A journey that started in 2003 is reaching a milestone this autumn — a decade of inspiring the city to organise a safer, happier and more meaningful Puja.
The beat of twin dhaks heralded the beginning of the 10th year of the CESC The Telegraph True Spirit Puja, in association with Kutchina, at The Spring Club last Friday — a movement supported by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and Calcutta police that would embrace 70 more pujas in the course of the evening.
These new entrants into the True Spirit fold had braved inclement weather to reach the Bypass venue and sign up as participants, taking this year’s tally to 300 across Calcutta and Howrah.
A 45-minute slide show took the debutants through the mandated action plan — fire-safety measures, crowd, traffic and waste management, legal sources of electricity, first aid, drinking water, toilets, proper signage and a pledge against forced subscription. Additional eco-friendly measures would win the organisers bonus points.
“In Calcutta, a festival such as Durga Puja epitomises the collaborative effort of entire communities that gather for those few days on a shared platform of happiness and enjoyment, irrespective of caste, creed, religion and language,” said Amitava Shome, general manager of customer relations at CESC. “An initiative like TSP helps generate awareness for certain essential aspects that will foster awareness of safety, civic consciousness and social commitment — essential for making the festival meaningful, safe and happy.”
Arijit Basu, deputy general manager of customer relations at CESC, gave the organisers tips on how to meet the safety norms.
“There is a risk of rain during Puja. Do not use joined or exposed wires. Nor should you block the approach to a pillar box or transformer. That will make it difficult for us to reach in an emergency. Try LED lamps to minimise consumption,” he said.
The gathering was a mix of big and small-budget pujas. “Winning a prize is not the aim. We want to see where we stand in regard to the TSP parameters,” said Saroj Bhowmick, secretary of Dhakuria’s Babubagan Puja Committee.
The puja has introduced a separate gate for physically challenged visitors and will issue special coupons for packed food to elderly people who cannot come for the community lunch.
Rubbing shoulders with Babubagan representatives were organisers of the No. 3 Chatterjee Colony Puja in New Alipore. “We were hesitant about competing against the big pujas. It took us a while to figure out that TSP provides a level playing field. Budget is not the decider,” said representative Sankhadeep Banerjee.
Howrah Bijoy Sammilany, Kadamtala, has embraced a theme wherein the goddess toils in the field so that she can sell the produce and buy clothes for an orphaned girl. “We have harvested paddy within our pandal to depict the concept,” said Soumen Khara.
True to the spirit of its theme, the club donates clothes to the needy every winter.
A Santoshpur puja that is in its sixth year has devised a novel way to ensure that the subscription they collect is strictly voluntary. “We keep a notebook at a prominent spot in our para for months before Puja so that people can jot down the amount they would like to donate. We then visit them with a bill for the indicated amount,” said Kanchan Maitra of Sthaniya Adhibashibrinda. “Our budget is meagre but our residents are happy.”