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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Friday, November 30, 2012

Jaipur Tales

November 30, 2012: All Jaipur-Kolkata flights were fully booked due to the onset of the marriage season. 
I reached Jaipur today afternoon and went straight to the Hawa Mahal Banquets - an open terrace of Hotel Rajputana Sheraton where the event `Jaipur Tales' was hosted by Prabha Khaitan Foundation and Siyahi to mark 285th Jaipur Foundation Day.
With Sudanshu Pant, IAS
I conceptualized this event with the idea to provide a platform to the common people who have seen and witnessed the changes in Jaipur for over half a century. Mita Kapur of Siyahi helped me to get these special people and also organized the event.
Among the panelists were Dr Chandramani Singh, an art historian and textile expert. She has worked with the Benaras Hindu University, The City Palace, Jawahar Kala Kendra and also for the restoration of the Jaigarh Fort. Dr Singh has edited six works and authored nine books including Art Treasures of Rajasthan, Performing Arts of Rajasthan: Lok-Rang and Protected Monuments of Rajasthan.
Dilip Bhatt, another of the illustrious member panelist, is a performer of Jaipur’s 250-year-old traditional drama style called tamasha which he has been doing for the past 30 years. He actively participates in plays and nukkad natakas as well. Dilip is committed to spreading awareness about the tamasha tradition. He teaches this art form to new performers and is thereby trying to ensure that this art form stays alive.
Gopal Singh Nandiwal studied architecture in London and Town & Country planning from the University of Manchester in 1959. He worked with the Town Planning division of the Government of Rajasthan since 1960. He has helped develop the current face of Rajasthan and his valuable contributions are evident in the master plans of the pink city.
Jugal Kishore Kumrawat (picture) is the owner of Madhobaba Paan & Juice Center at Chandpol Bazaar. His grandfather founded this shop during the reign of Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh II. The shop has been running for over a century and has been passed down to the fourth generation in the family. 
Satya Narain Natha makes traditional and religious idols in different stones - marble, granite and sandstone. He has worked to popularize local arts such as wood carving, metal handicraft and blue pottery. He has also worked on projects for the Sultanate of Oman's palace, Queen Elizabeth II of England, World Health Organisation (WHO), International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva and the Kennedy Memorial in Washington.
With Aditi Mehta, IAS
Vinod Joshi, a qualified social anthropologist, has extensively researched Rajasthan's kalbeliya dance and the lifestyles of the performers. He has worked with local artists to increase awareness of Rajasthani culture. His years of effort and research have contributed deeply towards his current work as the Regional Director of the Rural Arts program at the Jaipur Virasat Foundation.
Though it was a day full of wedding functions still there was a very healthy turnout of audience and everybody enjoyed this discussion in which most of the speakers held a mike for the first time in their life.
I am thinking of flying to Kolkata tomorrow so that I can get more time to prepare things for the visit of Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Shri Ashok Gehlot.
ess bee

Thursday, November 29, 2012

At the Amattra for Swarnika

November 29, 2012: I returned from Delhi yesterday by the first flight to Kolkata as there was much work to be done in the wake of Rajasthan Chief Minister, Shri Ashok Gehlot's scheduled visit to Kolkata along with other state ministers and senior government officials.
Apart from the felicitation function, I have to organize many other events that are related to this visit, including arranging for a Tea with the investors, one-on-one meetings with various delegations and so on.
I was in Delhi for a meeting of Swarnika which was held at the Amatrra Spa of Hotel Ashok, Chanakya Puri. After the luncheon meet, Mr and Mrs Ajit Sood hosted a dinner for members of Swarnika at the restaurant just above the Amatrra Spa.
Whenever I am at Hotel Ashoka, I am awed by the largest hotel in Delhi where it is quite a task to find your way from one banquet to another. I heard that the Chinese and Japanese restaurants has been closed and I think, apart from the Night F Bar & Lounge, the only marketable place in this property is the Sagar Ratna restaurant which is famed for its South Indian food – a reputation built up over many decades. The other is Amatrra Spa which is considered to be one of the best in Delhi.
Tomorrow I will fly out to Jaipur.
ess bee

