Sundeep Bhutoria

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Thank you.
ess bee

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

A city I once knew

Hotel Grand Maratha Mumbai: It has been nearly a decade and a half since I lived in Mumbai for about 18 months in the mid nineties. At that time, I had stayed at a Nariman Point guest house for about one year and another six months at a Napean Sea Road apartment. I have many fond memories of this city of that time.
I have travelled extensively but Mumbai, somehow, has never been on my travel itinerary for a long time except for few hours at the airport during transit for catching international flights. I had spent a night when the Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas was held in the city. I did not get time to venture out of the airport, hotel or conference venue.
Normally I don't like attending weddings. But this time I am in Mumbai to attend the wedding of Prerna Sarda and Abhinav Jhunjhunwala. The wedding functions would take place at The Taj properties. I, however, chose to stay at the Grand Maratha as many of my yester-year friends and acquaintances from ITC Sonar Bangla and Rajputana like Kuldeep Dhawan, Rajesh Nath, Gurpreet and Neelam Sethi now attached with this property.
This Hotel has a classical structure and the interiors is a tribute to the legacy of Maratha culture. There is a glass wall that divides the coffee shop and the lobby on which is scripted a letter that Shivaji had written to his mother Jija Bai. I am on the 16th floor of this Hotel. The walls on this particular  floor are adorned by murals and sculptures depicting the artwork of Ajanta and Ellora caves.
Yesterday I was there at the ball room of the famous Taj Mahal Hotel in Colaba for Sangeet function. The ballroom, it seemed, had more people than it could accommodate comfortably. Leading industrialists of the country turned up in full strength. After spending about half-an-hour greeting all friends who had come down from Kolkata, I decided to take a walk towards the Regal Cinema Hall. 
Regal Cinema, Jehangir Art Gallery, St Anne's High School, Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) are some of the iconic buildings and institutions located on this stretch – old memory lane – that I used to walk almost every day during my stay in Mumbai.
I reached Chetna Restaurant which used to be my favorite food joint that served home-type thali food. I asked the bearer about Subhash Gandhi who used to take care of this restaurant belonging to the Arya family. The bearer was visibly surprised and asked me after how many years I was in the city.
The interiors of the restaurant had an altogether new look and the menu list had added, besides the Gujarati and Rajasthani thali, Maharasthrian thali along with snacks. I had a masala kedgeree (kitchari) and kadhi - the restaurant's special dishes. This veggie restaurant started in 1946. The bearer also told me that the Maharaj (main cook) of this restaurant is still the same person who has been working here for the past 35 years.
While having dinner at Chetna I wondered that the city has made a long journey from Bombay to Mumbai. I have a feeling that Mumbai has lost its pulse since the days of mid-nineties when I last lived here. I had plans to stay here this time for about 10 to 12 days but have decided to cut short my trip and return to my city Kolkata. I don't know this Mumbai and nor Mumbai knows me.
ess bee

Friday, January 27, 2012

In Mumbai, missing out on Jaipur, Kolkata events

January 27th Mumbai: I arrived in Mumbai late last night from Jaipur. I could not attend the Republic Day programme at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium but attended the Republic Day tea at the Raj Bhavan in Jaipur and then took the last flight to Mumbai.
Normally, this time of the year, I stay put in Jaipur only. But this time I cut short my trip and came to Mumbai to attend a wedding function. I will miss the Sirmur Cup Polo which happens to be the last and the most famous tournament of Jaipur polo season. 
In fact, when I was in Jaipur during Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, I took out some time in the afternoon and went to see the polo match. There I met Maharaja Jai Singh of Jaipur (picture). He told me that he hoped that I would be staying till the end of the polo season.
I will also miss out on the annual bash hosted by princess Diya Kumari today. This bash is also a very popular event on the city's social calendar.  
Many people asked me why I was leaving the party for a day and that too at a time when many guests were flying in for the sole purpose of attending this very party which would be hosted at the Narayan Niwas this year.
I will also miss the Jaipur Film Festival inaugural function in which Jayabrato Chatterjee's film Love Song will be screened and Jaya Bacchan would be felicitated with the Life Time Achievement Award.
My missing out on big events continues in the Kolkata circuit as well starting from Dover Lane Music Conference, Kolkata Book Fair inauguration, Calcutta Literary Meet and so on. 
I will attend the wedding function this evening. In fact my late friend Arun Bhutoria and I were supposed to attend this wedding together and we had even chalked out few things we'd do in Mumbai once the wedding got over. Arun was very close to the bride's family. As he is no more, it was on me to ensure that I attended this wedding.

