Sundeep Bhutoria

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Thank you.
ess bee

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Events aplenty

Tuesday, December 27, 2011: I spent much of yesterday and the whole day today in office. Yesterday afternoon I went to attend the prize distribution ceremony at the West Bengal Legislative Assembly for the annual flower show and gave away prizes to the winners.
I met Alka Bangur who chatted with me about Prabha Khaitan Puraskar (picture). Alka ji has become the President of The Calcutta Chamber of Commerce - the organising body of this award for Womens’ Excellence instituted by Prabha Khaitan Foundation.
Late evening yesterday I also had a meeting with H M Bangur, Managing Director, Shree Cements Ltd and President, Rajasthan Foundation Kolkata Chapter, regarding few key decisions on the role of Kolkata Chapter of Rajasthan Foundation in the forthcoming Pravasi Bharatiya Divas at Jaipur.
On Sunday Christmas eve, besides watching the Polo match with Major General K J S Thind (picture) who heads the 61st Cavalry of the Armed forces which has the unique distinction of being the only unmechanised mounted cavalry regiment in the world. In view of the regiment's unique association with the horse, it is perhaps not all that surprising that it has a proud polo playing tradition. The regiment has produced some of the country's most outstanding and inspired polo players. 
On the 25th of December, after the polo match, I met General Vijay Kumar Singh, Chief of Army Staff, at the high tea. General V K Singh was very warm and asked me why I wasn't keeping in touch with him or call on him while in Delhi. General V K Singh was GOC Eastern Command before taking over as the Army Chief. 
Right: With General V K Singh, Chief of Army Staff
I met up with many polo players Major Vishal Chohan and Siddhu.
I also went to see a play at the Madhusudan Mancha directed by Kaushik Sen. It was the second show and I heard from my friends that Arpita had acted very well. 
After seeing the play I realized she that she is a very talented actress, thanks to Kaushik Sen for bringing out the best in her.
With Col Navjeet Singh Sandhu on the left.
I cancelled my Delhi trip yet again and also failed to attend the Masquerade Polo Ball hosted by Calcutta Polo Club. But the greatest regret I had was for not being able to attend the function at Town Hall to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of Janaganamana Adhinayaka Jaya Ho hosted by the Cultural Department, Government of West Bengal.
Oh! How I wish I could be at more than one place at the same time and attend all the good events I wanted to.
ess bee

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Polo – the oldest game on oldest ground

Christmas weekend and whole Kolkata is in a joyous mood. After all, Calcutta was the city built by the British on the lines of London and has a long tradition of celebrating Xmas not only by the Christians but also by the majority community.
The chilly weather is setting up the mood for outings as this time of the year is the best time for outdoor activities. I think one of the best things to enjoy in this weather and this season in Kolkata is polo. More so when the Calcutta Polo Club is celebrating its 150th Birth Anniversary.
Polo is the only outdoor sport which I fully understand and also the only sport for which I physically turn up to watch on the ground. Every year during the winters I travel to Jaipur and Delhi to watch polo matches - a regular annual affair.
But the whole of last week the polo matches held at the Pat Williamson Ground was very interesting and scintillating. Whether the inaugural match or yesterday's match between the host team Calcutta and the Italian team, a decisive result emerged only during the last few seconds of the chakkars when the Calcutta team supporters finally heaved a sigh of relief and joy.
While the Imphal Polo Ground in Manipur is the world's oldest pologround, Calcutta Polo Club is the world's oldest polo club that was set up in 1862 by two British soldiers Captain Robert Stewart and Major General Joe Shearer. It is also the oldest club where the game is still being played. Polo was popularized in Kolkata by members of the Rajasthan Royal families who patronized the game and later found support from the Britishers who took to it in a big way.
Seeing the polo ponies scampering with the majestic Victoria Memorial in the background is a sight straight out of a classic Russian painting with horses and riders. Even those who don't understand the game of polo and the horse lovers who come to the ground find their spirits are lifted. And of course, there's commentator Sharad Saxena who will ensure that even the novices gets to understand the basics of the game in progress.
Polo is a team sport played on horseback in which the objective is to score goals against an opposing team. Players score by driving a small white plastic or wooden ball into the opposing team's goal using a long-handled mallet. Polo which was described as “The Sport of Kings” is a winter game in India and played by the commoners these days.
The origins of polo dates back to the 5th Century BC Persia or modern day Iran. The name polo is said to have been derived from the Tibetan word pulu. Though polo is an active sport in nearly 80 countries, there are only about 16 countries (India included) where the game is played professionally. Though polo was formerly an Olympic game, sadly, it is no more so now.
Polo also happens to be one of the riskiest games in the sports arena and isn't for the faint-hearted. Qutub-ud-din Aibak of Qutub Minar fame died playing polo. No wonder, the game is so popular among the army personnel. I had witnessed the Prince of Jodhpur Shivraj Singh incident game when he suffered a major head injury. I must mention that globally many women have taken to polo.
With Keshav Bangur
At the polo ground in Kolkata, I met His Highness Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur and Maharaja Narendra Singh of the Jaipur Royal family during the matches. 
The polo tourney season is extremely well managed and I must congratulate Mr Keshav Bangur and Mr Subhen Mullick and team for their Christmas gift to the City of Joy.
ess bee

