The Telegraph
Friday , October 26 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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It was a great experience because I never really get to go pandal-hopping. I really liked the way the pujas have maintained the systematic and organised side of the celebrations, thanks to the True Spirit movement. I’m also glad that Tony (Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury) was there as we could catch up on a lot of things in between judging


The movement to gift Calcutta a safer and happier Durga Puja by instilling the True Spirit of celebration in festival organisers has appropriately clocked a decade in a year that has thrown up its first two-time Model Puja winner.

The judges’ panel for the CESC The Telegraph True Spirit Puja 2012, partnered by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and West Bengal Fire Services with Vedic Realty and GD Hospital & Diabetes Institute as associate sponsors, chose Behala Club as the Model Puja of the season from among five standout contestants shortlisted over two days of screening the 280-strong (and growing) True Spirit family.

Actress Raima Sen, industrialist Harsh Neotia and wife Madhu, film-maker Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, shooter Joydeep Karmakar, American Center director Jeffrey K. Reneau, Sandwip Halder of West Bengal Fire Services, Aniruddha Basu and Subrata Auddy of CESC, and Raj K. Modi of Vedic Realty had set out on the final leg of this year’s journey from Bengal Club on Saptami morning.

Their mission: to find the spark that epitomises the True Spirit best.

When the results were declared after a day of crisscrossing Calcutta, auto driver Sanjit Biswas couldn’t have agreed more with the judges’ choice. Biswas had knocked on Behala Club’s door on Mahalaya-eve, seeking help to raise money for his nine-year-old daughter Sayani’s kidney transplant.

The club handed him a token amount within a week and promised more by Lakshmi Puja so that Sayani, who is already in SSKM Hospital, isn’t kept waiting.

The judges may not have heard the Biswas family’s endorsement but they saw enough to name the club the winner of the Rs 50,000 cheque.

Fire service official Halder was impressed with the space for crowd movement within a pandal made of coloured bamboo poles in different geometric formations. Film-maker Roy Chowdhury was fulsome in his praise of the lights illuminating bamboo poles painted in rainbow hues.

“The play of lights is brilliant and low on energy consumption,” he said.

If Behala Club was a statement in simplicity, Suruchi Sangha was garlanded in grandeur. But crowd management was a challenge for this New Alipore puja and that is where it scored high.

Suruchi Sangha earned Five Star Puja status and Rs 25,000.

model puja: behala club sarbojanin durgotsav

Pictures: Rashbehari Das and Pabitra Das

Maniktala C.I.T. Pally Scheme VI (M) Durgotsav, a no-frills puja organised by 350 families, was the other recipient of the Five Star Puja status.

A week ago, the puja committee had donated 23 tricycles, three wheelchairs and 55 artificial limbs to challenged people in association with an NGO. It also distributed 100 saris and 150 mosquito nets.

True Spirit veteran 41 Pally of Haridevpur got a Four Star salute for its pandal based on the snakes-and-ladders game and illuminated with energy-saving LED lamps.

As CESC duo Auddy and Basu got busy checking the electric circuit, American Center director Reneau lauded the puja for being sensitive towards children by choosing a theme they could comprehend.

41 Pally is also where Raima met her youngest fan of the day in 12-year-old Puja Biswas. “Oi didita boi kore (She works in films),” Puja told the other children gathered at the gate of the orphanage opposite the pandal. Raima obliged her with an autograph.

Tangra Gholpara Sarbojanin, the other Four Star Puja, is planning to build an old-age home for which it has raised Rs 6.5 lakh. The Four Star tag will add Rs 20,000 to the kitty.

Industrialist Neotia stressed the need for the True Spirit movement to continue. “Earlier, pujas would be held in parks. But with more pujas coming up in tighter spaces, it has become imperative to be mindful of crowd comfort and safety,” he said.

The Truly Green title went to Olabibitola Sarbojanin Durgotsab Committee, the True to Tradition award to Sanghasree, the Puja that Cares crown to Mahatirtham Citizens’ Forum and the True to Social Commitment honour to Kendua Sarbojanin Durgotsab Committee. Behala Nutan Dal was inducted into the Hall of Fame.