ess bee

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

LitFest 2012 ends


The Jaipur Literary Festival concluded with the Writers' Ball Party at the Kesar Kyari of Amber Fort. 
At the last day's sessions, the only discussion among the audience was Salman Rushdie's proposed video conference which did not happen at the end of the day.
At the Writers' Ball yesterday evening, besides the authors and speakers, few prominent Jaipurites were invited. Kesar Kyari really looks amazing when lit up. The guests were busy clicking pictures and some of them took my pictures as well (picture).
I had a brief chat with Namita Gokhale who was a tad relaxed after the huge event.
I complimented her for the great show.
I also met and chatted with Swami Agnivesh (picture) who was, for most of the time, busy on his cell phone.
Sunanda Pushkar, Konkana and others were there at the Kyari roof where dinner was laid.
Javed sahab was also at ease today. After finishing his session on Lava, his new book, he was thronged by his fans, mostly school children, and could hardly move freely.
After that session I was standing with filmmaker Sangeeta Dutta of London as Javed Sahab tried to talk to us but had to beat a retreat from the venue due to the crowd of well wishers and fans (picture).
I have invited famous theatre director, Bhanu Bharti, today evening. He is from the Bharatpur division. He was in the city on an invitation from the Rajasthan government to produce and direct a programme on the Republic Day at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium. I am thinking of attending this programme though tomorrow I have many last minute work to finish off with in Jaipur and then leave for Mumbai.
ess bee

Monday, January 23, 2012

The head that fits the crown


With Prasoon Joshi and Gulzar

January 23rd 2012: Today morning I went to the Lit Fest at the Diggi Palace. The session Kahani Kise Kahate Hai started with Gulzar, Javed Akhtar, Prasoon Joshi and Vishal Bharadwaj taking to the stage.
The session started in English. This was a big big disappointment for me. Who on earth would want to hear out Gulzar and Javed speaking in a language other than Hindi or Urdu. During the course of the session, I believe, they understood this fact, and gauging the audience mood, switched on to Hindi and Urdu.
After the session I met up with Suhel Seth (picture) and we had a few rounds of chai and samosas. We discussed about he Jaipur LitFest (JLF) and the forthcoming Calcutta festival.
Few weeks ago in Kolkata, a prominent English daily asked for my views on - Can Calcutta snatch the literary meet crown from Jaipur?
I had said “Yes!”
With film directorVishal Bhardwaj
Indeed, Calcutta can snatch the literary meet crown from Jaipur. The Jaipur Literary Festival is more of a “glamorous mela” than a litfest. It is one great big soulless event with a very high glamour quotient and a picture postcard venue. The Jaipur LitFest is where all well-known authors, celebs, filmstars, politicians and the well-healed want to be.
There is no doubt that the Jaipur Literary Festival is very well managed and attended. But somehow, the soul is missing. This is not just my person feeling. Many local artistes and literatteurs and others share this feeling.
Kolkata is the city where Saraswati – the goddess of music, knowledge and art - resides. It is the Mecca of Indian culture, the very soul of literature and fine arts. Those who participate in the book fairs in Kolkata do not do so because of any glamour or star attraction. They do so because literature flows in their very bloodstream. They have a passion for books.
I am a regular at the Kolkata Book Fair and have also been attending the Jaipur Literary Festival as well. Talking about literature and comparing Kolkata and Jaipur is like comparing a human being and a robot. The common man has no role or place in the Jaipur Literary Festival, where as, Kolkata draws its strength from its common man’s passion for literature. 
The crown fits Kolkata's head naturally. For Jaipur, it is the head that is made to fit the crown.
After the session was over, I met Prasoon, Gulzar Sahab and Vishal Bhardwaj and had tea with Prasoon Joshi (picture).
ess bee

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Party at my house in Jaipur


With Girish Karnad

Yesterday night, I hosted a dinner at my Jaipur residence and invited few of my political and bureaucratic friends. The group was also joined by friends and known people from Kolkata like Madhu Neotia, Suresh Neotia, Ina Puri, Kunal Basu, Sangeeta Dutta and others.
With Jai Govind Indoria (left) and
Mayor of Jaipur Ms Jyoti Khandelwal
There were many people from all over the world in Jaipur who are known to me and they also attended this informal get-together including Girish Karnad, historian Helen Kee, Om Thanvi, Ashok Vajpeyi and others.
From Jaipur apart from Nand Bhardwaj, Digambar Singh, Jyoti Khandelwal - Mayor of Jaipur, Mamata Sharma, Chairman, National Commission for Women, Rajiv Arora and other friends from political background were also there.
With Mamata Sharma, Navdeep Singh and Suresh Neotia
The Jaipur weather is freezing cold and even on a small lawn with about 125 people get-together, five gas heaters and ten big sigrees were not enough to create warmth around.
It was delightful conversation not only on Salman Rushdie but also on Jaipur civil society, Jaipur Literary Festival and the recent Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and the upcoming Jaipur Film Festival as well.
With Digambar Singh
Diverse segments of people from diverse walks of life, of course have diverse opinions but everybody is of the same opinion that from January 15 to February 10 is the best time to be in Jaipur as far as literature, culture, film and sporting activities are concerned.
I have called a group of ghazal singers for live performance followed by violin players as after 10 PM, Jaipur has a law, at least in my residential area that microphones cannot be used.
With author Kunal Basu
The guests and I both enjoyed the ghazals as well as the violin music and I was thinking that in fact, it is a good time for me to hold a get-together in this season every year, as apart from Jaipur I can entertain known guests from my cultural circuit who visit Jaipur in this season.
ess bee