Friday, December 23, 2011

Keeping up with events in Jaipur and Kolkata

Friday, December 23, 2011: I returned from Jaipur today morning for which I took the morning flight. I seldom avail of this flight. The Jaipur trip was very fruitful as the Desert Souls series was rather well accepted by the media and the city’s cultural circuit.
While in Jaipur, I attended the pre-nuptial function of an old family friend Mr V S Singh’s daughter Ankita. Though the wedding is taking place today, I had to get back to Kolkata as I had committed to attend a function at the West Bengal Assembly House where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is the Chief Guest. So I made it a point to attend the pre-wedding function on December 22nd itself.
Though Mamata Banerjee could not make it to the function - the 58th Annual Chrysanthemum & Flower Show, 2011 (picture) - Partha Chatterjee, Hon’ble-Minister-in-Charge, Departments of Commerce & Industry, Parliamentary Affairs, Public Enterprises, Industrial Reconstruction and IT, Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, Chief Government Whip, Sonali Guha (Bose), Hon’ble Deputy Speaker, West Bengal Legislative Assembly and Biman Banerjee, Hon’ble Speaker, West Bengal Legislative Assembly and Patron-in-Chief, Calcutta Flower Growers’ Association, were there.
This function was scheduled to begin at 3 pm but had to be postponed to 5 pm. 
This gave me a chance to attend the Polo Tournament at the Pat Williamson Ground
I also met the General Manager of Taj Bengal, K Mohanchandran as today’s cup was sponsored by Taj Bengal as it was Taj Bengal’s day in this Polo season in Kolkata.
Today’s polo match is one of the most interesting matches that I have seen. 
I met Raj Mehthani, Rahul Sood, Shalini Nopany (pictures) who was clicking photos from the Press Gallery.
ess bee

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Desert Souls

With Pradeep Chaturvedi, Sunil Gupta, Ranjana (singer) and Vishwa Mohan Bhatt
Wednesday, December 21st, 2011: I arrived in Jaipur yesterday evening. Today evening was the inauguration of Desert Soulsa series of programmes on Rajasthan's talents (picture).
Desert Souls is a joint initiative of Rajasthan National Forum, a non-governmental organisation, of which I am the serving President, and the ITC Rajputana Hotel. The series would showcase the multi-faceted talents from diverse fields that truly represent the soul and heritage of Rajasthan.
This series was conceptualised at a brain-storming session held on November 8, 2011, at the Rajasthan Polo Club lunch that was attended by eminent citizens from the field of art, culture, literature, theatre, music, dance and journalism.
The first of the series was a session with eminent Urdu poet Ikraam Rajasthani (file picture).
The series started with an interview of Ikraam Rajasthani by Saleha Gazi. During the half an hour interview, Rajasthani spoke about his personal life and creative writing. He recited his favourite poems and presented tunes of folk songs written and composed by him which were very popular two decades ago.
Vishwa Mohan Bhatt said, “There is a dire need of encouraging Rajasthani talent and the forum could achieve this goal with the help of the people of the state.”
Today’s Desert Souls, the first programme, was a great hit and it reached highpoint when Mr Haridas Kotahwala, President of RANA (Rajasthani Association of North America, New York) stood up in the crowd and gave an open invitation to Ikraam Rajasthani to recite his poetry at the annual meeting of RANA in New York. The forum appreciated the gesture very much.
Ikraam Rajasthani was overwhelmed with emotion and said that has never ever got this type of platform in his life. Many of the guests present, including an ex-ambassador of India suggested that this series must continue and one corporate house has to be roped in as sponsor for this.
ess bee

