At shuktara we love to celebrate birthdays. 15th May was Bablu Lal’s birthday. We think Bablu is probably the oldest person who lives at shuktara although like most of the people who live at our homes we have no actual birth information. Bablu’s birthday is during the very hot season right before the rains start in June. We’re sure that a piece of Bablu’s cake made the day a real celebration – and possibly for just a few minutes everyone could forget about the soaring temperatures.
Although the shuktara girls home is called Lula Bari we've never had a name for the boys home - until now. We think the very best way to honour Anna's memory is to name the boys home after him.
First we had our expert sign maker draw up a design. The photos above show the design and it's creation and installation.
The boys home will always be known as Anna Bari.
Diwali is the Hindu Festival of Lights, celebrated in autumn. This is one of the most popular festivals in India which symbolizes the "victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance."
This is a favorite night at the shuktara homes as everyone helps with lighting up the house and setting off fireworks.
This year our celebration was a bit more subdued as we all remembered Anna and lit candles not only for the festival, but also for him.
Diwali firework waterfall
Tamina with a sparkler
In West Bengal we are very lucky because we celebrate two festivals of light - first Kali Puja (dedicated to the goddess of Kolkata, Kali) and on the following night, Diwali (Hindu New Year).
On both nights pradeep (shallow clay vessels with oil) and candles are placed all around the house. The short videos and photos below show preparations for lighting up the house on Kali Puja.
Preparing the pradeep
Bablu and Ashok
On the roof
If you follow shuktara you know that Durga Puja is the biggest festival of the year in Kolkata. All over the city elaborate handmade pandals are created to house clay statues of the goddess Durga and her family who come down once a year from their heavenly abode for a five day holiday.
This year the young people of shuktara visited the pandals on the 1st day of Pujas which was Shashti and 3rd day which was Ashtami. Everyone dressed up in their new clothes, piled in the cars and went pandal-hopping.
(thank you Raegan Hodge for all the fabulous photos!)
Raksha Bandhan is a Hindu festival that celebrates the bond between brother and sister. Traditionally sisters tie a "rakhi" (thread or ornamental bracelet) around the right wrist of their brothers.
Every year a few women associated with shuktara go to the boys' home and tie rakhis on all of the boys and young men - as you can see they are absolutely delighted to participate in this celebration of the bond between siblings.
According to Wikipedia this "transformed tradition" also happens outside the shuktara homes:
"Among women and men who are not blood relatives, there is also a transformed tradition of voluntary kin relations, achieved through the tying of rakhi amulets, which have cut across caste and class lines, and Hindu and Muslim divisions."
In 1999, the very beginning of shuktara, Alison and Bryan stayed in an upstairs flat in the first shuktara home. Their door was almost always open to the first five boys - Anna, Sunil, Shantara, Bapi and Sanjay.
For the next few years they taught computer skills downstairs in David's flat, shared meals with everyone at shuktara, and even went on vacations to Goa and Puri with the boys. While they lived in Kolkata they were frequent visitors to the shuktara homes.
They recently returned to Kolkata for a visit and absolutely loved being back with the young people of shuktara. They took dozens of photos - here are a few of the best.