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.

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.

 

Throwback to Durga Pujo 2017

Having spent two Durga Pujos in Manchester, I was really looking forward to this year. Little did I know that it would be the best one till date. My Pujo had been restricted to South Calcutta for a long time, but it was time to break boundaries and enjoy like never before. As I write this blog post, I hear the Dhakis for the last time this year, beating their instruments to glory during the Sindur Kheyla at the neighbourhood pandals. Their beats reflecting on the good-byes for this year, and strengthening the hope and anticipation for the Sharodotsab next year.  Here are my highlights for Durga Pujo 2017.

Tritiya

I would never forget my Xavier’s Gang. You would find people who are personifications of emotions- Sweet, Composed, Talkative, Caring, Practical, Understanding. So, 8 of us set out on Tritiya afternoon to explore the pandals of North Calcutta. Our first destination was Kumartully Sarbojanin. They replicated the ISKCON temple at Brindavan and their idol was a feast to see. However, we were not allowed to enter as the inauguration ceremony had not yet taken place.

Kumartully Sarbojanin Park

From there we went on to witness the Maheeshmati Palace from Bahubali at Sreebhoomi Sporting Complex. It was beautifully decorated with lights, chandeliers and intricate wall works. (Confession: I have not seen the movies so I cannot say how beautifully it was replicated. But I liked what I saw! )

Our last pandal for the day was Salt Lake FD Block , which again had not yet opened for the public but we were allowed to have a glimpse of it from outside. The last destination for the day was Kix at City Centre 1. What followed was history and should best not find mention in this blog! Nevertheless, Monishita, Shayari, Anindita, Poulami, Survi, Ravi and Suman Da – this was one epic day out and I hope it happens every year after.

US

Chaturthi

I woke up to a Sunny Sunday morning, got ready and stepped out of my house for Pujo Parikrama. We had reserved this day for touring the South Calcutta Pandals. Deshapriya Park was our first destination. After wreaking havoc with 110 feet idols and 1000 hand idols, Deshapriya settled for a beautiful Japanese Wat . The pandal was pearl white and glowed when sunlight fell on it. Tridhara, startled the visitors with its pandal. It was decorated with birds and bats made of paper and huge sky scraper like structures made out of empty boxes.

Tridhara

Metal was the theme of Ballygunge Cultural and it brilliantly adhered to giving each idol privacy by building them in separate compartments.

#ashlopujo #ashlopujomymoments #ashlopujo1stlook #ballygungecultural

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Samaj Sebi, had been in the news since Mahalaya due to its Longest Alpona which made it to the Limca Book of Records;  and its designer dress , designed by Tejas Gandhi.

Samaj sebi #ashlopujo #ashlopujomymoments #ashlopujo1stlook #kolkatapujo #festivalseason

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After stopping briefly at the Dakshinee Sangha , we headed on to Hindusthan Park. I must say it came as a surprise. The pandal beautifully decorated in myriad hues reminded me of the Incas of the past.

Hindusthan Park

By now it was time for lunch and what best than stopping at Oudh 1590. My personal tip is try their Galawti Kebab and Aam Ras. They are amazing!  After lunch we headed on to Kasba where we saw the Bosepukur pandal. It was time to call it a day. I had gone on a marathon Pandal hopping after a long time. The heat of the sun had been wonderfully ignored and the enthusiasm to celebrate Pujo after two years swiftly took over. Thank You Bulu Da and Suman Da , without you guys, this would not have been possible.

Panchami

Samya is my self-proclaimed husky-lover best friend. An early start at 10 am to visit the Suruchi Pandal and then proceeding towards visiting the Behala Pandals was on charts for the day. We were joined by my college friend Sudarshana and Suman Da (he’s not a college friend). Sudarshana coming from Behala knew the place better than any of us. She was our guide for the day and took us to Barisha Club, SBI Park, Behala Friends and Nutun Dol. We stopped for lunch at The Eye Within Club and went to chill at the Rabindra Sarovar Lake. And Yes, even made a long distance call to Anirban Da who is now in the States for his IVLP Program. You can know more about his programme here.

Suruchi
Barisha
SBI Park

Behala pujo #durgapuja #durgapujo #calcuttapujowalks #pujoshots #pujoofinstagram

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Sasthi

I took a day –off from Pandal hopping and immersed myself into some left over work and a story book.

Saptami

Saptami can be described best as travelling from one part of the city to the other. We started at Mudiali and Shib Mandir; then went straight onto Naktala. Naktala impressed me a lot. Their theme was 3D and yes the pandal was so cool that I think it had AC in it. We stopped to have lunch at Dalhousie and called it a day after that.

Mudiali

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Asthami

Yes, I missed Onjoli! Please don’t think of me as a sinner. Even though I missed Onjoli I did not miss the Bhog. The best part was that I had a friend to accompany me, who by chance I found out had work duty near my house. Nagendra and I had met at NASSCOM and became good friends. After lunch, I took the metro to Shobabazaar where I was joined by Monishita and Teetan. We visited the Shobhabazaar Rajbari (My first ever Bonedi Bari Pujo) and the Jagat Mukherjee Park. JMP had made a submarine pandal with special effects and I so wanted to see it this time. A quick stop at McDonald’s Mani Square and I was back at the customary Maddox Square. Maddox had been the centre of Adda for ages. After a  chance meeting with Arjyak my friend,  my friends and I headed out for dinner.

Shobabazaar Raajbari

Nabami

A lunch plan at Mocambo got spoilt by looking at the queue which would have allowed us to enter the restaurant around two days later, at the earliest. Instead, we went to KFC , after a long time. Monishita and I, had both expressed our desire to go to KFC the last day and it was heard by the Goddess a little sooner than we expected. We headed out to Jodhpur Park where we were joined by Rushati, Sagereeka and Suman Da. We saw 95 Pally which was themed around the principles of Buddhism and its sound vibrations. The pandal was so designed that each structure moved swiftly creating a beautiful and peaceful sound. The Pandal at the Jodhpur Park Sporting complex was too colourful and at some point hit the eyes. Selimpore Pally and Babubagan were next in line and they were pleasant pandals to visit.

95 Pally
Selimpore

Dashami

No more pandal hopping for this year. Instead I visited my grandmother and had lunch with her while watching Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. Also, since I wanted to let everyone know of what I did this Pujo, I wrote the blog post on Dashami.

A few pointers for this year:

  • Pujo was very well controlled and crowd was managed by the police and traffic guards. Kudos to them!
  • I met a lot of friends and had fun which I had not even expected. All my plans were literally made in an hour or two.
  • There were pandals which actually had to hang boards stating ‘ Selfies not allowed’. In fact, Tridhara even confiscated cell phones.
  • My top three pandals would be :
  1. Naktala
  2. Jagat Mukherjee Park
  3. Hindusthan Park

As they say, Ashche Bochor Abar Hobe. I will look forward to such enjoyable moments and such amazing company year after year. P.S even if I do move out in future, I will make sure to return to celebrate Durga Pujo.

 

Write India Campaign S2: Live your Writing Dreams

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”  ― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Do you love characters like Draupadi from the Palace of Illusions or Anupama from Mahashweta, who fight against all odds and earn their status in the society?  Does your descriptive narration flow like river waters and take you on mesmerising travels to the hills, valleys and forests? Or do you have a pen of wits that would make your readers compliment your writing with laughable accolades? If you do, gear up your thoughts, open your laptops, start typing and submit your stories for the next Write India Campaign.

There are stories inside each one of us. Some find apt ways to express it. Others can express it naturally, but do not get suitable guidance to put it forward to the whole world. The online platform of The Times of India , which is, www.timesofindia.com has undertaken a unique campaign in order to give thousands of budding writers a voice , a guide, a platform and most importantly suitable mentorship under ten leading authors of contemporary times.

India, as a country , has always been full of stories and legends. However, in modern times , the art of storytelling keeps evolving with fresh ideas waiting to be explored and expressed to the world in the form of stories. There are thousands out there, who have a knack for churning out great fictional pieces. But due to lack of opportunities, their voices are often restricted to the boundaries of their homes, schools or colleges.

The Times of India has always served the Nation as a Social sentinel, delivering news depending on its appropriate urgency. But with the Write India Campaign, it has also taken up the role of a facilitator, which provides a well-known stage to the budding and amateur writers to come forward and express their passion for writing in front of a wider audience.

Write India Campaign Poster Photo Courtesy: Times of India

The Write India Campaign would continue for a good ten months until 2018. Each month would put forward, an Author of the Month who would provide a passage to the writers around which they would have to weave their original short fictions. The ten authors for this season are: Anand Neelakantan, Sir Jeffrey Archer, Ruskin Bond, Sudha Murty, Twinkle Khanna, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Shobhaa De, Manu Joseph, Namita Gokhale and Nikita Singh.

The team from Write India would shortlist some of the best entries for each of the authors and present it to them. They would further select the winners amongst them. Each of the winners would get an opportunity to fulfil their dreams by getting their work published in the form of a book. What more, they would also be invited for a workshop conducted by these eminent authors where they can nurture their skills further.

The Campaign has already garnered momentum among the budding writers. Many have submitted their pieces for Anand Neelakantan, Ruskin Bond and Sir Jeffrey Archer. While the winners for Neelakantan can be viewed here ; there is much anticipation for the winners of the other two writers to release soon. Moreover, do not miss keeping an eye out for the Author of the Month of October and his/her passage to the writers.  I would further add that this is the Second Campaign run by the Write India Team. Their first campaign held earlier had seen thirty-six successful authors being published in November 2016. If you are a budding writer, then this is an opportunity that must not be missed. For more details and to register yourself as a contributor do visit www.toi.in/writeindia .

Image Courtesy: The Times of India

Getting Candid with Vaijayantee Bhattacharya

Last Sunday (23rd July), I was lucky enough to have been invited to the press meet and book launch of Mosaic Vision , a beautiful anthology of poems written by Vaijayantee Bhattacharya, at the Oxford Bookstore Kolkata. Vaijayantee is a Poet, Editor and Journalist by profession.  A true Calcuttan by heart, she has been living away from the City of Joy for the last fourteen years- in Delhi and in Bahrain. Thus, it was a magical moment for her to be able to launch her maiden book in the city she grew up in and is so attached to, amidst well known dignitaries and friends and family.

The Press Meet was organised by PR Sufia Khatoon wherein almost twenty media houses came in to interact with Vaijayantee. Her book was launched , following the press meet by chief Guest Shri Jawhar Sircar. This was proceeded by a panel discussion by Dr Sanjukta Dasgupta (Professor, Department of English, University of Calcutta), Mr Shahenshah Mirza (descendant of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah), Ms Saira Shah Halim (Educator, Activist and poet) , Ms Saheli Mitra (Journalist, Author, Poet, columnist) and Vaijayantee herself. The topic for the evening was ‘ Is poetry a reflection of emotions recollected in tranquillity or disturbance? What is its relevance in today’s morbid world of prosaic reality? ‘

I am humbled that Vaijayantee gave me some time from her busy schedule to answer my questions. She answered an array of questions posed by me . Here are the excerpts.

Tell us something about the first ever poem that you had written.

The first ever poem that I had written was in a train to Chennai when I was probably 8 or 9 years old. I was quite taken by the scenic beauty of world outside. That’s when I composed a poem out of the sheer delight of visualising something so beautiful.

How does a poem begin for you- an idea, a form or an image?

 It is either of these and sometimes it can even be a sound, a sight, a news byte or a piece of music. For me, poetry or writing is triggered by anything that emotionally moves me.

 Do you have a particular time when you sit down to write your poems or do they come to you spontaneously?

They mostly come to me spontaneously unless of course there is a subject that I have been invited to write on like a few other anthologies in Bahrain with a specific theme.

 Do you think at times people find it difficult to connect with poems as it has several layers of meaning to it ?

Poetry unlike prose usually is succinct and precise and to attain this precision it often rides on cryptic phrases or imagery like metaphors, alliteration and so on. While poetry is not written in any coded language that a reader needs to decode or crack, sometimes people do find it difficult to appreciate a poem in its entirety not knowing it’s significance.

Vaijayantee reading a few lines from Mosaic visions
Photo: Abhizit Dutta

What does’ being creative ‘ mean to you?

‘Being creative’ to me means being able to create something new and aesthetically pleasing. The new thing created could be a poem, a write up, a painting, a handicraft, a song, or anything that aesthetically pleases the soul.

Has the publication of your first book and its reception affected your writing style?

No, not really. I remain quintessentially the soul that I have always been, changing, growing and evolving only in response to time. My first publication is a matter of great joy to me but I can’t say it has or can change my writing in any way.

Which, out of the two , do you think is a better medium of reaching out to your audience- through the screen or through paper?

I am essentially a scribe or a writer and poet. If by screen you mean the electronic media, then certainly that’s not going to be my platform aptly. But by screen if you mean the Kindle or the online media then I would say my writings/poems could be savoured well on both media, depending on the comfort level of the reader with his preferred medium of reading.

How do you measure your success as a poet?

Success of a poet to me is not in the number of poem he writes or the number of books he publishes. If at the end of the day, even a single poem of his can emotionally touch a reader’s soul and can resonate similar feelings and sentiments that is where the poet’s success lies. In this context may I mention the great Nobel Laureate and poet Rabindranath Tagore. His poems and songs are the source of succour or sustenance of innumerable people who remember his immortal words of creation in some song or poem at every possible state of emotional upsurge.

If you could communicate with one dead poet, who would it be ; why and what would you tell him/her?

If I could communicate with just one poet, it would perhaps be William Wordsworth and I would tell him that like him I derive absolute joy, love and peace from Nature.

A message you would like to give to your readers . . . .

If you want to savour the taste of different facets of life, through small and big incidents, experiences and observations of a perceptive soul through poetry, then Mosaic Vision is perhaps the book you should pick up. I can’t promise you great moral or material upliftment through my poetry but I can assure you of a more inclusive perspective where you savour the delight of living, loving, longing and appreciating the different nuances of through our daily existence.

Mosiac Vision is not only a book of poems but also a collection of thoughts spanning over eight years . With varied subjects, experiences and emotions intertwined in a few pages, it is bound to bring the reader closer to the poet and also reflect on her take of the world. A review of the book would be published shortly. You can purchase it from your nearest bookstores soon or order a paperback or kindle version through Amazon. Keep Reading !

 

Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust Presents Cultural Cocktail

Cultural Cocktail, the latest venture supported by the Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust is to be held on the 17th of June in Showshaa Hall, New Delhi. As the name suggests it is a very youth oriented programme involving a mix or cocktail of literature and performing arts. The concept of Cultural Cocktail entails the adaptations of traditional literature into various forms of performing arts and showcasing them to an audience. From, theatre, classical dance, contemporary western dance to a short film on the life and works of Kunwar Viyogi are what has been encapsulated by the organizers in the programme. The show has been curated by Ayushman Jamwal, author of Chameleon Lights; and is conceptualized with the help of young International artists whose roots go back to the city of Jammu.

