Monday, 30th October 2017

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IIM alumni come together at Durga Puja

Pandal-hopping, dhunuchi dance on reunion menu

By Debraj Mitra in Calcutta
  • Published 5.10.19, 2:04 AM
  • Updated 5.10.19, 2:04 AM
  • 2 mins read
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The customary group picture from the graduation ceremony at IIM-A in 1986 Telegraph picture

Among Puja revellers in Calcutta this year will be a group of corporate bigwigs flying in from all over the world.

The men and women in their mid-50s are usually busy running companies but in the coming days, they will be busy pandal-hopping and joining in the dhunuchi dance.

The 1984-86 batch of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, is celebrating a reunion in Calcutta that is expected to be attended by around 50 former students, most of whom will come with their spouses.

“The idea happened during 2018 Puja when we shared photos of pandals on our WhatsApp group,” said Kushal Sengupta, a former student based in Calcutta and a key organiser of the reunion.

“This will be a cosmopolitan gathering. The earlier get-togethers attracted 20-25 people on an average. Durga Puja in Calcutta was the pull that people could not turn down,” Sengupta, a healthcare-software professional, added.

Thirty-nine rooms have been booked at Tollygunge Club for the guests. The rest are staying at relatives’ and friends’ places in Calcutta.

The first meeting of many of the batchmates in four years — the last reunion was held at the Ahmedabad campus in 2015 — was at the dinner at the club on Sashthi evening.

One of the highlights of the reunion will be a river cruise on the Ganges on the morning of Saptami. The cruise will leave the Millennium Ghat jetty at 11am and sail along the river. A brief stopover at Belur is also on the cards. The on-board lunch will be a traditional Bengali affair.

After a continental dinner, a fleet of 17 Toyota Innovas will take the guests out for a night of pandal-hopping. From Deshapriya Park in the south to Dum Dum Park in the north, several stops are planned.

Venkat Mantha, who hails from Andhra Pradesh and is now settled in the US, is kicked about the reunion.

“My father was a railway officer and I have spent years in Andal, Farakka, Asansol and Dhanbad. The last time I spent Durga Puja in Calcutta was 22 years ago. The pushpanjali and khichudi bhog still linger in my mind. I cannot wait to land,” Mantha told Metro over the phone from New Jersey, where he runs a software services company, before leaving for Calcutta.

Devina Mehra, the chairperson of an investment banking and securities company who shuttles between Dubai and Mumbai, is equally excited.

“Meeting so many old friends is special. Spending time with them during Durga Puja in Calcutta will be a double delight,” she said.

Ashtami afternoon will have a photo session lined up, where men will be clad in identical dhuti-punjabis and women will wear saris. After a Bengali lunch, some will head towards the lush golf course on the club premises for a round of their favourite sport.

In the evening, the group will head for the puja of a housing complex near Pancha Sayar in the southern fringes for the city. Some of them will sway to the tunes of the dhak, holding a clay pot filled with burning coal, coconut husk and incense (dhunuchi) to the beats of the dhak.

Rajeev Ahuja, executive director of a private bank headquartered in Mumbai, has come to Calcutta but not during Durga Puja. “The pandals are amazing, if pictures are anything to go by. I want to see the intricate designs in person now,” he said.