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 !

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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A Friend In Need (4): “Sil-Katau” Man

There was a commotion outside and Deep’s mother had to come out of the kitchen. She found that Deep is on a heated argument with some one, at the entrance door ! The Sil-Katau man was telling “Look boy, I told you I can give you Tajmahal for Rs. 4/- and not less than that”. At this juncture, Deep’s mother laughed out  loud .. “ Tajmahal going at a such cheap price ….what is this all about !!” The man then explained “Look  Maijee (Madam),  as you know, the prices of everything has gone up, and, now my rate is Tajmahal  Rs.4/-,  Fish Rs. 3/- and  Plain Lines Rs. 2/-. “  At this point Deep’s mother told  that man,  “Look, he is only a small boy, and he really wants the Tajmahal …. you can do one thing … take Rs. 3/-, you may give a little smaller Tajmahal” . The man smiled and said “Okay, I will take Rs. 3/- from you, and,  I will not reduce the size.. be assured.”

Soon the man took out his small bag , took out different sizes of chisels and the two hammers and concentrated on  his job…. tuk, tuk, tuk, tuk. Deep  sat beside him on the ground and started watching his hand movement. He was now visibly wearing an amused and  mesmerized look.

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img960 It was noon time, I was waiting for the school bus which will bring my grand-daughter home from the school. And then heard  “Sil-Katau…. Sil-Katau”. The sound was emerging from among some building premise nearby, and soon the man surfaced. I called him and showed him my house, and asked him to wait for me till I come. I returned home soon with my grand-daughter and asked her to inform her grandma about us. The child surely got confused about the whole thing, but informed her grandma, who came running. Once she saw the Sil-Katau man, she knew what is it, and, soon came out with the Sil and the Nora. These are two important kitchen tools, still found in many old-tradition families. Sil is a 14” long, 10” wide and  2” thick stone tablet. Nora is cylinder type black stone hammer about 10” long.  Fresh spices are ground on this Sil (stone tablet) with the help of the

img965Nora (black stone  hand grinder). With constant use, the surface of the sil and nora becomes smooth. Hence the surface need to chipped with chisel periodically. The Sil-Katau Man is a chipping craftsman who can make various designs…. “Criss-crossing lines”, “Fish” and of course “Tajmahal”! I could not hide my childhood nostalgia and asked “Can you chisel out a Tajmahal ?”. The man apologised and said he can only make lines and that he has only one kind of chisel and a lone hammer !

He finished his job within about 10 minutes, and the lone enthused witness to the act… my grand daughter did not get any thrill nor awestruck by the craftsman ship. I handed over Rs. 15/- for the act to the sil-katau man, and, told him to come again about a couple of months later –  lest we lose a dying tradition !

Photo Courtesy: Srichandra

Leaving No One Behind

Swadhina, our civil society organisation was invited to make a Presentation on Social Issues at an event in Kolkata. This was the final day of the week-long “YWCA-YMCA Week of Prayer, the annual programme of the two world-wide organisations. This was held at the Auditorium of YMCA Calcutta Auditorium. We had a small team – two Narrators, Smita Mukerji and Dipanwita Pal. Others were Supta, Smriti, Antariksh, Anangalekha and AyantikaThe narration of each issue was visually supported by a large Posters, raised aloft which helped the congregation to have a clarity on the issue. Here is the Presentation

Written by Srichandra, and, the photos are by Subhadip Mukerji.

“ Leaving No one Behind”

 Narrator:  Recently the movie ‘Pink’ was much in news. It spoke of equal rights of women, equal chances for women and equal voice for women. Suddenly “Pink” became the colour of empowerment of women and girls. It became the symbolism of an inclusive world – where the rules were same for all. But are we really living in a world that is free of discrimination? To bring forward the real situation, we present here: the colors of change…..

 Song1: Laal Neel Sobujer Mela Boseche (Its a colourful fair – full of red, blue, green)

 dsc_1943Narrator: RED. What does the color Red signify ? In the Indian context red symbolises marriage – a color of warmth and happiness. But ask Sonamoni. For her it is the symbol of dread, symbol of fear, symbol of social stigma. She is an AIDS victim. At the age of twelve she was sold to the red-light area. At the age of twenty she returned to her village, only to be denied medical care or even the basic requirements of food, water and shelter. And Sonamoni is not alone. Consider these facts:

– The estimated number of people living with HIV in India is 2.1 million in 2013 according to UN reports.

– India has the third largest population suffering from HIV/AIDS.

-It is estimated that 70,000 children below the age of 15 infected with 21,000 children being infected through mother-child transmission every year.

