Tagore : Yesterday – Today

As usual  little Deep was given this important duty to look after the stage area. The stage was a nicely cleaned space on the bare ground, a thin layer of clay pasted neatly. Come Tagore Birth Anniversary – Rabindra Jayanti as it is popularly called in Bengal, there will be a cultural show organized by Deep’s family ! While Deep’s three elder sisters will take part in all the performances – group dance, recitation, songs, drama – all written by Tagore, Deep’s role will be to look after the stage made under the “Foroz”  Flower tree.  This is a kind of paper-like white flower bloom abundantly… it has no fragrance.. but they look nice.

IMG1176It is customary to make a nice design on the floor of the stage… normally with chalk powder or lime powder… or  rice powder. It is Deep’s elder sister who has the enthusiastic single handed work every year to draw this nice floral design  (kollam or alpana). This year she could not get her hands on any of the powders…. So it was her innovative idea to work out an alternative and she did the design using Wheat Flower.  It was done in the morning and till afternoon it did not dry up yet. So, Deep had the additional duty to see that no one comes near it and spoil it.

It is now after noon, already two old aunts have come. The ground rule is that the audience should carry their own sitting stool or a small mat. Deep made a small trip nearby to call some more aunts and grandmas and soon returned to his duty spot, and, lo behold….. the floral design had now become just half ! The other half just vanished ! Deep was perplexed as to what had happened. He soon felt a sharp pull in his right ear….. it was his elder sister, already with a heavy make up for her dance performance !

“Where were you ? Look what has happened”. At this point Deep noticed Booli, the pet hen of the house, gulping her last bit of Maida Flower …. She must have had a stomach-full of early dinner with the readily available floral design made with wet-maida –flower.

Soon the cultural function started. There was a good crowd, consist of mostly aunts, uncles, grandmas and grandpas. This event ground is in fact a common entrance passage for the houses inside this campus, and, the programmes were often interrupted  by inmates walking through !

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IMG1190Today is the Tagore Birth Anniversary. Rianna and Ruhani, our grand daughters were draped in Sarees. Some one got hold of a tagore picture, and a make-shift picture frame was made with hard board (in the olden days every household had at least one large glass-framed Tagore photo !). Foroz flowers were gathered and they were placed near the picture.

We had a short dance programme performed by little Rianna and Ruhani… under the same Foroz tree. The tree is still there and gives a lot of flowers….. perhaps to proclaim that some things never change… Thank God !

 

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Grandmas and Aunts still attend the function as audience !

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Sindoor

Pakhi, my wife was from a small town near our city of Calcutta. It was just a few days after our marriage, and, we were setting out to a relative’s house. It was a part of the usual invitation which normally follows the marriage ceremony. She took a quick

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Mother’s Sindoor Pot. Sandal Wood work from Bangalore

bath, wore a saree and it was then that we realised that there was no Sindoor-Pot! ( Every married Bengali woman prefers to apply a streak of vermillion or sindoor to the parting of her hair. This vermillion or sindoor is kept in a special pot). Very shyly she asked whether my mother would have any sindoor-pot ! It was a legitimate query as on those days, putting on sindoor for Christian women were not very common. But my mother used to always put on sindoor, every day after bath. I assured her that my mother had one and I brought the sindoor-pot for Pakhi for that day.

 

It was then I realised that for Pakhi putting on sindoor was very important, and, that she does not have any sindoor-pot. I assured her that I would buy her a sindur-pot.

I was on touring job then ( and even now, of course the number of tours is less now for obvious reason) and on return from a trip I brought for her a nice sindoor-pot. I picked

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Hyderabad near charminar,

it up from Hyderabad near Charminar.

 

During the next tour I asked her what I should bring for her ! She just smiled and said “You bring whatever you think best”. When I returned from this trip I opened a small packet and asked her “Guess what gift I brought for you?”

She said “ You show me what it is”. Lo behold…. it was a sindoor pot ! We both burst into a loud laughter !

Thereafter for several years, it almost became a ritual to bring a sindoor-pot from various parts of the land of varied designs, until our children were big enoughto do a bit of leg-pulling for this blunt gift idea !

