The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Serving God through man

It is almost unanimous. Young Calcuttans want less splendour and more real value during the Pujas. A flood of letters poured in when Time to Talk asked readers “Should half of Puja chanda be donated for a good cause'” Here are some of the letters, with the rest to follow…

lA portion of puja chanda must be donated to people living below the poverty line. They do not have the money to buy new clothes. It might help them live their lives with some dignity.

Sananda Sen

lRather than waste so much chanda on grand pandals, décor and lighting, the money can be used instead to light up the lives of the less fortunate. If the funds are spent honestly, it may not work miracles overnight, but it can make a difference. It will also encourage the spirit of donating money for the right reasons. Isn’t Durga puja the time for generosity'

Enakshi Biswas

IInd year, Presidency College

lPart of puja collections can be used for social causes. Less can be spent on decorations and lighting, more money can be raised from corporate sponsors.

Subhobrata Basu

IIIrd year, Asutosh College

lPuja committees do social work that should actually be done by the government. Most of the funds are spent on decorators, electrical work and idols. The craftsmen themselves are underprivileged, so the money is really going to a good cause.

Jayanta Datta

lThe money could be spent on hospitals, for better treatment of the poor, for educating underprivileged children, or could be donated to NGOs.

Amrita Sethia

Ist year, Shri Shikshayatan College

lPuja chanda should not be donated for a good cause. The Pujas should not be curbed for things the government should tackle. Calcutta is famous for its grand and exquisite Durga puja celebrations. Donating half the funds would take away its glory.

Suyash Jaiswal

Class X, St Xavier’s Collegiate School

lDurga Puja is a festival for all. But how can someone enjoy the Pujas on an empty stomach'

Sharmistha Dan

Class XI, Shri Shikshayatan

lIn fact, 75 per cent of chanda must be donated. Food for the poor is more necessary than the temporary pleasure of a pretty pandal. Shouldn’t the fulfilment of fundamental rights be prioritised over entertainment'

Manan Agarwal

lIn keeping with the auspicious nature of the Pujas, half the money could be donated for a good cause, to make these four days a true celebration.

Nandini Dasgupta

Bhawanipur Education Society College

lPuja may be a time to let your hair down, but we must keep the less unfortunate in mind too. If by donating some amount of money from the chanda we can bring a smile to their faces, then that can be our best Puja gift.

Piali Dasgupta

Class XII, Patha Bhavan

lThe competitive spirit has seeped into the Pujas, and decorations and lighting eat up much of the chanda. Instead, 10 per cent of the funds raised should be earmarked for the relief of the poor people of the area. Little acts of kindness could brighten all faces during the Pujas.

Rituja Chowdhury

Salt Lake School

lFestivities are not only for the rich but also for those who do not have the means to enjoy the occasion. We should help them by lending a hand.

Suchi Arya

Class XII, Modern High School

lI am sure that all the chanda is not spent on the puja. The money could be easily spent on charity or emergency relief.

Vineeta Nair

Class XII, Modern High School

lDonating half the chanda for good causes may be a good gesture, but it is not a very feasible one. Organisers always want their puja to be the biggest and the best, spending lavishly.

Aakash Kamal Misra

RCC, Jadavpur campus

lPujas are meant to ensure the well-being of an entire community. But this spirit has disappeared, replaced by ostentation. We should remember Swami Vivekananda’s words on serving God through man.

Achyut Kr Banerjee

Class XI, RKMVC College


Sticks & twirls

Young ladies and gents in bright colours, with a hop in their step and sticks in their hands… They stood out in the crowd, even amidst the hordes of puja revellers.

Every dandiya site in the city saw a mad rush. Like at Utsav, the three-day dandiya organised by Disha Creations. Held at The Park, from Saturday to Monday, the revellers were spilling onto the streets.

The crowd — from five-year-olds to senior citizens — kept pouring in. The organisation which hosts a number of youth activities around the year, relaxed the dress code, though the hall was decked up with chunris and bangles.

Participants were dressed in traditional Gujarati garb (mirror work and all), with the odd one out flashing flamboyant western wear.

The event, supported by Interact, kicked off with aarti before Durga. It was the time to show off the fancy footwork, with traditional numbers like Pankhira, Jagdambe bolo ambe and Dholi taro, played by Gora Ujir’s band, leading the line-up. Then it was time for the ‘Disco Dandiya’ tracks, like Dola re, Radha kaise na jale, Bardasht and Koi kahe… courtesy DJ Akash.

A dhamaka was in store for the crowd at the stroke of midnight, with the help of a Punjabi bhangra troupe. Prizes were given to the best-dressed couple, the best dancers and the most innovative style of dandiya. Actress Moon Moon Sen also dropped by on Monday night.

The stars were shining at the Lake Land Country Club dandiya, held from October 12 to 14, with characters Saina and Kunal from Kahin Kissi Roz and Prerna Sharma and Anurag Basu from Kasauti Zindagi Kay dropping by.

The turnout at Netaji Indoor Stadium was impressive, as usual, with the competitive element being the highlight here. From 6 pm, the dancing began, with everyone taking the floor. But after midnight, the top dancers were chosen to continue, after which the Garba competitions began, as the crowds watched from the stands, or headed for other dandiyas in town.

Harsh Vardhan Sonthalia and Rishabh Bapna


Kids’ verdict

A nail out of place, or lack of fire safety measures, plastic bottles lying around or no drinking water… These were just a few of the parameters seven kid judges had set for deciding on which pujas were the most “child-friendly”. The Khadim’s Nojor Kara Amader Para Shishubondhu Sharod Puroshkar was awarded on grounds of cleanliness, safety precautions and opportunities for the children, judged by the children of various city schools, under the aegis of the NGO Prayasam.

Arunava Hazra of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Gaurav Talukdar of St James’, Dipa Saha of Sarada Prasad Institute for Girls, Nivedita Bhardwaj of La Martiniere, Sayan Choudhury of Salt Lake School, Anurupa Bosu of Sri Aurobindo Institute and Shibashish Ghosh of Monohar Academy did the rounds on Panchami, Sashthi and Saptami. Not only did they speak to the adults in charge, they also spoke to the kids to get their side of the story.

Finally, the Chaltabagan Lohapatty puja won for cleanliness, New Alipore’s Suruchi Sangha for safety precautions and Aikataan, in Selimpur, for opportunities for the children (given for proper facilities like drinking water, whether children are involved with decisions, if children can view the idol with ease…)

On Sashthi, 200 children from Prayasam, the Rishi Aurobindo squatter’s colony, near Ultadanga, and children of Salt Lake rickshaw-pullers accompanied the judges for a day of pandal-hopping.

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