Inside out: Hundreds venture out for a view of the Devi
Next month is what we promised, but in keeping with the festive flavour of the week, Time to Talk, was rescheduled to reach readers on Panchami morning. Here is what some of you had to say about the topic This year, pandal-hopping loses out to indoor adda, but only just. More letters next week.
Workaholics may argue that the Pujas are a perfect time to indulge in some indoor adda. However, few things in the life of a Calcuttan compare to going through the hustle and bustle at crowded Puja pandals on these much-awaited days. Indoor adda is great, but by no means can it be at the expense of pandal-hopping!
IInd Year, Institute of Engineering and Management
Pandal-hopping does not lose out to indoor adda but it definitely deserves the same rank. Indoor adda may seem more comfortable with the huge crowds outside, but this is the one time of the year when we can be dazzled by what we see around us. I am sure an equal number of young Calcuttans will go pandal hopping, not only to enjoy themselves but also to check out the deft craftsmanship of the master artistes whose creations leave us awe-struck. I don’t think a mere crowd could ever dampen the spirit of the Pujas.
Indoor adda is becoming increasingly popular among Generation Y as they believe in spending quality time with their friends and family. This Puja, indoor adda is going to rule the roost over pandal-hopping as the crowds become unbearable, besides which, the heat adds to aversion. Pandal-hopping will be limited. But some pandals should not be missed by anyone.
IInd year, Umesh Chandra College
With swarms of people mutilating your brand-new outfits and almost strangling you to death, who wouldn’t prefer to stay indoors during the Puja and unwind with family and friends' Isn’t going through old photo albums, watching all-time favourite films on DVD, tuning in to ear-splitting music and devouring heavenly home-made delicacies much more fun than joining the maddening crowd of pandal-hoppers'
Class XII, Calcutta Girls
This Puja, many will prefer to stay indoor for adda, especially senior citizens. The heavy rush created by swarms rushing to the main pandals and the traffic jams on the four days of the Pujas are things many would want to avoid. Nowadays, the family atmosphere at para pandals is gone. The mood is missing, prompting quite a few to opt out. For some, the Puja holidays are a time for a break from the normal schedule and they prefer to stay more relaxed indoors.
In the judge’s seat
On Sashthi and Saptami, Snehankita, Titas, Somnath and 21 of their schoolmates will be busy on school duty well into the night. And they are thrilled to bits. The team of 24 has been chosen as judges for the MP Birla Foundation Puja Utkarsh Samman. This means they get to do what everyone is planning for the big four days — go pandal-hopping — with the added fun of representing their school.
On Saturday, 18 students of South Point and six from MP Birla Foundation Higher Secondary School gathered at Mandeville Gardens for an orientation workshop with Purba Sengupta, a researcher on mythology, and litterateur Narayan Sanyal to provide an overview of the Pujas. Sengupta showed how mythology, history and politics had borne upon the origin and evolution of the Durga myth while Sanyal took the students down to pre-history to trace the Mother figure in sculpture, from the Venus of Wilendorf, found in Austria 30,000 years ago.
The students are all geared up to hit the streets. “It’s a huge honour, seeing that our decisions count,” said Abhishek Sanyal of Class IX, who had drawn a Devi weeping on seeing two rats running after money to seal his place among the judges. All six from MP Birla Foundation also had to write an article on the Pujas. At South Point, the selection process was based on track record and performance in an interview. The young judges agreed they would concentrate on tradition as the chief criterion. “While innovative pandals and themes are all right, it is unjustified to go beyond our national heritage to seek inspiration,” reasoned Madhurita Chakraborty of South Point. “We have to see that in going for gimmicks, committees do not deviate so much as to take away from the feeling of devotion,” added Sebanti Biswas.
The school had involved a statistician to evolve a mathematical model for evaluation, to counter inconsistencies in scoring, explained Krishna Damani, a school official.
Drama-ties, an inter-college drama competition organised by members of the Presidency College magazine Unpresidented and the British Council was held on September 22. Derozio Hall on the college campus saw a range of issues come up — from euthanasia to domestic violence. The lights went on with Asutosh College’s Purgatorial Rights, a complex play taking digs at political leaders and recent issues like CAS, marital discord and globalisation. Next, the budding physicians of Calcutta Medical College played the part of doctors in Elixir, dealing with mercy killing. South Calcutta Law College staged Blame Game, where a husband is tried for killing his wife. Things started to hot up when St Xavier's College performed Where Were You, which brought together acting, painting and music, with characters telling their stories on violence and injustice, simultaneously depicted on canvas.
