Tag Archives: Rituals

Elders’ Day Out

In an era when apathy towards elders is becoming a norm rather than an exception, when grandparents are looked upon as a burden and are often abused, and when increasing number of crimes are being committed against senior citizens, it is reassuring that there are still people who respect the aged.

Elder's Day Out

A couple of weeks ago, more than 200 elders attended the thoughtful programme organised in their honour. The occasion was World Elder’s Day and the organisers were their own grandchildren and students of Sri Ma Group of Institutions. This year’s theme was ‘Respect for Elders at Home’. The children applied tilak, conducted aarti, and sought blessings of their grandparents. An elocution competition on the topic ‘We and Our Grandparents’ and a slogan-writing competition added to the emotional energy of event. The children also presented entertainment programmes and played games in which grandparents also participated.

The next day, on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi Jayanti, the elders experienced another round of compassion when they participated in a free comprehensive health check-up camp, complete with specialist doctors to check every ailment. The camp was organised by Sri Ma Senior Citizens Welfare Centre, which also sponsored follow up consultations, x-rays and other tests where required. The trust also undertook the cost of operation and its pre and post-operative expenses of those elders who were diagnosed with cataract but could not afford the operation. Elders were shown a documentary on hearing aid.

Refreshments, free transport and free medicines for the participants were other highlights of the camp.

The government of India recently announced that it is going to introduce a bill to safeguard the interest of senior citizens by ensuring that children provide for their parents, both financially and emotionally. While it’s great to see the government making such a move, what is painful is that the need for it has arisen due to the indifference of the young towards their old. The children often forget that they owe their lives to their parents and grandparents. They forget that someday they will become old too.

Woman worshippers
Goddess Durga, with her multi-dimensional aspects, represents the supreme power in the female form. Mother of Goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati, Durga Ma protects us from misery by defeating evil forces such as selfishness, jealousy, prejudice, hatred, anger and ego. In that sense, Goddess Durga is the ultimate projection of womanhood. No wonder a group of women from the city celebrate this feminine energy by dedicating one of the ten days in the Durgotsav festival to the spirit of women entrepreneurs.

Every year, on the fifth day of the Durgotsav festival (Panchami), women from Thane’s New Bengal Club, an NGO that works for the underprivileged, the variously disabled and women-related issues, organises AnandaMela, a fun-fair that showcases products and services of woman entrepreneurs.

This year too, about 50 women entrepreneurs from Thane and Mumbai participated in AnandaMela to sell jewellery, women’s wear, readymade garments, fashion fabrics, handicrafts and many more items. The Bengali festive spirit was evident in the wide array of sweet delicacies and the typical attire of the bhadralok and the bhadramohila. The chief guest for the evening was entrepreneur Smita Mahajan, who is the chairperson of Bombay Management Association’s Thane chapter and also of Matru Shakti, a city-based NGO.

The proceeds of AnandaMela are used for humanitarian activities and including donations to charities. For the beneficiaries of the proceeds, AnandaMela is not less than the blessing of Goddess Durga, who reveals her omnipotence in mysterious ways.

Now Showing: God and His Creation

Pitale family from Thane is one of the few who celebrate Lord Ganesha’s birthday by spreading a socially relevant message. After winning the award for the best eco-friendly Ganpati decoration for two consecutive years, Jidnyasa’s managing trustee Surendra Dighe requested them to create a “role model” decoration this year for the rest to follow. And Pitale’s gladly obliged.  

Visit their home at Shruti Park in Kolshet, where Lord Ganesha sits in his comfortable abode – a mini-theatre, complete with sound effects, lighting and an LCD projector. As devotees enter this room, they are treated to a 10-minute show, made of stories that leave them in deep contemplation. The narration is in Marathi or English, depending on the visitors.

