festival. We would hire a guy who would bring the film reels and a 35mm projector to the pandal on a ‘phat-phat’ auto. Others brought home-cooked biryani and traditional Bengali food and we would watch movies till 4 in the morning,” Mukherjee says.
The screening stopped in the mid-’80s with the advent of TV, he adds.
Puja was also the time when the children of the locality got enough money to fund their ‘chotoder’ library (children’s library).
Ashok Nath Chatterjee (82) says, “We sold tea during the Puja. In those days the plays and movies would go on till morning, and as 10-year-olds we were even free to go inside the ladies enclosure to supply tea.”
Since 1970-1971, the samity decided not to hire workers to carry the idol to the immersion spot seven km away.
Instead, people from the locality volunteer to pull the bullock-cart carrying the idols. “Every man in the locality has pulled the bullock-cart over the years. It is quite a sight, besides the usual singing and dancing many stand on the bullock-cart with sticks to push branches and wires which might entangle the idol,” Sengupta says.
The only time the samity did not indulge in a full-fledged Puja was during the 1965 war. “We just had a low-key Puja. There were no plays or screenings that year,” he says.
However, as is the case with government servants, many of those who were present when the samity was formed have now moved to other places.
“There were about 100 Bengali families then and now there are about 15. My daughter is flying in from London and my son from Dubai. There are others who once lived here and are part of the samity. They are now spread across the country and abroad. They too will come,” Brahmo says.
Though modernisation has influenced the Puja, it still remains true to its Bengali roots. Idols are made in studios, and the food that was usually cooked on chullahs is now cooked on gas stoves as the samity decided to go eco-friendly three years ago, much to the indignation of some of