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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Saturday, January 25, 2014

From one litfest to another

With Kabir Bedi at the Writers' Ball in Jaipur
January 25, 2014: I arrived in Kolkata on January 23 evening after a hectic Jaipur sojourn. Yesterday evening I attended the inaugural dinner of Kolkata Literary Meet at the Taj Terrace
I shall again leave Kolkata and go to south India for a week to attend some family affairs.
With Jhumpa Lahiri at the Kolkata Literary Meet
On January 21, I attended the Writers' Ball which was hosted at the Hotel Le Meridian instead of Kesar Kyari at Amber Fort where it was held each year. On the last day of the Jaipur Literature Festival there was a sudden change in the weather and it rained heavily since 4 am.
Full marks to Thakur Ram Pratap Diggi and their team and also to Namita Gokhale, Sanjay Roy and Sheuli Sethi for a great show. Not a single session was delayed or cancelled. In fact, the alacrity with which they made alternative arrangement immediately, when the Charbagh Tent collapsed, deserves full praise.
One of the last sessions of the JLF was “Is there anything called Indianism.” 
I think the speedy arrangement that the JLF team made is what epitomizes Indianism. I am sure that had it been anywhere else in the world, they would have called off the event.
ess bee

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dinner party and JLF Writers' Ball

With Ashok Vajpayee
Jaipur, January 22, 2014: After the Jaipur Literature Festival 2014 it was an easy day today.
I hosted a dinner party at the ITC Rajputana on Monday evening for the authors who are in city for the Litfest. I also invited few of my personal friends and some other guests. 
It was very well attended. Gloria Steinhem, Farah Ghuznavi, Lily Wangchuk, Yatindra Mishra, Ashok Vajpayee, Urvashi Butalia, Namita Gokhale, Anamika Gupta, Sudhir Mathur, Doova Sharma, Rahul Kapur, Aradhna Pradhan, Sunil Gupta, Manish Pushkale, Ruchira Gupta, Sunita Amin and others.
With Gloria Steinhem
Yesterday I attended the The Writers Ball, which marked the conclusion of the Jaipur Literature Festival 2014, hosted by the Ford Motor Company at the Hotel Le Meridian
The Ball was a cultural and literary potpourri with the authors and the culturatti having a whale of a time in the evening with traditional Rajasthani dance, food, fun and entertainment.
It was an informal setting and the writers and intellectuals rubbed shoulders with socialites and party goers of Jaipur. Chugge Khan and his band regaled the guests with a mix of traditional Rajasthani music.
Among those present at the party were filmmaker Anurag Basu, writer Pawan Verma, Jeet Thayil, Bagladesh High Commissioner, Tariq A Karim, Kabir Bedi, William Darymple and his wife, Sanjoy Roy, Namita Gokhale, Parveen Dusanj and so on including and a large number of city's celebs and foreign guests and authors. 
Kalbelia dancers who swung to the tunes of rustic Rajasthani desert music were loved by one and all. Just as it had started, the JLF 2014 ended on a high note.
I will fly to Kolkata tomorrow evening.
ess bee

Monday, January 20, 2014

At the Jaipur Polo Club

Jaipur, January 20, 2014: I took a break from the Jaipur Literature Festival for some time during the lunch hour and went to the Polo Club for lunch with Sanjeev Bali. Usually it is customary to host high tea or dinner at the Club after the event but Mr Bali, for the past few years, has been hosting Champagne Lunch before the match which is considered to be one of the best parties in town in Jaipur.
Yesterday I went to Mita and Rahul Kapur's house where they had invited the authors who were there for the Jaipur Literature Festival.
Today since morning I had a one-on-one meeting at the Diggi Palace with different people, including dhrupad singer, Sunita Avani Amin, Chairman of Dartington Hall Trust (Devon, UK) and ex-director of British Council (UK), Sir Davin Green, and co-founder of Patna Literary Fest, Aradhna Pradhan. Aradhna and Dr Ajit Pradhan, her brother-in-law were the moving force behind the initiative to launch the first Patna Literary Fest. This year the PLF is scheduled from February 14 till 16, 2014, which I intend to attend.
Today evening I shall be hosting a dinner for the authors at the ITC Rajputana.
ess bee

