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Kolkata: A forlorned treasure trove

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Victoria-kolkata

By Sreyashi Mazumdar

“While crooning away to Anjan Dutta’s ‘Ranjana aami ashbona‘ and paging through the crumpled pages of an old newspaper, I ran into the scribbler’s corner. Since I was 4, I used to see my Dadu scribbling some odd graphics and letters on the extreme right-hand side corner- or the scribbler’s corner as I used to denote it- of the newspaper…I was too young and naive to look over those amorphous paragraphs which failed to unveil any hidden meaning before me. It was after his death that I started fidgeting with the scribbler’s corner.

Dadu Bhai will become a doctor one day…Dadu Bhai will become a journalist one day…(the grey-haired used to address me as Dadu Bhai)…I really don’t know whether he used to ever lament the deplorable condition Kolkata might get into after like 20 years….I am neither a doctor nor a journalist…I think, I am a bemused fellow nibbling on a mirage, a mirage that mirrors Kolkata’s lost vigor–once a plush place with opportunities thronging it and culture touching new heights with stalwarts like Tagore, Michael Madhushudon Dutta, Mrinal Sen, Satyajit Ray, Ritvik Dutta creating history. May, be my future has donned the history and has got reduced to a withered leaf with no air to breath in or develop”, laments  Kritika Sarkar, a third year Calcutta University student.

Kolkata or the city of Joy once emanated vivacity, with the city’s young minds shouting their lungs out, essaying their ideas through words, films, movements, with vigor etched in their minds to bring a change. A change that would meliorate the city and flesh out the potential the city once bore– the high-spiritedness rendered by its citizenry and the vitality that it’s economy took to.
“Who doesn’t want to stay rooted? I have been born and brought up in Kolkata. The city makes me ponder upon my evolution as a person. Every nook and corner of this city unleashes its magic, leaving me awestruck. But, unluckily the city hasn’t much to give. I have left no stone unturned to get a job but like the majority of the ignited minds of this city I, too, find it difficult to find my own feet,” mused 20-year-old Tulika Mukherjee, a Jadavpur University graduate.
Despite the teeming crowd of intellectuals herding the posh hubs and confabulating over post-modern ideologies flavored with their personal experiences, with prolonged drags of cigarettes satiating their unrequited want to fill the void, the lacklustre city stands still at the honking horns while passers-by stare at the city with sullen eyes, hoping to reap the yield of their hard work.
“I just fail to connect with this city. Everything in this city is imbued with an ideological color. At times, I feel like being infixed in a constant ideological tussle–a tussle between the vying political factions. There is an incessant urge to take over the coveted end, nevertheless, the coveted end remains unresolved, with nobody really being aware of that end.
I want this city to be free from the constant ideological warfare that in a way impinges on ones personal space and intellectual capabilities. I want this city to get rid of the ideological clutter,” said Ritika Chatterjee, a Jadavpur University student who seems to be quite perturbed at the banality pervading the city.
While sharing a series of distressful experiences, 24-year-old Abir, an ex-Kolkatan, sounds out his take on the deplorable condition of the city, “Every alley in this city has its own share of stories, but then again the resources to bring those stories into existence seem to have taken a back seat. I am a budding journalist. I want to talk of every nook and corner of this city, ranging from politics to economy, but the media industry in itself is on the brink of a major wipeout. It’s just the old stalwarts ruling this city”.
“Despite being an intellectual hotspot the city hasn’t seen any new publishing house trying to create its own space in this city. I mean new age schisms like new media seems to be rocket science for the grey-haired gentry of this city who still think newspapers are the only valid form of journalism,” he adds.
“Rebellion sounded like a lot of fun, but in Calcutta there was nothing to rebel against. Where would it get you?”, questions Bharati Mukherjee from Desirable Daughters.
Bharati Mukherjee’s sentiments seem to tune into the feelings borne by a large number of young Kolkatans who aspire to do something big and better. Despite the relentless voices’ attempt at cracking down upon the status quo, to start anew, with a fresh vigor and vim, there is an inherent monotony seeping in, glutting the possibility of a probable change.
” What do we even rebel for in Kolkata? There has to be a conclusion to every rebellion. But, in a city like Kolkata rebellion doesn’t fetch the requisite results. So, everything goes in vain,” quetches Sumana Nandi, an independent scholar, hailing from Chandanagar.
“Ranjana Aami Ashbo Na…” (Ranjana I wouldn’t come back)
As a last nail on the coffin, one would surely end up finding a stark connectedness between Ranjana and Kolkata. Ranjana, despite being the beloved, breathes in a sense of  forlornness owing to her admirer’s lack of faith in her; similarly, Kolkata despite being the sought after treasure trove for many is gradually being abandoned by her lovers for the lost charm and dynamism she once bore.