Monday, December 19, 2011

Polo match in city

With Chief Guest H H Gaj Singh
Monday, December 19, 2011: I was again at the Pat Williamson Ground to watch the match between Calcutta Polo Club and Nusantara (Indonesia). 
Polo is the only outdoor sports which I fully understand and watch in person.
With Maharaj Narendra Singh (left)
Tarun Sirohi was the Captain of Calcutta Polo Club - the team which represents the host club. I met Chief Guest, H H Gaj Singh of Jodhpur, Keshav Bangur, Maharaj Narendra Singh and many others.
I was really impressed by Pony Roshni who is considered to be the best pony for Polo. 
Mr George Meyrick was riding Pony Roshni and of course he did a fantastic job which helped Calcutta Polo Club win the match
Tomorrow afternoon I shall fly out to Jaipur.
ess bee

At the oldest polo ground in the world

On Sunday December 18th I was at the Pat Williamson Ground, one of the oldest polo club grounds in the world. This ground has given birth to polo in Kolkata and this year Calcutta Polo Club is celebrating the 150th year of its establishment.
With Tarun Sirohi
It was a historical moment to watch the inaugural match of the 150th year of Calcutta Polo Club
I met Tarun Sirohi who is one of the umpires for the day's match and one of the finest polo players in India currently captaining the Indian Polo team.
The arrangements were very good and the organizers headed by the President, Keshav Bangur, deserve full marks for the same.
This is the only season in Kolkata where maximum for 30 days you can enjoy a sit out dinner. The Kolkata weather is suitable for only 30 to 40 days in a year when you can really enjoy the winter and the poolside parties. The five star hotel poolside dinners are also quite popular.
The place I went to yesterday, I visit every year at least once. The sound of water flowing down into the pool is indeed one of the most relaxing and is like a music for the soul and allows one to take a break from the city's noisy humdrum by being at its very heart.
Amongst the city’s five star hotels, as of now, I have observed that the quality of service, especially the cutlery and crockery presentation, was the best out here. I also give 100 per cent to the quality of service. This place has its own charm and the experience I had yesterday was indeed one of the best dinner experiences in Kolkata in recent times. Well if you haven't guessed it. I was at The Oberoi’s poolside.
ess bee

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The value of human life!

The value of Indian Rupee has been declining at a worrying rate in recent times. If the fall of the Indian Rupee has been sharp, the fall in the value of human life has been even sharper and is a matter of grave concern.
A falling Rupee can bounce back, but falling social values and standards don't easily do so. I may sound alarmist, but a spate of incidents in and around the National Capital Region and across India confirms the fact.
The whole nation knows about Jessica Lal who was killed  at a South Delhi restaurant for refusing to serve liquor. On September 23rd 2011, Umeshkant Pandey, a 22-year-old attendant at the toll plaza in Gurgaon was shot dead by a man when he demanded the toll fee from a commuter.
Very recently, a techie, Shailaja Roy, 27, a student of Jadavpur University, was beaten to death at a roadside dhaba in south east Delhi's Budh Market area and his friend Sidharth serious injured by four young men over an altercation as trivial as who was to be served paranthas first. The duo had protested when four young men demanded they be served out of turn.
The new generation of Delhiits , it seems, just can’t wait for their turn and are running out of patience. As the incidents show, things are getting out of hand. The incident has brought to light how the “me first” attitude is getting from bad to worse, showing scant concern for the value of human lives.
Expats living in Delhi, according to a leading daily, say that this is a common scene they face whether at grocery shops or ticket counters. “This happens all the time. So many times I have urged people to ‘join the queue’ but it all falls on deaf ears,” says Chris Harlen from New Zealand who is the founder of the BulletWallas biking club in Delhi.
I see people push and pull whenever I go to pay my phone bills. They break into arguments and ready for fisticuffs. I am just happy to wait,” says Richard Grange, 39, a photographer from England who came to Delhi two years ago. Helen Roberts, a 33-year-old-journalist from UK, says, “I have seen this only in India and especially in Delhi. People quarrel over small things at shops and public places. I am surprised, why don’t they understand the concept of queue even though they are educated!”
Samantha Allen from South Africa recalls, “I was at a mall sweet shop waiting for my turn but people attacked the cashier from all sides like a swarm of bees. I didn’t know what to do!”
Individual incidents apart, there seems to be a callous attitude towards “sanctity o life” as evident in the functioning of our day to day governance. Or else, how can hospitals violate basic safety norms with impunity and continue to function or how can illegal hooch joints thrive under the very nose of administration and continue to take scores of precious lives like the recent incidents in Kolkata.
All these incidents indicate that we are moving towards a society where the value of human life is fast declining. This is an omnious trend. The last time such societal changes took place, we had the Holocaust.
ess bee

