The Second Anniversary Blog

Let me taste the world once more,

Its charms and seductions that throw themselves at me,

And flit away heartlessly when I clasp onto their wisps…

 

Led into labyrinths that whispered of shade and succour,

Inky black mazes soon mocked my naivete…

Sirens sang out promises of bonds deeper than the oceans of belief,

While waves washed gullible hopes ashore once more…

 

But I wish to taste the world once more,

Its fire, searing the tongue of my desire with a warmth

Conspicuous in its absence in human touch.

 

I wish to taste the world once more,

Its bitterness, ripping the foolish hope of sweetness

That befools the sense into a sugary sleep.

 

I wish to taste the world once more,

Its sweetness, that is enticingly deceptive…

Yet, inducing euphoric dreams of a tomorrow.

 

I wish to taste the world once more,

Its luscious lusts, its satiety-filled passions,

Its salty aspirations, its pungent disappointments,

I seek to taste the world once more,

To explore the fullness in each sense that holds a story…

Then someday, I will return to where I began this journey…

And know that the world got a taste of who I was, am and will be…

 

me

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Be(y)wrong(in)

 The newsfeed is already swamped with faces coloured beyond recognition, with cloudbursts of aabir or coloured powder that unapologetically stain bodies and clothes, clothes and hearts; with a careless abandon that is cathartic to say the least!

I have grown up watching with undiluted glee an assortment of relatives and friends celebrate this festival with the joie de vivre that is its hallmark- but all from a distance… not a doit of that colour made its way to me… I would not have it…On Holi, I am bey-wrongin, the one without colour.

Having lived all my life with this ‘condition’, I find myself in a self-chosen exile from the realm of hues and hullor, and know that I am bey-wrongin. So, with all audaciousness , I invite you on the occasion of the festival of spring , of colours to be, beywrongin with me….

 

Be(y)wrong(in)-

When the world is too much with you, and sends in deluges of inky despair and self-doubt to waste your soul, your one soul, be beywrongin- bar those colours from staining the essence of you.

 

Be(y)wrong(in)-

When they tell you, that friendships do not last, that self serving interests override every bond in this world, show them how hands can be held with fidelity and souls sheltered amidst the searing heat of suspicion and mistrust.

 

Be(y)wrong(in)-

When you have loved and lost, loved again and lost again, and wondered what do you do right to keep Love; be sure to wrong the doubts and give of yourself recklessly to Love, once more…because you can and know that nothing else should matter…

 

Be(y)wrong(in)-

When they tell you, you’re a girl or you’re a boy, so you can’t love a girl or boy because it is a norm, tell them you want to wrong the rules, because you know better than to refuse Love who does not find its way too often into a waiting heart…

 

Be(y)wrong(in)-

Having lived your life on paths pre-determined by others long gone, by rules pre-set to judge right and wrong, be(y) wrong(in)-

change your point of view sometimes- it is cathartic.

change your insecurities for a disregard for yourself- you will be fine, yes you will.

change your song…dance to a new rhythm that the world cares not for…and watch it slowly but surely follow you in time …

 

Be wrong, so wrong-

that your colour of be-ing is the only colour of the universe;

that you set yourself free of any colour that makes you less than what you are;

that you can make others see the magic of their ‘wrong’ed selves and they can set themselves free;

 

Be(y)wrong(in)… it is time….

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Little of less…much of more

Sitting amidst the enchantingly romantic manicured gardens that surround the majestic colonial edifice of the Victoria Memorial, I listened to celebrities talk of the Calcutta that excites the curiosity of many with its appalling squalor and dark mysteries of crime, grime and hopelessness.

A few weeks later, on a foggy winter’s Sunday morning, I found myself standing on a bridge, watching a game of cricket underway among the local boys of the Rajabazar area. Needless to say I was trying much as I could to avoid meeting the strange stares I was getting from the people going about their business, wondering at this knapsacked apparition rooted to the railing of the bridge.

And in the meantime, while the bowler paced his run up from the tube well where five men of assorted ages and shapes bathed themselves, I tried to recall that Victoria Memorial moment… and could not…

This Calcutta was all too real for that recall.

