Its Lohri time in the capital and its neighboring areas. The bonfires lit in every nook and corner of the city is a welcoming sight in the cold chilly January night. Families and friends gather around the bonfires offering worship to the fire god and to make merry. The atmosphere reminds me of my own childhood experience of spending every Uruka in front of bhela ghors and mejis religiously repeating “agni prajwalitang bande” after the elders. It was so much fun smoking sweet potatos in the embers of the meji while the women of the household busied themselves “purifying” kitchen utensils by the holy fire. As I sit writing this note reminiscing about kumol saul, tekeli pitha, til pitha and narikol larus fresh from my granny’s kitchen back home, my Gujarati neighbor’s children squabble over who gets to fly the biggest kite this Uttarayan. Looking up at the gloomy skies I wonder if the kids will be able to celebrate Makar Sankranti the way their cousins back in Gujarat are doing.
It is amazing how different parts of the country unites in celebrating the harvest season in their own traditional ways be it through Pongal in Tamil Nadu or the Kumbh Mela in Uttar Pradesh. This year the celebration of Makar Sankranti coincides with the celebration of the highly mystical Torgya, the annual monastic festival of the majestic Galden Namgyal Lhatse (Tawang Monastery) in Arunachal Pradesh. Newspapers-global, local and national are running coverages of these festivals with full gusto enthusiastically quoting estimate number of tourists to each of these celebrations and the profits the tourism industry will be likely to be making. Several commercialized attractions like guided tours of historic sites in the respective states and haats selling indigenous wares have been put up to turn the auspicious festivals into profitable ones for both the visitor and the host. Amidst the fun fare, one event escapes the glare of the floodlights, namely, the annual Naga New Year Festival held at Nawng Yang village this year, thanks to the ban imposed on foreigners from attending it. The only people who are allowed to freely partake of the event are the “genuine” Naga people from both sides of the border.
That brings back a startling reminder about the communal and ethnic clashes that infest the worlds we live in doesn’t it? The poetry featured in this issue raises this very issue that still gnaws at the heart of our nation even as we get geared to celebrate our sixty-first year of being a Republic in just a matter of another eleven days. Our Guest writer Uddipana ‘s prose poetry forces one to rethink our own identity and thereby our contribution in creating a nightmarish world. The world gets murkier in Mani’s story in Random Take. Nishibonya’s fiction, featured in the Children’s Section , too deals with living in a grey world though it ends with a positive note. Besides, not everything that looks sinister is necessarily so reminds Mani in 55 Fiction.
On a brighter note, journey through the mesmerising city of Agartala with Ajatashatru and explore the Bhogali Mela as Pramathesh fills your platter with delicacies of a different recipe. As a special Makar Sankranti gift, Noyon brings to you the Movie Desk’s tete-a-tete with Bollywood star Salman Khan. While you are at it, do not forget to drop by our regular columns Wise Bachelor and Miss cellany.
With warm regards,
(on behalf of the Fried Eye team)
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