Immigrant Bengalis

The North American Bengali Conference, commonly known as NABC, was held in Toronto, Canada on July 5, 6 and 7, 2013. The conference was known more formally as "tetrishatam uttar aamerikaa ban^ga sammelan"  when it needed to look important to the press, to the advertisers or to the attendees. I will use the terms NABC, Conference and Sammelan interchangeably in what follows.

With anywhere from five to ten thousand attendees, NABCs, a.k.a. "bongo"s -- both "o's" rounded disdainfully by my children and, I suspect, their crowd -- are quite big hullabaloos. Members of the "Prabasi Bengali Cultural Association" of Toronto and their friends planned and presented this year's conference -- an effort admirable in scope. For many years I have attended the "bongo" off and on. I went this time and had a good time. "Whosoever has brought me happiness," said our Poet, "... I salute thee all". So my regards to the organizers, and, of course, to the very talented artists and performers. Here are some snapshots from my experiences at the Sammelan.

A brief introduction to NABCs is in order for people not conversant with what these Sammelans are all about. Long, long ago, as we came to this country clutching monster chest X-Rays as if our lives depended on them (they did), with only ten dollars in our sweaty palms (more tucked in our shoes) and a letter of admission in our pockets (along with some dried flowers from Kalighat, "prasaadee ful"), our teeth chattering as we were freezing to death in February, we did dutifully perform a community Saraswati Pujo (worship). 

Effects of the Hart-Celler Immigration Act of 1965 were finally felt in the seventies as the floodgates of immigration for Indians were opened, and our little Diaspora started taking on a respectable size. From that point on there was no stopping us. We started going after the big fish -- Durga Pujo. We were the cooks; we were the dinner guests. The carnivores amongst us then started Kali Pujos. Those led to KaliBaris, and then to fancier temple super marts where today we handle any Pujo, from new homes and new cars to multiple flavors of Kali as well as many others from our inexhaustible Pantheon. 

Amidst all this frenzy, some “wiseguys” noted that while we were doing quite well in the area of piety, our cultural capabilities were going to seed. So, about thirty-five years ago, we formed the Cultural Association of Bengal or CAB. The first NABC was organized thirty-three years ago for about two hundred highly enthused attendees. The success of the first conference went to the heads of the organizers, and they promised that they would keep bringing the Sammelan back year after year, just as we had been bringing out our Durga idol from under dust covers in the basement. CAB has kept its promise and has delivered an NABC every year since then, with no exception, as declared by the "tetrishatam" (thirty-third) in the formal title of this year's Sammelan.

Over the years, a format has emerged. Each year around July 4 or thereabouts, some Bengali cultural organization in one of the major cities in North America presents the Sammelan for that year. They assume the responsibility for the whole nine yards -- raising funds, spending funds, setting up the programs, managing and mismanaging the conference, making some people happy and others ticked off, picking up after the elephants, and so on. The job of CAB is to search and find organizations like these, with just the right degree of naïveté, vet them and finally stick the chosen one with the stink bomb. CAB then continues advising the organizers, and cheering them on to graver disasters during the final days, while peddling the Sammelan for the next year, from a complimentary stall in the venue. [No, just kidding, I have known CAB and its members (I am one myself) for a long time and I have good thoughts about, and much appreciation of, what they have accomplished and unselfishly continue to work on.]

By now, the first assembly of two hundred has grown exponentially to anywhere from five to fifteen thousand. One can never get a good reading on how much money is being made or spent, numbers in the range of one to two million dollars are casually thrown about. But then one has to take these numbers with a grain of salt; it is well known that Indians exaggerate -- check out the Mahabharata if you do not believe me. In their perennial fundraising appeals, I keep hearing about the NABC and its related projects being desperate for funds, but, with the exception of  one occasion, I have not had to donate a second time, which leads me to believe that the stories of deficits are either apocryphal or that the organizers are eating the losses quietly by themselves.

Rajat Basu of Buffalo, a cheerful physicist who has been around, can be called a Sammelan groupie and is known to be counting days when he can go to the Sammelan on planet Mars. Rajat said that you had to take the dollars-and-cents side of the Sammelan into account too. Think about it: for the price of only one hundred and sixty dollars, where else can you have three full fun-filled days? Leave out Broadway, they are highway robbers there, just going to a movie costs sixteen dollars, on the average, for two. That means, for the same amount of money, you two can watch only ten movies, for a total of only twenty hours of entertainment. On the other hand, this Sammelan offers thirty-four hours of programming over three days; there are two auditoriums to go to, that is a multiplier of two, equaling sixty-eight hours -- at twenty-four hours a day, that will be three days of nonstop fun. 

