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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Thursday, May 30, 2013

The sad news via SMS

May 30, 2013: This morning I got a text message that Rituparno Ghosh is no more. I went to his house to pay my last respects (pic). I spent about an hour in his house.
I came out and joined the others who had assembled there. The entire film industry had come there one by one and I stayed on till his body was taken to Nandan.

I decided not to attend the invitation for this evening at Hyatt Regency for bidding farewell to Mr Marc Lorenz, General Manager, Hyatt, and to welcome the new General Manager Ms Britta Leick-Milde.
I also decided not to go to a private party at the DKS Club.
ess bee

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Farewell to Maj Gen Thind

With Ex Chief Secretary Salauddin Ahmad and GOC K J S Thind
With Digvijay Singh
May 29, 2013: Today evening I landed in Kolkata from Jaipur. I was scheduled to arrive tomorrow but pre-poned my visit and had a number of meetings the whole day since morning. 
I also had an interview with Bhaskar TV and firmed up a date for the Udaipur Desert Soul event.
Yesterday I was at the farewell dinner of Major General K J S Thind, Sub-Area Commander at the Rajputana Sheraton

He was also the head of 61 Cavalry - the only horsed regiment of the Indian Armed Forces. 
With Srishti and her mother Hema Bahal
His charming wife Gurpreet was there too. The Major General bade good bye to the Pink City
In line with the regiment's unique association with the horses and rich polo playing tradition, Major General Thind was a regular at the Polo matches and other shows in India and abroad. 

I have had a long association with Major General Thind and his wife. They have been a great source of inspiration and always stood by us in our social, cultural and community get-togethers.
ess bee

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Desert Storm 2 with K C Bokadia

With K C Bokadia at the Desert Soul 2 in Jaipur
May 28, 2013: This afternoon the Second event in the series of Desert Storm, organized by Rajasthan Forum, was held at the ITC Rajputana. Later in the evening I am hosting a dinner at the ITC Rajputana only.
This time the guest participant was popular Bollywood film-maker and producer K C Bokadia who was in conversation with singer Manesha Agarwal. Bokadia’s amazing film journey in Bollywood began when he was just 16 and produced the film Riwaaz in 1972 starring Mala Sinha, Sanjeev Kumar. He was the youngest director on the sets. He made his mark with the immensely successful Pyar Jhukta Nahin with Mithun Chakrabarty in the lead. Since then, there was no looking back.
Over the next three decades he worked with some of the biggest names in the Indian film industry like Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Rajkumar, Rajnikant and others. He is still at it with his project Dirty Politics featuring Om Puri, Anupam Kher, Jackie Shroff, Raghuvir Yadav and Mallika Sherawat. As to who would be the lead male character in the film, Bokadia did not reveal.
Bokadia said that the element of Rajasthan is always there in some form in his films. After all, Rajasthan is too colourful and captivating to stay away from.
The Desert Storm series is an initiative of Rajasthan Forum and ITC Rajputana in collaboration with Shree Cements and E-TV Rajasthan. It is aimed creating a platform to meet and interact with living legends and illustrious sons of the state, who, as national and world citizens have made their mark.

ess bee

Monday, May 27, 2013

Planning events

May 27, 2013: I arrived in Jaipur in the evening after a spell. There are a couple of events lined up for tomorrow and I have plans to fly back to Kolkata on May 30. For me May 29 would be a relatively free day and I intend to schedule a few meetings to work out the plans for some other functions and events during June, July and August 2013.
ess bee

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Life Apart release in Kolkata

