Sundeep Bhutoria

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

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Monday, February 28, 2011

Event hopping

I attended the Heritage Award Function at the Science City yesterday. The function started at 5 pm but I was asked to be there at 8 pm. I presented the award to the Bengali band Cactus along with television actress Debolina (pictures). I met artist Wasim Kapur there at the function.
From the Award Function I went to the Ordnance Club for a function organised by FACES (Friends and Alumni of Colleges). The president Imran Zaki is known to me and somehow I have been missing his event. 
I also went there because the event this time was for the benefit of orphans.
Imran organised this event in collaboration with Project Sunshine - an organisation formed by few like-minded musicians of Kolkata. I also met the President of the Ordnance Club who took charge five months back and is new to the city.
From there I went to Taj Bengal to attend an engagement function.
I will fly out to Delhi today late evening.
ess bee

Saturday, February 26, 2011

LIFE UNENDING


Yesterday evening there was an event organised by Prabha Khaitan Foundation with Abrittiloke and supported by the Ministry of Culture, Goverment of India. The event - LIFE UNENDING - was based on Tagore and the on-stage performers were Sharmila Tagore, Soumitra Chatterjee and Jagannath Guha. This unique event was conceived and conceptualised by Soumitra Mitra.
This event was initially planned for February 13th at Shantiniketan but was postponed and could take place only yesterday at Rabindra Sadan. It opened to a packed auditorium and I really appreciate the audience. During the two-hour program, from 6:30 pm to 8:20 pm, not a single mobile phone buzzed.
After the performance, I introduced the cast and crew on the dais (picture). I met Sankho Ghosh and Nabaneeta Dev Sen at the event.
I made a detour to The Conclave for an adda session with Rinku di and the crew of the earlier evening's event.
Sankho Ghosh and Soumitra Chatterjee
At The Conclave, Tony and Indrani also joined us.
I discussed with Rinku di the possibilty of taking this event to other cities as well. 
Apart from the mesmerising presence of Soumitra and Sharmila together, the other important feature of the event was the showcasing of rare pictures of Gurudev and family that were shown on a projector screen forming the backdrop.
After the conclusion of the evening program at Rabindra Sadan, I went for a private dinner to meet Kartik Chidambaram, son of P Chidambaram. He and I have many common friends. Kartik is currently in town for the Tennis Association program.
No doubt, the event LIFE UNENDING would remain etched in the memory for a long time.
ess bee

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Education for All Trust

Sharmila Tagore (aka Rinku di)
Today afternoon I organised a function at the ITC Sonar Pala Banquet Hall to launch the website of Education for All Trust project. I have been running this program of mine with the help of many individuals and corporates.
Though the website (www.educationforalltrust.org) should have been launched earlier, I took time to revive the Project and the website was launched today by Sharmila Tagore (picture) who is also the goodwill ambassador of Unicef.
“The government is doing its bit but we cannot afford to be complacent. Sometimes these small focus groups can reach out and such partnerships can really work. We must be more proactive because it can make a difference to people's lives,” she said on the occasion.
It was a select gathering of principals of different schools, key donors, well-wishers and the director of Club Laptop - the company that has sponsored the website.
Manoj Mohanka, Chairman, CNN-IBN and Rinku di
Many school principals have inquired about the project as well. When I met Rinku di at her Delhi residence few weeks back requesting her to launch the website, she was little apprehensive. But after hearing about the cause of the project she readily agreed to come down to Kolkata to do the honours.
Education for all students remains a major problem in India after six decades of Independence and in spite of the Right To Education Act. It is estimated that there are over eight million out-of-school children in India according to latest UN statistics. Many other social problems that India is saddled with, from crime to population explosion to pollution, stems from lack of basic education.
The Trust believes that creating opportunities for children to be educated will help minimize, if not eradicate, such issues. The Trust does not discriminate on the basis of caste, creed, religion or gender.

