Summer Wedding

The scorching heat of the June sun was mercilessly burning down whatever came its way.

But the sultry weather was no match to the spirit of festivity and celebrations.

The celebration of binding two people together, in a bond of sweet surrender to each other.

The celebration of wedding, of a very close friend of mine, Ankit and his lovely wife Preeti.

My first ever chance to witness the grandeur of a North Indian wedding.

Mathura is known for Lord Krishna and ancient history, but to me it’s also the place where my friends and I had humongous fun and spent some memorable moments together. Working in Reliance Industries, served as a thoroughfare of reaching to great pals. My stay there is studded with precious memoirs, which I will treasure all through my journey.

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 The 2010 June sun was indeed merciless, but the warmth of the people out shined it. We were a group of five completely insane people, traveling from Surat to attend Ankit’s wedding ceremony in Mathura, our train reached Mathura in the morning. However I cannot miss to mention, how much we had troubled people in our compartment, by our over exuberant spirits. Two other guys were supposed to join us later, making us the indispensable seven. It might be worthy to mention, how the journey had transformed us to ardent card players, so much, so that we never missed one single opportunity to try our hands at it.

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After a warm welcome with mouth smacking famous “kachoris” of Mathura, we understood that this outing was meant to be memorable in ways more than one. It felt lovely to be amidst people who religiously tried to make us feel at home. After late night card sessions, we slept well and woke up all geared up for an eventful day.

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Ankit had arranged a car for us, and the mean machine was supposed to take us through Agra. And bestow us with the opportunity of witnessing the “wonder of the world”. Won’t say, that a June morning is the best time to appreciate the beauty of this splendor of art! Nevertheless the craftsmen’s skill and aura of the surrounding always makes visiting Sikandra, Fatehpur Sikri, and “Taj Mahal” worth a million.

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 The long awaited ceremonies started in the evening, although a little tired from our expedition, we got all decked up. Happy faces, grandeur of Indian attire, delectable cuisines and most importantly the flashing lights of the disco floor made Ankit’s “Tilak ceremony” a grand success. We danced to the desi beats with full on enthusiasm; all fatigue vanished within a second.

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However more resplendence awaited us the next evening, “the wedding”. Evening dawned with loads of light, shehanayi, colorful flowing chiffon sarees, the shine and shimmer of sequins and much more. Glee and ecstasy flowed past the vastness of the party plot. All possible north Indian dishes were served to the guests. And that’s the uniqueness of the Indian culture; each part of the country is so different from each other yet so similar.

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Ankit dressed like a “Maharaja” waited for his beautiful rani to arrive, and so she did gracefully. Many ceremonies followed and gradually tied two people with the fetters of love, compassion, respect and understanding. A bonding to be cherished lifelong!

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My stay in Mathura will always be special, I could witness my friend’s special moment, spend some free spirited time with good mates and above all I experienced an entire culture so different to the one I am exposed to and this very aspect is intriguing to me and makes the experience very special.

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Thanks to Ankit, Preeti and their lovely families, Thanks to Vikas, Vivek, Sachin, Surjya, Vishal and Udaya for making the experience so cheerful and memorable.

Aritra Chakrabarty Sengupta

Don’t suffocate me, it hurts my soul….

My eyes are mirror, the minor to my inside!

The inside which is sore, the sore which is now a part of me!!

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 She opened her eyes warily, feeling dizzy and weak. Crying not only lets out emotions but vents energy as well. The sun rays on her tear stricken face brought an eerie shine. Yet, she looked beautiful! With trembling legs, she rose from the bed, the bed that witnesses her daily agony!  Blankly she stared at the man, sleeping peacefully. “Do I know him?” she asked in her mind, “Yes, he is the familiar stranger, I live with!” As she carried her fragile body out of her bedroom, her own image in the mirror shocked her. Who is this woman? The smudged kohl, the bruised forehead and traumatized eyes, it was only a shadow of herself! She felt a strange dizzy sensation in her head; her own shrieks suddenly filled the room, she heard her husband shouting with a wolfish grin on his face “Stop misbehaving, I am your legally wedded husband, I am not raping you, I am just loving you” he said. But why does love make her feel sore and humiliated, why doesn’t she love being loved?

