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A missed calling writ in pith

the hobby is a “righteous” one. And it is enough to keep Ranadhir Dhar going. For over 20 years, the joint production manager at Dey’s Medical has conceived and created prize-winning pratimas and pandals at Adi Ballygunge, just around the corner from the pharma factory.

This year’s pith (shola) pandal with a pratima breathtaking for its traditional simplicity, was well-received. As have been most of Dhar’s creations. “I started at a time when the Pujas were very simple, and there were no awards to recognise our efforts,” explains Dhar. The introduction of the Asian Paints Sharad Samman saw him bag the top award four years in a row — from 1985 to 1988, and then again in 1993.

But Dhar’s personal favourite was the pandal in 2000. “The theme was bari theke baroari. In the small space that we have, we made an old bonedi bari puja, complete with a clay model of a barir bou. It was very detailed, with a garad sari hanging on a wire and a kite stuck in an aerial. Beside that was a typical parar pratima,” recalls the 53-year-old, who creates themes “without damaging the puja spirit” as he feels the new trend of experimenting with the bizarre does.

With work taking up most of his time round the year, Dhar, who works with kids from the para, takes a week or so off during the Pujas to ensure that everything goes off without a hitch. “The company management knows where I am, and they even come to the pandal to discuss work,” he laughs.

While his company’s support has been an inspiration, Dhar can’t overcome the feeling that he may have missed his calling. “I had no pressure from home… I think it was my own mistake that I didn’t take up art as a profession.”

Dhar went on to study law and management, and joined Dey’s Medical in 1970. He makes time, however, for his passion, working as a freelance interior designer. He had started out making Saraswati idols, and still makes one for the puja at home. He works on canvas and with terracotta, too.

Dhar, a firm believer that “sleeping just three hours a day to pursue a passion has never killed anyone”, has a new source of inspiration. Having read years ago about Yeasin Pathan, the Muslim school peon who saved the temples of Pathra, he managed to track him down last year. Touched by the man and his mission, in 2001, he housed his pratima in a replica of the Nabaratna temple of Pathra. “The fact that he braved all opposition to save the Hindu temples when he could have so easily walked away was what moved me the most,” Dhar explains.This year, Pathan inaugurated Dhar’s puja, and the Adi Ballygunge Committee plans to provide whatever financial support they can to the Pathra fund.

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