This Calcutta was a throbbing mass of people, who lived, huddled in ridiculously- impossible-to-live-and-breathe-in rooms, and measured out their days in needs that were hard to fulfil and compromises that kept multiplying in number.

So where did this post begin…

I was there at Rajabazar as the Facilitator with CRY in what had been planned as a two-day session, with eight different children from that locality, to help them capture photo-stories around them with basic point and shoot cameras provided by RICOH.                             And needless to say, this experience has given me memories of a lifetime.

Led into a tiny madrasah that was being swept clean of the remnants of the previous night’s wedding feast, I began ruminating on the challenges I faced in bringing another point of view to these kids who, perhaps would have had to reconcile themselves to a singular perspective of life and living.

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The tiny madrasah that served as our first indoor lesson venue

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The door to the tiny office room at the madrasah

To use photography as a medium to subtly point out another world lay within their reach, either as an escape or as an outlet, was my raison d’etre to be there.

We were looking for photo-stories I told them- ‘kahaaniya…jo duniya ke kisi bhi koney mein bina zubaan ki, samajh mein aaye…’ Stories- that do not rely on language to be understood in any part of the world…

But this post is really the ‘kahaani’ of these children… Aquib, Sidra, Abdullah, Rounak, Afrin, Ayesha, Ataullah and Wahid.

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My 8 wonder kids along with Mampy and Ritayan- two incredibly dedicated volunteers with CRY

These kids are really the nano subsets of the larger section of children out there, who have very little access to the rights the rest of us take for granted. Education, health, a conducive environment to general well-being, gender equality, equal opportunity- these are fancier terms for what they do not receive at all or receive in totality. And yet, there is no denying their potential.

The age old argument between Heredity and Environment revives itself as one spends more and more time with them.

But to listen to their eyes sparkle, when they talk of photographing the moment, or why they love to photograph- what they like to photograph , is like watching their dreams played out in front of them. Make no mistake- they are not delusional about their hard realities but they have stars in their eyes, that seem to hide in the harsh summer of their existences, but they are there alright.

And I am amazed by them. How little of less can bring so much of more! They battle an entire battery of odds on a daily basis, and yet, they find beauty in the world around them. Such is the blessedness of their perspective- and it is incredible to watch them absorbed in the moment- looking for that frame matching their incomparable eye.

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The kids look around for their ‘kahaaniya’ or photo-stories

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Looking for that perfect frame

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The girls discuss their shots with each other

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Friends use each other to compose interesting shots.

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The girls capture the architecture of the ghat

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Sharing the shot on the view finder with friends

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Pure concentration to get the best depth of field click

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lean back to fill the frame

There are genuine spasms of worry for the future that lies ahead of them. Hope is all we have and what can help keep their dreams alive in them.

When I reflect on the truth that we had no choice in deciding where we would be born, there is an added urgency to reach out to our future that lies ensconced in these kids.

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my desert rose ❤

 

But in the meantime, travel time between the two Calcuttas- one in the books or drawing rooms and one lived out in the circumstances I spoke about now, keeps increasing. Sometimes it does seem light years away, these two Calcuttas, but these kids are as much this city’s as the kids hanging around the swanky malls. The distance needs to be traversed- and guess what, it does not take too much to make that journey. Just the desire is enough.

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I have no clue who did me this beautiful favour and clicked this memory ❤

 

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Thank you for these memories little ones

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helping hands, strong and steady- Nabanil, thank you.

 

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And yes, thank you CRY for making me a part of these memories. Thank you Proma Basu Roy, Trina Chakrabarti, Sweta Bhattacharya, Ritayan, Mampy, Agnish and Tushar.

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pic credit: Arpita Pramanick

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pic credit: Nabanil Sanyal

 

A special Thank You to my dear friends Arpita and Nabanil… thank you for coming along out of the sheer goodness of your heart.

