Category Archives: Arts, Culture & Entertainment

The Bengalis: A Portrait of a Community review: A people and its contradictions

The Bengalis: A Portrait of a Community Sudeep Chakravarti Aleph ₹799

Cataloguing failures and frustrations of Bengalis, their sense of self, culture, and radical and reactionary politics

Portraits of a people are difficult to pull off, unless attempted with love, irony, and aplomb. Sudeep Chakravarti does not fall short on these counts in his whirlwind cultural, social and political history of the Bengalis, a community as notorious for its factiousness, chauvinism, and obstinate perseverance in self-harm as for its tolerance, cosmopolitanism, creativity and intellectual brilliance.

Written with verve, energy, and polish, and drawing on considerable resources, both anecdotal and archival, Chakravarti’s book takes its place beside other contemporary attempts at ‘collective’ portraiture, such as Jeremy Paxman’s The English (1998) and John Hooper’s The Italians (2015). Such attempts frequently founder on the need to both explode myths and sustain them. In The Italians, Hooper quoted Orson Welles’s famous insertion in Graham Greene’s script for The Third Man (1949), to the effect that Italy under the murderous Borgias produced the Renaissance, while five hundred years of democracy in Switzerland produced only the cuckoo clock. Chakravarti is alert to the dangers of such sensationalism, cataloguing Bengal and the Bengalis’ frustrations and failures with as much sympathy and perception as their undeniable record of achievement in the arts and sciences, and in the making of modern India and Bangladesh. The great strength of his account is that it treats the Bengalis, despite their self-imposed divisions, as one people, and accordingly looks at the history of both east and west — that is, both modern West Bengal and Bangladesh.

Literary, other pegs

A sense of history is at the core of this book’s success: the sections I read with most absorption were on the origins of the Bengalis, their mongrel ethnicity, their religious dissensions, their syncreticism and cosmopolitanism, their politics — radical and reactionary — and their formative historical crises, such as the 1943 famine, the Tebhaga land agitation, Partition, Naxalbari, muktijuddho (Bangladesh liberation war) and the birth of a new nation. Chakravarti’s own family, with its roots in East Bengal, and its network of connections across borders and religions, in Bangladesh and India (not to speak of the inevitable diaspora) provides an invaluable anecdotal substratum to the more contemporary passages of this account. So too does the material taken from Chakravarti’s experiences as a reporter, looking especially at Naxalbari and latter-day Maoist insurgency in jangalmahal.

By comparison, the descriptions of gastronomy, literature, cinema and music seem conventional and uninspired — there are the obligatory accounts of the Tagores, of Nazrul, of the modern novelists, of children’s literature, of cinema with its great auteurs, but modern Bengali poets and filmstars are notably absent (no Shakti, no Sunil, no Uttam, no Suchitra). The six Bengali seasons, and the riverine landscape, are poetically noted, but less attention is paid to the physical realities of urban settings and their transformation in the wake of Partition. On the whole these are minor omissions — obviously a single book attempting to portray a community has to leave out almost as much as it includes, or be reduced to the kind of breathless, impressionistic list of ‘Bengali’ attributes that appears on the back cover.

The bhadralok view

But another problem, to which Chakravarti is undoubtedly sensitive, though he fails to resolve it, is that this is very much a bhadralok (‘gentry’) account of the Bengali ‘sense of self’. While Chakravarti is at pains to explain the mixed, overwhelmingly non-Aryan, non-Brahmin and non-Ashrafi composition of the Bengali people, and offers fascinating vignettes of the rise (and fall) of Fazlul Haq’s Krishak Praja Party, as well as of peasant rebellion, religious hatred, and uprisings fuelled by caste and class oppression, the collective ‘subject’ that emerges remains resolutely fixed in its bhadralok status, fenced round by references to art, literature, food and clothes. Given that this species is not only dying, but perhaps already dead in Bengal today, the cultural chronicler needs to break out of the bubble of self-love created by the delusional Bengali gentry, and look more closely at the actual majority of the population. Some unexpected insights might have resulted from such a study, though it is also true that the aura — or miasma — of bhadralok culture is hard to dismiss in its entirety.