Now this is just performing arts, then we have literary and business seminars, reunions, a film festival, a health seminar, even a youth program or two for the shrimps. There are samosas and fish curry, and to top it all there is shopping galore. The ladies can "shop till they drop" for jewelry and clothes and the men can discreetly pick up Paoli Dam DVDs for later intensely personal viewing. What else could you ask for? If you are thinking that, hey, I know, they will get only D-Class artists and what we lovingly call "local vocal" programs, then think again: Shreya Ghosal, Lopamudra Mitra, Manomay Bhattacharya, Koushiki Chakrabarty, Meghnad Bhattacharya, Tanushree Shankar et al. -- star-studded to the hilt. Rajat sells good physics to make a living, so you know that his data and logic have no flaws. But we must keep another strong law of physics in mind -- the one that says all silver linings have black clouds. Losing sight of this law will leave no recourse other than writing lugubrious blogs. Check out the NABC2013 page in Facebook if you want examples.

Classical music at a carnival is as much out of place as Rap on Mount Olympus. This was not in my mind as I walked into the auditorium for Koushiki Chakrabarty's performance. A veritable free-for-all was going on there. Imagine about two thousand people present in the auditorium, most of whom are participating very vocally in at least seven hundred noisy and lively discussions on singularly important topics. "Naadabrahma," the Hindu would have said. Koushiki may be young in age but she has good experience in presenting classical music to all kinds of audiences, so she unleashed her sweet smile and commenced a pleasant chat to establish some rapport with her audience. She said, "Please clap if you like the singing, I love applause," to get the audience involved but who cared? Koushiki started her performance with the soft Raga Yog, the evening melody of longing (shringar rasa for the informed), and when, after the introductory presentation (alap) she realized that the Raga had become a basket case, she skillfully gave it coup-de-grace and started a Begum Akhtar song, "Piya bholo abhimaan" (Honey, stop being such a sourpuss). The honeys in the auditorium could not have cared less; they kept on making noise as before, perhaps a little more inspired this time. Koushiki still tried the last arrow in her quiver in the form of a Bade Ghulam Ali Thumri. Finally, she admitted defeat, and left the stage as gracefully as she could manage. It so happened that there was another stage and auditorium, and if the program producers had had the slightest bit of savvy, Koushiki could have performed there to the thrill of her fans, while the audience in this auditorium could have continued their grossly uncivil noisemaking totally unbridled. Win-Win. But this is one of the dark clouds you have to accept for the pleasure of being cheap; one hundred and sixty dollars cheap. [A story from my youth in South Calcutta comes to my mind, where we had a movie house right on the banks of the old Tolly Nullah, just as one came down from Shahpur Bridge. You could watch a talkie there for ten cents with Fearless Nadia as the star. During high tide, the Nullah used to run off into the auditorium and you might have had to pull your feet up on the seat and watch the movie while comforting a few rats driven from their nests by the flood.] Incidentally, no mention was made of Pandit Ajay Chakrabarty, Koushiki's illustrious father, in any of the material published or spoken about Koushiki. It saddened me, regardless of whatever the reasons could have been for the omission.

The annual reunion for B.E. College boys was scheduled at eleven in the morning. Jyotida was the man on the spot; he got us all preregistered by unleashing a flood of emails. When I reached there at a minute past the hour, there was a milling crowd, all signed in and merrily doing justice to plates of nimki and singara. The B. E. College wives were serving. In our days, we used to enroll them as honorary alumni in our Association specifically with this role in mind. The meeting started at eleven-thirty sharp. Soon all became quiet and comatose from an overdose of data presented in PowerPoint slides. Exactly after an hour, Jyotida snatched the microphone away from the hapless speaker, announced the availability of the prepaid ten-dollar box-lunch and backed it up with an endless harangue about the lunch protocol. This reminded me of a story from my early days in B. E. College during its centenary year. We were deputized to visit some alumni and raise some money for a dinner. Just eight rupees were going to get one a sumptuous dinner, but our big brother said, "Well, I see you are charging eight bucks, are we gonna see some bottles or what?" (in Bengali " bali aaT Taakaa to nichchha, batal-fatal chalabyaa"). No, we could not show any bottles, neither then nor now. Well, I opened the box and Lord, may Jyotida march in with the Saints, what was that?! Radhaaballabhees, chholar Daal in a cup of its own with ever so bashful narkel kuchi's playing hide and seek, two chops, aalur dam, the whole setting graced by a kSeerakadamba and some darabesh that was fit to be fed to those marching Saints! The moment was fleeting, but, hey, a trip to heaven is a trip to heaven. Oh yes, in the meantime the alumni present were grouped by their class and pictures were being taken with a well-rehearsed procedure to guarantee perfect captions.

