Monthly Archives: December 2014

Anthology on Jesuit Fathers’ contribution

The Goethals Indian Library and Research Centre of St. Xavier’s College has published a book on the lives of the Jesuits who lived and worked in India, especially in Bengal, since the early 19th century.

The anthology was released by Father P. Franck Janin, Jesuit Provincial, South Belgian Province and Luxembourg, at Dhyan Ashram in Joka on Sunday.

Edited by Father Albert Huart and Father J. Felix Raj, Discovery of Bengal: The Jesuit Design marks the 200th year of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus. The book records the academic, social, cultural and spiritual contributions of the Jesuit fathers in shaping the moral growth of the race and the country.

Among the Jesuits who feature in the book are Fathers Henry Depelchin, Achille Verstraeten, Paul Joris, Cardinal Lawrence Picachy, Camille Bouche and Andre Bruylants.

“They attracted heartsby the qualities they displayed and posterity retains them as lessons of life learnt forever. Even after 200 years, their words and works reach those for whom they were intended – the inhabitants of The Kingdom of God. These men of moral might were armed with supreme sense of sacrifice and were gifted with grace and the zeal to establish ‘Good News of God’ and the promise of justice for humanity,” said Felix Raj, the principal of St. Xavier’s College.

“Humility, fortitude, power of prayer and passion for performing God’s will on earth endowed these Samaritans with the benediction that brought the light of the Lord to the masses of Bengal. This collection scripts the eternal immortal lives of the Jesuits who are today and forever in fellowship with us and with God.”

Copies of the anthology are available from the Goethals library at the college.

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta / Front Page> Calcutta> Story / by Staff Reporter / Monday – December 29th, 2014

Jadavpur University student may be CAT topper from Kolkata

Kolkata :

Soumyadeep Chakrabarti from the electronics and telecommunications department of Jadavpur University is the probable topper from the city in CAT 2014. Soumyadeep has scored 100 percentile.

Averse to the sudden spotlight, Soumyadeep refused to speak to the media. However, his friends from JU feel that it is a rare feat that could only have been achieved by Soumyadeep because of his dedication to studies.

“He is a brilliant student and a hard worker. Though I didn’t know that he was preparing for CAT, his academic scores in the university are pretty high,” said a JU teacher.

“Soumyadeep wants to be an entrepreneur after completing MBA. He is a little shy to divulge his scores since he is well aware that despite a 100 percentile, he may not get a berth in any of the top IIMs, which give much importance to group discussion and personal interview of candidates before a final list is prepared,” said a senior faculty member of a coaching centre.

According to sources, Soumyadeep is focusing on a berth in IIM-Ahmedabad followed by IIM-C and IIM-Bangalore. This was his first attempt at CAT.

“His overall percentile is 100. In Section 1, which is quantitative ability and data interpretation, he has scored 99.97 percentile. In Section 2, verbal ability and logical reasoning, he has 100 percentile. Overall, his score is 100 percentile. He started to prepare for CAT as early as his first year of engineering,” added the source.

Soumyadeep was trained at Career Launcher. “Students from Kolkata have done very well in CAT this year. The number of students with more than 99 percentile has increased as compared to last year. Students from JU, IIEST and St Xavier’s have done particularly well in CAT 2014. The normalization process applied by the IIMs has been more or less equitable this year. It had created a furore last year. I just wish the IIMs had been a little more transparent and let each student know his/her raw score, too,” said director of Career Launcher, Kolkata, and alumnus IIM-Bangalore, Naveen Saraff.

He, however, pointed out that a few students could not see their results on the websites, which reflects that their payment status was unsuccessful. “But they were given admit cards and even took the examination, which shows that there is some fault in the system,” added Saraff.

According to Ramnath Kanakadandi, national course director, T.I.M.E, “It is great that the results are out more than two weeks earlier this year. It means double benefit for students — early relief and more time to prepare for the next phase. Congratulations to the IIM authorities and TCS for pulling off a smooth job overall, despite having just a two-day window.”

