How I celebrated Lakshmi Pujo this year?

Adi Lakshmi Namastestu Parabrahma Swaroopini

Yasho Dehi, Dhanam Dehi, Sarva Kamamscha Dehi Me

The first two lines of the Lakshmi Stuti beautifully sums up the ode that is to follow hereafter to the Goddess of health, wealth and good luck. Since, I was a child; I have been attending Lakshmi Pujo at my grandmother’s place. For decades, it has only been about the food- From fruits to Sandesh, from Pulao to Luchi, from salad to sugarcane –all my favourite delicacies were present on the table only at this time of the year. But with changing times and mentality, the Prasad too saw changes. Soft Drinks, chips, chocolates and even wafers were added as Prasads (maybe on my insistence!).

My grandmother is no longer as fit as she used to be. Well, she is a wise old woman of 86 maybe 85 or well forget it, above 80! But her physical strength has given her away in recent times. A day long fasting has been reduced till midday fasts (and I have completely given it up on my part!). Also, with the declining audience, the frequency of the dishes and offerings on the table has started to decline as well. (And yes I have given up on the additional stuffs!)

Prasad

This year she performed the pujo at midday contrary to it being held in the evening for decades. Simple dishes like Pulao, Payesh, Alur Dum, Luchi, Cheere Makha  (puffed rice mixed with grated coconut and jaggery/sugar) and Sandesh graced the offering table. The smell of the incense sticks filled the air. The small Thakur Ghor (altar) was decorated with marigold flowers. Earlier, the same room had been decorated with flowers, alpana, rangoli which extended right to the gates. But incapability or inability of resources has led this year’s pujo to be a very small homely affair. After my grandmother performed a small ritual of reading out from her books which have become old, dusty and are now covered with newspapers to keep them intact; we proceeded for lunch.

Interestingly, this is the first time that I was invited for Lakshmi Pujo by my friend Monideepa. She is a very bright student at NSHM and hardly two months into college she is doing wonders in her field. I truly loved the time spent at her place. The beautifully decorated altar with loads of food- From fruits, Nadus , almost 5 types of fries and many others. It reminded me of my childhood days. I will definitely thank Kakima for packing some great food and Monideepa for making those tasty Nadus. It was great meeting Alimpan who I had last met at the SMIPKol in 2014.

The gang at Monideepa’s place. Pic Courtesy goes to Kaku.

On my way back, I managed to have a sneak peek of most of the Pandals near my house and checked on their Lakshmi Pujo. Here are some of the photographs that I took.

Friends Union

Samaj Sebi
Ballygunge Cultural

Do keep a lookout on Instagram for more photographs and videos. Thanks.

Let the Night Sing: A Whirlpool of Art and Emotions

Should I walk through this maze of reluctance?
Should I paint my hands and feet in mud,
Learning to fall in bones, sphincter and grace?
The water whispers seductively.
Between us, a zebra-crossing of blood and blossoming,
Of sacrilege and promiscuity.

– Lopamudra Banerjee

Poetry is both an art and science of expressing oneself. Poetry is like the gentle breeze which blows past your face; making you experience moments of relief, on a hot summer’s noon. Poetry is the like the beautiful calm on the sea or the light ripples that are formed when that calmness is disturbed. Poetry is that one overarching form of expression, which has the power to express anything in this world. Hence, US-based Poet, Writer, Translator and Editor, Lopamudra Banerjee uses Poetry to express herself in her latest book of poems – Let the Night Sing which was launched at The Doodle Room, Kolkata last month.

The book launch was organised and initiated by PR, Events Manager ,Poet and Artist, Sufia Khatoon. The book launch saw an amalgamation of art forms and literature throughout the evening. The event opened with the inauguration of a painting and poetry exhibition based on the theme Let the Night Sing which was followed by a panel discussion, the panellists to which were welcomed by Lopamudra.

‘Womanhood and its exploration in Contemporary Indian English Poetry’ was the theme for the panel discussion. The eminent panellists were Dr Sanjukta Dasgupta, (Professor, Department of English, University of Calcutta), Dr Santosh Bakaya, (Academician, Poet and Author of ‘Ballad of Bapu’ and ‘Flights from My Terrace’) and Lopamudra Banerjee. The topic was initiated and moderated by Sufia. The panellists briefed the audience on the effect of poetry in contemporary life- the influence it has on the choices that we make.

After finally unveiling the book, it was impossible that in a poetic atmosphere, there would be no reading from the book. Thus, Lopamudra, Sufia and Dr Bakaya read out from the newly launched book which was synchronised with beautiful melodies by the musicians.