 

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And to my 8 wonder bacchas- Khuda aapko mehfooz rakkhey- aapkey khwaabon ko manzil milein…

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From the pages of a city’s past…

The Manicktala bus stand on an early Saturday morning in October saw a motley crowd of Calcuttans gather in an upbeat mood to explore on a whirlwind tour, a slice of the immense richness of the literary heritage of the city, which has somehow been overwhelmed by the surge of the Potter, Cullen and Grey fans.
The walk was led by eminent travel writer and heritage enthusiast Amitabha Sengupta, a gentleman I shall remember for his immense patience in handling such a large group of photowalkers that day.
The first stop was the petrol pump on APC road that had replaced the famous Probasi magazine of the 1920s. Probasi, started by the eminent Ramananda Chatterjee, was a cult magazine of its times and ran successfully for over 60 years boasting of contributors like Rabindranath Tagore, Premendro Mitro, Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhyay and Nirad Chaudhuri to name a few.

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A copy of the cover of the Probasi magazine

The poignant poetry of a frail young sensitive lady called Toru Dutt has touched many hearts. She lies buried in the much neglected Manicktala Christian Cemetery along with the members of her family. Our walk transformed itself into an expression of our respect for the poetess, whose life ended rather prematurely , much like that of her siblings. The overgrown shrubbery around her humble grave, reminded us of how much has been forgotten and needs to be brought back to our contemporary memory.

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The grave of Toru Dutt…  she died so young…

An interesting stopover, albeit a brief one was the Police Museum- once the mansion of Raja Ram Mohan Roy no less. Early hours saw the museum itself closed to the public, but the sprawling premises which houses a lot of significant historical objects, specially from our pre- independence era.

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The Ram Mohan Library

The famous RamMohan Library loomed large at the corner of the 267 Acharya Prafulla Chandra Road. To think that this library witnessed the felicitation of the Bard of India soon after he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for the Gitanjali, was awe-inspiring. Tagore even recited from his anthology on this occasion attended by the literary gems of the time.

The other stops on the way were the original residence of the Ray family at Garpar Road- of Upendrakishore Roychoudhury, Sukumar Ray and Satyajit Ray fame.

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A tribute to Satyajit Ray at his birthplace on Garpar Road

Then a trip down memory lane to stop by the house which had seen the first publication of the most famous children’s magazine of the city Sandesh.

An uncooperative security guard could not dampen the enthusiasm of this army of photo enthusiasts who gathered at the residence of the hallowed IshwarChandra Vidyasagar, the man who gave the Bengali his Bornoporichoy, the alphabet book of the Bengali script.

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The signature of IshwarChandra Vidyasagar used on the nameplate at his residence.

To walk by 48 Kailash Bose Street (presently 48A, B and C) where the first legal widow marriage had been solemnised as initiated by Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, was a memorable moment indeed.

But perhaps the highlight of the last leg of the journey was an exclusive tour of the Patra Bharati printing press , a name synonymous with the Kishore Bharati magazine, popular with every Bengali household.

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sharodiyaa 1422 at the Patra Bharati press

It was an exhausting day- so much to see and so much to learn. But the memory of walking with Calcutta lovers is another experience in itself.

It is an incredible trait for any city to have so much of heritage condensed into one large area. But Calcutta is like that- she is ‘oitihjhoshaali’- enriched with the wealth of literary heritage.

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It is time…

My cerulean Calcutta sky, with erratic outlines of imposing man-made structures, is playing out a clarion call in its loudest azure harmony that- soon it will be time…

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My vermillion smeared Calcutta sundown, with its fiery sundot, is blazing out a clear summons to the world that, soon it will be time…

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My grey ennui-stained busy-ness of endless Calcutta workdays and nights, raises its head from amongst the rubble of yesterday’s dreams and misgivings, hoping oncemore that, soon it will be time…

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Soon it will be time when one Mother will give of herself completely to create and adorn another Mother. She will give her the flesh-soft clay that has travelled with a mighty River chronicling the inevitable journey of everything into the estuary of absolution. This clay will mould itself around the rough edged diminutive bamboo skeletal frame that supports a blurry form of hay, to eventually apparate into someone mightier than the sum of the individual elements that comprise her.

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The dingy claustrophobic huts that function as studios of artisans, obstructs the logic from perceiving the very act of divine creation that continues within its paper-thin, wrinkled mud walls. Kumartuli- the potters’ locality in my city is all abuzz with activity. Long stretches of these hovels, illuminated by audaciously garish incandescent bulbs, form the humble nursery wherein the celestial family is born and nurtured before being taken away to occupy the city of ordinary folk. It is such a time in my city when the immortal and the mortal converge in this melange of creativity.