In a sense, the Bengalis are what they believe themselves to be, and their aspirations are closely identified with the image of itself that an educated, upwardly mobile class started peddling to the world from around the 19th century onwards. History is cruel to such delusions, and Chakravarti records with sympathy and intelligence the enormous traumas produced by cataclysms like the famine, Partition, peasant uprisings and labour unrest. But what of those labouring masses, those refugees and small entrepreneurs, shopkeepers and vegetable sellers, hustlers and dealers, farmers and craftspersons, first generation schoolgoers and dropouts? They are Bengalis too, but not as easily identified by the cultural clichés common in Bengali bhadralok parlance (Rabindrasangeet, film clubs, fine cooking, literature, and so on). To do Chakravarti justice, he is unremittingly aware of these cracks in the Bengali self-portrait, and his account is politically aware and historically faithful, even though he never quite makes the (very Bengali) transition from amra to ora, ‘we’ to ‘they’.

The Bengalis: A Portrait of a Community; Sudeep Chakravarti, Aleph, ₹799.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Books> Review / by Supriya Chaudhuri / November 18th, 2017

Danish tavern decked up to start second innings in Serampore

Kolkata :

The double-storey Denmark Tavern, which was in a shambles till a couple of years ago, will soon turn into a lifestyle stay. The edifice on the banks of the Hooghly in Serampore will be Bengal’s second government-backed live-and-conserve endeavour after the St Olav’s Church project, which was restored last year and is in back in use for prayers and religious ceremonies.

Come February and CM Mamata Banerjee will open the doors of Denmark Tavern that has risen out of debris after being painstakingly restored by the National Museum of Denmark (NMD) in tandem with the West Bengal Heritage Commission. The NMD has funded the Rs 3.5-crore restoration and the state tourism department is paying another Rs 1.2 crore for the finishing. It will be running the cafe-by-the-river, which will have six overnight-stay rooms.

The Serampore riverfront, which looked picture perfect during the Danish rule, fell on bad times and the majestic structures were left to rot for decades. In 2012, things started changing with Serampore Initiative, the grand revival of the former Danish colony. The Denmark Tavern restoration is part of the big plans to bring back the old glory of the former Danish colony.

“We are extremely excited about the completion of the Denmark Tavern, which was the most challenging of the restoration work we have done in Serampore,” Bente Wolff, curator, National Museum of Denmark, told TOI from Copenhagen. Over last several months, Wolff has been flying in and out of Serampore to supervise the restoration work.

“This is the first public-private partnership in the heritage sector at this scale. This will give a fillip to the CM’s pet project of river cruise linking all the heritage towns along the Hooghly,” said Manish Chakraborti, the project’s conservation architect
Clearing the morass and rescuing the tavern was the most formidable task ever, said Suvaprasanna, chairman of the commission. “The challenge was in connecting history with architecture. For instance, the exact location of the tavern was not known. Finally, we found documents showing it was next to the SDO’s residence. It took one-and-a-half months to clear the debris,” he said.

“Denmark’s interest in reviving the remnants of the buildings first started in 2008 at the ethnographic department of the National Museum of Denmark,” added commission member Partha Ranjan Das. Archival and field studies were carried out between November 2008 and April 2009 by restoration architect Flemming Aalund and historian Simon Ranten, who produced an elaborate, report.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Kolkata News / by Ajanta Chakraborty / TNN / November 21st, 2017

‘Longest’ sari in making

– Art work with colours of national flag

Krishnagar:

An award-winning weaver from Nadia’s Phulia is leading a team to make a 3.85km long sari, which he claims is the longest in the country.

The sari will be displayed at a Phulia school ground on January 1. The sari, being built at a cost of Rs 2.9 lakh, will have colours of the national flag – saffron, white and green.

Biren Kumar Basak, 72, who took the Sant Kabir award from Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year, said he would dedicate the sari to the nation on New Year’s Day as a tribute to his country.

Basak, who designed the sari and is financing the weaving, said: “This work of art will be longer than the 3.05km long sari made at Bharuch in Gujarat in March this year. I will dedicate the sari to the nation. I will then cut the polyester sari into 700 normal saris and distribute the same among the poor women of Phulia.”

