Archive for the 'saṃskṛti' Category


Suchana’s First ITE Mela


In the previous post, I wrote that I’ll have to find a balance between the good and the bad… Let’s start with the good!


Since 2004, Suchana has been focusing on education for the most excluded people: the adivasi. They have been running a full-time children’s Education Resource Centre as well as a drop-in centre where children can come to play and learn. Since a couple of years, they have taken one step forward and – successfully – implemented ITE, Integrated approach to Technology in Education with the support of The Tata Trust.


“There is one kind of charity common enough among us… It is that patchwork philanthropy which clothes the ragged, feeds the poor, and heals the sick. I am far from decrying the noble spirit which seeks to help a poor or suffering fellow being. [However] what advances a nation or a community is not so much to prop up its weakest and most helpless members, but to lift up the best and the most gifted, so as to make them of the greatest service to the country.” Jamsetji Tata, 1839-1904, Founder of the Tata group.


On January 29th, they held the very first ITE mela inviting teachers and students from every school around as well as institutions of Kolkata.


7 Government Schools participated and Suchana welcomed a total of  329 happy visitors.



What does Integrated Technology in Education really stands for?


As defined by the Tata Trusts’ ITE program, “ITE is a pedagogic framework for integrating technology in teaching and learning and provides children an opportunity to authenticate their learning at school using technology, while imparting crucial technological skills.”


“Rather than creating an additional layer in the classroom, technology is embedded in the teachers’ lesson plans and pedagogy. The teacher designs learning activities and students use technology to construct their own learning.”


 “Technology is used as a tool, rather than as an end itself.”


But Suchana’s project was more ambitious than offer ITE in their resource center. They gave the students – 230 children from classes VI to IX – the opportunity to bring their technology skills into the villages through the “community projects”.


Accompanied by a teacher, groups of students went to meet their neighbours and elders and questioned them on different topics: environment, education, work, lifestyle, festivals & other traditions. During the ITE mela, all the videos they’ve realised – wrote, shoot, edited – were shown through the day.










Cell phones, laptops, internet, etc. … Technology is everywhere, even where education does not go.


To give the new generation the ability of making a good use of it is esential and Suchana is doing a wonderful job at it.


Want to help? Want to know more?


Suchana can help introduce the ITE concept into your school or organisation.





The Good, the Ugly, the Bad

Five years ago, when I’ve started this blog, I was still mesmerized with Santiniketan’s natural beauty and stillness. My very own Santitown! That place where I wanted to drop my bags and settle for a while. I was still under the spell of my first Poush Mela, this picturesque event, a real time travel. I wanted to share this feeling with all. 
Five years later, just after another Poush Mela, I almost put an end to it and to my stay in Santiniketan. It’s been hard to see all the changes happening around for the sake of “progress” and “development”. Visitors kept coming. Not those nature and poetry’s lovers looking for peace and a piece of history anymore. Just packs of people unable to appreciate the real beauty of the place and to respect the past, the present nor the future of amader Santiniketan. After months of music, plastic and traffic, I got sick. Sick of it all. I did not want to become this bitter person who’ll denounce it all.
L1160871And one day, going back home crossing a familiar santali village, the magic worked once again. On the side of the road – which was still a mud road a couple of years back – I saw men building one of those huge hand-made wicker basket where they’ll keep the village’s crop. I’ve stopped for a few minutes and admired this amazing work, this beautiful craft that managed to survive to this day.

L1160876Then I knew. I still had a lot to share. The good and the bad. I’ll have to find a balance. For my sake and for Santitown’s sake. I won’t keep the beauty for myself but I won’t pretend I don’t see what going wrong.

L1170125Like those so-called “picnics” that have invaded the paddy fields, the river sides and our daily lives. Another excuse to put loud music from 8 am until late afternoon. The food will basically the same that is served at home but often prepared by hired cooks and in less hygienic conditions. The meals will be served in polystyrene plates that will be thrown a bit further along the road for the wind to blow and cows to feed.

L1170127The place will be left soiled and barren. Amader Santiniketan. The Poet’s abode of peace, spoiled for the rest of us.







Shame on Santi (II)


And life goes on.


During this festive and busy time, shopkeepers, craftmen and other small businesses couldn’t stay idle. Their request to be spared until the end of the Poush Mela being denied, they had to find a way to make a living despite the unfair circumstances.


