Now, you’ve probably drawn up a meticulous POA for the Pujas already, but have you covered it all' Have you chalked out your ‘feel-good and look-better-than-Beyonce’ plan' You may have splurged on the wardrobe to kill for, but have you accessorised right' Do you know the place to hit when hunger strikes after a sneak peak at the pandals' Your pandal-hopping route may have been chalked out, but have you got those ‘pujas with a difference’ on your list' To help you fine-tune your festive fun, we’ve drawn up a six-step programme. So go ahead and check out our Puja prep sheet!
BECOME A GLOBAL GOURMAND
|A Hyderabadi spread from Tamarind
Durga Puja without food is like Munnabhai without Circuit! The sheer incongruity of it is just too much to digest! So, revellers will queue up for hours to sample the para bhog; the ovens at home will fire up chingri malai curry and mangsho-bhaat; and restaurants dishing out Bengali fare will be booked to the brim.
But how about making way for a change this Puja' Sure, load up on all the usual Bangali khabar, or else risk your thakuma’s wrath. But you could also look outside the state for some festive feasting. Heck, you could even impress your latest hook-up by treating her to some truly international tastes.
For some southern satisfaction, head to Tamarind where a Hyderabadi food festival is holding court. The restaurant at 64, Sarat Bose Road has flown down a team of expert bawarchis from Hyderabad especially for the Pujas. So expect delectable biryanis, Keema Murg Pulao, Dum Ka Chicken and lots more. A meal for two costs Rs 500 or so.
At the ITC Sonar Bangla, head chef Ramesh Javvaji is hoping to lure foodies to Pan-Asian with his famed Mongolian hotpot — a medley of meat, seafood and noodles cooked live in a simmering broth. Also recommended are the delights from Down Under at the West-View Bar and Grill. Javvaji’s top pick: the Australian lamb chops. A word of advice though, make sure your pockets are packing the paisas!
Italian anyone' Then head on over to La Cuccina at the Hyatt. Here Chef Mitele Sbardellini’s special line-up gives a whole new meaning to Buon Appetito! With the restaurant open for both lunch and dinner, you could sample the Italian buffet (Rs 895, plus taxes; and Rs 1,195, plus taxes if you opt for half a bottle of red wine) on offer. Chef Sbardellini will also hold a cookery workshop on September 30, where for Rs 700 (plus taxes), you not only get to share his secrets, but a three-course lunch provides the perfect ending!
Lunch or dinner is all very well, but what about those in-between hours' At Starstruck, you can give into your inner glutton with the South East Asian Street Food tent card on offer during late afternoons and early evenings. The specials include Singapore Chilli Crab, Indonesian Prawn Satay, and more. A meal for two would cost around Rs 450.
PLAY THE INDULGENCE GAME
What’s a festival, if you just don’t feel at the top of your game! And when it comes to de-stressing before the devi comes, you might want to pamper yourself silly with a special spa or salon treatment.
At the Hyatt’s Club Prana, three treatments are currently topping the spa stakes. First is the Aroma Hot Stone Therapy, which involves a rigorous rub-down with oil followed by the placement of warm aroma mineral stones. Priced at Rs 2,600 (plus taxes), it will, we promise you, have you swinging from the stars. The other big-sellers are the Aroma Vedic Treatment and the Golden Spa body therapy.
Hair expert and Graphiti columnist, Bridgette Jones is also rolling out the Puja red carpet at her salon in Maddox Square. Colouring touch-ups come with freebies from haircare brand, Roots. In addition to this, there are package deals for the taking. For instance, if you sign up for six sittings of a Deep Treat Hair Spa, you get one free; and four Body Spa treatments — a luxurious two-hour treat for Rs 1,500 — will fetch a 10 per cent discount.
Giving us the scoop on hair colour this season, Bridgette says, “Streaking is out. What’s in, are lightened panels of hair beneath the top layer for contrast and movement; flashes of bright copper to enhance the ends of your hair; and Schwarzkopf’s semi-permanent colours cum hair glosses.” And speaking of styles, she says, Bipasha’s new short look, girly curls and foxy fringes are big on the beauty block.
ACCESSORIES AND IMPRESS:
| A model shows off an M&S dupatta
Okay, so you have your Sasthi salwar-kameez and Ashtami saris well in place, but what about those little extras that can go such a long way in spicing up your look' Yup, we’re talking accessories — the right ones will have you sizzling like a superstar, the wrong ones will have you doing a Dame Edna!
Bags and shoes are the obvious picks and currently, heavy metal seems to be the ‘in’ thing. More specifically, ballet shoes (Rs 500) in silver and dull gold are gracing the feet of many a PYT. And roomy metallic bags (Rs 450 each) in a spectrum of shades are also a big hit this season. For more, head over to Little Club in SS Hogg Market.
For those going traditional, the embellished belt is a great way to add flair to that short kurta. M&S Designer Studio in Alipore has a line of antique belts embellished with shells, coins, stones and beads up for grabs at Rs 250 onwards. You could also sass up your salwar-kameez with one of their crushed silk dupattas in various prints that come complete with a neckpiece for Rs 1,000.
Can’t stay away from those regulation blue jeans and tee' Try upping your cool quotient with an add-on like a denim or cotton shrug from V2 in the New Market. These come adorned with faux pearls and beads and cost around Rs 600. M&S is also rolling out the shrugs in bright colours and crazy prints at Rs 800 onwards.
|Embellished shrugs from V2
All you men out there can strap on some style by sporting the latest watch on the racks. Exclusive Lines recommends Cerruti for the uber cool. Priced between Rs 10,000 and Rs 31,000, these time pieces scream class. For a more sporty look, try wristwear from Police, which comes with funky straps and contrast stitching, or better still, the nifty Giordano digitals — both from Ram’s in Metro Plaza. Prices range between Rs 4,000 and Rs 6,000.
