Our friend Debasish dressed up as Santa Claus to deliver gifts to all the boys, girls and young people at Anna Bari and Lula Bari. You can see by the smiles that everyone was happy and absolutely delighted with their presents.
Because Durga Puja was a quiet affair this year and none of the shuktara young people were able to leave their homes, Pappu decided to celebate Jagadhatri Puja at Anna Bari on Monday 23rd November. We held it on the ground floor, at the side of the house, using our garage as a place to keep the Goddess in an open space and accessible for all. This meant that we were able to conduct the puja with different groups of people from our community coming in during the day at different times.
And for the afternoon and evening session the girls came over from Lula Bari.
To see videos of Jagadhatri Puja please click here.
On midnight 15th August 1947 India became independent. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Indian Prime Minister said these words “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”
This year marks the 74th Independence Day celebration. All over India people observe this important day with flag-hoisting ceremonies, parades and cultural events.
At Anna Bari, the shuktara boys home, Pinku returned to join in the celebration. Pinku is now living independently and supporting himself. After raising the flag Pinku set a green kite to fly free, much to the delight of Bappa (see the photos below). Bappa had fun moving his wheelchair in circles (video below). And Sunil, who absolutely loves the Indian flag, wore a mask embellished with the tricolour of saffron, white and green.
Meanwhile at Lula Bari the girls gathered around the flag and sang the Indian National Anthem with Pappu. The video is below – keep watching to see Muniya lift her fist in a salute to Indian independence!
Girls sing the National Anthem
Happy Independence Day!
In West Bengal to try to slow the spread of the virus we now have two days of complete lockdown each week. For many of our young people with physical disabilities lockdown is not very different as most days are spent at home in Lula Bari (our girls home) or Anna Bari (our home for boys).
For example Guria has physiotherapy every week at home and she seems quite delighted with her routine. Who knew physio could be so much fun? In fact the other girls in the house can’t help but watch as Guria laughs through her whole session with Sandip our physiotherapist.
Some things have changed, like the way our young people study. Before the pandemic the girls who attend REACH school would get ready, climb in the shuktara vehicle and go to school. These days everyone in the world is doing school remotely. Now Guria is helped to get ready for school wearing her uniform, Pappu turns on the laptop and connects her with her teacher online.
Sometimes what seems like an obstacle for some people has the potential to be a new and exciting experience for others – as you can see from the photos Guria enjoys her online classes immensely!
It was in October 1998 that Alison Saracena (our webmistress), Bryan Forst (developer and technical expert) and David Earp (founder of shuktara) left their respective homes in San Francisco and London to head to Kolkata and start something that they had discussed for a long time, working with young people with disabilities.
Nothing quite worked out as they had planned and they started teaching typing and computer skills to youngsters in Alison and Bryan’s flat – this later became Uddami, a computer training centre. At that time they all lived on Southern Avenue in Kolkata.
On the 1st July 1999, David received a call to say there were two young men (Anna and Sunil) who were being moved from child care to adult care in a facility outside Kolkata and people had heard that they wanted to work with young people just like this.
That was the beginning of shuktara and on Wednesday we celebrated 21 years.
Our celebration had an element of sadness because Anna passed away in October 2018 and we had our 20th anniversary last year, our first without him.
Everyone misses Anna but we cherish our many wonderful memories of him.
We had a low key ceremony for Anna at the boys house, now known as Anna Bari, with a white floral garland draped around his photo and the boys gathered around.
This year due to lockdown only the staff and shuktara young people celebrated our Founders Day, the boys at Anna Bari and the girls at Lula Bari. As usual everyone enjoyed delicious mutton curry and payesh (Bengali rice-based pudding).
We also celebrated Raju’s birthday on 1st July, the day he chose – as with almost all of our young people, we don’t know his actual day of birth. In the evening David took a Happy Birthday Raju cake to the girls to spend some time at their home on this very special occasion.
Joydeb is our home tutor for Anna Bari and he comes three times a week to teach Aakash, Subhash, Bablu, Sunil, Ramesh and Sumon.
During the two months of lockdown he was not able to come and when he returned Pappu handed him his salary for that period.
Joydeb was shocked and surprised and said that he felt he ought not to take the money, but Pappu told him that everyone is getting salary over lockdown, why not him! And if he wants he can give a donation back to shuktara, or work an extra hour here and there.
Rather than the above suggestions, Joydeb is coming now on Sundays of his own volition and running an art class!
Short videos of the Sunday Art Class
Due to increased demand from people who live around shuktara and because of your generous support, last week we increased our distribution to 200 packets of food.
The first 100 bags contained 2kg rice, 1kg potato, 500gm onion, 500gm salt, 250gm dal and 4 eggs. The next 100 bags contained an apple and a banana instead of the eggs.
This will help those unable to work during lockdown, particularly the daily wage earners who have no income and little access to food.
Everyone receives a shuktara ticket to say they have picked up this week’s provision bag and Pappu will continue this distribution throughout the month of May.
Thank You for supporting his initiative to help people in the shuktara neighbourhood during this difficult time.
A few days ago we posted about shuktara giving back to the local community – as shuktara has enough Pappu decided to share what they have with people in the locality who have nothing. These are daily wage earners, pavement dwellers and families he has been told about who are struggling because of the lockdown in Kolkata.
Pappu started distributing packets of food last Monday (27th April). 50 more packets were given away on Friday (1st May) – each packet contained 2kg rice, 1kg potato, 250gm dried peas, a packet of biscuits and 500gm of mustard oil.
This distribution will happen every week on Wednesday during the entire month of May. Each week they will add different contents to the bags to vary nutritional value. Each packet costs about 250 rupees.
If you are in India and would like to support him:
Account name – Shuktara
Account number – 3187000100033787
Punjab National Bank
IFSC – PUNB0008500
Or call/text Pappu, Chairman of shuktara
Nagendra Mishra (91) 9830760087