Category Archives: Inspiration / Positive News and Features

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

Memorial on Mahasweta Devi to come up in Kolkata

(Pic Credit: Google)

A memorial to Magsaysay award winning late author and social activist Mahasweta Devi will be set up at her residence in Rajdanga in Kolkata, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on February 27.

“The memorial is ready. The memorial will house her belongings, books, and other materials used by her,” Banerjee said during an informal interaction with mediapersons at Eco Park.

Jnanpith awardee Mahasweta Devi, who crusaded for the rights of tribals and the marginalised throughout her life, died on July 28, 2016.

Banerjee also said the state government would establish memorials for famed journalists Barun Sengupta, Gour Kishore Ghosh and Amitabha Chowdhury. The government also had plans to rename roads after the three journalists. A road close to the office of the Bartaman newspaper on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass founded by Sengupta would be rechristened after him.

The government was on the lookout for sites to set up the memorials on June 19.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> Lifestyle> Books / IANS / February 28th, 2017

Doctor far-off, care close by – Satellite health unit set up at remote Rimbick

A patient being treated at the medical unit at Rimbick. Telegraph picture

Darjeeling :

An idea that bagged an award from the Acadèmia de Ciències Mèdiques, a forum of healthcare professionals in Barcelona, Spain, has blossomed into a fruitful project that is saving human lives in one of the farthest corners of Darjeeling district in Rimbick.

Plaban Das, a medical director of Planter’s Hospital in Darjeeling, during his advanced medical studies at La Santpau hospital in Barcelona, had through his Spanish friends proposed an idea in 2009 to create a satellite healthcare unit in remote areas.

The idea we bagged the Beques de Cooperacio Academia del Mon award that carried a prize money of 200 Euros in 2009.

“Anna Goma, a Spanish doctor, has presented the idea to the academy and it bagged the first prize. It was just an idea then and wanted to replicate the same in Rimbick, where I had conducted a medical camp in 2007,” said Das.

He mulled over the idea for long and once social media, more particularly WhatsApp, became common among people, he started working on the project.

“The basic idea was to ensure the people of Rimbick and its surrounding areas quick medical intervention during emergencies so that lives could be saved,” said Das.

Rimbick is about 90km from Darjeeling and one has to trek 6-7km further to reach the villages of Srikhola and Daragoan.

“With the help of local people, we formed a 12-member committee and set up the Rimbick Singalila Health Care Centre, a no-loss-no-profit venture which was inaugurated on September 13, 2015,” said Das.

Das made a personal contribution of Rs 2.5 lakh, along with the prize money of 100 Euros (the remaining 100 Euros was used in a project in Nigeria), while local people contributed around Rs 1 lakh. “Dr Hem Gosai, who practices in London but is from Darjeeling, later contributed Rs 1 lakh when he heard about the project,” said Das.

Two nurses, one para-medic and two technicians run the two-bedded centre at Rimbick with ECG, X-ray machine, nebuliser, oxygen cylinder and lab equipment.

“Whenever there is an emergency, the nurses contact me through WhatsApp. Primary tests are done there and they send the report on Whatsapp to me. Then I prescribe preliminary treatment right away, which is important in cases like brain stroke and heart attacks,” said Das.

Prakash Gurung, GTA Sabha member of the area, has also donated an ambulance to the centre.

In fact, this year, the centre observed a Stroke Survival Day, where five patient who had become paralytic and fully recovered because of immediate medical intervention were felicitated.

Shiva Rai, a hotelier, said: “I would not have been speaking to you had the centre not been there. I had gone to bed normally but in the morning, I found that my hands were paralytic and my face slanted. I could recover fully because of immediate medical intervention.

Binod Kumar Rai, a teacher of Rimbick Higher Secondary School, said: “I had a bee sting followed by fever and diarrhea. I recovered immediately. Importantly, my relative who had a stroke also recovered well.”

The centre needs Rs 30,000 on an average a month to function. “They charge a minimum amount. If we were to go and meet Dr Das in Darjeeling we need to spend anything between Rs 2000 to Rs 3000. But treatment is much cheaper and efficient at the Rimbick centre,” said Binod.

