Our friend Debasish dressed up as Santa Claus to deliver gifts to all the boys, girls and young people at Anna Bari and Lula Bari. You can see by the smiles that everyone was happy and absolutely delighted with their presents.
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.
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: