Silchar: The low depression in the Bay of Bengal and its rain spell, COVID-19 spectre, SOPs of the district administration of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi and the economic hardship of people have all combined together to dampen the festive spirit of the greatest Hindu festival of Durga Puja across the valley of Barak. Reports from the three district headquarters indicate drastic cut in the number of puja committees and the pandals with the idols of Goddess Durga. On the day of invocation on Thursday, puja committees wished and prayed for sunny days ahead but that was not to be.
Nature has been all smiling with kash flowers in the rural areas and lotus blooming in wet lands until the rain played spoilsport with its cascading effect. According to official sources, against 500 pujas in Silchar circle, this time it has come down to 312, in all the six circles of 285 puja pandals have been set up and in the border district of Karimganj, the number has been a all time low of 398. Samiran Acharya, member of Shillongpatty puja committee of this town, said 'unless Sun God blesses us, 2020 puja will become a mirage for us.'
On the rain soaked Saptami, there are no pandal hoppers to visit the wet pandals, looking almost deserted except a few members of the organising committees and some visitors. Drummers do beat the drums, maintaining permissible decibel. There are no blaring microphones and art and design as well as decorations of pandals being a low key affair with budgets cut down. Arup Roy, senior journalist of Karimganj and Satananda Bhattacharjee, well known scribe of Hailakandi, gave almost identical pictures of their districts of puja festivity being a depressed and dampened affair.
Against this backdrop, the district and police administrations of the 3 districts have easy task to maintain law and order. Puja committees have extended full cooperation in observing the COVID protocols and SOPs after initial hiccups. Devotees and pandal hoppers hope from Ashtami, it will be bright and sunny days. After being caught in lockdown and unlock down phases, the nerve shattered Hindus waited for the festive days to forget the nightmarish images of the COVID-19 at home and abroad. Goddess however wished otherwise.