Tag Archives: bengali

April-2021 The Month of New Years

First quarter of the year has passed. There are a number of New Years in April in India. They are based on the Hindu Calendar. We visit each other, offer respect to elders by touching their feet and wish everyone. Its the time to eat home made sweets and wear new clothes. There are special songs dedicated to these days. In some places fairs are held on these days.

The schools close by mid April for summer vacation so these new years also mark the beginning of holidays. It is the time to grow beyond studies and be carefree for kids. As children of a cosmopolitan city, it used to be a month long celebration for us since everyday one or the other person had New Year. Personally I feel these traditional New Years give us an opportunity to rekindle our lives. It is common to lose motivation on the resolutions of 1st January. One can take this time to assess ones progress and motivation, if needed, can also modify the resolution. They give us an opportunity to assess the first quarter of the year and decide whether we want to spend the rest of the year in the same way or make changes. As the covid counts are rising again, it is time to assess our activities and be careful again, so that we can control the counts and beat the pandemic. Wishing everyone a very Happy, Safe and Prosperous New Year.

Celebration of Learning

Today is Vasant Panchami, a festival to welcome spring in India. It is celebrated on the fifth day of month of Magh in Hindu Calendar. It is either in February or last week of January. The celebrations are performed to welcome spring(Vasant). In East India, people worship Goddess Saraswati. Goddess Saraswati is called the Goddess of learning, music, knowledge and arts. We dress up in yellow, decorate the temples with yellow flowers. We put up our books and musical instruments at the house temple. With the exams scheduled for April, we pray to the Goddess to bless us with good scores. Community functions are organized where we all meet up. This is special for kids who are about to start schooling. A ceremony called “Hathe Khodi” is performed. The priest prays in the name of the kid and then helps him/her write a few alphabets with chalk on the slate.

During my school days we used to have drawing competition and poetry recitation competition making it a celebration of learning. The poetry competitions were very special. I learnt to face the stage from them. We used to be given a poem of one of the notable Bengali poets. The community hall used to be filled by members. We had to stand on stage and recite it. It used to be interesting to see different kids recite the same poem. The first poem I had recited was Lichu Chor. It describes the experience of a village lad while stealing lychee and getting caught. I was 8 years old. I could remember only 4 lines from the middle of that poem today. Funny part is these were the lines that I forgot while reciting on stage. There are music and dance performances. These events made me realize my love for performing arts. This year the celebrations were different with social distancing and mask rules in place. On this Saraswati Puja, I pray to the Goddess Saraswati the pandemic phase gets over and life returns to normalcy. Happy Vasant Panchami.

Guided by the Poet

Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore

7th May is Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s birthday. He is engraved in every aspect of a Bengali’s life. He is the first Indian Nobel Laureate. His works are quoted in appreciations, motivations, lectures and scolding in our upbringing. A celebration is not complete unless his name is taken. My mother was named after one of his books and even my name is synonymous to one of his books.

Let me share one story where he guided me. When I started working, I was posted in Mumbai with a few of my friends. Initially we explored all the famous landmarks of the city in group since we all were new to the city. Then came the phase where we all started discovering our own interests, some delved into studies, some sports, some into work and so on. It was at that time, I felt there was more to Mumbai than just landmarks. My roommates often visited the famous fashion street clothes market. On one such visit, I happened to look in the opposite direction while entering the market and saw rows of book store. We decided to explore the book market and then go to Fashion street. The book market was simply amazing. There were books on every topic from classics to mysteries to self help to competitive exams. I had been meaning to read Tagore’s works particularly the novels but never found time during college. I was unable to find them in local libraries also. My eyes just fell off my head when I saw his works in one of the shops. That day I did not buy any clothes although we went to Fashion street, still my bag was the heaviest because it had books. I ended up reading all the books in one month and wanted to go to the book market again. This time no one was available to accompany me, so I went alone singing the famous song by Tagore “Jodi tor daak shune keu na aashe” (If no one responds to your call, then go your own way alone). That experience gave me the motivation to explore new cities on my own. I still have some of those books at home.