Friday, December 16, 2011

The winter is in

Friday, December 16, 2011 : This evening I attended the dinner hosted by Tanushree Shankar (file picture) at the Tollygunge Club poolside. I met Debanjan Mandal of Fox & Mandal.
Winter has arrived in Kolkata and the poolside added to the chill in the air.
I was supposed to go to Delhi today but again cancelled it. I have cancelled many trips over the past few months.
ess bee

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

With Tony and Shantanu

Wednesday, December 14, 2011: Yesterday I was busy with an event that Prabha Khaitan Foundation organised. It was the music launch of Aparajita Tumi, the third film of National Film Award winning director, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury (aka Tony), who is a personal friend of mine.
The idea was that apart from the music release of the film, which is the first of its kind, Shantanu Moitra did a show featuring his musical journey from Parineeta to Aparajita Tumi live on stage.
This was Shantanu’s first ever live performance on the stage accompanied by all the singers who sang his compositions. Among those who joined Shantanu on the stage were Shreya Ghoshal, Rupankar, Anindya of Chandrabindoo, Hamsika Ayaz and Monali Thakur.
We missed Suraj Jagan who had to cancel his Kolkata trip due to sudden illness in the family.
The event was held at Priya Cinema Hall which has a rich history of nostalgic performances since the younger days of Manna Dey and Kishore Kumar when their golden voice resonated in the hall here.
After Priya, I hosted a party at The Taj Bengal which stretched beyond 2 am. Today I missed the event of Kolkata Police Ceremonial Parade and Investiture Ceremony 2011 held at the Kishore Bharati Stadium, Jadavpur.
ess bee

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Breakfast chat with the other Mamata ji

Sunday, December 11, 2011: Today morning I hosted an informal breakfast meeting at The Taj Bengal poolside in honour of Mamata Sharma who recent took charge as Chairperson of National Commission for Women
She shares her first name with our chief minister and is the head of an important organisation protecting and promoting the interests of women in India.
I know Mamta ji for almost 10 years now and she is a veteran politician from Rajasthan. 
I invited prominent women of Kolkata from all walks of life i.e., dancer, designer, teacher, actress, film maker, theatre, business entrepreneurs, musicians, singers etc., for an informal chat with her.
With Swagatalakshmi
June Maliah, whose is a member of West Bengal Commission for Women, attended the breakfast meet as did Gargi Roy Chowdhury, Tanusree Shankar, Nandita Palchoudhuri, Anuradha Das, Dolly Basu, Swagatalakshmi Dasgupta, Abhilasha Sethia, Nayantara Palchoudhuri, Malika Varma,suuchnadra , Sangeeta Datta, Rachita Chohan, Sharbari Datta, Jyoti Khaitan and Bharati Ray.
In the evening I shall attended a family wedding at 19 Park Street and also the wedding reception of artist Suvaprasanna's daughter at PC Chandra Lawns near Science City.
ess bee

The Joshua Bells of Rajasthan

I was at the lunch at the Rajasthan Polo Club lounge in Jaipur organised by Rajasthan National Forum where I am the serving President. The Pink City is gearing up for the upcoming Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas and the Jaipur Literary Festival
The purpose behind hosting the lunch was to discuss and evolve ways to increase public participation in these events so as to make it a thumping success.
Top state-level musicians, theatre artists, litterateurs and senior editors of dailies attended the lunch, including Grammy Award winner Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (picture)
The artistes lamented that they were pained by the fact that the state (Rajasthan) has never accorded due recognition or respect to them. That the artistes were so deeply hurt was a revelation for me.
All the artistes were of the view that talent has no value until and unless you market yourself well. Else, one is barely noticed. 
During an informal discussion I was told that I was lucky to stay in a state or city where the citizens respect the artistes and value art and culture.
This sad outbursts of the Rajasthan artistes reminded me of a famous incident that took place at the Washington D.C., L'Enfant Plaza metro station subway on a cold January 12 morning in 2007. It so happened that a man with a violin played six Bach compositions for about 45 minutes. During that time nearly 1097 people, mostly office goers, passed by.
Three minutes after the violinist began playing, a woman who walked by without stopping tossed in the first dollar. At six minutes a young man leaned against a wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and walked off.
During the 45-minute performance by the violinist, only seven people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 passersby gave money without stopping. At the end of it, he had collected US $32.17 in all. Only one man out of the 1097 people who passed by recognized Joshua Bell - one of the greatest violinist and famous musicians in the world. The man who recognized Bell paid him $20.
Bell had donned a baseball cap and played as an incognito street busker at the subway station. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.
Just two days earlier, Joshua Bell performance was a sell-out in a theater in Boston and people paid an average of US $100 for a seat to listen to him play the same music.
Bell's performance at the subway station was a part of a social experiment on perception, taste and people's priorities initiated by Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten and videotaped by secret cameras. This experiment raised several questions.
  • In a common-place environment, at an inconvenient or inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
  • If so, do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
What came of this experiment was the fact - If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made. How many other things are we missing as we rush through life!

