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On your marks, get set and go

Mahasashthi at the housing complexes, for The Telegraph ING Vysya Hand-in-Hand community pujas, in association with Sony Entertainment Television, was kicked off with a series of sit-and-draw competitions for kids. The contests were held mainly during the day at Green View on Southern Avenue, Peerless Nagar in Panihati, Prasad Nagar on BT Road, Karunamoyee A, B, C and D, Karunamoyee G Block, Purbachal Sarbojanin, Udayan in Survey Park, BP Township in Baishnabghata and Bank Garden in Bansdroni.

Peerless Nagar began with a grand opening by Tollywood actress Nelanjana Bhowmick on Tuesday evening at which the residents turned up in full force. At Green View on Wednesday morning, attendance was strong, with the residents keen to have some fun and entertainment. While the kids drew images on the theme of the Sharad Utsav, parallel events saw equal participation. At Udayan, stalls dotted the green patches.

Abhudaya in Patuli inaugurated their puja celebrations on Panchami night with conch-blowing and diya-lighting competitions, continuing with a sit-and-draw contest on Sashthi morning. The mood on Panchami night was buoyant, with around 200 people taking part in several community activities, laughing, chatting and catching up with each other.

Purbayan on Purbachal Main Road started with a sit-and-draw on Wednesday morning and ended with a spot quiz at night. At Golf Green Phase III, IV and VII, it was only diya-lighting in the evening.

At Anupama on VIP Road, kids concentrated on the sit-and-draw at 10 am, while the conch-blowing contest at 8 in the night saw participants determined to show their mettle. Swaranika in Shakuntala Park, Malancha in Baranagar and CIT Singhibagan in Madan Chatterjee Lane, too, had their share of action.

At Minakshi on VIP Road, the fun began after dark. A Sera Uttor contest for women and a conch-blowing competition for all interested ones set the mood, with the activities continuing late into the night.

Anushakti Abasan in Bidhannagar started early with a sit-and-draw, but concluded well after sunset with diya-lighting. Golf Green Phase I residents held their debut event, a conch-blowing contest, on Sashthi evening, with much pomp and show.

Golf Garden Natun Pally on Prince Ghulam Md Shah Road started the Pujas with a slew of events, beginning with a sit-and-draw at 10 am. Next up was conch-blowing at 6.30 pm, followed by diya-lighting at 7 pm and finishing off with dhunuchi naach at 8.30 pm. At Vinayak on KC Ghosh Road, the younger residents participated in the sit-and-draw contest in the morning, while the older group gathered for the conch-blowing and diya-lighting events in the evening.

At Anandam, the activities began at twilight with a spot quiz contest and diya-lighting. Motijhil Housing in Dum Dum, too, had organised a sit-and-draw, ending with music and masti at a session of Antakshari.

The prizes — gift hampers ranging from Rs 50 to 300 — were given away to the first, second and third place winners by Nestle. Antakshari teams and several quizzers also carried home some goodies.

Tradition is trendy

As Calcutta put the finishing touches to the Devi on Wednesday, four teams of watchful eyes were quietly at work, roaming the streets all day long.

The first round of assessment is underway for The CESC The Telegraph True Spirit Puja, supported by People United for Better Living in Calcutta. Many of the 79 participating committees met representatives entrusted with the task of identifying the pujas which have tried to create not only a mood of celebration, but also a thoughtful and sensitive environment inclusive of all.

Braving the traffic jams that have already set in at major intersections — and the pouring rain — panelists, including members of The Telegraph, CESC, Calcutta Municipal Corporation and student reporters associated with The Telegraph in Schools, did the rounds of the participating pandals.

They had the full cooperation of the committee members who had enrolled for this first-time “self-assessment”, which seeks to rekindle the spirit of the Pujas that sometimes is overshadowed by gimmicks and grandeur.

“It is a really wonderful concept,” feels Shyamal Choudhury, puja committee president of Jagaran Club. “This is more than just another prize.” The Selimpur club was impressed with the attention to safety precautions and ambience.

“Everything was carefully inspected,” says Choudhury, who would like to participate in the True Spirit Puja next year. If they do make it to the final list of star pujas or the ultimate salute — the True Spirit Model Puja — Jagaran Club hopes to use the grant to build a free library and clinic.

The judges were equally impressed with the level of awareness that seemed to have spread to most committees. “We have received cooperation from all committees,” says S.N. Sen, manager, main systems, CESC. “Most of them have tried to comply with safety norms, make the proper electricity arrangements and keep an ambulance ready,” adds Sen.

At Barisha Srishti, dust is at a minimum, with terracotta tiles lining the floor of the pandal ensuring visitors do not kick up a storm.

“We have our own ambulance ready at all times. Fire-fighting equipment is at hand,” explains P.K. Roy, puja committee vice-president. Dustbins have been placed at several corners of the no-smoking pandal.

The results of the initiative will be announced on Ashtami evening. But till then, committees are happy just having a chance to boast of the traditional — rather than the trendy — for a change.

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