Category Archives: Leaders

Veteran Congress leader Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi passes away

Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi

He had been in coma since 2008.

Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi passed away on Monday at a private hospital in New Delhi. He was 72.

Mr. Dasmunsi suffered a massive stroke and paralysis in October 2008 and slipped to comatose. He was treated in Apollo Hospital in New Delhi since 2009. “He breathed his last at 12:10 pm. He developed chest infection last month and it worsened his condition,” sources in the hospital said.

“I just received the news of sad demise of former Union Minister, former West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee President and our beloved leader Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi,” State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury stated in a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

“Our deepest condolences on the passing of respected Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, our veteran Congress leader and former union minister. He will be greatly remembered for his contributions, especially to Indian Football,” @INCIndia, the official Twitter account of the Congress tweeted.

Mr. Dasmunsi served as the president of the All India Football Federation for nearly two deacdes. A West Bengal strongman, he represented Raiganj from 1999 till he fell ill. He was the I&B Minister during Monmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance government. It was during his term Fashion TV was briefly banned for showing “obscene” content.

Mr. Dasmunsi was the West Bengal State Congress president from 1970 to 1971.

He is survived by wife Deepa, a Congress politician, and son Priyadeep.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Other States / by Staff Reporter / Kolkata – November 20th, 2017

The Indian in the Yasukuni Shrine

Plaque in Yasukuni Shrine, northwest of Tokyo’s imperial palace, features a large black and white photograph of an Indian judge: Radha Binod Pal (1886-1967).

To the northwest of Tokyo’s imperial palace, the Yasukuni Shrine is a 148-year old complex of memorials and cherry tree-dotted grounds, commemorating those who died in the service of Japan between 1869 and 1947.

It has emerged as the symbol of Japan’s fraught relations with its neighbouring countries and its own uncomfortable relationship with its Second World War history. Among the two million people buried there are 1,068 convicted war criminals. Fourteen of these are categorised as ‘Class A’ criminals, found guilty of a special category of “crimes against peace and humanity” by the 11-member team of justices from Allied countries that made up the 1946 Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal.

Visits to Yasukuni by senior Japanese politicians are viewed by neighbouring countries, in particular China and South Korea, as provocations, tantamount to a denial of war crimes. Japanese nationalists believe Yasukuni visits to be a justified exercise of sovereignty, indicating a moving on from what they consider to be an overly apologetic stance to the war. On the day this correspondent visited, there were scant traces of these bitter recriminations. A series of memorials dedicated to military horses, pigeon carriers and dogs charmed camera-wielding tourists. But the plaque attracting the tightest knots of visitors featured a large black and white photograph of an Indian judge: Radha Binod Pal.

In Japan, this Bengali jurist elicits the kind of recognition and reverence that other countries reserve for the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore. Biographical mini series about the judge are aired on Japanese TV, memorials to him have been erected in Tokyo and Kyoto, and books debating his legacy are published every few years. The average Indian would be hard-pressed to identify Justice Pal at all. Until the war, he was best known for his contributions to the Indian Income Tax Act, 1922. His international profile comes from his participation in, and eventual dissent from, the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal.

Twenty-five of Japan’s top wartime leaders were convicted by the tribunal of the new category of ‘Class A’ charges. Going against the grain of Allied judgment, Pal issued a 1,235-page dissent in which he rejected the creation of the ‘Class A’ category as ex post facto law. He further slammed the trials as the “sham employment of legal process for the satisfaction of a thirst for revenge”. And he argued that the nuclear incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki should also be counted as major war crimes.

Procedural flaws

The Indian judge tends to be valorised by Japanese nationalists and historical revisionists who seek to deny Japan’s wartime culpability. But in fact the jurist did not absolve Japan. His intention was rather to highlight the flaws in the legal process of the trial. Since all the judges were appointed by victor nations, the Indian justice thought the trial to be biased and motivated by revenge.

In his 2007 book on Pal, Takashi Nakajima, an Associate Professor at Hokkaido University’s Public Policy School, criticises right-wing supporters of Pal for relying on out-of-context quotes from the dissenting judgment. Pal’s dissent ran to a quarter of a million words, but Prof. Nakajima says that only a handful of quotes tend to be used by historical revisionists as ballast for their agenda.

Back at the shrine, a Japanese tourist gazed at the Pal memorial, silently mouthing the words written on the plaque: “When Time shall have softened passion and prejudice… then Justice, holding evenly her scales, will require much of past censure and praise to change places.”

(Pallavi Aiyar is an author and journalist based in Tokyo)

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Tokyo Despatch – International / Pallavi Aiyar / November 18th, 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

FIFA President Infantino Thanks West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has thanked West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for successfully organising the matches at various stages and the final of the Under-17 World Cup last month.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino. (Getty Images)

Kolkata:

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has thanked West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for successfully organising the matches at various stages and the final of the Under-17 World Cup last month.

In a letter from FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Infantino also praised Banerjee for the way the tournament was hosted at the Salt Lake Stadium including the final.

“I would like to congratulate your government on its role in your country’s successful hosting of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup. I would also like to thank you on behalf of the entire FIFA delegation for affording us such a cordial welcome and warm hospitality,” he wrote to Banerjee.

The FIFA president also praised Banerjee’s vision about the game in breaking down the cultural and social barriers and making the game accessible to all.

He also thanked the West Bengal government for the development of football and promoting the values of the game in India.

Promising all assistance from FIFA in developing the game in the region, Infantino lauded Banerjee for deciding on providing 15-acre of land to the AIFF for the National Centre of Excellence for Football near here.

The Salt Lake Stadium here had hosted 11 matches of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, including the final. Kolkata co-hosted the mega event along with New Delhi, Guwahati, Navi Mumbai, Kochi and Margao.

source: http://www.news18.com / News18.com / Home> Football / PTI / November 04th, 2017

Oldest Birla school celebrates rich legacy

Kolkata:

Eight schools, 20,000 students and a rich history of 70 years.

It all started in 1946, when industrialist and philanthropist Basant Kumar Birla and his wife Late Sarala Birla forayed into the field of education with Mahadevi Birla Shishu Vihar. It is now a part of the Ashok Hall Group of Schools.

From its inception, the school has transcended many barriers and now, it has arrived at the threshold of yet another celebration – a time to commemorate the legacy and carry forward the good work.

On Thursday, the celebrations began with the staging of ‘Jubilant Memoirs’ — a 90-minute production by students, ex-students, teachers and staff of the school. It presented a blend of music, drama, dance and visuals. The journey of the school was shared through the eyes of generations who have been part of the legacy.

Damien Syed, consul general of France, was the chief guest on the first day of the event.

“The thought of setting up of the school came when they were looking for a play school for their son Late Aditya Vikram Birla. They wanted to form a play school where the child would learn to adjust to the environment and be sensitive to others. Their three-year old son had been the first student of the school along five others,” said principal Sonali Sarkar. From Aditya Vikram Birla to Kumar Mangalam Birla – the school had been a destination for several other stalwarts from the family.

Sulekha Pal, who was a teacher between 1965 and 1979, remembers how she went to the Birla Park to teach ‘Kumar’. “He was very well-behaved. I remember him as a toddler who was fond of games,” she said.

Julia Bailey, the director of education in the Ashok Hall Group of Schools, added, “Manjushree Khaitan, the chairperson of the school, wants to make sure that the administration is up-to-date with all new technologies. Our main aim is to keep the quality of teaching high”

As part of the celebrations, two walks will be organised where students, alumni, teachers, ex-teachers and staff, totaling about 700, will take part to raise awareness on women empowerment and issues related to the environment and education.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Kolkata News / TNN / November 03rd, 2017

Meet Miss Japan who is also half-Bengali!

For the world she is Priyanka Yoshikawa -Miss World Japan 2016.

But those close to her know her as Priyanka Yoshikawa Ghosh.

Born to a Bengali father and Japanese mother, she is the first woman from a multi-racial background to have won the pageant in Japan. But Priyanka’s journey was far from easy .

When she broke the glass ceiling, there were some who questioned why the title was not bestowed upon a `pure’ Japanese, but Priyanka found support in her nation and also in India, where she has her roots.

On a whirlwind tour to Kolkata where she attended a dinner hosted in her honour by Masayuki Taga, Consul General of Japan in Kolkata, Priyanka spoke to us about the backlash and support, tracing back her roots and why her family doesn’t discuss Prafulla Chandra Ghosh, her greatgrandfather and Bengal’s first chief minister, over dinner.

