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Santoshpur and Dum Dum Park Pujas celebrate the (extra)ordinary

The spotlight at pandals has turned on common people who turned vital for life under lockdown

Sudeshna Banerjee | Published 09.10.21, 07:26 AM
Shacks of rickshawpullers, garbage cleaners and taxi drivers at Santoshpur Trikon Park.

Shacks of rickshawpullers, garbage cleaners and taxi drivers at Santoshpur Trikon Park.

Picture by Sudeshna Banerjee

From a northeast corner to the south of the city, the spotlight at pandals has turned on ordinary people who turned vital for life under lockdown.

At Santoshpur Trikon Park in south Kolkata, the pandal is a piece of life in shanties that come up on poles at canalsides. Above the entrance to the pandal, is a ramshackle assemblage of a variety of entities — almost teetering on the edge like the actual shacks that barge into the water.


A couple of hand-pulled rickshaws and handcarts stand stacked next to several tin shacks. On either side of the entrance, on raised platforms, a yellow taxi is parked next to a shack. There are also a couple of pushcarts that are used by the civic garbage cleaners.

On a large piece of rusty tin, there will be a projection of video footage of life on the fringes — bathing at roadside taps, scavenging in thrown-away food, sleeping on pavements…

“Taxi drivers, rickshaw pullers, domestic helps, garbage pickers... many of them served us during lockdown. While the economy may be turning around, their lot has remained unchanged. We look down on their shacks from our multi-storeyed houses. For the puja, I have tried to raise them above the pedestrians’ eye level so that at least for these days we look up to them,” said theme-maker Asim Pal. The idol is by Parimal Pal.

At Dum Dum Park Tarun Sangha, the organisers are doffing the hat to the neighbourhood grocer.

“We had turned away from them by buying our supplies from shopping malls. But during lockdown, they are the ones who kept our kitchen stocked. Doctors, nurses and policemen may be the ones being saluted as Covid warriors but grocers are no less than them in the role they played. The profession underwent a rebirth during lockdown as more people took up the profession. The friendly neighbourhood grocer supplied us goods even on credit, keeping our expenses jotted in the monthly khata or book of accounts for payment later. He is like Annapurna to us. And it is in his home that Ma has come,” said theme-maker Manas Das.

The goddess in this pandal therefore is in the aspect of Ma Annapurna, who blesses mankind with food and has landed in the grocer’s home. The pandal shows the neighbourhood in a grocer’s life — his shop, a temple in the locality as well as other shops which are shut during lockdown, a tubewell that supplies water to the area… “I have even incorporated the tank next to the pandal ground in the theme as Devir pukur, a local pond with steps leading down to the waterbody,” said Das.

The organisers are also walking the talk. Santoshpur Trikon Park will distribute meals and clothes among people from such professions on all five days of the puja from Panchami, said secretary Debajyoti Das. And smiling at the Dum Dum Park pandal will be Tapan Ghosh, the grocer whose shop is just across the road, and who, like a few other grocers in the area, is now a “local hero”, in the words of puja core committee member Bipul Saha.

Last updated on 11.11.21, 04:45 PM

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