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
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”.
Bengali 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
On July 4th, Saturday night, the curtains came down upon the NABC 2009 at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. But as the NABC lights faded out in the West Coast, Kallol of New Jersey got into full gear to herald in the NABC of 2010 to be held at the Atlantic City Convention center from July 9th to 11th, 2010. Although I was not able to attend the San Jose NABC, but judging from the excellent coverage on Urhalpool, it seemed that it was a successful one from an overall perspective. It seemed that the shows ran on time (which was unthinkable even a few years ago, NABC seems to have fixed that vexing problem and made this cartoon irrelevant), they were entertaining and dazzling, food was good, as were the long adda sessions. The second generation kids also seemed to have enjoyed themselves, some made new friends and some met old ones they met at previous NABCs.
I had often been requested to write plays for our children. With our kids in mind, few years ago I wrote a play titled BSL or Bangla as a Second Language. BSL is a hilarious short play for children (pre-teens, teens, young adults) of Bengali origin. Neil, Nick, Jay and Seema live in USA. But like all children of Bengali speaking parents, they are being forced to learn Bengali (or Bangla) against their will. Neil, the most innovative and smart kid he is, invents a device that can make one learn Bangla (or any other language) in seconds. Nick agrees to be the first guinea pig for the trials of this machine and the results are – quite unexpected to say the least. Continue reading
After three days of hectic scrambling, managing thousands of registrants, the blaring music from the entertainers and the long dinner lines, Kallol Pujo celebrations have finally come to an end. Although many skeptics were not sure about how the Pujo would fare out, especially when many people were not happy when Kallol had announced the closure of their registration due to full capacity, overall the people who attended were quite happy. The crowd was well managed and as far as I know, nobody was turned back due to their failure to register early. The new full sized idol of Maa Durga and her entourage was something that attracted many to stand for few extra minutes before the Goddess than before. The simple styling of the idol reminded many of us of our local Puja’s back home. The ample “adda” space all around was also utilized very well. The vendor stalls were quite crowded (except not many seemed to open up new accounts with BoA), especially the food vendor made a killing with $2.00 mini veg chops. The community dinner served in the tents was as predictable as ever, however the lines moved quite fast on all evenings. Continue reading