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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pujo 2011: Poshak and Paduka

Clothes and shoes. Huh. I'm not much a stickler for the new-outfit tradition, and I have no qualms about wearing something twice within the festival or wearing something that I've just worn before for a few hours. Anyway nowadays most people don't buy new trousers every time, just the tops. So that's what I did. I bought a couple of new tops, wore one which I had worn only one before (last Pujo!) and one which I had worn in the SPICE Club Congress. And no new trousers. Only instead of keeping just one pair active at a time (which I usually do), I had both my pairs of jeans out, along with my two semi-formal pairs. So that makes four pairs. Enough, don't you think?
I usually don't buy new shoes, and this time too I technically didn't. However, for the song costume at the Congress, our school's team wore identical black ballerina shoes. So they were practically unworn. They weren't too ballerina either, if you know what I mean, so they went with almost anything. I wouldn't wear them in the rough and tough of daily life of course, but they were sturdy enough to walk about in. So for the days of Pujo, I wore that pair. Then, back to good old sneakers. :P
This is the end of the Pujo series. I think I'll do a Diwali and Kali Pujo theme starting tomorrow or coming weekend. But no promises.

Pujo 2011: Pet-Pujo (ie. fooood!)

Mahashashthi (sixth day of lunar waxing in the month of Aashvin, customary day for beginning the celebrations): Simple home-cooked food. Nothing worth mentioning. The next four days I ate at Buzz Court, the multicuisine food court in the new snazzy Junction Mall, which is the first proper mall here in my opinion. The others are shopping complexes, that's what I think.
Buzz Court is a hassle-free place. You get a debit card made at a counter for some round number, use it at all stalls, and take home the balance.
Mahasaptami (seventh day of the same): Buzz court has several stalls of different cuisines and types of food. On Saptami I ate chicken sandwiches from Pop Tates. Mom took veg sandwiches. I also ate a scoop of butterscotch ice-cream topped with M&Ms from the stall of the famous Cream and Fudge Factory, which is inside Buzz Court as well.
Mahaashtami (eighth day of the same): This day I ate a couple of tikkas and aloo paratha from Kebabilicious. Ice-cream was a scoop of chocolate ice-cream with white chocolate chips. Way to combine two choco tastes. :D
Mahanabami (ninth, obviously): I ate crispy noodles with soup and chicken momos from Shanghai Noon. Mum took some curry and kulcha from another stall along with her share of the veg momos. I finished with a scoop of sweet cream ice-cream with chocolate chips. Yum!
Bijoya Dashami (tenth lunar day): This was our totally Indian day, and we took food from Garam Masala and Kebabilicious. We ate dal makhani with aloo paratha. For dessert I ate a scoop of chocolate ice-cream.

We ate rolls from outside one of the evenings too, and Mom cooked good stuff at home. We also had stocked up on our dessert at home, making the Pujas a complete gastronomic delight. But my favourite part was the ice-cream from Cream and Fudge Factory.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pujo 2011: Pandals & Protimas

