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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Email: essbee@essbeeindia.com

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Kalam with Nadira and Swiss National Day

July 30, 2016: I usually go to sleep around 12 pm. But for the last few days I have been going to sleep around 2:30 am thanks to myself trying to become Tweeter-savvy and also the late night flights and engagements.
With Nadira Babbar at Kalam Jaipur
I landed in Kolkata around midnight from Jaipur on July 26 after attending a session of Kalam with Nadira Babbar. Nadira is a well known theatre artiste, poet and author. She has also acted in quite a number of films. She was quite impressive in her interactions with the audience. Recitations of her yet-to-be-published poetry was the highpoint of the event.
Today I had an informal dinner evening at the Hyatt Regency with Shatrughan Sinha who in Kolkata to attend the Ladies' Study Group function. We both get along very well and he too is quite a late night person. 
With Mr Bruce Bucknell, British Deputy High Commissioner in Kolkata
Prior to my dinner, I dropped in at The Oberoi Grand for the Swiss National Day reception hosted by Umesh Chowdhury, the Honorary Consul of Switzerland in Kolkata.
The Swiss National Day reception, hosted by Umesh, is one of the biggest affairs in the city where you get to see and meet prominent faces from all walks of life. In fact, it is Umesh and his wife Rashmi's personal invitation and attention that draws everyone to it. I chatted up with the new British Deputy High Commissioner in Kolkata, Mr Bruce Bucknell, at the reception.
ess bee

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

My first visit to Fabelle

July 26, 2016: It is about 3:13 am now. I arrived in Jaipur from Bangalore for few hours in order to witness the Kalam session with Nadira Babbar - the Guest author of Kalam Jaipur. She will then again be the Guest author in Raipur on July 28 for the same event.
On Saturday, in Patna, author Surendra Mohan Pathak was the Guest author for the Patna leg of Kalam. And on Sunday, with him as the Guest author, Kalam started its chapter in Gaya which is the fourth city for this event.
We are planning to initiate Kalam in five other cities of Bihar and also start similar series in Hyderabad and Bangalore. There are requests from Jodhpur, Udaipur, Bhopal and Mumbai as well to start this event.
While in Bangalore for a night, I stayed at the ITC Gardenia and explored the hotel's new venture Fabelle which is a high-end chocolate boutique which the ITC Group plans to expand to seven or eight more of its hotels by the end of this year. Fabelle, no doubt, will compete with the likes of Godiva and Rochelle. I think it is the best Indian chocolates ever produced.
Also, I got to know from my friend, Virendra Razdan, who is also the General Manager at ITC Gardenia, that ITC Sonar in Kolkata had also launched Fabelle two or three days prior to the company's annual general meeting.
Before checking in at the ITC Gardenia I went to dine at the JW Marriot poolside on Sunday evening at the Indian restaurant Spice Terrace. The food and the ambiance, both were good.
ess bee

Saturday, July 23, 2016

At the release of Mrs Alva's autobiography

At the book release in Jaipur with Nupur Basu, Mrs Margaret Alva, Anuja Chauhan, Apra Kuchal and Sudhir Mathur
July 23, 2016: I returned from Jaipur yesterday night. Day before yesterday (July 21) I released the of autobiography Courage & Commitment by Margaret Alva, the ex-Governor of Rajasthan, at the Hotel Hilton, Jaipur. The event was initiated by Prabha Khaitan Foundation and organised by We Care. Raghu Sinha Mala Mathur Memorial Trust presented the event.
During the event Mrs Alva talked at length on women empowerment at different levels leading to the emergence of “human side” of development. Senior journalist Nupur Basu engaged her in a conversation during which Mrs Alva shared many interesting anecdotes and also her views on various topics especially the hurdles that came in the way of passing the legislation for reservation of seats for women in decision making bodies.
She dedicated the book to her husband who was responsible for all that she has achieved in her life. She said she had highlighted her trials and triumphs and controversies in her autobiography.
Earlier, London-based popular artiste, Ms Shivani Sethia, welcomed Mrs Alva with a traditional Rajasthani welcome song Padharo Mhare Des. The event was attended by many eminent citizens of Jaipur and others including Anuja Chauhan and Sudhir Mathur.
My all thanks to Apra Kuchal of We Care who has put up the things together and it is because of her hard work Jaipur has witnessed a rare gathering of book launch events.
The whole of yesterday I had a couple of meetings with different stakeholders for our upcoming activities.
ess bee

