Sunday, October 31, 2010

Romantic Rajendrapur brings back Gorgeous Memories of Vadaliyadaippu

“It is the marriage of the soul with nature that makes the intellect fruitful, and gives birth to imagination”~ Henry David Thoreau, (July 12 1817 – May 6 1862), American Authour, Poet, Abolitionist, Naturalist, Tax Resister, Development Critic, Surveyor, Historian, Philosopher and leading Transcendentalist

The capital city of Bangladesh is Dhaka. Rajendrapur is a small village in Gazipur district of Dhaka Division. The distance between Dhaka and Rajendrapur is 50 kilometers (31 miles). Farming and fishing are the main livelihoods of the people in Rajendrapur.

It is a perfect place for bird watching and to love nature. Coldness at dawn and night gives the feeling of being on top of a mountain. Birds such as Cardinal, Crane, King Fisher, Myna, Parrot, Robin Bird and Sparrow live here. A large number of Myna flock to the bushes at dusk and tweet endlessly till night calls. The atmosphere gives wider space to be a child, relax, meditate, paint, read, run, sing, dance, photograph, walk, write and play outdoor games. I spent one month in lovely Rajendrapur during rain and shine, which gives a feeling of been there for a longer period.

The stay brings me back a wholesome of gorgeous childhood memories of my paternal home in Vadaliyadaippu, in Jaffna District, North of Sri Lanka. Similar surroundings with big trees, shoe flowers dance for wind, dew drops sit on the edge of the leaves, shallow streams of water where fish dance in and out joyfully with no fear, green paddy fields where men with only a piece of cloth wrapped around their waist with handloom turban, women in Sarees and barefoot ploughing the agri- fields together in boiling Sun with drops of sweat stay on their forehead of both, birds peck the softened soil for something to nibble, barking of dogs in the morning and night, tweeting of various birds throughout the day and night even through the thick wooden doors of the training venue makes learning enchanting, frequent visits by ants,red and black stripe leech, snail and maggot, beautiful butterflies keep flying around, wandering wasp making nest,aroma of variety cooking, tolling of prayer bell as daily wake up call, crack of dawn with cool breeze, sweeping sound of handmade broomsticks, cows in numbers flock the streets, men sit on wooden bench, sip tea and read newspaper or talk along the roadside, children play along the alleys,beautifully built mud houses, simple but happy living with smiley faces,quietness with fog at dawn and loudness with mist at dusk, wishes of daily "Good Morning" and "Good Night" by many, continuous shooting noise from a nearby cantonment,the silence takes me back to the old and famous term "Golden" and charming people admire you while nature adds extra flavour to life.

The people here lead a very simple life, but with extreme hospitality and simplicity. They treat the guests at their best. My memorable stay in Rajendrapur led me to tweet endlessly from day one till I left while roaming in the beautiful Bay of Bengal. The memories are permanent and inbuilt and will be treasured forever.

Fresh eggs for sale

Ban ride in Rajendrapur

Mohamed Shalahudeen in his stall

The main market bustles after a month long fast and feast

Cycle Rickshaw is a famous mode of transport in Rajendrapur

A scene in the morning at the market

Beautifully maintained garden at BRAC-Bangladesh Rural Advancement Commiittee

"Please take my photo" a kind request from Mohamed Rafeek

Shoe polishing in the market

Rickshaw puller in Rajendrapur

At the meat stall

On mobile while being on the move

Cinema posters in Rajendrapur.Clicked this image while travelling on a Cycle Rickshaw

Market in Rajendrapur on a cloudy day

On a bright shiny day

A scene in front of BRAC-Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee

Beautiful sunset in Rajensrapur

On a laundry site

Birds gather at dusk

Fullmoon in Rajendrapur

Friday, October 29, 2010

"South Asian women should unite to strengthen sisterhood and solidarity"~Jwala Kumari Shah

“Each person must live their life as a model for others”~ Rosa Parks,(February 4 1913- October 24 2005), African- American Civil Rights Activist

In the first Parliamentary elections of 1959, the entire 6 women candidates lost the election. As a result of the compulsory provision of the 1990 Constitution that requires at least five percent women's candidature in the election for House of Representatives, the numbers of women candidates in the last three parliamentary elections held in 1991, 1994 and 1999 were gradually increased with a number of 81 (party candidate 73 and 8 independent), 86 (party candidate 74 and 12 independent) and 143 (party candidate 117 and 26 independent) respectively. But out of the total 205 seats only 6 (2.9 %,), 7 (3.4 %), and 12 (5.8 %) women were elected (only the party candidates) respectively in 1991, 1994 and 1999 according to a research.

