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New York to next door

Virtual programmes during puja makes it possible for residents residing far-off to participate
The twin Mukherjee sisters perform
Sourced by the correspondent
Ashok Chatterjee

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CJ Block streamed cultural programmes on Saptami and Ashtami evenings on its Facebook page to keep residents entertained in the absence of on-stage cultural programmes this year. 

The virtual platform allowed an NRI Nandini Kundu Guha to participate. The lady, who danced to the Tagore song Anandaloke Mangaloke, lives in New York now but her parents Ashis and Malabika Kundu are residents of CJ Block.

"Trained by Ranjabati Sircar, she would perform in block programmes when she lived in Salt Lake,” they said. 

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While most virtual cultural programmes had to do away with plays this year, CJ Block managed to pull off one for Durga puja.

The participants here had no problem gathering as they belonged to the same family. Unlock was staged by a four-member family of parents, son and daughter. An apt subject to explore in the present times, Unlock told the story of  how parents, visiting their son and daughter-in-law, behave when stuck at home due to lockdown. Uneasiness of both the generations comes to the fore when they have to share space for a longer duration.

Susmita Mukherjee, who plays the mother, wrote the script. “I felt the need to highlight this topic as many parents were stuck with their children settled outside the state, or vice versa. I tried to show how the generation gap plays its part in relationships. But I chose to give it a happy ending,” said Susmita.

The family got just a day to rehearse together but for the Mumbai-based son, Sourya, and Bangalore-based daughter, Sayanti (who played the daughter-in-law), the short preparation was not a hiccup as they had performed as a family before. “Sourya had arrived early on leave and Sayanti landed just before Puja. I had shared the script with all in advance, including my doctor-husband Sandip, so we could prepare on our own,” said Susmita, who has been writing short stories since school. 

The lockdown also gave retired engineer K.L. Sanyal time to complete a book on outer space, titled Onno Prithibir Khoje, and he went online to share his thoughts with his neighbours. “It took me almost four months to finish the book, including the research on it,” he said, while being interviewed by the block’s cultural secretary Debabrata Das. The conversation was streamed online as part of the cultural programme.

The 1964 Bengal Engineering College graduate is a fan of Arthur C. Clarke and his science fiction novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. He is now writing as a full-time hobby and has completed another novel, Pretinir Prem. “In school, my poems and stories would regularly get published in the annual magazine,” he said.

Twin sisters, Srinika and Srihitha Mukherjee of Class III, put up a dance recital on Saptami. “Both learn Odissi and were very disappointed as cultural programmes were not being held this Puja. But when they learnt that they could still perform, albeit in front of the camera, they were very excited. I choreographed the dance with tips picked up from YouTube. The pandemic taught me this skill,” said Moumita, their mother.

Law professional Srijani Bhattacharya Mukherjee presented an agomoni song on Ashtami. Singing against the backdrop of the Durga idol at home, Srijani said she initially had planned to dance but could not manage due to paucity of time. 

“Cultural shows are an intrinsic part of the Pujas but since we couldn’t organise them on stage this year we decided to hold them virtually. After all, Zoom meetings are the new normal. So we had some pre-recorded and some interactive virtual events. The end result has been good,” said Das.

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