Throwback to AKLF18

The Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival (AKLF) is one of the largest Literary Festivals to be held in the City of Joy each year. Spanning 5 days, with more than 180 speakers, the AKLF is eagerly awaited by many in Kolkata, especially bibliophiles. AKLF18 which was held from the 11th to 15th January saw the coming together of some of the brilliant minds in the spheres of journalism, literature, environment, and education. It was also ruled by famous Bollywood personalities who turned recent authors. The best part of the event was the chance to personally interact with one’s inspirations and well, get your books signed! Notably, there have been numerous sessions but I would highlight some of my favorite ones through this blog post.

Day 1: The Oxford Junior Literature Festival (OJLF) was inaugurated by Usha Uthup and Nandana Sen. Her lovely song ‘Kolkata Kolkata Don’t Worry Kolkata’ still reverberates in the atmosphere. It was followed by a dramatized presentation of a very interesting story by ace writer Nabaneeta Dev Sen. Nandana Sen presented her new book to the children- ‘Talky Tumble at Jumble Farm’. She even asked the children from the audience to join her during her act. Anita Agnihotri’s performance of the very famous story of the Monkey and the Crocodile and other stories was a pleasure to watch. The fluidity in her movements defined the epitome of performing arts and was an inspiration for people to earn how storytelling can be adapted into dance forms. Bookwise was a Quiz organized for the children of the various schools who had come for the event. It was followed by Metajingle- a multidisciplinary theatrical event. The OJLF is one of the few literary festivals which cater to the young minds. The habit of reading, thinking, analyzing and performing needs to be inculcated in the children from their school lives. Thus, the OJLF is just the right platform to give them the ‘food for thought’ and the right exposure to activating their grey cells.

 

Usha Uthup singing at the inauguration of the OJLF
Anita Agnihotri’s wonderful performance

The highlight event of the first day was that of acclaimed director, Mira Nair in conversation with Chandrahas Choudhury. Nair who has completed over thirty years in International Cinema spoke about her experiences in filmmaking and answered a variety of questions from the audience. Her much-loved movie Monsoon Wedding was also discussed. The dark wintry evening with a packed audience under the shamiana seemed to her like the perfect setting for the Monsoon Wedding.

Day 2: Seventeen sessions were held on the 12th of January across two main venues- St Paul’s Cathedral Church and The Tollygunge Golf Club. The highlights of the day were:

  1. Akla Chalo Re: this performance theatre answered a very crucial question- what can Tagore’s women teach today’s women? Tagore, in his writings, have often portrayed very strong female characters. His farsightedness had actually laid the foundations of what we define as women empowerment in contemporary times. It was conceptualized by Isheeta Ganguly.
  2. Joy Bangla, which explored Sudeep Chakraverti’s new book The Bengalis: A Portrait of a Community, had an outstanding panel comprising- Kalyan Ray, Mr. Ashis Nandy, Sudeep Chakravarti and Sudeep Sen. A fruitful conversation followed regarding the Bengali Community and their existence in the modern world. The concept of Probashi Bangali (NRI) was also touched upon.

    (From left) Sudeep Sen, Kalyan Ray, Ashis Nandy, Sudeep Chakraverti
  3. Out of the Woods? Last Girl First was performed by Tishani Doshi. Based on her poem was followed a conversation with Ruchira Gupta, Paromita Chakravarti, and Juhi Khatoon. The conversation highlighted the need of the hour which is to fight for women’s rights and withdraw- legally, aggressively, socially- from the clutches of the malpractices against women.

    (From Left) Paromita Chakraverti, Ruchira Gupta, Juhi Khatoon
  4. Crossing the Line: This was one of the two most revered sessions of the day. With an ace panel consisting of Vishal Bharadwaj, Aparna Sen, Mira Nair, Ratna Pathak Shah, Nandana Sen and moderated by Modhurima Sinha, the session highlighted the portrayal of women on the Big Screen. Each of the panelists had a firm view of the projection of women and how it had evolved over the ages. The perspectives and experiences were many and each of them shared it with the audience with much glee.

    (From Left) Nandana Sen, Aparna Sen, Mira Nair, Modhurima Sinha, Ratna Pathak Shah, Vishal Bharadwaj
  5. India @ 70: Held at Tollygunge Club, the session had eminent speakers like Sir Mark Tully, Bittu Sahgal, Salil Tripathi, Mira Nair and Advaita Kala. Some prominent questions regarding the Indian Democracy and the principles on which it stands today were discussed. An essential statement made by Sir Mark during the session echoed in the minds of the audience for long. They were,

‘Your belief is your belief,

My belief is my belief.

You let me believe my belief;

And I let you believe in your belief. ‘

Day 3: This day had three of the most sought-after sessions.

  1. The Big Brother Syndrome: With the ongoing files against Padmavaati/ Padmavaat, it is only understandable that the need of the hour is to openly talk about Censorship. Pertinent questions like is it necessary? To what extent should there be censorship in writing; were asked and answered by the panelists. Censorship has in fact made writers so vulnerable that statements like Censorship are the suicide of a good writer has also been made public.
  2. Nude: Vishal Bharadwaj in conversation with Pushpesh Pant while unveiling his latest book of poems. His movies have been creating magic on-screen for years and this time, he has created magic through his words.
  3. Moderately Famous? Actor and recently turned author Soha Ali Khan made her debut in the field of literature through ‘The Perils of Being Moderately Famous’. In it, she pens down her life as the daughter of Pataudi and Sharmila; the sister of Saif; and the sister-in-law of Kareena. She was in conversation with Jayant Kripalani, who has numerous movies and books to his credits. She even obliged the listeners with a few lines in fluent Bengali.