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It is such a time in my city when the blackened smog her inhabitants inhale, blends noxious fumes with the heady smell of incense, flowers, new clothes and new shoes that refuse to yield to the calloused feet that occupy them.

It is such a time when my indolent Calcutta will refuse sleep for five fleeting nights marked by a fevered pace to savour life all together in large gluttonous helpings.

It is such a time, when the rising dawns of eager hearts, the fading twilight of aging eyes and the ebony nights of passionate loving, find their very own moment.

My city is waiting- she is holding her breath- an art practised over the years with deftness and skill. The Goddess is arriving. She chooses her month, her mode of transport, her weather and her moment. These are the variables she toys around with. But her city is chosen. She will descend upon this mighty habitat with great pomp and grandeur and relegate everything and everyone into temporary oblivion. All will be forgotten for a while- rules and routine, monotony and misgivings, penury and position. Everything will be allowed to dissolve into a blur of colour, lights, sounds, smells, flavours and experience.

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She is however not the Goddess of a specific denomination. She becomes the cause and effect of celebration, the alpha and omega of creativity, the here and now of life in the city.

Calcutta will embrace the Goddess and her entourage with all of herself. Her heartbeat will throb to the pulsating rhythm of the drums and whirl like a dervish in a dance of ectasy. The Goddess demands no less and the city will gift her no less.

For those who have migrated to alien lands and climes, an autumn away from the city seems like exile. They too will bide their time to resuscitate their long-buried “Calcutta-ness” within themselves as the benevolent Goddess travels to their foreign shores in vacuum packed boxes and elaborate traditional luncheon meets.

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For the moment- it is the waiting that feels richer than the actual arrival of the moment itself. This prologue is a sweetened harmony of hopes and dreams woven into the silent melody that every heart in this city is tuned into.

Soon it will be time, when the puissant Earth, River, Goddess and City will come together as one mass of vibrant energy exploding onto the world- such is the time…

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When you say nothing at all…

For a city that thrives on noise- angry crimson, persistent parrot green or just arbitrary plain white, there is a secret twilight zone, right in her heart, that puts her on a much needed detox diet. It is a tiny nook that goes about Zen-like in its daily business, where you get to ‘listen’ and ‘be understood’ rather than be judged by the words you speak or choose to leave out.

This is the Oral School for Deaf Children, set up fifty eventful years ago, which continues its uphill task of schooling the hearing and speech impaired children, in a way that is heroic and awe-inspiring.

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There couldn’t be a greater oxymoron in the city, when just beyond the gates of this educational institution, lies one of the city’s oldest schools, replete with its over thousand plus students emanating this constant buzz of noise that one associates with any school.

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But within these walls, the hum of minds creates a steady vibration that is intriguing to say the least. Tuning into its frequency was one of the most exciting adventures for me. It is a gentle, unchanging flow of thoughts, moving back and forth, which uses gestures, sight and wave length- yes, the vibe that naturally exists amongst all living, thinking, feeling beings, which is so easily smothered by the juggernaut of habit and expectation.

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But let me tell you about the children! Their eyes- I remember their eyes- I remember the diamonds in their eyes- the shimmering prisms in them as they associated one more visual with a gesture or sound; or the sudden pall of an opaque curtain when meaning was not forthcoming and then again the dazzling radiance of the perfect ‘Eureka’ moment, when the pieces just fit in, and the world made a little more sense.

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And, yes, I have seen their dreams in those eyes… Little wisps of their yearnings to be understood, held close in hearts and be loved; simple joys of asking questions, listening to replies; grandiose plans for tomorrow that defy the cruel voice of doubt heard in the silences of their thoughts- I have seen glimpses of them in those eyes and known them to be mine, yours and of this city’s as well.

