In its 70th year, Netaji Nagar Sarbajanin Durgotsab decided to break away from the cliche and get real-life heroes to inaugurate their Puja. Instead of inviting famous sportspersons, actors or politicians, they brought together six young cancer survivors to unveil their pandal in south Kolkata, acknowledging and saluting their undaunted spirit.
“For the first time, we switched from a traditional Puja to a theme-based decoration of the pandal. It was a unanimous decision of all the committee members to take this step towards change, holding the hands of the young cancer survivors,” said Utpal Majumdar, secretary of the puja committee.
The survivors—aged between five and 12 years, and all patients of Saroj Gupta Cancer Centre and Research Institute at Thakurpukur—reached the pandal on Tuesday evening, accompanied by the institute’s medical director, Arnab Gupta.
For Class-VI student, Arnabi Ghosh (12), this is will be the first time in a long while that she hopes to enjoy the festival to the fullest, after defeating the disease in the latter half of 2016. “Cancer struck her in 2014 but thanks to an early detection and regular medication, she was cured in 2016. We kept her under observance for the past two years, but this year, she plans to go on full-fledged pandal hopping,” said Saraswati Ghosh, Arnabi’s mother.
It was a special evening for Dev Shaw (10), who led the group and cut the ribbon to the south Kolkata pandal. He was diagnosed with cancer in November 2010, when he was just one year old. But undergoing thorough treatment, he had been cured for the past five years, his parents said. “I love to draw and I love Durga Puja. That I have got opportunity to unveil a Puja pandal, just like celebrities do, is the best gift I’ve had,” said Shaw.
Among the six young heroes was five-year-old Mohammad Sahariar Hosain Zarik, who is still fighting the disease. “He was diagnosed with cancer in December, 2018 and is undergoing treatment now. Though he is under therapy, he loves playing around. When we first found out about his disease, we were very upset. We wondered will he ever get cured. But seeing the other survivors, it gave us hopes that my child would fight it out, too,” said his mother, Jyotsna Akhtar.
The inauguration was held amid much fanfare around 6pm, with Arnab Gupta delivering a speech on the grit and indomitable spirit of the kids and their zeal to battle off the deadly disease. One of the organisers said: “Our Puja is not influenced by any political personality or celebrity. A majority of the subscription generated during the festive season goes into welfare and uplift of the economically deprived section of society.”
Source: Times of India