The world changes ever so slightly for the regular set of eyes but when you look at it from the lens of an era, the transformations are as clear as a summer sky.
And no entity has passed through the wheels of time as much as news has.
The fourth estate of democracy, news has travelled far and wide, tied to the feet of pigeons, packed securely in the jholas of mailmen, found today, in the rolls of newsprint.
We surely belong to an online world now, but the Durga Puja committee in North Kolkata’s Manicktala wishes to dip its toes leisurely into the yesteryears of news.
At a time when creativity peaks in West Bengal with the advent of Durga Pujo, the Vivekananda Sarbojanin Durgotsab is ready with its flight of nostalgia – the theme they’re exploring is ‘Khobor er utsho theke utshober khobor’ (from the origins of news to the news of festivities).
“We have a lot of friends and family who belong to the world of journalism, so we kept brainstorming about how news has changed over the decades. Turns out, huge transformations have happened – from bird messengers to broadcast television. We are covering the beloved radio, newspaper and television in our theme this year.”Sayak Raj, the installation artist behind the theme
Raj explains how the generation that was born after 2000 doesn’t even know that news was once heard on the radio.
“The radio jingles of 1965 are all but a mystery to them. Same for newspapers – the habit of reading a newspaper in the morning is steadily becoming extinct as time passes. Television retains its charm only when it comes to breaking news. But our generation has been fortunate enough to have enjoyed all these mediums. So we want the puja revellers to get a glimpse into all of it.”Sayak Raj
It has taken over 10 months to research and collate material for the theme. The core committee and its team of about 50 has brought in different sets of radios and related gadgets and accessories, newspapers in their first editions and those in several regional languages as part of the set design.
“Mobile phones and online news may have overtaken the three older mediums completely, but we are trying to play on the nostalgia of the older mediums. Our patrons will get to hear the baritone of legendary newsreader Deb Dulal Bandopadhyay as soon as they enter our premises and that is a heady mix of news and nostalgia.”Sayak Raj
The pandal that will be presided over by an antique Durga idol with modern accessories, will be divided into three zones – celebrating radio and the power of sound in one, the black and white magic of newsprint in the other, and television sets breaking news and bursting with life and action in the third.
Humungous canvas collages and flowers and butterflies made of newspapers will also be beautifying the pandal. Interestingly, yesteryear news programming that focused on serving news to the deaf and dumb will be showcased as well.
The artist who is also in charge of a few other high profile pujas across the city of joy, agrees that news has never been under such scrutiny before, with social policing at its peak. “Then there is the menace of real news versus fake news but the older forms didn’t have to deal with that.”
Hoping to explore online news another year, Raj says he is excited to see the reaction of not only “competition judges” but also of journalists, this time round.
“Kolkata and Durga puja is synonymous with awards but I am looking forward to what the journalists, the media people say about our work. Praise from them will be the real award.”Sayak Raj
(Runa Mukherjee Parikh is an independent journalist with several national and international media houses like The Wire, Bust and The Swaddle. She previously reported for the Times of India. She is the author of the book 'Your Truth, My Truth (https://www.amazon.in/dp/B076NXZFX8)'. You can follow her at @tweetruna.)