Tag: Raja Mohan Das

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.

Saraswati Puja at shuktara

Saraswati Puja 2020

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!

shuktara - Diwali

Happy Diwali!

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!

shuktara - lamps on Diwali
shuktara - Sanjay, Rubel, Raja

Rubel comes to shuktara

Just a few days before our Founders Day, at the end of June, shuktara Chairman, Pappu, received a phone call from Childline about a young man with cerebral palsy who had been found in North Kolkata unable to explain what he was doing. Because he was also Deaf, the police were informed and Childline held him at one of their night shelters.

Pappu immediately said yes to Rubel and he came to shuktara on 27th June. He does not seem to have any knowledge of sign language and we have not really got very far in knowing his story, because of his lack of communication – but Pappu, the staff at Anna Bari and the shuktara boys are all with him and he seems to be learning and understanding some basic signs. He appears to be a very intelligent young man and we are being gentle with him as he comes to understand his new situation. Currently we have no way of knowing whether he has lost his family, or been abandoned. Not many of us can understand what it must be like to lose or be abandoned by your family. For Rubel add to the mix his confusion, his mild autism and the fact that he’s Deaf and hasn’t learnt sign language yet – and he has cerebral palsy!

Thank God he has met Sanjay, Bapi, Vijay and Raja – who know EXACTLY what he’s going through.

shuktara homes for young people with disabilities

Gifts from London

Jewellrey gifts from friends in London arrived just in time for the beginning of the Puja season here in Kolkata. This season is similar to Christmas - everyone looks forward to getting new clothes and gifts.

As you can see the recipients of these wonderful gifts were thrilled to receive them.

Special thanks to Patricia Brady for thinking of shuktara and to Cecile Tiano for the wonderful jewellery and for your generosity in passing it along.

Shuktara Documentary Interview video - Belinda, Ashok and Lali

Belinda speaks about shuktara

Belinda Carlisle has been a longtime supporter of shuktara and she is a frequent visitor to both homes in Kolkata. While in Atlanta she kindly gave some of her time to Yep! Films International and talked about her experiences with shuktara.

To help support the new shuktara documentary click here:

www.gofundme.com/shuktarafilm

2018 Saraswati Puja at shuktara

Saraswati Puja on the roof

Every year Saraswati Puja is celebrated on the roof of the shuktara boys' home. All of the young people at shuktara eagerly anticipate wearing new clothes and having kedgeree and prasad. Friends and family are invited to this puja and as you can see, there is always quite a crowd of people having a wonderful time.

shuktara home for young adults with disability - 2017 February - Raja is given a photo of his daughter, Oindrila

Raja has a daughter, Oindrila

Pappu had not wanted to tell anyone our news about Raja until he felt that the time was right. He feels now that everyone ought to know that he got married!

In February 2014 he married a deaf girl called Riya and they now have a daughter, Oindrila who was born on 28th August 2015.

Raja and his family live independently as do Kedar and Sanjay. Every day Raja stops by to visit us and continues to do his painting in the shuktara boy’s house.

about Raja...

photo by Sarah Annay