For 74 years, as part of its Durga Puja celebrations at Shivaji Park, the Bengal Club has been giving the city a taste of authentic Bengali faith, festivity and food.
The highlight here is its fair, with stalls selling Bengali saris, jewellery and crockery — and, of course, classic Bengali food favourites like mishti doi (sweetened yogurt) and hilsa (freshwater fish).
Sponsorship this year is generally lower, but the mood at most pandals is optimistic. “There’s been a significant drop in collections but we’re managing on our own,” said Sushmita Mitra of the 80-year old Bombay Durgabari Samiti. “This year, our goddess will wear a traditional red Benarasi sari and we’ll sing Bengali classics in her honour,” she said.
Recession aside, orders for the goddess’s idols have increased this year. “Around 40 per cent of my orders have been from non-Bengalis,” said sculptor Biswanath Pal (36), who’s been working round-the-clock for the last two months. “I hadn’t anticipated this much business with this year’s market slump — this is a pleasant surprise,” Pal exclaimed.
Even small pandals like Kalyan Cultural Association are going full steam ahead. Last year, its first, saw over 300 visitors daily.
“With young working class Bengalis volunteering, we’re expecting a larger turnout this time,” said Vishwanath Datta (60), its vice president.
And then there’s singer Abhijit Bhattacharya’s Lokhandwala Durga Puja Mahotsav, which doesn’t seem at all affected by the slowdown. “We’ve doubled the scale of our celebrations this year — we depend only on corporate sponsorships, with no public donations,” said Bhattacharya.