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, October 29, 2012

Sindoor khela at Chaltabagan

At the Chaltabagan Durga Puja Sindoor Khela

On Sunday evening I went to watch Nandita's play Between the Lines at the Birla Sabhaghar with a group of friends.
It is well known that Nandita is a good actor but her husband Subodh's histrionic talents came as a surprise. 
The hall was packed and the audience gave a standing and long ovation to the couple.
After the play, both of them came down and mingled with the guests.
From there we went for dinner at the Taj Chambers with a group of friends.
By the time it got over it was well past midnight.
This was a long Sunday.
I started the day early reaching Chaltabagan at 8 am to take care and see the last minute arrangements for Sindoor Khela.
Mrs Padmini Narayanan, the first lady, was the Chief Guest who came in a traditional Bengali sari as did the other guests. 
I must thank the Kolkata Police for making an extraordinary security arrangements given the heavy turnout of celebrities.
ess bee

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Festive frenzy; sad moments


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Pujas mean adda time and no-work. And the last week, with puja celebrations and Bakar Id, turned out to be an extended holiday. For the first time even the newspapers ceased publication for four days.
For me the holiday fever started on tritiya (3rd day of Navratri-October 17th) with the Dhak Mahotsav at Chaltabagan Durga Puja, followed by the Pronam Puja Parikrama flag off function on panchami (Oct 19). Shashti and saptami were weekend and there was a long adda session on Sunday with Sangeeta Dutta who was in India from London to attend the Saif-Kareena wedding.
Monday Oct 22nd was the pandal hopping day. I personally liked the pandal done by my artist-friend Sanatan Dinda at the Barisha Behala Club. We all know that Sanatan is one-of-his-kind artist and how much people like his intricate work with rose petals and red thread. This year he was involved with two pandals – one at Jodhpur Park and the other at Behala.
I normally stick to our Maniktalla Chaltabagan pandal during the Pujas. Few months back Sanatan approached me with a proposal to join his Puja committee as the Chairman. I explained to him that I was already committed to the Chaltabagan Maniktalla Durga Puja as its chairman and it wouldn't be fair to be the chairman of another puja just for namesake. I, however, promised him that I would visit his Puja for sure.
After visiting his Puja I realised that I would have missed a lot had I not been there. The whole creative and artwork at the pandal was mesmerising. Tanmoy Bose's especially composed music added to the charm. Well done Sanatan.
I must thank Kolkata Police and all its personnel for managing the traffic and the sea of humanity so well. I had started from ITC Sonar at 9 pm and reached Chaltabagan in forty five minutes. Left at around 10:45 pm and was at the Barisha Behala Club in less than an hour. I wish such kind of traffic management were possible the whole year.
On asthami, after visiting Sanatan's pandal, I visited a friend at Elgin Road and then went for another puja adda at Tony's place at the South City about 1 am. Suman Ghosh, who was in town from Miami, was also there while Dev had just left. By the time I reached home it was about 4 am.
Next morning I got the sad news that Sunil Gangopadhyay, one of the greatest contemporary poet, novelist and litterateur of Bengal, had passed away. This was a dark patch amid festivities. I had a long association with him and have many fond memories. In fact I had a long conversation with him on phone on asthami afternoon.
He was the President of our organisation The Bengal. With his passing away, many other literary and cultural organisations and associations have lost their patron. A pen, which he had gifted me after his recent trip overseas, will remain with me and always remind me of him and our association. May his soul rest in peace.
ess bee

Friday, October 26, 2012

Nandita's play



With Nandita Das
October 26, 2012: Yesterday evening I went to Hotel Hindustan International to attend an interactive session with Nandita Das and Subodh Maskara. This is the first time Nandita and Subodh are acting together in a play titled Between the Lines.
I have known Nandita for quite a number of years now. I, in fact, admire the perfectionist in her which is reflected in her work. Yesterday, I asked her a question during the interactive session, “You have played the role of an actor, director, scriptwriter, theatre artist, activist, wife and mother. Which role did you enjoy playing the most?”
With Nandita and Subodh Maskara
The play of Nandita and Subodh is based on husband-wife relationship and would be staged in Kolkata this weekend. I am planning to see the play on Sunday, October 28th evening.
ess bee

