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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BAKRID IN CALCUTTA : 50 YEARS AGO

BAKRID IN CALCUTTA : 50 YEARS AGO

There is an overall aura of happiness in the house…Deep’s elder sister and mother both are engrossed in making the ginger and garlic paste, using the heavy crushing stone. Deep has already made two visits outside, at the main-road junction. No, the black Landmaster car is yet to be seen. Ah, soon the car surely will arrive, with the meat of qurbani from Hashim Sahib’s home. Today is the Bakrid Day !

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pix courtesy : Google

Deep’s father always says ‘we are poor, but that is our pride’. Going was tough for the family, with four children, and with a meager salary that his father was earning as an LDC. Deep knows the full form of LDC- Lower Division Clerk ! It is not that they do not get to eat meat. Every Sunday his father buys goat meat from local shop of Abdul. One Poa (quarter of a seer – about 200 gram) for the whole family of 6. The mutton curry will have a lot of potatoes and lot of light gravy. Deep gets 3 small pieces, nothing to complain. Mother takes only one piece and a few potato pieces – it seems she does not like meat! (It is years later Deep realized that mother did like meat, but never had much choice than just to accept one piece !). But on a Bakrid Day it is different. Every year mother will serve large serving spoon full of meat, and every time Deep finishes the plate, mother will insist he takes a bit more rice and some more meat ! Oh, great day !

Deep is third time lucky ! The black car finally arrives, and Deep goes near the car enthusiastically and asks the driver “ house number 34, Doctor Memsaab” ? “Yes, come on in, show me the house”. Deep takes the short ride and the car stops near Doctor Memsaab’s house, located next to Deep’s house. Inside the car were large brass trays, on which large chunk of meat were placed. The trays were covered by nicely embroidered white cloth coverings. There were several such trays, taken to the house one by one. Deep could not wait any longer and ran home “Mom, it has arrived, several trays.. a lot of meat.”

The next thing would be a loud call from the next door. It  would be the voice of Boro Masi (Eldest Aunt) . “Deep, come on, bring some large vessels”.

Boro Masi was the eldest sister of Deep’s mother.  Doctor Memsaab (we fondly called her Granny) was Boro Masi’s mother in law. And then, like every year, the rest of the routine will follow. Mom will cut the meat into large pieces … lot of them,  in a large pot and cook in coal-fired oven for long time. The entire home will be filled in with the nice aroma of spices.

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pix courtesy : Google

During lunch time everyone will be on a joyous mood, and, every year all will agree in unison that Hashim Saahib always gives the very best qurbani meat.

Hashim Saahib was a businessman, owner of several cinema halls in the central part of Calcutta. Doctor Memsaab was the family doctor. She was very able senior retired nurse, and in those days such person in all practical purpose was entrusted with all health matter of the entire family. Most of child delivery was administered by Doctor Memsaab, at home itself. She made a daily visit to the family, check every one -starting from checking the blood pressure of the elders to the treating common cold of the children in Hashim Saahib’s family. She was respected and revered very much in the family, and, the idea of sending so much meat to her was that this kind lady will keep a little for the family, and, the rest will be shared among the neighbours. One of the important aspect of Bakrid was sharing of  Qurbani meat with poor neighbours.

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This annual festivity for us continued many years, even after the death of our dear Granny. The children of Hashim family, continued the tradition for many more years.We still do get qurbani meat. Our old house-keeping aunty, Jameela Bibi who still feels I am his ‘little son`, collects meat from a couple houses around her slum,  and comes in the evening and hands me over the meat. HAPPY BAKRID !

RAFI – LIVE SHOW !

(This is a repeat posting – a tribute on his Death Anniversary)

Rafi: a tribute

Not only me, my entire family is still an ardent supporter of Rafi. Even my grandson feels Rafi has a golden voice, and, a regular story telling session, by me, on the greatness of Rafi, made him more addicted to his melodious renditions.
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It was Amirchand who first broke the news that Rafi would be coming for a musical night and both Radhanath and Deep were all excited about it, and, instantly decided that they would not miss this opportunity to hear Rafi – live, for the first time. These youth were all die-hard fans of Rafi – Mohammed Rafi. It is then that Amirchand disclosed that the event was to be held in a place called Kanchrapara – a place quite far, in another district, and one has to take a train from Calcutta to reach to the place. The lowest level of ticket to the show would cost Rs. 5/-.

