Monthly Archives: September 2014

Slice of Durga worship, a la Kiev

Kolkata :

They live in a country that is practically at war. Violent clashes between Russia-backed separatists and Ukranian forces has already claimed around 300 lives after a Malaysia Airlines flight was brought down near Donetsk in July. Advisories from nearly all countries, including India, have warned citizens against taking risks and avoiding mobs.

But the Indian community in Kiev has not allowed these developments to come in the way of Durga Puja and Navratri celebrations.

For the third year running, Indians in Kiev, nearly 5,200km away from home, will celebrate Durga Puja. The idol has already reached Ukraine from Kumartuli, and the purohit is from the Delhi Kali Bari. The community also encourages Ukrainians to participate in the festivities. “We have been celebrating Puja here for the last two years. Due to the unstable condition here in Ukraine, we have decided to celebrate Puja at my residence this year, around 20km from Kiev.

The Indian community here is very small and we all get together and prepare for the celebrations. We have cultural programmes on all days after the evening arti,” said Kasturi Saraiya, who hails from Assam but was born and brought up in Kolkata.

Saraiya is a member of Sanskriti, Centre for Indian Culture, in Kiev. This organization celebrates all Indian festivals and spreads awareness about them among locals. So much so, that Ukrainian dancers perform during the Puja celebrations.

The small community of Indians might be living thousands of kilometers away from home, but they celebrate in style, trying to maintain a lot of the traditions. As far as the actual puja is concerned, there is no compromise. “Our aim is to present and popularize Indian art and culture.

We want to create awareness among the local community about Indian culture, traditions and ethics. Nowadays, there are many Ukrainians who look forward to attending our prgrammes,” said a member of Sanskriti.

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / by Jayanta Gupta, TNN / October 03rd, 2014

Synagogues on Makeover Mode as Govt Charms Israel

The Thekkumbhagam Synagogue in Kochi
The Thekkumbhagam Synagogue in Kochi

New Delhi :

The synagogues in Israel may be caught in cross-firing, but those in India are going to be spruced up soon, courtesy the Modi-led BJP government. The files started moving with speed within the Culture Ministry when the Palestine issue got worse — signifying the BJP government’s political stance in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Though the move to protect the synagogues was initiated during the UPA rule, the Manmohan Singh government developed cold feet later as Israel and Palestine has always been a volatile subject in our country. “Our team had visited the synagogues in Kolkata and had even finalised the sketches way back in 2010. But the project did not go beyond that, as there was some terse communication to go slow,” said an ASI source.

The Archaeological Survey of India is busy moving the files and renovation is expected to start soon. Sources admit that the renovation of synagogues is a political decision. “Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj are planning to visit Israel towards the year end and there are enough reasons to believe the renovation is closely connected to the visits,’’ said a government source.

There are around 35 synagogues in India—most of them in Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Ahmedabad. “The synagogues in our country represent a rich cultural and religious tradition. The ASI is actively thinking of renovating the synagogues across the country. Most of them have been encroached upon by private parties and some, even by governments,’’ said a source in the Ministry of Culture.

The source added that the renovation work will start initially in Kochi’s Thekkumbhagam Synagogue and the Beth El Synagogue and the Maghen David Synagogue in Kolkata. The government is also planning to start a “Jewish tourism circuit” connecting all synagogues in the country, the source added. Though the government gave in following pressure and even vouched its support to the ‘‘Palestinian cause’’, it is an open secret that many BJP leaders, including PM Modi, have a close affiliation with Israel. Modi visited Tel Aviv as the CM of Gujarat, a state which has old diamond trade ties with Israel.

Transport and rural development minister Nitin Gadkari, too, visited Israel three years ago when he was the BJP chief while Sushma Swaraj is a self-declared “fan” of Israel. She, as the chief of India-Israeli Parliamentary Friendship Forum in the past, visited Israel last year.

“Both countries are victims of the growing religious fundamentalism and it is natural that they grow closer. It also helps that both share unique ethnic and religious aspects,’’ said a Culture Ministry official, who is part of the renovation project.

source: / The New Indian Express / Home> The Sunday Standard / September 28th, 2014

Leander Paes wins Malaysian Open title with Matkowski

Leander Paes,and Marcin Matkowski defeated Jamie Murray and John Peers to lift the men's doubles title at the Malaysian Open tennis tournament in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: AP
Leander Paes,and Marcin Matkowski defeated Jamie Murray and John Peers to lift the men’s doubles title at the Malaysian Open tennis tournament in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: AP

Kuala Lumpur:

Veteran Indian star Leander Paes, who skipped Asian Games to get some valuable ranking points, vindicated his decision by lifting the ATP Malaysian Open with new partner Marcin Matkowski, here today.

