A puja in Kidderpore is organising its 95th edition, keeping at the centre of the festivities the memories of the losses that the last year and a half have inflicted on us.
“Our theme is Mone Rekho. All relief activities petered out a month or two after cyclone Yaas. No one thinks about how those families who lost everything in the devastation are surviving. We want our puja to put the spotlight back on their plight,” said Bunty Jainani, secretary of Kidderpore Sarbojanin.
“We also want to pay tribute to some of the prominent personalities we lost to Covid.”
Visitors will enter the puja ground passing under a broken bridge to reach a boat on which relief material is heaped. They will pass by a broken embankment, next to which villagers have stacked sandbags in a bid to block the breach. Lights will create an impression of water lashing the dam.
A fishing warehouse has been turned to a cyclone relief centre, where belongings salvaged from inundated huts, from thrones of household deities to utensils, have been heaped against hanging fishing nets. Cloth bags are piled on the tin roof as well.
A clay model of an old lady with her grandson in her lap is placed next to the shelter. A small speaker plays a conversation between them, with the child pleading with her for boiled rice and the lady cajoling him to make do with puffed rice till the ‘relief babus’ arrive.
“Our idol maker Kesto Das is creating this model along with that of the goddess,” said Avijeet Das, a club member, who is working on the pandal plan. The budget being tight, the club members themselves will take over the execution once the basic structure is ready.
The club, which had gone to Hingalganj with relief materials after the cyclone, plans to walk the talk. “The sights we saw on the trip scarred us. An old lady in the relief queue pointed to her grandchild playing and said the baby did not even know that his father was no more. How will these families survive? We plan to save as much as we can from our budget and provide educational support to five children, orphaned by Covid, who have been foisted on distant relatives,” said Das, who had faced his Behala neighbourhood's hostility when his mother, a nurse, tested positive for Covid early last year.
Another segment of the pandal will be the tribute. Eight personalities have been chosen, including actor Soumitra Chatterjee, poet Sankha Ghosh, author Buddhadeb Guha and tabla player Subhankar Banerjee, who passed away since the last Puja.
“We are approaching their families to seek photographs which we will put up along the approach. Their voices will play on speakers concealed behind the photos. The families will be invited at the opening,” said Jainani.
The adjacent Michael Madhusudan Library has offered a part of its premises to be included in the thematic scheme as Chatterjee and Ghosh had visited the library. “We have a picture of them seated together,” said Jainani.