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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Monday, December 29, 2014

A hectic and eventful weekend

29 December, 2014: On Thursday (Dec 25) evening I went to the snazzy newly done up lounge called Vault at the Priya Cinema to attend actor Dev's birthday bash. Esha and Dadul had earlier invited me to the Vault many times but I could not make it. 
I couldn't miss the vintage door with a huge key stuck to it. This 1600-sq ft lounge, an extension of Ta'aam restaurant and brainchild of Esha and her son Agnivesh, with DJs and a mixologist, is a great hangout joint in South Kolkata.
From left: With Bandaru Dattatreya (Dattanna), Union Minister of State Labour & Employment, Dr Prof Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili, Church of Georgia, Indresh Kumar, Sr RSS functionary, Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, Chief Imam, All India Imam Organization and others.
The last weekend, I was very busy. On Saturday (Dec 27) afternoon I went to the P C Chandra Gardens opposite Science City to attend the “World Confluence of Humanity, Power and Spirituality” organized by the Srei Foundation.
With Hemant Kanoria
I was invited by Hemant Kanoria to the event which is an initiative started by Shri Hari P Kanoria. 
I went around 1:30 pm during the lunch time and met so many known personalities from different walks of life at one gathering. There were dignitaries from across the world including religious and former country heads.
With Rev Dr Patricio Viveros Robles, Archbishop of Church of Chile, and Dr Prof Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili, Church of Georgia, at the World Confluence of Humanity, Power & Spirituality
Around 4 pm I went to The Conclave to attend a get together in which Indresh Kumar, senior Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh functionary addressed Kolkatans.
On Sunday I attended a brunch at the Queens Park. It was a big gathering and was glad to meet most of the known faces of Kolkata. In the evening I went to North Kolkata to attend a religious function.
ess bee

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

At the Assembly House flower show

With Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, Biman Banerjee and Sonali Guha
24 December, 2014: On Tuesday (Dec 23) I attended the 61st Annual Chrysanthemum and Flower Show 2014 at the Assembly House premises. 
The colourful show was inaugurated by Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi in the presence of an august gathering which included Biman Banerjee, The Speaker and Patron-in-Chief of Kolkata Flower Growers' Association, Deputy Speaker, Sonali Guha and P C Sinha, Senior MLA.
I saw Japanese Consul, Kazumi Endo and his wife Misako clicking pictures of the flowers in full bloom. The flower show was beautiful. In fact, it was a riot of colours presenting a beautiful picturesque sight.
At night, I went to Jhaal Farezi to attend a party thrown in to celebrate Atletico de Kolkata winning the first Indian Super League football. 
At the Jhaal Farezi party to celebrate Atletico's win
Though I had missed all the matches, I was at the party celebrating the great victory of Kolkata in the debut league. It was a select gathering of 10 to 12 people with most the owners of the Kolkata franchisee. The huge league cup won Atletico de Kolkata was there on display.
Besides the football club owners Utsav Parekh, Sourav Ganguly, Sanjeev Goenka and Harsh Neotia, others present on the occasion were actors Dev and Parambrata, Baichung Bhutia, Usha Uthup and few others.
ess bee

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Consuls and Christman cocktails

December 18, 2014: Yesterday was one busy evening. Around 8 PM I reached the residence of Scott and Elizabeth Furssedonn Wood, British Deputy High Commissioner in Kolkata for Christmas cocktails, dinner and festive cheer. It was a nice select gathering and I wish I could have spent some more time there. I left around 8:45 PM to attend a social event at The Taj Ballroom but when I saw the traffic on the road in front of Taj Bengal, I took the Babughat road and went to The Oberoi Grand which I had planned to go there last.
At The Oberoi I went to witness the conferring of the insignia of Chevalier de l’ordre National du Merite (Knight of the National Order of Merit) on Mr Umesh Chowdhary, Vice Chairman & Managing Director, Titagarh Group of Companies, followed by a reception at The Ballroom on the invitation from The Ambassador of France to India, Mr Francois Richier. After congratulating Umesh, I met the French Ambassador whom I have met before a couple of times in Delhi. He had hosted the inaugural dinner of “Treasures of Rajasthan: A Lifestyle Exhibition” at his Residence of France, New Delhi, on November 20, 2014, which I had missed.
I chatted with him about the possibilities of spreading the work of Alliance Francaise in Jaipur as well. From The Oberoi Grand I again went to The Taj Bengal. By this time the traffic was better.
I had not accepted any of the other invitations this week due to pending desk work. In fact, on December 16, I also missed the invitation from the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission to celebrate their Victory Day at the premises of the Deputy High Commission and also the official inauguration followed by cocktails of the new premises of the Alliance Francaise du Bengale at The Park Mansions by the Ambassador of France to India, Mr Francois Richier.
I was supposed to have been there, since Prabha Khaitan Foundation has a formalunderstanding with them, and witness the conferring of the insignia of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) on Mrs Kanchana Mukhopadhyay, Mr Naveen Kishore and Mr Chinmoy Guha.
I, however, dropped by at an industrialist friend’s residence for a get-together which was in honour of a leading Industrial Group from South India. In fact, after a long time, I have attended and missed, quite a few diplomatic events.
ess bee