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My last tributes to Sunil da



At Rabindra Sadan with Partha Chatterjee and Subrata Mukherjee, paying our last respects to Sunil da
Today morning I went to Rabindra Sadan where Sunil da’s body was kept for his friends, well wishers, ardent admirers and fans to come and pay their last respects before being taken for cremation. 
I paid my last tributes. It was my final good bye.
ess bee

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The other side of pre-flight safety demo

Most of us who travel by air would agree that Indigo Airlines services come with a sense of time, commitment and affordability in the Indian skies. I have personally shifted loyalty to Indigo like many other business class passengers.
I always prefer to sit on the first row aisle and this allows me to observe the activities of the crew from close – how they go about doing their in-flight chores and, of course, the pre-flight safety demonstration for passengers as per the basic international air safety standards set by the
International Civil Aviation Organisation and national civil aviation authorities.
These demos more or less are always the same. The air hostess or a flight attendant requests one of the first seat passengers for pull the table and then places the oxygen mask, seat belt, floatation devices etc., for demo. But I have noticed that the air hostesses, while going through the flight safety drill, place the life jacket on the carpeted floor.
I always wonder why the emergency life jacket, which they wear for demo purposes, are placed on the carpeted floor on which all the passengers put their shoes and walk to their respective seats. I haven’t seen this practice of keeping the life jacket on the floor in any other airlines.
I don’t think this is a proper practice to wear the same jacket which is put on the floor over which hundreds of people have walked past. The dirt and dust from their shoes get carried to the floor and it would, by any measure, be unhygienic on the part of the crew to put on a jacket placed on such a floor. The flight safety drill is all about being safe and knowing what one should do in an emergency situation – a very essential part of flying. But one should not overlook the fact that hygiene too is equally important and linked to human health and safety in no less a way.
I wonder whether it is just by chance they do it or is it part of the training that they are told to keep the life safety jacket on the floor.
Most of the foreign airlines have a recorded version of emergency procedures of the flight safety drill which is shown on the television before take off. I feel it is high time that our airlines too should introduce this.
Another fact is that I have always wondered was how many people actually pay real attention to the routine flight safety demos which are all very important but often boring. Well, I came across a YouTube posting that had gone viral where the cabin crew on board a
Cebu Pacific Airlines, flying to the Philippines, grabbed passenger’s attention on board as they danced their safety demonstration to Lady Gaga’s Just Dance. The stunned passengers were unable to take their eyes off.
Let aside the song and dance, what struck me was the fact that the air hostesses dancing out the flight safety demo never once laid the life jacket on the floor.
ess bee 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Puja Parikrama for the elderlies

With MLA Subrata Bakshi and Commisioner of Police, R K Pachnanda
October 19, 2012: Today morning I went to the Bhawanipur Thana for Pronam's `Puja Parikrama' event for the senior citizens. The event was for Pronam members of Kolkata, all senior citizens, for whom the Kolkata Police had made special arrangements to ensure that the elderlies could visit different pujas across the city without any hassles under the special care and guidance of Kolkata Police personnel.
Four AC buses were flagged off from Bhawanipur in South Kolkata by Subrata Bakshi, MLA, and Commissioner of Police, Ranjit K Pachnanda and Debashish Roy, Additional CP – III, and other police officials and Pronam members. Another set of buses with senior citizens were flagged off from North Kolkata. In all nearly 400 senior citizens were there for a round trip of major puja pandals across Kolkata.
Often the senior citizens stay alone and are physically incapacitated to reach out for support in times of need. The Pronam project has been started to address such security needs of the elderly (above 60 years) in Kolkata. Pronam also organizes various cultural events for the elderly throughout the year. Currently, Pronam has a membership base of over 6000 senior citizens.
Two years ago Pronam initiated a project to set up a dedicated 24-hour helpline hub near Ballygunge Police Station for the senior citizens. The hub is now manned by specially trained Kolkata Police staff and executives appointed by The Bengal for receiving emergency calls from senior citizens and take follow up action according to the nature of the problem. This has instilled confidence and hope among the elderly.
ess bee