Monday, November 26, 2012

Jaipur, Kolkata events

November 26, 2012: I arrived in Kolkata yesterday evening from Jaipur and had a relaxed Sunday.
I went for lunch to a friend’s place in Jaipur. During this trip to Jaipur I also met up with Rajiv Arora and had two meetings with him on different agendas as he himself wears many hats.
Since he is the Co-chairman of Rajasthan Foundation, I discussed with him in details the proposed visit of the Rajasthan Chief Minister, Industry Minister and other government officials to Kolkata on December 4, 2012.
I also discussed with him the final points of the Shree Musical Festival as he is serving Jaipur Citizens Forum as the Chairman with whom we have collaborated for this event.
Tomorrow morning I shall leave for Delhi.
ess bee

Saturday, November 24, 2012

At the Step by Step School's Annual Day function

November 24, 2012, Hotel Rajputana Sheraton, Jaipur: I arrived here yesterday morning from Kolkata. The Rajputana lobby which was under renovation has been partly opened now. I do not like the new look of the lobby and the bar and it seems a little too too loud for this top tourist destination. The previous lobby and the bar had a certain charm and elegance.
With Raza Murad
Yesterday afternoon, after an informal lunch with Rajasthan Forum members, I attended the meeting of the Rajasthan Forum in which the proposed Shree Music Festival was discussed at length. Few other proposals have also been discussed by the Forum members.
After a couple of meetings with individuals, and late in the evening, I went to the Step by Step High School's 11th Annual Day as the Guest of Honour with film star Raza Murad.
Owner of the school, Jayashree Periwal (pic) and Rupinder Periwal, are good friends of mine. The construction of the school building turned out to be far more beautiful than what we had imagined. On our way, Raza told me that this building seemed to be a school. To which I had said that “I think it is either a fort or a resort”. But Raza was right. It was also his birthday yesterday.
I have plans to fly to Kolkata in the morning but I shall try to get an evening flight if I can manage to get a seat on the evening flight. Being a wedding season the Kolkata-Jaipur flights are all full.
ess bee

Thursday, November 22, 2012

On a merry-go-round trip

The whole of yesterday and for much of today I was busy with desk work in office. For a while I went out to attend a couple meetings at the Taj Chambers and The Conclave.
I shall leave for Jaipur tomorrow morning. From there I was supposed to go to Delhi and return to Jaipur and return to Kolkata before Xmas. However, the plans changed due to the scheduled visit of Rajasthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot, to Kolkata along with a delegation of ministers and senior officials on the 4th and 5th of December.
As per the change of plans, I shall leave for Jaipur tomorrow and return on the 25th of November and be in office the next day. Again, the very next day I shall leave for Delhi and return on 28th of November only to leave for Jaipur on 30th of November. I shall return to Kolkata on 3rd December and go back to Jaipur on 5th December 2012.
All this means a lot of flights and a numbing routine for a fortnight. I cannot re-schedule these trips as I have already committed my dates to many events in Jaipur and Delhi. In fact, tomorrow there will be a lunch of Rajasthan Forum members followed by a meeting of the Forum. After that, the Shree Music Festival would be announced which I have planned to organise in Jaipur from December 7 to 9.
In the evening, I will attend a school function as the Guest of Honour along with Raza Murad who has very kindly accepted my request to be in Jaipur.
Then there is another major series of the Author's Afternoon scheduled for December. Leading novelist Sir Jeffrey Archer would be the guest author for the fifth edition of the event. His office has confirmed his consent and suggested two dates, Saturday December 15 late morning or early afternoon or Monday December 17 around noon. We shall soon take a call on this.
Thank God I won't be attending any weddings and receptions during this peak season. Else, there's no way I can manage these events.
ess bee