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

An Author's Afternoon with Arunava Sinha

July 20, 2016: Today was the 33rd session in the series of An Author's Afternoon at the Taj Bengal Kolkata. 
With Guest author Arunava Sinha and Priyanka Mookherjee
The event was originally fixed for July 21st 2016 but we realized that July 21 is the Trinamool Martyr Day and we immediately decided to pre-pone the event by a day. Every year on July 21 the whole of Kolkata comes to standstill for most part of the day since lakhs of people would converge on Esplanade – the hub of the city.
The guest author for the session was Arunava Sinha who has done a great job translating many classic, traditional and modern Bengali literary works into English. Over thirty of his translations have been published in English so far and more are in the offing. Arunava has won the Crossword translation award twice for Sankar's Chowringhee (2007) and Anita Agnihotri's Seventeen (2011). His translations have been published in the USA and UK in English.
With Manoshi Chatterjee
Young upcoming author Priyanka Mookherjee conducted the tete-a-tete with Arunava. It was a regaling session with the author playing out to the gallery. The thirty third Author's Afternoon session will also stand out from all earlier sessions in a not-so-healthy way as more than double the number of guests turned up for the event than the venue could accommodate. 
For the first time we had to restrict entry as it was not possible to accommodate all of them. Also, most of them did not technically qualify as guests since An Author's Afternoon adheres to a strict invite format under which only 25 to 30 (approx) guests who duly confirm via SMS are invited. This situation happened because the author had put an invite on his Facebook and many of his admirers thought it was a walk-in session and turned up for the event.
Today I shall be leaving for Jaipur as quite a number of events and meetings are lined up.
ess bee

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Back in Kolkata from London

July 17, 2016: After arriving in Kolkata from London and even before I could get over the jet lag, I went to Delhi on Friday evening.
Today Saturday was full of meetings, including one with a prominent student leader and another one of IFUNA Executive Committee (ExCo). The IFUNA ExCo meeting took an important decision offering to host the next plenary of WFUNA.
I landed in Kolkata a few hours ago and next week I will again travel to Jaipur and Bangalore. I started Tweeting recently @essbeeindia and realised that connecting with the world is really on our palms. I wonder where technology will lead us to.
ess bee

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Catching up with friends in London

July 12, 2016: The weekend was full of big ticket sporting events in UK. Wimbledon men's and women's tennis finals. Those who could not make it to the Wimbledon took to the pubs or the couches in front of televisions in their homes. Besides Wimbledon, there was also the Formula One car race and soccer to choose from.
I was trying to get a ticket for the play Deep Blue Sea running at the National Theatre in South Bank. Forget a good seat, I wasn't getting one at all and the first availability was sometime in the second week of September.
Based on Terrance Rattigan's masterpiece set in the 1950s it contains one of the greatest female roles in contemporary drama in the character of Hester Collyer. The Deep Blue Sea unites actress Helen McCrory and director Carrie Cracknell since Madea – their last venture together in 2014.
I was hoping that the sports fever during the weekend would perhaps increase the chances of getting A seat at the theatre but there was no show on Sunday while Saturday and Monday were houseful.
I met a number of friends over the weekend at the Courtyard restaurant of St James Court hotel. On Sunday evening I had press interviews.
Today I went for lunch at House of Lords again with Lord Meghnad Desai and Shazia Ilmi. While having lunch I got two news updates. First, Arvind Panagariya is going to become the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor and that the decks are clear for Theresa May to become the PM of UK after her final rival Andrea Leadson withdrew from the race on Monday morning, citing overwhelming support for May among Conservative MPs.
The popular feeling is that Thresa May may not have to wait till September to take charge and could take charge of office in a week or two. In the evening I went to the Mint Green restaurant near Piccadilly Circus for a dinner party hosted by Raj Bhatt, the vice-chairman and Chief Executive Officer, of Elara Capitals.
I met up with quite a few familiar faces of London including Shazia Ilmi. Between lunch and dinner I also had a meeting with Lord Swraj Paul at his Baker Street office and a meeting at the India House as well.
ess bee

Saturday, July 9, 2016

A visit to Chatham House

At the entrance of Chatham House
July 9, 2016: I visited United Nations Association (UNA) office at the Whitehall Street today afternoon. The UNA, UK, is a strong part of World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) and have an extensive network throughout the country.
With Richard and Natalie
After the UNA visit, I along with UNA, UK, colleagues Natalie and Richard, went to an Italian restaurant for a lunch. From there I paid a visit to the Chatham House - the famous think tank institution on 10 St James Square.
Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is an independent policy institute based in London. Chatham House has been the residence of three former prime ministers of UK.
Lionel Curtis founded this institution in 1920. Mahatma Gandhi visited the Chatham House in October 1931 and delivered his talk on “The Future of India”.
The fact that Chatham House is an independent think tank is amply reflected at the reception table where it is clearly stated that “...you may use the points of discussions and points heard there but you cannot disclose the identity of speaker.” This reveals much about the mission and motto of this institution.
With Dr Robin Niblett
I had a meeting with the Chatham House director Dr Robin Niblett and we had a discussion on possible collaborations since this institute was thinking of extending its wings beyond the shores of UK and India was very much on their cards.
With Lord Meghnad Desai
After visiting Chatham House I had a meeting over tea with Lord Meghnad Desai at the Courtyard in St James Court hotel. We discussed politics from New York to Delhi. 
Lord Desai is of the view that Donald Trump may be the next US President which he had written about four months ago.
I must say that this visit of mine to New York and London had a high dose of informal political talks and discussions.
In the evening I hosted a dinner at Quilon for few friends who are on a visit to London this summer along with few others who are residents of London.
ess bee

Friday, July 8, 2016

Indian cuisine at the House of Lords

July 8, 2016: Yesterday evening I went to the House of Lords to attend a reception hosted by Baroness Sandip Verma who is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development and Ministerial Champion for tackling Violence Against Women & Girls Overseas, a role that she has held since 13 May 2015.
Baroness Verma's family is our personal friend and they have always been nice and kind to me whenever I am in this part of the world.
I had requested the St James Court hotel's room service that I would return late and have food. I don't liked the type of food served at the Parliament's reception having been there on many occasions.
With Sri G P Hinduja, Ashok Verma and Baroness Sandip Verma
I was on the table with Baroness Verma, her husband Ashok, daughter Tamanna, hotelier Ramesh Arora, noted industrialist Gopichand Hinduja and the High Commissioner of Uganda in UK, Prof Joyce Kakuramtsi Kijafunda and her husband.
To my pleasant surprise, the main course served included a bowl of pulao, aloo dam, dal, paneer bhaji, papadam and raita with Indian style kuchamber salad. I was amazed. Baroness did mention to me that it would be all vegetarian food today, I actually wasn't expecting Indian food at all.
It was obvious that Baroness Verma herself had taken pains to explain to the chefs to organise Indian cuisine at the House of Lords. This was the first time that Indian meal was served. All the people gave a good round of clap to the chef. The food also was right for he Indian palate. Now the House of Lords dining area is set to provide Indian cuisine if anyone asks for it.
At the reception, primarily a gathering of Parliamentarians and diplomats, the discussion on every table was about the British prime ministerial election. The popular view was that after Stephen Crabb's pullout, Theresa May is the front runner and that Britain is all set to have another woman PM since after Margaret Thatcher.
I had a busy day today with quite a few meetings lined up, including one at the Chatham House. In the evening, I shall host a dinner for few friends.
ess bee

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

In London after Brexit

July 6, 2016: London is my favourite city and so is the Taj St. James Court property. The good thing about this property is its quality and standard of service. It keeps getting better and better, year after year. This is reflected in the room service that is equipped to serve you chapatis, paranthas and dal tadka even at 2:30 am.
No wonder this hotel has become the London address for many Indians who visit the country. 
By chance, I met my friend Shailesh Lodha, the actor-writer-comedian of Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chasmah sitcom fame. We spent a late evening at the St. James Court hotel's famous Hamptons Bar over bar bites and light meals.
Yesterday evening I went to the Danish Ambassador Mr Claus Grube's residence on 55 Sloane Street to attend a reception hosted by him to mark the farewell of Sir Jeremy Quentin Greenstock, Chairman of United Nations Association (UNA), UK.
Sir Jeremy Greenstock is quite a famous diplomat who served as the Permanent Representative of UK to the United Nations. He was also the Chairman of the Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Committee. He was also UK's special representative to Iraq.
With Lord Wood, Chairperson, UNA UK
The get-together has many barons, Lords and senior diplomats. I chatted up with Lord Wood who has took charge as the new Chairperson of UNA, UK.
From the Danish embassy I went to have dinner at Bombay Brasserie - the Indian restaurant managed by the Taj Group - with Baroness Sandip Verma and her husband Ashok. The food, as expected, was fantastic. Chef Sriram Aylur is still holding fort at St. James Court as well as Bombay Brasserie. However, the service does need to improve for sure.
With Lady Mohini Kent Noon
Today (July 6) I spent the whole afternoon and the evening at Richoux at 41 South Audley Street. I met up with quite a few people including Lady Mohini Noon and Gautam Lewis.
Lady Mohini Kent Noon has just released her book Black Taj in London and she accepted my invitation to attend the event in India. 
Gautam, who runs Freedom In the Air (FITA) flying school for the disabled in UK, is among the few and first disabled commercial pilots of the world. He has also been an Unesco ambassador for the Global Polio Eradication initiative. Gautam would be holding a photo exhibition in Kolkata and also screen his documentary on Mother Teresa in August 2016.
With Gautam Lewis
On Saturday evening I attended a private dinner at the Swiss Cottage area and also met up with few friends. In the morning I did meet some Commonwealth Parliamentary Affairs (CPA) officials.
I notice that Brexit after many days continues to be the most talked about subject in public discussions and discourses.
ess bee

Sunday, July 3, 2016

With Lord Paul at the London Zoo


With Ex Prime Minister of UK, Gordon Brown and Lady Sarah Brown
July 3, 2016: I landed in London today. London is one of my favourite cities. I love the weather here. I am staying at the Taj St James. This season, as always, I find so many Indians in London and also in the this hotel. I met Asish Saraf and Sumit Majumdar at the hotel's lobby. 
With Lady Aruna Paul
In the afternoon I went to the ZSL London Zoo at Regent's Park to attend a reception hosted by Lord Swraj Paul and his wife Lady Aruna Paul. I had attended this memorial quite a few times in the past.
It is an annual event which Lord Paul hosts over tea in memory of his daughter Ambika who died of leukaemia in 1968 at the tender age of four. Lord Paul had set up a charitable foundation Ambika Paul Foundation in her memory that very year. A section of the zoo is named Ambika Paul Children's Zoo in her memory.
This year a special tribute was paid to Lord Paul's late son Angad who died in his youth in November 2015. 
With Anjali Paul
I met a number of people at the memorial including Mohini Noon, wife of late Lord Gulam Noon, the Indian High Commissioner to UK, Navtej Sarna and others. I also got a chance to chat up with with former Prime Minister (2007 - 2010) of Britain, James Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah Jane Brown.
While in New York, I found that Brexit was a hot topic of discussion everywhere.
The weather here today was beautiful and it got a little cooler in the evening. I went to the Regent Park to catch up with few friends who were having a picnic there.
ess bee

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Missing out on Bangla Sammelan 2016 in NYC

With Suman, Kaushik and Abir in New York
July 2, 2016: I shall leave New York today. The area near Grand Central station and the United Nations faces a heavy commuters' rush during the weekdays. However, with offices closed, there is a sea change during the weekends when it wears a rather deserted look in contrast.
There is a large number of representatives from the Kolkata film fraternity in New York for the Bangla Sammelan or the North American Bengali Conference (NABC) this year. It is an annual conference to showcase Bengali art and culture outside India. Since its inception in 1981 in New York City, under the sponsorship of Cultural Association of Bengal, it has spread to other cities in USA and Canada. The Sammelan provides a global platform to artistes and entertainers to a global mostly Indian diaspora. 
I was invited to present a paper at the Sammelan. But, although I was in New York, I had to decline it due to my pressing schedule and other commitments in New York. I could not find time to visit it either.
I did meet Suman Ghosh, Kaushik Sen and Abir for lunch yesterday at the Indian restaurant Dhaba.
ess bee