“Eibar amra nijer pujo korbo, ashtamir din anjali debo r bishorjon er din mishti khabo,” (This year we will conduct our own puja, offer flowers to Maa Durga on Ashtami and on the day of immersion, we will have sweets) says extremely excited Riya Das, a street kid studying in class 6.
With the theme as “Ichhepuron” (which reads as ‘wish-fulfilment’ in English), these children from the disadvantaged background have organized a special pujo called “Footpather Durga Pujo” at Sarada Prathamik Vidyalaya, a private school near Mayer Bari in Baghbazar.
Collecting trash from the streets- like tyres and ropes to make beautiful flowers, designs, and even cards, these kids are simply happy to have something of their own.
In this time of the year when the whole Bengal is decked up and people are dancing on the tune of dhak, these humble souls are not allowed to enter the pandals and catch a glimpse of Maa Durga only because they live on the streets. Therefore, this year, they have made a 1-ft tall idol of Goddess Durga.
Looking at the excitement and enthusiasm of these street children, award-winning Mala Pal has stepped in to make the idol for them. “These children never had something of their own, how can I refuse them,” says Mala to LBN.
Instead of bed sheet, these street children wrap themselves in plastic sheets while going to bed. Forget about food, keeping themselves safe is their first priority as they are frequently exposed to dangerous situations.
In a conversation with Life Beyond Numbers, the founder of ARGOBBHAWVA Humanity Development, Mahendra Agarwal (50) says, “Words cannot describe the feeling. Your heart will be filled with joy if you see their faces.”
Argobhawna is an NGO which focusses on the child development and women empowerment. It was Mahendra and his wife who first came up with this initiative and has contributed 1 lakh to organize this pujo so that these children can have few moments of happiness during Puja.
Every year, the Agarwals book a bus, collect the orphan children from several ashrams for puja parikrama. “This year we thought of taking street children as well but when we approached them, they told us that why can’t we organize our puja instead? This is how the idea came into being,” says Mahendra.
“We are not doing something very flashy, it will be a simple puja full of love and joy,” he adds.
The children have made a beautiful card which they will send to Shashi Panja (Minister of State for Women and Child Development and Social Welfare).
Almost 20 kids have put their heart and soul in this puja and however simple it might look like- the idol and puja pandal will surely stand a class apart because of the humble intentions with which this puja is being done.