Rajasthan, it seems, has scores of such Joshua Bells who remain the unsung cultural torch bearers of a region with one of the richest cultural heritage in the world.
As I pen this blog, I am greatly pained by the loss of human lives at the AMRI Hospital. My deepest condolences to the families who lost their near ones and I pray to God the souls of the dead may rest in peace.
I have so many times written about the chalta hai attitude towards life in India. But never in my wildest imagination could I think of a tragedy of such proportion could take place, of all places, in a hospital.
ess bee

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Film Quiz

Saturday, December 10, 2011: I arrived in Kolkata yesterday night from Jaipur. I was supposed to make a detour to Delhi from Jaipur which did not happen since I had to attend the British Council School Theatre Festival finals in collaboration with Prabha Khaitan Foundation.
I called off my Delhi plans in the last minute.
Today evening I went to the Royal Calcutta Golf Club for the Ananda Bazar Patrika Film Quiz. It was a very interesting program as all the top film stars of Tollywood were there to participate.
I met almost everybody who matters in the film industry of Bengal at the party that was held after the quiz.
ess bee

Thursday, December 8, 2011

At the Rajasthan Polo Club luncheon meet

Surendra Pal Joshi, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and Manjari Kiran at the Rajasthan Polo Club
Jaipur, December 8, 2011: Yesterday evening I went to the Marriott Hotel which is a newly constructed five star property in Jaipur and much talked about hotels in Rajasthan.
I have travelled far and wide and stayed in many international properties of Marriott. I think, internationally, The Marriott at Yarawan, Armenia, is one of their best properties, and definitely so service-wise.
But here in Jaipur, I was rather disappointed with the service at Marriott’s Indian restaurant. I would call it average. Though the food was very good, I think the Hotel needs to pick up on staff training. The envelope from the General Manager’s office to me was in the name of `Sanjay'.
This is quite unexpected from a Hotel chain that happens to be one of the most reputed in the world. The fact of the matter is that the lady from the GM's office asked me thrice the spelling of my name and even after that there was the mistake.
Today afternoon attended the Rajasthan Polo Club luncheon meet. 
The whole discussion deviated from the expected topic and focused on the Jaipur Literary Festival though there was a good presence of state artists. 
Among present were artist Sartaj Narayan Mathur, famous dhrupad singer Smt Madhu Bhatt Tailang, eminent litterateur Nanad Bhardwaj (picture)
Also present were senior journalist Veer Saxena, journalist Vinod Bhardwaj, Shyam Acharya, Pramod Bhasin, poet Ikram Rajasthani and Sampat Saral, Surendra Joshi, danseuse Jyoti Bharti Goswami, nature and bird lover Harshvardhan and others besides Vishwa Mohan Bhatt.
I met Vinod Ajmera, executive director, Rajasthan Foundation. 
With Shyam Acharya
And then later I met Mr Rohit Kumar Singh, IAS, Secretary, Dept of Youth Affairs & Sports, Government of Rajasthan, and discussed in detail the possibility of holding youth-related events, seminars and conferences in Rajasthan.
ess bee

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gearing up for Jaipur mega events

December 7th 2011: I arrived in Jaipur on Tuesday evening and went to the Rajasthan Polo Club to check out the arrangements for December 8th luncheon meet. I have organized a meeting over lunch through Rajasthan National Forum, of which, I am the serving President.
Pradeep Chaturvedi (picture) the Secretary General of the organization, was also with me. We are inviting prominent newspaper editors, representatives from various segments of society mainly from the fields of music, dance and art.
The idea is to have an informal discussion to increase the participation of the citizens of Jaipur in the upcoming events which Jaipur is hosting such as the Jaipur Literary Festival and Pravasi Bharartiya Divas. Both the programs, of international stature, are scheduled for January 2012. I personally feel that such international events must have a strong and vibrant local participation is a must.
Tomorrow evening, I will meet Purushottam Agarwal, IAS, who is the Commissioner of Rajasthan Foundation and who is also taking care of arrangements of Pravasi Bharartiya Divas in Jaipur from January 7th to 9th, 2012.
I have to discuss with him about the possible role of Rajasthan Foundation (Kolkata Chapter) in Pravasi Bharartiya Divas.
While in Kolkata, I missed a reception organized on the occasion of the 84th Birthday Anniversary of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej by the Thai Consulate at The Park Rosewood Hall on the evening of 5th December.
ess bee