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Somewhere in the unknown villages of Odisha, a mother remains worried about her eleven year old daughter. The lively little child has changed a lot in the last ten days. Her playful eyes have lost its twinkle, dark circles have started appearing. The studious child remains fatigued most of the times. A strange fear filled the mother’s heart. But she dared not to ask her, fearing to hear the worst, she chooses to keep silent. Little did she know, that her little child “Munni” was going through a trauma much more than she could ever imagine. It started with her uncle (father’s friend) giving her lift to school, then came chocolates and dolls and at last price for all the favours. “Uncle, I don’t want gifts, please leave me alone” she pleads. “I don’t like when you touch me, I feel dirty”. But her painful mourn never reached her “uncle’s” deaf ear.

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She was a young professional, vibrant, attractive and beaming with confidence. Her parents counted on her for a better life and living. But off late, they have noticed her reluctance to go to office. When asked, she prefers to maintain silence. Arushi, lied on the bed in her room and aimlessly stared at the ceiling fan.  Her deep kohl lined eyes had many questions. “Who am I or What am I? Do I have the right to lead my life with dignity or am I just a commodity to play with? After joining a renowned corporate office, life was beautiful. But her boss’s unwanted attention and favors soon became the reason of suffocation and discomfort in her life. His touch while shaking hands, his stare, his eagerness to drop her home and to dine with her, made her stay at office a nightmare. She could very well perceive his dirty intentions.

A country known for heritage and culture, a country where woman is worshiped as Goddess, is also a country where woman and womanhood is crushed under the cruel blows of rape, eve teasing, female foeticide and other  despicable crimes every second. Off late the country is witnessing some of the most heinous crimes against women ever and the toll is increasing everyday.

These criminals have not emerged suddenly, they have been part of this same society since time immortal but the vulnerable political scenario, easy money making have given them more liberty.

In a country where a political leader on an open forum says “Boys do make such mistakes but that does not mean that they should be sent to the gallows”, what else is expected to happen?

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But we can’t just blame a handful of politicians for this epidemic.  Why don’t we inculcate in all young minds, respect for women? Why do we teach boys, that they are superior and women are supposed to be under them? Why do we ask our daughters to be careful while dressing and not our sons to behave themselves? Why millionaire cine stars tantalisingly shake their bodies to songs that deliberately depict women as commodities? Why rape victims are shunned from the society? Why? Why? Why? And it continues….

It’s only our collective effort which can bring a change in the society, the change which has to be essentially brought to the mindset of one and all.

Aritra Chakrabarty Sengupta

 

 

YES….I want to write a story!!!

“ Where dainty fairies fly with their wings wide open,

Where lush greenery has no end, where all rules are broken!

Where cows loiter around, with bells around their neck,

Where phoenix of imagination, rises from a wreck!

That’s the land, where my story belong,

Where the essence of living is felt lifelong”

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As a kid, I was a dreamer. I dreamt of the existence of fairy land, where “All iz well!” However, as more candles got added to my birthday cake, the light of imagination deemed. As “Realistic syndrome” struck me! But that’s the process of growing up and evolving as an individual and is inevitable.

I wanted to write a story then, I want to write a story now!

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 The main protagonist remained the same, but the layers of her life changed, the backdrop changed! Fairies waved their magical wand and fixed all mess then, but now my girl has become tougher, she is a fighter and deals with her life, her own way. Yes, I want to write a story and give her life, give life to my imagination. The story of your life and mine, the pathos of today’s woman, which is often misinterpreted! I want to portray those deepest feelings of the modern woman, whose free spirit is no more tied with the fetters of the bourgeois society. Who is literate, liberal and loving!

My story will be about “ Urban woman and their sensibilities”.

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 She gets up early morning, to greet her husband with a cup of tea as he gets up. Even during her crucial client presentation, when the clock strikes three, her mind visualizes her kid, waiting for his school bus, she takes a minute off to pray that he boards the bus and reaches home safely. “ I hope he has, had his tiffin”!! She says in her mind. While starting her drive back home, instead of thinking about her own comforts, she recalls that her husband must have started his drive back home as well. She silently prays, for his safe drive. “Hope roads are less jammed today, he often looses his cool in such situations…O god…the city is so crowded”!! She sighs.

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 Often striving hard to make a mark in the male chauvinistic corporate environment and sometimes-apathetic family life. The woman of today is of substance; she is careerist and dynamic, yet the deepness of her inner being always lingers in search of compassion, in search of a soul that comprehends her deep felt emotions. My narrative will be about her, her feeling and her being.

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It will be a salute to the “Durgas” of today!!!

