In a city where there are at least a dozen community Durga Pujas with a budget of over Rs 1 crore, this one stands out: a small slice of pavement in Baghbazar, near Mayer Bari or the house of Sri Ramakrishna’s wife Sarada Devi, is going to host Kolkata’s first barowari Durga Puja to be organised solely by kids of pavement dwellers.
The kids have named it ‘Footpather Durga Pujo’ (Durga Puja of footpath dwellers) and their theme is ‘Ichhepuron’ (fulfillment of wish). “Since last year, we were planning to make our own idol and organize a puja where we would just have fun. Our dream is being fulfilled now, with support from Bangur resident Mahendra Agarwal and his wife Rashmi,” said Sujit Das, a Class IX student.
Mahendra met the kids playing with clay idols on his way to Mayer Bari. And when he heard about their wish, he immediately decided to help them out. “Durga Puja is celebrated by everyone. If a little support can bring smiles on these faces, why not? After all, they won’t need much beyond chart paper, colours, ribbons and diyas, and the budget is less than Rs 1 lakh,” he said.
Twenty children are toiling all day to make the Puja a grand success.
Their Durga idol — all of 1 ft in height — is being made by Surojit Sarkar and Debjit Das, students of classes VII and VI respectively, who picked up the art by observing artists at Kumartuli. “We tried to make an idol last year, but could not complete it. Mala Pal, an idol-maker from Kumartuli, is guiding us,” smiled Surojit.
But where are Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kartick and Ganesh? “We will only worship Maa Durga this year since her kids have refused to accompany her,” pat came Debjit’s reply.
Children prepare handmade decorations for theme pandal
The Puja will take place at Sarada Primary School, a local non-formal institution, since the kids have not received police permission. The school entrance will be decorated with their paintings.
Class III student Sushmita Das described enthusiastically how they are collecting used clay tea cups from the roadside to decorate their pandal. They are also using ropes to make flowers and ribbons for decoration under the watchful eyes of Swapan Bhuiya, a teacher of the school.
True to theme, the children have drawn multiple cards depicting their wishes. The background of their mandap will be decorated with these cards. For some children Durga Puja mane murgir mangsho (Durga Puja means chicken curry) and a time for fuchkas and movies,while others wished for the well-being of their family members throughout the year and goddess Durga’s blessings for good academic results.
Riya Das, 12, will give her first Mahashtami anjali this year. “We have never given Ashtami anjali as we do not get new clothes for the festival. But this is our Puja and a very special one,” she said.
The dhakis ready and so are plans for the dance and immersion. While the kids are busy fine-tuning the guest list, their parents are pitching in with various other works needed for the Puja.
Swami Abhinnananda of Ramakrishna Math, Baghbazar, said: “This is a noble initiative. We will definitely help these kids with whatever they need.”
Source: Times of India