Online English to Bengali Dictionary

Are you looking for the right Bengali meaning for a English word? Do you often hunt for Bengali words and their spellings when you know the exact English equivalents. Look no further. Try out  The developers of this site has taken an ingenious approach. They have scanned an entire English to Bengali dictionary, broken it up into pieces (for each word) and created a searchable database which links up the words you type in with the appropriate snippet. Thanks to  Raishul Islam Russell for developing this useful site. Give it a try when you can.


The Complete Works of Tagore Now Online

Rabindranath TagoreAsk a Bengali what in his/her bookcase does he/she treasure most?  And the answer will be – the sixteen volume set of Rabindra Rachanabali, that is, the complete works of Rabindranath Tagore. Over the years, the works of Tagore has been one of the key source of revenue for Bishwabharati. However, after the expiry of the extended copyright, publishers were free to reprint Tagore without having to pay any royalty to Bishwabharati. The Society for Natural Language Technology Research (SNLTR) grabbed this opportunity and made the entire published works of Tagore (Rabindra Rachanabali) available online through their website No longer do you have to carry along with you the heavy volumes, neither do you have to spend money to buy them. Online Rabindra-Rachanabali is free.  The website was released to the public on 27th January 2010, at the Kolkata Bookfair. Continue reading

Countdown to NABC 2010

Sapphire Creations Dance WorkshopThe count down to NABC 2010 has started.  In little more than seven months from now, Bengalis from all over USA and abroad will converge upon Atlantic City in New Jersey. Kallol of New Jersey, the host organization of NABC 2010, is working at a hectic pace to make it a great event. Most of the performers have been lined up, registrations pouring in and the committee members are busy working on the final details like scheduling and fund raising. On January 8th, 2010, a kickoff meeting/press-conference will be held in Kolkata in the presence of most of the artists and performers.

Lets take a look at some of the foreign performers who will grace the Atlantic City convention center stage. I’ll not be able to cover all of them in this article and plan to continue in future posts.  At the 2010 NABC Kallol will be presenting some performers who are relatively unknown to the Bengali crowd in USA. One such group is Sapphire Creations Dance Workshop who will be performing at the opening ceremony.  Sapphire Creations  is a premier experimental dance company based in Kolkata and the only one of its kind in Eastern India performing regularly and popularly in festivals and arts events in India and abroad. Their objective is to integrate in its dance an awareness of tradition, a dimension of experimentation, an urge to entertain and a purpose to provoke consciousness to inspire us to reach brighter horizons. Continue reading

(Un)Availability of Desh Patrika in USA

I have been an ardent reader of “Desh”, the premier Bengali literary magazine since my childhood days. As I moved to the US, I continued my subscription through the “House of Ananda”, a New York based agency of ABP (Ananda Bazar Publications). I could pay my subscription dues using a credit card or via Paypal through their website. I used to get the magazine regularly and in time. However, recently due to some mysterious reasons, the US based distribution ceased to exist and the magazine is now mailed directly from Kolkata. This resulted in two issues.  First, the magazine delivery became irregular and I missed few issues which I guess was lost in the mail. The delivery is also delayed. Secondly, the subscription process has become really complicated and ABP now demands the payment to be sent to their Kolkata office in the form of DD. This is totally unacceptable in current times. Technology has evolved and the days of demand drafts and money orders are long gone in the global market. I recently purchased a book from an Indian distributor who accepted credit card payment through their website and mailed me the book in less than two weeks.  Why can’t a huge publication house like ABP do this? Bengalis now live all over the world, and publishers and book sellers like ABP should cater to their international clientele using modern technology.  An email sent to the ABP office had no positive effect.   Publishers like ABP should learn a lesson or two from their international counter parts. Magazine publishers in USA use all kinds of methods to hold on to their subscribers. They try to make the subscription renewal  process as painless as possible. Where as, publishers like ABP seem to be happy to lose a few customers. To manage the loss of readership, all they can do is reduce the frequency of publication to monthly and then maybe to quarterly. That’s what they did when the reduced the frequency from weekly to fortnightly.

I hope, ABP comes to their senses and reinstates their foreign distribution centers and try to expand their business to the Bengalis living abroad.

Loss of a Friend

Three months ago, when I lost my mother, I received the following email from a close friend:

Gayatri GamarshTonight at the Sahitya O Alochana meeting I heard the very sad news of your mother’s passing away.
I offer my heart-felt condolences to you. I have suffered some losses in my own life and I know first hand the sorrow of having to say good bye to a loved one. I also know that during this time and all through your life, you’ll know that she is with you and watching over you, because you can feel her presence in your heart.
I feel deeply moved by this change from life to after-life that your mom has gone through and I felt compelled to tell you that she is still with you and will always be, just as I feel that my son is always with me, no matter where I am.
With my love and blessings to you and your family

The email was from Gayatri Gamarsh (who allowed me to call her as Gayatri-di) and it really helped me cope with my pain. Little did I know that three months later, Gayatri-di herself will move on to “her after-life” leaving us behind mourning her loss.

I came to know Gayatri-di mainly through her literary works and her love for anything artistic.  She used to love coming to our plays and appreciated them very much. Several times she has written about our plays in Anandasambad and other magazines. Her appreciation and encouragement meant a lot to me and my team mates.   It is for people like Gayatri-di that makes all the hard work in writing and staging a play worth it.

