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

1A Camac Court, 25B Camac Street, Kolkata – 700 016, India.

Phone: 91 33 2281 6934

Fax: 91 33 2280 2930


For Events:
WhatsApp Text: 9836383333

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Polo cup - battle royal at Rambagh

Today Sunday was busy like any other working day. In the morning I attended an engagement function. From there I went to a lunch that was a part of another wedding celebrations.
Maharani Padmini
In the afternoon I went to see the polo finals at the Rajasthan Polo Club. I met Savitri Kunadi, the ex-ambassador of India to France. She was also serving as the chairman of the executive committee of the Rajasthan Foundation and I knew her since those days.
At the polo finals there was a regal gathering that included His Highness, the Kunwars, Princess, members from the royal families and others from various former estates and gharanas of Rajasthan.
Kunwar Narendra
The final match was a see-saw battle between Cavalry Carysil and Rajasthan Polo Club's team Equisports. Cavalry Carysil won a thrilling final to lift the Sirmur Cup 2011 beating Equisports by 8.5 goals to 6 in a match at the Rambagh ground. At one time Equisports was trailing by 4 goals to none before staging a comeback to narrow the score to one-and-half goals and then further reducing the deficit by half a goal.
Kunwar Narendra, Yashodhara
Raje Scindia
A Shergill strike put them on the lead for the first time in the match. Just when it seemed that they would romp home with the Cup, Cavalry struck back in style to pocket the trophy comfortably. Suhag was adjudged the most valuable player.
After the final match and the prize distribution, there was a high tea where I met Maharani Padmini (picture), Kunwar Narendra (picture), Princess Diya Kumari, Yashodhara Raje Scindia (picture) and others. I also met Martin Peters and Sunil Sood (picture), the world circle head and director of Vodafone respectively.
Sunil Sood, Martin Peters 
of Vodafone
In the evening, I went to the Jawahar Kala Kendra to witness the Jaipur International Film Festival (JIFF 2011) red carpet award ceremony. It was a low-key affair. Rajasthan hardly has any local film industry may be that is the reason. In fact none of those expected, from Madhur Bhandarkar to Asha Parekh, turned up as was announced by the organisers.
The government of Rajasthan had started a film-training institute that has closed down as of now.
ess bee

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Jaipur week

Today Saturday was a cool and easy day.
I was supposed to return to Kolkata for a press conference with Sharmila Tagore in connection with a forthcoming event of Tagore in Shantiniketan to be organised by Prabha Khaitan Foundation with ABRITILOKE and supported by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India
The press conference got cancelled and I got a chance to spend a couple of more days in the Pink City. 

Princess Diya Kumari
Though I hosted a dinner today evening at The Conclave for the Vietnam delegation visiting the Kolkata Book Fair on the request of Geetesh Sharma, I excused myself for my inability to attend it.
In Jaipur, I met the Industry Minister Rajendra Pareek, Energy Minister Jitendra Singh - an old friend of mine, half a dozen cabinet ministers and some leaders from the Opposition party. It was just a courtesy call as I wanted to say hello to them.

Yesterday morning I visited the State Legislative Assembly and met with the Speaker Dipendra Singh Shekhawat and presented him a copy of my book (picture). Later in the evening, I went to the City Palace for dinner to celebrate the Sirmur Cup. The polo matches were on and I was there watching it every afternoon. The 26th Polo Match was in the national news because of a ruckus between the crowd and the referee.
Handing over my book to Rajasthan Speaker
Dipender Singh Shekhawat
Dinners and get-togethers at the City Palace, home of the Raj Pariwar of Jaipur, if far and few. And expectedly, the who's who of Jaipur were there in attendance as were Maharani Padmini Devi, Rajkumari Diya Kumari and her husband Kunwar Narendra Singh (picture). The gathering of 150 people was a late night affair.
Kunwar Narendra Singh and Rajkumari Diya Kumari have never been to Kolkata and said that they would surely pay a visit this year.
During the dinner, I met Sridhar Rao the CEO of Vodafone, Kolkata. 
The Sirmour Cup was sponsored by Vodafone and the all the top rung of Vodafone were present on the occasion. I also met director of Vodafone, Sunil Sood, who was earlier posted in Kolkata.
At the party, many people were discussing about the rift in the Calcutta Polo Club and the emergence of two groups - the Bangur and the Military. I refrained from making any comments on the matter as I am not fully aware of what's on at the Kolkata polo circuit. I also heard that since it is the 150th-year of the Calcutta Polo Club - the first polo club of India – plans are on to organise a mega event to celebrate the occasion in Kolkata. All the polo clubs of India are expected to participate. Let's see how things progress.
ess bee