ess bee

Monday, February 21, 2011

Just another statue

I attended the exhibition of Suvaprasanna at the Lalit Kala Akademi here in Delhi. After reaching the Akademi I felt as if I were in one of Kolkata's art exhibitions with many familiar faces around. Harsh Neotia, Krishna Bose, Shipra and Suva da were all there at the exhibition.
Gursharan Kaur, wife of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had inaugurated the exhibition while Kapil Sibal was the Guest of Honour. Renuka Chowdhury, Kaushik Basu, advisor to the finance minister, and others from the Delhi's art fraternity were also there.
The Parliamentary Budget Session started today. For the past few years I have been a regular at the Speaker's gallery to watch the sessions. I had witnessed the chaos in the Parliament during the Shibu Soren case. 
As a frequent visitor I have had first-hand experience of the chaos and pandemonium that goes on inside the House session after session. With the national television beaming this mayhem and the whole country watching, this is hardly a matter of amusement. During the Shibu Soren fiasco I remember how our former Speaker, Shri Somnath Chatterjee, had pleaded with the Members to show restraint and maintain decorum in the House, but his words fell on deaf ears.
Once as I came out of the Hall after a not-so-peaceful session my eyes fell on the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation was standing right there outside the main entrance to the Hall. I have often wondered why the statue of Gandhi ji was outside the main building. We all have seen this statue so many times on television. A spot where the politicians sometimes interact with the media.
But now, when I looked at his face, I felt he was relieved to be outside. Having taught the world to look away from evil he himself did the same by not being inside the House. I could not help marvelling at the sagaciousness of the person who had decided on the strategic position of the statue, thus sparing Bapuji from being a silent helpless spectator inside the House.
After all with corruption, indiscipine, mockery of democracy and wanton waste of public money and resources all around, we have all come a long way since the days of satyagraha and ahimsa.
As the saying goes - When the cat is away the mice will play - the netas who indulge in all sorts of unparliamentary activities are able to carry on without any guilt or remorse. The sight of Bapu may have transformed the cinematic Munnabhai but these real life Munnabhais, who pass by this statue so often, have scant respect for the values and ideals he stood for. After all, it is just a another statue.
I remember few lines of the famous poet Surendra Sharma who once said in a Kavi Sammelan -
"Satya, shimsa aur sahanshilata se ab itna hi nata hai,
deewaron par likh deta hain diwali main put jata hai.
(The relevance of honesty, non violence and tolerance are just like the slogans on the wall we paint every Diwali).
l am happy for you Bapuji that you are  standing outside the Parliament
like Oscar Wilde's Happy Prince.
ess bee

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hans – Prem Chand's literary legacy

Sunday today. The weekend turned out to be a busy one as I took the afternoon flight to Mumbai yesterday and returned late in the evening. Mumbai is the city that I have seldom travelled to and I prefer it that way.
I had stayed in Mumbai at a Nariman Point guest house for about six months in 1996-97. Since then, my visit to this city has been few and far, mostly to attend weddings and on some occasions I extended my visit by one or two days just to catch up with my circle of friends.
Today evening I met Rajendra Yadav and discussed the possibility of collaboration between
Prabha Khaitan Foundation and Hansakshar Trust.
Hans was the leading Hindi monthly literary magazine that was started in 1930 by none other than Munshi Prem Chand himself from Varanasi. When the magazine fell on bad days, Yadav ji took editorial charge and revived it. Mahatma Gandhi and K M Munshi were also associated with Hans. A whole school of prominent contemporary Hindi writers had begun their creative career with Hans.
Again, when the magazine was on the verge of closing down, my mother Late Prabha Khaitan decided to extend financial help to the magazine. Mr Yadav recounted old memories and asked for my views on celebrating 80 years of
Hans.
In the afternoon I had lunch at the residence of my Rajya Sabha MP friend in Mahadev Road.
ess bee

