It wasn't Maddox Square or Mohammed Ali Park where the residents of Orbit Skyview rang in the four days of festive fun this Durga Puja.
Home is where all the Puja action was for this Paikpara housing complex ' as also for 99 other apartments across Calcutta ' where The Telegraph Hand In Hand events and the community feeling that the festival ushers in ensured that residents rarely ventured out of their gated environs, choosing to stay in and celebrate with family, friends and neighbours.
"This Puja, most residents chose to stay within the complex largely because of The Telegraph Hand In Hand activities which not only are a lot of fun, but also foster community bonding. Even if people went out, they would make sure they rushed back just in time for the events," said Madhuchhanda Gupta Nandi, director, Orbit Skyview Residents Association.
The Hand In Hand roster becomes something like the inhouse champion's league in a housing complex and there is no greater high for many residents young and not-so-young than to be crowned champs at some contest or the other while having loads of fun with friends and neighbours.
Bonhomie and bonding have been the bedrock of The Telegraph Hand In Hand initiative ever since it started 10 years ago. Starting off with just 15 complexes in 2003, The Telegraph Hand In Hand now spreads joie de vivre in 100 apartments across the city.
"This was the first year of Puja celebration in our complex and The Telegraph Hand In Hand activities were just what we needed to break the ice. Residents mingled, spent time together, clapped and cheered for each other. The Hand In Hand events made our puja complete," said Dilip Hore, president, puja committee of Shrachi Element in New Town.
What makes The Telegraph Hand In Hand such a hit is the fact that there is something in it for everyone. And at regular intervals. If the Sit and Draw contest provides young artists a platform to show off their talent, Style Icon is a teen pop pick. Couples make it a point to sign up for the Sriman Srimati contest and Dhunuchi Naach gets in a good mix of the young and the young-at-heart. Ladies opt for Ms Beautiful Hair and Ms Beautiful Skin while Antakshari has always been a traditional crowd-puller.
"Every year we look forward to the Hand In Hand events. Children are entertained and it gives time to their mothers to enjoy. Everyone spends a lot of time together, making up for all the busy days in the year," said Chandra Banerjee of Golf Tower on Prince Golam Mohammad Shah Road.
Boosted by growing interest and participation, The Telegraph Hand In Hand spread its wings this year, increasing the roster of Puja events to as many as 16. New entries like Illuminating the Logo, Shankh Bajao and Very Male Very You went down well with the residents. "Even while including traditional favourites like Antakshari and Spot Quiz, it's great that The Telegraph Hand In Hand makes it a point to include new events every year," said Mrigank Banerjee of City High on Prince Anwar Shah Road.
The all-time favourites range from Sit and Draw for two age groups, Sriman Srimati, for couples to test their compatibility quotient, Three Minutes to Fame to showcase what you are best at in three minutes, and of course the Bolly-Tolly driven Antakshari.
The events reach out to the participant as well as the cheerleader, ensuring that most residents within a housing complex stay home during Puja. "Even if someone doesn't participate, he or she makes it a point to cheer on the others. It's such a family feeling enhanced by the Hand In Hand events," said Banerjee of Golf Tower.
Clearly, a housing complex that eats, prays, plays and laughs together ' hand in hand ' during the festive days, stays happier together till the next Puja.
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The top five Hand In Hand events this year
Mother Dairy Sit and Draw
Tots from classes I to IV displayed their drawing skills. The three best drawings were awarded prizes, courtesy Mother Dairy. "I got a pencil box, clipboard, colour box and many other prizes. I was very happy," said Sachi Chakraborty of Purba DF in Kasba, a winner.
TTIS Sit and Draw
Scenery to images of Durga, students from classes V to VIII let their paintbrushes and sketch pens do the talking. Judges picked the top three drawings from each complex for the top prizes. "I drew a village scenery and added lots of colour. I won over 30 others and that made me very happy. I love participating in the Hand In Hand Sit and Draw contest," said Shristi Roychowdhury of Space Town Residency.
t2 Sriman Srimati
Couples were tested on their compatibility quotient, through questions on how well they knew each other. Based on their responses and overall presentation, the judges chose two winners from each complex. "We did not have a ramp, so we walked in front of our puja pandal. When asked about what made us the best candidates to win, I replied that we love each other a lot and so deserved to win," said Debraj Sarkar of Ruchira Residency who, along with wife Anindita, were placed second in the t2 Sriman Srimati contest.
Everyone's favourite time-pass has been a consistent Hand In Hand favourite through the years. Comprising multiple rounds, the young and the young-at-heart show off their knowledge of film songs, with the entire complex inevitably joining in. This year, a new addition was the Rangtakshari round, presented by Lewis Berger, where teams were asked to sing a song that had the word rang or the name of any colour. Two teams with the highest scores at the end of all the rounds were declared winners.
IOC Xtra Rewards Three Minutes to Fame
Every kind of talent was rewarded on the Three Minutes to Fame stage. Contestants were given three minutes each to display their myriad talents, with the judges choosing the three best performances from each complex. Prizes were given courtesy IOC Xtra Rewards. "The Three Minutes to Fame contest was all about performing impromptu. I did a mimicry act on the Bollywood song Mere samne waali khidki mein. Everyone loved it and I won," said Harendra Tripathi of Hiland Woods.