Excerpts:

Is this your first trip to Kolkata since you won Miss World Japan in 2016?

Yes. But I have been to the city quite a few times before that. I lived here when I was nine years old. That was for a year. I also studied in a school here. Even before that, I have been to the city when I was two or three, but I don’t have memories of those visits. Another long visit was five years ago, when I was 18. That time, I stayed here for a month. My father is Bengali and our extended family lives here. My connection with Bengal was established with my birth though I was not born here.During the one year I was here, I explored my father’s country and got to understand my roots.

On this visit for a day, did you get to meet your relatives living in Kolkata?

My father comes from a big family and he has many siblings. My uncle and aunt live in Kolkata.Some of my cousins are still here, but many got married and live abroad. Whenever I am in Kolkata, I visit them. I came on Sunday midnight and on Monday , I visited Mother House and later, went to a doctors’ meet. Though I was not in Kolkata on work, I am the brand ambassador of a charitable foundation, and ended up doing some meaningful work. I wanted to visit Kolkata ever since my win, but it was hard to get a vacation. Then, I got a few days off and came here on my way to Guwahati.

After you became Miss World Japan 2016, the first contestant from a multi-racial background to do so, you spoke about drawing inspiration from Ariana Miyamoto, born to a Japanese mother and African-American father, who won the Miss Universe Japan 2015. She had to endure racial backlash for being a hafu (a person with a non-Japanese parent), but since she set a precedent just the previous year, was it easier for you?

To be honest, Ariana was not exactly my inspiration. We participated in different pageants. I followed my own dreams, but I have tremendous respect for her.I didn’t know her before I won, but we became good friends after winning the title. I didn’t hear stories about her trials and tribulations, but she made it big as the first hafu to win a pageant in Japan. She had to face racial backlash as she was the first and people were not used to it. For me, I was the first for Miss World in the nation. Nothing has been easy even though Ariana won the previous year. I got good media coverage and though some people questioned my win, it never affected me. I was confident and was concen trating on the international pag eant where I made a mark after 60 years. During the pageant, there was no social media back lash, but after the win, some questioned why the title was not awarded to a `pure’ Japanese. I got a lot of support too. Messages came trickling in from hafus living in Japan, and also from Indian citizens. When you get such strong support, it gives you more confidence. I am proud to have an Indian in me, but that doesn’t mean I am not Japanese.

What were the celebrations like in India?

My relatives messaged me. My first cousins are very close to me. I call them didi. One of my didis lives in the US and she was a great support during the inter national pageant. She is eight nine years older than me and she and everyone else was happy about the win.

What was the homecoming like this time around?

I was excited as I was meeting everybody after five years.Visiting home and meeting my aunt, uncle, nephews was quite something. Though they are all in touch with me, talking to them on social media is different from meeting them. I got to eat Bengali food. I was looking forward to tasting some homecooked Indian food. I often crave for white chicken, which is perhaps called doi chicken. And I love phuchkas though I missed it this time. I was in Mumbai and had panipuris there, but it’s different from having phuchkas in Kolkata.

How did you learn to speak so fluently in Bangla?

I studied Bengali in school, but I picked it up naturally as everyone speaks Bengali around me in my family .

Your great-grandfather Prafulla Chandra Ghosh was the first chief minister of Bengal. You must have heard many stories about him from your father?

He was my great-grandfather, but I didn’t meet him. My father did tell me stories about him but only at times. I never really asked questions about him.Everybody in our family knows about him, but we don’t discuss him over dinner.

An elephant trainer, are you visiting Guwahati for a purpose?

My Guwahati trip is all about wild elephant conservation and nature conservation.

You have keen interest in Bengali movies…

I remember having seen The Japanese Wife and some others that I watched on flights. I can’t read or write in Bengali though I can speak the language. It’s sad that not many Bengali films can be found in Japan, though Bollywood movies -sometimes three years old -travel to the country . I love to watch them. I have grown up watching Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Kajol. Kajol is one of my favourite actresses.

Should you foray into Bengali films if an offer comes your way?

