| MOOD MONTAGE: (from left) Traffic at a standstill on CR Avenue, actress Raima Sen joins tribal guests for a jig at a south Calcutta puja pandal and dandiya sweeps the dance floor. Pictures by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya, Pabitra Das and Rashbehari DasKumari puja at Belur Math. Picture by Amit Datta
Smooth sailing for the traffic flow in one zone, full-stop jam in another' Crowd crawl (33.5 million over three festive days, claim cops) was once again the order of the Pujas, but the overall traffic-management marksheet for the 2,730-odd policemen on duty near pandals showed better results than most years.
About 2,500 policemen have been manning the streets on a 12-hour rotational basis, with 230 sergeants equipped with wireless sets to steer traffic.
The most chaotic corridors were: Rashbehari Avenue connector, CR Avenue (from Central Metro station); the Ultadanga-Sovabazar stretch and Grey Street; Jodhpur Park-Selimpur-Babubagan zone.
Far from the madding crowd in congested Calcutta, a gentle breeze, the rustle of leaves, the lazy flow of the Ganga mesmerised visitors to Belur Math on Navami morning. Remains of a day when peace and piety went hand in hand, the vastness of Belur and its unhurried ambience continue to allow thousands to spend time here without haste or hassle.
The swamijis, in trademark orange or pristine white, set the tone for the simplicity inherent in the solemnity of the proceedings. On Navami, once the curtains came down (Ma Durga enjoys total privacy during mealtimes), families spread out on the grass, some for an impromptu picnic.
Pushing and shoving were significant by their absence, for pranami or bhog or in the meditation hall.
From prayer in tranquillity to power of the twirl. GenY's puja pursuits were a far cry from reverie on the riverfront, as the dance floor ruled on the mainland. The stick skill stage in the city has never been bigger, as revellers blended the spirit of Durga puja with dandiya moves of Navratri, from Salt Lake stadium to Park Street, via Swabhumi .
'It's no longer an affair of the Gujarati community alone. The footfall has ranged between 10,000 and 15,000 every night,' said Anish Parekh of Payal, which has been organising dandiya shows in town for the past 11 years.
Whatever be the music ' folk or fusion ' the girls in their lehnga-cholis and boys in their kediyas and kurtas twirled to tradition (or techno) late into the festive nights.
'This year, around 20 associations have organised dandiyas and there are crowds everywhere,' said singer Sangeeta Lahoti, adding that the 'involvement of families' was the high point of the dandiya week.
Cleaner and greener Pujas, celebrations in keeping with the true spirit of the festivities' Rising awareness about the way forward for people-friendly Pujas was an endearing image this October.
Grandeur and gimmickry were there all right, but the focus has started to shift to preservation of trees, debarring of plastic, stifling sound pollution, participation in fire drills and electricity usage workshops, providing toilet, first-aid and drinking-water facilities, community projects'.
'Conditions are far from ideal,' observed judges of CESC The Telegraph True Spirit Puja, 'but it's a great start and we can look forward to the next step in each of the categories in the form of even better facilities next year.'
A big thank you to the rain god, who went on Puja leave after threatening to play spoilsport till just a few days before the festivities. Word from the weatherman: 'The sky was clear and there was even a light northerly wind blowing, that made the Puja evenings pleasant.'