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

1A Camac Court, 25B Camac Street, Kolkata – 700 016, India.

Phone: 91 33 2281 6934

Fax: 91 33 2280 2930


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Monday, September 29, 2014

Puja events are on

September 29, 2014: Today is Panchami and the Puja fever is on everywhere. On Friday evening (Sept 26) I went to Jhaal Farezi as Madhu was having a 7-day event Thakurdaalan by the flyover - Festival of Fashion, Photography, Installation Art, Music and Food from Tuesday (Sept 23) till Friday (Oct 3). On Friday evening it was Rita Bhimani in conversation with Kunal Basu.
At the Peoples' Republic of China reception
After attending Jhaal Farezi I went to The Oberoi Grand to attend a reception on the occasion of the 65th National Day of the People’s Republic of China hosted by the Consul General of China, Mr and Mrs Wang Xuefeng. 
As I was scheduled to be in Bangalore for the Bangalore Literature Festival, I had sent a regret letter for both these events. But I had to cancel the Litfest and my Bangalore trip due to personal reasons so I decided to attend these two events in Kolkata.
With Shrreya Pande, Ghanshyam Sarda, Sharmila Tagore, Soumitra Chatterjee and Toni
On Sunday evening I had the formal inauguration of Manicktalla Chaltabagan Lohapatty Durga Puja which was inaugurated by Sharmila Tagore and Soumitra Chatterjee. My friend Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, industrialist Gyanshyam Sarda and actress, Shrreya Pande was also present during the inauguration. In order to listen to the Dadasaheb Phalke award winner Soumitra Chatterjee and popular actress Sharmila Tagore, crowds had started gather. At around 9 pm thousands of people had gathered around the pandal clicking Soumitra and Sharmila together from their mobile phones.
With CP Surajit Pukayastha and Arindam Sil
The Chief Minister, Smt Mamata Banerjee, could not make it on September 25 due to last minute changes in her schedule so we had the inauguration on September 28, 2014.
Today morning I went to the Amherst Street Police Station to attend the Puja Parikrama 2014 flag off ceremony for Pronam Project an initiative of The Bengal and Kolkata Police. All the senior police officials, representing the various divisions of Kolkata Police, attended the launch function.
Launching quarterly magazine with CP and Arindam
Nine AC buses were arranged for senior citizens of Pronam for the Puja Parikrama or visit to important puja mandaps in Kolkata as per special arrangements. All the elderly who attended were above 70 years and few of them were in their 90s. Each year Pronam organizes this parikrama for the senior citizens who are unable to visit puja pandals on their own due to age and infirmity and new special support and care to do so.
ess bee

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Toying with tigers?

At the Tiger Kingdom in Phuket, Thailand.
The recent incident of a white tiger in Delhi zoo mauling and killing a boy who fell into the enclosure was a ghastly scene. I was myself very much disturbed by the fact that only last month I was in Thailand and inside a zoo (for a payment) and petting a tiger as if it were a dog and of course coming out safely to tell my story.
I saw the video on YouTube - how the big white tiger toyed with the boy for a while before going in for the final kill. I am sad for the boy but not angry with the tiger. I fully agree with what tiger expert Belinda Wright said, “The tiger was only being a tiger.”
I remember somewhat similar incident that took place at the Alipore Zoological Gardens in Kolkata in 1996 New Years day. A tiger had killed one person who had intruded into the cage and had badly mauled another one. The youth was drunk and had entered the cage with a garland of marigold flowers and tried to put it around the neck of the Royal Bengal tiger (called Shiva) as New Year's greetings. Nearly a thousand people has witnessed the unfolding of the bizarre happening at the Kolkata zoo.
Early last month I was in Tiger Kingdom in Phuket, Thailand. Hundreds of people visit this place to be with tigers – touch them, play with them and get photographed in the enclosures. There are various rates for being with the tigers - the smallest tiger (2 to 4 months), small tiger (5 to 10 months), medium tiger (11 to 15 months) and big tigers (16-36 months) for about 10 minutes. The charges for being with the smallest tiger was the highest because these are difficult to tame.
There were instructions for the visitors, the dos and donts, while in the company of tigers. I, chose a small tiger, and was instructed on how to approach it. I was told that I should gently press the back of the tiger and avoid the head initially.
I was surprised to see how people were fondling, stroking and petting big Royal Bengal tigers roaming freely without chains and getting photographed. I came to know that there were more than one such kind of play-with-tiger zoos in Thailand. Some of them run by Buddhist monks. The tigers are born in captivity and hand-reared on a controlled diet and said to trained to be among people since their formative years of life. Bonding with humans from an early age makes these cats conditioned to be with humans in normal circumstances.
The visitors are, however, warned that they still are wild animals with feral instincts and must be approached with respect. We were told that we should not approach a sleeping tiger with gentle strokes which would tickle them and make irritated. The best way suggested was to cuddle them and stroke them to make them feel comfortable.
With a baby tiger at the Tiger Kingdom
The baby tigers are playful and are likely to play with you. Sometimes, while playing it tends to be a bit rough and bite. Hence, visitors have to be careful while dealing with them. There were also instructions of not to wear bright clothes, dangling jewellery and so on.
Though these zoos, which draw thousands of visitors from across the world, have their share of controversies and minor incidents. There have been allegations that these cats are drugged or sedated to ensure people can approach them. The visitors are made to sign a disclaimer to ensure that they are not sued in case someone is attacked by a tiger.
It was in the news that a girl (University student from London) and her sister from London was attacked by one of the tigers. She survived when one of the keepers jumped into and controlled the tiger which had sunk its teeth in her thighs. She was scarred for life. Reliving the nightmare she had said that everything happened so fast. One minute she was petting the tiger's back and washing it, the next it turned its head and knocked her down to the ground with its paw and sunk its teeth into her left thigh. Had the keeper not intervened, anything could have happened. The staff of the zoo had assured her that the tigers were hand reared and so used to human beings and were completely tame. They had event said that no one had ever been seriously injured.
These places, very few in the world, are immensely popular because they make it possible for visitors to touch the tigers and pose for pictures with the carnivores. Some of these tiger spots, which are described as monastery-cum-wildlife-sanctuary, have over 70 tigers providing incredible photo opportunities for the visitors.
There has been a growing debate on online forums of the ethical issues surrounding such tourist attractions. One of the debates is that it is estimated that there are less than 3500 tigers in the wild at present in the world. While there are more than 10,000 tigers in captivity in the US alone. The tactics being used to keep the big cats from their natural habitat to entertain humans has been raised in many forums and by activist groups.
A controversial report was released in 2008 by Care for the Wild International (CWI) which accused the Tiger Temple, a Theravada Buddhist temple, of becoming a breeding centre to produce and keep tigers solely for the tourists and therefore their own benefit. There is no possibility of the temple's breeding programme contributing to the conservation of the species in the wild the report had said. It also said that the temple had mixed up the genetic pool of the tigers. CWI feels that the Temple's philosophy for animal conservation is flawed. The forest temple had denied any wrongdoings.
Based on CWI's report, a coalition of 39 conservation groups, including, World Wide Fund for Nature and Humane Society International, formed “The International Tiger Coalition”.
Others feel that given the rate at which the world tiger population have been shrinking in the wild, there is nothing wrong it breeding these animals in a controlled set up like these temples. I personally have no moral hangovers for visiting the zoo and can't deny the fact that these cats are majestic and intriguing. All I can say is that the tigers in the zoos of Delhi and Kolkata, are more tiger than the ones I visited and touched in Thailand.
ess bee

Friday, September 26, 2014

Events and miss outs

With Balendu Singh, Sunil Gupta and Belinda Wright
September 26, 2014: The last three days were so hectic I couldn't do anything else other then work.
On Tuesday (Sept 23) evening we had another event of The Write Circle series in which Belinda Wright was the guest author. Mr Balendu Singh - Former Honorary Chief Warden of the Ranthambore sanctuary – was in conversation with Belinda.
The conversation between Balendu and Belinda was simply brilliant. The audience at the ITC Rajputana was very impressed with the visual presentation of Belinda in which she had photos of her childhood with many animals including the tigers.
At the dinner with Mita Kapur, Rahul Kapur, Bina Kak, Belinda Wright, Balendu Singh and Sudhir Kasliwal
While we were having tea before the event we received the information about the Delhi zoo incident in which a white tiger killed a man who fell into the tiger's enclosure. Belinda’s phone was continuously ringing as TV channels wanted her views on this. In the evening, I hosted a small dinner for Belinda.
Wednesday was also quite a busy day as I received information that the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Smt Mamata Banerjee, would be coming to my puja pandal at Chaltabagan which means, instead of flying from Bangalore to Kolkata , I would have to be back in Kolkata on September 25, 2014.
With Kunwar Natwar Singh
On September 24, I hosted a lunch for Shri Kunwar Natwar Singh who was in Jaipur on my invitation to deliver the third Prabha Khaitan Memorial Lecture on “Present Government’s Foreign Policy” at the Hotel Marriott.
I hosted the lunch at the ITC Rajputana and then went to Hotel Marriott for the lecture. Between lunch and the lecture, I made arrangements for the Chief Minister of West Bengal’s visit to my puja pandal and also changed my itinerary.
So instead of flying to Bangalore, I landed in Kolkata yesterday morning from Jaipur and also missed the book launch of Shri Kunwar Natwar Singh in Jaipur hosted by Step by Step Foundation. My name was printed on the invite.
Normally, I never break a commitment but somehow this is the second time it has so happened with Step by Step that I could not be there at the event after confirming my presence. I look forward to attend the Step by Step Annual function on October 20, 2014, which I shall be attending with the talented Shantanu Moitra. 
ess bee

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

At the Vodafone Agomoni

September 23, 2014: I landed in Jaipur today morning with not more than two hours of sleep. I was at the Vodafone Agomoni 2014 event of Vodafone at Kalamandir, Kolkata. Agomoni has marked a special place in the city’s social calendar. This was the 14th edition of the event.
It starts at around 8:30 pm and goes on till the first rays of the sun. I watched the whole performance of Sharmila Tagore with Soumyojit and Sourendro of You & I group. In fact, I was also impressed by the Das brothers dhakis. The whole group has the surname Das and was looking very elegant in the red Vodafone dress. The dhaks, also covered in red, made it look all the more spectacular.
While the performance went on on the stage, the artist from Kumartuli drew the Goddess' statue hour by hour and by the time the event ended he completed the whole statue which means “Agomoni” or “The Arrival” of Maa Durga. Interestingly, as per the mythology, each year Maa Durga is said to come in a different mode of transport. This time it is said that she would arrive on a boat and leave in a palanquin.
Thank you Vodafone for giving Agomoni to the City of Joy.
In Jaipur I have a packed schedule and would be leaving for Bangalore for the Bangalore Literature Festival where I have two sessions: one on September 27 on Kala Rupankar – interface of Hindi Literature and the Arts and the other is on September 28 on Going Places – Travel Writing for which I am looking forward to.
ess bee

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Limtex Dhak Mahotsav 2014

At the Limtex Dhak Mahotsav 2014 inauguration with the Governor and guests
21 September, 2014: Today turned out to be a very eventful day as there was no let up in the rains which started day before yesterday and as a result it became impossible to organize our annual Puja event Dhak Mahotsav ceremony at the Chaltabagan Durga Puja mandap. 
With the Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi
All arrangements were made with the Governor of West Bengal, His Excellency, Keshari Nath Tripathi, having graciously agreed to inaugurate the Dhak Utsav. Many dignitaries and celebs from the social, cultural, diplomatic, industry, sports and glamorous world had confirmed their time for the event that was scheduled at 4 pm.
The incessant rains made it impossible to arrange for the seating arrangements at the venue and I was almost planning to call it off. But it struck me if I could shift the venue to some place that could make arrangements on a Sunday for the programme. I thought it over and only one name came to my mind – The Taj Bengal. I knew, being a Sunday, most hotels and organisations in the city would not dare to take up any program of such a scale on a few hours' notice.
With the Governor and Prosenjit
I made one last ditch attempt and around 10 am. I contacted The Taj Bengal General Manager, K Mohanchandran and Mr Vindo Pandey, Food & Beverages Manager of the hotel, who agreed to do it at 7 pm. This sparked off a flurry of activities and the Governor too very kindly agreed to the new venue. All the celebrities, including the Chief Guest, Prosenjit Chatterjee, were informed and many of them did manage to confirm to the changed timings. The media too was informed about the new venue with the message that the show would go on.
I must say that The Taj Bengal did a wonderful job on a Sunday evening and the Limtex Dhak Mahotsav 2014 was a major success with guests, celebrities and the media turning up in a big way. The sponsors donated Rs 1 lac to the Governor's Relief Fund and the Governor formally flagged off the event. The first such official event, for the pujas by playing the traditional dhak.
Among those who attended were Rituparna, Pt Tejendra Narayan, Debojyoti Mishra, Koneenika, Esha, Anandi, Usha Uthup, Rimjhim, Chaiti Ghoshal, Arunima Dhosh, Monami Ghosh, Ananya Ghosh, P K Banerjee, Kunal Basu, DJ Akash, Abhishek Datta, Utsav Parekh, Gunjan Poddar of Limtex, Italian Consul Cesare Bielliere, Wang Xuefeng, Chinese Consul, Anand Sahay of Vodafone, Industrialist, H M Bangur, Commodore Ravi Ahluwalia and his wife, and many others. Arindam Sil moderated the event.
Later, I came to know that many of the other pujas had called off their events due to the rains. I must thank the Taj Bengal staff for pulling off an event of this scale on few hours' notice.
As they say - where there is a will, there is a way.
ess bee

Friday, September 19, 2014

Gearing up for the Puja events

September 19, 2014: The past three or four days I was very busy in office preparing for the Dhak Mahotsav which is scheduled for Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 4 PM. Besides the Governor of West Bengal many other prominent personalities from various walks of life have agreed to be present. In fact, year after year the expectations bar of Chaltabagan is being raised on its own as a result I also have to concentrate more on arranging the logistics.
On Tuesday afternoon I met Arthur Gerbst and Olga from the Russian Consulate as they would be leaving Kolkata. I could not attend their farewell party so I met them over a meal. Arthur informed me that after spending time in Russia he will be joining the Russian Commission in Delhi.
In fact, apart from Arthur and Olga, the tenure of the Abida Islam, Deputy High Commissioner of Bangladesh in Kolkata has also come to an end. She too is going back to Dhaka. I always had a very good relation with the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission in Kolkata and the relationship grew stronger during Abida’s tenure in Kolkata.
Due to the Dhak Mahotsav preparations, I missed two events which I was keen to attend - Sahityotsav at Marble Hall, Raj Bhavan, Kolkata by Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre (EZCC), Ministry of Culture, Government of India. As far as my memory serves me this is the first time Raj Bhavan has hosted a Hindi poetry session. My friend Dona Ganguly also performed there after the poetry session. I also missed the release of Soumitra Chatterjee’s music album at Starmark.
I hosted a small dinner party at home on Thursday night and attended a meeting of the People Welfare Society today at 4 pm.
ess bee

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monsoon Ball at Hyatt Kolkata

With Britta Leicke Milde, Radhika Singh, Ruchi Makhariya, Anil Kathodiya and Aditya Makhariya
15 September, 2014: I am busy with office today. I was supposed to be in Delhi today but had to cancel my trip due to reasons that needed my presence in Kolkata.
I was supposed to be in Delhi to celebrate the publication of Strictly Personal – Manmohan & Gursharan by Daman Singh at Jacaranda, India Habitat Centre, on September 14.
The coming week looks busy again with a one day round trip to Delhi some time. On Saturday evening I went to Hyatt for the annual Monsoon Ball hosted by Kolkata International Women’s Club. It was quite a formal affair and I left the Ball at around 1:30 am and went to Taj Bengal. By the time I returned home it was early Sunday morning.
ess bee