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Soft Stone work from Khurdah, Odhisa

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Designed on real konch-shell . Puri Sea Beach, Odhisa

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Nicely crafted with sea-shells. Kanya Kumari , Tamil Nadu

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Mirron crafts from Jaipur, Rajasthan

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Brass work of Uttar Pradesh. Lucknow

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Wood work. Chennai, Tamil Nadu

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White Stone-Carving : Agra, Uttar Pradesh

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Coloured Stone. Cuttack, Odhisa

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Pix: Srichandra V

 

 

Pre-Christmas in Kolkata : Then & Now !

dsc_0022In our teen age days the pre-Christmas outing was a visit to the New Market. We are located at an extreme end locality in South Calcutta and this visit to the central Calcutta was some thing great for us. I always eagerly awaited for the day. My grandpa would come around noon, a few days before Christmas, and we will set out for this journey to the wonder-land ! I always narrated about this dream outing to my grand children – they are 3 in number. The elder one Rijul, who is at his final class of schooling, always had many interesting queries about  this… my olden days New Market trip !

This Christmas I promised Rijul to take him on a similar pre-Christmas trip to New dsc_0016Market. More than him, I was the one who was keen on re-living history !

dsc_0014When we reached near the main entrance the area was too crowded and there was a near stampede situation. Ah.. that was the Light House Cinema…. this is the spot where there were some head-loaders… they will come running with a large bamboo basket…. go along nmwith you to collect whatever you buy from the New Market… carry the load on their head and at the end of your shopping, come to the taxi stand and put all the packets inside the taxi neatly…. and finally be happy with whatever bakhsis (tips) you offer… after all its the festive time ! I was feeling sorry that none of them were found here, they must have found much lucrative alternative vocations !

At the New Market entrance, in olden days, we used to make short stop over at the greetings-card shops…. there were about 10 such shops. dsc_0012Only one we found still surviving, but with no takers. In the internet era none is interested in those greetings cards. Once inside the market, the scenario did not change much. Many of the old charming clothing shops were still there, though they did not have much buyers. Most of the families go for online shopping for their readymade clothes, and, even the sarees are procured by the same method.

The mistletoes and other decorative selling shops are still there. They are doing some what better business than others. The cake shops are doing brisk business. I was indeed upset as dsc_0009I did not find the same old charming New Market hopping experience. But for Rijul, he was enjoying the visit… I was showing him some of the old shops still in the business. I bought him a heart-cake and a hot patties ! I tasted a bit. Ummm…. some what nearer the olden-day –taste, except less buttery ! Well… at least some good things still survived the test of the time.

Those days our return trip was by a tram ride. Then the trams had less riders and it was a pleasant smooth journey. I did not propose the repeat mode for our return journey. It was a very difficult time to get hold of the taxi to take us.

Finally we managed to get one taxi after putting half and hour effort, and, reached home. It was indeed an enjoyable trip…. a good start for Christmas 2016 !

Christmas at Christianpara@Flash Back 50 years

It is time to recall … how was the Christmas celebrated in the olden days Calcutta !

EARTH: SOME CALL IT HOME

Christmas at Christian Para @ Flash Back 50 years

December 20,

It was a cold winter morning and Deep got up quite early. Deep was reflecting …yesterday was a mixed fare – Annual Exam Results were out and he got promoted to Class V alright, but as usual, did very badly in Maths. There was a loud knock at the wooden front door, and Deep jumped towards the door. Yes, like every year, Grandpa was there . Grandpa announced “This afternoon we are going to the New Market ! Oh, yes congrats, I heard that that you are promoted to the new Class“. Then he whispered, “And dont’ bother about the Maths number”. This was comforting enough for Deep. Deep’s mother came running and grumbled “Dad, you will spoil him with sheer pampering He did not prepare well for the exam and I am not surprised about his Maths score.”…

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CHRISTMAS GIFT !

thanks

Responses to our Appeal (given below) have started trickling in ! We profusely express our heartfelt thanks to the following friends for their immediate Donations. We also hope other well wishers will kindly help us.

