Category Archives: NRI’s / PIO’s

The accidental zamindar – The East India Company did not learn its lessons well

A painting by Benjamin West, 1765, of the Mughal emperor, Shah Alam, transferring the right of tax collection to Lord Clive

East India Company was basically a commercial enterprise; till the end it continued to make good money by exporting Indian goods. In the 19th century, its monopoly was corroded by the entry of other British traders; but trade continued to be a major activity till its demise in 1858.

But it was an odd bird from its birth. The Spanish and Portuguese adventurers who preceded it were an explicit extension of their home governments; the British crown, on the contrary, kept out of the Company’s affairs abroad. Charles II gave the Company power to judge and punish people in its territory abroad according to the laws of his kingdom in 1661; the power to make locally applicable laws followed.

The injunction assumed that the Company would occupy and own territory. But its territory in India was not virgin territory; it had its own administrative structure, of which the Company became one pillar. So it had two masters; and in so far as the two never talked to each other, it had considerable freedom of manoeuvre. But legislation and administration were not its main business; it tried to minimize the effort it put into them. One way it did so was to use local law where it existed, and import British law where there was no local law.

The two differed greatly in respect of landed property. In 1660, King Charles II abolished personal service due from noblemen and converted it into a monetary obligation; that is how land revenue became the dominant tax in Britain. In India, too, land revenue was the major tax; it was reckoned as a third of agricultural produce under Akbar. But it was not always in cash. And it did not necessarily go to the king; the nobleman delivered his dues in cash or in military service. The feudal structure applied to the Mogul empire, but not necessarily to other, smaller kingdoms. So when Lord Clive defeated the Mogul army in 1765 and took the Diwani of Bengal, the Company had to learn the ins and outs of zamindari.

The lessons it learnt are the main part of Law and the Economy in Colonial India, a new book by Tirthankar Roy and Anand V. Swamy. They are an odd pair. Tirthankar is a first-class economic historian. But he is not a leftist; so he faced discrimination from the academic powers-that-be in India. Finally he got fed up and left India; now he teaches in the London School of Economics. Anand Swamy teaches economics in Williams College. They have been running into each other in conferences, and working together on books once in a while.

Their conclusion is that the Company did not learn the lessons well. Its laws led to thousands of cases in Bengal relating to property, tenancy and rent; the system remained overloaded throughout British rule, and cases took decades. As if property law was not obscure enough, legal proceedings were complicated by succession law, which differed according to religion. They do not say so, but the mess was sorted out after Independence, first by legislation abolishing zamindari, and more slowly by population growth, which reduced the size of holdings.

It is difficult to imagine today that Indians could own slaves till 1843; and once slavery was abolished by law, all they had to do was to give a loan to the slave and turn him into a bonded labourer. That is not surprising, since Britain itself outlawed slavery only in 1811. But slavery served a purpose under conditions of labour shortage, which was commonly faced by plantations in the north-east. There were not enough workers in the area; they had to be brought from far away, most often tribals from Chhota Nagpur, which is now Jharkhand. Loading them into bullock carts and transporting them hundreds of miles cost money; a planter could not afford to bring them and then let them walk over to a neighbouring planter for a higher wage. So planters asked for and got laws which empowered them to jail their workers for not repaying a loan. But maltreating workers also earned a planter a bad reputation that he would rather avoid; so planters who could get and retain workers more easily avoided using penalties. Roy and Swamy deal with these labour market adjustments in some detail.

I found their discussion of contract law fascinating. Before the statification of the Company, Indian governments did not legislate or enforce laws. But commerce had existed for millennia; and where there was trade, there was always scope for cheating and breach of promise. Traders used social networks to deal with these risks; loss of reputation and standing was the punishment for breach of contract. But this could work only with those who had reputation to lose; it could not work with Santhal labourers or indigo farmers. When it came to workers, the Company gave penal powers to their employers. That could not be done with indigo farmers; they were not housed by indigo buyers, and could not be jailed or beaten up. So indigo buyers collected chits documenting debt against various farmers, and when an opportunity arose, sold them off to someone who had greater influence on the debtors. Partly under their influence, a contract act was passed in the 1860s; but few cases were filed under it.

Such are the narratives collected by Roy and Swamy. Their book is neither a treatise on law nor a history book: it does not systematically align legislation and case law, and it does not tell a story. The topics it has chosen are broad; a systematic treatment would take more space. Making a history out of it would require a larger role for the personalities involved; a legal treatise would require links with both legislative and case law. So there is a case for expanding the book.

Roy and Swamy should also try their hand at pathology of Indian law. The Indian judicial system is hugely overloaded, and extremely slow; the two aspects are connected, but slowness is not just due to overload. It is a good deal due to antiquated procedure; for instance, judges let lawyers drone on and on, briefs cite piles of cases unnecessary to make the point, and courts give postponements and adjournments for the asking. There are too many briefless lawyers, and too few judges. High courts reverse a high proportion of lower court judgments, generally on the ground of poor police investigation. Other systems have faced these problems and overcome them.

No one in India has looked critically at the judicial system except Arun Shourie; anyone who thinks of doing so is bound to consider the possibility that he may face judicial bias if he is hauled to court. Roy and Swamy do not have to worry about that. At worst, a book of theirs would be banned in India. But that would not be much of a loss; hardly any book sells more than a thousand or two copies in India, and the publicity would increase the book’s sales outside. If the judicial system is to be repaired, someone has to start somewhere, and no one is better placed to do so than Roy and Swamy.

source: / The Telegraph,Calcutta,India / Front Page> Opinion> Story / Writing On The Wall: Ashok V. Desai / Tuesday – February 14th, 2017

Kolkata girl bridges Bengal-Costa Rica gap

Kolkata :

This saree-clad, Spanish-speaking woman had stood out in the Costa Rica pavilion of the Kolkata Book Fair. Nothing about her looks and demeanour was Central American and yet she seemed so much at home, spreading native Costa Rican cheer. But speaking to a visitor at the pavilion, her Spanish changed into pure Bengali within seconds. Kolkata girl Baishakhi Saha has made it big in Costa Rica to gain permanent residency from the government there.

Saha used to live in Salt Lake and studied at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan before settling down with her parents in Chennai. Her ties to the city, however, remained strong as the family often returned to visit relatives. Always a brilliant student, Saha bagged a scholarship from the Singapore department of education to major in computer science and minor in German from University of Singapore. It was during her stay there that she realised being part of university exchange programmes would help her see the world.

However, she soon realised that with a partial scholarship, it was quite an expensive proposition for an Indian girl with a middle-class background. Around this time, she participated in a global essay-writing competition hosted by the government of Switzerland, on how Europe still inspires imaginations. This won her a limited period stay in Switzerland, which was a turning point in her life. “I yearned see the whole of Europe.

There were many like me and I soon found that by becoming a member of Aiesec, a global students’ body, I could get placed in jobs and get internships that could help me with that. Luckily, I managed to clear the necessary tests and was called for an interview to Malayasia, after which I was awarded a management internship with Model United Nations in Nigeria. It was a two-month job and I made $200 a month — quite a hand-to-mouth situation, but I enjoyed every moment of it,” Baisakhi recalls.

For the next one-and-a-half years she travelled the length and breadth of the west coast of Africa for the TV show Goge Africa. Aiesec acknowledged her work and her next assignment was that of an English teacher in Venezuela, after which she got a similar assignment in Costa Rica. By then, she had started writing her book, ‘magicNine’. The book was a success and Baisakhi was soon giving inspirational talks and teaching business communications at institutes. Her popularity made the Costa Rican government acknowledge her contribution and offer her permanent residency.