Thursday, October 18, 2012

`Dhak Mahotsav' at Chaltabagan Durga Puja

With (From Left) Mr Jeffrey K Reneau, Director, American Centre, Kolkata, Stephane Amalir, Director Alliance Francaise du Bengalee, Mrs Amalir, Mrs Melchiori (right) wife of Consul General of Italy.
October 18, 2012: The sounds of dhak marks the advent of one of the world's biggest annual social events – The Durga Puja.
With Grandmaster Dibyendu Barua
Maniktalla Chaltabagan Lohapatty Durga Puja Committee organised a dhak mahotsav (festival of drums) called the `Kutchina Dhak Mahotsav' yesterday that was the first Puja event attended by His Excellency, M K Narayanan, the Governor of West Bengal, in the presence of many celebrities, actors, foreign consuls, artists, sports persons and eminent Kolkatans.
Dhak – a traditional drum is an integral and inseparable part of the Durga Puja. It is through the mystic and rhythmic beats of the dhak by dhakis the coming of Maa Durga to her children from her celestial abode is announced.
With Maneka Sorcar
The beats of the dhak sends Bengal and much of eastern India into a Puja frenzy that is spiritual, cultural, social and material at the same time – worship, entertainment and business go hand in hand. 
The whole of Bengal waits for the Pujas which is one of the biggest annual social events in the world.
I had a moment of pleasant embarrassment during the inaugural function. 
The Governor of West Bengal, Shri M K Narayanan (picture), in a lighter mood tried his hand at the dhak along with two of Bengal's finest tabla maestros Tanmoy Bose and Bickram Ghosh. He also hailed “Durga Maa ki Jai”. The crowd and the mediapersons repeated him in raptures. Then, jokingly, and all of a sudden, he announced my name in the same vein meaning I was instrumental in organizing a great function. 
I was too stunned to react as I saw His Excellency and whole lot of guests smiling and breaking in peals of laughter. I will always remember that moment.
Among the eminent persons who attended the Dhak Mahotsav were Bickram Ghosh, Tanmoy Bose, Pt Tejendra Narayan Majumdar (sarod player), actress Locket Chaterjee, Gari, Debleena, Chaiti Ghoshal, magician Maneka Sorcar, film maker Sujoy Ghosh, P K Banerjee (footballer), Dibyendu Barua (Grandmaster), D J Akash, Mainak Bhaumik, Diplomats of Italy, France, US Mission in Kolkata and so on.
With Jeffrey K Reneau, Director, American Centre
The foreign diplomats and their wives also tried out their hand at the dhak amid a big crowd that gathered around the event.
The Maniktalla Chaltabagan Lohapatty Durga Puja Committee, of which I am the Chairman, began in 1943 as a small celebration in a shop, has now grown to become one of the top five crowd-pullers in the city. Thousands of visitors, overseas guests and eminent citizens of Kolkata visit our puja pandal each year. The Chaltabagan Durga Puja Committee is not just a Puja Committee but more of a social welfare organisation.
On one hand, the Chaltabagan Puja has been at the forefront of innovation with socially relevant eco-friendly themes like solar lighting, use of re-cycled waste, sustainable development etc., on the other hand, Chaltabagan has introduced and popularised newer concepts like starting khuti puja, sindur khela and dhak mahotsav to enabling bluetooth downloads of Maa Durga's images on visitor's phones. The Puja Committee is also engaged in many social welfare activities.
This year's theme is the Sun- the sustainer of life. The idols, in traditional style, seem to emerge from the deep blue sea. The pandal would be covered by a mesh of iron net from outside that would render a glowing effect of the sun at night. The colour scheme is in sync with the various hues of the rising and setting sun. Paintings and designs would depict the origin and life on earth.
The Chaltabagan Puja Committee also arranges for wheelchairs for the elderly and physically disadvantaged during the pujas and organises blood donation camps and other community services.
The night time view of Chaltabagan Durga Puja has been eye-catching and many people have called to congratulate me.
ess bee