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 That I have not posted even one of the photographs of the children that I had taken that day, is perhaps due to this one reason- I do not wish to draw our attention to their faces, but to their souls… the people who lie beneath these apparent differences or disadvantages,as you would want to opine…

Calcutta spoke to me once more through these garrulous silences that conceals countless tales of heroic achievement against all odds. She spoke of the sure but noiseless breaking of walls of denial and dejection of parents, often shell shocked at having to re-configure their lives; the quiet hours of teachers toiling endlessly to teach the children how to connect with the world which seems harsh and unfeeling; the deep silences of friendships forged over sharing of sandwiches at recess, and of the quietude of life breathing, growing and coming into its own.

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My city encompasses all-and that is why I love her. She holds this beautiful silent secret closest to her soul and reveals it if we care to listen. There is no pity or sympathy for the children- there is undiluted awe and admiration. They are much like the city they inhabit- strong, resilient, apparently a little broken but be you not fooled by what you see or fail to hear.

Like them, Calcutta’s silences speak the most vociferously. Both are endearingly articulate. And so I keep tuning in, and listening for, (to cite a cliched song), they do ‘say it best, when they say nothing at all.’

 

Discover them at http://www.theoralschool.in

I would like to sincerely thank the Principal, staff and students of this school who allowed me a glimpse of themselves as they went about their schedule.

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Cast-away…

The sea returned to the land what it did not want to keep for itself,

The sea washed its salty hands off this burden too heavy.

The sea was unforgiving, ruthlessly tossing over the boat,

That dared to float its feeble dreams on its angry waters.

The sea roared- ‘I am free; I am power; this is my home.’

But for a tiny dinghy adrift with people with no tomorrows,

A powerless captivity was all they had.

There is no home- there used to be once.

A home- with lives lived amidst warm walls, stashed cupboards and clanking utensils;

With the smell of books and babies;

With the taste of love in sweet open mouths;

With the sounds of familiar breathing of a love lying next to you.

So much is left behind in those empty houses that now carry the stench of abandoned hope.

Their inhabitants have left long ago for lands that will never want them there;

But treat them as a compromise to be relegated to grimy stark ghettos on the outskirts of dignified living;

All this for the people who control lives from behind shut doors and closed minds.

The land abandoned them- ‘No home for you,’ it declared;

‘Go build your fragile shelters elsewhere in vain,

Dare to build your dreams from the ash and rubble of bloodfires;’

And it smirked- ‘Phoenixes are picture book fiction remember.’

The sea returned to the land what it refused to claim for its own.

Refugees by land and water;

Refugees by compulsion not choice;

Refugees in life and even in death;

As the sea washes up the lifeless body of a toddler it refuses to claim as its own.

aylan

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A Date with History- Kolkata 16.08.15

There are moments in the lifespan of a city, which are written down in its annals as watershed moments. 16th August 2015, was perhaps one such day. Over 85 of Calcutta’s photo enthusiasts turned up outside the Shobhabazar Metro Station in a bid to capture their city and become a part of history!

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pic credit: preeti roychoudhury

The World IP Meet organised in 24 cities across the globe threw a challenge to the residents of those cities to freeze moments of their city around the theme of ‘India Uncovered’.Kolkata took up the challenge under the initiative of our curator Sammya Brata Mullick- famously known by his Instagram handle @deckle_edge to his endless list of followers on that forum.He ably managed to form a passionate group of fellow enthusiasts who handled the nitty-gritty details of the organisation of an event on this scale. This went onto become the largest Instameet in Kolkata till date!

We were further encouraged by the presence of veteran photographers like Soumya Shankar Ghosal, Indrajit Lahiri, as well as Manjit Singh Hoojan of Calcutta Photo Tours. They mentored many of the participants and gave of their expertise and experience with graciousness.

With predictions of a thunderstorm in the afternoon, and the skies greying up from the morning, Kolkata had a lot of hurdles to overcome. But the weather gods grudgingly gave into fervent prayers and good wishes that went up in silent hordes, every time any of the participants looked up at the skies.

Skies looking ominous pic credit: prc

Skies looking ominous
pic credit: prc

It did rain but only as a pathetic drizzle, hardly significant enough to dampen the high spirits of the happy group that increased in numbers by the minute. Tags prepared with much thought and deliberations by the core group, designed ably by Sukanta Pal, with inputs from everyone, were worn with pride and delight.