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / by Somdatta Basu, TNN / December 30th, 2014

Sky’s the limit for these girls


Lying on blankets at a height of 9,200ft, they gazed up at the sky and couldn’t believe what they saw. Khushi Goenka and two of her schoolmates from Modern High School for Girls were staring up at the Milky Way. With the naked eye.

In Hawaii to attend the second edition of the Pacific Astronomy & Engineering Summit at Imiloa Astronomy Center, the girls had seen the constellation through a telescope just the day before. “It was unbelievable because the previous day at the astronomy centre we had seen the constellation and other stars and there we were, seeing it again, this time with the naked eye,” said Khushi, a Class XII student.

Khushi, along with Class XI students Adwitiya Dawn and Shruti Keoliya, made up the only team from India invited to the five-day conference. Accompanied by their physics teacher Pamela Dutta, the girls worked in collaboration with Puragra (Raja) Guha Thakurta of the department of astronomy and astrophysics at University of California, Santa Cruz, and PhD student Emily Cunningham on the Halo 7D project.

The conference included presentations by scientists and astronomers from China, Japan, Canada and the US but the high point for the city girls was a meeting with five scientists who had spent four months in isolation in simulated Mars-like conditions.

“We met the HI-SEAS crew, a group of five scientists who had spent four months in isolation on a Mars-like surface on top of a mountain. We got hold of an aeronautical engineer and kept asking him absurd questions to satiate our curiosity and not letting him eat his plate of chicken that he hadn’t in the past months,” recalled Shruti.

After the girls returned to the city, Guha Thakurta visited their school and shared with Metro the importance of research and how the trip not only opened new avenues for the girls but also opened their minds to new ideas.

“It opens the eyes of students, especially those who are used to finding exact answers even to difficult problems, to the fact that there are problems that do not have a right answer. In research you have some idea of the question you are trying to answer but there is no guarantee you will find the answer,” explained Guha Thakurta, an astronomer for 30 years. “In most high schools, students are taught there is a correct answer and there is an incorrect answer. To know that there are many shades of grey in between is an eye-opener. The girls, on several occasions, were looking for answers but we would tell them we don’t know the answers or the answer is not known.”

Guha Thakurta said the girls understood the need for research and saw “some laws of physics, some of which they put in their presentation. Some of it they had learnt in class but what they had probably not seen is how someone who making a career as a researcher still uses the formula that they are learning in high schools”.

“In the initial document sent to us, the astronomy terms seemed alien and too technical. But as we started researching, the concepts became clear and we tried to make our presentation (calculating the mass and structure of Milky Way) as comprehensible as possible for the layman,” Adwitiya said.

The five-day trip included sessions by scientists and astronomers, visits to museums, trekking and cultural presentations and some bhangra and dandiya to get everyone at the conference on their feet.

“As far as education is concerned, travelling contributes hugely as does mixing with people and working together as a team on research. The girls had to Skype with California early in the morning before school and be there in time to attend school,” said Devi Kar, the director of Modern High School for Girls.

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta / Front Page> Calcutta> Story / by Jhinuk Mazumdar / Tuesday – December 30th, 2014

Web debut for historic society

The homepage of the British Indian Association website
The homepage of the British Indian Association website

The British Indian Association may have lost its old building, and the street named after it may have been renamed after Abdul Hamid, but now it can boast its brand new website launched recently.

The association occupies several rooms on the third floor of a new office building at the head of Barretto Lane constructed on the site of its old building. The website ( displays the history of the association, lists of its important members past and present, of the invaluable books, newspapers, and journals in its 163-year-old library, and of its publications 1868 onwards.

Apart from a rich collection of books, the association possesses paintings and other artefacts, among which are the portraits of local Indian dignitaries who were association members, and two busts of Radhakanta Deb and Kristo Das Paul.