Sunday, January 19, 2014

At Dharohar and Jaipur vintage car rally

With Nandana Sen and John Makinson at the Rambagh Palace on Jan 16, 2014
Jaipur, January 19, 2014: I attended the Penguin Random House Dinner at Rambagh Palace on Friday evening. It was nice of John Makinson and Nandana to invite me.
With Amish Tripathy
Yesterday was a busy day again. I attended a lunch hosted by educationist Jayshree Periwal and family in honour of India's top selling author, Amish Tripathy.
From the lunch meeting I went to attend the 16th Vintage & Classic Car Rally that is being organised in association with the Tourism Department, Government of Rajasthan. Thanks to Vinnie and Saurabh Kakkar who took me there and my thanks to Sudhir Kasliwal who had invited me to the function.
The vintage car rally is held in Jaipur every year and has already become a rage among the classic car lovers in the state. 
With Sudhir Kasliwal (file picture)
This time the timing, coinciding with Litfest has added yet another element of great event to the city's itinerary and especially when many foreign guests are flying in.
This two day vintage car exhibition is any car lover's dream. Some of the original beauties from the 1920s to the 1970s along with vintage models of the cars like Bentley, Jaguar, Ford, Rolls Royce, Chrysler, Rover, Hudson, Lancia, Buick, Daimler, Cadillac, Packard, and Studebaker, besides other classic makes were on display. It seemed like we were transported to some earlier era.
From there I headed to the litfest to participate at one of the sessions at the Jaipur Litfest called the Dharohar: The Legacy of Rajasthani Culture session at the Baithak. It was a discussion in which the sarpanch of Soda village, Chhavi Rajawat, promoter of folk music, K C Maloo, also participated. Eminent archaeologist and historian Rima Hooja moderated the discussion. 
The panelists put forth their views on the subject i.e., Rajasthani legacy. I expressed mine by saying that the society teaches us several things like traditions, culture and so on but for me legacy is of utmost importance. Songs sung by women in marriages to me are a part of a rich legacy. I said, sanskriti, samaj and parampara is our dharohar. In fact, dharorar is ritual in every aspect. To save our legacy and to continue with it, there has to be change, dharohar cannot be defined by the lines of caste, society or language. 
I further said that our social values, traditions and our lifestyle are what we call legacy. But there is no point following those traditions that have no relevance today. The purity of our art, craft and music, which is part of the desert state of state should be retained addressing erstwhile royals with titles like Maharaja and Maharani is no legacy. Also, singing bhanjans set to Bollywood tunes by no means imply the preservation of tradition - it is a sheer mockery of our cultural legacy.
With Chhavi Rajawat, Rima Hooja and K C Maloo
The discussion on the serious topic had its lighter moments and we shared a laugh or two. It was a very exhilarating experience for me.
At about 10:30 pm yesterday I went to an editor friend's birthday bash that on full swing when I left at around 1 am.
ess bee

Friday, January 17, 2014

At Jaipur's literary kumbh

With Suhel Seth and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen
Jaipur, January 17, 2014: Yesterday night I attended the spectacular Jaipur Literature Festival 2014 (JLF) pre-event dinner party at the Mughal Gardens, Rambagh Palace, hosted by the Hotel, which started from 7 pm onwards. The chilly winter night soon warmed up by the presence of heavyweights and celebs.
This year the theme was Polo and the hotel's sprawling lawn was decked up for the occasion displaying cavalry and bric-a-bracs of the regal sport with 30 horses and mashaal (torch) bearers. Captivating music by the famous “Saxophone Sisters” - S Lavanya and Subhlakshmi – made the evening magical.
Nobel Laureate, Dr Amartya Sen, was accompanied with his actress daughter Nandana Sen. Other eminent guests and authors were also present. JLF producer, Sanjoy Roy, co-festival director, William Dalrymple, Namita Gokhale, Suhel Seth, Irfan Khan, Manvendra Singh, Rajkumar Vijit Singh and others were present.
The buffet spread of “author-tails” (cocktails inspired by authors) was under the two large cavalry theme canopies with books on the table.
With Irfan Khan
Today morning the 5-day Jaipur Literature Festival 2014, as it is called this year, was flagged off at the Diggi Palace with increased space and capacity for housing a music stage. The JLF is perhaps the world's largest free literary festival with an estimated footfall of nearly two lacs spread over five days (Jan 17-21). It has all the makings of being a literary kumbh mela.
This year, the seventh edition, the Fest seemed to have increased in scale with new add ons to the main thrust. A new venue, Ford Samvaad, dedicated to the children and the young, was added. From two Nobel Laureates (Amartya Sen and Harold Varmus) to local language writers, Man Booker prize winners to debut novelists and literary superstars, the most remarkable, witty, sensitive and brilliant collection of authors from across the globe were all there speaking, debating and listening to a wide range of topics.
Over 20 languages were represented at the Fest including 14 Indian languages by 240 speakers. This time a new app allowed Festival goers to have the programme on their mobiles. The lineup included Jonathan Franzen, Javed Akhtar, Jhumpa Lahiri, Gloria Steinem, Shashi Tharoor, Ashok Vajpayee, S R Faruqi, Ved Mehta, Reza Aslan, Samantha Shannon, Ganesh Devy, MT Vasudevan Nair, Mahesh Dattani and Narendra Kohli.
The JLF Music Stage will have a line up of musical talents from Sufi to Soul, including Karsh Kale, Kiran Ahluwalia, Midival Punditz, Rajasthani musicians and dancers and Grammy Award winning band Tinariwen. The Jaipur BookMark, a new platform for the publishing industry will also be there with top names from the publishing industry like John Makinson of the newly formed Penguin Random House participating. Ford Samvaad, a new venue, is an add on to the Fest. Zee, British Airways, Ford and Mahindra Humanities Center have forged new partnerships with the Festival which is an indication of the kind of pull and popularity the Festival has acquired.
The Fest took off to a flying start with the keynote address of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen - “A Wish a Day for a Week”. Sen`s seven wishes marked the opening of the seventh edition of Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) today. He hoped to see a strong right-wing party with a secular ideology come to power at the centre, media reporting to be more responsible and children getting quality education in a sustainable environment, among other things. The hall, as expected, was packed.
Tomorrow 6 pm I would be participating in a special session during the Fest called Dharohar: The Legacy of Rajasthani Culture along with Chavi Rajawat, K C Maloo to be moderated by historian Rima Hooja. I am looking forward to it.
ess bee

