The Kolkata Carnival Walk for Arts and Change - The First Youth-Led Carnival in India

By Pushan Mukherjee
with inputs from Durjoy Chowdhury and the Kolkata Carnival Official Facebook Page.

Editor's note: This event is outstanding for a couple of reasons and should have received much greater media coverage. It was the first time the youth of any city in India organized a carnival-like walk with a great purpose. It was also the first time in India such an event was organized using social networking tools, thus plunging Calcutta into the facebook-twitter revolution sweeping the world.

The author can be reached via facebook.

Calcutta, Aug 31, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio) The Facebook  invitation  to the Kolkata Carnival Walk for Arts and Change was brief and articulate. All it said  was “A call for all students, young visionaries, painters, designers, musicians, dancers, thespians, writers, photographers, filmmakers, lawyers, engineers, anyone and everyone in Kolkata come walk along for the 1st youth –led carnival walk in India for the promotion of arts and culture and voicing our opinions . “ So around 4.30 p.m. on a sunny evening on Sunday, the 28th of August, which had earlier threatened to be  hampered by the rain gods, I reached the Parkomat at Esplanade, excited but at the same time wondering what the walk might be all about.

KOLKATA CARNIVAL WALK for

A Sunday evening at Esplanade is always a tricky affair. It is almost always crowded by youngsters and seniors alike looking to have a good time, shop or catch up with the latest movie flick. This day was no different, but it was even more crowded since it was peak shopping hours for various cross – sections of people looking to buy clothes and what – not before the upcoming Pujas in early October. When I finally reached the venue after a fifteen minute struggle from the Esplanade Metro Station, and after asking a traffic constable on the way for directions, the event had just barely started.

The first thing that struck me about the crowd that had gathered there was the vibrant and enthusiastic spirit. No sooner had I taken out my camera from the bag and was trying to figure out any familiar faces  I was sure to come across than a few girls approached me and handed over a complimentary Red Bull, the sponsors of this event. The walk, before I forget to mention, had been initiated by LOK, India’s only national youth-led creative arts organization, as part of its IYAC (Indian Youth for “Arts and Change”) festival, 2011.

The walk started in a short while amid loud whistles and cheers from a crowd of a few hundred youngsters at least, and quite a few who were older in age but young at heart. Ms. Rimi B. Chatterjee, Reader of English at Jadavpur University, a noted fiction-writer, was one of them. She had co – ordinated the walk. We proceeded to leave Esplanade and head towards Camac Street. All through the walk, the organizers ably ensured that the crowd kept to the left of the streets and traffic was affected to the bare minimum.

The participants in the walk were a veritable mix of artists from various walks of life, students, musicians, authors and photographers. Some were dressed in very attractive colourful clothing and wore large pointed black wizard hats and oversized heart – shaped sunglasses. As we proceeded left on our way towards the Park Street – Camac Street crossing from the Maidan Metro station, people were busy snapping away photographs of the event, me included, and guitars were slung across shoulders as songs from “Blowing in the Wind”, “Summer of ‘69” to “Koi Kaahein Kehta Rahein” poured out from everyone’s lips. There were two open cycle- rickshaws being driven by the organizers themselves which carried paintings and posters drawn by some of the artists and painters in the crowd. At various phases during the walk, the participants stopped to break into an impromptu jig to the beats of various percussive instruments which were being played constantly all through the journey by a few fellow musicians. It seemed as if the Pujas had come early and the spirit of joy, bonhomie and unhindered self – expression had taken over the entire crowd. It was a sight to behold and an experience to cherish. Curious pedestrians and bystanders stopped from their shopping excursions and passengers on passing buses and vehicles craned their necks and paused to take a look and question the purpose of the walk. Some of them even joined in.

The walk had now gradually reached its last phase as we arrived at our destination, a clearing just beside the statue of Mother Teresa at the Park Street – Camac Street crossing. The traffic police, having asked me earlier where the walk was headed and what its purpose was, were by now actively involved in helping the procession move smoothly towards its destination. As the sun began to set, the imaginative and talented youth sat down in a huddle to listen to a few original live renditions by Durjoy Chowdhury and his band “Bee and the Buskers”.

I headed back home from the walk when the gathering had dispersed after the performance, and paused for a moment to think what purpose the walk had held for me. I realized that I had been engrossed in taking videos and clicking pictures all through the event, my way of documenting the event and engaging in my mode of self - expression. A happy rush of emotion spread through me as I walked  home. Like everyone in the crowd who had expressed their talent during the walk, I had tried to do my bit by capturing it all in camera.

The next day of the carnival was held at Gyan Manch, with band performances from Ashes in Flames, Paper Fly and other bands. There were also a few dances and a theatrical production by LOK, a play called "KHOJ”. The concluding day of the carnival will be held on the 1st  of September -  band performances by Neel Adhikari, Stone Paper Scissor, Ifs & Butts, Purple Asparagus and Bee & the Buskers.

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