East Himalaya

Monday, January 23, 2012

Netaji Cabin

For those who live in Siliguri or those who have lived in Siliguri or even those who have some affinity to this ethnicity Siliguri, would have certainly shared a cup of tea with friends at Netaji Cabin. A very indistinct food joint, to be specific lounge in the one of the bylanes in Bidhan Market, at the heart of Siliguri sells toasts, country eggs to choice and tea-coffee-milk (whichever preferred). The tea here is very special, an extra toasted bitter flavour and taste makes a kind of addiction for the regular patrons. Many youth dreams originated here and ended here as an old man, many have left this city with dreams to come true, but are more than nostalgic about Netaji Cabin. This news is for them.
Netaji or Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, whom the people of East and Northeast India still see as the Father of Indian Freedom from the British Empire, and worship as God in several households, irrespective of language, class, creed and religion, is the name behind this Netaji Cabin. Hence, it could be understood that a lot of idealistic intellectuality bred here in the past. Today, with the changing time this is a lounge where starting from ‘morning walkers’ to ‘evening adda’, a meeting place for all age groups belonging to different communities and professions. 
The 2nd generation owner, continuing from father did not forget to honour Netaji in his photo hung on the wall. This 365 days busy shop does not forget this day, and even everyone is busy reading newspapers, gossiping or eating a breakfast, the owner silently cleans the photo and garlands the photo of Netaji with fresh flowers. He does not forget to put some colourful marigold flower chains in front to remind his patrons that today is Netaji’s birthday.

Every year I am usually at a function with VIPs garlanding a big Netaji statue, with lectures, songs and dance, but this year with this event at Netaji Cabin, this silent honour saw a drop of tear roll down my cheeks, which luckily and immediately hid in my beard. We in India, even today have not realized that, if India has to go ahead, she will have to open her borders with South and Southeast Asia, India has to look EAST. Netaji had hoisted the flag of Independent India at Manipur much before the actual Independence of the actual peninsular India. We as Indians still fail to recognize the same. We need to nurture our relations with Myanmar (Burma), Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and other countries which Netaji has cultured during his time. 
Netaji’s Birthday is being celebrated with much enthusiasm all over Siliguri, with blood donation camps, free blanket distribution to the poor and several other ways of social and cultural origin. Not to forget the sports events, which takes place throughout North Bengal. Most of India, mainly the Defence forces used to celebrate Netaji’s Birthday in a big way, I suppose they still continue. Let India get together to live HIS dreams. 

Note: For those who have not visited Siliguri for a long time, please be informed that the legendary Kalpana Pice Hotel, which was opposite to the Netaji Cabin is no more. Kalpana Pice Hotel was famous for its 'Chital Machher Peti and Bhat'.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Gangasagar, yesterday’s legends and today’s truth

Partha Pratim Roy, an active young historian from Coochbehar, who nurtures a profession in tourism and journalism, has made a effort to explore one of the oldest festival on the Ganga, just when she meets the Bay of Bengal. Next time you are in West Bengal, India in mid January, do not miss this festival. As per Partha’s report, after visit to the festival, things seems to be improving.
Makar Sankranti is a major harvest festival celebrated in various parts of India. According to the lunar calendar, when the sun moves from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn or from Dakshinayana to Uttarayana, in the month of Poush in mid-January, it commemorates the beginning of the harvest season and cessation of the northeast monsoon in South India. The movement of the earth from one zodiac sign into another is called Sankranti and as the Sun moves into the Capricorn zodiac known as Makar in Hindi, this occasion is named as Makar Sankranti in the Indian context. It is one of the few Hindu Indian festivals which are celebrated on a fixed date i.e. 14th January every year. Main essence of Gangasagar Mela belongs to religious belief of Hindus, who believe that through Gangasnan (dip in the Ganga) one can achieve their MOKSHA (Salvation). 
Decades by decades Holy Places are major meeting points for Indian pilgrims. Every year more than 08 Lakhs of Pilgrimags pay their homage to Gangasagar from various part of our country.. Government has taken all necessary steps for hassle free visit. They have provided good drinking water facility, 08 Mobile water treatment plants, 60 Ambulance with 60 Doctors, 6000 Police personals. Several  Non Government Organisations also provided free medical camps, accommodation facility free foods for pilgrims. Since post independence this is the first time Government .has introduced huge scale of electricity on 24hrs basis. For easier movement prepaid taxi services also have introduced for the first time.
 Sankaracharya of Puri visited the Mela.  During press conference he has shown his gratitude to Ms. Mamata Banerjee for withdrawing of Pilgrim Tax. He has also requested to Ms. Mamata Banerjee to look into the matter of cleanliness of Ganga and also requested her to protect Ganga in West Bengal. As per his concern he is so scared about the future of Ganga because in Northern part of India, Ganga is obstructed by several Dams or hydroelectric projects. He has demanded and appealed to State or Central Government Bodies to Protect the Ganga on top priority basis.
pix: On the road to salvation (As you can see in this picture, for a Hindu to be at the Gangasagar once in a lifetime means a lot and even helping others to reach there means much more).
Guru Gyandas, main Mahonto of Ayodhya  also  showed his gratitude towards to the present Government for withdrawl of Pilgrim Tax. He has also raised his demand to declare the mela as NATIONAL MELA like Kumbha Mela. Dignatries like Jasawant Singh and Uma Bharati also took the holy dip. 
Shri Subrata Mukherjee, public Health Engineering Minister for the state of West Bengal  giving his speech during Press Conference promised that the Gangasagar Mela 2013 will be more colourful and govt would have taken various steps in this regard. He has told the Press about withdrawn of pilgrim tax; introduce health insurance, 24hrs electricity, disaster management team, free water pouch (approx 8lakh) as their success.