My Treasured Collection

This was one way where Tagore helped me grow. As we grow, we find our interests differ from others, many of us even find it difficult to fit into a particular group. This may seem strange but remember everyone is unique. Appreciate your individuality. I take this opportunity to thank Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore for motivating us.

New Year with New Challenges

Today, 14th april’2020 is Poila Boishakh, the first day of Bengali new year. As kids, we used to get up early, take bath, offer our prayers, pay respect to the elders and hug our friends and youngsters. My mother used to stitch clothes for us for new year. Special dishes would be prepared. There was an image of Goddess Durga in our house. She is dressed up as a villager in it. It always reminded me, God is within us and we can always make ourselves better.

Poila Boishakh used to be just after the final exams of the academic session. So we used to start our summer vacations with new year celebration. This year is different. It is a New Year with New Challenges. The world is going through an extremely challenging phase. The thought of celebrating new year in this situation may seem strange. New Year is the time to identify changes that need to be made to improve oneself. The past year reminds us that time and tide wait for none. This Poila Boishakh, let us resolve to maintain social distancing, let us ensure that we will continue to grow even while enclosed in our houses, let us resolve to believe good times will return. This has created free time for many of us. There are people cribbing about how to spend this time. Internet is brimming with online classes be it drawing, music, dance or new language. There are many book clubs. Most of the libraries have their apps from which readers can read online. This time has brought out the creativity of many people. Some of my friends have started their YouTube channels. As we continue with the shutdown, life without social life, may seem boring and monotonous but we should trust the God within ourselves and persist. Let us ensure, when this phase is over and life is back to normal, we will all be better human beings. Shubho Noboborsho (Happy New Year) to everyone.

Navaratri Gifts

Navaratri is a special time when the nine incarnations of Goddess Durga are worshipped. I got posted out of my hometown when I started working. I requested my mother to give me any spare kitchen items. She gave me six plates and bowls out of which none of the two plates or bowls were same. I asked her, how she got this unique set. She said those are my Navaratri gifts. Small girls (Kumari) are worshipped during Navaratri as Goddess. This is called Kumari puja. As part of this ceremony, they are invited, a small dot with vermilion is placed on their forehead. They are then offered food cooked specially for this occasion. After this they are gifted with plates, bowls and sometimes toys. As kids we used to have invitation from numerous houses in our neighborhood. If we were unable to make it, they would send the gift to our house. It used to be fun to get up early in the morning, take bath, wear new clothes and go for the ceremony. The festivities would turn even bigger from the 7 day (Saptami), when we used to visit the Bengali community. There we would have a huge idol of Goddess Durga along with her four kids. We would offer our prayers and meet up with everyone. Although these festivities are only for few days but we used to start preparing three months before.

This year I decided to offer gifts to Goddess through Kumari puja. Luckily all the Kumaris I knew were fond of books which happens to be my hobby as well, so I gifted them classics. All the kids were happy. We also visited the Durga Puja organized by Bengali Association of Pittsburgh. These festivities always take me back to my carefree school days. On the tenth day we have Dashami when the idols are immersed in water. We take blessings of our elders and wish everyone “Happy Dussehra”.

Bijoya Sammilani

The festival of Dussehra holds huge significance in our lives. It is the celebration of the victory of good over evil. For Bengalis it is the time to meet and greet everyone. We wish everyone Shubho Bijoya (Auspicious Victory). This was the time we used to visit everyone’s house. I still remember my mother making all the planning for a Bijoya dinner. Then it was just food and fun for us but today I feel it was a wonderful way to familiarize us with our culture. It was because of this effort of our parents during Durga Puja, Bijoya Dashami, etc, we were able to imbibe the cultures of both our native place and our residential place. This has played an important part in helping us adapt to any place within or outside our country.