The fourth seeded Indo-Polish pair rallied to beat the second seeded Briton-Australian combo of Jamie Murray and John Peers 3-6 7-6(5) 10-5 in the summit clash.

It was Paes’ first title of the season during which his ranking plummeted to 35 from top-10. This win will give Paes 250 ranking points and USD 25065 as prize money.

The 41-year-old had ended runner-up at Washington with Australia’s Sam Groth in July in the first final of the season.

“In a match like that, especially in the final, the margins between winning and losing are very small. What I really like about Marcin’s game after playing with him this week is that he is a student of tennis. On the court, he’s always looking to improve,” Paes said after the win.

“We didn’t play our best tennis in the beginning today. We were playing a team that were very confident. They don’t give you much rhythm. But then when we were down, we found our groove and it was pretty much a different story then,” the Indian added.

In the 2013 season Paes had won two titles, including the US Open with Radek Stepanek.

Matkowski said, he was “happy to play with Paes.

“He’s a great player. We’ll try to play a few more tournaments in the fall, in the indoor tournaments in Europe. We’ve enjoyed a very good start and we look forward to continuing this way,” he said.

source: / Deccan Chronicle / Home> Sports> Tennis / PTI / September 29th, 2014

Begum Rokeya: She gave the call for emancipation of Muslim women

One of the rare rebellions of her time, Roquia Sakhawat Hussain is a name that echoes ceaseless struggle to bring women under the ambit of social respect and admiration. Born in 1880, this gritty and composed lady from a small village of Pairabondh in the then undivided Bengal gave her all towards cementing a respectable position of women during her epoch.


A livid exponent of feminist movement in eastern India, Begum Rokeya conceived and implemented the idea of establishing the first school mainly aimed at Muslim girls. Issues like gender equality and women’s emancipation found a new dimension under her prudent leadership. Being the precursor of future feminist movement in India and Bangladesh, Rokeya did her bit to bolster the position of the so called ‘second sex’ in a puritanical society stuffed with orthodox ideologies.

Married off at an early age, hers was in no way a beginning worth remembering. However, the indomitable urge to stand out for a cause and be the guiding star for he contemporaries and the ages to come drove her forward.

Begum Rokeya had the funny bone as well as the tinge of sarcasm that helped her euphemism narrate real-life incidents of injustice forced upon Bengali-speaking Muslim women. She displayed enough valiance to tell it on the face of the oppressors that they are adopting immoral ways distorting version of Islam.

Oborodhbashini (“The woman in captivity”), Paddorag (“Essence of the Lotus”) and Narir Adhikar (“The Rights of Women”) are among her widely read books that openly defied restrictions on women.

source: / Headlines India / Home> Social Interest News> Women / Friday – March 04th, 2011

Punching above her weight

Sakina Khatum talks about her weightlifting career and her route to success at the Commonwealth Games

Such a long journey Sakina Khatum courted success after many trials including being struck by polio / The Hindu
Such a long journey Sakina Khatum courted success after many trials including being struck by polio / The Hindu

Sakina Khatum hit the headlines with a bronze-winning effort at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, last month. But the 25-year-old promises to do even better at the Incheon Asian Games, come October.

An irony, or call it fate, as polio struck Sakina, one of the four siblings when she was just a year and half old, and since then, it has been a story of determination and fighting all odds.

Four operations below the knee on the right leg helped her to walk, rather than crawl on fours. A doctor advised Sakina to take up swimming to strengthen the leg, and thus began her tryst with sports.

“I was national champion a year after taking up swimming, and for the next four years, ruled the pool in my category. I did not get any recognition or an international call up,” says the girl, who comes from a poor family. “My father is ailing. My brother does not stay with my family.”

