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, January 29, 2015

Look forward to the t2 party

January 29, 2015: Tomorrow I am thinking of leaving for Jaipur again for a week with a Delhi trip inbetween.
Kolkata, at this time of the year, as always is full of wedding functions. I had to skip many wedding functions yesterday and will skip as many today. I will, however, drop in at the t2 annual party which will be at the Minx instead of the Shisha Reincarnated where it has been hosted earlier. I look forward to being at the Minx for the first time.
January is the month to be in Jaipur where so many events and programmes are taking place and you wide choice of attending anything and everything. However, one thing that I missed, even though I was in Jaipur recently, was the 17th Vintage & Classic Car Rally that was held between 24 to – 25 January, 2015, organized by Rajputana Automotive Sports Car Club, Jaipur.
ess bee

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

At the Jaipur LitFest and Republic Day

January 27, 2015: I landed in Kolkata in the morning after a Jaipur trip almost after three months. This is perhaps in recent times the longest duration I have been away from Jaipur.
Kolkata-Jaipur flight hops have become a regular feature of my itinerary.
At the Diggi Palace, I attended the session on N R Narayana Murthy as well as the book launch event of Anupama Chopra by Sonam Kapoor. 
At the Diggi Chai shop
I met a lot of authors at the famous Diggi Chai shop which has become a part and parcel of Jaipur Literature Festival, however, from this year I noticed that the price of tea in a kulhar has become Rs 30 now, which is quite steep for tea served in kulhars.
I also liked Sonam Kapoor’s statement in which she has said as soon as she stepped on the dais “...that it is so good to see so many people interested in literature and books,” everyone laughed as Sonam made this comment on a lighter note because the huge crowd was there mainly to have a glimpse of her.
From the LitFest I went to the Polo Club for the Baria Cup and then in the evening I went to the Le Meridien to attend the Writer’s Ball.
With Suhel Seth
The Writer’s Ball, which used to be the party of the year in Jaipur was held at Kesar Kyari at Amer Fort, is losing its charm. This time it seemed more like a readers' ball as there were only a handful of authors and the crowd was much larger than last year's.
In fact, I saw many people from Jaipur at the Ball who did not enter the Diggi Palace for a single literary session.
In India few things are very surprising. If one wants to be seen somewhere, everybody wants to be seen there. I did not spend much time at the Writer’s Ball.
Yesterday being Monday – Republic Day, I decided not to go to Delhi after hearing about so much about the security and protocols due to Obama's presence. 
With Rajasthan Governor, Kalyan Singh
I had dropped in at the Raj Bhavan in Jaipur.
ess bee

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Polo match and session with Chetan Bhagat

January 25, Jaipur: Yesterday was a busy day. After checking in at the ITC Rajputana I went to the Jaipur Polo Ground to watch the Maharaj Prithi Singh Baria Cup 2015 sponsored by St Regis Hotels & Resorts
I left the polo match a little early and went to Radisson Blu where I attended the FICCI Flo event where Chetan Bhagat was the guest speaker.
With Chetan Bhagat and Apra Kuchhal
It is not easy to get Chetan Bhagat for such events and I must compliment FICCI Flo Chairperson, Apra Kuchhal, for this.
In the evening, I went to a private dinner at a private residence. The dinner was organized for the Jaipur Literary authors and is an annual affair. I finished dinner late and from there went to the Jaigarh Fort.
The Jaigarh Fort is a majestic stronghold built by Sawan Jai Singh II. This almost-intact fort is surrounded by huge battlements and is connected to the Amer Fort (also called Amber Fort) with subterranean passages. IT was originally built to protect the Amer Fort and the palace within the complex.
The Jaigarh Fort is architecturally similar to the Amer Fort and offers a panoramic view of the city of Jaipur. The fort houses the world's largest cannon on wheels, a majestic palace complex and the assembly hall of the warriors known as 'Shubhat Niwas' along with a museum and an armoury.
Apart from the intricate architecture of the fort, the fort was also renowned for a huge treasure that was believed to be buried under somewhere in the fort. It is now said that the government of Rajasthan seized the treasure when it was discovered in the 1970s. The Jaigarh Fort was built to secure Jaipur City as well from the warlords and rivals. 
When I was going to the Jaigarh Fort I saw many cars coming down and I was sure that by the time I reached there I wouldn't find the host or the guests. But to my utter surprise, when I reached there at 1.30 am the party was in full swing.
I think Jaipur is one of the cities where late night parties are very much a part of the life. This party was hosted by the the directors of the Rajasthan Polo Club and St Regis Hotels & Resorts to celebrate their inaugural sponsorship of polo in India.
Today is the last day of the Jaipur Literature Festival and I am planning to get there at the earliest.
ess be

