A close knit affair
With reduced budget and simple decoration, residents of NCR this time have preferred to keep the puja home-like and hassle-free. For a lot of them, the festival is about rekindling lost bonds and pure tradition. By Team Viva
Hopping inside the already crammed cars to visit the famous Durga Puja pandals in Chittaranjan Park or maybe Kali Bari has been a ritual for many in NCR. Yes they had their “sector” hubs, where local efforts coalesced to recreate the traditionalzamindar-style home puja. Over the years, some of them grew to become a grand spectacle on their own merit. However, this year the story is different with small pujas mushrooming in almost every society in Noida and Gurgaon.
Saptarshi Sangha, more popularly known as Sector 50 puja and a focal point of sorts like Sector 26, is witnessing a change just like the others. The society, which had developed a theme around the restored Kedarnath temple last year, has scaled down its grandeur. Lowered corporate endorsement has meant scaling down the theme to simple countryside Bengal.
The idea is to make it as homely as possible given the plethora of condominium pujas around it. So this year, the celebrity performers have been junked for home-grown talent with members attempting Tagore’s plays, dance dramas and their youngsters forming innovative bands. The courtyardadda sessions are being revived with discussions and an idea showcase. Saptarshi has already done a culture preview by hosting a pan-Delhi/NCR classical dance competition among troupes to offset the prevailing concept of popular dance competitions on TV and elsewhere.
The change has been dictated by mushrooming pujas in housing societies in the newly developed sectors of Noida.The traffic nightmare of Delhi and NCR has made residents think out of the box and take their own puja initiative. Maiden, home-style pujas are big this year in Noida. Despite limited budgets, residents of Mahagun Moderne in Sector 78 have opted for a shola goddess for their puja. From decorations to cookingbhog and planning entertainment, residents are fully involved in the tiniest departments and are working with beehive precision. “It is actually a very relaxing group activity. And we can enjoy our evenings without taking on the pressure of pandal-hopping,” says one of them. Next door, Helios residents have their own version.
Shiuli Chakravorty, cultural secretary, Sahashrabdi Durga Puja Samity, Sector 45, Gurgaon, told us that they are not competing with other residential colonies but rather coming together to enjoy puja with your loved ones. “Who wants to get stuck in a traffic to reach another part of the city? People wish to celebrate and think that it would be best to get everything done without any difficulty. At the end of the day, it is all about celebrating with the ones you hold dear,” she shared.
Another reason for a multitude of housing society pujas is the reason that pandals in CR Park cannot accommodate an influx and the number of visitors is really high. “More and more people from Bengal are shifting to Delhi and the overcrowding just kills the pedestrianised, hopping experience. So, we decided to have our puja with people from our locality which would be comparatively hassle-free,” said Narayan Das, president, Dakshin Gurgaon Puja Committee.
He added that 250 families live in South City 1 and that means around 1,500-3,000 people. “It is not easy to manage a big crowd. That is why people prefer to have their own pujas,” he said. Another member, Sudip Mondal, from the same committee shared with us that it is actually about bringing everyone together for something as pious as this. “The festival is not only about puja. For many of us, it is a meeting point to reunite and make connections. When you have a puja in your own area, you get to rekindle the friendships. The whole point is to stay connected emotionally despite the digital explosion,” he said.
Himadri Banerjee of Saptarshi Sangha, Sector 50, Noida, gave us two clear explanations as to why every big residential complex is holding a puja of their own. The first reason, he shared, is that it saves the elderly of the community from travelling a considerable distance for pratima darshan. “The second reason is that it instills a sense of togetherness. All year round, we are busy with our lives but in these few days, it is like a big joint family,” he pointed out.
While we noticed that budgets have been slashed for the pandals in Delhi, NCR is also facing the same financial crunch. “Though we have established sponsors, but the budget constraint forced us to cut down by 50 per cent,” said Sudip.
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