Friday, October 28, 2005

for whom the decibel tolls

Diwali is known the World over as the Festivals of Lights – in far off Britain’s East Midlands, the Indian population puts up a fantastic display every year. More on Diwali in the East Midlands are available here -

http://www.visitbritain.com/VB3-en-US/experiences/cities/focus_on/diwali.aspx

In Johannesburg - http://www.biz-community.com/Snippet/196/40/2549.html

In Australia - http://staff.anu.edu.au/Billboard/show_news.asp?nid=511

In New York - https://host358.ipowerweb.com/~spandayo/diwali.html

In Tokyo - http://www.manicat.org/main.html

In India also, it has permeated into each and every corner of the country – houses are decorated with garland of tiny bulbs, fairy lanterns appear on the porch and the balcony, and people go on a shopping spree. Once it used to be a festival of North Indians when people are supposed to stay awake all night through and send prayers to Goddess Lakshmi to bless their homes. Gambling used to be one of the methods employed to stay awake! Today, with no separate identity of North Indian or South Indian, with Bangaloreans at ease in Kolkata and Malayalees relishing the tandoori rotis and sarson-di-saag in Jullunder, and Sardarjis doing roaring business in automobile spares way down in Trivandrum, it is but natural that Diwali be celebrated with equal gusto all over the country. Paying of bonus has become mandatory for employers and the amount of bonus is one of the yardsticks by which one separates the chaff from the wheat – those employed in private organisations get more than average packages. As a result, business houses rise to the occasion. They work out strategies to lighten the burden of so many additional rupees and mop them up by offering attractive discounts and repayment terms to woo the customer. Gifts are exchanged – gold and silver being the preferred metals – it is considered auspicious to purchase these precious metals during Diwali.

And – of course, fireworks are an integral part of the celebrations. Innocent products like sparklers, flower pots, and charkis find very few takers. Each and every one wants to be heard – firecrackers and bombs rule the night. No one seems to spare a thought for sick persons in the neighborhood or heart patients, whose palpitations increase with each loud explosion, snatching away hours from their lives. The authorities specify certain norms of the level of decibels but, who cares. Gift packed dry fruits or beautifully decorated baskets of branded sweets have a magic of their own - their recipients often look the other way when such goodies change hands.

another interesting link –

amaar duniya

Friday, October 14, 2005

adieu ma durga 2005

All good things must come to an end – no one will dispute this basic logic of life. With each passing year, we mature and keep adding to out treasure house of knowledge tiny tit bits that come to our rescue once in a while. Wise men have said that knowledge never goes waste, only one must get the opportunity to bask in the warmth of one’s acquisitions. By the same logic, Goddess Durga has, by now, returned to her abode in the mountains of Kailash and must be sharing her new found knowledge with Lord Shiva. In this age of laptops, internet, mobile phones and SMS, Ma Durga must have called upon her daughter Saraswati to enlighten the Lord on various aspects of modern day celebrations.

Festivals like the Durga Puja opens up innumerable doors of possibilities to those who are aware of the tricks of the trade. Once upon a time, during the Puja shopping spree, it was but natural that the children drag their parents to bookshops. There they would select an exclusive edition of popular Annuals released by reputed publishing houses and packed from cover to cover with tales of fantasy and adventure penned by authors who became children at heart when they created heavenly atmospheres in which to dispense their preparations. For the grown ups, there were the special Puja editions of magazines – the authors of these special editions would be contracted at least six months in advance and would be gifted with healthy cheques along with fully paid holidays to destinations of his/hers choice so that he/she can retire to a corner of the world and concentrate on whatever he/she thinks will catch the fancy of the discerning readers. Alas, such scenes are not seen today.

A relatively new culture is that of sponsorship. As a leading brand manager admitted – sponsoring banners in Puja pandals are several times cheaper than the print or electronic media. Moreover, awards are given away by the sponsors under a number of heads like the best idol, the best pandal, the best lighting etc. In the bargain, the Puja committee and the sponsors both gain mileage. As someone remarked, sponsorship comes through unseen links – invisible threads jump into action and bargains are struck to ensure that the promised dreams materialize.

another interesting link –

amaar duniya

Thursday, October 13, 2005

still more on durga pujas 2005

For pandal hoppers, especially those not in the thick of things in Kolkata, this is a MUST visit – http://durgapandals.anandautsav.com/abpgallery/index.php