A special mention must be made of the super-efficient preparation of the tags – running to the printers, cutting each one of them carefully and then enclosing them into the cases. (Eshita Dey, Swagnik Bhattacharya, Sourzendu Das and Group Administrator Rajib Dutta- take a bow)!The Whatsapp group chat is the sole witness to this hectic activity that went on till the last moment as people kept on joining in!

R TO L- Sukanta Pal, Sourzendu Das, Swagnik Bhattacharya, Prc, Anamitra Ghosh, Eshita Dey, Nilanjan Das, Sayantani Basu

R TO L- Sukanta Pal, Sourzendu Das, Swagnik Bhattacharya, Prc, Anamitra Ghosh, Eshita Dey, Nilanjan Das, Sayantani Basu pic credit: Group Admin Rajib Dutta

Moreover, the story of the two handmade banners prepared that very morning by Rajib and Swagnik is a tale best told over a cup of tea Calcutta-style!

Pic credit Rajib Dutta

Pic credit Rajib Dutta

The first stop for this motley gathering was the Shobhabajar Rajbari or the palatial mansion of the famous zamindars of Shobhabajar who are credited for establishing the autumnal worship of the Goddess Durga as a community festival. The crumbling heritage mansion was the perfect spot for a group photograph before everyone split into breakaway groups of explorers and shutterbugs.Here are a few shots to help capture the camaderie and bonhomie that filled the lonely mansion with happy echoes.

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One of the many group Pictures taken that day!

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one more! our curator is missing though from this pic! pic credit: Soumya Shankar Ghosal

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at the Shobhabajaar Rajbaari pic credit: Rajib Dutta

And then we were off- the broad stream of cameras and mobile phones branched out into tributaries, moving into the cramped alleys of the nursery of the gods- Kumartuli. Thereafter, it was as much a  story of countless frames, clicks, moments frozen for posterity, as it was of endless conversations over finer details of the skills of photography. This is what made this Instameet so special- it became a perfect space for sharing of the  two common loves that drew all of us there that morning- Kolkata and photography.

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click click! pic credit: Sourzendu Das

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Pic credit : Swagnik Bhattacharya

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Pic Credit : Eshita Dey

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Pic credit : Nilanjan Das

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Pic credit : Sukanta Pal

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pic credit: Anamitra Ghosh

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Pic credit : Swagnik Bhattacharya

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pic credit: Rajib Dutta

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Pic credit : prc

A happy Curator Sammya Brata doing what he loves best! pic credit: prc

And how does this tale end? Well, the story is still being written.

Kolkata has managed to top the list of maximum number of photo posts on Instagram- 477 till the time of this post! And each of those photographs have a story to tell- a city and its dreams- past, present and future locked into digital codes forever.

The significance of a destination is often judged by its journey.  As the sun set and i made my way home that day, a belief grew strong in me , like it has done in so many others, that something special began that day.

The sun sets across the Kolkata skyline, a new beginning has been made. pic credit : prc

The sun sets across the Kolkata skyline, a new beginning has been made.
pic credit : prc

Kolkata has effortlessly carved out her very own space in the world of fervent Instagrammers and brought them her very own flavour of ‘lovin’ and guess what? She can’t wait for more!

(You can find more of these incredible images on Instagram- at #IP_MEET AND #Ip_Kolmeet

My gratitude goes out to all my friends who have contributed their pictures to my blog! Thank you so much! )

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Time Warp Edifice

Our edifices of worship are curious time warp zones. Once you cross over their threshold, you feel drawn to yield to their re-configured variables of time, space and distance. Musing upon this very thought, I nimbly tread my way on the rain- washed marbled floors of the Nakhoda Masjid. It turns out to be as much of a personal pilgrimage as an audacious bid with my friend, to capture the multi-sensory serving of the edifice and its environs.

Our edifices of worship are curious time warp zones

Our edifices of worship are curious time warp zones

The 1926 grand structure towers over man and machine at the congested intersection of Rabindra Sarani and Zakaria Street, in a part of a city that plays out Life in full technicolour and drama.

The 1926 grand structure towers over man and machine at the congested intersection of Rabindra Sarani and Zakaria Street, in a part of a city that plays out Life in full technicolour and drama.

