In several of my earlier blog articles, I wrote about our sensitivity to paying Durga Puja contributions (popularly known as Chaanda). The Puja organizers have tried to be innovative in extracting (no I never said extorting) the funds from the pockets of the attendees – they suggested (very strongly) donation amounts which partially resolved the problem but not the unpredictability. They have now resorted to early registration to ensure the committed funds (doesn’t matter if the contributors fail to attend due to weather or personal issues) and again they are successful to a great extent (Kallol has stopped early registration two weeks in advance and have declared “House Full”). Continue reading
Entertainment events are the major attractions of any Durga Puja festival. The Puja organizers spend thousands of dollars to get the most popular artistes from India as well as from the local talent pool. It is the star entertainers that pull in the crowd, and crowd brings in revenue. The popularity ratings of the entertainers define the success of a Durga Puja.
But is it true? If the stars and their entertainment was the only reason to attend a Puja festival, then why do we have to listen to the constant rumbling noise of numerous “adda” sessions that continue in the background? As the audio levels of the performers rise, so does the noise level. To many attendees (myself included) the main attraction of attending a Puja is the opportunity to meet friends and engage in endless “addas”. We have no ill feeling towards the performers, they can continue to do their job as long as they don’t disturb our “addas”. After all, it is them who made us decide which Puja to attend – but they cannot deny us our birth right to be able to talk, talk and talk for hours on. We will occasionally listen to one or two songs to give our tired jaw bones some rest, but soon we’ll get back to argue about who was the best performer of the song, and how this “hopeless” artist has ruined the song completely. We’ll lament the dearth of talent in Bengal and how we miss the golden days of Kishore and Hemanta-da, how the new generation of band music is destroying Bangla music and why one should ban artistes like Sumon and Nachiketa.
Durga Puja festival has always been a great source of inspiration to me as a cartoonist. I have drawn several cartoons related to this festival and the way we celebrate it in our adopted homeland. Last week I posted one on the “Chanda” issue. This cartoon (drawn a long time ago for Kallol Sahityo Patrika) also takes a spin on the same touchy subject. In earlier times (late 80’s and early 90’s), the Pujo organizers did not specify or “suggest” any contribution amount to the attendees. The strong “suggestion” became, sort of, necessary from the later half of the 90’s when goat meat (or mutton curry) became a must item at the Saturday evening community dinner. Goat meat has always been an expensive item, and with the unpredictable attendance being a major problem, estimating the amount of meat to be cooked is always an issue. The volunteers serving dinner had to deploy smart strategies to control the number of mutton pieces to the hungry devotees standing in the line. At the beginning phase, they are generally generous, especially to their friends and families. However, soon (after a quick review by the supervisors) the strategy changes to a rationing mode when the number of mutton pieces served becomes indirectly proportional to the number of attendees. Now in this situation, the tired and hungry attendee, who has paid the “suggested minimum contribution” has all the right to demand a “suggested minimum number of pieces” of the precious goat meat. After all, that was one of the key factors that attracted him to this festival in the first place!
Pujo contribution or Chaanda (as we fondly call this concept) is always an issue with the average Bengali. Be it in India or in USA, Bengalis have the feeling that this is an unjust extortion in the name of a festival that we all like to attend. It should be free for all of us. Where the organizers get their funds is not for us to bother about. Since, most of the Pujo organizers make it a point to ensure that each and every attendee pays their contribution, we’d like to get away with the minimum amount that helps us to claim a stake in the festival. But the Pujo organizers these days are smart, they make the contribution amount quite obvious by displaying it in bold font. To justify the specified amount, the organizers will cite different components of the cost incurred to hold a festival of this magnitude, like goat meat, Mumbai and Kolkata performers – etc etc. This cartoon raises a legitimate question – why not an a-la carte system for Pujor Chanda? Sounds fair to me!
Arranged marriage is still quite common in India, and one important phase in an arranged marriage is the process of selecting the bride. Mind you, I said “bride selection” and not “groom selection”. An important component of this process is to visit the bride’s home and conduct an interview of the girl to figure out if the girl is a suitable candidate. In some cases, the girl is not only asked to provide verbal answers to the questions, but also demonstrate their gait, posture, length of the hair and also their artistic, musical, and culinary skills. This cartoon was drawn to emphasize on this aspect of the selection process – the girl demonstrates her gait by walking on a tight rope. After all, that’s what she will have to do everyday at her in-laws family – walk the fine line with amazing dexterity, balance and skill. Women of our country may not be participating at the Olympics gymnastics events, but this skill of walking the horizontal beam is in their genes. This cartoon was done for Proma (published from Kolkata) few years ago. I thought this would be an interesting post during this Olympic season.
This cartoon was done for “Proma” a long time ago. Abstract art has always drawn the attention of humorists and cartoonist. This one exaggerates the abstractness to the extent that the artist himself does not have any clue regarding his own painting, not event it’s orientation. Many of us, the naive (read pseudo) art connoisseurs, think that abstract art – the art that does not represent any form that we are familiar to, is quite easy to render. Many of us consider them nothing but few blotches of paint and maybe some geometric patterns in an arrangement which does not resemble anything that we see in our daily lives. Hence, many pseudo-artists tend to declare themselves as artists by creating such absurd canvasses and trivialize the bewildered viewers as “uneducated an uncultured” brutes. This is true not only for fine arts, but also in those branches of art that thrive on abstractions and absurdity – like poetry, play, film, music and even short stories. Hence it is of utmost importance, that we make an attempt to train ourselves to be able to appreciate these art forms – to open up our minds to appreciate forms and colors and movements and sounds that are beyond our accustomed reality.
Long time ago, I used to draw cartoons for some magazines like Proma (published in Kolkata), Udayan (published from NY), Sangbadik (also published from New York) and News India Times. I would like to share some of them with you. This cartoon was published in Proma few years ago. It is a take on art valuation. Let me know how you like it. In future weeks I’ll post one cartoon a week, from my old archives.