Friday, July 19, 2024

Behdienkhlam Festival: celebrating end of sowing season


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“Behdienkhlam” is the largest festival of the practitioners of the ‘Niam Tre’ religion and is dedicated to a good harvest and a year of plenty. The biggest Behdienkhlam festivities can be experienced by Pnar people both in West Jaintia Hills and East Jaintia Hills.
‘Behdienkhlam’ is made up of the following three words: ‘Beh’ meaning ‘to get rid of,’ ‘Dien’ meaning ‘wood or log,’ and ‘Khlam’ meaning ‘plague.’ Taken together, the word means ‘to get rid of the plague.’ It’s primarily held before the rainy season, at the end of the sowing season.
There are many ceremonies and rituals leading up for many days to the final Behdienkhlam ‘procession’. It begins sometimes in the month of Wisu(March) with “Thoh Langdoh” and series of religious ceremonies. One of the biggest sacrifice is ‘Kñia Pyrthat,’ the god of thunder which is usually offered a pig (khon Hati patcha). It also involves the erection of the trunks or ‘Khnong’ in each locality. During this festival it also involves beating of homes with long bamboo sticks to drive away evil spirits that cause disease and misfortune. Offerings called “ka Siang ka Pha” are also made to ancestors and clans. The Daloi, or chief religious figures of the community, conduct prayers and other rituals. And the most vibrant part of this festival is the ‘rath’ or ‘rot,’ tall structures made of bamboo decorated with coloured paper, tinsel, symbols, and messages that each village creates. A group of young men carry the rots to the ‘Aitnar’ or sacred pool and throw them by the side of it.
Further, during this festival a game similar to football using a wooden ball called ‘Dad-Lawakor’ is also played. The winners are said to gain special blessings from the gods for the coming months. Everyone also participates enthusiastically in singing and folk dancing. The whole festival is a testament to the valuable connection between man and nature, which the people of Jaintia continue to celebrate year after year. Through this letter I would like to convey my best wishes to the people of Meghalaya on the harvest festival of Behdienkhlam (‘Behdienkhlam Wa Suk Wa Kmen iaphi Waroh.
Yours etc.,
Iahmi Khyriem
Via email

America deserves better
The debate between former president Trump (a convicted felon) and President Biden on June 27, 2024 has been widely seen as a disaster — by both domestic and European commentators. Of course, they do not consult the views of the global south.
All niceties regarding ageism were brushed aside in the concerns about Mr. Biden’s age. Going by style and appearances, Mr. Trump seemed to be the better candidate. But should style override substance? Especially in an election of such great import, not just for America, but for the whole world?
Going by substance, Mr. Biden, for all his fumbling, said at least one essential thing during this debate. He said Mr. Trump had the “morals of an alley cat.” He also accused Mr. Trump of lying and of infidelity to his wife Melania, at a time when she was pregnant. On June 28, when he came swinging back, Mr. Biden added another substantial point — that he was (by contrast) truthful. While his blind support of Israel has been unpalatable beyond words, given that Mr. Netanyahu’s armed attacks on Gaza have killed so many innocent Palestinian civilians, especially children — Mr. Biden is not as lacking in morals as is Mr Trump.
A debate should be a reasoned discourse — courteous and ethical. It should be a search for truth. Instead, what we saw was a poorly moderated CNN debate, with crude mud-slinging between the two candidates. The American people remain an ethically-conscious people. They deserve someone better than both candidates. This so-called “debate” betrayed the American people.
Yours etc.
Deepa Majumdar,
Via email

MBOSE in a deep mess
Something is terribly a miss with MBOSE vis a vis its Examination Evaluation system (Revised list of Toppers of HSSLC Science stream). The team of evaluators who are responsible for shoddy work must be blacklisted. The cost for revaluation must be recompensed by the Board when the evaluation had been done irresponsibly and a mental trauma is inflicted upon the students who were forced to get their papers re-evaluated in the first place , because of unprofessional correction of their examination papers.
When was the last time that MBOSE conducted a workshop for its evaluators and help them to hone their skills as assessments are constantly being altered or modified?
Accountability by any authority is a must and it that authority must be held accountable whenever it falls short.
Yours etc.,
Tyrone Patrick D’Brass

From poetic to horror scene
My friend asked me to wait and began searching his bag. As he had returned from Darjeeling, I guessed that he might have had something for me. Then he flashed out a book and said, “This is for you.” It was ‘Train to Darjeeling & Other Railway Tales’ by Sanjoy Mookherjee. I felt glad that he took the trouble of buying a book for me in the midst of his family tour.
After returning home, I opened the first chapter of the book under the headline: ‘Indian Railways – A Lifelong Romance’. In the first line, the author said, “My love for Railways began when I was quite young, maybe when I had just turned five.” I could easily relate my childhood fascination for a moving train in the first chapter of the book.
I closed the book and started thinking about my childhood association with rail. I had a special liking for a window seat. It was like watching a 3D movie through a TV shaped rectangular window and hearing the background music of hawkers’ call, people’s chatter and the lullaby of chug chug tune with a questioning horn.
But that romance has now been replaced by trauma, thanks to multiple train accidents one after another. Manoj Dey, who was travelling with his wife and four-year-old daughter in the Kanchenjunga Express, told a reporter after the train reached Sealdah station that he would never take his child on a train again.
He was in the middle berth of an AC 3-tier coach at the time the train got hit from behind by a goods train near Rangapani railway station on June 17. He said, “The coach was shaking as the train continued to move for a few seconds after an ear-shattering noise. My first reaction was to reach out to my daughter and wife. My heart stopped beating for a couple of seconds until I saw them.” He reiterated, “Next time, I will try to book plane tickets even if they are costlier. Especially if my daughter is travelling with us.”
In the last decade, glamorous train projects have been given priority, even at the cost of safety. Train Collision Avoidance System, which was later renamed as Kavach, is an automatic train protection system that helps prevent collisions if two trains are on the same tracks. Had it been in place, it would have saved the collisions between Kanchenjunga Express and the goods train. Senior railway officials said that a field trial was started for Kavach in 2016.
But this life saving device has so far been placed in only a little over 2 per cent of railway tracks in eight years after its field trials! Railway officials said that the reason is high cost and technical challenges. The cost is a factor when it comes to enhancing safety and saving human lives. But cost is not a factor for a glamorous bullet train project!
An RTI reply says that of 1,27,644 sanctioned posts of loco pilots and assistant loco pilots, 18,766 – nearly 15 per cent – were vacant as of March 1 this year. Train drivers are now forced to work extra shifts.
Three major train accidents took place within a span of just one year – in Odisha’s Balasore on June 2, 2023, in Andhra Pradesh’s Vizianagaram, on October 29, 2023, and near Rangapani railway station, West Bengal on June 17, this year.
How the little girl who travelled with her parents in Kanchenjunga Express would react now to the iconic poetic scene in Satyajit Ray’s film Pather Panchali (Song of the Road) where Apu and Durga saw a train for the first time? I think it would be like a horror scene for her.
Yours etc.,
Sujit De,


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