Darkness descends on Miriti, Pranab Mukherjee’s village in Bengal
At Miriti, a small village at Kirnahar in Bengal’s Birbhum district, Durga Puja at the Mukherjee family’s ancestral home was never complete without a priest whose visit every October lighted up the festivities and hundreds of faces.
A devout Hindu, Pranab Mukherjee never missed his priest’s role except only in 2015, when his wife, Suvra, passed away just a few days before the annual festival. Although other priests performed the routine rituals, it was Mukherjee’s job to chant scriptures from the 13 chapters of Chandi. The puja was started by Mukherjee’s ancestor Jangaleswar Mukherjee 126 years ago.
To the villagers, who gathered in mourning on Monday evening, Mukherjee was always Poltu, the nickname his parents gave him. His elder sister Annapurna Devi, the only member of the family who lived in the house, died in January this year.
“We lost our guardian as Bengal lost a glorious son. An era has ended and this void will remain forever,” said Rabi Chattaraj, 71, the former Congress leader’s follower in politics and a resident of Miriti. The village is located around 230 km to the South-West of Kolkata.
“I became his disciple ever since I joined the Youth Congress as a young man. Dada was affectionate to me. Last year, when he came to attend the puja, he asked me to look after the guests and ensure that everyone gets the prasad,” Chattaraj told HT as his voice choked.
“The puja at Dada’s home has always been devoid of any kind of luxury despite his stature. Thousands of people, including VIPs, have attended the puja. Dada used to request everybody not to leave without taking the prasad,” said Chattaraj.
During his stay in the village, Mukherjee used to spend time with family and old friends, some of whom went to the Shib Chandra High School at Kirnahar which is more commonly referred to as ‘Pranab’s school.’