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.
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!
Saraswati Puja came early this year – the date varies according to the cycle of the moon but typically falls in late January or early February. This year the puja was on Wednesday 29th January and is the first puja of the year celebrating the goddess of wisdom and learning, Saraswati.
At shuktara this occasion is marked by a statue of the goddess Saraswati on the roof of Anna Bari, usually surrounded by bright floral decorations. Everyone dresses up in their best clothes and the young people from both homes gather on the roof to talk, eat kedgeree (a creamy savory rice dish) and, as seen in the video to the right, dance.
Everyone loves Sunil and we all love watching Sunil celebrate by dancing. Happy Saraswati Puja!
Along with Muniya, all of us at shuktara want to wish you a very happy new year!
David Earp BEM
We have wonderful news to share with you – on Saturday 28th December 2019 it was announced that David Earp, founder of Shuktara Trust was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in recognition of his work with vulnerable children in India.
The BEM is a British medal awarded for meritorious civil or military service worthy of recognition by the Crown. David was nominated by shuktara friend and supporter Patrick Tissington who says:
“Two years ago I was ranting about the honours system and why so many undeserving people get them. Why didn’t people like David get rewarded? For me, the attraction of David’s example is that he saw an awful situation that he decided he could not ignore. The extent of the problem was such that he must have known he couldn’t completely solve homelessness in the world or even solve it in Kolkata. He could provide a loving home for at least some of the children whose families couldn’t support them.
So I asked myself what I personally could do. I don’t feel able to be as brave as he was and I don’t have huge spare wealth or a massive media following. So I decided I could perhaps try to see if the honours system could be used for the purpose it was really supposed to – provide public recognition for people for doing great things.
The work of shuktara is an inspiration to me and my family every day. And so we have David Earp BEM! I’m so pleased for him and can’t wait to see him presented with the honour. And there must be a party!”
Congratulations David – what an amazing honour and a brilliant way to start the new decade!
Last weekend Pappu took the girls from Lula Bari to the seaside resort village of Mandarmani.
This is a good time of the year to visit the beach because the weather is sunny and the monsoon rains have usually finished. Everyone enjoys the beach and the fresh sea air is a welcome change from urban Kolkata.
Sunil went also because no one likes a holiday more than he does.
There was a lot of excitement yesterday evening at Lula Bari.
The girls had just received a bundle of winter clothes from a local supporter and were frantically choosing which outfits to pack for a short two-day trip. Moni was busy in the next room catching up on some last minute homework with Priyanka. A neighbour was celebrating his son’s first birthday by delivering food packets to everyone.
Prity wanted everyone to see this photo of her and Puja (on right). It’s not often we are able to capture Puja because of her stimming, but in this moment, Prity asked us to click quickly!
After the madness of last night this morning Pappu and the girls are happily on their way to Mandarmani for a beach weekend.
For 20 years now we’ve been celebrating Diwali on the roof of shuktara. Diwali is celebrated with fireworks and crackers all across India. In Kolkata Kali Puja signifies the end of the puja season and usually takes place the night after Diwali. This year both festivals were on the same night so everyone set off their fireworks together.
Sunil loves pujas but this is perhaps his very favourite one because it involves extremely loud noises he is able to hear despite being profoundly deaf. Pappu took him to choose the fireworks and the choices were overwhelming – just take a look at this shop selling only fireworks (below).
Last Sunday (27th October) at dusk small clay containers were filled with oil and a wick and placed all around both homes. As darkness fell the lamps were lit and the feeling was absolutely magical.
Then the firework show began with rockets, pinwheels, fountains and sparklers. All over the city colourful lights and sounds continued for most of the night.
Happy Diwali from all of us at shuktara!
On Saturday 28th September we celebrated Mahalaya, this is the day that Durga comes to earth and the beginning of the celebration of Durga Puja which starts when her face is unveiled on the 4th October.
28th September is the day that Subhash celebrates his birthday and also a day when visitors come to shuktara with gifts for everyone because of Mahalaya and the forthcoming festival.
This year we had a lot of gifts – clothes, food, umbrellas and blankets and a promise of a water filter machine for Anna Bari. Pappu’s friends Navin and Rajesh filled up a car with food (see photo) enough for both our homes.
When everyone found out that Guria celebrates her birthday the following day, on the 29th September, our guests rushed out to buy cake for her, to be kept in the fridge. So Guria ended up with 3 cakes on Sunday including the one that Pappu had organised for her.
Nobody arrives at shuktara with a date of birth. But everyone has a birthday that they choose or is chosen for them if they are unable to do so.
Thank You to all our friends and supporters here in Kolkata, India and around the world.