Author: shuktara

Spring festival of Holi

After Saraswati Puja everyone looks forward to Holi, the spring festival of colours. All the flowering trees are in full bloom, colour is everywhere and spring has truly arrived.

Holi is probably one of the few festivals that needs no explanation because around the world photos are shared of people young and old throwing coloured powder and eventually covered in a rainbow of colours.

Here are just a few photos and videos of the fun at shuktara

“They are my oxygen”

Nandita Ghosh has been working at Lula Bari, shuktara girls home, since 2010. She is a tutor and gives cooking lessons but she is so much more. Referring to the girls of shuktara she said this with a broad smile:

“They are my oxygen!”

Before coming to shuktara Nandita admits she had no experience with handicapped children. Previously she taught cooking, reading and health classes at Shikshamitra (an alternative school in Kolkata). Although she bought books to learn about working with children with disabilities and read extensively – what she ultimately found is that there is “no difference” between the children she taught at Shikshamitra and the girls at Lula Bari.

She talked about the girls’ attempts to learn stitching. At first she thought “they cannot do anything” – especially Guria who has Cerebral Palsy with minimal motor skills. She started out using colors and paper to give an idea of sewing. Then she gave the girls cards with patterns and needle and thread. Within two days they finished their cards and went on to embroider cloth. Now they are all doing amazing stitching – even Guria!

“Actually they need a mother’s love.”

Nandita said that all of the staff love the girls very much and like a mother, it’s important to give moral support and develop good habits and behaviour. She’s seen definite changes in behaviour over the time she’s been in Lula Bari – she talked about how much calmer Tamina is now than when she started.

She has been amazed by how the girls learn everything very quickly, for example they can use Facebook and WhatsApp, something the women caregivers in the home cannot do. She feels if Guria gets proper guidance from her teachers that she will go far.

As a measure of how much the girls like Nandita every day they ask “Will you stay here?”
And when asked what the future holds she says:

“Yes, I’ll be very happy to stay here!”

shuktara - Lula Bari home for disabled girls - photo by Sarah Annay Photography

Spirit of Frida Kahlo at Lula Bari

Last month our photographer friend Sarah Annay came to Lula Bari with her friend Aslyn Beringer to do a Frida Kahlo workshop with the girls. First she explained about Frida Kahlo’s life as an artist who suffered a lot from injuries from an accident. Then she discussed different types of portraits and illustrated these with photos of Frida.

What happened next was quite extraordinary as you can see from the photos below. Thank you Sarah and Aslyn for a fantastic day!

Adam and his son visit shuktara

Adam Thompson first visited shuktara back in 2001. After that visit he was committed to supporting the work of shuktara in whatever way he could and when Shuktara Trust UK was registered he naturally became a Trustee.

On the 18th February Adam returned to shuktara with his son Frankie. Being able to show them around Anna Bari, Lula Bari and Shuktara Cakes was a thrill for all of us.

In Adam’s words…

“I know it sounds like just the ridiculous talk of a cosseted north London liberal (which I am!), but everything felt like… home. This is what I remember feeling a decade and a half ago and it was amazing to feel it, perhaps even more strongly, on this visit.”

“The great privilege for both of us was to feel like we were welcomed into this zany, slightly chaotic, incredibly warm family. It just felt so special.”

To read the full transcript of what Adam wrote about his visit to shuktara please click here: https://us7.campaign-archive.com/?u=19bfe4a278e40a10e7e00286b&id=f79a2a8073

Saraswati Puja at Anna Bari

Saraswati Puja is an annual event at shuktara and everyone is invited. Shuktara has a history of celebrating Saraswati Puja going back to the early days in Jubilee Park when our first boys attended REACH school.
Even though they have finished, Aakash has just started! Now that our girls are coming to the end of their studies at the same school, this Puja has a special place in the story of shuktara and this year we remembered Anna and kept his photo next to the goddess.

Here are some photos of the festivities – many thanks to Marci Radin and Sarah Annay for their fantastic images.

shuktara home for young people with disability

Shuktara welcomes Bappa Singh

At the end of January we took a new boy into Anna Bari.

Pappu was contacted by an agency who had found a boy with cerebral palsy in the centre of Kolkata. Initially he was wary of taking this young boy in case his family came to claim him. Soon it became clear that no one would come looking for him as his mother had left him on Park Street, a really busy area, outside a hotel on a street corner – we are sure she did this knowing that he would be taken into care.

So after a couple of days, Pappu said yes!

Bappa Singh is verbal and hearing David, loves to repeat “How Are You” in a what sounds like a London accent! He’s a bright little boy and even though his legs and one arm don’t work very well he is very mobile.
He has a bright future at shuktara. And with all that has happened to him – he hasn’t stopped smiling.

shuktara homes for young people with disabilities

David’s 60th at Anna Bari

Shuktara’s founder David Earp turned 60 on 20th January and of course there was a fabulous party on the roof of Anna Bari. Decorating and styling for the event culminated in a tent of sheer vintage jamdani saris in a rainbow of colours, a jasmine throne (the second in what is sure to become a shuktara trend) and a carpet of literally thousands of multicolored rose petals.

All of shuktara’s young people and staff dressed up in their best outfits for this fantastic event. Sanjay and Raja were there with their wives and daughters. The children loved throwing handfuls of rose petals and watching them float back down. To be honest the adults found the cascading rose petals almost as exciting as the children.

Although it’s difficult to keep a secret in Kolkata the arrival of Alison Saracena and Christi Lane-Barlow (who came from Laos to join in the celebration) was a complete surprise to David. Friends of David and shuktara: Emma Christmas, Caroline de Penning, Maura Hurley and Kelly Dwyer also joined everyone on the roof for the festivities.

Judging from the photos we can truly say that this was a once-in-a-lifetime event and everyone who attended enjoyed this very enchanting evening to celebrate David’s 60th birthday.

All photos by Christi Lane-Barlow