The coveted awards of 2005, announced by one group of sponsors, have gone to the following in Kolkata – best Pujas, idol and pandal – 66 Palli Sarbojanin; best lighting – Dum Dum Park Tarun Sangha. The recipients of the Finolex ‘Alok Suraksha Sanmaan’ awards are 25 Palli Sarbojanin, Kidderpore and Chakraberia Sarbojanin, Bhowanipur. The top six Pujas that have bagged the Asian Paints Sharada Sanmaan are Adarsh Palli, the Behala Club, Shibmandir, Swapnar bagan, Naktala Udayan Sangha and the Adarsh Palli. The Utsav Cup has gone to Suruchi Sangha of New Alipore. Their theme on Manipur was adjudged the best.
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The number of visitors on the evening of Shashti, Saptami and Ashtami in some well known pandals at two hour intervals (from 8 pm onwards) were:
Shashti – Suruchi Sangha and Mudiali – 5000, 9000 and 12,000.
Saptami – Suruchi Sangha : 6000, 12000, 18000
Mudiali : 5000, 10000, 12000
Ashtami - Suruchi Sangha : 8000, 14000, 18000
Mudiali : 8000, 13000, 16000
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The CESC has supplied in excess of 1300 MW of electricity on 27th September 2005 at 18.30 hrs – this is considered to be an all time high. It made a humble beginning in 1899 supplying one MW. It took nearly five years to cross over from the 1200 MW to 1300 MW mark.
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A gentleman was surprised when he went pandal hopping with his wife – he recognized an idol made of fiberglass as being the one that was worshipped by the committee in which he was a member the previous year!! It seems that the artist concerned had asked for the idol to be given back to him – he has suggested that the proceeds of its sale would be shared once he manages to offload it. But he coolly passed off to a second unsuspecting committee. This is not new to overseas celebrations; the same idol is circulated to different locations for up to five years based on mutual understanding between the respective organizers. But, it is new to Kolkata.
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Khichudi is a very special preparation that is served during Durga Pujas everywhere. It is basically a preparation of raw rice and moong dal. The art of making it tasty rests not only on its ingredients but also on the person who adds his magic touch. This is especially true for the khichudi of the Belur Math. It seems 3500 Kgs. of rice and an equal amount of fried moong dal go into it. Other ingredients are 2000 Kgs. Pf potato, 1000 Kgs. of carrots, 500 Kgs. of green peas and spices like ginger, chili, turmeric, bay leaves and a purely Bengali spice known as ‘paanch foran.’ Oil or ghee is not used at all. The vessels in which these are prepared arte obviously huge – each of them can accommodate at least one quintal of khichudi. The preparation time is around one hour for each of the containers.

another interesting link –

amaar duniya

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

durga pujas 2005 - kolkata and overseas

Here is a selection of the Fav Five of Kolkata as perceived by the Telegraph -
http://telegraphindia.com/1051010/asp/calcutta/story_5341326.asp

Durga is the spice, bread and grain of life –
http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1513030,00470002.htm

Bengalis who reside in Bengal enjoy Durga Pujas no matter whether it rains or not. As the popular saying goes – ‘this is that period in the life of a youngster when he does quite a number of things for the first time – the first smoke, the first wink, the first fluttering of the eyelids.’ Those who have settled in other parts of India participate in programs that are nearest to their homes, they feel homesick, and yearn for the real things back home. But, for those who have settled abroad, getting together to share this happiness is an event of sorts that need to be planned well in advance. A search on the internet revealed the following websites that deal with Durga Pujas 2005. Hence, I have indicated the links. Readers can follow them, share their experiences and realize the amount of enthusiasm that exists in Bengalis wherever they may be present.

Sunnyvale, California - http://www.sulekha.com/events/evtdp.aspx?cid=137653

Maynard, MA – http://www.prabasione.org/durga_puja.htm

Canada - http://deshantari.com/durgapuja2005.htm

The credit of dispatching the first Durga idol made of ‘shola’ goes to one Amar Nath Ghosh of Kumartuli. He has been at it for the last thirty years. The idols are small and extra light but used to be invariably colored white – the basic color of ‘shola’. However, with the growing demand of colors, the artist has devised his unique method. The final products are so breathtaking that the East Coast Museum of New York and Frankfurt Anthropological Museum have preserved them.

another interesting link –

amaar duniya

Sunday, October 09, 2005

more on pujas 2005

For those who love to pamper the taste buds, the following should make mouths water –
‘Tamarind’ on Sarat Bose Road offers Hyderabadi food festival during the festivities: sample dishes – ‘dawat-e-nizam’ which is nothing but the leg of a sheep cooked with Hyderabadi masala in traditional style priced at Rs 500.00 for a full plate! Then there is the Coorg Chicken, Karnataki recipe at Rs 135.00 followed by dum-chicken (whole roasted chickens with gravy) at Rs 190.00. For dessert, you can taste fried bread slices soaked in rabri and sprinkled with finely chopped almonds, cashew nuts and kish-mish.

