With warnings of heavy rain owing to cyclone Titli casting a shadow on Durga Puja festivities that begin next week, pandal decorators are working overtime to complete orders. The weather department has predicted “heavy to very heavy showers” till Saturday.
Argho Chatterjee, organiser of a community puja in Joramandir, said, “The moment we heard about the cyclone, we wanted to complete pandal work fast so the idol could be placed one or two days prior to schedule. We have increased the number of labourers from 10 to 16. Labour costs have risen because of overtime and it is effecting us more because ours is a low-budget puja.”
One of the biggest challenges is the transportation of idols. Famous female idol-maker Kanchi Pal, who is suffering from high fever, has been busy trying to complete her last few orders. Speaking to The Indian Express, she said, “We don’t know when it might start raining. Yesterday, I had to rush to cover Maa Durga’s statue because it suddenly started raining. I have made 50 statues this year, of which I have delivered 20. The remaining 30 are almost complete. We usually keep Durga statues in open areas. If it rains heavily, our labour cost will increase. We use kerosene to dry the idol. Organisers bring polythene sheets to cover the idols, but for wrapping the deities we need extra manpower.”
In Kumartuli, another idol-maker said, “We are already about 20 per cent behind in our work. If it rains, I don’t know how we will deliver on time.” Another pointed out that if it rains heavily, artisans have to touch up the paint on the idols, which is an arduous process.
Pritam Pal, a member of a Salt Lake-based puja committee, said, “It is not just about a statue, our emotions are attached to it. A lot of people believe it is not good fortune to bring a broken idol.”
Organisers, however, are sure that no rain will dampen the festive spirit. Subir Das, organiser of the Bhowanipore 75 Palli puja, said, “Today, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee inaugurated our pandal. This time, our theme will take people down memory lane; the things our parents used to enjoy. In those days, ever cartoons had a constructive message. The rain will not stop the people of Bengal from enjoying Durga Puja. It comes only once a year. Last time, lots of people had braved the rain to come to our pandal. We, however, have taken precautions”.