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Mahalaya in New Jersey - A Tradition of Our Own

September 22, 2009 on 3:27 pm | In Arts-Culture, Social | No Comments

Mahalaya in Bengal is synonymous to the seventy year old radio musical “Mahisashur Mardini” written by Bani Kumar and composed by Pankaj Mallik. Over the years this has become a Bengali tradition to wake up at 4.30am on Majalaya day and listen to this wonderful program that has not lost its charm till date. In fact, in Bengal the demand for new radios spike during this period. The inspiring narration and “Chandi Path” by Birendra Krishna Bhadra, the wonderful songs by the great musicians like Supriti Ghosh, Manabendra Mukherjee, and many others cast a spell on the listeners and put them into the Puja mood. Once there was an attempt to change the program and make it more contemporary using stars like Uttam Kumar, but severe protests from the listeners forced All India Radio to scrap it and go back to the traditional format.
In New Jersey, we have developed a tradition of our own. At the Anandamandir, at 4.30pm local musicians gather in front of a packed audience and perform the famous “Mahishashur Mardini” under the guidance of Arun Bhowmik. The musicians, most of whom are accomplished in their own right, devote their time to usher in the Durga Puja festival in front of the idols of Goddess Durga and Kali and create a magical moment for the audience some of whom travel all the way from Philadelphia, Long Island, and other distant cities.
I have attached two clips of this event (recorded on my cell phone) for you to get a glimpse of this event. The audio quality is not too good, but you’ll still feel the electrifying atmosphere that charges us up for the upcoming festivals.

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The Health Care Debate

September 16, 2009 on 12:04 pm | In Generic, Social | 1 Comment

I have been trying to avoid writing about the current health care issue on this blog. The key reason being that if I start writing I won’t be able to stop. I have been discussing this issue with my friends on my facebook page and the discussions often became quite passionate and sometimes quite heated too. The rumors, hear-says, myths and speculations on the healthcare bill have risen to a level that I doubt if ever happened before in American social and political life. Multiple bills have been floating in the Capitol and today Senator Baucus unveiled the so-called bipartisan bill (which apparently only one Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe is likely to support) which has no option for a public-option, requires families to contribute 13% of their income for health insurance premiums and imposes fines ($3800 per family) on those who do not purchase insurance. The bill does however impose some restrictions on insurance companies to prevent them from rejecting people with pre-existing conditions or from increasing the rates for people with serious illnesses. This bill, if accepted, would cost $856 billion over 10 year time.

Continue reading The Health Care Debate…

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Goat and the Bengali Intelligentsia

September 9, 2009 on 5:29 pm | In Generic, Social | 3 Comments

goat The intelligentsia (as defined by Wikipedia) is a social class of people engaged in complex mental and creative labor directed to the development and dissemination of culture, encompassing intellectuals and social groups close to them.  You can very well attribute this term to the Bengali society who fits this definition quite well.  But what does a timid and herbivorous (although Bengalis think goats to be omnivorous - chhagole ki na khay) mammal like goat got to do with this elite group of people?  The answer to this is well known to all of us - Bengalis love goat meat. Although in other parts of the World, goat milk and milk products (cheese) are also extremely popular, but we the Bengalis don’t care much about the milk.  It is the meat that is most important to us - the ultimate food in any Bengali plate.  Historically, goat meat is the only kind of meat that Bengalis (especially the Hindu Bengalis) ate. Goats were the most popular offerings to Goddess Kali and Durga - and the meat then cooked in a recipe void of any garlic or onions and hence termed as “vegetarian meat”.

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Durga Puja 2009 - Just a Month Away

August 20, 2009 on 5:31 pm | In Generic, Social | 1 Comment

Durga PujaBengali Associations of NJ are gearing up for the biggest festival of the year - Durga Puja. This year the festival starts quite early, around 25th-26th of September. Kallol, GSCA and Anandamandir will be celebrating their Durga Puja during that weekend.  And just like last year we should expect that the registration to start soon. GSCA has already opened their online registration, and Kallol is expected to open theirs in early September.

Last year (2008) was the first time when Kallol of NJ started their online pre-registration process and it caused quite a bit of furor amongst the Kallol regulars who failed to register early. The registration window was closed as soon as the guest count limit was reached and that left many people with a bad taste.  Some people were able to get in at the last moment (I don’t know how) but several people had to go back. I think Kallol needs to do something about this. Continue reading Durga Puja 2009 - Just a Month Away…

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Buying a Used Car

August 18, 2009 on 11:52 pm | In Generic | No Comments

1998 Nissan AltimaRecently I was in the market to buy a used car for my son. It has been quite a long time since I bought a used or should I say “preowned” vehicle. Even when I had bought couple of “pre-owned” cars during my early days in this country, I bought them through my colleagues and friends. The first car I bought was a Dodge Aries wagon that was sold to me by a colleague of mine when I was desperate to get a car that had four wheels and could take me from my home to work and maybe some shopping. Hence I ignored several of its “minor” blemishes - like the rear passenger door which was disabled permanently. A previous accident had bent it awkwardly and  my colleague warned me that if I attempt to open the door from inside, it may swing out violently and injure a bystander. I never opened the door. But the car served me very well. It was the time when minivans were just appearing in the market and station wagons were in high demand to haul luggage to the airports. My friends loved the car. It could sit six people quite comfortably and the huge trunk could pack in a whole apartment. Continue reading Buying a Used Car…

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Jadiyo Galpo - A Review

August 5, 2009 on 4:38 pm | In Arts-Culture | No Comments

Review of Jadiyo Galpo

Subrata Ghosh, an emiment theater critic from Kolkata, recently reviewed Theater Workshop’s production “Jadiyo Galpo” in Desh patrika.  The play is directed by Ashok Mukhopadhyay. “Jadiyo Galpo” is the play that we had staged last year as “Satyameva”. Check out this review and tell your friends and family in Kolkata to watch this play at their latest opportunity.

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Goodbye NABC 2009 - Welcome NABC 2010

July 8, 2009 on 2:25 pm | In Arts-Culture, Generic | 2 Comments

NABC Time Zone On July 4th, Saturday night, the curtains came down upon the NABC 2009 at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. But as the NABC lights faded out in the West Coast, Kallol of New Jersey got into full gear to herald in the NABC of 2010 to be held at the Atlantic City Convention center from July 9th to 11th, 2010. Although I was not able to attend the San Jose NABC, but judging from the excellent coverage on Urhalpool, it seemed that it was a successful one from an overall perspective. It seemed that the shows ran on time (which was unthinkable even a few years ago, NABC seems to have fixed that vexing problem and made this cartoon irrelevant), they were entertaining and dazzling, food was good, as were the long adda sessions. The second generation kids also seemed to have enjoyed themselves, some made new friends and some met old ones they met at previous NABCs.

Continue reading Goodbye NABC 2009 - Welcome NABC 2010…

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Jayanti’s are For Ever!

July 8, 2009 on 11:14 am | In Generic | 1 Comment

By Amitava Sen

Rabindranath Tagore The derivative meaning of the word “Jayanti” in Bengali is, an occasion to acclaim and praise, linguistically speaking. But the word really means a Jubilee, celebration of certain anniversaries. More often it means celebration of birthdays of famous persons, usually dead than alive. In our case, the dates of these anniversaries could be an amalgam of many calendars. Saints and spiritual gurus are observed according to lunar calendar; Sri Ramakrishna is celebrated on the second day of the new moon on the eleventh month (Falgun) of the Bengali era. Poets and littérateurs have their assigned days in accordance with the dates of Bengali calendar, as in 25th of the first month (Baisakh) of the calendar for the poet Rabindra Nath Thakur and for some, the ones dealing with science, politics, sports etc. as per the Christian calendar; January 23rd for Subhas Chandra Bose, for example.

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Community News Bites: NABC 2009 and Urhalpool

June 30, 2009 on 3:31 pm | In Arts-Culture | No Comments

North America Bengali Conference (NABC) 2009 kicks off at the San Jose Convention Center on July 2nd. The biggest Bengali event of the year will run till July 4th and will feature some of the best performers from India, Bangladesh and USA.

Urhalpool editor Goutam Datta will be awarded the “Distinguished Service Award” at NABC 2009 on Friday, July 3rd at 6:45PM in “Banga Mancha”. The award is given by the Cultural Association of Bengal (the umbrella organization of NABC) for helping the cause of propagating and nurturing Bengali culture in North America.

URHALPOOL ( had been chosen by NABC2009 as their internet media partner. URHALPOOL in association with NABC2009 will be presenting extensive coverage of the event for all 4 days from July 1st to July 4th. Catch up with all the NABC excitement at URHALPOOL(

On June 26th, Anandamandir hosted their monthly “Sahitya-o-Alochona” meetings where the attendees discussed the celebrated Bengali poet Joy Goswami. The attendees read Joy Goswami’s poems, discussed the artistry of his work and shared their personal experiences with the poet.

Tauryatrika 2009 [the annual cultural program of Bharatiya Kala Kendra - BKK] was a mega success. The event started with an excellent and highly interactive seminar, followed by screening of a movie on Ustad Bismillah Khan [directed by Goutam Ghosh]. In the cultural program, students of BKK put an excellent presentation. At the end, Bappi Lahiri was on top of his form.

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Banaprastha - Only if the message could be clearer

June 11, 2009 on 3:52 pm | In Arts-Culture, Generic | 3 Comments

A Review by Amitava Sen

Banaprastha: Biswajit Kaberi and ParikhitAs I entered the theatre the house was full and audibly expectant; as the play ended crowd was visibly appreciative and a few even ecstatic which was quite an achievement and cause for satisfaction for the group of people who presented Banaprastha at Edison Valley Playhouse on May 31, 2009. The play was generally well produced. A full house helps to create an environment of connectivity between the performers and audience. Perception of a full house and ambience that it helps create encourage the players to be their best. Selection of this adequately equipped arena, small in size, reflects producers’ sensibility about the importance of interaction between the players and the viewers and economic prudence at the same time.

Continue reading Banaprastha - Only if the message could be clearer…

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