iconimg Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ravik Bhattacharya, Hindustan Times
Kolkata, October 09, 2012
This is Puja competition of a different kind — behind prison bars in the city. The three high-security central jails in Kolkata have locked horns so to say, and decided to compete with each other. Dum Dum Central Jail will showcase a live band and an antakshree competition. Presidency jail has settled for a traditional idol ( sabeki saaj) and Alipore jail is getting its thematic setting and idol made by an inmate and organising a drama on its premises during the Puja days.

While the jails have increasingly started borrowing events and trends from the outside world, the Puja frenzy marks a milestone in that journey of mimicking the free world.

“We want to see the inmates, both convicts and under-trials, happy during the Puja days,” Ranvir Kumar, I-G, Prisons, said. At Dum Dum Central, ‘Muktoberi’, a band recently formed by the convicts, are to play on Dashami for the inmates. The auditorium inside the jail serves as the Puja-entertainment venue.

The Dum Dum jail is also organising a sit-and-draw competition for its inmates.

For Alipore Central Jail, which houses such dreaded criminals as Aftab Ansari, it is a theme Puja. The Goddess is portrayed as sitting on Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva. Hills and snow-capped mountains form the backdrop.

Chandan Chanda, a convict, is preparing both the theme and the Goddess. Hay, bamboo, mud and colours are all being brought inside the jail for him to create his masterpiece.

On Saptami, the convicts at Alipore jail will stage a drama, Thikana Paschim-banga. All inmates will be allowed as audience. Rehearsals are on full-throttle on the premises for the show.

The authorities have also planned a lavish spread during the four days. On Saptami, lunch will consist of fish curry and murig hanta with rice and chapattis, followed by chutney and dinner will see Kashmiri AlurDum.

On Ashtami, there will be khichdi, papad and chutney for lunch. Dinner that day will comprise luchi, chhol-ar dal and payesh. Nabami might see mutton curry.