“Life has been a dream since then. Costa Rica is more or less like Kerala or Goa if you want to compare Indian situations. I come to Kolkata once in a while, but I have plans to take slices of Bengali culture there now,” Baisakhi said. She is a dancer too and has performed Indian dances in Costa Rica, which have been instant hits. As one of the few Bengalis in a distant land, she has much to do to bridge the two cultures, she explained.

source: / The Times of India / News> City News> Kolkata News / by Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey / TNN / February 13th, 2017

Diversity makes US great, says Nasa scientist from Kolkata

Goutam Chattopadhyay.

Kolkata :

A jet propulsion scientist at Nasa who grew up in the suburbs of Kolkata believes America owes much of its success to immigrants.

“The driving force of America is the assimilation of people from all over the world; people who are talented and have used the opportunities to drive innovation. That is what makes America great,” said Goutam Chattopadhyay, who migrated to the ‘land of opportunities’ in 1992 and lived his dreams.

Growing up in utter poverty in Konnagar, Chattopadhyay was not allowed to sit in a Class III exam as his school fee (Rs 8) hadn’t been paid. Still, he finished second in class that year, the only time he did so as he topped his class right up to his engineering degree in Electronics & Telecommunication from BE College, Shibpur. He had even cracked IIT entrance exam but could not study since his family could not afford it.

From BE College, Chattopadhyay went to TIFR in 1987. That’s when his horizon widened. “Till then, I wasn’t sure what to do other than take up a job to support my family,” the senior scientist recounted. As a design engineer at the premier institute, he was part of the team that designed the Giant Meterwave Radio Telescope (GMRT). Chattopadhyay designed the Local Oscillator System that converts the signal that comes from the sky into lower frequency signal that is easier to process.

In 1992, he went to the US to pursue higher studies, doing his masters at the University of Virginia and then PhD at California Institute of Technology (Caltech). There, he was in the group that developed Terahertz that will come into commercial telephony when 5G is rolled out.

On completion of the PhD in 1999, he got a call from Nasa. “Looking back, it has been an amazing journey and it has been possible because the US has been welcoming. I don’t think Indian students will be affected by what is happening right now. These are short-term bumps. I hope this will not stop the flow of talent to the US,” he said.

Chattopadhyay is currently working on a project that could help President Donald Trump overcome some of the fears on homeland security. His team is using Terahertz to do a remote pat-down of suspects. A project for the department of Homeland security, it is a device that allows law enforcement agencies to remotely scan a person to detect guns or bombs hidden under the jacket. “It can work at a 30-40 metre distance and be of use in airports and stations,” he explained.

Talking of airports, Chattopadhyay missed the crowds waiting at LA airport to welcome immigrants to protest against Trump’s ban on seven Muslim-majority countries as a judge in Seattle had put a stay on the executive order a day before he took his flight to India. Though he wasn’t worried about taking this trip as there are no restrictions on travel from India, fellow colleagues in Nasa who hail from the countries under the scanner won’t risk a visit ‘home’ anytime soon.

source: / The Times of India / News> City News> Kolkata News / TNN / February 09th, 2017

Bengal weaves to make it to UK’s Asia House show


In a bid to showcase to the world the craftsmanship of traditional weaves and tribal work from Bengal and other parts of India, five Indian women running design houses in Britain’s capital have come together to organize an exhibition at London’s Asia House on Sunday.

A software consultant, Rajeswari Sengupta who works with weavers from tribal Bengal will display the products under her label, The Far East Studio.

“We have been working with master artisans from different parts of Bengal to revive textile traditions. At the exhibition, I will have an entire collection of hand-woven jamdani from Bangladesh, hand-embroidered kantha, Tangail products for buyers in the UK. There will also be sarees in organic cotton and natural dye, besides other drapes, including silk, by national award-winning artisans,” said Sengupta.