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Brunch till dusk

From Bangalore: Yesterday night I went to the other property of ITCGardeniafor dinner. Actually Mr Ranvir Bhandari and his wife Danijela Radonic Bhandari had invited me over as I was in city.
With Nivedit Alva, his wife and Anil
Mr Bhandari was General Manager of ITC Sonar in Kolkata and had then moved over to Max Ventures in Delhi. Recently he joined the ITC Hotels as the vice-president, South.
We had dinner at the Gardenias West View Restaurant where a new Italian chef has joined in recently. The idea is to develop a complete Italian cuisine restaurant at the ITC Gardenia, Ranvir informed me. The new Italian chef was good and he prepared a range of vegetarian cuisine for us.
Ranvir and I had lot of common friends in Kolkata and we chatted about the past and things in general about Bengal and Kolkata.
On Sunday afternoon, the lunch or brunch of my distant cousin and friend Anil Kathodia's (pic) 50th birthday, as the invite  said, lasted till 8:30 pm. In fact, by the time we called it a day it was 10:30 pm. I think this is the longest brunch that I have attended. In recent years, Bangalore has developed the culture of day parties since there is a ban on liquor by law at the late night parties.
In the past five years I have attended these brunches or lunch parties at the Blue Bar of Taj Westend and once at the Gateway Taj Hotel where the lunch lasted till almost 6 pm.
With Shilpa, Sanjay and Babita
At the Sunday party by the poolside of Windsor almost one-third of the guests picked up plates for the main course after 6 pm. Till then, since 1:30 pm, it was all about live band, DJs, starters and live counters.
Today evening I shall fly back to Kolkata. I also got information from Rajasthan chief ministers office that the CM would be in Kolkata on December 4, 2012, to attend the Samman Samaroh event of Rajasthan Foundation, Kolkata Chapter. I am currently the Honorary Secretary of this Chapter.
ess bee

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Rio – the bong connection

Rio has a strong bong connection. The first Indian who came to this city in modern times was Mr Ashok Mukherjee. He first went to Germany in a bicycle from India in 1928 and there he married a Polish lady called Analise and then they both migrated to Rio de Janerio round 1935-36. Ashok died sometime in the 1980s while his wife Analise lived to a ripe old age of 101 years.
I was surprised to know about this fact from Prof Rajgopal Krishnaswamy who knew the couple. He also told me about one more person from Bengal called Amit Bhaya who is married to a Brazilian and is currently a professor of electrical engineer here. 
In Rio de Janeiro
His father was or is still serving as a member of the Planning Commission, India.
Recently one more Prof Das has come and settled in Rio. But the most important connection is the statue of a Bengali that was erected at a place called Praca Calcuta. This square Praca Calcuta (picture) was named in his memory and honour. 
He was a soldier who has fought the French for the Portuguese. His statue was erected here in 1827.
Another fellow Bengali, Rajat Chanda, wanted to know about who this Bengali was and he discovered from the records available at a 17th Century church located next to the Praca Calcuta
He found that his name was Bose and he was even put to rest there in 1827. Prof Chanda is now settled in California where he teaches physics.
I was very disappointed to learn that since not many people knew about Bose, his statue was replaced by that of a Brazilian poet some 10 years back.
I did see a video from Professor Rajagopal and his wife Mallika and also took a 10-year-old picture of him with his wife standing in front of enigmatic Mr Bose's statue (pic).

We have done so much for Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, why not do something about this Praca Calcuta Bose who also commanded the respect of the locals many years ago.
ess bee

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tete-a-tea takes off with Anurag Basu

With Anurag Basu
Trafalgar Suite, Hotel Windsor Manor (Bangalore): This luxury property of ITC has always been one of my favourites. There are four manor suites in the main wing of the hotel and then there is the Trafalgar which has a lawn that is open-ended on three sides. You can walk into the garden lawn from either sides of the suite.
I arrived here today afternoon to attend a lunch party that would be hosted in this very hotel tomorrow to celebrate the 50th Birthday of my distant cousin and close friend Anil Kathotiya (pic).
Yesterday, the first in the series of a new event by Prabha Khaitan Foundation in association with The Oberoi Grand, Kolkata, and t2 (The Telegraph) which is called tete-a-tea got off with ace filmmaker Anurag Basu as the guest.
Since the successful launch of our other programme The Author's Afternoon, I was thinking of doing something on those line as many offers came in from different hotel properties. 
After discussions with t2 and The Oberoi Grand we have frozen this series which aims to provide a platform to people from different walks of life and professions, who are achievers in their respective fields of work and popular nationally and internationally, to come and share their life's experience.
Anurag Basu (picture) was the first one yesterday and Roopa Ganguly who rolled on the conversation that was later carried forward by Ina Puri. Among the selective guests invited were prominent persons from Tollywood. I was quite amazed by the statement made by Anurag that shooting in Bengal for an outsider is more expensive than shooting in Switzerland.
The event went off very well except for one thing which was not in good taste. This event was planned in association with t2 editorial only and thus no other media were invited.
But there was a minor confusion when a photographer from a competing media house turned up to cover it. Later I was told that Anurag did another event of cake mixing at the Oberoi  immediately after the tete-a-tea in which other mediapersons were invited. Probably that is why there other media person had mixed up the two events.
Honestly I had no clue about this “cake mixing” event. Once I return to Kolkata I shall sort it out with the hotel before carrying forward the series.
ess bee

