Monthly Archives: November 2014

Calcutta University confers Honoris Causa on President

Kolkata :

President Pranab Mukherjee was awarded Honoris Causa by Calcutta University on Friday.

After assuming office as the President of India, Mukherjee has received several offers of honorary doctorate from universities, all of which he has refused. He felt that as the President of India, he should not accept such offers. But, when it came from his own alma mater, his sentiments overwhelmed him, Mukherjee said.

“I thank the university for bestowing upon me the Asutosh Mookerjee Memorial Medal that was introduced a year ago to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of the towering personality of Indian education,” he said at the CU convocation.

Recalling his ties with the varsity, Mukherjee said he studied at Suri Vidyasagar College. “I pursued law and two postgraduate degrees — modern history and political science — from CU. It is my good luck to have been associated with this esteemed institution,” he said. It might be mentioned that the President had also taught for sometime at Vidyanagar College in South 24-Parganas.

On the sidelines of the convocation, CU VC Suranjan Das shared an anecdote. “Much after he left the university as a student, a few years ago he requested us for duplicate copies of his registration card. I was amazed as he remembered his registration and roll numbers. We could immediately provide the copies,” Das said.

Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, too, was present at the convocation where DSc was awarded to scientist Bikash Sinha and ENT surgeon L S Ojha. DLitt was awarded to former foreign secretary Muchkund Dubey. Among the eminent teachers awarded was historian Jayanta Kumar Roy for his substantial contribution to the university.

Later in the day, the President inaugurated the 150-bed facility of Institute of Neurosciences Kolkata at Mullickbazar — a PPP project in which the health department and KMC chipped in for the venture of three NRI doctors.

Mukherjee urged young doctors to embrace value-based principles while aspiring to be top professionals. “They have to remember that the nation invested in their education and they should never snap the sacred bond with the motherland while pursuing higher studies abroad.”

The President wanted a suitable rehab policy for patients with neurological problems, which is growing among the elderly populace with increased life span. “Elderly people are suffering from diseases like dementia, for which the need for medical aid and treatment cost are increasing. The dignity of patients is to be protected so that they are not isolated,” he said. He wanted campaigns highlighting treatment of neuro-psychiatric diseases.

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / TNN / November 29th, 2014

‘Kolkata deserves Unesco tag’

Kolkata :

The word “Bengali” is most used in Penang, Malaysia, to refer to anyone of North Indian origin because the headquarters of Penang Presidency were located in Kolkata during the British Raj.

Such unknown facts about the heritage of Kolkata was up for discussion at the Indian Museum where the two-day annual conference of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) ended on Saturday to discuss the impact of urbanization on heritage.

Many heritage conservationists and art historians converged at the Indian Museum to attend the event on Friday. Experts felt that Kolkata should find a place among the Unesco sites but unfortunately the fact that Kolkata was the centre from where the British Empire proliferated, hasn’t quite been marketed well.

“The city should make a consistent effort in getting its pivotal place in history registered in the world’s mindscape,” said historian and conservation architect from Delhi AGK Menon.

“There is a renewed interest in Malaysia in the contributions of this once capital of the British empire to the realm of art and architecture,” said Khoo Salma, a conservationist with the Penang Heritage Trust.

“Coming here almost feels like being where it all began, at least when it comes to colonial art and culture,” said Gwynn Jenkins, a cultural anthropologist working in Malaysia. Among others present were historian PT Nair, art historian Bhau Daji Lad Museum director Tasneem Mehta and art historian Saryu Doshi.

“There are heritage laws in place but they have no teeth. We are yet to see destroyers of heritage getting arrested. Promothesh Barua’s house got razed, the arch at the gateway of Bishop’s House was pulled down and nothing happened to the builder. This needs to be stopped,” said GM Kapur, Intach state convenor.

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / TNN / November 23rd, 2014

French scientist wows students with ‘do-it-yourself’ science

Kolkata :

It’s a rare lecture that makes teachers feel like the taught and forces guardians to pull out chits of paper from their wallets to take down notes in a hurry. When renowned French scientist and author Nicole Ostrowsky speaks, the laws of magnetism take on a whole new meaning.

The acclaimed physicist was in Kolkata last week as the star attraction of the third edition of Apprentice Scientist competition at The Future Foundation School (TFFS). The contest, held in collaboration with its partner school Lycee Francais de Pondicherry, encourages some of the best young brains in the city to get out of their textbooks and test their scientific aptitude in creative ways.

