The wettest Durga Puja in two decades has left Jamshedpur sulking and cursing the fun-wrecker called Phailin.
While downpour since Mahashtami — when the severe cyclonic storm made landfall in neighbouring Odisha — put most pandal-hoppers under house arrest, festive-time vendors incurred heavy losses. The few who braved inclement weather found poor visibility, debris-littered roads and mucky pandal premises challenging.
Among disappointed revellers were young professionals and students who had returned to their hometown for Durga Puja.
“We had a roaring time till Ashtami afternoon. And then, all hell broke loose. Pandal-hopping was impossible as it rained cats and dogs since Saturday late night. Sitting at home was just pathetic, but what option did we have. It was mucky everywhere,” said Preeti Paul, an employee with Wipro in Calcutta.
She added that Navami was worse. “It rained heavily from morning till afternoon. The evening too saw sporadic rainfall. The cyclone ruined our homecoming.”
Golgappa and litti vendors willingly joined the gripe bandwagon. With pandal-hoppers a trickle, there were few to munch on their otherwise crowd-puller snacks.
“I had taken a loan of Rs 30,000 to put up a stall. I was doing good business from Sashthi, but the downpour came as a dampener. Since Sunday, hardly anyone came to savour my golgappas and papri chaat. I don’t know how I will repay my loan. There is no profit,” said Anil Mahto, a vendor near the Bagbera Puja.
Some never-say-die revellers, however, made the best of what they had.
“Durga Puja comes once a year. So, rain or shine, we always hop pandals. This year was real bad and we preferred to stay in Circuit House Area on Ashtami. On Navami, we went to Telco and Birsanagar,” said homemaker Tuli Sengupta.
Added Mumbai-based architect Rim Bhattacharjee: “I got wet, but couldn’t miss the Puja addas. I went to Beldih Kalibari and New Farm Area because staying indoors was just out of question despite the challenges outside.”
Puja organising committees were largely inconvenienced. In at least three places, including Ghorabandha in Telco, a fierce Phailin flattened welcome gates on Sunday. The incessant rain also wrecked illumination.
“Our Puja is best known for its lightwork. But, the rain damaged electrical fittings and there was no face-saver,” said a member of Bhuiyandih Area Sarbojanin Durga Puja Committee.
Pandals were wrecked in Bhuiyandih, Baridih, Telco and Sonari, and volunteers had a harrowing time.
The ceremonial farewell to the goddess was a lesser challenge under special vigil.
Nearly 290 idols were immersed at 12 ghats across the city on Monday. Two battalions from the Sonari army camp and two from National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Calcutta, ensured smooth and safe bisarjan.
While the phalanx of personnel was deployed along Subernarekha, the East Singhbhum district control room too monitored immersions.
“The 25-member NDRF team made their maiden appearance on the request of (East Singhbhum) deputy commissioner Amitabh Kaushal in the wake of the cyclone alert,” said ADM (law and order) Ajit Shanker.
Immersions along Subernarekha began around 9.30am and continued up to 1am. Keeping in mind the high water level, the administration allowed only two idols at a time. Cranes were used for giant pratimas.
The NDRF, on its part, was armed with two inflated boats, 22 life jackets and eight professional swimmers. A deep-water diver was also in position.