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THE OTHER PUJA

They were marked absent at the para puja. They did not add to the pandemonium at the pandals. They had no-pandal-hopping-please written all over their faces. While the rest of the city went ga-ga over the Goddess, they did their own thing.

Metro on Sunday takes a look at five things they have been doing this festive week'

DISCO DANDIYA

Swabhumi: 5,500 per night. RCGC: 1,400 per night. Ice Skating Rink: 1,000 per night. Despite drop-outs (chief among them being festive favourite Payel), the footfalls at the three major dandiya destinations highlighted the popularity of this stick-and-twirl gala.

Some came to escape the pandal rush, others to have fun in a more controlled-crowd zone with multiple entertainment options, as tradition married techno. 'There were numerous people who spent hours playing dandiya or just chilling out on the fringes,' says Avinash Singhania of Encore Events, at RCGC.

The crowds swelled when there was a star to gaze ' or grab ' at. If Katrina Kaif (picture left top) caused a mini-stampede at Salt Lake stadium, Chocolate girl Tanushree Dutta (picture left below) played temptress at Swabhumi. If Abhijeet Sawant was the flavour at RCGC, Channel V band Asma rocked Swabhumi'

GO CLUBBING

Many skipped the dhaks for the dance floor and pandals for pure adrenaline. The hippest escape from the crowd crush at pandals was to get lost in the crowd crush in a night club. Some hit the B.E.D., others turned to Tantra, many dived Underground'

'There was a mad rush at Underground (which opened on Chaturthi night), with more than 500 people trooping in every day,' says HHI managing director D.K Jaiswal.

At Tantra, groups of 30 to 40 would park themselves inside from 6 pm. 'The total footfalls during the four festive days exceeded 3,500,' says manager Aarti Rao.

First-timers and youngsters dominated the evenings, the party people ruled the nights.

TRAVELLING RIGHT

The autumn exodus from city continued, with Calcuttans booking their berths and packing their bags well in time for the Puja hoildays.

Beyond borders, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand topped travel plans this year thanks to low fares, more flights and clear skies'

'This is one time of the year when both parents and kids get holidays together. Countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand drew maximum tourists for a combination of factors,' says Anil Punjabi, chairman, eastern regions, Travel Agents Federation of India.

Closer home, the hills of Sikkim (home to Bhaichung Bhutia, picture above) and the forests of north Bengal were main draws. 'North Bengal and Sikkim are cost-effective, time-saving and the best places in terms of climate and congestion at this time of the year,' says Dipayan Gupta, leisure officer, Globe Forex and Travels.

LET'S CHAT

For the stay-at-home type ' it didn't matter whose home! ' Puja 2005 was just one never-ending adda. Accompanied by a steady stream of munchies, laze and lounge, gaze and gossip was the order of the festive day.

'If you are not a typical pandal-hopper, staying indoors and rustling up your own party is the best way to enjoy the holidays,' says young entrepreneur Ranadhir Ghosh. 'The recipe for such indoor Puja parties: like-minded people, the right milieu, some prized DVDs, unlimited bottles of you-choose-what'

With the Pujas down to three days (plus a Sunday, of course), ganging up with friends and catching up on things old and new became almost a norm.

 

FILM FESTIVAL

For many, it was Puja at the plexes. Sorry' Eggjactly! Salaam Namaste (picture left) and No Entry were the pick of the lot on the festive days as the city multiplexes registered record footfalls, from morning show to night.

'The Puja week has fetched the highest revenue for us since inception,' says INOX (City Centre) general manager Subhashish Ganguly. 'There was a 35 per cent increase from the Puja occupancy last year.'

89 Cinemas (Swabhumi) general manager Prashant Srivastava adds: 'Not just non-Bengalis, but nuclear Bengali families filled up our screens resulting in the record footfalls. It's like breaking away from traditions and doing your own thing.'

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