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My blog anniversary

From Kishangarh Suite - Hotel Rajputana: Lovely weather here today in Jaipur. This suite is the only one that has a small terrace overlooking the swimming pool. I am enjoying the fresh breeze in the mornings and evenings. It has been one year since I keyed in my first blog. I had never thought I'd be able to write on for a year.
Many of my blogs have had an impact and is being published every Sunday in the Hindustan Times supplement HT City under the column Cityscape.
The blog on Honorary Consul created some ripples and was the talking point at the parties and in the diplomatic circles for many weeks. The blog on Audi prompted the company to agree to replace the car that had malfunctioned with a new one. Something they were initially dragging their feet on. The Cafe Coffee Day centre in Kolkata, though I did not mention the name of the cafe, got a letter from headquarters which was a sign of awareness among some of the Indian companies. The blog on RSVP spurred my office to act on such matters with seriousness and in right earnest. I am no writer, intellectual or a thinker. I just pen down what I see around me. It is something straight from the heart.
In the afternoon I was at the Rajasthan Raj Bhawan to attend the Republic Day ceremony. I was standing with a group of senior authors and journalists. One of the Cabinet Ministers asked me in a lighter note "How come you are with them?" To which, one of the editors of a city newspapers replied that I being a columnist belonged to their fraternity.
This was a new qualifier added to the list of industrialist, philanthropist, social activist, art lover, patron of culture and so on that I am often referred to as. But nobody ever called me a writer earlier.
At the Raj Bhawan, I met many bureaucrats and other acquaintances and friends. It was great that I could say hello to so many people in one function. The Raj Bhawan staff was very warm to me. Rajasthan is still awaiting the appointment of a Governor. Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil, who is holding additional charge of Rajasthan, was at the Chandigarh Raj Bhawan today.
However, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot was at the Rajasthan Raj Bhawan and I exchanged pleasantries with him (pictures).
ess bee

Right time to be in Jaipur

Today I had an early morning meeting with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot at his residence. It was a courtsey visit. I also visited the head office of Rajasthan Foundation and discussed about the future events and activities in Kolkata.
 In the afternoon I went to watch a polo match and had an adda session with few of my friends from Jaipur at the Polo Club's exclusive lounge. I like the elegance and decor of the lounge. I think this is the right time of the year to be here in the Pink City. 
A perfect weather has set the stage for lots of events - sports, cultural, films and literature. Besides the Jaipur Literature Festival and Jaipur Festival, the polo matches are also on drawing lots of sport lovers. The film festival would begin shortly.
At night, I attended the Writer's Ball dinner at the Amber Fort. The dinner marked the conclusion of the Jaipur Literature Festival (Jan 21 - 25, 2011). This Festival has made a mark in the literary world. And why not. Two Nobel laureates, Orhan Pamuk and J M Coetzee, historian Patrick French, Candace Bushnell, Richard Ford, Martin Amis, William Dalrymple, Vikram Seth, Gurcharan Das to as many as 220 authors from 23 countries were in attendance during the Festival

HRD minister Kapil Sibal, Gulzar and the Pakistan ambassador to India and many others visited the festival.
The dinner was for about 200 people and restricted only to the writers, who were called upon as the guest speakers, a few other select people. The beautiful lighting at the heritage Amber Fort added to the ambience. The dinner at such an exclusive place - The Kesaria which is at the Kesar Kiyari part of the fort - was like a dreamland fantasy come true with foreign delegates going ga ga over the music.
I met Urvashi Butalia, Malashri Lala and other writers known to me at the dinner. The dress code for the Writers' Ball was black with a touch of pink and gold. But I was in my traditional attire - kurta and pyjamas. I must congratulate the organisers of the Festival, Namita Gokhle and William Dalrymple in particular, for the remarkable show.
It is through their efforts that the Festival has gained international recognition in six years. At the dinner, I met a young Pakistani writer H M Naqvi (picture) from Karachi who bagged the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. 

