Jefe's House

Shaheb Cafe

The Work Begins

by on Sep.24, 2018, under Film/TV, On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, Theatre

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Soumya Sankar Bose and Shyamal Dihidar

 

Yesterday the work began in earnest with my  interview of actor-director Shyamal Dihidar who’s been doing Jatra theatre since age 10. I met him through his nephew (also pictured) Soumya Sankar Bose, a Kolkata-based art photographer.  His uncle was kind enough to take a train 150km into the city for the interview which I held upstairs at a corner table of the cafe at the Oxford Bookstore.

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Shyamal Dihidar and Yours Truly

The Canon EOS Rebel T6 video camera and tripod that I brought with me paid off. And many thanks to Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design for lending me a Zoom sound recorder for 3 months.   Also many thanks to Oxford staff for taking it upon themselves to turn off the store music while I was recording.

 

Mine is not an official US Department of State website. The views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the Department of State.

 

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Rabindra Bharati University

by on Sep.20, 2018, under Film/TV, On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, Theatre

Yesterday I got a tour of the Drama Department at my Fulbright host institution, Rabindra Bharati University. I will teach a workshop or two here later. Click the first photo below to see the slideshow of this incredible, well-appointed performing arts program.

Girish Chandra Ghosh
Girish Chandra Ghosh
First, the head of the Drama Dept. took me on a tour of the facilities. Um, no, that's not him. This is a portrait of Girish Chandra Ghosh who was a renowned 19th century Bengali playwright.
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Othello
Othello
As with the Ghosh portrait, the posters lining the main hallway are dedicated to Bengali theatre during the late 19th and early 20th century as artists were struggling to find their own post-British identities. Here is a tribute to an all-Bengali production of Othello, a radical and financially risky act at the time.
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Macbeth
Macbeth
Ditto this production of The Scottish Tragedy.
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Hariraj (adaptation of Hamlet)
Hariraj (adaptation of Hamlet)
An adaptation of Hamlet into the Bengali language.
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Hariraj
Hariraj
Closeup of Hariraj photo.
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Department Head Shubhashis Halder
Department Head Shubhashis Halder
My tour guide, Professor Shubhashis Halder
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Costume & Puppetry room
Costume & Puppetry room
The place is a hive of activity with surprises behind every door.
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Set Design class
Set Design class
These students were kind enough to pose for me.
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Set Design room
Set Design room
Busy students in every room.
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Department of Drama
Department of Drama
Main hallway.
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TV studio
TV studio
The video production classroom.
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Video production classroom.
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More of the main hallway.
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Outdoor amphitheatre
Outdoor amphitheatre
The department has an outdoor amphitheatre that also serves as a student hangout.
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Amphitheatre
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Freshman orientation
Freshman orientation
The proscenium stage was being used this day for freshman orientation.
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Freshman orientation banner.
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Tagore
Tagore
Naturally there was a portrait honoring the school's namesake, Rabindranath Tagore.
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Sculpture department
Sculpture department
Student work outside the Sculpture building.
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RBU campus
RBU campus
Main road through campus
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More of the campus. Lots of green space.
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Signs pointing the way. It's like a little town!
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Campus map
Campus map
A beautifully laid out campus.
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More green space
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I love that one of the theatres is named after 19th century prostitute-turned-stage star Noti Binodini.
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And even more greenery.
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Beauty everywhere you look.
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The Drama Department is housed in this building along with other arts-related majors.
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Makeup class
Makeup class
This is out of sequence but these were students in the Makeup studio who were kind enough to pose for me.
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Graffiti
Graffiti
I loved this graffiti about rage on back of one of the doors.
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"Ahindra Theater Workshop"
"Ahindra Theater Workshop"
The department is named after its founder, Ahindra Choudhury.
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20180919_142310.jpg
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Mine is not an official US Department of State website. The views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the Department of State.
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I’m not a card guy but…

by on Sep.01, 2018, under Film/TV, On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, Theatre

…I was strongly advised to take business cards for this thing.

biz card frontbiz card back

 

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It’s a Fulbright Family Affair

by on Aug.27, 2018, under Film/TV, On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, Theatre

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One of a kind custom t-shirt made to order by a merchant on etsy.com.

