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)

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.

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.

 

Segregation to Inclusion: The Way Forward

We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion Max de Pree Society, of late has divided itself into various communities. One such community is what the layman calls the community of the specially-abled which is often subjected to segregation rather than inclusion in mainstream society. However, every individual in this world is differently abled than the other; hence the idea of distinction holds no value whatsoever. But the stereotypes and myths garnered by the society over a period of time has actually lead to an attitudinal problem in the minds of the people. Two of the most important sectors to focus in this regard are early development including parenting and schooling; and employment opportunities. The Transcendent Knowledge Society (TKS)  presided over by Amrita Roy Chowdhury has been working relentlessly in trying to do away with the imaginary barrier created between the ‘normal’ and the ‘specially-abled’ through their work which includes running an integrated school, parental counselling and support groups, vocational workshops and regular awareness seminars and conferences.

 

On the 12th of August TKS along with the support of the Lions Club of Calcutta Roshni ,Julian Day New mission, Down Syndrome Federation of India (DSFI), Keystone Institute India and National Trust organised a seminar on Segregation to Inclusion. It was an interactive discussion on the Rights and spheres of included life for people with disabilities. The seminar opened a platform for a plethora of discussions regarding the specially-abled individuals which included topics on parenting, inclusion in family, integrated schools, and discrimination in schools during admission as well as employment. It saw an array of eminent speakers including Dr Monidipa Banerjee Senior  Consultant Paediatrician; Dr Rekha Ramachandran, Chairperson, DSFI;  Mr Aditya Tiwari, youngest single-father in India ;  Betsy Neuville, Director of The Keystone Institute; and a discussion by self-advocates, Priya , Diya, Pritha and Saptarsha.

The worth of acceptance. . . .

Dr Banerjee started her speech by drawing an analogy between landing in Holland on an Italy—bound flight to having been blessed with a child with special needs. Just as a new destination becomes acceptable and enjoyable after the first few unsettling days; similarly parenting children with special needs becomes equally desirable and fun after the first few days. However, the essence of such parenting lies in acceptance of the situation and letting go of the expectations. Parenting is not a rat race to compete in creating customized children to its perfection. It is instead a journey, one which needs to be enjoyed in every stage and cherished forever. No statement, comment or saying is ever more than the smile on the face of a child.

The value of health. . . . .

Dr Ramachandran focused on few relevant facts which have so found a home in the attitude of certain parents that it restricts their liberal thinking and jeopardizes the scope of giving their children a chance to pursue their alternate paths. It is often the fear of societal pressure that ends up being more prominent than better parenting. In fact, through word of mouth and nowadays the internet, parents gather excessive knowledge which at times can be dangerous. Moreover, teachers and students in school have a number of inhibitions regarding those needing special care. That is primarily because they are not trained or aware enough to handle the situation. This is a lack on the part of schools in giving training to their staff for creating an integrated learning platform. She also touched upon the ‘attitudinal issue’ often displayed by schools who are on the lookout for ‘high level functional performers ‘ to carry their legacy forward. Dr Ramachandran pointed out a very important factor which is almost forgotten and that is the accompanying health issues that the children face. They need to be regularly monitored health wise so that they may lead a better life.

Focussing on employments she stressed on how in Kerala more than three thousand children are made to work in the temples and how in Jaipur most of the Dholak boys are individuals who need special care. But they have made a mark for themselves through their talents and vocations. She rounded up by focussing on support groups for not only parents but also siblings so that problems can be openly discussed and solutions found to deal with certain situations.

Breaking barriers. . . . . .

Aditya Tiwari has become a role model in contemporary India having been courageous enough to fight for the adoption of a child with Down syndrome and compelling the Court to amend its adoption laws. His journey with his son was inspiring for every individual present in the conference. At the end of his speech, his valour and courage was given a standing ovation by the audience.

Meaning of inclusion. . . . .

