"Who in the World am I?Ah! That's the great puzzle"

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Strangers That We Know

There are these people...some people that you know and who become a part of your life but then they're not your friends. I mean you just meet these people at certain gatherings, some places and then you don't even know what their names are. Every body has such strangers in their lives that they kind of know. They're not really strangers actually because you see them around but you don't really know them at all! 

I had gone to Kathmandu, Nepal in the month of September and was there for almost a month. So I was headed back to Gangtok and usually I travel alone. So I landed at the Bhadrapur Aiport and took a taxi to Kakarbhita. That's like in the border between India and Nepal. I needed to switch into another taxi to get back to my apartment in Siliguri so when we stopped there, I started asking the drivers if anyone was available and you know....the bargaining shit and stuff like that. In all that chaos, I noticed a familiar face but I really didn't bother. So anyway after a while, a taxi was arranged and because I was so tired, I thought I'd have a glass of tea from the road-side stall and smoke a cigarette. As I sat there, sipping the tea and smoking, that familiar face was lurking around. He had an uncertain look on his face but he kept looking at me and then looking away and then looking at me again. 

So I looked up at him and he approached me 
"Didi tapai Delhi ma thiyo?" which means Didi, were you in Delhi?
I was a little surprised but that question kind of made me all the more sure that I did know this guy as well. I was like,
"Ho, tah! Bhai lie mai lay kata dekhe ko?" (Yes, I was. Where have I seen you before?)
He replied
"Mo Dilli Haat ko Nagaland food stall ma kaam gar thiye. Tapai pura au thiyo" (I used to work in the Nagaland food stall in Dilli Haat. You used to come there a lot)
That's when every thing came back to me. You see there is this government initiated handicrafts and food stalls in New Delhi which is called Dili Haat, which most of you people in Delhi know about. It used to be one of my favourite places to hang out while I was there cos the handicrafts were always an amazing gift or an interior decoration piece and then the food at the Nagaland stall was beyond amazing! So I used to frequent that particular stall a lot. I always sat on a table this guy waited on  cos he looked kinda sad and he was the youngest out of all the staff. He had that face you know.....some one who carries a poignant smile all the time....yeah that kinds. For some reason, I imagined all sorts of tragedy in his life and therefore every time I visited that place, I tipped him well. 

So anyway, Yeah I met him there in the middle of all that journey and I asked him to sit with me and have tea. He told me he'd left Delhi and was now driving a taxi and earning his living. When I asked him how did he recognize me, he smiled and said that It was my voice! See, for those of you who don't know me, I don't have a typical girly-girly voice. In fact It's a bit hoarse and that's one reason I've never had the confidence to sing. And then he added, "Tapai lay jahiley pani ma lie tip chori din thiyo" (You always tipped me)

Then I realized I was carrying my camera with me so I asked him If I could take his picture, to which he agreed gladly. Then he was called for duty and he left. I sat there and I did something that I normally don't do. I smiled!  I didn't ask him his name or anything. I don't know why but that didn't seem necessary. I knew him and he knew me and the chances of meeting him again was minimum but then that was not the reason why. I felt like how much ever we knew of each other was enough and some how It made it special. We didn't need to keep in touch or bond. If we meet again, some where, It'll be special again, like how It was that day at a tea stall in Kakarbhita. 

There really are no strangers out there you know. I mean literally yeah there are people that you don't know and stuff but metaphorically, as humans we know we exist. We are aware of the existence of the people that we haven't even met or heard of! Then there are these people you come across and they don't have play any dramatic roles in your life. They don't have to define the meaning of life for you but they're there and they come into our lives and some how, even for that one small moment...we are not the same!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

At The Dance Bar

I am not an expert travel guide or anything close to it. I've been in the city of Kathmandu for almost a month now and I haven't even been to all the places recommended for tourists. I am just plain lazy or every time I plan to visit some place, I later plan to do something else. So when you come to Kathmandu, don't be like me. Go out, visit every historically significant places, explore the culture and tradition of this land. It's beautiful and fascinating. However, I did that one thing which many men do when they come to Kathmandu. I guess I fall into those rare category of women who've visited the "Dance Bars" in and around Thamel. Believe, It is one place that everyone should go to (not children...obviously! duh!)

