Category Archives: Inspiration / Positive News and Features

Gratitude to genius behind Boson

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays tribute to S.N. Bose (below) on his 125th birth anniversary
via video-conferencing from New Delhi on Monday. (PTI)

Calcutta:

Physics was his calling but he could play a complex classical raga on the esraj with as much dexterity as he could read out a French novel in impromptu English translation.

Stories highlighting the multifaceted genius of Satyendra Nath Bose, after whom the Boson particle is named, on Monday filled the curtain-raiser to a yearlong commemoration of his 125th birth anniversary.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the event from Delhi through video-conferencing, reminding the audience at the SN Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences in Salt Lake that “just as a quantum particle does not exist in isolation, we should also get out of isolation”.

Modi said the scientific ecosystem needed to connect with innovators, entrepreneurs and technocrats to work on artificial intelligence, big data analytics, machine learning, genomics and electrical vehicles. “These are some of the rising technologies on which we need to get ahead,” he pointed out, holding up Bose as the inspiration to test new frontiers.

Born on January 1, 1894, Bose had collaborated with Albert Einstein to create what came to be called the “Bose-Einstein Condensation”. Physicist and author Partha Ghose, who did his PhD under Bose, recounted one among many instances of how humble he could be despite his brilliance.

“He was in a reflective mood one day and spoke about the ‘photon spin’ aspect in his derivation of Planck’s law. But then, with a mischievous smile, he said, “But the old man (Einstein) struck it off”.

Ghose said the anecdote left him flabbergasted because Nobel laureate C.V. Raman’s research later vindicated Bose’s derivation.

“When I asked him why he didn’t claim credit for his discovery, he said, ” Ki ba eshe gelo? Ke baar korechhilo tatey ki eshe jaye? Baar to hoyechhilo (How does it matter? Who discovered it is not the main thing, is it? At least it was discovered)’,” he reminisced.

Planck’s law is the basis of quantum theory.

In his speech, the Prime Minister said many Nobel prizes had been won for work based on Bose’s research.

Union science and technology minister Harsh Vardhan also paid tribute to Bose.

source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph, Calcutta,India / Home> Calcutta / by Anasuya Basu / January 02nd, 2018

Kolkata boy defeats asthma, scales nine peaks in five years

Kolkata :

A mountaineer from Kolkata completed the rare feat of scaling nine peaks, including the Seven Summits (the highest peaks of each of the seven continents), on Saturday. Software engineer Satyarup Siddhanta, 34, climbed Mt Vinson in Antarctica shortly after 9am (local time) – his ninth summit since 2012.

An asthma patient who has never had any formal training in mountaineering, Siddhanta climbed the Everest in 2016. He has also scaled Mt Albrus, Mt Aconcagua, Mt Kilimanjaro, Puncak Jaya and Mt Denali. These apart, Siddhanta has also climbed Mont Blanc and Carsten’s Pyramid in Pappua New Guinea – the highest point in the Australian continent.

A resident of Kalitala Housing in Thakurpukur, Siddhanta is now based in Bangalore. According to his fellow climber Rudraprasad Haldar, Siddhanta once went to the Everest Base Camp and was inspired to begin his mountaineering journey, though he had no training. “It changed him forever and he decided to climb the Seven Summits,” said Haldar. Siddhanta’s website, however, mentions that he is a certified mountaineer from the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling.

He overcame asthma which could have been a major barrier. “I realized I needed to reduce my dependency on inhalers when I was in college. I was also allergic to food items which triggered asthma. I struggled for years, continuously challenging myself by avoiding inhalers and consuming the food I was allergic to, without taking anti-allergic medicines,” Siddhanta wrote on his website.

But he didn’t give up. “I wanted to push limits to see how far I could go. Finally, with exercises, discipline, diet and some considerable will power and determination, I got rid of asthma,” he wrote.

His mother Gayatri, a homemaker, stayed up all night on Friday, following his march to the peak of Vinson.

