Kolkata: People living in housing complexes had a fulfilling Durga Puja—adda in festive clothes, cultural events and —all on online platforms. They did not have to step out of the safety of their homes to be part of the festivity.
While community dining was ruled out this time, many big complexes made arrangements with caterers to deliver pre-ordered breakfast, lunch and dinner, according to a set menu. The Ashtami bhog, too, was packed and sent to every flat. At the end of it all, while meeting online for the Bijoya get-together, residents were all smiles. “We live-streamed the whole puja since Shashti on You Tube and all the 1,672 flats came together. Even the pushpanjali was held in front of screens with flowers that we sent the previous evening…” said Prasanta Banerjee, spokesperson for South City Residential Complex.
Those who did come down with offerings, had to hand them to volunteers waiting at the mandaps as they could not go inside. Only priests and a handful of organisers were allowed entry inside pandals. In some complexes, those who stepped out on the ground, wore masks and gloves and sat away from each othere. “We had a prefixed online schedule for the cultural programmes, apart from live-streaming of the puja. Most people decided not to cook but avail of the pre-ordered food,” said Sudeep Ganguly of Upohar complex. For rituals like, “boron”, only one woman was allowed near the idol at a time.
Sindoor khela was a strict no-no in many complexes, like at Ruchira Residency. “To keep it safe, we offered packed dry fruits as prasad,” said Kaushik Mitra, spokesperson. The endearing kola-kuli, too, gave way to masked namaskar. “This time only eight people accompanied the idol for immersion,” he added.
In some complexes, like Silver Spring, virtual programmes had a lot of variety to involve everyone. “We had quiz, antakshari, drawing and rangoli that saw a huge participation,” said Indranil Chowdhury, secretary of the residents’ association. Merlin Warden Lakeview outsourced everything, from arranging for puja accessories to cooking bhog, said Deepak Jaiswal. Many complexes kept subscriptions optional. A large part of what was collected was spent on philanthropy, like at Greenwood Sonata, where masks and clothes were distributed among the needy, food was sponsored for a boarding school and money was given for animal welfare, said Sudipta Mukherjee, spokesperson.