    (From Left) Soha Ali Khan, Jayant Kripalani

Day 4: 14th of January was a packed day with several sessions running simultaneously at the Max Mueller Bhavan, St Pauls Cathedral and the concluding event at the Indian Museum. The highlights of the day were:

  1. Nature Nurture: The degrading environment is very much a concern for our contemporary society. This session put forward the theory that one need not join long walks or give a lecture about the environment to instill the perception of saving the environment in people. It can be very subtle yet effectively done with the help of words.
  2. Sports and Governance: The Way Forward was an enriching session by Boria Majumdar, Justice Mukul Mudgal and Mr. Ashis Nandy. Sport is a field which cannot ever be looked beyond. Various sports-related essays, books, biopics have been written and thus it is inevitable that a session o Sports would not find a space at the AKLF.

    (From Left) Boria Majumdar, Justice Mukul Mudgal, Mr. Asish Nandy
  3. India @ 70: Towards Peace: a panel containing Mr. Ashis Nandy, Nayantara Sahgal, Kishwar Desai and Meghnad Desai; and moderated by Mr. Sanjeev Chopra marked the perfect conclusion to this much-awaited event. Held at the Indian Museum, it was the perfect setting to discuss India- its culture, heritage, peace resolutions, and policies. The concluding session began with an inspiring performance by Usha Uthup. This was followed by the panel and ended with a classical music performance.

AKLF18 was the perfect blend of environment, sports, theatre, social issues, and politics with literature. The literary world has a variety of genre, each pertaining to a specific audience or trying to convey its own thoughts. As they say, Pen is mightier than the Sword; the world of literature has the ability to shape minds and nurture the minds of the young. This is exactly what was upheld by the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival.

The fifth and the final day of the event pertained to the young minds who wanted to enter the field of entrepreneurship, journalism or event management. A series of enriching workshops organized at The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel was a boon for the young minds who are yet undecided about their careers. I will go into details about the workshops in my next post. For more details about the Festival, you can check out the official website here.

Nerolac IDEAZ: A World of Colours & Creativity

The 5th Edition of the Economic Times, Architecture and Design Summit, held at Park Plaza, Kolkata geared towards arming the audience with the revolutionary technologies in the field of interior decorations. A Blogger’s Engagement Programme was held as part of this Summit wherein they could interact and try a hands-on demo in using the new and improved paints by Nerolac.

Nerolac has been a leading business in the paint industry, providing some of the best quality paints over the years. This time it has outdone itself by associating emotions with the world of colors and paints. Colour is a very abstract term. As we saw throughout the programme that it hardly has a definition; but has many associations. For instance, Red is the color of anger, hatred, danger, love and what not. Similarly, each color is associated with an object or an emotion. This is how Nerolac decided to tap the perception of color for an individual and give it a new meaning when it came to decorating our homes with a riot of colors.

During the Summit,  Mr Rohit Goyal, Design Manager, Kansai Nerolac Paints made a short presentation, which highlighted its research objectives and results. Their aim was to portray the diversification of the Indian sub-continent through the colors that are used for decorating one’s home. During their study, a few characteristics of color preferences among Indian audience came to the forefront. India, being a country celebrating hundreds of festival across the states, tends to associate colors with culture. For instance, in the arid regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan, the houses are usually colored in the hues of light blues, pinks, beige and brown. In fact, many houses also have tribal drawings on the walls in white or black. This is a representation of their cultural ethos.

Further, being a tropical country, the people here prefer a warmer palette consisting of yellows, greens, and blues. This makes the interiors look larger, airy and improves ventilation. Moreover, color has started to become a definition of people. People are defined by what they choose to put on them, what color do they prefer, what color is their home/room and the like. In fact, it has become a reflection of their personalities, of late.

Thus, Nerolac had collected all these inspirations, stories, cultural perceptions and experiences revolving around the colors of India, to repackage them. Often, one looks towards the West for inspiration, but with the availability of local raw materials and inspiration from a land, this diverse; colors have been remodified to suit the needs of a contemporary Indian yet indigenous audience. Nerolac thus presented its new range of top coat designer finish colors called IDEAZ. The beauty of these colors is that though it takes a high drying time, it is non-drippy, easily removable (till not dried) and one can create their own designs and patterns using different household objects. Seven distinct palettes had been made for this purpose and they are :

  1. Masterpiece White
  2. Sunlight Bliss
  3. Urban Sense
  4. Exotic Escape
  5. Tropical Paradise
  6. Secret Garden
  7. Modern Monochrome
A Volunteer trying out the new range of paints.
Photo: Mr. Sagnik Karmakar

These designer paints come in various shades and are great colors to unleash your creativity into. In fact, after applying the top coat, one can play around trying to make designs on it with usual objects like a sponge, comb, cups, spoons and the like. Further, reverse painting is also applicable, where the color is directly applied to the tool and designs are created on an otherwise monochromatic background. A few volunteers from the audience were given a chance to test the properties of the paint and create a masterpiece of their own, giving everyone present a first-hand demo of the properties of this wonderful new addition to the world of Nerolac Paints.

Nerolac has been a pioneering industry when it comes to paints and the thought process and sheer research which went behind bringing out its latest range is truly commendable. With this new range, Nerolac hopes to give people the power to create their homes according to their preferences and do away with the trend of mundane wall colors by adding a bit of creativity and texture to it.

*Disclaimer: I would like to thank Kolkata Bloggers for giving me the opportunity to attend the Blogger’s Engagement Programme held during the 5th Edition of the Economic Times, Architecture and Design Summit at The Park Plaza, Kolkata on 8th December 2017. The photographs accompanying the post have been taken by Mr. Sagnik Karmakar.