So last night my friends and I decided to go to a Dance Bar called The Beer Bar in Thamel. I was the only girl customer there. Okay, let me tell you this. I always thought Dance Bars were those dingy, dark places where skimpily clad women danced and showed skin while men drank and may be there was some addition to that equation. However my friends in Kathmandu told me It wasn't like a strip club or a brothel but just a place where girls danced and people drank. No touching the dancers and no taking photos or recording videos without their permissions! So I wanted to check out the place for myself and we went there.

As soon as we entered, a lady showed us to our table. She wasn't a waitress. She was a 'Companion'. That's the first thing you need to know about Dance Bars in Kathmandu. Every table has a companion. She shows you your table, sits with you, talks to you, you buy whatever she wants to eat or drink (of course you pay) and she entertains you as long as you sit there. By that, I don't mean any perverted stuff. Really!. She just sits there and talks and yeah, she does act coquettish and flirty with the men (my friends....of course when I said I was going to a dance bar with my friends I mean Guy/Man friends...again...duh!) but that's just it. You can't touch her in any pervert manner or have obscene conversations. As I said, she's only a companion and all she does is gives you company. Depending on the number of people, you can ask as many companions for the table as you want. 

Another thing you need to know about Dance Bars. It's not just Girls who dance! . I was surprised that they have male dancers too. The girls danced on a stage that was dimly lit with flashing lights and smokes at regular intervals and a pole springing out of a low fountain in between. So they danced to tracks from recent Bollywood movies. When the girls danced solo numbers, they usually just danced like they were dancing in a club but when there was a couple performing or a group, they did a choreographed number. It was all very entertaining and I sat there watching them and enjoying myself thoroughly. All the rumours and myths I had heard about Dance Bars were untrue. I mean these people were up on stage, dancing because It was their profession. For the first time I felt that you can't look down on a person based on his/her profession because whatever they do, it is their job! I don't mean that in a Oh-I-Had-a-moment-of-epiphany or in any phony way but when you're sitting there and you see them on stage, dancing, smiling, you know that is their livelihood and you should respect that before you call them names or categorize them as 'cheap' or 'sluts'. Believe me, they aren't. I don't know how other Dance Bars work but the one I went to....they don't work in the way that most of us think they do.

Another special thing about the night was a special free-style and hip hop crew were gonna be performing on stage. I mean we have to keep in mind that most of these guys come from backgrounds where they haven't really researched about hip-hop and dancing and they dance because they love dancing. Basically these people are influenced by what they see on the television and they practice hard and they try to dance like the people they see on the tv. 

If you thought Quest Crew & the JabbaWockeeZ was amazing, think twice....These guys will awe you with their moves! You have to see them to believe it!  

Hahahah Okay, who am I kidding!?! Of course JabbaWockeeZ n Q-Crew are on a different league but you got to give credit to these guys who use their talent to earn their living because that makes them an artist! 

So the night of 1st October 2011 was well spent and It was a happy time. It was one of those times that I will recall as "an amazing experience"

This is what a Dance Bar looks like and No, I did not take the picture. I don't break rules! I got it from Google 

This is one of the popular Dance Bars of Thamel

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Sims Social Phase

I am twenty-five years old and unemployed. If you must know, I was doing my Masters in Mass Communication is the so-called "Best Uni for Mass Comm" in India and then I decided I didn't want to attend classes! Yes, It wasn't like I was being ragged or having any sort of trouble in class. It was just that I was so bored attending the classes and somehow, I just didn't want to. I wanted to stay idle. That's why I quit. My parents, of course were not happy about a decision that I made on my own and I still get a lot of direct and indirect sarcasm from them, especially mother. Anyhow, that introduction was to let you know that my current state is that of an idle, internet- addicted, unemployed procrastinator. So about a few weeks ago, I got a game request from one of my friends on facebook, asking me to join her in this game called The Sims Social. It is a part of the popular game series, The Sims developed by Electronic Arts, released in 2000. So yeah, lately with facebook being a major part of everything in life, It's not much of a shocker that the people at EA would design a series based on the original one for the popular social network.

