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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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New projects

Monday evening we had a meeting of The Bengal team at The Conclave. The member of The Bengal met after almost four months this time and various issues, including Pronam Annual Function scheduled for 4thSeptember 2010 to The Telegraph True Spirit Puja, were discussed.
It was decided at the meeting that The Bengal should do one more social project besides Pronam that has been a huge success. The programme committee members Anandi Ghosh and Arpita Pal have been entrusted with the joint responsibility to work out a suitable project in three weeks time.
 It was a brainstorming session with many other ideas and thoughts exchanged. Sunil Ganguly, Nabaneeta Deb Sen, Chunni Goswami, Gautam Ghosh, Arindam Sil, Arpita Pal, Anandi Ghosh, Jogen Chowdhury and Javed Yusuf attended the meeting. Javed Yusuf has also been given the responsibility of Pronam project as a joint convenor.
Dolly Basu and Dona Ganguly could not attend the meeting as they were not well while Mr H M Bangur had to rush to Mumbai for unavoidable reason. Usha Uthup, who is currently en route to Los Angeles for the Ananda Utsav, could not attend. 
It was a good meeting in which there was lot of ideation and plans. Hopefully,  some of these should take off.
ess bee

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sharmila in city

Sharmila Tagore was in Kolkata for a day on Saturday and I hosted a dinner in her honour at The ConclaveI had invited around 50 people from world of cinema and theatre and few others who were known to Sharmila personally.
It was a great party and all the invitees attended it including Rituparna, Arpita, Locket, Bratya Basu, Gautam Halder, Soumitra Mitra, Sunil Ganguly, Soumitra Chatterjee, Tanmoy Bose, Suman Mukherjee and others.
Before the party I watched the Gautam Haldar-directed play Raktakarabi at the Madhusudan Manch with Sharmila Tagore. The music for the play was composed and rendered by Ayyan Ali Khan and his brother Amaan Ali Khan - sons of the legendary sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan.
At the function I felicitated Sharmila Tagore on the stage offering her a shawl and a memento of Tagore. Sunil da and the cast and crew of Raktakarabi were also there on the dais.
Today evening I shall again go to The Conclave to attend a meeting of The Bengal with the team members.
ess bee

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mother Teresa centenary celebrations

Yesterday was the Birth Centenary of Mother Teresa now known as Blessed Teresa of Kolkata following her beatification. I have a lot of memories of her and The Missionaries of Charity especially the various welfare programmes we did in Kolkata together.
In one of the public programmes Mother Teresa said about me – “He is a boy with a different vision all together.”
I remember, some years ago there was a programme organised at the Kalamandir in Kolkata in which our ex-Prime Minister was supposed to felicitate Mother. But Mother Teresa could not attend due to ill health and Chandrashekhar ji went to the Mother House to felicitate her and pay his respects.
For several years I used to visit the Mother House especially on specific occasions like Mahavir Jayanti, Christmas etc. In fact, I was instrumental in fixing up appointments at the Mother House for many delegations from the Jain community mostly during Mahavir Jayanti.
I don’t know whether it is right or wrong, but I haven’t been to the Mother House since her demise. Somehow I have never felt like being there. May be it was Mother Teresa to whom I was drawn rather than the Mother House.
The day was otherwise quite busy and after 3 PM I was there for the whole evening in
 Lal Bazar for a meeting on our project for the elderly -Pronam – with the Kolkata Police Commissioner and other police officials.
From Lal Bazar I went to attend the annual general meeting of West Bengal Flower Grower’s Association at the West Bengal State Assembly Committee room. I was once again elected vice-president of the organisation. In the evening, I was supposed to attend Arindam Sil’s party at Hotel Hindustan International but felt too tired and had to give it a miss.
The Mother Teresa Film Festival is currently on at Nandan, I spoke to Prasenjit Chatterjee and may be some time next week I shall organise a special show of a documentary on Mother Teresa directed by Payal Mohanka.
ess bee