– Being one of the biggest driving forces behind social stigma, there have been cases of denial of access to food, using water from common wells or ponds, denial of treatment by hospitals as well as denial of studying in schools.

So, irrespective of the legal security the social truth is that there are thousands of AIDS victims facing a daily death due to our social exclusion. But, it is time we make a change. So what can we do ?

– If we know a person who is HIV positive we ensure that she gets proper treatment at the right place.

– We should not discriminate against anyone that we know having HIV – at schools, colleges, workplace.

– We have t build awareness at every level.

– And be inclusive enough to shake hands and share a warm hug with the one suffering from HIV/AIDS infection.

Let Red be the colour of Hope and Not of Stigma because how I treat my co human beings is how I treat God, and everything I do is a Gift to God.

Song 2: Everything I do is a Gift to God

dsc_1948Narrator: PINK. Pink has always meant a soft colour – a colour for the babies. It is also the colour of Breast Cancer Awareness. And today Pink symbolises the voice of women against violence, voice against suppression, voice against deprivation of health care, education, economic rights. She was 15 years when Lakshmi Aggarwal became a victim of acid attack when she rejected the advance of a man. She had to undergo seven major operations just for survival, leave alone her normal looks which has been damaged permanently. We have been fighting for a gender-equal world , a gender-equal country for a long time but what does the reality project ?

– According to 2015 survey cruelty by husbands and relatives under section 498‐A of Indian Penal Code is the major crime committed against women across the country, with 909,713 cases reported over the last 10 years which means 10 women tortured every hour.

– In year 2014 alone 1,22,877 reported cases of outraging of women’s modesty have been reported in a single year. And mind you, these are just officially reported cases.

– 82,235 rape case have been officially registered in one year in 2014. And there are many more unreported cases.

– 80, 833 cases of dowry related death have been recorded by the police within an year.

– 66% of women have reported some form of sexual harassment or the other in one year.

So, do we just sit back and gape at these reports? Do we just organise seminars and protest marches and then forget about it? No, we need to be proactive , we need to raise our voice.

– Report every case of violence against women that we know of and NO, it is not interference, it is being a responsible human-being.

– Bring up our children equally. If it is curfew time for 10 pm for your daughter, so it should be for your son. If it is a cricket bat for your son, why not for your daughter ?

– Raise your voice for better and women-friendly judicial system and One-stop crisis centres for women victims of violence.

– Build awareness and be aware about issues that affect women but are seldom discussed about – like breast cancer and cervical cancer.

It is time for women to shed social stigma and say ‘let it go’

Song 3: ‘Let it go’

dsc_1950Narrator: GREEN. What is the first thing that comes to mind when we think Green ? Yes, trees and plants. They are our life-givers. But when we say “leaving no one behind?”, do we really think about our environment ? Our trees, flora and fauna? But think about it. If we are moving forward towards development without thinking about our environment, we are only inviting doomsday. In New Delhi recently a near-state of total closure happened due to pollution. The pollution level was so high that inhaling the air was equivalent to intake of smoke of 33 cigarettes per day. And this was not all. Just think of these:

– Indian cities alone generate more than 100 million tons of solid waste a year.

-India is the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, in 2009 at 1.65 Gt per year, after China and the United States.

– The WHO estimated in 2007 that air pollution causes half a million deaths per year in India.

– Over ten million people in India fell ill with waterborne illnesses in 2013 alone, and 1,535 people died, most of them children.

So, friends, isn’t it time that we become conscious citizens of this world ? Isn’t it time that we also think of our environment as we become developed nations ?

–  If you have a car, share it with others as a car pool so that there are less cars travelling at the same time. Also have the pollution emission checked regularly.

– Think Green. Act Green, For that – plant more trees – even if it means placing some little plants in your balcony.

– Build awareness at every level against usage of chemical pesticides.

– Remember and practice the three R s – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle when it comes to goods like plastic goods.

We HAVE to do this. Or, else a young sapling will shed it’s silent tears asking for it’s mother tree – ‘Kaara jeno poysha diye kiney nilo maakey’ (Someone bought my mother, by paying some money !)

Song 4: ‘Kaara jeno poysha diye’

dsc_1952Narrator: WHITE. The color white depicts serenity, purity, innocence. And as soon as we say ‘innocence’ we are compelled to think about children. They are God’s divine gift to mankind. But are we giving them equal opportunities to grow up in a blissful manner?

Mahinder was only of eight years old when his father almost ‘sold him’ to a tea stall owner. There he was physically abused daily for two years till he ran away. He then unknowingly joined a gang of petty criminals who in turn sexually abused him for years. Today Mahinder, who is twenty now, is a hardened criminal, languishing in jail.