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Back in Jaipur

With Ruskin Bond
24 January, 2015, Jaipur: It is very cold and foggy in Jaipur as expected. In fact, today's morning flight from Kolkata, scheduled to depart at 6 am left could take off at 7:45 am due to heavy fogging in Jaipur. 
With Rajdeep Sardesai and Aditya Makhariya
Yesterday night, apart from attending a private function at The Taj Bengal banquets, I was also there at the Taj Terrace at the inaugural dinner of Kolkata Literary Meet hosted by The Taj Bengal General Manager, K Mohanchandran, who is himself a bibliophile and vastly knowledgeable in literature.
I met the great octogenarian author, Ruskin Bond. Among others whom I met were Daman Singh, Rajdeep Sardesai and some other authors who are in city for the Kolkata Literary Meet. In fact, Rajdeep was in the same flight with me from Kolkata to Jaipur. 
He has a session at the Jaipur Literature Festival today.
With Daman Singh
With 16 invites on hand, this weekend in Jaipur, it seems, would be rather hectic. Let me see how I can make the most of these invitations. But today evening, I will attend a private dinner for authors and will also try to drop in for a late night party being hosted at the Jaigarh Fort. However, before that, I will also attend an event of FICCI Flo at the Radisson Blue Hotel with Chetan Bhagat. I look forward to being at the Diggi Palace soon.
ess bee

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Back from Singapore

January 22, 2015: I had a two-day trip to Singapore and before leaving for Singapore on Friday (January 16) evening I went to the Prinsep Ghat for an evening jugalbandi programme of two legends, santoor maestro, Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma, and India's leading flautist, Hari Prasad Chourasia.
This Shiv-Hari jugalbandi took place after almost three decades in Kolkata and the 3000 strong audience were all in praises for them. I personally enjoyed raag pahadi and the venue of Prinsep Ghat made the evening all the more picturesque. 
After the event, I met Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma.
I am planning to be in Jaipur this weekend. It is almost three months since I last visited the Pink City, maybe the longest gap time in recent years.
The Jaipur Literature Festival is on and I missed the inaugural dinner at Rambagh as well as the initial few days of the LitFest. I am planning to attend the Saturday and Sunday sessions and will attend the Writer’s Ball at The Meridian on Sunday (January 25) evening.
As far as Republic Day is concerned, I am not sure as to whether I will be having tea at the Raj Bhavan, Jaipur, or be in Delhi to witness Obama as Chief Guest at the Republic Day parade.
Today is not a very good day for the Jaipur Literature Festival which suffered because of heavy rains last night. On the other hand the Patna Literature Festival has been postponed as of now.
In Singapore, I was at the Grand Hyatt which is well known for its good service and this time also it was so. I am also planning to go to The Oberoi Grand Poolside before winter bids adieu to Kolkata.
ess bee

Friday, January 16, 2015

At the Lal Bazar for Pronam project

January 16, 2015: Today afternoon I was at the Lal Bazar – the Kolkata Police Headquarters - with both the Joint Convenors of Pronam, Arindam Sil and Anandi Ghose. We had a meeting with the Commissioner of Police and other IPS officials and discussed matters at length.
Recently, there has been a change in Kolkata Police's various posts and departments which has resulted in a completely new team of officers who will be in communication with us for the Pronam Project. We have discussed few matters and hopefully Pronam will grow further.
Yesterday, I hosted a small dinner at The Taj Bengal which was a family affair. I was supposed to leave for Singapore tonight but due to some family commitments I postponed it and I would be leaving this weekend.
Today I will attend a musical evening by Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma on the santoor and Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia on the flute at the James Prinsep Memorial ghat. In fact, I spoke to Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and we have decided to meet after the performance today.
ess bee

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

At the Author's Afternoon with Wendell

With fashion designer Wendell Rodricks at the Author's Afternoon
14 January, 2015: Yesterday there was another of the Author’s Afternoon series with fashion designer, artist, and fashion writer, Wendell Rodricks. It was for the first time in Author’s Afternoon we had a guest author who wrote on fashion and of course he is a well known fashion designer himself. The afternoon was attended by most of the city’s leading fashion designers.
With Wendell Rodricks and K Mohan Chandran, GM, Taj Bengal
There are often things you plan well in advance but it does not happen. For example, we thought of skipping the month of January for Author’s Afternoon because of so many literature festivals that are hosted at this time of the year and not only in Kolkata but also all over the country. But in January itself we had two Author’s Afternoon. We had one on January 3 with Sudha Murty.
I had also planned to host a dinner for Wendell at my home, which I had to cancel as Wendell was not feeling too well which allowed me to drop by at the Hyatt poolside. There was a party in honour of Shashi Tharoor and it was totally unscheduled for me but I really enjoyed the set-up and outdoor ambience. Thanks to my friend and General Manager of Hyatt, Britta for inviting me.
ess bee

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

At the dinner reception of UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon

With UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon
January 13, 2015: I landed at the Kolkata airport from Delhi. I went to Delhi yesterday only to attend the dinner at Taj Mansingh which was organized for the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon.
With Nobel Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi, and Bharat Babbar
It was a select gathering of about 75 people at a sit down dinner reception which was attended by Nobel laureate, Kailash Satyarthi, Bharat Ratna Sachin Tendulkar, Sharmila Tagore, Nandita Das and key members of the United Nations institutions working in India attended the dinner. Sachin Tendulkar is serving as the Goodwill Ambassador for United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Sharmila Tagore as the UNICEF National Ambassador.
With Ban Ki-moon and Sachin Tendulkar
Everyone spoke well. Not just the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, but Nandita Das too spoke very well. In fact, I called her up the next day and told her over phone.
I also presented a copy of the manuscript of Gitanjali to Ban Ki-moon during our small informal interaction, he was full of praises for Rabindranath Tagore.
Thank God the Delhi–Kolkata flight wasn't fogged in and I landed in Kolkata just on time. Today is another series of Author’s Afternoon with Wendell Rodricks scheduled at the Taj Bengal in the evening which I shall attend.

ess bee

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Back from Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas

10 January, 2015: My flight landed in Kolkata today from Ahmedabad. Yesterday, the last day of Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas 2015, also went off very well. I met a number of people including a couple of Chief Ministers after yesterday's morning session at the Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas and also during lunch.
During lunch time I was very pleased to see Prabhat Verma, General Manager, Taj Gateway. I saw a gentleman placing rotis in the buffet and realized that he was none other than Prabhat Verma. I admired Prabhat Verma’s work culture when he was General Manager of St James Hotel Buckingham, where I had seen him helping the guests with their suitcases.
Since Taj Gateway was doing the catering at the VIP lunch area at the Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas, Mr Verma, as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Taj Gateway, was there to look after the arrangements.
With Gujarat Governor, Shri Om Prakash Kohli
Today morning I had a good meeting with the Governor of Gujarat, Shri Om Prakash Kohli, at the Raj Bhavan, Gujarat, located near Gandhinagar.
Yesterday night, after attending the dinner hosted by Sushma Swaraj on the banks of Sabarmati River, there was a music performance on Mahatma Gandhi. Before returning to my hotel, I dropped in to have coffee with Mr Abhay Mangaldas.
ess bee