The other designers at the show will be Jyoti Chandhok, who will bring chikankari works from Lucknow, Neetu Jalali who will showcase Kashmiri Pashmina, Josephine Nirmala who will come with her Rajasthani silver jewellery and Dimple Kalla, who will showcase hand-painted furniture.

Hailing from different parts of India, the five designers shifted to London almost a decade ago but they still swear by Indian handloom, jewellery and artefacts. Sengupta said, “The five of us are from different parts of India and we have managed to bring a piece of all the four corners of the country at this exhibition which will have works of weavers, embroiders and jewellery designers from the grassroots level.”

The group’s aim is to support and promote handwoven works. “The UK has seen a lot of big exhibitions where Indian products are showcased in abundance. But this might be the first initiative by Indian women to showcase the works of grassroots weavers and artisans,” Sengupta added.

Apart from the loyal Indian customer base, the exhibition is expected to have a good response from the English as well. “They are very interested in sarees and handwoven textiles. Even stoles, shawls from Kashmir, kantha dresses are quite a rage here. Through these expos, we are looking to create a platform for Indian weavers who can directly interact with buyers,” Sengupta added.

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City News> Kolkata / Swasti Chatterjee / TNN / October 10th, 2016

How the Anglo-Indian community created two No 1 hockey teams

Stick figures: It was World War II that interrupted the winning streak of the Indian hockey team, seen triumphant here in 1936

Community set the foundations for the game here. And it was their post-Independence exodus to Australia that built up the sport in that ex-colony.

Every four years, a billion-plus Indians pray that our hockey team should win a medal at the Olympics, as it has done eleven times before. This year the Indian team does, indeed, stand a chance. But, let’s face it, India’s ‘Golden Age’ of hockey is long gone.

That Golden Age was between 1928 and 1956. Some pundits, however, would narrow it down to the period 1928-1936, when India, in its first three Olympics, annihilated all opposition, with the incredible goal ratio of 97:3, thus acquiring the reputation of being “magicians with hockey sticks”. It’s an era we automatically associate with the legendary Dhyan Chand. But it’s strange that many of us know nothing about the large number of Anglo-Indian hockey stars without whom it wouldn’t have happened.

A quick glance at the numbers says it all: At the 1928 Olympics, eight of the Indian XI were Anglo-Indians; at the 1932 Olympics seven of the Indian XI were Anglo-Indians; at the 1936 Olympics six of the Indian XI were Anglo-Indians. But, as Frank Anthony, an Anglo-Indian leader of the time remarked, the hockey talent of this little community ran so deep that it could have perhaps produced six times those numbers of world-class players.

Hockey maestros like Carlyle Tapsell, Broome Penniger, Richard Allen, Dickie Carr, Leslie Hammond, the Goodsir-Cullen brothers and Joe Galibardy — now long-forgotten — all played a key role in India’s dominance of the game. If Dhyan Chand was “the world’s greatest centre forward”, Broome Penniger was the world’s greatest centre-half and Richard Allen was the world’s greatest goal-keeper (allowing only two goals through all the Olympic games of 1928, 1932 and 1936, an amazing record). The other Anglo-Indian stars were not far behind in their prowess, combining a high degree of artistry with a robust aggressiveness.

So what was the reason for this domination of hockey by the Anglo-Indians — who, after all, accounted for only about 0.1% of India’s population at the time?

The answer lies in the fact that the game came to India with the British army in the 1880s. While the officers played cricket and polo, the ordinary British soldier preferred the rugged game of hockey. The soldiers first played between themselves, and then they began to play with teams raised from local organisations, like the railways, police and port authorities — all of which employed significant numbers of Anglo-Indians. Soon, hockey was embraced by the Anglo-Indian community as an embodiment of masculine virtue, and it became an integral part of the Anglo-Indian culture: every family pushed their sons to excel at the game.

