Category Archives: Leaders

The festival begins

Pictures by Bishwarup Dutta

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee inaugurates the (right) Sree Bhumi Sporting Club pandal, modelled after the palace of Mahishmati in the Bahubali films, on Monday.

Attending the first event of her packed pre-Puja calendar, Mamata once again explained why she could not allow Durga immersions and Muharram processions on the same day. “Durga Puja is a festival of happiness and Muharram processions are taken out as a mark of sorrow,” she said. The chief minister also cautioned those trying to create trouble during the festive season.

“Till the date I’m on this (chief minister’s) chair, I will not let anything happen. It is my duty to see that no two localities fight among themselves,” she added, appealing to all for peace.

“The countdown to Durga Puja, our biggest festival, has started.

Today I was at Sreebhumi Sporting Club to inaugurate their puja. My best wishes to all,” she posted on Facebook soon after.

source: / The Telegraph,Calcutta, India / Front Page> Calcutta> Story / Tuesday – September 19th, 2017

Meet Shakespeare, Tagore and Ray, across the Hooghly

Different strokes: Devajit Bandyopadhyay shows off some items from his collection. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Kolkata collector with a passion for art of the world ready to turn three decades of memorabilia into public archive

Once famed as Sheffield of the east, Howrah, across the Hooghly from Kolkata does not normally attract attention, except from the spiritually-inclined who go to Belur Math. That is set to change, as a museum of the arts is taking shape in one of its small streets, with a trove of collections on literature and the performing arts.

The curated pieces include an old music record made of pitch board, a mid-18th century Bengali manuscript copy from Bibliotheque national de France, and an old ivory-inlay veena.

There are rare books of Shakespeare from London, letters of Rabindranath Tagore, a bioscope and original film posters of Ray and others. Many of these artefacts are from a three-decade-old private collection now going up for public viewing at the Academy Theatre Archive.

Devajit Bandyopadhyay is the passionate force behind the effort. He almost chose to be a chartered accountant, for which he qualified like others in his family, but found more value in theatre and its music. His journey began when he left home, almost penniless, realising that “justice cannot be done simultaneously to two fields that are poles apart.” Sitting in his South Kolkata apartment crammed with books on the performing arts, he recalls his early days of picking up skills in music, painting, theatre and puppetry. “I sang, I held painting exhibitions and gave lecture-demonstrations even as I pursued my passion for music-in-theatre.”

Gina Lolobrigida book

Researching this topic (he has a Ph. D from Jadavpur University on Bengali theatre music), he scoured sources worldwide.

Piece by small piece, he built a small assortment of things, sometimes finding treasures like a signed book by film star Gina Lolobrigida and a Bengali LP record in Oxford Street, UK. He knocked at every door that held promise.

Today, there are 500 pieces of memorabilia, 40 musical instruments, 20,000 books, periodicals and manuscripts and about 24,000 records of Indian and western music and operas. Most are backed by accession reports and authentication certificates, says Mr. Bandyopadhyay.

“My passion binds me to each acquisition, but my 12-year chase to acquire the 18th century Bengali manuscript in Paris and the time I had to persuade octogenarian Istiauq to sell his bioscope from remain etched in my mind”, he says.

Kidderpore chase

A hunt to get a book from a Kidderpore bookseller initially ended in failure, since the man was hospitalised suddenly.

He had lost all hope of getting the book when he heard that the store-owner had sold the entire cart to another book-dealer in central Kolkata.

“I located him. He was not in a very cooperative mood but I went with him to his godown and persuaded him to part with the book”, Mr. Bandyopadhyay recalls.

His passion for collecting and bringing artefacts from far and wide to an art-loving audience is undiminished.

He is now keen to set up the public archive and the digital venture was inaugurated by actor Madhabi Mukherjee, whose posters from Ray films are among the prominent exhibits.

Going public with art

Professor Jayanta Sengupta, Director, Indian Museum, lauds the effort.

