“Where is it? It is not here? Oh my God. Now how will the Puja be performed? Please we need to find the ‘karon bari.’ Call the police if you want,” shouted the aged priest on Tuesday midnight, looking helplessly at the shocked crowd of fasting women and Puja committee members.
More than one Kali Puja in North Kolkata was hit by a unique theft, with their ‘Karon Bari’, country liquor integral part of the Kali Puja rituals, gone missing. A puja in a housing complex in Kankurgachi was the first to be hit, followed by a household nearby which shared that same fate. Interestingly all this happened on a dry day, when liquor shops in the city were closed.
Preparations for ‘Anjali’ were in full swing when the purohit in the housing society noticed the bottle of liquor missing.
Immediately, devotees and committee members were alerted.
Neighbourhood boys went on a hunt for the elusive bottle, searching every nook and corner of the ‘pandal’, belongings of the ‘purohit’, behind every chair and table, make shift committee office and other areas.
Around 40 women from nearby households who were fasting and were preparing for the ‘Anjali’ had to further hold their hunger pangs. Some of them started praying to the Goddess to help find the bottle.
“The bottle just disappeared. We were helpless. The liquor is a vital part of the Puja ritual. It is offered to the Goddess and mixed with ‘Charanamrita’,” said an organising committee member.
The first suspect was the group of ‘Dhakis’ who were rounded up, their belongings searched, interrogated and even their breath ‘sniffed’ by young members of the Puja committee.
However, the ‘Dhakis’ pleaded not guilty and highlighted the fact that they had ‘English’ (foreign liquor), supplied to them by the committee itself.
“It was late in the night and we didn’t know from where we would find another bottle. One of our industrious members then had to travel far and buy one from a black marketeer,” said one of the organising committee members.
It was also reported that a household Puja nearby shared that same fate at night, but had an alternate bottle in case of emergency.
The issue did not die down quietly even the next morning when zealous youths of the housing complex, went on a ‘thief hunt’.
Known connoisseurs of country liquor from surrounding lanes and by-lanes were picked up on suspicion. Some members even advised to alert the police, but later decided not to.
They were brought to the housing complex where they were interrogated followed by a few slaps. The commotion continued for hours and later the suspects were released, ending the drama.