“I couldn’t sleep a wink. I was more relieved than happy when he finally reached the summit,” she said. Siddhanta’s father Subhamoy is a doctor.

Gayatri said Siddhanta received funds from a few corporates for the climb. “He also auctioned some of his belongings and took a loan of Rs 30 lakh,” she added.

source: http://www.timesofindia.inditimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Kolkata News / by Monotosh Chakraborty / TNN / December 17th, 2017

Kolkata driver wins award for shunning horn for 18 years

Kolkata driver wins award for shunning horn for 18 years | Kolkata News – Times of India

Kolkata :

It will be tough to find people who can resist honking on the roads for 18 minutes. But this man from Kolkata has done wonders.

Meet Dipak Das, a city-based driver, who has not honked for 18 years. Seems incredible? His car even has this placard, ‘Horn is a Concept. I care for your heart.’ Das has won awards for this unique and rare habit.

With this no-horn policy, Das wants to inspire others to follow the practice. Thus noise pollution can be reduced, he believes, saying if a driver follows this no-horn policy, she/he will become more alert while driving.

He dreams of making Kolkata a “no-honking city” someday.

The 52-year-old, who lives with his wife and daughter, has worked as a Metro Rail helper. Dipak got his driving licence in 1991.

He says, “One day, I dropped a passenger in Golf Green area. I was taking rest in front of a school, but was woken up rudely because of senseless honking of cars.” On that day, he decided not to honk while driving. Das said, he was influenced by a poem of famous Bengali poet Jibanananda Das. Das’s daughter rides bycycle, but like her father she also does not honk.

Earlier, people used to call him ‘disturbed’. But today they respect Das’s ideology. He was awarded in this year’s Manush Mela. Eminent personalities who have travelled in Das’s car also appreciate this.

“I went to various places with him. He is special. His patience, sensibility has amazed me” says famous percussionist and tabla player Tanmoy Bose.

Singer Sidhu of the famous Cactus band also said, “I went to Mukutmanipur with Dipak. The guy has not honked for once. He is a rare talent.” Seriously!

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Kolkata News> Civic Issues / by Sumit Dey El Samay / December 13th, 2017

Art for a cause

Picture by Biswajit Kundu

Young artists with their works at the second edition of Colours of Innocence, in association with TTIS, at Mukti World Banquet on Sunday.

Curated by Vayjayanti Pugalia, founder of Sonali’s Cubo, the auction was a blast of colours and imagination.

Students from NGOs and city schools poured their hearts out on canvas, under the guidance of artist Gunjan Daga, to raise funds for charity.

Present at the auction were singer Usha Uthup, PR veteran Rita Bhimani, fashion designer Sharbari Datta, theatre actor-director Ramanjit Kaur and others. “It is a wonderful and inspiring experience. The paintings are beautiful and I am glad to be a part of this event,” said Usha Uthup who rang in the festive cheer with Jingle Bells along with the kids.

“COI is my vision come true. This is my way of giving back to the society,” said Pugalia.

source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph, Calcutta,India / Home> Calcutta / by Samabrita Sen / December 1th, 2017

Web magazine by old school mates

The home page of Batayan

A group of middle-aged women — school friends of the 1981 Madhyamik batch — reunited over Facebook and WhatsApp and have now started a literary website. Many of the 20-odd contributors are scattered around the country but the three core committee members hail from Salt Lake and New Town.

“We are all former students of Sunity Academy in Cooch Behar,” says Dolanchampa Dutta, a homemaker from EE Block and one of the editors of batayan.in. “It so turned out that instead of forwarding jokes on our WhatsApp group many members were sharing their write-ups. So we thought of taking it further.”

Batayan has sections on poetry, short stories, travelogues…. Those who do not have a knack for literature have contributed recipes, paintings and body care tips. “We also have a section for our children, called Sabuj. This is the only section where we allow English articles as most children these days are not comfortable writing in Bengali,” says Sumita Majumder, a homemaker from New Town’s Shaporji Palonji complex. “These days the youths are hardly inclined towards literature but I’m happy that my college-going son and working daughter have sent articles for us too.”

