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The inaugural ceremony of this year's edition of the Sangeet Mela turned out to be a much-needed image boosting exercise for the Mamata Banerjee-led government. Facing flak from several quarters following hasty decisions and announcements, Banerjee today revelled in praises and gratitude showered on her by the contingent of artistes who were awarded with shawls, mementos and cheques during the inaugural function.
Bangladeshi Rabindra Sangeet exponent Firoza Begum came to tears praising Banerjee's efforts and recognising and awarding luminaries of the music world. "This is the biggest award that I have received. I am touched at how she decided to award me, who doesn't even belong to her country. I am humbled and overwhelmed by her gesture." Classical exponent Firoza Begum echoed Begum's feeling, going to the length of calling her the incarnate of goddess Kali and someone as close to her as a daughter.
"She has come to this world to fight evil. I hope she uproots all evil from this world. She is like Rani Laxmibai and other such great women fighters," said Devi, standing by a visibly beaming Banerjee.
Singer Sandhya Mukhopadhyay, who too was awarded the Mahasangeet Samman, showered accolades on Banerjee as did folk singer 90-year-old Amar Pal, who repeatedly expressed his gratitude to Banerjee for recognising his work. "In my experience, folk singers are always ignored compared to other mainstream singers. She is the first person to recognise our contribution to music. All I can express is my gratitude to her," said Pal.
Awardee Sumitra Sen, who has also been inducted in a panel that will audition newcomers and assign them shows in course of the fair, said that Banerjee's efforts was a consolation for everyone who has been working in the field for very long, without being recognised appropriately.