DURGAPUJA IN KOLKATA : A NOSTALGIA LONG LASTING

DURGAPUJA IN KOLKATA : A NOSTALGIA LONG LASTING

This afternoon while returning from the nearby vegetable market we both, myself and my grand daughter, were walking too slow during the last lap of our journey, for, we were crossing the pandal of our neighbourhood Durgapuja. We stopped for a while, and, watched how the women members of the organizing group preparing themselves for the last rituals for the final journey of the Durgamata and her four children. Most of the decorative items of the pandal were already stripped down. At this point my grand daughter made this comment “I always feel sad on this day, the Doshomi….. this means the Durga Pujo is over and a wait begins for a whole one     year !” I had no option but to admit that I too since her age, always felt the same way. I bet, you ask any Calcuttan, of any age, belonging to any state or religion, she or he would always felt the same way.

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cs-05Durgapuja, in Kolkata, and, all over the state, is a festival dear to one and all and a show-case of true secular spirit. Everyone whole heartedly participate.

images 2How the pujas are held ? Let us get an idea. There are various types of pujas now.

Bonedi Barir Pujo (Puja held by erstwhile zamindars or famous families of Bengal). These pujas are normally held at the permanent Thakur Dalan (Festival Arena). These are the oldest pujas, and there are many such family-pujas still being celebrated .

images 3Baroari Pujo (Puja held by Community of Friends) “Baroari” literary means twelve friends. Legend has it that 12 young men from a zamindar house came together and started the first community puja. This is the lifeline of the Durga Puja of Bengal There are 28000 such community pujas in Bengal. Kolkata holds about 3000 large size such Friends Community pujas. These are held by collecting donation from locality, sponsorship and patronage by various shops, factories and industries.

Housing Estate Puja – These are the new entrants. A large number of multi-storied buildings with many flats have come up all over the state. Each building organizes a Durgapuja.

images 5So, in all there are a large number places pujas are held with pomp and glories. The decorations made, especially by the Community Pujas, on the Puja Pandal (Puja Arena) are spectacular. Each one is a creative and very unique exhibit. Various industries announce the best pujas and make cash awards to the best decorated Puja. This made the event competitive and interesting ! It is normally a 4-day event, but, these days many pujos linger on — they start a few days early and delay their “final day” . There are a large number of crowd from early morning, through whole night on pandal hopping ! There are many temporary food stalls and restaurants who arrange additional chairs and tables.

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THIS TEMPORARY ALL-SILVER PANDAL HAS RS. 40 CRORE TAG !

PHOTO SOURCE : GOOGLE IMAGES

 

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Songs on Women’s Empowerment

Here are 4 songs. These Bengali songs form part of our village level campaign, by team SWADHINA ,  at times with small street plays. On this GANDHI JAYANTI we remember the large section of women who still have a long journey to make to reach towards living a life with equality and dignity.

CLICK HERE

KERALA: LET US SET THE PERSPECTIVE RIGHT

KERALA FLOOD : LET US SET THE PERSPECTIVE RIGHT

A lot is questioned on Kerala flood and ensuing relief need, promises, allotment and so on. This note is basically an attempt to look into various issues on certain perspective, based on a varied logical realization.

To equate Kerala flood and the need for appropriate relief and rehabilitation measures, at par with all other states,  will be incorrect. There are number of reasons:

  1. Keralites are basically very hard working and generally a Giver and not Receiver. There are many occasions when they themselves raise money for their own community needs and do not wish to seek outside support. (I have long term experience working in development and funding agencies, including overseas  ones. At any given time there are a large number of applications we handle mailed by all states across our country for relief, rehabilitation and development support. We hardly find personal or organisational requisition from Kerala. )

Since independence how many times you may recall Kerala asked for relief help, for any natural calamity, or, for any other cause for that matter ?

My submission is that if Kerala is expressing its need for fund, it is not as a “help” or “bail out”. It is Just.  It is rather an opportunity for participation – opportunity for all of us, and, it is basically a matter of rights for them.

  1. Assessing the loss of properties. This again needs to be seen in proper perspective. Keralites are hard working  and spend judiciously on their hard earned money on certain assets. Loss in the Housing is an important aspect which needs to be assessed very much differently. ( I have taken direct part in relief and rehabilitation operations  in all major disasters in the country in Andhra, Orissa, Bihar, uptill Tsunami in Tamilnadu and Andamans. Also I had the privilege to visit and stay in many Kerala homes across the state.)  Kerala houses are mostly architect designed and aesthetically built and an average Keralite would spend her/his hard earned money primarily on housing, and, that too in most befitting manner, even if that means spending a bit more money. Same goes for the furniture and other house-hold items which complete  a home  – like fridge, tv, furniture and so on.  Hence rebuilding need is quite different, certainly requiring much higher financial involvement, than understood as a regular relief operation.