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Theatre fever

Yesterday, straight from my office I went to see the new production of Dolly Basu’s theatre in Hindi at Gyan Manch. The play was well enacted and Dolly and her daughter Doel’s performance did full justice to it. I also met Kishor and Rita Bhimani, Amol Ghosh and Meera Bhattacharya (file picture).
Few members of Pronam were also invited to see the play.  Only a few months back, Dolly di had staged a Bengali play at the Bodyguard Lines especially for the Pronam members that was a big hit. This time also the elderly members of Pronam were very keen to see her perform again.
I also wanted to see Potol Babu Film Star at Rabindra Sadan. But both were held at the same time and although my organisation was the co-host of this Theatre Festival, I still opted for Dolly di’s play as she and Doel are our friends.
I spoke to Shabana Azmi who would be in Kolkata on September 6 and 7. She has agreed to have lunch with the sponsors of our project Education for All that I have to organise.
I had a meeting today morning with Arindam and Agnimitra regarding the proposed program of Pronam on the 4th of September. In the evening I also went to the Academy of Fine Arts to watch the play Chaturanga. It was very well acted and I enjoyed the play with the Chief Guest Amol Palekar.
ess bee

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Theatre festival in Kolkata

A nine-day (from August 24 to Sept1) Purba Paschim Theatre Festival 2010 is currently underway in Kolkata. 
The festival, which is a tribute to the 150th Year of Rabindranath Tagore, is supported by Prabha Khaitan Foundation and is being organised in Association with the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
Ustaad Ayaan Ali Khan’s (picture) sarod recital was one of the highlights of the Festival’s inaugural function. 
Some of India’s top theatre artists are expected to grace the festival along with other dignitaries and theatre lovers. 
I attended the first day’s function yesterday and met Promita Mallik, Sankha Ghosh, Reba Som and Bratya Basu (picture)
Mohan Aghase and Rudraprasad Sengupta were felicitated at the function (picture)I honoured them with shawls and a memento marking the 150th year of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore.
There is a popular perception that theatre as an art form is gradually losing out. But who would believe this given the tremendous public response to the Festival that I personally witnessed. Almost all the show are already running house full.
Kolkata indeed is the Mecca of art and culture in India.
ess bee

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Raksha Bandhan and family myths

Raksha Bandhan is a festival that celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters in India. Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore made Raksha Bandhan popular in West Bengal by organising congregations like Rakhi Mahotsavs in Shantiniketan.
Tagore’s vision of celebrating Raksha Bandhan was different. Gurudev considered Rakhi to be a festival of not only siblings but also a celebration of mankind and of humanity. He believed that all members of society should help and protect each other. This technically did not bar women from tying rakhis to other women.
Oddly, we do not celebrate Rakhsha Bandhan because of some myth that runs in our family. A rakhi tied on a boy’s wrist in our family is not considered auspicious and is supposed to bring in all kinds of ill luck to the wearer. Sounds like old wives’ tale but I grew up on such stories since my childhood quite like the one from my grandmother that goes like how my forefathers who had once had rakhis tied on their wrists was badly affected and messed up. I don’t know how true or false these stories are but the fact is that in the Bhutoria family it is like a convention that rakhis are not to be tied on boys.
Raksha Bandhan day today, however, brought me a special gift for which I had been waiting for seven months now. Around noon, I received a parcel from Rajkamal Prakashan, one of the top publishing house of Hindi books in India, that had two copies of my first book - a compilation of my two years of published articles.
About seven or eight years back I used to pen a weekly column on my travels and overseas experiences called Aapbiti Jagbiti (picture of book cover) in the Indian Express Group’s Hindi daily Jansatta. The travelogues were very popular with the readers and more so since there were hardly much matter available in Hindi on foreign travels then. I got thousands letters from readers most of it congratulatory while others were were inquiries about new countries.
When I was in Seoul earlier this year, I wrote an author’s view for this book and now, after almost seven months, I have it in my hand. Though a little late, I am very thankful to Rajkamal Prakashan for finding the articles worth publishing. How I miss my mother today. She always wanted me to write as she had herself written over two-dozen books. She would have been happier than I today.
ess bee

