Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Loving People of Kolkata: The City of Joy


"The city of Kolkata may have different impressions to everyone and to the visitors, but to truly appreciate and understand a particular place, one needs to travel and be there to experience what it has to offer. We may think of not so good things about the place, but the moment we are there, our perspective would have change and create a lasting memory."


My recent trip in Kolkata has a lot of learnings about the history and culture of the people known as 'Bengali'. It is the former capital of India under the British rule until they transfer the Administrative center in New Delhi to make it the new capital. It was just a recent past (2001) when Calcutta was changed to Kolkata.

The city is hot and humid on summer considering that it is located in a coastal state surrounded by seas and lakes. The weather might be unfavorable to some, but I have the tolerance on its extreme; my country, The Philippines could even get hotter all throughout the year. 

Since Kolkata and West Bengal are blessed with bodies of water, they are lucky to have fishing as one the sources of livelihood. Bengalis' loves to eat fish except for some who chose to become pure vegetarian. Fishing industry is quite good in West Bengal and they are the leading fish-producing state in India. Majority of the Bengal's population eat fish just like some of the coastal state of India like Maharashtra (capital, Mumbai), Bihar and the state of Kerala in the south. 

Kolkata may be one of the most populated cities in the world, but the population density of the place is not that high as what I've thought. It is not much crowded compared to the cities of Delhi and Mumbai. And later I have known that people in the city doesn't travel a lot for shopping, outdoor fun and other activities. Some of the locals wouldn't think of how big and progressive kind of city that they have. Some of them would even think of Kolkata as a typical village with a slow paced living. 

There are not much forts, tombs and monuments in Kolkata as compared to Delhi, but the former British Raj  have built infrastructures that are impressive and with historical significance. I have seen the magnificence of the Victoria memorial which was built in honor of Queen Victoria of Britain. It is somewhat similar to the architectural design of Taj Mahal in Agra with white marbles and Mughal design. The structure is beautiful from afar and the lawns and garden are pretty and well maintained. 


The Victoria Memorial

Near  the Victoria memorial is the 'Fort William' which was built as a military headquarter and still serving on its primary purpose until the present times. Adjacent to it is the Race Course which hosts one of the largest horse race event in India. It used to be the pastime of the elites during the British regime, but now it is open to everyone. 

The park located in Queen's way street offers a large playground for everyone and a favorite place for cricketers. It is pleasant and spacious park and some statues built in bronze are visible. The street was named in honor of a Queen's visit in Kolkata on the way going to the Victoria Memorial. 

These are just few of the many good places to visit in Kolkata and I am grateful that even for a short period of time I have witnessed the grandeur of the place. What I appreciate most is the history that I've learned behind the great architecture and places. It is not just what you see that will move you, but it has also some stories to tell back in time. 


Kolkata is making progress and faster development in terms of local economy. Both residential and commercial buildings are on the rise anywhere particularly on the reclaimed area of north-eastern side of Kolkata. Due to lack of available space to support the growing population and the increasing demand of housing, the local government have planned expansion for reclamation projects for the benefit of the people. 


The city is also becoming an Information Technology hub and several Multinational companies built their headquarter in the vibrant place of 'Salt Lake' which is city center situated in a reclaimed salt-water lake, and that's how it got its name. 


With the rising progress of Kolkata, the locals remained to be spiritual. I have witnessed how they observed the 'Vasant Navrati' or they call it 'Durga Puja'  which is the celebration of the triumph of good versus evil.  Although the spiritual significance is the same as the Holi Festival, the celebration of 'Durga Puja' is mainly prayers and chanting. 


The city of Kolkata may have different impressions to everyone and to the visitors, but to truly appreciate and understand a particular place, one needs to travel and be there to experience what it has to offer. We may think of not so good things about the place, but the moment  we are there, our perspective would have change and create a lasting memory.