So what one has to do is, develop a character, choose your sex, skin colour, hair colour etc and then one is given a plot of hand with few things around. The task is to increase your neighbours and perform all sorts of art, cooking, music and raise your level. There is also an option where you can buy things for your house. With all the task that you do, you earn money and with that money you can buy things for your house and clothes etc. Its been about three weeks now that I've been playing this game and this is what I look like:

My character is called Shiori Kitano. Yeah, yeah the fascination for Jap culture is still alive in me. This is the perfect game for all unemployed, idle people like me who can afford to use the internet on daily basis. It's the best thing to kill time. You can also send gifts and ask for items that you need from your friends. But the thing is you can send only one gift per day. There is also a garden around the house where you can grow veggies and fruits and when you reap them, you earn some money and your level increases. Those are the things you can do in the game. Oh yeah, you can also visit your neighbours and perform actions with them, like "Chat" or "Show Appreciation" or "Insult" or "Flirt" anything that you might want to do or anything that the task requires. 

This is what my house looks like :

I know It's almost stupid, engaging full time on games like this but I really don't have anything to do or I don't want to be doing anything serious right now so therefore Sims Social is my life. God! I sound like one of those sad, pathetic people who spend all their energy and interest on games. Well just so that you know, this is only a phase and It shall pass. But again, It isn't so bad...I mean who am I to condemn "Gaming" like that. It's a personal choice you know. That's it and people who want to play can play, people who want to discard, can discard. I was only sort of suggesting that more people like me, play this game to kill some time. 

Okay my energy is low and I gotta revive it by performing actions with other sims! (That sounds weird, doesn't it?" Anyway, that's all I have to say about the Sims Social. Try it if you have nothing else to do...

Friday, July 8, 2011

A WeekTo Remember: Film Making Workshop With Prashant Rasaily

Over a month in Gangtok and the monotony, with the repetitive idleness was killing me. I felt like Sisyphus...trapped in a constant world of futility! That's when I heard about the Film Making workshop that Prashant Rasaily, the renowned film maker from Gangtok was organizing. I called him, we met and then, there was no looking back. We were seven of us all together...all amateurs, bound and brought together with one passion....film making!

DAY 01: We left Gangtok on the 25th of June, shortly after 9:00am. We headed to Teen Talay, a resort in Rumtek. We settled into our rooms and freshened up. After lunch and a little recreation, we started with our work. Day 01 was a theory class on how to write a SCREEN PLAY. Prashant taught us the format and detailed us on how a screen play should be written. He also told us how important it was to keep the pace and the tone of the film in mind while writing the screen play. Immediately, he gave us an example and asked us to write the shot for that scene. After a lot of discussions about modern films, we sat down, as a group to do our first task together. Prashant gave us a character: A young man and the location: The woods. We began work immediately. We all had ideas and most of it, were related to the thriller or horror genre. The location and the eerie atmosphere around helped us develop our story further. Taking everyone's suggestions and ideas in mind, by midnight, we were done with a screen play for a five-minute film. Prashant was happy with our work and that first night, we all slept like logs!
Prashant teaching the group about SCREEN PLAY while Adarsh and Anant listen intently. 

Adarsh aka 'Poday' & me, working on the the screen play

 On the first day of the work shop...Yes, We had to pose in front of the poster! 

Priya and Anant, seriously listening to Prashant on DAY 01. 

DAY 02: Location Scouting or Recce was the plan for the second day. Keeping in mind the script and the character, we had to go look for places to shoot. Which meant, that we had to walk uphill, deep into the heart of the forest and decide on the locations for the various shots. At 7am, we head off. Initially, It wasn't much of a task. We checked the near-by locations and decided on a few, with the shots in mind. Then, we started climbing uphill. That, was when most of thought that we were in the wrong place! Climbing up a hill is one thing, but then when one is climbing and there are about ten leeches doing everything in their power to stick onto you and suck your blood, that's another. So yeah, imagine us, in the forest, tired, panting, out of breath and trying to do away with the predators at our feet! At first, we (Priya and me...the only girls in the group) screamed and shouted but then after an hour or so, we had gotten so accustomed that we were picking the leech ourselves and throwing them away! We climbed up, walked through the woods, let the leeches bite, took pictures, decided on various locations. As we walked through, Prashant kept entertaining us with his home-made jokes. We didn't feel like we were working on any project, in fact, we felt like we were a group of friends, out in the wild, trekking and hiking. That's how comfortable Prashant made us feel and slowly, all of us had started getting closer to each other and formed a bond. We helped each other climb up or down and even helped one another with the leeches. After more than hours hours of location scouting, we head back to the resort....tired but satisfied and happy at what we have achieved within a short time. We knew, this was only the beginning.

