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Unlike many, Camden Durga Puja braving COVID-19 pandemic for Bengalis in Britain

Even on days of epidemic, the old Mittal’s Durga Puja is trying to make the colourful atmosphere of this autumn festival on the soil of Britain.

Sumana Adak | London |

Even during this epidemic, in the early morning of autumn with Birendra Bhadra’s magical voice “Ashwin ar Saradh Prate” signifies that ‘Mother is coming to Earth’. But this year 2020 is incongruous for celebrating ‘Durga Puja’ in India and therefore it is also the same for UK; this time the excitement of ‘Durga Puja’ in London is very less. So far, there have been more than 60 puja committees in Britain used to do competition during puja, but this year mother is coming only at 15 places in London. Birmingham, South London, Cambridge, Aberdeen, Cardiff and Glasgow, Edinburgh in Scotland and many more famous puja committees have decided to postpone puja celebration for this year which is quite pathetic for many Bengalis in UK. When most of the puja committees are counting the days in uncertainty, then mother Uma’s footprint are being painted in a pavilion of the ‘Swiss Scottish Library’ in London. Even on such a day of epidemic, the old Mittal’s puja is trying to make the colourful atmosphere of this autumn festival on the soil of Britain.

In the year 1963, some young Bengalis living in London pulled the essence of ‘Sharad Anand’ to Camden’s Mandap on the bank of the river Tame. It is heard that Tusharkanti Ghosh, the editor in chief of Amritabazar newspaper himself sent the idol from Kumartuli to London by ship. In the morning of ‘Sasthi’, each year mother used to come from London museum to the Camden’s Mandap by procession. Every year such a scene on foreign soil is a great emotion for any Bengali.

The joy of one festival after another has faded in the year 2020 due to unscrupulous effect on Corona. But by following rule, the picture of ‘Khuti-puja’ on the bank of river Tame shows that the world’s largest carnival could easily ignore the ambush of any evil force. As per the Indian rule, from the time of mother’s enlightenment, to the time of Ashtami puja, next Sandhi Puja, Dhunuchi’s dance, and finally the game of Sindur will all be there same as before. Enjoyment, chatting, style segment, photo session, selfie, fashions, dinner, every time Camden’s puja days manifest as a small part of Kolkata, though five thousand mile away from Bengal.

But this is not the end. This time, a fancy idea like “Namami Ganga” has come up in Camden’s Puja theme. It should not matter whether it is the river Tame or the Ganga, we can only save them. Cultural events with gathering are also not allowed this time. It is heard that with the permission of the government, keeping in mind the situation of COVID-19, only fifteen people will participate in each team. “ALVIDA” will be on the last day of the program where starting will be with “BISHABRIKSHA”. The main theme of this year special event is to recap lost artists of Bollywood and their reminiscences.

Bengali’s Durga Puja celebration, so it is similarly important for fashion, cosmetics etc. ‘Puja Bazaar’ will appear during all puja’s days. Gupta Suites will be there during the puja to make happy all Bengali, and Siraj will host a bunch of Bengali food from all those famous Indian cuisines.

Camden’s puja on London soil attracts the attention every time; is it just because of its spectacle? It is very good to see how a committee has kept their puja like a family for fifty-six years even so many competitions and festivals and even this pandemic time. Dr. Anand Gupta, the ophthalmologist who is the president of the committee, told about his experience. He said, ‘our puja site is really a family. It is said to be the intact meeting place of all Bengalis, where people rush to visit their mother on the days of puja forgetting the busyness of the whole year. Such an autumn gathering in the land of outcast is huge than any other thing. Hopefully we will do puja successfully this year. Everyone of the committee has worked tirelessly from day one to the end of the festival to preserve their hobby.’

Everyone’s prayer is that the evil time of this pandemic should disappear with the arrival of the “superpower Maa”.