H M Naqvi
He too would be flying to Kolkata tomorrow.
The only regret that I have is missing out on the inaugural function of the Kolkata Book Fair and also the show of Mahabharata by Tanmoy Bose and Nilanjana Ghosh that would be staged tomorrow at the Golf Green Festival.
ess bee

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jaipur culture week

I arrived here in Jaipur today afternoon. Straight from the airport I went to Damodar Thanvi's residence to attend the baithak of his wife who passed away a couple of days back. I have known him for a long time. A Gandhiwadi, Thanvi was one man who has done much for the state's disabled persons as a commissioner of that department under the last Gehlot government.
Early evening I had an adda session with Ved Vyas ji and then late in the evening I went to a kavi sammelan at the Jawahar Kala Kendra open ground. The kavi sammelan is a part of the Jaipur Cultural Week. The key organiser, Rajiv Arora, is an old Congressman and is known to me for many many years now. He was pleasantly surprised to see me there.
The poets Sampat Saral and Pradeep Chobey, whom I know personally, greeted me from the dais, visibly surprised by my presence. I have heard both of them on many occasions earlier and have organised kavi sammelans in which they have participated.
But for the first time today I heard and met Nida Fazli - the urdu poet and writer. Though his reputaton precedes him, he turned out to be much better than his reputation. He has penned quite a number of lyrics for films in Bollywood. Some of the famous songs that have been picturised include Razia Sultan, Tum Toh Aisay Na Thay, Gudia, Is Raat ki Subah Nahi and others.
I thoroughly enjoyed the evening that wasn't a planned one.
ess bee

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Splurge season

The whole of last week I did not attend any film, cultural or literary functions. Not that I was sitting home, it was, in fact, weddings and weddings almost all week. Now-a-days weddings are quite like a statement of status symbol with many families throwing in lavish dinners five to seven times in order to ensure that the wedding is talked about in the social circles.
The splurging of wealth during weddings seems to be increasing each year. Though I do not attended 90 per cent of the wedding invitations, even then, the 10 per cent that I do, kept me busy every evening of the week.
For past two years, lavish weddings cards are in vogue. The latest add ons to the wedding cards are Bateel Dates, Swiss or Belgian chocolates and world's best imported dry fruits etc. This season I got quite a few very attractive, novel and expensive invitation cards. One of the cards came along with a pot of fresh white roses, another one was tied up with pearls while one invitation card had an artist's original painting on it.
The day before yesterday, I spoke to Gulzar Sahab over phone. He'll be in Kolkata on the evening of 12th next month. He mentioned to me that he'd be going to the Jaipur Literary Festival. I too am flying to the pink city on Monday, a city that has emerged as a hot marriage destination during the past decade having hosted some of the most lavish weddings.
ess bee

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fine print – devil in the details