The tasty Luchis

Chicken Curry

This year a few of my Bengali colleagues decided to hold a Bijoya Sammilani (Bijoya meet), which took me back to my school days. But they did it with a twist. All the guys decided to release the females from cooking for the weekend. They had elaborate menu for lunch and dinner for both days. They even had snacks. The fun part was to see them cooking. All the resources were duly calculated and brought. During cooking there was an elaborate discussion on everything. It was surprising as well as entertaining to see software professionals arguing on ways of cutting onions and tomatoes instead of computers. I must say they all did an extraordinary job, even I got to learn a few things about cooking from them. Since the guys took the responsibility of cooking we took the responsibility of entertaining. This meant song performances, poetry recitations, dance and drama. We came to know about the artistic side of everyone. It was like meeting everyone again. At the end of it I felt, this is the essence of festival. We come togather, forget our day-to-day issues and create something to make a time memorable. As long as people with this spirit are there, the culture would stay alive no matter where we are. I thank my colleagues for this memorable time and wish everyone ‘Shubho Bijoya’.

Pujo in USA

Goddess Durga

Goddess Durga

The biggest festival that a bengali looks forward to, for the entire year, the Durga Puja 2016 is going on. It is a celebration of the victory of good over evil. This is the time when the air smells of festivity. This year I had the opportunity of visiting the Durga Puja at Pittsburgh, USA in Hindu Jain Temple. Once inside the hall, I felt as if I was in India. The rituals, the decorations, the people and of course the food, all made it a lively place to be. Durga Puja is the time when people get together and discuss on all topics ranging from sports to food. Here also it was so, the hot topic of discussion was Pittsburgh Steelers. Simply proves no matter where they are, bengalis just love sports.

The Hindu Jain Temple

The Hindu Jain Temple

It was raining yesterday night and so the weather was cold from the morning. Thankfully it didn’t rain after morning. Once I reached the temple, the serenity of the atmosphere filled me with happiness. I offered my prayers with flowers. The most admirable thing was, the priest translated the meaning of the prayers to the people in English, thus explaining the prayers to everyone. After the puja we had the delicious meal(Puja Bhog) which comprised of Khichadi, fries, veggies and sweets. Also there was a small exhibition of clothes, accessories and jewelry. Cultural programs were held afterwards. The children were playing around dressed in traditional attire. It reminded me of my school days. I thank the Bengali Association of Pittsburgh(http://bengali-pitt.org/bap/) for keeping the culture alive so far from home. Happy Durga Puja to Everyone. May Goddess Durga bless everyone with happiness and fulfill all their wishes.

Vasant Panchami

Goddess Saraswati

Goddess Saraswati

Today was Vasant Panchami. It means the fifth day of spring. In eastern side of India, it is celebrated as Saraswati Puja and falls generally in the month of February. The academic session in India begins from June and ends in April. The tension of exams starts clouding from February. Goddess Saraswati is the Goddess of learning. Hence Saraswati Puja is very important for every person learning something be it studies, music, art, etc. It is a very special day for 3 year olds. They are dressed in traditional attire of dhoti or saree. The priest makes them write a few alphabets on a slate with chalk. This is called ‘Hathe Khodi’. It marks the beginning of education in a person’s life. During our school days we used to dress up in new clothes mostly yellow and go to the venue with our school books. We offered our prayers with flowers to Goddess Saraswati. Then we used to have competitions for drawing, poetry recitation, etc. The flowers used for the ceremony were often taken by the students to be kept in books. I used to make sure those flowers are placed in all my textbooks, particularly those of mathematics. I still remember once a classmate in college started teasing me when a rose was found in one of my books. But the entire joke came to an end when I said its the flower from the Saraswati puja ceremony.