Monday, August 23, 2010

Just to prove a point

I returned from Delhi yesterday and read up the local dailies to catch up on the news. This has now become an old habit of mine that I had mentioned in an earlier blog.
One of the English dailies published a report on Somnath Chatterjee’s book launch function in the capital that shocked me. The report mentioned the name of my good friend Amajeet Banerjee (not Amarjeet)  as the only person close to the CPIM who was spotted at the launch function. It may be mentioned that none of those considered close to Somnath da were present at the launch function that was attended by the Prime Minister, Sonia Gandhi, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and number of other dignitaries.
True, Amarjeet, who is the brother-in-law of West Bengal industry minister Nirupam Sen, was there at the book launch function at the Teen Murti Bhavan. But he is someone who has till date never ever flaunted his relationship with the minister in public. The fact of the matter is that he wasn’t even keen to go to that function since neither he nor Somnathda personally knew each other. I only prevailed upon him and took him to the function. Myself, Ujjwal Upadhyaya and Amajeet were there together during the book release.
Amajeet is a very simple person who always keeps to his own away from any kind of limelight. For all our common friends in Kolkata, Amajeet is the man for all-reasons-all-seasons in Delhi.
However, mentioning Amajeet’s name in the newspaper report, even if innocuously, has put him in an awkward situation for two reasons. First, by any stretch of imagination Amajeet has never been conspicuous by his presence or absence in any event. Second, does being related to a minister or anybody by law truly reflects a person’s political leanings. The newspaper report inadvertently tries to establish guilt-by-relation thereby presenting a slanted report.
An angle that the newspaper report missed out on is Amajeet’s links to the literary world. Amajeet happens to be a close family friend of Prime Minister’s daughter Daman Singh who made her literary debut last year with her novel Nine by Nine. Amajeet is also known to Harper & Collins India, the publisher of Somnath da’s book. Earlier this month the second novel of Daman Singh -The Sacred Grove – published by Harper & Collins India was launched and the company had invited Amajeet at the launch function. Being invited by publishers is not new for him.
So, there were more good reasons for Amajeet, other than being related by law to a minister, for being at Somnath da’s book launch function.
I feel bad that I personally brought him to the function not knowing that his name would be dragged and linked to a touchy subject by a media report just out to prove a point that someone close (as per the reporter’s defination) to the CPIM attended a function in defiance.
When the media is out to prove a point it sees only what it wants to. This is an ominous trend. To draw a parallel with the timeless Shakespearean nugget of wisdom - some people crave for publicity, and some have it unfairly thrust upon them.
ess bee

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Somnath Chatterjee’s book launch

Hotel Hyatt Regency Delhi: Yesterday evening I attended the launch of ex-Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee’s Book Keeping the Faith: Memoirs of a Parliamentarian (picture) at a function held at the Nehru Memorial Museum library’s auditorium building located at the Teen Murti Bhawan.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released the book in the presence of Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar who presided the function. It was a select gathering that included the family members and well-wishers of Somnath Chatterjee and some senior journalists.
The packed auditorium had among its audience Sonia Gandhi, Balram Jakhar, Dr Karan Singh, K R Rahaman Khan Saheb and a host of other dignitaries. Since all the guests reached the venue well in advance, I was sitting with Ujjwal Upadhyaya (file picture) and another friend from Delhi discussing about Education for All project, a discussion that continued from where we had left off a few weeks ago when Ujjwal was at my residence for dinner.
I was expecting to see more faces from Kolkata but could see only Mr S K ROY of Peerless, Mr Mahendra K Jalan, and Somnath da’s family members. This set me wondering whether only selected people from Kolkata were invited to the function or was it the fear of ruffling CPIM feathers that kept others from attending it.
I got a signed copy of the book which Somnathda has dedicated to his parents and Jyoti Basu. He said in his speech that he was missing them both and that Jyoti Basu would, perhaps, been the happiest person today.
All the other speakers, including the Prime Minister and Aroon Purie, director of Harper Collins Publishers India, lavished praise on Somnath Chatterjee for being the Parliamentarian he was.
Somnath da’s remark that he was grateful to his erstwhile party CPIM for giving him the ticket 11 times made me wonder what could have gone wrong all of a sudden that led to his estrangement - Was Somnath da responsible? Or Was it the CPIM party or Prakash Karat or the whole political system of the country?
After the launch of the Book, I went to the India International Centre (ICC)
to attend a function hosted by an NRI institute to felicitate Sandip Verma, Baroness-in-Waiting (picture).  Besides being the Opposition Whip in the House of Lords, UK, she is also the Minister for International Development and Minister for Equalities and Women.
The dynamic Secretary of the NRI Institute, Mr Jagmohan Singh (picture), was kind enough to extend and invitation to me as he knew about my personal acquaintance with the Baroness and her husband Ashok Verma.
It was an elite gathering of senior bureaucrats and officers, and intellectuals.  I attended the function but skipped dinner.
ess bee