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Kite flying fest on the eve of JLF

At the Kite flying festival in Jaipur
Jaipur, January 16, 2014: The welcome pre-party to the 7th Jaipur Literature Festival 2014 began today with a kite flying festival that I hosted at the ITC Rajputana. It started from 2 pm onwards and was attended by the glitterati of Jaipur and the delegates of the Litfest.
With Babu Khan
This was the first time such a pre-event festival was launched. On earlier occasions, including last year, there used to be a cricket match between the Rajasthan Royals and Litfest 11 team.
A Rajasthani village life ambience was created at the venue amid kite flying and display of various kinds of kites. The guests were treated to festival delicacies like til ke laddooelaichi chaifirnimirch bada and kachori.
Babu Khan, a 76-year-old kite flying expert was present along with other experts from Udaipur, kalabaaz from Sikar performed rope tricks, kathputhli artistes from Jaipur showed their colourful puppets, lac bangle makers, potters and so on - all added to the festive spirit which the foreign delegates liked very much. 
With an author from Egypt

The idea was to recreate and showcase a typical Rajasthani village life scenario along with the thrills of kite flying.
Today evening there will be a Cocktails & Dinner at the Rambagh Palace from 7 pm onwards. I am expecting to meet many friends and acquaintances.
ess bee

Monday, January 13, 2014

At the RCTC with the Sippys

With Ramesh Sippy

January 13, 3014: I arrived in Jaipur this afternoon from Kolkata. The last few days in Kolkata was very hectic and happening with the President of India's event at the Raj Bhavan on Saturday.
Later that day after the event I went to Jhaal Farezi
the relatively new multi-cuisine destination in Kolkata. Madhu Neotia had organised an organic food festival with many cuilinary delights.

With Madhu Neotia at Jhaal Farezi
I was very surprised to find that the organic aspect of the festival went beyond food to cover daily usable products and stuff like bedsheets and other wearables made of organically grown cotton or other natural materials.
In the evening I went to The Oberoi Grand to attend the party hosted in honour of Ramesh Sippy and his wife Kiran Juneja. Ramesh Sippy was in town to celebrate 40 years of Sholay.
I met many friends and familiar faces at the party which was attended by Soumitra Chatterjee, Prasenjit, Rituparna, Gargi Roychowdhury, Parambrata, Saswata, Anik Datta, Harsh and Madhu Neotia, Sanjay Budhia, Arindam Sil, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, Ananya Chatterjee, Arjun Chakrabarty and others.
With Pritimoy Chakravarty
Thanks to Pritimoy that I could make plans with Ramesh Sippy for the 12th Kolkata Derby and went to the Royal Kolkata Turf Club (RCTC) with them.
The corporate box are quite comfortable but I wish they had a small balcony like the ones in Eden Garden. After the Derby I had lunch with Ramesh and Kiran at the Turf Club only and also had an informal discussion with Kanchan Jana and officials of RCTC regarding some association of mine with this Club. 
It is even a greater sight than the polo matches to see the horses running in Kolkata. 
ess bee

