A campaign to gift a new sari to underprivileged women for Durga Puja, which started at the peak of the pandemic, turned three this year.
Close to 600 cotton saris were distributed in the campaign, called One New Cotton Sari. The recipients live in slums and colonies in and around Patuli and Garia off EM Bypass on the southern fringes of the city.
Many of them work as domestic help.
Their husbands are rickshaw pullers, masons and daily wage earners.
Many of them work as caretakers in the apartments that dot the neighbourhoods.
The campaign is organised by a group called Humans of Patuli, an organisation that works for communal harmony and had campaigned extensively against the new citizenship matrix.
This year, the campaign was helmed by students and teachers of Rokeya Shiksha Kendra, a school run by Humans of Patuli.
Rokeya started in February 2021 as a learning centre for children of marginalised families during the lockdown, when a raging Covid pandemic had forced the closure of schools. But it has over the past year emerged as their second home, offering classes in all subjects as well as hosting reading sessions, film screenings and cultural programmes for its pupils.
“The students of classes XI and XII were split into small groups. They visited the neighbourhoods to identify the recipients (of the new saris). Many of our students come from these places. The children know these places and their people,” said Mamata Naskar, a coordinator at Rokeya.
“Involving the children made the campaign a community-driven exercise and not just another charity,” she added.
Torisha Mondal, in Class XII at the Garia Harimati Debi Uchcha Balika Vidyalaya, was the leader of one such group.
“We visited Masjidpara, near Patuli police station and some colonies in Briji Aranya Asram. We also identified the families of several caretakers (of apartments) between Garia and Baghajatin,” said Torisha.
The preparations started from July-end. By September 25, the distribution of saris was complete. Many people came forward to donate.
Most of them gave money and some gave new saris.
“We went to Phulia (known as a hub of saris) in Santipur, Nadia. We bought in bulk and got a good deal there,” said Kakali Bose, a teacher at Rokeya who was instrumental in the campaign.
The donations came from all quarters. The owner of a busy stationery store on College Street gave Rs 4,000.
A Class XI student gave Rs 400 from his pocket money.
A man with a small business of engraving nameplates suffered huge losses in the pandemic but still makes it a point to contribute to the campaign.
An employee of an MNC is also a regular contributor.
Apart from 550 saris, around 100 children, mostly students of Rokeya, also got new clothes — cotton kurtis for girls and cotton shirts for boys.
Their clothes were mostly bought from Metiabruz.
Mohammed Ashiqul Islam, the owner of a mobile accessories store in Metiabruz, helped the teachers in buying clothes from the local market.
“My brother works with them. He had told me about the campaign and asked me for help. I just took them to some of the traders I know. These people (those behind the campaign) are the real heroes. There is no greater good than helping the needy,” said Ashiqul.