It started in Bengal and by 1895 Kolkata had a number of great Anglo-Indian hockey teams, who battled each other in the newly instituted Beighton Cup Tournament: legendary teams like Calcutta Naval Reserve, Calcutta Rangers, Bengal-Nagpur Railways and Calcutta Customs. In time, leading teams from Mumbai, Lahore, Jhansi and other parts of India joined the fray. Thus, by the time India was officially admitted to the Olympic Games in 1928, there was such an abundance of hockey-playing talent in the country that choosing only 15 players for the contingent posed a problem. Interestingly, Britain, who’d been the hockey champions in the two previous Olympics, quietly withdrew their team at that point — presumably to avoid humiliation from their colonial subjects. They would stay away from Olympic hockey until the end of the Raj.

Meanwhile, Anglo-Indian players played a decisive role in India’s Olympic hockey triumphs in 1928, 1932 and 1936. And if World War II hadn’t intervened, they would have, doubtless, continued to do so in 1940 and 1944, as well. But after 1947 there was an exodus of Anglo-Indians, and this, obviously, affected Indian hockey significantly. The Indian contingent for the 1948 Olympics in London still included seven Anglo-Indians (it would have been eight, but Joe Galibardy, that brilliant left-half, had to drop out for personal reasons). But by 1952, there were only two Anglo-Indians left in the Indian contingent.

India’s loss proved, however, to be Australia’s gain. The Anglo-Indian diaspora settled mainly in Western Australia, and created a powerful hockey culture in the state. Soon the Western Australia team began to dominate Australian hockey. And that was the beginning of Australia’s emergence as a world hockey power — driven by Anglo-Indian coaches and players, like Trevor Vanderputt, Fred Browne, Merv Adams, Dickie Carr, the five remarkable Pearce brothers, Kevin Carton and Paul Gaudoin. In the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, when India played against Australia, there were five Anglo-Indians on the field — four of them on the Australian side, and only one on the Indian side. And in the 1960 Rome Olympics when India played against Australia, the rival captains in that closely-fought match, Leslie Claudius and Kevin Carton, were both, ironically, Anglo-Indians. Meanwhile, another great Anglo-Indian player, Rex Norris, was masterminding the emergence of the Netherlands as another major world hockey power.

Leslie Claudius, arguably the greatest of the Anglo-Indian players, saw India through to the end of its Golden Age, which culminated in its defeat to Pakistan in the 1960 Olympics. When he died in Kolkata in 2012, largely forgotten, it was the end of an era. In the Rio Olympics, the top-ranked teams are (in ascending order) India, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands. The No 1 ranked team, however, is Australia. There’s probably a moral in this story, somewhere.

The writer is an advertising professional and hockey buff.

source: / The Times of India / News Home / by Anvar Alikhan / TNN / August 14th, 2016

Wales defender with Kolkata roots stamps his class on Euro



Neil Taylor’s mother, Shibani Chakraborty , is a Bengali from Kolkata. The half-Welsh, halfIndian footballer is the closest to Indian involvement in Euro.

Neil had scored the second goal in a 3-0 thumping of Russia that enabled Wales top Group B and earn the debutant nation a place in the last 16 of Euro.


New Delhi:

The comments on Neil Taylor’s official Facebook page are both euphoric and cheeky . One says, “Huw….if Ronaldo asks you to swap shirts, tell him to get stuffed…you only swap with goal scorers.” Another comment teases the 27-year-old left full-back on his first ever goal for Wales.”Neil. You scored. How.”

But for any Indian reading the 150 plus comments to Neil’s Monday night post, this one really catches the eye. “Well played lad! Proud of your Bengali origin! Lots of love & well wishes from Bangladesh.”

Neil had scored the second goal in a 3-0 thumping of Russia that enabled Wales top Group B and earn the debutant nation a place in the last 16 of Euro. He never scored for Swansea, the EPL side he plays for.