Aritra Chakrabarty Sengupta

 

 

Aside

My blog….My expression!

My mind is like a nomad, which wants to set foot on the unknown grounds.

The grounds where huge colorful butterflies break free from their caterpillar life, to fly high and kiss the clouds!

The grounds where sun rays fall on the dew drops and create precious diamonds!

Where the softness of wet tender grass caresses my feet and sends serenity through my veins and brings eternal peace to my inner being.

The grounds where I can be myself and think aloud, where fetters of the bourgeois society are broken!

Where love is unconditional but respect is earned!

Where tranquility resides like the cloud settling in a low-lying valley!!

As Gurudev says “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; where knowledge is free; where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic wars…”

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Blogging came to me recently, though I always loved to write, paint and express whatever I felt about my encounters and experiences, but only recently I came to know that my hobby could be pursued in a more systematic manner. A manner,  by which I could convey my deepest thoughts to all.

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There are certain tales, which I had borne for years in my mind and when I first started putting them in words, I realized how much I wanted to do this.

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As a kid, when I travelled by train, I keenly noticed the changing color of the landscape and topography as we moved past from one state to another. I had realized, I was lucky to be born in a country, where a travel by train, could give birth to thousand stories. As I grew up, I kept collecting memoirs aimlessly, never knowing my inner being, which wanted to express them to all.design-thinking

I blog to “narrate those tales”, so that they are never lost and are preserved forever. My blogs may or may not be rhetoric, intellectual or informative. But they are bits of me. They are paintings, which I make to express my identity, my life, my living and for emoting from the core of my heart.

I blog to be HAPPY and I blog to be myself!!!!.

Aritra Chakrabarty Sengupta

Its time to …..”Do Right”!!

Where the winding roads take you to a paradise,

Where the cedar and pine lined rocky landscape call u from a distance,

Where life and living is simple,

Where smile lights up a face, many a times without a reason,

I belong to that land, the land of God!!!

“Charity begins at home”, is a very popular saying and most of us know and believe it to be true. However how many of us, including me, are able to live this saying? Speaking for myself, I confess,that most of the times I am unable to meet my own expectation! But I salute those who are able to live the saying, overcoming odds which might stop many of us from traversing the path.

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 In a place, where getting food daily is more challenging than writing an All India Examination, Chandrakumar Pradhan dared to dream differently. The dream of a land where the light of education reaches  every little household and pushes away darkness of illiteracy, wrong beliefs and superstitions. Because education is the foundation and growth/ development will always depend on how strongly the foundation has been laid.

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Situated at the remote hill station of Megma, in Indo Nepal Border Pradhan has created his own world. A “School”, which is different in ways more than one, from the schools we know.

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Little smiling faces come there, to learn! But learn what? A, B C or 1, 2, 3?

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No, they learn much more than this! They learn to fight, fight poverty, fight rough weather, fight hunger! They learn from their teacher, who has pledged to devote his life, to educate these not so priviledged children, “his never defeating spirit”! They learn the importance of education, the only means which can take them out from this life of despair, and make them competent to face the world.

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Shaky benches, peeling walls and eroded blackboards are not enough to break Mr Pradhan’s will. His burning desire to make a difference and the children’s effort to do full justice to his efforts, is exemplary to me as a human, a human who had the luxury of going to a “School”!

I feel fortunate to be having the opportunity of knowing and writing about this son of India, who is trying to lay the foundation of educated India at the grass root level.

With this spreading awareness about Pradhan and his efforts, I hope relief in the form of required stationery and blackboards will reach this magical school soon.

The other half of the story, will have happy and content faces of Pradhan and his children, in a school where children come to acquire education but not hungry, where little eyes are not strained to make out, what is written on the blackboards, where students don’t topple off the benches and hurt themselves. Where education come to them comfortably and beautifully!!!50424

 

Aritra Chakrabarty Sengupta

Kerala Narrative!!!

“Silent night, holy night…all is calm, all is bright”

 

We reached there late at night. It was December and the small houses of kumarakom, were lit with Christmas lamps. As we know, a good portion of the population in Kerala is Christian, so this time of the year, resonates vibes of festivities through the effervescence of lights. As we entered our resort premises, and walked past the garden to our wooden duplex, we noticed that, beyond a certain point everything was pitch dark. Surprised!! We went to our cottage.

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It was our first trip together, elation, exuberance and romance filled the room.