An Evening with Shrabani Basu

Victoria and Abdul, written by Shrabani Basu has created a rage in the world of literature. Now a major motion picture, starring Judi Dench and Ali Fazal, the movie has won the hearts of the people; but more so it is the book which has attracted the many. Abdul was a young Indian servant, ‘gifted’ by the British jailor to the Queen as one of her Jubilee Presents.  Little did anyone fathom of the extraordinary relationship this mere servant would have with the Empress of India in the days to come.  You can read the full review of the book Victoria and Abdul, published by Bloomsbury here.

Two days ago when I received an e-mail from Bloomsbury that Shrabani Basu would be launching Victoria and Abdul in Kolkata, it did not take me a second to decide that I would be joining the event. So, there I was at Oxford Bookstores today, at 5 pm, watching the master story-teller unveil the book herself. The session started with a trailer of the movie and was followed by a short presentation by Basu, on the storyline and her research.  The session was moderated by Sujata Sen, CEO Future Hope and the Chief Guest for the evening was Mr. Bruce Bucknell, British Deputy High Commissioner in Kolkata.

From Left (Sharabani Basu, Bruce Bucknell, Sujata Sen)
Photo: @fict.scoop

Basu was not only the author of the book but had played the role of a consultant throughout the movie. The tremendous amount of research that she conducted to bring alive the story of an era gone by is indeed commendable. She went through the length and breadth of the UK and India to discover journals, memoirs, diaries, letters and anything that would help her in authenticating the novel. Given that Edward the Seventh had actually burnt down all letters exchanged between Victoria and Abdul, it was indeed tough to find authentic material to substantiate the research and put it to paper. In fact, the research alone took around four years.

Nevertheless, all the hard work has indeed paid off when the world has witnessed the story of a vibrant character like Abdul, who was completely wiped off from the map of the world. The story also highlights the character of the  Queen. She was opined to be strict, bossy, ruthless and ugly. But in fact, because of Shrabani Basu, the world now knows her as a lonely, broken woman behind the veil of utmost power who was tormented by loneliness, monarchial pressures, and a broken family. Having remained a widow for over four decades she found solace in her friendship with Abdul. The young servant, on the other hand, was proud, arrogant, and maybe a bit bossy but was equally humble and caring. In fact, he returned to India as a broken man after the Queen’s death and maintained a dignified silence on the whole issue till his own death.

The evening saw a holistic discussion of the book and the floor was open to the audience for a Q/A session. One question which stayed imprinted on my mind was asked by Sujata Sen, “At which moment did the book become a film?“. To which the author promptly replied, ” As soon as it was published.”  As always, an eventful session was followed by the book signing session and what better than getting the book signed by her!

For me, it was a wonderful evening.  I would like to thank Bloomsbury for inviting and giving me an opportunity to be a part of something so amazing. Further, such events taking place in Kolkata would be a great answer to those critics so often comment that ‘all good events take place in other cities‘. Moreover, the chance to meet my fellow bookstagrammers-  Aditi, Mridula, Aritri, Chandrima, Priya was something that I would thoroughly cherish.

Yours truly getting her book signed.
Photo: Asif

Boi Toi Khabar Dabar: An Initiative by Gulmohar Resources

Early November, Gulmohar Resources embarked on a unique initiative called: Boi Toi Khabar Dabar (BTKD) . Preparations for the event had begun sometime back. From conceptualizing the event by Paroma Sengupta, founder of Gulmohar Resources; to designing an interesting invitation graphic by Manasij Dutta all added to the flavour of hosting this unique event which culminated on the 5th of November.

About Gulmohar Resources:

Gulmohar is an initiative that works on creating locale specific educational material through the use of stories, poems, games and theatre.It also takes keen interest in trying to save the already dying environment by adopting eco-friendly methods in going about its resource developments. You can know more about Gulmohar through its blog  and Instagram Page .

About Boi Toi Khabar Dabar:

Books assembled for exchanging

BTKD was a one-of-its kind event curated by Gulmohar. It was an event where book lovers gathered together to exchange old books that they would no longer require, wrapped in newspapers; to maintain the level of surprise among the audience. The guests talked about books, literature, poetry, environment, social causes and anything that they wanted to talk about. Then there was a book exchange session where one could pick up a book or two. . .three. . .four and ultimately  the gathering concluded with lovely home-made vanilla cakes, pasta and the ever-present Bangali Cha! Participants who attended the event came from all walks of life- college-goers, IT professionals, bankers and social workers. The discussions began with an introduction of the participants and then moved straight onto books, poetry, favourite authors, poets, contemporary and classical literature and much more. Many present were associated with social causes and they spoke about their initiatives as well. The participants were given postcards, Gulmohar Resources Illustrated Books and bookmarks in brilliantly made paper bags by Anushka. A donation box was also conceptualized where the guests contributed and the proceeds of which would be used to purchase books for the children of All Bengal Women’s Union.

Stills from the event I *(From Left: Paroma Di, Altaf , Monishita)

The key takeaway from the event was to meet like-minded people and talk about the joy of reading. Every individual has a different reading habit or a different genre that they favour. It was wonderful to hear such people talk so passionately about their preferences in books and why were they so. In fact, apart from books, I am sure most left the venue making a mental note a long list of books that would add to their list of To-Be-Read soon.

Who Participated?