Betsy Neuville focused on the idea of Inclusion. According to her, ‘This is not a campaign, not a scheme, but a vision.’ This vision cannot be achieved overnight but would definitely be achieved overtime through openly talking about it and accepting it. She spoke about the Stages of Inclusion and discussed the importance of role model or imitation. Children often pick up behavioural patterns from their models and elders. She stressed on the idea of RE-SPECT. One should not only respect them but also re-spect themselves to change their perceptions about the society to make it more inclusive. Betsy too ideated on the need to create social groups as well as taking a risk with the children. The essence of her speech would be to not jump to the conclusion that special children need special assistance; rather to rethink it as special children need a typical environment with a little modification.

My dreams, my aspirations. . . . . . .

One of the great moments for the children and young adults was to be appreciated for their service in the canteen and providing refreshments at the conference through their first entrepreneurial venture Sip and Bite. They were handed out their first pay-cheque at the conference in the presence of all the dignitaries. This boosted their morals and gave them encouragement. They also got their second order from the Lions Club of Calcutta Roshni. If you want to hire their services for your functions or events please drop a mail at chaitali.gami@yahoo.in

Few other self-advocates shared their dreams with the audience. Priya is an assistant teacher and wants to join as a dance teacher later on. Diya wants to pursue Hotel Management as her career. Saptarshi has found his knack in baking and is one of the members of Sip and Bite. Pritha loves to work and opined for being given more work to showcase their abilities.

My biggest takeaway from this conference was meeting some wonderful people. Two things which would always be with me was the fact that the children are not special. The parents are. They were chosen to take care of some of the most beautiful souls in this world. Further, there is a need to change the I and the Eye. Changing the I would mean to change one’s mind set and attitude and changing the eye refers to changing their perception.  I wold personally sum up my feelings through this quote by Theodore Melfi which says, ‘You have a responsibility to make inclusion a daily thought, so we can get rid of the word ‘inclusion.’

Korean Storyteller Spreads Love in City of Joy

Storytelling is very special for me. Having grown up listening to stories by my grandmother, I instantly felt connected to Seung Ah Kim who established Arirang Storytelling in the memory of her grandmother. Seung is on a very special mission- to spread the Korean Culture throughout the world through Korean traditional stories.

She is the first Korean Storyteller to have been bestowed with The Parent- Child Mother Goose Certification. Having visited places like Italy, Greece, Malaysia, USA; she is currently in Kolkata, as part of her K- Culture Storytelling tour. She has been conducting various storytelling sessions and I was privileged to attend her session ‘Stories and Fingerplays from Old Korea’ at The Orange Door. She is being hosted by Priyanka Chatterjee of Wild Strawberry. Priyanka Di, whom I know personally for quite some time is a storyteller of international repute having delivered sessions in not only Kolkata and India but also in places like South Africa and Malaysia. I am thankful to her for giving me this opportunity to conduct Seung’s interview.

Here are the excerpts. . . . .

  1. How did storytelling come to you? Why did you want to become a storyteller?

It’s Destiny! In 2007, I went to Toronto to study TYC course called Teaching Young Children because I was an English teacher and my interest was always in doing research about storytelling. One day I found that there is a storytelling festival. It was the last day and the last programme. I got the ticket and I attended the show. I cried throughout the programme and I decided to become a storyteller because I thought it is very needed for adults. Since I became an adult nobody told me stories, but I thought maybe adults need to be loved and to be talked. That’s it. This is for adults! So I started as a storyteller for adults.

  1. How important do you think is storytelling for a child?

For a child, we observe so many things, by listening to stories. For example, when I was a child, I read a lot of books and my grandmother told me a lot of stories from all over the world. That’s the way I can travel to each country. So I learned a lot from the stories. But you know a child cannot go anywhere without their parents. But through stories they can go anywhere. So, that’s why for children it is very important to explore the world and also explore some experiences which they cannot do it by themselves.