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sunil Gangopadhyay Memorial Award

With Shri Nirendranath Chakravarti and Honourable President of India Shri Pranab Mukherjee at Raj Bhavan, Kolkata. The President conferring Sunil Gangopadhyay Memorial Award for 2012 to Shri Nirendranath Chakravarti.
January 11, 2014: Today was a red letter day for The Bengal as the Honorable President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, did the honours of awarding the Sunil Gangopadhyay Memorial Award for excellence in Bengali literature at the Raj Bhavan, Kolkata, in the morning. Two veteran poets and literatteurs of Bengal, Nirendranath Chakravarti and Sankha Ghosh, were awarded for their contribution to Bengali literature for the year 2012 and 2013 respectively. The prize consisted of a citation, shawl and a cash component of Rs 2 lac each.
The Sunil Gangopadhyay Memorial Award was instituted by The Bengal with the support of Shree Cement in 2012 when Sunil da, who was the immediate past president of the organization, died in harness.
The Honorable Governor of West Bengal, Shri M K Narayanan, Sheriff-designate of Kolkata, Shri Ranjit Mullick, Minister-in-Charge for Housing, Government of West Bengal, Arup Biswas were there at the dais along with Shri H M Bangur, Chairman of The Bengal, Smt Nabaneeta Dev Sen, President of The Bengal and Shri Jogen Chowdhury, Working President of The Bengal.
With Ranjit Mullick, Sanjay Budhia, Jogen Chowdhury and H M Bangur
The wife of Late Shri Sunil Gangopadhyay, Smt Swati Ganguly was also present along with a host of guests and dignitaries from all walks of life including the elderly members of Pronam.
Shri H M Bangur welcomed the guests on the dais. Smt Nabaneeta Dev Sen gave the welcome speech. Smt Gargi Roychowdhury, a committee member of The Bengal, rendered the welcome song on the occasion and Shri Goutam Ghose, Board Member of The Bengal, recited a poem of Late Sunil Gangopadhyay at the Award function. Shri Jogen Chowdhury, Working President, The Bengal, delivered the vote of thanks at the function. The Bengal team member Mr Arindam Sil and Ms Ekavalli Khanna compered the event.
Recipient of the Award, Shri Nirendranath Chakravarti, said in his speech how he was overwhelmed to receive the award in memory of someone who was much younger and should have actually outlived him. President Pranab Mukherjee too elaborated on this point and shared his fondness for the works of Sunil da. He congratulated The Bengal for instituting the Award.
The whole exercise from inviting the President to executing the event involves some massive office work and interactions with various departments of the government at the national and state level. The process of working out the event began months in advance and being the Secretary General of The Bengal, I had to work out the details of it.
Given the stringent security norms and protocols, it was essential to work out the details of the event meticulously and according to a plan. But at the end it paid off as the programme passed off very smoothly.
ess bee

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Getting back to the city!

With Scott Furssedonn Wood
Kolkata, January 9, 2014: I managed to reach Kolkata on the afternoon of January 7 braving flight delays and cancellations due to heavy fog at Jaipur and Delhi.
I was rather worried on January 6 as to whether I would be able to make it to Kolkata to host an all important dinner the next day. 
With Leonard and Elizabeth
I knew that Scott too was in a similar situation as he had mentioned to me that he might reach Kolkata around 4 or 5 pm on January 7, 2014. 
I, however, managed to reach on time and Scott got delayed but his wife Elizabeth and his father, Leonard Furssedonn were there.
With Sumit Majumdar
The guest turnout at the dinner party was very good although Taj Terrace got a lot more colder than our expectations but Taj Bengal did a fantastic job to make good for that which all the guests lauded. 
I hosted the dinner to welcome Scott Furssedonn Wood - the new British High Commissioner in Kolkata.
With Karan Paul
I am neck deep in work, totally occupied with the office for the forthcoming President of India's visit to the city and The Bengal's “Sunil Gangopadhyay Memorial Award” event at the Raj Bhavan on January 11, 2014, which we are hosting.
Today evening I have invited a few authors, who are in city for the Apeejay Literary Festival, to my home for dinner.
ess bee

Monday, January 6, 2014

Dinner with Goran and Kota Cup

With Maharaj Jaisingh
With Nirmal and Richa Bafna
Jaipur, January 6, 2014: Yesterday evening I hosted a dinner for my friend Goran Paskaljevic and his wife Christine which was attended by my friends and acquaintances in Jaipur. Goran and Christine are really enjoying their trip to Jaipur.
Before the dinner, I went to see the finals of the Kota Cup of the Jaipur Polo Season 2014. Syed Basheer Ali played well as did Kr Ransher Singh Rathore. 
With Usha Pooniya and Archana Surana