After an early dinner, on the D-day, the three set out for the place, a kind of a leap into the unknown! After reaching at the Railway station, it was not difficult to locate the Railway Ground where the show was on. A herd of people were heading for the ground and these three only had to quietly follow them. On reaching they found a large tent made, and lo behold, all the tickets were sold out. But the locals told them not to lose heart and just wait. The show started much earlier, in the evening, and in any case Rafi Saab’s performance would take place at the end part of the programme.

In those days such shows were organised not for any profit, but to enjoy, and once the tickets were over, and if there were still many people wanting to join, the organisers would open the side screens so that all and sundry could still enjoy the show, sitting on the ground outside the arena. The stage was made quite high so that everyone could see the show. So, soon the side screens were lifted and Deep, Radhanath and Amirchand too became part of the crowd enjoying the show…..even if they did not purchase the ticket !
At this time an unexpected thing happened. Deep noticed a local volunteer, with a large Usher Badge approaching this side, and he recognised him – Biman ! “Hey Biman” ! Deep ran towards him and they hugged in sheer joy of finding each other’s childhood friend. “I did not know you stay in Kanchrapara”, said Deep. Biman explained that he lives in the railway area and it is their youth organisation which was holding this function. Biman asked all three to follow him quietly. Biman took them to the front row where there were cushioned chairs – places reserved for special guests. Now they were seated at the front seat…. just few feet away from the performers!

rafiAround mid-night Rafi entered the stage with a shout “Yahoo…Yahoo” .What an entry ! Deep felt breathless. Now they realised why so many people loved him. He could shout full throated just at the beginning of his show – without bothering whether his voice would be choked or cracked with that huge shout. Such was the genuineness of his intention of giving his best, and all out to his audience. The audience was passing on request slips to him and he was singing accordingly. Then he stopped for a while, reading a slip and asked “Who among you passed on this slip, please stand up”. Rafi said.“This is my favourite too.. ‘O duniyakerakhwalle’”. An old man got up and raised his hand. Rafi Saab assured him “Kindly remind me later”. Thereafter he kept on singing. At one point there was a request for a duet song.He asked among the audience “Can someone come up to the stage and join me?” A young girl braved and went up to sing.Together they sang quite a few numbers and all along Rafi was guiding her like his daughter and managing every slip in notes with ease. Little did we realise that it was well past midnight and the new dawn had already arrived with the sun-rise . A few organisers came up to the stage – perhaps to remind him that he had to stop now. At this Rafi Saab requested the organisers to give him a little more time and asked “Is the gentleman still here who requested for Duniya Ke Rakhwalle ?” Before he could finish the sentence the old man got up and raised his hand.
When Rafi Saab finished the song it was already day light outside. The arena was still crowded and not a single soul had left the arena -such was his audience connect.
Deep and his friends came back home – content with a memorable experience for a life time.
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No wonder people have never forgotten him…Rafi lives on and on.

(NOW CLOSE YOUR EYES, CLICK BELOW AND FEEL THE PRESENCE OF RAFI )
“Tum Mujhe yun bhoola naa paaogey
Jab kabhi bhi sunogey geet mere,
Sangg sangg tumbhi gun guano gey”

(You will never be able to forget me,
Whenever you would hear my song,
You too would be humming with me.)

CLICK HERE

 

 

Christmas Time @ Ballygunge Christian Para 2017

Its CHRISTMAS ! A sure time for the area to enjoy to the fullest. It is Ballygunge Christian Para. This is a small community of Christian families. This settlement is about 100 years old. Not many are aware about this tiny Christian Para (area) in Ballygunge, in the southern most corner of Kolkata.  From Ballygunge Phari if you come down to Bondel Road, opposite Deys Medical Factory you would locate a lane, besides the Shiv Temple. Come through this lane…. You are at Ballygunge Christian Para. Now a days it is easier to locate because of two high-rise buildings that came up recently i.e.  Orbit Sky Garden and Asha Towers.

The Christmas celebration centres around the small church here. Earlier this was a mud walled church with tiled roof, until recently when a two storied church building

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Church adorns a large hording -Santa on his sledge !

came up. The celebration is not limited to Christians only,  all communities of the locality happily participate in various activities like decorating the area etc.

Come…. Join the celebration !

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Every family decorates. The Nathaniels has a bold banner !

The church entrance has been decorated with a nativity display which attract good crowd.

Mukherji family has an elaborate christmas decoration with a lots of coloured lights !

 

 

 

Sunny Saahib

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 first in the series….. “Sunny Sahib” !

There was a festive mood in the air, at least till this morning. Since one month every youth in the locality, in this end part of Ballygunge, was engrossed and busy. The reason – “Mahanisha”.  This is the name of the play or drama that the local youth planned to stage. Those days, it was very much in vogue to stage a drama in the locality with a large number of youth participating and there were regular rehearsals in the evenings. The local youth caught hold of Shambhu Uncle, a veteran drama director of the locality and the drama selected was Mahanisha.  Shambhu Uncle also agreed to spare his sitting room for the rehearsals.