Presidency alumni scheduled their reunion at one in the afternoon and I hobbled my way there just in time. There was nobody there, just a very forlorn lady keeping watch and a laptop replaying a slideshow for the umpteenth time. After about fifteen minutes, I harrumphed, and she responded, "Aw calm your hormones, they all should be here in another half hour." I am scheduled caste in Presidency Reunions as I did not stick around to get a fully framed sheepskin, but this college has influenced my growth in significant ways. Sixty years ago, my “teeth fell out” when I left Mitra Institution, my very middle class Bengali-medium school and joined the mighty institution of Presidency. The great staircase was there, still haunted by the ghost of Netaji Subhas Bose's shoe. And, of course, there were those legendary professors. I learned to smoke here, rapidly picked up many juicy Bengali four-letter words, and whizzed through puberty by just watching all the chattering swans who graced the college corridors-- a mere two years ahead of us. 

The room slowly started filling up. People came up to the microphone and introduced themselves, told a story or two, talked about the teachers redoubtable. When my turn came, I said that in our times, every class used to have its own Queen Bee, and the school just lit up when they showed up for classes. No polls were taken, no formal "Prom Queen" contest, but some mysterious process transformed the chosen into queens and the entire school waited with bated breath for them to arrive, just as the entire city of Kolkata used to do for Sunil Ganguly's Neera. Fourth year was graced by Prarthanadi, Prarthana Bose; Dipti Banerjee lit up third year-- we used to call her Tustusi. The second year batch from our time contributed Kamala Nayyar to the pool later and Santana Paul was our own. Gayatri Chakrabarty was quite close. I am sure that all of them are now "grammas" to some very deserving folks, but are still as graceful as ever. I can close my eyes and see them hurrying from lecture to lecture, flashing their million-dollar smiles. This story brought mist to some eyes in the auditorium, I can swear to that. 

In the reunion meeting there was singing then. Amiyada was there, he sang. Champa Mandal sang a Rabindra-Tappa very well and, under short notice, Bishakha tucked in her saree and presented an entertaining dance in that small space. There were no photo-ops, and no tea was served.

The experiences saddened me. It pointed out for one more time how I have always taken the wrong road at the forks of life. Take these four miserable years at the engineering college where we hauled T-squares all over the place, ate unbelievably vile tasting food in the cafeteria, freely gave blood to thirsty bedbugs, and finally got our diplomas. What did we get for all that -- a well-organized meeting that ran on time, a couple of radhaballabhees, and bribes of a few thousand bucks for accepting substandard cement for our projects? Think of the Presidencywallahs -- they danced, they sang, they became ministers or fat bureaucrats; they cracked the whip over us engineers, squandered tens of millions of rupees with some of it sneaking into their own pockets. Okay, we will wait for the next incarnation but will the Queen Bees still roam and light up the college grounds?

The printed program proudly proclaimed "One Hundred Years of Gitanjali" and I was making a beeline for the auditorium when I ran into Ponu. Do not bother finding out who Ponu is, it is not important. Ponu was his usual agitated self; furthermore he was holding his breath. He said, "Sir, do not go that way, it smells like a pail of milk spoilt by a drop of cow piss." Ponu has this habit of speaking in riddles, and some additional persuasion revealed that the team of singers and musicians was doing just fine; the cow piss was one of the two narrators. How was that? 

"Having a program on Tagore narrated by this character is comparable to hiring a fox to watch the henhouse," Ponu said. 

"Say some more," I pleaded.

"See, this fellow is a Bengali author from West Bengal, quite celebrated for his novels of the bodice-ripper genre (baTatalaa to my Bengali friends). Recently he discovered this historic character called Rabindranath, who was a putative lecher, and filled the bill of an ideal protagonist in the soft-porn books in plain-brown-wrappers that this author published. All he needed to do was change the names from Tom, Jane, Jessica etc. to Rabi, Kadambaree, Ranu -- quite lilting and could be the names of real people, you know. And, of course, our author did exactly that, he was hovering in the shadow-lands of risqué stories long enough to grab an opportunity like this.