I got an email from a gentleman in response to one of my blogs who said that he had a bitter experience with Standard & Chartered Bank. He was holding a SCB Titanium Card offered free for lifetime and was offered a Platinum card by the bank at an annual charge of Rs 6000/- plus tax along with a Priority Pass card that entitled him to use domestic airport lounges free of cost, but US$27 was to be charged for using international airport lounges. Being a frequent traveller he paid and accepted the card.
 He used it at the Delhi and Kolkata lounges after confirming with them that no charges were payable but to his surprise, he soon received a bill of USD 27 plus taxes on usage. He felt cheated and that the Bank had sold him the card by misrepresenting facts.
May be true. But I, however, think that the gentleman may have missed something in the fine print that is usually printed so small that it is quite a formidable task to read it with naked eyes. Most of us skip it.
I have often wondered what is the rationale of printing the terms and conditions relating to transactions or purchase of product or services in very small fonts barely visible to the eye. These fine prints or disclaimers pertaining to every agreement, purchase, sale, investment or contract are a very important aspect of any transaction. Hence, it merits proper attention and understanding and should actually be in large legible print so that no one can miss it.
The history of fine print stems from the concept of Caveat Emptor which means “Let the buyer be aware”. But I have never come across any fine prints or Disclaimers that is legible. They are always in, as the name suggests, fine or very small print. So how can a buyer be aware! It seems the intention is to discourage the purchaser from reading it and at the same time going by the rulebook to ensure statutory compliance.
When we purchase or invest without reading this fine print it means we are accepting something without knowing the facts as to what one could do if the product or service is not up to the mark. Disclaimers would hold the customers or investors solely responsible for all contractual deeds and actions. One can imagine the seriousness of this issue while dealing with medical products, investments and other services that may involve life's earnings.
Newspapers, magazines, television programs, films often say “Views expressed are that of the author and not that of the paper or channel” meaning that they would not be responsible for any damage or loss that may occur due to any errors or omissions or even correctness of the matter.
The fact of the matter is that most people feel discouraged to read the lengthy, hardly-legible stuff that come as a footnote tucked in somewhere. This is where we unknowingly accept a position that places the other party on a higher ground to dictate terms once the product is sold. Imagine the fate of students who rush to enroll in various education courses without reading the fine print or disclaimers to later find that the courses do not have the proper affiliations necessary for getting a job. Sometimes the fine print has clauses that state Rules Are Liable to Change Without Notice.
If we are not able to read such important points then we are likely to end up on the weaker side of the law if not on the wrong side, in case there is a dispute or deficiency in service. Fine print, I think is a cunning ploy to keep the customer ignorant while fulfilling the legal obligations as a seller or service provider in most cases.
Many investment companies have a caveat or the risk factors spoken out in a very fast tongue in the advertisements. One gets the feeling that the company has something to hide but is compelled to say it because the law of the land mandates it. So why not a verbal vomit which few can understand and make sense of.
So watch out! The devil indeed is in the details.
ess bee 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

On duty on and on

Mrs Shirin Paul and Mrs Myna Bhagat

A couple of days back I went to The Park Hotel to attend a dinner hosted by Mrs Shirin Paul (picture), Chairman Emeritus, Apeejay Group. The pre-eve dinner was hosted to mark the Literary Festival from January 14 to 18, 2011.
While approaching from the Russell Street there was a queue of four to five cars in front of the Hotel gate around 8:10 pm passing through the security check. The invite said that the Governor and his wife would be at the dinner at 8:15 pm. I saw a policeman running towards the security guards who were checking the cars as per the routine security drill that we see in all five star hotels in the city since 26/11. All of a sudden, the two cars before mine, as well as my car, were allowed to proceed without any security checks. Not even a peep inside to see who the occupants were.
I was quite taken aback by this fact since a momentary lapse could cause a major hole in the entire security system. I think allowing cars without checking just to ensure that the Governor’s entourage passed without delay had actually jeopardized the Governor’s very own security. It is not that The Park has hired a security firm that is not working well. The fact is that lack of professionalism among the security companies and their high demand have left us with no choice.
Last week, when I called up the extension number of the security guards posted at my residence at 11 am, the phone went unanswered. I tried three or four more times and nobody attended the call. I called up another extension number and asked why the guard wasn’t picking up the phone, my driver informed me that the guard was fast asleep. I came down personally and saw that he was in a deep slumber. I woke him up and asked him why was he sleeping at such an odd hour. He told me that he was on duty for 12 hours continuously through the previous night.
I realised that this man was also on duty at my residence a day before which meant 30 hours on duty at a stretch and it was obvious why he was sleeping. What surprised me was the fact that this guard is from one of the best security service agencies in the country - Group 4. When my staff asked the company officials they said that it was the guard's choice to do night shifts for some extra income. If this is the case with one of the leading security agencies, I shudder to think what the state of affairs would be like with lesser agencies.
A momentary lapse of security and working at a stretch for beyond 24 hours without sleep by security guards for extra money is contrary to demands of their profession. It defeats the very purpose for which they are hired. Allowing such kind of lapses, for which the guards may have themselves volunteered, is highly unprofessional practice on part of security agencies because in their line of job it may be a matter of life or death of the people they are suppose to protect and serve and also to themselves.
I remembered another incident. I saw the same guard, who helped me at the parking at one of the city malls around noon time during the day, while coming out of a restaurant around mid night. It is like duty on and on.
The cost of availing security services has shot up rapidly in recent years and there is a huge demand for a range of quality security services. But getting reliable services remains a question.
ess bee

