It is that time of the year when Kolkata is dressed like a bride. Thousands throng to see the Puja pandals that spring up all over the city. This is Kolkata’s best period, the famous Durga Puja festival that sees the city’s residents step out in the very best, to have a whale of a time.
Most Puja pandals are huge works of art, with intricate lights and designs and huge budgets backing them. Among all the fancy pandals, this one, in particular, stands out.
A small sliver of pavement is the location of Kolkata’s first barowari Durga Puja to be organised solely by the children of pavement dwellers, reports The Times of India.
Christened the ‘Footpather Durga Pujo’, it translates into the ‘Durga Puja of the footpath dwellers’. The theme of the pandal, the kids have decided, is ‘Icchepuron’, or the fulfilment of wishes.
Bangur resident Mahendra Agarwal and his wife Rashmi, have been the backbone for these kids. Mahendra met the kids playing with clay idols, on his way to Mayer Bari, and on hearing their wishes of having their own Puja celebrations, decided to help out. With a budget of less than Rs 1 lakh, he ensured that the children got chart papers, crayons, ribbons and diyas.
Sujit Das, a Class 9 student, told TOI that Mahendra and his wife helped them realise their long-coveted desire of having their own idols and organising a Puja, where they would just have fun.
Idol-maker, Mala Pal, is guiding the young team of twenty children from classes 6 and 7 in this project. Students, Debjit Das and Surojit Sarkar, who learned idol-making by observing the famous artists of Kumartuli, are making the 1 foot tall Durga idol
The venue of the Puja is Sarada Primary School, a local non-formal institution. In their attempt for eco-friendly celebrations, the kids will decorate the entrance of the venue with their paintings, use roadside clay teacups, and flowers and ribbons for decorations. They are being supervised by Swapan Bhuiya, a teacher of the school.
The Puja pandal’s background will be decorated with the cards that depict their wishes. From good food to time for movies and good academic results, the kids have prayed in earnest.
From not having new clothes for the Puja, to finally being able to celebrate the city’s biggest festival, these forgotten children are determined to make the best of what they have.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)