THE DISCORDANT NOTES OF POUSH MELA 2014
THE DISCORDANT NOTES OF POUSH MELA 2014
Even for this photographer, the mood seems to be fairly pensive, without being too sure about what exactly to expect, with the excitement factor soon petering out with so much of everything punched together, blurring out anything special about this rather famous fair. The photograph was taken by my son; as for the first time in 27 years I declined my customary leave from office duty from 23rd to 25th December 2014 surprising all my colleagues! The whole mood was so discordant at Poush Mela this time that the 7th Poush inauguration assembly at Chatimtala could not be staged by Visva Bharati and instead a few ex-students performed the 100+year old ritual to usher in the annual fair at Santiniketan. The impasse over internal quota in graduation for school children of Visva Bharati ultimately was resolved with the administration back tracking from scrapping the quota in face of staunch opposition from within Visva Bharati community. The home work done by the administration was awful in practical terms as in face of severe opposition the top administration of Visva Bharati simply crumbled. Not engaging the larger community of Visva Bharati over reasonable period of time on this issue and taking such decisions in a sly and secretive manner within few seem to be the real reasons for such an administrative failure; I would say a rather rare, but glaring, incidence under the stewardship of Vice Chancellor, Prof Sushanta Dattagupta. It is perhaps a pointer to Prof Dattagupta to take a hard look at his advisors, who have led him to take such a decision; which he could not ultimately push through. The result invariably was dismally poor press reports flashed all over just as usual. One may blame anyone in the whole episode according to one’s own line of thinking and may go for endless debates over the utility of the quota system; but at the end of the day the whole episode was a huge administrative failure.
In this backdrop Poush Mela 2014 was virtually a non starter for me and I stepped in as late as on 25th December just for little bit of uninterested stroll and a visit to ‘Senjuti’ resulted in an animated discussion over the quota issue- a real spoiler to the mood of Poush Mela. Ex-students’ presence were notably rare this year, with senior ex-students being almost invisible. In short Poush Mela 2014 was hardly a stimulant that it used to be.
However, I was fairly intrigued by the readymade ‘Rangoli’ products. Those appeared fairly handy. Gone would be the days when elaborate hand sprayed ‘rangoli’s would adorn every household on auspicious days; instead with a little bit of powders of several colours and such accessories even I would be able to create elaborate ‘rangoli’s within minutes! I really enjoyed the innovative power of the human brains and the ability to convert these into viable commercial ventures. I am not too sure, but these products were probably new entrants into Poush Mela this year.
These paper-pulp masks appeared rather intriguing. I really wondered why only tribal faces were displayed- perhaps as a selective marketing strategy as the usual faces of God and Goddesses flood all fair markets in India in gigantic numbers making this rather uncommon subject a highly competitive one.
Poush Mela blends can really be bizarre; along with the Santhal ladies I was also fairly fascinated by the Sari-clad lady who changed her sari every now and then adorning them with great élan! In fact I was quite smitten by the beauty, and kept looking at her fairly dazed. She was ofcourse a new style statement in Poush Mela and she looked gorgeous in every hue of sari she wore!
I was absolutely intrigued by the collection of ‘little magazines’ at Poush Mela. I would definitely buy a series of them and go through at leisure in my office (can be a good source of refreshment for my colleagues too!). I have already selected a few like-‘Bhut-er Prem-e Bhut Hao-a’, ‘Chutki’r Malgari’, ‘Manasa’r Bhasan’, ‘Brotokatha o Panchali’,‘Sisuder Namkaran Obhidhan’ and perhaps one or two spicy(!) ones etc. Actually the whole collection was remarkable, let’s see how many I can collect! With so much exclusive knowledge, so easily available at the floor of Poush Mela 2014, I really felt elated, honestly. If you go deeper; actually these are the education tools made available to all and sundry by the advent of print technology, first reflected in Bengal by the ‘Bottala’ publishing culture. It is really diverse and intriguing. My salute to the ‘Bottala’ culture.
Even the images galore of Poush Mela could not make me camera shutter happy, the sarcastic mood prevailed. Being an ex-student of Patha Bhavana myself with a throbbing childhood a pain always nibbled at my heart all along since the fissure between the school section and Visva Bharati University surfaced. Somewhere a thread of life got snapped; I am staring at the ultimate prospect of the joint-family of Visva Bharati getting fragmented. At my age it hardly matters though; like everyone else I have also learnt to act judiciously promoting the interest of myself and of my family; but yet after all these some undefined vacuums exist in our systems at times triggering difficult questions to pop up. Santiniketan, in essence only urged us to think before we acted.
One day we all will turn into ash, or metamorphose into soil again, even then Poush Mela will move along. Or will it? Who knows?
In the meanwhile, goodbye Poush Mela 2014 and Happy New Year 2015.