Friday, January 14, 2011

Warm as always

Gopal Krishna Gandhi
This evening I went to The Park Hotel to meet the delegates of Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival. This Festival, which started two or three years back, has shaped up very well this year as was evident from the program chart.
With the Festival starting tomorrow, it was a pre-eve dinner. I met Gopal Krishna Gandhi and his wife Tara Gandhi for the first time since they left Kolkata. I also met the present Governor M K Narayanan and his wife Padmini Narayanan. It wasn't one of those Page 3 gatherings but more of a cerebral or intellectual kind with lots of book lovers around. I chatted up with Dhritiman Chatterjee during his smoke break.
I love hearing Gopal Krishna Gandhi but missed his speech on the Writer's Cramp at the Victoria Memorial today. I told him that I missed his speech but had read some the articles he had penned from Chennai. "Don't waste time reading all this," he quipped.
Ranjan Bandyopadhyay,Dipankar De
and Dolon Roy
At the end of the program, while coming out of the Hotel's lobby, Gopal Krishna Gandhi pointed at the Governor's car stationed in front of the driveway and cautioning his wife not to sit in that car. "Ours is the next one," he joked. He shook hands with the driver of Governor's car and all the policemen on duty - people who had earlier been at his service. He was warm as always.
I was flooded with the memories of memorable evening functions during his tenure. I recollect an article that mentioned him as the best-mannered man of public etiquette and behaviour.
From The Park I went to attend the dinner of Purba Paschim to celebrate the 25th show of Tagore’s Raktakarabi at The Conclave.
Kolkata Police Commissioner with wife and Chaiti Ghoshal (right)
I met Bratya Basu, Dipanker Dey, Dolon Roy, Chaiti Ghoshal, Ranjan Bandhopadhyay and others (pictures). It was also the birthday of Soumitra Mitra – the man behind Purba Paschim. Besides the presence of people from the theatre world, Calcutta Police Commissioner and his wife also joined in late to wish him on his birthday. The dinner concluded around 1 am.
ess bee

Monday, January 10, 2011

Remembering Mother Teresa

I organised a function last weekend at the Max Mueller Bhawan Kolkata to mark the occasion of Mother Teresa's first coming to Kolkata almost eight decades ago. On the occasion, a 22-minute documentary Saint to Sainthood by Payal Mohanka was screened, Usha Utthup sang some songs that she had composed while eminent artist Sanatan Dinda's special painting (picture) of Mother Teresa was unveiled by the Governor.
This function was organised in collaboration with Prasenjeet Chatterjee and his company Idea Creations. It was an hour-long program that was graced by Governor of West Bengal M K Narayanan and his wife Padmini Narayanan. The program started with the lighting of the lamp by the Governor and H M Bangur, Chairman, The Bengal, Sunil Gangopadhyay (President), myself (Secretary General), Payal Mohanka and Sanatan Dinda.
The Bengal board member Roopa Ganguly handed over a bouquet to the Governor and his wife and also assisted in lighting of the traditional lamp (picture). After the programme, the Governor and Payal Mohanka were presented by a sketch of Mother by Sanatan Dinda as a memento. The best part of the evening was that the Governor has decided to speak on the occasion although his office has earlier informed that he was not going to speak since it is just a screening of a documentary.
It seems that the mix of documentary, songs and painting made him change his plans, more so as it was just a day after the gory killings in Lalgarh and remembering the Apostle of Peace and spreading her message of love and compassion was but natural. Sunil da also touched upon this topic and reiterated the message of peace in his speech.
The evening was graced by the presence of diplomats (picture), industrialists, Sisters from the Mother House and of course members of The Bengal team Dolly Basu, Agnimitra Paul, Arpiat Chatterjee, Arindam Sil and others.
Sunita Kumar, the former official spokesperson of Missionaries of Charity, had to leave with her husband Naresh Kumar without seeing the documentary as Max Mueller Bhawan does not have any elevators to the auditorium located on the 3rd floor.
ess bee

Friday, January 7, 2011

Fantastic fiddlers

American violinist Mark O'Connor
Last evening I attended a violin concert for peace at the Birla Sabhaghar. I have not seen such a wonderful musical evening in Kolkata for a long time.
For more than two hours the full-house audience were captivated by a scintillating performance from violinists Mark O'Connor (USA), Loyko (Russia), Kheir Eddine M'Kachiche (Algeria), Benedicte Maurseth (Norway), Catharina Chen (Norway), Laxminarayan `Ambi' Subramaniam (India) and his father Dr L Subramaniam who conceptualised the whole show.
Let me mention that Mark O'Connor (picture), American bluegrass, country and a classical violinist fiddler, is a two time Grammy Award winner and was nominated eight times for the award. The violinists got a rousing ovation from the audience at the end of the show. 