Priya, Raj da, Phuntsog and Anant during the Recce :

Location Scouting around the hills in Rumtek. This Pine forest is where we shot the first scene of the trailer. 

A Proud Priya, showing off the dirt and bruises she accumulated during the Recce. 

Deepen Daju, taking shots of the locations around the hills. 

Walking through the leech infested forest, armed in Phuntsog's jacket and my Benetton Wellingtons! I had only 3 leech bites, which was nothing compared to Priya's 20 plus bites on her legs and Adarsh's 30 plus! 

DAY 03 Morning: We were frigging tired by the third day but that was only a physical exhaustion. On the inside, we were determined and motivated. I had never walked like that ever before! This workshop was not only a learning experience but It was a place where we were getting to do things we'd never imagined! The previous night, we did a shot break-down and decided to shoot the trailer which would be for two minutes. So on the third day, we set our early. We carried the equipments, with some help from the two technicians and set out into the forest again. This time we took another route and climbed up hill. We'd found this almost abandoned monastery and even though we didn't need a monastery in the script we'd written, we decided the place was too beautiful to be left out. So, we did what we do best, we let the creativity flow and then we used the location for few shots. 
Prashant, teaching us how to operate the camera and adjust the scene, using the natural lights of the surrounding.

The crew, exhausted after taking the first shot for the trailer. . . 

Prashant, explaining the shot that was just taken as Phuntsog, Me, Priya and Pavi Daju look on. Adarsh aka 'Poday' in the background, doing what he does best....Resting! LOL

One of those random yet busy moments at the shoot! I think That's Priya Namchu's hands in the bhuja packet! 

We began to work. The first shot we required was a long shot of the pine woods. So with the technicians' help, we set the camera and Prashant taught us how to operate the gadget. The technicians placed it in the angle and then we adjusted the focus. We got the characters ready and then took our first shot. A tilt, long shot of the forest. Priya, Phuntsog and I took turns to take the same shot. After that, we used the forest, in ways we thought would be helpful and took many shots required for our script.

 The Crew trying to take shots in the rainy weather. The light above the camera was obstructing the frame so Prashant taught us ways to divert the light.

DAY 03, Late Noon & Evening:  After lunch and a little rest, we headed for shoot again. This time we didn't have to climb uphill but then we had to serve ourselves to the leeches again! Prashant said that we would add a montage of a lot of creepy shots and he wanted each one of us to take one shot at least. We got really excited and began looking for things around that we could take shots of! Everyone came up with brilliant shots. Adarsh aka Poday took this amazing shot of a dead butterfly, surrounded by ants while Priya had a beautifully eerie shot of a white mushroom with blood dripping from top. Phuntsog had a shot of an insect moving in a dirty water; Pavi daju took his morbid shot of an old tree while Deepen daju had a fast moving shot of mushrooms grown on a bark of a tree. I took a shot of a lot of worms in the mud, wriggling. Prashant was very happy with all our shots and after that we continued to shoot for the trailer. We walked to a place where there was a small pond. We thought that would be a perfect place to shoot the last scene of the film. We got our things ready but then it began to pour heavily. At first, we thought the shoot was going to get cancelled but then, things like that don't affect Prashant and while the rain kept falling down, we all stood there, the camera protected under an umbrella and us, dripping wet! Our actor, Anant Pradhan (Gladrags Man Hunt 1st Runner-up 2003) was beyond professional. He had no airs about him and was a natural actor. 

Priya probably laughing at Prashant's joke, while Pavi daju tries to get the leeches off his leg. Phuntsog looks on. 

Poday tries his hands at Set designing.....

