(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.

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”.

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Community News Bites: Banaprastha and Urhalpool

ECTA’s latest production “Banaprastha” premiered at the Edison Valley Playhouse on May 16th in front of a full house. The play was very well received by the audience as you can see in the accompanying video.  The second show was held on May 17th. Besides the video comments, here are some of the comments sent over the email.

We thoroughly enjoyed Banaprasta. This is a very timely production. I wish this drama can be viewed by millions Indians in India in view of the fact that India is crazy about Bollywood. Once again congratulations for presenting a great drama.” – Aurobindo Mukherjee

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Sahitya O Alochana @ Ananda Mandir

Ananda Mandir is starting a regular Sahitya O Alochana - Meeting of literary readings and discussionswith a meeting this Friday, 22 August 2008, at 8:30 PM.

The aim is to have a quasi-monthly meeting of literary readings and discussions, occasionally interspersed with lectures on religion or philosophy. The first meeting will focus on how to get the effort organized, but we will also have invited speakers from our community speaking on selected topics. Anyone interested is welcome to attend.