- April 6, 2021

Juju is a young adult with autism living in North East India. He wrote a letter to his tutors and friends at Shishu Sarothi, a leading Non-Profit Organisation in the region, in which he recounts how he managed to turn his frustration about the COVID-19 pandemic into something beautiful and inspiring. It is a story about solidarity, creativity, and finally, the victory of good over evil.

Durga Puja has been my favourite festival since my childhood. It is a symbol of the victory of Good over Evil. I always wait eagerly for Durga Puja and plan well ahead which pandals to visit. However, 2020 was different from other years. The world was fighting with an invisible enemy. There was uncertainty over everything. And my fears came to life when in the month of September 2020, the Government of Assam announced in the local newspapers that Durga Puja might not be celebrated due to Covid 19. This left me very sad and disheartened. I wasn't able to accept it. A year without Durga Puja was impossible for me. Then an idea struck me. I told my parents and brother that we shall celebrate Durga Puja at our home. Everyone was surprised and taken aback for a moment. However, with a little persuasion, everyone eventually agreed. Initially, I wanted to use straw and mud to build the statues. My mother is an artist and she has made statues before. However, due to the lockdown, it was difficult to gather the required ingredients. Thus, I decided to draw the characters on chart paper. Drawing was also environment friendly and I hope more Organisations that organise Durga Puja annually migrate to some environmentally friendly options. I drew Ma Durga,Ganesha,Kartik,Lakshmi  and Saraswati in different chart papers. Then, I drew Mahisasur and one of his henchmen. I used watercolour to colour then all and oil pastel to add detail to the characters. The entire procedure took 3 weeks to complete. However, there was a major setback when my brother tested positive for Covid-19. It was 6th October and there were only 3 weeks to Durga Puja. However, he tested negative on 15th October and after a further one week of isolation, he was back with us. On the eve of Durga Puja, I and my brother started to erect the characters. We used bamboo sticks on the back to support the setup. My father was busy building the pandal while my mother organized all the ingredients needed for the puja. I was very excited. It felt surreal to me.

On the evening of Sasthi, we set up the idols in the pandal and worshipped them. On Saptami, all my family members visited my Puja and we worshipped Ma Durga together. My father had arranged for Khichdi and everyone ate together. On the evening of Ashtami, we performed Sandhipuja. Luckily, some Dhol guys, who were passing by the road saw my Puja and they offered to play dhol. I was thrilled. I danced to the tune of the dhols. On Dashami, like every year, I was sad* (Dashami is the last or end day of Durga Puja ceremony, also called Dashain, on this day immersion of idols and burning of Ravana is done). However, there was nothing that I could do. So, I picked up the idols and carefully carried them to my home and stored them until next time. This was one of the best experiences of my life. I never thought I could organise a Durga Puja at my home. However, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention, the Covid 19 pandemic pushed me to organize Durga Puja at home.”

Written by Juju, with the help of his father.

Juju’s story was featured in a local TV news broadcast. Follow this link to watch how Juju and his family celebrated Durga Puja or click here to read the English subtitles of the TV report.

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Category: COVID-19

Country: India

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