A puja encourages children to read

The idea of Ajab Shakhat – ‘Strange Meeting’ - where different iconic characters from Bengali and Western children's classics and comic books meet one another for the first time in an imaginary world

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Kolkata: The puja organised by Jodhpur Park Saradiya Utsab Committee entered its 69th year in 2021 and this year, too, the organisers of this popular puja of South Kolkata have come up with an innovative theme.

During the planning stage, the committee members met artist Prasun Ghosh and asked him to think of a theme keeping the children in mind. A theme that will give out the message that there is a world beyond mobile screens. A theme that will introduce this generation of children to the hidden gems beyond the internet and will also evoke nostalgia in the earlier generations.

Ghosh brainstormed and conceptualised the idea of Ajab Shakhat – ‘Strange Meeting’ – where different iconic characters from Bengali and Western children’s classics and comic books meet one another for the first time in an imaginary world. They exchange notes, go on adventures and even inspire one another. Why! Here Satyajit Ray’s famous characters Feluda and Professor Shanku even put on their thinking caps and try to think of ways in which the Sandesh magazine can reclaim its old glory.

Besides Feluda and Professor Shanku, the other characters include Tintin and Captain Haddock, Rani Padmini, Pagla Dashu, Tenida, Shankar, Harry Potter and Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Bir Purush’.

The puja also pays an ode to the children’s classics in Bengali Literature – Mahabharat, Rajkahini, Thakumar Jhuli, Chotoder Samagra Natok, Patalghar among others and immortal authors like Rabindranath Tagore Abanindranath Tagore, Dakshinaranjan Mitra Majumder, Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, Upendra Kishore Ray Chowdhury, Sukumar Ray, Lila Majumdar, Satyajit Ray, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay and so on.

It also offers its homage to the children’s magazines that once used to open up magical worlds for them. Sandesh, Kishore Bharati, Nabakallol, Chandmama, Shuktara et al were an integral part of children’s lives. Unfortunately, many of these magazines are no longer in publication. The special editions of these magazines during Durga Puja used to be prized possessions once-upon-a-time.

Thus, these magazines have been showcased inside the pandal which represents a book. The place where goddess Durga is being worshipped has been designed like the cover page of Anadamela’s puja edition and giving a contemporary twist the Mother Goddess is seen slaying the Corona virus ashura and the gate also showcases the vaccine.
The visitors are enthralled by this pujo and their verdict is that it does not only take the earlier generations back to their childhood days but also imparts an important message to today’s generation – that books are our crowning glory.

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