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Septuagenarian Ghanashyam Bairagi was becoming impatient as the aroma of rice and vegetable curry began wafting across the pandal where he along with a group of other villagers were waiting to partake of the community lunch, which every year Pranab Mukherjee's family arranges for them on the occasion of Durga puja.
Mukherjee, who returned to his village Mirati in Birbhum district as the President of India on Saturday along with his wife Shubra, will take part in the family puja like every year for the past 30 years. However, this year the affair will be a tad different. First of all, the turnout of villagers is expected to be more to see the President reciting mantras and secondly security has been tightened considering his new constitutional status.
"The family arranges for lunch for the villagers every year but this year we have geared up for a lot more people," Ravi Chattoraj, a close associate of the family, said.
For the next two days, Pranab will stay at his elder sister Annapurna Banerjee's house at Kirnahar. From there he will travel to his ancestral home at Mirati, just two kilometres away.
Before leaving for Mirati, he spent some time with his close relatives. "He did not eat anything as he is fasting for the puja," a woman of the household at Kirnahar said.
The President, well conversant in Hindu scriptures, takes active part in the puja, reciting from Chandi Stotram, going to the village canal in a procession to collect water for the puja.
This year, he will inaugurate a junior high school in his village named after his father, Kamada Kinkar Mukherjee.
Elaborate security arrangements have been made during his stay in the village. While a group of President's Bodyguards have been flown from Delhi, the state government has deployed 800 policemen, including 90 officers, who will be on duty till October 23 afternoon when he leaves for Delhi.