He said at a workshop held recently to impart knowledge on restoration, that such private collections as they were a valuable source of conservation.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kolkata / by Indrani Dutta / Kolkata – April 23rd, 2017

On Satyajit Ray’s birthday, Kolkata exhibition celebrates 50 years of Feluda

Over a hundred exhibits on display capture the legendary film-maker’s multifaceted personality, as a writer, as an illustrator and as a composer.

The exhibition showcases everything related to Ray’s much-feted oeuvre, including photos from his famed Red Books where he jotted down minute details associated with his films.

An exhibition of over a hundred exhibits celebrating 50 years of Feluda, the iconic sleuth created by auteur Satyajit Ray, was inaugurated in Kolkata on Sunday evening ahead of the legend’s 96th birth anniversary on May 2.

The Oscar-winning film director’s 25th death anniversary was observed on April 23.

The assemblage essentially captures everything related to Ray’s much-feted oeuvre, including photos from his famed “Kheror Khata” (red books or manuscripts) where he jotted down minute details associated with his films.

“Though the theme is Feluda, there is much more to be seen in the exhibition, such as his doodles. Initially we were restricting the exhibits to 90 but it has crossed 100. The items exhibited capture his multifaceted personality, as a writer, as an illustrator and as a composer.

“For Feluda afficionados, there are shooting schedule of films like Sonar Kella, sketches and illustrations of Feluda,” a representative of The Society for the Preservation of Satyajit Ray Archives, said. The show will run till May 4 at ICCR and then move to the Calcutta Club.

Revolving around the 27-year-old athletic Pradosh Chandra Mitter, nicknamed Feluda, the novellas showcase the private eye’s superb analytical and observational skills that ultimately solve the mysteries – be it murders, theft or kidnapping.

Said to have been modelled on Sherlock Holmes, the cigarette-smoking and martial art-trained Feluda is accompanied in his sleuthing pursuits by cousin, Tapesh Ranjan Mitra or Topshe who is the narrator of the stories and may have been loosely based on character of Dr John Watson.

Ray also brings in a character called Jatayu (Lal Mohon Ganguly), a writer of thriller novels who provides a much-loved comic relief, from his sixth novella onward.

Feluda possesses a .32 Colt revolver but rarely uses it. In story after story, his major weapon is “magajastra” (the brain). Since the first Feluda whodunit Feludar Goyendagiri (Feluda’s investigation) debuted in December 1965 in the Sandesh magazine, the series has been translated in four Indian languages besides English, French, Italian, Swedish, German and Japanese. The first Feluda book came out in 1967.

The books have spawned hit films, animations and comics and the character has attained cult status among the old and the young alike.

Follow @htlifeandstyle for more.

source: / Hindustan Times / Home> Lifestyle> Art & Culture / by Indo Asian News Service / Kolkata – May 01st, 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: / The Times of India / News> Lifestyle> Books / IANS / February 28th, 2017

Kolkata sculptor moulds President’s statue

Kolkata :

Last time sculptor Niranjan Pradhan worked with a model offering live sitting was 50 years ago in 1966-67, when he was a student at art college and professional models posed for students to sketch and sculpt human figures.

The sessions helped the artist create some of his best bronze figures, including that of Raja Rammohan Roy in Bristol, Vivekananda, Tagore and Jagadish Chandra Bose at Burdwan University , Satyajit Ray at Roop Kala Kendra and Uttam Kumar at Tollygunge. “One gets to sculpt only famous personalities or gods and goddesses. Artists usually don’t get to sculpt a live person,” said Pradhan. Little did he know he would get the rare opportunity , and the model would be none other than President Pranab Mukherjee.

Over five sessions last year, Mukherjee sat without as much as twitching a facial muscle as Pradhan gave the finishing touches to his statue, now at Rashtrapati Bhavan. “Rashtrapati Bhavan wanted to commission a work for the collection of President’s busts. I readily agreed,” Pradhan said.

