A few years ago at the annual Durga Puja, the organizing club published a booklet for the benefit of the generation born and raised here, explaining the significance and meaning of the festival and its various events on different days. Rightly so, the narration started with Mahalaya, the new moon day preceding the Puja. Mahalaya is actually a day when Hindus, typically Bengali Hindus pay homage to the ancestors, culminating in Sharodiya Durga Puja six days later. Indeed, it is a Hindu practice to invoke the blessings of the ancestors before any solemn occasion, be it a wedding or an Annaprasan. But that was not what the author of the little booklet wrote in his explanation of Durga Puja for our children. Mahalaya, according to his narrative was the day on which Calcutta radio broadcast an audio musical, Mahishasurmardini. And that was all, what Mahalaya meant! Continue reading →
Few minutes ago an old friend of mine called to wish me for the upcoming Durga Puja festivals. He said, “It’s Mahasasthi in Kolkata today!” I wished him back, but it occurred to me that it’s Mahasashti everywhere, not only in Kolkata. When I reminded him, he laughed and said, “Yes indeed. But our Sasthi starts on coming Friday!” And he is absolutely right. Our Pujo in New Jersey (I am referring to the Kallol Durga Pujo which we both attend), starts on October 15th, Friday evening and that’s our Mahasasthi. The thought does give me some consolation that Pujo is yet to start and we have few more days to look forward too. But my friends and family in Kolkata have started enjoying their Pujo. They have started posting photos of their favorite idols on Facebook and Orkut, sending Pujo greetings through emails and expressing their joy and merriment. ETV Bangla is taking us through the streets of Kolkata and the online newspapers and magazines giving us day by day commentary of the Pujo happenings. And we cannot deny that this does cause a bit of a tinge in our hearts. Continue reading →
The time of the year is here again. The sky is blue with patches of white clouds floating lazily and the weather is cooling down. Durga Puja is here again in New Jersey. The local Bengali associations are gearing up to welcome Ma Durga with the usual pomp and cultural extravaganza, and let me share with you some information about the festivities that has come to my notice.
Like previous years, Durga Puja festival in New Jersey will be heralded in by the live Mahishashura Mardini (Mahalaya) performance at the Ananda Mandir on October 10th at 5.00am in the morning. I have been a regular attendee at this event, and I can promise you that if you can take that bold step of getting up from bed that early and drive down to Ananda Mandir, you’ll have an experience that you will never regret. Continue reading →
Many of us will intuitively link the title of the play to Rabindranath Tagore’s well know poem, “Ek Gnaye” and correctly so. Sambhu Mitra and Tripti Mitra particularly immortalized the poem in their rendition of it in Bidhayak Bhattacharya’s celebrated radio play, “Tahar Naamti Ranjana”. “Ekti Gnaye Thaki”, written and directed by Sudipta Bhawmik, is the story of a sister, Ranjana and her brother, Rajat, reuniting after fourteen years. Rajat immigrates to the US with his family after Ranjana sponsors their green cards. The reunion is marked by its usual excitement followed by nostalgia for their “gnya” they left both behind. Rajat becomes a critical link for Ranjana to relive her past, while Ranjana helps him come to terms with his decision to abandon his familiar world in Gobindapur. Ranjana is also ill and Rajat’s presence offers a long-awaited emollient. As the brother and the sister often slip into the past, the rest of the characters are excited at the prospects of their future in the US, especially Rajat’s son, Rajib.
The 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 →
Finally 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 →
In 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 →
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”.
The reality TV show “American Idol” has triggered a new trend – Idol search! TV channels all over the world are searching for idols – or talents. This search is not only limited to the television screen, but it has also proliferated onto the stage in various forms. Although the primary objective of this kind of shows is to screen for talent, in reality (excuse the pun) it is nothing but an entertainment show. The excitement, the drama, and the occasional emotional outbursts, are all part of the show. Undoubtedly, such shows do bring many talented men, women and children to the limelight, but is this the right way to do explore talent? In many cases, the exploration turns to exploitation – especially for the young participants. They have to go through a grueling screening process, sustain a tremendous pressure to perform, and then handle a barrage of criticism from the celebrity judges. I know in one dance show, a young girl couldn’t take the judges criticism anymore and had a nervous breakdown resulting in a paralytic fit. In several instances the young competitors sacrifice their education to continue the show. But the tragedy is, in most cases the winner is not judged by the celebrity panel whose criticism these young participants have to encounter, but rather by the audience through cell/mobile phone text messages (SMS). And in this process, the wireless carrier mints money. I am sure the show also gets their share of this income too.
The other day I was at the Union County College (UCC) to participate in a seminar/talk about immigrant issues as portrayed in works of art and literature. The topic emerged from the works of Jhumpa Lahiri, since her two books, “Interpreter of Maladies” and “The Namesake”, are being selected as the college novels for the 2008-2009 term. After my talk, few of us were chatting regarding how we deal with cultural differences in our everyday life in this country. Each of us were narrating some incidents in our life and in connection to “The Namesake” we were talking about the significance of names in different cultures, how we address each other, and how they are being interpreted. Continue reading →