Posted by Subhashish Chatterjee
September 16, 2017

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Durga Puja is probably the biggest festival of the year in Kolkata. A bengali who resides in the city would agree to this without a second thought. The lights, the sound of dhaak, the fun and excitement in the air, shopping madness and spending quality time with loved ones take us to a different planet altogether for a few days. We can also look forward to light up the life of those around us to a certain extent at least. I am talking about those who are not as privileged as many of us are. Perhaps we have it in ourselves to look beyond ourselves. Every year we pray to Maa Durga to make this world a better place to live. Prayer should go hand in hand with some sort of activity of reaching out these homeless and deprived people. They are one of us who for some reason or the other aren’t leading a normal life.  Durga Puja is one of the best times of the year where we can think about them, make them feel better. The sight of these homeless people sleeping at cornered lanes, street, roads and railway stations is the same feeling as a heart break. Watch them begging and asking for money isn’t an encouraging sight at all. People from many other states as well as countries come to embrace the occasion. This is probably the best time of the year to have them with us to come and help rescue these unfortunate ones.

   I wonder if the thought of helping them goes invisible from our mind. The crowd, the huge gatherings at different pandals, the bhog and prasad distribution and such activities take place almost everywhere.  Recently, the floods that took place in North Bengal rendered many people homeless. I wonder if we should wait for these happenings to take place in order to come forward and help the needy. It would be great if the message is spread through various other platforms. How about having a theme pujo which gives the message of helping the poor ones? Instead of massive advertisement hoardings, how about having this message being labeled as something which is a message from the almighty herself? Everytime I shop for clothes, shoes, and similar necessary day to day life use products, I wonder the donation box they display at the payment counter is serving its purpose or not. I am not here to discourage advertisements for products and services or any such activity. I would love to find another advertisement of a similar size which can help spread the awareness on a greater scale. I so wish that we grow and graduate to more than just appreciating the portrayal of the “larger than life” story of a poor man who builds an empire from the ashes.

The countless schemes for the poor seem to have made many people blind to their day to day struggles. Out of the 365 days in a year, we can definitely pick one day to make them feel better. Although it may not be as equal as offering fruits and similar kind of foods for Puja to the goddess, it will be a “larger than life” deed for each one of us. As I was scrolling through the news, I was reading about the budget of different clubs and associations. It is a lot of money out of which a small portion should be reserved for donating some clothes and food to the poor. Many clubs and associations have already started such activities and it is so encouraging. I so wish that the number of people begging on the streets and local trains goes down in the coming years. Many of them don’t have a voter id card, or pan card or aadhar card to make them eligible to apply for various government welfare schemes.  We can also make a difference by enlisting their names by helping them to fill up various forms. We can do so much more than just praying for their well being. Many libraries offer free of cost membership and we can help them to take up membership. There is so much that we can do for them and that too by using our puja holidays. Even if we manage to do it once in every three to four years, the participation of all would surely make a massive difference to their lives and eventually to ours as well.

Durga Puja shouldn’t be limited to the worship of a goddess. We should just think about more ways to add meaning to this festival. This, I think would be possible by a miniscule activity of donating something to the poor or helping out the unprivileged children. This festival if celebrated in a different way can surely light up the lives of these people around us. All of us have busy lives where we tend to forget a lot of things and it is quite normal.  Why not spare just one day or a few hours to reach out to these poor souls and bring a smile on their faces?  Many people are into such activities including myself and believe me it is a great source of satisfaction. We aim to reach new heights career-wise and earning-wise to fulfill our dreams. How about an aim of donating a small portion of your income or belongings to the unprivileged ones? How about uniting this Puja to continue with adda sessions and some spare time to help the needy that we find in trains, railway stations, bus stops and almost everywhere?                   

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