The e-magazine was launched on Mahalaya and will be quarterly. “We shall soon accept articles from outsiders too and if we are able to get some ads then shall pay contributors,” says Manjushree Ray, another member, from Purbachal, Cluster X.

The women say launching an e-magazine has been much simpler than running a print one. “We would have to find a publisher, distributor and post copies to members scattered all over India,” says Ray. “Instead an IT professional-friend from BL Block — Sumit Sarkar — built us this website and made things very simple. And we forward the link ourselves to friends and relatives as a way of marketing and we are delighted that we got 600 visitors to come read our works.”

source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph, Calcutta,India / Home> Calcutta / by Brinda Sarkar / December 01st, 2017

Miss West Bengal ’17 votes for cleanliness in her hometown

Agra :

West Bengal: Miss West Bengal ’17 votes for cleanliness in her hometown | Agra News – Times of India

During voting for civic body elections at ward no. 74 here on Wednesday, all eyes were on Shivankita Dixit, a 23-year-old who was crowned Miss West Bengal 2017, who turned up to vote.

Dixit, a resident of Manas Nagar, has been living with her aunt in Kolkata for a year, and had participated and won the contest in that state. She then auditioned for the Miss India contest in Mumbai. She returned to her hometown to vote for the civic body elections.
Wearing tiara on her head, Dixit told TOI, “My vote was for cleanliness. I want the winning candidate to give priority to creating garbage-free localities and clean roads. A clean environment is the first step to a healthy life.”

Apart from cleanliness issue, the local businessman Sanjay Dixit daughter said, “I’m not aware of Agra city, but in my locality, the residents are conservative. They don’t allow their daughters to go out and explore the world. My vote in civic body polls is also important because the mayoral candidate which I have voted for is expected toward empowerment of girls in the city.”

Shivankita Dixit completed her graduation from Dayalbagh University and is the first beautypageant winner from Agra.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Agra News / by Arvind Chauhan / TNN / November 23rd, 2017

Policing feather in city girl cap

Millie Banerjee

London:

Calcutta-born Millie Banerjee has been appointed the new chairman of the UK’s College of Policing.

Actually, she has been interim chairman since November last year so her appointment was today made permanent by the home secretary, Amber Rudd.

“Working with Millie over the last year I have been impressed by the insight she brings from her time leading other public and commercial organisations, including the British Transport Police,” Rudd said on Thursday.

Millie’s responsibilities are highly sensitive – keep an eye on “standards in policing” across the 43 police forces in England and Wales; developing knowledge and “what works”; and assisting with education and career development.

It is possible she will want to exchange notes on policing in Calcutta.

“Millie” is really her nickname but it has come to stay as she has become part of the great and good in Britain. She was born Urmila Ray-Chaudhuri in Calcutta on June 30, 1946, and is friendly with a number of prominent figures in the city, among them the physicist Bikash Sinha.

Millie, who was honoured with a CBE on the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2002 and was High Sheriff of Greater London in 2012-13, was chairman of the British Transport Police Authority for seven years and spent 30 years in the telecommunications and satellite industries. This included 25 years with BT in senior positions.

She is currently the chairman of NHS Blood and Transplant and a board member of East London NHS Foundation Trust.

Reacting to her confirmation, Millie said: “I have spent many years in policing and it has been a privilege to witness the dedication and compassion of officers and staff to protect the public. This is evident when I see that public approval for police has remained high despite officers and staff being faced with ever more complex crime, a reduced workforce and greater demand.