Mukherjee had to first go in for a shoot, in which he was photographed from various angles.Based on the photos, Pradhan did the initial clay modelling and then a fibre glass mould, which he carried to Delhi for a live session with Mukherjee for finishing touches. “I was excited about checking out how my sculpture had fared compared to the person,” the artist said.But Pradhan was in for disappointment as Mukherjee got busy with meetings and then left for China.

The next time Pradhan visited Rasthrapati Bhavan was a couple of months later.But this time, he was pleasantly surprise. Not only did Mukherjee give him a day’s sitting, he also sat through for an hour, daily for five days in a row. “He was the perfect model.He was very cooperative and even spent time after the sitting to see how the work progressed,” Pradhan said.

The artist created a plaster cast of the final sculpture and returned to his Salt Lake studio for a bronze casting.

The bust was delivered to Rashtrapati Bhavan in time to be installed next to APJ Abdul Kalam’s bust on December 11, Mukherjee’s birthday .

source: / The Times of India / Home> News> City News> Kolkata News / by Subhro Niyogi / TNN / February 27th, 2017

Singur movement ‘historic win’, to be part of school syllabus: West Bengal minister

The minister also said that by March 15 the government would complete the entire process of employing 72,000 teachers in primary, upper-primary, Madhyamik and Higher Secondary schools.

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee addressing a rally at Singur in 2011. (Express archive)

The iconic Singur movement would be introduced in the history syllabus of schools run by the West Bengal government from this year, West Bengal education minister Partha Chatterjee today said.

The minister, who described the Singur movement as a “historic win” for the farmers, told a question-answer session in the Assembly that a chapter detailing the agitation would be included in the history syllabus of class eight.
Later, speaking to reporters, Chatterjee said, “It’s a historic win for the farmers. Along with the Singur movement, the Tebhaga movement and Krishak Andolan will also feature in the syllabus and students must know that this movement is one of the milestones in the country’s history.”

Chatterjee said that distribution of the books had already been started. After the Supreme Court verdict allowing redistribution of Singur land among farmers, the state education department had sent the proposal to the syllabus committee for approval of the inclusion of Singur movement in the Madhyamik school syllabus.

The minister also said that by March 15 the government would complete the entire process of employing 72,000 teachers in primary, upper-primary, Madhyamik and Higher Secondary schools.

He requested ‘opponents’ not to move court creating hurdles in the process of employment of teachers and said that his department was going through a verification process at present.

source: / The Indian Express / Home> Education / by PTI / Kolkata – February 13th, 2017

CM dials Delhi after House nod to ‘Bengal’

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

Kolkata :

After pushing through the name-change resolution in the assembly by a brute 189-31 majority, the Mamata Banerjee government on Monday lobbed the ball in the Centre’s court, asking it to fast-track the proposal to rechristen the state as Bengal (in English) and Bangla (in Bengali and Hindi).

Minutes after the passage of the government-sponsored resolution, the chief minister spoke to Union home minister Rajnath Singh and urged him to introduce a constitutional amendment at the earliest.

The road ahead could be treacherous as BJP and Left voted against the resolution on Monday and Congress remained ambivalent -it staged a walkout. I will request the Centre to pursue the matter so that it can be placed in Parliament.We want it to be done as early as possible,” Mamata said. She also criticised state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh for saying he would not allow the bill to be passed. “I will see how he (Ghosh) can stop it. I will speak to the Union home minister. Who is he to stop it?” Mamata thundered.

“Those who are opposing the name change just for the sake of politics should be ashamed. It is a historic blunder and history will not forgive them. It doesn’t matter who opposed it.The West Bengal assembly passed it,” the CM said.