The association was originally a political organisation that had a role in the creation of the Indian National Congress, whose early meetings were held in the old building. From a political organisation it became a landholders’ organisation, although it also took up causes that affected Indians in general. After the abolition of the zamindari system in the early 1950s, its functions may have been curtailed but over the years it has become a repository of valuable research material.

About 20 years before the establishment of the British Indian Association in 1851, the Zamindari Association, later renamed Landholders’ Society, was formed in 1831. But after the death of Dwarkanath Tagore, it was as good as dead. Thereafter, in 1839, the Bengal British India Society was formed. It was meant to further the interests of all classes of Indians through its recommendations and measures which had to be “consistent with pure loyalty to the person and government of the reigning sovereign of the British dominions”.

Subsequently, the Landholders’ Society and the Bengal British India at a meeting held on October 29, 1851, at Kasaitola (subsequently Bentinck Street) decided to form the British Indian Association by merging the two bodies to highlight the grievances of Indians. The first committee of the association was composed of Radhakanta Deb, Kalikrishna Deb, Debendranath Tagore, Digambar Mitra, Prasanna Kumar Tagore, Peary Chand Mitra and Sambhunath Pandit. Besides rajas and maharajas and zamindars, Derozians and the intellectual aristocracy of the Bengal Presidency also held important positions on the committee. Traders and businessmen were also members. But membership was strictly confined to Indians. The objects of the association “were related partly to improvements in the local administration of the country and partly to the system of Indian government laid by Parliament”. Joteendra Mohan Tagore and Joykrishna Mukherji enabled the association to have a home at 18 Raneemoody Gully, whose name was later changed to British Indian Street.

The association had “an all-India outlook” and championed the causes of the Indian people at a time when there was no strong political body in the country.

After the Indigo Rebellion of 1859-60, it pleaded with the government to appoint a commission of inquiry to solve the problems of indigo cultivation. The association suggested measures on epidemics, floods, famines, taxation, the practice of Sati, burning ghats and property and inheritance. The association gave the people the first lesson in the art of fighting constitutionally for their rights and giving expression to their opinions. Now it will support research work and try to survive as an institution promoting excellence.

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta / Front Page> Calcutta> Story / Sunday – December 28th, 2014

History in mint condition

Coins from Bengal are on display as part of Mudra Utsav, the annual exhibition and conference organised by Numismatic Society of Calcutta, at Haldiram Banquet Hall in Ballygunge till Sunday.

“Coins make history speak. They are not just a means of exchange but also a store of value. Their metallic quality helps judge the economic state of a reign while their spread indicates how far a ruler’s sovereignty extended,” said former finance minister and economics teacher, Asim Dasgupta, at the inauguration. He also referred to remarkable work by the numismatist fraternity, singling out Bratindra Nath Mukherjee’s discovery of an ancient script called Shell lipi.

Chhanda Mukherjee, former deputy keeper, numismatics and epigraphy, at Indian Museum, referred to areas in Bengal such as Chandraketugarh, Murshidabad and Pandua-Mahanad area of Hooghly where coins have been found. “The earliest hoard of Gupta coins was found right here in Kalighat,” she said.

Some of the coins mentioned by Mukherjee are on display at the exhibition. Ujjwal Kumar Saha’s Gupta coins date back to the reigns of Samudragupta and Chandragupta I. There are also gold dinars of the Kushan era. Somnath Basu’s collection is on independent rulers of Bengal, from Fakr al Din Mubarak Shah (1334-1349) to Daud Shah Karanani (1572-1576). Ravi Shankar Sharma has displayed Mughal coins from Bengal mints. There are Akbar rupees minted in Satgaon (also known as Saptagram, now in Bangladesh) and in Bang, a soobah of Bengal. “These coins were minted after Akbar’s conquest of Satgaon,” Sharma said.