"Now, in all fairness, I have to admit that from the jacket blurb it should be clear that a suicide-note from Kadambaree Debee does not really exist, and that if Kadambaree Debee did ever choose to write a suicide-note then she might well have written one like this. But, do you think the average lustful Bengali reader, raised on a staple of Bengali porn (baangalaa chaTi) would pay any attention to that? They are diving in like vultures on carrion and this guy is making millions," Ponu was breathless after this long reproof.

"But this author is certainly not going to read excerpts from that novel up there, so why are you running away?" 

"It is not as easy as you think, Sir. Can you guarantee that while speaking on the matter of Gitanjali, this guy will not bring up the topic of how the poet came to England for hemorrhoid surgery and turned the whole episode into a Nobel epic?"

I could not, and as Ponu was getting hysterical, I had to take him out to the cafeteria and quieten him down with some great Bangladeshi singaaraas and tea.

Those who know Ponu will also know that he is not very reliable with facts, especially when he is perturbed, so I called up a mid-size kahuna on the organizing committee and asked whether it was really our popular novelist on that stage at that time. He confirmed that it was, vindicating Ponu (a rare event). But, for this, I got my tush kicked.

"Why do you want to know?" the kahuna asked.

After some hemming and hawing, I told him the story of the fox and the henhouse.

"Ninety-nine percent of the audience claimed that the show was excellent," he said.

I expressed some curiosity about his polling methods and that made him angry.

"I believe that if I were to ask one hundred of the people who watched the show, ninety-nine of them would say that the show was excellent," he elaborated, thereby easing my epistemological anxiety about statistical sampling methods.

"But I never said the show was bad; I made no comments about anything related to the show," I said in self-defense.

Although he later admitted that he had no idea about the works of this author, he let me know in no uncertain terms that he strongly disapproved of my attitude. Now foxes are genetically compelled to eat hens, so I cannot fault them. The doubt lay in the wisdom of hiring them as watchmen. I understand that with the cheap tickets would come some food fried in rancid oil -- for example, the Tagore songs, written and composed by Jayati Chakrabarty herself -- but arsenic? That would be carrying things too far, wouldn't you say?

Skimming through the history of the NABCs over the past thirty-three years should be like watching a movie about the evolution of our community here in North America. Our community has grown and so have our income and spending power, and the NABC has kept pace with that. In the beginning we were conferencing to keep our great culture and tradition flowing here unimpeded. We opened and shut the culture faucet all by ourselves; we did not have the money to invite artists from abroad. After a few years we added a new twist to the motive: we said we needed to expose our children to our culture. After we tried that for a few years, we had to make sure that the torch of our heritage was passed on properly to our second generation. 

Now these characters, this second generation, might have been "confused deshis" but they were smart enough to figure out what the real story was. They did not bite the bait and they stopped coming anywhere near the Sammelans. We did not cross the seven seas to give up that easily; we started expanding the programs by sponsoring performers from Bengal, and later India. Tagore song artists came first, then drama groups and pop singers followed. Then year by year Baul singers, folk musicians, and even classical vocalists found their way into our Sammelans. 

A major change in our constituency happened about ten to fifteen years back, and the whole financial structure of the NABCs saw some radical changes. We will talk about those some other time, but note here that these changes gave us the opportunity to throw away all these pretenses about our second generation. Sammelan became "Sanmelan" (vide the printed brochure from Toronto, notice the spelling) and all kinds of Bollywood-style entertainment started to trickle in through the many holes in our cultural umbrella. The “mango public” started having a ball and that is what matters in get-togethers like this.

The shopping area of the Sammelan captured a freeze-frame shot of the evolution quite well. When the NABC started out, all we could round up were just a couple or three undernourished saree stores, plus a store (two at best) selling Rajasthani-style uncouth jewelry, courtesy of local Gujarati merchants. However, there was our pride and joy: a solitary stall selling Bengali books and magazines. Sushantada and other members of CAB used to work customs, haul the books from the NJ harbor, set up the tables and man them. Sales were respectable. In addition, one could expect to see two stalls for selling cassette tapes-- one selling originals, the other selling pirated copies. Vinyl discs were pretty much on their way out by then. 