Monday, December 15, 2014

My first visit to the Malwa region

15 December, 2014, Indore: I am in Indore at the ITC’s Fortune Landmark hotel. This hotel is much better in terms of service than the standards at an average Fortune chain.
What I heard was that earlier it was a Taj property and will soon become a property of the Marriott. I was quite surprised to know that yesterday there were in all 14 functions at the hotel at the various locations and banquets. It was so evident as the lobby and lifts were packed with men, women, visitors and guests.
Somehow in India, whichever part of the country you are in, marriages and marriage functions have become more a showcase event and flaunting one's wealth and this seems to be on the rise. Same as the wedding destinations that began from Jaipur, Udaipur and went on to Goa and on to Bangkok and Malaysia and then spreading all the way to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. From last couple of years interiors of Spain and France and other picturesque smaller cities are also hosting big fat Indian weddings.
At the Chhapania Market, Indore
I arrived in Indore yesterday and this is my first trip to this Malwa region. The city, which is the birth place of living legend Lata Mangeshkar, is also called the commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh. For the foodie, I think Indore is the Mecca.
Yesterday, immediately after are checking in, I went to a market called Chhapania. The name traditionally means means chhapan pakwan i.e. 56 types of lavish food and dishes. I was mesmerized with the numerous food shops and was spoilt for choice as to what I should try out first. I tried the famous kachori from Vijay’s Kachori Shop as well as patties. Mind you, these patties, not to be mistaken with the conventional patties, have coconut or peanut fillings and deep fried like aloo bonda.
I also tried Johnny’s Hot Dog. This hot dog shop is famous all over the state and has a number of records to its credit for selling the highest number of hot dogs in a day.
With Sharma ji at his Madhuram Sweets shop in Chhapania Market, Indore
While walking and grabbing food at every store here and there, I suddenly saw a box of til papri at a shop called Madhuram Sweets. This til papri was from Beawer, Rajasthan, and then I saw a man behind the counter looking at me who was in a crisp white kurta and sporting a traditional tika on his forehead. He also wore a gold chain with a locket of a God and also a brooch of a picture of a Hindu deity on his pocket. He came and introduced himself as Shyam Sharma from Rajasthan and said that he recognized me. By talking to him I came to know that he was running this shop for the past 32 years. Shyam ji was very nice to me as I had only spend Rs 40 in his shop for pani puri and I think he has given me boxes of sweets for more than a thousand rupees.
I remember my friend Victor Banerjee who once said that the warmth, love and affection for each other has disappeared from the metros but is very much there in the smaller cities and stays permanently in the hearts of the villagers in India.
I think the warmth, love and affection that I got from Mr Suresh Sharma in Indore only confirms it. In fact, a journalist friend of mine with whom I was in touch with for the last couple of years but had never met him in person also came with box loads of sweets.
Shyam Sharma also introduced me to shahi shikanji - not a lemon drink – but a combination of lassi, milk, rabri, dry fruits and shrikhand, a full meal in itself. Shyam ji also told me that previously he had a shop at Sarafa Bazar as well but now his nephew, Joshi, was making dahi bara and he made me promise him that if I went to the Sarafa Bazaar at night, I must have dahi bara from that shop and he also phoned his nephew to fill him in with my details.
Sarafa Bazaar is another unique area of Indore. During the day time it is a jewellery market and from 9 am to 2 pm. Then it is transformed into a food bazaar where you get all type of Indian fast food or variety of chaats. It is said that traditionally the jewellers of Sarafa Bazaar promoted and financed these food shops so that there was enough security for their jewellery shops at night. Sarafa Bazaar also used to have very famous halwais famed for their dishes. At the Landmark Fortune Hotel, Chef Aditya had made for me a tomato and bhujia sabji and also papad and palak sabji and not to forget his alu tikia on roti which is heavenly.
As I leave Indore I am sure I shall visit the city again. Also, how can anyone who visits the city not go to Omkaleshwar and Mahakaleshwar.
The affection from the Malwa region was not over even after I returned to Kolkata. I received quite a few emails from the readers who read my last column in which I wrote that I would be visiting Malwa soon. In fact, many of them i.e. Naresh Saklecha of Ratlam said that I must visit him and stay with him when I am there again.
Sometimes I feel that a particular class of Indians, who often travel overseas, praise the food courts there, should make it a point to visit the Chhapania Market or Sarafa Bazar. They have no idea what they are missing out on closer home. 
ess bee

Saturday, December 13, 2014

At a discussion on "Family Business" in India

A the interactive session with (from left) H M Bangur, GG Dalmia, Prashant Bangur, Ajit Rangnekar (Dean ISB), M V Subbiah and others
December 13, 2014: I was at The Taj Bengal on Thursday and Friday. I was there on Thursday afternoon to participate in a discussion on family business. It was an interaction with M V Subbiah over high tea to discuss his research project on “Business Communities in India - Their special ways of passing on their business acumen to the next generation.
 With (from left) Heman Kanoria, P R Agarwal and B D Surekha
It was about a discussion in which 10 people participated for a couple of hours, thanks to Mr Prashant Bangur and my congratulations to him for being inducted into the Indian School of Business.
At the party hosted by Japanese Consulate in Kolkata
My yesterday's visit to The Taj Bengal was to attend a reception on the occasion of the birthday of His Majesty, The Emperor of Japan, hosted by the Consul General of Japan and Mrs Kazumi Endo. I met a few friends from the diplomatic corps.
Tomorrow I am flying to Malwa region of India where I have never been before.
ess bee

Monday, December 8, 2014

A big day with Government bigwigs

December 8, 2014, New Delhi: The weather, which is usually biting cold at this time of the year, is actually still very pleasant in Delhi and is the talking point every where.
On Sunday, I had a luncheon meeting with a diplomat at La Piazza, the popular Italian joint at Hyatt Regency. This restaurant, which is famous for its Sunday brunch, was full to its capacity. Our next table was occupied by Rahul and Sonia Gandhi and a couple of other people whom I couldn't recognize.
On Saturday morning I visited the residence of External Affairs Minister, Smt Sushma Swaraj, at Safdarjung Lane. I also met Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, by chance at the India International Centre (ICC) lounge.
On Saturday evening I went to attend a function at the Chattarpur farm area. Thanks to the highest weddings day of the season, it took me three hours to get back to Hyatt. Three wedding functions were on.
With Dr Harsh Vardhan and Pravesh Khanna
Today I met Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, at his office at the Anusandhan Bhawan. He was given the new portfolio by the Prime Minister in the last cabinet reshuffle.
Anusandhan Bhawan never had any minister's office in recent past as this department was with the Prime Minister himself. But now, with a full Cabinet Minister like Dr Harsh Vardhan, it is seems this government is giving due importance to this department.
Dr Harsh Vardhan had won the Director-General's Polio Eradication Champion Award Commendation Medal by the World Health Organization in 1998. He has been involved in many United Nations-related issues as well. He promised to involve himself in World Federation of United Nations Association (WFUNA) Foundation's future activities
Tomorrow I have an appointment with Uma Bharti in the evening. But it looks like I have to fly back to Kolkata. I'll then meet her in my next visit to the capital.
ess bee

Friday, December 5, 2014

Appointments and get togethers

With Dr Mahesh Sharma, Union Minister of State(Independent Charge) for Culture, Transport and also Minister of State for Civil Aviation
December 5, 2014, New Delhi: Yesterday was quite hectic. In the afternoon I went to the Transport Bhawan and again met Dr Mahesh Sharma, Minister with independent charge of Culture and Transport and Minister of State for Civil Aviation.
After that I met Shyam Parande, who is the general secretary of NGO Sewa International, and an RSS functionary who looks after the International issues for the Sangh.
I discussed with him few issues and also the forthcoming Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas in Ahmedabad.
In the evening I attended a get-together hosted by Om Prakash Sakleja, the BJP MLA from Jawad in Madhya Pradesh. He is the son of Virendra Kumar Saklecha, the former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. It was a get-together of 100 people and had a sizable number of senior politicians.
I met Kaptan Singh Solanki, the Governor of Haryana, Piyush Goyal, Hon'ble Minister of State with Independent Charge for Power, Coal and New & Renewable Energy and Narendra Singh Tomar, who is the current Union Minister of Steel, Mines Labour and Employment.
With Union Minister of State, Social Justice and Empowerment, Mr Sampla
Today afternoon I went to the office of Mr Vijay Sampla, Minister of State for Social Justice & Empowerment. He represents Hoshiarpur constituency. I was with him for a couple of hours discussing issues of empowerment and NGOs. 
Minister Vijay Sampla's name plate in Braille
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the name plate of the minister displayed him name not just in English and Hindi but also in Braille to help the visually impaired find their way to the minister's room. It is indeed very thoughtful of him to do so.
Sampla is a very humble down-to-earth person who started his journey as a labourer and plumber. The media has been reporting about his humble origins and rise in Indian politics.
ess bee

Thursday, December 4, 2014

On with more meetings in Delhi

December 4, 2014, New Delhi: Yesterday morning I went to meet Shri Indresh Kumar, who is a senior RSS functionary, at his place not far from the Sangh's Keshav Kunj office. I spent a couple of hours with him and met quite a few people known to me and who were visiting him.
Indresh ji is schedule to visit the Andamans later this month and would be passing through Kolkata. I also had a luncheon meet with Dr Sonal Mansingh.
With Minority Affairs Minister Mrs Najma Heptulla
In the evening I went to the residence of Mrs Najma A Heptulla, Cabinet Minister for Minority Affairs. I had an hour long meeting with her regarding few international issues. She was earlier the President of Inter-Parliamentary Council of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) in 1999.
Mrs Heptulla has been an active participant in the work of United Nations. She is the Founder President of the Parliamentarians' Forum for Human Development, established in 1993. She presided over the Conference of Women Parliamentarians of the CPA in New Delhi in 1992. In 1987, she became the first woman elected Vice-President of the executive committee of that body.
This time the weather is Delhi is rather hot with no signs of the winter chill. In fact, the chat is that the weather is one of the warmest for December in a Century. In keeping with the weather, the affairs in the Parliament too are hot as well.
At night I had dinner with Ashok Vajpayee ji at a restaurant called Cafe88 in Lodhi Colony. It was worth the visit with a comfy-cafe feel. If anybody is visiting Delhi and thinking of visiting a joint. I would certainly suggest trying this one.
ess bee

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Meetings with ministers in Delhi

New Delhi, December 3, 2014: I reached Delhi on Monday evening as the flight got delayed. After a long time I checked in at the Hyatt Regency. The last time I was here in end of 2010, which was my first time, when Timothy Bruce was the General Manager.
On Tuesday morning I met two newspaper editor friends of mine over breakfast and lunch respectively. In the evening I went to the Tourism Ministry at the Transport Bhawan to meet Dr Mahesh Sharma who is current the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Culture and Tourism. He is also the Minister of State for Civil Aviation. I also met other senior officials too.
In the evening I met Mr Shripad Yesso Naik at his residence who became the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Department of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy), Health and Family Welfare. He was the minister of culture but was given the new portfolio in last month's cabinet reshuffle by the Prime Minister. It was a courtesy visit to him at his residence. I had earlier met him when he was holding the culture portfolio prior to the reshuffle.
Today also number of meetings are lined up and I shall be meeting quite a few cabinet ministers and key functionaries of Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS).
ess bee