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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Valentines Day : Of Another Kind !

One of our colleagues was unwell and we took her to a Doctor a bit far away. The appointment with the doctor was at 7 in the evening and by the time we returned home it was already 8 in the evening. Following our taxi was another vehicle and as we got down a loud voice greeted us from the said vehicle “Good evening uncle, …. go ahead, we will just drop in”. I could recognize the thick voice… it was Jojo, my nephew.
Exactly ten minutes later Jojo surfaced at our house with a Cake in hand, along with his wife and son Jijo. “Happy Anniversary Uncle !” It was then I realised it was the D-day for us ! Our marriage anniversary !

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Those days we were in Bangalore, and Sara greeted us “Happy Anniversary” !  We were surprised and amused. “How come you remember the day ? “  I asked Sara. “Simple, the date is 14th of February – the Valentine Day !. And by the way  how did you manage to coincide your marriage with this special date ?” I was a bit confused and flatly asked “Err..what is this Valentine Day “ ? Sara had a real loud laugh and took a class for me on the significance of V Day !. I explained to her that contrary to her belief, we got married in the days of Black & White era and life was not as colourful as it is now !

Pix : Sen Studio, Barasat (Suburb off Kolkata)

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Pix: Subhadip Mukherji

Jojo quickly placed the cake on a small table and after a long time we had the reason to celebrate our Marriage Anniversary !!!  Our little grand daughter Rianna was the chief guest ! Jojo is a singer in Bollywood and during end months of the year he comes regularly to Kolkata ….  that is the season here for musical functions, mostly open air public performances. The season starts with Durgapuja and lingers on till mid February.

Thanks a lot Jojo…… let me play one of your popular numbers. (just Click below)

Click !

 

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 !

A Bengal Christmas @ Christian Para Kolkata

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24th December, 2016 the day before Christmas Day started early for the young ones. They got themselves engrossed in making a Manger and placing images of the Nativity. Some of them were running around with a huge wooden ladder and climbing to tie out the colourful paper strips in the locality. Soon the area, our small Christian Para (Christian Dwelling) wore a real festive look ! Their hectic work schedule were often punctuated by the shoutings from grandpas and grandmas “time for lunch… please come home….” But their routine answers were “just  ten minutes more, and we would be through !” My daughter- in- law made a huge Snow Man which was placed next to a Santa outside our home. It was very nicely made . By the time we could gather for the lunch it was already well paste noon !

 

dsc_0151After the Lunch, it was the continuation of the same routine for the boys, and, this time the girls took the charge of decora-ting the church… with lots of mistletoes and flowers of varied colours.

25th December, 2016

We woke up with the boom of the sound box playing “jingle bells”. Around 7.30 in the morning we all gathered at our church of the locality. Ours is a small

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Church being decorated with flowers and leaves

church with a sitting capacity of about 40 . On occasion like this we arrange for close-circuit-television transmission on the first floor room of the church so that those who could not make it inside the church can still go upstairs and join the worship. It was an hour-long service. Less of sermon and more of carols ! Along with traditional English tune carols, we also sing a few Bengali Christian songs set on old folk tunes. After the service we gathered outside the church for cake and coffee. There after we had Christmas Tree and all at the congregation got some useful prizes by picking up lucky numbers. The  prizes were house hold items like comb, tea-stainer, mug, soap case, small kitchen cans and so on ! There after we gathered to pose for a family

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Tea after the church service

photograph…… a very old tradition very religiously followed every year…. of course the photographer changes with changing times. In olden days it was one of my uncles who was a passionate photographer who did the job. Thereafter my elder brother-in-law, followed by me for some years. Presently my son is doing the photography for the past several Christmas !