Not many know that Neil Taylor’s mother, Shibani Chakraborty , is a Bengali from Kolkata. The half-Welsh, halfIndian footballer is the closest to Indian involvement in Euro. As a child, Neil played cricket for his village side in north Wales though football is what he was always devoted to. “Sachin Tendulkar is a huge character and sportsman to me,” he once told The Independent newspaper.

In interviews to British newspa pers, Neil comes across as someone proud of his Indian roots. In 2013, he had visited Kolkata as part of a charity project, Kolkata Goalz, to promote the game among under privileged kids.Earlier as a nine-year-old he had visited the city -a trip to Eden Garden and playing with colours in Holi -being two indelible images of that visit. “What I remembered of the country was that it is just cricketmad. But when I went out this time I saw the change. It was monsoon and you couldn’t even take your feet out of the grass. Sopping! But all the young people were playing football,” he told the newspaper.

Late Monday night, Neil had posted, “What a feeling.. What a night in Toulouse!! The Wales fans were unbelievable, thank you for your support. A night to remember at Euro 2016!!” Neil began his career as a junior at Manchester City . But at 15, he joined the 152-year-old Wrexham, the oldest Welsh club and the third oldest in the world. He made his international debut against Croatia in 2010.

In an interview to BBC earlier this month, his mother said, “Ever since he was a child that’s all he’s wanted to do, play football. He mis sed all his school discos and friends’ birthday parties because, at that time, he was playing for Manchester City (junior team).We’d drive him three times a week to Manchester and back when he was about nine or 10 and not once did he say, ‘Mum, do I have to go?’ He used to sit in the back of the car and do his homework.”

A November 2015 BBC reports says that as people of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin form 5.3% of the 56 million population in England and Wales as per 2011 census. Yet Neil is just one of the seven Asian players with a professional contract in the top four English leagues.”Wolves centre-back Danny Batth and Mansfield left-back Malvind Benning are the only others from the group who play regular first-team football,” the report says.

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Delhi / TNN / June 22nd, 2016

Indian-American scientist wins Springer Theses Award

Mr. De has dedicated his PhD thesis to cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar and his alma mater, Kolkata’s Presidency University.

An Indian-American scientist has received the prestigious Springer Theses Award in recognition for his outstanding research in which he developed transgenic mice to study a critical tumour-suppressor called A20.

Arnab De’s thesis was nominated by New York’s Columbia University. Before this, Mr. De, who has also developed peptide-based prodrugs as therapeutics for diabetes, had received the Young Investigator Award at the American Peptide Symposium.

The thesis prize is awarded by Springer, a leading global publisher of renowned scientific journals and books, to recognise outstanding PhD research.

Internationally top-ranked research institutes select their best thesis annually for publication in the book series: “Springer Theses: Recognising Outstanding PhD research”.

Additionally, winners also get a cash prize of 500 euros.

The research work was highlighted by the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) Reports.

Only research considered to be of ‘fundamental relevance to a general readership’ is chosen to be highlighted by EMBO.

Mr. De has dedicated his PhD thesis to cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar and his alma mater, Kolkata’s Presidency University.

Mr. De said: “Two things that have influenced me the most is sports and education. This thesis is dedicated to Sachin Tendulkar not only for the cricketing joy he provided me, but also for being a constant source of inspiration to all Indian youth.”

Ole John Nielsen (University of Copenhagen), who shared the 2007 Nobel peace Prize as a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change along with US vice president Al Gore, had in 2012 described the Springer award as an “insanely great honour”.

source: / The Hindu / Home> International / PTI / Singapore – May 28th, 2016

Gravitational waves ‘sixth sense’ to understand universe: US-based Indian researchers

Kolkata (IANS):

Thrilled at the detection of the elusive gravitational waves a century after Albert Einstein’s prediction and the first observation of collision of two black holes at the Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), two young US-based Indian researchers working on the project say the waves act as a sixth sense for humans to comprehend the universe.

