Jefe's House

Tag: kolkata

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
20180919_142310.jpg
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Remnants of Jewish Kolkata

by on Jan.31, 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
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Temple Beth-El built in 1856.

Kolkata’s oldest synagogue, Beth-El, built in 1856.

There only 25 Jews left in Kolkata but three large, old synagogues speak to their former vast numbers. They were Baghdadi Jews from the Middle East. Getting into these synagogues as an outsider is no easy feat. The Kolkata cabbies haven’t a clue nor do most native Kolkatans you ask.

You have to go to a certain bakery on the first floor of the historic New Market bazaar, get a phone number and call it, speak to a certain Jewish woman who’ll give you directions, then you go to the sites and mention her name to the groundskeepers so they know you’re legit, then they let you inside where you must be accompanied by a guide at all times. Suggested donation is 100 rupees (about $2.00).  I jumped through all of these hoops and it was well worth it.

We first step inside the Magen David (slideshow) synagogue built in 1884 and the guide, a slight Indian in his 30′s with a boyish face, sticks a yarmulke on my head. He barely speaks English. I barely speak Bangla. It goes like this: (continue reading…)

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Beth-el Synagogue, Kolkata, built in 1856

by on Jan.31, 2015, under The Truth Is In Here

About half a mile from the Magen David and Neveh Shalome synagogues is Beth-el Synagogue.

Full story here on Kolkata’s handful of remaining Baghdadi Jews. Photos taken January, 2015–>>

(continue reading…)

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Neveh Shalome Synagogue, Kolkata

by on Jan.31, 2015, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

Next door to the Magen David Synagogue is the “Old Synagogue,” official name Neveh Shalome. In 1825 a house was bought on this site and made into Kolkata’s first synagogue. It was demolished and rebuilt as the present one in 1911.

Full story here on Kolkata’s handful of remaining Baghdadi Jews. Photos taken January, 2015–>>

(continue reading…)

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The Magen David Synagogue, Kolkata

by on Jan.30, 2015, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

The Magen David synagogue built in 1884.

The Magen David synagogue built in 1884.

Full accompanying story here on Kolkata’s handful of remaining Baghdadi Jews. Photos taken January, 2015.

Magen David
Magen David
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Magen David main entrance
Magen David main entrance
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Looking up at the ladies' gallery
Looking up at the ladies' gallery
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View from the ladies' gallery
View from the ladies' gallery
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Ladies' gallery
Ladies' gallery
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My Muslim guide
My Muslim guide
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Four Pairs of Sandals as an Act of Faith

by on May.15, 2013, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, The Press, The Truth Is In Here

May15, 2013

On Faith

Four Pairs of Sandals as an Act of Faith

Walking a mile in another man’s shoes leads to kismet

by Jeffrey Stanley

Three years ago I got married to my wife Bidisha in a traditional Hindu Bengali ceremony in Kolkata and spent three weeks touring the country. I bought a pair of sandals there which I wore throughout my trip and back home here in the States. This December my wife, our young son and I went back to India for a month to visit relatives. I brought my well-worn “India sandals” with me.  A week into the visit they broke irreparably and I tossed them. The location of their demise seemed appropriate — from India they had come and to India they would return. The next day while we were out sightseeing we stumbled upon a tiny shoe store, one of a zillion in Kolkata, where I found the perfect pair of replacement sandals. They were simple but unique enough that they suited me as a souvenir.

Nakhoda Masjid. Kolkata, West Bengal, India. January, 2013.

A few days later I struck out on my own for a sightseeing visit Nakhoda Masjid, the largest mosque in Kolkata, built in 1926. A billboard told me with no intended irony that this was Road Safety Week in India. Still the taxis, auto-rickshaws and pedestrians were up to their usual danse macabre.

After a requisite insane cab ride and a short walk down a crowded, narrow street full of screaming sidewalk merchants selling Muslim prayer rugs and other Islam-themed souvenirs I found the mosque. It was sparsely populated at that late morning hour. The (continue reading…)

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The Absolutely Breathtaking Nakhoda Masjid

by on Feb.20, 2013, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

These photos were taken mid-morning between prayers so the place was nearly empty. January, 2013. Please also enjoy my related 5/15/13 Washington Post article about my otherworldly encounter with Allah just after I took these photos,Four Pairs of Sandals as an Act of Faith”.

Kolkata, India. One of the world's largest mosques, it can hold 10,000 worshippers. A major pilgirmage site for Muslims in India. Built in 1926.
"Nakhoka Masjid" sign in Arabic outside main entrance.
"Nakhoka Masjid" sign in Arabic outside main entrance.
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Prayer clocks
Prayer clocks
Muslim prayer times. Right to left it's the Fajar (dawn prayer), Zohar (midday prayer) Asar (afternoon prayer), Magrib (sunset prayer) and Esha (nighttime prayer). The last one, Juma, is the Friday prayer.
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Inlaid marble floors
Inlaid marble floors
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1st floor courtyard and covered reflecting pools
1st floor courtyard and covered reflecting pools
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2nd floor
2nd floor
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View from the 4th floor of Rabindra Sarani Street that runs alongside the mosque.
View from the 4th floor of Rabindra Sarani Street that runs alongside the mosque.
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A distant worshipper on the 3rd floor
A distant worshipper on the 3rd floor
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3rd floor; dig the ornate lattice work.
3rd floor; dig the ornate lattice work.
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Stained glass
Stained glass
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4th floor
4th floor
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Covered reflecting pools in 1st floor courtyard
Covered reflecting pools in 1st floor courtyard
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Main entrance on Zakaria Street
Main entrance on Zakaria Street
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Mosque kitty
Mosque kitty
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I Heart Paan

by on Dec.01, 2010, under NYC, On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, The Press

I heart paan

I bought tobacco paan from this walla near the Belur Math monastery along the banks of the Ganges in West Bengal, India.

