Hands help adorn Durga, heart beats for nature

American teen embraces puja spirit, volunteers at Bhowanipore pandal

By Farah Khatoon in Calcutta
  • Published 12.10.18, 2:25 AM
  • Updated 12.10.18, 2:25 AM
  • a min read
  •  
Dane Liebermann at work at the Bhowanipore pandal Picture by Biswajit Kundu

An American teen is giving Calcuttans serious Puja goals.

Dane Liebermann, 17, has been volunteering at the Bakul Bagan Sarbojanin Durgotsav for the past two weeks, helping with the decorations made of areca leaves.

All that Dane knew about Calcutta before arriving in the city in July as part of a student exchange programme is that it used to be the capital of British India.

It was at Lakshmipat Singhania Academy (LSA), where he is attending classes under the American Field Service’s Yes Abroad Programme, that Dane first came to know about Durga Puja.

“Two weeks ago, one of my teachers brought me here for a taste of Puja celebrations. I was intrigued by the eco-friendly concept of the pandal. Since I am interested in carpentry, I wondered if I could join the team and was readily welcome,” said the Class XI student of U-32 High School, East Montpelier, Vermont.

The idol at Bakul Bagan Sarbojanin Durgotsav.
The idol at Bakul Bagan Sarbojanin Durgotsav. Picture by Biswajit Kundu

What impressed Dane the most is that discarded leaves were used instead of cutting trees. “When I joined Bimalda and his team, only the bare structure of the pandal existed with the idol, that was covered. The other workers were very friendly and we worked as a team, cutting the leaves into strips and then coiling them to decorate the pandal and make jewellery for the goddess. The idea was so inspirational,” said Dane, who relished his chai adda in between work.

Meena Kak, the principal of LSA, said Dane is a perfect candidate for inter-cultural exchange. “Since he is into woodwork, we knew he would be taking back an experience of a lifetime.”

Dane believes the best way to be a part of a culture is to be a contributor and not just a spectator. “I enjoyed the couple of hours I spent at the pandal after school every day,” said the boy Dane who has promised to volunteer at the pandal for crowd control. He has already tried dhunuchi naach too.

When he is not working, Dane plans to check out some dandiya moves with LSA student Akhilesh Jhawar, whose family is hosting him. Already a mutton biryani fan, Dane is also keen on trying fish delicacies.