Weavers busy making the sari at Phulia. Picture by Abhi Ghosh

The sari made in Gujarat earned a Guinness book entry.

Basak and five other weavers have been working almost round-the-clock at a power loom in Krishnagar using 316kg of yarn of saffron, green and white color brought from Surat to meet the target of January 1.

“My dream was to make the longest national flag. I then changed my mind and decided to make the longest sari using the colours of the Tricolour. My workers also supported the idea and I started working on it from September,” Basak said.

Raju Basak, a weaver who is monitoring the progress of the sari, said: “We have already completed around 3.2km and hope the target will be met.”

source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph,Calcutta,India / Home> West Bengal / by Subhasish Chaudhuri / November 13th, 2017

KIFF goes behind the lens of Ray and Ghatak

Kolkata :

The camera which Subrata Mitra used for shooting ‘Pather Panchali’ triggered many memories for cinematographers – both veteran and young – when they dropped by at the ‘Looking Thru’ exhibition organised on the sidelines of the 23rd Kolkata International Film Festival. Inaugurated by director Prakash Jha, the exhibition is a priceless archive for global cinema.

“The exhibits include camera equipment used by directors like Lumiere Brothers, Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak and film students and the enthusiasts can learn a lot about our glorious history and how cinema evolved through its medium in the past century,” said principal secretary, Information and Cultural Affairs department Vivek Kumar.

Paying rich compliments to KIFF organisers for hosting such an exhibition, Jha said, “Truly, there was great passion in collecting all these and putting up such an exhibition. All film lovers of the city will be looking with eagerness at this. This adds a new chapter and will go a long way in understanding cinema,” Jha said.

One of the first exhibits on display – that was given by Anjan Bose of Aurora Film Corporation Pvt. Ltd – is a Bell & Howell 35 mm motion picture camera that was used in the silent era. US based Bell & Howell was founded in 1907 and was a manufacturer of motion picture machinery. Since 1909, this company used to make 35 mm motion-picture cameras. However, they stopped making motion-picture cameras from 1970s.

The next exhibit was the immensely popular camera in Europe. Called Super Parve, this camera was extensively used by Sergei Eisenstein and could record both sound and picture simultaneously in sound negative and picture negative formats. Director Abhijit Guha, who had come to watch this exhibition, mentioned that this camera was used for shooting Sukumar Dasgupta’s ‘Ora Thake Odhare’ and ‘Sadanander Mela’. “Both films had featured Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen,” Guha said.

The 35 mm Arriflex Blimp, which was capable of enclosing a 1000 ft magazine, also drew many visitors. The camera on display was used to shoot ‘Bhagini Nivedita’ and ‘Raja Rammohan’. Next on display was a Bell & Howells 1925 era Eyemo. Manufactured by the Bell & Howell Company of Chicago in 1925, it was the most popular, compact 35 mm camera that had a 100 ft capacity. Its small size made it a popular camera while filming during World War II and the Vietnam War. “During those days, it was difficult to film with heavy cameras. Hence, this camera became popular.

The 35 mm film size also was brought down to 16 mm and subsequently to 8 mm because of the needs during wartime filming. The 16 mm Maurer is another priceless camera in this collection. It was used for optical effects like dissolve, fade-in and fade-out. The Panavision is a later version of this camera,” said cinematographer Premendra Bikash Chaki.

Incidentally, this camera was so popular that the Appolo 11 spacecraft was equipped with a Maurer. History has it that the crew used this kind of camera to record lunar features from the lunar surfaces.

The Arriflex camera also had a special place in the exhibition. Based in Germany, the Arri group was founded in 1917. In 1937, Arri introduced the world’s first reflex mirror shutter in the Arriflex 35 camera. It has the ability to focus the image by eye through the viewfinder. Pointing at this camera, Chaki said, “This was used to shoot films like ‘Jalsaghar’ and ‘Jukti Tokko Aar Goppo’.”

The Bolex camera made by a Switzerland-based company also drew a lot of attention. Their 16 mm spring-wound is a popular introductory camera in film schools. In 1950s during the golden era of 3D film, Bolex offered a 3D stereo kit for their H-16 camera. Bolex 16 Pro and H-16 was technically very advanced. “This camera was used by Goutam Ghose. He had shot his award-winning documentary titled ‘Hungry Autumn’ with this,” Chaki said.