Mints were there in Patna too, built by Magadh ruler Ajatashatru around 490 BC. A Shah Jahan rupee represents the Patna mint. The only Mughal coin in Bengali script was issued from Alamgirnagar, Aurangzeb’s name for Cooch Behar. “The coin is rare as the area changed hands soon,” Sharma added.

The East India Company, too, had issued bilingual sikkas, with both Bengali and Persian scripts, from their Benaras, Farukabad and Calcutta mints once they realised the Shah Jahan II Mughal coins that they had been copying did not suit the largely Bengali-speaking populace of the Bengal Presidency.

Another notable exhibit is a punch-marked coin from the Bari-Wateshwar area of present-day Bangladesh. Carrying a sun, a boat, an open cross and a six-armed symbol, the silver alloy coin dates back to 3rd to 2nd century BC. “I procured the coin just last week,” said Anup Mitra, president of the society.

Collectors of coins and stamps will also find a lot of interesting items on sale at stalls put up by dealers.

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta / Front Page> Calcutta> Story> Caleidoscope / Sunday – December 28th, 2014

Researchers trace 57 addresses of Tagore

Kolkata :

“All our dwelling places contain varied partnerships of love…” Tagore wrote in 1935. What about is own spaces? Have they withstood the onslaught of time?

Not quite. One of the revered addresses that have been deleted forever is 49 Park Street where ‘Gitabitan’ and ‘Mayar Khela’ were composed. Researchers have recently recorded 57 places where the bard lived. Sixteen of them were in Kolkata, 14 in the Hills and 27 in south Bengal.

In a prelude to an ambitious heritage-tourism project of the government titled Tagore Circuit, history professors Shouvik Mukhopadhyay, Partha Sankha Majumdar and Ramanuj Mukherjee, at the behest of the West Bengal Heritage Commission (WBHRC), have come up with dates, anecdotes, addresses and several startling revelations about the poet.

Take Birjitalao where ‘Raja O Rani’ was staged and Tagore played Bikram in the 19th century. Wife Mrinalini played Narayani — her only stage appearance. The poet would frequent this house, rented by brother Satyendranath, next to the St Paul’s Cathedral.

“Indira Devi in her memoirs attests that the present day Calcutta Club was located on this land,” reads the study in its avatar as a coffee-table book. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has a foreword: “Tagore has stayed in many different places which have earned for themselves the distinction of being temples of creativity, knowledge, literature, beyond any parallel.”

WBHRC chairman Shuvaprasanna writes: “The history of these abodes… testifies to the insight of a complete artist… throw light on the mental upheaval of a creative person who was never confided to a single place.”

Tagore would keep visiting the Hills; some of these structures continue to exist. The house that Scottish shipping magnate Daniel Hamilton built for the poet at Gosaba is one of the best maintained structures. But 16 such dwellings in Kolkata don’t exist any longer. The list includes 52/2 Park Street, 50 Park Street, 14 Lower Circular Road (now AJC Bose Road) and 237 Lower Circular Road. Soon after his marriage, the poet started living here and Mrinalini was admitted to Loreto House. Tagore wrote ‘Chhobi O Gaan’ here. Businessman Naliniranjan Sarkar later erected a building here. It’s now the Kolkata Police’s Foreigners Regional Registration Office.

“In a country like ours, it’s not possible to protect such buildings unless they are enlisted. The research on Tagoreean abodes is a significant beginning for such initiatives,” said Partha Ranjan Das, member, WBHR.

Places like 10 Sudder Street where Tagore lived with Jyotirindranath and his wife Kadambari Devi continue to exist. But the only trace of Tagore here is a plaque that reads that ‘Nirjharer Swapnobhango’ was composed here. After changing hands, the building is now Hotel Plaza.

The grand exception is the Art College, an enlisted heritage building. From 1928, the poet frequented the residential quarters of then principal Mukul Dey here and exhibited his paintings in February, 1932.

“His journey was external, physical as well as internal. The constraint of space often made him impatient and he continuously changed his locations, not only by moving outside but also relentlessly changing his dwelling places. Fluidity was integral to his creative genius,” write the researchers.