Lord Ganesha and His Creation

The show begins with a voiceover narrating a story that beautifully illustrates how people follow rituals blindly without understanding the basis. A Brahmin is on his way to perform his morning prayers. Because in Hinduism it is customary to bathe before a prayer, the Brahmin decides to take a dip in the river. Before the dip, he creates a shivling next to his belongings so that when he comes back, he would be able to identify his stuff from others. While he’s doing so, he is unaware that a young Brahmin is observing him. When he goes into the river, the young Brahmin concludes that creating a shivling is ritual before dipping in the river. So he too creates a shivling, keeps his stuff next to it and goes bathing. Soon the entire bank of the river is adorned with Shivlings. When the Brahmin returns he is shocked as he can’t identify his belongings anymore – all because of a blind ritual!

The next story is about a farmer in the olden days, who reaps a good harvest and is grateful to Mother Nature. To express his gratitude he takes some soil from the fertile land and makes an idol of Ganpati, who is the Lord of Prosperity, and worships it. After his veneration, he immerses the idol in the river that flows next to his farm as it is the same river that makes his land fertile. The idea is to unite the idol with the source from where it came. Looking at this farmer, other farmers follow suit and thus a ritual of worshiping the soil, the nature begins. Unfortunately, in the modern-day celebrations, we have forgotten the soil and focus on the idol instead. Instead of quiet, heartfelt expression of gratitude, we now have idols made of non-biodegradable plaster of paris and harmful chemicals, accompanied by loud cacophony music that cares little for Mother Nature.

The next story is about Lokmanya Tilak’s Sarvajanik (Public) Ganpati celebrations. During the freedom struggle, when the British banned public gatherings to prevent freedom fighters from conspiring against them, Tilak set in motion public celebrations of Ganpati to hold political meetings under the guise of religious celebrations. In the post-freedom era, the idea of celebrating Ganpati has taken on a new, competitive meaning, where pandals compete on whose idols are bigger and better.

The show is captivating and the decor is simple yet refreshing. The background is made of paper cut-outs that are used to illustrate the stories narrated in the show. All the three stories are narrated with the help of an LCD projector. The timed lighting effects add to the overall appeal of the show. The show ends with the narrator reminding us of the importance of respecting Mother Nature: “Our ancestors knew that they owe their existence to nature and endeavoured to live in harmony with the environment. But modern man assumes that he can dominate Planet Earth. Natural calamities like Tsunami, Mumbai floods caused by the heaviest downpour, and now Katrina Hurricane in the US are perhaps reminders that Nature is still beyond our control and we must learn to respect it lest we face the consequences.”

 The Pitale’s don’t just preach, they even practise. They don’t immerse their Ganpati idol – the same one is in use since three years now, but it is impossible to believe because it looks new. And in spreading the message of sparing Mother Nature, the whole family is united. Tusshar Pitale (concept and narration), his wife (artwork), his son Vaibhav (sound effects and mixing), his daughter Jaswandi (Narration in English), elder brother Mandar and his son Gaurav (electrical and light effects) have all played a part in organising this show which has already completed 48 screenings.

The Pitale show serves to remind us the best way to express gratitude to God is to respect His creation. The importance of respecting our nature, our environment cannot be overemphasised. Perhaps Frank Lloyd Wright, a famous US architect, said it the best, “I believe in God, only I spell it N-A-T-U-R-E.”

Readers may contact Tusshar Pitale on 9820601444 or may visit B1/103, Shruti Park in Kolshet for a first-hand experience of being one with Nature.

Height of Teaching

Madame Montessori, whose name is synonymous with child education, was a tall woman. No, I am not referring to her height, but her social stature. Born on August 31, 1870, Montessori became Italy’s first woman doctor. Initially, she took care of children’s physical ailments and diseases. Eventually, her curiosity led her to explore the minds of children and how they learn. By the early twentieth century, Dr Maria Montessori’s mission was to propagate radically different methods of teaching young children. “Help me do it myself” was her idea of teaching. In other words, she encouraged experiential learning – where children learn by observing, interacting, and experiencing, instead of relying on memory.

She went on to write several books on the subject and set up many institutes based on her philosophy, which was catching on throughout the world, including India. Today, a hundred years later, her teaching philosophy is as relevant as it was in her times.

