Sundeep Bhutoria

Welcome to my blog. Do share your views and thoughts with me. Request visitors to keep their comments brief and to the point. I shall respond to you to the extent possible.
Thank you.
ess bee

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Monday, September 19, 2016

In Rajasthan's leopard land

With Nikky and Ashley at their mehdi ceremony
I came back to Kolkata last night from a week-long Rajasthan trip. I went there to attend a wedding in Udaipur at The Oberoi Udai Vilas and also visited the forests of Bera and few other places.
At Bera Lodge
The highpoint of my trip was the bio diversity-rich Jawai Bandh forests in Pali district of Rajasthan which has now emerged a famous sanctuary for leopards in India. The rich forests and water bodies along the Jawai dam in Sumerpur tehsil have a large presence of leopards and crocodiles, turtles, fishes and aquatic birds.
A view of the magnificent Jawai Dam
The Jawai dam build in 1957 for providing drinking water is located in the south-western transition zone of the Aravallis on the Jawai river and the Luni river basin. It lies in proximity of Kumbalgarh sanctuary. The reserve is fifth in its category in Rajasthan.
Now declared as Jawai Bandh Community Reserve is known as Bera – a small wilderness paradise with rocky hills. This is a perfect habitat for leopards and wolves and has proved to be a successful breeding ground for leopards.
In Bera with Shatrunjay Pratap Singh
At Nathdwara Temple
Bera is emerging as a hot tourist spot as a leopard sanctuary. The leopards are elusive and solitary by nature and rarely offer themselves to sightings. However, in Bera, they are frequently seen on the rocky hills and in the wilderness. I was lucky to spot few of them myself.
I also took time to visit Nathdwara on the banks of Banas river in Rajsamand district some 50 kilometers from Udaipur. This town is famous for its temples dedicated to Lord Krishna and houses the 7th century idol of Shrinathji or infant Krishna that was brought from Vrindavan in 1672. Literally, Nathdwara means ‘Gateway to Shrinathji’.
In Siryali
Nathdwara also has a significant Vaishnavite shrine that was founded by Vallabha Acharya and revered by millions in Rajasthan and Gujarat. 
At a lunch hosted by my family friend Swati Agarwal at the Radisson BluUdaipur Palace Resort & Spa
The town is also famous for its 'pichhwai' paintings, handmade terracottas, ivory articles and milk-made sweets.
I also visited a religious place of the Jains called Siryali which is the birth place of Bhikshu Swami – the founder of the Terapanth sect of the Shwetambar Jains.
With heads of NGOs
I had also met up with the heads of various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating from Rajasthan to discuss various events and activities in the state. 
I had also attended a lunch hosted by my friend Swati Agarwal at the Radisson Blu Udaipur Palace Resort & Spa.
ess bee

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The folly of flying Indian Airlines

Yesterday afternoon I met the Commissioner of Police, Kolkata, and other senior police officials to work out some of the pending issues of Pronam. With the Pujas approaching there are some annual events for the senior citizens that are being firmed. There are also some issues raised by various puja committee that have to be resolved.
There is a big demand for the annual Puja Parikrama cards of Pronam. Elaborate arrangements have been made by Pronam to ensure that few hundred senior citizens of Kolkata get an opportunity to visit popular puja pandals in north and south Kolkata through the VIP entrance. There is a big demand for this as there are nearly 14,000 Pronam members in Kolkata at present.
Today morning, I boarded an Indian Airlines flight for Delhi to go to Udaipur from Kolkata's Netaji International Airport. I was taken by surprise when I found that the Indian Airlines officials on the desk said to my protocol person that I did not have any seat blocked despite showing them my booking receipt with seat number that was allotted to me for an extra charge.
But the IA officials said that they had given the seat, for which I had paid Rs 500/- extra, to someone else and they gave me a separate seat from Delhi to Udaipur.
It defies explanation how a valid booked airlines ticket with seat number not only fails to show up on the system of Indian Airlines but also someone else is allotted the same seat. Will keep fingers crossed next time I fly Indian Airlines.
ess bee

