Seven months after they emerged I-League champions, Mohun Bagan players were finally presented the glittering winner's trophy at a ceremony in Kolkata on Sunday. Celebrations prevailed across the shobuj-merun (a colloquial way of referring to the green-and-maroon colours that the club dons) camp as the champions were handed over the trophy by I-League CEO Sunando Dhar in the presence of Club President Swapan Sadhan Bose and West Bengal Sports Minister Aroop Biswas.
However, what followed were delirious scenes on the streets of the city when the trophy was taken out in an open vehicle in their victory procession as thousands of fans celebrated the triumph, paying little heed to the health guidelines or the fact that there was a raging pandemic around.
Many fans were even seen without the mandatory masks as they danced on the streets, waving green-and-maroon colours when the I-League trophy made its way to the club tent, traversing through important landmarks of EM Bypass, Shambazar, Girish Park and Dharmatala.
No one, who understands the pulse of the city, can call this kind of a response exactly unexpected. Supporters of both the contenders of the popular Kolkata Derby, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, have been known for their crazed fanaticism for nearly a century now, to the point that the dedicated fan bases for either are paved into the city's cultural fabric.
What traditional reason does not explain, though, is the lax initiative of the administration in containing this response, especially considering that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic outbreak in the country has shown no signs of dying down.
Several reports suggest that with India heading into its main holiday season with an economy freed of virus restrictions, the country should brace for a surge of cases in the coming weeks as it is now already on track to overtake the United States with the world's most novel coronavirus infections.
Although West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has repeatedly urged people to avoid going out for shopping or celebrations and to wear thick masks at all times during this year's Durga Puja, if the countdown is any indication — all requests have fallen to deaf ears.
People across Kolkata are flocking to markets, shops, and malls for the customary 'Pujo shopping', leading to fears of surging coronavirus cases. "Minus the masks, nothing seems different in the city’s shopping spree," notes a report on the situation.
Just last week, a picture from a famous footwear store in the city, Sreeleathers, packed with shoppers, went viral, enough to send chills down the spine of the ones sane enough to be terrified by the implications.
Similar scenes unfold all across all the well-known traditional shopping destinations, on seeing which any perchance individual living under the rock would assume that life is normal and that it's just another year, another Durga Puja.
Notably, West Bengal has allowed 42% more community Durga Puja gatherings this year and doubled state financing for them. The Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare has warned the situation will worsen if social distancing and other rules are not followed.
“There is no need to congregate in large numbers to prove your faith or your religion,” the minister, Harsh Vardhan, said in a broadcast last week, “if we do this we may be heading for big trouble.”
With the situation being way more aggravated than it could possibly be imagined, one can only hope that nothing short of a miraculous realisation of the reality of the pandemic can now make people and authorities act more responsibly than what is currently at display.