Sundeep Bhutoria

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Thank you.
ess bee

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

At the PM's swearing in at Rashtrapati Bhawan

May 27: I am again back in Jaipur today afternoon. Earlier, in the morning, while in Delhi, I greeted few of the new cabinet ministers and then took the Jaipur flight.
Tomorrow I have to be live on air with Doordarshan Jaipur from 8 am to 9 am and will have to be present at the Jaipur Doordarshan by 7:45 am.
This week, I shall be extremely busy with un-ending appointments, un-schedulded travels and lots of happenings. Yesterday, apart from being there at the Prime Minister's swearing in ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, I had five different meetings and two private dinner parties, one of which was in celebration for the new government by a senior politician.
The Modi ceremony was quite a gala affair. I have been to such functions at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in the past but it was really very different this time and I have never witnessed such a rare gathering before. Thanks to my friends who invited me and sent me the invite which said V1 and a green sticker for car which allowed the car right up to the entrance, close to the front row.
With Hema Malini
By the time I reached the venue it was 5:30 pm. I greeted Meira Kumar, Advani ji and others who had taken their seats on the first row. I was pleasantly surprised to find Baroness Verma and her husband who were at the end of first row on the left side of the stage. 
With Baroness Varma (left) in first row
I got a seat next to her but when an elderly woman came in looking for a seat I gave my seat and moved a row back. By then, almost all the seats were taken.
I managed to get a seat in the fifth row near Salman Khan and soon all seats were filled up. In fact, there were no seats left by the time Dharmendra, Hema Malini and Poonam Dhillon arrived.
With Salman Khan
It was nice of Salman who offered his seat to Dharmendra and I offered mine to Hema Malini. I and Salman were both looking for seats. 
Officials noticed the whole thing and organised for a seat for Salman and his father in the middle block on second row.
I was given a seat on the left block in second row just behind Baroness Varma. 
With Mukesh Ambani
It was good chatting up with her. In the same block, there were many industrialists including Mukesh Ambani and family, Gautam Adani, Kumar Mangalam Birla and his wife and another industrialist from Ahmedabad, Sudhir Mehta, with whom I chatted up for a while.
After the swearing in ceremony I greeted few of the ministers who had taken oath. I also met Karan Paul at the VIP tea area post ceremony. My next two days would keep me very busy which includes a recording schedule with the E-TV lined up the day after.
ess bee 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Rani ji passes away

May 25, 2014: The weekend turned out to be quite hectic and it piled up upon my already busy schedule in Delhi regarding matters concerning WFUNA. While in Delhi, I got the sad news of passing away of Rani Lakshmi Kumari Chundawat, a doyen of Rajasthani Literature.
I had landed in Delhi yesterday morning (May 24) and went in for back-to-back meetings with UNIC officials as well as other agencies with Bonian Gulmohammadi, the Secretary General of WFUNA.
At the meeting with Meghalaya CM Mukul A Sangma and IFUNA members
I hosted a small lunch with Bonian and key members of Indian Federations of United Nations Association (IFUNA) and then, in the evening, after attending a meeting with Mukul A Sangma, the Chief Minister of Meghalaya, who is the current chairman of IFUNA and after the meeting had dinner with him. We discussed quite a few isssues regarding the United Nations as well as the United Nations Associations (UNAs).
At Rani ji's funeral
Saturday night, by the time I was back at Maurya, it was very late. On Sunday, I landed in Jaipur around 8:30 am and attended the funeral of Rani Lakshmi Kumari Chundawat at 9 am at the Lal Kothi funeral grounds and then took the 11 am or so flight again from Jaipur for Delhi.
It was the shortest trip of Jaipur and I had to be back in Delhi for 2:30 pm meeting which were postponed twice. I was glad that I managed to attend the funeral of Rani ji to pay my last respects to a lady I shall admire and respect my whole life. I am also thinking of initiating something in her memory.
Rani ji was 98 years old and one of doyens of Rajasthani Literature, she lead a very illustrious life full of verve and vigour and her contribution to the society would be remembered in the years to come. With her passing away, an era of Rajasthani Literature came to an end. This loss comes close to that of Late Vijandan Detha who passed away in November 10, 2013.
I feel these two icons of were the last torch bearers of an era in Rajasthani Literature. With the passing away of Rani ji, the Rajasthani literary universe has lost one of its pillars that had a very unique and positive impact in opening up a field that was once a relatively closed world.
Coming back to Delhi the city is abuzz with what Modi's new cabinet would look like, full of guesses and surmises all around. The scene at the India International Centre (IIC) lounge area was also the same.
ess bee

Friday, May 23, 2014

Raghu Sinha Mala Mathur Smriti Samaroh in Jaipur

With Anup Jalota and Sudhir Mathur
May 23: I landed in Jaipur yesterday early in the evening and attended the ninth Raghu Sinha Mala Mathur Smriti Samaroh event at the Birla Sabhagar
This annual event is observed in the memory of Raghu Sinha and Mala Mathur and was organised by the Raghu Singh Mala Mathur Charity Trust in association with Jaipur-based organisation called Shruti Mandal and the Art and Culture Department.
Sudhir Mathur, a relative of Raghu Sinha and Mala Mathur, has initiated this series in their memory. Raghu Sinha was a music lover and in sync with the spirit bhajan samrat Anup Jalota performed some of his famous soulful bhajans to enthrall the audience and also regaled them with humourous quips during the performance.
With Bina Kak, Sudhir Mathur and Prakash Surana of Shruti Mandal
It was a nice spiritual evening where I also meet quite a few of Jaipurites after a long time. Among those present were politician and actor Bina Kak, erstwhile royal Vidya Devi and others.
This evening, I again dropped by at the Birla Auditorium for the Times of India event. In the afternoon I was at a private lunch at the Rambag Palace Hotel. I held meetings with few individuals as well. Tomorrow I will leave for Delhi.
ess bee

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A new era begins; another ends

With Russi Modi
May 20, 2014: From last Tuesday to this Tuesday so much happened in the country that went through a phase of historical change through the world's largest democratic exercise. 
Some are describing the elections as a tectonic shift given the fact that India, after 30 years, has elected a majority government without the need for coalition partners.
Last week, besides watching elections unfold and the post-election discussions on television, I participated in a couple of TV channels talk shows, even though I was very busy in office. On Thursday, I was at a private function at Hotel Hyatt Regency Kolkata where I met quite a few contestants who won their seats and became the Member of Parliament. I also met the Chief Minister of West Bengal Smt Mamata Banerjee.
With Russi Modi (file picture)
Last week I also got the news of the death of Mr Russi Mody. With that another era came to an end.
I first came to know of Mr Mody when he had just resigned from Tata and joined MOBAR. One of the most successful events in my life during school and college days was the SECADE Seminar which I had organized at The Hotel Oberoi Grand in 1994 which he had been kind enough to grace. 
After that we were in touch and I met him in London a few times. He also supported a few of my projects and attended them as well.
Yesterday evening, I hosted a cocktail reception for Mr Bonian Golmohammadi, Secretary General, WFUNA who was in town.
With Bonian Gulmohammadi
In fact, the recently held World Federation of the United Nations Associations (WFUNA) - a global non-profit organization that represents and coordinates with over 100 national United Nations Associations (UNAs) and their thousands of constituents - has decided to form WFUNA Foundation in India which will definitely help spread the work of WFUNA in this part of the world.
I was busy last week preparing documents and papers for the WFUNA Foundation as well.
With Bonian Gulmohammadi, Raima Sen and Ayush Periwal
The reception was well attended by diplomats, industrialists and prominent people from cinema, fashion and performing arts and the discussions were about the UN, UNAs and the good work being done for the society.
There is a plan to travel to Jaipur and Delhi and I am also thinking of attending the oath ceremony of the newly-elected Government at the Parliament in Delhi.
ess bee

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Modi factor

May 13, 2014: I arrived in Kolkata from New York. Yesterday I went and cast my vote.
Among the NRIs in USA, there was the talk of Indian elections everywhere and everybody had just one question - Will Modi-led NDA be able to form the government on its own or will it need the support of other parties?
I have never before seen such a clear opinion on the emergence of a single Prime Ministerial candidate prior to the election results. The Modi factor or pheneomenon is as wide a topic of discussion at home as it is in among the Indian diaspora, including USA.
In fact, this whole elections has undergone a change in the character and approach. It been more on the lines of the American Presidential elections where voters exercise their franchise on the basis of who the candidate is. 
Another factor was the use of technology. Mr Modi very effectively, in one of the first ever electoral campaigns in the world, leveraged 3D technology during elections and sent his hologram image to rallies of supporters in 1,400-plus locations across the country during the election season.
India, it seems, has by and large voted for the Prime Ministerial candidate rather than political parties. I wonder if this is a new electoral trend that has come to stay. If so, then it is a paradigm shift. Who knows, India's politics may undergo a major catharsis where one would have to look at it from a new perspective in future. Caste and federal equations could go haywire.
Kolkata is really hot and humid compared to the excellent weather in New York.
ess bee

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Luxe in the sky

Inside Emirates Airbus 380 bar lounge
May 8, 2014: I took the New York-Dubai Emirates flight i.e., EK-202 yesterday. No doubt Emirates has set up excellent standards of service in civil aviation. Apart from the comfortable seats in business and first class categories, there is a bar lounge in the aircraft that serves drinks along with hot and cold snacks during the flight. It is sheer luxury in the sky.
Further, as a souvenir, the first and business class passengers get a picture of their's clicked by Polaroid camera.
In fact, I am writing this blog while on flight because there is a internet connectivity.
I like this wide-bodied Airbus 380 aircraft which are double decked and run on four engines. I have, in recent years, travelled a lot in them. I shall be in transit for about six hours in Dubai at the Airport Hotel and then take my flight to Kolkata.
ess bee

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

At the “dosa man's” joint in NYU

At the dosa stall in front of New York University Campus
May 6, 2014: Yesterday, I spent some time at the WFUNA office and in the evening went to the Pongal restaurant for a dosa.
Later in the afternoon, I went to the New York University again and had a meeting with Prof Gabriela Nik Ilieva. We discussed few topics common to the interests of the New York University and Prabha Khaitan Foundation. The moment I came out of the meeting I saw in front of me a thela-type dosa stall and immediately recognized that it was the famous Tiru Kumar.
Tiru Kumar is also known as the “dosa man Kumar”. He sells vegan food and says it aloud with pride - “I am a vegan and I am proud to sell vegetarian food; I want Indian food to be tasted internationally”. Tiru Kumar hails from Jaffna in Sri Lanka and has a Tamil Nadu connection. For the past 13 years he has been making dosa, uttapam and idli and selling in front of New York University at the Washington Square.
Recently, the local authorities allowed him to put his stall inside the Park as well for which he is very happy. Before opening this very popular food thela for New York University students, he also worked in a restaurant and a gas station in 1995.
Another interesting thing is that for the past 12 years the price of his dosa, uttapam, idli, vegetarian roll remained unchanged. He raised it recently after a long spell and rising costs. Tiru Kumar and his New York Dosa Tiru Stall has been featured in various food magazines and columns across the world.
It is always good to see such self made men and women who have carved out a niche for themselves. In his own words, “I can guarantee you can have dosa if you come at 11 am, but if you are late, I can’t say you will get one.”
It is so true.
ess bee

Monday, May 5, 2014

At John's Pizzeria

At the Stamford rail station
May 5, 2014: The weekend turned out to be quite busy with so many things to do. On Saturday, I went to Stamford to meet Komal and Amit Juneja. 

Amit is into information technology and Komal had served six years in the Indian military before marrying Amit and settling down in the US.
Stamford is an hour by train from New York's Grand Central station
On Sunday I saw a movie Lunch Box and then went to John’s Pizzeria which is said to be one of the most famous pizza joints in New York.
In New York City
In the late twenties when the city streets of New York were cobblestone with trolley cars running on them, one Madeline Castellotti a visionary transformed an abandoned church on the 44th Street. Patrons eat their pizza under a five-story stained glass cupola of what was once the Gospel Tabernacle Church, was born. Built in 1888, this sight the site was reconstructed to house the largest pizzeria in the country. With over 500 seats, four pizza ovens, and two kitchens, this outpost can accommodate both small and large parties.
John's Pizzeria opened its doors in the late 1920s when the city streets were cobblestone, trolley cars were a familiar sight. Since then the story of John's Pizzeria is one legends are made up of with generations of New Yorkers and tourists alike have come to enjoy the finest pizza. It has a traditional 75-year-old coal fired oven for making pizzas and no thermostats or controls. Pizzas are hand made.
In 1984 John's opened a branch on the Upper East Side which till this day continues to draw dedicated pizza fanatics. John's has drawn notables such as Frank Sinatra, John F Kennedy, Woody Allen and others.
Inside Grand Central Rail Station
After last Sunday, when I spoke at the New York University, my official work in New York had finished and since then I have been venturing out on long walks to these new places in and around Times Square and the Central Park area.
ess bee

Friday, May 2, 2014

Shoppers' dream haven in NYC

May 2, 2014: I just returned from the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets – a price conscious shoppers' haven. Those who delve deep into the realm of shopping would sure know about this place which is an hour's drive from New York City.
This Woodbury Common is some place that offers a range of top international brand products like Polo, Ralph Lauren, Bose, Gucci, Dunhill, Channel and many others who have their factory outlets housed here. What makes it interesting is that these products are available at prices 20 to 50 per cent lower and, at times, as low as 75 per cent of what is sold at New York showrooms.
How is this possible?
Well, it is something like this that I learnt. When the branded showrooms of New York get their stock of new range of products they are supposed to be sold within a certain period of time after which the unsold stock is sold to outlets like Woodbury Common Premium at a discount and their own shelves replaced by a wave of fresh new products. Then, the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets pass it on to their loyal band of customers sharing a part of the discount.
There are other marketing policies and mechanics at play. For example, electronics major Bose, as per their product return policy, take back products from customers which they may not like for personal reasons within a certain period of time. These products, mostly electronic goods, have been opened, touched and tried. However, some customers who have not liked the product return it in perfect workable condition and take their money or value back.
These goods are rechecked at the factory and repackaged and sold to outlets like Woodbury Common Premium across USA. Which, again, is sold on a discount. It is like offering a discount on a product which has been somewhat touched if not used.
With Moumouny Tao
Many Indians with a penchant for availing discounts and freebies often descend on such outlets in droves. But, I, however, saw only two Indian couples from among a multitude of nationalities with big trolleys at this Woodbury outlet.
Yesterday, after spending the morning and afternoon in New York Public Library, I took a walk to the Central Park in the evening. I met Moumouny Tao, a pedicab driver-cum-English Professor whom I had befriended on my last visit. He was very excited to see me and told me that now he had made enough and was planning to go back to his family in Burkina Faso in December.
In front of The Pierre Hotel
I also went to Two E Bar/Lounge at The Pierre which is now a property owned by Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces. The Hotel is located on the 5th Avenue overlooking the Central Park. The vegetarian Panini is excellent there.
This place has its own history and a story to tell. The residential style lobby lounge is converted for its Afternoon Tea from 3 to 5 pm. With its food, cocktails, music and ambiance, the place has many resources to arouse your gastronomic curiosities and keeps it alive.
ess bee