Fireworks with a Chinese touch (note the Chinese script on the packets) on sale at Bazi Bazar. Picture by Sudeshna Banerjee
South Block may be sparring with the Chinese authorities over Arunachal Pradesh, but another Chinese infiltration has taken place near West Bengal — in the fireworks market. Crackers carrying Chinese script are being sold in the city in large numbers. Keeping Kareena Kapoor, Preity Zinta and Katrina Kaif company on the labels are children with Mongolian features. These are mostly products of Standard Fireworks, based in Sivakasi, which, the packets explain, have been manufactured in collaboration with a Chinese company. China has a strong pyrotechnic presence in the world market.
“This is Light House. The sparks will go up to a height of five storeys. Then there is Cheers, a flower pot that will throw up coloured balls,” said a salesman at Bazi Bazar, a mela held by fireworks dealers, on the Maidan. Other fireworks have names such as Grape Garden and Beautiful Flowers. Each packet asserts that no child labour has been used in the manufacture.
The packaging is fraught with international irony. Polaris rockets carry a US flag as their label at the top end while carrying their Chinese collaborator’s name in English and Chinese at the bottom. The brand under which it is being sold is called Peacock, India’s national bird.
“The Chinese products offer greater variety than the the local manufacturers and are of better quality. They come to Sivakasi to get labelled,” says salesman Abid Hussain of fireworks dealer Kamala Prasad Gupta & Sons.
Officials at Bazi Bazar were surprised to hear of Chinese fireworks. “Last year, a consignment headed for India was stopped at the entry point. They were reported to be very cheap and very good. If such products are allowed into India, our local industry would be ruined,” said Sanjay Kumar Dutta, the secretary of the Burrabazar Fire Works Dealers’ Association.
It is not as if the local products are giving up without a patriotic fightback. Flower pots from Indira Fire Works shows a personage no less than Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose charging on horseback.
Bengal in Bilaat
The UK will have another Bangla utsav. The first Bilaat Bangla Utsav will be held at Elliot Hall, Harrow Art Gallery, Middlesex, on March 20 and 21.
Several personalities and organisations from the world of culture from this part of the globe will participate. Sandip Ray’s Hitlist will be screened, there will be an adda session, a celebrity talk show, performances by Haimanti Shukla, Indranil Sen, Mehreen and Shama Rahaman. Actress June will do a spoof on credit cards. The band Cactus will also perform and Sutapa Bandyopadhyay will recite Tagore poems.
The event, the brainchild of Susmita Bhattacharya, a London-based Rabindra Sangeet singer, will be held in alliance with Panchamukhee, a London charity organisation.
Over the top
When you get your driving licence buy a helmet too. And make sure it’s a big one, conspicuous to all bike-laden police sergeants and on-their-feet traffic constables. Our lawmen, being unable to trust the driving aptitudes of Calcuttans at the wheel and the protective capacity of motor cars, referred to as tin cans by cynics, are passing a broad hint to motorists to guard their head in much the same fashion that bikers do.
The lawbook may not include this accessory as a driving necessity yet but when has genuine concern been thwarted by printed protocol?
Moumita Bhattacharya is one such unhelmeted Calcuttan whose head was the focus of such motherly attention. The Sector V employee was being driven down Behala Chowrasta in her sparkling new wine-red Alto by her unhelmeted chauffeur when her car was found to be at fault. A notice from West Bengal police landed at her Sakherbazar doorstep, slapping her with a fine of Rs 100. Her “offence” the notice stated, was “driving without helmet”.
The troubled software professional discussed the matter with colleagues. Before Pujas, she was told, the police get more concerned about commuters.
“If you refuse to pay Rs 100 and point out the glitch on their part, you’d be charged with some other offence, carrying a higher fine amount,” was the prescription. She meekly deposited the fine at the prescribed bank.
Did Moumita buy herself a helmet this Puja? We haven’t found that out. But we did dig into our archives and found a similar instance that occurred last April. The car was a Maruti 800 but in this case the “offender”, a lawyer, had refused to pay.
Contributed by Sudeshna Banerjee and Doel Bose