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This roughly is the spot for stage… Shambhu uncle’s house at the backdrp

Everything was going on as per schedule. That evening was the show ! The day before the tent-wallahs brought in a lot of bamboo poles, tarpaulins, bundle of ropes, and, they promised to put up the tent this morning…. And…. Then…. There was this thick black cloud visible on the sky since morning.

Everyone said it is just a matter of minutes….. there would be heavy down pour of rain and it would surely ruin the drama show ! Everyone wore a gloomy look, and, at this juncture someone suggested “How about asking Jhantuda for some kind of  err….. way out?”. Jhantuda was the local thakurmoshai (priest) for all puja functions.

When approached, Jhantuda thought for a while and suggested a way out. “ There is a way out…. That is if you all have faith ….. and I am sure we will have the blessings of Devimaa”.  What Jhantuda suggested was this “ We must find out a person in the locality who is the only child – a son. He should dig a deep hole, all by himself, and then place a small metal bowl in the hole…  then fill up the hole with sand and lose soil..”. And now there was some cheer in the gloomy faces – every one went on different directions to fetch someone as per order…. Only child….. Only son.  But the cheer was short lived… they could come up with some names, but most of them had one or two sisters….and none was the only son.

At this juncture some one yelled “Jhantu da, there is one, at the very next door. But if   I spell the name you may not agree…. He is Sunny Sahib, our anglo-Indian neighbour.I mean after all he is not an  er…er..”. At this point Jhantuda rebuked him quite loudly “Shut up.You are talking non-sense….. what is important is how sincere the person is in seeking from the heart that rain must not ruin our drama show”.

When the youth group reached Sunny Sahib’s house, he was busy in doing push up. He was a fitness freak,a good horse rider ! He was all thrilled at the idea of digging and came out in no time with his own sets of crow-bar and shovel . Soon he dug up quite a large hole -more than what was needed. Someone brought in an old aluminium bowl.Sunny Sahib neatly placed it in the middle of the hole and in no time replaced the loose soil to fill-up the hole….. all along he wore his signature cap on his head.

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That evening there was a full house show of Mahanisha – a large number of people from neighbourhood gathered, under the clear sky.They said some of the local youth performed very well, much like the professional actors. I, for one, remember a bit. Our neighbour Kumar Uncle was in the lead role! He was a good looking hero. But perhaps, the actual hero of the day was Sunny Sahib – an anglo-Indian Christian who gave all his time and might to please Devi Maa!

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Sunny Saahib’s Bungalow still stands tall in the locality !

Green  Gate, Punya Maali and Gautam Ghose

I returned home from office around seven in the evening. I saw my daughter and son were glued to the small t.v.set. Those days we had a black and white one,  and one of them shouted “Dad join us, this is a good tele-film, about a village doctor.. its by Gautam Ghose” . I just glanced and said appreciatively “oh it is by Gautam… my personal friend !” To this both of them gazed at me for a while and then together they burst into a loud laughter ! “Dad, what is a ‘personal friend’….”. I lost my words trying to utter something “ well… it is like…. I mean”. At this juncture my wife came to my rescue and said “why not come to the dining room …. I will get you a hot cup of tea “. I simply followed her and almost ran out from the spot.

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We were studying at a missionary school in south Calcutta. It was quite an old school run by the Anglican Missionary, located on a main street complete with quite a big church. We had two entrance gates…. Green ornamentaly iron-cast. The one leading to the cathedral 3church portico was the main entrance. This was managed by Punya Mali. As the name suggests, Punya was basically a gardener… the school  indeed had some scattered garden….. but he also doubled as the gate-keeper. We also had another identically designed large gate at another side of the school, behind the church, beside the small grave-yard. Yes, this too was coloured green. This gate was always kept locked… and it was at a secluded place.

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That day four of us assembled behind the church. Ataul explained that he will stand just at the corner end of the church, I am to stand a bit far on the passage… my job was to warn if anyone is seen coming this way. The mission was to arrange a safe passage to Niloo and Gautam, so that they can scale the tall green gate .. jump and escape…. . As

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Thanks to Facebook ! I found the exact spot, after so many decades ! I was behind the bush !

planned both Niloo and Gautam reached near the gate. Niloo first climbed the gate. Half-way through he threw the leather sandals onto the road outside. And then he jumped on the road with ease . It was then the turn of Gautam.  Gautam always wore black heavy shoes-  he was almost on top of the gate. And then the inevitable happened ! I saw Punya Mali coming to this side. I got nervous and signaled  “Ata… Punya !” On his turn Ata warned the duo about ensuing Punya’s arrival on the site !. But, Punya suddenly halted and made an about turn . And vanished  into some class room somewhere !