A lady named Tarabai Modak, a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, who started a Balwadi in the Sabarmati Ashram based on Montessori’s teaching philosophy, was also a pioneer of sorts in the area of child education. On, 31 August 2005, the 135th birth anniversary of Dr Maria Montessori, city-based Saraswati Vidya Mandir Trust’s Pre-primary section celebrated a Memorial Day in honour of the two great women. The school invited parents/grandparents of their Kindergarten students to participate in a two-day programme. About 400 adults learnt about the Montessori Method of teaching. Whether it was Maths, Science, Arts, or Music, the young children learn not in classroom or from books, but by experiencing and experimenting hands on. Parents discovered how their children understood the five senses (biology), shapes of toys and objects (geometry), reflection from mirrors (physics), and many other phenomena by being involved in them rather than grasping them conceptually. Such learning is not only more fun but is also more enduring than the bookish variety. Wonder why only children are taught this way, because such a wonderful method of teaching ought to be introduced even at senior levels of education.

When Montessori met Mahatma
Montessori met Mahatma Gandhi in the beginning of October, 1931 in London. And on October 28, 1931 Gandhiji spoke at the Montessori Training College, London where Montessori was also in attendance. His speech, published in Young India dated 19 November 1931, concluded thus: “You have very truly remarked that if we are to reach real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children and if they will grow up in their natural innocence, we won’t have the struggle, we won’t have to pass fruitless idle resolutions, but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which, consciously or unconsciously, the whole world is hungering.”

Moving towards God

Since 1998, city-based NGO Jidnyasa has been campaigning for eco-friendly Ganpati celebrations. Last year, even the Thane Municipal Corporation joined in by initiating moves to protect the city’s lakes. But Jidnyasa’s Youth Group is not resting. Their mission is to minimise public immersions of idols as they cause pollution. Surendra Dighe, Managing Trustee of Jidnyasa, says, “There is scientific evidence that Ganpati idols, unless made of clay, are non-biodegradable. We, who are aware of the dangers of this trend, must spread the awareness before it’s too late. I think this is the proper use of science – out there in the social context and not inside laboratories.”

Moving closer to Lord Ganesha

Jidnyasa’s primary target is students, who not only influence their parents today, but are also decision-makers of tomorrow. On Sunday, about 300 students formed a human chain around the Masunda Lake with the objective of spreading the good word. And their campaign seems to be having a positive effect – already close to 1000 families from Thane have promised not to immerse idols. To encourage use of clay idols, Jidnyasa organises an annual competition for the “Most Eco-Friendly Decoration in Thane”.

It is said that Cleanliness is next to Godliness. If more and more residents vow to embrace the eco-friendly way, then Thane city is set to move several steps closer to Lord Ganesha. Because, there is no better way to please Him than to keep His creation, His environment free from toxic waste.

A Special Evening

Children have an amazing propensity to squeeze out joy from little pleasures of life. It’s delightful to see little kids enjoying themselves merrily – singing, dancing and generally having fun, oblivious to the world around them. And when the kids in question are physically/mentally challenged, belonging to the underprivileged strata of the society, it’s a sight to behold.

Nearly 140 underprivileged, special children had a time of their life on the evening of Saturday October 18, 2003. The children, students of Anand Dighe Jidd School in Thane, were celebrating Diwali amidst their family, friends and teachers at a programme organised specially for them. "Deepanjali" as the evening was called, was sponsored by the Thane Police Department, Rotaract Club of Thane North End and Lioness club of Upvan. Ironically, senior officials from Police Department and the TMC (which runs the Jidd School) were conspicuous by their absence.

The programme, which was organised in the specially created garden for students of Jidd School, lasted for about three hours. Dance and singing performances by children and adults were the highlights of the evening. In one performance, by the staff members of the school, a man dressed up as a village woman, and danced to the tune of folk song while the children laughed and clapped in joy. Interactive games of fortune allowed the audience to participate and win prizes. The live orchestra band added to the charm of the evening.