So they came back to that same spot they’ve been occupying for days, months or even years.


They came back taking a huge risk: the one to see all their belongings being seized, as the local police threatened them.


Will the road be widened? Will new shops be built? What is the plan?


Nothing has been officially announced yet but the it seems that those demolitions are just the tip of the iceberg that will definitely bury The Poet’s Abode of Peace deep into the past.



Shame on Santi

L1160285Who ever has visited Santiniketan over the last few days, could witness a very sad face of Tagore’s abode of peace.

L1160315A few days back, the public artillery showed up with one objective: chase out the street vendors and put down any unauthorized shop whatsoever.

L1160290What was the excuse given? Mo-der-ni-za-tion. Bolpur-Santiniketan-Prantik will get a widen main road to welcome the hundreds of SUV which cross town at full speed regardless of traffic rules, other vehicles or pedestrians, especially on week-ends – when the famous sonibarer haat is held – and during holidays. And they still call it a “perfect rural getaway”, ironic!

L1160288The fact that this happened just a week away from Santiniketan’s most expected event – the Poush Mela which attracts, every year, thousand of visitors – makes it even more tragic. The shop keepers, used to the sudden crowd, prepared themselves by stocking more goods. They’ve been given no more than a 3 day notice to pack everything up and flee. Where they’ll keep their equipment and merchandise, that is up to them. What they will become in the upcoming days and weeks also.


L1160320Those pictures were taken in Prantik, my own house’s closest market place. Prantik has really nothing to offer except a handy local train station. But so many kolkatans have established their secondary home there. Where will we go for our daily groceries, that isn’t really my main concern.

L1160321While I was there, memorizing what was left of once vivid Prantik Market, a man took me aside and requested me to show those pictures in my country. “Tell them the kind of problems we’re facing here”. Actually it’s here that I want to show those images so that whoever is responsible for this realizes that, whereas most countries, including India, are fighting against poverty and unemployment, they just put hundreds of honest people out of business.

L1160308But this is India, Incredible India as the official propaganda says. People won’t stay distraught for long! They’ll clean up the mess and accommodate themselves with the new décors. Adda – a local tradition – must go on!


L1160318A question remain… Why so suddenly? Why transforming lovely Santiniketan in a battlefield so soon before the Mela? That’s my wonder… Rumor has that India’s most beloved movie star – “Big B” as in nothing less than Amitabh Bachchan – who very recently spent a few hours in “The abode of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore” did not really enjoy what he saw: poverty, dirtiness, shambles,… even his hotel room wasn’t up to his standards. For that last one, we won’t blame him… Have you seen the Camelia incongruity?!



Basanta Utsav

150305 Holi Crowd1

The whole India is celebrating Holi all together, the festival of colors, also called Dol in Bengal. However, in Santiniketan, students of Visva-Bharati welcome the Spring in their own peculiar way. It’s  Basanta Utsav, a tradition started by The Poet himself.

150305 Holi Colors1


Here, every spring is welcomed with songs – Rabindra sangeet – dances – Rabindra nach – dry ORGANIC colors and, basically, without bhang, this ancient preparation of cannabis’ leaves and flowers. The ambiance is not as wild – and sometimes aggressive – as in other parts of the country but bon-enfant, both friendly and slightly childish.

150305 Holi Foule1

The festivities starts with the song ‘Ore grihabashi’ as the students dance their way into the venue.

150305 Holi Dance2

Ore Grihobashi, khol dar khol laglo je dol

Sthaule jaule bono taule laglo je dol, dar khol


Oh people! Break open the doors!
There is a spring stir!

150305 Holi Dance1

But who really came to WATCH?

Songs, dances and colors are all around, among the joyful crowd.

150305 Holi Colors3

150305 Holi Colors2


Jhaunjauro baundhono chino kore dee
Amra bidduth, amra chaunchol, amra odbhuth


We break down constraints which bind us…

We are like lightning, we are restless, we are unique

150305 Holi Colors5


And, as the restless ones washes the colors off their faces and exhausted bodies, the full moon rises.

The full moon watches.

The full moon inspires.

Happy Holi. Happy Dol.


150305 Full moon


Route2Festival, a revolution underway

150222 Route2Festival Flyer2

Some might call it a “revolution”, others an “experiment” or a “beautiful initiative”.

