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Photo: Ronny Sen

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Photo: Ronny Sen

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Photo: Ronny Sen

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Photo: Ronny Sen

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Photo: Ronny Sen

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Photo: Ronny Sen

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Photo: Ronny Sen

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Photo: Ronny Sen

DURGA PUJA MADNESS

If you've never seen a Kolkata puja pandal, these 10 photos will blow your mind

Ronny Sen @ronnysen

A huddle of middle-class Bengali men pore over newspapers to figure out the most pressing issues of the day. Someone mentions the environment. Another suggests women's empowerment. Heated debate follows.

And finally, after months of deliberation, the world gets an appropriately themed Durga Puja.

Pandals are to Durga Puja what... never mind. An equivalent would be near-impossible to find. They are glorious, over-the-top, surreal. They range from dramatic to surreal, quirky to outright insane. And almost always, they try to tell a story.

Never mind that the 'Save the Environment' puja pandal is the environmental equivalent of a mini oil-spill. Because the only real way to save the environment is not to build a pandal at all.

Or that the pandal that was built to brandish the merits of female empowerment, manages to brandish only what pandals ought not to look like.

Anything goes, perhaps, as anything should.

Some are funded by donations, others, indignantly, by NRI Bengalis. And over the course of the next four days, the Self-Righteous Organizers of every Puja will vie aggressively for a spot on the Times of India top 10 pandals list.

Because the greater the footfall, the greater their budget for next year's Puja.

And the greater the budget for next year's puja, the faster said Self-righteous-Organizer can save the world with his themes.

Text: Sneha Vakharia

Ronny Sen @ronnysen