Although Syed’s Team “RPC” had young stars like Raghav Diggi, His Highness Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh Singh and Ashwani, it was a very interesting match to watch.
With Chhavi Rajawat and Goran Paskaljevic
The team Royal Gems & Arts of Kr Ransher Singh Rathore with Rohit Mathur, Vishvendra Rajawat and Bhanu Pratap Singh lost by only one point but got a standing ovation and praises.
I shall fly back to Kolkata today evening as tomorrow I am hosting a dinner for the British High Commissioner in Kolkata Scott Furssedonn Wood and his wife Elizabeth.
But given the reports of flights getting fogged in, I am keeping my fingers crossed, hoping mine is on time.
ess bee

Sunday, January 5, 2014

At the Amjad Ali Khan concert in Jaipur

With Goran and his wife Christine
With Christine
Jaipur, January 5: I went to the Maharana Pratap Auditorium at Vidya Ashram to see the concert of Amjad Ali Khan. The concert was part of a three-day Rajmahal Surana Memorial Festival hosted by Shruti Mandal.
Shruti Mandal is one of the most reputed cultural organizations in Jaipur that has been presenting classical concerts for more than 30 years now in the Pink City.
At the City Palace
Thanks to Poonam and Chandu Surana who invited me to this evening where Ustad Amjad Ali Khan performed various ragas for more than two hours. 
In fact he also performed raga Suvalakshmi in his wife’s name and also a new raag Raj Ganesha.
Yesterday morning I went to the City Palace as my friend Goran and his wife Christine were on a city tour. 
With Goran
I dropped in to say hello to them at a cafe in the City Palace.
Jaipur is very foggy and cold and in parts of Rajasthan. 
In Shekhawati, where I was born, temperature has plummeted to -1to -4according to news reports.
ess bee

Friday, January 3, 2014

Tete-a-tea with Kaushik Basu; waiting for Goran

January 3, 2014: I was back in Kolkata for the New Year and at peace with myself at home as the city welcomed 2014 with celebrations all around.
While I was away from Kolkata, Prabha Khaitan Foundation hosted another edition of Tete-a-Tea with economist Kaushik Basu and Suman Ghosh on December 28, 2013 at the Taj Bengal. This time it took place at the Chambers.
Kaushik Basu, recipient of Padma Bhushan, is Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank. He was on leave from Cornell University where he is the C Marks Professor of International Studies and Professor of Economics. Prior to that he was the Chairman of the Department of Economics and Director, Center for Analytic Economics at Cornell University. Till July 2012 he served as the Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India.
He has published many books on developmental economics, game theory and welfare economics and contributed articles to newspapers and magazines such as The New York Times, Scientific American, India Today and Business Standard. He also wrote a regular column for the BBC News Online and has appeared on various television shows.
I could not attend the event as I was out of Kolkata. I was told that the event had a quality turnout which was followed by a stimulating discussion in which the Professor shared his ideas and thoughts and touched upon topics close to his heart laced with information, wit and humour. His thoughts on some unconventional topics like `bribery' made the interaction very lively. He gave sneak peek into concepts like 'shared prosperity' which the World Bank, thanks to his efforts, incorporated for the first time in their world economic report slated to be out later this month.
I arrived in Rajasthan again by morning flight from Kolkata.
Today evening, my guests Goran Paskaljevic and his wife Christine are scheduled to arrive. Goran Paskaljevic, a famous director, was born in Belgrade. He studied at the Prague School of Cinema (FAMU) and has so far made some 30 documentaries and 16 feature films which have been much acclaimed and shown at some of the most prestigious international film festivals i.e., Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Toronto and San Sebastian and so on.
Goran was forced to leave Yugoslavia in 1992 when a tide of nationalistic fevour swept through the country. He had emigrated to France. In 1998 he went back to make Powder Keg (aka Cabaret Balkan in the USA) which won the International Critics' Prizes (FIPRESCI) at the Venice Film Festival and the European Film Awards. In 2001, the Variety International Film Guide marked him as one of the world's top five directors of the year. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York presented a full retrospective of his work in January 2008 and in July 2012 British Film Institute - Southbank in London organised a full retrospective of his 16 feature films along with the publication of a monograph (in English) about his work. He was made an 'Officier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres' by the President of France.
Goran is a good friend of my friend Victor Banerjee and it was on his request, I organized the sightseeing and a dinner for them. I look forward to meeting them this evening.
ess bee