  1. Tell us something about your K-Culture Storytelling Tour.

I learned a lot from telling stories to people. This is one of the popular ways to introduce Korean culture. Also for myself I learned a lot from my culture. It gives me confidence, identity and empowerment. Once you know about your culture, then you can feel proud of your culture and also of yourself. So, that’s why I realized that this is the thing I can share with the people in the world. Nowadays because of K -Club and K- Drama people would like to learn more about Korean Culture, especially traditional culture. That’s why, I thought, if I establish K -storytelling centre in Seoul, it would be nice for everybody who wants to learn more about Korean Culture. That was kind of my dream and how I can make my dream come true. So that’s why I started to think if I tell stories, Korean stories to one million people. If they donate one dollar each, then I get one million dollars. So I can donate the money to establish K-storytelling centre. Then I made a one year plan that I would travel all around the world to show Korean culture and stories.

  1. What made you come up with the idea of storytelling as a platform for parent and child bonding?

One of the reasons I established my company Arirang Storytelling is in the memory of my grandmother.  As a child I couldn’t communicate with my mother, because my mother was so busy. She had to take care of her husband, who is a businessman and also she had to take care of three children and her mother-in-law, who was my grandmother. I missed so many things with my mother but luckily I had my grandmother. So my grandmother told me a lot of stories. Since she passed away I realized that it’s a great heritage for me to keep. But if I keep it to myself, I am not a good person. So, I decided to share it with more people. Just imagine if you are a millionaire and if you just want to keep the money only by yourself, it’s not fair. So it’s time for me to share my heritage, my treasure with the people.

Stills from the Session at The Orange Door
  1. Please share some memorable experiences that you had on your tour.

Oh yes, already I had so many memories especially in America. I met my Facebook friends face to face. They were so happy to see me and then I didn’t have any chance to tell Korean folktale to them. But just seeing me in Korean traditional costume they were so happy. So I find it a good way to share my culture wearing Korean traditional costume.  I thought wearing Korean traditional costume and telling Korean stories is the way I can make people happier.

Then in Taiwan, I participated in a show with my Taiwanese storyteller friend and a little girl came to me and talked to me in Mandarin. I couldn’t understand what she said. Then her mother translated.  The girl had said , “When are you coming back?”. I was so touched.

Another girl, she gave me a box of sweets. The last day I had to pack to go back to Korea. We realised that the box is too big. The wife of my storyteller friend in Taiwan, she said “Okay let’s take out the sweets, outside of the box and then you can just keep it inside your bag. So let’s throw away the box. “This happened in the airport. The people in the airport said that your bag is too heavy so we started to sort things out again. And then suddenly she came back and said, “Seung Ah look at this”. She, you know, tore off the box and then there was a picture done by the girl. She drew me. You know it was very touching. Then I realized that even though children look as if they don’t pay any attention but they remember everything. So it’s a great moment.

  1. Who is your favourite storyteller?

My grandmother. Also, nature. Nature tells me a lot of stories. It gives me a lot of inspiration.

  1. What advice would you give to budding storytellers?

I think if you follow your heart, you can be a good storyteller. I mean, I realised it is very difficult for us to follow our hearts because we think too much. So, that’s the simple rule for me to follow. So sometimes people you know cannot understand what you are doing. But if you truly follow your heart maybe among them even if one person is touched by your story, touched by your love, then that is enough.

Seung Ah will be performing on the 5th of August at Gyan Manch, Kolkata from 10 – 11 am and 11:30 – 12:30 pm. If you want to catch her in action, then do get in touch with Priyanka Chatterjee to get your tickets as soon as possible.

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 !

 

Books, Monsoon and Chai: The Booklovers Gathering

Books, Monsoon and Chai was a unique concept devised by Pradipta Mandal and Aniesha Brahma to get together all book lovers under the same roof. Held at The Chaiwala on the 2nd of July, this event was truly special for me. A small gathering of a few bookworms and a healthy discussion regarding their favourite books was an enchanting way to start the event.

After a brief introduction Aniesha Di, reiterated her love for the young adult genre. In fact, she even pointed out the reference many of them have to fairy tales. For me, fairy tales have been a part of my childhood like any other,  however, I had never given much thought to them after reading them once or twice. The idea of stirring a plot with reference to the fairy tales for the youth has already gained my attention.