In September, she had participated in a workshop on creative Bengali writing conducted by Sunil Gangopadhyay. She had rescheduled her heart surgery just to attend this workshop online. That was the last time I had heard her voice on the phone.  Later, after her surgery, she had sent me an email asking for an article or cartoon for the “Sambad Bichitra” English section. But I never had the chance to hand it to her.

As mentioned by Gayatri-di in her email, I’ll believe that she is always with us and will be watching any play we put up or read any article I write or any cartoon I draw.

Goodbye Gayatri-di and thank you for all your encouragement and blessings, for those will be my source of inspiration for whatever I do in the future.

New Jersey Durga Puja 2009 : A Review

Durga Protima Kallol of New JerseyFinally the annual Durga Puja celebrations are over. I was mostly present at the Kallol pujo but also paid (no pun intended) short visits at the Bharat Sevashram Sangha and Anandamandir. Kallol, just like the previous year, had a full house and had to turn away several people. In one of my previous blogs I had requested, rather wished, that Kallol provide a daily ticket for people who would like to come in for a day. However, for whatever reasons, Kallol decided on the contrary and the result was that I had to listen to complaints from several disappointed friends and family.  Well, rules are rules – that’s what I said.

This year I did something which I never did before. I dropped in on Thursday evening – and it was real fun. There was no pressure of showing the badge, no parking tags, no stress about reserving seats with shawls and jackets and no celebrities on stage to pay attention to. While the volunteers were busy setting up the idol and the kids busy rehearsing on the stage, I had a good time chatting with  friends. For once, after a long time, I had the pleasure of pure Pujo adda – completly unadultered fun. I think we should, at least informally, start the festivities from Thursday – just to prolong the enjoyment for few more hours. Continue reading

Durga Puja and Cultural Events: The 2009 New Jersey Lineup

Ujjaini MukherjeeIn New Jersey, Durga Puja is a special time when the festive mood brings with it a flurry of entertainment and cultural programs across the state. This year too the line up looks very promising although the spirits have dampened a bit due to the tough economic times and with the rejection of visas of few of the performers.  Still the combination of local talents and professionals from India is bound to enthrall the Puja attendees on the coming weekends.

I’ll try to briefly summarize the lineup this year, although the organizers have in many cases conveniently omitted the details about the local performers from their web sites. I tried to collect as much information I could manage. If any of you have more information, then please feel free to add them to this post as comments. Continue reading

Mahalaya in New Jersey – A Tradition of Our Own

Mahalaya in Bengal is synonymous to the seventy year old radio musical “Mahisashur Mardini” written by Bani Kumar and composed by Pankaj Mallik. Over the years this has become a Bengali tradition to wake up at 4.30am on Majalaya day and listen to this wonderful program that has not lost its charm till date. In fact, in Bengal the demand for new radios spike during this period. The inspiring narration and “Chandi Path” by Birendra Krishna Bhadra, the wonderful songs by the great musicians like Supriti Ghosh, Manabendra Mukherjee, and many others cast a spell on the listeners and put them into the Puja mood. Once there was an attempt to change the program and make it more contemporary using stars like Uttam Kumar, but severe protests from the listeners forced All India Radio to scrap it and go back to the traditional format.
In New Jersey, we have developed a tradition of our own. At the Anandamandir, at 4.30pm local musicians gather in front of a packed audience and perform the famous “Mahishashur Mardini” under the guidance of Arun Bhowmik. The musicians, most of whom are accomplished in their own right, devote their time to usher in the Durga Puja festival in front of the idols of Goddess Durga and Kali and create a magical moment for the audience some of whom travel all the way from Philadelphia, Long Island, and other distant cities.
I have attached two clips of this event (recorded on my cell phone) for you to get a glimpse of this event. The audio quality is not too good, but you’ll still feel the electrifying atmosphere that charges us up for the upcoming festivals.

Goat and the Bengali Intelligentsia

goat The intelligentsia (as defined by Wikipedia) is a social class of people engaged in complex mental and creative labor directed to the development and dissemination of culture, encompassing intellectuals and social groups close to them.  You can very well attribute this term to the Bengali society who fits this definition quite well.  But what does a timid and herbivorous (although Bengalis think goats to be omnivorous – chhagole ki na khay) mammal like goat got to do with this elite group of people?  The answer to this is well known to all of us – Bengalis love goat meat. Although in other parts of the World, goat milk and milk products (cheese) are also extremely popular, but we the Bengalis don’t care much about the milk.  It is the meat that is most important to us – the ultimate food in any Bengali plate.  Historically, goat meat is the only kind of meat that Bengalis (especially the Hindu Bengalis) ate. Goats were the most popular offerings to Goddess Kali and Durga – and the meat then cooked in a recipe void of any garlic or onions and hence termed as “vegetarian meat”.

Continue reading

Durga Puja 2009 – Just a Month Away

Durga PujaBengali Associations of NJ are gearing up for the biggest festival of the year – Durga Puja. This year the festival starts quite early, around 25th-26th of September. Kallol, GSCA and Anandamandir will be celebrating their Durga Puja during that weekend.  And just like last year we should expect that the registration to start soon. GSCA has already opened their online registration, and Kallol is expected to open theirs in early September.

Last year (2008) was the first time when Kallol of NJ started their online pre-registration process and it caused quite a bit of furor amongst the Kallol regulars who failed to register early. The registration window was closed as soon as the guest count limit was reached and that left many people with a bad taste.  Some people were able to get in at the last moment (I don’t know how) but several people had to go back. I think Kallol needs to do something about this. Continue reading