A Musical Performance in Progress
Photo Courtesy: Sufia Khatoon

The evening then progressed onto an art and poetry exhibition presented by the Rhythms Divine Poetry Group. Musicians Pavlu Banerjee, Kolkata Music Dairy band, Akash DasGupta and Sahil Sarkar enthralled the audience with their mesmerizing music and made sure that everyone joined in. This was followed by a performance poetry which was presented by poets Sufia Khatoon, Amit Shankar Saha, Anindita Bose, Subhajit Sanyal, Aiman Abdullah, Arjun, Tanya Sengupta, and Aparajita Dutta on the theme Let the Night Sing.

Lopamudra Banerjee
Photo Courtesy: Sufia Khatoon

Let the Night Sing is a collection of 70 poems which highlights on the theme – a journey to womanhood. Its stunning book cover has been designed by Sufia Khatoon. The poems are in a continuous linkage with each other; each one taking the poet one step closer to experiencing womanhood. It is a unique blend of experiences celebrating sometimes a child woman and at times a woman trying to put her life back together from its broken pieces. These myriad hues of life put together in a few pages evoke an emotional journey in the reader’s mind- a journey that every reader willingly undertakes through the poets thoughts and verses.

The evening was a memorable one with a blend of poetry, discussions, music, performances and art. The event saw not only the launching of Let the Night Sing but the evening actually sang and progressed into a beautiful night. One that would be etched in everyone’s memories for a long time. Whenever one would pick up a copy of the book, one would praise it for being the whirlpool of artistic influences at the same place, on one July evening in Kolkata.

 

Books, Monsoon and Chai: The Booklovers Gathering

Books, Monsoon and Chai was a unique concept devised by Pradipta Mandal and Aniesha Brahma to get together all book lovers under the same roof. Held at The Chaiwala on the 2nd of July, this event was truly special for me. A small gathering of a few bookworms and a healthy discussion regarding their favourite books was an enchanting way to start the event.

After a brief introduction Aniesha Di, reiterated her love for the young adult genre. In fact, she even pointed out the reference many of them have to fairy tales. For me, fairy tales have been a part of my childhood like any other,  however, I had never given much thought to them after reading them once or twice. The idea of stirring a plot with reference to the fairy tales for the youth has already gained my attention.

Having worked in the field of art education , books on child psychology interests Pradipta Di to a great extent. I believe that child psychology books are of immense help to not only children but also to their parents. Books are a reflection of life and they show us how to deal with certain situations better. She spoke about John Holt, an author she enjoys reading.

Moments from Books, Monsoon and Chai

Subhro Da, gave me many new insights to the world of children’s books and their relevance in contemporary times. He spoke about his interest in the words of Roald Dahl and Sukumar Ray– both evergreen authors of their own time. He quoted from The BFG. – a quote so childishly written and yet so powerful in its versus that it connects with the fate of human beings in contemporary times. With Sukumar Ray, the world of gibberish has been fascinating to the young and the old. It has drawn readers to itself with nonsense-syllables only to emerge them completely into the pages of great classics like Abol Tabol.

Madhubanti Di , escalated the conversation from the different genres and our favourite books; to the emotional and imaginary level. She pointed out how they (the books) have always remained our constant companion in each of our moods. There is always a book to read when we are happy, sad, anxious, angry, disturbed and the like. These books have the strength to calm us down, a strength missing in the real world at that moment. She continued how books are a doorway to understand, relate and form different perspectives and interpretations of the common and uncommon situations. In fact, Madhubanti Di focussed on the fact that while reading a book, we often tend to consciously or unconsciously become a character in it. This is something that I personally believe in. After reading a lot of books throughout the years, I still contemplate at times, how I became the rejected Karna in the Mahabharat ; Mukesh from The Mother I Never Knew (Sudha Murthy) who journeyed to far lands in search of his mother; or Seema from The Teak Almirah (Jael Siliman) who saw the world change around her , a community disintegrate around her and yet held the fort refusing to part with the city she was born and brought up in , waiting only for a lost love.

Pradipta Di and Aniesha Di

The conversation then took an interesting turn with two varied but much debated topic. Everyone was more or less agreeing to the fact that the new authors in the horizon must be given a chance for their creative talent. In fact, it is always good to be updated with the current authors, for their writings are fast- paced, thrilling, action- oriented, bordering more on fantasy than real life; but definitely worth a read. Another interesting topic of discussion was how books were made into movies; and whether one prefers to read the book first and watch the movie later or vice –versa.