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The hotel authority had taken care, to embellish the room in a way that the ambiance so created is apt for honeymooners.

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Back Water Ripples resort is an exclusive piece of property. Well spaced, chic wooden cottages surrounded by huge well maintained garden area which led to the back waters. A luxury restaurant, apt for fine dining, a swimming pool and a community center. Overall the resort was built with all required modern amenities, yet the overwhelming encounter with nature was ensured.

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Ours was a huge wooden Duplex cottage, spacious and luxurious.

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Amidst the tranquil surroundings, our few days in Kumarakom were well spent. A houseboat experience, an occasional speed boat ride, candle light dinners were add ons.

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However, my most favorite part was the lazy afternoon that I spent hand in hand with Avishek, with the endlessness of the backwaters in front and the vastness of the blue sky above. The Mohiniyattam (classical dance form of Kerala) program organized in the community center is also worth mentioning and remembering.

Bidding adieu to the endearing Kumarakom after collecting revered memoirs, we set forth for our next destination, “Munnar”.

Kerala amazed the most, by this changing topography and climatic conditions. A few hours of drive took us from the warm, low lying backwaters to the cold, greenery of  the mountains. Our resort “Camelot” was located literally at the top of a hill, with jaw dropping view around. The soothing greenery of magnificent tea gardens on the Western Ghats makes Munnar a prized tourist attraction. Image2265

 

The lush greenery caressed and kissed by the wandering clouds, the aroma of the plantations around and the heartwarming hospitality made our stay worthy.

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Situated 1600 mts above sea level, this valley quenches the thirst of viewing green placidity. Munnar is blessed with the creator’s extravagance. It’s like a woman whose tender Midas touch, relieves of all pain and vulnerabilities.  And sets free to forget everything and loiter around like a nomad smelling wild flowers and drinking dewdrops. With exotic tea plantations, spice gardens, wild life sanctuary and breathe taking view from Camelot,  Munnar  added beautiful  memories  to  my first  trip  with  my husband. OgAAAHUxr6sudE_K43xCFsDNHfPP1jTPJzZXEwb8G2nMUFHAgGH-ZmHOW77SPdDol4ImT2h5Q3jGGKG73MqJqClFY-wAm1T1UJW3kUB41ozocKFpnom2Uj-a2wIM

Memories of witnessing God’s own country- Kerala’s lavish natural beauty! We covered a  small  fragment  of  the  beautiful  state,  however  the  experience  was  fulfilling  and overwhelming enough to be cherished forever.

MY DREAMY CHILDHOOD

I woke up feeling awesome, with a grin on my face. I had been dreaming and my dreamy self was still loitering about, on the known and loved grounds of the place I belong to. Of late I was always waking up feeling sore, the fast and the furious life of Mumbai was somewhat not suiting this small town girl. But that day, I felt distinctly divine.  Beaming with confidence, I had kick started the eventful and long day.

And as Gurudev says” If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars.”

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I have grown up in the beautiful township of Kulti (near Asansol) in West Bengal. Nature have always expressed her enticing self in the most magnanimous manner there, with lush greenery, well-kept gardens and parks and huge mansions, Kulti could be the perfect ground for breeding rich souls. I still vividly remember those evenings, when I used to stand aimlessly in the balcony, gazing at the lane leading to the busy Grand Trunk road and the golf ground that paralleled it.

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My father was working with IISCo, and the company managed the glorious township. All the needs, comforts and luxuries were taken care of in the most proficient manner. The bungalows and apartments were mostly built in the British era. Hence they had the English touch, with exorbitant rooms, high ceilings, fireplaces and gardens with out houses; they were evidently chic pieces of British architecture.

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I remember the dilapidated one in the middle of a ground; people called it “Bhoot Bungalow” (The haunted mansion) and the Lodge in front of our apartments, which was believed to be nesting smugglers. The spooky suspense tales greatly intrigued my friends and me, as children.

Life in Kulti was just like a painting, with happy faced, high-spirited people in the frame. Every festival, be it the grandiloquent Durga Puja, euphoric Holi, cheerful Christmas, effervescent Diwali or seraphic Eid, dawned with the hope of commemoration with enthusiasm and conviction.

People with different pragmatism, from different places and of different caste and creed had come together, to build a highly polished, cosmopolitan haven.