Nepali women's representation in the legislative body (Legislature-Parliament), however, was dramatically increased to 32.8% through the Constituent Assembly (CA) Election held on 2008. In the election, 191 women leaders (33.2%) were elected out of 575 seats, and Cabinet nominated 6 women out of 26 seats, resulting to 197 women members (32.8%) in the Legislative parliament. As a result, Nepal stands on the 14th position globally to send the women leaders in the legislature parliament. The reason behind the drastic change in the women's representation is due to the reservation of seats provided through the Interim Constitution of Nepal in 2007.

The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) or (CPNM), is the largest party in the Constituent Assembly having won half of the constituency seats and about 30% of proportional representation seats. The Constituent Assembly declared a republic at its first meeting on May 28, 2008, abolishing the monarchy the research further states.

Jwala Kumari Shah is a Constituent Assembly member from the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). She has been an active fighter for 12 years while being with the Maoist. She spent several years underground fearing for her safety. She is married to a fellow party member and has three sons. It was a simple wedding, they exchanged flowers. The relatives and villagers were surprised as there were neither rings nor ceremony for their wedding. “We loved each other and decided to get married and we lead a happy and simple life” says Jwala Kumari Shah with a snowy smile.

I had the rare opportunity to spend sometime with her in Bangladesh. She was one among 39 women participants of SANGAT XVth South Asian Feminist Capacity Building Course on Gender, Sustainable Livelihoods, Human Rights and Peace which was held in Rajendrapur, Bangladesh in September- October 2010. She is friendly and polite with strong political views. She loves to be photographed alone and with her friends.She likes to wear the Nepali flag engraved on a Brass pin on left side of her coat.

The excerpts of the interview are as follows:-

How did you join the Maoist?

I was born in 1981 and I started to participate in protest when I was in Class VIII. The students organized a protest against the killing of the parents of a fellow student in village called Bara. The village is nearly 70 kilometers away from the capital Kathmandu. I actively took part in this protest.

My parents were actively involved in politics and worked with the grassroots. They always talked about the sufferings of the oppressed people in the villages of Nepal. My brother was killed and my parents were tortured.

I asked my father whether I can join the Maoist, but he declined and asked me to read the books written by them. But later I joined them in 1998 when I was 17 year-old and fought against discrimination, torture, injustice and repression. 10 years of civil strife during which at least 15,000 people including 1,100 women were killed.

I have been part of the fierce fighting during the “Nepalese People’s War” in Nepal. I got injured many times, but survived when many of my fellow fighters were disabled or killed, but I had the courage to continue to fight. My name “Jwala” means fire. The fire has been burning inside me ever since I was a child.

What made you to become a politician?

Many of my fellow fighters have decided to participate in active politics. My parents have been actively involved in politics. I thought of serving the people through politics. I joined the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which was founded to protect the fundamental rights of the Nepalese people.

The tenure of the Constituent Assembly has already expired. How do you see the future?

We continue to work with the grassroots. We want to ensure the fundamental rights of the people by preparing a constitution for our country. We have been able to meet 80% of the tasks. We continue to raise our voices against the ethnic and religious discriminations. We are planning for land reforms by promoting “big thinking and simple living”. We need to establish political stability for sustainable peace in Nepal.

Are men and women treated equally in your country?

I am happy to note that the situation is improving. Women are moving forward with courage. In my party, 50% of the 375-member central committee is women. We demand for 33% of women in Nepal Parliament and government sector. I believe 50% members of the Parliament should be women. I hope we will be able to achieve it some day. Women in South Asia have to unite and fight for their rights endlessly. We need to be united and show solidarity.

How do you feel being with the women from nine different countries?

It’s a great opportunity for me to learn from them. I share my knowledge and experience with them as well. Every woman here is different and I like all of them. I will share the knowledge gained in Bangladesh with my colleagues in Nepal and I will continue to be part of the South Asian feminists, and spread the message of peace.

An attractive banner by SANGAT in the conference hall of Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee

View of another banner at the main entrance of Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee during a foggy afternoon

Constituent Assembly member from the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) Jwala Kumari Shah

A warm welcome by renowned feminist and feminist scholar Kamla Bhasin

SANGAT banner at the SANGAT Bangladesh reception held to celebrate 12 Years of Our Love,Solidarity and Togetherness at Chayanot Bhabon in Dhaka

Another banner during the training

One among many banners by SANGAT

Yet another banner adds colour to the venue

Jwala Kumari Shah during a session

Another banner by SANGAT

The latest poster by SANGAT

Saturday, October 23, 2010

“Shashdiyapthapoorthi Vizha” :Celebration of spiritual and social obligations for a blissful life

“Let there be many windows to your soul that all the glory of the world may beautify it”~Ella Wheeler Wilcox, (1850-1919), (American Poet and Writer)

“Shashdiyapthapoorthi”- the term in numerology denotes sixty. The completion of sixty years is referred to as “Shashdiyapoorthi”. The term is derived from Sanskrit which means Shashdi-Sixty, Abda-Years and Poothi-Completion. “Shashdiyapthapoorthi”is celebrated when the husband completes 60 years, if the wife is alive and both living together.

