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Monday, September 14, 2020

Virusasur Mardini-Mahalaya with a Difference

Mahalaya is round the corner and most of us are not feeling the vibe this time thanks to COVID-19! There is also an unusual wait of 35 days between Mahalaya and the start of Durga Puja. ‘Sarater Akash’ (autumn sky) which gives us the goosebumps in anticipation of Bengal’s biggest festival is failing to trigger that sense of happiness. ‘Kaash-phool’ which is a symbolical harbinger of this special month is suddenly appearing ordinary on the roadside. COVID numbers in India and in the state are alarming with no immediate hope of the numbers coming down. A large number of people have succumbed to comorbidities after being infected by the virus. This ‘virusasur’ with a mysterious origin in China has led to large scale infections and deaths across the globe leading to negative economic growth and job losses. 


Over the years, before this pandemic derailed normal life, the coming of Mahalaya signalled the upcoming Puja holidays in schools and colleges and the busy professionals also eagerly looked forward to few days of break from their routine life. This year sadly Sundays have also lost their charm. It’s mostly work from home and compulsorily study from home. The madness and the euphoria over pre puja shopping are also missing and we joke among friends that if at all you buy something you buy PPE suit, face shield, masks of various designs and sanitizer bottles. Some puja pandals across the city have started constructing pandals but the enthusiasm is missing for the medium and small pujas as budget is a big constraint this year. Last day as I was walking past one of the idol-making units in my locality I could see the dwindling numbers of idols being prepared. There is an overbearing gloom which has cast its shadow on Ma Durga also. The festival special publications like Anandamela, Suktara and others are out and on display at various newspaper corners but they fail to invoke the “Pujo” mood. Durga Puja has always been about life and positive vibes and this virus has hit its soul. Durga Puja was the source of livelihood for many and this year they are staring at the darkness. In a few days, we will be listening to the morning Mahalaya Chandipath by legendary Birendra Krishna Bhadra but the spirit to look up to it is somewhere missing. 



Let’s have a different way of looking at it! In my lifetime there was never a Mahalaya after which there was a 35 days gap for the Puja to begin. Viswakarma Puja, which has always been about colourful kite flying for me, is coinciding with Mahalaya. Can stay at home be any better! Invoking the Goddess in the morning and following it up with kite flying during the day on the rooftop is pure bliss. Yes, hoardings which start coming up across various streets of Kolkata are missing but that makes it much cleaner. For years now Durga Puja has been about the pomp and vulgar display of wealth by various Puja committees in a bid to be the first among equals. This year it’s more about the inner essence and reverence. People used to run to various travel destinations during Puja break. The numbers are going to be less this time allowing those who used to miss the puja festivities to stay put in the city and feel the Puja vibes with their family members. The maddening crowd on the streets will be less, giving a rare sense of serenity. This year it promises to be different and the indomitable spirit within us will ensure that we make the most of the opportunities. Ma Durga will be specially armed to deal with this ‘virusasur’. Make no mistake. This Mahalaya is a rare occurrence and no matter what the scriptures say there is nothing unholy about it! 

Image Source: Mahalaya- 

Image Source Kite Flying :

Friday, April 5, 2013

Research, Bolpur, Santiniketan And More

It’s now about three weeks that I am back from Santiniketan in Bolpur and no wonder that I am not feeling good about it. Staying there weeklong has been a sweet experience, a rare sweet experience amidst all the not so sweet experiences of late. I landed up in Bolpur to survey a set of respondents for my research. Earlier I have been to the place once, guided by a real bright talent of Visvabharati University (not belonging to the mass communication fraternity). Things were more hectic last time with the scorching heat of the summer months and a pilot study which was to be completed in tight schedule. A final study was due and I went there with a week in hand to complete the work. The student of Visvabharati University could not make it this time as his period of study has ended few months back and he was back home. However, I was lucky to get two new contacts. These two new contacts eased up my initial anxiety as the local population gradually cooperated with me. People in Bolpur are different and I could sense that I am in august company. The rickshaw puller who took me to the hotel on Bhubhandanga sounded quite knowledgeable. Bolpur is not the epitome of materialistic accomplishment; it is the embodiment of simple inner happiness. One of my local contacts, a busy and jovial journalist, made a prior booking of the hotel. I paid the advance and got the key to my room. I cleaned myself, had my lunch and talked to the journalist over phone. He was in between an unfolding news story and promised to turn up in the evening. I got time to chalk out my action plan-where to go first, how to approach people etc. I went through my questionnaire and tried to correct typing errors if any. It was a matter of about hundred respondents, representing a cross section of the population. Daylight waned over the streets of Bolpur and the fading light ushered in a mystic evening. The Journalist turned up at the hotel with a smile. He was talking over phone to someone regarding my issue, looking for prospective respondents I thought. We went out without wasting any more time and were soon asking people to spare some of their valuable time to give tick marks beside a set of options. Some complied with our request while some were not so forthcoming. Bolpur though, true to its spirit, was mostly cooperative.

