The atmosphere was impregnated with religious fervour on Friday when the city celebrated Mahasaptami.
Yet it was a quiet affair because of the corona pandemic. The Celebrations were environed with corona-protection norms.
The residents have already skipped another important occasion, Ganesha festival, to keep the pandemic at bay.
Nonetheless, one can see a kind of change in people’s mood which was one of sadness only a fortnight ago.
Covid-19 seems to have halted the human civilisation. Everything has gone online. Hardly anything but for fear of the disease is real.
A large number of people, especially those from the Bengali community in the state capital, muster at different Puja Pandals in the city every year.
Not only do they have a glimpse of the deity and enjoy the decoration, but also talk to one another and exchange pleasantries. It is like a family reunion after a year.
The elderly, especially the grandmothers, do matchmaking for their grandchildren. Covid-19 has deprived people of this delight.
During Navaratri, each Pandal is reverberated with drumbeats, the chanting of slokas from the Durgasaptasati and blowing of conch shells. Those sounds that calm the ears are missing.
This has, however, not happened this time. People cannot enjoy the fiesta standing at the Pandals, holding the hands of their children and grandchildren.
They are hemmed in their homes and getting the Puja feel through online.
There is no distribution of Prasad (fruits and sweets offered to the deity) this year. It was offered online. It cannot provide the jollity of physical presence at a Puja Pandal.
Bhajans are being played at some places, but everything is lacking such luster as is generally seen during Navaratra.
At Kali Badi, there is no crowd. A sort of melancholy seems to have descended on the place which is generally crowded with hundreds of people day and night during the fiesta.
Everywhere there is fear. It is baffling. After all, nobody wants to fall prey to covid-19.
Many people used to have lunch at Puja Pandals. Mouth-watering Bhog comprising Khichuri, mixed vegetables, fried brinjal, and Payas (a kind of dessert made of rice, milk and dry fruits).
They have been deprived of it this year. The pandemic has sucked the joy of life. Instead of Bhog, dry fruits, coconut-made sweets and Peda were offered to Goddess.
Real feel is absent: Indira Bhaduri
Ninety-year-old Indira Bahaduri, mother -in-law of Amitabh Bachchan, says she is missing Durga Puja feel.
She has been visiting Kali Bari, South T T Nagar, Bhopal, especially during Durga Puja since 1958.
Every year she attends the Puja (both morning and evening) and Prasad offered to the deity Durga is prepared under her supervision. She also attends cultural events at night, she says, adding that it is like a get- together for her. “Jo maza jakar puja karne woh online puja mein nahi hai… .” So, she will go to Kali Bari to attend Ashtami Puja (on Saturday), she says. She is also missing her daughters including actor Jaya Bachchan who often attends the function.
Thrill is missing: Swastika Chakraborty
Theatre actor Swastika Chakrabroty says besides Puja, this is a five-day festival for her, which begins from Shasthi (the sixth day of the new moon). It was like an Adda (sitting in a group and chatting for hours), she says. Every year, she starts decorates Puja Pandal after having dinner and it goes on till 3am. She used to enjoy Samosa and ‘Mudhi Maka (puffed rice with various spices) and tea. These items were distributed when the Pandal is decked up. But this year, she is missing the actual Puja merriment.