This week’s New York Press, “New York’s Plummy Weekly Newspaper,” cover story is my monologue thinly disguised as an essay, ‘Confessions of a White, Middle-Aged Paan Eater’, the title a loose parody of Thomas de Quincey’s scandalous 1821 memoir Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.

Enjoy the article, go to your nearest Indian grocer and enjoy some meeta paan, and if you’re craving more dope on the delicacy here’s a short clip of me ordering it from a paan walla just across from the ancient Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves in Bhubaneswar, the capital of the state of Orissa in eastern India, this past January (footage courtesy of documentary filmmaker David Gaynes).


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And the article…

Confessions of a White, Middle-Aged Paan Eater

JEFFREY STANLEY is addicted to what may arguably be India’s most disgusting export

I pull my hat low as I pound the rain-slicked sidewalks of Curry Hill around noon on a frigid November weekday. I look about furtively as I walk up Lexington, stopping outside of a DVD shop before I dart inside. There I meet my sugar man, a Punjabi who only goes by the nom de commerce Arora.  By now I know his real name, but he likes to go by the one-word moniker.  I’m happy to…CONT’D>>

[IHeartPaan logo, paan walla photo and video are property of me. Logo via nypress.com]

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News Flash: Theatre Really Can Change Lives

by on Oct.07, 2010, under Politics, Shaheb Cafe, Theatre

Despite my deep passion for theatre I’ve often quoted the cynical aphorism, Theatre changes nothing, but at least it changes that, and I have believed it to be true.

I stand corrected thanks to the new book, Performing New Lives: Prison Theatre by Jonathan Shailor (Kingsley Press, 2010) about 14 prison theater programs.  The chapter “Drama in the Big House” was penned by my good friend Brent Buell, a director, actor and writer who has volunteered for more than a decade for Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA), a division of Prison Communities International, directing plays and teaching acting classes to inmates.  Brent’s locus in the New York State prison system is the original Big House, Sing Sing state penitentiary in Ossining, NY.

I first met Brent in 2004 through our mutual friend David Gaynes and took my first trip via Metro-North train from Manhattan,  zooming along the Hudson to the Big House to see the inmates’ production of Breakin’ the Mummy’s Code, a farce written and directed by Brent (a photo from that production adorns the book’s cover).    I returned the next year to see the bold satire The N Trial, a meditation on the uses of the dreaded “N-word” in our society, including within prison walls, written by inmate Philip Hall, who was wrapping up a 20 year sentence.

Such productions of a full-length play performed for the general public have become an annual event at Sing Sing.  The cast and crew are primarily inmates, co-mingled with professional actors and crew who volunteer their time (continue reading…)

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Happy 150th, Tagore

by on May.09, 2010, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, Theatre

Tagore Celebration in Kolkata, 5/8/10

Rabindranath Tagore (May 8, 1861 – August 8, 1941)  the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, was born 150 years ago this weekend.  Celebrations are underway in India, especially in his hometown of Kolkata, West Bengal, and across the globe.  Would that I were there.

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A few of my pix from the historic Tagore family home Jorasanko, winter 2010, Kolkata.

I had the pleasure of visiting the Tagore family home, Jorasanko, earlier this year, which continued to turn me on to this Bengali Renaissance Man’s works in poetry, theatre, fiction and music.  Today Jorasanko is a museum operated by nearby Rabindra Bharati University named in Rabindranath’s honor and focusing on performing arts and the humanities.  My fellow travelers and I were fortunate to have a personal tour guide at Jorasanko, music faculty Prof. Ghosh.  He also took me to visit the campus and meet with the Performing Arts chair and some of the faculty, and I wound up giving an impromptu lecture and Q&A about contemporary US theatre to the bright, informed and eager undergrads in an Ancient Greek Theatre class.

The visit to Jorasanko and the university campus wound up indirectly turning me on to the works of Tagore’s precursors such as Ishwar Chandra Gupta (1812-1859), largely forgotten today in Tagore’s long shadow.

I leave you with one of Tagore’s poems:

Leave this chanting and singing and telling of beads!
Whom dost thou worship in this lonely dark corner of a temple with doors all shut?
Open thine eyes and see thy God is not before thee!

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He is there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground and where the pathmaker is breaking stones.
He is with them in sun and in shower, and his garment is covered with dust.
Put off thy holy mantle and even like him come down on the dusty soil!

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Deliverance? Where is this deliverance to be found?
Our master himself has joyfully taken upon him the bonds of creation;
he is bound with us all for ever.

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Come out of thy meditations and leave aside thy flowers and incense!
What harm is there if thy clothes become tattered and stained?
Meet him and stand by him in toil and in sweat of thy brow.

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The above poem is very Walt Whitman, eh?  It’s from Tagore’s Nobel-winning collection Gitanjali.

Rabindranath Tagore statue at the entrance to Rabindra Bharati University, winter 2010, Kolkata.

Einstein and Tagore in Berlin, July 14, 1930

[pix taken from indiablooms.com and schoolofwisdom.com; the rest are mine]

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