1.Ms. Panchali Goswami Bhattacharya, Kolkata     INR. 1000/-

2.Ms. Sonia Bhattacharya, Bangalore                         INR 1000/-

3.Rasa & Rian Chatterjee, Kolkata                               INR  500/- (worth of gifts like crayons, drawing books, pencils and cup cakes)

4. Sanjay Basu, Poona (Annual Pledge)                     INR  12000/-

5. Palash Roy, Kolkata (Annual Pledge)                    INR 12000/-

6. Ayansh Aron Patnaik, Ghatsila                               INR  1000/-

7. Antariksh V, Kolkata                                                  INR 1000/-

8. Sarrah Ayantika Mukerji, Kolkata                          INR 1000/-

dabitGift a Magic!!
For little Joyce Murmu, a visit to the local city of Ghatsila meant watching young girls of her age going to the local school in their fresh, colourful uniforms with school bags, nice shoes and socks. Being from the remote village of Kadamdih in Jharkhand, this was all but a dream. Today, Joyce goes to the Swadhina Good Hope School set up in her village. She too has a colorful uniform like her friends in the city and gets to learn little English rhymes like them.

For Ratuli Sahis, life as a marginal farmer was difficult. She had to balance her house-hold work with her on-off work as a land labourer.magic-2 That was the only way she could support her big family. Swadhina’s help to her in the form of a pair of goats came as a boon to her. Now she has a comfortable life by Animal Reaing with goats and hens as her source of income. She has managed to repair her dilapidated house and is able to afford school education for her children.
magic-3Being the third among her seven siblings, Tapati’s life was a story of a never-ending drudgery – bringing in unending buckets of water from the local tap, washing huge pile of utensils and washing clothes from dawn to mid-noon. However, being offered a chance by Swadhina, she enrolled for a Batik Handicraft Training course of three months in her locality. Diligently, she took out time from her busy schedule to attend the classes. At the end of the course she became so well versed with the intricacies of the craft that she began to get offers from different boutiques. She now is a permanent staff in a renowned fashion boutique in New Delhi. She has evolved herself from the ashes of her drudgery to be an empowered, young woman.

magic-4It is the Christmas Season once again. It is the time of gifts and merrymaking. So, this time why not Gift a Magic ? ‘Gift a Magic’ is a gift that would bring in a positive change in the lives of those who are deprived of the privilege of a better life and livelihood. It is a gift that empower women and children themselves-belonging to the extreme marginalised sections of the society located in Purulia (West Bengal), East Singbhum (Jharkhand), Mayurbhanj (Odisha), East Champaran (Bihar) and Kanyakumari (Tamil Nadu) through our organisation, SWADHINA. Your support can go a long way to bring in a postive change in the lives of many more Joyce, Ratuli or Tapati. It would help us help people like them have a better life and living; it would help us enlighten the light of magic in their lives! This Christmas, let there be light in the life of little Joyce !

There are three activities that you can help support:
* Support a Rural School – Good Hope School : US$ 50 / € 50 / £ 45
(School Dresses/Shoes-Socks/Books/Copies/Sweaters for 5 students)

* Support Skill Training Programme for Rural Women: US$ 50 / € 50 / £ 45
(Skill Training for 5 Young Rural Women )

* Support for providing Animal Resources to MarginalFarmer Women: US$ 50 / € 50 / £ 45
(Animal Support in the form 20 ducks/ hen or 1 goat each for 5 women)

You can send your donation through A/c Payee Cheque issued in the name of : SWADHINA and mail it to : Swadhina, 34/C Bondel Road, Kolkata 700019, India.

Also, please share this Appeal with your friends and dear ones so that they too may take part in this joy of sharing a perfect CHRISTMAS GIFT !.

CLICK HERE TO KNOW MORE ABOUT US
E-mail: swadhina_org@yahoo.com mainoffice.swadhina@gmail.com

Bhaiya Duj : Brothers Day

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Today is the Brother’s Day – in Bengal it is called Bahi Phota.(tilak for the brother) Ruhani (11 yrs) and Rianna (6yrs) ,my two grand daughters are busy since morning, getting ready for the event. This day sisters put tilak, of sandal wood photo2562paste on the forehead of their brothers. Three times they would put this tilak, while chanting a small wish “I put this tilak on the forehead of my brother, let this tilak work as the thorn on the path of the evil”. Thereafter the sisters would offer sweets, always odd in number… three or five or seven . After this, brothers will offer a small gift to the sisters… in our house it is usually a small chocolate !

A round stone, normally used to make sandal paste, and the small sandal-wood stick were taken out from tphoto2564he family box, . Ruhani kept on rubbing this stick on the stone, after sprinkling a bit water on the stone. This is indeed a laborious process to attain a little  paste.