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Kolkata Showcases in Top 100 Global Travel Destinations

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Kolkata
Whiteways and Laidlaw Building in Kolkata. Wikimedia

Oct 2, 2017: Kolkata is featured in the top 100 travel destinations globally alongside other Indian cities namely, Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, and Bengaluru, as indicated by Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index 2017.

Chennai stands out in India, other than emerging among the top 10 destinations in Asia Pacific when it comes to overnight visitor arrivals.

Travel and tourism in India is on the rise, an authority of a main travel house in the city told PTI.

Durga Puja festival in Kolkata is a major attraction for foreigners with at least two- to three-day stay, he said.

Also Read:  Durga Puja Pandal Decoration Catches Cinema Style, Baahubali Palace Will Be In Cruise This Year In Kolkata 

According to the Mastercard Global Destinations Cities Index 2017, there are no indications of the slowdown in travel and tourism in Asia Pacific with the region dominating visitor arrivals.

This is additionally affirmed with the main 10 cities in Asia Pacific destinations tracking the most noteworthy amount of global overnight visitor spending. Bringing USD 91.16 billion in travel use in 2016, Asia Pacific outpaced Europe (USD74.74 billion USD) and North America (USD55.02 billion), MasterCard said in an announcement.

Prepared by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter @Nainamishr94

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Kashmere Gate Durga Puja is the 108 Years Old Annual Ritual in Delhi

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Kashmere Gate Durga Puja
Durga Puja. IANS

New Delhi, Sep 24, 2017: Kolkata might be the cynosure of Durga Puja celebrations, but not far behind is the national capital, which plays host to more than 350 pandals (marquees). And the Kashmere Gate Durga Puja has been continuing this yearly ritual for the past 108 years, making it Delhi’s oldest Puja.

Its theme has always been traditional. From maintaining the quintessential “sabeki ek-chala-thakur” (traditional one platform) goddess Durga to carrying the idol in a bullock cart for the “visarjan” (immersion), this Puja stands out against the rest.

“The bullock cart visarjan is organised only by us. No other pandals organise such a procession in the national capital,” Samarendra Bose, a committee member of the Delhi Durga Puja Samiti, told IANS.

“And the Bhog! It is also a highlight of our celebration. Every year we feed the afternoon meal to around five to six thousand people. And on Ashtami (the eighth day), the turnout crosses more than 10,000. It’s a big responsibility on our shoulders and we make sure that everything goes smoothly during the Puja,” he said.

Also Read: Devotees Offer Prayers to Goddess Durga and Observe Fast for Nine Divine Nights, Starting Today

There’s quite a history attached to this Puja. Due to the efforts of an unnamed railway employee, the first Puja was organised in 1909 at the Roshanpura Kali Mandir near Nai Sarak. From 1913 to 1946, the Puja used to be organised in a dharamshala (community hall) near Fatehpuri Mosque. Later it was shifted to the Bengali Senior Secondary School at Alipur Road near Civil Lines but the nomenclature continued unchanged.

“In the initial years, the idol used to be brought from Benaras, but from 1926, the idol began to be made in the city itself. And now it’s made within the school premises,” Bose stated.

What hasn’t changed are the customs associated with the Puja. No matter how popular theme pujas are becoming, the Kashmere Gate Durga Puja continues to be a traditional one.

“Theme idols can never reflect the charm or the beauty of a traditional one. We don’t bring the idol from CR Park or Kolkata; rather it is made inside the school premises, like the way it happens in home Pujas,” Bose pointed out.

For the five days the Puja lasts, the atmoshphere within the pandal turns into a mini Bengal. From people clad in their traditional attire to cultural programmes and, of course, Bengali’s favourite cuisine — biryani — turns it into a major draw.

“We organise cultural programmes but only the local residents participate. We don’t invite artists (like most pandals do). Also, we make sure that at least during the five days, all the functions are conducted in Bengali,” Bose said.

The charm of this Durga Puja couldn’t even be ignored by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who visited the pandal in 1969. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose is also believed to have attended the celebrations in 1935.

“The priest and the dhakis (drummers) have been brought from Kolkata. We make sure that there is no dearth of bhog. After all it’s a major attraction of Kashmere Gate Durga Puja,” Bose said.