Sunday, December 4, 2011

An eventful week in Delhi

I returned from Delhi after a week and from the airport went straight to attend His Holiness The Dalai Lama’s talk on Mother Teresa hosted by Sunita and Naresh Kumar. On Friday evening I attended a photographic exhibition Sangam: A Tale of Three Cities at the ICCR. Honestly its worth to take out time and visit this exhibition which will be on for few days.
While in Delhi, I met Aman Allana, Chairperson, National School of Drama (NSD). The NSD is one of the institutions the country can be proud of. The Mandi House area, Delhi's cultural hub, has its own old world charm. It is here where the Delhi's politicians and culturati mingle.
Some of the iconic buildings and institutions like the Rabindra Bhawan, Shri Ram Centre for Performing Arts, National School of Drama, The Little Theatre Group, Triveni Kala Sangam, Ficci, Kamani Auditorium, Russian Centre of Science & Culture etc., are located in the Mandi House area which is close to the India Gate.
Allana took charge of NSD from Anupam Kher. I was very impressed by her vision. She, in fact, is the brain behind the forthcoming Theatre Festival in Delhi from 8th to 23rd January, 2012. This festival is expected to be perhaps one of the largest of its kind events in the world.
Over 100 plays from all over the world would be staged in the Mandi House area. We in Kolkata have reason to feel proud of the fact that about 15 of these plays would be on Tagore, including one from Poland. It would be more apt to call it a grand festival a `Theatre Mela' with food court, exhibitions etc., for which the countdown has begun.
I often wonder why some of the best things and events happen at the same time or day in different cities or places forcing you to choose only one event while the heart yearns for lot more.
I shall not be in a position to attend the Delhi Theatre Festival or Mela since I'll be in Jaipur for the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and then there is the Literary Festival of Jaipur followed by the Polo Cup.
While planning events at the national or international scale, it is essential to factor in the weather. In fact, it is one of the most important elements that can can make or break an event.
I myself have had run-ins with inclement weather on three occasions. I shudder to think how those big open-air events were washed out by the sudden rains. Not to talk of political or social rallies, it is quite a task to organize any event in the open during the summers.
But the problem with political and protest rallies is that, unlike normal events, these cannot wait and one has no option but to go ahead and try out their luck with the weather. Probably that is why it is wiser to organise events between October to February in the Indian sub-continent.
I also attended fashion designer Sabyasachi’s Peeli Kothi event at Hotel Leela. It was a very selective gathering and I was there at the newest five star properties in the capital to witness the collection of Sabyasachi on the invitation of Madhu Nair who owns the Leela Group of Hotels.
I had missed the Peeli Kothi event when it was held at Taj Bengal Kolkata in August end. I was impressed by the way Indian ethnicwear from almost all zones of the country were showcased by Sabysachi. 
I was indeed privileged to watch a show in which classical singer, Shubha Mudgal, lent her golden voice. After the event I made it a point to meet Sabyasachi and Shubha Mudgal (picture) and congratulate them personally.
I shall be in the Pink City Jaipur middle of next week .
ess bee

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Incredible Vidya Balan!

Yesterday I went to the ICCR before watching Vidya Balan’s Dirty Picture. Vidya Balan's acting in this film is incredible and I am certain that this movie, and Vidya, will go on to bag many awards.
The exhibition at the ICCR titled Sangam: A Tale of Three Cities was a photo exhibition. The photos were taken by Ambica Prakash, Neha Tolasaria, Sumedha Saraogi. 
I met the wife of West Bengal Governor, Padmini Narayanan, who inaugurated the exhibition and also Suvaprasanna, Nandita Pal Choudhury, Preeti (picture) and Sanjiv Goenka and quite a few people from the world of art & culture.
As Sumedha Saraogi (picture) belongs to an industrialist community, the crowd had an excellent blend of industrialists and artists. These photos put up at the exhibition were taken from three cities - Ajmer, Amritsar and Benaras.
I was really impressed with the exhibition. Though there were no names marked on the photos, yet by seeing the picture, one could easily make out whether the picture is of Benaras, Ajmer or Amritsar (picture).
Today evening I shall go to see a play after a long time, titled August Osage County directed by Lillete Dubey and production by The Primtime Theatre Company. Today is the second day of the play and in tune with Kolkata's culture anything that is hyped up triggers a demand for invitation cards. I look forward to watching a full house show.
After the show, I shall go out for a private dinner which I had committed earlier.
ess bee

