Monday, 30th October 2017

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Rare positivity marks Durga Puja

Safety is a priority for international tourists as well

By Patti Hoffman
  • Published 5.10.19, 1:14 AM
  • Updated 5.10.19, 1:14 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Patti Hoffman and Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury make music at Shyama Pally Shyama Sangha Telegraph picture

I have been pandal-hopping since Wednesday. So I am glad there were no repeats today. It was an honour to be a judge at the The Telegraph True Spirit Puja for the second time in a row.

I was excited that my husband Charles could join me this year and share my experience. There was something I liked about each of the four pujas in our route. The first one — Babubagan Sarbojanin Durgotsava Committee — was very colourful. I liked the idea that they were supporting a local community of artists and their work. The patachitras were a visual treat.

Shyama Pally Shyama Sangha had a beautiful mother idol. It was huge but moving. It invoked some emotions in me. I found the experience quite beautiful here.

Santoshpur Trikon Park’s walk down memory lane was very insightful. I am glad they got real models of typewriters, gramophones and radios for the young visitors to see. The theme helped me connect with the heritage of the city. The whole pandal and the objects used did a good job of depicting the old Calcutta feeling. The last pandal we visited — Santoshpur Lake Pally — had a strong social message on pollution. Combating pollution and water conservation are our policy objectives, too. The organisers here were able to weave in those messages with the design of the pandal. Concept-wise they were very good.

Since last year I have noticed that the emphasis of True Spirit pujas has been on safety. Safety is a priority for international tourists as well. It can be all fun till someone gets hurt, so I am happy that more organisers are not compromising on safety.

Since this is my second year as a judge I have learnt to pick up minute details about each puja that I had not noticed the year before. I noticed some stylistic differences this year. My husband noticed how the demon was depicted differently in all the four pandals. I am finding my job easier the second time around. I am also enjoying the atmosphere of the city this season. Even when people are queuing up they don’t seem to lose their calm. They are kind to all and that is contagious. In many ways you don’t get such positivity in other carnivals.

There are lots of different ways to measure safety. The yardsticks include crowd control, installing CCTV cameras, adequate medical facilities etc. Crowd control, I think, is the most important among them. You will need the medical facilities only if you fall sick, but everybody will be impacted by crowd control.

Two pandals in our route scored more in that parameter — Shyama Pally Shyama Sangha and Santoshpur Lake Pally. Both had a lot more volunteers to do the job. Right crowd control can mitigate other risks. I also saw fire extinguishers in every pandal as well as sand buckets.

  • Patti Hoffman, US consul general, was a True Spirit judge on Sashthi