So, make sure that Kashmere Gate Puja is on the must-visit pandals list this year! (IANS)

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Durga Puja in Bengal to showcase its cross-cultural and trans-boundary influences

Months of protests and violence in the Darjeeling hills has failed to dampen the spirit of the Nepali population in Siliguri and in state capital Kolkata

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Durga Puja in West Bengal
Durga Puja. Wikimedia
  • Durga Puja in West Bengal has evolved into a platform of its cross-cultural and trans-boundary influences 
  • Months of protests and violence in the Darjeeling hills has failed to dampen the spirit of the Nepali population in Siliguri and in state capital Kolkata
  • In Kolkata, the Nepali consulate is expected to host around 100 to 150 members of the community from different parts of Bengal on Dasain

Kolkata/Siliguri, September 22, 2017: From goddess Durga draped in traditional Nepali attire for the grand celebration of Dasain, to the resplendent White Temple of Thailand to glimpses of London and the US — Durga Puja in West Bengal is not only a showcase of the state’s artistic heritage but has also evolved into a platform of its cross-cultural and trans-boundary influences.

Geopolitical tensions notwithstanding, slices of soft diplomacy and globalisation are on show in a clutch of pandals (marquees) in the state.

Take Dasain celebrations in Siliguri, for example.

Months of protests and violence in the Darjeeling hills has failed to dampen the spirit of the Nepali population in Siliguri (located at the base of the hill) and in state capital Kolkata where they are gearing up to celebrate the Nepali version of Durga Puja with pomp and splendour.

Recognised by the splotches of vermillion, rice and curd (“tika”) on the foreheads and the prominent sprigs of barley sprouts (jamara) tucked behind one’s ear, Dasain or Vijaya Dashami — Nepal’s biggest festival — has been observed in Siliguri for 25 years by its oldest social organisation, Bhanu Bhakta Samiti.

“Dasain is celebrated with the participation of all communities: Nepali, Bengali, Marwari, Bihari and others. Everyone is welcomed and people, cutting across political party lines, join in the revelry. The Bengalis even offer ‘anjali’ (floral offerings). The Gorkhaland issue is a political one and we do not let it affect our celebrations,” Krishna Lama (Pemba) of the Samiti told IANS.

“We have been having the Durga idol since the last three years. From Sashthi (September 26), we will begin the worship of the protima (idol). She will be dressed in traditional attire and we have roped in designer Alka Sharma for the costumes. Jamara (pot with wheat sprouts) is indispensable to the festival,” Lama said.

Parents and older members of the family apply tika and place the jamara as blessings for the younger ones. The jamara also signifies “shakti”.

In Kolkata, the Nepali consulate is expected to host around 100 to 150 members of the community from different parts of Bengal on Dasain.

“Every year, for over 25 years, we have a Nepali Durga puja in front of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation building. Cultural programmes are organised and representatives of around 32 samitis (clubs) across Bengal join in,” an official of the consulate told IANS.

Also readDurga Puja Pandal Decoration Catches Cinema Style, Baahubali Palace Will Be In Cruise This Year In Kolkata

Meanwhile, the Deshapriya Park committee, which registered the highest footfall for a pandal last year with five million visitors, has in store a slice of Thailand — a popular tourist destination for travellers from east India, served well with 2.5 hour-long flights.

It has recreated the 20th century Wat Rong Khun temple (or the White Temple) located just outside Chiang Rai in northern Thailand. The detailed all-white exterior with mirror trimmings stands out in stark contrast against the grassy park lawns.

Organisers have also replicated the temple’s piece-de-resistance: A mural depicting the burning Twin Towers as Angry Birds, Michael Jackson, Spiderman and other pop culture icons look on.

At Bhowanipore 75 <https://maps.google.com/?q=Bhowanipore+75&entry=gmail&source=g> Palli puja in south Kolkata, a stone’s throw from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s residence, a 40,000 square feet area has been converted into a typical London street. The theme is aligned to Banerjee’s vision of transforming Kolkata into London.

With 2017 being the Indo-UK Year of Culture, the club has tied up with the British Council and London Sharod Utsav.

“Big Ben and Westminster will also be replicated in the area. The idol is crafted from mahogany and brass and decorated with dokra art. Post-puja we are planning to install the idol permanently in any one of the famous institutions of the UK like the British museum or University of London,” Club Secretary Subir Das said.

The Star Spangled Banner is prominent at Badamtala Asar Sangha in south Kolkata. The club is calling its celebration ‘West Wind’ in consonance with the Year of US-India Travel and Tourism Partnership.

“Visually the pandal resembles a street in a hi-tech American city at night. The design is complete with skyscrapers and multi-hued buildings and lights,” said Snehasish, one of the artistic heads. (IANS)