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sorry! The place is reserved

During one of the week days last week, few of my acquaintances went to one of the famous night club-cum-bar lounge on Camac Street. As they entered the place they could sense that there was a big group out there, or else, they would have been able to easily spot the regulars at that hour.
They went inside and booked seats on a table that was vacant. A few minutes later a steward came and politely requested them to shift from there as that particular table was reserved for a private party. They complied and shifted to another table. Just as when they were about to order food and drinks, another steward came forward and informed them that the whole club was booked for a private party on that day and that they could not be entertained.
My friends, after being treated like a yo-yo by the restaurant staff, had no other options but to leave the place. Although when they entered the Club nobody informed them about the situation. They came to know that the place was booked only when they were about to settle down.
Government offices in India have perfected the art of playing yo-yo with customers who are sent from one table to another to finally back to where they had started from. It seems this malice is now spreading.
Booking night clubs, lounges or discos for a private party is very common and no one, and least of all I, should have any problem with that. But I think it is very unethical and wrong to restrict general people from entering the place, even if you happen to reserve it for some group or individual, without giving a public advertisement or information via advertisement. One could at least put a notice well in advance so that others who take the trouble to coming are not inconvenienced like my friends were.
I don’t know for sure what the law says about booking places like this for private parties. But I remember during our college days that the only day one could book Incognito in Taj Bengal or Dublin at the ITC was during the weekends. Even on such days when the lounges were open to the public the practice was to block just one portion or an area of the lounge.
I think it is totally inappropriate to block out somebody without prior information may it be a hotel, restaurant, bar, movie hall or any other place of entertainment.
I also know many of the bar lounges in Delhi and Mumbai never take bookings if someone wants to book a whole place. Of course, there is a provision everywhere to book one side or a section of the place. But without prior intimation, barring someone from giving access, I feel, is certainly against the grain of any business ethics. One more thing I wish to say is that my friends who had gone to that club were all ladies.
I have earlier expressed my views about some typical national traits like the “chalta hai” attitude towards life. Then there is the Nimby (not in my backyard) syndrome that shows a general apathy towards issues not involving us. And now, we can add one more to that - “Sorry! We are booked”.
-ess bee

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Chaat Party at ITC Sonar


October 13, 2012: Yesterday night I went to attend a personal dinner inviation at the Lord Sinha Road. Prior to that, I hosted a Chaat Party at the ITC Sonar Bangla Sheraton and Towers from 3 pm till 7:30 pm.
With ITC Chef Mayank
Actually on October 10 evening while I was flying from Delhi to Kolkata, Chef Mayank, who is the Executive Chef of ITC Sonar, was with me and he mentioned that ITC had recently tied up with Agra-based famous Suresh Chat Wala and he also told me that a team from the Chat Wala would be in Kolkata for a number of days.
Instantly, I decided to call a few friends who are also foodies and I requested the team of T2 and their columnists with a couple of friends to come and enjoy chaat.
was really surprised and touched by the fact that despite such short notice, 99 per cent of the invitees turned up. 
Needless-to-say, the chaat, and an assortment of savoury snacks, were amazing and the guests freaked out on the paranthas which was cooked on a tawa weighing 19 kilos.
Like music and dance, Chaat, which originated in Uttar Pradesh and preferred across the Indian sub-continent, also has its own gharanas (tradition of specialization) like the Agra or Mathura.
It was after a long time I had an event at the ITC Sonar. 
With T2 team members
Not in the very distant past, I used to have events every week.
Before the Chaat Party in the morning, I went to Lal Bazar to meet the Commissioner of Police regarding Pronam, a joint project between Kolkata Police and The Bengal, for the senior citizens.
ess bee