“We are dedicated to providing access to the best knowledge and skills which sits behind the bravery, dedication and compassion shown by police on a daily basis. We have ambitious plans ahead and I intend on working with people across policing to continue building a professional body that supports all officers and staff.”

source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph, Calcutta,India / Home> Calcuttu / by Amit Roy / November 17th, 2017

This Startup Made its Founder Vow to Make Her Presence on Earth Worthwhile to Benefit Mankind

Shruthi started Anthyesti in February 2016 with Rs one lakh that she borrowed from her husband

Death is grim business, but Shruthi Reddy Sethi, a young, enthusiastic software engineer in Kolkata has made it her business to make it easier for those left behind. With her uniquely focused services, in just over a year, her company Anthyesti has notched up a turnover of Rs 16 lakh.

Shruthi’s work begins in the aftermath of a life sadly ending. “Once we get a call,” she explains, “we first arrange for the hearse van and also ask if there is any need for preservation, such as a freezer box.

“After the hearse van moves to the crematorium, we assist the family to procure the KMC (Kolkata Municipal Corporation) death certificate if they seek our help. We then offer them our priest package if they want.”

Her company – Anthyesti – offers well-organized and efficient post-demise packages such as VIP hearse services, mobile freezer or embalming, repatriation of remains, and Shraadhs (a ritual to pay homage to the deceased in the family) for communities such as the Arya Samaj, Gujaratis, Marwaris and Bengalis. These services range from Rs 2,500 to Rs one lakh.

Yes, that’s right, Shruthi Reddy Sethi, 32, is a funeral services planner – officially the first such company in this sector in Kolkata.

“I first shared the idea of setting up a company that provides cremation and funeral services, with my husband,” she says. He promised to support her.

“But my parents,” she adds, “especially my mother, were very upset and said that this kind of ‘ignominious’ work was an insult for an IT engineer. She didn’t talk to me for a month!”

Shruthi had moved to Kolkata in 2015 to be with her husband who had shifted there with his job. Originally from Hyderabad, where she completed all her education, she was the older of the two siblings, with a brother.

Her father worked as an electrical engineer in Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), while her mother sold saris from the home to supplement the family’s income. Shruthi studied in Sai Public School till Class 10, after which she joined Little Flower Junior College in 2002.

By 2006 she had completed a degree in engineering from Bhoj Reddy Engineering College and she left her home town. “I joined an IT company in Bengaluru as a junior programmer,” she says, “and moved back to Hyderabad with another IT job in 2011.

In 2009, she got married to Gurvinder Singh Sethi who worked in Tata Motors in Hyderabad. “Life was moving smoothly till my husband was transferred to Kolkata in 2011,” says Shruthi. Her employers let her work from home at first, but in 2015 when they asked her to move back to Hyderabad, she resigned.

Shruthi had to plan her next step. “I wanted to do my MBA as I thought it would help me set up my business,” she recounts.

“With a view to joining one of the year-long executive programs in IIM and other reputed B-schools, I took the GMAT exam and cleared it.”

She got admission offers from IIM-Indore and IIM-Lucknow. She was about to get enrolled in one of them, when Siddharth Churiwal, a businessman friend, suggested: ‘Rather than spend that money on a degree, use it for bootstrapping your business. Have faith and you will find everything else on the way up.’

His advice took seed, even though Shruthi had no idea of the nitty-gritty and formalities of entrepreneurship.

“The concept of a funeral service start-up was subconsciously in my mind,” she recalls, “as I saw my husband facing a lot of problems at the death of his maternal grandfather in 2014 – making all the arrangements for cremation and prayers meant that he didn’t have time to grieve with his family.”

So that’s how she started setting up a company geared to efficiently and sensitively taking care of every aspect relating to the processes and ceremonies following a death, starting from embalming human remains to the conclusion of all rituals.
She had the business logic for it. “There is a large population of single old people in Kolkata,” she explains. “There are many people who live all by themselves. They would be more than happy to find someone to help in their last moments.”

In order to gain knowledge of the market and costs, Shruthi began to visit crematoriums, find out about the number of deaths every day, research charges for hearse vans, mortuaries, priests and pujas.

