The initiative has been christened 'Paharer Chokhe Samataler Pujo', or 'puja of the plains seen through the eyes of the hills' by the Mission.
Four boys and six girls between the ages of six and 12 years have been selected to be part of the puja parikrama and they left for Kolkata today.
Talking about the initiative, Amalan Biswas, secretary of the Kolkata-based Concern for Human Welfare (CHW), said it was a puja gift to the 10 children from the tea gardens and an opportunity to learn new culture. CHW is one of the organisers along with ADD and Darjeeling’s Ramakrishna Mission Nivedita Educational and Cultural Center (RMECC).
“Normally, celebrities and prominent personalities of Kolkata judge the puja pandals, which is a huge event. However, we feel that children and their parents from the various tea gardens of Darjeeling are no less celebrities themselves. They work really hard for the cup of Darjeeling tea that we savour and relish each morning,” said Biswas.
Secondly, the purpose of the unique enterprise is also to foster brotherhood and acquaint the hills with the plains, and what better catalysts than children, reason the organisers. “These children will represent Darjeeling in Kolkata. So the idea is to provide the children from the hills with the opportunity to be part of a culture which is different from the ones they are accustomed to. We want them to learn and interact and pass on the experience to others in the hills,” Biswas said.
The 10 children will visit and judge pandals of Kalighat Milan Sangha, Tirdhara Sammilani, Ekdalia Evergreen, Naktala Udayan Sangha, Bhawanipore Swadin Sangha, Chetla Agrani Club, Suruchi Sangha and Peerless Nagar Durga puja and also visit the Mission’s head office at Belur Math and Belgharia during their two-day stay in Kolkata.
Twelve year-old Nitesh Balmiki from Singmari was elated and eager to go to Kolkata to witness a new kind of puja celebration. “I am really excited about the trip and can’t wait to reach Kolkata. I have only seen the small train (DHR toy train) in town. Now I will be riding in one today. I also don’t know what a pandal is as we don’t have them here, but I have been told that they are really huge and lovely,” he said.
Swami Parananda of the RMECC said the selected children were mostly from the Gadadhar Abhudaya Prakalpa (GAP), a programme run by the mission. “They are from the tea gardens of nearby areas and are financially weak. Most of them have not even gone as far as Siliguri leave alone Kolkata. We want the children to gain all-round development and experience. Learning from experience is invaluable,” he said.
The RMECC was set up at Roy Villa in the fringes of Darjeeling town where social worker and educationist Sister Nivedita breathed her last. The mission is supported by the state government and underprivileged children from tea gardens are provided free evening tuition, food and books along with extra curriculum activities. (EOIC)