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Trying out newer options

Hotel Hyatt Regency Delhi: I arrived at Delhi today afternoon and put up at this Hotel for the first time. This Hotel is famous for it Italian restaurant La Piazza and the Chinese restaurant China Club. I am in the capital to attend the book release function of Somnath Chatterjee and also to attend the felicitation function at the India International Centre (IIC) for Baroness Verma of the House of Lords.
In Delhi, my destination is always the IIC in winters when my stay is for a longer duration. For my day-to-day trips I stay at the ITC Hotels In fact, there is hardly any category of rooms or suites left that I have not availed at the Hotel Maurya Sheraton in the past 10 years.
This time I have changed my loyalty from the
 ITC to Hyatt. Besides its convenient location from the airport, the primary reason for choosing Hyatt is the welcoming and friendly attitude of the Hotel’s General Manager MR Timothy Bruce. I have known Mr Bruce and his wife Somarati from the days before they knew each other (file pictures). Before his current post, Mr Bruce was GM of Hyatt in Kolkata.
He can be singularly credited for transforming Hyatt Kolkata from being a dull hotel to a happening spot in few months. I have noticed that Mr Bruce has a very sharp eye for details in his line of business and this is very well reflected in Hyatt Delhi at present.
The rooms are spic and span and cut out for the busy travellers. I checked into this Hotel to have a feel of the place and experience the hospitality. I think I shall be back for a few more stays before deciding on a long-term arrangement.
ess bee

Thursday, August 19, 2010

`Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani'

I returned from Malaysia. At the airport I saw many persons of Indian origin (PIO). The Indian Government recognises any person holding a non-Indian passport, who can prove his Indian origin up to three generations, as a PIO.
This also includes people who have never visited Indian for up to three generations. But citizens of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other countries as may be specified by the central government, are not eligible for grant of PIO card or status. The Tamils of Sri Lanka come under this restriction.
Malaysia has a large Tamil population from both India and Sri Lanka. During my return flight I was thinking about the comment made by the cabbie that he often felt that he would have been much better off mentally in he were staying in India as he would have a strong sense of belongingness and peace of mind. He said one should always live in the country of his or her origin. This piece of wisdom, I think, holds true for all the Indian diaspora.
I have personally seen the members of the 
Sindhi community in Latin America who speak only in Spanish and Sindhi. Similarly, the taxi drivers staying in Jackson Heights in New York, the Punjabi farmers in Canada, those from Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh who have now settled in South Africa and of course my Bengali brothers in UK, on being introduced they would initially distance themselves from India. But the moment you make them feel comfortable, they will open up and confide in you that at the end of the day they would love to live in India.
Pakaj Udhas’ Chitti aayi hai… the most popular song in the Indian restaurants around the world where live music has replaced Manoj Kumar’s Hai preet jahan ki reet sada … I am not including those Indians who have made it really big abroad and equate India with dirt and filth, no hygiene, corruption etc., however, when it comes to choosing brides for their sons they turn to India.
The PIOs who happen to be the members of the working class and have settled abroad few generations back really suffer from this pain of living away from India or the land of their origin. This is mainly because they feel that despite their long stay they are at best the second-class citizens in these distant lands.
I wonder people who have been thousands of miles away from India and for very long time still listen to Tamil, Bengali or Punjabi songs, watch Indian movies, read Tagore, worship Gandhi 
ji, perform age old Indian traditional wedding and funeral rituals. It is a fact that Indian history, culture and films bind Indians together.
ess bee