Dignity is important for all. Hence before we judge what is the justified means and to what extent support  should be given to Kerala , let us prepare ourselves not to equate all states at par. The following  illustration will perhaps provide clarity about my submission :

A boy was making preparation for his marriage. He worked very hard, earned  handsome money, and, was buying all things on his own. The dad asked what is it that he can do for the son’s marriage. The son replied “dad I can manage on my own, do not worry”. Now that reply made the father really worried and he said “ Arrey  Baap honey ke naatey, mera bhi kuch karney kaa haq banta hai. Oh to karney de” (Listen I am your dad, and as your dad I too have some right to do something for you. Allow me to do that !)

Well, you got the point !

 

 

Fresh Vegetables at Doorstep: Organic Way

Kitchen Garden Promotion Programme of Swadhina

The train reached at Ghatsila station around 9 in the night. As soon as the train touched platform I could locate the smiling face of Laduram, waiving desperately at me. I waived back, assuring him that I too have located him. As soon as I got down at the platform, Laduram took from me the carry-bag and now I only have my shoulder

bag. We were all set for the little walk till we reach our destination – the local Swadhina camp office located near the daily village market (Haat). Swadhina, a voluntary organisation is working in this area of Jharkhand on a women’s empowerment and livelihood enhancement programme for the past many years now.  Laduram is the able field- organiser for Swadhina here.

After finishing the packed dinner, of chapati and vegetable curry procured from the local eatery , we spent a little time about the next day’s visit to the villages. My sole purpose of coming here was to visit the Household Vegetable Farming or Kitchen Garden Programme of Swadhina.

Next couple of days Laduram took me in villages around Ghatsila  in his over-used motorcycle ! It gives relatively more sound than speed, and, I anyway had no complains to make since I myself drive at a moderate pace ! At the end of the trip, with the help of the project documents I could gather many insights which are shared here.

IMG-20171128-WA0083Objective: The basic objective of the programme, supported by SARRA,  is to raise Kitchen Garden not only to have Food for All In The Home, but also to enhance nutrition intake in the family. It is also envisaged to promote organic way of farming, with organic fertilizers and organic pesticides. As a result this programme would

– Provide Food Security & Nutritional support to families using their available household land resources.
– Provide scope for local women to stake claim on family plots
– Change the attitude of the families and the society towards women’s land ownership
– Encourage land-based livelihood among communities. As a follow-up activity, efforts will be vested on encouraging people for seed preservation. The programme was facilitated by: SARRA, under ILC and implemented by: Swadhina

Activities3 participants from Swadhina participated in the Training of Trainers (TOT) organized by SARRA at Tirupathi last year4. Mr. Laduram Mahato , Ms. Yashoda Mardi and Ms. Karmi Kisku participated in the 3 day intense training programme on the Basics of Kitchen Garden preparation, Food and Nutrition through Kitchen Garden, preparation of organic composts for Kitchen Garden.

Later a 3 day Training Programme was organised at Ghatsila, East Singbhum in Jharkhand. The trainers who had attended the TOT, along with Resource Persons from Swadhina explained the process of kitchen garden preparation and organic fertiliser/pesticide preparation and usage, through charts/ posters/ Flash-Cards.  

Through socio-economic family survey, the field workers identified potential implementors of the Kitchen Garden programme. These women were chosen for the Kitchen Garden Training and trained accordingly.

The implementation of the gardens initially received a huge set-back as Jharkhand experienced a massive rainfall in the region continuously throughout August and September. The plots that were being identified and prepared couldn’t be developed as a result of the continuous rainfall. However work began with rapid ferocity as soon as the rainfall subsided. The families members supported the women in developing plots, applying primary layer of organic fertilizers (as prepared by the trainees of SARRA training). Fencing was given to all the plots.

Seeds of red amaranthus, pumpkin, green chillies, tomato, brinjal, ladies finger, and several variety of leafy-vegetables were provided to the women.

This programme has been taken up in four villages, covering 21 families who are mostly belonging to Scheduled Tribe and backward class communities in East Singbhum district in Jharkhand state.

