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Way with bright lights: Park St lightman

He stands quietly, watching the stream of revellers take pictures and admire the illumination which, by consensus, is the best-ever in recent memory on Park Street.

A face in the jostling crowd he may seem, but Asim Dey is not one of the thousands of Christmas Day visitors who thronged Calcutta’s fun stretch on Wednesday night. He is the man who has lit up Park Street.

Dey is the new-age lighting wizard from Chandernagore in the post-Sridhar Das phase.

“Mingling in the crowd during a festival is how I judge public reaction. The feedback is vital for improvement,” smiles the 42-year-old, as cellphones go click-click all around him.

He has been illuminating Park Street in the Christmas week for three years now on behalf of the state tourism department but this time he says he was given a free hand.

That, along with a 10 per cent rise in budget, seems to have done the trick. “The last couple of years, I was asked to give prominence to the colour green which minimised the effect. In place of the green ‘rice’ lights, this time we have shifted to multi-coloured LEDs. Hence, the riot and clarity of colours,” he explains.

He was among the pioneers in eastern India to use LEDs for street-side illumination.

“This is my silver jubilee year in the profession. I had joined with a dream to make a difference. So I never used tooni lights from the start, despite each LED in those days costing Rs 5-7,” says the man who was the first in his family to enter the business and started out by illuminating his own house to attract clients.

A total of eight arches have come up on Park Street. “We used steel scaffolds to ensure safety,” Dey says.

There are another 30 8x4ft structures, ranging from a standing Santa Claus waving his hand, seated on a reindeer sleigh to a Christmas tree. “It took us three months to prepare the 90-odd items that have gone into decorating the entire stretch.”

His favourites are the animated three-dimentional statues of elephant and tiger that he has installed on adjoining Russel Street on request from the Gangaur management. “See, Ma, the tiger roars,” a tot gasps, fascinated. Next to them stand an illuminated penguin, flapping its wings, a chimpanzee and a rhinocerous.

“I had used those first in the College Square puja,” the lighting wizard says with a satisfied smile.

Dey Electrical & Electronics had been in charge of Calcutta’s best-lit traditional puja address for 10 years from 1994 to 2004 and has ventured beyond Bengal since.

“During Durga Puja, I divide time between Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta and Assam.”

Dey’s creation, a 7ft Sachin Tendulkar hitting a cover drive, is now wowing people in Mumbai.

“It was supposed to be a frontage for Gangaur but my Mumbai client put in an emotional plea. So we shifted it to Andheri and put up a large Santa Claus statue here instead.”

He has heard from his maintenance staff that the chief minister had visited Park Street on Tuesday and appreciated the lights.

“We are professionals but it is the smile on people’s faces that brings us the biggest satisfaction,” he signs off.