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cranky roads


Today evening I went to a cocktail party at the residence of Cuban ambassador to India, Mr Miguel Angel Ramirez at his residence - a farm house - on the outskirts of Delhi. It took me over two hours to reach there from Hotel Hyatt due to the traffic jams and the pitiable condition of the road.
I am always on time for all diplomatic engagements and parties but on this occasion I reached over an hour late. My host, however, was very understanding knowing that I had no idea of the condition of the road to the farmhouse. I was indeed very surprised that a road in the capital of India, leading to the residences of diplomats, could be in such a mess.
It was a gathering of about 15 to 18 people in Honour of prominent Cuban scientist, Dr Concepcion Campa Huergo, who is on a visit to Delhi. She is a member of the Central Committee and politburo of the Communist Party of Cuba since 1991 and a deputy to the National Assembly of the People's Power since 1993. Dr Huergo is also the president and director of the Vaccine Institute "Carlos J Finlay" in Havana.
At the cocktails I met Prakash and Brinda Karat along with other friends from the diplomatic fraternity, including Luis Javier Baro, Mrs Nidia Banos Ojeda and Eduardo Iglesias Quintana from the Cuban Embassy. There were also Mr Marco Brando, ambassador of Brazil in India and Nestor Martin who is the chief correspondent for Presana Latina for South Asia and India.
ess bee

Thursday, February 17, 2011

APJ-struck

Yesterday evening I went to listen to a lecture by A P J Abdul Kalam organised by Sahitya Akademi at the India International Centre. The lecture was scheduled for 6 pm and I reached the auditorium five minutes before to find that it was choc-a-bloc. Let along sitting, there was hardly any place to stand. No doubt, Kalam's popularity has made this auditorium seem small. I regretted the fact that I hadn't come in earlier.
Today morning I met Surendra Sharma, the famous hasya kavi over breakfast. Surendra Sharma has made a name for himself at home and outside India with his iconic style of delivering four-line poetry. He'll be in Kolkata along with some other poets from 15-20th March for various kavi sammelans during Holi.
In the early evening, I met Namita Gokhle the co-director of Jaipur Literary Festival along with Malashri Lala. They both edited a book titled In Search of Sita. They presented a copy of the book to me and we discussed about organising an event related to this book in Kolkata.
From Kolkata, Nabaneeta Dev Sen, Reba Som and Amit Chowdhury have contributed in the book. My gut feeling is that it would be good event. 

In the evening I was at the bar of India International Centre and met many familiar faces from Delhi. I in fact chanced upon Ardhendu Sen, the ex-chief secretary, Government of West Bengal, yesterday evening at the IIC itself.
-ess bee

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentine's day event

Aparna Sen
Hotel Hyatt, Delhi: I returned to Delhi from Kolkata last night. It was raining the whole day here and the temperature was a tad cooler. In Kolkata, apart from the Gulzar dinner on Saturday, I had to extend my stay in order to attend the concert of Aparna Sen (picture) on Valentine's Day. It was a different kind of event and had a fresh approach to it.
Aparna Sen read out few of the love letters of world renowned personalities including George Bernard Shaw, a letter of Nargis to Sunil Dutt that had a mention of Raj Kapoor and some other letters. 

I really liked the letter from the Japanese wife, though a work of fiction by Kunal Basu.
The way Rina di read out the letter was amazing as she incorporated the Japanese and Bengali accents in English - just as in The Japanese Wife - the film she directed last year. The event began with the Governor's speech and Harsh Neotia played the role of Sutradhar. I met Madhu Neotia, Dinesh Trivedi and his wife, Sanjay Budhia and the Governor's wife .
After landing in Delhi I went to the India International Centre (ICC) for an adda with Sunil da and Soumitra Mitra. Sunil da is also in Delhi for the Sahitya Akademi events. Tomorrow, A P J Abdul Kalam is scheduled to deliver a lecture at the event in India International Centre.
-ess bee

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A poetic evening with Gulzar