While the debate in the assembly on Monday started on predictable lines, Trinamool Congress almost outwitted the opposition by keeping only `Bangla’ in the resolution. This was the name that had been adopted by the Left Front government and supported by the Congress in 1999. The split in the Opposition was immediate, with Congress harping on a referendum on the issue and staging a walkout.

“I have no problem with the name. It can be `Banga’, `Bangla’, `Paschim Banga’, anything.But how can a state have two names, one in Bengali and another in English. I am Sujan Chakraborty . So will I be called `Goodman Chakraborty’ or Sovondeb Chatterjee be called `Goodlooking God Chatterjee’.This is ridiculous. There should be only one name. Bengal or Bangla – whatever it might be,” said CPM’s Sujan Chakraborty .

Mamata replied, “We are in favour of Bangla as it goes with the culture, language and tradition of the state, but there is only one problem. ‘Bangla’ resonates with ‘Bangladesh’ and it will create a problem in the international arena and so we have decided to write ‘Bangla’ putting ‘Bengal’ in bracket. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had said `Bangla’ is better than ‘Banga’, we endorsed your proposal.What is the problem then? Outside India, we are known as people from Bengal.”

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kolkata / TNN / August 30th, 2016

Kolkata body wants to bring Rammohun Roy’s treasures, manuscripts back home

The Raja’s statue in College Green in Bristol, where he died on September 27, 1833. (Photo: Wikipedia)
The Raja’s statue in College Green in Bristol, where he died on September 27, 1833. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Tagore called him the man who inaugurated the modern age in India. Of all the personalities who ushered in Bengal renaissance, Rammohun Roy (1772-1833) was one of the tallest. A hunt is about to begin for bringing back the priceless historical documents related to the father of Bengal renaissance Raja Rammohun Roy including manuscripts and personal belongings much of which are lost, fell into the hands of treasure looters while a few remain scattered in various parts of the country and abroad.

Sachindra Nath Bhattacharya, the director of Raja Rammohun Roy Memorial Museum set up in 2000 to conserve his works told HT, the move to recover original documents was triggered by the discovery that many fake documents are stored in some archives in the country.

The museum is run by a trust.

“There is an urgent need to preserve the documents and rare manuscripts of Rammohun Roy that are lying in various universities and archives across Benares, Patna, New Delhi and the UK. We want to bring back all his original documents, including complete written works, documents related to the Sati movement, his dress, head gear and store in our museum for posterity,” Bhattacharya told HT.

“We’re in a hurry as many documents are already missing. We want to recover the remaining ones before they fall into the hands of treasure thieves. We’ll also approach the British Library which stores many documents of Rammohun Roy,” He added.

Bhattacharya has approached the union culture ministry for the project.

A research team would scout through schools registries in Patna, Sanskrit University in Benares and President’s House in New Delhi once the process gets a green signal from the government.

The Treasure Trove Act, 1878 and Antiquity Registration Act, 1972 empower the Centre to initiate legal processes to collect these documents from anywhere.

The Raja Rammohun Roy Memorial Museum in Kolkata. (HT Photo)
The Raja Rammohun Roy Memorial Museum in Kolkata. (HT Photo)

The museum authorities have sought President Pranab Mukherjee and chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s help so that a ‘territorial policy’ is framed under which documents related to a particular museum must be kept in its custody.

The authorities will attempt to unravel many unknown facts regarding his sudden voyage from Midnapore’s Khejuri port in a Albanian ship to Britain, his vital interactions with Dwarakanath Thakur (1794-1846) and other Atmiya Sabha and Brahmo Samaj members, close door discussion with Lord William Bentinck, David Hare and debate with William Carey through the collection of original documents spread across several places.

“We’ll visit all the places across the country where Sati was prevalent in Punjab, Rajasthan to West Bengal. We have already gathered vital information regarding exact numbers of women, including Muslim women, who became sati.

Soon, a drive will begin to collect all legal documents related to the Sati custom and its abolition.

We’ll also try to scout for details of his correspondence regarding introduction of allopathic medicine to the country,” said Bhattacharya.

