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Euphoria, Nostalgia, Hope and Reality: Khulna-Kolkata Train evokes mixed Emotions

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Train journeys in India
Train journeys in India are always a part of a best travel experience. Pixabay

Petrapole (West Bengal), April 8, 2017: As the Khulna-Kolkata trial train chugged in at West Bengal’s Petrapole station, 90-year-old Kumudi Hazra’s eyes turned moist. She nostalgically remembered the early days of her marriage life when she would take the train to visit her parents in Khulna.

Hazra settled down in Jayantipur village of North 24 Parganas district here after her marriage in the early 1940s.

“I am so happy today seeing this train. After marriage, I came here from my ancestral house at Khulna. I used to visit my parents by taking the train. Today, I am flooded with memories of those trips,” Hazra told IANS.

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She was simultaneously happy and sad on seeing the new train – called Maitree Express II. Happy, that people now will no more undergo the pain which she underwent at not being able to visit her ancestral house for 40 years and sad, that at her age, “I won’t be able to make the trip”.

Regular passenger services were in place connecting Sealdah to Khulna and Jessore, much before an international border came up in 1947 when India was partitioned and Pakistan came into being.

Passenger train services between the two countries were suspended after the 1965 India-Pakistan war, when the territory now known as Bangladesh comprised was East Pakistan.

East Pakistan later became independent Bangladesh in 1971.

Also nostalgic was Bharat Debnath, nephew of Hazari Debnath, who had worked at Petrapole railway crossing as a gateman.

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“My uncle worked here as a gateman at the crossing. I came here to see the Khulna-Kolkata train. I have heard a lot of stories about this train.”

There were euphoric scenes in the border villages much before the train reached Petrapole.

People stood on either side of the railway track since morning just to see the train.

As the train passed them, people waved, and clapped.

“I was cooking at home. When I heard the hooters I rushed to see the train,” said Champa Biswas, a housewife.

Recalling his childhood, 87-year-old Achintya Banik said after the Partition, train services were there but many of the villagers were unable to avail it as they did not have passports at that time.

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“We are originally from Bangladesh. Before partition, I came here with my family because my father worked here and later settled down. We would go to Bangladesh regularly by train before partition. Now we can do the same, it is a dream come true for me,” Banik told IANS.

Panchanan Roy was elated at the prospect of commuting becoming easier because of the train service.

“During my childhood, I used to come here because one of our relatives stayed at Naraharipur village, about two kilometres from here. We settled here after 1971. We go to Bangladesh now but through roads. It takes huge time for custom and immigration clearance,” he said, adding the facility will help him to travel to his ancestral house more frequently.

The Bangladeshi delegates who came by the train were also overwhelmed with emotion.

“There might be an international border between the two Bengals, but culture and the social bonding between the Bengalis living on either side of the border is still as warm as it used to be. We need to focus on connecting cities of two Bengals,” said Alam Gir Alam, Additional Deputy Inspector General of Bangladesh Police.

Locals were also upbeat as the train would make the export-imports business more seamless.

“Majority of locals are involved with exports and import. We take working visas and people from either side need to cross the border. But it takes hours to get clearance. Railway connection will give a new avenue,” local trader Raju Saha told IANS.

However, amid all the excitement and enthusiasm, stark reality also dawned on some of the villagers. For them, getting a local train from Petrapole to Kolkata was more important than the Maitree Express.

“Passport holders will only be able to board the Khulna-Kolkata train. We do not have any direct communication from here to Kolkata. We go to Bongaon by autorickshaws. But the auto service stops after 8 p.m. We will be more than happy if a local train service starts from here to Kolkata,” said Rinki Maity, a student of Bongaon’s Dinabandhu College.

Railway officials said they were aware about the local demand, but the tracks needed to be electrified.

“We are planning to send a proposal to the centre for electrification of the lines here. It will be sent soon,” Basudev Panda, Divisional Railway Manager, Eastern Railway, Sealdah told IANS. (IANS)

 

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Mahalaya: Beginning of “Devipaksha” in Bengali Celebration of ‘Durga Puja’

“Mahalaya” is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha” and heralds the celebration of Durga Puja

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Mahalaya morning in Kolkata. Flickr
  • Mahalaya 2017 Date: 19th september.
  • On Mahalaya, people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers; which is called ‘Torpon’
  • Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted in All India Radio
  • The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent

Sept 19, 2017: Autumn is the season of the year that sees the Hindus, all geared up to celebrate some of the biggest festivals of India. The festive spirit in the Bengalis all enthused to prepare for the greatest of the festivals, the ‘Durga Puja’.