With Urvashi Butalia and Kalyan Ray at the Book Release event
Kolkata, May 25: Yesterday I went to the Oxford Bookstore in Park Street Kolkata for the book release of my late mother's (Dr Prabha Khaitan) autobiography in English - A Life Apart
The book release was organized by publishers Zubaan and Oxford Bookstore.
Chief Guest Aparna Sen, who was ill could not make it for the release. However, it was a nice gesture on her part to ensure that her talented writer-actor husband Kalyan Ray did the honours on her behalf of releasing the book.
With Ira Pande
Padmashri Urvashi Butalia, Ms Namita Gokhale, Director of Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) and Ms Ira Pande, writer and translator of the autobiography, Maina Bhagat of Oxford Bookstore, welcomed the guests and set the proceedings rolling.
Many dignitaries and eminent Kolkatans turned at the small venue including representatives of the French and US diplomatic and consular corps. Among others, present at the function, were Bharati Ray, Nabaneeta Dev Sen, Nandita Palchoudhury, Bani Basu, Sujata Sen and others. Kalyan Ray said that he was struck by the honesty and boldness of the autobiography. 
With Leena Kejriwal at the dinner party
The book launch program went beyond the time scheduled amid a questions and answers galore.
The Book, which is a translation of original autobiographical work in Hindi Anya se Ananya, was first launched at a special event on January 28th 2013 at the Jaipur Literature Festival by Sharmila Tagore and British Writer Aminatta Forna.
With Nayantara Palchoudhuri
Recently the Rajasthan Sahitya Akademi constituted Dr Prabha Khaitan Pravasi Rachnakar Puraskar in her memory. The award would be given to a non-resident Rajasthani writer each year.
Later in the evening I also hosted a dinner party at the Taj Bengal which was attended by most of the guests and dignitaries invited including Usha Uthup and Roopa Ganguly.
ess bee

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Broadening PKF's horizon

May 23, 2013: Yesterday evening I had a meeting with Jeffrey K Reneau (picture), the Director of American Centre in Kolkata at the Taj Chambers. The meeting was to work out the possibilities of forging an alliance between Prabha Khaitan Foundation and the American Centre in Kolkata to work towards promoting art and culture and related artistes. 
It was a very encouraging first step on our part.
Thinking broadly, it is my desire to organize cultural exchange programmes and events in which artistes, local and from different countries, would come together in Kolkata especially in areas such as performing arts, painting, handicraft, literature, journalism, environmental awareness and so on.
The local hospitality for all the artistes would be extended by Prabha Khaitan Foundation (PKF) to the visiting and guest artistes from abroad for which their shortlisting and air travel would be taken care of by the cultural centre of the respective country.
Similarly, local artistes could visit that country for which PKF would take care of air travel etc.
This idea is not entirely new since PKF has already signed an MoU with the Alliance Francaise du Bengale – forging a Kolkata-Paris link - whereby Indian and French artistes would come together in events organized by PKF in Kolkata. A similar tie-up with the British Council is also in the process of being formalised.
The idea is to broaden the horizon of PKF's activities and also add some more to the thriving cultural life that is Kolkata's cachet. This would expose the city to various cultural activities of the West and also provide a forum for local artistes to express their talent to the West.
I am anxious that the tie-up with American Centre should happen soon as it would involve a great degree of deliberations and careful planning for working out an annual calendar of events for PKF.
ess bee

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sculpting life - Usha Rani Hooja

May 21, 2013: I heard from Sarvesh Bhatt, who is in Jaipur, that Usha Rani Hooja is no more. She would be remembered as one of the leading woman sculptors of India. She was a member of Rajasthan Lalit Kala Academy, in 1960, 1980 and 1990.
A post graduate in Philosophy, she was drawn towards sculpture after she came in contact with the art students of Delhi Polytechnic. Usha ji started her artistic career as a sculptor from London. She was deeply informed about the various styles of world famous sculptors like Henry Moore, Etienne, Maillot, Modigliani, Picasso, Brancusi, Alexander Calder but created her own Indian style.
She spent a larger part of her life in Rajasthan and has, since 1955, sculpted over 40 statues and figures as part of commissioned work for the state governments and various private organizations. Her large-sized sculptures can be found not only in Delhi, Kota, Bhilwara, Bombay, Jaipur, Jodhpur but also in Sweden, Washington and Phillipines.
She married Bhupendra Hooja, who was working in BBC London, in 1949. She returned to India in 1954. In 1955, she created the 6-ft sculpture “Power & Industry” along with four other sculptors. Likewise, in 1958, she sculpted another work of art in Pragati Maidan. She returned to Rajasthan in 1958 and stayed on in Jaipur from 1959 onwards. Her artistic journey in Jaipur won her many laurels and recognition. In later life, she used metal and scraps to create smaller abstract themes.
Exhibition of her works were held, apart from Jaipur, Nagpur, Mumbai and Delhi, in Cambridge, Liverpool, Derby, Newport (Wales) and Mauritius.
Her popular works that are on public display include Shahid Smarak, Ravindra, Doctor Aur Mareez, Maa aur Baccha etc. In 1975, during her illness, she took to writing blank verse poetry that led to the publication of her Songs & Sculptures – a compilation of poetry and art work.
In fact, very recently I had approached her for participating in Desert Souls series of Rajasthan Forum, but she, though eager, declined it due to her illness. I pray her soul rests in peace. Her works would inspire many in the days to come.