Das, along with other doctors visit the centre, once a month. A group of doctors from Zion Hospital in Nagaland held a free medical camp on February 15 there.

“People from Nepal also visit the centre now,” said Das.

Apart from the Spanish doctor, Anna, Martha Gallego, a nurse, Pau Casan Bonet, a pianist, and Begonya Crespo Bosque held a musical event in Barcelona to support the centre.

A similar project is being worked out for Badamtam tea garden, about 20km from Darjeeling.

source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph,Calcutta,India / Front Page> North Bengal> Story / by Vivek Chhetri / Monday- February 20th, 2017

Tea garden woman gives karate classes

Subrati Baraik performs karate with a student in Jaigaon. (Anirban Choudhury)

Alipurduar :

A 23-year-old woman is providing training in karate to youths, particularly females so that they could protect themselves from teasing and stalkers.

Subrati Baraik, a resident of Madhu Tea Estate, is running a karate camp in Jaigaon and training youths for their own safety.

Baraik told Metro that she had decided to learn karate after being repeatedly teased by youths at different places.

“Eight years ago, I was teased by some youths while travelling on a train. I was returning home from Siliguri. When I tried to resist them, they passed lewd comments. After few months, a similar incident occurred again at a fair. I felt insulted after both these incidents and decided to learn karate for my safety,” she said.

In 2010, Baraik came to Alipurduar town and met Apra Bora, a karate coach.

“I requested him to teach karate and he started training me. In December 2015, I participated in a National Karate Championship in Hoogly and came first in ‘Kiyukishan Full Body Contact’ category,” she added.

In Jaigaon, located on India-Bhutan boarder and 15km from here, Baraik teaches karate to 20 students, of whom 15 are females.

“I started a camp around three years ago in Jaigaon. I came here with my coach and the urge to learn karate among students made me start the camp. I charge Rs 200 per month for a student,”she said.

Classes are conducted from 8am to 9.30am on Sundays.

Baraik said after learning karate, she had once beaten up a group of youths who were teasing her and also wanted her friends residing in the estate to learn the same.

“I could study till Class X because of financial crisis in the family. I have decided to teach karate to the youth in the garden but it will take time to convince them as they are very shy,” she said.

Baraik holds brown belt in karate.

Apra Bora, Baraik’s coach, said: “She is really talented. If she does training with a lot of sincerity, she will be able to win more championships.”

The garden is 36km from Alipurduar town.

source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph,Calcutta,India / Front Page> North Bengal> Story / by Our Correspondent / Friday – February 17th, 2017

Blind steer cars in rally

The Agarwals of Phoolbagan and Laxman Mondal, the navigator, with their amateur category trophies

On February 5, it was the sightless in the navigator’s seat as participants in a car rally made their way from Acropolis Mall to the Harley Davidson showroom in New Town.

The Exide Rotary Car Rally for the Blind was organised by the Rotary Club of Calcutta MidTown in partnership with Just Sportz & Turnstone Global in the TSD (time, speed and distance) format.

The TSD format requires each car to pass through several manned time control points in a specified time, failing in which one is penalised. The team with the least penalty points is declared the winner.

The blind persons guided the driver with the help of the route chart printed in Braille. The rally had about 300 participants with each team being paired with a visually impaired navigator. The route map in Braille was handed over to the teams just before the flag-off and could be deciphered only by the navigator.

There were trophies for professional rallyists, amateurs and all-women teams. Director general, fire services, Jag Mohan was present for the prize distribution ceremony.

The winner in the expert category was Avik Saha with Debargha Mukherjee as the navigator.