Then Ruhani collected some more items to complete the rituals. Collecting a bit of tender green grass, paddy, a diya. Then on a plate the sandal paste, grass, paddy were placed. The diya was lit.

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The Big Brother Rijul  was seated on a mat. A cousin brother Jijo also joined. Then Ruhani photo2586and Rianna completed the rituals. The grass and the paddy were placed on the head of the younger ones, as a mark of blessings.Then the sweets were offered to the brothers. Brothers picked up one or two, and, the rest of the sweets were distributed among all present to witness the event.

A little later Subhadip- the brother of Srichandra took photo2587the tilak, and, he was blessed with grass and paddy on the head by his sister.photo2582
Finally it was my turn, I too was given a tilak by Smriti….. and of course I ate a lot of sweets !

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Harvest Sunday @A Small Church in Kolkata

Our locality is in south-end of Calcutta city. You may call it an elevated suburb. Here we live as a small Christian community. Today is the Harvest Sunday. Everyone in our family is busy making last minute’s final details. Our house is next to the church. So there is no distance the family members have to cover, but, the harvest items from each family have to be placed at the altar before the first church bell rings, that is at 7.20 a.m. My grand children stay a few blocks away from our home, but they stayed on last night, so that they would not be late for the church service.

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Deep was then around 10 years of age. Those days Harvest Sunday was an elaborate event. Deep’s Grandpa would turn up early in the morning on the previous day, knock at the door with a loud harvest day song “We Shall Come Rejoicing ”. Deep would come running to the door. Grandpa would invariably ask him to find out the axe from the junk-room and Deep would oblige.

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Arum plant has giant leaves

The axe was a bit blunt, but alright for the next act. Grandpa always insisted that for the Harvest Festival one must offer at least one of the own home grown vegetables or fruits ! There was of course a small vegetable garden in front of Deep’s house, but it only had two guava trees, and, the guavas growing on them were not at all tasty and hence not appropriate for offering in the  church altar. Ah… then there was this wild variety of Maan Kochu (Arum) with giant leaves. Grandpa would very carefully dig out at least 10 such giant Arum plants, complete with leaves, stem and the                                                                                  roots – the tuber (that’s the portion one

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Arum Root, the eatable portion

can eat).  Carrying them to the church a bit far away was a difficult task. First of all it was heavy for Deep who had to make several trips, because he can at best carry a couple of them at a time. Secondly carrying these obviously meant inviting itches all over the body— this wild variety of Arum’s raw juice was often very allergic.

The Church those days was made of mud-walls and it had a tiled roof. Those up-rooted  Arum plants placed inside the church would serve as decorations. Along with these, from each member

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Kula for Winnoing

family, some vegetables procured from outside market were offered on a Kula each. Now, what is a Kula? It is a flat Bamboo plate woven of bamboo strips. (This is used for a different purpose all along the year. On this Kula older women in the family would put rice, about 100 grams, and while holding on both sides with thumb and index finger,  tap hard beneath the Kula with other fingers. This would create vibration and the paddy husks and other broken rice pieces would surface. They would then throw out these unwanted elements! This process of winnowing would be repeated till the entire sacks of grain are de-husked. No doubt a very labourious process ! ) At the end of the church service, Grandma would cut the tubers, make small pieces and ask Deep and his friends to share them among the neighbours. The non-Christian neighbours would receive these with joy and respect.

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“Grandpa, Grandpa”.

I woke up from the nostalgic journey, and, said “Sorry dear… I was lost in another age”.

advent #christmas_countdown_beginsMy wife informed “ I have already cleaned the Kulas, but the trouble is there are some holes in it…. after all they are not in use any more for rice cleaning”.  She added “I have placed some papers to cover-up the holes”. Then the grand-children got busy placing the vegetables brought from the market on these kulas. We normally place fresh harvested winter-vegetables. The tradition is that we start eating those variety of vegetables only after the Harvest Sundays.

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We now have a new two storied church, with gothic style walls and marble floorings. And the Pastor uses a microphone to share his sermon.

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But personally speaking, I miss the mud walls and the decoration with the wild arum plants. I miss those strangely, allergic itches along my skin as I carried those huge wild plants- with my grandpa singing loudly- praising the good Lord for the bountiful He offers us each year!