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Radio campaign unites families this Durga Puja, hands out free trips back home

Kolkata: This Durga Puja will not only see Goddess Uma arrive on an annual sojourn to her paternal home and bring joy to millions, but also mark the homecoming of a select few to their dearest ones after years.

For Soumitra Kanji, a diploma engineer working in Dubai, it will be a return to home after four and half years.

Abhik Mukherjee, pursuing PhD in the US, will see his parents after more than four years.

All thanks to an initiative of a private radio station which aims to bring families together from overseas.

"I will not be able to make anybody understand my feelings. It's after so many years that I will see my son (Soumitra)," says a teary-eyed Rikta Kanji.

It was in 2011 when Soumitra, a resident of South 24 Parganas district's Mudipur, left for Dubai after completing his diploma in electrical engineering, his father, Dipendranath Kanji, said.

"I was working at a private factory and was unable to earn much to run the family and pay the tuition fees for my two sons. Soumitra decided to leave for Dubai," he said.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Since then, Soumitra has been sending money to for the family as well as expenses of his younger brother Pabitra's studies, Dipendranath said.

"His earnings there in Dubai are not so much that after sending us the expenses and paying for his brother's education, besides his expenditure, he can save (money) and return home," he said.

The family reunion became possible when Soumitra's sister, Pabitra, an engineering student at Jadavpur University, heard about the radio station's programme, 'Ticket to Durga Puja — Pardes to Swades', a campaign to bring families back home.

"I had texted them on behalf of dada (Soumitra) in mid-August and got to know only a couple of weeks back that my brother has been selected," she said.

Similarly for Abhik, his sister 42-year-old Mahua participated in the campaign and nominated her brother.

"He has not visited India for over ten years during the Durga Pujas and this will be for the first time that he will be coming here at this time," Mahua said.

Abhik, an alumnus of South Point school, left for University of Tennessee in the US in 2006 after completing his MSC in Microbiology.

"Abhik has completed his PhD in genetics disease syndrome and is currently without a regular job... He is teaching part time to meet his expenses, but that is not enough to help him return to India and our parents are old and retired. We do not have much funds to support his travel back home," she said.

"I will not be able to describe how happy we are, particularly my parents... They are making plans for Abhik. What they will cook and what they will do when my brother comes back home," she added.

The campaign was aimed at uniting people with their loved ones and give participants a chance to win flight tickets to their hometown.

"There was a huge response and we selected five families based on their background stories shared by the listeners and gratified them with a 'Ticket to Durga Puja' by bringing back one family member. The winners comprised two from abroad and two from within the country," a senior official of the station said.

Besides, the radio station chose a taxi driver, Ravindra Patra's, nomination for his parents living in Odisha's Jagatsinghpur, so that the entire family can celebrate the festivities together.

"Ravindra is living in the city for the last 20 years struggling to manage and meet his expenses. But, he has a dream to bring his parents to the city during the Durga Pujas.... We are just fulfilling his dream," the official said.

Further, the FM channel is also helping Gauri Shankar Dhar to bring her mother Alo Dhar from New Delhi to the city, and Sushmita from Haldia, who nominated herself to see Kolkata's Durga Puja.

Updated Date: Oct 07, 2016 18:00 PM

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