The Salt Lake and New Town populace has a distinct profile. Residents here are known to be educated and cultured and New Town particularly, boasts of a cosmopolitan crowd. But how rooted are these residents to the local festivals and culture? Days before the Bengali New Year on April 15, The Telegraph Salt Lake conducted a survey to find out.
Name the year
Most of those who could guess the upcoming Bengali New Year (1426) correctly were those who performed puja at home. “I perform pujas and fast on certain days of the month, for which I consult the almanac. The cover of the almanac has the year written and so I remember it,” said Sithi Kana Ghatak, a lady in her 50s from New Town’s CD Block.
Among students surveyed, only one could guess the year correctly. Some in their 30s and 40s said the year would be “14 hundred something”, one engineering student said it was the 19th century as per the Bengali calendar and many said Poila Baisakh would be either on April 14 or 15 “as it always alternates between these two days.”
Most people knew the current Bengali month was Chaitra, thanks to being bombarded by Chaitra sale advertisements from all sides. “I’ve come from Bangalore but even I know it’s Chaitra now and that Poila Baisakh is on April 15. My phone inbox is jammed with SMSs of sales and offers for the occasion,” said Bharat, who did not know how or why the festival is celebrated.
Pratima Ghosh of HB Block said she could never get the Bengali date wrong. “I love writing and always begin a piece with the date, in English and Bengali,” she smiled.
Tune in to Tagore
A mention of Baisakh reminded respondents of the new year, Kal Baisakhi (nor’westers), the heat, summer flowers but most of all it made them break into smiles as it was the birth month of Tagore.
“Poila Baisakh means it’s time to take the harmonium out,” said Paromita Panja in New Town’s CD Block. “Pochishe Baiskah is around the corner and I must practise for my performances.”
Sujata Mitra of Salt Lake’s BJ Block said Rabindra Jayanti was an even bigger reason to cheer than the new year. “Baisakh means Esho He Baishakh,” she smiled, recalling the Rabindrasangeet.
Some also associated the month with mangoes. “I love mangoes and my family offers the first mango of the season to god on Poila Baisakh. Thereafter we start eating them,” said Nandini Ghosh, a 12-year-old from FE Block.
Nasima Khatun of CRPF Camp decks up in new clothes and shoes and heads to shops performing haal khata on Poila Baisakh. “I happily receive the sweets and calendars shopkeepers gift,” said the girl preparing for the WBCS exam. “In fact, even if I don’t go out, I sit in the balcony and watch others roaming the streets dressed to the nines. And why not? If January 1 is such a big fuss, so should the Bengali New Year be.”
High school students Sanchari and Sayantani Chakraborty look forward to the day as their housing complex — Falguni Abasan — leads a morning procession. “There will be a programme on the last day of the current year as well as a prabhat pheri on the first day of the new year. We’re busy rehearsing for both,” they said.
Two teenage boys of Salt Lake School felt Poila Baisakh is usually more fun than January 1. “It’s too crowded to do much on January 1,” said Sinjan Dinda of Sraboni Abasan. “And since exams are usually in February we are forced to study through January. In April we’re more relaxed,” added Suniket Saha of Purbachal Housing Complex, Cluster XI.
Residents also said they like to visit the jewellers of AE Block and admire their New Year decor. Besides herself, Archana Bala of New Town’s CD Block looks forward to decking up her Radha-Krishna idols in new clothes.
“I’m from Jharkhand and not familiar with this festival but I know my female colleagues are planning to wear saris to work on Monday,” said Chetna Jha of CC Block, New Town. “I might join them.”
Ankit Sonkar, a student of Techno India, smacked his lips at the thought of Poila Baisakh. “Luchi Manghso is a must,” he smiled.
Ranen Roy, a senior citizen of BJ Block, looked forward to eating his favourite chitol fish on the day. “Previously I used to visit Dakshineshwar on Poila Baisakh. Since the commute is too much at my age I now visit the EC Block Kali temple,” he smiled.
Sumaiya Faridosh confessed she was too lazy to go out on the day so planned to relax at her CAP camp home and send out Nava Varsha greetings over WhatsApp instead.
Some would be holding back the festivities by a few weeks to club with two more. “I’m a member of Nikhil Bharat Banga Sahitya Sammelan and we shall hold joint cultural programmes for Rabindrajayanti, Nazruljayanti and Poila Baisakh in May,” said Ghosh of HB Block.
Input from Shatadipa Bhattacharya