Towards the end of the show, the orchestra played many popular Hindi songs in a free-for-all dance show. Half the audience was up on the stage, including a few special children. It literally boggled the mind to see the jest with which the special children were dancing. One polio affected child, with barely any legs, was dancing energetically without any sign of discomfort, and enjoying every moment of it. He was literally jumping on a single foot for what seemed like ages, and seemed like he was over the moon. Another special child joined the band to play the drums – and he played wonderfully. The look on the children’s faces and the demand for more music and more dance made it clear that they just did not want the evening to end. In spite of the celebrations mood, the special children surprisingly maintained discipline and none of them needed to be guarded for causing disruptions. Afterwards, many guests, including this writer, were presented with beautiful paper roses made by the special students of Jidd School.

The ultimate delight for the children was the session of fireworks at the close of the show. The sparklers and explosives lit the sky up repeatedly, producing various colours, noises and effects; some breaking into colour bursts in the air and some displaying colours going up. Each successive burst was accompanied by grand cheers, sounds of roaring laughter interspersed with ecstatic oohs and aahs.

Among the people who graced the programme were Mayor Sharada Raut, TMC house speaker Eknath Shinde, Vijay Padwal from the Department of Sports and Culture, Sanjay More from the Education Department and many others. Group Leader of Shiv Sena in TMC, Anil Save who attended the programme said, "Jidd School holds a special place in our hearts. I know of no other Municipal Corporation anywhere in the country that organises such Diwali celebrations for the underprivileged special children. TMC is unique in that respect."

The principal of Jidd School, Shyamshree Bhonsle, when asked what drove her to organise such a programme, replied, "There is a need to deal with special children with greater creativity and sensitivity. Moreover, our students come from really poor families who may be so occupied with mere sustenance that they can hardly afford to think of celebrating festivals. By organising such a programme and inviting their families, we thought we could provide these children an opportunity to enjoy the festival just like we all do. They always look forward to such celebrations as they forget their daily pains, if only for a few hours." She was thankful to the many supporters of the school and sponsors who made it possible. She added, "I wish to personally thank all the well-wishers who contribute in their own way to run the school for the underprivileged children in need of special care."

Such was the evening’s effect that it caused our eyes to become moist with emotion. The joy on the faces of the special children overwhelmed our hearts and made us pray for them. It was a special evening by all counts, indeed.

See and Smile

It’s not just students who heave a sigh of relief during summertime. As the financial year of most Indian companies ends in March, even business executives and working professionals look forward to a time off from their gruelling work schedules. Most pack their bags and head to a holiday destination. Those who stay back participate in the various activities and events organised in and around the city. One such summertime event that the city residents look forward to is the Art Exhibition organised by AksharRang Kala Academy.

That the art exhibition is hugely popular among art lovers can be gauged from the fact that last year the exhibition had almost 20,000 visitors, not just from Thane and Mumbai but also from Goa, Bangalore and Nagpur. Last year, it was collection of paintings by the Late Deenanath Dalal that pulled the crowd, while the year before it was world-renowned Calligrapher Achyut Palav’s that attracted people. This year, the job’s being done by cartoonist Shivram Phadnis, fondly known as Shi Da. Known for his amazing sense of humour, more than 120 of his original works will be on display for everyone to see and smile.

Phadnis, who work was exhibited for the first time at Jahangir Art Gallery way back in 1965, has regularly contributed to the covers of several Marathi magazines. His illustrations and cartoons are also found in books on various subjects including banking, medicine, mathematics, science, law and even philosophy. Phadnis has received several awards in recognition of his art. In 1954, Phadnis was awarded the "Outstanding Editorial Art Award" by Commercial Artist’s Guild (CAG) Mumbai. University Grants commission (UGC) aired Phadnis’s programmes on national television in 1987. In 2001 he received the Lifetime Achievements Award by the Indian Institute of Cartoonists, Bangalore. The Marmik weekly also honoured him with a Life time Achievement Award. Many of his cartoons have been exhibited and published by the International Salon of Cartoons, Montreal, Canada and also in periodicals of USA and Germany.

Free of comments or political punches, Phadnis’s cartoon’s have a unique style and grace that reflect simplicity. The humour’s gentle, yet effective – it does a job of bringing a smile to your face. And best of all it’s free! Nicknamed "Laughing Gallery", the exhibition is open from April 27 to May 02 at Town hall in Tembhi Naka.