Friday, November 16, 2012

Author's Afternoon 4 with Amish

With Amish Tripathi
Yesterday was the fourth edition of The Author's Afternoon with Amish Tripathi, The Secret of the Nagas fame, as the guest author. As an normal practice we keep about 25 seats for this event.
But after my office, The Taj Bengal and t2 received very good confirmations, we decided to increase it to 30.
It was a full house. Amish spoke about his work and shared his experiences how he shifted tracks from being a IIM Kolkata graduate who chucked his lucrative job in high finance to pursue his heart's desire to become writer.
With Tanusree and Payel
After the event I hosted a dinner for him at my home which was attended by few of Amish's friends like Arindam and Shukla Sil, Jeet and Malabika Banerjee, K Mohan Chandran, GM, Taj Bengal, and his wife Seema and few journalist friends.
After the dinner at 11:45 pm, I went to The Oberoi Grand. Yesterday night I called up Moni of Venkatesh Films and told him that I was myself hosting a dinner. 
With Moni (Mahendra Soni) and Paoli Dam
But Moni insisted and convinced me to drop in even if it was late. He was right as the party was in full swing. In fact, Dev and I entered at the same time. 
I met Paoli Dam after a long time.
I also met Srikant Mohta of Venkatesh, Tanusree and many others from the Tollywood
Today evening I shall again go to The Oberoi for the first edition of tete-a-tea with Anurag Basu.
ess bee

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gearing up for events

I arrived in Kolkata from Brazil via Dubai yesterday morning. Kolkata was immersed in a festive and holiday spirit with Diwali and Kali Puja celebrations on in full swing.
I landed at about 8:30 hrs Dubai and went to the office. I freshened up and started gearing up for the fourth in the series of The Author's Afternoon for tomorrow at The Taj Bengal and a new series tete-a-tea on November 16 with ace filmmaker Anurag Basu at The Oberoi Grand. I have to look into the last minute preparations of these two events and also clear a mountain of pending paper work and mails.
I am not into festivals so much but yesterday evening a few of my friends from the media and the film industry landed up at my house and I did burn some crackers after a long time (picture). 
I really don't remember the last time I did so.
Today also I was in office since morning replying to the mails and writing to various organizations including WFUNA and the Jaipur events.
I have lined up four different activities in Jaipur as well. Three events are on the 23rd, 24th and another one on 30th. Apart from that I have committed to few other functions as well. I always take on too much in my hands and there is no reason for complaint to any one else.
My absence in Kolkata due to the Rio trip took its toll as I could not attend the Kolkata Film Festival inaugural function which had the presence of Big B and SRK. But tomorrow, after the Author's Afternoon, I plan to drop in at evening party hosted by Venkatesh Films at The Oberoi Grand to celebrate the Film Festival.
ess bee

