Dolyatra is celebrated in March on varying dates each year, depending on the position of the moon, and this year it fell on March 7. The holiday is similar to Holi and commemorates the last festival of the Bengali calendar.
Thank you to Dev Ambuly our amazing dance teacher for his work at shuktara and to the team at RJ Photography & Films for shooting this video for our puja celebrations.
Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season!
This is what our friend and dance teacher, Dev Ambuly, has been doing at Anna Bari during weekly dance class, working with the young people now for less than a year.
The film is made by RJ Dutta Ranjit.
First vaccinations yesterday for some of the young men and women from shuktara.
Pappu has chosen the first group of 11 today. This was based on those who go in and out of the shuktara premises most regularly.
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.
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.
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.
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.