Food for thought
Speaking about summertime events, this one’s sure to whet your appetite. The annual food festival, being organised between May 06 and 08 at Ghantali Maidan, promises to be as enticing as the previous ones. This year’s theme being "Family Nutrition", visitors will be able to learn about nutritional aspects of every family member, from the youngest to the oldest. The event kicks off at 6 pm on May 01 with a session of "dietary tips" for senior citizens of Thane at the Nana-Nani park near Rangayatan. Many such mini-events (curtain-raisers) have been planned across the city.

Indian cuisine is considered by many as the best in the world, both taste- and health-wise. Yet, nutritional requirements differ from person to person, depending on such factors as age, professional, lifestyle, and individual constitution. Especially in the modern-day, fast-food culture, when nutritionally empty foods have become the order of the day, family nutrition is a relevant theme. "The three-day programme, which is free to attend, will offer a wealth of wisdom to its visitors", claims Tushar Pitale, who is organising the event. The event aims to address many nutritional issues via informative sessions by experts. Games, competitions, cookery events, poster exhibition and lucky draws will ensure that the whole family is entertained.

It is said that a family that eats together, stays together. And if the food they eat is nutritious, such families live longer together.

City welcomes the New Year

Today is Gudi Padwa, and also the occasion of the fourth Bharatiya Nava Varsha Swagat Yatra (BNVSY), an apolitical procession organised by Shri Kopaneshwar Mandir Trust (SKMT) and supported by city-based educational institutes, social and religious trusts, and NGOs. The BNVSY is the combined celebration of New Years of many Hindu communities such as Gudi Padwa (Marathi), Ugadi (Malayali), Cheti Chand (Sindhi) Poila Baishakh (Bengali), Baisakhi (Punjabi), which all fall in March and April of every year.

This convener of this year’s procession is Sudhakar Vaidya, President of CKP Social Club. Although the procession marks the arrival of the Hindu New Year, residents from non-Hindu communities like Jews, Catholics, Sikhs, Parsis and Muslims also participate. Two years ago, Dr. Dawood A Dalvi, ex-Principal of DnyanSadhana College, convened the procession, indicating clearly that the procession is not only apolitical but also cuts across cast barriers.

At 7 am today, the main procession will begin from the Kopeneshwar Temple and travel through Dagdi Shala, three petrol pump, Hari Nivas circle, Marathon square, Gokhale Road, Ram Maruti Road, Masunda Lake and will reach Kopaneshwar Mandir by 10.30 am. Like in the previous years, floats with cultural, educational and social themes will feature in the procession. As part of Jidnyasa Trust’s waste management project, more than 150 of its volunteers will be positioned at three different locations on the path to collect disposable water glasses and other waste that might be generated during the mammoth procession.

As usual, the celebrations started yesterday with Deepotsav, a brilliant spectacle of the city being lit up with diyas and candles in the hands of scores of city residents. The past few years have seen Thane expanding in its geographical scope, so much so that now it has its own suburbs, which participate in the city’s celebrations in their own way. The SKMT has formed sub-committees to monitor the activities in the far-flung localities of the city. This year more than 200 individuals from Vasant Vihar and surrounding areas participated in a motorcycle rally. Dressed in traditional outfits, the rally covered Vasant Vihar, Lok Puram and all other residential complexes in Pokhran area, to terminate at the Upvan Lake at around Sunset, just in time for the Deepotsav. In order to prevent the wind from spoiling the fun, residents of Brahmand Society at Ghodbunder Road purchased transparent glasses to place floating candles. The city’s enthusiasm is surely contagious and seems to have travelled the distance. Pokhran, Ghobunder Road, Raila Devi and even the east part of city (Kopri colony and surrounding areas) are actively participating in the celebrations. Housing societies across the city, including those situated in the far away corners like Vijay Nagri and Ritu Park, have agreed to display Gudis on their premises, to underline the atmosphere of togetherness. Large-than-life Rangolis at at Gavdevi Maidan, New English School and Sant Tukaram Ground in Thane East will be the highlight of the event.