Having worked in the field of art education , books on child psychology interests Pradipta Di to a great extent. I believe that child psychology books are of immense help to not only children but also to their parents. Books are a reflection of life and they show us how to deal with certain situations better. She spoke about John Holt, an author she enjoys reading.

Moments from Books, Monsoon and Chai

Subhro Da, gave me many new insights to the world of children’s books and their relevance in contemporary times. He spoke about his interest in the words of Roald Dahl and Sukumar Ray– both evergreen authors of their own time. He quoted from The BFG. – a quote so childishly written and yet so powerful in its versus that it connects with the fate of human beings in contemporary times. With Sukumar Ray, the world of gibberish has been fascinating to the young and the old. It has drawn readers to itself with nonsense-syllables only to emerge them completely into the pages of great classics like Abol Tabol.

Madhubanti Di , escalated the conversation from the different genres and our favourite books; to the emotional and imaginary level. She pointed out how they (the books) have always remained our constant companion in each of our moods. There is always a book to read when we are happy, sad, anxious, angry, disturbed and the like. These books have the strength to calm us down, a strength missing in the real world at that moment. She continued how books are a doorway to understand, relate and form different perspectives and interpretations of the common and uncommon situations. In fact, Madhubanti Di focussed on the fact that while reading a book, we often tend to consciously or unconsciously become a character in it. This is something that I personally believe in. After reading a lot of books throughout the years, I still contemplate at times, how I became the rejected Karna in the Mahabharat ; Mukesh from The Mother I Never Knew (Sudha Murthy) who journeyed to far lands in search of his mother; or Seema from The Teak Almirah (Jael Siliman) who saw the world change around her , a community disintegrate around her and yet held the fort refusing to part with the city she was born and brought up in , waiting only for a lost love.

Pradipta Di and Aniesha Di

The conversation then took an interesting turn with two varied but much debated topic. Everyone was more or less agreeing to the fact that the new authors in the horizon must be given a chance for their creative talent. In fact, it is always good to be updated with the current authors, for their writings are fast- paced, thrilling, action- oriented, bordering more on fantasy than real life; but definitely worth a read. Another interesting topic of discussion was how books were made into movies; and whether one prefers to read the book first and watch the movie later or vice –versa.

Paroma Di , discussed how Pride and Prejudice formed an inevitable part of her life . This timeless classic has always been her constant companion when it came to packing her travel bags. Having read and re-read the novel so many times, it has definitely left a profound impact on her. The second novel which had touched her and many other readers was The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Personally, it is one of those books which I can never forget myself.

During my turn, I spoke about the fact that I preferred to enter into the field of world literature and hence have recently taken a liking towards translations. Having read the entire treasure trove of Bengali literature in translations, I had shifted the territory to Indonesia and Kabul for the moment. Though there are many who do not prefer to read translations but in the original language the book was written; it is not realistically achievable as one cannot know all the languages of the world. Hence, reading the translations would at least provide a gist of the story and I firmly believe that reading the gist would also help to understand the crux of a beautiful novel; rather than missing it out completely.

My biggest takeaway from the event was meeting like- minded people. Often there are many who love to read books but cannot write about their impressions of the book or articulate the impact the book left on them. But this discussion was definitely a high for me where everyone came together to share their love for literature. In fact, Subhro Da also informed me about the short stories by Edgar Karat and Peter Bexel from Germany, books that I have already added to my wish list.

I would like to thank Aniesha Di and Pradipta Di for arranging such an event and inviting me as well. It was a fruitful discussion and gave a platform for book lovers to gather around and interact with each other. I am certain that such events would continue and people would take part in it, in large numbers.

Another event for the bookworms is being planned on the 13th of August. If you love books, and want to be associated with this event or just join in for some fun , do come for the event (details will follow soon) and you know whom to contact as well!

P.S Cover Image Courtesy: Books, Monsoon and Chai