About Mahalaya:

Mahalaya is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha,” and this year it is celebrated on September 19.

Observed exactly a week before the ‘Durga Puja’, Mahalaya is the harbinger of the arrival of Goddess Durga. It is celebrated to invoke the goddess possessing supreme power! The goddess is invited to descend on earth and she is welcomed with devotional songs and holy chants of mantras. On this day, the eye is drawn in the idols of the Goddess by the artisans marking the initiation of “Devipaksha”. Mahalaya arrives and the countdown to the Durga Puja begins!

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The day of Mahalaya bears supreme significance to the Bengalis. The day is immensely important because on this day people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers. Clad in white dhotis, people offer prayers and take dips in the river while praying for their demised dear ones. The ritual is popular as “Torpon”.

Mahalaya
An idol-maker in progress of drawing the eye in the idol of the Goddess. Wikipedia

As per Hindu myth, on “Devipaksha”, the Gods and the Goddesses began their preparations to celebrate “Mahamaya” or Goddess Durga, who was brought upon by the trinity- Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara; to annihilate the fierce demon king named Mahishasura. The captivating story of the Goddess defeating the demon got popularized with the goddess being revered as “Durgatinashini” or the one who banishes all the evils and miseries of the world. The victory of the Goddess is celebrated as ‘Durga Puja’.

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Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted at dawn in All India Radio in the form of a marvelous audio montage enthralling the souls of the Bengalis. Presented with wonderful devotional music, acoustic drama, and classical songs- the program is also translated to Hindi and played for the whole pan-Indian listeners.

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Mahalaya
Birendra Krishna Bhadra (1905-1991). Wikipedia

The program is inseparable from Mahalaya and has been going on for over six decades till date. The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent! He has been a legend and the dawn of Mahalaya turns insipid without the reverberating and enchanting voice of the legendary man.

Mahalaya will keep spreading the magic and setting the vigor of the greatest festival of the Bengalis- the Durga Puja, to worship the supreme Goddess, eternally.

                 “Yaa Devi Sarbabhuteshu, Shakti Rupena Sanhsthita,

                     Namastaswai Namastaswai Namastaswai Namo Namaha.”

– by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC

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Raja Chari: Indian American Astronaut chosen by NASA

Raja Chari, an American of Indian descent, has been chosen by NASA as one of the 12 astronauts for a new space mission.

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Raja Chari. Twitter.
  • Raja Chari is an American of Indian descent chosen by NASA for the new batch of astronauts
  • Currently, he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force
  • Chari will have to go through two years of astronaut training which begins in August

June 06, 2017: NASA has chosen 12 astronauts out of a record-breaking 18,300 applications for upcoming space missions. An American of Indian descent, Raja Chari, has successfully earned his spot in the top 12.

The astronauts were selected on the basis of expertise, education, and physical tests. This batch of 12 astronauts is the largest group selected by NASA since two decades. The group consisting of 7 men and 5 women surpassed the minimum requirements of NASA.

Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Chari graduated from Air Force Academy in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He went on to complete his master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The astronaut is also a graduate of US Naval Test Pilot School.

Currently, Raja Chari is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force. He is the commander of 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

After Late Kalpana Chawla, Lt. Col. Raja Chari is the second Indian American astronaut chosen by NASA.

The 12 astronauts will have to go through two years of training. Upon completion, they will be assigned their missions ranging from research at the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft by private companies, to flying on deep space missions on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft.

The US Vice-President Mike Pence visited the Johnson Space Centre in Houston to announce and congratulate the new batch. Pence also said that President Trump is “fully committed” to NASA’s missions in space.

by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2393

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Over 5,000 Plant Varieties in Last 3 Years sent in by Tribal Farmers to protect the species : Minister

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Tribal Farmers
tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years (representational Image). Wikimedia

New Delhi, June 8, 2017: Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on Wednesday said tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years through Krishi Vigyan Kendras for registration at the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Rights Authority.

It will play an important role in the development of climate resilient and sustainable varieties in future, he said at the National Workshop on Empowerment of Farmers of Tribal Areas here.

“New technological innovations in agriculture must reach to the fields of tribal areas but before taking such steps we must keep in mind the unique conditions of these areas, which are the gift of nature and therefore, we should promote natural farming in those areas,” he said, as per an official release. (IANS)

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