In fact, these “ripples in the curvature of space and time” will provide information on the cosmos that wouldn’t have been possible by peering through any kind of telescope, say Karan P. Jani and Nancy Aggarwal, who are elated at the prospect of India getting a third LIGO (observatory) and being at the forefront of new-age astrophysics.

Last month, India and the US signed an agreement for a new LIGO project in India during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington. The agreement was signed between India’s Department of Atomic Energy and the US’ National Science Foundation (NSF).

The prime minister also met Indian student scientists, including Aggarwal and Jani, associated with the LIGO project.

“Gravitational waves are a completely new way of seeing the universe. It’s like humans can now perceive the sixth sense beyond the five, to comprehend the universe,” Jani, a fourth year PhD researcher in astrophysics at the Georgia Institute of Technology, told IANS via email.

The gravitational waves were detected on September 14, 2015, by both of the twin LIGO detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington. The LIGO Observatories are funded by the NSF and were conceived, built, and are operated by Caltech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.

Jani and Aggarwal explained the detectors led to “direct observation of existence of black holes as also a direct observation of mergers of two black holes into a bigger black hole.”

“The energy released during collision was 50 times more than all the stars in the universe combined at that instance,” added Jani, whose work involves simulating black holes on supercomputers and searching for massive black hole collisions in LIGO data.

The breakthrough was made by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) (which includes the GEO Collaboration and the Australian Consortium for Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy) and the Virgo Collaboration using data from the two LIGO detectors.

The LSC currently includes over 1,000 members from 90 institutes and 16 countries. India is the third highest right now in terms of membership.

At the heart of the mammoth hunting game to catch the unicorn are tools called interferometers which work by merging two or more sources of light to create an interference pattern that can be measured and analyzed.

“It is a four km light interferometer… in fact LIGO is the most precise measurement ever done. This means a lot of technology research has to be done to make LIGO,” Aggarwal, a fourth year Ph D student at MIT LIGO Lab, told IANS via email.

Aggarwal is studying quantum mechanics to improve the precision of gravitational wave detectors and is glad that the starting of the LIGO India project opens up a new opportunity for her to work in her native country.

“A lot of technological developments that were made for LIGO have found independent applications in science as well as industry and LIGO India will create a lot of opportunities for Indian scientists and engineers and improve the general scientific and technological environment,” Aggarwal emphasised.

They hope to “share the discovery with a larger audience”, a request put in by Modi during their meeting.

“During our meeting, the prime minister said he would like the LIGO scientists to make frequent India trips to popularize the science in colleges in India. We also talked about physics outreach in India for school children, the importance of hands-on demos and the importance of learning material in languages other than English,” Aggarwal informed.

“Also, due to the participation, the travelling of Indian scientists abroad and international scientists to India will definitely strengthen the international relations for India,” she said.

(Sahana Ghosh can be contacted at

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kolkata / IANS / april 22nd, 2016

US scholar on tea trail to dig up treasure trove



A research on the treasure trove of tea in India has earned an associate professor of art history at Syracuse University, with roots in Kolkata, the prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship 2016.

Romita Ray is not oblivious to the crisis ailing the tea industry, but she is working to strike a balance between the desolation associated with the sector and the shining aspect of the golden brew. “These (starvation deaths at tea estates) are a reality of the industry, but one needs to balance the bleakness with identifying tea as a botanic exotic. After all, it’s a living history that continues to connect Kolkata and Britain even after so many years,” said the Loreto House alumna who migrated to the US many years ago.

Her unique research is set to culminate in a book, tentatively titled ‘From Two Leaves and a Bud: The Visual Cultures of Tea Consumption in Colonial and Modern India’.

This will be the second literary attempt by the Yale University scholar, who specializes in art and architecture of the British empire in India, her earlier work being ‘Under the Banyan Tree: Relocating the picturesque in British India’.

Her passion for the evergreen shrub seems to run in the family, her great grandfather, Tarini Prosad, being the founder chairman of the Indian Tea Planters’ Association in Jalpaiguri.