An attempt will be made to collect documents regarding his pioneering works of Indian journalism such as publication of Sambad Kaumudi (Bengali weekly newspaper), Mirat-ul-Akbar (Persian journal) and Tuhfat al-Muwahhiddīn (Persian book on monotheism).

In 1828, Roy set up Brahmo Sabha that was the precursor to Brahmo Samaj, one of the most prominent socio-religious reform movements of Bengal.

source: Hindustan Times / Home / by Atonyu Choudhurri, Hindustan Times,Kolkata / August 20th, 2016

Very warm, also blunt – The thing is… that I have to write – Mahaswetadi to Bengali literature, Ma to tribals

Mahaswetadi and I have quite a few things in common. Both our fathers are poets; both of us have four-syllabled names; both our nicknames are Khuku; and both of us were born on Poush Sankranti.

I remember seeing her father Manish Ghatak and her in our house in my childhood. Mahaswetadi was very affectionate towards me and treated me as a sister far younger in years. Possibly because she was the eldest of 10 siblings and had practically raised all of them, there was that maternal air about her.

Her mother Dharitri Devi, who brought out a Little Magazine, was often ill. If Mahaswetadi was maturer than her years I, a single child, was far more naive than my age.

I have seen her remake herself time and again, breaking the barriers of middle-class life and values. She never cared for public opinion. Smoking cigarettes and bidis, marrying twice, roaming villages in keds shoes – she did exactly what she pleased. I admired her hugely.


She was writing her newspaper columns -in Jugantar – besides teaching in Vijaygarh College. In her single-room establishment in a mess in Ballygunge Station Road, she did much of her writing besides keeping an open house. It bustled with people – friends, folks from the villages, her pet cat… she would cook for everyone. I would drop by often on my way back from Jadavpur University.

She was tremendously hard-working. While she was very warm, she was also blunt. (This is perhaps the only virtue of hers that I share!) Many who did not know her well feared her. Like most members of her family, Mahaswetadi had a wonderful singing voice. She was Suchitradi (Mitra)’s contemporary in Santiniketan.

The one image of her coming most to my mind today is of the day when my father (Narendra Dev) passed away. She sat on folded knees by his bed, singing one Rabindrasangeet after another. That was all we needed, my mother and I, to deal with that moment.

It was awe-inspiring how, relinquishing her middle-class identity, she chose to embrace the cause of the Shabars, and more importantly got accepted as one of them. What did she not do for them – staying in their huts, sharing their food, opening her home to them, highlighting their problems through her writings, even fighting long-lasting court cases on their behalf spending money from her own pocket…. She tried to understand them by analysing our socio-political history and showed us how they have continued being victims of the feudal system.

She showed how history and society are against those who work – be it tribals, be it women. She rebelled against the feudal system, be it the land system or the social structure. When her name was raised for the Jnanpith Award, some members objected to her nomination saying she was an anthropologist. We had to point out that no, she was a writer.

That award gave her national renown and led to her Hindi translations. Meeting Gayatri (Chakravorty Spivak) was a turning point in her life. She presented her as the voice of the subaltern.

Had Gayatri not translated her work into English, Mahaswetadi would not have become the international figure that she is. She is taught in various universities abroad.

I remember at a meeting on Nandigram how she urged a woman who had been gangraped to speak up.

She never called herself a feminist but in her writings she always sided with oppressed women, who are doubly victimised if they are from “untouchable” communities.

Mahaswetadi has made her place in the history of the Shabar tribe and of Bengali literature.

As told to Sudeshna Banerjee

source: / The Telegraph,Calcutta,India / Front Page> Calcutta> Story / by Nabaneeta Dev Sen / Friday – July 29th, 2016

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

C’est n’est qu’un au revoir


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: / The News Minute / Home / by Chitra Subramanian / Wednesday – July 27th, 2016