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Knowing Malaysia

Today morning I was at the Indian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to meet Indian High Commissioner Sri Vijay K Gokhale who took charge about six months back. Sri Gokhale has a fairly good idea about WFUNA activities as well as of the Global Model UN Conference that is going on in full swing in Kuala Lumpur.
The Indian Embassy is located in an old building that needs renovation. I learnt that the Embassy would shift to new premises within a year.
There was a long queue outside the Indian Embassy for various queries. In my presence, the reception desk received a call from an Indian lady who inquired about her lost brother in Malaysia.
Malaysia is home to people from different races, Malays, Chinese, Indians, Tamils of Indian and Sri Lankan origins etc. I was under the impression that South Africa has the largest number of PIOs (person of Indian origin), but Sri Gokhale changed my views when he said that it was Malaysia that actually had the largest PIO base estimated around 20 million against 16 million (approx) in South Africa.
I, along with a friend from the Republic of Korea and USA, visited a Malaysian restaurant Bijan in Kuala Lumpur (picture) that is famed for its authentic Malay cuisine and returned late at night. The warm and serene interiors created an ambience that reflected the spirit of modern Malaysia. The menu featured many traditional Malay dishes from popular ones to rare and forgotten recipes from Kampung. 
Bijan was indeed and experience sans the food that I could not taste being a strict vegetarian. After returning to the Hotel late at night I pleasantly discovered one 24x7 dosa shop near Hotel Lotus.
Malaysia has developed very good infrastructure and a decent democratic set up based on the race coalitions. Rubber, petrol and palm oil production are the mainstay of Malaysian economy. The country has one of the best quality petroleum production facilities in the world that is exported to Japan while importing from other countries for domestic use. Malaysia has also emerged as one of the popular tourist destinations in the world.
I had an extensive chat at the Indian Embassy with Ms Kapur over tea about Malaysia and its PIOs.
In the afternoon, I went to the Spice of India restaurant from the Putra Convention Centre for lunch located at a shopping mall underneath the twin Petronas towers.
ess bee

