Kolkata: After reeling under the COVID effect for the last one year, 200-odd clay-modellers in potters’ hub Kumartuli in north Kolkata are now facing rain threat and using various means to protect their idols days ahead of Mahalaya, which heralds the commencement of the Durga Puja festivities. The artisans, who have received far lesser orders than previous years, are struggling to keep their semi-finished idols dry using plastic covers, pedestal fans, blowers and glowing lamps, as delivery dates begin on October 4, two days ahead of Mahalaya.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has, meanwhile, predicted a fresh spell triggered by low-depression only a few days after heavy rain lashed the city and other parts of the state last week. “The booking scenario was very dull till July, but things started to look up from mid-August. Now, most of us have received an average of 20 bookings per head. “However, we are having to incur additional costs to keep the idols dry using fans, blowers, lights and plastic sheets, which would not be borne by the organisers. Now, we are again facing rain threat. Thankfully, Kumartuli doesn’t often get waterlogged,” Sujit Paul, one of the leading artisans who has received 40 bookings, told PTI.
Chaina Pal, one of the few women clay-modellers in Kumartuli, said that bookings are higher than last year but lower than 2019, and rain threat looms large. Kumartuli Mritshilpo Samity office-bearer Kartik Paul said that puja organisers are not willing to shell out more than Rs 40,000-Rs 50,000 per idol, which is much lower than pre-COVID budgets of Rs 80,000-Rs 1.5 lakh, while most idols are ‘ekchala’ and around 7-9 feet-high. “Even as Kumartuli was trying to overcome COVID pandemic and its long-standing effects, fresh rain triggered by a low-pressure area is making it difficult for artisans to undo the damage done by incessant downpour in the past few weeks,” he said.