Monday, September 12, 2016

Kalam and Gauhar Jaan in Jaipur

With Pankaj Bisht, Guest Author of Kalam in Jaipur
I went for a weekend trip to Jaipur as there were few things lined up. On September 9 we had another series of Kalam with guest author Pankaj Bisht at the Mariott Jaipur. It was a nice interactive session.
Then the next day there was the play Gauhar Jaan at the Maharana Pratap Auditorium staged by Prabha Khaitan Foundation. The response was overwhelming and the show a great success. 
With Rajeshwari, Lilette and Apra
I must congratulate director Lillete Dubey, Rajeshwari Sachdev who played the role of maverick Gauhar Jaan and also playwright Mahesh Dattani. Zila Khan's live singing was much appreciated in the play.
With Zila Khan
I also hosted a dinner at the ITC Rajputana on the evening of September 10 after the play. The play Gauhar Jaan traces the story of one of India's best known superstars at the turn of the last century. An Armenian Christian who converted to Islam, Gauhar was a naturally gifted musician with a wide repertoire of classical music. One of the first women whose voice was recorded in 1902. She cut close to 600 records.
With Denzil Smith
It is an important, powerful and moving story of a person who was a pioneer of the thumri tradition in Indian Classical Music and the play is a revelation for the younger generation, who know little about those times or about this great musician.
The lead characters of the play included Zila Khan, Denzil Smith, Danny Sura, Gillian Pinto, Rajeev Siddhartha and Parinaz Jal. The invitees appreciated the invitation format – an original old record with songs that could be played in a record player. It was quite an effort on our part to collect 700 such extended play (EP) records from across the country.
I hope to stage the show in other Indian cities.
ess bee

Sunday, September 4, 2016

At Mother Teresa's canonization

At St Peter's Square, Vatican City, before the 
beginning of Mother's Canonization ceremony
I attended the canonization ceremony of Mother Teresa at the St Peter's Square in Vatican City in the morning. I went with the Indian delegation lead by External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj and Harsimrat Kaur Badal
Thanks to Mr Wadhwa the Indian Ambassador to Rome who has been kind enough to take me in his car to the venue. This saved me a lot of security hassles and avoid the queue. I also got a seat on a prominent place.
With a very respected senior Vatican official after the
Canonization ceremony at St Peter's Basilica
With MP, Sudip Bandhyopadhyay
It was a great feeling to be a part of a momentous occasion when Pope Francis declared Mother Teresa a Saint from the steps of St Peter's Basilica amid a huge gathering of people from across the world. Mother Teresa became a Saint today nineteen years after her death.
It was a great sight and all the more so to see Indian flags fluttering in the crowd as a sea of humanity braved the hot sun for hours. Later, after the ceremony, I was among the fortunate few to be personally blessed see Pope so closely on his way back inside and also met quite a few Vatican officers.
With Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Food Processing Minister
After the ceremony, I along with Sushma Swaraj and Harsimrat Kaur Badal visited the St Peter's Basilica in Vatican.

With Umesh Chowdhury
The carabinieri, the national gendarmerie of Italy, had cast a security blanket across the city and the crowd management was excellent. I shall take an Emirates flight to night from Rome and leave for Kolkata via Dubai.
With Mr and Mrs Parekh before the Canonization ceremony
ess bee

Saturday, September 3, 2016

At the Indian Ambassador's dinner reception in Rome

At the dinner reception hosted by Indian Ambassador in Rome

Today evening I attended the tea reception party hosted by the Indian Ambassador in Rome, Mr Anil Wadhwa, at his residence. The reception was attended by External Affairs Minister, Smt Sushma Swaraj, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Minister of Food Processing Industries and many other guests from India who have come to Rome to attend the canonization ceremony of Mother Teresa.
I was surprised to see Margaret Alva as I did not expect to see her. Later she told me that it was a last-minute trip. She is heading the Congress delegation for canonization.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who was there with his delegation, also attended the reception.
At the Trevi Foundation in Rome
Usha Uthup who sang the special song “Poorest of the Poor” today morning at the St Peter's Square function also sang the same song before the speech of Sushma Swaraj. Usha di had especially written this song for the occasion as her tribute to Mother Teresa. I met up with quite a few Indians who are settled in Italy at the reception.
At the Colosseum
During the day I took some time off to visit some of the city's most iconic places like the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Basilica di Santa Maria and so on.
Tomorrow is the big day for all of us when the formal canonization ceremony of Mother Teresa will take place at the historic St Peter's Square. It is estimated at that over two lakh people will attend, including a large number of Indians.
I will leave now to have some dinner and at this hour I think only Ristorante Indiano Jaipur will be ready to serve me.
ess bee

