Kolkata has also synced in with rest of the world to celebrate the Chinese New Year of 2016 on 8th of February. This is the year of Monkey, which is the 9th animal in the Chinese zodiac cycle. Though it is considered as one of the most unlucky years in the Tianxian (Ancient Chinese believed that their land was right under the heaven) calendar, but those who are born with this symbol are characterized by lively, humorous, innovative and mischievous natures.
The date for Chinese New Year keeps on changing because of the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar. It is also known as the Spring Festival which lasts for 15 days from the 1st to 15th day of the first lunar month. China Town, the major Chinese hub of Kolkata, has been celebrating the New Year bash for quite some time and I longed to experience the carnival for last 3 years.
So, when I was informed that the prime event for the 1st day of Monkey Year was scheduled at Tiretti Market, I asked a friend to join. Both of us were mistaken about the exact location of this place and we thought the Market must be located in Tangra because that’s the usual residency for Kolkatan Chinese.
Being new to the place, I was thoroughly enjoying China Town. The Chinese Kali Mandir was a surprise for me; though the idol bears no Mongoloid features (I was expecting one). The buildings of this part of the city were different from architectural appearances and the streets were filled with the typical Chinese cuisines smell.
The town was still sleeping after the mid night celebration; there were empty beer bottles, burnt crackers and yawning faces. All these made us apprehensive and we asked our Indian GPS system (local panwala) about the dragon dance event. He looked at us, as if we committed a juvenile crime and with a smirk on his face he said that Tiretti Market is near Lal Bazar and not at China Town, Tangra. I had only one question in mind, why didn’t we check it earlier!!
It was already show-time, so we hired a cab and tried to reach the market fast through the crowded streets of Monday. On reaching Tiretti Market, we walked down a street following a distant sound of drums coming from a lane around the corner. The gate was full of spectators raising their cameras to take shots. But God knows what shot because there were more cameras than the Chinese residents. I found it very disgusting, but I had to take pictures. So, I said to myself, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” and took my camera out for taking some snaps.
Amidst the elbows, heads, shoulders and lens, I could get the view of 2 dragons – Red and White. There were a few people who tied a bunch of lettuce leaves at one end of a string and tried to feed the dragons from 2nd floor of a balcony. The dragons tried to get a hold of the bunch but the leaves were pulled up immediately. Tradition I guess!! This continued for some time; finally the dragons could snatch the leaves and everyone rejoiced beating Chinese percussion instruments.
While returning, we came across two more dragons and this part of the street-show was conducted by a gang of girls (the first one was performed by young boys). They called themselves Fa Mulan, who was actually a legendary woman warrior of China. Just as the previous one, the same event was showcased but in a less crowded manner. The over- enthusiastic photographers were not aware of this bait, leaving us an opportunity to experience the Chinese delight without any disturbances.
Though I was irritated with the horde of photographer but there was a different feeling altogether. I could associate to the Chinese community of the city, celebrating their New Year with dragons jumping and dancing gracefully, on the streets of My Kolkata.