Friday, January 9, 2015

At the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas 2015

At the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas 2015, Gujarat
January 9, 2015, Ahmedabad: Last two days were fast and furious and I worked till late night. I had a late hour long meeting with the Chief Minister of Haryana, Shri Manohar Lal Khattar. During the meeting he expressed his desire that World Federation of United Nations Association (WFUNA) activities should be spread in Haryana and also assured his support.
Shri Khattar, the first BJP Chief Minister of Haryana, was scheduled to arrive in the afternoon but his flight got delayed. As a result, one of the events had to be cancelled as he checked-in late.
In fact, there was a function at 5 PM at the ITC Fortune Landmark hotel for prospective investors which was called off at the eleventh hour. 
With Haryana Chief Minister, Manohar Lal Khattar
Shri Khattar was staying in the room opposite mine, so we decided to meet late night.
Before the meeting, I went to Kankaria Lake where a dinner was hosted by the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Smt Anandiben Patel. It was a well organized dinner and the kind of stories that I had heard about Kankaria Lake in the past, seems nowhere close to being true.
If you see the Kankaria Lake now you will find an amazing transformation of the lakefront. Kankaria Lake, the biggest in Ahmedabad, used to be a very dirty and filthy place. There was a local saying - “If you want to kill yourself, go to the Kankaria Lake”. 
At the Kankaria Lake
All that is now history and there is a zoo, water rides, water park, toy trains and entertainment facilities around the lake front.
In the morning I was at the Mahatma Mandir where the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, formally inaugurated the Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas 2015. It was a gala affair and I think the most meticulously organized event that I experienced compared to the past Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas experiences.
There was a shloka citation for welcoming the delegates as well as the chanting of Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah. Although the event started 20 minutes late it did not affect anyone because individual names had been marked on the sofas for the invitees. The songs were so soothing that even the Prime Minister's fingers were moving with the rhythm of the music, which everybody noticed on the giant screen.
The South African minister of International Relations, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who attened the function in a scarlet sari and aquamarine shawl, caught the fancy of Prime Minister Modi and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj.
One thing I noticed at the Mahatma Mandir was that this venue, with a gathering of nearly 5000 people, had uch neat and clean washrooms. Thanks to the Swaach Bharat campaign.
On Wednesday January 7, 2015, I started early and went to meet Mr Sudhir Mehta, a renowned industrialist of the State, this was followed by meetings with few journalists and in the afternoon after visiting Mahatma Mandir I went to meet Mr Umang Hutheesing.
With Umang Hutheesing
Mr Hutheesing collects art as a hobby and is also a fashion designer who belongs to the famous Hutheesingh family of Gujarat. It was nice of him to take me around to his old haveli. The haveli has a lot of history. The present haveli, during the British rule, used to spread over 11 acres. And now, Umang runs his office from there. The way he has kept the heritage property is commendable.
Umanag, who wears many hats, has kept his family legacy alive. In fact, Rabindranath Tagore himself had lived in that haveli and so has Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhai Patel. Umang is from the same Hutheesing family from where Shrimati comes from. 
At the Laxmi Ganthia shop
Shrimati was the first student from Gujarat at Shantiniketan and was also married to the Tagore family. Because of this connection Umang still has old furniture from Jorashanko which he has kept very nicely. Umang’s own grandfather’s brother was married to Krishna Nehru.
After visiting Umang’s studio and house, I made a stopover at the local Laxmi Ganthia shop near Nehru Nagar and in the evening I met Mr Sanket Shah - the man behind Gujarat Literature Festival.
ess bee