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Countdown to contest, cause

Mahasaptami at the residential complexes taking part in this year’s The Telegraph ING Vysya Hand-in-Hand community puja programme, in association with Sony Entertainment Television, was ‘houseful’ with a string of events. All 30 housing committees held a series of contests to encourage the para puja concept.

Antakshari was the top draw at most locations, day or night, including Golf Green Phase I, Swaranika in Shakuntala Park, Prasad Nagar on BT Road and Anushakti Abasan in Bidhannagar. Team spirit worked wonders alongside some friendly competition as the participants belted out golden oldies and catchy tunes and the audience cheered them on.

Bank Garden in Bansdroni, Malancha in Baranagar, Vinayak on KC Ghosh Road, Karunamoyee G Block, Purbachal Sarbojanin and Anupama on VIP Road started the day’s activities with an Antakshari session — some in the morning and others in the evening — and wrapped up with a quiz contest. Peerless Nagar in Panihati, on the other hand, began with the quiz and finished with Antakshari.

Regent Estate, which had kicked off its puja revelry on Wednesday with a conch-blowing contest and Antakshari, held a sit-and-draw for kids and a quiz for all on Thursday.

Golf Garden Natun Pally, too, held a spot quiz, as well as Sera Uttor for women at 9.30 pm. Green View on Southern Avenue had simultaneously organised conch-blowing and Sera Uttor during the day.

ODRC Rental in Behala and Golf Green Phase III, IV and VII both began with sit-and-draw contests. The former continued with Antakshari and quiz, while the latter witnessed a dhunuchi naach. Sikhar Bindu in Brahmapur started early with a sit-and-draw at 8.30 am. The rest of the day passed off with a plethora of events, from quiz in the afternoon to conch-blowing, diya-lighting and Antakshari at night.

At the other end of town, residents of Anandam in Dum Dum participated in a sit-and-draw, Sera Uttor and Antakshari with great gusto. And at CIT Singhibagan in Madan Chatterjee Lane, a Sera Uttor competition was followed by diya-lighting. A spot quiz at 6 pm came after conch-blowing at noon at Motijhil Housing in Dum Dum.

In Salt Lake, Karunamoyee A, B, C and D had organised conch-blowing and diya-lighting, while Labony held a sit-and-draw for kids at 9 in the morning where the youngsters trooped in to test their talents. Antakshari was held in the evening and quiz at night.

On VIP Road, a sit-and-draw contest was held in Minakshi, while a spot quiz drew the crowds at Dakshinayan. At Gitanjali, residents gathered at the puja pandal for sit-and-draw, spot quiz and Sera Uttor.

The action at BP Township in Baishnabghata was after dark, with a conch-blowing contest, diya-lighting and Antakshari. Happy Nook in Patuli started with sit-and-draw and ended with Sera Uttor, while conch-blowing was squeezed in between.

Purbayan on Purbachal Main Road had conch-blowing and quiz. Udayan in Survey Park held conch-blowing, diya-lighting and the family and personality of the Puja awards.

The prizes — from chocolate bars to ketchup bottles — were sponsored by Nestle, apart from other gift vouchers.

In high spirits

It’s the spirit, not the size, that matters. The slogan is slowly seeping into puja organisers across the city, from Bagbazar to Behala. Recognising the need to raise awareness for sensitive pujas, a new concept — CESC The Telegraph True Spirit Puja supported by People United for Better Living in Calcutta (PUBLIC) — was launched this year.

Organised in association with the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (PCB) and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), the endeavour aims at turning the spotlight on puja committees which don’t strive for prizes but care for people and their preferences.

From traffic management and compliance with civic norms to fire-fighting preparedness and facilities for pandal-hoppers — the performance is being judged on 10 different parameters.

A panel of judges, comprising members of The Telegraph, CESC, CMC and PUBLIC, visited 79 pandals — short-listed for the initiative — on Sashthi and Saptami to check out the sparks of spirit.

The results, based on the overall scores of the committees, will be announced on Ashtami evening.

For one of the teams doing the rounds in north Calcutta on the second day, the experience was worth remembering. “It’s a perfect example of the saying that small is beautiful,” said one of the team members about Agragami Sangha in Sinthee.

Besides making provisions for fire extinguishers, puja organisers on the city’s northern fringes have minimised risk factors by sprinkling caustic soda on the pandal materials.

Streets here weren’t blocked and volunteers were managing the traffic. With separate entrances for the physically challenged and doctors round-the-clock, the organisers have shown enough signs of prudence.

“It’s nice to know that puja organisers don’t just bank on glitter and gimmicks,” said another member on the social initiatives taken by organisers like Bagbazar Sarbojanin and CIT Road Abasikbrinda.

“Complying with the CESC and PCB norms, limiting use of plastics and taking up various sorts of social initiatives — awareness is catching up fast in the city,” the team member stressed.

The panel of judges came across sincere efforts to retain the spirit of the Pujas at several other locations, including Ahiritola Sarbojanin, Suruchi Sangha, Nandana Yuba Sangha, Chaltabagan Lohapatti and Nabamilan.

The ones that score high on camaraderie, care and compliance will move on to the second round and a set of celebrity judges will pick the winners on Thursday.

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