In 1952, Arri introduced the first professional 16 mm camera with a reflex-viewing system. In 1965, a self-blimped 16 mm camera was marketed: The Arriflex 16BL. “This camera was used by Goutam Ghose to shoot ‘Silk Route’,” Chaki added.

Even a Red digital camera donated by Swarup Biswas has also been on display. However, it was the Mitchell 35 mm camera that drew the maximum attention. That was not surprising since along with this camera was on display two working stills of Ray and Subrata Mitra shooting ‘Pather Panchali’. Gaur Karmakar, who had worked as an assistant cameraman in some of Ghatak’s films, explained: “We have shot ‘Komol Gandhar’ and ‘Subarnarekha’ with this very camera too.”

With many more stories unfolding behind the lens, it’s needless to say that viewers of KIFF will have a lot beyond movies as their takeaway from the cine-fest.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Kolkata News / by Priyanka Dasgupta / TNN / November 11th, 2017

Phulia creates 3km-long alpana in 10 hours

– Hundreds wield brush and paint to draw on road with four colours

Anit Thapa addresses the meeting in Kurseong on Sunday. Picture by Passang Yolmo

Phulia:

Over 800 people wielded brushes and paints of four hues and drew for around 10 hours to create a 3km-long alpana, which the organisers claim is the longest in the world.

The residents of Nadia’s Phulia woke up on Sunday morning to a splendid view of the alpana, which is a traditional motif drawn on the floor in Bengal and elsewhere in the country.

From 9pm on Saturday, 25 groups with 35 members each started drawing the alpana from Phulia bus stand and completed the entire 3km stretch of a road at Sabujpally around 7am on Sunday. To draw the alpana, 2,800 litres of acrylic paints of four different hues were used.

The artists were responding to a request by Junior 100 Foundation, a social organisation.

“Phulia’s 3km alpana is the longest in the world so far and we are planning to approach the Guinness Book of World Record for its inclusion on the list of extraordinary achievements,” said Abhinaba Basak, the cultural secretary of Junior 100 Foundation.

Debabrata Pal, 28, a graduate in fine arts from a government art college, who took part in the alpana drawing, said: “With such an initiative, people will experience the pleasant look of traditional motifs synonymous with our culture”.

In September, Before Durga Puja, Samaj Sebi Sangha Sarbojanin Durgotsav Committee in south Calcutta drew a 1.2km alpana. Over 320 government art college students took less than 24 hours to draw it.

Basak said: “Our aim is not to go for any competition rather to revive a passion to learn Bengal’s traditional art among the young generation. With this objective, we tried to make it as long as possible, which eventually became the longest one.”

Enthusiasts like Mousumi Biswas, 22, an MA second-year student and Arijit Debnath, 11, of Class V also took up the brush to draw the alpana. The initiative received cooperation from police who diverted traffic to facilitate the drawing.

source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph, Calcutta,India / Home> West Bengal / by Subhasish Chaudhuri / October 29th, 2017

Kolkata to Chandannagar: The French life

In Chandannagar, time flows as languorously as the Ganga beside it

The statue of Marianne, a national symbol of France, outside the Dupleix mansion. Photos: Ganesh Vancheeswaran

The rains had left the fields lush green, a vivid contrast to the dark brown soil at the base. This dual-colour canvas kept a tight grip on the sides of the road through most of the trip. Bustling villages and near skirmishes with traffic ensured there was never a dull moment on the drive from Kolkata to Chandannagar.

My decision to go to Chandannagar for the weekend had been an impromptu one, taken the night before. The fact that it was the only French colony in Bengal in the 17th century, at a time when the British were making determined inroads into the region, made me curious. And so, late one Saturday morning, I hopped into a taxi for the 53km ride. It was a swift and mildly disorienting transition from the crush of humanity in Kolkata. As we entered Chandannagar, my driver pointed to two pillars topped with urns. He said these were all that remained of the grand gate built by the French in 1937.