Gulzar

I returned from Delhi to Kolkata for two days on Friday evening to attend a two-day Poetry Festival organised by Viswa Bharti, Abrittilok and Prabha Khaitan Foundation with the support of Sahitya Akademi and Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Government of India, as a part of the Sesquicentennial anniversary of Gurudev.
Neelanjana, Gulzar and Arjun
The two-day poetry festival was held at Santiniketan. I was planning to go there this morning but the plan did not materialise and I had to stay back and at home.
Poet-lyricist Gulzar was in Kolkata on Saturday night to attend the next day's festivities at Santiniketan. Gulzar will speak on My feelings on Tagore and Translation of Tagore and Sunil  Gangopadhyay will recite a poem on Tagore. Soumitra Chatterjee, Martin Kempchen, Police Commissioner Gautam Mohan Chakraborty and Soumitra Mitra too would recite from Tagore's works. Mohon Singh and Tripti Chakraborty will sing Rabindrasangeet on the occasion.
I hosted a dinner at the ITC Sonar Bangla Sheraton & Towers poolside in honour of Gulzar (picture), and also to meet him and greet him personally. I was surprised to see his popularity. It was a packed house with not only cent per cent attendance but also celebs and others making a beeline to his dinner table to get autographs. There is something about Gulzar's countenance that is striking and his demeanour appeals to one and all.
Indronil and Barkha
Everybody congratulated him for his recent Filmfare Awards for Dil to Baccha Hai Ji as his poetry was being played in the background. Poolside view, tasty kebabs, biryani, specially-prepared lentils and the aroma of cigars created a perfect ambience. Thanks to ITC Sonar for the good show.
In fact, while selecting the menu, I decided I shall not keep any main course apart from biryani, dal and raitas, though I was a little apprehensive about how well it would go down with the guests. 
But my fears were put to rest when, one after the other, guests came up to tell me about the excellent menu. Some of them even told me that it was a welcome change from the hackneyed paneer, aloo, chana and pasta counter that has become so frequent in parties and dinners.
ess bee

Friday, February 11, 2011

Delhi daily events


It is Friday morning today. Delhi is keeping me very busy with regular activities and events - art shows, book releases, cultural functions and performances and add to that the parties thrown in by the diplomats. The level and frequency of diplomatic activities are very high in Delhi compared to Kolkata.
Yesterday evening I attended the Iranian National Day celebrations at Hotel Le Meridien. It was a gathering of diplomats and turned out to be a great opportunity for me to catch up with many of my friends.
It was the 32nd Anniversary Celebrations of Islamic Republic of Iran. I was invited by Mr S A Mahadavi, who is a Senior Counsellor of Energy and Economy in the Iranian Mission. Mr Mahadavi is an old diplomat in Delhi, he has played an important role in strengthening the relations between the two countries in past several years. He introduced me to the ambassador Mr Seyed Mahdi Nabizadeh who informed me that around June or July there would be a celebration of Tagore in Iran.

Faroukh Abdullah
Iran is among those countries I have yet to visit. We also discussed about the activities of Iran Society in Kolkata. I met Faroukh Abdullah after a long time. The last time I met him was when he had attended the dinner hosted by me in Delhi (picture).
Today there is a book launch on Shuvaprasanna at The National Gallery of Modern Art, Jaipur House, followed by a panel discussion in which Prof B N Goswami (art historian), Shri Jawhar Sircar (Secretary, Ministry of Culture), Dr Kaushik Basu (Chief Economic Advisor) and Smt Sushma K Bahl (Editor of the Book) would participate. 
There was also another book launch Nitish Gadkari on Deendayal Upadhyay for which Mahesh Sharma had invited me. I will miss both the book launch function as I'll be on a flight to Kolkata today early evening.
ess bee

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Delhi and Delhi polo


Sri Arvind Singh Mewar

It is a foggy morning in Delhi today. I can barely see the outline of the passport office building from my room terrace in Hyatt.
Yesterday I was at the India International Centre (ICC) bar with a journalist friend. All of a sudden there were gusty winds scattering dust and leaves all around, spiking food and drinks of people who were sitting in the open. We too scampered indoors. After a few minutes it began to rain. The 30-minute untimely downpour caused traffic snarls and plunging the mercury. I remember, last year was cooler than this year at this time of the year.
But this year, daytime is much warmer. Blame global warming and the heated discussions in the capital on 2G, CWG, fairness in Padma Awards, price rise and the approaching budget session of the Parliament.
I spent much of my time at the IIC library in the past two days, catching up with friends and watching polo match on Sunday at the Jaipur Polo Ground located just opposite Prime Minister's Race Course residence. It was an internationl test match between India and England. The Indian team members included Major Vishal Chauhan, Major Ravi Rathore, Mr Samir Suhag and Bk Col Tarun Sirohi. The English team was represented by Mr James Carr, Mr Max Charlton, Mr Satnam Dhillon and Bk Eden Osmerod.
Though Satnam Dhillon of the England team was adjudged the best player with the highest handicap of +7 from both the teams, India won the closely fought match of five chakkar.
I said hello to General V K Singh (PVSM, AVSM, YSM, ADC), Chief of Army Staff and also the President of Indian Polo Association. Mr Singh was in Kolkata before he became the Chief of Army. Last year also I was at this Polo Club with Sri Arvind Singh Mewar of Udaipur royal family and a descendant of Maharana Pratap (file pictures).
ess bee

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ghalib's city – heartless, prideless!