Prashant, giving lessons on film-making as spontaneously as his mind works:

When we got back to the resort, the technicians started to set up the crane. Phuntsog and I helped them put the equipments together and they taught us how it was supposed to be done. Even though we did not take any crane shots for the trailer, Prashant wanted each of us to get a feel of shooting from the crane so he let us experience that as well

Prashant, giving Pavi daju tips and lessons on using a crane:
Deepen Daju, looking professional on the crane:

Our actor, Anant Pradhan tries his hands behind the camera:
Phuntsog on the crane:

DAY 04: We were done with most of the shots but then we had a small problem. We had this shot of an invisible figure walking in the woods, disrupting the shrubs around. Prashant came up with a very bright idea. He said, we would use green threads and tie bunches of the grass together real low and people would stand at the end of the string so that when the string is pulled, one after another, it looks like someone is actually walking on the grass. We were all so amazed and awed by Prashant's creativity. However, the fascination stopped right there. We had to make 50 plus green threads with a loop at one end! We got to work but that wasn't enough. It started pouring again. So after getting the threads ready, we went to a location near-by and set up the place. That took us quite some time and when we were ready for the shot, the rain came down on us but we took the shot in the rain and the result was very very gratifying! 

Prashant, letting his creativity flow and teaching us how to use our heads for the shots that we require, without using any special effects while editing! 

DAY 05: By the time the fifth day arrived, we were done with the field work. We didn't have to walk the jungle path or serve food to the leech. On the fifth day, Prashant gathered us all in a room and we did an exercise on SOUND. What most people don't realize is that SOUND is very important in a film. Emotions, you can show on the face but for that emotion to create a deep impact, you need a background music/score. Prashant made us sit and close our eyes while he played music and told us to imagine whatever we wanted to.  For this particular exercise me played the background score of Memoirs of a Geisha and we let the oriental music flow into our heads. I don't know what the others imagine but for me, may be because I knew It was a soundtrack of an Asian Film, I imagined the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings! Yeah, yeah....the planes, the bomb dropping, the mushroom, the ringing silence, the explosion, the people...some dead, some alive and some, in-between! The exercise proved to be very helpful because after this, I realized how the sound that we hear around, can mean and express many situations in a film. 
In the later half of the day, Prashant taught us how to edit the raw footage and convert it into a film. We learn to use Final Cut Pro or FCP. He taught us every bit of the step and since Pavi Daju, Deepen Daju, Adarsh and Puntsog had already done a bit of editing before, It was easier for them. While Priya and me took quite some time to learn. Then we got together and chose the footage and files that we thought would be appropriate for the trailer. Sitting there, working together while the rain hit the roofs, provided a perfect atmosphere for us to do the work. Admist jokes, discussions and some serious work, we had managed a rough cut of the trailer (without the sound) by nightfall.

DAY 06: The sixth day was all about editing. When people just hear the word, "Editing," they may assume, its taking the rough cuts together and putting them in sequence. Easy! But that's not what editing is about! When Prashant teaches us any work, he teaches us well! So while we sat there as a group and edited the footage, we kept in mind, the concept of the film; the curiosity that was necessary in the trailer; the appropriate images; the text that would create the intensity of the film. With all these in mind, we had to find the perfect background score as well. So that took us the whole day and while some of us fell asleep in between, the rest worked. Then we woke up, the rest slept! It was one tiring day, even though we didn't go out of the room! Editing means total dedication with full concentration on the work. That was what we learnt and that helped us edit our first work!
The group begins to edit while 'Sensei' Prashant looks on

DAY 07: I have to admit, the pace at how the week passed was nothing less than the pace of a supersonic concord! Or well, at least It felt that way! So seven days were over and we had a two minute trailer completed. On the 7th morning, we woke up early and headed to the hall for some theatre exercise. We didn't have much clue about what we were going to do and most of us were conscious and didn't want to do any sort of acting. Prashant made us gather in a circle and we started with some stretching exercise and voice modulation exercises. I was really uncomfortable in the beginning and was wondering what we were gonna do. Then, we started with the two extreme emotions. Prashant said he would slowly count from 01 to 10 and we were supposed to show our levels of happiness, 01 being slightly pleased to 10 being extremely happy. Then we did the same for sadness. We, then used props and learnt how we could use basic everyday items to replace something else. Slowly, we realized that we didn't feel shy or conscious anymore and then we realized that most of us could actually act! Therefore, this exercise on the last day brought out many hidden talent is us! It was really interesting and all of us enjoyed it thoroughly! 
Then, we had lunch and head back to our rooms to do the packing. After the packing, we got together and took photographs and enjoyed the last few minutes together, more as friends, less like team mates! Initially we'd been strangers to each other but one week in the woods together, had made us more like friends and to some extent, even as close as family. 

Deepen Daju, Adarsh, Phuntsog and Pavi Daju strike a pose before clearing the room. 
The happy film family :)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Getting Away .......

