Social distancing norms compromised as Durga Puja shopping is topmost priority for Bengalis

It is not everyday that Bengalis go crazy shopping. No we are not talking about sales in malls, but about the festive season of Durga Puja where shopping for the family is an integral part of the festivities. What has changed this year amidst the coronavirus pandemic? Barring a few shoppers less due to train services not being functional and constrained budgets for some, the crowds in markets and malls will make you wonder whether there was a pandemic at all.

“We cannot sit at home this way. Our Bengali puja is closeby, we have to step out and shop.” Said a shopper Malati Das.

Another shopper says she needs to buy clothes for her children as they look forward to the festive season and will not comprehend the difficulties due to the pandemic. “It feels good that Durga Puja is here. People are scared but we have to go out only when needed. I have to buy clothes for my children, even if not for myself.” ,Said another shopper Shiuli Das.

Shopkeepers say they understand the dangers of the pandemic, but know they have to sell their goods to recover the money within this short span of time. This is their only hope considering the losses incurred due to the lockdown and many whose shops were destroyed during cyclone Amphan which lashed out at West Bengal in May.

“What will I do getting scared? We are scared but we are wearing out masks and working.” Said Ashok Sarkar, a hawker at Gariahat market.

COVID-19 cases however are rising and as of October 15th, the number of coronavirus cases in West Bengal has crossed the 3 lakh mark with around 5,800 deaths reported. Though the state administration has permitted Durga Puja committees to set up pandals for people to partake in the festivities, lack of social distancing and sanitization measures amidst massive crowds will be a challenge.

Fewer people are visiting the city during Durga Puja due to the pandemic and many are choosing to stay indoors and avoid pandal hopping. But shopping for the festive season, nonetheless is still a priority for many households.




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