Monday, November 12, 2012

Good bye Rio

From Rio: A spectacular aerial view and it was love at first sight. Rio casts a spell on millions and I was no exception.
As my visit drew to a close, I went on a tour of Rio city with my World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) colleagues. Rio, with its sun-lashed beaches, mountains, seas, rain forests, waterfalls (picture), promenades and stunning landscapes, is indeed one of the most picturesque cities in the world.
Being a Sunday, the sea front was a sea of humanity. The magnificent beaches along the coast linked by tree-lined roads were choc-a-bloc with people.  
Copacabana and Ipanema -the most famous of the beaches - sure lived up to their reputation.
Umbrellas spread like specs of colourful dots on a sandy canvas stretching as far as the eyes could see. No wonder! Rio is the most visited city in Southern hemisphere with the highest density of people (per sq km).
Being on the beach is Rio's way of relaxing. 
The locals and the tourists all blend in. Noon time we went to one of the famous Portuguese restaurants called Antiquarius (picture) in the Leblon area. The restaurant is reputed to be one of the poshest in whole of Rio. There was an impressive array of breads for starters and much else. But I, a veggie, had to make do good with tomato soup and salad.
It is really surprising that a city of nearly 13 million (including Rio's greater metropolitan area) has no Indian restaurant. In all,there are some 20 to 25 odd Indian families in Rio and about 350 families in Brazil. In contrast, there are nearly six million Japanese in Brazil, one of the highest outside Japan, quite like the Indian population in Durban.
I could not meet Ira Pandey's son Aftab Pandey. Ira has translated my mother's auto-biography Anya se Ananya. It is due for release at the forthcoming Jaipur Literary Festival. Aftab came to meet me in Hotel Royal Tulip but I was out at that time.There was a mis-communication with the phone message. I also spoke to Avi Mehta who hails from Jodhpur, Rajasthan. He visited India last year after almost two decades. I met many other Indians based in Rio.
Rio has countless attractions but I say the famous steps of Escadaria Selaron (picture), in the Lapa and Santa Teresa neighbourhood,is a must see. It is a work of art by Chilean-born artist Jorge Selaron who started renovating the dilapidated steps in 1990 by putting different shapes of blue, green and yellow tiles – the colours of Brazilian flag. He also used ceramics and mirrors and accepted tiles from all over the world.
I saw, near the starting point, tiles with pictures of Indian gods (pic) which I captured in my camera. 
There are 250 steps measuring 125 metres long which are covered in over 2000 tiles collected from over 60 countries around the world.
Another free tip is that one must try out the guarana drink – an extract from a local fruit famed for its stimulating effects. Guarana is also available in cans like Coke. Different flavoured extracts from guarana are available in the market just like the various types of tea. It is very refreshing and energetic. Some people swear it improves cognitive skills.
There is always a time to say good bye to good things. Leaving Rio is like a chain smoker trying to quit smoking. In an hour I shall be on my way to the airport to avail my 3 am Emirates flight to Dubai.
Good bye Rio.
ess bee

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Indian diaspora in Rio

November 10, 2012: I have always found that Indians in far away lands, where the diaspora population of fellow Indians are not very high, are elated to meet Indians and try to go out of their way to make them at home.
At the Tijuca forest
After an informal dinner meet with Vimarshan, Prof Rajgopal and his wife Mallika offered to show me around the city at my convenience.  
It was offered not just out of formality, as is most often the case with Indians where they are large in numbers, but out of genuine feelings of warmth.
They were very kind to pick me up this morning from Hotel Royal Tulip where I am staying. 
They are staying in Rio for the past 40 years and naturally know much about their city. It was areal pleasure seeing this wonderful city with this wonderful couple.
We visited the National Gallery of Arts, passed through the whole of down town, Golden Churches and even drove to the 20-km long Tijuca forests to see the waterfall and had prasadam at an Iskcon temple. 
I was amazed to see the cultural and dance programmes there. 
In fact, there is law that allows citizens to contribute a part of their taxable income to a cultural institution and such activities.
made a stopover at the Centre in down town where a huge Mahatma Gandhi statue is placed.  

The statue was placed there after the death of Gandhi ji by the people of Brazil as a mark of great respect to our Father of the Nation, especially his ability to defeat the British through non-violence.
The statue has placed in the early 50s which was considered a golden period of Brazil. This was time when Bossa nova music, new ways of film making, best architectural projects of the world took place and of course winning the FIFA cup in 1958 in Sweden.
ji is seen as a spiritual leader out here. Every year on 2nd October Gandhi Jayanti is celebrated by an African organisation called Filhos of Gandhi which means sons of Gandhi.
India does not have a consulate in Rio after shifting the mission to Brasilia. But India does have an Honorary Consul out here but the local feeling is that the Consuls keep changing every two or three years and the connection with their native country is not so strong..
At an Iskon temple in Rio
At present Mr Pedro Freitas is the Honorary Consul of India here in Rio. His firm is one of the most important and prominent advocate firms of this country. I could not meet him as he is travelling.  
But after seeing the culture, literature, theatre and art activity here in Rio, I personally feel it is time for the Government of India to open a Nehru Centre for Culture or some ICCR unit here.
ess bee