Memoirs of Kulti are incomplete without the mention of our club “Kulti Club”. The elaborate building witnessed festivities, fun, frolic and euphoria. Clubbing has never been so fun. There was an auditorium, a restaurant, a bar, a billiard’s room, swimming pools, lawn tennis and badminton courts and a library within the premises of our club.

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Although miles away from the happening city life, Kulti had a very modern culture, thanks to the people dwelling there. I remember swimming gala nights, when the club building would be flooded with lights and how tastefully Srilekha aunty would conduct. The moonlight picnics, Bingo nights, English dinners, Jam sessions, scintillating winter balls on 24th December, New Year bashes which witnessed chic men and women cladded in their best outfits, who can forget such grandeur?

While on one side of the coin there was glee and ecstasy, the other side embodied culture.

Kulti taught me the importance of Rabindra jayanti and Mahishasur Mardini. Annually at least three to four cultural programs were staged, inculcating in us richness of our culture and literature. My parents always encouraged me to participate and so I did willingly. I posses humongous memories, of these cultural events and numerous blogs might be insufficient to portray them all on paper.

Life in Kulti has made me what I am today, my strengths and weaknesses too. And when I tend to loose my cool due to the vulnerabilities around, it returns to my life in the form of a dream and breathes life into my ailing soul.

“It was all green around, the breeze was cool and sweet, at a distance children were playing, just as I used to with my friends…from the void the enchanting melody of “Jodi tor daak shune keu na ashe, tobe ekla cholo re” was reaching my ears…..” and suddenly I woke up with a jolt feeling awesome.

 Aritra Chakrabarty Sengupta

 

My memoirs of Goa, the tropical paradise

The sky was unrealistically blue that day and the clouds were floating aimlessly. Surprisingly the December sun had more power and warmth than expected. It was difficult to look up, after some time a strange dizziness would descend from heaven and loom heavy on head. The waves were breaking relentlessly on the sandy/rocky shore all in vain. As if they were banging their heads at the monarch’ s feet craving for mercy, but the mighty, ruthless monarch was indifferent towards their pray. My dilated pupils were striving hard, to make out the thin line that separated the sea from the sky at the horizon’s end. But gradually a whirling sensation started in my head, the hot afternoon sun, the shining sand and the inseparable blues had started showing its symptoms. I decided to close my eyes and just feel Goa silently.

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Before actually beholding its serenity, Goa to me was best known for its happening and loud night life, beer bottles, fun and loose control. Quite a cliché, I would say! However, when I actually set foot on the tropical paradise, I realized that how much the place had to offer, besides, what it is  most famous for (or infamous, as I perceive). While Goa can be heaven for hippies and drug addicts, it can also be a serene beach for nature lovers. While it can be the best place for a group of friends to go and just freak out and let loose, it can also be the proud subject of a painter.

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Our trip to Goa was planned at least 5 months in advance. I vividly remember that night, when I was very upset and weeping. My husband (Avishek) and I were in different cities due to job location; both of us desperately craved to be under the same roof from quite some time, but were unable to mould our careers, suiting our personal living. That night all vent up emotions had broke loose the dam of self control. Avishek continuously made unsuccessful attempts to soothe, but nothing worked that night. Still shattered with my internal guilt, of not being able to be selfless enough, to take a chance with my career, I went to bed. To my utter surprise (not exactly:-)), I saw my cell phone screen going ablaze. Out of no good reason, I have been staring at it since I ended my call. Desperately I stretched my hand to grab the device. After a formal “hello!” I kept shut; I was hearing something which left my eyes moist and throat sore. He had booked a resort in Goa for our second anniversary celebrations, only to get back the smile on my lips. I had wept like a child out of sheer happiness, had felt so blessed and loved, so this trip would always carve a special niche in my heart.

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We reached Goa in the afternoon time; the sun was shining down in full glory, over the long stretches of golden yellow sand. “Santana beach resort” on the magnificent Candolim beach of North Goa was a great property to be in and spend some beautiful moments. Spread over a large area, the property had two swimming pools, wonderfully maintained garden area, a restaurant by the pool and a fascinating floating bar. The room was spacious and well kept, with a nice bedroom, kitchenette, clean bathroom and a balcony overlooking a swimming pool. At a distance we could see the roaring enormous Arabian Sea.