Thereafter, there was the gathering of friends and  relatives inside and outside our house…. with hot coffee,  home made cakes and my daughter made a lot of chocolates to share for this occasion.

dsc_0064dsc_0068Around noon relatives from far flung places started arriving for the Christmas Lunch. This is a participatory event where every one shares the expenses for the food. I have some long tables which  are taken out of our store-room for this occasion ! The lunch menu was very much a Bengali fare… Rice, Dal, mixed vegetable curry, chicken curry, sweet chutney, papad and sandesh (milk sweets). There were about 50 persons joining the meal.dsc_0009

In the evening I was sitting on a chair in front of the decorated Manger… playing Santa, by presenting each visiting child a small Santa replica and a toffee ! Till late evening there
were a good number of children who visited this festive arena. dsc_0025Around  9.45  in the night we had our night meal …. the loud speaker outside still playing  “Man will live for ever more because of Christmas Day”!

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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Literacy Jatha:March at a Tribal Village for Literacy Promotion

Literacy “Jatha”- a “Jatha” is a March in which certain action is also accomplished along the way. Some times ago we, an NGO group organised a Literacy Jatha in a tribal village

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picture-326called “Majhidih”. The basic objective of the March was to spread awareness on the need to have a minimum literacy for all, and, also to teach women of the village ‘how to sign their names’. Since this was organised by an NGO working for women’s empowerment, the stress was to cover women in the village. Most of the women did know how to sign their names even. We were stressing on this because these days, they need to put their signatures for various reasons i.e. to open a Bank Account, to get govt. benefit schemes to become an effective member of Self Help Group and so on.

picture-319Majhidih literary means a Santhal Village i.e.” Majhi” means Santhal tribe, and, “dih” means a village.  This village is located amidst East Singbhum region of Jharkhand state in India. Jharkhand meaning “The Forest Land”, is a new state. There was a long time demand from the local Tribals – the Adivasis that they be given a separate state.  We are working in villages here on women and children development programmes since inception of this state.

Spending the night before at our camp office at Bondih we set out for the Majhidih village early morning in two bikes and a few bicycles. We also asked our village volunteers from neighbouring villages to assemble at the Majhidih village. It took about half an hour to reach the village for our bikes.  The cyclists also made it within that time limit, since they took short cut passage through forest. It was summer, the area is chronically drought prone, there was scorching heat emanating from the stony road, even though it was still early in the morning.

After reaching the village we made two teams. The men in the team were given the task of writing awareness slogans on the walls. The Santhal houses have mud walls, but, they are kept very clean and neat by pasting coloured mud regularly.There is particiularly a red soil available in the hills here which look very beautiful on walls.

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Writing on Wall: “I Want Education”

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“Must Learn How to Sign My Name”

The women in our team, joined by other village volunteers, took the charge of teaching signature writing to the village women.

Our March or the Jatha began.  While we took charge of the wall writing, the women, in small teams entered a few huts on both sides of the village road. The villagers were too enthusiastic to participate in this learning process. It was nice to see that while the women were busy trying to write their signatures on the paper, the menfolk in the house took care of the children. ( a rare scenario in Indian village context where bringing up a child is solely vested on women)

Once a cluster of 4 to 5 huts covered, the Jatha marched forward. At times we, the graffiti team were lagging behind to complete the our paint-brush task.

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The only reason I was treated differently was my tummy !

Around 3 p.m. we reached at the end of village. Here we had out lunch…. piping hot rice, lentil curry and a potato-brinjal curry…. served on Sal Leaves plates. It was tasty, and, in any case we were really hungry… we did not have a chance to break our fast (skipped the break fast !)

Our end of the Jatha was a cultural show, organised open-air. We have cultural team, which presented  a number of Awareness song and dance, composed by us on various social issues like cutting of trees, need for literacy for all, torture on women and so on.  At the end there was  a Magic Show which was thoroughly enjoyed by all !

( I love playing a Folk Drum, and, whenever there is a chance….. !!!)

 

Viswakarma Puja @ Kolkata : Now and Then

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Photo: Subhadip Mukherji (Thanks, hope you can fly these fresh ones tomorrow !)