Mahashashthi (sixth day of lunar waxing in the month of Aashvin, customary day for beginning the celebrations): The goddess's arrival. The first part of the day I just relaxed at home. In the evening I went out. I kicked off the pandal-hopping, of course, by visiting my colony's Puja pandal. They used an orange-based colour scheme for the pandal and white-based decorations for the protima (idol). I visited just one other Puja that day: the Vatican City-inspired pandal at Choturongo grounds. The pandal resembled Roman architecture, and the idol was pale-skinned and light-haired to keep with the theme. As is customary, I wore new clothes. I didn't buy too many new ones -- in our family we don't insist on new clothes for each day, and buy only if we find ones we like. The only compulsive custom is to wear new on Shashthi, the rest is, in the traditional sense, optional though almost everyone with the means opts for it.
Mahasaptami (seventh day of the same): I didn't go anywhere in the morning. I ate out for lunch (more on that later) where I met two of my friends. They were all hanging out at the Choturongo pandal and asked me to come, but that day I went out in the evening elsewhere: we took Granny to see the colony pandal where we watched some of the ongoing cultural programmes too. There's a relatively easily accessible pandal (compared to the other award-winners), the Poshchimanchol pandal, so we took Granny along to that one, which is why is took us some extra time. They had made a really imposing, golden-coloured temple and a very pretty idol, the face of which was beautifully crafted, very close to the traditional majestic face of Goddess Durga. I met one of my classmates at this pandal, which is always an added bonus.
Mahaashtami (eighth day of the same): I ate out for lunch on Ashtami too. Then I visited the Cement Park pandal. It was not themed but was pretty, decorated with grains, sand, etc. and I liked the idol. It is a unique Puja because it has it's Kumari Puja (the worship of a young girl as the goddess) on Nabami instead of the traditional Ashtami. Then I visited the Anandabihar pandal. It was a dark red-based colour scheme and a traditional idol. The whole thing was very neat and looked beautiful. In the evening I visited the Marconi Dakshinpalli pandal, which wins district- and state-level honours every time and this time was no different. Like some previous years, the honours included the Bengali TV channel 24 Ghanta's Best Puja of Burdwan District. It was also the 51st year of this Puja. They had replicated the famous Somnath Temple of Gujarat, and like every year the craftsmanship of both the pandal-makers and idol-makers was excellent. The idol was not the traditional idol, but wasn't strikingly unconventional either. It's size and beauty was impressive, but the integration into the theme was not as seamless as the previous years. The only flaws of the Marconi Puja were in comparison to it's glorious record -- independently it's hardly fit for criticism. They had even invited two real ascetics to sit on the temple foyer and do real yajna. I also passed by several small Pujas which I peeped into, for increasing my pandal-hopping count, both this day and the next. In the evening I went to the Choturongo gathering of my classmates, many of whom live near there and more come there to meet them. Choturongo is the Pujo adda place for many groups of friends as it is the locality Puja of a large number of people.
Mahanabami (ninth, obviously): Lunch out again, and I visited the most pandals this day. I visited the pandal at the Chandidas market which was inspired by Dakhineshwar temple. The red lighting inside was impressive and added to the effect, but the idols were too small. Then Mom suggested that we visit the Fuljhore pandal, right beside my school, so she drove straight there, and it was worth covering the distance. The pandal was in the shape of a giant palanquin with two giant bearers. All around there was artwork. And all this was done using construction material. There was no paint. Intricate designs, and even the whole surface of the idols, including weapons, jewellery and hair was made, and perfect expressions were crafted on the idols, without any paint. For straight hair and border lines they used small construction chips and for curly hair they used the big ones. Skin was made with sand. In the artwork all around, broken pieces of burnt clay from flower-pots were used for shapes like heads and sailboats. Pebbles were used for the gemstones in jewellery and figures in the artwork. Sand was glued on in various shapes for everything from waves to clouds. Out of all the pandals I saw, I liked this one the best, and Mom agrees with me. After Fuljhore I came back nearer home and visited the Joydev pandal which was winning awards for the past few years but was an utter disappointment this time. There was no delicate craftsmanship or well-executed theme. They called it 'Disney World' but nothing was done properly. There were just imperfect representations of cartoons. All the characters shown (imperfectly) were not even Disney characters: they included non-Disney characters like Tom & Jerry, Ben10 and Bugs Bunny. They even had manga characters like Goku and Indian cartoons like Chhota Bheem. It was like a bad dream. I hadn't expected this from Joydev: their last few pandals had been really outstanding. On Nabami too I went to hang out at Choturongo.
Bijoya Dashami (tenth lunar day): Maha or 'great' is added to the usual names of lunar days to signify that they are the Durga Puja days. For Dashami, however, the prefix Bijoya or Vijaya is used. Bijoy means 'victory', and due to the mythological background of Durga Puja, this day is specially significant of the triumph of good over evil. This is the last day of Durga Puja, when the goddess is said to return to her Heavenly Abode on Mount Kailash (the mountain is really there; creepy, huh?). Traditionally the straw and clay idols are immersed in water bodies in the evening on this day, after sindoor khela and feeding of sweets. After immersion, till Laxmi Puja, is the Bijoya period, when greetings of 'Shubho Bijoya' and sweets are exchanged and blessings are sought. Nowadays, however, the themed pandals draw huge crowds, and not only does the pandal hopping begin before Shashthi, but it also continues on and beyond Dashami. Several Puja organisers keep a smaller idol which is actually worshipped and immersed on schedule while the large decorative one is kept longer for show. Others carry out symbolic immersion, which is a compulsion in Pujas outside India where environmental norms do not make provision for the minority festival. Here, cleaning of the water after immersion is undertaken. This time, a few Pujas like the one in my colony, delayed the immersion for a day, not because of show (ours is a non-themed Puja) but because Dashami was on Thursday and journeying on Thursdays is inauspicious. Bijoya Dashami is my lunar birthday, which means that the moon was in the same phase, and it was Bijoya Dashami, when I was born, though the calendar date varies every year. So my mother cooks payesh for me on this day. Usually I watch the immersion procession of the colony pandal, click photos, etc. and then eat my ceremonial payesh, but in this case the immersion was on Ekadoshi (eleventh lunar day) and so the routine was different. Also, I visited one last pandal on Dashami which had delayed immersion (probably for show cuz it was awesome). It was the David Hare Road pandal, where the decorations were done in contrasted colours with golden sitting Buddha idols all around. The protima (idol, remember?) was made entirely out of paper, and the gods and goddesses along with their vahans (transport animals) and all the supports and idol decorations together weighed only 19 kilograms. Awesome, right? At the David Hare pandal too, I met a classmate and also a junior. Meeting schoolmates and teachers at pandals always feels nice. I, for one, anyway like meeting people from school outside.
শুভ বিজয়া!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pujo 2011: Preface