SOME REFLECTIONS: -Though the families are yet to experience the direct benefits of food security and nutrition from the kitchen garden, the fact that they have an access IMG-20171128-WA0030to direct nutrition in their back or front yard is an exciting prospect for the beneficiaries.
– The trainings have convinced the local families of the benefits of organic farming, they have especially learnt to use local natural fruit and vegetable resources to prepare organic fertilizers at home itself.
– Earmarking a plot in the name of the woman of the family has given a strong message to the society about women’s land ownership. To the woman, it is her personal piece of land.
– Those who had successfully implemented FAITH Gardens earlier could set a very good example to others about the farming abilities of women. In the words of Karmi Kisku – “The quality of my produce was so good that my husband took tips from me on how to actually grow such vegetables. He and his friends used my technique and had a good produce”

 

“Auto-Man”

THIS INDIA, ONE INDIA

Despite our varied cultural plurality and many known – unknown sectarian identity, at the core of us we ARE ONE, JUST ONE INDIA. No amount of difference, be it religion, region or language can break our tolerance.  I have planned to pen down a series on this very bondage that makes us  One … ONE INDIA.

This is the second in the series….. “Auto-Man” !


I was still standing at the Reception Counter of Vellore Hospital and trying to explain things. But somehow could not make the person follow of what I was wanting! To my rescue came an elderly gentleman and asked me about my queries. I was those days working in Bangalore. There was a Community Health Training programme organised jointly by CMC and a voluntary organisation. My wife is involved in an NGO, in Calcutta, and they had sent 4 participants for this event. She told me to meet them and greet them. I explained all these to this gentleman. He apparently was aware of this event and vellore temple2directed me to go to the Rural Campus of CMC. He said any auto-rickshaw driver would know the place and take me there.

I came to the auto-rickshaw stand and got hold of one who readily agreed to take me there. He was more enthused when I told him that I would go there for about ten minutes and then return again, which would mean he would have an assured return fare.

With the word ‘go’ my ordeal started. After about five minutes journey our man stopped the Auto-rickshaw, digged in his hands into the dash board, collected some stuff andvelore mosque vanished into oblivion. In about 4 minutes he returned, singing happily, he started driving again. He explained that the Rural Campus is the place where CMC has training premise, and, he assured me that I would like the place for its scenic beauty. I was indeed enjoying the outskirt area. But lo, behold. My amusement was short lived. Our man again stopped his auto-rickshaw, digged his hand into the dashboard again and vanished somewhere. This time he returned after a little more time than his last trip. I, on my  part, did a wrong thing this time. I peeped into his hand and could catch the glimpse of a matchbox! Now I knew what was happening. This man must be a hard core drug addict, could not even stop for more than 15 minutes before he goes for a next puff ! I decided to give him a full lecture on this bad habit once we return to Vellore, no matter even if I am late in returning to Bangalore.

As  promised I could finish my visitation within ten minutes. Those colleagues of my wife were  visibly happy as they were invited to visit Bangalore on their return journey to Calcutta once they complete this training.

vellore churchOn our way back, only once our Auto-rickshaw stopped for a while, this time at a semi urban spot. Once he returned, placed back the matchbox into the dashboard and started his vehicle….. I barged in with my first question, “Since how long are you taking this” ? To this our man wore a very perplexed look and shot back “Sorry, Sir, I could not get you”.  “Okay, okay…. Let me be straight. Taking  drugs can be fun, but you know it would soon ruin you, more over I am sure you must be wasting much of your hard earned money on it. And do not try to cover up…. I saw you taking the matchbox, and, also some packet in your hand”.

Our man got the auto-rickshaw halt to a standstill. Came very near to me and said “No one has told me the things that you are telling. Of course my ways of doing things must have made you to think this way “ ! He quietly walked near the dashboard, took out the things. He handed over me those stuff –  a small pack of agarbattis, a small pack of vermillion, a matchbox.  Then he narrated. “ Sir, I have a small but nice family. My sole earning is from this auto-rickshaw. As you come out of CMC Hospital and take this small road to Rural Campus there is a Mosque. Every evening , without fail, I make a short prayer there. Then further up, there is a temple where I say a small prayer for the happiness of my family. And finally near the CMC there is a very old church. I never fail to pray here at least once in the evening. Believe me Sir it gives me happiness for my entire family. Just think Sir, my family gets happiness showered from all ! Balaji, Allah & Jesus … what else do I need!”