Over the past few years, people of Thane have leapt across the barriers of cast and creed to coexist in harmony by respecting every religion and celebrating "unity in diversity", a phrase that we’re taught in school but seem to forget as we grow up. The city deserves a pat on its back as it preserves the cultural, social and religious heritage of our country. We wish all residents of Thane a very happy, harmonious and prosperous New Year.

Ye Dil Mange No More

Prevention is better than cure, it is said. But this adage does not apply to AIDS, where prevention is the only option, since there is no known cure. In spite of this seemingly common knowledge about AIDS, the incidence of this deadly disease is on the upswing. AIDS is spreading faster in India than anywhere else in the world, with an official figure of 51 lakh HIV+ cases. According to some foreign NGOs, this figure is over one crore. Cause for alarm is the fact that more than 50 per cent of all infected cases in India are in Maharashtra. And in Maharashtra, Mumbai (together with its twin city Thane), is the worst affected with one in every 40 people being HIV+.

A programme on AIDS awareness for the youth was organised in the city on March 24 at the TMA Hall in Wagle Estate. About 90 college-going students attended the programme and came out better informed. Well-known theatre personality Meena Naik, who has been doing AIDS awareness shows in various city colleges. Titled "Ye dil mange more", the show first used a 15-minute puppet show capsule that attempted to demonstrate how AIDS is transferred from one person to another. Later, a 45-minute play revolving around a mother and her two teenage daughters highlighted the modern day life in colleges, the party culture, and the accompanying risks.

Naik, who was awarded the Japanese Foundation Fellowship for study of puppetry in School (Educational Puppetry), presented a paper on "safe sex through puppetry" at the International Conference on Puppets in Health Education and Therapy held in London on June 1994. The interactive session after the play was alive with several questions being answered adeptly. Naik came across as a flexible person who was willing to incorporate suggestions for change in her approach from the audience.

Many of those who attended felt that the programme should be extended to seniors at the school level itself. College students were of the opinion that parents must be made to attend such programmes, in presence of their teenage children. "Nothing much has been done in Thane to spread AIDS awareness. Therefore, when we got an opportunity to do a programme with Meena Naik, we didn’t think twice", said ND Joseph, President of the Rotary Club of Thane Hills, the organisers of the programme.

According to Dr Rajan Bhosle, a renowned counsellor and an AIDS activist, "After 24 years of human effort in an age when technology and science are so advanced, and with all countries working together to find a cure, we have still been unable to deal with AIDS. As of now, prevention is the only cure for AIDS." Yes, we need more awareness programmes to stop the wildfire of AIDS from engulfing our youth. Listen to your hearts as they cry out Ye dil mange no more AIDS.

Colourful Values
Holi, the festival of colours, is fun. But oftentimes, Holi colours, if not smeared properly, are known to hurt and harm individuals. Realising that the best way to inculcate safety habits is to catch them young, the teachers of Garden School taught their little pre-school kiddos the right way to enjoy Holi. The idea behind this was that children tend to remember and stick to the values they acquire at a tender age.

On Wednesday, 90 children between 3 and 4 years, all Garden School students, learnt how to daub colour via demonstration. The children learnt how colours can make some people go blind and deaf and therefore it was important to throw colour carefully. Teachers trained them to apply colours only on cheeks, chin, nose and forehead, and taught them how to carefully vulnerable body parts, especially eyes and ears. Later, they were told to memorise this sentence: "Holi is a festival of colours, bright and nice – but we must not throw colour in anybody’s eyes". Why only children, even some adults need to memorise this one.

The Women Tribe

On March 07, about 40 tribal women from Yeoor and their children thoroughly enjoyed their evening playing games and having fun. They were participating in the programme specially organised for them by city-based NGO Sevadham on the eve of International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrated on March 08. The special guest of the evening was Suhasini Joshi, the famous film and TV actress who lives in Thane. Joshi was an apt choice for the programme celebrating women’s day because she is easily one of the more recognisable women achievers from the city. So much so that even the tribal women and their children instantly recognised "that famous face" they have seen on TV so many times, and were rather excited to have her among them.