I asked him to take me to the Dupleix Museum, located in a large yellow mansion. It is one of the few in India that houses a collection of artefacts from French rule, which lasted more than 250 years. Chandannagar was a major trading and military hub for the French during the 18th and 19th centuries. And this mansion used to be the official residence of French governor generals. Apart from French memorabilia, the museum houses rare collections of statues, letters exchanged between freedom fighters, and news clips on the freedom movement in Bengal. With its colonnaded courtyard, broad slatted windows and high ceilings, it is a throwback to period architecture. Even today, French is taught at an institute that operates from the same premises.

Leaving the museum, I headed to a stall nearby for a leisurely mutka (earthen cup) of tea. I was in no mood to rush from place to place. Already, I could feel my heartbeat settling into a slower rhythm. Chandannagar has that effect on you.

The interior of the Sacred Heart Church.

Continuing my journey into the past, I walked up to the lovely Sacred Heart Church, close to the Dupleix Museum. This church, designed by French architect Jacques Duchatz, was inaugurated in 1884. Stepping into its cool portals, I was transported back to the 19th century. The stained glass, old furniture and colourful murals along the nave are largely intact. Later, I walked through the restored graves and tombstones in the cemetery adjoining the church. Buried here along with other nobles is the long-forgotten French commander Duplessis, one of the town’s founding fathers.

Exploring the streets that evening, I saw a number of rambling bungalows from the French period. The structures, still intact, exuded an air of genteel neglect. There was an abundance of greenery. Traffic was sparse and slow-moving. Passing through the local market, I was struck by the absence of the hoarse cries one normally finds in Indian markets. Even the haggling was absent. It seemed as if the entire town loathed anything loud or frenetic.

Wending my way to the strand, I sat on a bench. A few others had colonized benches to read the newspaper or chat. In front of me, the Ganga, known in these parts as the Hooghly, flowed gently, with barely a murmur. Boats ferrying locals were the only traffic. And quiet descended as soon as the day’s activity wound up with the setting sun.

Fortified by some luchi-aloo dum the next morning, I sallied forth again. This time, to the stunning Nanda Dulal temple with its cream-and-vermillion exterior. This temple is built in the do chala (double sloping roof) style native to Bengal, but is, surprisingly, devoid of the terracotta work that is typical of buildings in this district. I learnt from the priest that this temple, which houses a deity of Lord Krishna as a child, was first built in 1740, destroyed and then rebuilt.

I was tempted to join the boys playing volleyball in front of the temple. In keeping with the mood, however, I decided to return to my room to curl up and read.

Weekend Vacations offers suggestions on getaways that allow for short breaks from metros. The author tweets from @theholehog.

source: http://www.livemint.com / Live Mint / Home> Leisure / Ganesh Vancheeswaran / November 09th, 2017

Meet Miss Japan who is also half-Bengali!

For the world she is Priyanka Yoshikawa -Miss World Japan 2016.

But those close to her know her as Priyanka Yoshikawa Ghosh.

Born to a Bengali father and Japanese mother, she is the first woman from a multi-racial background to have won the pageant in Japan. But Priyanka’s journey was far from easy .

When she broke the glass ceiling, there were some who questioned why the title was not bestowed upon a `pure’ Japanese, but Priyanka found support in her nation and also in India, where she has her roots.

On a whirlwind tour to Kolkata where she attended a dinner hosted in her honour by Masayuki Taga, Consul General of Japan in Kolkata, Priyanka spoke to us about the backlash and support, tracing back her roots and why her family doesn’t discuss Prafulla Chandra Ghosh, her greatgrandfather and Bengal’s first chief minister, over dinner.

Excerpts:

Is this your first trip to Kolkata since you won Miss World Japan in 2016?

Yes. But I have been to the city quite a few times before that. I lived here when I was nine years old. That was for a year. I also studied in a school here. Even before that, I have been to the city when I was two or three, but I don’t have memories of those visits. Another long visit was five years ago, when I was 18. That time, I stayed here for a month. My father is Bengali and our extended family lives here. My connection with Bengal was established with my birth though I was not born here.During the one year I was here, I explored my father’s country and got to understand my roots.

On this visit for a day, did you get to meet your relatives living in Kolkata?