Friday, January 20, 2012

Jaipur at its dazzling best

I was busy at a personal function till late afternoon yesterday. In the evening I went to Hotel Mariott where my friend Tanmoy Bose, a leading tabla player, was performing with Anushka. For the citizens of Jaipur it was a memorable classical evening.
I dropped in at the Rambag Palace Hotel for a dinner hosted in honour of the much talked about authors from across the globe who have converged on the city for the Jaipur Lit Fest. Rambag was decked up like a bride. The guests, who have been savouring the Jaipur hospitality, were awe-struck by the dazzling display of candle and flower-works at the Hotel. All the guests were driven in buggies from the gate to dinner site and taken back to their destinations on vintage cars. The Taj Group of Hotels has every reason to feel proud of this Palace property of theirs.
This evening I hosted a cocktail party at my Jaipur house which was attended by artistes like Prerna Srimali, Ankit Patel, Surendra Pal Joshi, Ikram Rajasthani and others (picture)
Ashok Vajpayee, Jawahar Sircar and Ina Puri, who were in Jaipur for the LitFest, also joined in (picture).
ess bee

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

At Jaipur's Rambag Palace Hotel


January 18, 2012: I arrived in Jaipur last evening. It was freezing. I went to the Rambag Palace Hotel for dinner and sat in the lawn in front of coffee shop. The cold was too much for the guests as all the other tables outside were empty while the coffee shop was full inside. Oddly enough, I like this kind of weather. I requested the bearer to put more sigris (stove lit with coal or wood) and stayed there till the midnight.
From the lawn I could see the Hotel's SMS block which has about 15 to 17 rooms on one side. All the rooms, located on the ground floor, are like that of a good 3 Star hotel. There is a gate from where you can walk to Rambag's adjoining areas. The SMS banquets are also located there. Normally these rooms are booked for weddings, conventions and conferences. The tour operators also bring in tourists to the Hotel by enticing them with the majestic and imposing pictures and photos of Rambag property. I personally like SMS a lot.
There were times when I wasn't staying at the Rajputana, I always used to stay here at the SMS . There's one particular room in this Hotel, the first one before the reception, that has a separate drawing room and bedroom. If I remember correctly it is the Room No 430. The place was good for me and I often joked that it was a well-serviced circuit house with 5 Star facility.
I remembered Mr R D Singh who used to manage the property. I called him on his cell number which was switched off.
I asked a waiter about him and was shocked to hear that he is no more. I suddenly realized that it has been three years since I was last here and had spent many weeks. Mr Singh used to take good care of me and I had known him since the days when he was a duty manager here. He also owned a heritage hotel where I had met his family once.
I don't feel like staying at the Rambag any more in the absence of Singh ji. I remember my last conversation with him was about his son's (the name fails me) career who wanted to join The Taj Group then. The whole evening I was flooded with memories of R D Singh. The bearers, fearing I'll catch cold, kept warning me of the chilly weather.
Tomorrow I will be busy the whole day in a personal function.
ess bee

Monday, January 16, 2012

At the Kavi-Katha in Town Hall

With Mr H M Bangur and Mr Sunil Gangopadhyay
Monday, January 16, 2012: Yesterday morning I went to the Town Hall to witness Kavi-Katha via Gujarati poetry, dance and activism at 11 am.
Though Mallika Sarabhai was absent, Pranab Mukherjee did a very good job. One thing I noticed and liked was the green, yellow, red and blue coloured cloth which decked up the stairs of the Town Hall. I must thank the present government and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation that somehow Town Hall has become a hub for good events.
In the evening there was a Board Meeting of The Bengal (picture) in which the Safe City Project was discussed. The Bengal is planning to join hands with Kolkata Police and The Telegraph for this project.
The National Commission for Women have also expressed their willingness to be associated with this project.
Tomorrow I will fly to Jaipur.
ess bee