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

Dadasaheb Phalke Award for Manna Dey

Manna DeyNinety-year-old playback legend Manna Dey – who belted out evergreen songs like “Ae mere pyaare watan” and “Zindagi kaisi hai paheli” – is being honoured with the Dadasaheb Phalke award, the highest honour in Indian cinema, his family said Wednesday.

Born as Prabodh Chandra Dey May 1, 1919 to Purna Chandra and Mahamaya Dey, the singer was a name to reckon with in the Hindi film industry from the 1950s to the 1970s. He has recorded more than 3,500 songs over the course of his career.

Durga Puja and Cultural Events: The 2009 New Jersey Lineup

Ujjaini MukherjeeIn 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

Raag-Rang presents – Kal Ke Kalakar

For the first time Raag-Rang presents Kal Ke Kalakar (Budding Artists of Future), providing a platform to promising young talents, featuring,
Rohan Prabhudesai (Harmonium Solo),
Tejas Tope (Tabla Solo),
Rohan Misra( Sarangi solo),
Charmie Mehta(Hindustani Vocal),
Veena Bhagavathi, Shiv Nadkarni & Ruchita Zaparde (Kathak T

Date: Sunday, October 11th, 2009
Time: 3:00 to 5:30 (Sharp)
Venue: Universal Unitarian Congregation of Princeton (Fahs Theater).
50 Cherry Hill Road, Princeton, NJ 08540.
Admission: Non-Members: $12.00 (kids below 10 years: &7.00)
Raag-Rang Members: $10.00 (Kids below 10 years: $5.00).
Contact: 908-429-1120, 609-890-4890, 908-240-8289. RSVP appreciated due to limited seating.


Mahalaya in New Jersey – A Tradition of Our Own

Mahalaya in Bengal is synonymous to the seventy year old radio musical “Mahisashur Mardini” written by Bani Kumar and composed by Pankaj Mallik. Over the years this has become a Bengali tradition to wake up at 4.30am on Majalaya day and listen to this wonderful program that has not lost its charm till date. In fact, in Bengal the demand for new radios spike during this period. The inspiring narration and “Chandi Path” by Birendra Krishna Bhadra, the wonderful songs by the great musicians like Supriti Ghosh, Manabendra Mukherjee, and many others cast a spell on the listeners and put them into the Puja mood. Once there was an attempt to change the program and make it more contemporary using stars like Uttam Kumar, but severe protests from the listeners forced All India Radio to scrap it and go back to the traditional format.
In New Jersey, we have developed a tradition of our own. At the Anandamandir, at 4.30pm local musicians gather in front of a packed audience and perform the famous “Mahishashur Mardini” under the guidance of Arun Bhowmik. The musicians, most of whom are accomplished in their own right, devote their time to usher in the Durga Puja festival in front of the idols of Goddess Durga and Kali and create a magical moment for the audience some of whom travel all the way from Philadelphia, Long Island, and other distant cities.
I have attached two clips of this event (recorded on my cell phone) for you to get a glimpse of this event. The audio quality is not too good, but you’ll still feel the electrifying atmosphere that charges us up for the upcoming festivals.

The Health Care Debate

I have been trying to avoid writing about the current health care issue on this blog. The key reason being that if I start writing I won’t be able to stop. I have been discussing this issue with my friends on my facebook page and the discussions often became quite passionate and sometimes quite heated too. The rumors, hear-says, myths and speculations on the healthcare bill have risen to a level that I doubt if ever happened before in American social and political life. Multiple bills have been floating in the Capitol and today Senator Baucus unveiled the so-called bipartisan bill (which apparently only one Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe is likely to support) which has no option for a public-option, requires families to contribute 13% of their income for health insurance premiums and imposes fines ($3800 per family) on those who do not purchase insurance. The bill does however impose some restrictions on insurance companies to prevent them from rejecting people with pre-existing conditions or from increasing the rates for people with serious illnesses. This bill, if accepted, would cost $856 billion over 10 year time.

Continue reading

Kallol Durga Puja 2009

Kallol announces the celebration of New Jersey Durga Puja 2009 (NJDP’09) on Sep 25, 26 and 27, 2009 in the Ukranian Cultural Center, Somerset NJ.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mahasasthi and Mahasaptami

Puja: 2:00 p.m. Anjali: 5:00 p.m.
Dinner: 6:30 p.m. Cultural Program: 8:00 p.m.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mahaasthami and Sandhi

Puja: 10:30 a.m. Anjali: 2:00 p.m.
Dinner: 5:00 p.m. Cultural Program: 6:00 p.m.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mahanabami and Mahadashami

Puja: 11:00 a.m. Anjali: 2:00 p.m.
Dinner: 5:00 p.m. Cultural Program: 6.00 p.m.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Kojagari Lakshmipuja

Puja: 3:00 p.m. Anjali: 4:00 p.m.
Vijaya Sammelani & Cultural Program: 6:30 p.m. Dinner: 9:00 p.m.

Cultural Program Highlights*

Friday, September 25, 2009 : Pt. Jasraj
Saturday, September 26, 2009: Ujjaini from Kolkata

Childrens play “Gupi Gayen Bagha Bayen” – based on Satyajit Ray’s film. Directed by Aparajita Das

Kallol play “Ajo Kahini” – written by Sudipta Bhawmik, directed by Pinaki Dutta

Sunday, September 27, 2009: Debojit from Mumbai
*Subject to change

For questions regarding registration at NJDP 09 please send an email to

If your questions are not answered via email within 2 working days you may contact the following at evening hours  EDT ONLY.

Amal Paul: (908) 255-4047

Arunansu Dasgupta: (732) 572-0391

For questions regarding member login and passwords please send an email to

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”.

Continue reading