My father comes from a big family and he has many siblings. My uncle and aunt live in Kolkata.Some of my cousins are still here, but many got married and live abroad. Whenever I am in Kolkata, I visit them. I came on Sunday midnight and on Monday , I visited Mother House and later, went to a doctors’ meet. Though I was not in Kolkata on work, I am the brand ambassador of a charitable foundation, and ended up doing some meaningful work. I wanted to visit Kolkata ever since my win, but it was hard to get a vacation. Then, I got a few days off and came here on my way to Guwahati.

After you became Miss World Japan 2016, the first contestant from a multi-racial background to do so, you spoke about drawing inspiration from Ariana Miyamoto, born to a Japanese mother and African-American father, who won the Miss Universe Japan 2015. She had to endure racial backlash for being a hafu (a person with a non-Japanese parent), but since she set a precedent just the previous year, was it easier for you?

To be honest, Ariana was not exactly my inspiration. We participated in different pageants. I followed my own dreams, but I have tremendous respect for her.I didn’t know her before I won, but we became good friends after winning the title. I didn’t hear stories about her trials and tribulations, but she made it big as the first hafu to win a pageant in Japan. She had to face racial backlash as she was the first and people were not used to it. For me, I was the first for Miss World in the nation. Nothing has been easy even though Ariana won the previous year. I got good media coverage and though some people questioned my win, it never affected me. I was confident and was concen trating on the international pag eant where I made a mark after 60 years. During the pageant, there was no social media back lash, but after the win, some questioned why the title was not awarded to a `pure’ Japanese. I got a lot of support too. Messages came trickling in from hafus living in Japan, and also from Indian citizens. When you get such strong support, it gives you more confidence. I am proud to have an Indian in me, but that doesn’t mean I am not Japanese.

What were the celebrations like in India?

My relatives messaged me. My first cousins are very close to me. I call them didi. One of my didis lives in the US and she was a great support during the inter national pageant. She is eight nine years older than me and she and everyone else was happy about the win.

What was the homecoming like this time around?

I was excited as I was meeting everybody after five years.Visiting home and meeting my aunt, uncle, nephews was quite something. Though they are all in touch with me, talking to them on social media is different from meeting them. I got to eat Bengali food. I was looking forward to tasting some homecooked Indian food. I often crave for white chicken, which is perhaps called doi chicken. And I love phuchkas though I missed it this time. I was in Mumbai and had panipuris there, but it’s different from having phuchkas in Kolkata.

How did you learn to speak so fluently in Bangla?

I studied Bengali in school, but I picked it up naturally as everyone speaks Bengali around me in my family .

Your great-grandfather Prafulla Chandra Ghosh was the first chief minister of Bengal. You must have heard many stories about him from your father?

He was my great-grandfather, but I didn’t meet him. My father did tell me stories about him but only at times. I never really asked questions about him.Everybody in our family knows about him, but we don’t discuss him over dinner.

An elephant trainer, are you visiting Guwahati for a purpose?

My Guwahati trip is all about wild elephant conservation and nature conservation.

You have keen interest in Bengali movies…

I remember having seen The Japanese Wife and some others that I watched on flights. I can’t read or write in Bengali though I can speak the language. It’s sad that not many Bengali films can be found in Japan, though Bollywood movies -sometimes three years old -travel to the country . I love to watch them. I have grown up watching Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Kajol. Kajol is one of my favourite actresses.

Should you foray into Bengali films if an offer comes your way?

Yes, why not! I would also love to do something with films in India, maybe bring them to Japan… There are many takers for Indian films in Japan and I am sure a lot of people here are waiting to watching Japanese films. If I can bridge the gap, I will be the happiest.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / Home> News> City News> Kolkata News / by Zinia Sen / TN / November 02nd, 2017

Centuries-old temples unearthed in West Bengal A parish anticipating relic tourism

ASI members inspecting the temples in Bhuri, a village near Burdwan

Less than 130 kilometres from Kolkata, in an area at East Burdwan’s Bhuri village, two temples emerged while local workers were digging. The initial inspection and predictions tell that the temples could be centuries old.