Friday, September 2, 2016

An Indian evening at Rome's Ristorante Indiano Jaipur

At the Indian restaurant Ristorante Indiano Jaipur in Rome during lunch time
I arrived in Rome today morning from Kolkata via Dubai. The immigration line at the airport was unbelievable and reminded me of my visit to Venezuela where I took more then two hours to reach immigration counter. Thanks to protocol extended to me and I got out instantly.
The purpose of my visit to Rome is to attend Mother Teresa's canonization ceremony. 
With Antonella Ferro, proprietor of Courtyard Mariott in Rome
I checked in at the Courtyard Mariott which is little away from St Peter's Square in Vatican where the canonization will take place day after tomorrow. I also met up with Ms Antonella Ferro, the proprietor of the hotel who extended to a very warm welcome.
Most of the hotels in the city are booked for the event. The weather here is rather hot.
At the dinner with Dr Prof Genzim Alpion, Mrs Alpion
and Archbishop of Kolkata Thomas D'Souza
Today evening I hosted a small dinner party at the Ristorante Indiano Jaipur, one of the leading and most famous Indian restaurants in Rome serving popular Indian dishes. I had invited a small group of guests from India who are in Rome for the dinner. I also invited few diplomats and Italian businessman with a Kolkata connect.
With Mr Anil Wadhwa, Indian ambassador in Rome
Before the dinner party, I paid a visit to the Indian Mission ad met up with Mr Anil Wadhwa, whom I have known through a common friend. He was busy making arrangements for the Indian delegation's visit for canonization.
The dinner party turnout was good. It was great to have Usha Uthup and the Archbishop of Kolkata at the dinner along with some of my friends, acquaintances and foreign guests. 
Formal handing over of a Book by Satyam Roy Chowdhury to the Archbishop of Kolkata, Thomas D'Souza along with Fr Dominic, Fr V M Thomas ad Usha Uthup
Satyam Roy Chowdhury formally presented the first copy of his new book on Mother Teresa formally to the Archbishop of Kolkata during the dinner.
The dinner party was at Ristorante Indiano Jaipur owned by Pradeep Kumar from Rajasthan's Chirana. He has been in Italy for the past three decades. I chose this restaurant because of the name Jaipur and my personal connection to the Pink City. He opened the restaurant in 2001 and is helped by his brother-in-law Mahendra Singh Chauhan.
I met Mahendra and Sunny during the lunch time when I went there to work out the arrangements for the dinner party and also had lunch there.
Jaipur is a popular joint and the Indian Mission in Rome also often hosts parties there.
I was not disappointed as the restaurant turned out to be a decent place with lemon and chillies hanging on the door in typical Indian style to ward off evil eye. 
With Satyam Roy Chowdhury
It was also interesting to see many Italians dining out there. The d├ęcor is Rajasthani with paintings and the food, a spread of Indian vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes and sweets were good.
A large group from Kolkata will be in Rome for the forthcoming canonization ceremony.
ess bee

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

An Author's Afternoon with Mohini Kent

With Mohini Kent Noon at An Author's Afternoon
Yesterday evening I attended another session of the An Author's Afternoon at the Taj Bengal Chambers. This time the guest author was Mohini Kent Noon from UK.
Mohini is an author, filmmaker and social activist with a stint in journalism having written for India Today, The Times of India, The Tablet and BBC Radio. She is also the author of the children’s novel Chief Long Nose and Trader Jim. She has her own NGO called Lily in UK.
Mohini was engaged in a conversation with Sujata Sen and the discussions centred around Mohini's book Black Taj and she read out passages from them. The discussions did cover areas of spiritualism and Buddhism – areas Ms Kent is engaged in.
Most of the guests turned in early and were seated well before time.
With His Grace, Archbishop of Kolkata, Thomas D'Souza
Today morning I went and met the Archbishop of Kolkata, Most Reverence Thomas D'Souza, at the Archbishop House in Park Street. It was a courtesy call as I shall soon leave for Rome to attend the canonization ceremony of Mother Teresa.
ess bee