Author: shuktara

shuktara celebrates Dol

Dol

Everyone in India celebrates the coming of spring with the festival of Holi, called Dol in West Bengal (Bengali: দোল পূর্ণিমা ‘Dol Purnimā’).  The celebration last Sunday involved a rainbow of colours and gave a chance for both shuktara homes to interact with people in the community.

Only on this day are young people allowed to be a little cheeky with older people by gently rubbing powdered colour on their faces. As you can see it’s a delightful celebration and no one can resist smiling.

 

shuktara

Welcome new Raju

When you consider that most of the young people who live at shuktara have been with us from around the year 2000 and that we started the girls home in 2007, we believe most of the boys are about 30 and the girls are in their 20s.

This hit home the other day when Pappu, the chairman of shuktara in Kolkata received a call from a Child Welfare Agency asking if we could take an older boy. Raju Biswas is Deaf and autistic, living with his mother in a room in a village three hours outside of Kolkata in rural Bengal. Her fear of what will happen to Raju when she dies led her to ask around for help.

Pappu met both Raju and his mother last week and on Sunday 28th February he and some of the boys from shuktara went to pick up Raju, see his mother and sign all the legal paperwork. Raju’s mother has no TV or mobile phone but her neighbour has said that she can video call from her phone to Pappu and keep in touch with her son.

We are all happy to welcome one more Raju to shuktara and let’s try to remember that even though, through habit, we talk about the girls home and the boys home, these are mostly young men and women who because of their disability have lost, left or been abandoned by their families.
Shuktara is their home now, it’s not an orphanage, it’s not a children’s home, it is their home and for most of them it will be their home forever.

Welcome Raju!

shuktara - boys in front of flowers

Saraswati Puja 2021

On 16th February shuktara celebrated Saraswati Puja on the roof of Anna Bari. Over the years this has become a tradition at shuktara and everyone is welcome. This festival prepares for the arrival of Spring and is dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, music, language and all of the arts. Everyone wears bright coloured clothing to celebrate the coming of Spring.

Below are photos and short videos showing this special day at shuktara.

Christmas at shuktara

Santa comes to shuktara

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.

Click here for some fantastic short videos from Santa’s visit to shuktara.

shuktara

Jagadhatri Puja

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.

shuktara - Sunil wearing flag mask

Independence Day at shuktara

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!

shuktara - Guria at Lula Bari

Laughing through lockdown

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!

shuktara Founder's Day

21 years of shuktara!

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.

shuktara

 

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.

 

shuktara - Raju

 

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.