Supreeta Singh

“Joto dureryi thaki na keno ma tomar haather choya theke… moner modhye dhakir daker awaz aar dhunor sporsho bar bar tomar kache amake niye jaye…..mon mante chaye na je tomar theke eto dure achi ma go…..” (No matter what the distance between us mother, the sound of the dhaak and the scent of myrrh keep reminding me of you… my heart is not ready to accept the fact that I am so far away from you). These words have been posted by Amrita Banerjee Ghosh on the wall of Durga Puja, a community events page on Facebook. Originally from Kolkata, she works as a school teacher in Georgia, US. Another follower, Arijit Sur Roy excitedly says the essence of Durga Puja is to buy new clothes, spend time with friends and go pandal-hopping. Others like Soumya Mukherjee, Jaideep Chatterjee, Prasenjit Dey, Sweta Bhattacharya Ganguly, Debarati Nandan and Soumya Mukherjee are keeping a day-to-day countdown to the annual festival. Thanks to Facebook, Durga Puja committees and websites are getting a free platform to publicise their local pujas and market it among peers. All the publicity is being done through events, community websites and their profile pages. Information regarding dates, timings of rituals, where and how they will be performed and other related activities are available on the webpage. Moreover, such communities listed as Religious Organi­sations and Local Businesses are bringing Kolkatans from all over the globe closer. All of them are talking animatedly about their favourite festival, sharing photographs and posting links to blogs. Says Chirantani Dey, “I went to Mumbai in 2006. Although there are many pujas there that I enjoy yet the Kolkata flavour is missing. I have very fond memories of pujas back in Kolkata and I do miss my neighbourhood, friends, puchkas and egg rolls. I joined a Facebook Puja community out of nostalgia.” Interestingly, the creator of Durga Puja 2010 is a 16-years-old Class 12 student of South Point High School, Srinjoy Sen. At last count, the page had more than 4,800 followers. When asked why he started an online page, he says, “I wanted to create an online database for Durga Puja. Facebook gave me the perfect opportunity to do that. I look after web administration of the Bengal Rowing Club and I knew that a Durga Puja events page will get a lot of attention.” Lucknow-based Durga Puja Committee Lal Bagh, Mumbai-based Mahakali Sarbojanin Durgautsav Seva Samiti and Durga – The Holy Deity are some of the communities present on Facebook. Malay Chakraborty of Mahakali Sarbojanin Durgautsav Seva Samiti is a senior manager at Indian Oil Corporation Limited and has been living outside Kolkata for the last 30 years. He has not been able to come back to his city during the pujas for one reason or another. But he has participated in a community puja at Andheri and decided to open a Facebook account to create more awareness. “Online communities are a great way to bring people from all over the world together. Kolkatans living in the UK, USA and other countries get a feel of the pujas in India. Just because they are away from home, they miss all the fun. I thought that a Facebook page will give them the chance to experience Durga Puja as it is celebrated here,” says Malay. Echoes Aloke Kumar Neotia, Managing Dir­ector of Vindhya Group, “Durga Puja is celebrated with grandeur in West Bengal. “But Bengalis living outside the state cannot miss their most important festival. Our site provides them with all the background information connected to puja along with different sections on food, gifts, e-greetings, wallpapers, screen savers, etc. The site gets more than 1 lakh hits a day.” Vindhya Group has a profile page and a website on Facebook called Kolkata Durga Puja. However, the real feel of Durga Puja can never be enjoyed virtually. “Online platforms give people a common reason to share their joy, to develop the community spirit and spread a message of well-being and love. However, they can never replace the real pujas,” he concludes.