People working in this male-dominated sector were mostly uneducated, and many were drunkards. “My friends and family thought that I had lost my mind as I was busy with the dead throughout the day,” Shruthi says. “It was very tough.”

Finally, Shruthi started Anthyesti Funeral Services Private Limited on 19 February, 2016, with an investment of Rs one lakh, which she borrowed from her husband.

She is the founder-director of the company with 99 percent shares, while her mother, Suhasini Reddy – who came around to support her daughter – is the other director with one percent share. “It took me days before I zeroed in on the name Anthyesti, which means funeral rites in Sanskrit,” Shruti shares.

The company started with two employees in a rented office space of around 1,000 sq. ft. The concept was new to Kolkata and while Shruthi invested in marketing, the gradual increase in her business was mainly due to word-of-mouth publicity. “There were no sudden breakthrough moments,” she says.

“I built contacts with hearse van drivers and priests to be paid on a case-to-case basis,” she explains. “We got enlisted on Justdial in April 2015, from where I started getting calls for funeral services.”

But people normally called for the hearse van and not for cremation or performance of last rites. Shruthi found a solution and purchased two freezer boxes in June 2016 and an air-conditioned hearse van with an investment of around Rs seven lakh.

Now, bookings for Anthyesti’s can be made on the phone or online. The company now has six employees, receives around 35 orders every month, and its turnover has touched Rs 16 lakh in just over a year.

Wait there is more – with an eye on the future.

Anthyesti also offers services for pre-planning funeral service packages – ranging from Rs 6,000 to Rs 20,000 – for those who live alone. “Pre-death packages are an assurance to such clients that, should something happen to them all of a sudden, we are there to carry out the last rites,” says Shruthi. “Our legal agreements for this are prepared and vetted by experienced lawyers.”

Anthyesti is filling a much-felt gap. “Death is a crucial part of life and it needs to be served with professionalism, poise and dignity,” says Shruthi. “Staying calm, sensitive and empathetic is what I and my team focus on.”

Shruthi plans to expand and scale up through the franchising model by 2020. She feels her experience has taught her the value of money and the fact that death is the only truth in life.

“Make your presence on earth worthwhile so that you can benefit mankind,” this mother of a four-year-old son says wisely. She also shares her mantra for women entrepreneurs: “Have belief and never underestimate yourself. Small things will take care of themselves when you aim big.”

This Article is Part of the ‘Super Startups’ Series

source: http://www.weekendleader.com / The Weekend Leader / Home, Vol. 8, Issue 44 / by G. Singh, Kolkata / November 01st, 2017

Blind boys in melody mission – MUSIC RESTORES WHAT LOSS OF SIGHT SNATCHED

The band rehearses on September 22, a day before going to Delhi to play at a puja concert. Picture by Anup Bhattacharya

Narendrapur:

Asit Sil can feel the calluses on his fingers from hours of playing the sitar but still won’t use a plectrum.

Touch and feel are integral to the music created by this 16-year-old and his friends, part of a band of talented teens from the Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boys’ Academy in Narendrapur.

The band comprises more than 10 members, all of them students with varying degrees of visual impairment. Asit has 90 per cent blindness. Vocalist Dipu Roy, 19, was diagnosed with Nystagmus disease as an infant and lost his eyesight by the time he turned 2.

“Sight is not a must-have for musicians. But it is a different ballgame when you are playing in a group. In a concert, one wrong note can disrupt the entire performance. It takes hours of practice to get the coordination right,” said Bishnu Deb Chakraborty, one of the music teachers at the academy.

The band performs at concerts in the city round the year. From Tagore to SD Burman, instrumental compositions based on ragas to bhajans and folk, the band’s bouquet of music spells variety.

The boys have been invited to perform at pujas in different parts of the country in the past couple of years. Last year, it was Mumbai. This festive season, they performed at a celebration in Delhi.

