My acquaintance with Bong Connection Dubai (BCD) came about as a happy accident when Sourendra Kumar Das, a friend who eventually left the UAE, introduced me to Sudip Kumar Saha. Sudip and his wife Rupa are among the driving forces of BCD, and along with a group of other expatriates from West Bengal, strive to keep alive the culture and traditions of their homeland here in the UAE.
This was the second time I had been invited to Hoi Choi, BCD’s annual cultural event. And even with marginal knowledge of the Bengali culture, I was more than happy to attend it.
For one, the language fascinates me. It had, since my hostel days in Bombay when Deepa, my partner in many a crime (she is a very private person who would be mortified if I used her full name here), introduced me to Satyajit Ray movies in a week-long session that started with Charulata.
To me, there is something sensuous, earthy, about the way the Bengali language rolls off the tongue, the manner in which the vowel and consonant sounds behave – with utter disregard for the accepted phonic norms that other Sanskrit-derived languages diligently follow.
Bengali is also about Rabindranath Tagore, and all that the name implies. With Mini as my given name, need I say more?
So when Sudip informed us that this year’s event was to commemorate Rabindranath Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary, I needed no more urging. Freshly back from Calcutta and Santiniketan with as many memories as could be collected in five days, I’m still under the spell of all things Bengali, you see.
There is also one other reason I diligently attend Hoi Choi.
The event, unlike the usual ones in the UAE, does not count on star power to gather its audience. There are no celebrities, if you discount the cast of sixty-odd dedicated actors and presenters. All the performances are put together by working people, housewives and students (as young as four) who took out the time to plan, prepare, practice and present. And how! The aura of celebration, passion and enthusiasm at Hoi Choi was infectious.
Titled Tumi Robe Nirobe, (based on Tagore’s composition) Hoi Choi’s third edition, ‘an ensemble of songs, dance, poetry and short skits from the treasure trove of Tagore’s immortal creations’ was truly the fruit of love’s labour.
Ideally, I would have liked to mention the names of all those amazing people whose efforts have gone into the programme. The presenters, for instance. Moving between Bengali and English with ease and grace, they made sure that we, the non-Bengalis, were kept in the loop at all times.
Young Joy Dasgupta was introduced to me by Sudip sometime during the evening, with assurance that there’s no other photographer quite like him, you’ll see! before hurrying away to play the tabla for the next programme. When, later, Joy sent me the photographs of the event, I knew what Sudip meant. My blog is richer for the beautiful moments Joy has captured, on and off stage!
Once again, my kudos to the BCD team for putting together something as lovely as Hoi Choi. And hoping to be a part of more such events in the future.
Now the problem is, how do I get the song out of my head, the one that has been haunting me for the past ten days? Tumi robe nirobe… (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5OFA6QKLio)
Scenes from various performances:
All photographs courtesy Joy Dasgupta [email@example.com ]