The Candid Eye

February 18, 2010

Sri Sri takes the shovel to create environment awareness

Kolkata had a surprise garbage picker this week – the revered Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living Foundation. Sri Sri, who was in the city on a three-day visit extended his concept of community service to direct hands-on garbage cleaning.

Sri Sri cleaning the lily pool

The project titled, ‘Clean Inside, Green Outside’, saw him along with 175 young volunteers of the Art of Living Foundation embarking on shovelling garbage from the once-famed Lily Pool in the Rabindra Sarobar area.

Emphasising on the need to bring about environment awareness Sri Sri said, “No one single agency or authority can undertake this mission. We need all to join hands so that together we make a difference.”

The Art of Living Foundation will incorporate a number of environment-sensitive priorities in the restoration. Collaborating with the Kolkata Improvement Trust, as well as a reputed landscapist, The Art of Living will deploy their volunteers to restore Lily Pool to the splendour that it once had.

Sri Sri led thousands at the Mahashivratri celebrations which were held on February 12 at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium. The evening commenced with a cultural presentation showcasing ancient Bengali art and culture. This was followed by the Maharudrabhishekam performed by Sri Sri followed by a satsang and a discourse.

Sri Sri during the Shivratri Celebrations in Kolkata

He also felicitated Pt Buddho Dev Dasgupta, sarod player; Chunni Goswami, football player; Subhash Dutta, environmentalist and social activist; Subhra Chatterjee, educationist, and Mahasweta Devi, novelist. Thousands of devotees from all over India and from over dozens of countries including the US, Canada, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Russia and Hong Kong were part of the festivities.

During the visit, Shri Shri was felicitated by Kolkata’s Sikh community and he also inaugurated an exhibition on “Sikhism as the Defender of Indian Dharma” by FACT India, an NGO of the famous Indophile and journalist Francois Gautier, in conjunction with Behala Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee. The exhibition showcased the bravery, fearlessness and sacrifices of the Sikhs during the Mughal, British and post independence periods.

He also inaugurated the Medicasynergie Super Specialty Hospital, a 500-bed super specialty hospital, one of its kinds in eastern India, earlier on the same day.From Kolkata, he left for a week long tour to the North East.

Source: Kolkata Mirror

December 4, 2009

Burka Barbie!!

One of the world’s most famous children’s toys, Barbie, has been given a makeover – wearing a burkha.Wearing the traditional Islamic dress, the iconic doll is going undercover for a charity auction in connection with Sotheby’s for Save The Children.More than 500 Barbies went on show yesterday at the Salone dei Cinquecento, in Florence, Italy.

 

Barbie in Burka

Makers Mattel are backing the exhibition which is the work of Italian designer Eliana Lorena.The auction is part of Barbie celebrations for her 50th anniversary this year. The UK’s biggest Barbie fan Angela Ellis, 35, has a collection of more than 250 dolls.The company director of Laird Assessors from The Wirral, Cheshire, said: ‘Bring it on Burkha Barbie, I think this is a great idea.’I think this is really important for girls, wherever they are from they should have the opportunity to play with a Barbie that they feel represents them.

I know Barbie was something seen as bad before as an image for girls, but in actual fact the message with Barbie for women is you can be whatever you want to be.’I have a Barbie in a wheelchair that was only out for six weeks.’The mum-of-two’s own Barbie collection is set to be displayed at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in 2012.

Barbie was first launched in March 1959 by American businesswoman Ruth Handler. The doll was joined by her long-term boyfriend Ken in 1961.Rosie Shannon, from Save the Children, said all the proceeds from the auction will go to the charity.She said: ‘We are delighted Sotheby’s and the designer chose to auction the burka Barbie dolls for our charity.’The money will go towards the Rewrite the Future campaign which helps millions of children around the world effected by conflict.

Source: Mail Online

 

 

 

 

 

September 29, 2009

In Rome, Durga is not welcome

This post is an excerpt written by Kanchan Gupta, appeared on Pioneer.

What does it mean to celebrate Durga Puja in Rome? It means to be humiliated, harassed and hounded by city officials who happen to be pious Christians. Alright, I could be utterly wrong in presuming they are pious since I have no independent confirmation of their piety or otherwise. But let’s get back to the question with which I began. Late Thursday night I was at the park near my house where the local Bengalis organise Durga Puja every year. It’s a raucous celebration of faith and culture. The food stalls are invariably hugely popular and there I was with my nine-year-old daughter, standing in a queue for kathi rolls. After what seemed like an interminable wait, it was our turn to be served. Just then my BlackBerry beeped. Balancing the piping hot rolls, dripping oil, tomato ketchup, green chilli sauce and lemon juice, in one hand, I tried to read the e-mail on my handset.

