Monday, 30th October 2017

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Displaced but Durga Puja binds cave-in zone residents

No break in Syakrapara tradition with help from neighbourhood puja organisers and government agencies

By Subhajoy Roy in Calcutta
  • Published 10.10.19, 1:55 AM
  • Updated 10.10.19, 1:55 AM
  • 2 mins read
The Syakrapara Lane puja in Bowbazar Picture by Pradip Sanyal

Several families in Bowbazar’s Metro cave-in zone still live away from their homes but they ensured that the tradition of organising Durga Puja in the locality continued without a break.

Together, with help pouring in from a few other puja organisers, the residents managed to overcome the difficulties of lack of water and electricity, commuting between hotels and the pandal and the search for an idol that could fit the temporary abode of the deities at Syakrapara.

Over 650 people had to be evacuated from their homes in Syakrapara Lane, Durga Pituri Lane and Gour De Lane in Bowbazar after a tunnel-boring machine of East-West Metro hit a water aquifer on August 31, triggering subsidence.

The subsidence led to major cracks in the buildings, some of which collapsed. Though most of the residents continue to live away from their homes, a few have managed to return.

“It was tough to organise Durga Puja this year. Initially, we thought it could not be held. But all residents came together and said there should be no break in organising the puja,” said Dwarik Dutta, the president of Madhya Kolikata Syakrapara Lane Jubak Samiti, the organisers of the puja.

When women of the locality took part in sindurkhela, a pre-immersion ritual, on Tuesday, it reflected the mood of togetherness even in difficult times.

Ashis Sen, one of the organisers, said their biggest fear was how to get an idol that would fit into the “tiny” pandal.

“Our plan was to have a 12ft-tall idol this year and the booking money for it had been paid to the artisan before the accident struck the area,” he said.

There was uncertainty over whether the puja could be held in a lane where houses were crumbling. A verbal clearance to allow the puja in the area came from the authorities of the municipal corporation, police and Metro Railway only a few days before Mahalaya. It was then that the search for a smaller idol began, Sen said.

The authorities had asked the organisers to ensure that no one stepped inside the cordoned area, where buildings were being demolished.

“We searched for an entire day but couldn’t get a single idol that was ready. There was not enough time to get a new one made. We then thought of getting a fibre idol made as that could be done fast. When we went knocking on the doors of idol-makers in Kumartuli for the second day, we chanced upon this idol,” he said.

Usually, the puja is held near the southern end of Syakrapara Lane, but this time the pandal was erected near the northern end, which is closer to the Syakrapara Lane-BB Ganguly Street crossing.

Since the accident had cut off water connection to buildings in Syakrapara Lane, the organisers had to arrange water tanks during the festival.

“The civic authorities helped us a lot. The Calcutta Municipal Corporation had sent us a bowser and we stored water in two tanks. This water was used for the puja,” said an organiser.

Sen said the organisers of the Durga puja at Santosh Mitra Square had chipped in with Rs 10,000, while they got a donation of Rs 5,000 from the College Square puja committee.

“We are grateful to them for standing by us in such difficult times,” he added.