“The research is our labour of love, but there’s no stopping here. We are working on how the constant change of residences played a crucial role in Tagore’s creative genius,” said Mukhopadhyay. Both he and Majumdar have studied in Santiniketan.

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / by Ajanta Chakraborty, TNN / December 28th, 2014

Rabindra Bharati University theatre repertory makes debut

Kolkata :

Rabindra Bharati University’s theatre repertory staged its debut production ‘Bandi Bihanga’ at Jorasanko on Friday.

Kolkata has professional theatre repertories like Minerva and Binodini, but this is the first time a university in eastern India has set up one of its own where former students of the department of drama can work and perform as professional artists, said university authorities.

“These former students will be paid for their work, unlike such productions by other universities. We aim at producing six plays,” said Haimanti Chattopadhyay, member-secretary of West Bengal State Akademi of Dance Drama Music and Visual Art.

‘Bandi Bihanga’, based on Tagore’s ‘Tota Kahini’, is an open-air play directed by Debashish Chakraborty, an RBU ex-student. The next production will be a Bengali adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / TNN / December 26th, 2014

Muktijoddha poet’s creations go unnoticed

Kolkata :

Lyricist Gobinda Halder, whom Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid met at a hospital on Monday, didn’t just write ‘Joy Banglar Gaan’, patriotic songs that inspired the Muktijoddhas during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. He had also penned nearly 3,500 semi-classical, folk, baul, kirtan, Shyamasangeet and modern Bengali songs before glaucoma claimed his sight and ended his writing spree.

Some of his patriotic songs like ‘Mora Ekti Phulke Bachabo Bole Juddho Kori’, ‘Ek Sagor Rokter Binimoye Banglar Swadhinata Anlo Jara’, ‘Purbo Digonte Surjo Uthechhe Rokto Lal’ and ‘Padma Meghna Jamuna Tomar Amar Thikana’ are still popular in Bangladesh. Artistes from All India Radio and Doordarshan did sing some of his songs from other genre but Halder was never acknowledged. Most of his works, both songs and poetry, remain unpublished and unknown.

Halder’s first book on poetry had been a success. The 500-odd copies that the writer had managed to print in 1989 after depleting his meagre resources got sold out. Unfortunately, Halder did not have the means to reprint ‘Door Digante’, a collection of powerful poems.

His childhood friend Debkumar Mitra, who was chief librarian of Calcutta University till 1994-95, did publish the second edition five years later. But a combination of factors that ranged from poor production quality to lack of sales and a quantum change in reading habits post-Liberalisation ruined its prospects.

“I still have about 70 copies unsold. During my trips to Bangladesh, I had approached officials and offered to hand them over so that they could be distributed either in the country where he is loved or from the Bangladesh pavilion at the Kolkata Book Fair,” said Debkumar’s daughter Sangeeta.

Mitra would drop by at Halder’s tiny Ramakrishna Samadhi Road apartment in Kankurgachhi regularly till four years ago when his own failing health confined him indoors. He passed away this March, his dream of publishing his friend’s works unfulfilled.

Halder, who is unaware of his friend’s demise, is recuperating at JN Roy Hospital. B Hazra, the doctor treating him, said his condition was stable. “He was in a critical condition when he came on December 13, suffering from cerebral atrophy that affected his speech. He had also contracted bed sore. His speech has since improved,” the physician said. Halder is on Ryles tube and catheter.

Halder’s daughter Gopa said they were happy with the treatment and glad her father was responding to it.

source: / The Times of India / Home> City>Kolkata / by Subhro Niyogi & Debasish Konar, TNN / December 24th, 2014

MUSIC – Fresh as ever

The recent ITC Sangeet Sammelan in Kolkata gave a platform to young musicians alongside the veterans.

Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar.
Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar.

