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
Want to write in Bengali? Google now offers transliteration service from several Indian languages including Bengali. Visit http://google.com/transliterate and set up the language to Bengali using the drop down menu on the upper left corner. Then start typing in Bangla using your roman keyboard. For example, type in “manush” and hit space button and the transliteration software will convert it to its corresponding Bangla in a unicode compliant font. To switch from Bangle to English (or vice versa), just press Ctrl+G (in Windows) or Cmd+G (in Mac OS). If the transliteration engine does not generate the word you want, just press the “back” or “delete” button, and it will provide you with multiple choices. The tool also offers you a dictionary that can provide you Bangla word equivalents for most English words. You can select the correct word and insert in the document.
However, this system is still in its infancy and has several limitations. For example, you cannot save the documents you create using this system. Currently Google transliteration is offered only in Gmail, Blogger, Knol and Bookmarklet. Even Google docs is not supported, let alone Microsoft Word or any other word processor. Choice of fonts is also limited. I hope Google is working on these issues and make transliteration a truly useful system. Till then we’ll have to work within these limitations.
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
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.
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”.
A unique concert of Tagore songs with the accompaniment of Indian and Western musical instruments is planned for Saturday, July the 18th, 2009, at 6-30 P.M. at the fabulous sanctuary of the futuristic Saint Peters Church in the heart of New York City at 619 Lexington Avenue (corner of 54th Street), New York City. Rezwana Choudhury Bannya, the famed Tagore singer, will be the solo vocalist. Among the instruments will be Piano, Violin, Saxophone, Harp, Cello, Veena, Sitar, Flute, Tabla, Mandira etc. The musicians who will play these instruments are all accomplished artistes in their respective areas. This is the first time that such a concert is being offered where so many Western instruments will be played with Tagore songs (or any other Bengali song genre, for that matter) at the same session. As planned, Ms. Bannya will sing an average of two songs with each instrument individually. At the end, two or more songs are expected to be offered with all the instruments playing together.
Suggested donations for the concert has been set at $100, $50 and $25, to defray the costs for the concert. Guests are requested to arrive on time and take their seats by 6-30 pm so that the session may start on time. The entrance is through the 54th Street south side doors, less than 50 feet from Lexington Avenue while walking towards Third Avenue. Discount parking is available at Metropolitan 51 Parking, 569 Lexington Avenue, south side of 51st Street, between Lexington and 3rd Avenue ($15 for upto five hours).. For getting the discount, the tickets have to be endorsed by a seal at the reception desk at the church entrance.
Those interested to attend the concert and collect tickets are requested to ontact: 347-570-7787, 917-770-0146, 718-414-9743 or send email at following adresses:
email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Very few theatre personalities in India have become legends in their life time. Habib Tanvir was one of them. Born as Habib Ahmed Khan on September 1, 1923 in Raipur, Chattisgarh, Habib Tanvir has reinvented Indian folk theater and brought it out on the world stage in its full glory. I still remember the evening in Calcutta when I watched his brilliant creation “Charandas Chor”. The presentation of the play in a traditional folk form looked so modern, so fresh, that I couldn’t think of anything comparable in contemporary theatre. Habib, through is work, has left a legacy that is difficult to carry on – because it demands a level of dedication that many of our modern theatre workers will fail to match. The sensitivity with which he nurtured the folk forms, experimented with content and presented them with such grace and simplicity – only a true genius can achieve such excellence.
Habib Tanvir passed away on June 8th, 2009, but the lengend he became still lives on and inspires theatre workers all around the globe.
A Taiwanese Idol contestant is singing a Hindi film song. It is amazing to see how Indian films are being accepted all across the world. Globalization is great! Jay Ho!
The classical Indian dance form Kathak is now quite well known amongst the dance connoisseurs of America. Americans who have some familiarity with classical music and dance of India, know about Kathak – a dance form that truly blends together the various components of Indian music – melody, rhythm and the beauty of the physical form. It is true that many stalwarts of the Kathak dance form like Pandit Birju Maharaj and others have graced the American stage with their amazing performances, but the primary reason for its popularity and sustenance in this country is due to the tremendous efforts put in by several Kathak dance schools and academies run by the immigrant dancers from India who wanted to spread their passion for this art form amongst the next generation. Once such school is Kalamandir of New Jersey led by its director, Malabika Guha.