In the amateur category, the husband-wife duo of Sandeep and Mukti Agarwal won with Laxman Mondol as the navigator. “We were debutants but Laxman had won a rally before. He was so quick with the instructions that we won easily,” said Sandeep, a Phoolbagan resident.

source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph,Calcutta,India / Front Page> Salt Lake> Story / by A Staff Reporter / Friday – February 17th, 2017

Now, Rs 5 wonder sachet to help you save teeth, bone

HIGHLIGHTS

. Scientists have developed an inexpensive kit to test the fluorosis level in the body

. The fluoride level detection kit that will soon be available in shampoo-like sachet
—————————————————————————————

Kolkata :

Scientists at a top-notch research institute in Durgapur have developed an easy-to-use, inexpensive kit to test the fluorosis level in the body so that one can take corrective measures before it causes teeth and bone deformity.

A team led by CSIR-CMERI scientist (surface engineering and tribology division) Dr Priyabrata Banerjee has developed the fluoride level detection kit that will soon be available in shampoo-like sachet. The sachets, to be priced around Rs 5 each, will contain two kits comprising two vials and a strip of colour-coded paper. While one vial will be empty, the other will contain a chemo-sensor liquid.

“All that a person has to do is spit into the empty vial, then pour the chemo sensor into it, close the vial and shake it vigorously. There will be an instant colour change, indicating the level of fluorosis in the body. If it is orange, it will indicate unsafe level of more than 1.5 ppm. Yellow indicates safe level of less than 1.5 ppm. The vial can be placed against the colour coded strip to match the colour and the fluorosis level it indicates,” Banerjee pointed out.

The Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI) is a leading mechanical engineering R&D institute under the aegis of Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) that has developed technologies to provide societal solutions.The folurosis level detection kit is one such that has already been provisionally patented and technology tranferred to small scale industry for commercial production. The institute showcased this and other technologies at the 31st Indian Engineering Congress organised by the Institute of Engineers (India) in Kolkata recently.

“We expect the kits to be available in health stores in rural Bengal, particularly villages in Purulia, Bankura and Birbhum where fluorosis is a problem,” said Banerjee, who is the key inventor. Fluorosis can be dental, skele tal or non-skeletal and cause motteled teeth or deformity of limbs.

Banerjee’s team has also developed a chemo sensor station costing around Rs 2,000 each that will be placed at the primary health centres in fluorosis-affected districts where people can get the samples electronically verified.

“The salivary fluoride level detection kit is the latest technology that our scientists have come up with. The patent for this product was filed on November18,” said CSIR-CMERI director Harish Hirani.

Another technology that the R&D institute demonstrated was a smart card operated and pluggable energy meter through which one can instantly measure the energy level of an electrical installation using a smart phone. “One only needs to have internet connectivity or bluetooth to link a smart energy meter with a smartphone,” said a scientist.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Kolkata News / by Suman Chakraborti / TNN / December 20th, 2016

IIT Kharagpur introduced Staff Excellence Award on 66th Foundation Day

Kolkata :

Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur celebrated its 66th Foundation Day on August 18.

“With the history of a political detention camp where freedom fighters, of the age of first year IIT students, gave their lives, the IIT system has become one of the finest brands that independent India offered to the world”, said Partha Pratim Chakrabarty, Director of IIT Kharagpur. He also remembered his school teacher on this occasion who was incarcerated in the Hijli Detention Camp for 15 years. “Building leaders is the aim that is fostered at the Institute now” added Chakrabarty.

Surajit Kar Purkayastha, Director General of West Bengal Police and an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur who was the Chief Guest of the programme said, the standard of IIT Kharagpur is such that any student can become high ranking civil service officers. He explained how the scenario of recruitment in civil services changed in late 70s’ with encouraging more engineers to join the services and enrich the country with their analytical skills and technical expertise. Shri Purkayastha also appreciated the serene atmosphere of the IIT Kharagpur campus separated from the chaos of the world outside and helping students to concentrate more on their career development. He urged the students to lay foundation of strong character on the occasion of the Foundation Day which will take them and the country forward.

On this day, the Institute announced life-long email service for its 55000+ alumni community. The Institute presented the Nina Saxena Excellence in Technology Award to Jeen Britto.M, ISRO Scientist, for his exemplary innovation in the field of Cryogenics Instrumentation and Automation. Krishnendu Chakrabarty, distinguished professor and Director of Graduate Studies at Duke University, was handed over the Distinguished Alumnus Award to which he was a recipient in 2014. IIT Kharagpur also introduced the Staff Excellence Award this year and honored three staff members in various categories.

