Mirati (West Bengal), Oct 20 (IANS) With President Pranab Mukherjee arriving to don the priest's robe for the Durga puja at his ancestral home here, life is not the same for this otherwise sleepy West Bengal village.
Closed circuit tvs have been installed, over 600 policemen are on duty in the village and its nearby areas, bomb squad personnel seem on high alert, and scanners and other sophisticated security devices are in place, to ensure a hassle-free four-day trip of the country's first citizen to the "Mukherjee Bhawan".
Mobile telephones and cameras have been banned in the house during the puja.
The house has received a fresh coat of light orange paint to welcome the new president, who is on his maiden tour to the village after taking charge of the highest office of the land.
For years, the veteran leader has been conducting the Durga puja rituals at Mukherjee Bhawan, and has steadfastly stuck to the routine by taking out time during the festival despite his busy schedule as in charge of various constitutional and political posts.
Mukherjee, called by his nickname Poltu by village elders, who arrived here this evening, and had a short chat with the media.
"There has been no change in the schedule. But there are self imposed restrictions. Like last time I was photographed in the costume of a priest. But not now... that is why all have been requested not to carry mobile or camera during puja," he told the waiting large posse of media persons, for whom an enclosure has been made about 500 m from the house.
"I will do what I have been doing.. my son (Abhijit) has taken over many things. I'll do the chandi path, all 700 shlokas and others. It takes about three hours, I will do that."
In high spirits, Mukherjee wished happiness to all.
However, this time the run up to his visit has been completely different.
As part of the security drill, a concrete passage has been laid for Mukherjee who would go to the canal near his house to perform the custom of filling the earthen pot with water ahead of the puja. So far, Mukehrjee used to take the village road.
Moreover, the concrete passage has been barricaded with bamboo posts and wires and its two sides covered with curtains. The curtains have also been put on the walls of the residence.
Mukherjee touched down at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Airport in the afternoon and was received by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with whom he chatted for a few minutes before heading for the helicopter which took him for his hometown.
"All the puja rituals will be followed as usual. Only those which are of personal nature including chandipath by baba (father) will be out of bound for the media though the people can watch them. However, he may brief the media every evening. A small enclosure has been made for the same,' said Mukherjee's eledest son Abhijit, an MP.
"This is our family puja and all the arrangements have been made like always. The house is full of relatives and they are happy. For them he is what he used to be. It doesn't matter whether he is the president," he said.
Mukherjee is slated to visit his elder sister Annapurna Banerjee's residence at neighbouring Parota Village. This would be the first meeting between the sibling after Mukherjee's swearing in to the top post. It was Annapurna who had prophesied decades back that his brother would one day become the country's president.
The president would be felicitated Sunday by students of his alma mater Kirnahar Shib Chandra High School at the nearby town Kirnahar. He would inaugurate a permanent exhibition "Pranab's School - School's Pranab" showcasing different phases of his life.
Mukherjee will also have a question-answer session with the students.
He will return to Kolkata Oct 23 evening before returning to Delhi.