#the_fulbright_program

#india

 

Mine is not an official US Department of State website. The views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the Department of State.

 

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Love this Fulbright Graphic

by on Jul.30, 2018, under Film/TV, On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, Theatre

Many thanks to Ayanda Wright and the NYU Tisch School of the Arts Department of Dramatic Writing alumni association for their great graphic.

nyuddwfulbright

 

 

 

Mine is not an official US Department of State website. The views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the Department of State.

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Fulbright Scholarship Announcement

by on Jul.11, 2018, under Film/TV, On the Road, Politics, Shaheb Cafe, Theatre

shahebcafe

 

 

 

 

My Experiences in India

shaheb – (India; also saheb, sahib; from the Hindi and Urdu sāhab, master; from Arabic ṣāḥib, companion; participle of ṣaḥiba, to become friends) 
1. formerly, a term of respect for any  male landowner
2. formerly, a term of respect for white European men during the British colonial era
3. (modern) any white man
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fulbright header

Now it can be told. I’m so thrilled to have been named a Fulbright-Nehru Scholar, and will be spending 5 months of the 2018-19 academic year writing and researching in India. If you’d like to learn more about my intended goals, the full scoop is here in this handy dandy pdf of the press release.

As a Fulbright‐Nehru Fellow I will to travel to Kolkata, West Bengal, India to conduct research from my host institution, Rabindra Bharati University, where I will research early 20th century Bengali film and theatre and its impact on India’s nascent independence movement. I will also spend time in Bangalore, Karnataka, India observing the Bangalore Little Theatre’s (affectionately known as BLT) theatre education program and teaching a playwriting workshop to BLT members.

I’m proud to be one of over 800 U.S. citizens who will teach, conduct research, and/or provide expertise abroad for the 2018‐2019 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program.

Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields. The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support to the Program, which operates in over 160 countries.

Mine is not an official US Department of State website. The views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the Department of State.

 

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Never Forget

by on Jan.20, 2017, under On the Road, Politics, Shaheb Cafe

shahebcafe

A Shaheb’s Guide to India

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I realize there are numerous examples of horrific cruelty in our history — the Middle Passage and Concentration Camps always come to mind first and foremost — but here’s one more. We might want to call such crimes unspeakable but they need to be spoken.

Look up Reginald Edward Harry Dyer for the full scoop. The thousands of citizens, including entire families, who gathered were attempting a Gandhian peaceful protest and also during a religious festival when the city of Amritsar was packed. This is just down the hill from the Sikhs’ Golden Temple.

20161223_09294920161223_092937The protest was on rented private property in a back alley courtyard. Dyer had stupidly issued a Jim Crow-like order barring Indians from congregating in groups of 6 or more (in their own country) and decided to make an example of this particular group that included children.  British sources gave a figure of 379 killed with 1,100 wounded. The Indian National Congress counted more than 1000 dead and 1500 injured. 

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“People were fired at from here.”

Churchill later called it a “monstrous” and UnBritish act. Dyer was also all about half-naked public floggings of private citizens and his soldiers fond of stopping pedestrians and making them slither down the street like worms at gunpoint. The British parliament viewed Dyer as a hero. By the way, it’s reenacted in the movie Gandhi as one of the watershed moments leading up to the widespread popularity of the independence movement.

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Martyrs Well.

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“To escape the deadly firing, many people fell into this well. About 120 dead bodies were recovered from it.”

 

 

 

 

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These Guys

by on Jan.10, 2017, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

shahebcafe

A Shaheb’s Guide to India

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The Sharma Handicrafts Guys.