Durga Puja is close to every Bengali's heart. This year the main celebrations were from 2nd to 7th October. I was celebrating all these days, so the Pujo special on my blog comes up now. The next few posts will be about my doings during Durga Puja: the pandals, the pujobarshiki (annual Pujo release of magazines: I read the Bengali magazine Anandamela regularly), the pet-pujo (colloquial term, means 'tummy-worship', ie. eating), the poshak(clothes) and paduka (footwear), and all other things Pujo.
I will also write about the post-Pujo Bijoya happenings, which are again an oh-so-Bengali thing: the greetings and mishti -- sweets -- celebtrating the victory of good over evil, touching the feet of elders, blessing the younger, etc. etc. Hope everyone likes the Pujo & Bijoya Special look of my blog.

SPICE Club Congress YouTube Video Day 1 Parts 2&3

Prayer Dance and Prayer Service Enactment of the Inaugural Session are now live on YouTube.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

SPICE Club Congress YouTube Video Day 1 Part 1

Though the official SPICE Club special of my blog is over and will be replaced soon by the Pujo & Bijoya Special, the YouTube videos of the Congress, which are gradually being updated after editing of the CDs the school gave, will keep coming. Here is the first one. Lookie. But remember, it's existence depends on the complete approval of the YouTube bosses and my school peeps. Otherwise I might have to go through more editing.

