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Puja Shopping

Shopping hubs see huge footfall as festive fever grips Kolkata

Malls and markets chock-a-block on last Sunday before Puja, visitors plead for a pandal peek

Debraj Mitra | Published 16.10.23, 05:28 AM
A crowded New Market on Sunday afternoon

A crowded New Market on Sunday afternoon

Picture by Sanat Kr Sinha

The shopping hubs saw huge footfall as festive fever gripped Kolkata the last Sunday before Durga Puja.

The crowd spilled over to restaurants as people clubbed dining and shopping.

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Also, pandal-hopping began on Sunday, though most pandals were barricaded as they were still getting finishing touches.

Guards at the gates had a challenging time as they kept pleading with visitors to come back on Monday or the day after, when the gates would be open for visitors.

Around 2.30pm, all one could see from a vantage point in the New Market area was a sea of heads.

Streams of people kept moving in and out of Lindsay Street as well.

Subhasish Midya, from Egra in East Midnapore, had come with his wife and seven-year-old son. They came on a bus to Esplanade. The journey took over four hours.

The three had stepped out of a shoe store on Lindsay Street and were headed towards New Market.

“Coming to Esplanade for Puja shopping has been a custom. We usually don't come so late, but something or the other kept us busy the past few weekends,” said Midya, who teaches at a private school.

The Gariahat intersection gave away that the Puja has almost started. A sari store near the intersection had around a dozen people around 5pm. Every single salesman was busy. A woman was making a video call to show a sari to another woman. The cash counter was buzzing.

On the pavement outside, the chaos synonymous with Gariahat was back. Almost every hawker was busy. Apart from clothes, jewellery, bags to melamine sets, every item had prospective buyers, it seemed.

Less than a kilometre away, the pandal of Ballygunge Cultural Association had a non-stop flow of visitors, who were being turned away from the gates by a handful of guards.

The pandal was getting finishing touches by a group of men, some of them on ladders to decorate the roof.

All that the visitors could manage from the barricades at the gates was a peek inside. But out came the cellphones and they kept taking pictures.

"Please come tomorrow. Everything will be in place by then," was the stock request from the guards.

A couple of hours ago, a similar scene played out at Suruchi Sangha in New Alipore. A group of men were preparing an installation. Another man was working on the chandelier.

"I will not be in the city during Durga Puja. Please let me inside," a woman pleaded with an organiser at the first set of barricades on the main road.

She was allowed to come past the first set of barriers. She reached the entrance to the main pandal but was not allowed any further. The woman took some pictures and left.

The festive crowd proved, once again, that Durga Puja blurred social, cultural and religious differences.

Anwar Karim, from Bihar Sharif, came with his wife and sister-in-law to South City Mall to buy ethnic wear.

"I have heard so much about Durga Puja. I am very excited that I would see it first hand this time," said Karim, who works at a two-wheeler showroom in Bihar.

Karim is in Kolkata to attend a family celebration at his in-laws' home in Beckbagan. He would leave Kolkata on Navami.

Amritpal Singh Sodhi, a Garcha resident who is pursuing higher studies at a private university in Punjab, reached Kolkata on Saturday.

On Sunday, he shopped at Quest Mall and then headed to Park Street for dinner with friends

"The streets are decked out. I did not want to sit at home. This is the best time of the year for me," said Sodhi.

The eateries were busy throughout the day.

"The weekend was very busy. Many people who went shopping also ate out," said Debraj Bose, a director of the company that owns the Kolkata franchisees of Pa Pa Ya (Park Street) and SodaBottleOpenerWala (South City Mall).

While Pa Pa Ya had a mostly full house for lunch on Sunday, SodaBottleOpenerWala had people waiting outside.

Mocambo, Peter Cat, Trinca's and Bar-B-Q also had people waiting, both during lunch and dinner.

Last updated on 16.10.23, 09:34 AM
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