If the deluge on Friday before Saptami had left the city flooded and spirits dampened, the city managed to bounce back for the four days of festivity. But there was no let-up from the skies that plagued every Puja day — 0.2 mm of pitter-patter on Sashthi, 14.8 mm of shower-drizzle on Saptami, 5.5 mm of sporadic rain on Ashtami and 17.4 mm of downpour on Navami. For the indefatigable pandal-hopper, this was a Puja of more dark cloud than silver lining.
Remarks: The weather god did play spoilsport, but by day, not night.
The traffic police nightmare — managing the pandal-hopper in the pouring rain — came true, but the thoroughfares still remained snarl-free. By Sashthi night, the full force of 20,000 had got into the act. Smooth vehicular movement along all thoroughfares spelt hassle-free pandal-hopping or homecoming. Jawed Shamim, deputy commissioner of police (traffic), said on Navami afternoon: “We started chalking out traffic-management plans two months before the Puja. And all our plans clicked.”
Remarks: The least-chaotic Puja traffic in recent memory.
An early Puja, a late monsoon, poor coordination among agencies, roads in disrepair and a waterlogged Navami meant a thumbs down for the civic managers. But the essential services were well in place.
Remarks: Much room for improvement.
Metro Railway is the one thing that’s sure to move, and move on time, during the Puja. No wonder, 2.48 lakh passengers took the underground on Saptami, which was still 0.7 per cent less compared to last year “due to bad weather”. G. Mohanty, chief operations manager, Metro Railway, claimed “no disruptions” till Ashtami, thanks to Team Metro and 550-odd security personnel. The firsts this Puja — armed paramilitary personnel on platforms; opening time brought forward from 3 pm to 2 pm; CCTVs with colour monitors and recording facilities installed. A black mark: cleanliness was a casualty on some platforms.
Remarks: Increased frequency during late evenings would ease crowd crush.
Pujas in Calcutta are no longer just about clay idols. Screen idols matter, too. It all started as early as Chaturthi (Tuesday) when John Abraham kicked off the festivities at Priya Ranjan Das Munshi’s puja on Pratapaditya Road, with Sharmila Tagore and Nana Patekar. After Mr Dhoom, it was the turn of Miss Murder to make the star-struck Puja crowd drool at a Nicco Park Dandiya on Saptami, even if it was as short-lived as 10 minutes. City girl-turned-Bolly-starlet Celina Jaitley did the star turn at Netaji Indoor Stadium the same night. Navami night awaited two hot bods — Neha Dhupia at Swabhumi and Payal Rohatgi at Nicco Park. The big Dandiya duel — Rakhi Sawant at Nicco Park vs Mika at RCGC on Dashami night. Plus, Kangana Ranaut to make Woh Lamhe memorable at Swabhumi (Monday).
Remarks: Dil maange more.
Precautionary measures were taken at all 874 pandals in the city and adjoining areas. Gopal Bhattacharya, director of fire services, said: “Our officials inspected all the sites. Puja organisers were asked to sign a declaration before being given pandal permission.” During inspection, the department issued notices to 43 organisers for not going by the book, and even lodged FIRs against two. On all Puja days, 350 fire tenders are on high alert.
Remarks: The fire department did everything but carry out a final pandal inspection.
PANDAL-HOPPER: THE FOOTLOOSE
Pradip Chatterjee, deputy commissioner of police (headquarters): “The Puja 2006 crowd has been very disciplined, studiously following traffic and pedestrian rules. The credit for a smooth and peaceful Puja goes to the pandal-hopper.”
PANDAL-HOPPER: THE FOODIE
Nondon Bagchi (GoodLife food columnist): “Every restaurant seems to be doing brisk business as usual, but street fare and junk food remain the top draws for pandal-hoppers. The big pandals resemble food courts. A taste of things to come: a Domino’s Pizza stall at Maddox Square, near my place.”
PANDAL-HOPPER: THE FASHIONISTA
Agnimitra Paul (Fashion and Tollywood designer): “The average Calcuttan is clueless about what will look nice on them, even during the Puja. If it’s a beautiful silk sari, the colours are wrong, their styling is not up to the mark and an overdose of jewellery kills the look. Lots of younger girls were in long skirts. Fashionable maybe, but not appealing at all. There’s a long way to go before fashion reaches mass level. The men were safely dressed, as usual. No experiments, nothing striking.
Rating: 5/10 for Her and 6/10 for Him