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Around night I took a bus to Bangalore. I had a very guilt feeling. Our man must have returned home, happily eating his night meal and must be telling his wife “You know, today I met a gentleman ….. a good man – but with a very narrow mind !”

 

 

Tears of Baby Tree

forest 1

এক গাছ-শিশুর কান্না  

কারা যেন পয়সা দিয়ে কিনে নিল মাকে, কাক ভোরে কারা যেন কেটে নিল তাকে,

আমার মা, আমার মা গো, কেউ কি পয়সা দিয়ে আবার মা কিনে নেয়,

কেউ কি পয়সা দিয়ে কারো মা কিনে দেয় |

 

মা যখন ছিল পাশে কত পাখি আসতো  উড়ে একটু বাসার আশে,

বাতাস এসে ভিড় জমাতো মায়ের সবুজ আঁচলে

কেউ কি পয়সা দিয়ে আবার মা কিনে নেয়,

কেউ কি পয়সা দিয়ে কারো মা কিনে দেয় |

 

কত পথিক বসতো এসে মায়ের মধুর মিষ্টি ছায়া ঘেঁষে

আগাছা ঘাসেরা শুতো  মায়ের বিশাল কোলে

কেউ কি পয়সা দিয়ে আবার মা কিনে নেয়,

কেউ কি পয়সা দিয়ে কারো মা কিনে দেয় |

 

বড় হবো আমিও যখন, ওরা আবার আসবে

আমার দুখে তোমরা কি কেউ চোখের জলে ভাসবে ?

বল ভাই, বল ভাই,

কেউ কি পয়সা দিয়ে আবার বোন কিনে নেয় !

১৯৯৪                          – দীপ্তেন্দু মুখোপাধ্যায়

* কচি কাঁচাদের “পরিবেশ শিক্ষা”র কাজে বিভিন্ন গ্রামে এটি ব্যবহৃত হয় |

গানটি শোনার জন্য ক্লিক করুনCLICK

 

Chinese in Calcutta : Memories Old & Sweet

I was barely 8 years old then.  Come Christmas, my father would take me to a place called Toy Land. This was a small shop located in Brabourne Road, beyond  Writers Building – the Ministers Office. During the Christmas there was a Toy Packet, for distribution among neighbourhood children, sponsored by some benevolent organisation in UK, which was delivered from this shop. It was  perhaps 1962, as I was happily proceeding after collecting the gift packet, I noticed a ground floor office in a paper-lanterns-chinese-new-year-decorations-2large building with broken glass panes and windows… a lot of pedestrians were peeping through the broken windows. I was too short to see much, but nevertheless saw an abandoned office, with deserted office tables, chairs and the sundries. My father explained “this was a Chinese  Bank, once the war started, some people pelted stones.. and the office is now closed and abandoned. .. there is no bank now.”. I  heard that there was a war, but  I was a little confused and asked “But dad, the war is somewhere near the Himalayas …. Why breaking window glasses here …” ? My father did not answer to this but gave me a blank look, and, I was sure he did not approve the idea of breaking windows right here in Calcutta mid-town. Our next place, every year was the China Bazar where we bought some paper-lantern (we had only one variety then)  and some coloured paper. We used to buy them from an old lady from her road-side spread. Those were all home made and there were a few other chinese sellers along side her selling space… there was no formal shop for them. (Last I purchased those was about a decade ago… since then those sellers vanished. In their place there are now stationary shop owners who stock the paper lanterns…… all imported straight from China, available in nicely wrapped packets, and the products are machine made. I surely miss those nice people who made those passionately crafted decoratives.)

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old china bazarIt was late evening. All four of us.. my three elder sisters and myself, were busy preparing our school lessons in our front room when our uncle entered the room. He was working with a paint factory.   “Here is something very special for you” saying this he placed a box on our table. “Try this, this is called Chow Chow….  a chinese preparation…. Very tasty…. Try it.” We all jumped on it and indeed we all agreed that it was very tasty….. our first taste of a Chinese food !