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The afternoon sun was harsh even in December, we couldn’t stay near the waters for long, instead we decided to enjoy the view from the famous Calamari beach shack with the rhymic, soulful Goan music and spicy Goan cuisines, the enormous crabs, lobsters…yes indeed our holiday had quite a smooth takeoff. The long, neat stretch of Candolim beach was a visual treat with its blue waters, golden sand and the colorful, spirited people around. Just south of the famous Calangute beach, Candolim was calm and serene.

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In the evening we enjoyed a good swim accompanied with a drink at the floating bar. All geared up we went back to our room. It was our 2nd wedding anniversary that day, and I was experiencing the most romantic evening of my life. We booked a table by the pool, as the candle flickered on our table; we sat hand in hand, cherishing our togetherness. The journey which had started from college, had taken a beautiful turning with marriage. Candle light, music, late night stroll by the bay and the occasion itself made the moment very special.

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Goa is definitely a very unique holiday destination; its air is intoxicated with unimpededness. There is a beach in Goa for each type of individual. From the tranquility of Palolem to the condominium of Calangute, Goa has it all. The touch of Portugal culture, the forts, the churches, the exotic Goan music, the delicacies of Goa and the colorfully clad people on two wheelers gives Goa the happening yet tranquil tropical paradise image, which attracts tourists not only from India but also from abroad in huge number.

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You can also have a taste of adrenaline rush through water sports. We enjoyed our first paragliding session, in Baga beach. We all want to fly high, and that day I really felt I was. Viewing the vastness of the sea from the enormous void was quite an experience. I will forever cherish those memories.

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My holiday in Goa is one of the best I have experienced. I loved the beach shacks, especially at night, Goan music, food, the soothing sea breeze and the feel of the soft, cold sand at your feet, creates an exotic feeling inside. The romance, the thrill, the fun composed beautiful rhythms in my mind, which I would always love to think and sing aloud.

 

Aritra Chakrabarty Sengupta

Unveiling the Goddess With Spandan!!

“Jago tumi jago, jago durga, jago dasha praharana dharini,abhaya shakti bhalo pradayini, tumi jago”

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When cottony clouds float in the vast bluesness of the sky, when Kans grass (Khash Phool) starts dancing with the alluring breeze, when the cuckoo starts singing in a distant meadow, its known that the festive season has arrived. For Bengalis Sarat (autumn) means Sharodutsab (Durga puja). However Durga puja is not just a festival of joy and gaiety. It’s an intricate portrayal of the rich culture and literature of the state and beyond. The depiction may be in the form of colossal pandals, astounding idols or different ways of exhibiting the art. Durga puja is a state of mind, it’s an entire season of free spiritedness.

 For most Bengalis Durga Puja is synonymous to Kolkata and there are abundant reasons for that as well. The city of joy indeed has an aura of its own, inspite of many odds and adversities. As the festivities cast its spell on my city, its transformation is indeed note worthy. All decked up like a new bride, the city compels you to notice and appreciate her beauty.  When the darkest corners of the city get illuminated, and radiate vibes of happiness, togetherness and gratification! I, like most Bengalis always preferred to pay homage to Ma Durga on the known grounds of my parar (colony’s) pujo in Kolkata. Celebrating festivals in the company of the closest and the dearest always is an add-on. So Kolkata always attracted me especially during Pujas.

However, last year for the first time, my husband and I decided to spend the Pujas in Mumbai and experience what Mumbai meri jaan had to offer.

A few months before our Sharodutsab, we associated ourselves with “SPANDAN FOUNDATION” a Powai based social association mostly consisting of Bengalis in Mumbai. A group of enthusiastic people with a cultural bent of mind, who wanted to celebrate the occasion, but with a difference. Keeping intact the spirit, this is contributed by certain ritualistic but important ceremonies, the smell of new clothes, the cultural programs and even the aroma of Bengali street food.  But then, where, was the difference?

Worshiping Ma Durga is like worshiping the never defeating spirit of womanhood.  Ma Durga symbolizes the power and enormity of a woman, a woman of substance. Whose external attractiveness is insignificant when compared to her inner strength, the greatest evil stands no chance in front of her immensity.

 In a time, when the nation is getting asphyxiated with the spreading disease of crime against women, SPANDAN thought of using the platform of Durga Pujo, to empower them. “Women Empowerment” was chosen as the theme of our pujo. The theme echoed through the pandal, the programs conducted and in every other possible manner. The pandal interior was done with the stories of exemplary women, who made it large fighting humongous odds.