Soon the local merchants realized that on Sammelan days, Bengali ladies fearlessly loosened their purse strings in saree and jewelry stores, so those stores started growing in number and in grandeur. Ultimately big business houses from Kolkata started to take a lively interest in the market, and that trend is continuing. A similar pattern was seen with books. Why, even Ananda Publishers opened some flashy stalls a few times. Kolkata merchants did not show much interest in selling movies or music; they probably figured that they could be no match to the space-age piracy around here. But we have reclaimed the territory back from the booksellers from abroad, and these days books, DVDs, CDs, all are bunched together in stalls. The market for books has not been doing so well over the past several years. This year's crop in the entire shopping area would hardly fill three-quarters of a stall. What had to grab one's attention, however, was the proliferation of Bengali books, in English translation. Translations of Tagore were understandable, squeezing the turnip for as much blood as one could during his sesquicentennial, but there were many translated volumes of Sunil Ganguly and Shirsendu Mukherjee's works. Are we trying to bring these unheralded masterpieces of Bengali literature to our non-Bengali-speaking children?

A few years ago when the immigrant "baby boomers" (migrating in the seventies or earlier) started reaching retirement age, many brokers of high-rise residential apartments in Kolkata began crowding the shopping area and loudly hawking their merchandise. As many of us are now at an age where we are thinking of selling, rather than buying, that craze has passed, and just a couple of stalls remain. 

One could not afford to miss the astrology stall, with the Astrologer-in-Chief in full regalia. To people familiar with "Shree Shree Siddheshbaree Limited" by Parashuram he may bring to mind an image of the protagonist Shayamananda Brahmacharee. He seemed to be in the business to succeed; I have seen that face in many Bengali newspaper ads. The stall was not attracting much traffic at the start of the Sammelan; people probably felt intimidated, but traffic certainly started picking up as the A-i-C got the chance to demonstrate his skills. Now this was what was needed to promote the Sammelan to the status of a Carnival -- think of the crystal-globe-gazers at the state fairs here. Hey, we hope the A-i-C comes back, my gout is acting up and I need some stones to throw at the evil eye.

My wife went to the literary seminar and came back slightly haggard from the experience. "Honey, there were a whole bunch of dignitaries on the stage, but there were only five of us in the audience. I got scared and left and that left only four," she said, poor thing. Late author Sunil Ganguly used to light up gatherings like this. Once he started singing freestyle Tagore songs at such an NABC literary seminar and we have ever since been a little scared in anticipation. At another NABC, he promised to tell us the story of a triangle between Rabindranath, Ranu Adhikary and Leonard Elmhirst. Now we will never get to hear it. Nobody can tell such stories with as much gusto as Sunil did. No list of conference literary celebrities, nor even any blurbs, could be found anywhere, except for a single illustrated one on a relatively unknown poetess. I believe that on occasions like this, where there are altogether too many competing diversions, some real hardcore literary muscle is needed ("saahityik guNDaa"--Parashuraam, "dakSiN raaY") to liven up the seminar and coerce people to attend. In one of the past NABCs, we did just that. We brought in four such stalwarts from Kolkata to pay homage to Rabindranath. They got drunk with the intoxicating poetry of Rabindranath and produced a lively show of great joy. This is just a heads-up for future organizers of literary seminars.

While we are on the topic of literature, I must mention the magazine published on the occasion of the conference. A mighty argument was presented once, that while time would heal it all by erasing the memory of a conference, the magazine would live forever and keep the conference alive in the minds of people, so we really needed to pay close attention to it. People bought the argument, and for a few years these magazines really had some class. They used to have a number of hitherto unpublished articles related to the conference theme or to matters of interest to the immigrants, by well-known authors from abroad as well as from the Diaspora. Authors were paid for their articles and no advertisement was allowed in the magazine. It cost a lot of money to prepare and ship quality publications from Kolkata. People did not seem to mind. But like all good dreams, this passed, and smart NABC organizers pointed out that the entire argument was based on false premises. Immigrant Bengalis did not read Bengali books, they watched TV. Many could not even correctly recognize letters of the Bengali alphabet. We were paying Bengali authors good money, but what we were getting was either simply stale or rotting material. And we just could not go on ignoring the tremendous potential for revenue from advertisements. So the magazines started becoming diluted. Articles from abroad started disappearing until all of the contents that count started to be locally obtained, and ads started marching in. Nowadays, one can get quality printing and binding done here for what I believe are affordable prices. 

