Childhood is neither ‘a golden age of the barefoot time’ nor is it ‘a life of a fairy tale sung in rhyme’, wrote American author Adelbert Farrington Caldwell in his book The Barefoot Time. His words ring true for today’s kids. Gone are the innocent and carefree days which are taken over by academic pressure, over possessiveness of parents and lastly the digital era. Childhood is less fun and more academic pressure nowadays.

Like elders, children too join the rat race of life. This subject has emerged as the main theme of the Durga Puja of Sitala Mandir Sarbjonin at Kasba. No matter whether it is for a newly married couple, a senior citizen or a visitor seeking to savour the flavour of the festival, this community puja is certain to make the visitors spare a thought for the students. The puja organisers said the idea is to highlight the mental stress that the children are going through. “In our days, we used to enjoy our childhood in the best possible ways. We used to play in the fields and spend a lot of time in outdoor games.

But today’s children have a different life that mainly revolves around books and gadgets. This results in tremendous mental pressure,” said Mr Bijan Mukherjee, councillor of the area. To make the theme come alive, artist Debashish Guchhait has created human figures without heads at the entrance, symbolising modern man growing up physically but lacking a mind. The headless human figures have been beautifully crafted out of fragments of pens. The middle of the pandal depicts the fact that growth of germ seeds (individuals’ knowledge) gets lost under the pressure of academic books. In the next stage, visitors can get a feel of the pain of little children sleeping with books or sitting depressed.

Children in the shape of nibs and their mothers in the shape of pen caps signifies the truth about modern mothers being over-protective and over possessive about their children. “Neither Valmiki’s mother nor Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s mother was academically sound individuals. However, their sons carved out a name for themselves in the domain of knowledge,” said Debashish. “The society’s pressure pushes parents to force their children to pursue conventional professions like doctors, engineers, instead of letting their children follow their dreams or sharpen skills. It results in improper growth of individuals who refuse to respect others as they never get their due share of it. If children are allowed to pursue a career in the fields of their likings, the world can be a better place to live,” he added.

The crowd-puller of the theme is the idol which would be shown in a meditating posture. “The only thing that can bring peace to kids’ soul is meditation. Therefore, the idol has been shown in a meditating posture which is a source of peace and tranquillity,” he said.