Well It was a Tuesday night. Nobody expects shit to happen on a Tuesday night.....Friday night, Saturday Night or even Sunday night...those are the nights people expect things to happen but on a Tuesday???? Nah..... However, this incident took place on a Tuesday night! So my parents were out of town and like every spoilt kid waiting for an opportunity like this....I decided to spend the evening out with my friends.

Tuesday evening came....I went for  movie with my cousin (Pirates of the Caribbean....On Stranger Tides). After the movie I went out to have a few drinks with my friends at a local cafe that we usually hang out. Around 10pm we decided we should go for a drive so my friend and I, and my friend's friends(who had come from Bombay and Calcutta) hopped into the car and we drove along as the town-on-a-hill was retiring for the day. We went uphill further into the woods and then came upon an isolated area. We got some booze and snacks and sat there, telling each other spooky ghost stories and other stuff. It had been a little more then thirty minutes, when I saw some lights headed our way. It was pitch dark and at first, I thought it was a vehicle. (probably a motor cycle or something). The next moment....we could as well have jumped right off that cliff. There were two cops standing in front of us with flash lights! I knew that moment I was dead!

In a rough and authoritative voice, one of the cops shouted, "What the hell are you kids doing here at this hour?"
I didn't speak. My friend answered him.
Obviously the cops noticed the booze around and started interrogating us in that same tone. He asked us our names and the names of our fathers etc! In all that scary situation, one of  the cops asked me what caste I belonged to. Turns out he and I belonged to the same caste. So...things turned around. Slowly the tone of the voice changed. It got sweet. Then I started with the sweet-talking, "Well we are extremely sorry that we are causing you so much trouble but our friends just got here from the cities and we were showing them around."
Then, the cop went "You show them around during the day, not like this at night, okay?" he sweetly added.
"Sorry once again officers but we will never do this again." Then we went on to talk about how we meant no harm and the cops went on to explain how hard it is for them to do their duty. Then we talked about what place we came from and our backgrounds and they did the same. It was like making new friends in a new place and getting really really friendly!!!
The cops even went out to be extra nice to the city people and suggested they sit in the car for the air might be too chilly for them! They also apologized for ruining their vacation!
As we were getting into the vehicle, one of them even advised, "Do not drink and drive!"
"Yes, Sir" the response and we were out of sight!!!!

I think my friends and I were real lucky that the shit didn't get out of hand and somehow luck favoured us. For the past years I've been in cities, doing illegal shit and not been caught even once. The truth about this country is, whoever has the power of authority can fuck you up a zillion times and can fuck you up real good. Thats what normally happens when cops get into the scene; But man...were we lucky?!?!?!

Well that don't mean I am going to be a goody-two-shoes now on. Of course, I will go on breaking the laws but I only hope I get away with it each time :)

Thursday, May 26, 2011


                                      SEWANEY is a greeting like Namaste, used by the RAIs

I belong to the RAI community. It is an ancient, indigenous and ethnolinguistic group of the Himalayan region, as described by Wikipedia. The word Rai, is derived from the word, Raya. The Rayas were the Kings of Nepal in the earlier times. However they were defeated by the Shahas in 1832 and thereafter known as Rais. The Rai people along with Limboos, Yakkas etc belong to the Khambu region and are collectively known as Kirat Khambus.

In twenty-four years of my existence, I attended the first Sakewa celebration held at Namchi, South Sikkim on the 23rd of May 2011. Sakewa is an important festival of the RAI community. It is celebrated to offer prayers and seek blessings from Mother Nature. The festival falls on fifteenth day of the fifth month(Baisakh) of the Nepalese Calender. Prayers are conducted by the priests, called "Mangpa." The drum or 'Hongken' plays a significant part in the ritual. A person beats a drum throughout and the Mangpa dances to the beat. Three stones or Lungs are placed together to make a fire or Samkha. The three Lungs are:
                                                            Mangpa: A Rai Priest

Prayers are offered to ancestors around the fire and food offerings are made. The Rais originally practiced Animism or Ancestral Worship. However with time, most of them have converted to Hinduism, Christianity and Buddhism.
The dances, known as Sili, are performed. The Sili dance is an art which mimics the characteristics of the animals and the birds in the sowing season.