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Vice President in Kolkata

September 13, 2014, Kolkata: I kept busy the whole of last week. On Monday, there was a meeting in Lal Bazar as the Durga Puja is around the corner. On Tuesday I went to Jaipur and came back on Wednesday missing out on the dinner at The Park hotel hosted by Priya Paul and Sethu Vaidyanathan. Later, I heard that the dinner was quite an unusual arrangement.
I also missed the farewell party at the Lalit Great Eastern of Olga and Arthur Gerbst, the third secretary (consular & protocol), Consul General of Russia, in Kolkata. Olga and Arthur were very friendly during their stay in Kolkata not only with me but also with others. They will surely be missed in the social circles of Kolkata.
Yesterday evening I was at the Vidya Mandir to attend the inaugural ceremony of a three-day International Seminar on “Nationalistic Ideals of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Their Relevance in the Sub-Continent Today” to mark the 125th Birth Anniversary Celebrations of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
With Hashim Abdul Halim, K Rahman Khan, Md Mansur Alam and other scholars at the dinner party
My organization, The Bengal, has partnered with the Iran Society to present this event. The Hon’ble Vice President of India, Shri Hamid Ansari, was there to inaugurate the function. It was an interesting co-incident that the last time when he was in Kolkata was for a three-day function in September (21-23) 2011 to celebrate the birth centenary of Sachidananda Vatsayan Agyeya hosted by Prabha Khaitan Foundation and I had arranged for that event as well. 
With Shri Hamid Ansari, also on the dais was the Hon’ble Governor of West Bengal, Shri Keshari Nath Tripathi, Hon’ble Justice Smt Manjula Chellur, Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court, Hon’ble Justice Shri Altamas Kabir, Former Chief Justice of India.
During this three-day seminar, scholars from Hyderabad, Dhaka, Mysore, New Delhi, Lahore, Karachi and Kolkata gathered in Kolkata.
After the seminar The Bengal also hosted a dinner at The Conclave for the guests and dignitaries. I met Mr K Rehman Khan, Member of Parliament and ex-Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha, who is known to me for many years now.
With Tom Alter
Mr Khan has also served as a Cabinet Minister for Minority Affairs for the last Government. I was quite impressed with my short chat with Dr Syeda Saiyidain, Hameed from Hyderabad and who has also served as a member of the Planning Commission of India.
With Dr Syeda Saiyidain
I missed the Tom Alter play but met the man himself at the dinner. The guests were praising his act as Maulana.
I missed the play as I went to the residence of Abida Islam, the Deputy High Commissioner for Bangladesh in Kolkata, for her farewell. 
I did not spend much time there but I am planning to see her again before she leaves.
ess bee

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Brunch with Natwar Singh and Authors' Afternoon

With Kunwar Natwar Singh
7 September 2014: Last week, Friday and Saturday was very hectic with back-to-back events. 
With Naresh Kumar and Natwar Singh
On Friday I hosted a brunch at my residence for former veteran politician and author Shri Natwar Singh who has been in news for the past few months for his latest book One Life is Not Enough.
The brunch, which started around 11:30 am and continued till 2:30 pm, was very well attended and as interesting as anticipated. 
Among those who attended were ex-Vice Chancellor of Presidency University, Prof Malvika Sarkar, author, essayist, critic and poet, Bani Basu, Deputy Commissioner of Bangladesh in Kolkata, Abida Islam, Malbika Banerjee, Naresh Kumar and others.
Natwar Singh ji was at his best and shared his experiences about the new book. He also said many things not mentioned in his latest book.
With Gopal Poddar and Javier Paulinich, Ambassador of Peru
On Friday night, I went to The Park Hotel to attend the Peru National Day. I met the Honorary Consul of Peru, Gopal Poddar, and Javier Paulinich the Peruvian Ambassador. I discussed many cultural and social events with him. I discussed with the ambassador the possibility of organizing more cultural and social activities among India and other LatAm countries.
With Yatindra Mishra at Authors' Afternoon
Yesterday, Saturday, I went for the Author's Afternoon session with Yatindra Mishra at the Taj Bengal Chambers. It was very interesting to have a author at the series whose works are mostly in Hindi. One of his books, translated into English, was presented to the guest invitees. It turned out to be one of the best Author's Afternoon sessions till date.
Yatindra Mishra is a talented poet, musician and author. He has written a book on classical singer Girija Devi which is called Girija. Another book called Devpriya is a book of conversations with danseuse Sonal Mansingh. His latest book Bismillah Khan is called Sur Ki Baradari. He has compiled 800 hours of music.
ess bee

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Back from Thailand

4 September, 2014: I arrived in Kolkata around 1 am from Thailand. I had gone to Thailand to attend a wedding.

I usually avoid wedding functions that also take place outside India and from over twenty invitations to weddings in Thailand over the last four years that I received, this is the second one I chose to attend. The reason being that I know the groom well and he himself is also associated with couple of social projects of mine as well.

Over the last seven years Thailand has emerged as the destination for big fat Indian weddings. Some of these weddings are slowly shifting to Dubai and Europe as Thailand is not so new to Kolkatans.

There is so much to learn from Thailand. Their politeness in service and soft gestures with things said with folding hands is heart warming. The hospitality staff keep greeting and thanking you and make you feel so special and welcome.

One can learn a lot from the fact that Thailand, even in such extreme hot and humid weather conditions, has developed itself as one of the most sought after tourist destinations as well as for Indian weddings.

I have busy days ahead with a lot of social commitments lined up.

ess bee