The programme also saw participation from high school students of three schools – South Point, DAV Model School and Kendriya Vidyalaya. An interactive session was organized with the school students with the faculty and students from IIT Kharagpur. The students were given brief introduction of the interdisciplinary domains of technology education which they can pursue. While the faculty emphasized on the following the passion of the young mind instead of 7-digit pay packages, the 1st year students from IIT Kharagpur suggested their juniors to balance the hours of study and recess.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kolkata / Somdatta Basu / TNN / August 19th, 2016

Indian weaves meet Italian exuberance

Designers Sayantan Sarkar and Rimi Nayak in Italy.
Designers Sayantan Sarkar and Rimi Nayak in Italy.

Two Kolkata designers represent the country in Italy

Last month, designers Sayantan Sarkar and Rimi Nayak — both Lakme Fashion Week veterans — were among a group of 18 delegates from various industries who represented India at a four-day trade conference, courtesy the Bengal Chamber of Commerce. The meet was organised in association with the Indian Embassy as a part of the government’s ‘Make in India’ project. Staged across three Italian cities — Milan, San Marino and Rome — the meet was graced by Italian fashion houses, buyers and industry experts, who were duly impressed by Indian craftsmanship, textile heritage and attention to detail.

Saying it in Bengali
Nayak has been working with prints inspired by Bengali fonts since 2013. Her signature Bengali typography prints have earned her rave reviews at the Lakme Fashion Week and celebrity clients such as Vidya Balan, Amrita Rao, Esha Gupta, Sayani Gupta and Yami Gautam. Nayak. The curvaceous look of the Bengali font piqued the curiosity in Italian buyers. “Bengali fonts are visually appealing and have been hugely appreciated in the past.” says the designer.

Nayak’s collection inspired by Bengali typography.
Nayak’s collection inspired by Bengali typography.

“I had iconic lines from Tagore’s literature printed on beautiful dresses with my signature drapes. Also, every line in Bengali also had its corresponding English translation. For instance, ‘Pothik tumi ki poth haraiyacho?’ was accompanied by ‘Wayfarer have you lost your way?’ printed beside it.” The ‘world map’ items from her 10-piece capsule collection were also a huge hit with buyers in Milan. “The entire world map was printed on the ensemble in a graphical manner, with names of the countries and oceans written in Bengali and English.”

Nayak, who works extensively with khadi, said that Europeans acknowledged and appreciate the rich heritage of the handloom fabric.

As for the typographical print, she said, “When it comes to typography prints in fashion, you mostly see English, Chinese and Arabic scripts. I am born and brought up in Bengal, although I am Oriya by birth. So I wanted to popularise the Bengali typography as it never got the kind of exposure it deserved.”

Nayak is now expecting potential collaborations through Milan Fashion Week with those who are keen to work with her label. She is looking forward to working on commissions for developing indigenous fabrics for them.

Europeran sensibilities, Indian fabric
Sarkar feels Indian designers ought to harness the craze Europeans have for our fabrics. “You can expect to sell a simple Khadi ensemble for 3000 Euros. That’s the kind of price they are willing to pay.” He has also been approached to develop weaves by ‘mesmerised buyers’ from Italy.

He is amongst the handful of Indian designers who develop their own textiles. He works with craftsmen in the Phulia district of Bengal to create fabrics for his western outfits. “The Chamber of Commerce was seeking someone who would cater to European sensibilities promoting Indian fabric. That’s how they zeroed in on me.”

Sarkar travelled with two collections, featuring trousers, shirts and jackets for women. The former used the khesh technie (a technique which recycles fabric) on the denim. “We have applied it on denim strips, washed them and developed fabric out of them. These fabrics were manufactured in Shantiniketan.” His Mayuraka collection. “had dancing peacock motifs used on shift dresses, tunics and shirts.” The other, more bohemian collection, called Vagabondage, was inspired by “the nomadic gypsy lifestyle” and used the Jamdani weave. The feathers of a dream catcher were used as a recurring motif. It featured shibori with kantha stitchwork and South American Aztec motifs inspired by the traditional Bengali Jamdani textile.

