Everyone knows that Holi is the festival of colours, and probably the most fun you can have in India. The boys of shuktara and their friends always meet at Anna Bari to throw paint powder at each other and put it on each others faces. We all laugh – a lot. This festival is a wonderful beginning to spring and a welcome break from work and studies.
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!)
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:
Today there are two homes in Behala, owned by shuktara, where 23 young people live. Ages range from teenagers to young men in their 30s. Coming from institutions or lonely lives without family, shuktara provides everything needed for a healthy, happy and perhaps most important, safe life.
Join with all of us in celebrating 19 years of shuktara - founder David Earp, Pappu (chairman of shuktara in India, guardian, advocate and friend), carers and maashis, and of course all of the young people who have a home for life filled with love and laughter. Thank you for your support, all of this is possible because of you!
Holi is an Indian spring festival also known as the "festival of colours". As Wikipedia says: "It signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh."
As you can see from the photos, this is a favorite festival at shuktara, celebrated by everyone.
Happy Holi from all of us at shuktara!
Sometimes social media can be a wonderful thing.
Shuktara has an account on Instagram @shuktara_homes and there we share various activities and stories from the day to day lives of our young people.
On sharing a short video of Subhash enjoying some Hindi film music, we received a video back from one of our followers and supporters Helen Downie a London based artist who has an account on Instagram @unskilledworker to say hello to Subhash and to say how happy she was to see him.
He was overjoyed to see this and you can see the happiness in his face.
HAVE YOU MET THESE YOUNG SPECIALLY ABLED BAKERS YET?
Jun 19 2017 : The Times of India (Kolkata) - by Amita Ghose
A group of specially abled youngsters are giving city bakers a run for their money
We know it as the morning star - the companion of light that has always held a special place in cultures across the world. And now, the Shuktara is spreading light in a different way - by empowering a group of young, differently abled men who run a bakery by that name in Behala. For these six energetic youngsters, baking is not just a source of livelihood, it's a way of life. And that's exactly what we felt when we met them recently. Read on...
THE SIX MUSKETEERS
The bakery was established in 2013 and is currently run by Raju Das, Bapi Das, Ashok Chhetri, Sanjay Sarkar, Pinku Das and Suman Goswami - all aged between 20 and 30 and inmates of an NGO's residential training centre for differently abled street kids. "Raju, Ashok, Pinku and Sanjay are the oldest employees of the bakery; Bapi joined a bit later and Suman has joined recently. They are given responsibilities in accordance with their abilities and no one is pressurised to do anything; they work at their own pace," said Somnath Sardar, the manager of Shuktara Cakes, who joined the team three and a half years ago.
And it's quite a team. While Sanjay looks after the outdoor work, Pinku, Bapi and Raju take care of the baking and mixing and Ashok and Suman manage the packaging and cleaning.
THE FRENCH CONNECTION
Nagendra Mishra, the chairman of the NGO that brought the boys up, told us that the bakery was the brainchild of French restaurateur Alain Cojean and pastry chef Fabien Rouillard. He said the latter also trained the boys to bake French specialties. "In just 10 weeks, the boys transformed into amazing bakers! We feel so proud of them. Now we deliver cakes to different cafés and also take special orders. But we deliver only on against advance booking, as we don't want to put too much pressure on the boys," he added.
All the boys are paid salaries in accordance with the importance of their duties and responsibilities. They work between five and six hours every day. "In summer, they work for five hours, as the number of orders is less. They get to work at 8 am sharp and continue till noon or 1 pm. But in winter, especially ahead of Christmas, business picks up and the boys have to work a bit more to meet the increased demand," Somnath told us.
A SLOW RISE
Speaking about the hiccups they had while setting up the bakery, Nagendra told us that the original plan was to set up a cafe. "But we had to step back because of various logistical issues. Moreover, when we opened the bakery , a number of five-star hotels and established hoteliers promised help, but all of them backed out later. Then we thought of delivering cakes against advance orders and thankfully, we now have twothree permanent clients along with party and event orders," he said. "The growth is slow and we're still not making profits, but the smiles on the faces of the boys keep us going. Sanjay is now married and lives in a rented house with his family. We also want the same to happen with the other boys," Nagendra added.
He has been deaf since birth and became an inmate of the home when he was 10. Pinku, who loves maths and drawing architectural designs, is known to be the most dependable member of the team. And when he's not baking, he can spend an entire day watching cartoons.
The self-proclaimed naughtiest of the lot, Ashok was brought to the home in 2003 by an Irish nurse working in a mental asylum in Kolkata. He was wrongly diagnosed for a good part of his early years and is actually a victim of cerebral palsy. And although he has limited mobility, it doesn't stop him from going about life with vigour. In fact, the intelligent and fiercely independent boy refuses help of any kind and pity angers him. He can't speak, but can use sign language and understands English, Hindi and Bengali.
He was just 10 when he was brought to the home. And now, Suman works at the bakery and looks after the packaging station as he's physically challenged and needs help to move around. Known for his soft and polite nature, Suman is an effective worker at the bakery.
Born on a pavement near Kalighat, Raju's grandmother took care of him after his mother passed away and father abandoned them. He has cerebral palsy and severe disability in both legs. As a child, he would crawl under cars and onto the street, endangering his life. When brought to the NGO's home, he could not walk or talk. But now, after completing his preliminary studies, he's doing extremely well at the bakery, despite his handicap.
He was brought to the NGO at the age of nine in April 2000 and no one knows anything about his background or family. Sanjay, who is deaf and communicates using sign language, has always wanted to have a family of his own. And in 2015, his wish became true when he married Munni. The couple now has a girl, Sumi.
He's the laadla of the group, as he's a very matured and amicable despite having a severe hearing impairment. He was brought to the home as a child after the workers of an NGO found him moving around Howrah station.He can now communicate effectively using sign language, is good in studies and really proficient in using computers.