Dabar News 18th August

18th August 2014

Hello again to our well wishers and friends. I have a number of things to tell you about in this Post:

*Ceremonies marking India Independence Day
*Our most important festival: Manasha (Snake) Puja
*A Chhou Dance Workshop held at Nabodaya Central School
*Computer Class, Our First Practical Session

India Independence Day

This is an important event in Dabar Village, in Purulia District and all over India. We held our own flag raising ceremony at the school after class ended for the day. Below you can see photos of our event and also a similar one taking place at the Nabodaya Central School, a nearby boarding school for boys and girls.

Manasha Puja

You may already know that snakes have an important place in the cultural and spiritual life of this area. Manasha Puja honours the Snake Goddess, Ma Manasha. It takes place on 17th August and in fact is Purulia’s most important festival.

Nearly every home observes it by sacrificing a duck in the evening which is meant to be eaten on the following day. Having the meat is an important spiritual ritual which also has a sound basis in medical science. Typically the work of planting the year’s harvest will finish on about 15th August. In the weeks running up to this date almost everybody, both men and women, will be working the fields, often in deep mud. Unfortunately, while they are doing this, a particular type of worm enters their bodies through the instep of the foot and eventually lodges in the stomach. People eat the duck because its meat kills these worms. It also acts as an effective medicine against fever, which is very common now and at other times of the year when weather patterns are changing.

Computer Class

We held our first practical sessions last week. We felt they ran to a high standard. The children very much enjoyed the tasks we assigned to them. They were very excited and pleased finally to be able to start working with computers.

The photographs should show this. Although the classes are directed at young people in Year 10, we also have some adults coming to the Computer Workshop to learn. Also, above and below you can see photos of Shanta giving a demonstration to some young girls after their sewing class last Sunday. In a few years they can enroll in the course too.

In the short term, our next aim is to find some money to install a practical WiFi link. It would be very helpful and important in the later months of the Course. And in the medium term it would make it possible to take up opportunities for computer-based outsourcing work that we could carry out in the village.

Chhou Dance Work at Nabodaya Central School

An important aim of Prabhatalloi is to preserve and promote the local performing arts, such as Chhou Dance, Jawa and Karam, and indigenous languages such as Kudmali which are under threat from otherwise welcome development and mass media.

This includes local dance, song and instrumental music. One particular thing the Foundation did early on was to establish a school to give free lessons in Chhou Dance to boys and young men. This is still running well. There are six artist instructors and they meet every Sunday for training.

After hearing of the classes and seeing some of their occasional performances, the staff at the Nabodaya Central School (named after Jahar Nabodaya Vidyalia), a very highly respected local boarding school for boys and girls, asked our teachers to come and run a workshop for some of their own boys. Forty of their boys are   training with them for four hours a day over a fifteen day period. It has been a great success. It is easy to imagine that these boys will wish to continue their training and others will want to join them.

Best wishes to you all and thank you for all your support and encouragement.

Sanjay Kumar Mahato

Dabar News 2nd August

 Computer Campaign

In our last blog I told you about our ideas for providing computer training to school leavers and other young people here. In rural villages they have much less access to computers than those who live in town and so are at a great disadvantage when trying to start out in a job. We found that our young people strongly believe such a course would help them.  We too very much believe that this training is important and that the students will have much better prospects, directly or indirectly, after they will have completed such a course. And we hope to provide this course with the continued help of all our friends, supporters and well wishers. We are calling this project our Computer Campaign.

Building the Physical Infrastructure

Of course funding is always an essential. We have applied for funding but we were really pressed for time and it was important to provide a course soon so as to cater for the great enthusiasm among the students.  So we had to reconsider what to do in the short term.

 Delivering and Installing the Equipment

Fortunately, Robert Lush, who is one of my best friends and who is staying here now, could also appreciate the enthusiasm and the energy of the villagers for this project. So he has donated five computers and the necessary funds to pay the salaries for the first six month course.  So we have today, 1st August, been able to begin this training course.

Registering the New Students

One reason Robert is here in West Bengal is to continue his recording and research into local culture and language, which is under threat due to development, deforestation and the influence of satellite media. It is very important that we now preserve as much as possible of our heritage. It will very soon be too late to record our past. He is also working with us to archive the great amount of material we have already recorded. He has offered to divert the funds he is providing for his research project to enable our Computer Campaign to make an early start.  Kudos to Robert!

But we still need to consider long term funding requirements. We need to focus on the money that will be required to pay ongoing salaries, maintenance and other running costs.

A Test Run to Make Sure Everything works
 Our First Day of Class!

And in fact today we ran our first class, which concentrated on theory. The practical sessions start next Tuesday. We have enrolled 63 students, 33 girls and 30 boys. Rather than write too much now, we will show you some of the photographs we took, which I hope speak for themselves. I hope you can see how excited we are about this project.

There is a lot of work to do over the next 6 months to ensure this course continues to be a success. But so far so good!
Many thanks to you all for your continuing support and interest!