Paroma Di , discussed how Pride and Prejudice formed an inevitable part of her life . This timeless classic has always been her constant companion when it came to packing her travel bags. Having read and re-read the novel so many times, it has definitely left a profound impact on her. The second novel which had touched her and many other readers was The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Personally, it is one of those books which I can never forget myself.

During my turn, I spoke about the fact that I preferred to enter into the field of world literature and hence have recently taken a liking towards translations. Having read the entire treasure trove of Bengali literature in translations, I had shifted the territory to Indonesia and Kabul for the moment. Though there are many who do not prefer to read translations but in the original language the book was written; it is not realistically achievable as one cannot know all the languages of the world. Hence, reading the translations would at least provide a gist of the story and I firmly believe that reading the gist would also help to understand the crux of a beautiful novel; rather than missing it out completely.

My biggest takeaway from the event was meeting like- minded people. Often there are many who love to read books but cannot write about their impressions of the book or articulate the impact the book left on them. But this discussion was definitely a high for me where everyone came together to share their love for literature. In fact, Subhro Da also informed me about the short stories by Edgar Karat and Peter Bexel from Germany, books that I have already added to my wish list.

I would like to thank Aniesha Di and Pradipta Di for arranging such an event and inviting me as well. It was a fruitful discussion and gave a platform for book lovers to gather around and interact with each other. I am certain that such events would continue and people would take part in it, in large numbers.

Another event for the bookworms is being planned on the 13th of August. If you love books, and want to be associated with this event or just join in for some fun , do come for the event (details will follow soon) and you know whom to contact as well!

P.S Cover Image Courtesy: Books, Monsoon and Chai

 

‘United We Stand’ Featured Special Attractions for Calcuttans This Holi

Orchid Gardens was colored with the aroma and various hues of Holi colors on the 13th of March. The United We Stand, an initiative of the United Music Festival, a property of a2z events saw a gathering of around three thousand people at the venue. Prior to the event, United had hosted a Whatsapp Holi themed photography and Dubsmash contest. Some of the best videos were screened at the event. Furthermore, Calcuttans made their City of Joy proud by making it to the Limca and India book of records. This was done by a hundred and eighty people who consumed 1500 jalebis at the same time within 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

Upon entering the venue, the first thing which hit me was the typical aroma of Holi colours. They were herbal and were smooth on the skin. Apart from colors, I saw the people, especially the children and the youngsters grooving to the dance beats of songs like ‘ Balam Pichkari’  or ‘Lets Naacho’ played by the DJ’s. A star attraction of the event was the folk fusion dance Troupe Bawalia. Interestingly, the members of the group themselves came down from the stage and danced with the audience making the atmosphere very homely and enjoyable.

DSC_9290
The crowd enjoys themselves Photo Courtesy: Mr Sagnik Karmakar

The centre stage made out of recyclable materials appealed to the audience a lot. It was the first time that an event had created a stage out of recyclable materials. It was here that famous DJ’s like DJ Akash Rohira, DJ Girish, DJ Felix and others played Bollywood, Fusion and Special Holi Mixes for the enthusiastic crowd. Co-organiser, Aparajita Chowdury from a2z events said, “We like to offer something different all the time and contribute to society in our own small way. Apart from using recycling products for UNITED stage, we have ensured a minimal water usage in our event. . “

DSC_9229
The DJ’s play grooving tracks on the stage. Photo Courtesy: Mr Sagnik Karmakar

Foam blasts, colour blasts, paint ball, flower shower etc. were the major activities one could take part in. According to me, there were a few highlights of the event. I loved the idea of mobile phone cases to protect the phone from damage. The stall selling masquerade masks, Rajasthani pagdis and other little tit- bits was my favourite. The unlimited Thandai glasses gave a fresh respite to those weary with dancing and playing colours for a long time.

DSC_9094
At one of the games corner. Photo Courtesy: Mr Sagnik Karmakar
DSC_9283
Thanks to the Food Partners of the Event: Pugalia Photo Courtesy: Mr Sagnik Karmakar

United We Stand was a really fun way to celebrate Holi with friends and family. It was an opportunity to have fun, enjoy, make new friends and of course create innumerable selfie memories with your near and dear ones.

Kolkata Bloggers have been the proud online partners of this event. A big shout out to the organisers for having organised such a successful event! 

DSC_9293
Friends having fun at the event. Photo Courtesy: Mr Sagnik Karmakar