Kolkata, Jul 11 (PTI) Artisans at Kolkata's clay modellers' quarter Kumartuli are cautiously optimistic for better days as coronavirus cases are maintaining a downward trend in West Bengal and Durga Puja organisers are gradually flocking to the locality in the northern part of the city for the past one week to place their orders for idols.
Mintu Paul, one of the leading clay modellers in the area, said that though the number of bookings is only 20-25 per cent of what was registered in pre-COVID times two years back, it has slowly gathered pace in the last one week and over 80 per cent of the 250-odd studios have received orders.
'There had been no work since the second COVID wave struck the country. The number of puja organisers has also dwindled. But things started looking up as few bookings were registered in mid-June and organisers flocked in larger numbers in the last one week. We hope for more orders on the auspicious day of Ratha Jatra on Monday.
'In 2020, around this time, we had received bookings that were 30-40 per cent of what we had registered in 2019.
This year, the percentage has dipped to 20-25 per cent. But we are positive and hopeful,' he said.
Paul said that in the last few days, he had received phone calls from big puja committees such as Santosh Mitra Square and Simla Byayam Samity, and they confirmed that they are going ahead with puja celebrations this year as well.
Another popular artisan, Sujit Paul, said that the situation appeared bleak even a fortnight ago but he has received orders from seven community and three household pujas in the last few days.
'Seven other community puja organisers have confirmed that they will place their orders on Ratha Jatra on Monday.
The idols will be around 12-feet high and not like the five- six feet high ones of last year. I think the vaccination drive is instilling confidence among the puja organisers,' Paul said. He has already shipped an idol to Scotland.
Mintu Paul said he has sent an idol each to Berlin in Germany and New Jersey in the United States, while a booking is expected from another American state.
'I had shipped five idols abroad last year despite the COVID situation. However, things seem to be looking up now even though at a slow pace,' he said.
'Instead of the average 60 idols sent abroad from Kumartuli for pujas organised by the Bengali diaspora, this year around 25-30 idols were sent. But we are looking forward to better days,' Paul added. PTI SUS ACD ACD