Yes, why not! I would also love to do something with films in India, maybe bring them to Japan… There are many takers for Indian films in Japan and I am sure a lot of people here are waiting to watching Japanese films. If I can bridge the gap, I will be the happiest.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / Home> News> City News> Kolkata News / by Zinia Sen / TN / November 02nd, 2017

The House Where Nivedita Lived – Moumita Chaudhuri stops by at a forgotten address and tries to re-imagine a lost time

To all outward appearances, it is just another old house in north Calcutta – nondescript, ordinary. The same cannot be said about the address though: 16 A, Bosepara Lane of Bagbazar is the house where Sister Nivedita lived from 1898 to 1911, though few may be aware.

Inspired by her interactions with Swami Vivekananda, when the Irish social activist left her home in England for India, she was still Margaret Elizabeth Noble. It was in Calcutta in 1898, that she slipped into her Indian identity. This two-storey house was the most intimate witness of this spiritual metamorphosis. But all these years no one bothered about it.

This year being Nivedita’s 150th birth anniversary, the monastic and charitable organisation, Ramakrishna Sarada Mission, along with the Bengal government took on the task of renovating the house. Work is still on, but beginning October 23 – Nivedita’s birthday – the residence has been thrown open to the public for an indefinite but brief while. A full-fledged experiential museum is also in the works. But it will take time to ready it.

“It has taken us almost three years to renovate the house. It was in a precarious state when it was handed over to us – the windowpanes broken, the doors rotting, the rooms in a sorry state, the ceiling about to collapse,” says Pravrajika Aseshprana, the nun supervising the restoration project. She adds, “A lot of the original fittings have had to be thrown away. The wooden handrail of the stairs leading to the first floor, however, remains untouched. It has Sister’s touch on it.”

Upon arriving in Calcutta, Nivedita lived in one of the cottages in Belur in Howrah district, on the banks of the Hooghly. Vivekananda had had these built for some disciples from the West. The shift to Bosepara happened later.

BEYOND BRICK AND MORTAR: (From top) The renovated thakurdalan, the exact spot where the girls’ school was launched in 1898; restoration work underway at 16 A, Bosepara Lane.
Photographs by the writer

The physical shift was thought through by Vivekananda. It was in keeping with his larger world view about women’s education and nation-building and the role he thought Nivedita could play in this. In the 1956 book Sister Nivedita, Moni Bagchee writes: “It was to carry out this plan [provide for the nation efficient women in different spheres of life] that Nivedita was sent to Calcutta… Sarada Devi, the divine consort of Sri Ramakrishna, was then residing in Bagbazar with her community of ladies, mostly of devotional bent of mind. Swamiji wanted that Nivedita should live in company of these women…”

Nivedita was given a room in Sarada Devi’s house, but by her own admission, she couldn’t fit in. Bagchee quotes one of Nivedita’s letters from the time. “I imagined caste to be only a foolish prejudice – which must yield to knowledge – against some supposed uncleanliness of foreign habits and thus cheerfully assuming all the ignorance to be on her side, confidently forced myself upon this Indian lady’s hospitality.” Sensitive to the issue at hand, Vivekananda rented out for Nivedita a house in the same neighbourhood – 16 A, Bosepara Lane.

The second shift helped Nivedita bond better with Sarada Devi. It also helped her find her own equilibrium. In Sister Nivedita: The Dedicated by Uzelle Raymond, one comes across a description of the house by Nivedita herself. She writes: “My home is, in my eyes, charming. It is a rambling specimen of the true old Hindu style of building, with its courtyard a great well of coolness and, at night, a playground of merry breezes. Who would not love a house with such a courtyard, with its limited second story, and with its quaintly terraced roof built at five different levels? Here at dawn and sunset, or in the moonlight, one can feel alone with the whole universe .”

As one moves from the hall to the courtyard, and up the flight of stairs to the corner room on the first floor, one cannot help but imagine Nivedita inhabiting this space. Raymond’s book had described a “personal workroom” furnished with two large tables of white wood, a chair, a stool and a bookshelf laden with her Bible studies, Bowden’s The Imitation of Buddha, the Discourses of Epictetus, selections from Renan, biographies, a wide assortment of Emerson, Thoreau, Joan of Arc, Saint Louis, Pericles, Alexander the Great, Saladin. Raymond wrote: “On the wall hung her ivory crucifix and a single picture: the Annunciation, with the Virgin holding the broken lilies in her arms.” One wonders, was it here, or here, or there?