September 16, 1966

When Deep and his friend Laltu reached the shop named Habib Ahmed Jarrah, it was already around  five thirty in the evening. The shop was already quite crowded with urchins of varied sizes and ages. Deep some how managed to push his head through the crowd and shouted “ Hey Azizbahi, what about our stuff, are they ready ?” Azizbhai shot a long smile and assured “Just give me some minutes, I would bring out your items, they are ready and I have packed them nicely. “

photo2457For the past one month Deep and Laltu were waiting for this day…. the delivery day for their items… kites, a reel of thread and a really good manja (glass dust pasted coloured thread). It was Laltu’s idea, to deposit their pocket money to Azizbhai every alternative day, otherwise they cannot gather so much money at the last moment…. a kind of forced savings. They were keeping a kind of rough record of their saved amount… and in any case, today they have brought a bit money..in case there is a short fall.
When Azizbhai handed over the two packets, they opened them and re-checked whether all the items are right there…. yes….yes.. here they are, two dozens of kites – 25 paise each; two reels of white cotton thread for 5 rupees, and,  500 yards of manja for 11 rupees. That is 22 rupees, meaning a shortfall of 2 rupees.“I would give the 2 rupees, you may pay me later” said Laltu.  Azizbhai said “So, you got all your items I suppose, bye, and, enjoy the Biswakarma puja.”

For Deep and many of his age,  Biswakarma (that is how Viswakarma is pronounced in this part of the country) is synonymous with “kite flying”, for early in the morning till evening.

September 17, 1966

The next morning Deep and Laltu were flying the kites from the roof-top of Laltu’s house. Deep’s house do not have a fenced roof top. Laltu belonged to gold-smith family and their family house is four-story high, and, flying kite from that height is indeed a real fun.

photo2425By  evening, once the kite flying is over they would be joined by 3 to 4 children of similar age and go around to visit the Biswakarma pujas arranged in different places.

Biswakarma is the God for machinery and tools. He rides on an elephant. In his one hand would be a chisel and in another would be a hammer.  In another hand a lotus and the last hand would hold a konch shell. Some over enthusiastic devotees would at times put a kite in one of the hands. Deep’s locality has several large factories, and, during this evening the main gate would remain open for all to visit the puja held inside. There would be a supervisor of the factory who would take these children on a round and explain to them the various machineries and show them the production line. Deep always enjoyed this part of the visit, and cherished a dream that, one day he would become a great engineer and invent many machines !!

At some factories they would offer Prasad, which normally would be various fruit pieces and sweets. By the time Deep returned home it would be  late evening, and, he would skip dinner and straight away go the sleep.

September 17, 2016

Today is the Biswakarma puja. I always remember the date. It is the only puja celebrated as per English calender. I always wondered why it is so. Pujas are held as per calculating the auspicious moment…. the thithi ….., but Biswakarma puja is always held on 17 of September every year.

Our locality do not have so many factories any more, they either closed down the shutters or the factory premises have been replaced by multi-storied buildings. The pujas are now held by people of different professions. We have many taxis in the locality. The taxi owners and drivers celebrate the puja, by cleaning the vehicles thoroughly and decorating them photo2428with flowers, little banana plants, and balloons ! The other emerging group which celebrate the puja is the workers of multi-storied houses …. the lift mechanics, water pump operators, in house electricians…. on the main entrance gate they place tender coconut balanced on a ghot (a special mud pot) filled with holy Ganges water. The bus owners and drivers also celebrate the puja. They organise feast for near and dear ones …. normally, these days, mutton is a common item for such occasion. (In our childhood days vegetable Khichri  – rice and dal cooked together with vegetable pieces – was the tradition).

At our organisation, an NGO,  we normally clean the vehicle, computers, printers …. after all they are machine too. Our puja is offered by an all women team ! Prasad .. sweet is distributed to all present during the time.

In the afternoon I found my son, taking grand-son on the pillion, going out some where. A little later they came back with a packet of Kites ! He never misses the day  when he buys the kites, though kites cannot be flown these days. For two reasons. One, for the past several years the day is lost due to heavy rain. Two, since there are tall buildings around one cannot fly a kite due to lack of steady flow of wind. But  my son keeps aloft the kite-flying tradition… Long Live Biswakarma…. long live Kite-flying celebration.