With Durga puja barely three weeks away, the idol-makers in the neighbourhood are praying for a turnaround. Though, with the fourth wave of Covid-19 almost a distant memory, things are looking up in this festive season, several factors are throwing a spanner in their works.
The city may have taken the streets twice over to celebrate the Unesco inscribing Durga puja of Kolkata on its Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, but the news has not reached these shanty workshops, from Ultadanga to Mahisbathan to VIP Road, where struggle for survival is the way of life.
The biggest hub of idol-makers in the locality is along Canal East Road, to the left of the Gouribari flyover. There are 38 workshops lined by the Circular Canal. “The government created this steel framework for us 12 years ago,” says Subodh Pal, 63, who says he has been making idols for four decades now at the spot where his father had set up shop. The tall superstructure of rods has allowed him to create a mezzanine floor on which he has kept more idols.
Some idol-makers here, like Subodh, make only single smaller idols but many others venture into the more challenging Durga puja territory as well.
All of them agree that demand has improved this year compared to the last two autumns. “In 2019, I had made 100 Vishwakarma idols. In 2020 and 2021, I made 50 with a lot of trepidation. This year, I have made 85. Advance orders are not placed for Vishwakarma puja. Customers come and choose ready-made idols. They should start coming from early next week,” Subodh says.
Subodh had managed to sell his idols last year. But next door, Radharani Shilpalay was not so lucky. Twenty of their Vishwakarmas remained unsold. “Those are the ones