Being a small event and the first of its kind, we had around 15 participants- Paroma Di and her mother; Anushka (researcher at JU and a fellow Volunteer at Share Stories Open Minds); Prosenjit Da and Altaf; Monishita, Ravi, Priya (fellow Xavierians); Smita Di;  Nayani Aunty ; Debjani Ma’am; Neha; Sayan and Suman Da. (Not counting Yours Truly in the list)

The Feedback:

Gulmohar was overwhelmed with the responses and feedback it garnered through the event. Prosenjit Da commented, “It was wonderful to meet so many people who are passionate about books as well as social causes! Thanks to all who organised it. The Pasta was to die for, by the way!’’ Many who could not attend the event for various reasons had also extended their warm wishes and good luck for the event.

The organisers hope to be able to bring out a Second edition of BTKD soon. If you would like to know more about this initiative, you can stay connected to them through their blog and Instagram accounts. Here is a report of the event on their blog. Alternately, you can also stay connected to regular updates through my Instagram and Twitter Profiles.  Do leave a comment if you liked this initiative and would like to be invited for the next edition (NOTE: This is open to residents of Kolkata only)

Dr Will Tuttle Speaks on Veganism in Kolkata

Mankind has degraded the land and life in their environment through lethal weapons. Yet there remains a fair chance of trying to correct the wrong by making small differences and leading a healthy life. One such small difference is welcoming veganism. Veganism is a specialised form of food habits within the purview of vegetarianism. Here, one not only gives up meat but also gives up dairy products and by products, leather, honey and all forms of products which are derived from the animals. To enlighten the people more about the concept of Veganism, The City of Joy hosted the acclaimed Vegan philosopher, Dr Will Tuttle and his wife Madeleine, early November. They discussed about Veganism, eating healthy, his much acclaimed book, World Peace Diet and lots more in a completely packed auditorium at the International Management Institute, Kolkata.

What is Veganism?

Veganism is based on the principle which translates to the meaning “to seek an end to the use of animals by man for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and by all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man”. Vegans eat a lot of tasty foods. Their diets primarily comprise seeds, grains, beans, nuts, vegetables especially leafy ones and fruits. A direct effect of veganism falls on the medicines that are prescribed . Veganism, by no means is against prescribed medicines; however it looks forward to medicines which are not tested on animals and are not made up of lactose or gelatine. Vegans also do not support zoos and aquariums, but they do stand by animal adoption, sanctuaries and shelter homes where animals are taken good care of.

About Dr Tuttle:

Dr Tuttle with his wife Photo Courtesy: Mr Shubhasish Ghosh

Dr. Tuttle is an American visionary, author, educator, and inspirational speaker. He is the author of Amazon #1 best-seller The World Peace Diet , which has been published in 16 languages. He is also a recipient of the Courage of Conscience Award as well as The Empty Cages Award, among many others. He has created and curated several training programmes. In fact, VeganPalooza, the largest online Vegan event has been gifted to the world by him. Dr Tuttle has been featured in many documentaries like Cowspiracy, Vegan: Everyday Stories, Hope for All and others. A former Zen monk and a Dharma Master in the Korean Zen tradition, he has created eight CD albums of uplifting original piano music. With his spouse Madeleine, a Swiss visionary artist, he presents extensively throughout North America and worldwide at college campuses, spiritual centres, conferences; and peace, social justice, animal protection, health, and environmental gatherings.

His Indian Tour:

Photograph taken during Dr Tuttle’s program in Kolkata with the City Hosts . Photo Courtesy: Mr Shubhasish Ghosh

Dr Tuttle had come to India during late October and early November and gave a series of inspirational talks in major cities like New Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Mangalore, Surat, Pune and others. Each of his talks were attended by hundreds of people. This highlights the fact that society is slowly becoming conscious of the concept of Veganism and is trying to find its way into adopting a healthier lifestyle. A full list of his scheduled talks can be found here . In Kolkata, he and his wife were hosted by Mr Shankar Narayan  and Mr Shubhashis Ghosh . From sharing his own experiences on being a Vegan since the 1980’s to talking about the positive aspects of veganism, Dr Tuttle enthralled the audience for over two hours.

Scepticism Regarding Veganism:

Many are a little sceptical regarding the kind of nutrition that the body gets if one adopts veganism. This is because meat is a rich source of protein. As vegetarians do not consume meat, they derive their proteins and a major portion of their nutrition from cereals and dairy products. But with the giving up of dairy products the question which haunts people is how they would derive the necessary nutrients for the body. The answer to this question lies in an in-depth analysis of Veganism and its advantages.

If you want to delve deeper into Veganism:

In fact, if you are interested to learn more about Veganism, you can definitely join the Facebook Group and keep in touch with fellow vegans. To keep in touch with Dr Tuttle you can always subscribe to his website or contact him through the form here . You would also be able to keep yourself up-to-date with his various tours and travel itineraries and be able to listen to him live if you happen to be in the same place.

Do tell me what you think of the concept of Veganism. If you are a Vegan yourself, then do enlighten me a little more from your personal experiences.

*Disclaimer: I was asked to cover the Vegan Awareness event held in Kolkata by the city host Mr Shubhashish Ghosh.

Here’s why you should watch Byomkesh on Hoichoi . . .

Byomkesh Bakshi has been recreated innumerable times on screen. But Hoichoi App has given it a twist by creating Byomkesh for a younger and a global audience through a web series. Today, most of the information and entertainment are consumed by digital platforms; thus the idea of blending the old and the new to appeal to the next generation audience worked quite well with the viewers of Bengal Digital Content on Hoichoi. Quite truly put forward by the makers of the series that the originality of the storyline penned down by Sharadindu Bhattacharya can hardly be modified; but the freshness to the character has been brought about by changes in the mannerisms and behavioural patterns of Byomkesh. The web series is progressing successfully after having launched two of its episodes. Each episode is gripping than the last and has a lasting impression on the audience.

Cast:

Byomkesh- Anirban Bhattacharya

Ajit: Subrat Dutta

Satyabati: Ridhima Ghosh

Directed by : Sayantan Ghoshal

A Still from Episode 1

Episode 1: Inspired by ‘Satyaneshi’ and ‘Pother Kanta’

The first episode of the web series was an introductory episode to re-establish the image of a man named Byomkesh Bakshi. Despising both the terms Detective and Investigator, he likes to call himself Satyaneshi or The Truth Seeker.  Episode 1 was a merger of two well- known stories – Satyaneshi and Pother Kanta. While Satyaneshi was too fast paced and ended within minutes, Pother Kanta being a longer story gave the audience more time to imbibe the nuances of this intellectual truth seeker.

Byomkesh, from the first scene appeared to be reserved, calm and quiet and a great observer. His observation skills made it easier to listen to people and objects thereby recreating entire incidents in his mind. His keen ability to take note of the tiniest information, which otherwise one would preferred to ignore and link them to a greater bad is commendable.  While he takes on a drug mafia and a contract killer, who kills through an innovative way, Ajit his faithful friend is always by his side. He adds a much needed comic relief after some gory scenes of murder or theft. It is usually noticed that no detective story is complete without the faithful side-kick and here Ajit fits brilliantly in the role.

Since the setting is that of old Calcutta, care had to be taken to create the ambience, sets, costumes and even make-up adhering to the norms of that time. The challenge lay in the fact that even after adhering to old Calcutta norms, the director had to introduce something modern to attract viewership. This newness was well brought about by the music , especially at high points and during the well-choreographed action scenes which were in sync with the adrenaline pumping music.

A Still from Episode 2

Episode 2: Inspired by ‘Makorshar Rosh’ and ‘Arthamanartham’

In the second episode Byomkesh is seen as the leading investigator in the murder of a wealthy elderly citizen while also figuring out the means of smuggling in the spider’s juice for substance abuse.

Contrary to his nature, Byomkesh is seen to be very restless and agitated in the beginning leading the audience to wonder the secret behind his agitated demeanour which is quite opposite to his usual nature. He shifts onto investigating the murder scene where small and subtle evidences are picked up by him which evades the eyes of the police inspector on duty. Collating these seemingly unsubstantial evidences does Byomkesh solve a case more twisted than it normally met the eyes. Throughout the episode the police versus detective dichotomy prevailed where the former tried to establish his superiority as against the later; but successfully failing each time.

Still: A hesitant marriage proposal

The episode ended with a much needed relief, in the form of a romantic proposal where he, like any other gentleman, hesitated to propose the lady love in his life. This highlights that not only is Byomkesh an epitome of intellectual brilliance but he also has an emotional shade to his character.

With Byomkesh now entering into the role of a husband and a lover apart from being a Satyaneshi, it would be interesting to see how the web series progresses in the following episodes. The latest episode of Byomkesh would release exclusively on the Hoichoi App on the 11th of November. For more information regarding the App and its subscription models, the official website can be looked up.

Photograph Courtesy: Hoichoi App.

Disclaimer: I am thankful to Kolkata Bloggers to give me this opportunity to review the first two episodes of Byomkesh.

 

 

INFOSEC GLOBAL 2017: Combating Cyber Crime

Cyber-crime is that coiling invisible serpent which has found its way to the digital domain. As it is not substantial like a theft or a murder and since people are less aware of it; not much thought is being given to mobilise and make the public armed with tools to combat it. Cyber-crime may affect the society in various levels- personal, business and government and security. Thus, one needs to be armed in all three levels to be able to combat this growing terror in the society. One of the first steps to generate awareness regarding cyber –crime was undertaken by the INFOSEC GLOBAL 2017. This non-profit organisation initiated a platform which brought together individuals, government officials, police and other respective stakeholders, for the first time in Kolkata, to discuss and seek solutions for the various aspects of cyber-crime.

Held on the 3rd of November, 2017 at The Park Hotel, the INFOSEC GLOBAL 2017 saw an array of speakers like Dr Sanjay Bahl, Mr Debashis Sen, Ms Rama Vedashree, Mr Bratya Basu and Mr Hari Kusumakar who analyzed topics like ‘Cyber Security Readiness for Digital India’, ‘Creating Next Generation Cyber Warriors’; ‘Digital Forensics’, ‘Opportunities in Cyber Space’ and various other existing and emerging scope of cyber-crime and cyber security measures.

According to Mr Sushobhan Mukherjee, Chairman INFOSEC Foundation, the platform initiated a ‘cross-connect’ of people from different verticals who came together to ‘share knowledge, ideas and problems.’ He focussed on the fact that the ‘main problem is not about technology, but ignorance and over-confidence’ shown by the people. Today, anyone with a laptop and knowledge of social media or the internet calls himself a pro in cyberspace. But this is only the tip of the iceberg and he is entirely ignorant about the dangers of cyber space in his self-proclaimed overconfidence, with the limited knowledge that he has acquired. Thus, the primary step would be to make sure that ‘relevant information could reach relevant people.’

IPS (Retd) and Former Governor of Nagaland, Mr Shyamal Dutta, focussed on statistics to show how vulnerable India is as a whole to the threats of cyber security. Very correctly put forward by him was the mind-set of the people that is tuned to respond and recharge after the catastrophe has already hit, instead of aiming for its prevention in the first place. He focused on the amalgamation of private and public sector to fight against cyber-crime by maintaining a ‘digital balance of power’.

Mr Debashis Sen explains Block Chain Technology during the meeting with the Media

Mr Debashis Sen, Additional Chief Secretary IT, Government of West Bengal discussed that cyber-crime is ‘an opportunity and West Bengal Government is thinking of harnessing it in a useful manner’. He focussed on the requirement of a centre for a specialized mode of training, which according to plans would be set up soon in Rajarhat, Kolkata. It would aim at spreading education, skills and leadership to deal with the vices of the dark cyberspace. He stressed on a ‘firm partnership between the private sector and the government.’ Mr Sen went on to enlighten the audience regarding an in-house laboratory with a panel of internal experts to develop resources that can fight against the vacuum caused by growing cyber-attacks and comparatively lesser weapons against it. Another important aspect which he focused in details was the idea of alternative methods to make cyber-attacks difficult through block chain, cryptocurrency, bitcoin and the likes.

Block chain is a method of keeping registrations in distributed mechanism so that it is very difficult to hack it. Whenever you store in the State Data Centre or the National Data Centre, any person can break the firewall and get into the system. But in a block chain technology, the whole data is basically distributed amongst thousands and thousands of people and there is a public key and a private key and it is encrypted. So it is virtually impossible for anyone to make any changes in the database. It is this invincibility of this database that is being used in very innovative uses. – Mr Debashis Sen

Mr Vineet Goyal pointed out that nowadays, anyone with a mobile phone enters the cyber space. With a rough estimate of 300 million illiterates in India, who own a phone and have already entered the cyber space domain; how would people with no basic knowledge cope up with cyber-attacks? This is a challenge thrown at the Government which it has to take care of with the help of research institutions, businesses, and cyber security experts. One of the burning issues put forward by him was ‘Can the industry create a product that delivers this education to anyone who enters the cyber domain? ‘

Dr Sanjay Bahl addressing the audience

Chief Guest Dr Sanjay Bahl, Director General, Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (ICERT) deliberated on the current scenario of India vis-à-vis combatting cyber-attacks. He highlighted that risks are a part and parcel of the cyber space and it cannot be ignored, avoided or outsourced. In his Keynote Address he spoke about the various different ways in which the ICERT trains individuals to take necessary steps during a cyber-attack. Some of these steps include, The Cyber Security Act, Cyber Crisis Management Plan, Cyber Security Drills and special workshops and training.

INFOSEC 2017 brought together experts from various fields on the same platform to deliberate on combatting measures against cyber attacks. With  new and advanced emerging technologies everyday, no one method is holistic enough to fight against cyber-crime. In fact, these methods themselves need to be regularly reviewed, monitored, updated and improved in order to suit the needs of the types of the cyber-crimes occurring throughout. With this conference, INFOSEC aims to enlighten the general public in the burning issues, so that they are aware of the cyber-attacks, and know that the Government, police, private sector and educational institutions are all beside them in this battle. Thus if you remotely suspect that you are becoming a victim of cyber-crime, then do contact your nearest police station or cyber-crime expert teams to help you deal with this grave offence. To know more about INFOSEC and its undertaking, please do visit their official website.

Swad Sanskriti Brings Together Food, History Culture and People

Food forms an important aspect in culture building. When we talk of the culture of a particular place or a region, apart from the society, its practices and traditions, we never miss to mention food as an integral part of the conversation. The history and culture of a place has a profound impact on the culinary tastes of the people . Prosenjit Paul comments, “Well,the British exiled Wajid Ali Shah to Kolkata from Lucknow! And he brought his cooks who introduced Lucknow Biriyani to Kolkata. And due to paucity of funds, and availability of cheap potatoes, the present day Kolkata biriyani was born! Now exiled Bongs clamour for Calcutta style Biriyanis wherever they go in this world, and eateries/chains like Calcutta Kitchen (Delhi)/Calcutta Cabin (Bangalore)/Calcutta Street in London and many more!!” However, often food and culture are seen as different entities. According to Prantik Sengupta, “The cultural ethos and history of a place is not influenced by the gastronomic habits and preferences of the people, because both are distinct entities and neither depend upon the other for existence.” This is a debate which can go on forever like the age-old question of Who came first The Egg or the Hen?Whether food and culture are related or not is for you to opine. But to assist you in opinion building, Swad Sanskriti would be launching its innovative concept.

It will be inaugurated by The Hon’ble Minister of Culture, Government of India Dr Mahesh Sharma Organised by The Food and Beverage Buzz magazine. Swad Sanskriti, is a celebration of food, culture and philosophy.  It will be held on the 26th of November 2017 at The Radisson Blu, Paschim Vihar (Saphire 1&2), New Delhi from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm.

Every delicacy has a strong reflection of the region it has been prepared in. Subtle differences in the methods of making or the ingredients used give it a completely different flavor.
Photo Courtesy: Swad Sanskriti

Curated by Dr Ashish Chopra, well-known culinary historian, TV Host, Author and Senior Consulting Editor of Food and Beverage Buzz magazine, Swad Sanskriti as the event will look into exploring the wisdom of our cultural philosophy through food that has shaped Indian history and which today has become the identification factor for us Indians. As Paroma Sengupta opines, “History and culture affects the food of a place. For instance, if there are Parsi settlers in a particular place then the food in that area will have a Parsi influence. Similarly, Mughals in a particular place means Mughlai food.”  Rimbik Das focuses that “both [culture and food] can work simultaneously”, influencing each other throughout its evolution. From time immemorial it has been stated that without exploring and discovering the past, the future cannot be successfully harnessed. Thus, Mr Pawan Agrawal, Chief Executive Officer of Ocean Media Private Limited, that publishes Food and Beverage Buzz, says, “Understanding our past is imperative to understand our present food habits. So, how do we come to an elaborate understanding of our cultural habits? These are some of the questions that we will look at exploring through these events.”

Destined to be one of the first conclaves of many to come, Swad Sanskriti will host the theme of Cultural Gastronomy and Diversity in its first chapter. It will explore the diversity and unity of Indian Food and how its influence has helped develop and evolve Indian culture. To discuss some key issues that pertain to Indian culinary heritage, Swad Sanskriti will bring together eminent stalwarts from various food verticals including Chefs, Hoteliers, Restaurateurs, Food Historians, Anthropologists, Researchers, FMCG, food packaging industry, representatives from the Dairy companies, E-retailers and Food app companies among others.  Shuvam Manna says that, “Food is definitely an influence on the history and culture of the place and vice versa. There’s the notion of how people who love to eat are content with their food and peace-loving, thus the diverse the cuisine is, the better the chance of a place to maintain peace. Next how cuisine is AN integral part of a culture of a place, and so if the food had not been good, the place would’ve had a bad reputation among foodies, thus hampering tourism, even if that’s to a small extent.”  This proves that food as a subject or research in an interdisciplinary one. All other disciplines like history, geography, logic, philosophy, psychology goes into the thought process behind the food of every region. Each dish has an associated history with its inception and evolution. Rummaging through the past would give answer to numerous such questions which would lead us to rediscover our culinary preferences in contemporary times Vis-a Vis their older versions.

Photo Courtesy: Swad Sankriti

The advisory board of Swad Sanskriti  includes eminent personas from the field of culinary studies, history and culture. Some of the members are, SK Misra, IAS (retd.), Chairperson, Indian Trust for Rural Heritage and Development, Pradyot Manikya Deb Burman (Maharaja, state of Tripura), Pramoda Devi Wadiyar (Rajmata, Royal family of Mysuru),Pushpraj Singh (Maharaja, Rewa, Madhya Pradesh),Jose Dominic, CEO, CGH Earth Group, Rakesh Mathur (Former President, Welcom Heritage by ITC group), Sanjeev Pahwa (Sr. Vice President, South Asia, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group),Chef Rakesh Sethi, Corporate Executive Chef, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, Steve Borgia, Chairman & Managing Director of INDeco Leisure Hotels, B.R. Oberoi aka Diamond Oberoi (Chairman, Elgin Hotels), Pritha Sen (Food Anthropologist) and Dr Pushpesh Pant (Food Historian & Critic).

Ms Urvashi Jaahnvi Agrawal, Editor-in-Chief of Food and Beverage Buzz magazine says, ““Swad Sanskriti isn’t just about discovering the culture of food and taste, it is a platform to bring together food lovers and those who are always excited about experimenting with different combination of ingredients.” If you are a patron of good food and would love to discover its evolution and future along with playing with new flavours and ingredients, then Swad Sanskriti is the event to look forward to. There is no better way to strike a conversation with people than the one happening over food. You can check out their official website for more details on Swad Sankriti.

Photographs Courtesy: Swad Sanskriti

INFOSEC Spreads Cyber Security Awareness through International Summit in Kolkata

In today’s age, with the rapid advancement of the internet, one cannot be too careful regarding the digital platform. Along with the boons of the digital landscape, comes in the vices of such an open platform. This has paved way for cyber-crimes to take place all over the world. In fact, the recent occurrence of the NHS security hacking in the UK is one of the major cyber-crimes of the year. The old proverb is not unheard of, ‘with great power comes great responsibilities.’ Similarly when you venture out into the digital landscape; a certain amount of knowledge of cyber security is beneficial for you. This immense need of the hour has also been identified by the youth. Arjyak Bhattacharya from The Heritage Institute, Kolkata comments “In the digital world we live in today, cyber security is even more crucial to protect yourself than any physical security system to keep you from harm. Quite simple, almost all of us have every aspect of our private identities out on the World Wide Web, and without protection we are sitting ducks against a million kinds of cyber-crimes which could ruin our lives.

Much that we do talk about cyber security being the need of the hour not much action has been taken to make the general public aware of its tools and resources. In fact, Surya Shekhar Chakravorty from VIT Vellore states, “It’s [cyber security] something grossly underappreciated in our country; there is barely any coverage of data breaches. It’ll do us good as a society if we worry less about how a song by an Internet troll can be interpreted, and worry more about giving permissions to stupid apps on FB to check Which Friend Should Date You. If we are bothered by our parents peeping into our phones, why shouldn’t we be bothered by absolute strangers who get permissions to literally read our messages?” This is precisely why the INFOSEC Foundation has taken a brilliant initiative in this sphere by organising The International INFOSEC Summit 2017. Deemed to be Eastern India’s largest Information Security Summit, it will be held at THE PARK, KOLKATA, on November 3, 2017 from 9 AM to 6 PM. The theme for the Summit is Information Security in Digital India – Threat, Challenges and Opportunities. There is an exciting list of speakers who would be speaking on the various aspects of cyber security. If you are interested to attend the event kindly contact the organisers here .

Cyber Security being an International concern and quite a few countries being involved in extensive research, product generation, treatises and the like; the Summit provides them a good opportunity to get together and initiate dialogues pertaining to the current issues and ways to solve them. Speakers from countries like Singapore, Bangladesh, United States and Europe would be taking part in this summit. Among the many supporters of this initiative are DSCI, NASSCOM, Kolkata Police,West Bengal Government and The Government of Bangladesh. Dr. Gulshan Rai, CISO, Govt. of India is expected to be the Chief Guest at the program. The agenda also includes the launch of the First Cyber Security Helpline with the police.

Glimpses from last year’s INFOSEC SUMMIT

The International INFOSEC Summit would bear witness to an amalgamation of around 300 individuals from different arenas – CIOs, CEOs / IT Heads of Midsized  organizations, Govt. officials, Police, CID, Cyber Security Experts, Cyber Law experts, Policy Makers from India, Singapore, Bangladesh, Start-ups and Academia. The program content is designed for leaders in the domain of Information Security, Data Security and IT Infrastructure. Some of the eminent sessions include Cyber Economics, Creating Next Generation Cyber Warriors, Digital Forensics, Cyber Security Initiatives in Bangladesh, and more.

The Summit will have speakers like Dr Sanjay Bahl (Director General, Indian Computer Emergency Response Team-ICERT), Shri Bratya Basu (MIC-IT, Govt of West Bengal), Rajeev Kumar (IPS, CP – Kolkata Police),Vineet Goel (IPS, CISO-Govt of West Bengal), Hari Kusumakar (IPS- ADDL CP IV), Rama Vedashree (DSCI-NASSCOM), Dr B M Mehtre (IDRBT), Col Inderjeet Singh  (SmartCity Expert, Ex- Director-Military Intelligence at the Ministry of Defence), Dipanwita Roychowdhury (IIT Kharagpur) and others.

Siddhartha Das  from KIIT, Bhuvaneshwar comments, “Cyber Security means to me secure browsing, access to required information without being snooped on and having to answer questions about why I need such information. In this age of information, when almost everything is available on the internet, and people access the same for information/knowledge, cyber security is absolutely necessary to protect the privacy of users.” Rightly so, no matter how public the digital domain has become, an individual has to remain as private and secure as he/she wants to be. An individual has the right to disseminate information and also hold it back when necessary. Thus, cyber-security is important in contemporary society and especially among the youth, multinational companies, start-ups, IT sector and Data Science sectors who channelize their communication mostly through the internet.

The International INFOSEC Summit is expected to provide the much desired platform for experts, students and others related to this field to come together and share a common zeal and exchange ideas towards living in a society which is aware of and has the right means and knowledge to secure itself from the undesired cyber-attacks.

If you want to register yourself as an attendee, please do it here. I am sure you would leave the venue with knowledge , network and ideas to give you food for thought for the forthcoming days.

Byomkesh Bakshi Creates Hoichoi Online

When you talk about Bengali Literature and that too thrillers and mysteries, one of the leading characters is Byomkesh Bakshi , the brainchild of  Saradindu  Chattopadhyay. According to a famous quotation by Bakshi, he calls himself Satyanveshi or the Truth Seeker. Numerous adaptations of Byomkesh Bakshi on big and small screen has still kept the enigma and charm of this age-old character alive. Adding to this list is the  Byomkesh  Bakshi  web series launched by the only Bengali originals, movies and songs streaming Application –Hoichoi – by Shri Venkatesh Films.

I was recently invited to the launch of  the  Hoichoi  Originals  Byomkesh  Bakshi  on the 13th of October at Park Hotel where the trailer and the first episode were screened especially for the  media. The event also gave us the chance to interact with the cast and director of this series.

Director Sayantan Ghosal addresses the audience.
Photo Courtesy: Tanmoy Biswas

The name of Anirban Bhattacharya, who plays the ace sleuth, has been added to the list of names like Abir Chatterjee, Sushant Singh Rajput and others who have amicably pulled off playing the titular roles in various adaptations of the character. According to Sayantan Ghosal the director of the series, the aura of Byomkesh lies in his crime solving abilities and his perception of the world beyond the distinct Blacks and Whites. He added further, that the storyline could hardly be modified; but the real challenge was to present it in a web series format which attracted the youth as well as make slight modifications in the behaviours and mannerisms of Byomkesh to suit the storyline among contemporary audience. Actor  Anirban  Bhattacharya  accepted  that he certainly felt the pressure of playing a much-loved and renowned character on screen. But he was also extremely happy and proud to know the fact that in times to come when people will recall the actors who played Byomkesh, they would count him too.

The trailer seemed promising. It was followed by the first episode which would be available on the Hoichoi App from 14th October onwards but was exclusively premiered for the media on the 13th itself. The episode was an amalgamation of two stories- Satyanveshi and Pother Kanta. The episode is fast paced. It has some adrenaline pumping action sequences performed by Bhattacharya with high scoring contemporary music. Mimoh , the music director for the series has indeed done a brilliant job in bringing out the character and the flavour of the series through its background score. Ajit, played by Subrat Dutta adds the much needed comic breaks throughout the episode. The director has kept in mind that it is a period series and has arranged the situations accordingly in terms of location, sets, props etc. The only visible newness would be in terms of the background score and gestures and postures of Byomkesh. Since, the App aims to reach out to the global audience; there is provision of subtitles as well. On the whole, The First Episode was quite gripping and I would recommend all my friends to download the App and watch it. The second episode is scheduled to release on the 21st of October on Hoichoi.

Anirban Bhattacharya who plays the titular role talking to the Media.
Photo Courtesy: Tanmoy Biswas

Hoichoi is the first of its kind exclusive Bengali International digital content screening platform.  It is headed by SVF Co-Founder Vishnu Mohta. The best part of Hoichoi is that is available for downloading among all major electronic devices- Computer, Laptops, Mobiles etc. It supports Android and Apple and can be downloaded from Play store or I-store respectively. Its portability options provide for great new series, music and movies straight in your pockets. So, if you are tired of waiting for a delayed flight, what better way to spend your time than by watching an episode of Byomkesh Bakshi on Hoichoi originals?

If you want to know more about the Hoichoi App , please visit their official website here. Hoichoi is the maiden Bengali digital content streaming App and it should be explored and appreciated for its ventures. As we Bangali’s often put it across to encourage something new, it would  be a great boost to the morale of the entire team if we support it and say #Hoyejak Hoichoi.