The participating school teams get the same equipment — and questions that force them to think out of the box. This time, for instance, each team got two plastic glasses, a football, three bottles and other items that look like odds and ends. One of the questions was: can you transfer air using two cups and a container full of water?

The teams of Class VII students had to complete four experiments, at the end of which they came to realize, hands-on, that all sciences — physics, chemistry, biology — are linked.

The correlation between sciences was a key feature of Ostrowsky’s lecture. She added psychology to the group and pointed out how it would dominate research in the days to come.

Ostrowsky, author of ‘The Agenda of the Apprentice Scientist’, is on a worldwide mission to make science fun for children. A professor emeritus at University of Nice in France, she has taught at Harvard and founded the ‘Exploratoire’ in Paris, a hugely popular collection of interactive scientific experiments. This is her first visit to Kolkata. “I am fascinated by the colours here,” she said.

The packed hall at TFFS was completely under her spell as Ostrowsky put up one scientific riddle after another: If you put a pea and a banana in a bowl of water, which will sink? If all the icebergs in the world melted, would the sea level rise? She showed how the answer to these questions can be found in simple experiments at home. “Be curious. Ask questions. That is what a scientist does,” she advised students. Handing over her pointer stick to students, she asked if anyone could find its centre of gravity. One boy did, drawing applause.

The same spirit was seen in the contest where Cedric Le-Bescont, head of science teachers at Lycee Francais, was urging the competitors to “forget your books and write your own science”. “Forget what you learnt. Analyze what you see,” he kept telling students.

He wanted them to stop etting confined to any one branch of science and to allow them to look for down-the-lane answers. The winners were Heritage School, followed by South City International and Modern High for Girls.

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / TNN / November 25th, 2014

Bengal honour for Baltic biker boy


In the autumn of 1929, 26-year-old Antanas Paskevicius-Poska set off on a rather long motorbike ride. The Lithuanian would travel down south to Egypt, through Central Asia, with India as his final destination. From Iran, he took a ship to Bombay. In early 1931 he joined the University of Bombay, where he received his Bachelor degree in 1933. Then he shifted to Calcutta to collect material for his Masters. The five years he spent in India, including three in Calcutta, resulted in an eight-volume travelogue titled From the Baltic Sea to Bengal, other than accounts in the Lithuanian press about India and sundry friendships he struck with the intellectual elite.

The story will come full circle on November 28, when President Pranab Mukherjee takes the stage at the convocation of Calcutta University, Poska’s alma mater, and a posthumous DLitt is handed over to Laimute Kisieliene, Poska’s daughter.

“The Lithuanian scholar was brought to our notice by Diana Mickeviciene, a diplomat who came to us on behalf of the country’s embassy in Delhi a year-and-a-half ago to look for material on Poska. We found that he had studied in our anthropology department and had even worked on his PhD. This made us think of recognising his contribution to Indological studies,” said the vice-chancellor of Calcutta University, Suranjan Das. Rimantas Vaitkus, Lithuania’s vice-minister of science and education, and ambassador Laimonas Talat-Kelpsa are flying down too.

Mickeviciene, who has just returned to Lithuania, had spoken to Metro when she was here. “Poska was Calcutta’s ambassador in Lithuania. It is because of him that Lithuanians know about the city. He also worked at the anthropology laboratory of the Indian Museum on racial anthropology and started translating the Gita. Lithuanian is the closest living sister language to Sanskrit,” she said.

Poska, she pointed out, had also spent some time in Santiniketan as a friend of Laxmiswar Sinha, who, like Poska, was a practitioner of Esperanto, a constructed international language. Here he came in touch with Tagore and translated some of his poems into Lithuanian.

Among his friends was the linguist Suniti Kumar Chatterji, who became interested in the Lithuanian and Baltic culture. The monograph of his comparative research of Indian Vedic and Baltic pagan rites, Balts and Aryans, was dedicated to Poska. Chatterji even travelled to Lithuania twice, Mickeviciene added.

Poska met Mahatma Gandhi twice, in Bombay and in Allahabad, and conveyed to him the support of the Lithuanian people for India’s Independence. “Gandhi had gifted him a tablecloth which he took with him even to Siberia, where he was sentenced in 1945 for refusing to comply with an order to destroy books published before the Soviet occupation,” she said. He was the head of the library department of the Lithuanian SSR commissariat then. Most of his archives were destroyed.

Poska’s doctoral research remains unfinished business, though. He did his PhD thesis in physical anthropology under professor Biraja Sankar Guha. It was sent to London for the measurements of skulls to be checked. Poska’s diary mentions that the paper was sent to the British Museum in 1936, and he was planning to go to London to defend his thesis but the delay in his return journey from India, financial difficulties and finally the outbreak of World War II came in the way.

When Chatterji visited Poska in Lithuania in 1966, he had volunteered to retrieve his dissertation from London and to accord the scientist a PhD from the university. However, though Poska’s diary mentions Chatterji’s letter informing him of granting him the degree, and Chatterji himself addressing him as “Dr. Antanas Poska” in the preface to Balts and Aryans, the university archive has no such record.

“Without the defence, his PhD could not have been completed. All we have is the title (‘Physical Affinities of Shina-speaking people of the Western Himalayas’). But we all agree that he deserves recognition,” said vice-chancellor Das.

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta / Front Page> Calcutta> Story / by Sudeshna Banerjee / Sunday – November 23rd, 2014

The big fat biryani battle


The A in the B

Shahanshah Mirza cannot imagine his biryani without the aloo. Fatima Mirza could not imagine her biryani with the aloo. Till the girl from Lucknow was married into the Mirza family of Park Circus. “I remember finding the aloo in the biryani quite funny at first,” says Fatima, who friends insist serves up some of the best biryani in town. And yes, with the aloo.

Why are we so bothered about the biryani being cooked in the Mirza kitchen? Simple, that’s where the great “to aloo or not to aloo” debate was born for the Calcutta biryani.

Yes, Shahanshah Mirza is the great-great-grandson of Wajid Ali Shah, the last nawab of Awadh. Foodlore has it that the nawab came to Calcutta after losing his throne and to cut costs, his cooks replaced the meat with the potato. And, foodlore number two: Wajid Ali Shah’s cooks added the aloo but only after falling on hard times following the death of the nawab. Either way, thus was born the Calcutta biryani the city now gorges on.

The nawab’s family line dismisses all this as, well, lore. “The nawab was a connoisseur of food and had given a free hand to his chefs to experiment with dishes. Once his chefs played around with the biryani and put potatoes in it. The nawab liked it so much that he ordered that the aloo be a constant in the biryani henceforth,” says Shahanshah.

And that is how it is cooked to this day in the Mirza kitchen — and in the kitchens of almost every biryani-serving restaurant around town.

With the royal exception of… Royal Indian Hotel.

What started as a humble rented shop in Chitpur to sell culinary creations by Ahmed Hussain, a migrant from Lucknow, is now a two-storeyed restaurant that seats 65 in its AC hall, 75 in the non-AC hall and 40 in the ground-floor dining hall and “remains full at meal times”.

But don’t dare mention the A (aloo) word here. “We only make authentic Lucknowi biryani and our patrons love that. Our biryani does not have aloo, it has kofti (meat balls),” declares Md Irfan, one of the directors of Royal Indian Hotel, stirring up biryani since 1905, the year Lord Curzon divided Bengal.

More than a century on, Calcutta still stands divided. Along the thick potato line when it comes to the biryani.

How tough it is to serve biryani without the potato in a city weaned on that is evident from what Luknow, an Awadhi food restaurant that opened in Park Circus and Ballygunge this year, had to face. With diners insisting that “aloo chhara biryani hoy na (there can be no biryani without aloo)”, Shalini and Vinay Arora, the couple behind Luknow, were in a pickle. The cooks from Lucknow at the helm said: “Awadhi biryani cannot be cooked with potatoes.” But on popular demand aloo was introduced in one of the 11 biryanis on the menu.

No wonder the most popular biryani places in Calcutta just pile on the potato. Arsalan, Shiraz, Aminia, New Aliah — you name it and all of them have it. Aminia of New Market that has been running since August 15, 1947, has three more outlets in Calcutta — at Gol Park, Jessore Road (Nagerbazar) and Rajarhat (Chinar Park). They have been serving aloo with their biryani since inception.

Arsalan, a relatively recent dot on the biryani map of Calcutta (2002), has zoomed to the top of the bestseller chart and now runs five outlets — two in Park Circus, including the landmark one at 191 Park Street, and one each in Ripon Street, Taratala and Hatibagan. For them, there truly is no B (biryani) without A (aloo). “Some customers even look for a second piece of aloo on the plate!” says Arsalan director Akhtar Parwez.

The aloo is also an essential part of the biryani at Shiraz Golden Restaurant, which dates back to 1956. It has 10 outlets in the city stretching from Garia to Dum Dum.

A new kid on the biryani block, Oudh 1590, has tried to create a destination for Awadhi cuisine with the decor and menu at its Deshapriya Park address. But with one concession for the Calcutta palate: the option of the biryani with aloo. “Yes, the Awadhi Handi Biryani without aloo is less popular. People come and specifically ask for the aloo-wala biryani,” admits Debaditya Chaudhury, a partner of Oudh 1590.

Among foodies batting for the aloo in the biryani is musician-food writer Nondon Bagchi. “It is a part of our tradition. The aloo should not be taken out of the Calcutta biryani,” he says.

And slightly further away from home, we asked economist Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee, the celebrated co-author of Poor Economics and a fabled cook in his friends’ circle, where he stood on potatoes in biryani. “Potatoes can be very nice, especially if the biryani is sharp, like a Sindhi biryani,” said the man from MIT in the US. [Sindhi biryani is known to have mint, coriander and prunes in addition to the meat and rice. Originating from Sindh province in Pakistan, some of its variations have potatoes in it.]


The biryani boom

Enough of the potato, let’s get to the meat of the matter now.

To what lengths Calcutta can go for its fill of biryani is evident from the thousands who throng The Telegraph Biryani and Kebab festivals every year at City Centre (Salt Lake and New Town).

And it’s this passion for the rice-and-meat platter that has finally nudged Royal Indian Hotel to join the branching-out biryani brigade. Yes, Royal will have its first branch — “to be opened opposite Quest mall very soon”.

It took four generations and more than a century for this traditional biryani bastion to get a move on. So what prompted them to go south? “Our loyal customers from across Calcutta travel all the way to 147 Rabindra Sarani and often rue that we don’t have an outlet in their part of the city. We believe we are now ready to reach out and take our brand to all corners of Calcutta — north, south, east and west. We begin with south because it is a strategic location, where we can attract a wide clientele from the Ballygunge and Park Circus areas,” says Royal’s Irfan.

The restaurant that enjoys iconic status among loyalists says the popularity of the biryani here picked up after Independence. “Satyajit Ray to Uttam Kumar, Gunter Grass to Khushwant Singh, they all loved our biryani. Yesteryear actress Tabassum would get it packed and take it for Dilip Kumar. And now, Sourav Ganguly loves our Chicken Biryani,” smiles Irfan.

Royal may finally be stepping out of its crease, like Dada used to in his prime, but no one understands the biryani boom better than bestseller Arsalan. “If everything goes right, we intend to open three branches by June 2015,” says Arsalan director Akhtar Parwez. The locations on the radar are Barrackpore, Rajarhat and Jessore Road.

Simmering in the Arsalan handi is a target for “at least 50 outlets across Bengal” in the next 10 years. “If a Bengali loves and craves for Arsalan biryani, he should be able to get it near his home. That’s where we want to take our brand to,” says Parwez, reluctant to divulge the number of plates served per day in their blockbuster outlet at the Park Circus roundabout.

Multiplicity is the name of the game for Shiraz and Aminia as well. Aminia aims to open a branch in Behala, next to Ajanta cinema, and another near the Shyambazar tram depot. Shiraz has launched a chain of quick-service restaurants named Lazeez Express, which “does good business in Kasba”. For Zeeshan, which already has two outlets in the south (Deshapriya Park and Garia), another one near Lake Market is being planned. And then one in Kidderpore maybe.

Two new biryani players — Oudh 1590 and Luknow — are attracting a steady clientele in south Calcutta, enough for Oudh 1590 to eye a second serve near City Centre Salt Lake in January.

Multiplicity is married to makeover in the new-age biryani game, with words like decor and ambience coming into the dictionary. Take Oudh 1590. This Awadhi cuisine restaurant has created a “period dining experience” at its Deshapriya Park address.

The older players, too, are paying attention to the look and feel of their dining rooms. Aminia Rajarhat that opened earlier this year has been built on a Sufi theme.

“Today’s customers are hygiene-conscious and look for places that have a feel-good ambience. So we had to put in a lot of effort to make our Hatibagan address look chic and vibrant,” says Arsalan man Akhtar Parwez.

With the “need to reach out” becoming the mantra — from Royal to Lazeez — the biryani is taking the pizza route. Takeaways and home delivery are playing an important part. “You need to take special care as food items like biryani are best enjoyed fresh from the handi,” says Parwez.

“We depend largely on home-delivery orders, from domestic as well as corporate clients,” says Ishtiaque Ahmed of Shiraz’s Lazeez chain.

And then there’s Facebook, Zomato and Foodpanda for the smart(phone) set to book biryani on the go.

A foodnote: The great biryani debate doesn’t begin or end with the aloo. There’s a greater debate cooking, which questions the very standing of the biryani. But as with most things Calcutta, there is no place for the finer nuances or larger debates of life.

We turn the culinary pages to Abdul Halim Sharar (1860-1926), a courtier in nawab Wajid Ali Shah’s Lucknow durbar, who wrote in Lucknow: The Last Phase of an Oriental Culture that the real raeez of Lucknow preferred mutton pulao to biryani, which was bit of an aam aadmi food.

The last word is left, once again, to economist Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee from MIT. When asked to define the difference between pulao and biryani, he said: “Pulao is rice cooked in broth. Biryani is made with pre-cooked rice. Kachchi biryani is with marinated but not cooked meat. Normal biryani is with cooked meat. In both cases the meat cooks more and the vapours from that are used to flavour the rice.”

That, sadly, is too fine a flavour for the Calcuttan busy with a mouthful of biryani, aloo and all.

Do you like your biryani with or without the aloo? Tell

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta / Front Page> Calcutta> Story / by Sibendu Das / Sunday – November 23rd, 2014

NBU to host science meet

Siliguri :

The North Bengal University has been chosen by the state department of science and technology to host the Bengali Science Congress for two days in February-end next year.

According to varsity sources, the authorities were informed by officials of the state science and technology department about hosting the two-day event from February 28.

“The trend of hosting the Bengali Science Congress was started by the erstwhile Left Front government. The main aim of holding such a meet is to encourage young students to take up science in their higher studies, pursue research or start careers in the field. Even research scholars benefit from the congress as they get to know about the recent findings in the field, new technologies and new areas which can be subject of future research,” a varsity source said.

The two-day event will be conducted mostly in Bengali and thus, it has been titled Bengali Science Congress.

“Most of the lectures, exhibitions and posters will be in Bengali. Students may not understand certain scientific terms in English and that is why Bengali has been kept as the medium of instruction. Such events will help clear their doubts and also give them direction as to which field of science they want to take up in future,” a source said.

The last time NBU had hosted the congress was in 1998. Topics in different fields of science like botany, zoology, chemistry, physics and environmental science will be dealt with at the event. Around 25 resource people like faculties of different varsities and scientists will be invited to the event.

“We are hosting the event after around 16 years. The host varsity as well as the state department will choose the resource persons for the event,” said the source.

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta / Front Page> North Bengal & Sikkim> Story / by The Telegraph, Correspondent / November 20th, 2014

Purney tea launched – Sale money to go to family and garden hospital

Margaret’s Hope :

The Purney Subba limited edition tea was launched by the Goodricke Group today to mark Margaret’s Hope garden’s 150th year and the brew fetched a maximum of Rs 7,000 a kg.

The management had decided to name a special edition autumn tea after the garden’s oldest surviving worker, Purney Subba, 98.

Today, Purney launched the tea in the presence of P.J. Field, chairman, Goodricke Group (UK), M.C. Perkins, chairman, Camellia PLC, UK (parent body of Goodricke) and A.N.Singh, managing director, Goodricke Group. “I wish all the luck to the garden,” Purney said after the launch.

The special edition tea is called FTGFOP1 PS Special. All Darjeeling tea is sold as FTGFOP (Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe. PS stands for Purney Subba.

The packet has a photograph of Purney Subba and his year of birth, 1916.

Purney Subba at the tea launch. (Suman Tamang)
Purney Subba at the tea launch. (Suman Tamang)

Of the 60kg tea launched today, 40kg was sold. “Marcus Wulf of Schroeder and Mamann from Germany and Leafull Corporation Limited from Tokyo, Japan, bought 20kg each,” said Vinod Gurung, manager (marketing), Goodricke.

The German buyer wanted to buy 20kg at Rs 6,500 a kg and later the Japanese buyer bought another 20kg for Rs 7,000.

Autumn tea is usually sold for less than Rs 500 a kg.

Jeevan Pande, the garden manager, said: “This is a small effort to recognise the hard work put in by the workers to make our tea world famous.”

Singh said the proceeds from the sale would go to Purney’s family and the 20-bed garden hospital. “Twenty percent will be given to Purney Subba and the rest of the money will be used to buy a ventilator for the hospital. If it is not enough, the company will chip in for the ventilator.”

He said the ventilator will cost around Rs 10 lakh.

Today, the management distributed school bags among 600 students and commemorative wall clocks among the 1,500 workers and gave five laptops to Margaret’s Hope High School and Rs 1.5 lakh to buy furniture for the school. “We will construct 150 toilets in the garden,” said Singh.

Margaret’s Hope spread over 586 hectare was established in 1864. Purney had worked in the garden for 40 years. Of his five sons and three daughters, one son and a daughter are garden workers. Deoraj, who is a chowkidar at Margaret’s Hope, said: “I am happy that a tea has been named after my family. This is an honour for the work force. I do not want my children to work in gardens. With a daily wage of Rs 90, it is difficult to survive.”

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta / Front Page> North Bengal & Sikkim> Story / by Vivek Chhetri / Friday – November 21st, 2014

Major industrial projects set for completion in Bengal

Investment-starved West Bengal will see the completion of two major industrial projects totalling an investment of nearly Rs 23,000 crores by this month end.

While one public sector project would be the largest dose of capital infusion in the state in recent times, the other would be the biggest dose of private sector investment under the present government.

One project is the Rs 17,000-crore greenfield steel plant of Steel Authority of India Ltd at Burnpur near Asansol and the other is the Rs 4600-crore power plant of the private sector RP Sanjiv Goenka group at Haldia in Purba Medinipur.

Both projects were conceived a few years ago with the steel project suffering a four-year delay due to a host of project-related factors as well as recent problems related to land acquisition.

The project generated massive employment during the construction phase and has already propelled regeneration of local economy around Burnpur where one of Asia’s oldest steel plant which started production in 1870 still stands. It is SAIL’s first greenfield plant since Bokaro Steel Plant

The first unit of the 600 MW Haldia Thermal Power Project of CESC is expected to be commissioned end of November and is among the biggest private sector investments since the All India Trinamool Congress government came to power in May 2011.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kolkata / by Indrani Dutta / Kolkata – November 14th, 2014

Swedish girl in Kolkata on identity hunt

Aditi with Sidney Norling and Kolkata Police special branch cop in Kolkata. / / Times of India
Aditi with Sidney Norling and Kolkata Police special branch cop in Kolkata. / / Times of India

Kolkata :

Thirty three years after she was adopted by Swedish parents and relocated to Stockholm, Rebecca Aditi Sandlert has returned to India for the first time in search of her roots. Born of a Nepali mother and a Bengali father on June 28, 1980, Aditi landed at an orphanage in Kolkata on November 4 when she was not even five months.

Her mother gave her up after she was left with no means to support the child after her husband left her following his family’s opposition to the marriage.

A few months later, in March 1981, Aditi was adopted by a Swedish couple.

She grew up in their care in Stockholm and married a Swedish, David, her childhood sweetheart and boy next-door.

Then late last year, Alva came to her life.

The birth of her daughter was the catalysis to embark on a journey in search of her birth mother that she has been postponing for years.

“Ever since I was a child, I have been confronted with questions about my ‘real’ parents and my ‘real’ country. The searching questions to which I had no answers initially came from classmates in school and continued through college and even when I started to work. Sweden was not a very mixed society in the 1980s and 1990s and I, with my brown skin and black hair, stood out among the predominant white people with blonde hair.

Though I always knew I was adopted as did my brother Fredrick aka Bijoy who was born in Kolkata, I didn’t want to be different from the rest of the kids. As I grew up, there would be phases when I would be very curious about my past and Indian culture and others when I would push the thoughts aside. I knew visiting India was crucial but kept pushing it back till Alva was born. She is Swedish like I am but she looks different as her parentage is half Indian, half Swedish.

She, too, will one day have questions and I want to have the answers,” explained Aditi, who is a qualified social worker at the Stockholm Public Service.

