Seven-year-old Rahul prefers to spend his days at a pandal in Chittaranjan Park here rather than going to school. Having made what he calls a ‘slight’ adjustment to his daily schedule, he feels studies can wait but Puja’s bonhomie can’t.

“I will manage. Studies can wait till the festival is over,” Rahul said before asking his friend to unblock his view of an idol of the mother goddess being loaded on a truck which soon leaves for Panchsheel Park.

Rahul’s excitement reflects the mood across the city; more so in CR Park which is the biggest hub of Durga Puja celebrations in Delhi hosting lakhs of visitors who come to pay obeisance to the mother goddess and her children at eight different venues in the area.

With two days to go for the Puja festivities to begin, the organisers are sweating it out, literally, to ensure a smooth run.

“Lakhs throng the pandals during Puja and they expect more grandeur with each passing year. Living up to those high expectations requires effort. From the decorations to security, everything has to be meticulously planned and monitored,” says Shekhar Guha, an Air India employee, who is a core member of the committee that holds Puja at Mela Ground.

Mr. Guha, who has been associated with the oldest Puja committee in CR Park since it first organised Durga Puja 38 years ago, feels the younger lot is not enthusiastic about carrying forward the mantle.

Ruing lack of helping hands, Mr. Guha says, “They come here during the main event to have a good time but only a few bother to help us in ensuring that things are on track in the run up to the Puja. They have to realise that it is not a fair or an expedition but a tradition that has to be kept alive and even enriched.”

Themes at pandals across CR Park vary from “Freedom fighters from Bengal” to “Rajasthani folk art”.

Meanwhile, the Puja committees are doing every bit to ‘go green’. For instance, Dakshinpalli Durga Puja Samiti in Pocket 52 has decided to do away with the ritual of immersing idols into Yamuna. The committee has instead designed and fabricated steel tanks of various sizes which will be used during immersion ceremony.

“Government spends huge sums of money for cleaning our rivers. As responsible citizens, we cannot afford to pollute the water further,” says Ashok Bose, the president of the committee.

A sense of nostalgia also drives many former residents of Delhi’s “mini Bengal” to celebrate the biggest festival in the calendar for Bengalis in the Capital. Sitting at the Cooperative Ground Durga Puja pandal, its founder member and banker Samir Datta who shifted to Amritsar a few years ago, says: “I feel at home in CR Park and keep coming here.”

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