The 1926 grand structure towers over man and machine at the congested intersection of Rabindra Sarani and Zakaria Street, in a part of a city that plays out Life in full technicolour and drama.

This mosque is one of the easily recognisable landmarks of Calcutta. It rises from her earth and creates a unique space in which man and his God meet to parley through the sombre interface of prayers or namaz.

It rises from her earth and creates a unique space in which man and his God meet to parley through the sombre interface of prayers or namaz.

It rises from her earth and creates a unique space in which man and his God meet to parley through the sombre interface of prayers or namaz.

It exudes an aura of a grandeur that is conspicuous in its absence from the other structures surrounding it. Yet, it holds its humungous patchy verdant green domes and the bi-coloured minarets as an age-defying challenge to the sky and the earth below.

Yet, it holds its humungous patchy verdant green domes and the bi-coloured minarets as an age-defying challenge to the sky and the earth below.

Yet, it holds its humungous patchy verdant green domes and the bi-coloured minarets as an age-defying challenge to the sky and the earth below.

It makes its presence felt as a house of God, where the sheer magnificence of the monument is meant to make ordinary mortals aware of their puny stature before Someone who bestows His grace on us all.

It makes its presence felt as a house of God, where the sheer magnificence of the monument is meant to make ordinary mortals aware of their puny stature before Someone who bestows His grace on us all.

It makes its presence felt as a house of God, where the sheer magnificence of the monument is meant to make ordinary mortals aware of their puny stature before Someone who bestows His grace on us all.

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There is a pool, which holds cool waters for the ritualistic ablutions or Wazu necessary before one settles down to pray. Looking into its waters, carrying the ripples created by a worshipper who had left a few moments ago, I thought upon the countless faces that must have been reflected back by this very pool, as they gazed into its depths, determined to make their prayers heard. The shifting shadows of the waters play hide-and seek with the faint monsoon sun that dares to peep through some gathering clouds. I watch my friend, his face a picture of concentration, as he magically captures a moment from the scene. What do I take back from this moment today? I ask myself.

I thought upon the countless faces that must have been reflected back by this very pool, as they gazed into its depths, determined to make their prayers heard.

I thought upon the countless faces that must have been reflected back by this very pool, as they gazed into its depths, determined to make their prayers heard

Meanwhile, the skies open up as the hesitant drops turn into an invading army of resolute droplets. We stroll into the arched doorway just below this huge niche half covered by tarpaulin, enticing the imagination to believe in the treasures it is busy restoring behind its thick covers.

We stroll into the arched doorway just below this huge niche half covered by tarpaulin, enticing the imagination to believe in the treasures it is busy restoring behind its thick covers.

We stroll into the arched doorway just below this huge niche half covered by tarpaulin, enticing the imagination to believe in the treasures it is busy restoring behind its thick covers.

The marbled floor turns more slippery and I watch the patterns of little droplets zigzag into each other. Yes, He is the God of small things as well 🙂

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Yes, He is the God of small things as well 

Yes, He is the God of small things as well 🙂

There is a prayer hall right near the arched doorway where we have taken shelter from the rain, and I watch discreetly a couple of men absorbed in different moments of prayer. There is no need for words when the silence of the heart speaks to the One who already knows. I muse upon the futility of our so-called religious differences and wonder what He thinks about them!

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Our moment with the mosque does not end before we have ventured onto the flight of marbled staircases that take us, to the balcony overlooking the large courtyard. This is lined with a series of clocks, fixed in their time, as they indicate the different times of prayers of the faithful. How Time has been pointedly made to halt in its relentless march within this dimension!

This is lined with a series of clocks, fixed in their time, as they indicate the different times of prayers of the faithful. How Time has been pointedly made to halt in its relentless march within this dimension!

This is lined with a series of clocks, fixed in their time, as they indicate the different times of prayers of the faithful. How Time has been pointedly made to halt in its relentless march within this dimension!

On my brief sojourn up these stairs, I am accosted by an elderly stranger who wants to know where I am from and where I have put up for my stay. Calcutta-style curiosity makes its foray into this time warp zone very innocuously.
I sneak a quick glance at the stained glass windows that lie beyond the large prayer hall decorated with chandeliers. Maybe on my next visit…
During my turn on the balcony, I touch the cold heads of the little lotus heads that are positioned at regular intervals on the balcony.I look down at the patterned marble courtyard and realize the circular patterns in black marble resemble a compass- something that a mariners’ community would be associated with. After all, the mosque was named Nakhoda Masjid or the mariner’s mosque.

I look down at the patterned marble courtyard and realize the circular patterns in black marble resemble a compass- something that a mariners’ community would be associated with

I look down at the patterned marble courtyard and realize the circular patterns in black marble resemble a compass- something that a mariners’ community would be associated with

Time enters this domain as dusk begins to descend into it. It is time for us to leave. I step out into the pavement and the world as I know it, looms up with its pace and hullabullo like a pop-up comic book. I smile to myself, and turn to look up at the grand clock located in the higher reaches of the building and notice that it does not work as well.

I smile to myself, and turn to look up at the grand clock located in the higher reaches of the building and notice that it does not work as well.

I smile to myself, and turn to look up at the grand clock located in the higher reaches of the building and notice that it does not work as well.

We get onto the street and start the ritual of hailing a cab back home. Pulling my scarf away from my head, I once more turn back, for one more time, towards this edifice, so masculine in so feminine a city. What do I take back from you? I ask. What will you give me? Of course, there is no reply- but then, I did not need any.

What do I take back from you? I ask. What will you give me? Of course, there is no reply- but then, I did not need any.

What do I take back from you? I ask. What will you give me? Of course, there is no reply- but then, I did not need any.

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This Too Shall Pass…

This blogpost was not planned for- it has engendered itself out of a dilemma that compels me to voice my confused state of mind over what many may regard as a non-issue. But then, the annoying way of the world seems to be that the little things construct the entire picture- and before we know it, the picture may not be a very pretty one at all.

The issue at hand is whether to abstain from such actions that may directly or indirectly show support for an individual of incredible cult status in a society like ours (which is absolutely starved for heroes of the real kind), when his actions have been unacceptable.

Well, for starters, I have no absolute opinion on this one. I have been extremely vocal in person and on social media in my criticism of the lack of responsibility and conscience displayed by the individual who has countless fans declaring their allegiance to his innocence in the matter.
Yet, when the movie got its long awaited release, I was tempted to watch it like countless others who will have watched it or have planned to watch it.
I must also confess that this temptation has come escorted by a nagging feeling of unease with it, like most temptations do.

It is not uncommon to discover that our gods have feet and hearts of clay, that our heroes are backroom dealers and manipulators. Then what? Do we subject our gods to a modified status, or do we compartmentalize their lives lived in and away from public view, or do we reject them as mistakes?
I wish I had it so simply worked out as those ardent worshippers who remain steadfast or those who never considered him heroic in the first place.

Anyways, my query led me on a brief quest- I turned to social media to ask for opinions on this matter and many voices travelled in the form of binary digits to tell me what people think. What I gleaned from the responses so far was this- many people are angry; the grapes of wrath are full and bitter; but there also seems to be a general acceptance that such ethics are better off in the e-drawing rooms and e-coffee houses of our world. It does not really matter in the scheme of things in reality.

Then I am tempted to ask the next question- why don’t we accord all our public personas to the same compartmentalization? I recall with a shudder how my staid city had reacted with violence on the streets to the arrival of a writer who had challenged the oppressive and hypocritical patriarchy of society. We sure did not ‘compartmentalize’ her work from her persona!

The relieving feature of this ethical dilemma, as some may phrase it, is that there are so many other examples of it from our daily living that we do not have to lose sleep over it at all. Like all the other similar dilemmas that nag us from time to time, This Too Shall Pass. We shall numb ourselves once more and carry on with life. It is anyway a tough job to return home without being ‘runover’ by the exacting schedules we follow.

So will I watch it, or won’t I? Maybe I will after all – I am only being human you see 

Trapped in a momentary dilemma, we can either settle into it or struggle to break free.

Trapped in dilemma’s mesh, we can either settle into it or struggle to break free.

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