer releases, but come up with more winners. “This clearly shows, quality, rather than quantity, succeeds,” says Debraj Dutta, merchandiser, MusicWorld. In the maze of new releases, one old fave which has created fresh ripples, is Mahisasuramardini, Birendra Krishna Bhadra’s evergreen rendition of the Chandi. The cassette has sold 43 per cent more this year, compared to the corresponding week last year. “Perhaps, the fact that there was a five-week gap between Mahalaya and the Pujas, prompted people to go for the tape, so that they could listen to the chants at leisure. Besides, it being a religious product, has now started cutting across language barriers and a lot of non-Bengalis have also bought Mahisasuramardini this time,” observes Jha. The unusual interest in the product even saw HMV run out of stocks.

During Debipaksha, the only serious competition to the Bengali bandwagon has come from Bollywood. Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Karan Johar’s superstar-cast musical by Sony Music, which had first tested waters with a singles release, has swept the Hindi soundtrack charts, logging whopping sales of 1,339 cassettes from MusicWorld alone in the first week of release.

   

 
 
WATCH THE SHOPPER TO CATCH THE CHANGE IN THE AIR 
 
 
BY SHILOO CHATTOPADHYAY
 
Calcutta ,Oct. 23: 
I wish I had not taken the call. This was last Thursday. I was planning to quietly slip out of the office. The call came then. Professor I.M. Knowall was in town. He wanted to personally experience Calcutta’s ’Pujor Bajar’. Professor Knowall, for the uninitiated, is an authority on “Marketing in Developing Countries”.

I hate shopping and I hate walking. I cleverly suggested a cup of coffee in the new shopping mall on Camac Street. He wanted something more authentic, like Gariahat or Hatibagan. I offered to drive him through Gariahat. He wanted to walk.

So there we were, standing opposite CC&FC. There was a hoarding in front of the club gate and it said “Contact Karukrit” for hiring the space. The professor took out his notebook and scribbled something. A little further down, there was another empty hoarding site at Ballygunge Phari. The professor was curious. I had no answers for him. In essence, he wanted to know why hoardings on premium sites would remain unoccupied during the most important week in the shopping calendar of Calcutta?

A while later, we were walking past Jusla House — a garment brand was having its ‘sale’ there. Even a few years back, getting a toehold inside their shop would have been difficult— especially three days before the Pujas. I made the mistake of telling the professor this. We went inside. The professor had a leisurely walk through the shop. I tried to explain — rain, flyover construction, et al. He was deep in thought — a la HerculePoirot at the site of the murder.

To cheer him up, I took him to Pantaloons, on the other side of the road. Lots of people were enjoying the air-conditioned comfort. Monsieur Poirot made a quick tour of the shop and seemed to have found his answer. He gave me that “Elementary, my dear Watson”-look and said: “Calcutta’s retail habit is changing. The newer outlets are comfortable but not daunting. You can get inexpensive items alongside the well-advertised brands. Why would a Calcuttan settle for anything less?”

At Gariahat, we were besieged by shoppers sandwiched between hawker stalls on both sides of the footpath. I was feeling very satisfied that finally, I had brought the professor to where the real Calcuttan shops. I proudly told him so. The professor looked at me for a long time and retorted: “Did you notice the sari shops hidden between the hawkers? They were all waiting for a customer. Is Calcutta’s dress habit changing?”

I had no answer. Nor was I useful in explaining to the professor why people did most of their annual shopping before the Pujas. I thought people shop because they get paid their annual bonus before the festival. The Professor asked: “What about the recent phenomena, like credit cards and consumer financing schemes?”

He continued telling me things that I only half-followed. He obviously had done his homework about Calcutta. He said: “You see, my dear young man, in pre-TV era, the Puja peak in shopping was preceded by a matching peak in advertising. One fed the other. TV today is an incessant preacher of hedonism. Perhaps the peak has got spread over the months”. I nodded dumbly.

This is when we met Habulda. He runs a stall nearby, selling blouse pieces. I introduced him to the professor. The conversation that followed between Habulda of Haltu and Prof Knowall of Kent is impossible to report faithfully. The part that I remember went something like this:

The professor wanted to know why there are so few buyers. Habulda grinned and said: “Molomash sir, molomash. Everybody was scared to leave it for the end”. The professor asked: What on earth is molomash? Fortunately by then, I was safely inside my car. For once, I thanked my Ambassador for the noise it makes.

   

 
 
OFT-TOLD TALES OF HEROISM, SPUN IN PITH AND BOARD 
 
 
BY DEBASHIS CHATTOPADHYAY
 
Calcutta ,Oct. 23: 
They lived through two years of clashes in Pingla, one of the most disturbed areas of Midnapore, and saw the Trinamul-CPM battle for turf unfold before them. This Puja, however, they will tell tales from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata in shola (pith) to anyone who cares to drop by the 77 Palli Durga Puja at Dhakuria.

Ranjit Chitrakar and Yaqub Chitrakar, from a remote village in clash-torn Pingla, are using thermocol pasted on cardboard to tell Calcuttans oft-told tales of the heroism of Rama and his cohorts and the miraculous circumstances of Krishna’s birth in a refreshingly different way.

