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To Bengal, via the British Museum!

Last Sunday, self and family decided to make one of our infrequent trips to the metropolis (i.e. London) and see what's happening in the world beyond Small Town, UK. We got off the tube at Tottenham Court Road, neatly avoiding the dodgy laptop salesman-type blokes, Subway markers, bag ladies and other assorted features of hamara London and made our way down Great Russell Street. Of course, before any actual exploration can occur, pit stop is a must.

So, we parked our collective butts at this dinky little cafe and proceeded with the main event. I was less than half way through my falafel, when I heard these beats. At first, I thought I was hallucinating and it was merely my tummy making louder than normal rumbling noises. But very soon, realising that I wasn't the only one hearing things, I decided to explore things further.

Walking towards the British Museum, I realised that the drum beats sounded louder and louder. Peering in through the bars, I almost fell of in surprise - the blokes banging on for all their collective worth wore dhotis, Shiv Sena-type kurtas and had huge tikas on their foreheads - desis!! Now my interest was really piqued and I ventured further, with family following closely behind.

That was when we came face to face with this massive banner bearing the words 'Voices of Bengal' with an orangish Bengal tiger next to it. On closer scrutiny, we learnt that there was an exhibition-in-three-parts happening here and the dhakmen were all part of it. So we stood with the multitude of desis and phoren-looking people, all set to enjoy the show.

The dholakmen had gathered in the huge forecourt in front of the museum and from the look of things, had been going on at it for a good while. But they showed no sign of stopping or even slowing down. Bam, bam, bam they kept on, prancing up and about, pirouetting and generally creating magic. The beats were really beautiful and made it impossible for your feet to stay still. After listening to them for about half-an-hour, we felt compelled to move on but they still carried on.

As soon as we entered the museum, we saw this black bust of Rabindranath Tagore and went in to discover Tagore's sketches. I never knew till that minute that Tagore was an artist - the sketches on display were really good and in pristine condition. They were also showing this short tele-film on Tagore, made by Satyajit Ray. Entitled 'The Art of Peace: Paintings by Tagore', the exhibition was a very personal insight into Bengal's illustrious son.

After roaming past Egypt, Rome, Greece (with a brief halt at the Parthenon) and Africa, we made our way to the fourth floor, where the Myths of Bengal exhibition was being held. This was also a mini-exhibition, giving details of Durga Maa and her various avatars, navratri and so on. The content wasn't too heavy so as to turn the patrons away and not too light that it was airy-fairy. As I went around looking at the dolls, I was introduced to Manasa, the Goddess of Snakes. There was a Satyavan-Savitri type story written on the walls, where the Goddess kills someone only for the wife to bring him back. I never knew that we had a Manasa, Goddess of Snakes! So, it wasn't just the angrez who learnt new things about the desi culture that day!

Finally, we desceded on to the main Great Hall where a pleasant surprise awaited us. There was this massive image of Durga Mata that was being constructed from straw, clay and other assorted stuff, right before the very eyes of everyone passing by. When I saw it, it looked 95% complete - I learnt that it will be completed on September 27th, after which it will be passed on to the Bengal Association where it will be the chief part of their Durga Puja celebrations.

Apart from these, there were also events such as regular talks and discussions being conducted everyday on a wide variety of topics such as Tales of Bengal, Curse of Kali, Making Shola Pith decorations as well as short films on the Devi.

The 'Voices of Bengal' exhibition is organised by the London Camden Bangladeshi Association and is on for most of October. It is definitely worth a visit.

Posted by DesiGirl 12:03 pm  


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