Dr Subramaniam and Kavita Krishnamurty
The whole show was out-of-the-world and I was particularly amazed by the Russian violinists' virtuosity at producing sounds of bird fights.
I attended the show as a Guest of Honour with Governor M K Narayanan on an invitation from Seagram's - the main sponsor. I hosted a dinner for the violinists and Dr Subramaniam and his well-known wife Kavita Krishnamurty (picture) who is an established playback singer.
They were kind enough to extend to me an invitation to attend their show in Delhi on the evening of 10th of January. How I wish I had more time for myself to make it to such events.

ess bee

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ajab desh, gajab jugaad

On my way to Churu from the Sikar Circuit House it took me nearly three hours to cover a stretch of about 80 kilometres due to heavy fog that reduced visibility to about five or six feet and we could hardly see the other side of the road.
The newspapers reported in the morning that in proper Churu the fog had cleared after 17 hours. I saw an icy layer at the bottom of a gas cylinder in one of the roadside teashops.
Near Fatehpur, there was a road accident and I saw a very different type of improvised car that was damaged. I was surprised when my chauffeur told me that it was a Jugaad car for I had never seen one of this kind before.
Jugaad is a Hindi word that can mean anything from an innovative fix to sometimes pejoratively used for solutions that bend rules, or a resource that can be used as such or a person who can solve a vexatious issue or a fixer. The term Jugaad is now very much a part of the business management vocabulary in the West.
Jugaad cars are locally made motor vehicles used mostly in small villages as a means of low cost transportation in India. Jugaad literally means an arrangement which has to be used because of lack of resources. The Jugaad vehicles are made by carpenters and village mechanics by fitting a diesel engine on a cart or using other means.
The Jugaad garis often use water motor pump of wells, second hand tractor engines, a wood or aluminium handcrafted super structure or body and the steering and brakes of any available vehicle that is available and works.
This improvised Jugaad vehicles are very popular in rural areas of Rajasthan, Haryana and parts of Punjab. These vehicles do not have any registrations and can accommodate at least 12 to 15 persons. It generates enough horsepower to tow a truck and manoeuvre through farms and sandy tracts. It may have four wheels or the three wheelers like the single-purpose `fish bed vehicles' used by the Tamil Nadu fishermen to carry fish.
As these vehicles use only one headlight, the chance of accident, especially during foggy weather, is very high. The Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan has banned these cars and the police authorities have been instructed to impound and immediately dismantle such vehicles on sight. But it is a Herculean task for the police who say there are over a lakh of Jugaads on the roads and the number keeps swelling.
ess bee

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Lunch with Mumbai Mayor

Mayor of Mumbai, Smt Shraddha Sridhar Jadhav
I returned to Kolkata from Churu via Jaipur yesterday night. Today I hosted a lunch for the Mayor of Mumbai, Smt Shraddha Sridhar Jadhav (picture), who was in city on a day's visit.
During an informal chit chat over lunch she expressed her views about the cleanliness and maintenance of the city drawing a comparison with Mumbai. The ex-Mayor of Mumbai, Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar also joined us for the lunch. She is an advocate by profession and is also serving as a director in HUDCO besides being a trustee of the famous Siddhivinayak Mandir in Mumbai.
Before the lunch, I went to the Rabindra Sadan to pay my tributes to Rabindra Sangeet exponent Suchitra Mitra. She was the Lata Mangeshkar of Bengal. I had spoken to her on December 28th when I invited her for lunch the next day at The Taj Bengal.
Bickram and Jaya Ghosh
I missed the classical evening organised by the Kolkata Police at Science City. Also missed the play Kabir by Shekhar Sen at the Town Hall organised by SREI.  I was to watch the Shekhar Sen play Saheb at the Birla Sabhaghar on the 2nd of January but could not as I had to leave for Rajasthan. The felicitation function of Pandit Shankar Ghosh, who is the father of my friend Bickram Ghosh (picture), was also another of those great misses last week.
ess bee 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010 – the highs and lows