Another joint crying for attention is ‘Orks’ located in the City Center of Salt Lake. Here special Puja thali are the craze – the menu consists of prawns prepared in tender coconut (daab-chingri), rich preparation of rohu fish (rui-machher kalia), date+mango chutney, dhokar dalna, pataler dolma etc. The rates are Rs 365 and 255 respectively for the non-veg and veg types. In addition, there is a menu comprising four types of kebabs – price Rs 500.00. The kebab platter comes for Rs 350.00!!

If you are a fan of Chinese cuisine, you have to drop in on ‘Mainland China’ on Gurusaday Road. They have arranged for buffet lunch and dinner for Rs 350.00. Prawns cooked in hot garlic sauce or spiced oysters will transport you to another dimension.
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In order to maintain law and order and control traffic, additional police booths will be set up. There will be more than 10,000 policemen on duty. Combat Forces and RAF will be on standby. http://telegraphindia.com/1051008/asp/calcutta/story_5333160.asp
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A Minister of the West Bengal Government will be presenting an adivasi dance program on the occasion of the 23rd anniversary of the Pujas of the National Airport Authority of India, Mumbai at Santa Cruz. The Minister with his troupe of 21 members will leave for Mumbai on 9th October by train.
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The names Tantuja, Tantusree and Manjusha used to be popular brand names in the fashion world even a few years back. These once profit centers are today loss making enterprises of the West Bengal Government. They used to be the major outlets for sarees manufactured by the weavers of Bengal but were unable to cope up with the tremendous competition from others. As a result, whatever stocks they hold today are all outdated old designs that no one wants.
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The fashion craze this year is the ‘mix-and-match’ sarees. Light color background with deep borders: batik, block and embroidery work - all on the same saree. Other variations are painted tribal motifs or spray painted abstract arts. Hand painted sarees are usually on tasar silk – black tasar silk with Mexican civilization motifs in silver grey.
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Despite taking precautions, there are a number of Pujas where the same theme has surfaced – for example, the idols made of shellac: as many as four have used this medium. Predictions are that at least one of them will feature in this year’s top 20.
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One mandap is made out of 80,000 wooden Ganesh idols. Another is presenting wood carvings on rejected railway wooden sleepers. The terracotta theme is there in as many as ten mandaps. As an artist remarked – ‘originality is taking a beating, the same theme keeps coming back.’
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And, a particular Puja is conducted by non Brahmins. It is in the Bashoa Dakshinpara village of Birbhum district. They have been performing this Puja for the past 32 years. The idol here is not the traditional one of Durga with her children Kartik, Ganesh, Lakshmi and Saraswati but of Devi Durga in front of whom sits Lord Ram with folded hands. Alongside him are Lakshman and Hanuman.

