Sundeep Bhutoria

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Thank you.
ess bee

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Monday, May 30, 2016

Catching up on small things

May 30, 2016: I spent the whole of last week in Delhi. Quite a few meetings were lined up also many small meetings with various people were long due and I decided to take time off to meet diplomats, politicians, authors and people from the cultural fraternity.
I returned from abroad and went to Delhi and from there back to Kolkata on Saturday evening.
From the airport I went straight to The Conclave to have dinner with Yatindra Mishra who was in town for one night for his connecting flight to Agartala. He was on his way to attend a Sahitya Academy programme. Yatindra is one of the finest music critiques and an encyclopedia of Indian music. He has attended the Kalam events in all the cities of Patna, Jaipur and Raipur. His ancestral home is in Ayodhya with links to a erstwhile royal family.
Yatindra is a fantastic person and a good friend. Along with Yatindra I had also invited Sourendro and Soumyojit and we four had a great discussion on music till midnight.
Today, I am in office and tomorrow again I shall leave for Jaipur and will be back to Kolkata next weekend.
ess bee

Friday, May 20, 2016

At the Grand Hyatt Bangkok

May 20, 2016: I am once again at the Grand Hyatt in Bangkok. Today is the Visakha Bucha Day, which is a national public holiday in Thailand. Visakha Bucha Day is the most auspicious of the Thai Buddhist holidays as it commemorates three important anniversaries in the life of Lord Buddha: his birth, his enlightenment and his passing.
On Wednesday May 18, around 4.30 pm, I went to the Bawarchi restaurant located at the President Tower Arcade (Intercontinental Bangkok). I have always admired this restaurant and every time I am in Bangkok I order food from this restaurant daily and have it delivered to the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
In fact, more than by sight, the restaurant people recognize me by name. I met Mr Vinay Chawla who is the Vice President of this chain of restaurants. Apart from this one, there are three more restaurants in Bangkok. One in Myanmar and one in Gurgaon.
I also met Arijit Ghosh who was a chef at the Taj Jaimahal Palace in Jaipur and now takes care of this restaurant. Arijit wishes to open his own restaurant and seeing his abilities, I am sure, he will not only succeed but also make it big. I wish him all the best.
ess bee

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Urban India – New ICCR guidelines misses the point

May 18, 2016: When I landed at the Bangkok airport today it was past midnight. I was greeted everywhere with the usual graceful wai or sawatdi or called sawasdee - the traditional Thai welcome with folded hands - similar to our namaste and Cambodian sampeah.
I always admire this country for their tourist-friendly nature and no wonder the despite the humid and hot weather Thailand continues to attract so much visitors. There was a lady who was distributing Thai Tourism brochures where certain dos and donts were mentioned. This reminded me of the recent ICCR guidelines.
A traveller in today’s world only has to click a button to know about a place he intends to travel to. All the information is just a click away. Some of the leading travel sites tell us one on what to wear, how to behave and even warn of possible risks one may face while visiting a new place.
Recently, I read an interesting article in a leading daily which referred to the new guidelines published by ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) for scholars and travellers coming for a short stay in India. The ICCR as you may know aims at strengthening India’s cultural relations with other countries and also organises study tours, introductory courses and summer camps for international students.
While going through the guidelines what drew my attention in particular were certain statements. The Ninth Edition of this guidebook writes - "Educated women have cast aside many customary inhibitions and have come forward in many ways in the past few decades. They will talk to the student when he is introduced to them. The modern Indian woman is traditional in some ways. She may refuse politely if a man asks her out for a film or an outing. Dating is not common in India."
Regarding travelling in public transport the handbook says - "Queuing for bus is advised. A student need not be surprised should he find that the "first-come-first-served" rule is not being strictly followed as the habit of forming a queue is not yet fully developed in all places." This perhaps is more pertinent.
Among other things it prepares a student to face the hardships in the hostel – occasional water shortages and power crisis etc. It also talks of housing problem that makes finding a house difficult.
The handbook, no doubt informs a person of the country’s traditions and values, but reading it gives an impression of an India where girls don’t mingle with boys; paints Indian society as one steeped in tradition and far from the ways of the modern world.
While it is a fact Indian is still primarily an agrarian nation with more than 68 per cent of the population living in the rural areas, it is also true that the target audience of ICCR are the people who come and live in the urban areas.
To quote from a World Bank report, India more than 1.2 billion people is the world’s fourth largest economy and on a growth trajectory.
The guidelines further says - “Historical changes are unfolding and unleashing a host of new opportunities to forge a 21st Century nation. India will soon have the largest and youngest workforce the world has ever seen. At the same time, the country is in the midst of a massive wave of urbanization as some 10 million people move to towns and cities each year in search of jobs and opportunity. It is the largest rural-urban migration of this century.”
The current scenario of India in the above context of ICCR guidelines would instead of clarifying end up confounding the foreigners. A person arriving in Delhi or Mumbai or any other metro for that matter would not be able to relate to the guidelines in the handbook.
While talking of the population in general the guidelines say -"Indians are generally friendly and informal. Many of them may not wait to be introduced in order to talk to the student. In buses and trains, you may find people eager to talk.”
The fact is that on an average Indian urban girls in her jeans, speak English, hang out with male friends, some of them even putting their professional careers over their marriage, often choose their own partners and some also enter into live-in relationships. This reflects the typical modern Indian woman very much at par with their counterparts in the West.
The handbook could have done a better job had it been more specific and urban-centric rather than making sweeping statements.
ess bee

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

At the launch of exclusive men's wear chain

With Manoj Mohanka, Britta Leicke Milde, Venky Rajagopal and his daughter
May 17, 2016: I am flying overseas today evening. I landed from Jaipur on the evening of May 11. 
On May 13, I attended the opening of an exclusive men's apparel chain store at the Woodburn Central Park in Kolkata.
The store's Chairman and Managing Director, Venky Rajgopal, a former bureaucrat, is a good friend of my friend Manoj Mohanka who is also a director in this company. I was there on his request.
It was quite a crowded affair and just as humid and hot. Actor Randeep Hooda was there as the chief guest.
But at least one of the well known men's accessories brands has set shop in Kolkata's prime location. In fact, last week, Cochin-based leading jewellery brand Kalyan Jewellers also opened three showroom in Kolkata and virtually painted the newspapers and bill boards all over city with Amitabh Bachchan as their brand ambassador.
In fact, a couple of weeks ago, Kalyan group had inaugurated three showrooms in Rajasthan where Amitabh and Jaya Bachhan covered three cities – Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur - in one day. I missed the Kalyan inaugural function in Jaipur as well as in Kolkata.
I also missed the Sunday evening bash hosted by Rituparna Sengupta at The Park. For past few months I have missed more events than I have attended. May be because I am travelling a lot or it could be that I get more invitations these days.
ess bee

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Rooftop dinner and Kalam Jaipur

With Apara Kuchhal, Vijaykirti, Dharmender Kanwar, Usha Pooniya, Rashmi and Ritu Kuchhal at the Skylight Cafe
May 12, 2016: I returned from Jaipur last night. On Monday evening I attended a private dinner where I met quite many bureaucrats from Rajasthan.
With Salim Arif
On Tuesday, May 10, I attended another dinner hosted at the roof top eating outlet at Skylights Cafe, Hotel Maya, Jaipur
The Skylights Cafe is a new venture of the Kuchhal family who also owns and manages the Handi and Copper Chimney restaurant in Jaipur.
Yesterday, before boarding for Kolkata flight, I attended the Kalam event with well-known theatre artist and director, Mr Salim Arif, was the guest author.
With restaurateur Rashmi Kuchhal
Salim Arif, an alumnus of National School of Drama. Some of his stagings like Taj Mahal ka Tender, Kaifi Saab, Ghalibnaama, Kharaashein, Peele Patton ka Ban, Dil Chahta Hai, Agar aur Magan, Rakt Kalyan, Kacche Lamhe and so on have made him one of the most popular directors of the Hindi theatre. He has worked with luminaries like Shyam Benegal, Gulzar, Neerja Guileri, Dr Chandraprakash Dwivedi and others.
In the morning I also visited the Raj Bhavan to meet His Excellency
With His Excellency, Kalyan Singh, Governor of Rajasthan
Kalyan Singh, the Governor of Rajasthan.
Today evening I wanted to go to the South City to watch the premiere show of of “Cinemawala” - a film by Kaushik Ganguly - at Inox on the invitation of Shree Venkatesh Films. But since I am travelling overseas again this weekend I had to give it a miss.
ess bee

Monday, May 9, 2016

At Uttam Mancha

May 9, 2016: Today afternoon I am again going to Jaipur as I have committed to attend a few private dinners that was long due.
On Saturday (May 7) evening I went to the Uttam Mancha for an event hosted by Aaddya Kala Tirtham & Prayas. I was invited by Reshmi Bagchi the well-known news reader of Ananda Plus TV Channel. She had invited me for this event well in advance. I was there for two hours to watch the performance. I met quite a number of friends.
The concept, choreography and direction was by Avirup Sengupta. I was really touched to see the performance done by the special needs children.
ess bee

Friday, May 6, 2016

Meetings of UN bodies in Delhi

At the IFUNA office after the World Federation of United Nations Association (WFUNA) Foundation India Advisory Board Meeting
May 6, 2016: After a 10-day trip from Jaipur and Delhi I returned to Kolkata day before yesterday. While in Delhi I was at the Maurya for four nights. I was supposed to visit Agra during the last ten days as WIMUN was being held at the Jaypee Palace Hotel & Convention Centre and I was supposed to speak in either the opening or the closing ceremony but I gave it a miss. However, I was in Delhi with my WFUNA colleague Bonian Golmohammadi.
On Monday May 2, after having a late breakfast meeting with an editor friend, I had a luncheon meeting with Bonian Golmohammadi at the India International Centre on various issues.
WFUNA executive committee (ExCo) meeting is scheduled in New York on May 13 to 14, 2016, which I may not be able to attend as I have some work in South East Asia. So we discussed various issues.
In the evening there was a meeting of the WFUNA Foundation. India Advisory Board Members at the IFUNA Conference Hall. There were quite a few issues raised and discussed by the Advisory Board members.
On Tuesday May 3 we had a meeting with the UN Resident Coordinator Yuri Afanasiev. We discussed about various programmes that the UN and UNDP are doing in India in education, environment, water sanitation, rural development and other areas and the possibility of partnering with them. After the meeting we had a another one with Ali Kiyaei from South Africa UNA who is in India now for his study in JNU.
On Wednesday, before taking a flight, I caught up with few friends and also had a meeting at the Hyatt which was my address for sometime in Delhi.
ess bee