“They had been invited by a puja near Dwarka. Most of them went to the capital for the first time,” said Biswajit Ghosh, the principal of the academy.

Indranil Kesh, who plays the violin, is from Bardhaman. He had joined the academy in 2011 and has been playing for close to four years. The VG Jog admirer remembers “sweating in panic” the first day he took the stage for a concert at the Rahara Ramakrishna Mission.

“Now I don’t get nervous unless the event is really big,” smiled Indranil, who loves listening to Arijit Singh’s melodies.

If Indranil’s favourite raga is Shivranjani, its Yaman for Asit, who is from a family of farmers in South Dinajpur.

Asit had started taking singing lessons at a very young age. Joining the academy seven years ago changed his passion. “I fell in love with the sitar,” recounted the teenager, who loves listening to Vilayat Khan and Ravi Shankar on YouTube.

On normal days, the boys practise in an auditorium at the academy for an hour after their regular classes. “They put in more hours before an event,” said principal Ghosh.

Sandip Sen, 18, plays the tabla. The Asansol boy’s only memory of music before joining the academy in 2012 is of his mother singing him to sleep. “I had kept my formal initiation into music a secret. When they first heard me in a programme in Calcutta, they could not believe it,” Sandip recalled.

source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph,Calcutta,India / Home> Calcutta / by Debraj Mitra / Tuesday – October 17th, 2017

A scooter-riding bookseller has served Kolkata better than Amazon could ever hope to

From Vir Sanghvi to Aveek Sarkar, everyone is a fan of Tarun Kumar Shaw’s unique personal book home delivery service.

Photo credit: Rana Chakraborty.

If a book has been printed, and is in circulation in even the remotest part of the world, chances are, Tarun Kumar Shaw will be able to get it for you. Be it a banned title, a rare tome, the latest edition of a prestigious science journal, Tarun-da, as he is popularly known in Kolkata, knows how to sniff out that book you want from under a pile of rubbish or email trail half way around the planet. Once the prize is in his hands, he will roll out his trusted two wheeler to ride to wherever you are – at your desk, at the Golf Club, or at the airport lounge – to personally deliver it to you. Commission on every sale depends on the challenges of the Holy Grail.

For more than three decades now, Tarun Shaw has been running what is possibly the only one of its kind personal book home delivery service in Kolkata. From the secured offices of leading media houses, to the corporate offices, the impenetrable Alipore and Ballygunj bungalows to the hallowed libraries of the academic institutions, Shaw has an all-access pass. Rather, he is the all-access pass and can reach where Amazon cannot – into the proud Bengali’s very cluttered headspace.

Ever since his father, Gopal Lal Shaw, wound up his tenure at Dey and Brothers, a bookstore in what used to be the Book Range in New Market, Shaw has been personally delivering books to every client in the city. He has been a particularly familiar and welcome sight in newspaper offices, carrying cases full of books that cover everything from science, politics, fascism ( a popular obsession, he says), general knowledge and literature.

Editors’ pick
In a quiet room in a quiet house, painted in loud pop colours, Tarun-da recapped his extraordinary life as an itinerant bookseller in the city that has been home to two Nobel Laureates, several Sahitya Akademi and Jnanpith awardees. It began with his father, who realised almost four decades ago that traditional bookstores would disappear, but a book lover will still want to read.

“It was to reach out to the diehard reader, and his old clients, that my father decided to start this door-to-door bookselling service,” said Shaw, 53. Calcutta was still reading voraciously at that time, and business flourished. “Our USP was our ability to procure imported newspapers and journals within days, sometimes hours,” explained Shaw about how the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, the various science and literary journals became a part of their repertoire. The Shaws were also canny businessmen and realised that siting on unsold inventory did not make sense. “We only procure on demand. Where is the space to stock books?”

An avid reader, Shaw also perfected the art of reading his client’s mind. “I have always loved talking to people about books. And once I have spent some time with anyone, I get a sense of what he or she would like to read. Next time we meet, I would suggest 10 books out of which, I guarantee you, the client will like at least one.”

