When the organisers of a small community Durga Puja in Beliaghata were busy preparing for the upcoming festival on Monday, the last thing they expected was a letter from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The theme for the Mitra Sanghati’s pandal, situated in a nondescript lane near Suren Sarkar Road, is ‘Notebandi na Manush Bandi’ (Demonetisation or a public trap), a topic Mamata had been most vociferous about in November last year. Not only had she hit the streets in protest against the note ban, she had also targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi over it, calling the move an “epic blunder”.
While the CM often visits the city’s major pandals during the festival, sources said this is perhaps the first time she has written to a puja committee, that too a small one, this year. “We were pleasantly surprised yesterday, when we received a letter from none other than Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. She has sent her good wishes to us all,” said Pradeep Kumar Nemani, doctor and president of the Mitra Sanghati Club.
On August 14, the organisers, like thousands across the state, had sent a letter to the chief minister, informing her about the theme and inviting her to visit their pandal. The letter they received on Monday, which is signed by the chief minister and has her official letterhead, also contains a couplet written by her: “Maa Aschen Siuli Bhore…Sankha Bajuk Ghore Ghore”. “Demonetisation caused a lot of pain to all sections of people. People had money but suddenly, it meant nothing. It was a controversial issue,” said Nemani.
Organisers said that the 55 ft x 20 ft pandal, built on a budget of Rs 11 lakh, will feature an “artistic representation” of demonetisation and the need for money. They have roped in a professional for the job, who has been staying in the neighbourhood and working there for the past two months.
A dilapidated house with an old, 20 ft tall tree in the middlehas been recreated inside the pandal. This “money tree” will have its branches spread across the pandal. The leaves are replicas of the banned Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. The lighting will also focus on the notes.
“Surrounding the tree are frames with figures of people of different professions, age and gender. The aim is to portray man’s desire for money, but trapped in the frame. Though the money tree is close at hand, it is out of reach,” said Prasenjit Haldar, the creator of the theme.
Over 30,000 replicas of the banned Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes have been printed to serve as leaves of the “money tree”. The idols have also been placed in frames. Near the Durga idol, is a huge “Lakkhir Jhampi”, a traditional earthen bowl meant for savings, with a dummy head jutting out of it, painted with teary eyes. “It signifies the pain of the middle class, which had to break its savings during demonetisation. The pain is represented by the tearful eyes and the man’s head jutting out. The common man and his savings were in jeopardy after demonetisation and he is struggling to come out of it,” said Prasenjit.
The neighbourhood has around 2,500 residents. The organisers have decided to showcase the CM’s letter to visitors during the festival. They are expecting the theme to draw huge crowds.