Unprecedented and to the dismay of the local workers were digging a section of the land as a part of the Village Panchayat’s cleaning programme aiming to set up a park, two masts of 1.4 metres each came out. The masts resemble the architecture of temples and the primary observation reveals that the temples could be centuries old. Some of the locals also believe that these are Lord Shiva temples that were built during the early British empire.

The land lies beside a canal that connects the River Damodar that was dug years ago to divert water from the village and prevent flood during the monsoons. Whether it was flood or earthquake that led to the demolition and the extinction of these two temples is still a mystery.

Growing anticipation
A team of three from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) visited the site where the temples were discovered. According to one of the members of the team who requested a privacy of identity said, “We can’t say anything as of now, it’s very strange that this part of the country had temples like these. We have to dig another 20 odd feet to unearth the reality and the exact identity of these temples. I would my team to prepare the report as soon as possible.”

The ASI team met the local authorities and explained their expectations regarding the security of the place how to neutralise the local excitement. The village head and local police station were instructed to cover the area and stop any kind of further digging. The temples have already got few dents due to the unprofessional digging and the ASI officials stressed on putting a barricade to stop further damage.

While it was just a park that was on the cards, the local authorities are now expecting a tourism spot revolving on the historical aspects of these two temples. For the time being, they are keeping a close watch on the area and have also managed to set up lights during the night to make sure that there is no unnecessary loss of information.

Relic tourism
The eastern region of India especially West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, and Jharkhand have seen a plethora of religious as well as ethnic diversity since centuries. From the Buddhist settlement in Bodh Gaya and their gradual spread in and around eastern India to the likes of Vaishnavas and various sects of Hinduism practised their culture here. The likes of Moghalmari in West Midnapore district of West Bengal where almost three decades of excavation revealed a Buddhist settlement also adds another hue to this mysterious finding.

History lovers and story seekers have always found their way to dig the reality out of these unique discoveries. While the eastern state is aiming to promote itself as a one-stop destination for all kind of tourists, the unearthing of these two temples near Burdwan definitely has a positive prospect for West Bengal’s tourism industry.
Keep an eye on this space to follow the updates from the unique hamlet nearby the railway station Galsi that recently witnessed the emergence of these two shaman relics.

source: http://www.mediaindia.eu / Media India Group / Home> Tourism / by Sudipto Roy / Kolkata / October 27th, 2017

The Calcutta Chromosome

An empathetic look at a heartbreaking city

The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta Kushanava Choudhury (Bloomsbury Circus 241 pages; Rs 499)

Calcutta is personal. And the front flap blurb contains all the trigger words: immigrant, Princeton, British Raj, mosquitoes, hawkers, fish-sellers. Would this be another book balancing nostalgia with wide-eyed wonder? Or would it hit the road running in one more case of parachute authoring? Or, worse, would it be a supercilious outsider’s take on a city that is easy to love, easy to hate, but hard to know?

Calcutta, that most storied of cities, has been subjected to all kinds, right from Geoffrey Moorhouse’s 1971 work to Amit Chaudhuri’s Two Years in the City (2013). In recent years, it has been best served by Strangely Beloved: Writings on Calcutta (2014), a compilation of essays and excerpts that, by virtue of its format, held up special-interest mirrors to facets of the city, from the Eastern Calcutta wetlands to the soundscape that birthed India’s first rock band. The flipside is the academic undertone that robs the city of some of its joy, and the nostalgia shoehorn that depletes some immediacy.

Superficially, The Epic City has none of those problems: Kushanava Choudhury spent some of his childhood years in Calcutta and then comes back to work in the city as a reporter at The Statesman (peeve: the article is part of the masthead, so why lose it?) at the turn of the millennium as a fresh Ivy League graduate. “Like the revolutionaries of my parents’ generation, I wanted to change things…My best hope for making a difference was to work at a newspaper.” To translate those efforts to “make a difference” into a book would be a straight card into disaster zone. Where Choudhury scores emphatically is in twinning his heart, mind and soul — his own story — with the city’s to forge a work that is as gritty as the Beleghata canals, as wondrous as Kumortuli, as determinative as the Partition.

Groomed in the shoe-leather reporting The Statesman was once renowned for (the newspaper’s decline is an obvious parallel for the city), Choudhury lends depth to his observations with lightly worn erudition to produce one of the most readable accounts of a world city. Casual chats with relations, friends, colleagues merge seamlessly with purposeful conversations with trade unionists, little magazine archivists, impoverished scions of Calcutta’s oldest families, descendents of refugees, small publishers, idol sculptors. Underlying it all is an understanding of cultural crosscurrents — Satyajit Ray, of course, but more (and more powerfully) Ritwik Ghatak, Michael Madhusudan Dutt but also Mujtaba Ali — and an instinctive sense of history that burrows into unarticulated spaces, uncomfortable silences.

Cleverly constructed and utterly relevant as each of the 14 chapters of the book is in conveying Choudhury’s clear-eyed vision of the city, two, in my mind stand out. In ‘College Street’, the essay that opens the core section, the author uses a favourite trope for all city chroniclers to eviscerate one of its most fondly held myths: Of Calcutta as a centre of learning. Traipsing through the portals of little magazines and past “rainwater and dog shit” of university avenue, Choudhury trains his guns on the “notes business”, which finesses the education system to ensure intellectual stagnation more effectively than the much-reviled brain drain ever could.

The mood of The Epic City grows darker as it investigates the methodical de-industrialisation of Calcutta — the old factories in the southern reaches memorialised only as bus-stops such as Bengal Lamp and Usha — the rarely acknowledged Hindu-Muslim divide (including at The Statesman, as cosmopolitan as the city likes to think itself to be) and, in ‘Russian Dolls’, it culminates in a familial account of the run-up to Partition and its aftermath.

Weaving together the devastating sequence of the World War II in Europe, the Churchill-directed Bengal famine, the consequences of Direct Action Day with his own grandparents’ displacement from East Pakistan and pitching forward to the rise of the Communists and the Naxal rebellion to his father’s decision to migrate, Choudhury creates a stunning, tight fabric of continuum. Always empathetic, mostly sharp and frequently insightful, this is a heart-full work on a heartbreaking city, notwithstanding the gaping hole of the post-2011 Mamata Banerjee years. While it might even impress the resident Calcuttan, it is definitely recommended for anyone else ever touched by the city.

Sumana Mukherjee is a writer in Bengaluru

source: http://www.indianexpress.com / The Indian Express / Home> Lifestyle> Books / by Sumana Mukherjee / October 07th, 2017

‘Girija Devi’s demise an irreparable loss to Banaras Gharana’

Even at 88 her scintillating voice could leave the audience spell bound

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Highlights

Girija Devi, fondly known as Appa ji, passed away in a hospital in Kolkata on Tuesday evening. She was 88.

She worked as a faculty member of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkata in the 1980s and of the Banaras Hindu University during the early 1990s

She was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 2016
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Varanasi :

Demise of great vocalist and Thumri queen Girija Devi came as a big shocker to the music lovers of Varanasi, the birth place of the eminent singer. Girija Devi, fondly known as Appa ji, passed away in a hospital in Kolkata on Tuesday evening. She was 88.

“It is an irreparable loss to Indian music and Banaras Gharana of music. She was a guiding figure for us,” said noted Sarod player and Yash Bharati recipient Pt. Vikash Maharaj. “She was ailing for some time, and admitted to BM Birla Hospital in Kolkata in the morning. She left for the heavenly abode in the evening,” he said adding that she had been living in Kolkata with her daughter.

“No one can fill the gap. Even at 88 her scintillating voice could leave the audience spell bound. She was perhaps the last exponent of thumri, tappa, chaiti and khayal. I heard her singing in an award ceremony in New Delhi on August 27,” said Ashok Kapoor, founder of a cultural organization Kala Prakash working for the cause of Indian music.

Though settled in Kolkata, she regularly visited Varanasi. She was born in Varanasi in 1929. She took lessons in singing khayal and tappa from vocalist Sarju Prasad Misra in early childhood. She worked as a faculty member of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkata in the 1980s and of the Banaras Hindu University during the early 1990s. She was a prominent performer of purabi ang thumri style of Banaras gharana. She was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 2016.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> India News / by Binay Singh / TNN / October 25th, 2017