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Room with a Petronas view

From Sheraton Kuala Lumpur: The Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur Hotel is located at the heart of the city’s commercial and business district. Many of the deluxe suites of the Hotel provide a great view of the famous Petronas Twin Towers.
From my bedroom in the 37th floor I can clearly see the 1483-feet high towers looming into the sky. Prior to towers in Shanghai and Dubai, Petronas was among the tallest buildings in the world made all the more famous by the Hollywood blockbuster Entrapment that featured Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones.
Below the Petronas Towers is the City Centre - a renowned shopping mall that houses renowned global brands. Next to the Towers is the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre that is locally popular as KLCC.
Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur is a 5 star luxury property mainly designed for holding business conventions and conferences. Going by the Sheraton standards, I think the Hotel needs some improvement in the F&B section and maintenance.
There is a lot of communication gap between the various departments of the Hotel. The day I checked in at around midnight, I wanted to have some vegetarian food. But the Hotel’s dining service, contrary to the Sheraton standards, could not provide me with a basic tomato soup. When I discussed this problem with Ms Cindy Young the Hotel’s director of marketing & communications, she was surprised since the Hotel has an Indian chef and even the executive chef also a person of Indian origin with wide knowledge and skills to rustle up all types of Indian dishes.
Chef Rajesh Khanna, who claimed to have seen all Rajesh Khanna films, was named after the Bollywood hero of yester years by his father who too was a ardent RK fan.
Chef Rajesh, who has never been to India, cooked for me excellent Indian vegetarian dishes and I thanked my stars that at least now a great load was off my head. I was worried by the thought of what would I do in a 5 Star hotel that could not provide tomato soup.
From the Italian restaurant of Hotel Villa Danieli, the 415-metre high Kuala Lumpur Tower and the revolving restaurant atop can be seen. In the afternoon I had lunch at that restaurant with Mr Kiyotaka Akasaka, Under Secretary General of UN, Ambassador Park, Mr Eric Falt from department of public information UN, Ambassador Cho Chang-beom, Mr Alexi from United Nations Association, Russia, Prof Lee from Singapore, UNA, Frozina from the WFUNA office and Mr Bonian Gulmohammadi, Secretary General of WFUNA (picture).
We all discussed about the possibility of United Nations and United Nation Associations (UNAs) working more closely. During lunch I asked Kiyo informally about the appointment of director of UNIC in Delhi, as the post has been lying vacant since Shalini Deewan (file picture) last served. Kiyo informed me that a lady candidate of Indian origin has been selected for that post and is currently awaiting approval from the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.
The food at Angkasa revolving restaurant wasn’t that great but the view of the city was breath taking and made the visit a memorable one.
ess bee

Monday, August 16, 2010

Global Model United Nations 2010

Kuala Lumpur: Yesterday, after the Indian Embassy, I went to the Putra World Trade Centre to attend the day long 2nd Global Model United Nations Conference 2010 (GMUN 2010) (pictures).
GMUN is an academic simulation of the United Nations that aims to educate participants about civics, current events, effective communications, globalisation and multilateral diplomacy. This year’s theme is `Towards an Alliance of Civilization: Bridging Cultures to Achieve Peace and Development’.
Students from all over the world attended this Conference. These students were selected through a stringent selection process by their respective countries. They were lucky to get a chance to be at the Conference as the Under Secretary General Kiyo Ata Saka said in his speech. The Secretary General further said that these students would be the future MPs, diplomats, UN officials and world leaders.
I met many UN officials and my colleagues from WFUNA. In the evening, I attended the dinner reception hosted by the Ministry of Youth & Sports Department of Malaysia.
After dinner there was a cultural function in which there were performers from many countries. The cultural department of Malaysia presented Chinese, Thai and Tibetan cultural shows and also the
Peacock Dance of India.
As evening gave way to the night the youths gathered out there started to mingle and were soon singing and dancing with the performers.
It was a melting pot with students from so many different countries and varied cultures, who met each other for the first time, singing and dancing in unison to some of the familiar songs sung by famous singers. No doubt music connects people like no other medium.
ess bee

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Independence Day in Kuala Lumpur