Detailed view of decorations

Detailed view of decorations

This year I wanted to attend this ceremony. It was going to be organized by the Bengali association of Pittsburgh. I was glad when my friend Sahana said she too was also going there and I can join them. It was -12 degrees Celsius as we drove. All the way there was snow on both sides of the road. I was reminded of my school days as soon as we entered the hall. The goddess was decorated with bright flowers. People were dressed in their traditional best. The kids looked elegant in their cute dresses. Everything was just as I had always celebrated, the prayers, the flowers and ofcourse the food. It was the super tasty khichadi with mixed veg curry, chutney, sweet, papad and fruits. We immediately felt at home inspite of being strangers. Below is my platter:

The delicious prasad

The delicious prasad

I am very thankful to my friend Sahana for taking me there. Kudos to the Bengali association of Pittsburgh for organizing this event so far. I just hope Goddess Saraswati blesses us all with knowledge. Happy Vasant Panchami and Happy Saraswati Puja.

Shubho Mohaloya (Happy Mahalaya)

Jai Ma Durga

Jai Ma Durga

Yesterday night, before going to sleep, I told my mother to wake me up before 5:30am. It was Mohaloya, the first day of Navratri. As a school girl this used to be a yearly ritual. We used to get up early and watch the Mohaloya presentation. Every year the story of Goddess Durga destroying the evil Mahishasur was presented with songs, dance and chandipath. It used to begin at 5:30 am and get over by 7:00 am. I always felt watching the programme made a pious start of the day.

The most amazing part was the Mohaloya Chandipath recited by Birendra Krishna Bhadra. His recitation is so unique that even today the same recitation is played in all the channels. All the songs of the program made me feel that festivity is in the air. I was brought up in Gujarat in western part of India. The festival of Garba begins from Mohaloya and continues for the next 9 days. In east of India, today is the day when the sculptors paint the eyes of the Goddess Durga. The markets are flooded with traditional clothes of various designs. The beating of the dhak(traditional drums) would give a feeling of the arrival of good times when we would be with friends and family. The tension of studies would be placed aside for a while. It would seem as if festivity is in the air.

In my school days it was only national television Doordarshan. Today different channels have different representations, each leaving its own signature on the event. I would like to show this to all the people who say culture has gone for a toss. Even today, entire families get up and watch the mohaloya presentation. The demand is so much that all the channels take the initiative to create their unique presentations, thus generating opportunities for creativity. With this year’s dhak I want to wish every one a Happy Mohaloya.

A call that changed my world

It was 15th september’2014, 11:15 pm sharp. I received a phone call from my mother. She spoke with a strange tone, which I had never heard before. Her first statement was “Make yourself heart strong, I have a news for you”. I felt strange and said “What is the matter mom? Why are you so serious?”. Again she said “Make your heart strong.” This was getting on my nerves “What is it mom?”. Her reply changed my world “Your father is no more”. I was speechless and shocked. I couldn’t believe my ears. Aloud I said “Mom what are you saying? Just two hours ago I called and you said he is fine and watching TV. You must have had a nightmare”.

She replied “Its true. He sat for dinner and asked me to fetch water in a glass. When I returned with a glass of water, he was unconscious. We rushed him to the hospital where he was declared dead. It seems he got a massive cardiac attack.” I was numb. My world was shattered. My father, my hero, my biggest strength was no more. No matter what I did, nothing would bring him back. Everytime I closed my eyes moments spent with him kept flashing before me. Memories which have become precious for me. The next day his funeral was held. All the arrangement was made by our neighbours and community members. Baba was a very cheerful person and always helped people whenever possible. That is the reason his funeral was attended by every person who had ever interacted with him be it the grocery store owner or my mom’s earliest colleagues. Inspite of being in a state away from his home state and not having any relatives around, he recieved an honourable farewell. My life is never going to be same again Baba.

We bengalis always touch our elder’s feet on VijayaDashami and take their blessings. This VijayaDashami, I am unable to touch your feet Baba. But wherever you are please accept my respect. Wherever you are, I just pray you are happy and contented.

I will always always and always miss you Baba. Shubho Vijaya Baba.