The idea to retell stories that constitute the country’s cultural heritage was, however, the organisers’. Saptarshi Ray, who conceptualised the pandal — that looks very different from the run-of-the-mill Calcutta pandal — chanced upon similar works of art at a pandal devoted to pat-making and patuas at the Hasta O Shilpa Mela on the Maidan last year.

“That pandal was, however, deserted,” Ray recounted. “I could not forget the pandal that was showcasing our culture, but still went empty,” he said, adding that he made up his mind that very day to do something to popularise the art.

“And what better way to do it than re-creating it on a Durga Puja pandal that is visited by thousands of ordinary people?” he asked.

77 Palli’s pandal, however, is not straight pat. The art usually uses cloth or clay, but Ray has used cardboards, grass — and even bamboo shoots — to make the base for the shola models or pats.

Colours have been used liberally to make the figures verisimilar.

For Ray, working with people like Ranjit and Yaqub has been a totally different — and enthralling — experience. “They are patuas with a difference,” Ray said. “They also seem to be in love with their work,” he added, hoping that visitors to the pandal at Dhakuria would share his enthusiasm.

Ray’s idea — and the two Chitrakars’ implementation — has come as a boost to the club, which is celebrating its pre-golden jubilee. “We were wanting to do something different this year,” club secretary Sibashis Sinha said. The club will try for an encore — by something different — next year, on its golden jubilee.

But the pat has given the organisers some cause for worry too. The monsoon dragged its feet while receding this year and “a hint of a cloud makes us anxious,” Sinha admitted.

   

 
 
IA FLIGHT FREQUENCY UP FOR WINTER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta ,Oct. 23: 
Indian Airlines and Alliance Air have increased the frequency of some domestic flights and the capacity on the Calcutta-Bangkok sector in their winter schedule, to come into effect from October 28, 2001. The domestic flights include the Calcutta-Bagdogra, Calcutta-Dhaka, Calcutta-Bhubaneswar and Calcutta-Vizag-Chennai sectors.

Indian Airlines will operate five days a week between Calcutta and Bagdogra. Fights IC-721/722 will leave Calcutta at 9.50 am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday to reach Bagdogra at 10.45 am, and leave Bagdogra at 11.20 am to arrive Calcutta at 12.15 pm. On Thursday and Sunday, the flight will leave Calcutta at 2.20 pm to reach Bagdogra at 3.15 pm, depart Bagdogra at 3.55 pm to arrive Calcutta at 4.50 pm.

Alliance Air flight CD-7412 will leave Calcutta at 8 am on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday to reach Patna at 8.55 am, and leave Patna at 9.25 am to reach Lucknow at 10.20 am. Flight CD-7411 will operate on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday to reach Calcutta at 9 pm.

Flights CD-7269 and CD-7267 will operate thrice a week on the Calcutta-Jaipur-Ahmedabad sector. Flight CD-7269 will leave Calcutta at 3.20 pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Flight CD-7267 on the Calcutta-Ahmedabad-Jaipur sector will also leave Calcutta at 3.20 pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The incoming flights will arrive at Calcutta at 9.55 pm.

Alliance Air flights have been reintroduced between Calcutta and Bhubaneswar round the week.

Flight CD-7261 will leave Calcutta at 3 pm on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday to arrive at Bhubaneswar at 3.55 pm. The incoming flight will leave Bhubaneswar at 4.25 pm to reach Calcutta at 5.20 pm. Fight CD-7278 will leave Calcutta at 6 pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday to reach Bhubaneswar at 6.55 pm. The incoming flight CD-7277 (Hyderabad-Bhubaneswar-Calcutta) will reach Calcutta at 9 am.

Flight CD-7542 on the Calcutta-Vizag-Chennai sector will operate on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, leaving Calcutta at 2.35 pm. The incoming flight will reach Calcutta at 1.55 pm.

The capacity on the Calcutta-Bangkok sector has been increased by introducing the wide-bodied Airbus A-300 aircraft on all four days of operation.

Flight IC-731 will leave Calcutta at 10.15 am and the incoming flight IC-732 will reach Calcutta at 4.10 pm on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

On the Calcutta-Yangon-Bangkok sector, the twice-weekly flight IC-727 will leave Calcutta at 9.30 am on Wednesday and Friday and reach Bangkok at 3 pm (local time). The return flight will leave Bangkok at 3.50 pm (local time) and reach Calcutta at 4.50 pm.

Flights between Calcutta and Dhaka will operate five days a week. Flight IC-723 will leave Calcutta at 1 am on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday to reach Dhaka at 2.20 pm (local time). The return flight IC-724 will leave Dhaka at 3.40 am (local time) to reach Calcutta at 4 am.

There have been some marginal changes in the timings of the flights to Agartala and Imphal. Flight IC-743 will leave Calcutta at 9.50 am, instead of 10.15 am, on Thursday. Flight IC-713 will leave Calcutta at 9.50 am, instead of 10 am, on Sunday.