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A decade later I was at a Leadership Camp. It was a camp for university students organized by St. Xaviers College, and, even though I was  studying in another college, I was attending… there were a few more like me from other colleges. During day time there were interesting sessions on leadership, and, in the evening there were cultural exposions.  Singing was my fort, especially hindi film songs, and, obviously this cultural session was my favorite part. There was one Ricky….he played guitar very well who sung many Beatles numbers.. and  he could compose songs instantly. Bangladesh liberation war was on and in one evening Ricky composed a song called “Joi Bangla”… it was a very good rendition and I became his fan. Returning to Calcutta I landed up in his house. His father was a businessman and they lived in a big two storied building in central Calcutta. There after very often I came to his house and we spent good times listening to Beatles on cassette player, and, of course many numbers sung by Ricky live ! He was my first Chinese friend. He explained that their family business is making Electro Magnet, an important component meant  for various industries.

The same year we had a group or Chinese University students, from Hong Kong,  visiting the city on an exposure visit. The entire programme for them was managed by a group of six university students of the city, including myself. We hired a mini-bus for the week-long programme, and, had good fun. We were 16 altogether, 10 chinese and 6 bengalis. Most of us spoke broken English, but we soon realized that language is indeed not a barrier before true friendship !  During the period we went on a long trip to a small village called Khari in Sunderban forest region. The villagers prepared rice and some curries. It was then we realized that our Chinese friends was not used to eat by bare hands, and in any case the villagers did not have so many spoons ! Ranjitda, oneof the villagers, soon worked out quite an innovative way out. He quickly managed to cut nice long thin tree branches, shaped them neatly, and made good chop- sticks, and they all enjoyed the meal !

On the last day of the visit, it was planned to hold a fellowship dinner. There was a restaurant near our home at Garcha  Road called Kim Wah. My good friend Tarun and self went to the place that morning and met the owner. The Chinese gentle man was quite nice and quickly understood our problem. He explained that Chinese food are not very expensive and there are frequent such programme for college goers in his place, and, that we should not feel nervous about the expenses. In the evening when we all reached there was a nice sitting arrangement. Several tables were joined together to give the look of a very large table…. On top there was a white linen. With chairs around it was indeed a gala show. This was the first time we noticed that the place had nice lamp shades … golden-red coloured. There were a number of songs presented by enthusiasts among us,  before we settled for our meal. The menue was mixed chow, mixed fried rice and chilly-chicken…. Only a few full-plates were ordered but very efficiently shared by the restaurant friends. As promised, the bill was not at all expensive…. (And then on for all our gatherings, even now , we go for the same menue) At the end there was a special performance …. Magic Show by one of us … Raja. Raja was studying science at a city college and all along the trip days Raja was very helpful…. He would get down from the bus every time there is a traffic jam and help us to have smooth ride.  His magic items were simple. Piercing a balloon with a long needle… and the balloon would not burst ! Then he will take out various colour ribbons from his mouth…. real long ones…. And finally his special item. He would gulp a long piece of white thread. …. He would then make a slit on his stomach… and then pull out the thread…. Real blood- read in colour ! Clap…..clap……clap !!  At this point Deborah Chou, the youngest Chinese friend shouted with tears on her eyes “oh no, you should not do this trick again…. You can not hurt yourself like this !”  (Little did she know that it is only a hoax, a pre-coloured thread piece was already pasted on Raja’s stomach with a transparent sticky tape, and, then in a dramatic way he only had to make a slit on the tape, to pull the red coloured thread piece !!!)

The next day when we went to the Airport to bid them good bye we were teasing Raja…”Did Deborah said Good Bye to you Raja “!! Before the departure the team leader of the Chinese students said that there should be more to this…. It was suggested by them that one of us should visit Hong Kong on an exposure trip. We all agreed that Raja should get this opportunity. A couple of months later Raja indeed left for Hong Kong. Within a week Raja’s air-mail letter arrived us…. Yes. He had a good time there…. A special mention was there that he visited Deborah’s house….and that her father was a very nice persons.  By next year Raja married Deborah and they lived happily ever-after !

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wellingtonBy next year I got my first job. It was at Bangalore and every one advised me that I should be well dressed… complete with a nice pair of shoes. As usual my good friend Tarun came to my rescue. He told me that he knew of a place, a shoe store… a Chinese “uncle” sells nice shoes at an affordable price, and the styles are quite good for young people like us. The place was on Wellesly Street near Wellington crossing. There was a signboard which simply said “Any Shoe 14.50”! Yes, Rupees Fourteen and fifty paise. I had Rs.20/- with me and guessed I could afford this luxary ! Uncle showed me a large variety and we settled for deep brown crocodile designed shoe. “You may put on and walk around so that you may know whether it was comfortable”… uncle suggested.

Now I was all ready for a new life….. I have entered the earning line !