Monday, November 28, 2011

Shuttling between Jaipur and Delhi

On Sunday afternoon I went to Jaipur for a personal meeting and returned to Delhi the same evening. From the Delhi airport I went to the Indian International Centre (IIC) to attend the function at the newly constructed multi-purpose hall of IIC.
Suresh Neotia invited me for a function at 6:30 pm. I told him that I was going to Jaipur for a couple of hours and that I would be late. But I got so late that by the time I reached the function it was 10 pm. The function was almost over and hosts had left the venue. Only Rajeev Shukla and a couple of other guests were there.
Today afternoon I met quite a few people from field of literature and politics at the IIC apart from spending time at the library. I wanted to meet the former Prime Minister of India, Sri I K Gujral, who is not keeping well at present. But his office informed mine that Sri Gujral is unwell and that it would be difficult to meet him for few more days at least (file picture).
With the election fever catching up, Uttar Pradesh is making headlines. 
After becoming the Chief Minister, Mayawati had visited Kolkata and I had had a one to one meeting with her at the Hyatt, Kolkata. At that time she had said that she would again visit Kolkata soon. 
But I don't think she has been to Kolkata after that visit. During that visit, I had presented Mayawati with a piece of handicraft (picture).
Tomorrow I have a couple of meetings scheduled at the
ICCR and National School of Drama
ess bee

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The issue of tissue

I recently hosted a dinner in honour of Ambassador Park Soo-Gil, President, World Federation of the United Nations (WFUNA) and some of the representatives from other United Nations Association (UNA) member countries who were here on my personal invitation to visit the City of Joy.
The dinner was held at The Conclave where I host many of my events. While having tea, some of the diplomats praised the quality of the tea and it caught my attention that The Conclave had started serving Newby teas. It was only about three months back that I saw Newby tea sachets for the first time at Rajputana Sheraton, Jaipur.
A couple of years ago when I visted Moscow on an invitation from the Moscow State University of International Affairs, I found Newby tea sachets were served in many of the cafes. Unlike India, Newby brand was very popular in that part of the world that time and even today.
My association with Newby goes way back to 1994-95 when it so happened that the first few boxes of Newby teas were packed by me in Nitrogen pouches, in tin caddies and then in CFC boxes of 24 each. At that time there was an article about Newby Teas in London’s most prestigious pink daily The Financial Times and it was sold as a premium product by the first tele-callers.
After more than 10 years I saw Newby tea again at the Rajputana Sheraton and then at the The Conclave in Kolkata.
I also noticed The Conclave had changed the paper napkins or tissue paper to that of a far superior quality. Since the 25 Year Celebrations of The Conclave, some sweeping and pleasant changes have been incorporated starting from the crockery and cutlery to the events and even the quality of tissue paper.
I am emphasising on the tissue paper because most readers would agree with me that there is a huge difference in the quality of tissue / paper napkins served to us at the star hotels and those at a shop in the street .
On many occasions I have found that some of the eating joints and snack shops give very poor quality tissue paper and that you actually end up using close to a dozen to dry your hands or to get rid of the oil. The issue here is that the purpose a single good quality tissue paper serves is not possible by using scores of cheap quality variants.
Most of the wash rooms in the airports are full of cheap quality paper towels. The result, everyone grabbing out five to ten papers to wipe off hands.
I don’t understand the business or the economic.  But a common sense approach tells me that it definitely costs less to have a single quality tissue paper to satisfy our need rather than use scores of tissues which does not serve the purpose. It is simply quality over quantity. I think it is high time for us to become a little quality conscious follow it up in action. Why not begin with a tissue paper.
This weekend was an events galore in Kolkata. On Friday there were nine high voltage events including Leslie Lewis' performance at Hyatt, a play at The Park directed by Koushik Sen, a comedy show at The Oberoi Grand and the premiere of Birsa Das Gupta's movie Jani Dekha Hobe featuring Rupa Ganguly. As the date of the premiere coincided with her birthday she was elated. Rupa also did the first day's shoot of Ringo's movie and Srijit's next film Muharrt.
With Home Minister P Chidambaram
I missed all the events as I was in Delhi on Friday afternoon to attend the release of India Inside by P Chidambaram (picture) at the Long Champ Room of Hotel Taj Mansingh. The book is co-authored by Nirmalya Kumar and Phanish Puranam. Later in the evening, I attended the fashion show Ragas by Payal Jain.
On Thursday, I was at the Sarbari Dutta fashion show at ITC Hotel. Every year in Kolkata, this time of the season, the number of events are at its height. The disaster of the week was the Doon Express accident and Tendulkar getting out on 94. The news of elusive Kishan ji's death is also all over the media.
ess bee