Photo credit: Rana Chakraborty.

As work began to expand, Shaw’s elder brother joined the team, though Shaw-junior remained the most visible face of the book business, traversing the city, carrying a dozen odd books every day. That this was a successful business model became evident when others began to try out something similar. But the Tarun-da had an upper hand, and others fell by the wayside.

“I have known legendary editors such as MJ Akbar and Vir Sanghvi,” he said. “The latter especially was extremely generous and introduced me to some of the biggest business families who are now my clients. I enjoy a certain rapport with everyone and they trust me…” He was interrupted by calls from clients, one of whom wanted him to suggest a book to gift at a sacred thread ceremony, and another who wanted something on Swami Vivekananda.

Shaw’s relationship with the ABP Group, the media house that publishes The Telegraph, is special. There have been times when Aveek Sarkar, editor emeritus of the group, has called him in the dead of night to request for a rare title, or a special thesaurus, and Shaw has delivered. The employees too have developed a bond with him. Shaw sells everything from Sidney Sheldon to Andre Gide. He does not judge. The thrill, for him, has been in the chase. “I love challenges,” he said. “Even when Satanic Verses was banned, I got several copies of the book. It took time, but I did it.”

He prefers to sell only English and Bengali books because, in his words, “no one reads books in any other language here”.

Photo credit: Rana Chakraborty.

For the longest time, the city that has had a very special relationship with the written word had a very special place in its heart for the man who showed up with something or the other of interest. While College Street now lives on textbooks and nostalgia, there are hardly any bookstores of consequence left in the city, and Shaw refused to blame the decline on the internet. “It is us,” he said. “One generation gave up reading. But younger people are moving back to books. Kindle could not wipe it out. But why have we not been able to produce any writer of consequence after say a Sunil Gangopadhyay [one of Bengal’s most respected authors]. Why are Paulo Coelho, Jeffrey Archer failing to produce bestsellers?”

Last chapter
Of all the editors he has sold books to, Shaw had the most engaging conversations with the late editor of the ABP Group’s film magazine and noted filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh. “I remember, every time I walked in, he would literally throw everything away from his desk to make room for the books that I carried with me. I have not met anyone who was so obsessed with reading.” After his untimely death, Ghosh’s collection of 1,500 books were gifted to the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute. According to Shaw, most of those books were bought from him.

Shaw misses these associations. “It is not work. I have no problems selling you a book and walking away. It is business after all. But it breaks my heart to see a new book lying in a forgotten corner. I used to enjoy going back to my clients to discuss the book. I looked forward to these invigorating, stimulating conversations. I have had clients who call me home point to a wall and say: Isko Kitabon Se Bhar Dijiye! Not just any kind of books, they want leather-bound, gold-embossed books as a status symbol.” Shaw also blamed Bengali soaps for weaning the once fiercely well-read Bengali homemaker off books. “In the afternoons, after lunch, women would retire with a novella, a literary magazine or even a mythological book. Now it is just crap on TV.”

Even in the institutes, money spent annually on procuring rare titles, world class journals, are not actually realised because “not a page is turned”.

Shaw’s son works in Singapore, but he acknowledges his role in helping him reach out to publishers around the world. “I studied in a Bengali medium school. I am not tech savvy either. But my son started tracking down publishers and established a global network which I am still enjoying. He helped me tremendously to expand our business.” But neither his brother’s children, nor his son are interested in taking over the reins of the business. It is not as if Shaw is keen to see it continue either. “The whole business worked on trust, familiarity. People see my face and I put my personal equity out there every day over the past 30 years. We hired a couple of people to deliver newspapers, magazines, but not the books. That is special. It had to be me delivering them to those who waited for them. And it ends with me.”

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.

source: http://www.scroll.in / Scroll.in / Home> Magazine> Book Lovers / by Chandrima Pal / Thursday – May 03rd, 2017