A spate of events and observations during the past few days in Delhi have really made me sit up and wonder – Is this the same Ghalib's city!
Let me recall a few of my observations.
I was on my way to attend a function when a traffic policeman near Connaught Place accosted my private taxi. He approached the driver and said that he had violated traffic rules and should pay up a fine of Rs 1100. After a few words, a nod and a wink, the policeman took Rs 100 as fine. He was about to write a receipt when the cabbie declined it saying he was in a hurry and drove off. When asked, he told me that this was the standard cabbie-cop code in city to make the whole act of greasing palms look official and unsuspecting to the passengers.
Dr Leonal Fernandez, President
of Dominican Republic
Another day, I went to attend a function held in honour of Dr Leonal Fernandez, President of The Dominican Republic. The programme had started at 10 am and I reached there around 11 am. I was hoping that it would take at least 5 to 10 minutes to pass through  the standard security checks for functions hosting foreign heads of state. But to my amazement, I found myself gliding into the hall where I met the President, shook hands, exchanged pleasantries and got photographed (picture). There were no car checks and no checks at the entrance or at any other level. To put it simply, there was hardly any security.
Change of scene. I was at the India-UK polo match. As I entered the match was in progress. The score said 1-0 in favour of India. I noticed a lady standing next to me, all decked up in top designer wear and accessories. I asked her who had scored the goal for India, to which she earnestly exclaimed, “Have goals been scored!” Well, how correct a friend of mine was who had told me that “being seen” during polo matches is among the latest fads in the capital. The game or match, as such, was secondary.
Similarly, I have found that it is a fashion in Delhi to attend art and other exhibitions, while in Kolkata it is a passion. Attendance in functions, especially the classical kind, is directly proportional to the connections the performer has.
But the last straw was this incident near a famous paan shop close to Hotel Claridges. I saw a gentleman, who had parked his Santro, stop over to buy paan from this famous shop. A SUV of foreign make, with music blaring, came and banged the Santro while parking. The gentleman approached the three raw raucous youngsters who had emerged from the SUV to tell them that they should park their car with care only to be slapped in public. Some of the locals advised the gentleman to steer clear of these men who were relatives of some minister from a neighbouring state.
Napoleon had once said - Scratch a Russian and you'll find a Tartar. Scratch a Delhiwallah and god only knows what one would find. I can never think of being loud with a cabbie or any other person in public life in Kolkata. But here in Delhi, from MDs to their loudmouthed underlings, boorish mannerisms seems to be the order of the day and, perhaps, works too.
Delhi has the dubious tag of being the `crime and rape capital of the world'. I had never really believed this in my heart till I witnessed this daytime city life incident in the heart of the capital a few days back.
Ghalib is a metaphor for the great culture of Delhi. But being here in Delhi, I wonder with sadness - Is this the same Ghalib's city that we grew up reading in history books.
Diplomat writer Pavan K Varma has very aptly portrayed this decadence of Delhi in his book Ghalib: The Man, The Times. With a heavy heart I agree with Mr Varma when he says, "Without pride you can't have a great capital."
Delhi, it seems, is a heartless and prideless city.
-ess bee