The artists who would be mesmerizing the audiences with their performance include Sanchita Abhrol, Anmol Jamwal and Aarushi Thakur Rana. She is the disciple of Kathak Maestro, Padma Shri, Guru Shovana Narayan and has recently founded Rasadance in Australia which is known for its unique storytelling-through-classical dance performances. Sanchita along with Ayushman Jamwal as the narrator and renowned musicians and singers like Madhav Prasad, Vinay Prasanna , Salim Kumar and others would be performing ‘Ghar: Prem Ki Gaagar’. Anmol is in the field of performing arts as a jazz dancer for over six years. He started his training at the age of eleven with the Danceworx Performing Arts and has now joined them full- time. He has also become a sensation in Youtube through his contemporary and funky dance performances. He, along with his co-dancers would be performing ‘Taboo’.  Aarushi Thakur Rana, as a young theatre director has adapted William Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ in Hindi and would be presenting thus in the Cultural Cocktail.

Poster of Cultural Cocktail
Photo Courtesy: Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust

Cultural Cocktail would also introduce the Prem Jamwal Youth Art Innovation Award in the memory of Kunwar Viyogi’s wife, Prem Jamwal. This award is bestowed on a youth who has shown remarkable innovation in the field of performing arts. The first recipient of this award is Aarushi Thakur Rana for having adapted, directed and staged William Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’ at the Kunwar Viyogi Utsav in 2016.

One of the main attractions of the events facilitated by the Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust is that they are youth oriented in nature. The members strongly believe that empowering the youth of today is the best way to secure the future . As the youth are the future of the country, they can be the sole saviors of dying languages such as the Dogri language. If they start thinking, performing, adapting, translating and reviving the language then Dogri as well as many such regional languages can be saved from the verge of extinction in the future.

The Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust established on the 4th of September 2016, commemorates the works of Dogri writer, Late Group Captain Randhir Singh, also known as Kunwar Viyogi. Kunwar Viyogi’s deep interest in the field of literature, despite being an Air Force Officer; made him the only known Officer to have been conferred with the Sahitya Akademi Award for his most coveted works of all times called Ghar. He is known to have brought out almost six hundred sonnets in this regional language earning him the epithet of ‘The Father of Dogri Sonnets.’ Moreover his involvement in the 1965 and 1971 wars have left a profound impact on his writings, especially Ghar . Having remained the General Secretary of Dogri Sanstha in Jammu, he felt deeply for the revival of this regional language and thus, the Trust carries on his legacy forward by promoting artists in the field of Dogri language.

The Trust provides a platform to all those from the fields of performing arts and literature to come forward and showcase their talents. In fact, it has initiated scholarships for candidates studying Masters in Dogri and those who pursue research on Dogri writers and poets, especially Kunwar Viyogi ji. Further, the Trust is known to help in generating employment for people working in the field of this regional language. The Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust upholds the two prominent ideals of education and innovation; and thus promotes literature and performing arts which have major innovating elements in it.

A few lines from Kunwar Viyogi’s Ghar
Photo Courtesy: Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust

Cultural Cocktail is the stepping stone event that would take place under the aegis of the Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust as part of their five-city Save the Language Campaign Tour. Save the language is a campaign that promotes the revival of regional languages like Dogri and facilitates the incorporation of these languages in daily use or through performing arts so that the language and the identities of people associated with this language do not fade forever. A major reason for all the local languages to die is because people particularly the youth have stopped identifying themselves with it. Local languages or our mother-tongue are an ideal part of a person’s identity. Losing a language is equivalent to losing an identity forever. Thus, to save the identities of the people and to encourage the youth to relate to their local languages and dialects, Save the Language campaign holds a lot of relevance in contemporary times especially among the youth. Languages can be saved with the conscious effort of the family and society; educational institutions and clubs, groups, literary groups and fests and the like. When all these forces come together, only then can an individual realize the importance of their local languages and try to save it from joining the almost 7000 languages which are on the verge being wiped out.

Thus, the Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust has embarked upon a challenging yet much-needed task of making the youth conscious of the need to Save their Languages and guide them, inspire them and provide them a platform to do so. Cultural Cocktail which is about to take place on the 17th June, 2017 is the base of this campaign which will go on with further innovations and inclusions throughout its five city tour campaign. Kolkata Bloggers is proud to be associated with this event as its Social Media Partners. The tickets to this programme can be booked here.