Kushmandi, a tiny block in the district of North Dinajpur, West Bengal has largely been an unheralded place. Like most rural villages in the state, people are dependent on agriculture and fishing. But what sets this area apart is its long tradition of Gomira Dance. Celebrated with wooden mask this dance performance has been confined to this locality for centuries, the baton of heritage being passed from one generation to the next.
The remote mountains of Chin state of Myanmar, is witness to one of the fast vanishing tribal traditions of tattoo faced women. The older women of the Chin tribe still bear the scars of a barbaric ancient tradition. Chin legend has it that when a Burmese king travelled to the region, he was so impressed by the women’s beauty that he kidnapped one to take as a bride. Because of this, Chin families began to tattoo their daughters to make them look unattractive, thus preventing them from being kidnapped or forced to become a concubine during the time of the Burmese king. Other Chin tales say that the tattooing was done for beauty, while some others say, to differentiate between the various tribes in case one was kidnapped by another.
People have all kind of dreams, some practical ones and some not so practical ones. But what do you say when a young girl dreams of floating in space, not in outer space, but on this very planet, and makes her dream come true with the help of weights and balances.
India is a country in a hurry, a country everyone is waking up to and taking notice of. While our scientists are reaching out to the moon our industrialists are taking the world by storm with major acquisitions. But has the core of the country really changed? Or has the chasm between the urban and rural grown wider? Are some age old prejudices still holding India back? What about the women? Well, what about them? Are they on an even keel with their male counterparts? Are they the flag bearers of the modern India we are so proud to project? Are those news of persecution of women in India just a blip on the radar?
In Bengal, beyond the urbanscape, there are rural pockets where the glamour and glitz of Bollywood has not yet penetrated, where Jatra Pala still rules the roost. The literal meaning of the Bangla word Jatra is ‘Journey’. The Jatra Pala is a little different from the more commercialised Jatra but has been the unparalleled medium of entertainment for rural Bengal. Loud and colourful, Pala is a long musical narrative that describes episodes from the Mahabharata, Ramayana or other Puranic Texts. This traditional open-air folk drama combining acting, songs, music, dance, is characterized by stylized dialogue delivery and exaggerated gestures and orations. The whole troupe travel from one village to another and perform during the night.
Like most people from Bengal, Fish is something close to my heart or stomach for that matter. But have you ever thought what goes on from when a fish is caught till it appears in your local market? A lot actually, as I found out during some of my visits to the Malabar coast, more specifically the South Karnataka coast.
This stretch of the Arabian Sea coast is rich in marine life. From time immemorial people of this region have been venturing out into the sea and bringing back a rich haul of fish, Sardines and Mackerels being the most popular variety.