Saturday, May 26, 2012

Jamai Shashthi, a Bengali festival

It is Jamai Shashthi tomorrow; a festival that is celebrated in Bengal.This festival is essentially for the Jamai (son-in-law). On this day Jamais get invited to a feast at their in-laws place.
No matter how bad the weather conditions; no matter how hot it is, nothing can stop the passion with which this festival is celebrated all over Bengal. Of course it is not the same as it used to be in the earlier days but it is still very popular.

As a child I used to be very amused at the amount of attention my dad used to get whenever we visited my maternal grandparents. I think it was always Jamai Shashthi for him:)

Jamai Shashthi would always happen during our summer vacations, and in our ancestral village there were elaborate ceremonies that would start with a shashthi puja. After the puja, we would all wear the yellow threads around our wrists and gorge on delicious food. Especially homemade sweets; how I loved them!

It is my husband's turn to get pampered tomorrow. I wonder why they don't celebrate bou shashthi?

High time we get pampered too!

In Kolkata, the prices of fruits, fish, and sweets shoot up during this time. For Jamai shashthi, fruits and sweets are a must. And sometimes the variety of fruits that is served can go up to 10!

My maids have taken three days off to prepare for this festival. I asked them what have they planned for their Jamais. The meals are quite elaborate and require a lot of preparation. At least ten varieties of fruits will be served, for the main course there will be hilsa fish, mutton, at least 4-5 kinds of fries, sweetened rice, chutney, cholar dal, and  postor bora or narkeler bora. For desert there would be mishti doi and rossolgollas and the fruits. It does not stop here, they have bought gifts for the Jamais too. Wow!

Like most festivals there is a legend behind celebrating Jamai Shashthi. The story is about a greedy daughter in law of a bengali family who would eat up all the food but blame it on the cat. And she would keep chasing the cat away for no fault of the cat. The cat who was the vahana of Shashthi complained to Ma Shashthi. The daughter in law had 7 sons and one daughter, and somehow all her children got stolen. This saddenend her a lot. She was so depressed that she went to the jungle to find peace. Ma Shashthi appeared before her as an old lady. On hearing her story Ma Shashthi reminded her about the bad deeds of her past. She started crying and was ashamed of her deeds; she asked for forgiveness. Ma Shashthi forgave her and asked her to follow some rituals on the sixth day of Jaistha month to get back her children.

Since then mother's pray for their children's well being on this day. It must have slowly evolved into Jamai Shashthi where elderly women pray for their married children's well being. 

On this day, the bonding between the in-laws and the Jamai is strengthened even more. Not only does the mother in law cook for the jamai, she blesses the couple and prays for them. The purpose also is to ensures that the son inlaw treats their daughter with respect. It is a happy occasion where the whole family gets together to have a meal.  What more can you ask for?

That reminds me, we should have something like this for our parents too. Right?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The heat is on!

Every summer especially April and May are really -really hot and sultry and every year we say gosh the summers are getting worse!

In Kolkata especially, the high temperatures coupled with high humidity becomes a lethal combination. With no rain in sight, we are up against some very uncomfortable days!

I was just thinking, if this heat is playing such a havoc in our lives, what is the plight of people who are not as fortunate as us?

In many households there is no AC and no power back up option, SO if there is a power cut, they just have to go through the discomfort.

Also, what about people who have to travel long distances in this heat to get to work ? Or be under the sun for long hours?

Especially, our traffic police staff who have to be on their job, standing in the heat and helping the traffic flow, they just have to face the brutal heat no matter what, they can't say they don't want to work, and what about the people who work on construction sites?

As for my part time maids who help me out with my regular household work, here is what their routine looks like- Get up at 3 am in the morning everyday, complete their housework, and then take a train to come to work. They take over two hours to commute by train. They slog the whole day in perhaps 4-5 households and then go back home in the evening. Many times there are power cuts and they can't sleep at night. But they land up at work the next day without complaining. For them just coming to work is such a  big deal! Heat must be a minor thing.

Here I am sitting in an AC room, typing these words, and instead of being thankful that I am so comfortable, I still complain, Oh! the heat is killing me!

I don't think I can even begin to imagine how tough the lives of most people are! I respect them because they are made of stronger stuff, they face adversity every day, and they take it in their stride. 
But is that enough?

Yes, the "heat is on " and it is not only the weather that I am talking about.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Satyamev Jayate:A show that will bring about change

Last weekend, I totally forgot that there would be a television series, Satyamev Jayate, on social concerns, anchored by Aamir Khan. I received a lot of messages from my friends who had watched the show and they were full of praise about the show. And I don’t know how it slipped my mind and I had completely missed the first episode.

All through the week I kept hearing people talk about it, so I visited the site and I finally got the chance to watch the whole episode.

I loved Aamir Khan's introduction for the show, very-very well said and captured. Also, the beautifully composed song, O Ri Chiraiya, written and sung by Swanand Kirkire was very touching.

(There is something about Aamir Khan though. He does lesser films but his films have a message and usually not the preachy kind. And almost all of his films are popular. Now that he has started these series, he is doing one hell of a job of this too!)

It is high time we had this kind of a show in India. It reminded me of Oprah Winfrey show of which I am a huge fan. I used to wonder why we do not have an Oprah in India too.

This episode was about female foeticide. We all know that it exists in our society because we read it in the newspapers. We are shocked and alarmed about it, but we forget about it and go on with our regular lives. We feel we can’t do much about it, after all the mindset of people can’t be changed overnight.

But that is not completely true. Aamir Kan mentioned in his introductory opening lines, we are after all a part of this society, even through these issues may not affect us directly but we are connected to it, each one of us. And if we want to bring about a change or reach these alarming issues to everyone, someone has to do something about it.

And I think the best way of taking up these causes is through a known personality that the whole India recognizes. Eminent personalities such as Aamir Khan can really bring about this change.

I am hooked on to this show and can’t wait for 11am tomorrow.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bhooter Bhabishyat; a must watch Bengali film

I saw a very entertaining Bengali film " Bhooter Bhabishyat" yesterday.

I had heard from others, that this is really a very entertaining film, and I was dying to see it. Finally saw it yesterday, and now I realize why everyone has been talking about it!

The concept of the film is unique and original. It is a refreshing change. It is based on the below-mentioned concept.

With the growing population the demand for flats have multiplied. Therefore most of the beautiful old houses are being taken over by promoters, who want to build apartments, malls etc.

What about the ghosts who have lived on in these houses for generations?
Does someone care about their future? If these houses get converted in flats, where will they go? No one wants to know what will happen to them just because they do not have voting rights?

The story line revolves around this concept. There are quite a few ghosts from different time periods who inhibit one of these beautiful houses in Kolkata. A promoter decides to buy this house and convert it into a huge mall. The resident ghosts have no place to go, since slowly all the old houses have given way to new ones. They feel insecure about their future (pun intended).

The acting by Swastika Mukherjee, Parambrata Chatterjee and Sabyasachi Chakraborty is out of the world.

You really tend to sympathise with the ghosts because of their plight. The director,Anik Dutta  has cleverly brought together different characters from different generations, by the end of the film you know each character well. It is really a wonderful film. Has all the ingredients of a regular film, and yet it is so different.

You must see this film if you get a chance. Not only is the concept original, the film is entertaining, humorous, has some absolutely wonderful dialogues, and it has a message.

And it is not scary, so if you were expecting a scary film because it has ghosts in it, it will not meet your expectations.The beauty of this film is the unique way it has been presented, you have to see it from the ghost's perspective.

 In fact it is so humourous that I had a good laugh after ages!