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

Email: essbee@essbeeindia.com

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dinner with Tolly stars

August 30, 2012: Reached Kolkata on Monday evening and decided to host a small dinner at home. Tolly stars Subashree and Dev, Barkha and Indraneil, Koel Mallik, Babita and Anil Kathotia from Bangalore and a couple of other friends joined in.
Other than this dinner, my diary for this week is clean. I have kept it so as I would be travelling abroad for over four weeks Monday onwards.
This morning I went to meet Rajeev Kumar, Commissioner of Bidhannagar Police, and discussed in short a few activities which we could do with the Bidhannagar Police. Our organisations have already done many events jointly with Kolkata Police.
ess bee

Monday, August 27, 2012

At the Desert Soul III

With Girdhari Maharaj
August 27, 2012: It was a busy and rainy weekend in Jaipur for me. Yesterday I got stranded due to a heavy downpour while returning from Rajvilas - another of the vilas properties of the Oberois.
Saturday was tight day as there was the third series of the Desert Soul with Girdhari Maharaj as the guest in conversation with Prerana Shrimali. As a surprise to everybody the sprawling Jalmahal area of the ITC Rajputana began to seem smaller as the number of guests started coming in. The turnout was big and took everyone by surprise. No one thought that a serious programme would draw so many people as audience.
I was elated that the third edition of the Desert Soul series was a runaway success. Before going to the Desert Soul event, I went to the City Palace to have a meeting with Princess Diya Kumari and a couple of like-minded people to discuss about a project which would be made public at the appropriate time.
Yesterday evening I attended a party of the Hindustan Times at the ITC Rajputana itself.
This afternoon I met Mamta Periwal along with Bhavna Jagwani and Dharmendar Kanwar. We took a decision that Mamta Periwal and Jaya Shaktawat would be the joint convenors of Rajasthan Forum's Udaipur unit.
Today evening I fly back to Kolkata.
ess bee

Sunday, August 26, 2012

In the lap of luxury


At the Oberoi Udaivilas
The exclusive vilas properties of The Oberoi Group of hotels have set a new trend in Indian hospitality. The four of the vilas - Rajvilas (Jaipur), Udaivilas (Udaipur), Amarvilas (Agra) and Vanyavilas (Sawai Madhopur) – live up to their name and reputation. Vilas, meaning “luxurious or lavish” in Hindi, should not be confused with the similar sounding and meaning English word `villa'.
Last weekend I was at the Udaivilas for the fourth time and it never ceases to amaze. It indeed is one of the best luxurious places to be in. I have on two occasions stayed in the other vilas property – Oberoi Vanyavilas – a jungle resort in Sawai Madhopur nestled in the natural beauty of the wilds and on the edge of the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve.
With Lake Pichhola in the background
This stay at the Udaivilas is special since I got an upgrade to the Regent suite which comes with a price tag of Rs 1.8 lac plus taxes per day. This suite has a private swimming pool, dining area and a telescope. There are, in all, four such suites. A sit down deck across the pool, guest powder room, period furniture with exquisite inlays, silken drapes and tapestries, private courtyard and opulent washroom with marble baths all come with it. You can just walk into the pool from the bedroom or drawing room.
I think, these four suites, are far better than the presidential suites of most other five-star deluxe properties. Udaivilas property's Presidential suite is named Kohinoor and is priced at Rs 2.8 lac plus taxes per day.
This property, spread over 50 acres, is a showpiece of Mewar and Mughal architecture. While the hotel building is built over 8 acres of land, the sprawling landscaped gardens claim 22 acres and expresses the design philosophy - “More odd the better” - of its famous US-born-Bangkok-based landscape architect Bill Bensley.
The remaining 20-odd acres is for wildlife conservation where you can see wild boars, spotted deer and peacocks dwell in their natural habitat. The haunting calls of the peacocks echo throughout the reserve. A children's golf course is on the anvil.
It was five years ago I last visited this place. Each time, I came here to attend wedding ceremonies. This property, a hot favourite for hosting big fat Indian weddings, has hosted scores of such events in the past decade.
My room the Regent suite (405) has a rear view of the Bara Mahal - the old hunting lounge of the Mewar dynasty - built by Maharana Fateh Singh in the late 19th Century.
Thanks to the Oberoi group they have kept this lodge as it was. The hotel guests love to visit this spot especially when it is feeding time for the animals. Few know that there is also a Chota Mahal in this property where the servants during the Raj era were housed. This too has been retained as it was.
The quality of the hotel service is simply perfect. Even the fussiest of guests would find it impossible to pick holes.
I regret that I could not meet Roop Singh ji, the care taker of Bara Mahal and the sanctuary for over 30 years, since he was on leave. Roop Singh's father and grandfather spent their lifetime serving the Maharana of Mewar. I had met him during my earlier visits and did chat up with him about things past and present.
On my way back from lake Pichhola I felt something was missing. Later, I realized that Bhagwanti - a 65-feet boat made of sagwan wood where I had once had dinner watching the sun go down the hills – has been removed since it could not be repaired.
ess bee