For high-impact style that doesn’t quite burn a hole in your pocket, guys could walk the funky path with chunky rings complete with fangs and rotating skulls (Rs 75-175) belts with bulky buckles (Rs 350-Rs 550); and off-beat neckpieces (Rs 95-Rs 350). All these can be found at Aan at Metro Plaza.
DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY:
While most of the city’s nightspots will be swinging to the usual tunes; a couple will be throbbing to a farrago of different beats. At Venom, the rollercoaster ride starts September 27 with DJ Vicky bringing the top pop picks to the fore. The following evening DJ Sumedh will spin everything from Hip-Hop and R&B to Reggaetton and UK Bhangra while September 29 sees DJ Ivan in the house. The last three days of the Pujas will see a Bolly Bash, a Sunday Special and Monday Madness at the dance den in Fort Knox.
There’s plenty on the cards at HHI’s Underground too. At 4pm on September 28, DJ Kiran will flag off, what is being called the longest party of the year. The bash (with a few breaks here and there) will continue till midnight of October 1. And in between, on September 29, hotshot DJ Suketu will take over the controls.
HOME IN ON THE DECOR DENS
|Diyas from Cauvery
With just a week left before the celebrations kick off, it’s time to get cracking on your home’s annual face-lift. Lifestyle stores in the city have all laid out their Puja wares, and we homed in on a handful that could help you add a festive edge to your place.
First up is the Tamil Nadu State emporium at Dakshinapan, Poompuhar which besides a plethora of traditional knick-knacks, has on offer urlis in brass (Rs 16,500 for a large one) and sheet metal (Rs 10,500). Float some champak or shiuli phul on these — it’s a great way to usher in the season. What’s more, you can avail of a 10 per cent discount before September 27.
If mood lighting is more your style, then check out Cauvery’s seven-step electric diya stand — perfect to perk up a corner! The emporium on S N Banerjee Road has smaller variations on offer as well and these range between Rs 1,693 and Rs 2,341. Again, there’s a 10 per cent discount to make the most of till September 27.
|Fabindia’s banana bark lamp and chanderi curtains
A little further down the road at the Chowringhee intersection, Cottage Industries has some pretty enamelled puja thalis at Rs 465.
Fabindia fans can hotfoot it to the store and zoom in on the snazzy lampshades made of banana-bark (Rs 525 plus taxes) or even the new chanderi silk curtains (Rs 850 each) in festive orange and white with gold polka dots.
And once all the frantic shopping, cleaning and stocking up is done, we recommend something for you to sit back in and put your feet up — a beautiful Shantiniketani leather lounger from Sasha. These cost Rs 3,500 and are available against orders.
HIT THE PANDAL TRAIL
|Work in progress at the Behala Nutan Dal pandal
Now pandal-hopping is one ritual that every Calcuttan finds indispensable. Snaking queues in Bosepukur and chaotic crowds at Behala Srishti notwithstanding, we just have to pack in as many pujas as possible. Surviving parking woes, nagging shoe bites, glaring mashimaas with their doe-eyed teenagers and cheeky Charlies — hitting the right spots is an art in itself.
However, if quality trumps over quantity for you, then there are a few that you just can’t miss. Almost all the major pujas this year have returned to their roots in search of Bangaliyana. The pick of the lot is Behala Nutan Dal’s Shashi Bhushan Mukherjee Road Sarbojonin. Here, a small fishing village has been recreated complete with a co-operative society, a hotel, an STD booth, a village school and a temple where the devi presides over the villagers. Cooing pigeons, poultry, fishing boats and even vegetable patches add that extra touch. What is remarkable is that the organisers have totally transformed the neighbourhood garbage dumping area to create the village.
Drawing a parallel between a mother from such a village, who struggles to keep her children away from durgati, and the divine Durgatinashini, the organisers are more concerned with the social message than the idea of a theme puja. Says creative advisor Rono Bannerjee, “City-dwellers who distance themselves from the reality of the common folk, will get to see first-hand what a struggle life is for villagers.”
Amongst the other biggies, Mudiali Club is focusing on the revival of the Bengali babu culture. An old-fashioned zamindar baari, with an open courtyard and thakurdalan has been created in the heart of south Calcutta, and the idol reflects the theme.
The Bosepukur Sitalamandir is another crowd-puller and this time around, its devi will be a shabeki protima, or an idol done in the traditional mode. The pandal housing her will have circular terracotta rings as well as an open ceiling to create an impression of an underground well.
Then there’s 25 Pally, the Kidderpore behemoth which is singing paeans to Bengal’s conch shell industry. The pandal will comprise three giant conch shells in clay facing a waterbody. Even the gate will resemble a conch shell.
Pandal junkies also can’t afford to miss out 66 Pally’s Shaktidham. Think 16 temples (dedicated to 16 of the 64 mythical yoginis who went to battle with Ma Chandi) and Durga on a 130-ft long and 50-ft high platform.
Information — Tamarind: 24851199; ITC Sonar Bangla: 23454445; Hyatt Regency: 23351234; Starstruck: 32901030; Bridgette Jones Salon: 32512829; Little Club: 65260581; M&S: 9831091666; V2: 32590303; Exclusive Lines: 22882630; Ram’s: 22888882; Aan: 9830688505; Cauvery: 22282044; Poompuhar: 2423 7028; Sasha: 2252 1586; Fabindia: 24656954