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However along with addressing a burning social issue, spandanites kept the exuberant festive mood alive. Every morning and evening during the festival, witnessed ebullient men and women cladded in their ethnic best, from ethereal dakais to graceful kanjivarams, you could find it all. Pandal hoppers pouring in, in increasing number each day, happy faces, moms holding tightly to the hands of their little ones, teenagers exchanging admiring glances, couples reliving their teen age days!  People gorging on famous lip smacking Bengali street food, who cares for dieting, afterall Durga pujo celebrations remain incomplete without a mouthful of chicken rolls and mughlai parathas!!

Amidst all the wonderful things happening around me, cultural programs intimidated me the most.  I enacted in a drama staged on Nabami, after a very long gap. My husband played the male lead opposite me. “Nath Jamai” was a laugh riot; all the characters were portrayed in the most chucklesome manner and it was real humor creating the magic on stage.  The drama got appreciation, not only for the way it was portrayed, but for the effort that went into portraying it.  I still remember and cherish the days, when all of us used to run for the rehearsals after office and returned home damn tired at 10:00 in the night, only to have a quick dinner and jump to bed!! Our rehearsals continued for more than a month and it’s heartwarming to know that most people could see and recognize that hard work.

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Rehearsal also created loads of memories, the Cha (Tea) Singhara sessions, occasional giggling, appreciation and scolding from Sumit da, Rakhi di’s exemplary acting skills, Deepa di’s iconic “Baba!!”, Snehasis’s encouraging enthusiasm, Indraneel da and Prosun da’s effort to balance all the responsibilities and yet pull off two most important roles with ease and excellence, Arnab da’s convincing drunken act, Krishnendu’s sneezing spree and “machima!”, Jayanta da and Subhendu da’s fun act, Avishek’s strange interest of giving proxy for others and my effort to portray someone opposite my nature,   I enjoyed and lived it all!! 🙂

Dashami morning dawned with a strange emotion of dismalness. Yearlong awaited festivities have come to an end. Ma Durga has completed her annual visit and is on the verge of starting her journey back to Kailash!! With a heavy heart we have to bid her adieu, only to wait for her grand return the next year. The return that will free us of all shackles and intoxicate us with free spiritedness, forgetting all upsets and downfalls, we will regain life.

Spandanites celebrated Dashami the traditional way, the beautiful vermillion smacked faces, the sound of Dhak, the pundit enchanting some last few mantras… what an ambiance!! Many well known Bengali news channels covered Spandan’s “Sindur khela”!

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The celebrations which had started with bringing the goddess to the pandal, unveiling her majestic self, paying homage to her had ended with “Asche bochor abar hobe!” (We will celebrate your decent from heaven again next year)!! However a strange emptiness filled our lives for the next few days, life was centered on Durga Puja celebrations for a long time. The hectic schedule which sometimes left me infuriated and complaining about the fast Mumbai life was suddenly missed. How much I wanted my racing life back!!  The city which was alien to me suddenly emerged as my home away from home; I realized that I had many people to count upon, and that’s the real purpose of any festival, “Binding everyone together”. In an era when everyone wants to reach the summit of success, many a times compromising on humanitarian relationships, festivals like this leave us thinking on how life should actually be perceived and lived!!

 

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Thank you Spandan!!Thank You Mukesh Ji (Mukesh Trivedi )and Debi SenGupta for the awesome pics…

Aritra Chakrabarty Sengupta

 

Fun, frolic and Nubra!!

Moving down the memory lane I realised, how much I had, to write about. Leaving aside melancholy, only the happy and sweet remembrances could keep me busy forever. This very thought brought a smile to my lips. I wrote to be happy. And how wonderful it would be, if I could pen down my buoyant reminiscences! When I was a kid, I loved fairy tales. I really believed in the existence of fairy land. As sense and complexity of mind increased with years, I started fighting with my own belief. Every thing had to have a proof!! However, nature did give me a proof at last and confirmed the existence of what I called a “fairy land”!!!!

Our magical journey to “Leh Ladakh” was a tour conducted by “make my trip”. We were quite content with the kind of facilities they provided to us, considering the remoteness of the cold desert we were in. Adding feather to the cap, our room had a jaw dropping view of the magnificent Himalayan range as well.

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However no expedition can be meaningful and satisfying, without harmonious relationship with co-travelers. And it was pretty evident from the way the group was split, that the agency had given considerable effort in doing so.