In my short stay, I have felt the hospitality and warmth of the people. They treat visitors nicely and do their best to make one feel special. I had a nice feeling and I enjoyed the acceptance and the treatment they have shown. There's an emotional connection that was felt and there's a substantial soul of the city and the people in general. No matter what social status they are living in the society, they still find some happiness and joy in their hearts. In the future, I would definitely love to come back in this place and witness its transformation. It is not just the beautiful place, but it is the joyful people that makes you feel good and being loved that matters most. 


© 2013 Del Cusay



Friday, March 29, 2013

Holy Week 2013 : Christ As Our Guiding Light



"The solemn observance of the 'Good Friday' and 'Black Saturday' is a message that Christ has died to save the sins of humanity. This is the centering thought of the Holy Week and this is a call to follow Christ  to lead and be the guiding light in our lives forever."



The last week of the Lenten season is the highlight in commemorating the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. During the past 40 days, we have observed liturgical events that are significant in understanding the life story of Christ on His suffering, crucifixion and ascension to heaven. We started the Lent on the ash Wednesday with the message of  Embracing Christ in Our Lives. On this day we begin our journey by following the path of Jesus and emulating the virtues that He has taught.

Every year, the observance of the Lent gives us a unique perspective about life as we reflect on ourselves. It gives us the opportunity to acknowledge our misconduct and to have the act of repentance. This lead us to achieve peace of mind and opens our heart to give more time for self-ministry in the fulfillment of our 'life purpose'. 



Last Sunday, Christians celebrated the Lord's coming by waving palm leaves to welcome the great 'Rabbi'. The event symbolizes humility when Christ came in the crowd riding a donkey. This would remind us to practice the virtue that we must serve everyone selflessly with all our strength. 

On this year's Holy Week, I have been observing it in a non-dominant Christian world. It may be a different experience, yet my devotion and faith is strengthened in a solitary moment of contemplation. This is the right time to know thyself and be with Christ's loving presence. 


My observance of  Holy Week 2012  is meaningful and memorable as I have seen fellow Christians of a different nationality expressed their faith in Christ. Though we may have different culture, still we are united in faith before Christ. It was a great Lenten experience since I have visited some of the Churches that are famous among Christian devotees. 


In the Philippines where Christianity dominates, the faithful would have an extraordinary observance of the Holy Week, especially during Good Friday. Some would perform the religious tradition called 'Senakulo' which reenacts the passion and death of Jesus. Some men would even allow themselves to be crucified to experience the suffering of Jesus and with the belief that their sins would be forgiven. Other traditions include, 'Visita Iglesia' or to visit different churches and pilgrimage sites and offer a prayer. The old way of reciting a prayer with a melody that is called 'Pasyon' is still practiced by devotees. 


On the Good Friday, there is the 'Seven Last Words' that is celebrated in a holy mass. It offers a deeper understanding of the passion of Christ and his last words until his death in the cross. The solemn observance of the 'Good Friday' and 'Black Saturday' is a message that Christ has died to save the sins of humanity. This is the centering thought of the Holy Week and this is a call to follow Christ  to lead and be the guiding light in our lives forever.


© 2013 Del Cusay




Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Celebrating Holi Festival 2013


"At the near end of the celebration, some faces looks funny with all the colors on their skin. Even the colors would take some time to wear off, but the memories would remain forever. After all the true significance of Holi is not on the outward expression but it is through unity, freedom and peace to prevail forever."



It is officially the end of winter season in India, and today people are celebrating the most colorful festival known mostly among Hindus as the Holi festival. For the second time, I had the opportunity to witness and experience this vibrant festivity. 

A day before the main event, people are already celebrating with their families and group of friends. I have witnessed how they make fun of the colored powder called 'gulaal'. Almost everyone of any age groups are having fun while putting this colors on each others face, hug and greet each other. On the evening is the bonfire which is a tradition that has a spiritual significance. According to the the Hindus, Holi festival is to commemorate the victory of virtue over evil. 

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