But it is not Mahinder alone.

– A study report of Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2007 has pointed out that 69% of children between the ages of 5-12 have faced physical abuse of some form or the other.

– A study backed by the Indian Government on child sexual abuse have pointed out that 53% of the children in the sample said that they were subjected to one or more forms of sexual abuse and of which 20% were severe and serious forms of abuse.

– It is estimated that 47% of the marriages happening in India are child marriages with the age of the bride being below 18 years. The figure is 69% and 65% in Bihar and Rajasthan respectively.

– Nearly 12 million children in India are married before the age of ten and of them about 44% are illiterate.

But as co-humans we must ensure that the foundation of our tomorrow is safe and for that it is essential to ensure a safer world for children. So, what can we do?

–  Ensure education for children, even if she is not from my family. If we have the capability we must provide for the education for those who cannot afford.

– Report every case of violence and child abuse. Socially shun the shopkeeper who uses child labourer. Report the incident to police.

– If you hear of any incidence of child marriage or child abuse, do not hesitate to intervene.

– Be careful and aware of any change in behaviour of a child known to you. Talk to her. She may be a silent victim of abuse.

We MUST make this world free of any forms of violence and abuse for children so that they may say loudly : We are the world , we are the children.

Song 5: ‘We are the world’

dsc_1962Narrator: BLACK. The mere mention of the word evokes a sense of hatred, disgust and discrimination. Black equals discrimination and discrimination equals black. M.T.Oliva was minutes away from his birthday. Thinking of his family back home, the twenty three year old African student was walking back to his temporary home in Vasant Kunj area in New Delhi. Following an argument with local men after some racist comments, the young African was killed with stones and sticks. And it was just one of the many incidents of racist hatred that young Africans face each day all around the work.

If someone is different from our socially set norms of ‘beautiful’ we exhibit a sense of disgust.

– We talk about unity and equality but still refer to our friends from Arunachal, Assam or Sikkim as ‘Chinkies’ and Africans are always ‘blackies’ for us.

– So much disgust there is about the dark skin color in Indian mind-set that Fairness Creams have the largest share in skin care sector, recording a steady growth of 15-20% every year.

– Dark skin has been considered as one of the strong reasons for increased dowry demands.

But ‘leaving no one behind’ needs an acceptance of all as one – without any discrimination or prejudice. So,

– Stop referring to and discourage others to refer to someone as a ‘blackie’, ‘nigger’ or ‘chinky’ merely on the basis of how they look.

– Believe in the fact that everyone is a creation of God and an insult to His creation is an insult of God himself.

–  Make every young person aware that her skin colour is her own asset and she should be proud of it.

– And for heaven’s sake, Stop advertising for or seeking  a ‘fair, slim, good-looking’  bride.

Remember, the Sun shines for all – without discrimantion, the moon soothes all- without discrimination and the stars twinkle – without discrimination. Believe that : Hum ek hai : We are all One.

Song 6: ‘Hum ek hai’

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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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Journey Recharged !

The seat looked dusty. I looked around myself. There were hardly any co-passengers around. The train had arrived at the platform an hour earlier than scheduled and I guess people were yet to find their respective coaches. There was only a young girl in the opposite seat – a young woman rather. With jeans and a loose T-shirt and a silver colored nose-ring she looked weird. Her eyes were glued to her mobile phone.

Huh! Another of those gadget geeks!

I put my hands in my pocket searching for a piece of paper or even my handkerchief. No way would I sit on the dusty train seat.

“Tissues?”

The voice startled me. I looked up. A smiling face looked at me in return. Her left hand held out a muddled bundle of fresh tissues. That same weird girl!

How on earth did she know that I was actually looking for a piece of paper?

“Take some. I cleaned mine with these”, she laughed. As she laughed I noticed the twinkle in her eyes.

scf1224Normally I refuse help from strangers – that too such a strange looking stranger – but right then I had no option.

But before I could even give her a formal thanks, she got up from her seat with a spring and began cleaning my dusty seat.

“Aha..ha…why….”

“Ha, it’s all right uncle. I would have done the same for my Dad”, she smiled the same way, having cleaned the seat in a jiffy.

“Tadaaa…here you are”, she pointed to my nearly clean seat.

“Thanks”, I thanked her softly.

A few of the co-passengers had begun arriving. Porters, noisy children, worried mothers, see-off relatives….

I looked outside. There was no one for me. Geeta had to pick up her son from school, Sekhar had his office to attend. It was more than enough that they had bothered to drop me at the station atleast.

“Sorry Appa. Please….I have to pick up Rohan in another hour, the school is pretty far away from here, if I don’t leave now I would never reach and you know how Rohan is….he would just keep crying!”, she had sounded apologetic.

