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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Phone: 91 33 2281 6934

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Regal exhibition and meetings in Delhi

At the Royal Fables Exhibition in Hyatt Regency, Delhi
September 30, 2015: I have mixed feelings about Hyatt Regency Hotel in Delhi. Their services are good in some areas but they are not up to it in other areas.
I feel it isn't worth staying any more in this Hotel and I am seriously thinking of shifting back to Maurya or Taj Mansingh as far as my Delhi address is concerned.
I landed in Delhi on Sunday evening and attended Manjari Mishra’s Shilpmanjari exhibition of her exclusive line of batua, dupattas and stoles from Ayodhya. The exhibition was held at the Oval Room, The Mansion, Hyatt Regency. Manjari brings craftsmanship of zardozi, gota patti, kamdani and karchobi, combining historic regalia and modern day sophistication.
My friend Yatindra Mishra, who is from the royal family of Ayodhya, had invited me. There was a fashion show where all the erstwhile royal family members walked down the ramp. There was cocktails as well. It was good to see so many royal families under one roof, which, I think, is not possible even in any of the royal family weddings.
With Nirmala Sitharaman
On Monday I had a good meeting with General V K Singh, Hon’ble Minister of State for External Affairs, Government of India, at his office in south block.
Also met Smt Najma Heptulla, Minister of Minority Affairs, and had a long meeting with her. She will be coming to Kolkata on October 6 and has agreed to have lunch at my residence during her visit to Kolkata. After meeting her, I met up with few functionaries of the Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh (RSS).
With Kiren Rijuju and Suresh Jain
Yesterday was a busy day full of meetings. I met Smt Nirmala Sitharaman and Shri Kiren Rijiju, Union Minister of Home Affairs, in his office, both of these meetings were courtesy visits.
I was supposed to fly out to Jaipur early morning today. But due to jet-lag and no rest, I called it off last night so that I could get some sleep.
I shall avail the 4 o’clock flight to Jaipur today.
ess bee

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Recipe Rendezvous with Vicky Ratnani

With Celebrity Chef Vicky Ratnani
September 26, 2015: I arrived from New York on 24 September.
I did not get the luxury of sleeping off my jet lag and got into clearing up the pending work that had piled up during my absence.
I shall be working in my office today and tomorrow again I shall fly to Delhi.
Yesterday, I attended the Recipe Rendezvous event with Vicky Ratnani at The Conclave.
Vicky is a celebrity chef who conducts TV shows and has been reviewed by the New York Times as well. He is also the brother of ace photographer Daboo Ratnani.
On 24th evening I went to The Oberoi Grand to attend the reception hosted by the new Chinese Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Kolkata, His Excellency Ma Zhanwu, to mark the 66th Anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
I will be hosting the reception for the new Consul General of China on Saturday October 3 evening.
ess bee

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Dubai transit

September 23, 2015: I am at the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel in Dubai on a tansit. Normally, when one is in transit for more than six hours in Dubai, The Emirates offer you a complimentary Visa as well as a complimentary room.
While checking in at the New York airport when the counter staff gave me the voucher for the hotel, I asked them “Why not Le Meridian Hotel” for 90 per cent of the times, whenever I was on transit, it always was in hotel Le Meridien close to the airport and only a couple of times I also got to stay in The Taj as well as Ritz Carlton.
The check-in staff told me it was system generated but honestly the service in this hotel is far superior to Le Meridian. Chef Vivek prepared excellent Indian food for me and I really liked this hotel. I shall leave for the airport in half an hour to fly back to Kolkata.
Before boarding from New York I also had a meeting over lunch with my finance officer of WFUNA at the Bukhara Grill situated at 217 East 49th Street.
In front of Bukhara Grill
The Bukhara Grill was the first Indian restaurant that I went to in New York many years ago. The restaurant proudly caters to many foreign dignitaries, including the Indian Prime Minister. The people of New York were talking about the current Prime Minister Modi’s dinner at Waldorf Astoria where Chef Vikas Khanna will serve Indian food.
I missed the final days of the United Nations General Assembly as I am already out for the past 12 days and a lot of travel and work is still due.
ess bee

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

At the New York University

September 22, 2015: Late night today I am returning home. There are a series of meetings lined up for the next few days. Since I started visiting New York some two decades ago, this is my busiest trip ever.
At the New York University
Yesterday I went to the New York University where I gave a presentation on “Tourism and Conservation in Tiger Land” at the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Hagop Kevorkian Library
I really enjoyed interacting with the students after the presentation.
Prof Gabriela Nik Ilieva, Clinical Professor, Coordinator, Hindi and Urdu Programme, Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, had requested me if I could give four to six presentations in a year. 
Delivering presentation on Tourism & Conservation in Tiger Land
After the presentation, I had a discussion with some of the faculty members of the University at a nearby restaurant. In the evening I went to another Indian restaurant called Tamarind located in the Tribeca area located in a different part of New York City.
This restaurant, situated at 99 Hudson Street, is quite a big one and serves Indian fusion food. This restaurant is worth trying for its delicious food and ambiance. Thanks to hotelier and doctor Rajiv Mehta for inviting me for an evening there. On the way to the hotel, I dropped in at an Apple Store on the 5th Avenue.
The area surrounding the hotel had been barricaded becase of the Pope's visit to the United States. Cities of US, especially New York and Washington, have made elaborate preparations for Pope Francis' six-day-three-city trip with scores of events lined up.
The New York Times in a page one report called the papal trip “a cross between military operation, diplomatic mission and an arena rock tour” and “a mammoth, traffic-snarling security circus in its own right” and so on. The police had placed barricades at an entrance to the Central Park. The visit has been timed to allow the Pope to address the United Nations General Assembly.
I shall complete some more meetings and go directly to the airport for my flight back to India via Dubai.
ess bee

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Soaking in the UNGA spirit

September 20, 2015: Nobody works on a Sunday in this part of the world. I had a meeting today at 7 am with Dr Samin Sharma at the Breakfast Room of Hotel Mark, which is located at 25th East 77th Street between Madison and the 5th Avenue. Dr Samin Sharma is a very popular cardiologist here hailing from Jaipur, Rajasthan.
As gesture to pay back to the society and his motherland, last year he initiated the Heart Care Centre in Jaipur. I, like many others, have tremendous respect for him. He starts his surgeries at 8 am, so he invited me for breakfast an hour before that.
Sunday 7 am meeting shows his commitment to his work and how connected he is to the people back at home. It was lovely meeting him. He accepted our invitation to be the guest for one of the Desert Storm series of Rajasthan Forum next month.
With His Excellency Dnyaneshwar M Mulay, The Consul General of India in New York
I returned from Ottawa on Thursday evening and on Friday (September 18) went to meet His Excellency, Dnyaneshwar M Mulay, The Consul General of India, New York, at the consulate office.
I have known Mr Mulay from before. He earned a lot of goodwill for himself and the Consulate during his New York tenure. After the Consulate meeting, I went to the United Nations which is currently gearing up for the United Nations General Assembly
The top political leaders from more than a hundred countries will gather during the Assembly.
In the afternoon I made a few conference calls to the Latin American countries with the help of my Spanish colleague at WFUNA
With Bonian Gulmohammadi
After that I had a luncheon meeting at a Turkish restaurant just a block away from the WFUNA office.
After the meeting there were series of meetings. In the evening, I dropped by for the Urdu Conference renowned Woolsworth Building. The famous singer Salamat Ali Khan and his wife performed there.
The highlight of Friday was that prior to the Turkish lunch, I had gone for a quick bite to a trolley shop, which we call a thela gari in our language, at the corner of the 2nd Avenue and 44th Street near Hallmark. I heard about this shop which sells samosas, chai and fixed meals. This mobile shop is normally stationed here from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm and then moves two blocks further. It was pleasant to know that this person, Rang Seth, is from the Free School Street area of Kolkata.
Yesterday was Saturday. I got up late and went to the Curry Hill area for a South Indian brunch at the Swarna Bhavan. In the evening, I had dinner at the Dhaba restaurant which serves the food that has true Indian flavour. I went to Dhaba with a friend and his family and before that also finished some personal work as I need to pick up few stuff from the New York Stores.
ess bee

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ottawa – the city of surprises

Sept 13, 2015, Ottawa: I am at the business centre of Hotel Residence Inn Marriot in Ottawa. 
In front of Hotel Residence Inn in Ottawa
I landed in the Canadian capital yesterday evening. Canada has always been my favourite country and I have spent many a memorable weeks in Montreal.
I am drawn to the vastness and the natural beauty of this country and also the cold weather. The people are very friendly and gentle. This is my second trip to Ottawa. My first visit was some six years ago when I was elected the Treasurer of WFUNA first time for the interim period of six months.
I landed at the Ottawa airport for the first time. During my earlier visit, I had come via road from Montreal. It is rather surprising that the capital of such a large country like Canada has a such a small airport. In fact, I flew in from New York in CRZ craft which has a flight time of 56 minutes only.
Another surprising fact is that Ottawa, though a capital, has a population of about close to one million people only with immigrants accounting for seven per cent of the population.
More surprise was in store for me. When I gave my passport at the hotel's check-in counter they did not even look at it and said it wasn't required. Neither did I have to fill up or sign any form. Just a credit card was enough. In today's world, with so much of security issues at stake, checking in without an identity card is quite incredible.
Many people wrongly think Toronto to be the capital of Canada.
I did not get to choose a hotel of my preference since my office could not get a room in any of the top ten hotels in the city's main area as suggested by the Canadian United Nations Association (UNA). This was due to the car racing week in the city and I decided to put up here.
This property, about 10-minute drive from the airport, is one of the seven hotels run by Marriot in this city. It is a studio suite hotel where you have a full kitchen with cooking amenities. There is no 24-hours room service or 24 hours house keeping. But I have never come across such friendly hotel staff in recent years. The warmth and helpful nature of every single staff in this hotel is remarkable.
The hotel studios are sparklingly neat and clean and the Hotel itself is so well planned and designed. The surroundings are quite and green.
Yesterday, after checking in, I had nothing to do so I took the Bus No 97 from the Walkey Station close to the hotel to the Rodeo Centre which is the city's main shopping hub. Whenever I travel to new cities abroad I always take public transport if time permits. The Hotel staff told me that a taxi may take 25 to 30 minutes to get to the downtown but a bus would hardly take 8 to 10 minutes since there is a separate bus lane.
After taking a round if Rodeo Centre I went to the Byward Market which is a tourist hub of Ottawa. The whole area has many eateries and places for outing.
I had a dinner at an Indian restaurant called Shefali located in the area. I can't comment about their non-vegetarian food but I won't recommend Shefali to Indian vegetarians since there are much better options in the city. The food was very basic quite like most of the overseas restaurant which caters to the westerner's palate.
There was a lone Bengali speaking girl who was serving. I also saw a man and woman in the kitchen who were talking in Bengali. I guessed it was a family-run outlet. In fact, in the bus also I saw couple of Bengali students who told me that had recently shifted to Ottawa from Montreal.
With Katherine, WFUNA ExCo Chairman from UNA Canada
Today morning I went to the UNA Canada office situated at the Copper Street and had a meeting in connection with the upcoming plenary in Vancouver in November. This was my main agenda for the Ottawa trip.
UNA Canada is one of the most active associations of WFUNA and the chairman of WFUNA Executive Committee (ExCo) Katherine is also from UNA Canada.
I had a meeting with her and few other officials and after that we went for lunch at an Indian restaurant called East India Company. This restaurant is located at the Somerset Street. The food was excellent and the buffet had a lavish spread.
I am in the lobby of of the Residence Inn Marriott Hotel enjoying coffee from the 24 hour complimentary coffee bar. I will leave for airport in a while to fly back to New York.
ess bee

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Amid desi food in New York City

September 16, 2015: I landed in New York on Sunday (September 13) morning and plunged myself into a series of meetings and work. This time I checked in at the One UN Hotel of the Millennium Group located just opposite the United Nations.
This time of the year is the busiest time for this neighbourhood. Today onward till the United Nations General Assembly ends, this area is a high security zone with cops, sniffer dogs and entry allowed only with IDs etc. From First to the Third Avenue and between 40th and 47th Street, the whole area becomes the busiest zone ever.
After landing on Sunday, I put up at the hotel and prepared agendas for the meetings and went out for a walk. I met many of the known shop owners in and around that area. I was quite surprised to see that even shops that make duplicate keys and sell stuff like umbrellas, plugs, pad locks and so on had also put up a board outside the shop saying, “We are ready for the United Nations General Assembly.
Board outside New York Shop
In the evening, I ordered food to my hotel room through the delivery service of an Indian restaurant called Darbar. The food was not so great but I did not want to order from my all time favourite Chef Hemant Mathur’s Tulsi since I already have a luncheon meet scheduled there on Monday.
On Monday morning I went to the WFUNA office. The day began with a series of meetings and during the lunch time I went to Tulsi. I found that the food tasted different this time and I asked for one of the restaurant manager Mr Prakash. I was informed that Prakash was on leave and that Hemant is no longer associated with Tulsi and that he had left Tulsi for some other venture. I understood why the food tasted different.From Tulsi I had a meeting at the New York University for a quick recce of the library which would be the venue for my scheduled presentation on “Tourism and Conservation in Tiger Land”.
In the evening, one of the United Nations Association (UNA) officials invited me to an Indian outlet with a fancy name - Malai Marke. All my friends and acquaintances know of my love for Indian food and that is why they decided to invite me here. The restaurant is located on 318 E 6 Street. On my way to it I noticed that many other Indian outlets have sprung up on this Street and almost all of them had only a few table occupied on a Monday evening. But Mali Marke was fully occupied.
After having food there I realized that the restaurant also fully caters to the western palate. The food was very basic in taste, especially the vegetarian dishes. I came to know from my host that this is due to the excellent non-vegetarian cuisines and I have reason to believe that because of this the restaurant was fully occupied with non Indians on a Monday evening.
From Malai Marke I walked back to my Hotel on the 44 Street between First and Second Avenue which is about 38 blocks. I really enjoyed that long walk.
On Tuesday, the whole day again passed off in meetings at the WFUNA office. I had missed the last two Executive Committee (ExCo) of WFUNA and that is why I am in New York to catch up with the developments and work of the organization.
WFUNA has initiated quite a few projects, including in India. I had few meetings lined up with the office staff in the WFUNA office only. Before lunch, I had a meeting with two project officers and the Digital Media Executive who has joined recently. This is one subject that is beyond my league.
With the WFUNA team
I also had lunch with the WFUNA colleagues at an Italian restaurant called Ristorante Il Postino on 337 East 49th Street. It was quite a decent restaurant which I had visited earlier.
Post lunch, we had some informal discussions. I met Mr Ramu Damodaran, Deputy Director, United Nations, New York, I had a meeting with him and after that there was one more meeting regarding WFUNA finance.
In the evening, one my acquaintances in New York picked me up and I went to the Lexington Main Hill area. 
The Lexington 28th Street area is known as theCurry Hill” instead of Murray Hill because so many Indian and Pakistani restaurants have come up in this area over the last decade.
After parking the car, we were walking on the footpath towards Lucky Paan Shop when all of a sudden I saw the board of a restaurant called Haldi. I recalled that during my meeting with Ramu, he had mentioned to me that Chef Hemant Mathur is associated with Haldi now. The moment I saw this restaurant I thought of Hemant Mathur and soon found him looking at me from behing the glass.
He came out running to meet me. I told him that I had gone to Tulsi. Hemant said that he had left Tulsi to venture into something new. From early 2015 he became the Executive Chef and the co-owner of six Indian restaurants in New York City – Chola, Kokam, Chote Nawab, Dhaba, Malai Marke and Haldi. He is now in charge of overseeing the kitchen and menus, creating signature dishes and special cuisines inspired by the regional focus of each venue.
Hemant treated us at Haldi and got us an amazing dal prepared from the nearby restaurant called Dhaba. It was a mix of five lentils. Before having dinner at Haldi I had golgappas at Kailash Parbat located bang opposite Haldi. This place is famous for chaats and has points of presence not only in New York but also in the UK and India. In fact, Kolkata will also have a Kailash Parbat at the upcoming Acropolis Mall.
Today morning I again had meetings regarding finance and accounts at the WFUNA office. The WFUNA plenary is scheduled in November at Vancouver and I, as the Treasurer of WFUNA, am entrusted with the responsibility to present the reports.
Today evening, after a while, I shall fly to Ottawa.
ess bee