Anandabazar in Unicode

Anandabazar Patrika is Bengali’s most favorite daily newspaper. However, until recently reading Anandabazaar Patrika online was severely restricted due the technology it used to render the Bangla fonts. Only Internet Explorer supported the technology, but that too crashed frequently. But recently Anandabazar is available in Unicode and can be enjoyed in any Unicode compliant browser. Just click on the following link:

Durga Puja – Here and There

Durga Pratima Bisarjan - IIT Kharagpur Campus during the seventies.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

Durga Puja 2010 : New Jersey Style

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

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.


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.

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

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

Continue reading

The Elusive Alexa Rank and How to Improve It

Alexa ranking is now the defacto standard for determining web popularity – the less the rank number the higher is your popularity. For example Google has the highest rank – 1. Most online advertisers use Alexa rank as the key metric to decide whether to spend their precious advertising dollars on a site.

However, the way Alexa computes a sites rank is  by measring how many visitors are viewing your site using a browser that has an Alexa tool bar installed. In other words, if a visitor do not have the Alexa tool bar installed, that visit does not count at all. Well, apparently there are are other variables used in computing the rank, but most webmasters and SEO pundits agree that the Alexa tool bar is the key instrumentation used in computing this elusive number.

One of the best ways of improving a web sites Alexa rank is to convince your visitors to download and install the Alexa tool bar (quite an unobtrusive element though) on their browser.  So if you are reading this now, download and install the toolbar and help improve my rank. However, if you are using one of the less popular web browsers like Google Chrome, then you (and me) are out of luck.

The other less effective ways are things like, installing Alexa widgets on your site, increasing the number of incoming links, use techniques like posting on Asian forums (apparently Alexa is more popular in Asia) etc. Google the term “how to improve Alexa rank” and you’ll find tons of advice.

But I think the only way to make it work for you is to get tons of traffic to your site.

Want to Outsource that Term Paper Assignment?

Just heard this news on the radio. Now you can outsource your term paper to some online company who employs writers in India, Philippines, Pakistan and other countries to write original essays for you. Note, that these essays are not plagiarized versions, rather they are crisp original and custom made. Although in some cases they have raised suspicion because some of the essay’s quality were far better than what the teachers expect of the student. Not only short term papers and essays, these enterprising writers can write an entire dissertation for you. In one case (I understand it was for an MIT student) the online essay mill delivered a dissertation on aerospace engineering (read rocket science). These companies charge anywhere from $10 to $75 per page and the students spend hundreds of dollars to get them. They are located off-shore but they typically have a fake US address. In the case of one company, EssayWriters, they used a Virginia address while the company was located in Philippines.

But was the essay mill the culprit here or the folks who purchase their products?