   

 
 
MLA MONITORS UNIVERSITY INTERVIEWS TO QUELL UNREST 
 
 
TAMAL SENGUPTA
 
Calcutta ,Oct. 23: 
The ruling CPM is probably scared of its own shadow — its student arm, the Students’ Federation of India (SFI). This can be gauged from the fact that Rabindra Bharati University (RBU), a CPM stronghold, had to engage party MLA Sudhangshu Sil to foil a second move by SFI activists last week to disrupt interviews for recruiting 17 junior assistants.

To hold the interview without any disruption, the RBU had shifted the venue from its own campus on B.T. Road to Oriental Seminary, in north Calcutta, an area dominated by Sil. The interviews at Oriental Seminary were held on October 12 and 13 and the SFI activists did not dare disturb the proceedings, as Sil was present at the venue on both days.

Last month, RBU had failed to hold an interview to fill up 17 posts of junior assistants after the university’s SFI unit gheraoed vice-chancellor Subhankar Chakraborty on the B.T. Road campus and forced him to cancel it. The vice-chancellor took strong exception to the SFI move. Earlier, the university’s CPM-controlled employees union had forced the authorities to cancel the recruitment of 17 junior assistants.

Recently, the RBU authorities had decided to hold the interview outside the B.T. Road campus, so that SFI activists could not thwart the process. The interviews were subsequently held smoothly at Oriental Seminary under the strict vigilance of Sil.

The RBU executive council on Saturday approved of the recruitment of 17 junior assistants, who had been selected through interviews held on October 12 and 13.

“We have approved of the appointment of 17 junior assistants who were selected during the two-day interview. We will now release the appointment letters,” said the vice-chancellor on Sunday.

When contacted, Sil claimed to have personally monitored the interview to ensure that neither the SFI nor the employees’ union could disrupt the process.

“I am the government nominee in the university’s executive council and I believe I have been entrusted with the responsibility to help the authorities run the institution smoothly,” said the CPM councillor from the Jorabagan Assembly segment.

“Hundreds of candidates from various parts of Bengal had appeared in the interview. We have no right to harass them by cancelling the interview time and again. Earlier, the university could not hold the interview due to resistance from students and employees’ unions. This time we were alert and determined to hold the same without any hassle,” Sil added.

   

 
 
BREAKTHROUGH IN HEART TREATMENT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta ,Oct. 23: 
The process is just about two years old in the world. But at least 10 patients in Calcutta have undergone it and are living a much improved quality of life after the intervention.

They, and the doctors who perform the operation, say it is a revolutionary breakthrough for the treatment of heart failure.

It’s called “biventricular pacing for cardiac resynchronisation therapy” and is a step beyond pacemaker implantation. Critical heart failure patients, especially those in the more serious stage III and IV conditions, can benefit a great deal from this recent procedure.

The new treatment involves the implantation of a device, a modified pacemaker, that electronically synchronises the beating of the right and left ventricles (which are the heart’s lower pumping chambers) and helps improve cardiac output by over 85 per cent.

Senior interventional consultant cardiologist Anil Mishra, who is one of the pioneers in conducting the procedure in India, says that the therapy corrects a problem that many with a chronic heart failure condition suffer from — that of out-of-synchronised beating of different segments of the heart. “This condition essentially results in ineffective pumping and decreased flow of blood to the body.”

The device, which is a little bigger than a matchbox, is placed just under the skin in the shoulder area. The patient is conscious during the surgery, which could last up to four hours, depending on how fast the three leads or wires can be connected to the relevant sections of the heart. The device contains a battery, a specialised computer chip and other electronics. It prompts the ventricles to pump nearly simultaneously, as they should, sending blood into arteries more effectively.

The duration in the OT is compensated by the very short hospital stay that the patient requires. “The uniqueness about resynchronisation therapy is that even stage III and IV patients can start walking three to four days after the procedure. Within a week, he can resume his daily routine, and in four week’s time, he can even climb stairs,” says Mishra.

One of his patients says he has had a new lease of life. From a situation where he used to get out of breath with the slightest exertion, was unable to lie down on his back and sometimes had swelling of the feet, he is now a normal person again and has even resumed playing tennis.

“After going through the clinical history of the patient, his ECG and echocardiogram, as well as the symptoms, we determine whether a person requires biventricular pacing and resynchronisation therapy,” says Mishra, who was invited to Mumbai earlier this year to conduct the procedure there for the first time. “In Calcutta, my first patient to undergo the therapy was in October last year. Since then, nine more patients have undergone the procedure.” Though there is no official survey on the incidence and degree of heart failure patients, Mishra says he gets 10 new cases a month who are in stage III or IV category of the disease.

“But because of the cost of the imported device (about Rs 3.25 lakh), very few have been able to go in for it and instead are on conventional drug therapy.” Another alternative is a costlier heart transplant. He feels that, with further innovations of the device, especially the leads that are required, the cost will come down. The improvements will also prompt more cardiologists to undertake the procedure, recently tried out at SSKM Hospital as well.

   
 

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