Her current project, funded by the exalting and year-long National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (NEH) 2016, will be her second literary attempt. NEH is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States, and highly competetive.


Ray now is set to deliver her first “tea talk” in Kolkata on Monday at Victoria Memorial Hall, when she is going to deliver a lecture on ‘Botanical treasure, ornamental wonder: Aestheticizing tea in Britain and Colonial Calcutta’.

She will focus on how Chinese tea, once a botanical novelty in the 18th-century Britain, crystalized into a paradigm of the “tea time”, a fashionable culinary ritual in the 21st century Britain.

“Calcutta’s (‘Kolkata’ doesn’t roll off Ray’s tongue so easily) connection with tea goes back to the 18th century when East India Company started the Canton tea trade,” said Ray, explaining why she had to be in Kolkata, away from her classes in the US, for her research.

“My book is about the visual cultures and landscapes… it is about consumption of tea in colonial and post-colonial India. It looks at the tea plant as an ornamental curiosity, the tea planter (British and Indian) as a pioneer figure whose portraits are rarely discussed, and the tea plantation as a multi-layered landscape of cultivation and leisure.”

The book will not be launched soon. “Academic books take a long time to research and write,” Ray said. The task involved extensive research at museums, archives, private collections, tea estates and libraries in the UK, India and Sri Lanka.

Being the epicentre of the Indian tea industry, Kolkata houses the Tea Research Association, Indian Tea Association and the Tea Board, along with auction house J Thomas, and even tea companies McLeod Russell and Goodricke are headquartered here.

This is where she will find the East India Company records.

“The Shibpur botanic garden is a mine of information,” said Ray, who has visited Assam, Darjeeling and the Dooars and intends to travel to south India as well as Sri Lanka.

She also intends to dig out family records with the help of multi-generations of tea families.

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kolkata / April 10th, 2016

Indian-American Named President, CEO of Bank of The West

Photo Credits: Nandita Bakshi via Linkedin
Photo Credits: Nandita Bakshi via Linkedin

Houston :

Indian-American Nandita Bakshi has been appointed the President and Chief Executive Officer of Bank of the West, a unit of French banking giant BNP Paribas.

Bakshi, 57, will replace Michael Shepherd as Bank of the West’s next President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and is expected to join the bank as a CEO-in-training on April 1 and will take the helm officially on June 1.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Calcutta and a masters in International Relations and Affairs at Jadavpur University.

A New England News ‘Woman of the Year’ award recipient in 2002, Bakhshi also serves on the board of the Consumer Bankers Association.
“I am excited to join Bank of the West, one of America’s most reputable banks. Bank of the West is well positioned in the US market, and I am thrilled at the prospect of leading an organisation with such a strong focus on customer service,” Bakhshi said in a statement.

“We are pleased to welcome Nandita Bakhshi to Bank of the West. Her extensive experience in product and distribution, coupled with her visionary thinking, relentless customer focus and values-driven philosophy will serve us well in taking Bank of the West to greater heights,” head of international retail banking for BNP Paribas Stefaan Decraene said.

Bank of the West’s parent company BNP Paribas is revamping its US operations to meet new regulations.

“I am very pleased that Nandita Bakhshi is joining Bank of the West. Her energy, innovative ideas and proven record of accomplishments are a great combination with our strong franchise and corporate culture,” Shepherd said.

Bakhshi previously held several leadership roles at TD Bank, the most recent being executive vice president and head of North American direct channels where she was responsible for driving innovation in direct and electronic channels to improve digital adoption and provide customers a unified banking experience.

She also held executive positions at Washington Mutual in Seattle which is now JP Morgan Chase; FleetBoston, which is now Bank of America; First Data Corp, Home Savings of America and Banc One Corp.

source: / The New Indian Express / Home> Business> News / by PTI / March 28th, 2016