Sarkar concedes that the European market is of the opinion that our silhouettes are not trendy or global yet. “They think we are still very conservative. They demanded a new silhouette range, which we have taken up as our most recent project.” Sarkar is optimistic that his designs will display soon at multi-designer outlets in Rome.

The author is a freelance writer

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Mumbai / by Piali Dasgupta / August 09th, 2016

There will never be another Indian soldier-diplomat like you, Ms. Ghose

C’est n’est qu’un au revoir

ArundhatiGhoseKOLKATA28jul2016

Journalist: “Ambassador, Madam Ambassador, is India walking out of the talks?”

Ambassador: “India is going to the loo.”

The journalist was a correspondent for a Japanese news agency. The Ambassador was Arundhati Ghose who passed away this week (1940-2016). She was the Indian Ambassador to United Nations (UN) in Geneva. The year was 1996 – she was negotiating the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) on behalf of 900 million Indians. The diminutive lady with a cigarette in one hand, papers in the other and India in her heart single-handedly wreaked havoc on the Conference on Disarmament (CD). She did this for India.

Leading from the front and all guns blazing, she defended India’s decision to oppose the treaty. The talks hinged on India’s decision and pressure on New Delhi to sign the skewed and dishonest CTBT was multi-pronged and fierce. She didn’t blink – diplomats will tell you what blinking in such negotiations can mean. No she didn’t blink and ensured no one in India did either. That is an even more difficult task for an Indian diplomat to achieve.

I covered the talks. Staking out with hundreds of journalists at the UN became normal life if not at GATT-WTO, then at the UN. Has Ms. Ghose spoken to India, has Washington spoken to India, will India sign, do you know anything, what is she going to do next went the drift. I felt good – this was a great story.

More importantly, in all my years of reporting from abroad including from the UN, I had never seen an Indian diplomat defending India’s interests with such force, grit, grace and determination. At the GATT-WTO, down the road from the UN, India was conceding paragraph by clause on trade and market access to the demands of the very same P5 who were being dismantled by Ms. Ghose for their double-speak and hypocrisy at the CD.

Didn’t national interest include protecting trade interests? For a journalist, the contrast was stark and which each passing day, I admired Ms. Ghose. If she could do it, why not the other guys down the road? The answer was and continues to be simple – she was a committed Indian, India’s defence interests were not just a treaty, it was her soul and her substance. She walked and talked national security, especially South Asian security.

Picture this. Press conferences during the negotiations were held throughout the day with all of us chasing the P5 (United States, United Kingdom, France, China and Russia), sharing notes, placing each others’ tape recorders in strategic places – laptops and mobile telephones had just debuted. The more important CTBT press conferences were held in a large room, always jam-packed. What will India do or what do you think India will do was almost always the first question.

One such presser was called as the endgame neared. Sitting on the stage with the P5 manel, Ms. Ghose was unperturbed, taking notes, as Ambassador after Ambassador said New Delhi would be held responsible for the CTBT’s collapse. At one point a western P5 Ambassador said “…the people of the world want this treaty.” Ms. Ghose jumped in. Hello, she said. “Which people…I represent 900 million people and you will not ignore the wishes of my people. We are not signing the CTBT text on the table.” In a spontaneous gesture journalists were on their feet applauding Ms. Ghose. The logic was on India’s side – the world had failed its CTBT mandate. The air was electric.

In 1993 the UN gave the then 38-nation Geneva-based CD its first comprehensive mandate to negotiate a test ban treaty at the earliest. The scope of the proposed treaty quickly emerged as the most important and contentious aspect of the negotiations. Linked to the scope were verification and compliance protocols which obviously meant on-site inspections. An international monitoring system would check cheaters but fears grew that this was a fishing expedition in disguise.