Great story here about how I finally scored a hookah with my name on it after multiple letdowns in Kolkata, Varanasi and Lucknow. The short version – these guys in Delhi at Sharma Handicrafts were the bomb and we made a good deal on my last day thanks largely to shrewdness and translation help from my cousin.

I’ll have to post a photo of this 42″ stunning work of art, black with polished brass inlays in the Moradabad (ancient Muslim city) style. The owner stuck by his product, bargained fairly and gave me his card and said if there were any problems to come back and see him.

As soon as I left with hookah in hand and turned to take a pic of the shop he came out and posed without waiting to be asked. Then his two assistants trailed out one by one and struck poses on either side of him (they must have been a rock band in a previous career given how they naturally fell in line as though posing for an album cover).

I promised them I’d give the shop a plug online so here it is. If you’re ever in Delhi and looking for a brass shop, head to Sharma Handicrafts, Janpath Market, Stall 6. Tell them the saheb who bought the big black hookah sent you.

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Mr. Sharma’s business card.

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A Hindu-Appalachian Christmas in the City of Brotherly Love

by on Dec.23, 2015, under Pophood, Shaheb Cafe, The Sixth Boro

shahebcafe

 

 

 

 

A Shaheb’s Guide to India

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How a simple father-son craft project became a global, epic diorama

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Five years ago this month my wife Bidisha and I got married a full Hindu wedding in India. Four years ago our son was born.

This past Thanksgiving while carving the turkey at our Philadelphia home I got to the bone that my granny from rural southwestern Virginia used to save and make into a turkey bone Santa sled decoration at Christmastime every so often. It’s a morbid Appalachian thing, you wouldn’t understand. In a fit of nostalgia I decided I’d give it a whirl and introduce my young son to a part of his cultural history.

To make sure I was really remembering correctly I Googled “turkey bone sled” and one of the first things that came up was someone’s Pinterest page about turkey bone sleds with the header, “My granny made these.” Yep, I was on the right track.

The schematic.

The schematic.

My son and I often do multi-stage, multi-day art projects so I told him we were going to embark on this “small” project. I’m thinking the whole thing will be five or six inches long with a couple of ceremonial reindeer pulling it but he insists that it be the full 9 reindeer, and that there be a full moon, and a Pleiades star cluster (the Seven Sisters), Aldebaran (the brightest star in the constellation Taurus and one of the bull’s eyes), a small pine tree like the one we have in a planter outside our house, and our street sign, and snow on the ground, and hovering in the sky above Santa there should be Kartik. Without missing a beat I told him fine but that he’d need to design it on paper first so we’d know exactly what we were making and not leave anything out.

Kartik? That would be the Hindu god Kartik, less famous brother of Ganesh. Kartik is the Pete Best of major goddess Durga’s children. I later learned it’s impossible to find an altar figurine of just Kartik alone, so I convinced him instead to  CONT’D at medium.com>>

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A Magical Child

by on Feb.07, 2015, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

shahebcafe

 

 

 

 

A Shaheb’s Guide to India

shaheb – (India; also saheb, sahib; from the Hindi and Urdu sāhab, master; from Arabic ṣāḥib, companion; participle of ṣaḥiba, to become friends) 
1. formerly, a term of respect for any  male landowner
2. formerly, a term of respect for white European men during the British colonial era
3. (modern) any white man
line

A talented young street magician I shot in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India after she approached us shouting “Magic? Magic?”  My 3-year-old son has recently discovered magic so we gave her the nod. She dropped to the ground, emptied the contents of her bag and went to town. Soon a small crowd formed to watch.  My son’s mind was blown, especially when she made money disappear from my wife’s hand and come out of my son’s ear and nose.  I am extremely envious of her sleight of hand skills.  Apologies for the wind noise.

 

I realize there is perhaps, potentially, a darker side to this, like where are her parents? I didn’t see them, but I didn’t see a Fagin lurking about (continue reading…)

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