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True Spirit rewarded, pujas feel blessed

On the TSP scale, it is not enough to make the puja safe for visitors; one has to make it meaningful for the community too

By Sudeshna Banerjee in Calcutta
  • Published 6.11.18, 12:58 PM
  • Updated 6.11.18, 1:03 PM
  • 2 mins read
Sikdar Bagan Sadharan Durgotsab members with the Model Puja award. Picture by Gautam Bose

A flurry of chhou dance, a dash of humour (in audio drama by the Jagannath-Urmimala Bose duo), the beat of dhaak… And the prize distribution ceremony of the 16th CESC The Telegraph True Spirit Puja (TSP), powered by Patanjali, got under way at Vidya Mandir on Friday night.

“This is the night we wait for, the result of months of sleepless labour,” said Bapai Sen, the theme-maker of two of the prize-winning pujas, Bandhu Mahal and Jodhpur Park Saradiya Utsav.

Indeed, getting the final coat of paint on the idol or the installations in place in the pandal is not where the job ends. The TSP test starts when the crowd comes queuing in, and people fall ill, feel thirsty, get separated from companions or need to answer nature’s call; traffic near the pandal is at risk of going haywire; and the stray cigarette stub is flung dangerously close to the pandal. The successful tackling of these situations marks out a TSP awardee.

Truth be told, the test does not end even when Durga Puja does. On the TSP scale, it is not enough to make the puja safe for visitors. One has to make it meaningful for the community too. “Earlier, Puja was our only activity. But our participation in this award has motivated us to work round the year. We’ve started a pension for the helpless elderly. The list of recipients is growing. We have also started a medicine bank by collecting excess medicine from residents,” said Sayantan Chakraborty, a member of Salkia Alapani, which received the Five Star trophy.

So did the Jodhpur Park Saradiya Utsav committee, back on the stage after five years and having improved from a Three Star rating. “This year we kept our pandal open on three sides to facilitate crowd flow. Sprinklers were fitted on the pandal roof, fitted to pipes drawing water from the pond next door,” said secretary Sumanta Roy.

The other Five Star recipients were Chetla Agrani and Dum Dum Park Bharat Chakra. “Look at that boy. He was on pandal duty in a wheelchair during Puja. This is true spirit,” said the announcer pointing to Bharat Chakra secretary Pratik Chowdhury, coming on stage on crutches. They got their prizes from CESC’s executive director Kapil Thapar and CEO, renewable energy, Suresh Nagrajan.

Catching the eye were 27 representatives of Shyamapally, Shyama Sangha, from Jadavpur in identical T-shirts. Winner of Two Star rating twice, they had now made it to the Four Star league. “We are a small-budget puja — Rs 12 lakh. But lack of grandeur obviously does not matter here,” smiled president Swapan Pal. They were rubbing shoulders in the Four Star category with two of Calcutta’s biggest pujas, Suruchi Sangha and Tridhara Akalbodhan, along with Hatibagan Sarbojanin and Salkia Chatra Bayam Samity and received the prize from ace percussionist Bickram Ghosh.

Ten pujas got Three Star, including Lake Gardens Mitali Sangha that had the youngest representation. “Our average age is 25,” smiled Sarbajit Roy and Abir Bose, in charge of the puja’s public relations. Another 10 pujas got Two Star.

Four special awards were handed out. Arjunpur Amra Sabai Club was the Voiceworx Truly Managed Puja, Abasar was Patanjali Truly Green Puja, Ahiritola Jubak Brinda was Techno India Puja that Cares while the Bagha Jatin B and C Block Durgatsav Committee was New India Assurance True to Social Commitment Puja.

The best was saved for the last when Sikdar Bagan Sadharan Durgotsab got crowned the Model Puja. “All our 200 members wanted to come,” smiled general secretary Soumen Mukherjee, as 28 others gathered around him in uniform panjabi-pyjama or sari. In its 106th year, the puja had not only worshipped the Mother Goddess. They had even created a breast-feeding chamber for new mothers. “This trophy is the blessing we got.”