Sundeep Bhutoria

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Of nostalgia, books and launches….

Today evening I visited the Kolkata Book Fair. Each year, Kolkata Book Fair stirs up lots of nostalgic memories of visiting the Fair with my mother. Today morning Sunil da rang me up to ask if I were free in the evening. He is a person I respect very much and can never say no to him. He asked me to come to the UB Auditorium at half past six for Krittivas function. Thanks to the Kolkata traffic, by the time I got into the packed auditorium it was 6:45 pm and the function had started. As I stood on the sidelines I heard my name being announced by Sunil da to be on the dais. I was taken by surprise but little did I realise that there were more in store for me. I soon found myself accepting a bouquet of flowers and seated quietly on the dais from where I could spot Sri Mrinal Sen on the first row. I greeted him with folded hands from the dais while listening to the recitation of a poem by a young poet which I liked very much. After the poetry session, the announcer requested Sri Sunil Gangopadhyay to release a book. I sat waiting for Sunil da to do the honours. But what he did was that he gave instructions to the announcer to announce my name for releasing the book. Before I could say anything someone gave the book -Chandmanaksha O Prasadar Gaan By Parathajit Chanda - in my hand to do the honours of releasing it, which I did. Now I was asked to speak as a Special Guest. I took up the mike and said that I did not match up to the dignitaries on the dais in anyway to be accorded such an honour but could never say no to Sunil da. It is a fact that I don’t really deserve to release a book at a programme where the audience included the doyen of Indian cinema Sri Mrinal Sen. I was thoroughly embarrassed by the whole affair but it was Sunil da’s kindness and his fondness for me which I had to honour. When I expressed my feelings to the other members on the dais about releasing the book, they reaction was – “Why not!” They said that I was a book lover since I had done a “fabulous Book Launch function” in Kolkata on January 31st

The fact is that I had not even met the author of the Book that I released. On my way back home I was thinking about the book which was released on January 31stSpeaking for Myself: An Anthology of Asian Women’s Writing - by Sri Mrinal Sen who was the Chief Guest of that function in the presence of Sunil Gangopadhyay, Nabaneeta Dev Sen, Kapila Vatsyayan, Kavita Sharma, Authors Sukrita Paul Kumar and Malashri Lal and six leading Asian writers namely Agnes Lam (Hong Kong), Donia Gobar (Afghanistan), Kishwar Naheed (Pakistan), Kunzang Choden (Bhutan), Manju Tiwari (Nepal) and Putsata Reang (Cambodia).
I remember, about a year ago Kapila ji, whom I had known for quite some time, had presented me with a copy of the Book. The next morning I suggested to her why not launch the Book in Kolkata. I did not get any affirmation from her initially and had to convince her about the fact that Kolkata and Bengal borders were close to many other Asian countries and that the Book launch would be a great idea. She agreed. After all it was a decision to host a function by the India International Centre (IIC) outside Delhi for the first time. The two-day programme really went off very well. My office colleagues really worked very hard for this event. There was a Round Table discussion in the morning on January 31st inaugurated by Magsaysay award winner Mahasweta Devi and attended by Kolkata’s top literary fraternity and others including icons like Bani Basu, Nabaneeta Dev Sen, Krishna Bose, Amalendu De, Jashodhara Bagchi, Dibyendu Palit and others would be present. Kapila Vatsyayan, MP and Chairman of IIC’s Asia projects and Kavita Sharma, the Director of IIC, were also present. In the evening the Book was launched by Sri Mrinal Sen and later followed by a dinner hosted by Sahitya Academy president Sunil Gangopadhyay. Jogen Choudhury, Subodh Sarkar and Amit Chowdhury also joined the others at the dinner.
The next day (Feb 1st) the overseas guests along with 15 senior writers and journalists, who came in from other parts of the country, were overwhelmed by the reception and warmth extended to them over lunch hosted by Sri Hashim Abdul Halim, Speaker, West Bengal Legislative Assembly, at the Assembly House. The overseas authors were pleasantly surprised by the literary knowledge of the Chief Minister Sri Buddhadev Bhattacharya whom they met at the Writers’ Buildings.
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