The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A story to tell, of deep belief

I am an honorary Calcuttan, as my work takes me to Calcutta every month. I get very deeply moved by the Pujas, not because of the religious side to it, but because of the faith people — Bengali or non-Bengali — display at this time.

Unlike Diwali, with its noise and violence, the Durga puja is Bengali in the sense it has emotion with dignity. Diwali — which is one step from hooliganism — has become rowdy and commercialised to an extent that the Pujas have not.

It is still about devotion, chanting, prayer.

By charitra, the Pujas are Bengali, characterised by deep, strong belief, not breast-beating. It is like a good baul song — it has a story to tell, but it also has a melancholic rhythm…

As an advertiser, I blame the industry for the growing commercialisation of the Pujas. Everything is about how many ads can be fitted in… on arches, gates… anywhere. I believe that now collecting money for pandals has become a bit of a racket as well.

The Puja holidays have always been envied. For seven to 10 days, you can get no work done in town. I remember, when I was running Lintas (Calcutta), the staff would leave for long breaks.

This is bad for business. Small companies and factories run at a loss, and only retailers do well. As a marketing man, I have to say this throws business off stride.

Most businesses in Mumbai close during Ganesh Chaturthi for a day. Calcutta has to come to grips with this. The Durga puja brand has become synonymous with two things — ritual and the emotional catharsis it brings, and the love for a holiday.

I find that most of the festive season ads are corny and typical. They will all feature a drum or something like that. We’ve seen it before, why do we need to see it again' I would love to see a company come up with something different. They can make a shocking statement like: ‘This season we are not celebrating Durga Puja’ and then say ‘Instead, we are donating all the money to charity’.

Tradition is a dangerous thing… It puts a weight on our shoulders.

Calcutta isn’t a tourist destination during this time of the year because everyone knows they will be stuck in traffic for hours and nothing will function. People go to see the Kerala boat races, the Khajuraho dance festival and the Mumbai garba-raas, because they are a spectacle…

People will dance all night but then they will wake up in the morning and go to work. Even when I went to Rio during the Carnival, we would never sleep before six in the morning, but we woke up on time and did whatever we had to do. Festivities should be restricted to the evening and night.

Calcutta must adjust to modern life.

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