Go on a drive around Hyderabad this Dasara

Apprehensive about crowded places, Hyderabadis are celebrating the festival with picnics, family dinners and compact house parties

After a subdued year, there is a distinctly familiar, festive buzz in the air again as Dasara approaches. Traffic-free Tank Bund on Sundays is gearing up as stalls hawking fast food, clothes and handicrafts on the sidewalks give it the joyous vibe of a mela. In the cheery crowd, channawalas woo buyers as they compete with popular mirchi bajji stalls.

Malls brim with customers juggling multiple shopping bags as they make their last stop at the popcorn stall. People seem to be celebrating a return to normalcy with a sense of relief. However, with children yet to be vaccinated and the pandemic not yet over, people are finding safe ways to celebrate, from family dinners to long drives.

The popular puja pandals are up again, Bangiya Sanskritik Sangha, Hyderabad Bengali Samiti, Kalibari and Attapur Bengali Association. All puja pandals have restricted the number of entries to stop over crowding. There will be checks on vaccine certificates as well. The Bangiya Sanskritik Samiti is changing the venue from Keyes High school to Mahbub College in SD Road near the Secunderabad clock tower. Staggered time slots for darshan and bhog takeaways are some of the other measures adapted to reduce crowding and ensure safe celebrations this year.

Go on a drive around Hyderabad this Dasara

Rakhi Sarkar, a consultant with a law firm has decided to stay away from puja pandals but will compensate by ordering Bengali food. Several Bengali restaurants are holding food fests. Restaurants like Aqua at The Park, Sarkar’s kitchen and Hyatt Place have planned puja special menus. Rakhi says, “Durga Puja is all about good food, laughter and meeting friends. So my friends have divided the four days of house parties amongst us with each get together packed with karaoke, card games and good food.”

Restaurateur Sarita Sarkar is making sure Durga Puja pandal food is on the menu for that festive feel. Sarita is the owner of Sarkar’s Kitchen that opened a month back in Banjara Hills. A cancer survivor who fought COVID-19, Sarita had to close her restaurants in Kondapur, lost her father and was surprised to find an opportunity to open a new branch in the heart of the city. So this year she celebrates Puja to express her gratitude. Sarita says, “I offer a combo menu with Puja favourites like khichdi, luchi, pulao, manghso, ilish, mishti and more. I want to celebrate this puja because when everything seemed bleak, I was able to start a restaurant again.”

Aiyan Bhoumick, a school teacher says he is planning a party for his son and friends. “Children will be going back to school after a year, which is a big deal. I want to celebrate the moment.” He plans to take the group of six children aged between 10-14years to visit the popular banyan tree in Chevella, 45 kilometers from their home. “I am treating it like a field-trip with sandwiches, chips and homemade chicken rolls so that they remember the official ending of the lockdown,” he adds.

The absence of the Government-organised celebrations of Bathukamma (a floral festival in Telangana to celebrate goddesses Gowri), has triggered nostalgia with people exchanging videos and YouTube links of earlier grand celebrations. “Now that we are all vaccinated, our ladies groups in the bastis are eager to go out,” says Janaki N, a cook and kirana store owner.

Women in Kukatpally are thronging the Anjaneya Swami temple to celebrate Bathukamma, decked in their silk sarees and jewellery, ensuring they are not missing this festival.

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