Monday, 30th October 2017

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Crowd crush in Calcutta on Saptami

But people are loving it (and many travelled long distances to be part of it)

By Subhajoy Roy in Calcutta
  • Published 16.10.18, 11:58 PM
  • Updated 17.10.18, 1:09 PM
  • 2 mins read
The crowd at Badamtala Ashar Sangha around 4pm on Tuesday Picture by Pradip Sanyal

Tapan Chattopadhyay arrived from north Bengal by train on Tuesday morning and barely rested for a couple of hours before hitting the pandal trail with his wife Ruma and their two daughters, Shubhangi and Somjita.

The family’s enthusiasm mirrored the city’s mood as the throng of revellers outside each blockbuster puja grew throughout the afternoon and exploded as dusk set in.

“I was at work on Monday, so I took the Darjeeling Mail at night and arrived in Sealdah this morning. I wouldn’t miss the Puja pandal-hopping for anything!” Chattopadhyay, senior vice-president at UTI Mutual Fund, told Metro after visiting the Mohammad Ali Park Puja.

In the afternoon, there was still some space for pedestrians to walk without falling over one another. By evening, the barricaded walkways near Mohammad Ali Park looked like a can of sardines.

Similar scenes emerged elsewhere as roads started getting clogged from Deshapriya Park, Chetla and Behala in the south to Lake Town and Dum Dum Park in the north.

Ruma and her elder daughter had two pandals on their must-visit list. “We want to visit the Sovabazar Rajbari and the Kashi Bose Lane pujas,” Shubhangi, a BCom student in Calcutta, said.

The idol at Ahiritola Sarbojanin Durgotsab.
The idol at Ahiritola Sarbojanin Durgotsab. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta
The idol at Parnasree South Block Club. The theme of the 20-year-old puja is “Rajenbabur Rajbari”. They have recreated the atmosphere of a Rajbarir Pujo
The idol at Parnasree South Block Club. The theme of the 20-year-old puja is “Rajenbabur Rajbari”. They have recreated the atmosphere of a Rajbarir Pujo Picture by Pradip Sanyal

Her younger sibling was “happy to go wherever Didi and Baba-Ma take me”.

Girl gangs were plenty across pandals. For Calcutta University batchmates Soumi Dutta, Subhasree Deb and Parnali Dey, this Puja marks a reunion after three years. “This is the first time since we graduated in 2014 that the three of us are meeting during Puja,” Subhasree said.

The trio, students of Bengali, had started pandal-hopping around noon. They visited south Calcutta before hopping over to the north in the evening. The three friends will be out with separate groups on Ashtami and Navami.

Couples, groups of friends, elderly people, families or solo, every Puja crowd was a motley mix. Indranil Basu and Sumit Kumar Pal were among those who had decided to go it alone.

Basu, a resident of Bangur, had seen pandals dotting CR Avenue before proceeding to Santosh Mitra Square in the evening. “My wife and daughter have gone to Dooars, so I am pandal-hopping alone. There are certain advantages you enjoy as a solo pandal-hopper,” he said. “I could walk very quickly, take a lesser-known lane or visit all or only a handful of pandals, all of which I might not be able to do as part of a group. “In a group, you have to listen to everyone.”

Pal, a resident of Shibpur, calls himself a “compulsive” pandal-hopper. “If I don’t get anyone to accompany me, I go out on my own. I can’t sit back at home during the Puja days,” the postgraduate student said.

A large police deployment ensured that pedestrians stayed off the thoroughfares and spared motorists the hassle of braking every few metres. “I like driving through the roads of the city during Puja. It helps that the police are out in full force and traffic management is better than at other times,” said a young techie who lives in New Town.