Puja binds Calcutta, London

A four-member team in a Ballygunge pandal will face an antakshari challenge all the way from across the Mediterranean Sea.

By Sudeshna Banerjee
  • Published 18.09.17

Sept. 17: A four-member team in a Ballygunge pandal will face an antakshari challenge all the way from across the Mediterranean Sea.

Elsewhere, in Bhowanipore, cameras will transmit the evening arati to a faraway audience just finishing lunch.

The goddess will bridge the gap between London and Calcutta this festive season. Three Calcutta pujas have tied up with pujas in London in what happens to be the India-UK Year of Culture.

An audiovisual set-up has been installed at the Bhowanipur 75 Palli puja. When the puja is inaugurated on September 22, chief minister Mamata Banerjee is supposed to address non-resident Bengali members of London Sharad Utsav, gathered at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London.

"We had a trial run on Thursday. A stage rehearsal is scheduled for September 21," Subir Das, the general secretary of the Bhowanipore puja, which has London as its theme, said.

But they aren't content with erecting a 35ft Big Ben at the entry to the lane and a London Bridge replica as stage.

Their vice-president, Vineet Gupta, is now in London, with gifts from Calcutta. He will return with gifts from London and water from the Thames.

"That will be mixed with water from the Ganges at our inauguration and a dough of clay will be kneaded by idol-maker Kaushik Ghosh for next year's idol," Das said.

"We are planning a global football quiz over videoconference between teams in Calcutta and London during Puja... a prominent player will be present at both venues. The gifts will be given as prizes," Suranjan Som, general secretary of the puja based in the London suburb of Ealing, said.

The Ealing puja has tied up with Ballygunge Cultural Association as well. Posters are up in social media inviting people to participate in the " Antorjatik antakshari" on Dashami.

"It will happen live online at the Ealing Town Hall, our puja venue," Som said.

Anjan Ukil, general secretary of the Ballygunge puja, is on the lookout for the best voices in the locality. "It will be a fun contest, still we can't have participants sing off-key."

Tridhara Sammilani, a stone's throw off Rashbehari Avenue, has tied up with London Durga Puja Dusserah Committee, which organises the biggest puja in central London, now in its 54th year.

The puja has taken up the Bengal government's Kanyashree project as its theme.

"Even after the project got the UN award, not many NRIs know about it. We thought we should celebrate it in a special way," president Ananda Gupta said.

They have done a photo shoot with girls of Afro-Caribbean, English and Italian descent other than NRIs in saris draped traditionally to use in their publicity.

Minister Sashi Panja will be at the Camden puja on Navami or Dashami to represent the government.

"We will donate a year's education expenses of a meritorious girl in Bengal when we visit Calcutta in winter," Gupta said.

"We appreciate that they are trying to raise awareness about Kanyashree. Our inauguration on September 21 may be too early to webcast as their puja will start later but we are setting up cameras to showcase our pandal and the crowd as well as our cultural programmes during puja," Debashis Kumar, Tridhara's general secretary, said.

Gupta, who grew up in the Triangular Park area, wants his neighbourhood to see the special events at the Camden puja.

"We have 35,000 people attending over five days. We are having a jatrapala staged for the first time in London. There will be a Mahishasurmardini dance drama with a huge cast and Lopamudra Mitra on stage."

Tridhara's Kumar pointed out the leverage of such tie-ups. "The world has become a global village. We are happy that Bengalis in London want to know about our puja."