Friday, February 4, 2011

Missing out on Kolkata events

Today morning I went to the Indian Council of World Affairs located at the Sapru House on Barakhamba Road to listen to a speech and an interactive session with the President of The Dominican Republic, Dr Leonal Fernandez. 
It was a gathering of about 100 people, mostly of ambassadors of Latin American countries in  India, scholars and few ex-ambassadors from India who have served in different Latin American countries.
Ex-president A P J Abdul Kalam
I was invited by His Excellency, Dr Frank Hans Dannenberg Castellanos, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Embassy of Dominican Republic in India. The President stressed upon the good relations between Indian and Latin America and highlighted the potential for tourism to his country. I met the President and many of the known ambassadors over tea after the interactive session.
In the afternoon I was at the India International Centre (ICC). I got a call from Usha Ganguly requesting me to watch a Rangkarmee play. I will miss that. On February 2nd also I could not attend the 150-year celebrations of the Loretto College in Kolkata. I wanted to listen to Dr A P J Abdul Kalam. I always met him whenever he visited Kolkata as the President India (picture).
Tanmoy Bose
Another event that I missed is the inauguration of Sufi Festival at the Nicco Park in Kolkata. Tanmoy Bose had invited me to the inaugural session as a guest with Aparna Sen. I had also missed his last event - Mahabharata - for which he had invited me, but I could not make it because of my Delhi plan.
I will be missing many more events in Kolkata but my main regret would be missing out on the launch of the magazine Protector by the Kolkata Police at the Kolkata Book Fair tomorrow and also the annual award function of Krittivas at the same venue.
Tomorrow I'll miss another function on Tagore at the Taj Bengal terrace being organised and hosted by Dr Manilal Bhowmick Foundation. The party at The Park, hosted by Vijay and Soniya Deewan tomorrow (Feb 5th) would also be added to my growing list of `missed events'.
ess bee

Thursday, February 3, 2011

In Delhi for winter

Ambassador of Peru in India Javier Paulinich and Honorary
Consul of El Salvador in Kolkata, Sharad Khaitan
I arrived in New Delhi today as a part of my winter sojourn and plan to spend four to six weeks here. During my stay here I will fly out to Kolkata for some events. For the past nine years now, I have been visiting Delhi during the winters. While in Delhi, I spend nearly 90 per cent of my time at the India International Centre.
I had an early dinner at the Aangan restaurant - the Indian outlet at Hotel Hyatt. Although this hotel is famous for its Chinese restaurant and its Italian outlet. In fact, both the Italian outlets in Delhi and Kolkata have made a mark, I was quite amazed and pleasantly surprised with the quality of Indian food at the Aangan. The food was much better than I could ever imagine and, as a hard core Indian foodie, I'd give full marks to it. The restaurant has a live music band that plays old Hindi songs and old classics.
Talking about food at the Hyatt, and if one is looking for the best Italian food in Kolkata, it must be at the Hyatt Kolkata. It is very popular in private parties too. In fact the very next day evening after I landed in Kolkata from Jaipur on Monday, I attended a party at the terrace of the Air Condition Market hosted by Manisha and Siddharth Rampuria. This private terrace is amazingly beautiful and it seems at every single leaf at the garden has benn given full attention.
J K Saraf, Honorary Consul of Chile
in Kolkata and Ambassador of Peru




There weren't any cocktails or non vegetarian food as chosen by Mr Rampuria. The catering was from Hyatt and the cuisine Italian. From this terrace the lit-up Victoria Memorial looks so beautiful. It reminded me of a senior politician's terrace in Budapest (Hungary) from where the imposing Hotel Four Seasons, all lit up, looked very much similar.
On Tuesday I also had lunch with the Ambassador of Peru Mr Javier Paulinich organised by Mr Gopal Poddar. He was in Kolkata to visit the Kolktata Book Fair and to release a book that was a Bengali translation from a Spanish historical work on Peru about the Inca Civilisation. I talked about my Machu Pichu trip several years ago and discussed the Latin American connection with Bengal. I met the Honorary Consul of Peru in Kolkata, Gopal Poddar, Honorary Consul of Chile in Kolkata, J K Saraf, and another Honorary Consul of El Salvador, Sharad Khaitan (pictures).
Gopal Poddar, Honorary Consul of Peru in Kolkata 
Yesterday I spent much of my time clearing up office work and then late at night went to the Shisha for the T2 birthday party. By the time I went to bed at 4 am, it was almost   daybreak. The Delhi weather is fine, bidding adieu to the chill. The arrest of A Raja is the hot topic of discussion everywhere.
ess bee