That family friend Sidney Norling, who has been making a documentary on the West’s perception of India and the reality, agreed to accompany her in the journey to the unknown helped. “Since I am adopted, too, I can relate to Aditi.Things crystallized when I discovered that my friend Pam who was also born in India had been adopted from the same orphanage as Aditi. I will be back again in December with Pam and her family as she wants to visit the city of her birth,” said Sidney , who has featured as a villain in two Swedish films and appeared on multiple music videos.

Any hesitation that Aditi may have had about the India trip disappeared when she connected with Bapan Das on Facebook. The Kolkata Police special branch cop hit the headlines after he helped a youth from Bihar who had been lost in Siliguri when he was a child reunited with his folks. “I do social work beyond duty hours and have contacts in Siliguri where I hail from.When Aditi contacted me after reading the news, I immediately agreed to help after work hours,” said Bapan.

Before Aditi arrived, Bapan contacted his friends in Siliguri to trace the nursing home where she was born. They have zeroed in on the facility at Hakimpara, Siliguri, owned by gynecologist KC Mitra. Now 84, the doctor has agreed to offer all help when Aditi reaches Siliguri.

Since reaching Kolkata, Aditi and Sidney have visited the orphanage on Elliot Road that finds mention in the adoption documents of 1981. They learned that the orphanage had moved from El liot Road in 1986 and had become Society for International Child Welfare on Col Biwas Road near Park Circus. The visit to the orphanage led to an interesting information. Aditi was due to be adopted by another Swedish couple. But when they failed to turn up within the requisite time, the current parents who were next in queue got her.

In a letter dated June 28, 1980, Aditi was praised by one Brinda Krishna from the orphanage. “She is a very happy baby and smiles a lot. She responds to us talking to her and wants to be held and cuddled a lot…,” the letter read.

Going ahead, Aditi knows she is following a blind lead and acknowledges that finding her mother will require more than a stroke of luck. “In all likelihood, I won’t find my mother. It is extremely unlikely. I knew it even before I boarded the plane to India. I came here because I didn’t want to one day regret for not trying. I will give my best shot.

Let’s see what happens. But this journey itself is an experience of self-discovery. I am not obsessed with the goal,” she said.

But what if that luck does smile on her and she meets her biological mother? “I want to give her a hug and say a big thank you. I can’t even imagine her trauma when she gave up her five-month-old baby to an orphanage. Having then grown up with doting parents in a country that is not burdened with over-population and poverty, I realize I have had a privileged life. And it was all due to the brave decision of my birth mother,” said Aditi.

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / by Subhro Niyogi & Udit Prasanna Mukherji, TNN / November 20th, 2014

Innovation showcased at science meet

Kolkata :

Innovation and creativity were the hallmarks of the third Times NIE Science Project Competition held on Saturday at NSHM Knowledge Campus, Kolkata. Presented by NSHM Knowledge Campus, the event saw students from over 50 schools impressing the distinguished panel of judges with their projects on Physical Science, Life Science or Social Science. The projects were evaluated on three primary parameters: innovation, application and presentation.

The projects made by the students ranged from nanotechnology, hydraulics, cardiology, hovercraft, Everest climber, USB fan to smart stick for the blind, virtual reality, solar car, windmill, gastro-entro system, bottle tornado, robotics, gyro boat, Kepler space telescope and solar sound radio receiver.

The judges were Dr. Abhijit Chakraborty, professor and head, Crystallography and Molecular Biology Division, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics; Dr. Rajendra Nath Basu, chief scientist and head, Fuel Cell and Battery Division, CSIR-Central Glass & Ceramic Research Institute, Kolkata and Dr Manish C Bagchi, CSIR Emeritus Scientist, School of Bioscience & Engineering, Jadavpur University.

The first prize was won by La Martiniere School for Boys for their project ‘Auto control street light’ which showed how street lights can glow for one or two km only on detecting vehicular movement. In second place was Calcutta Girls High School for their project, ‘Flix’, a hydraulic robotic arm which was based on Pascal’s Law. The Heritage School came third for their project on the advantages of automatic irrigation system. Special Appreciation Awards were given to 10 schools.

“At NSHM, we believe in learning by doing. In fact, we give emphasis on experiential learning. The kind of curriculum we offer are not typical academic courses. We call them professional degree courses which are different from the run-of-the-mill or traditional academic courses,” said Cecil Antony, managing trustee, NSHM Knowledge Campus.

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / by Althea Phillips & Monalisa Chakraborty, TNN / November 17th, 2014