Whatever it was, we loved it!

150222 Route2Festival PorgramWho had the idea first? Who took the first step? Who knows, who cares.

They were a bunch of friends, they had a dream and they made it happen.

150222 Sougata Roy C

 “Traditional to modern. Experimental to post-modern”

The whole experience rested on 4 solid pillars:

eco-friendly // collective // experimental // non-profit

150222 Ciro1

And – of course – a wonderful selection of artists and performers.

(Both on-stage and in the audience actually)

150222 Sougata Roy C.4 Day 2 of the festival began peacefully with a morning raga performed by Sougata Roy Chowdhury – eminent sarod player – Subhajyoti Guha on tablas and Hania on tampura. 150222 Sougata Roy C.3 Although the strong sun wasn’t very good for the instruments, they played beautifully and set up the bar high for the upcoming artists. 150222 Edith1 150222 Babli After this first performance, festival-goers had time to relax and discover the place: Babli farm, also an experimental initiative located at the edge of what remained of the “Choupahari Jungle”, near Santiniketan. Organic farming, guest-house and canteen, it is NOT-A-RESORT. 150222 Resting area1 Route2Festival’s team worked very hard to accommodate the place the best way possible for the festival-goers and one of their best ideas was this semi-underground resting place. We felt at home and among friends. But that’s maybe because we were!150222 Kaushik's magic1Rest, board-games, make-up and… Kaushik’s magic tricks which let us all bouche née, speechless. By the way Kaushik, we are still trying to figure out how you did it!! 150222 Kaushik's magic6 150222 Make up1 Young parents will have to admit, another great idea the hosts had was the “kids corner”. Quite unusual in India, well thought, the little ones had a blast and we had a break. 150222 Kids corner2

150222 Monami NandiThe program went on with a dance performance by Monami Nandi along with Titas Sen and Anshuman dey. Interesting mix of traditional and contemporary performance. 150222 Monami Nandi12Monami reminded us of those devi who ornament Konarak Sun temple’s bas reliefs, great sensuality and a hint of kinkiness. 150222 Monami Nandi' 150222 Audience Blue stageMoved to the “Blue arena”, the audience could attend to Krishnakali, a performance by Alternative Living Theatre. Little too dark and experimental for some, an interesting and unexpected experience in any case. 150222 Alternative Living theatre5And there she came, Parvati Baul, singer, painter and storyteller from West Bengal. 150222 Parvati BaulBorn as Mousumi Pairal in a traditional bengali family, she was not intended to become a Baul, a wanderer, a mad-woman. Trained as a hindustani singer and dancer, Parvati crossed path with Phulmala Dashi, a woman Baul singer, while she was studying in Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan. She embraced the Baul‘s living tradition with all her soul. 150222 Parvati Baul8A high-pitched voice, an incredible energy, an unbelievable long hair and very strange psychedelic background. She put a spell on us all and set the mood for a frenzied evening. 10911264_1615618482002459_5703698536301150669_oNice little surprise of this festival: Printed Rainbow by Gitanjali Rao, a beautiful and dreamy animation movie who captivated the audience from 2 to 92 years old. 150222 Gitanjali Rao5The organizers had planned another screening but, due to the presence of very young souls, they cancelled the second movie. Anyway, it was time to head back to the Green stage for another incredible performance. 150222 Sound2 150222 Nathoo Lal Solanki9Believe it or not, the first time I crossed path with Nathu Lal Solanki was 8 years ago in a small apartment of a residential area in New Delhi. The tenant was almost evicted for him place after this master drummer from Rajasthan shaked the edifice’s walls with his powerful beat. 150222 Nathoo Lal Solanki6The Nagara player – traditional drum from Rajasthan – came with the vocalist Chugge Khan and both were accompanied for the first time by the bengali sarangi player, Debashish Haldar. 150222 Nathoo Lal Solanki12And the magic worked! The young and not-so-young got up and dance. The bengali ladies forgot all propriety and shaked their… saris. Vibrant. 150222 Nathoo Lal Solanki Dance2As usual, it’s not easy to pass on the atmosphere using still images and words.