The four days of SPICE -- Day 4

I don't remember what exactly I was dreaming about, but I was rudely awakened by one of my teammates. It was 6:25. Our Animator had already arrived, and Morning Prayer was at 6:30. Somehow, I tumbled out and freshened up, changed into jeans and ran to the auditorium. I spent the prayer sleepily, thankfully closing my eyes during meditation. Oh, I was so tired.
It was the last day, and there was a solemn undertone to everything. After the usual breakfast of luchi and potatoes, Sr. Sarita A.C. the principal of the Kharagpur school, gave a talk about 'Peace At All Levels', including Peace with God, oneself, others, and one's past and future. Then, after a break, we had the Skit event, with the theme 'Go Green and Clean'. Kharagpur came first while M.A.M.C. came second. Our skit was called 'Garbage Diet', and was an adapted (and Indianized) version of an American story where a family, at the urging of their youngest, goes on a drive to minimize their garbage output.
The Closing Ceremony was performed by Carmel Steel, with some performances from other units as well. Sr. Veronica Kamath delivered the Closing Message.
Then the memento boxes were given to the visiting units. The Carmel M.A.M.C. teachers received the trophy for the Best Contribution Award. At last, the time had come for the Overall Performance results to be announced. To judge this, each gold-winning unit was awarded 5 points, each silver-winning unit 3 points, and 1 point for bronze. Ties were broken with the number of consolation prizes won. (I'm not sure if there were any ties.) There were three beautiful trophies on the prizes table. One by one, M.A.M.C. principal, our dear Sr. Sudipta announced that 2nd Runner-Up was Carmel Jorhat, 1st Runner-Up was St.Agnes Kharagpur, and the Best Overall Performance trophy went to... Carmel M.A.M.C.!!!!!!!
We screamed so much, and clicked so many photos. Each of us clicked a photo with the trophy. Beautiful, right?
Carmel M.A.M.C. Principal Sister Sudipta and Animator Ms. Soma holding the Trophy, with some of the Carmel M.A.M.C. attending unit, in the Auditorium.
(Five of the attendees including myself are not there in this one, I don't have the other photos yet)
Then there was a special lunch of fried rice, chilli chicken, and sweets. Departure was sad. We bade goodbye to many new friends. Last minute exchanges of contact details were done. Borrowed items were returned, lost items were found or mourned. :P Bags were frantically packed, and then at last we left, with heavy hearts and indelible memories.

The four days of SPICE -- Day 3, Second Half

Preparing for the Dance was hectic. We, the M.A.M.C. unit, had Orange as our theme colour. We presented a fusion of Kathak, Bharatnatyam and Contemporary dance to a medley of three music tracks, some narration and Vande Mataram. So we had different costumes for each dance form. The two Bharatnatyam dancers had the traditional costume in orange, gold and black. The two Kathak dancers (including me) had the two-piece version of the traditional costume: orange top and lehenga with golden dupatta across the front, above the head and around the back, with golden cummerbunds. The Kathak and Bharatnatyam dancers wore traditional jewellery and long plaits and the requisite number of ghungroo which was of course much more (>100) for the Kathak dancers. The decorative painting of the hands and feet in red colour was also done. Make-up was done in natural shades. For the four Contemporary dancers, the costume was orange bandhgala with a golden V in front and orange leggings. Their hair was done in buns and make-up was done in natural shades except for some green eye make-up. As with all other events, it was a rule to wear the SPICE Club badge over all costume in this event also. As one teacher commented, we looked 'all gorgeous'. However, that was the least of our concerns as the bell rang for the end of break and we fervently rushed to the auditorium. I actually ran there barefoot. I actually had taken a lot of additional time as only one person could manage my massive amount of natural hair and I had to wait till she had finished with everything else she was doing. :P
The event began after the short introduction of judges, who were, like the singing judges, eminent personalities from outside the present Carmel family. However, the short break seemed like an eternity. Next was a moment of frenzy, as we had planned to start and end with on-stage formations. However, there was no provision of raising and dropping curtains during competitions, so we had to make up entry and exit plans then and there. When it finally began after last minute advice (and threats from our Animator about beating me up if I didn't dance as well as I did the previous day at the Campfire :D), I decided to drop all my thoughts and nervousness and give it everything I had, and smile as much as possible. It was over before I knew it. We nervously sat through the nine other performances, gauging our chances. I had made no mistakes, in fact no one had, so it totally depended now on our basic abilities and the concept. Finally the results were being declared, and I hid my face in my hands, listening to my heartbeat quicken. "...Kharagpur, and bagging the gold, the host school, Carmel M.A.M.C.!"...my mind went blank as my teammates screamed. I opened my mouth to join them, but no sound came out. I ran to join the group hug, and as I found my voice, I cried. And then our unit shouted like there was no tomorrow.
In the short break that followed, we couldn't change completely out of costume. We only removed some of the accessories and the ghungroo. Then, for the second session of the day, Sr. Seeja A.C. from Kolkata, who is also involved with the Carmel Eastern Province's NGO The Ashadeep Trust, spoke. She gave an extremely humorous and interesting talk on "Peace For Social Change". It took away much of our tiredness. Then we changed out of our costumes and attended Evening Prayer, conducted beautifully by Kharagpur and Kutra units. After a dinner of rice, dal, curries and fish, we had the Collage event where five students from each unit were shuffled into mixed teams. The theme was 'Make Earth A Home To Live And Give'. The results were declared the next day: no one from my school was there in the winning group 7, but we had members in the other winning groups.
Only one competitive event was left, the Skit to be held the next day. We relaxed, and the Skit girls rehearsed later into the night while others slept somewhat earlier. I slept really soundly. So soundly, that... well, that's another day's story.

The four days of SPICE -- Day 3, First half

The most eventful day of the Congress dawned: there was the usual Morning Prayer and Meditation, this time by the Jorhat unit, followed by a breakfast of luchi and a different potato curry. Then we had the first session, on Man and Environment, which was in two parts. The first part was by Sister Kiran, the principal of Carmel Steel, and the second part by Mr. Bardhan, a vice-principal of Hem Sheela School. Then we had a tea break.
Next, all the units had to present reports of the Club activities in their respective schools. Creative freedom was given for innovative methods of presentation. Almost everyone had a PowerPoint and narration. Some added songs, dances, skits, etc. The Rourkela unit integrated dialogue and dance into their report. The Keorapukur unit presented it in the form of news-reading like on television. The Keorapukur unit was the only Bengali-medium unit present, and thus were praised for presenting their report in flawless English.
Following this the competitive events of the day began, with the Original Song and Extempore Speech in quick succession. Lots were drawn for the order of performance, and our school was the sixth to sing. The theme of the Original Song competition was 'Peace and Environment'. 8-member teams from each school had to present a song that they had composed on the theme. We, Carmel M.A.M.C., sang an ode to Mother Earth and emerged the winners. Carmel Steel came second.
Our song team's uniform was appreciated by several visiting friends. It was a Scottish-inspired costume, with an off-white full-sleeved ruffled shirt and a green and black-based checkered flat-front straight skirt, knee-length. The shirt buttons matched the skirt. We wore our hair in tight ponytails at the back, accessorised with thin leather-band watches on our right wrist. We wore black stockings and identical black ballerina shoes. There was no break before the next event and I had to do the Extempore Speech in my Song costume. It was troublesome to sit up there in that skirt for so long. :/
Extempore Speech was a mixed team event with two participants from each school mixed into two-member teams. The teams had two minutes of preparation after which each speaker spoke for one minute. I was paired with a nice young girl from Kurseong (We made good friends with the Kurseong and Jorhat units and are still in touch with them.) My team's topic was 'Be the change you wish to see in the world'. I spoke first and well, but my partner's speech was too short. However, the other student from my school won the gold along with her Kharagpur team-mate. My personal luck was bad in both mixed events that I was selected to participate in. After the Extempore Speech event, everyone gathered for a group photo, and then each unit took a group photo. Then it was time for lunch. However, we had drawn lots again and our unit was to go first in the upcoming Choreographic Dance event. To avoid dancing on a full stomach, we had taken extra breakfast and decided to skip lunch. So while the others went to lunch, the 8 dance girls from our school went straight to get dressed for the Dance.
Attendees of SPICE Club Regional Congress Eastern Province 2011 at Carmel M.A.M.C., Durgapur
They include sisters and teachers from the various schools, attending students, and organizing volunteers from the host school. Backdrop: High School building and central garden of Carmel M.A.M.C.
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