It is a memorable milestone in everybody’s life. “Shashdiyapoorthi Shanthi Vizha” should be performed in the sixtieth year and in the same month and day of birth according to the Tamil Almanac. “Shashdiyapthapoorthi” is mostly celebrated by Brahmin men in Sri Lanka.

The Chief Priest of Naattukkottai Nagaraththaar Sri Kathirvelaayuthaswamy temple (New Kathiresan temple) in Bambalapitty Kiriyakalamani, Sivagamashironmani, Aagamasoodaamani Brahmasri Jagannatha Nagaraja Kurukkal celebrated the “Shashdiyapoorthi” recently with his wife Shrimathi Thevamanohari. “Shashdiyapoorthi Shanthi Vizha” was held at the New Kathiresan temple hall on 21st October 2010. Relatives, friends, devotees and well-wishers attended the ceremony in large number, blessed the couple and got blessed.

Lord Vinayagar in the sanctum is dressed in White Silk for the ceremony

Beautifully dressed in Brahmin style Kiriyakalamani, Sivagamashironmani, Aagamasoodaamani Brahmasri Jagannatha Nagaraja Kurukkal with his wife Shrimathi Thevamanohari

View of the Manavarai. It is a decorative seat where the Bride and Bridegroom sit during the wedding

A warm welcome to all

The whole family prostrate for 16 times together

Traditionally set up Kumbam and Kuththu Vilakku to welcome the invitees

Purified water in 150 Kumbams for the sacred shower of th couple

Homam is being offered

150 Kumbams are being blessed

They are blessed for a long blissful life

Viewing their faces in the waves of Gingelly oil

A grandchild needs attention in the middle of the ceremony

They are being worshipped as God and Goddess on this special day

Mirror is shown to the couple

Gold is considered sacred

Invitees entering the venue

Gold is kept on the head as a blessing

The ceremony is ideal to set an example to their own family and society

Sacred shower for longevity

Colourful decorations around the temple

The celebration is usually organised by the couple’s children, younger siblings and grand children

The Chief priest of Sammaankodu Sri Maanikka Vinayagar temple Sitsabesa Kurukkal (also known as Mani Iyer)is seen giving the sacred shower

Decorations at the main entrance of the Naattukkottai Nagaraththaar Sri Kathirvelaayuthaswamy temple

Sacred shower is being given by another priest

Fellow priest Ratnasabapathy Sasithara Sharma pours the purified water

Traditional musicians keep playing when the sacred shower takes place

New clothes are given by the family members

Family members are being blessed

After a cold shower in the temple compound

Traditional welcome with Banana tree,Banana and thoranam at the main entrance

Brahmin women are seen accompanying the couple in silk

Sri Iyappathasa Kurukkal accompany the couple

Aararththy is being performed

Couple in Blue being traditionally welcomed

Rituals are taking place

Well-wishers decorated the temple hall for the ceremony

Offerings included variety of grains,jaggery,silk,pillow,umbrella and walking stick

Many invitees began to capture the space as the auspicious time approached

Many offerings for the ceremony

A Gent's Umbrella is being offered as a gift

Traditional musicians adding colour to the ceremony

A walking stick is being gifted to another priest

Thaali is being taken for blessings

Akin to the renewal of marital vows

A memorable turning point in eveyrybody's life

Thaali is shown to all before tying

Jagannatha Nagaraja Kurukkal ties a Thaali to his wife Shrimathi Thevamanohari

Blessings by the main priest of the ceremony Mahatheva Kurukkal from Jaffna

Kumkumam or vermilion is offered to the women after tying the Thaali

A touching moment of mellowed life

Well-wishers at the event

Decorations for the ceremony

Purified rice is used to bless the couple

Traditionally made Rotty

"Kalyana Veduka" is a reminder of the unique role which they have to play in the years to come

Priests from all over the Island are taking part in the ceremony

The Chief Priest of Naattukkottai Nagaraththaar Sri Kathirvelaayuthaswamy temple (New Kathiresan temple) in Bambalapitty Kiriyakalamani, Sivagamashironmani, Aagamasoodaamani Brahmasri Jagannatha Nagaraja Kurukkal performs pooja in the sanctum after the ceremony

Fellow priest gets blessed

The Chief priest of Arulmigu Sri Venkadeswara Mahavishnumoorthy Devasthaanam Somaskantha Chandrakantha Kurukkal and his wife at the ceremony

"Jagannaatham"-a book is released on the same day