Ravana Vadh at Sahid Minar Maidan; and (below) the water ballet that was attended by the mayor. Picture by Aranya Sen
Recently on a Sunday, mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya spent a good hour-and-a-half staring at what has been his annual anathema for the better part of his mayorship — water. But he wore a beatific smile. In the water, there were no miserable Calcuttans wading, cursing the mayor and his men, but pretty dancers swaying gently.
Indian Life Saving Society was hosting a water ballet production called Splashing Rhythms at Anderson Club on Southern Avenue and the mayor had been invited as chief guest, though he specified that he was a member too.
His chair was placed right at the tip of the pool. The water was reflecting the fairy lights. It was soothing for his eyes, for otherwise, the water tries to confront him.
“It is but natural that streets will get waterlogged after a heavy shower and that holds true for Calcutta, Mumbai, Bangalore or London,” he had said last July.
Only if more Calcuttans learnt to ballet in water!
A Ravana half-killed
The sputtering rocket firework “arrow” shot by sports and transport minister Subhas Chakraborty zipped along the wire straight into the giant 20 ft Ravana effigy at the Sahid Minar Maidan. But neither Ravana, nor Kumbhakarna or Meghnad, burst into flames.
A 50,000-strong crowd that watched the Ramlila dance drama, felt cheated when it wasn’t followed by fireworks. But that is what the traditional Ravana Vadh spectacle had come to be.
Begun in 1962, Calcutta ’s own Ramlila — hosted by the Punjabee Bradaree — hasn’t received half the support its Delhi counterpart has. A splendid display of fireworks was initially the centre of the Dussehra programme, where the three rakshasa effigies stuffed with fireworks burned brightly for half an hour or more.
But over the years, considerations of sound and air pollution and fire safety have arisen, more so because the venue is within 3 km of Victoria Memorial.
“Since last year, no crackers were used and only the effigies were set on fire, but this year, even that was not possible as we didn’t have permission from the army and the government departments to burn the effigies. So though the arrows touched the dolls, the fire was quickly put out,” said S. Chatterjee, the administrator of Punjabee Bradaree.
The sports minister offered the Salt Lake stadium as an alternative venue. But can there be crackers and a full-fledged burning? Fire minister Pratim Chatterjee, who “killed” Meghnad with a flaming arrow, assured help. The programme underlines the inevitable victory of good over evil, said Bradaree officials.
But good always has a tough time first, doesn’t it?
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation must have spent several lakhs to repair the broken, pitted and battered pavements in the central districts of the city before the pujas.
It was impossible to walk on them without spraining one’s ankles, or slipping and falling headlong in the slush, thanks to the water that accumulates in the craters. And of course, the hawkers and other encroachments were ever present.
About a month ago, CMC contractors began to raise the level of the pavements in sections. Which was good, considering that the level of the carriageway in many roads had become higher than that of the pavement, leading to almost instant waterlogging after a shower.
But the raised pavements are posing another problem as these were repaired piecemeal. The levels of the different sections of the pavements are different, so basins of water form in them after a smart shower. It has also made walking on them more risky than before. One wonders who has gained by it.
Hard to crack
At a Park Street restaurant, a guest, from another city, recently ordered a crab dish. It arrived, but the crabs were inside their shells. The guest asked for claw-clippers. She was sweetly told that there weren’t any. “We had four of them four years ago, but they are all lost. If I had taken your order, I would have asked you to choose another dish,” the waiter said. But the crabs had to be eaten. “Should I take them back into the kitchen and crack the shells?” The guest agreed. The crabs returned, now edible. The guest didn’t ask what was used. “Calcutta will be Calcutta,” she felt, “Nano or no Nano.”
(Contributed by Sudeshna Banerjee, Sebanti Sarkar and Soumitra Das)