Sikar Circuit House, Rajasthan: I arrived here today to a chilly evening with the mercury plunging below five degrees. I shall leave for Churu early tomorrow. I lost my 96-year-old biological grand Nani (my mother's grand mother) recently and I would be attending the condolence meet and the last rituals. The whole of last year I was thinking of sitting at the Circuit House.
The New Year always gives us a reason to celebrate and Kolkata too had its share of events and bashes. The spirits are usually high this time of the year, but I find myself in a sombre mood as I take a rear view mirror look at 2010.
Nationally, 2010 will go down as a year of scams. But for me it was a year of personal loss in the sense that besides my grand Nani, two towering personalities who influenced my life also passed away during the year.
First of all Jyoti Basu, whose compliments about my program that he had never seen such a wonderful event in his five decades of social life, will always remain a source of inspiration in my life.
Another great loss was the demise of Ram Niwas Mirdha in early 2010 with whom I had visited so many countries as a member of his delegate. One could learn so much merely by being in his company. There were so many unforgettable shared memories with him. I shall recount one that revealed his immense popularity and respect.
During one of our visits to China, the Chinese government officials took us to see the diamond factory of one of the leading industrialists. On our way to the factory, the Chinese officials lavished praises on the industrialist, a person of Indian origin, who had made it big in a short time.
Mirdha ji was leading the delegation. On reaching the factory, the industrialist, whom the Chinese officials were praising no end, graciously touched Sri Mirdha’s feet and said, “Sir! Do you remember me?” Mirdha ji said “No!” The great industrialist said, “About 25 years back, I was your chauffeur on duty when you visited the United States. You only had advised me to start my own business.” We all stood there speechless.
2010 was also the year of the Birth Centenary of Mother Teresa. Mother had once said about me, "He is a boy with a different vision altogether." These words are a great source of strength and inspiration and had instilled in me the confidence to take up social work.
2010 was also the 150th Birth Anniversary of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. In this context, I claim a personal milestone having started off the process of initiating a Tagore and Indian section in one of the libraries in the small town on the Island of Montreal in south west Quebec in Canada. I took up this initiative after I learnt from my many foreign visits how much respect and love people have for Gurudev internationally.
For the first time I played out a small role in a Bengali film and my first book Aapbiti Jagbiti hit the market.
I hope 2011 too would be an inspiring and interesting year. Happy New Year.
ess bee

Saturday, January 1, 2011

First day of New Year and Birla temple

I reached Kolkata from Jaipur last night around 11:30 pm. I always spend the New Year eve at home as those raw raucous parties does not interest me at all. Today morning I went to the Birla Mandir. I have been visiting the Birla Mandir in Kolkata on first day of the New Year when I am in city.
Surprisingly, every year I have noticed that there are hardly any devotees or visitors during the early morning hours. Thanks to the 31st late night revelries. Otherwise, the Mandir draws a lot of crowd.
I got married in Mandir's Yagyashala (picture). My marriage is the only marriage that has been held at this temple till date. I remember at that time I was an activist against anti-dowry and flamboyant weddings the encouraged conspicuous-spending.
Those families whose marriages I had protested against were keenly watching my wedding plans. I had resolved to solemnise my marriage in a temple without any reception. There were 11 guests each from my side and my wife's family. I was under lot of pressure to go for a big fat Indian wedding as marriages are supposed to be a social statement and one of those occasions to flaunt one's status.
I have always been grateful to the Birla family for giving me the permission to get married in the Birla Mandir and also for providing all the necessary support. On returning from the temple, I had south Indian food at Hotel Raj Restaurant near Basusree cinema hall. This was the first restaurant where I went for outing when I shifted to Kolkata around 1990-91. I think visiting my first restaurant in Kolkata on the first day of the New Year makes emotional sense. Tomorrow I shall fly to Jaipur again.
ess bee