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As we landed in Leh airport, animated and bewildered after first look of the Himalayan and Karakoram ranges from the aircraft, we spotted a short, stout Tibetan guy waiting with six names on a placard. We moved towards him with our eyes set on those names. Heaving a sigh a relief, we both looked at each other, yes we had rightly identified our names on his placard from a considerable distance, confirming that our eyesight was fine!!:-) Almost immediately two other couples joined us. And then the Ladakh group (as we called it later) accompanied by this guy headed towards our ‘chariot’ aka car. This mean machine was supposed to be our companion in the entire expedition, leading us through the rocky and sometimes precarious roads of Ladakh. The Tibetan guy, was the chariot rider aka driver.

Phunsuk Wangdu our driver was a jolly good fellow. His name reminded us of Amir Khan in “Three Idiots”, however Phunsuk clarified that this was a very common name in the region. But looking at the hilarious side of his nature, even today I doubt whether it was a joke or he was actually named so by his parents!!! The harsh rays of the desert sun and chilled weather of the place had left early wrinkles on his face. Yet he managed to look cute and happy.

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The journey from airport to the hotel was that of eerie silence. None of us conversed with each other. The ice broke only, after dinner that night. Starting from a formal “hi …hello” the conversation translated into jokes, leg pulling, giggling and fun.  That moment marked the beginning, of transformation of six complete strangers, to become dependable friends in future.

As the cold desert kept unleashing different colors of its enigmatic self, our friendship kept budding. Nilesh and Shalaka is a lovely looking, amicable couple from Mumbai, both are professional medical practitioners. While Bhagyesh and Priyanka, is a cute and happy go lucky couple from Pune. Bhagyesh is an IT professional while Priyanka is into marketing.

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 That morning we were supposed to start early. The awaiting journey was long, eventful and tiring as well. We were to cross Changla pass and after a brief time of leisure there, we had to continue for Nubra valley, our destination of desire. After having breakfast of bread and omelets, we set forth for an experience of lifetime. We reached Nubra valley just before lunch, extremely satisfied by what we had, to treat our eyes, on the way. The chilled mountain air, the enormity of the snowcapped ranges standing tall and the vivid vastness of the blue sky we had it all.

But when we reached the camp in Nubra valley, I immediately recalled the fairy land of my infant dreams. A lush green patch of land, surrounded by fearsome grey mountains, a striking contradiction. The vast greenness occasionally interrupted by exuberant mountain streams, flowing in a rhythm almost audible. Wooden bridges across these water bodies, gave it the fairy tale touch. And there stood our little white tents. We could almost smell that the day was going to be super exciting.

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After having a filling lunch, six of us went around exploring the place. I always knew Ladakh is a cold desert, but literally did not expect to witness a place where heaves of white sand is surrounded by snowcapped mountains. Nature has created a distinctly divergent topography here, onlookers are left wondering on what forces might have come together to create this illustrious painting.  After a ride on double hoofed camels, typical of cold deserts we strolled back to the camp. DSC_0865 DSC_0876 DSC_0864 DSC_0855

Darkness descended with a strange intoxicating air that night. As tribals, dance merrily in full moon nights, intoxicated and unaware, they let their spirits loose. We also were in cloud nine then, totally unaware of the existence of a materialistic world outside our fairytale camp. We danced around the campfire as a mark of celebration of Priyanka and Bhagyesh’s wedding anniversary, totally inebriated by not only what we had but also the aura of the place. The guys played loads of childish pranks; the child in each of us confirmed its existence strongly. Shalaka, Priyanka and me talked our hearts out, while the guys were busy doing the wackiest things they had ever done. The most bizarre conduct was, at mid night, we found them seated on the wooden bridge, dangling their legs merrily in the chilled air. Outwardly we pretended to be angry but it was freakish and fun to watch. Our comfort with each other actually grew to the utmost that night, which marked the formation of a wonderful, comfortable and long relationship.

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 Leh Ladakh has etched enough images in my mind and soul, which I could paint forever. A creation which can almost reciprocate, your admiration for her. The serene paradise is epitome of natural beauty. However the serenity is best appreciated in the company of compatible co travelers, who have the urge and ability to imbibe the creations’ uniqueness. Who have the lust to explore the unexplored overcoming all odds. Nubra gave me and my husband not only memories to cherish but also souvenirs in the form of life long friends.

Thank you Shalaka, Priyanka, Nilesh, Bhagyesh and Avishek for helping me create these memories!!

Aritra Chakrabarty Sengupta