Throwback to AKLF18

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Your belief is your belief,

My belief is my belief.

You let me believe my belief;

And I let you believe in your belief. ‘

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

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

    (From Left) Soha Ali Khan, Jayant Kripalani

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

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

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

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

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

Nerolac IDEAZ: A World of Colours & Creativity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Evening with Shrabani Basu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours truly getting her book signed.
Photo: Asif

Boi Toi Khabar Dabar: An Initiative by Gulmohar Resources

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

About Gulmohar Resources:

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

About Boi Toi Khabar Dabar:

Books assembled for exchanging

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

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

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

Who Participated?

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

The Feedback:

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

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

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.

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.’