ess bee

Monday, May 20, 2013

9th Author's Afternoon called off

May 20, 2013: The Author's Afternoon series, which has taken off very well, was scheduled for its ninth edition on May 19, 2013, with guest author Rahul Pandita of Our Moon has Blood Clots fame. But yesterday night, while having dinner with a friend of mine at The Taj Bengal, I got a text message from Rahul expressing his regret that he would not be able to come down to Kolkata for the Author's Afternoon session as there was a tragic mishap in his family i.e., one of his brothers-in-law died in a car accident in Chandigarh and he had to rush in there.
We called off the session and immediately informed the guests about the development.
The Author's Afternoon which is organised by Prabha Khaitan Foundation in association with Siyahi, t2 and The Taj Bengal is a much-awaited series for which I keep getting phones calls from time to time.
Some of the most successful and reputed authors have graced the series including KG Pramod, Jeet Thiyal, Sangeeta Bahadur, Amish Tripathi, Chopra, Jeffrey Archer, Anupam Kher, Sanjay Chopra and Kunal Basu and many more in the days ahead.
ess bee

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The youngest Maharaja of Sirmaur

Middle of last week i.e., Wednesday May 15th was a big day full of twists and turns in the royal families of India. The 9-year-old prince of Jaipur, Rajkumar Lakshya Raj Singh's Raj Tilak (coronation) ceremony (pic) took place at the Nahan Royal Palace (in Sirmaur) making him the youngest titular Maharaja of Sirmaur - an erstwhile princely state 565-km away in the hills of Southern Himachal Pradesh.
Members of erstwhile royal families from former princely states across India, industrialists, businessmen, film stars, politicians and well wishers of the family were present at the splendid regal coronation ceremony at the Palace's Darbar Hall. Actress Dimple Kapadia and Sunanda Pushkar were also present.
The new titular Maharaja, Rajkumar Lakshya, is the younger son of Princess Diya Kumari who happens to be the only child of Jaipur's last Maharaja Late Brigadier Bhawani Singh and Padmini Devi. On the other hand, Sirmaur's last ruling Maharaja, Late Prakash Singh, passed away in 1964 without any male successor. Bhawani Singh had legally adopted Diya Kumari's 12-year-old elder son Padmanabh Singh (his grandson) who became the titular Maharaja of Jaipur in 2011. Two years later now Princess Diya Kumari's younger son has become the titular Maharaja of Simaur.
Lakshya's succession story, however, is also full of twists. He owes his coronation to his maternal grandmother Rajmata Padmini Devi. His coronation has been contested by Padmini Devi's 58-year-old first nephew Udai Prakash who has pointed out that Durga Devi, his maternal grandmother and the first of Late Maharaja's two wives, had legally adopted him in 1965. But former nobles like Arak, Ajay Bahadur and Abhay Bahadur, who have considerable influence in Sirmaur's royal household, opposed Udai's bid for th
Since Rajmata Padmini Devi hails from Sirmaur the erstwhile nobles of the area had requested that Rajkumar Lakshya Raj Singh be anointed as the new Maharaja and the head of the Sirmaur family, since there is no male heir to the erstwhile State. Rajmata Padmini Devi had agreed to their request.
The coronation ceremony was preceded by another important function on May 13th in which Lakshya Raj's paternal gotra (clan) was formally changed from `Manav' to `Attri' (of Sirmaur royals) at the Jaipur City Palace amid chanting of Vedic mantras. The decision to adopt an heir has set tongues wagging. When Princess Diya Kumari married Narendra Singh in 1997, a commoner of her father's gotra, many people in the Rajput community did not take it kindly.
On this auspicious occasion, the sword of Guru Gobind Singh (picture), the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, which was with the family of Sirmaur, was also presented by Mr Ajay Bahadur Singh of the Sirmaur family to Maharaja Lakshya Raj Prakash. The story goes that Guru Gobind Singh had taken shelter from the Mughals at Nahan and as a goodwill gesture had presented his personal sword to the then Maharaja Madheni Prakash of Sirmaur before leaving.
Sirmaur's royal lineage goes back to before 1097 AD and there are many stories about its origins. One of the most popular ones is that Raja of Jaisalmer, Ugar Sen, who happened to visit Hardwar on pilgrimage and on hearing the throne vacant in the nearby state sent his son Soba Rawal who conquered and established his kingdom with the capital at Rajban taking the title of Subans Parkash. He ruled the state up till 1099 AD and thus after 4 years of rule he expired.
Eversince, the name “Parkash” or “Prakash” became a part of the royal family of Sirmaur and continues even today.
ess bee

