Sunday, November 13, 2005

A special place...

Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
I hold a very special place in my heart for an organization called Asha Niketan, introduced to me by Shyamali a long while back. This is the meditation room on Pottery Road in Tangra, one of two homes for learning disabled individuals that is run under L'Arche, an international federation of communities for people with learning disabilities and assistants.

At the Open House for Asha Niketan last night we got a tour of the second house which I had never seen before. When I asked if there is a meditation room in this home too, we were brought here. The batik hanging on the wall was done by members of Asha Niketan and symbolizes the inter-faith beliefs of this organization and all those involved. No matter who or what your God is, you're sure to be able to communicate here. Meditation is held two times a day and all attend. The beautifully decorated pages in the book on the stand has prayers from various holy books to inspire love, harmony and courage.

"Whatever their gifts or limitations, people are all bound together in a common humanity. Everyone is of unique and sacred value and everyone has the same dignity and the same rights. The fundamental rights of each person include the rights to life, to care, to a home, to education and to work. Since the deepest need of a human being is to love and to be loved, each person has a right to friendship, to communion and to a spiritual life".

Asha Niketan strives to make this all possible for some very wonderfully creative individuals.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

KARMYOG is what they do...

Medium Gift Bags_Karmyog
Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
I recently found this wonderful little shop that puts your rupees to work in a most meaningful way . If you are in the market for very special greeting cards (Xmas card designs have just been put on the shelves...), wrapping papers, gift bags or boxes or any other paper products, then there is a shop at 12B Russell Street that you must stop in at.

"Karmyog" is a boutique of intricately hand-crafted paper products made by girls who have spent their childhood in welfare homes but who now have to step out in to the world to fend for themselves. The word Karmyog has two parts: "work" and "yoga" so in other words "work as a form of yoga, or path for living." The Karmyog trust offers these young women the means for becoming self-sufficient through vocational training that allows them to earn a living and lead independent and meaningful lives.

Why buy mass-produced and impersonal greetings from Archies (the Hallmark shops of India) when you can both give a gift to a friend and to a girl in need with a purchase from Karmyog?

It certainly feels like good karma to me!

Karmyog Showroom
12B Russell Street
Kolkata 700 071

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

ALCHA in Shyambati

Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
This is the bright-eyed breakfast duo at Alcha, a newish open-air cafe in Shyambati, Shantiniketan. They whip up a beautifully served plate of eggs, toast and hash browns with brewed coffee in the mornings. But things turn Tamilian on the menu in the evenings. A unique little spot to hang out at.

There is also a chic little "lifestyle shop" attached to the cafe that showcases local but all-new weaves, potteries, and natural fruit drinks!

For people who come to visit Shantiniketan from the big city the mud and bamboo decor at Alcha is sure to be a soothing contrast to the developments happening in Kolkata.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
Right now in celebration of Diwali, the festival of lights, SASHA shop is holding an exhibition/sale of exquisitely crafted dokra and terracotta diyas (oil lamps), hand painted candles, diyas, etc. If you happen to stop in when some of the candles are lit and flickering, you'll catch the spirit of this warming celebration.

There are two producer organizations in particular that stand out for me. SILENCE is a certified fair trade self-help movement for those who can neither speak nor hear, only visualize, and others who cannot go anywhere, except in their imaginations -- and yet who aspire towards self-sufficiency and acceptance as contributing members of society.

ASHA NIKETAN runs a workshop which creates a variety of candles in porcelain or terracotta containers, tie and dye articles, greeting cards and other items. In the open spaces around the Asha Niketan buildings, community members are also involved in horticulture. The workshop earns some revenue from the sale of these products which supplements donations for the L'Arche International community established in 1973 to create a home atmosphere for mentally challenged people.

The good work being done by so many here in Kolkata constantly inspires and amazes me.