New Jersey Durga Puja 2009 : A Review

Durga Protima Kallol of New JerseyFinally 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

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

Bannya Concert in New York

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:

Cartoon of the Week 15: Train Travel

Traveling long distance by train was one of the most enjoyable modes of transportation in India. Once you get over the initial hurdles of getting a reserved seat or squeeze yourself in through the crowded doors as the train slowly rolls in to the platform or the frantic attempts to manage the porter and the family, the journey becomes much easy and enjoyable. Overnight train rides are especially thrilling when you not only need to manage a berth to sleep, but also keep an eye on your luggage and belongings to protect them from the “highly suspicious” co-passengers around you. When I was a child, I remember the train journeys from Kolkata (Sealdah or Howrah depending on which train you take) to Siliguri. Before the Farrakka bridge (barrage) was completed, we had to get off the train at Farakka and then take a steam boat across the Ganges to the other side (Sagrikoli Ghaat) and then scramble on to the train after a long run. If you were unlucky enough of not having a proper reservation, then your plight can only be imagined by those who took that journey. However, once you are settled in your seats or berths, temptations start knocking on your senses as the aroma of hot food attracts your attention along with the loud marketing attempts by the food vendors on the station. The appetizing offerings of “Ilish Maachher Jhol”, “Bhaaja Mooger Daal”, “Gorom Bhaat with Ghee” and “Begun Bhaja” pulls in many hungry passengers to the bamboo and hay thatched eateries all around the train station. Continue reading