Sunday, May 12, 2013

When India humiliated Bharat

Virendra Rathore receiving Award from the President of India
Recently I was at the Chambers in Taj Bengal Hotel with few of my Tollywood friends engaged in a chat session. The topic of recently concluded 60th National Film Awards in Delhi came up and we were all startled to hear about an embarrassing incident from one our friends who had attended the Awards function on May 3rd 2013 in Delhi.
I recount the details of the incident which is not only embarrassing but also very demoralizing for those citizens of India who are from a poor and rural social background. The incident concerns child artist Virendra Singh Rathod and his family. Virendra had won the award for the Best Child Artist for his performance in the film Dekh Indian Circus and went to Delhi with his parents to receive the award from the President of India. Virendra is from a poor family from Ludravapur village in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.
The Rathod family was in cloud nine when they arrived in Delhi. The residents of Jaisalmer and the desert state felt proud someone from Rajasthan had bagged a prestigious National Award. But they had no idea what lay in store.
Like other awardees, Virendra and his family were officially put up at one of the five star hotels in Delhi. Their dream journey turned into a very humiliating and nightmarish experience for reasons beyond their control and perhaps due to a glaring oversight by the authorities entrusted with the management of the National Film Awards function.
The Rathods, who have never been a star hotel, were unfamiliar with the rules of the hotel and were neither informed about the terms and conditions of hospitality extended to them. While checking out of the Hotel the family was asked to clear a bill of Rs 6500 towards food expenses. The family was stunned.
They were entitled to a complimentary breakfast but other meals were to be paid for by the guests - a fact which was not known to the family. Also, an additional bill of Rs 3000 was handed over to the family towards transport costs from the airport to the Hotel and other venues. Though this amount was reimbursable, the fact that the payment would be made days later and after official paperwork added to their misery and they were left to foot a Rs 9500 bill.
The hotel authorities refused to let the Rathod family, who requested time to arrange for the payments, to leave without clearing the bill. The family, under immense humiliation and duress, had to turn to their acquaintances, running from pillar to post, to collect the money. The child was unsettled by the situation that made his parents look small.
As soon as I came to know of this incident I used my connections with some of my friends in the banking sector to arrange for Rs 9500 to be delivered to the family much to their relief and just on time to save them from further humiliation.
The National Film Awards is one of the most prestigious events in India made the incident all the more appalling. It brought to the surface the elitist mindset that prevails among a section of the officials running the show. Or else, how does one explain such a glaring omission whereby guests are put up in five-star property without extending full hospitality putting a poor family in an awkward situation for no fault of theirs.
Citizens of India from a humble social background cannot be expected to know the ways of a five star hotel. There are costs which are paid for and then there are costs which are on the guests. It is the responsibility of the hosts to keep the guest informed and ensure there are no faux pas.
This case-in-reference is an eye-opener. A forum of artistes from Rajasthan have taken up the issue and written a letter to Shri Manish Tewari, I&B Minister.
I am not blaming the government or the hotel for the incident. But the fact that there is growing India-Bharat dichotomy cannot be denied. I see this incident as one of India humiliating Bharat, may be unintentionally.
ess bee

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

New York trip called off

May 7, 2013: Yesterday afternoon I had to cancel my New York trip due to some unavoidable last emergencies that cropped up at the last minute.
Now I am thinking if I can make it to the Executive Committee (ExCo) day instead of a scheduled 10-day trip to New York but it seems difficult.
On Sunday evening I went to the Caring Minds Centre which claims to be the first Psychological & Cognitive Wellness Centre. The Centre is a brian child of Meenu Budhia.
I was quite impressed with the facilities the Centre is offering.
ess bee

Saturday, May 4, 2013

An Evening With Amit at `Dublin'