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There was a popular cinema hall in Colootola named Moonlight. It was popular among student film-lovers because of its convenient show timings…. it had a noon show…. From 12 noon to 2.30 p.m. Which meant that students could attend school , mark their attendance around 10, and , even  go through an entire 45 minutes first period. And could still watch a movie and return home, at times even return back to the school to attend the last period !

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cathedral 2 (2)We were about 7 or 8 of us, most of us studying  in the eighth standard. It was tiffin break and we would all assemble at the dark class room near the stair case. Niloo and Gautam would tell us about the film they watched the previous day. It was normally a narration on rotation. Both of them were good story tellers. It was in one of those sessions we heard the entire story of of Devdas – complete with Gautam’s role play of Dilip Kumar’s last scene…. I can still remember him showing how to tremble the lips.. and almost whisper “Paro” .

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It was on a session like this that we heard the story of  Hum Dono – complete with  the song  “Mai Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhataa Chala Gaya” rendered by Gautam. Gautam had a deep voice with good resonance. He was a perfectionist who would get upset if you pronounced “Zindagi” as “Jindagi”…. And often he would reprimand Niloo about his awful  hindi or urdu pronunciation, on narrating a film dialogue !

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When we reached at the crossing of Rustamjee Street it was evening . The occasion was a cultural show.  A stage was built, even if it was an open air show. Chairs were laid on all three sides of the narrow street junction. (It is the lane next to Mukti World now, near Ballygunge Phari) . Soon the play “Thana Theke Aschi” started. As usual Gautam and Niloo were in the lead roles. Niloo looked awful  wearing an over sized attire of a polce inspector. It was a good show, both of them acted well, full house… and the audience often applauded with clap.  So, this can be termed as Gautam’s first public directorial venture !

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I was intently watching the meat seller so that he should not  fool me on the correctness of the weight of the meat when there was a heavy pounding on my shoulder “Hi, I did not know you come to this Park Circus meat market too”! It was Niloo. Both of us were now with changed looks.  After we hugged for a while Niloo said “Guess who was at my home last week ?  Ha, ha.. it was Gautam” ! What he explained was like this. Niloo has married a Christian girl. He has two daughters. They are quite grown up…. college goers.  As usual Niloo used to tell his children about the good old school days. And somehow  had mentioned to them that Gautam was his close friend. His daughters never believed him .And then suddenly one Sunday Gautam appeared in flesh at their home and spent the whole day- including having a family lunch ! .

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I hurriedly returned from the market and narrated the whole story of meeting Niloo to my Children. Both of them smiled and started pulling my leg “So the moral of the story is ‘mera number kab ayega’ !

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“Gautam, izzat bacha le yaar, kabhi toh mera bhi ghar aya kar …..”

 

 

 

Storage !

Rijul is a high school student in his last year of schooling, and all busy these days preparing for his final exam. Computer is his favourite subject. He was very enthusiastically teaching his grandpa about storage.

“You see, first it was kb.  Then mb… that is megabyte,   then gb… and now it is tb…. you can virtually store anything….. for many many years …do you get anything ” ?

Me, the grandfather was not sure was able to grasp all that he was telling…

dadu1My  mind went far far away. Yes, we too had a storage-system….. a brown all leather briefcase ! This was the all important Storage System for us.  My father was very meticulously keeping things here….. a large variety of things…. our house ownership documents,  school and university certificates of all his four children, their exam marksheets, bank pass books (hand written!), a small red plastic case for smaller but vvip items like a few gold bangles of my mother .. my passport, pension nomination papers… Wow !And any other things which he thought should be stored safely.

dadu2Those were before the xerox age. Thus often we asked him for school certificates or marksheets and we would neatly copy-write them with blue ink pen on plain paper and get it attested by a Govt. Officer, for all our practical purposes. He would several time give us reminder to get the original returned. Once he got them back he will again store them in the Storage Box.

Well, listening up to this point, our Rijul was all perplexed and amused !

dadu4After a  little while I called him again and handed over to him the Real Storage.  He was indeed baffled to find some items still lying safe in the Storage  …. a bank pass book – hand calcuted ,  the “red box” … it had a few blades which he did not believe were used for actual shaving,  a cloth-made money purse with a few 10paise coins (he never knew that such coins existed !)