The Telegraph
Friday , November 30 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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A slice of rural Bengal at KC Block puja fair

Besides pandal-hopping on Jagaddhatri puja, residents flocked to the fair at KC Block that was held over the weekend.

While most of the 30-odd stalls there sold items like hair clips, toys and utensils, some were eye-catching. At one stall, you could get yourself painted. A 40x30cm acrylic portrait would cost Rs 1,500 and would take five hours while a pencil sketch of the same size would take two hours and cost Rs 600.

“Since people are unwilling to sit a stretch for so long, many are giving us their photographs and the painter Dibyendu Bijoli, is keeping a likeness ready in two days,” said stall keeper Subhajit Mondal. Girlfriend-boyfriend pictures and those of one’s parents topped the list. The stall also displayed portraits of film personalities like Mithun Chakraborty, Prosenjit and Lata Mangeshkar but Rs 65 sketches of Uttam Kumar and Satyajit Ray sold the most.

Pictures by Sanat Kumar Sinha

Another crowd-puller was the grip tester. The machine had a handle that had to be gripped with both hands as tightly as one could. Based on one’s performance one was being given titles: for children it was respectable to attain a level of 250 pounds and women 290. One who touched 420 pounds was being titled Sri 420 and so on but the highest level was that of “hero”, at 500 pounds. “There are many ‘heroes’ in Salt Lake. I had to return the Rs 3 charge every time someone attained this level,” said owner of the machine Bapi Podder.

The kids’ corner had lots of rides and bouncy castles and the food stalls were forever busy selling Dhakai paratha, ghugni, gaja and jalebis. Some wigs were also selling. Long, straight hair, priced at Rs 150 a wig, outsold buns and wavy hair patterns.

Said Sandip Das, joint secretaries of KC Block Abashik Brinda that organises the fair: “We try to replicate rural fairs here so one won’t find stalls selling saris or salwars. We’ve been holding it for 12 years now and people flock here to get a flavour of rural Bengal.”