Just ahead of the CTBT, India said that the indefinite extension of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) – a gift the then nuclear weapons states had given to each other to blow the world apart – was an act of bad faith. Given that reality, New Delhi said any meaningful CTBT could not be a standalone piece and must be part of a time-bound global disarmament process. That set the cat among the pigeons, then.

How did Ms. Ghose handle it? How many phone calls did the Indian Prime Minister take? It was a long way from Arkansas to Haradhanahalli – maybe the Indian Prime Minister was resting when the phone rang, maybe the two men just didn’t understand each other. All we knew was that Ms. Ghose had a mandate and she was going to work it for her people. Ambassadors are supposed to do just that. Serve their countries.

Ms. Ghose did all the heavy lifting and then there were moments that tugged at your heartstrings. She told me about a visit to a bank during one of her trips to New Delhi. The clerk looked at her name, jumped up, told her the entire nation was behind her as she negotiated the ‘NTPC’ in Geneva – such was the groundswell of support for her. There were other anecdotes, of people stopping her on the streets of India, Ms. Ghose and the journalists hanging out in Geneva over peels of laughter even as she scolded us for following her to the loo or not allowing her a peaceful moment for a puff at 3 a.m.

As I write this, I wonder if Ms. Ghose is not telling god what she thinks of the man with the yellow hair trying to make his way to the White House. There will never be another like you Ms. Ghose. This is but a goodbye.

source: http://www.thenewsminute.com / The News Minute / Home / by Chitra Subramanian / Wednesday – July 27th, 2016

Dial S for Shepreneur

If you have an idea and wish to turn it into a business, dial S for Swayam.

Swayam, a business consultancy cell for new and existing women entrepreneurs, was launched by FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO) on Tuesday. Goa governor Mridula Sinha was invited to launch the project as Anuradha Lohia, Presidency University vice-chancellor, chatted with her on the “changing role of women” in front of an audience of around 200 FLO members at Taj Bengal.

Governor of Goa Mridula Sinha (centre) launches Swayam, the business consultancy cell of FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO), with Anuradha Lohia, vice-chancellor of Presidency University (left) and Anupama Sureka, chairperson, FLO Calcutta, at Taj Bengal on Tuesday. Picture by B. Halder
Governor of Goa Mridula Sinha (centre) launches Swayam, the business consultancy cell of FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO), with Anuradha Lohia, vice-chancellor of Presidency University (left) and Anupama Sureka, chairperson, FLO Calcutta, at Taj Bengal on Tuesday. Picture by B. Halder

“The changing role of women goes hand-in-hand with the changing role of men,” said Sinha, who described herself as a “familist” – as opposed to “feminist” – to emphasise the importance of family support, especially from male members, in a woman’s journey to success.

Eight mentors are part of the Swayam team in Calcutta. “We will step in at places where women need help like writing business propositions, raising funds, getting them familiarised with government policies and marketing,” said mentor Nayantara Palchoudhuri, who was the first woman president of the Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The mentors have been prepping up in order to deliver their best. “I did a course on motivation because I was going to be part of this motivational team of Swayam members,” said Suksham Singh, who runs Lifeline Foundation, a free tele-helpline service for the depressed and suicidal.

“If a woman wants to get into a particular area of business, she needs to be told the ABC of business. Say, it is food processing. That’s not my area of expertise but I will put her on to experts. The mentors’ job will be to network… we are going to see that she gets all the attention she needs to take her down that path. They can be young or old… I’m looking for someone who’s 65 and wants to start a business!” added Suksham, who also opened the first all-women petrol pump in Alipore in 2004.

“As of now, Swayam is open to all women and students and not restricted to FLO members. Consultancy is available for a nominal fee, charged only so we get serious proposals,” ” said Anupama Sureka, chairperson, FLO Calcutta.

You can reach Swayam in Calcutta at 9163167789 and flokolswayam@gmail.com

source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph,Calcutta,India / Front Page> Calcutta> Story / by A Staff Reporter / Wednesday- July 27th, 2016