Friday, August 24, 2012

In from Delhi

August 24, 2012: I returned from Delhi to Jaipur this afternoon. In the evening, I went to a friend’s residence for dinner.
My yesterday in Delhi was very hectic. I had a series of meetings in Hotel Aman from 1 PM to 8.30 PM. By the time I arrived at the ITC Maurya I was totally exhausted and straight away went off to sleep without even penning my daily notes. The jet lag seems to be a little better now. Somehow while returning to India I had a jet lag which is always a big problem for me.
ess bee

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wonderful couple

August 22, 2012: I am back in Jaipur again. I arrived here on August 21 morning from Udaipur and yesterday night went for dinner at Ritu and Jaimini Oberois residence. Ritu and Jaimini are one of the most prominent couples in the Pink City. It was nice of them to organize a dinner for me. They are really a wonderful couple full of charm and grace.
They invited quite a number of people known to me like Ashok Agarwal, Ashok Jagwani, Ajay Chopra, Rupender and Jayshree Periwal and others. I had met the couple in Bhutan during the Mountain Echoes Lit Fest and in fact accepted their invitation for a much earlier date, which, somehow, never happened.
I enjoyed the company of Jaimini and Ritu Oberoi immensely as we have many things in common. I was really amazed to see their collection of Maqbool Fida Hussains work. Mr Oberoi has a whole set of MF's paintings on different religions.
Tomorrow I leave for Delhi where I have a series of meetings lined up.
ess bee

Monday, August 20, 2012

In Conversation with Usha Uthup

In Conversation with Usha Uthup
Udaivilas (Udaipur): I had always known that any tete-a-tete with Usha Uthup is pleasing and interesting. But I had no idea that being in conversation with her amid the regal ambiance of Chandra Mahal Hall of Hotel Udaivilas in Udaipur and a ladies-only audience could be so enthralling.
I shall always remember yesterday the August 19 2012 as the day I took the plunge – to be in conversation with Usha Uthup. 
With Vinnie Kakkar
At the outset, on didi's advice, we decided to keep a one-hour format. But as the conversation gained momentum, it was well over nearly two-and-half hours with beaming FICCI FLO members who were often found to be up on their feet dancing to the voice of Usha Uthup as she sang out some of her and India's all time favourites like Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Ramba Ho, Bindiya Chamkegi, Fever, Darling and Kolaveri di.
The over two hours of non-stop wit, humour, lively anecdotes and songs floored the FICCI FLO ladies who found it impossible to just sit and listen to the Queen of Indian Pop and turned the free space into a dance floor. I almost lost sense of the fact that I was in “Conversation with Usha Uthup”. Right from the word go when I introduced Usha di as “Kolkata's first didi and other than our Chief Minister who is also didi to all the masses...” it all just flowed.
As Usha di began to share her eventful life's anecdotes starting from her salad days at Nine Gems in Madras to Bombay to Calcutta's Park Street bar Trinca's to Delhi's Oberoi Grand, it was evident that many turning points of her life also happen to be the trendsetters in India.
In the beginning only men went to night clubs. Slowly the women, when they saw me (in sari and traditional Indian attire) the kind of woman I was, they became my best friends. They knew with a face and body like mine I was not danger to their husbands,” Usha di said amid peals of laughter.
She reminisced that she made “night-club singing in India, which carried a sort of stigma it, respectable”.
It was during her singing stint at the Oberoi Hotel in Delhi that she got a break into Bollywood with Dev Anand’s Hare Rama Hara Krishna when the Navketan unit, with Dev Anand and R D Burman, was there listening to her on the New Year’s eve. Since then she never looked back.
With Neeta Boochra
She made a candid confession that she had been earmarked to sing the smashing hit song Dum Maro Dum as a duet with Lata Mangeshkar. She was taken back when the song ultimately went to Asha Bhonsale. However, millions of Indians still believe that Usha di had sung that song. “Dane dane par likha hai khane wala ka naam; Gane gane par likha hai gane wale ka naam,” she quipped.
The venue next to the Pichola Lake was a perfect setting. As time fleeted and we came back to ourselves it was over two-and-half hours. It was like discovering Usha di once again
I must thank FICCI FLO Jaipur President, Vinnie Kakkar, for organising this event.
ess bee