“No problem.  Anyway, I just have to carry a single bag. It’s no big deal”, I had tried to comfort her in my own way. Afterall  she was my daughter. And it wasn’t wrong either. How much would the bag of a sixty five year old weigh anyway? The heart weighed heavier!

I adjusted my sole bag near my feet. The other passengers had mostly arrived.

Someone somewhere had perhaps opened a tiffin can of freshly fried Vade. The smell of crisply fried fritters wafted through the air. If Sudha had been around she would have certainly packed in a dozen….idlis…puliyothare….she always ensured she carried meals during her journey….she hated meals from pantry.

I closed my eyes, trying not to think about the past or even food for that matter. Without Sudha, life had become a burden. Staying with married daughter is not an easy option but with a son in the IT sector in Kolkata, with an erratic work schedule, staying with him wasn’t an option either. Thought of Ravi gave me a sudden jerk – a jolt rather. That conversation two weeks back had knocked off my sleep. Geeta hasn’t stopped crying since then.

It was just a three line monologue from Ravi.

“Ummm….Appa, I have found a girl for myself….Bengali, Christian…RebecaaBiswas. I know you will never agree to the match. But please, please, please come and meet her. She would be coming from Bangalore after her training in another two weeks.”

No way would I agree to the match! A vegetarian, Tamil boy from a Brahmin family marrying a non-vegetarian, Bengali, Christian girl!  I would go and try to reason with him. If he doesn’t agree I will sever all my ties with him –forever! I shook my head unknowingly! I opened my eyes.

The train had begun with a jerk. Loud good-byes,sobs , laughter filled the coach! A few of them began to call their relatives informing them of the train’s departure.

I too took out my mobile phone from my pocket. I know it wouldn’t really matter but as a courtesy I wanted to call Geeta.  Just as I began to press the numbers I suddenly realised there wasn’t a single rupee balance left in my mobile. I had been asking Geeta, requesting Sekhar but they had either forgotten or not bothered. I had even gone out to recharge the phone myself but the nearest shop was closed for over a week.

I stared helplessly at the screen.

“Here, use mine!”, a hand with pink nail colour held out a mobile phone.

That weird girl again! Her face was still smiley with that strange twinkle.

“I…I..no..thanks”

“It’s alright. Use mine.”

“Okay then…no need to call. Just send an sms to my daughter: Train started-Appa”, I felt weird and ashamed at the same time.

img913With deft fingers she typed out the message and the number as I dictated.

Beep!

“Here, it’s done!”, she smiled.

“I..I..actually I forgot to recharge my phone…and I can’t blame my daughter either…she has her hands full”, I sounded apologetic yet again.

“ It happens….with most of us. Why don’t you try one of  those re-charge systems ? They are quite useful.  It is actually  easy and user-friendly.”

“Ha ha ha….those are for young people like you! Not for oldies like us!”, for a change I tried to sound informal.

“But online dealings are never safe. Frankly, I don’t trust these online facilities. Every other day you hear of an online scam. But in any case it sounds interesting….actually I keep forgetting about these things like recharge and bill payment. And when I remember it is either too late or too difficult. And by then I am already into trouble…like I was, just a few minutes ago.”, I laughed.

I was really impressed with this girl. Not like the usual ones, and what I liked about her is that she was very sincere in her approach. Who on earth would waste time on explaining all those things.

“Would you care for some Vade?”

I saw the girl holding out a tiffin box of freshly Vade and Chutney.

This time I didn’t mind. I helped myself to one. I suddenly felt recharged.

“Did you make these?”

“Oh no! Not exactly ! One of my neighbours made all the preparations, I only fried them ……. of course upon strict instructions from that neighbourhood aunty !  I am originally travelling from Bangalore. I didn’t get a direct ticket to Kolkata. So I had to take a stop-over at Chennai.”

She bowed her head a little – perhaps in a short prayer- before she touched her piece. That is when I noticed the little golden cross adorning her neck! Sudha would do just the same. She would close her eyes and mutter “Sarveswara”, before she would touch her food.

Before I could ask further she spoke again – this time with her mouthful, “Mmm…but you know I can almost make these as tasty but that little hole in the middle just wouldn’t come. I have to practice some more. I need to impress my father-in-law …to be that is!”, she giggled.

I loved the innocence in her. Irrespective of what she was, how she was, her dress, her mannerisms and even her religion, I loved her. How I wish I had someone like her as my daughter in law.

“What is your name  Maa ?”, I asked her.

“Rebecca Biswas.  And what’s yours, uncle?”

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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.