City of Joy thrives largely on public celebrations after a long pandemic-forced gap

The return of the numerous winter festivals and fairs after a long pandemic-forced gap is lending an air of normalcy to what is popularly known as the City of Joy and that thrives largely on public celebrations.

This weekend marks the beginning of a series of events and exhibitions that will extend well into 2022 and last until the book fair in February and will see gatherings in different parts of Kolkata. Unless the new Omicron strain plays the spoilsport, this winter in Kolkata — always sweetened by the arrival of fresh date-palm jaggery — won’t be very different from those of the pre-COVID times.

“It’s a relief to see the festivals and fairs crawling back to life. After two years of sticking indoors, it’s surreal to actually be at a venue to be able to enjoy a performance live! The thought itself is giving me goosebumps. What was as regular as drinking water, has suddenly become a vanity. Pandemic did turn things around,” said advertising professional Sreelekha Maitra, summing up the general mood in the city.

On Saturday begins the West Bengal Government-run Hasta Shilpa Mela, or handicrafts fair, at Eco Park in New Town; the event will end only on December 20. Then there’s The Backyard Pop-Up, a flea market organised by ‘youthpreneurs’ in south Kolkata from December 10 to 12. These young entrepreneurs had shifted their businesses online due to the pandemic. This three-day event will coincide with Tillottama, a winter carnival to be held at the popular Maddox Square Park.

“It’s that old feeling of happiness,” said Howrah-based orthodontist Dr. Trisha Ghosh. “I will be going to the Backyard Pop-Up, where I will get to physically meet the young entrepreneurs and explore their collections and at the same time support them by shopping from them.”

Dr. Ghosh also intends visiting The Harvest of Winter, an art and craft exhibition to be held at the Birla Academy of Art & Culture from December 2 to 5. “The exhibition will have a live workshop on Bengali patachitra, I am very keen on attending that,” she said.

City-based Bharatanatyam dancer Sohini Roychowdhury, currently in the U.K. for a series of shows (she staged the Tandava at COP26 earlier this month), is looking forward to be back home to perform with her troupe at the Art Haat, organised by renowned artist Shuvaprasanna’s ArtsAcre Foundation from December 17-20.

“I love street festivals and I’ve performed extensively at street festivals all over the world. They are like humanity flowing together. And Kolkata is one city where the world is one, and where art and humanity are without the frontiers of religion, gender and race,” she told The Hindu. “Finally, music and art are all returning to their magical mode, when performers and artists are face to face with the audience and empathy flows like a river — that’s Kolkata!”

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