Changing face of Durga Puja in CR Park

Extravagant celebrations

Durga Puja in Chittaranjan Park (C R Park), is a salient characteristic of the neighbourhood and has always been in the news during this season. Street food, dhunochi dance, dhak, art fairs, music, drawing and dance competitions make a Kolkata scape in Delhi (and also makes for smoky display picture on Facebook).

Wearing ‘I am Baangali’ on their sleeves, many in the area feel that Puja celebrations are much diluted than they were before.

Though people here  try their best to carry a ‘memory’ of Puja forward which can be as Kolkata-like as possible. But some feel that puja, that once united a larger community and brought Delhiites to CR Park, has reduced in its intensity.

A resident, Shruti Adhikari says, “Just two years ago, the streets were full of people. You had to just give yourself to the crowd to guide you to your destination.

There were raidis giving ice cream, papad, toys and what not. Now it is mandatory to keep the roads clear off the raidiwalas (hawkers) and if they enter the premises, the police drives them out. The only puja is inside the pandals within each block.

Earlier it used to be a whole night event, the streets were occupied even after 12. Now we close down the events by 11 and have to clear the pandal by 12, otherwise the police come to stall our activities. I think it kills the spirit of Durga Puja.” According to Adhikari, a few years ago some residents complained about the noise in the area disturbing their sleep, after which police patrolling after 11 became the norm.

One such counter intuitive point of puja celebrations are having admit cards to enter a block puja. People without an admit card have to be part of a different queue. These queues can get long enough and extend up to another block during peak hours. Admit cards are distributed from organisers, members of a block puja to his/her family and friends and so on. Members of the organising committee also get special privileges like occupying better seats or getting the puja bhog right at their doorstep. This acts as a hindrance for people who come from outside CR Park.

“Puja remains the same but the way of celebrating it has changed a lot. Various factors are contributing to this. First is the rise in cost of living, it has changed people’s way of thinking, second being the crowd changing, the youth is no longer aware of Ma Durga’s relevance and the mythology and the third is including corporate investment in Puja celebrations,” says 60 years old, resident Deepak Kumar.

Debojyoti Basuroy, member of organising committee of D Block Durga Puja tells Metrolife, “Each block carries their own ideas and expectations to make their puja as distinct as possible. This is crucial for every society organising Durga Puja as the expenses of organising them runs upto Rs 20 lakh or more. Brands such as Union Bank of India, SBI, JK Tyres have sponsored our infrastructure (pandal/stage) whereas Bikanervala provides us the prashad this year. Blackberry and StudyMate sponsors competitive events such as QuizD and SpellBee.”

Each block in the area organises their mini-festival, which is as grandiose as the collective endeavour. The block puja heads have already started publicising their events on Facebook and Twitter. Also, very common are block puja competitions, where, at the end of the season the block winner is decided on the basis of the theme of the murti and number of cultural events. After all the hard work, CR Park Durga Puja still is eye-catching for most non-residents. But a kind of complacency has set in amongst the residents.

“Earlier, going to every block puja was imperative to get an essence. Every year I would dread that the puja was over. I could vouch saying, ‘Durga Puja is the best time of the year’ . I remember taking leaves from school and college during this time. This year I haven’t taken any leaves from office,” says Meera Murali, a non-bengali who has been born and brought up in CR Park.

Murali adds, “Celebrating Onam in Kerala and Delhi will always be different. Maintaining the auspiciousness of any festival in a metropolitan is tough.”

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