Friday, November 25, 2011

At Sharbari’s show

With Sharbari
Yesterday I went to the ITC Sonar for Sharbari Dutta’s show celebrating two decades of designing menswear. I congratulated Sharbari di and some of the early bird guests (pictures)
From ITC, I went to the Hyatt Italian Restaurant for a private dinner.
This weekend there’s plenty of events scheduled in the city. Today there’ll be nine high-voltage events including Calcutta Chamber of Commerce panel discussion on film at The Park.
With Shreya Pandey
Leslie Lewis' performance at Hyatt, a play at The Park directed by Koushik Sen, a comedy show at The Oberoi Grand and the premiere of Birsa Das Gupta's movie Jani Dekha Hobe featuring Rupa Ganguly.
As the date of the premiere coincided with her birthday she is elated. Rupa also has the first day's shoot of Ringo's movie and Srijit's next films Muharrt on Friday.
With Toni, Indrani and Swastika
I will miss all these events as I will be in Delhi this afternoon. Later in the evening, I have plans to attended the fashion show Ragas by Payal Jain at Hyatt
This week I received quite a few other invitations for fashion shows. Suneet Verma on Saturday evening and then Sabyasachi in Delhi at Leela on 30th November.
ess bee

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Qatar Airways function

Yesterday afternoon I took a flight to Jaipur and returned this evening. Thanks to the wedding season, the Kolkata-Jaipur flights, both ways, were full. When it comes to weddings, Udaipur and Jaipur are very hot destinations.
There was a wedding function of a Kolkata-based family and I met quite a few people from Kolkata, not only on the flight but also at the Rajputana Sheraton coffee shop.
I landed in Kolkata at about 9:30 pm and headed straight for Hotel Taj Bengal to attend an event hosted by Qatar Airways. The CEO of Qatar Airways Mr Akbar Al Baker is in Kolkata and about 200 people were invited at the Taj banquet.
I knew that the Indian office of the company has been working very hard for this evening. They had blocked this date months in advance to invite people and were in constant touch to ensure the guests’ presence.
That is why, despite being late, I made it a point to go there and meet Mr Al Baker though the event had started at 7 pm. By the time I reached the Taj the dinner was over and Sunidhi Chauhan was on stage. I shared the table with Bickram and Jaya Ghosh and Usha Uthup. I sat through a couple of songs, met the CEO and returned home.
The CEO was very happy with the response they got in Kolkata and plans are on to introduce a bigger aircraft. Myself being a frequent overseas traveler, this was music to my ears, especially after so many airlines closed down their Kolkata operations in recent times. One thing that caught my attention later was the packet given to the guests at the departure gate. I thought it must be some literature but when I opened the packet at home I found it was a Mont Blanc passport case.
I was very surprised by such an expensive gift given by an airliner to all the invitees. Weddings and some social functions aside, I don't recollect any occasion in India where such an expensive gift was given just for attending the function.
ess bee

Monday, November 21, 2011

A session with Railway minister

On the 19th evening I went to Queen’s Park for an interactive session with Mr Dinesh Trivedi, Hon’ble Minister of Railways. Mr Trivedi spoke about his vision for the Railways and I was quite impressed by his idea of initiating the possibility of travelling Kolkata-Delhi in 6 hours by train.
I met quite a number of known people besides the hosts Madhu and Harsh Neotia (pictures).
Yesterday I went to the Bodyguard Lines auditorium of Kolkata Police for attending the lecture on Sir Wauchope, His Excellency, Shri M K Narayanan, Governor of West Bengal, emphasised on many issues relating to security and also the challenges in front of Kolkata Police. 
Regarding the topic, who else is better than M K Narayanan to speak on the matter as he has served as the Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of India.
Today evening a couple of weddings are lined up. A meeting is also scheduled with Reba Som, Director, Indian Council for Cultural Relation.
I shall leave for Jaipur tomorrow.
ess bee