Nobody, of course, can say for sure which space was used for what. “We have had to guess and imagine from the descriptions we find in her books,” says Aseshprana.

The thing that leaps to the eye upon entering the house is the high-ceilinged thakurdalan to the right. Restoration work on this portion is complete. The walls are a lovely burnt orange, the floor gleaming with red tiles, wooden skirting in place with brackets for lights… This is the spot from where Nivedita launched a school for girls one Kali Puja day in 1898. It has now shifted to another address in the neighbourhood. Here she taught them – wives and child widows from orthodox, middle-class Hindu families – lessons in the arts and sciences. Deeply involved with India’s freedom struggle, she had designed a national flag. She taught her students to stitch the design on fine Murshidabad silk.

After the partition of Bengal in 1905, this house became the seat of many political and intellectual meetings. To the left of the entrance is the baithak khana, or parlour equivalent. Debanjan Sengupta, who is a Nivedita expert, tells The Telegraph that this is where the famous chaa paaner aashor or tea party happened. “This is where Rabindranatha Tagore and Vivekananda, Surendranath Banerjee, Sarala Devi, Balaram Bose and others met. This is where Swamiji discussed how to motivate people to embrace Hinduism once again, people who joined the Bramho Samaj.”

Nivedita had an intimate knowledge of armed struggle from her life in Ireland. She was aware of techniques of manufacturing explosives and the power of the Press. Alongside being a centre of women’s education and a den of Bengal’s intelligentsia, 16 A, Bosepara Lane became a repository of all these experiences too, and she drew on these to power the fight for freedom. From this house too was conceived, under her supervision, Jugantar, the first Bengali daily newspaper. This is where she brainstormed with freedom fighters. Writes Bagchee: “…during this time it [the house] was a volcano. It was from this tiny lane that Sister Nivedita planned and conducted the armed struggle like an experienced general…”

The project concerns the house, but the truth is, this entire lane is steeped in history – Nivedita’s and Bengal’s own – though few care to know. History needs makeovers from time to time to re-establish itself. So does, in a manner of speaking, herstory.

source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph,Calcutta,India / Home> Calcutta / by Moumita Chaudhrai / October 30th, 2017

‘Girija Devi’s demise an irreparable loss to Banaras Gharana’

Even at 88 her scintillating voice could leave the audience spell bound

_______________________________________________________________

Highlights

Girija Devi, fondly known as Appa ji, passed away in a hospital in Kolkata on Tuesday evening. She was 88.

She worked as a faculty member of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkata in the 1980s and of the Banaras Hindu University during the early 1990s

She was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 2016
_________________________________________________________________

Varanasi :

Demise of great vocalist and Thumri queen Girija Devi came as a big shocker to the music lovers of Varanasi, the birth place of the eminent singer. Girija Devi, fondly known as Appa ji, passed away in a hospital in Kolkata on Tuesday evening. She was 88.

“It is an irreparable loss to Indian music and Banaras Gharana of music. She was a guiding figure for us,” said noted Sarod player and Yash Bharati recipient Pt. Vikash Maharaj. “She was ailing for some time, and admitted to BM Birla Hospital in Kolkata in the morning. She left for the heavenly abode in the evening,” he said adding that she had been living in Kolkata with her daughter.

“No one can fill the gap. Even at 88 her scintillating voice could leave the audience spell bound. She was perhaps the last exponent of thumri, tappa, chaiti and khayal. I heard her singing in an award ceremony in New Delhi on August 27,” said Ashok Kapoor, founder of a cultural organization Kala Prakash working for the cause of Indian music.

Though settled in Kolkata, she regularly visited Varanasi. She was born in Varanasi in 1929. She took lessons in singing khayal and tappa from vocalist Sarju Prasad Misra in early childhood. She worked as a faculty member of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkata in the 1980s and of the Banaras Hindu University during the early 1990s. She was a prominent performer of purabi ang thumri style of Banaras gharana. She was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 2016.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> India News / by Binay Singh / TNN / October 25th, 2017

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: http://www.telegraphindia.com / 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: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kolkata / by Indrani Dutta / Kolkata – April 23rd, 2017