ITC was perhaps the pioneer in shouldering the corporate social responsibility when it took a resolve to preserve and promote Indian classical music. It organised the first ITC Sangeet Sammelan in 1971, at a time when the reputed musicians had lost royal patronage. Encouraged by the success of this initiative, the ITC decided to open a ‘gurukul’ of classical music, formalising the time-tested guru-shishya parampara, where topmost artistes would groom professional musicians living with them in the most congenial atmosphere to impart training and transmit their art. The idea crystallised in the year 1978 in the form of the Sangeet Research Academy (SRA), a residential gurukul, where the students lived and learned in close proximity of great gurus. The ITC-SRA thus, produced a number of distinguished musicians who in turn became gurus to carry forward the tradition.

Children’s group tabla recital at the event.
Children’s group tabla recital at the event.

It was a proud moment for the SRA when a galaxy of gurus adorned the stage on the inaugural evening of the recent ITC Sangeet Sammelan held in Kolkata, while this year’s ITC Sangeet Samman was conferred upon Taal Yogi Pandit Suresh Talwalkar. The three-day overnight festival offered a judicious blend of upcoming and well-established artistes presenting ragas of every hour from dusk to dawn. The Sammelan this year opened with a pleasant surprise when the children of Sangeet Piyase (5 to 12 years of age) gave a group tabla recital under the guidance of Guru Samar Saha, that sounded like a tabla-tarang, tuned to the swaras of raga Chandrakauns being played as the accompanying lehra in Teen tala.

Raga Chhayanat of Sanjukta Biswas, the gifted disciple of Guru Shubhra Guha, Jhinjhoti on the sarod by Malhaar Rakshit, disciple of Guru Pt. Buddhadeb Dasgupta or raga Puria Dhanaashree of Shatwisha Mukherjee, Yaman and Hameer of Shankhumay Debnath being trained under Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar, had the authentic stamp of their gurus. Saket Sahu’s melodious violin, Allahrakha Kalawant’s sarangi solo, Ratan Bharati’s guitar, Sandeep Bhattachrya’s Rageshree and Sucheta Ganguli’s raga Jog and a Thumri in Kaushikdwani were the other remarkable performances. Musician tutors of the SRA belonged to the next category of brilliant performers where Abir Hussain impressed with raga Bihaag on the sarod, Arshad Ali with his khayals in Malkauns, Omkar Dadarkar in Jogkauns, Wasim Ahmad Khan with Baageshree and Aniruddha Bhattacharya with his Lalit welcoming the dawn.

Among the invited artistes, Ashwini Bide Deshpande’s Kaafi Kanhada and Chandrakauns, Kala Ramnath’s Natnaraayana on the violin, Shashwati Mandal Pal’s gaga Malgunji, Sohini Bhathiyaar and Tappa, Manjusha Patil’s Multani and Purbaayan Chattaerjee’s Miyaan Ki Todi as a sitar jugalbandi with his Guru and father Pt. Partho Chatterjee were some of the memorable presentations. Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia played raga Maru Bihaag and a couple of melodious folk tunes of Bengal. Kaushik Bhattacharya’s raga Jaijaiwanti and Kirwani Bhajan had more of decorative elements and less substance. Aliflaila had come from Bangladesh but her sitar could not match the high standards of this prestigious platform.

The real stars of the Sammelan were the Gurus of the SRA including Pt. Suresh Talwalkar who received the ITC Award this year and gave a brilliant performance on the inaugural evening. Vidushi Girija Devi’s Nayaki Kanhada and Thumri, Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan’s Darbaari Kanhada, Uday Bhawalkar’s Dhrupad in Adbhut Kalyaan, Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar’s Vibhas and Khat and Pt. Ajay Chakravarti’s Bhairav welcoming the morning, were some of the memorable performances that transported the Kolkata music lovers to a state of bliss and fulfilment.

source: / The Hindu / Home> Features> Friday Review> Music / by Manjari Sinha / December 25th, 2014