The English department of Jadavpur University took up after the break with Mimesis, which put mime to imaginative use. The script raised topics like prostitution, lesbianism, drug addiction and AIDS. The music deserves special mention. From the same university, students of comparative literature came up with a slightly over-the-top enactment of Not An-other Day. Dressed as schoolchildren, the actors analysed the atrocities against minorities and cult indoctrination. The lawyers-in-training from NUJS staged Wall, set in an asylum. The home team brought down the curtain with Solo, adapted from Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story A Temporary Matter. Live Rabindrasangeet was used as background and shadowgraph was employed.
Judges Dolly Basu, Chandan Sen and Bratya Basu crowned the JU comparative literature team champions, with Tanushree Shankar handing over the trophy. Dolly Basu lauded them for their natural acting, spontaneity on stage and creativity. Best script went to Abhijay Gupta and Dana Roy of St Xavier’s, while Ankur Roychowdhury of JU comparative literature was crowned best director. Abhimanyu Mukherjee of South Calcutta Law College was named best actor.
A Durga Puja show at Mothers’ Care Montessori. Picture by Pabitra Das
War of words
On Saturday, the St Xavier’s College auditorium was the venue for the CRY (Child Relief & You) inter-college debate on the legalisation of prostitution. It was an attempt to raise awareness amongst students about the industrialisation of the sex ‘trade’. Six participants from Jadavpur University, Presidency College and St Xavier’s College squared off with heated arguments.
Samya Seth of JU initiated arguments for the motion by pointing out that prostitution is a necessary evil. Diyashree Chattopadhyay of JU vehemently opposed the motion, claiming prostitution cannot be considered work as it provides no job satisfaction and is a “condemnation of the female”. Rohini Bhushan of Presidency College spoke of the urgent need for legalisation, as prostitution has stood the test of time, thriving across the world. The solution to exploitation, harassment and torture is legalisation, she said, not to legitimise it, but to create a more healthy and safe environment. Ananda Roop Sen countered this, saying this would not be enough to change the psyche of buyers. The legal system would become a cover to increase exploitation. Sejuti Dasgupta of St Xavier’s called for legalisation and decriminalisation so sex workers can enjoy fundamental rights. Fellow Xaverian Meghna Mukherjee started her speech against the motion with the story of a student who works as a call girl to earn pocket money, calling for the abolition of prostitution.
Finally, Meghna Mukherjee was declared best speaker while St Xavier’s College earned the tag of best team.
— Aritro Ganguly,
The sixth Mahbub-ul-Haq Inter-School Debate, held under the aegis of Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Foundation at British Council recently, attracted over 20 schools with the topic ‘Educating girls does not empower women’. Students from Calcutta Girls, Ashok Hall, La Martiniere for Boys and Modern High fought against new entrants like St Mary’s Day Orphanage School, WWA Cossipore English School, St Aurobindo Institute for Education and Future Foundation. The girls from Ashok Hall walked away with the best school and best speaker trophies with Calcutta Girls coming a close second. Surma Guha and Nidhi Dokania from the winning team will be off to Delhi on October 21 for the finals. Novelist and classical vocalist Amit Chaudhuri gave away the prizes.
Hartley’s High School presented Harmonics 2003, an inter-school fest, at Uttam Manch on September 26 and 27. Over 600 students from 12 schools signed up, with off-stage events taking place on September 23 at Rotary Sadan, including pencil-shading, mask-making, calligraphy, fabric-painting and vegetable and fruit craft.
Dona Ganguly dropped by on September 26, which featured eastern group singing, mimicry, interview sessions and fashion show. Day II included tests in miming, quiz and choreographed dance, with Neil O’Brien appearing to give away prizes. Hartley’s School was declared Champion of Champions, followed by a musical show put up by ex-students.
— Somsubhra Roy Chowdhury & Kaushik Chanda,
Class X, Hartley’s High School