Devi Durga Puja Celebration

Devi Durga Puja Celebration

No luck. I got shoved around, nearly dropped both rolls and my phone, and decided to let the e-mail wait. Later, away from the crowd, I checked the e-mail and it was a fascinating story. Since the identity of the person who had sent the mail is not really relevant, let me reproduce the text: “The Municipal Police authorities of Rome have today withdrawn permission, granted three weeks ago, to celebrate Durga Puja in Rome. The cancellation came a few hours before the Ambassador of India was scheduled to inaugurate the Puja at 8 pm local time. No acceptable explanation has been given. This has caused the local Indian community the loss of thousands of Euros spent in preparatory arrangements. The same thing was done in the same manner in 2008 also. Please monitor developments.”

Now that’s awful, I told myself, here I am having kathi rolls and there they can’t even celebrate their own festival. On Friday, I called a friend in Rome who provided me with the latest details. Our Ambassador, Mr Arif Shahid Khan, a feisty man who has in the past taken up the issue of Sikhs being forced to take off their turbans at Italian airports, campaigned throughout the day, calling up officials, including the Mayor of Rome, and contacting members of the ‘Friends of India’ group in the Italian Parliament, arguing with them why permission for the Puja should be restored. By evening, the authorities had reversed their order and permission was granted to celebrate Durga Puja, which will now begin on Saturday, Ashtami — a full 48 hours behind schedule. Provided, of course, there is no last minute cancellation, as it happened on Thursday. Mr Khan will inaugurate the Puja, an honour he richly deserves.

The story behind the cancellation needs to be told, if only to point out that Christian countries in the West, whose Governments so blithely criticise the ‘lack’ of ‘religious freedom’ in India, have no compunctions about trampling on Hindu sentiments at home. After last year’s experience, when permission for celebrating Durga Puja in Rome was abruptly withdrawn by officials who cited specious reasons to justify their grossly unfair decision, the organisers, led by Mr Rajesh Sahani, a Sindhi from Kolkata who speaks flawless Bengali, took ample precautions this year. They were given permission to organise the Puja at Parko Centocelle, a public park on Via Cailina, Torpignattara. Three weeks ago, permission was granted for the Puja at the park and necessary formalities were completed.

Early this past week, the Puja organisers were told they could not use the park as a crime had been committed there and the location posed security-related problems. The organisers agreed to change the venue. Another park was selected, permission was given to celebrate Durga Puja there, and the preparations began all over again in right earnest. Then, like a bolt from the blue, at 4 pm on Thursday came the withdrawal of permission by the Municipal Police. The organisers were bluntly told to pack up and leave hours before Durga Puja was scheduled to begin with Akal Bodhon in the evening. Why? No reason was proffered.

Cross Question

Cross Question

Some officials are believed to have told the organisers that the cancellation of permission at the eleventh hour, both last year and this year, was meant to be “retaliatory action against the persecution of Christians in India”. It may be recalled that the President of Italy, Mr Giorgio Napoletano, has been vociferous in demanding that Europe should do more in support of Christians in India and to help them ‘affirm their right to religious freedom’. The Government of Italy has in the past summoned the Ambassador of India to convey to him that it has “deep concern and sensitivity for the ongoing inter-religious violence… that has caused the death of many Christians.” The Pope has been no less harsh in denouncing India.

There could be another reason, apart from its “deep concern” about the welfare of Christians in India, for Italy’s callous disregard of the sentiments of Hindus in that country. Although the Italian Constitution guarantees religious freedom, under the Lateran Treaty with the Vatican, Italy recognises only the three religions of Semitic origin — Christianity, Judaism and Islam. All other religions are no more than paganism and are to be shamed and shunned. The Vatican would not countenance any open breach of the Lateran Treaty; Italy would not want to be seen as recognising Hinduism.

“It’s only natural that Italy should have a surfeit of churches. But it’s the rejection of any other faith than Christianity, Judaism and Islam that explains why there are so many mosques but virtually no temples in Italy although this country has a large Hindu expatriate population,” my friend told me while regretting the attitude of the Government and the local authorities. According to him, there are only three temples in Italy: One in a garage in Venice; another at Frescolo and the third at Reggio Emilia. These survive at the mercy of local zoning officials.

But for Mr Arif Shahid Khan’s pro-active involvement — most Ambassadors tend to stay aloof from community affairs — this year too there would have been no Durga Puja in Rome. Indians in Italy owe him a debt of gratitude. So do Bangladeshis who are equal participants in this annual celebration of dharma’s victory over adharma, of the triumph of good over evil. Cultural and linguistic affinities unite Bengalis, irrespective of whether they are from the west or east of Padma, during this autumnal festival celebrated around the world.

Meanwhile, let’s not get carried away by the West’s bilious and bogus criticism of ‘lack of’ religious freedom in India and indulge in self-flagellation. Let the West look at its own ugly, septic warts. If Christians can celebrate Christmas in New Delhi, Hindus have the right to celebrate Durga Puja in Rome. This is non-negotiable.

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