| A sugarcane vendor in Bosepukur. Picture by Aranya Sen
Calcutta, Oct. 2: At Rs 2 a glass, Kasba residents have drunk up gallons of sugarcane juice in a month and are queuing up for more, happy to contribute to the para puja as they quench their thirst.
Organisers of the Bosepukur Sitala Mandir puja — the talk of the town last year for the pandal made out of earthen cups — initiated the sale of sugarcane juice at the throwaway price to collect crushed cane for this year’s pandal.
Five truckloads of sugarcane, costing Rs 60,000, would be required, the organisers calculated. Soon after the first truckload arrived, two crushers were appointed on daily wages of Rs 150 each. The sugarcane juice sale started on September 3.
Within a week, the puja committee had recovered the Rs 12,000 it spent on the sugarcane. The sale was a runaway hit, with people queuing up till late at night on the Rashbehari connector of the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass. Elsewhere in the city, a glass of sugarcane juice comes for anything between Rs 5 and Rs 10.
Before the second load of sugarcane was bought, 10 vendors approached the organisers for space to set up juice counters. In return, they offered to provide the crushed cane for the pandal. The offer was accepted and, a month later, the queues are not getting any shorter.
The committee, which had fixed a budget of Rs 7.5 lakh out of which Rs 6.5 lakh was for the pandal, has now decided to donate the Rs 60,000 it saves on the sugarcane to the children’s hospital in Park Circus. The money will go towards two new beds. Kalu Sardar, working president of the puja committee, said: “We will not invite any political leader to inaugurate the puja this time. Instead, we have decided to offer the honour to the vendor who gives us the maximum quantity of crushed sugarcane for the pandal’s construction.”
Samir Roychowdhury, the secretary, said 125 people are working on the pandal round-the-clock. The 60-foot-high pandal will be spread over 1,800 square feet. In keeping with the specifications of the fire department, the crushed sugarcane is being chemically treated to make it fire-resistant.
Police are expecting a big crowd at the Bosepukur puja, in a repeat of last year, and will make the entire stretch of the Rashbehari connector, Bijan Setu, and part of Rashbehari Avenue into a one-way zone to regulate traffic on the four days of the Pujas. With 10 days still to go for the Pujas, the area already looks like a fairground, teeming as it is with people.
The same neighbourhood will have three more “unique” pandals — made out of record discs, tyre tubes and biscuits.