May 4, 2013: This evening I have organized a programme “An Evening With Amit Chaudhuri” on behalf of our organization The Bengal at Dublin, ITC Sonar.
Dublin, which is a discotheque and not a club, has been closed since past few years and is very rarely used for private parties and during the IPL season. “An Evening with Amit” was an experimental idea to showcase Amit's three talents at one go namely his book writing and reading; his classical vocal performance and then his Band. The experiment was to perform all three talents of his at the venue together for which we decided to opt for the Dublin.
In Dublin, apart from the parties no events have happened so far. Beyond the Experience experiment has turned out to be an excellent one. It was also very successful. The event started in the cocktail area of Dublin and then moved on to the dance floor area where the band performed while Amit did the book reading from the bar tender's counter.
We had initially planned to have only 50 people as our guests. But Amit's personal pull and the novelty of the event in an old venue drew all the invitees. It turned out to be a house filled with nearly 75 people.
ess bee

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Visit abroad for WFUNA

May 2, 2013: I arrived in Kolkata from Singapore yesterday night. During my absence I missed Purbayan event that was held at The Oberoi Grand in which a documentary of Karan Johar was screened in Kolkata for the first time.
On Monday evening I am booked for New York as the World Federation of United Nations Association's (WFUNA) next Executive Committee (ExCo) meeting is scheduled for Friday and Saturday that is 10th and 11th of May there.
I am scheduled to reach there on Tuesday as I have some meetings with UN officials before the ExCo on Wednesday. Which means more desk work than attending events in the last days prior to my departure.
ess bee

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

In the heart of Singapore's nightlife hub

Singapore: I was in Singapore on May Day, which, in this part of the world too, the countries observe as a holiday with most shops and establishments closed.
On the eve of May Day, after arriving from Bintan, I went to Clarke Quay Square which is Singapore's river front district and is commonly known as CQ.
I went there to explore another Indian restaurant called RAS Essence of India. This restaurant is located after crossing the CQ Square on the left before crossing the river bridge. As it is located in CQ Square it serves dinner till late night. That is, the last order is taken at 11:30 pm. I reached at 11:30 pm sharp, in the nick of time to place my order moments before the machines stopped closed for the day.
The restaurant was very basic and the food was OK. However, the service and the attitude of the staff left a lot of room for improvement. What surprised me was the fact that this restaurant, located in one of the most happening and expensive areas of Singapore, manages to carry on with its less-than-average service. Probably because being the only Indian restaurant in this prime location has helped it prosper.
It took me about 30 minutes to cross the Square from the taxi stand to reach this restaurant - a feat which I could have accomplished in a five-minute walk. The reason is that CQ is the hub of Singapore's night life and is usually choc-a-bloc. Thanks to May Day being a holiday the next day, the Square had no space to even stand at ease or walk freely.
I had never been to this Square before but the crowds, the restaurants and the whole feel of the place clearly passed on the message that this was the most happening night life in a Square. I would place it is above the Times Square in New York, Piccadily or Leicester Square in London, the Central Station of Amsterdam or the Main Square of Prague. I have visited all these places several times and on holidays as well but have never witnessed such a night life crowd in any other square anywhere.
I had no idea that the young Singaporeans are so fun loving. By the time I came out of RAS the crowd has actually swelled up even more. So, instead of going back to the taxi stand, I took the river bridge to cross over. There were youths with beer bottles in hand against the wall on either side. I took a cab from the 7/11 store bang opposite.
A new crop of nightclubs and food & beverage joints have come up in Clarke Quay to invigorate the nightlife and draw young crowds. No doubt the CQ architecture, by architect firm Aslop's, is one that gels well with the concept of what a vibrant streetscape should be. It has been transformed into a pleasant climate-moderated environment of landscaped arcades which protect visitors against the extremes of the Singaporean climate and maintain the temperature at 28 degree Celsius, covering the four internal streets and central courtyard.
The whole ambiance with elegant canopies providing environmentally friendly shading and cooling, belly dancers, street shops, bar lounges, music bands in different restaurants, outdoor cafes and a series of Chinese, Italian, Persian, Lebanese, Koreans and Japanese restaurants and hookah bars add to the spirit of the night life. Singapore is among the safest countries in the world and is relatively crime free. So mentally you are at peace.
ess bee