Five days of revelry, dressing up in traditional attires, gorging on mouthwatering dishes, catching up with friends and enjoying dance, music and theatrical performances — Durga Puja is when people of all age groups have an amazing time, especially the youth. But while we all think that the participation of teenagers and youngsters is only limited to having fun, many youngsters from the city are actively contributing towards organising the Puja, participating in cultural programmes and management of the other aspects of the celebration like cooking, serving bhog, maintaining decorum and so on.
Baishali Ghosh, member of Bangiya Sanskiri Samsad (BSS), who has been associated with the group since 2009 and has been an integral part of Durga Puja celebration in the city, says that not only students but even young professionals take out time to help in whatever way they can. “Many of them are really good at cooking and can make amazing dishes. However, due to job pressures and paucity of time, they do not indulge in the hobby so much. Durga Puja and organisation like BSS give them an opportunity to pursue it, even if it’s for a two-three days, and they also make some money. Many of the IT professionals have put up their stalls selling authentic Bengali dishes. One such stall is Hangla Bong, which is a hit this year,” says Ghosh.
She further adds that youngsters from the age group of 18-28 and beyond ensure that the programmes are well-organised and the senior members of the organisation get help in executing their ideas and plans. Every year, youngsters volunteer in large number for different puja organising committees and also perform various art forms under the guidance of senior remembers.
“Cultural programmes like Rabindra sangeet, folk songs, dances, plays are an integral part of Durga Puja celebration and youngsters from the city add a lot of fun and energy to all this festivity. It is also amazing to see how the youth are trying to connect with the Bengali culture and are pursuing classical music and dance,” informs Ghosh.
Megha Shah, a city-based youngster who is pursuing her Bachelor’s from Sir Parshurambhau college, is a part of a group that specialises in various art forms and actively takes part in Durga Puja celebrations.
Says Shah, “I am a Bharatnaytam dancer and I like to perform at the pandal near my house on Sinhagad Road. Even my friends participate in various actives and also volunteer. As someone who has grown up in Pune, it is an opportunity to learn more about my Bengali culture and understand various aspects of Durga Puja right here. We get to learn a lot from elderly people and other artists. In a way, it is like transporting ourselves to Kolkata.” She further adds that being a part of the Puja trains them into planning, organising, execution and a lot of other things which will help them later in life.
Subham Roy, 21, who has been taking care of the bhog-making process, says that since the age of 18, he has been involved in cooking, preparation of the bhog to serving people who visit the pandal. “I believe the purpose of Durga Puja is not just having fun; it also means that we must be there for each other and help each other. It is mostly the elderly people who are behind Durga Puja celebrations, hence as youngsters, we must make an effort to look after those aspects of Puja which require a lot of leg work. I completely enjoy being part of this and along with my friends I also do dhunuchi naach,” says Roy.
While many youngsters are helping the organisers, some others take care of the management and traffic control. Sneha Banerjee and her friends have been taking charge of the parking and security arrangement around the Durga Puja pandal in Baner area. “Puja pandal means hundreds of people flocking to see Maa Durga which makes parking in the area a big issue. Hence we make sure the cars and bikes are parked properly and they get enough space to get in and get out. Due to the crowd, security too becomes a huge issue. We have to ensure that there is no manhandling inside the pandal. We operate through a WhatsApp group and try our best to keep the decorum and avoid any chaos,” says Banerjee.