Attended the Independence Day flag hoisting function at the Indian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. The Ambassador Vijay Gokhale hoisted the flag at about 9:30 am and read the speech of the President of India given to the nation on the eve of Independence Day. Besides the embassy staff, there were few of the local Indians at the function.
I felt very happy seeing the enthusiasm among the children during the flag hoisting ceremony as they took pictures of the Indian Flag and sang Jana Gana Mana. Thanks to their parents, at least they cherish the Indian Independence Day in their hearts. After the flag hoisting we were treated to a breakfast of Indian delicacies at the Embassy and the Indian Ambassador made sure that each guest who arrived to witness the flag hoisting on their own got something. I chatted with some of the other embassy staff and Mrs Pooja Kapur, Counsellor for information, culture and community affairs.
I was wondering if a gathering of 60 to 70 people was enough in a place like Kuala Lumpur that has a strong Indian presence not only in numbers but also in terms of power sharing and economic clout. Malaysia has a large number of Tamils who have been living here for two or three generations but most of them have never been to India. They wear lockets of Indian gods and traditional jewellery and the ladies apply sindur and use bindis, watch Hindi films and have Tamil ring tones in their mobile phones and many associate with many other aspects and symbols of Indian culture but call themselves Malaysians.
In fact, every 5 star hotel buffet has some Indian food items. Some of these people of Indian origin have really done well in this country. When I landed here yesterday from Air Asia I was really in two minds whether to travel by this low cost airlines but my experience turned out to be far better than expected. I think it is better than our Indigo which I regard as the No 1 airline for economy class. Air Asia has won the award for being the world’s best low-cost airline.
The most successful business tycoon of Indian origin in Malaysia is Tatparanandam Anandha Krishnan or popular as Tak, whose family migrated to Malaysia from Sri Lanka. He is one of the richest Malaysians and is associated with companies and brands like Maxis Telecom and Astro and also with the famous the Petronas Towers, satellite MEASAT and Tanjong Golden Village (TGV) chain of multiplexes. He is said to have recently settled in Melbourne.
While on my way to the hotel from the airport in Kuala Lumpur, I asked my driver, who was listening to Tamil music, from which country he was?
He said Malaysia. After some 20 minutes of friendly conversation, he admitted that he wants to stay in India. He said he felt whatever it may be, he’d have lot more mental peace being in India. He had never been to India nor did he have any idea about the significance of August 15th as he asked me twice what would I do at the Indian embassy the next day being a Sunday. But his comment that it is better to belong to the country of one’s origin conveyed a great existential truth that, I think, all NRIs face.
ess bee

Saturday, August 14, 2010

After 63 years, are we any better!

Hotel Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur: This is my first visit to Malaysia. Though I have had Malaysian visa in the past but somehow the trip did not materialise due to last minute changes. I arrived here today evening on a United Nations invitation to attend a conference. Tomorrow is the Indian Independence Day.
After six decades of Independence, I have started to question, like many others, if we were better off under the British rule. Though it hurts my national pride, there are good reasons to think so.
Recently I was aghast to see on television thousands of tons of food grains rotting in the open while millions of countrymen go hungry. Something is seriously wrong with India.
Are we actually confirming what Sir Winston Churchill and the Indian Communists once said? Churchill, the outspoken opponent of Indian Independence, had opined that India was incapable of self-governance while the Communists had raised the slogan`Yeh azadi jhoota hai’.
The British excelled in exploiting India simply because the system they put in place was ironically highly efficient and effective. They had clear-cut policies and targets for which they set in motion a well-oiled bureaucratic machinery that, in turn, rewarded merit and diligence.
In contrast, there is hardly any rule of law in India. What we now have is a criminal-political-bureaucratic regime playing poker with the lives of a billion plus citizens. The result is corruption and scams, zero accountability, tribal unrest, regionalism, Maoist menace, terrorist threats, farmer suicides, unstable and hostile neighbours, staggering price rise, unemployment and so on.
Might is Right seems to have replaced the Rule of Law in society. The life of an average Indian is miserable. Was this the kind of life we Indians struggled for against the British!
It is high time we sit and introspect.
Year after year, like a ritual, I have been attending the Independence Day function and the tea either at the Raj Bhawan in Kolkata or Jaipur or at the President House in Delhi. But tomorrow, I shall attend the formal Independence Day celebrations at Indian embassy in the morning.
The Indian Embassy in Malaysia informed me that formal reception was held on the eve of August 13th 2010 and that there would be only the flag hosting ceremony on August 15th at the Embassy.
I was thinking that besides the Indian Embassy, there must be other celebrations as Malaysia has a strong Indian community presence. There is an organisation of Indians called Bharat Club. I’ll have to find out if they are organising any celebrations.
The only other time I attended the Indian Independence Day abroad was in 1994 or 95 in London when L M Singhvi was the ambassador. I remember there was an arrangement to go to the venue of the celebration that was quite some distance from the India House. After the celebrations, I had a long chat with Singhvi ji on various issues. 
After some years when I met him in Jaipur at an award function with K K Birla, he remembered me instantly (picture).
ess bee