another interesting link –

amaar duniya

Friday, October 07, 2005

tit bits of durga puja 2005

Every year, there is a rush to rope in celebrities for the inauguration of important Pujas. Normally, celebs of the silver screen, players of repute, and eminent authors are preferred apart from political bigwigs like Central ministers or the Governor. This year, one committee has obtained the consent of the CM of Manipur who will come down to inaugurate the Puja – its theme is Manipur and it is only appropriate that the CM of the state does the honors. Similarly, another committee who has selected the Mukteswar temple of Orissa as its theme waits for the nod from its CM.
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The total number of Sarbojanin Durga Pujas in Kolkata this year is 1125 – out of these, many organizers have occupied large portions of the public roads to erect the pandals where the idols will be positioned.
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Until quite recently, unimaginable displays of colored lights used to be what Kolkattans would rave about – the electricians of Chandernagore would devise ways and means of how best to project a lighted animated display of India winning the cricket World cup or of a disaster like a plane highjack or of Sourav Ganguli waving his banyan. Today, these electricians are no longer in demand. The reason is the exorbitantly high cost involved. It seems the average consumption of electricity for a display runs into 600 Kilowatts. At the current rate of one hundred rupees per Kilowatt per day, the cost on this account itself runs into three lakhs of rupees. Very few committees want to shoulder this burden – they opt for theme Pujas which consume much less electricity.
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Durga idols are made in Kumartuli – the basic raw materials are the soil from the bed of the Ganges, hay and bamboo for the framework from neighboring villages accompanied by paints and glossy varnish. There was a beautiful informative feature on the subject in the Discovery channel (24/9/2005 in the evening slot). Even though it was of the year 2000 vintage, it portrayed the pujas remarkably well. On an average, 3000 idols are made, most of them are of the traditional type, and exceptions are for those with specific themes. These are costlier hence have few takers. Once a Puja committee opts to go for a theme, its cost mounts because all associated decorative pieces light lighting, the décor, construction of the pandal etc. need to match with the basic theme. On an average the committee has to spend around ten to twelve lakh rupees to make any lasting impression on the discerning public.
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The CD has become an invaluable aid for the Puja committees – video footage of previous years pujas, showing the extent of popularity in terms of crowd pulling abilities, influence corporate houses to sign the contracts. Many of the prestigious idols are made in locations out of Kolkata (for reasons of security, so that the element of surprising the rivals remains.) It is not possible for the committee members to go there just to see how far the work has progressed. Therefore, one member is deputed to visit the site and come back with the videos – these are studied along with the craftsman and reps of associated departments like the pandal decorator, the light man etc. and suitable modifications incorporated. The intention is to get the best value for money.
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The lotus flower is a must for the main Puja on the ashtami day – the requirement is of the order of 108 pieces per Puja! The lotus blooms during the monsoons and, by the time the Pujas begin, it is difficult to lay hands on them. The flowers that usually sell for fifty paise goes up to fifteen rupees. In order to combat this, the flowers are now being plucked in advance and stored in controlled conditions in specially designed cold storages. Hopefully, it will be less difficult to procure lotus this year.
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It is reported that railway reservations are just not available to move out of Kolkata. The news in a local vernacular newspaper (dated 25/9/2005) says that more than 50,000 would-be travelers have to pray to Goddess Durga that their waiting list tickets get confirmed. The heaviest rush is for trains to Rajasthan – that is the impression one gets on perusing the demand for Jodhpur Express. This year, the railways plan for 96 Puja special trains out of which 34 are towards New Delhi. Last year the figure was 66.

other interesting links –

amaar duniya

Thursday, October 06, 2005

creativity at its best - pujas 2005

Creativity is second nature to us. Any living being creates. God has created the Universe and hundreds of thousands of living beings from the tiniest of humming birds to the largest of the elephants. He has created human beings, he has ordained that they, in turn create offspring so that the continuity is maintained. That is why we have in our midst people with visions of creation. Some of them are artists, some are authors, others are industrialists – each one of them views the world in a different perspective. To a vocalist, the world is sa-re-ga-ma-pa; to the sculptor, the world is chisel and hammer; to the painter, the world is an exceptionally large canvas, paint brush and colors. All of them come together during the Durga Pujas to present their best – the lengths they go to for creating their products is mind boggling. In an effort to satisfy their inner desire to give to the world their best, they try to replicate monuments just by looking at their photographs. Whilst many use conventional material, others go in for the exotic like pandals of leaves of the sal plant, or made out of matting or of whole spices, areca nuts. One of them constructed the pandal out of hundreds of dhaks (a sort of drum). Another has made extensive use of shellac. The conventional bamboo and tarpaulin pandals have receded into the background - probably due to reduction in the number of mangroves. The artisans have changed routes before it is too late; they have opted for alternate materials. During the Pujas, creativity is at its best.

Traditional domestic Pujas are still conducted in a few households in Kolkata – among them, the one of Sabarna Roy Choudhury started in 1610 is the oldest. Next are the ones of the Black Zaminder Gobinda Ram Mitra and Raja of Shobha Bazaar Naba Krishna Deb. Others are the Chaltabagan Ghosh family and the Seal family of Chorbagan from 1856. As the noted author Shankar said recently in an article – ‘the Pujas have not changed a bit over the years. It is the same Evil, in the form of Asura, being overpowered by the Goddess Durga; what has changed is our perspective!’ How very true.

other interesting links –

amaar duniya