The next day I turned up at Padma Bhavana at Visvabharathi University. A famed professor of Geography department was my second contact person. I have met him once earlier in one of his book launch ceremonies in Kolkata. A man who was not fond of wasting his time over “fixing issues” and lazy gossip, this professor was a lot different from the general yardstick. He was among a few researchers in India who could undertake innovative means to pursue his area of interest. His energy was infectious on those who were around him. Truly international in spirit and resembling Paulo Coelho in looks, I was more than glad to meet him with my research idea and a set of questionnaires. He found interest in my area of study and introduced me to some of the students. He briefed them about their role and the students gladly agreed to help me in my research. I myself being a part of a University can say it with conviction that students of Visvabharati take academic issues in proper light and are highly cooperative. They are keen to participate and learn and don’t give the “I know things better than you” stare. Boys and girls were overenthusiastic to shoulder the responsibility of meeting members of different households in their locality. Number of filled up questionnaires swelled in a jiffy. Two rickshaw pullers in front of my hotel also helped me reach prospective respondents. The five days of my survey in Bolpur turned out to be highly productive.

The journalist continued to back up with his resources wherever he could. Working in the wee hours of night on a story, he was never disturbed when I called. While during the day I was busy completing my objective in the night I went out for a walk to feel the pulse of Shantiniketan and adjoining areas. The serene roads, devoid of busy traffic and blaring horns, were very different from the cacophony of Kolkata. As I strolled past the Upasana Griha in Santiniketan I could not but praise the endeavour of Rabindranath Tagore in conceiving the idea of Visvabharathi. This educational institute was started by a man who did not have formal learning and schooling and whose philosophy about teaching was –“Knock at the doors of the mind. If any boy is asked to give an account of what is awakened in him by such knocking, he will probably say something silly. For what happens within is much bigger than what comes out in words. Those who pin their faith on university examinations as the test of education take no account of this.1 Skeptics might argue that this educational spirit of Rabindranath has now been diluted but they cannot point fingers at the upkeep of Visvabharathi University which is truly world class. One evening I took a rickshaw to the Gitanjali cinema hall. They were showing the movie The Attacks of 26/11. A balcony ticket came really cheap and I went in to see this latest Ram Gopal Verma thriller. As expected Ram Gopal dished out something which was not really appreciable. Coming out from the hall I sauntered towards the restaurant which caught my attention while entering the complex for buying tickets. Ghare Baire, a restaurant which offers authentic Bengali cuisine was adjacent to the cinema hall. The men who were taking orders at the restaurant wore traditional Bengali dress. I settled for some light snacks and a big cup of tea which was served in a beautiful earthen pot or “Bhar”. The interiors of the restaurant were highly influenced by creative exploits of Rabindranath Tagore. Lines from his poem decorated the ceiling. Different shades of his painting was also lighting up the atmosphere. Earlier when I came to Bolpur I had a pleasant experience of Alcha Boutique and Restaurant. This time Ghare Baire proved to be really interesting.

I have been to four other places for my research but there was something special about Bolpur. No wonder that tourists pour in from all corners of the globe during Poush Mela and Basanta Utsav in Santiniketan. There is life in this place. It liberates the soul and brings in lot of fresh air. Amidst all the dullness of modern life Bolpur holds a promise of “good times”.

1. Source: Wikipedia.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Blogging Your Way To The Future

When we blog we are using a new media platform. "New Media" is attracting a lot of attention these days because of the possibilities which are on offer. Starting from the days of static web pages we are already a part of an interactive web environment thanks to web 2.0. Now we are in the midst of a social media revolution where creativity is finding a shared environment to thrive. Facebook, Myspace, twitter and other networking sites are allowing an alternative media space for different voices to be heard. It's really interesting to upload images, ideas and observations over these platforms, tag friends and seek their response. However, critics have opined that this open creative space is getting diluted by over usage of self advertorial material and cynical way of looking at things. That is an area of study which we will approach in a subsequent paragraph. Now to ponder on this issue closely, research and in depth study on new media is somewhat complex. There are already "self styled new media experts" who are claiming to have decoded this new phenomenon threadbare. I will not criticize these "intellectual thinkers" but will like to add that to be expert on new media, which is a vague term in itself, active practical usage of the medium is a must. We can be academically rooted to this media and don the hat of an expert but that is total disservice to its very essence. 
pic source:

When I blog or discuss about 'new media' I accept that I am a humble learner. I will discuss things from the perspective of a learner, not an expert because being an expert on new media is risky given its constantly changing nature. Blogs bring in a whiff of fresh air because there is space to think differently and talk one's own mind. Mainstream media like television, newspaper and radio is top heavy with little space to be dispassionate and objective on issues. Paid news is a problem that needs to be given proper attention. It is an alarming development and has all the ingredients to subvert democracy. When ideas are twisted from the top to serve various interests little is left to honest assessment.According to Press Council of India’s draft report of enquiry titled “Paid News: How corruption in the Indian Media Undermines Indian Democracy” deception happens at three levels:

a) The reader or the viewer is made to believe an advertisement as independently produced news content.

b)  Candidates contesting elections do not disclose the true expenditure incurred on campaigning, thereby violating the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.

c) The newspapers and television channels concerned usually receive funds for ‘paid news’ in cash and do not disclose such earnings in their company balance sheets or official statements of accounts. Thereby the media company or its representatives violate the provision of the Companies Act, 1956 as well as the Income Tax Act, 1961 among other laws. [1]

These are some dangerous observations coming from the office of the Press Council of India. This is where blogs and other social media platforms come into relevance. The recent blasts in Hyderabad led to innumerable posts from netizens on facebook and twitter. It was enlivening to see various individuals sharing emergency numbers to help those who are in distress. The care for fellow human beings might have taken a digital turn but these developments are always heartening in times when cut throat competition and strive for more and more personal gains are wiping out finer qualities. 

As discussed earlier, there is a growing concern over tendency to be self obsessed and cynical in social media. Criticism is always good when it is constructive but equally damaging when done just for the sake of it. Looking with skeptical  eyes on each and every development stems from cynicism. This trend has to be curbed for a vibrant virtual space. The growing authority of alternative ideas which is forcing different governments to step back under pressure and use highly questionable means to control, gets undermined when used for cynical jibes and sharing pages which always profess "doom". Social media cannot just be used to state whether one has brushed his teeth in the morning or not. It can be used for effective means. While it is true that facebook, myspace and twitter have ignited the imagination of young minds, blogs are yet to have the same impact. Blogs can be used to engage communities who are serious about knowing all sides of a developing story, engage over meaningful discussion on social issues and exchange ideas for progress and change. Though academic communities in western countries are using blogs to interact with students and also throw valuable insight to research, this trend is yet to catch up with academicians in eastern countries specially India. When the world is looking for new methods of teaching it is time to come out of the shackles of polemics and try something worthwhile. Teachers and students are all running after theoretical knowledge and their expertise is getting judged by marks. However, education is about using the acquired knowledge for greater good and not about being smart with marks and short of ideas. Dynamism, the key word in this changed global system, is in delivering new ideas. New media is ushering in a new education environment where application and ingenuity are in more demand than mockery of marks. Serious news can be catered over blogs if the intent is serious. Though tough at times, credibility of news blogs can be established by maintaining objective standards. Why not think of a time when a good investigative story gets published in a blog? Why not think of a day when journalists jostle for serious blogging? Lets hope for a time when a political commentary in a blog has thousands of followers, each expressing their point of view with utmost freedom!  

[1] Source: Emerging trends in the Indian Media Landscape-Malaise of Paid-Content and the Need for Greater Accountability. Pitabas Pradhan in Media Watch Journal, Volume 3, Number 1, January-June 2012. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Evening Handbags and How to Get Hold of the Best Ones

There are many different events and occasions that we women attend or grace to all year long, some are annual events like birthday celebrations while some are once in a lifetime moments that we simply cannot forgo. It could be a dinner engagement, a big client meeting wherein you need to seal the deal, and a whole lot more. And during these important and precious moments, you need to look as special as the event by dressing up well and carrying the necessary fashion items and accessories. And when it comes to accessories, all women should be carrying those elegant fashion purses with them. So here are some important thoughts and reminders when picking those ladies handbags and purses that will accentuate your outfit and help you leave a lasting impression.

Sizing, Colors, and Textures Count

First off, you need to consider a number of aspects before paying for any evening bag or fashion purse that catches your attention whether in the stores, boutiques or most especially online. And one of them is the size of the bags or purses that will match and compliment you and the clothes that you wear. Generally, speaking, bags during special evening affairs like dates and intimate meetings should not be able to cause you stress and hassle as far as having to carry them is concerned, so opt for something that is smaller than the average bag but make sure that is offers enough space to carry all your valuables that you need to bring for the night like your wallet, keys, and maybe some makeup.
pic source: 
Next are the colors of the ladies handbags or fashion purses and getting them right. To save you from headaches in choosing the right colors, stick to the safe and neutral ones like black, silver and gold which are quite versatile to mix and match with almost all sorts of outfit colors, particularly the solid-colored ones.