The Sakewa celebration in Namchi, started at 12 noon with the arrival of the Chief Minister, Mr. Pawan Kumar Chamling, who was the Chief Guest for the day. The venue for the event was Bhaichung Stadium, Namchi. There were various stalls and kiosks built around which showcased and highlighted things made by or belonging to the Rai community. The welcome address was made by Mr. S.K Rai, who is a dentist by profession and the President of the Akhil Kirat Rai Sangh, Sikkim.

                                                                    Suptulung Sili

The first programme was the Suptulung Sili dance, performed by Gom Block, South Sikkim. The most attractive part of the dance was the two main singers. A little boy and a little girl sang the song while the dancers moved to the beat and rhythm accordingly.

                             Mr. Jiten Rai, Mr Nabin Rai, Ms. Menka Rai & Ms.Pavitra Rai from Nepal

Crossing Geographical barriers, four singers had come from Nepal, led by Mr. Jiten Rai. They sang songs, praising Parohang and Summina, who are believed to be the creators and the main ancestors of the RAI people.

                                                                The Chasum Sila

Purano Namchi performed the Chasum Sila dance. This dance is an action sequence of how the first seed is sown, the field work, right up to how the harvesting is done and the food eaten. The careful demonstration of every action is not just interesting to watch but also very fascinating that It often makes one eager to learn the dance.

                                                                    The Sew Sili

Central Pandom performed the Sew Sili dance. In this dance, the dancers shout along and like other silis, the movement of animals and birds are mimicked.

                                                                        The Mang Sili

The Kirat Khambu Rai Samsthan of Bagdogra performed the Mang Sili. I particularly enjoyed this one as there were two middle-aged men playing the drum as the dancers moved around to their beats. The men seemed full of energy and the audience were captivated and clapped along with them.

                                                              Modern Rai Dance: Lakh

Melli, South Sikkim performed the Modern Rai Dance or the Lakh. Their modern short sarees and movements indicated the influence adopted from various modern dances, however, the originality of the Sili remained intact.

                               The Honourable Chief Minister of Sikkim, Dr. Pawan Kumar Chamling

The Chief Minister then went on stage to deliver his speech. As usual, when he spoke, we all listened. He stressed on how important the identity of each community of Sikkim was. He also pointed out that just because he belonged to the RAI community, did not mean that Sakewa was the only important festival of the state. He said we should be tolerant towards all communities and their festivals. That was the only way to "Go Back to our roots" and at the same time, not only grow but evolve!

                                                    Aparajita Rai, being felicitated by the CM

Then the Chief Minister felicitated Ms. Aparajita Rai and Ms. Raksha Rai. The former is a great example for not just people of the RAI community but for youth all over the state. Ms. Aparajita Rai has cleared her Union Public Service Commission exams. As most people know, a lot of hard-work is required for one to clear the civil exams. This girl did it and has made every Sikkimese proud.

                                           Ms. Raksha Rai, being felicitated by the CM

Ms. Raksha Rai is a student of Deorali Girls School, Gangtok. She had taken part in a competition organized by the Fox History and Entertainment Channel. She chose to narrate her tale about Sakewa. Out of several hundred students who took part in the competition, Raksha stood fourth. Now her essay is being converted into a documentary, which will be produced by the channel and aired on the show called, "My City, My History." What a remarkable achievement for a youngster and what an example to follow!


Then, lunch was served. The meal consisted of the authentic rice dish, known as Wachipa. There were also Smoked Chicken, Homo Washa and Smoked Pork, Homo Baksha, along with so many other food and drinks.

The people of Polok-Kamrang, South Sikkim had a very creative exhibition of organic vegetables. Under the guidance of Mrs. Tika Maya Chamling, the people had made interesting models of animals etc, using vegetables.

                                                          A Mangpa made out of veggies

There was an exhibition cum sale of paintings and sketches, made by RAI artists from Sikkim, Nepal and Darjeeling. Likewise, there were many house-hold and food items that belonged to the Rai community.

                                                                    Paintings for sale

 Me, in the traditional RAI dress. Of course the power shoulders were my lil cousin's fashion tip. She designed it herself. Check out her designs at www.rainism-rohini.blogspot.com

 Overall, the festival was a learning experience and a display of tradition and culture. It was a colourful event and something that I look forward to attending every year.