I am sad to report that the NABC 2013 magazine has reached a level of editorial quality and publishing excellence that is at a nadir, several good articles of interesting contents by local authors notwithstanding. The magazine has a title of "Bengal Reawakening" (banga nabajaagaraN); ask not why. I sincerely hope that the magazine is preserved for posterity, especially the page titled "Editorial" (sampaadakeeYa). From appearances, the magazine could have been edited jointly, but the editors are shy and did not want their names to appear in print (although one of them did own up to it in a private email). I thought of scanning the editorial page and watch it spread virally over the Net with malicious glee, but there are copyright laws in this country. On a different note, leafing through the magazine may give the impression that Toronto Bangladeshis made some contributions to the Sammelan. Nothing specific was said about that in the official publications or in the organizers’ speeches.

Shreya Ghosal is a bright star in today's Bengali entertainment world, could be the brightest, and her program was the pièce de résistance, presented at the end of the Sammelan. She was the sole attraction at the Sammelan for some attendees, I can swear to that. The organizers emptied the auditorium a couple of hours before her performance, to set up the audio system for the deluge, and I found myself caught, with an urgent need to relieve myself, on the wrong side of a seething queue of angry people. [Charlie Brown of Peanuts said, "Happiness is peeing your black pants; feels warm and nobody notices." I was not wearing black pants, so missed out on that catharsis. (Thanks for your patience.)] I climbed up to the top of the Convention Center; the place was overrun by policemen in black uniform. The organizers had sold extra tickets for Shreya's show, and the irate people I ran into downstairs were these buyers. This strategy was a clear demonstration of the deep wisdom of the organizers; I would have done exactly the same if I were given the job of presenting a ballet of white elephants. To further enforce the claim, I might cite the instance where the organizers required the walk-in registrants pay hard cash (not checks, not credit cards) to sign up, much in the spirit of the leitmotif of the conference, Bengal Renaissance, when cash (or kind) was the only accepted mode of payment in civil societies. Coming back to Shreya's program, the police knew their job and managed to get all of the Shreya devotees into the auditorium with only minor bruises. Shreya sang a lot and sang for long, a professional presentation. Those people still sore from the experience might do well to note that the experience of attending a Michael Jackson concert would have been similar, or even worse. Yes, there would have been a good supply of pot to make the experience more bearable. Hey, that may happen in our future Sammelans too, you never know.

Shreya started the program on a low key with hair parted, tie knotted, and shoelaces tied, which was quite good but on the icy side. Then a bunch of morons in the audience raised a ruckus, requesting her to sing Tagore songs. Shreya held out some, but, being oh-ever-so-responsive to the demands of her fans, she ended up caving in. She sang two Tagore songs and made a mess of both. Not that it mattered much -- Tagore has stopped caring about such matters for seventy-two years now. But, Shreya takes pride in being a true professional, and we take wide-eyed pride in telling people how much we paid to have Shreya come, and I think she should have kept a couple of songs in her arsenal for just such emergencies. Shreya took a break, returned in full armor and let loose. A whole group of obese people who were breathlessly waiting for this moment, went up towards the stage and started jumping around, arms raised -- much like what the people of Nabadbeep used to do when Mahaprabhu came out on the streets with his Khol. The difference was that, keeping in step with the times, the Kirtans were in Hindi here. This added dimension made us feel eternally indebted to the organizers.

At the end of the day, "Let this be said, it was to my liking." ("bhaalo aamaar legechhilo railo seI kathaaI" -- Rabindranath). So many people worked hard to make this event happen, above and beyond whatever their daily pursuits were! The effort they freely gave brought me close to many people. I had a lot of fun and met a lot of funny people. The level of mismanagement at these Sammelans has reached a plateau by now -- there will not be enough food, registrations and hotel bookings will be misplaced, shuttles will not show up, timely execution of the programs will be a mirage, organizers will be gratuitously rude to guests, and so on. This can mostly be tolerated if one is prepared, and the additional unexpected events (like cash payments above) do build character. So I wish that the "Sanmelan" keeps coming around every year-- we will show up with one hundred and sixty dollars in cash in our sweaty hand.

Wishing the Prabasi group of Toronto continued success in all their ventures.

(Posted October 23, 2013)

Comments from PKC on Oct 25, 2013: "Liked all the articles but mostly Asit Ray's and Shyamal Sarkar's. Sumit Roy reviewed and critiqued the Toronto Banga Sammelan well. Satya Jeet's writing is also good."

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The Toronto Carnival - 2013
Sumit Roy