Most tribal women are uneducated and would hardly understand the significance of women’s day. The fact that they played games with each other was also a rare phenomenon, because the tribal women normally do not mix with each other socially. The idea behind the programme was to bring together these tribal women and help them understand their role in their community. Sensing that this happy interaction between the women might not last after the programme, Joshi said, "You look so happy today. So why stop at this one day? Even after we leave, you must come together once in a while and organise such programmes." She asked the women how many were educated among them and told those who raised their hands to spread the knowledge by teaching others in their community.

The tribal women didn’t just play – they played to win. Prizes were given away to the top three winners in every game played. Besides, Sevadham’s partner in this effort, the Inner Wheel Club of Thane Hills, distributed useful items to the women and children. Bananas, Chikoos, Biscuits, Blouse pieces, and notebooks for children were among the things provided.

Savitri, one of the rare among the tribal women because of her education, came forward to thank the organisers on behalf of the entire community. She said in her tribal dialect, "We are obliged to have your patronage and support, year after year and we sincerely thank you for the same." The response of the tribeswomen to the programme shows that IWD’s ultimate objective of promoting equality and empowering women will be achieved only when women from the secluded communities begin to understand their role in the society – not by paying mere lip-service to women’s rights at seminar and functions.

A Dance Dessert
On Sunday morning, at 10 am, 300 people sat enthralled at Vasantrao Naik Hall as the trio of Mother, son and daughter-in-law, all accomplished performers, got together with a few other experts and presented an unforgettable show. The occasion was the annual day show of the Brahaman Vidyalaya branch of the reputed Shree Ganesh Nritya Kala Mandir.

First, sixty students of Kathak, aged four to thirty, presented their shows on the different aspects of Kathak. Then came the power packed performance of Manali Deo, who is the chief coordinator of the academy’s Thane branch. Manali was supported by her husband Pandit Mukund Raj Deo on tabla, and her mom-in-law and guru, Manjiri Deo who accompanied her on padhant. Vocals were by Padmakar Despande, while Atul Phadke played the harmonium. Those present described Manali’s performance as breathtaking. With Shivratri around the corner, she started with Shiv Vandana, a devotional song, in honour of Lord Shiva. Later she performed pure Katkak, which, in the dance parlance, is known as "taal-teel-taal". She concluded her performance with a thumri, a special dance form that conveys various emotions uses expressions and gestures.

For Kathak lovers, the performance of the students followed by their teacher’s show was like a full course royal meal, which ended with a scrumptious dessert. But then Sunday meals are never ordinary affairs.

A Therapeutic Event

Like happiness, sanity is a state of mind. What else explains the phenomenon of people labelled as insane acting perfectly sane at times? Last week, when the inmates of Thane Mental Hospital (TMH) performed on stage at the annual celebrations of the institution, their performances were so good that it was difficult to believe they were under treatment for any sort of mental illness.

On February 23, 2005, at 7 pm, the inmates of TMH stunned the audience, including the chief guest Sharada Raut, by performing like pros. The programme started with Omkar Swaroopa (welcome number) performed by three inmates and was followed by dance numbers presented by the inmates and staff members. Mentally challenged students from a Mulund School, who had been invited to participate, sang Adnan Sani’s Lift Kara De, while an inmate from TMH called Anand left the spectators in awe with this voice. He displayed tremendous stage confidence which was evident when he resumed singing the popular Hindi number "Jadu Teri Nazar", after being interrupted by power failure. Although the sudden, unexpected break did not faze him, it did leave the audience wondering. Later, several people unofficially declared him the "star of the evening".

While the audience gasped in surprise at the performances, one peek behind the scenes, and we realise that the programme and the performances were the result of extensive hard work involving hospital and the 1500-odd inmates. "The task was not an easy one but the inmates were enthusiastic and cooperative and therefore we could manage it well," said Dr Sheetal Kasat from TMH.

The next day, on 24 February, TMH organised a prize distribution ceremony for winners of the two-week-long sports event that took place in the previous month. This time the chief guest was Mayor Rajan Vichare. Film personality Ajinkya Ramesh Deo was the guest of honour. Other guests included film artist Junior Mehmood and Dr Subhas Chandra Jain, Deputy Director of Health at TMC Thane. The programme once again began with a welcome song, which was followed by a dance performance by the inmates. The guests were then taken around and shown craft items, sketches, paintings, greeting cards and other items created made by the inmates. So impressed was Ajinkya Deo with the performances and creativity aptitude of the inmates that he called them his "heroes". Both he and Junior Mehmood were moved by the respect, admiration and love that the inmates showered on them.

