Central Texas Bengali Association
Austin was a smaller city then and the Bengali community consisted of a small group of people, a far cry from the vibrant community of today. From information shared by some of the first Bengal residents of Austin, such as Binita Bose, Neeta Ganguli and Indira Chakravorty, (who has since relocated to California but still has a close and warm connection with the Bengali community here), it was very interesting to learn the origin of the Central Texas Bengali Association which has been growing and serving the Bengali community for 30+years. In the early 1980’s a few Bengali residents of Austin and a large group of University of Texas students and their families met informally from time to time to socialize and observe events such as Bijoya Sanmiloni. In the year 1983, the group had the first Saraswati Puja held at the married students’ quarters on the UT Campus. Most of the work, like cooking, decorating other responsibilities were distributed to and performed by the members of the group. Many residents present during those events have fond memories of working hard but also having enormous fun and a pleasant feeling of being a part of a large family. Bishwanath Chakraborty, Indira Chakraborty and Binita Bose were at the helm as the organizers at these early events.
As the community started growing, there was a consensus to celebrate Durga Puja, a desire that every Bengali holds dear to heart. The first Durga Puja was held in 1991, with Amit Chakravorty as the president, Indira Chakravorty as the secretary and Binita Bose as the treasurer of the first Puja committee. It was held at the Leander City Hall situated in a very rural setting, not the present-day bustling suburb of Austin. There was almost no development much beyond the 183/620 junction, which was a simple 4-point intersection in those days. The first Protima was a story all its own. Financial resources being limited, it was not possible to have a professional idol manufactured, so other avenues were investigated. As it so happened there was an American Chinese University of Texas student, Mark Gee with an artistic bent and a friend of Amit and Indira Chakraborty’s son, who agreed to create the Idol from pictures. He used papier-mâché and later added clay to complete his creation. This hybrid Protima lasted for several years, living in people’s closets during the rest of the year, until a new Protima replaced it. The first Puja was performed by Professor Ranjit Chakraborty from Houston.
The guests, 250 +, were all eager participants and quite a few were involved in preparing the food, decorations and clean ups.
The first formal entertainment program was performed by community children, during the Durga Puja in the year 1993.
To be continued: