A Revelation… October 17, 2009Posted by Sreyasi Nag Chowdhury in My thoughts....
Tags: diwali, government, happiness, kolkata, Kumartuli, luxury, photowalking, poverty, pujas
Durga pujo or Durgotsav…the biggest festival of Bengal…time for fun and frolic…new clothes, new shoes, loads of pocket money, good food, pandal hopping, hanging around in malls, movies (although these are common always…)…all colourful smiling faces, high spirits…lights & theme pujas & ‘Shera Sundori’ (Best Beauty) contests…that’s the overall picture of Kolkata during the pujas….or is it?
We go pandal hopping…all pepped up in our best attire. Some other kids go pandal hopping too…but in tattered rags of clothes…to beg their livelihood. We rush to theme pujas, sms and vote the best in the hope of becoming the lucky winner and earning some easy money. They hope too…to get some food, or to earn some extra bucks for a sick father, or for a better dinner, as they stare with wide amazement at the extravagant luxury of the rich. The hope is common…but the difference in form is depressing. I went to Pantaloons, Kankurgachi for shopping before the pujas. It stands high in the middle of a slum. The contrast of the bright green and lights and all colours looking at you through the glass, and rows of cars, to the dull shades of grey and black of the surrounding slums is striking…but does that strike anyone? The answer is a plain ‘no’…that is the grim truth. This is the portrait of Kolkata. Wherever you go you see the same sketch…malls and slums, expensive restaurants and indigent roadsides inns, 5-star hotels and people sleeping on pavements, children in plush cars and children in garbage dumps…the eternal disparity continues.
Kumartuli. This is where the idols get made. Months of back-breaking work, dedication, bearing with the scarcity, yet giving their best…only to ensure that Kolkatans can have a blast during the puja days. But what do they get in return? The minimal payment…which is not even enough to meet their daily needs. Many may not know the inner picture of kumartuli. I didn’t before this year. Now I do. Thanks to Kolkata Photowalk 09. I’ve seen their poverty-stricken interiors, the starved workmen, their perilous living conditions. They work for hours in their dingy studios in claustrophobic conditions. Electricity is often not available, but they have to stick to their deadlines. Some of the buildings are tagged as ‘house in danger’ by the municipality, but still no action taken. Is there nothing to be done? Isn’t it a responsibility to give them a hint of security while they give us the surety of enjoyment every year? Are we so selfish to not spare a thought for them? It’s a sorry situation. We can only sympathise and make people aware of their treacherous condition, but what is the government doing?
The government is busy. There are so many battles to be fought. Battles over land and industrialisation, battles over ‘who killed whom?’, battles about pay rise and luxury allowances…battles to win the chair of power. Why only Rajbhavan? I think the whole of West Bengal’s political front is becoming a circus ring, with all the public remarks, bad language and illogical jeering! Will anyone pay attention to what’s primary? The immediate reforms required? Will there be any action undertaken to strike equality between the economic classes?
Hey you people working in MNCs, and all the economic big shots, what difference will it make to you if you put an effort to minimise your luxury requirements and utilise the money in a better and more humanitarian way? Little. But the change you will bring into the lives of the more unfortunate will be vast. Some sad faces will turn happy…beautiful smiles will replace the tears. Isn’t that an achievement of a lifetime? Give it a thought.
For me, I’m penniless…words are my weapon. I avoid going out during the pujas because I feel helpless when I see the plight of the underprivileged.
Happy Diwali to everyone! Go ahead and burn your money while many block their ears, crouch, and cry in the dark, poor and unnoticed lanes of Kolkata. Happiness is too expensive for them.