During the prize-distribution ceremony, when a bouquet made by inmates was presented to him, the mayor was visibly touched. He said, "As a mayor, this is my first public appearance for an event of this kind, and I will never forget these moments. TMH can always expect my support in their initiatives".

40 winners from different wards were given away prizes. 10 performers from the previous day’s cultural programme were also felicitated. 10 inmates were special recognised for the active assistance they offer to OT section and wards of TMH during their stay there. According to a hospital staff, the annual function and other programmes that TMH organises, including Ganesh Chathurti, Navratri and, Christmas celebrations, have been noticed and appreciated by the Human Rights Commission of India.

The 104-year old TMH has been celebrating the annual day for more than two decades now, a part of its therapeutic initiative, where the inmates are treated like normal people. And judging by the performances, the therapy seems effective.

Victory of Good over Evil

The full moon in the Hindu month of Kartik is celebrated as Tripuri Pournima   This year the full moon was on Friday 26 November 2004, and thousands of temples around the country,   the 64-year-old Kopaneshwar Temple in Thane was lit up with countless oil-lamps to mark the occasion.

There are many legends about why Tripuri Pournima is celebrated. One of them goes like this: in the ancient period, there was a demon called Tripurasur, who pleased Lord Vishnu with years of penance, and in return, the received a boon of protection along with amulets of iron, silver and gold from the Lord. This made the demon almost indestructible as he could be killed only with a single arrow from Lord Shiva’s quiver. The demon started misusing his new-found power and began troubling the Gods and the Rishis. The Gods turned to Shiva for help, who fought a war and with the help of Lord Ganesha, and finally defeated Tripurasur with a single arrow demolishing his three amulets. This victory over Tripurasur took place on the night of full moon in the month of "Kartik". The Gods rejoiced and celebrated this victory by illuminating their abdoes and lighting fireworks. It is therefore also known as Dev Diwali (God’s Diwali). Tripuri Pournima is considered next only to Mahashivaratri for the worship of Lord Shiva.

The Shree Kopaneshwar Mandir Committee Trust has been celebrating Tripuri Pournima in this fashion for over 25 years now, in association with various city-based groups that work in the cultural sphere. This year, Vivekananda Kendra (Kanyakumari) Thane, The Chinmaya Mission, Brahman Shabha, Naupada Hindu Bhagini Mandal, Rastriya Sevika Samiti, Mukhtayi Bhagini Mandal and a few more cultural organisations collaborated in celebrating the occasion.

On November 26, women from the city performed a "deep prajavalan" (lighting of lamps) as part of the process of offering prayers to Lord Shiva. Inside the temple where the Shivling is housed, there were 750 wicks that were ignited to make a deepamala (garland of lights). To mark the occasion, the Kopaneshwar temple flooring was decorated with several large and colourful rangolis and oil-lamps. One giant rangoli, made from colours and flowers, was right in the middle of the temple, portraying Lord Krishna with his cow and a Shivling in the background. On its periphery were hundreds of oil-lamps, making it a sight to behold. Next to it was a large swastik made out Marigold flowers, also very attractive. The entire temple was replete with a variety of colours, flowers and oil-lamps arranged so beautifully that it left the devotees, regardless of their age, awestruck. Such was the enthusiasm of the devotees that if the breeze would cause any lamp to be put out, the by-standing devotees would light it up themselves.
 
Tripuri Pournima is yet another day to celebrate the victory of good over evil and like many other Hindu festivals, serves to remind us that such celebrations are symbolic and have significance that is far more profound than the rituals themselves. In today’s modern context, Tripuri Pournima stands for the fight between the good and evil that resides inside each of us. We have to encourage the good (which contains the word GOD within) and destroy the devil (which contains the word evil within). The lighting of lamps signifies the chasing away of the dark (evil) forces from our hearts.