As usual, the best happens off-stage, behind the scene. Unexpected encounters, bonding, fusion… Seeds are thrown and new opportunities might arise. 150222 Parvati Baul&Nathoo Lal Solanki1And on a complete different registre, Jazzeando kept us up and dancing. A french drummer, an north-indian key-board performer and a new-yorker vocalist who got together in West-Bengal to share a common passion for latin-jazz. 150222 Jazzeando1The night was still young, but some of us even younger. We had to head home even before  the lights and sound were off and festival-goers found the way back to their tents and bungalows for a good night of sleep among the trees. 150222 Jazzeando3

So, after this wonderful first experiment, what’s next?


Siempre que te pregunto

Que cuando, como y donde

Tu siempre me respondes

Quizas, quizas, quizas

150222 Babli7

Long live Route2Festival!

10273203_1600909590140015_6731538105881015550_o To learn more about Route2Festival and some of the artists mentioned above: – Route2Festival: – Sougata Roy Chowdhury: – Parvati Baul: – Gitanjali Rao: – Nathu Lal Solanki: – Jazzeando:


New Works by K.G. Subramanyan

150205 KG Subramanyan Exhibition

150208 Kala Bhavan2Black and White Mural, Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan, November–December 2009

They are very few social events in Santiniketan. K.G. Subramanyan’s 91st birthday certainly is and called for a special exhibition of his most recent works at Kala Bhavan’s Nandan Art Gallery. Not only he is one of the most renown alumni of the university created by Rabindranath Tagore, but he owned the title of Professor Emeritus and dedicated 25 years of his life guiding Visva Bharati’s aspiring young artists. Sharing his time between Gujarat’s cultural capital, Baroda, and Santiniketan, each one of his visits is duly celebrated.

150205 KG Subramanyan Expo3It is no wonder that Santiniketan’s intelligentsia still welcome Subramanyan with such devotion. This pioneer of indian modern art blurred the barrier between art and crafts, between artists and artisans.

150208 KG Subramanyan Expo6

150205 KG Subramanyan Interview1“I am a restless soul”

He was always keen to promote ancient skills and crafts which had not been destroyed entirely by industry and mass production. Toy-making, pottery, illustration & design, terra-cotta sculpture, literature, he never confined himself to one media.

150208 KG Subramanyan Expo7

150205 KG Subramanyan Interview“Art is something I have to do; my reason for being.”

150208 KG Subramanyan Expo2Born in South India in 1924 and involved, in the early stages of India’s fight for independence along with Gandhiji’s peaceful soldiers, he could not enroll an art college before 1944 when Nandalan Bose, painter and principal of Kala Bhavan, summoned him to join Visva-Bharati.

150208 KG Subramanyan Collage“KG Subramanyan is one artist who has moved to assimilate the traditional and the modern in a twentieth century Indian context. His work appropriates elements of Indian visual tradition, as well as popular and classical elements and reinterprets them through modernist forms and techniques. His works inherit global visual culture, containing elements of Hindu iconography, Euro-American modernism and classical fresco painting. Subramanyan characterises a key section of the broader Indian modernist movement, which seeks to redefine tradition as a living, changing language. This essay argues that the interaction of tradition and modernity in India is indicative of a broader reality: that tradition is a fluid, living form.”

Tradition and the Art of Modern India, Kieran Browne, ANU Press, 2014

150205 KG Subramanyan Expo6If Subramanyan learned from his fellows Nandalal Bose, Ram Kinkar Baij or Benode Bihari Mukherjee, his art was not limited to these indian precursors. The influence of Picasso, Henri Matisse and the formalists are obvious even though absorbed, digested and mingled with indian ancestral tradition.

150208 KG Subramanyan Expo4“His experiments with interpenetration of Hindu iconography and the assimilation of popular, modern, classical and indigenous traditions have been vital to the revival of Indian visual culture. In continuing the work of Tagore and Bose, Subramanyan has enlivened Indian indigenous tradition and reinvented it for present purposes.”

Tradition and the Art of Modern India, Kieran Browne, ANU Press, 2014

150205 KG Subramanyan Expo7“The fulfillment of a modern Indian artist’s wish to be part of a living tradition, i.e. to be individual and innovative, without being an outsider in his own culture, will not come of itself, it calls for concerted effort.”

K. G. Subramanyan

L1010468However, even in presence of such a “giant” of indian modern art history, the media coverage focuses on those few “white faces” in the room…

150205 Ranjani Ramachandran Concert2And because such talent and longevity calls for celebration, the night ended with young singer Ranjani Ramachandran’s homage to the artist.