And lastly, choosing the right textures and patterns of the fashion purses. As a rule of thumb, go for something that sort of contrasts your outfit. If you are wearing something that is plain-colored and is streamlined, then go for ladies handbags that are textured such as leather, especially the exotic ones. Just try to mix them in order to create more character.
Never Forget Price And Quality

And of course, you should always be mindful of the price range that you can afford and the quality that you expect to get from the ladies handbags and fashion purses that you will be buying. Set a budget and stick to it so that you will be able to trim down your choices. You really need not spend a lot of money to enjoy something that is stylish especially if you will be purchasing online. But do make sure of the quality that you will be getting. If you are buying in the stores, examine the quality of the bags carefully. Check the stitching, the lining and the materials that were used. If you will be buying online, do some research on the reputation of the websites you will be buying from.

About the Author-

Patricia May has been writing about general fashion and chic handbags which she truly loves to death.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Film Review: The Magic of Barfi

I am an ardent film lover, a movie buff, whose definition of an ideal weekend is definitely a trip to the multiplex!!!
Source: UTV Motion Pictures

Barifi came as a whiff of fresh air, when I went to watch it this Friday!!!

Set in the 1970’s West Bengal with its beautiful retro looks and pastel shaded surroundings, Barfi’ is the story of a deaf –and-mute person named Murphy who is popular by the name Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor). In spite of his physical challenges, Barfi is brimming with energy, magic and music! The film portrays his relationships with two women (Ileana D’Cruz & Priyanka Chopra) in his life and how it goes through a roller coaster ride of love, friendship, heartbreak , pain and union over a period of six years. Barfi is filmed in Darjeeling where the mist, tea gardens, and the settings of the famous coffee joint, Keventers will bring back memories buried deep within. In the second half you get to see Barfi set in the alleys of North Kolkata, with the Howrah Bridge in the back drop.

The Story is simple and yet refreshingly different, reminding you of classics of Raj Kapoor style and of films like Sadma. Screenplay is awesomely done, and it is particularly commendable the way the writer weaves a tale of love which seems so close to real life. The story is about Barfi’s journey of love with Shruti and Jhilmil . Shruti -- a beautiful girl, soon finds herself falling for Barfi’s magic touch in spite of acknowledging the differences they had socially and she being engaged to Ranjit ( Jishu Sengupta) already. The romance blooms between the two as Barfi charms her with his innocence, his happy ways, his smiles, and his energy. The two share bicycle rides through pine forests, horse-saddles and their very tender midnight kiss for the first time. As the film progresses pathos sets in over concerns involving engagement rings to the kidnapping of an autistic young woman called Jhilmil (which is the central plot.) Things change and gear faster than Barfi would understand.

In the turn of events Barfi falls for Jhilmil later, understands her ways, sets her free, nurtures her like a knight in shining armour and finds a new definition of love with her.

We see the characters of Barfi, Shruti and Jhuilmil meet in the cross roads of life. Shruti breaks free from her love less marriage to come back to Barfi, and Barfi madly chases Jhilmil.

The music is stupendous and Pritam brilliantly make us croon the songs long long even after hearing them. ‘Main Kya Karon’ romantically tells us the magic one feels after falling in love, ‘Ala Barfi is a superb character description of Barfi himself. A beautiful gazal in the second half shares the pain and helplessness of meeting ones lost love suddenly after long!

The cinematography is flawless and Anurag Basu’s direction is powerful too. We see ace Bengali actors like Ashish Vidyarthi, Jishu Sengupta and Rupa Ganguly in Barfi. Use of Chaplinistic comedies and Raj Kapoor styled dressing and romance has ornamented the films with many jewels. This film is a must watch in all respects.

Barfi teaches you that love has its own language, own music, own expressions which alone makes life worth living, you have to be in love and relish the gains, pains and sweet nothings that comes your way….

Please go and watch this beautiful film!

About the Author- 

Srirupa Ganguly lives in Hyderabad and is in perennial love with writing. Having a distinct style of her own and wide experience in writing for quite a period of time, she is known for her insightful view on events.

Virusasur Mardini-Mahalaya with a Difference

Mahalaya is round the corner and most of us are not feeling the vibe this time thanks to COVID-19! There is also an unusual wait of 35 days...