Saturday, February 24, 2007

Boi Mela

Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
This year, the KOLKATA Book Fair was held in SALT LAKE...practically in our backyard! Yes! I found myself at the Salt Lake Book Fair four times -- I was never able to achieve this when Boi Mela was held so far away on the Maidan!

Searching out bargains and requests from Mustard Seed Library users, the kids and I always spend a long time inside National Book Trust and Children’s Book Trust, two government-subsidized publishers, selling a huge array of children’s books in both Bengali and English (at incredibly reasonable prices like Rs. 13 a book). Both our family and friends enjoy the treasures we find at Boi Mela long after the stalls are broken down and the well-tromped upon area where it was located... is breathing again.
boimela07_braille boimela07_3 boimela07_1 boimela07_2

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Visiting Karuna's House
Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
A House for Karuna!

While visiting the US last year, my sister Margo and I mapped out a project for the Mustard Seeds fund-raising effort called Calcutta 100 Club. Our aim was to financially assist the village patua artist, Karuna Chitrakar, and her family in building a sturdy-but-simple mud house on some land that she acquired several years back in her village of Pingla, Naya in Medinipur.

karuna chitrakar: birds

Margo collected approximately $240 from her friends in Batesville, Arkansas and I sold some of Karuna’s paintings and other Indian handicrafts to raise approximately $600 for Karuna and other organizations in Kolkata while I was in Chicago and Florida (and Japan in November).

Planting another Mustard Seed -- The following people helped to build a house!
Margo Baker and Family • Suzanne and Charlotte Schaeffer • Tad McNulty • Mary Clock • Sandy Taylor • Gayle Ross • Beckey Dickey • Robin King • Linda Baker • Jayne McClure • Charlotte Finney • Cindy Kallshick • Sue Ellen Dial • Angela McMahan • Robin Martens • Melissa Cooper • Pat Collins • Rehana Huq • Jan Fujikawa • Deborah Bachmann • Yukie Kaneshiro • Rashmi Ramaswami • ˙Helen Tsatos

Karuna worked out the details of the house construction, while coming back to us to report her plans. In the end, she decided to take out a loan to make it a bit bigger than what was first planned. Her family is already able to live in their house; but the mud walls need to be done later.

We (our friend Bikram, Hiromi who was visiting from Japan, Joydev and I) visited them in mid-January and were treated to sweets, a huge lunch, and a walk about the village!

Mustard Seeds seeks to introduce the traditional art form of pata scroll painting to a wider audience in the hopes that both the paintings and the painters can persevere. Support and encouragement to rural artisans and their traditions is another aim of our small efforts toward empowering people outside of the big cities. Thanks always for your interest and support!


For the next fund-raising effort we will collect for GODHULI, an adult education centre located in Nadia, West Bengal. Tarun Bhaduri who manages an organic farming initiative in this area organized this school approximately one year ago. It is open from 5:30 to 9:00 every night except Wednesdays and Sundays since there is an evening market which farmers sell at. Currently there are 29 students: 8 men and 21 women. They are learning basic literacy and can all now sign their names and write their address in order to sign important papers. They can all count up to at least 20. They are all day laborers, working in the fields which are gradually turning over to organic. A teacher's salary is Rs. 1000 (approx. US$ 20). There is one teacher working here at present, Mrs. Maya Mondal. They are also in need of teaching aids and materials such as pencils, notebooks, sample books, etc.

C/O Mr. Tarun Bhaduri
Village Jagganathpur
P.O. Purbabishnupur
Dist. Nadia
West Bengal 741223

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Mustard Seeds Library February

Mustard Seeds Library February
Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
Every month we put out a display of books on different themes at Mustard Seeds Library. Bapu is in charge of this! Here is our February display showcasing books on Friendship and Love!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Hiromi De-zines

Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
Our friend Hiromi was visiting for about three weeks in Jan-Feb.

She is a member of the Bean Cooking Club at Rakutendo (, an organization/shop in Kyoto, Japan that promotes vegetarianism by cooking and eating beans. They study bean recipes from around the world and distribute recipes and bean-spice kits each month to members.

Recently Mustard Seeds accomplished a neat project with Jeevika Development Society, a women's skill-training project, and Rakutendo. They developed a pot cover that not only keeps food warm but allows you to take beans off the gas burner earlier and keep the cooking going for the last 15 minutes under the pot cover.

Sooooo...if 100 people save 15 minutes of gas every time they cook, it really adds up. I like that we were able to develop a product that isn't just something to buy, but something that also protects the environment!

The pot covers are made of handloom kesh made by the Tagore Society in Santiniketan. Old sarees are woven into new thread to create incredible, completely unique patterns. Each label, a little smiling bean (the group's motto is "All we are saying is Give Beans a Chance..."), is hand-embroidered by Jeevika, along with all the sewing on the cover itself. You can see a photo of the Nabe Cover on the Rakutendo website!

They are just completing the second order of 100 pieces to sell in collaboration with WWF in Japan!

Here, Hiromi is designing the next product, a spice holder for members to keep their spice packets (which they receive each month with their Bean Cooking Kits) neatly in their kitchens. These wall pocket pouches will use jute and hand-woven khadi...and will of course have the smiling bean on the side!