The scrap installation at a Kestopur pandal. (Amit Datta)
Puja organisers were left despairing over deadlines after rain stalled and, in some cases, spoilt work at pandals across town on Sunday afternoon.
The overcast sky with 11 days to go for Puja mirrored the gloom that Mamata Banerjee had spotted on the faces of the organisers at an interaction on Friday. “The organisers are glum and so are the revellers…. Don’t know if this weather will prevail,” she had said.
Theme artist Rupchand Kundu wasn’t just glum by Sunday evening, he was at his wits’ end on how to complete his labour of love. Sunday was to be a big day at the Prafulla Kanan (Paschim) Adhibashibrinda Puja in Kestopur that Kundu has conceptualised.
The plan was to weld a 35ft installation of scrap metal in front of an under-construction building being decked up as the pandal. A crane had been hired to lift two car doors and a human face made of scrap atop the installation.
The decorative elements on the façade were being painted when the sky opened up around 1pm, sending the team of workers scurrying to get off the bamboo scaffoldings and drag a sheet of tarpaulin over the installation. “The scaffolds and chappals get slippery. On top of that, the workers are handling electricity. It’s a risk,” Kundu said.
But with the crane already rented at Rs 1,200 an hour, there was little choice but to resume work after the shower turned into a drizzle. A kirtan that was to be held on the pavement had to be cancelled, though.
Of the five pujas that theme-maker Gauranga Kuilya is helming, the one affected the most is Abasar.
Kuilya rushed to the Bhowanipore pandal to supervise contingency measures as soon as it started raining on Sunday.
The approach to the pandal is lined with dried palm leaves. “They represent a field of crops and need to be coloured green. My men had started the job this morning but had to stop and hang a cover over the corner,” Kuilya said.
The worried theme artist instructed his workers to routinely drain out the rainwater accumulating on the tarpaulin, lest it cause more damage.
“We have not been able to put up decorative panels on the pandal walls at the other pujas too. If work keeps getting pushed back, the pressure will be tremendous after Mahalaya,” Kuilya said.
In Salt Lake’s BJ Block, the theme is Benaras and the artist intends recreating Ganga through lights. The pool of rainwater may have produced a more realistic illusion of Ganga but the organisers weren’t amused.
“Colouring had just started but got washed off. After the rain stopped, work could not resume as paint won’t grip on a wet surface. This means we are paying workers for sitting idle and spending more on paint,” rued joint secretary Umashankar Ghosh Dastidar.