Festivals in India are synonymous with family gatherings. As relatives from far and wide gather together for Durga Puja this festive season, there are those who cannot afford to travel and be with their families and have to be content with wishing their loved ones from afar.
Keeping this in mind, a private radio station in Kolkata organised a campaign called ‘Ticket to Durga Puja — Pardes to Swades’, which sought to reunite families with those relatives from overseas who cannot afford to take a flight back home.
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One of the winners of their campaign is a diploma engineer working in Dubai named Soumitra Kanji, who is returning home after four and a half years.
In 2011, Soumitra left Mudipur district in West Bengal to complete his diploma in electrical engineering. His father Dipendranath Kanji used to work at a private company but, with his meagre income, couldn’t fund the tuition for his two sons. After Soumitra left his country to finish his diploma in Dubai, he also managed to find a job there. Following this, he started sending money for the family and also bore all the expenses of his younger brother Pabitra’s studies.
According to reports, Soumitra wasn’t earning enough to fund his brother’s education, manage his own expenditure, send money to his family, and yet save enough money to make a trip home.
The family reunion became possible when Soumitra’s sister, an engineering student at Jadavpur University, heard about the radio station’s campaign, ‘Ticket to Durga Puja — Pardes to Swades.’ She sent a text to the radio station some time in mid-August on her brother’s behalf and they got back to her with the good news a couple of weeks later.
Their mother Rikta Kanji told The Hindu, “I will not be able to make anybody understand my feelings. It’s after so many years that I will see my son (Soumitra).”
Another recipient of the radio station’s prize, Abhik Mukherjee, had moved to the US in 2006 to complete his M.Sc. in microbiology and hasn’t been home to meet his family in over four years. He also hasn’t visited India during Durga Puja for almost 10 years.
He completed his PhD in genetic diseases syndrome but is currently in-between jobs and teaching part-time to manage his daily expenses. Abhik was nominated for the campaign by his 42-year-old sister Mahua.
Their parents are retired and hence couldn’t afford to purchase tickets for his journey home.But ever since they received the good news, they have been tirelessly making plans about what to feed Abhik and where to take him.
A senior official from the radio station told The Hindu, ““There was a huge response and we selected five families based on their background stories shared by the listeners and gratified them with a ‘Ticket to Durga Puja’ by bringing back one family member. The winners comprised two from abroad and two from within the country.”
Apart from Abhik and Soumitra, the FM channel also chose Ravindra Patra, who nominated his parents who live in Odisha. Ravindra is a taxi-driver in Kolkata and has been struggling to make ends meet for the past 20 years. He’s always dreamt of bringing his family to Kolkata during Durga Puja.