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Chance meeting with an old friend on train

Regent Suite, Hotel Udaivilas: I arrived in Udaipur early this morning by train from Jaipur.
After getting down at the Jaipur airport yesterday around 5 pm, I went to Marriott Hotel which is about a two-minute drive from the airport and plunged myself into a series of meetings that went on till 9 pm. After that, I went to my address in Jaipur, ITC Rajputana, freshened up and boarded the train to Udaipur.
My last train journey from Jodhpur-Jaipur which I undertook recently after almost 15 years has given me the confidence to start using our good old railways once again.
In the train I met Gulab Chand Kataria the Home Minister of Rajasthan during Vasundhara Rajes regime. We met by chance and he is personally known to me. Strangely I already had plans to meet him during my overnight Udaipur trip. He informed me he would be in Nathdwara and he right away confirmed a time to meet me in Jaipur.
This Udaivilas property of The Oberoi group is really amazing. Though this was my first visit to this property as a visitor and not as a wedding guest. Udaipur, and Udaivilas in particular, has emerged as a hot wedding destination for Indians over the last decade.
ess bee

The weekend culture

This weekend I am at The Oberoi Udaivilas in Udaipur. The only-of-its-kind majestic property of The Oberoi Group, set amid beautiful lakes and verdant greens, that has its own magic aura.
Udaipur, the desert state's city of lakes, is often the first choice for holding big fat Indian weddings. On the last three occasions I was here to attend such weddings. The view of the Picchola Lake from my hotel room is so spectacular that I can stare out of the windows for hours and lose sense of time.
This reminded me of my previous weekend in New York when I looked out of the window from the 34th floor of Millennium Hotel across the Hudson river. Indian weekends are very different from the weekends in the United States. In the US weekend time means total closure of shops and establishments.
I could not spot a single boat in the east of the Hudson river and very little traffic on the 1st Avenue.
Once the office hours end on Fridays, many couples, who work in different cities from Monday to Friday, get together on Friday evening and often take a break to be away from home, especially on Saturday and Sundays. Come Monday and they are all back to the grind. The concept is all about `hard work and great fun'. In fact, weekend clears away the rush of the whole week.
I think we Indians too know and a lot about how to plan our Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. But talking about Monday to Friday, very few Indians care much for these days. when they have to work. The fact that we should earn our weekend through hard work is not a part of our popular work culture.
Here in the US the Sundays are very special and marked by less interactions on phone. Many prominent restaurants in and around Manhattan remain closed on Sundays. The daily needs shops and establishments catering to laundry service, repairs, grocery, in contrast to India, remain closed on Sundays.
As I had nothing much to do I decided to call up a friend who has been living in Queens, New York, for over a decade now. I went out on a drive with him to New Jersey, Long Island, New York and some other places. Aware of my food habits and interests, he said “Lets go to Lexington, between 26 to 29 Street to have dosa.”
I was slightly taken aback as usually our trips usually ended at Jackson Heights. When I went there I was surprised to see the way the whole of Lexington Avenue area, between 26th to 29th Street, had changed.
It was like a mini India. There were rows of Indian outlets with Bangladeshi and Pakistani shops. Lexington Saree Palace, shops selling Indian food and grocery items and numerous Indian restaurants like Curry in Hurry, Chote Nawab, Handi, Tava, Dhaba, Copper Chimney, Food of India, Kaustyans, Bhatti, Bhojan, Madras Mahal and Pongal – where we had dosa.
Apart from these, there were pan shops, Lahore chicken shops etc. The place had undergone a total change since my last visit. It was a pleasant surprise to find that these Indian shops had come up in the posh Lexington Avenue, in New York City. The name of a small handicraft shop Little India – adjacent to the Park South Hotel said it all. Later, I heard that this place which was earlier known as Murray Hill is now known as Curry Hill due to the numerous Indian food joints and outlets.
The Indian diaspora has really done well across the world. The US currently has a black President, and given the rate at which the number of people from the Indian sub-continent are increasing in this part of the United States, the US may soon have a brown one?
ess bee