She adds, “I came to Bangalore for the selection camp, ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

After three months away from home, I was not picked despite impressing coach Dabas, who referred me to ace para power-lifter Farman Basha. And the rest is history.” Farman, himself restricted to a wheelchair says, “She was lifting only 25 to 26 kgs. To turn her into an international star was a challenge, but with coach Dabas insisting, I agreed. I had no money to spare but asked her to train under me. I found her a small accommodation near K.R. Puram.. Four years down and she has won two international medals (both bronze) for her country,” says Farman.

The journey has not been easy.

“One Mr. Majumdar, from Kolkata used to send Rs. 5000 initially and then increased it to Rs. 10,000 per month for her basic expenses (though that has now stopped after her Commonwealth Games success). He supported her financially, till last month. He even procured her tickets to the Hungary Open, early this year where she won her first international medal. We don’t spend our money (on international tours) and save up to buy supplements – a must for every lifter. When I am short of money, we fall back on local produce,” adds Farman.

“I asked Sakina to move into my place to save up on rent and travel time for training. We train for about four-five days a week,” says the gritty lifter.

For more successes, it is important that the state government and the numerous corporates that endorses sports step forward and make it easy for them to travel and perform at the highest level. Is anyone listening?

source: / The Hindu / Home> Features> MetroPlus / by Avinash Nair / September 29th, 2014

Couple’s mati-manush tale with roots in Kentucky and shoots in Calcutta farm


Kentucky, 2005: Aparajita Sengupta, a 25-year-old English literature student doing her PhD in Indian cinema, and Debal Mazumder, a 31-year-old senior software developer, rush out of their Kentucky home with a cup of cereal each in their hands, she to her university and he to his software firm. Weekends are a blur, driving around town, visiting malls and meeting friends over drinks at a pub.

Calcutta, 2013:
Aparajita and Debal are eight years older and in a different time zone, living a very different life. They have ditched their formal shoes to slip into work chappals. Instead of shopping and pubbing on weekends, they shovel manure and harvest crops. Meals are no longer about takeaways but growing food using organic and biodynamic methods. In their farm, called Smell of the Earth, said to be the first of its kind in the country!

“I am a full-time farmer now!” exclaims Aparajita, 33, her broad smile and sickle in perfect sync.

She is standing in an 11-bigha community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm in Thakurpukur on the southern fringes of Calcutta. “I join in the digging and harvesting but not the tilling because that requires a bullock and a plough, which I still don’t know how to handle,” she says, almost apologetically.

This rare mati-manush tale, with roots in Kentucky and shoots in Calcutta, began with Aparajita and Debal starting their life together in the US like any other young immigrant couple vying for their own small piece of the so-called American dream. Then something happened. Not professional instability, illness or a family crisis. Just a simple realisation that the food they were eating was “poison”.

“We were drawn to food-related issues in the US and the growing influence of GMO (genetically modified organisms) back home. It scared us that the rate of disease, birth defects, cancer and allergies related to food production was so high,” says Debal, 39, who continues to work as a software developer for his American employer while pursuing his other dream.


We had witnessed the beginning of farmers’ markets and CSA in the US, a movement that has gained unprecedented momentum in the last eight years. But India was going in the reverse direction and we felt the need to come back and do our bit in spreading awareness, starting with Calcutta’s urban population.”

And so, in the summer of 2011, the couple left their adopted American way of life to return to the chaos of Calcutta. “When we left Kentucky, we weren’t sure we would be able to start immediately because we knew we wouldn’t be able to afford land sufficient for farming in Calcutta. Our first aim was to raise consciousness among middle-class families by writing articles or filming documentaries,” says Debal.

An opportunity came knocking when a friend offered a family-owned plot in Thakurpukur, which they happily “borrowed” through a land-share agreement. In a matter of months, Debal and Aparajita’s Smell of the Earth farm had found 26 members, including software and advertising professionals, college professors, an accountant, a banker and a photographer. They pay Rs 2,000 each for organic vegetables every month.

The farm, over an hour’s drive from the couple’s Santoshpur home, is not your usual faux rural setting meant for weekend outings. It is a plot of land meant for agriculture and Debal and Aparajita intend to keep it that way.

Smell of the Earth had its first harvest in January with fresh leafy greens, radish, peas and cauliflower. Coming up are cabbage, coriander, French beans, tomato, pumpkin, brinjal, bitter gourd, potato, onion and chillies.

“Ours is a low-tech, low-energy and low-input poly and multi-cropping farm. We do inter-cropping instead of using pesticides to avoid disturbing the biodynamics. We use pond water and not ground water, and plan to make a transition to solar power,” says Aparajita.

She and Debal are quick to dispel the notion that they are in it for the money. “We don’t want to grow as a farm or expand as a business. What we would like to see grow is the idea. We want more people to look at our model and replicate it so that there can be a large network of such communities. If 30 more families were doing what we are doing, we could move towards a sustainable environment of healthy people,” Debal says.

What makes the couple happy is the enthusiasm of friends, colleagues and neighbours about their initiative. “When they came and saw the farm and attended meetings, they realised that this wasn’t just about paying Rs 2,000 for organic vegetables every month but about participation, building a community and protecting the ecosystem. The vegetables come as a bonus, as one of our members puts it,” says Aparajita.

The CSA model had started in Germany in the 1960s and was adopted by Japan before it made inroads into North America two decades later. But it was only in the new millennium that the movement gained momentum in the face of environmental awareness and food scandals in the US. Today, there are more than 7,000 CSA farms in the US and around 2,000 in Central and Eastern Europe, but just about a hundred in Asia.

A typical CSA farm comprises a community of individuals who pledge their support to an urban farm operation where the growers and consumers share the risks and benefits of food production using organic and biodynamic methods. In exchange for a monthly membership fee and a little labour during harvest, members receive shares from the farm’s bounty throughout the growing season, delivered every week.

At the Thakurpukur farm, Wednesdays and Fridays are reserved for delivery, when Aparajita fills organic cotton bags with the harvested veggies and ferries them across the city to members’ homes.

All other days, too, Aparajita is busy at the farm, having given up a post-grad teaching stint. She helps with the work and planning for the season with Manoranjan, a local farmer who has been appointed caretaker. Debal joins in on Sundays with the couple’s three-year-old daughter Kulfi.

Once a month, the members go on farm visits and assemble at the farmer couple’s Santoshpur home to watch documentaries and share books. “We keep updating our Facebook page [Smell of the Earth] with pictures of the farm and share tips and recipes on vegetables growing for the season,” says Debal.

“We recently had a wonderful experience: a two-week permaculture course [the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient] in a small village near Darjeeling. It’s still a learning process because what did we know about farming?” adds Aparajita.

Back in 2000, Jadavpur University alumnus Debal couldn’t see beyond the career that awaited him in Kentucky as a software developer, while ex-Presidencian Aparajita left Calcutta four years later to do her PhD at the University of Kentucky. It was in the US that they met, fell in love and got married.

“When we had left India we were looking at diverse opportunities of building our careers and starting a new life. We were quite unclear if we would ever come back. We bought a house, a car, had our daughter there, but once this issue started affecting us, we were convinced that we wanted to come back,” recalls Aparajita.

“We had never really been conscious about what we were eating until we started getting bothered by the taste of vegetables, the idea of processed food and TV dinners that simply go into your microwave. Onions were the size of papaya,” says Aparajita. “And chicken tasted like soap,” quips Debal.

A chance meeting with an Indian couple growing organic food helped them understand the difference between what they were eating and how nature meant food to be. “We borrowed some of their books, watched movies and visited websites they recommended. We started buying our grocery from organic food chains even though it cost us three times as much before exploring food co-operatives and farmer’s markets,” says Aparajita.

Joining a CSA farm at Lexington in Kentucky — set up by Erik Walles, “an American scientist who gave it all up to start farming” — sealed the dream Aparajita and Debal are now chasing.


Aparajita Sengupta, 33, and Debal Mazumder, 39. They gave up their life in Kentucky to come back to Calcutta in 2011 and start a community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm in Thakurpukur, called Smell of the Earth.


A farm comprising a community of individuals who pledge their support to an urban farm operation where food is produced using organic and biodynamic methods.


Aparajita and Debal’s farm has 26 members who pay Rs 2,000 each for organic vegetables every month and participate in the movement. Its first harvest in January comprised fresh leafy greens, radish, peas and cauliflower. Coming up are cabbage, coriander, French beans, tomato, pumpkin, brinjal, bitter gourd, potato, onion and chillies.

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta / Front Page> Calcutta> Story / by Mohua Das / Saturday – March 02nd, 2013

Vrindavan widows come ‘home’ after years

Kolkata :

As people in the city started opening their sleepy eyes on Friday morning, many early train catchers halted for a while seeing a group of white sari-clad elderly women coming out of Howrah station chanting “Radhe, Radhe, Radhe, Radhe”.

About 70 widows reached Kolkata from various ashrams in Vrindavan on Friday to visit the city and witness the spirit of festivity here.

Kanaklata Devi (105), who left the city 70 years ago, pointed at an advertising hoarding with a Hema Malini photograph and shot a humorous comment: “Tumi to asechho amader sahore, amra gele dosh ki?” (You have come to our city, so what is our fault if we stay at Vrindavan?”

BJP’s Mathura MP Hema Malini’s recent comment on the presence of many widows from Bengal in Vrindavan created a furore among various people and activists. The actor-turned-MP later clarified that these widows should not be thrown out of their native state by their relatives after their husband’s death. They should rather be treated with care and affection by their own people in their own state.

Kanaklata had a point to counter Hema Malini. “I am coming to this city after 70 years. Because I did not want to miss the chance of attaining ‘moksha’ by not passing away in that divine land of Vrindavan. According to myth, a person attains ‘moksha’ if he dies in Vrindavan. But this year, I could not refuse Pathak babaji’s requests to visit my hometown.”

Sunitra Devi (79) was nostalgic as she got down from the bus in which they were brought to Raj Bhavan to meet the governor. The lady, who lost her husband at the age of 26, used to live at Maniktala. “After our marriage, he brought me here to show Raj Bhavan. But at that time, we could see Raj Bhavan only from a distance,” she said.

The widows of Vrindavan will be in the city for two more days, during which they plan to visit the artisan’s hub at Kumartuli, hop some Puja pandals and enjoy a tram ride. “Getting an opportunity to see their favourite spots in and around the city after so long, the elderly women were behaving like teenagers,” said Bindheswar Pathak, founder of Sulabh Foundation, which is looking after about 1000 widows in Vrindavan.

source: / Th Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / by Kamalendu Bhadra, TNN / September 27th, 2014

‘I had decided not to marry and see what I have today, a family of 900!’

Vinayak Lohani basks in the love of his 900-strong Parivaar comprising destitute children whom he feeds, clothes and educates in Thakurpukur. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
Vinayak Lohani basks in the love of his 900-strong Parivaar comprising destitute children whom he feeds, clothes and educates in Thakurpukur. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya

His sartorial style is a crisp, white kurta-pyjama teamed with thick, black-rimmed glasses. He idolises Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda and quotes Sunil Gangopadhyay. He worships Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak and unwinds with Anjan Dutt’s songs. He loves eating fish and roaming the old lanes and bylanes of Calcutta at night.

If 37-year-old Vinayak Lohani is catholic in his tastes, he is single-minded when it comes to his cause: providing home, hearth and education to the poorest and most vulnerable of children through the largest free residential school in eastern India.

Vinayak receives a special certificate of honour on behalf of Parivaar in the ‘A School that Cares’ category of The Addlife Caring Minds Awards, along with a special honour from The Telegraph Education Foundation at The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence 2014, presented by Peerless in association with Parle-G and powered by Adamas University. The awards were given away at the Science City auditorium on Saturday
Vinayak receives a special certificate of honour on behalf of Parivaar in the ‘A School that Cares’ category of The Addlife Caring Minds Awards, along with a special honour from The Telegraph Education Foundation at The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence 2014, presented by Peerless in association with Parle-G and powered by Adamas University. The awards were given away at the Science City auditorium on Saturday

Vinayak, winner of The Telegraph Education Foundation’s certificate of honour at The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence 2014 on Saturday, was born in Bhopal but has made Bengal his home.

Vinayak had come to Bengal as a student, first to earn a degree in mining engineering from IIT Kharagpur and later an MBA from IIM Calcutta. It was while studying for his MBA that the then 20-something engineer sprang the first surprise of his career. He opted out of campus placements.

“I was the only one in IIM Calcutta’s history to do so!” he says with a laugh. “I wanted to do something in the social space. I wasn’t interested in a corporate career.”

By then, Vinayak had started skipping classes, writing journalistic pieces on social initiatives and volunteering with NGOs. He had worked with Infosys for a year in between his stints at IIT and IIM and realised that his calling lay elsewhere. Calcutta, with its “rich history of leaders and reformers”, fuelled his desire to be different.

“Being a good student from a middle-class family, engineering and MBA happened by default. But soon I found myself losing interest in a mainstream job and the corporate environment,” recalls Vinayak.

Vision & Vivekananda

For inspiration, Vinayak had Vivekananda. “I have always been inspired by the agents of change in society and the sense of sacrifice, service and devotion, especially Swami Vivekananda’s. I took diksha from the Ramakrishna Mission…spent time with monks. Mother Teresa’s influence was strong, as was the legacy of our freedom movement. I found no momentum to return to my hometown. All my thoughts became very Calcutta-centric.”

At 25, Vinayak became quite the non-conformist, determined to establish a reformatory institution of his own rather than be in the so-called rat race. “Doing what everybody else was doing didn’t excite me. My notion of success was different. I had been to the best of educational institutions, so I didn’t need to prove my abilities to anyone. I knew that if I put in my best I might be able to make it happen.”

Vinayak’s plans did irk his civil servant father, though. “My folks were worried whether I had the kind of maturity needed to carry out the responsibility of running an organisation, dealing with different domains and steering it safely and successfully.”

After moving out of IIM, he rented a small house in Sakherbazar in Behala. His plan was to start a free residential school for deprived children — the kind he had seen loitering on railway platforms and in red light areas. A few friends, researchers and professors from IIM were Vinayak’s “sounding board”.

Parivaar was born in 2003 but bringing up the child proved far from easy. “I prepared proposals, met people here and there, but all in vain because no one wanted to support something that was the wishful thinking of one individual,” says Vinayak.

With his efforts to raise funds leading nowhere, he rented a building near Thakurpukur with his earnings from lectures and tuitions to MBA aspirants. Vinayak started his mission with three kids, often not knowing where the next meal would come from. “It was a hand-to-mouth existence. I was spending whatever I was earning. My mother was my first donor,” he recounts.

In another six months, Vinayak had 55 children under his small roof, thanks to the support of “well-placed” IIM alumni who responded to his emailed appeal.

By the end of 2004, he had purchased a two-acre plot in Thakurpukur to build his dream brick by brick. Parivaar is currently spread across 20 acres. “Surely this is eastern India’s largest free residential institution for children today but not too many people know about it,” says Vinayak.

Vinayak presents The Shining Star Honour to Purna Chandra Rout, a non-teaching employee of La Martiniere for Girls for 37 years, at the Science City auditorium on Saturday. Pictures by Rashbehari Das
Vinayak presents The Shining Star Honour to Purna Chandra Rout, a non-teaching employee of La Martiniere for Girls for 37 years, at the Science City auditorium on Saturday. Pictures by Rashbehari Das

Parivaar path

Parivaar is today an institution that houses 672 boys and 298 girls whose lives have changed because of education and Vinayak’s encouragement. Some have gone on to get university degrees. “We have had a significant number of very inspired volunteers. They were mostly our donors who became our campaigners and spread the word actively,” says Vinayak.

Parivaar has two campuses that take in children between the ages of four and 10. The one for boys is called Parivaar Ashram. Located a few blocks away is the girls’ campus, called Parivaar Sarada Teertha. Each campus has dorm-like housing, a library, computer room, dining area, a soccer field and a volleyball court.

Parivaar also has its own co-educational school till Class X called Amar Bharat Vidyapeeth, located on the boys’ campus. “It’s not as if the kids’ stay is over once they are through with their education here. Would a parent ask a child to leave home? The older ones tutor the younger kids, earn pocket money and can move out of their own free will once they feel they are ready,” says Vinayak.

There are a few rules that set Vinayak’s initiative apart from others of its kind. “We don’t accept institutional support from any foreign agency. Ninety per cent of our donors are individuals of Indian origin, whether they are living in India or abroad. No government support. That’s how I could build it my own way because foreign or government agencies have their own parameters. I wanted to design my school my way, just like an artist would create his own piece of art,” he reveals.

Target 5,000

While his field teams are scouting for destitute children to bring home, Vinayak’s mind is preoccupied with the future challenges of the mission. “I hope to touch 1,200 by December. Since we have limited capacity at the moment, we admit children based on their neediness. Primarily orphans and the homeless are picked up from railway platforms and pavements, or those with one parent and incapable of taking care of the child.”

Apart from the city, Parivaar reaches out to rural areas, including the tribal belts of Midnapore, Bankura, Purulia and Jharkhand. The emphasis is on giving girls vulnerable to exploitation an opportunity to build their lives.

Vinayak’s IIT and IIM education hasn’t gone waste either. Parivaar is an example for institutions on how to “scale up” operations using entrepreneurial skills.

Unlike many social welfare organisations that are cagey talking about finances, Vinayak is upfront about money. “We raise around Rs 14 crore every year. I can raise Rs 100 crore over the next 10 years but I am not satisfied with that. For me, sky is the limit. I am taking Parivaar to 5,000 children in the next seven years. My aim is to convert Parivaar into the largest free residential school in the country.”

Model mission

The Parivaar model is already a case study at business schools. “A lot of people want to do things but don’t know how to get started. There’s a huge possibility of social enterprise and since I understand how it works, I want to help those who want to be agents of change — be it in education, health or livelihood,” says Vinayak.

His personal turning point was the decision to take the road less travelled, away from home and family. “When I took up the responsibility of these children I decided that I was not going to marry and raise a family. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been possible for me to give myself completely, emotionally. I would have become nervous, I would have collapsed. So a strong focus was the emotional focus. I closed the door on any thoughts or feelings that might be distracting. And see what I have today, a family of 900!” he smiles.

Vinayak is now comfortable letting the institution run on “auto-pilot”. The faculty and his 179-strong office team take care of everything, his role being limited to “reviewing, mentoring and monitoring”. That is when he isn’t busy giving lectures at youth forums or in his new role as member of a special taskforce under the Union ministries of finance and women and child welfare. He also makes time for helping, mentoring and handholding young social entrepreneurs.

If there is one thing Vinayak is touchy about, it is about not being identified as “a Bengali”. His Bengali look, he says, has been “acquired through effort”. The dhuti was his choice of everyday attire until two years ago, when he switched to his trademark white kurta-pyjama.

“I would get offended when people wouldn’t take me as a Bengali. I have always identified with the Calcutta of the 1960s and ‘70s — the shilpis, buddhijibis and their simple-living-high-thinking philosophy that defined the city’s cultural aristocracy. Emotionally, I see myself as that and I have really tried to become one for all these years,” smiles Vinayak.

What message do you have for Vinayak Lohani? Tell

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta / Front Page> Calcutta> Story / by Mohua Das / Monday – September 01st, 2014

Sourav Ganguly, man in a hurry at the CAB

Sourav Ganguly, outside his room, at the CAB HQ
Sourav Ganguly, outside his room, at the CAB HQ


Around an hour with Sourav Ganguly in his joint secretary’s room at Eden Gardens, where the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) is headquartered, actually makes you wonder whether captaining India was tougher for him or managing the many roles he’s now playing.

An administrator’s hat is just one that Sourav is wearing. He’s also co-owner of an ISL franchise, ‘architect’ of a mega project in education and co-opted member of the Justice Mukul Mudgal panel which is probing “13 individuals,” including Narayanswamy Srinivasan.

Besides, locally, Sourav is much in demand to be the face of a product or venture. From steel bars to health insurance to real estate.

“Different roles have different responsibilities… The demands are different… But, in everything, captaining India remains at the top… Doesn’t compare with anything,” Sourav told The Telegraph.

The No.1 difference?

“As captain, if I made a mistake, I didn’t get a second chance… It’s different today… I can correct an unintended error,” Sourav replied.

At the CAB, Sourav seems a man in a hurry. Nothing wrong, though… He has travelled the world, has ideas and wants cricket in the state to move forward.

As captain, both on and off the field, Sourav wasn’t conventional, which is one big reason why he was successful. He wants to be different at the CAB as well.

“I’m certainly not in this chair for (cream cracker) biscuits and tea in the evenings… There’s work to be done, but what’s amazing is the number of people on the staff who’re keen to make a difference…

“I accept this is a new hat that I’m wearing, but I haven’t got into the CAB to add to my CV,” Sourav said.

Not that Sourav isn’t aware of the high expectations. Talk of pressure and he counters by saying he’s been used to it for decades.

Sourav is 42.

Even if the biscuits aren’t touched, tea can’t be avoided. Not in the Maidan’s environment.

So, grinning, Sourav pressed a button and asked for “dudh diye cha.” With papers and cheques to sign, he definitely needed a cha break.

Sourav’s maiden appearance as an administrator, at the Eden, was in early August, but he’s begun to settle down only more recently, after India’s tour of England.

Media-related assignments kept Sourav, too, in England.

Till the early 2000s, at the Eden, mediapersons would follow every move of Jagmohan Dalmiya. Today, dozens scramble over once word spreads that “Dada” has arrived.

One bite, one quote… The Sourav-generated buzz is unmistakable.

Some probably feel they’re being marginalised rather quickly, but Sourav is confident he’ll be getting the support of everybody.

The CAB continues to be headed by Dalmiya.

New to the role or not, it hasn’t stopped some on the CAB’s payroll from directly approaching “Dada” for a hike.

Apparently, one of the staffers went to the extent of telling Sourav that if the CAB couldn’t raise his salary, then he could consider paying him extra from his own resources!

From the players’ mindset to the dreary look of the CAB’s indoor facility, Sourav wants plenty to change.

But just how much time would be needed for the changes to set in?

“At least a year… I’m settling down well and, as I’ve observed, a number of people in the CAB really want to put in that extra bit. I’m very hopeful,” Sourav pointed out.

Lest a wrong impression be created (and encouraged by those with a vested interest), Sourav added: “It’s not about me… It’s about the institution.”

Sourav, meanwhile, is off to New Delhi on Sunday for a meeting of the Justice Mudgal panel. He’s the cricket fraternity’s only representative involved with the Supreme Court-ordered investigations.

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta / Front Page> Sport> Today / by Lokendra Pratap Sahi / Calcutta – Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Barcelona musician joins gypsy and Baul music

Kolkata :

He was born and brought up in Belgrade by his Bengali mother and Serbian father. He got his degrees, including a Masters, in Austria, where he spent eight-odd years. But with a name like Robindro, he could not escape music.

Barcelona Gipsy Klezmer Orchestra’s clarinet player-scholar Robindro Nikolic is in town, holding workshops and bringing the worlds of gypsies and bauls together.

“My mother, Manjula Mukherjee had gone to Europe with her parents who were diplomats based in Yugoslavia. She studied medicine, but later took up Ayurveda. She met my father, who is a Serbian, at Belgrade,” Robindro narrated in his accent.

He further explained what brought him to Kolkata for the first time, four years ago.

“In Switzerland in 2007, I was performing with Zubin Mehta when I met Pandit Tanmoy Bose, who was collaborating with Anushka Shankar. We exchanged numbers, spoke about music. He urged me to make my own music as I was part of a huge orchestra. He really inspired me. In 2010, I came to Kolkata, where Bose introduced me to many people — musicians like guitarist Bodhisattwa Ghosh with whom I jammed at Someplace Else, and the cultural organization Banglanatak. I was keen to research on music medicine and music therapy, so Bose’s wife, Bonnya, who was with ITC Sangeet Research Academy at the time, introduced me to their archive where I spent considerable time,” he told TOI on Wednesday.

“Many people think my name is Brazilian or Portuguese. But I tell them no, it’s Bengali,” he said.

When prodded on his association with Indian music, he said, “I have researched on the broad science of Indian ragas and music therapy in India. But this is the first time I’m having a musical exchange with Bengal folk musicians. We found many similarities between the folk forms of the two worlds. ‘Doina’, a Jewish folk form from East Europe, is very similar to Baul, as my fellow musicians pointed out. It’s about spirituality and not religion. I’m also keen on exploring the Bengal wind instruments.”

But Baul is not a “new love” for him, he said. “When I was little my mother would travel back home and get, among others, Baul music recordings for me.”

Singer Dipanwita Acharya, who was part of the workshop, said, “It was a wonderful experience. And I’m so happy to learn about ‘Doina’. So many similarities with our Baul music and the storyline of these music forms are the same globally.”

Percussionist Sandip Bag, who played ‘dubuka’, an instrument from Middle East, at the workshop, said the rhythms Robindro played were quite different, and this was a refreshing experience.

Arpan Thakur Chakraborty, a guitarist, added, “This was very helpful for me. I learnt a lot about scale variation and progression while playing ‘jazz manouche’ or gypsy jazz with him.”

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / by Shounak Ghosal, TNN / September 25th, 2014