Monthly Archives: February 2015

A rare felicity

Joydeep Ghosh
Joydeep Ghosh

Sarod exponent Joydeep Ghosh tells Meena Banerjee his musical education allowed him to take uncommon ragas in his stride.

One discovered an intriguing fact from versatile musician Joydeep Ghosh, the concluding artiste of the annual soiree organised recently by Kolkata’s Ballygunge Maitreyee Music Circle, dedicated to the late Sangeetacharya Radhika Mohan Moitra (Radhubabu). On this occasion his sarod etched a rare raga, Kedari-Marwa, with admirable clarity. In this both Kedar and Marwa remained intertwined; like in a braid; without giving up their identity. Such an interpretation, replete with unexpected bends, does not allow complacency, either to the player or to his listeners. This was definitely a show by a maestro for initiated listeners only. The latter is a dwindling community even in Kolkata nowadays; but going by Ghosh’s usual selection of ragas, one was inspired to ask:

What encourages you to choose rare ragas for concerts?

I was only five when I started learning at the feet of great masters Anil Roychoudhury and Radhubabu; and later from Buddhadev Dasgupta. They all belong to the famous Senia Shahajahanpur sarod gharana and they are revered for their enviable melodic treasures. I also learnt tabla and vocal music from venerable gurus. Subsequently, I came under the wings of the erudite and versatile master Bimalendu Mukherjee, a doyen of the famous Imdadkhani gharana of sitar and surbahar. Under their priceless guidance I assimilated vocalism, instrumentalism and the style of rhythmic play along with raga elaboration.

The simple fact is that my gurus did not tell me what were common and what ‘rare’ ragas were. They all came naturally as sister ragas, with their key phrases loud and clear, during the learning process of one major raga; even the jod-ragas (blend of more than one) were taught to me without much ado; just as they did not categorise any instrument and made me learn to play sarod, surshringar and mohanveena.

Isn’t the mohanveena a newly invented instrument?

Radhubabu's mohanveena.
Radhubabu’s mohanveena.

Unfortunately, very few remember the history of the original mohanveena, conceived and invented by Radhubabu in early 1948! Once, around 1944, he played the surshringar in a jugalbandi (duet) with the famous beenkar (Rudra veena player) Ustad Sadiq Ali Khan in Lucknow. The concert inspired him to design a unique instrument in which the playable materials of both the sitar and the sarod could be appropriately exploited and the tonal quality of the Rudra veena could be equally maintained. Since he was proficient in both, having had his training from Ustad Mohammad Ameer Khan of the Shahajahanpur gharana and Ustad Inayat Khan of the Etawah gharana in the sarod and the sitar respectively, Radhubabu’s experiment succeeded.

The instrument’s majestic tonality impressed Thakur Jaidev Singh, the renowned musicologist who was then Chief Producer, All India Radio, Delhi. In 1950, Thakur Saheb named the instrument ‘mohanveena’ and also arranged an archival recording for AIR, followed by an extensive interview of Radhubabu, its inventor. Radhubabu was invited in several music festivals all over India to play the mohanveena. Some of his rare recordings for AIR archives are available in compact discs as precious documents.

So, despite the emergence of another, Hawaiian guitar-based instrument of the same name almost fifty years later, the original mohanveena exists along with its own unique excellence till date, through some of the devoted torchbearers of Radhubabu’s legacy. I am also a humble exponent of the mohanveena.

source: / The Hindu / Home> Features. Friday Review / by Meena Banerjee / February 27th, 2015


Yudhajeet and (right) Deeptyajeet De at the Welfare Society for the Blind tournament. (Arnab Mondal)
Yudhajeet and (right) Deeptyajeet De at the Welfare Society for the Blind tournament. (Arnab Mondal)

At 18, twins Yudhajeet and Deeptyajeet De have already won more accolades than their years put together. The Class XII students have not only beaten players on the other side of the chess board but also their greatest opponent – visual impairment.

Yudhajeet was introduced to the game by his mother when he was just six, while Deeptyajeet started picking up the moves from his brother a few years later. Both are FIDE-rated players and Yudhajeet added another feather to his already crowded cap when he won the first edition of the Rapid Blind Chess Tournament organised by the Welfare Society for the Blind last week. Deeptyajeet finished third at the same event.

“We eat, drink and sleep chess. We just love the game. We keep thinking about our moves all day,” said Yudhajeet, whose FIDE (Federation Internationale des Echecs) rating is 1554. The rating provided by the World Chess Federation denotes a player’s individual skill level. Viswanathan Anand, for instance, enjoys a FIDE standard rating of 2797 at present.

Yudhajeet has had no vision in both eyes since birth but that hasn’t stopped him from taking on sighted opponents. “We have to visualise the board in our mind and remember all the positions constantly. It is tougher when we play rapid chess as there is little time to make the moves,” said Yudhajeet, who finished runner-up in an all-Bengal under-14 sighted tournament in 2010.

The duo have been in the top 20 at the east zone chess meet quite a few times and qualified for Category B of the national championship for the visually impaired. Though Deeptyajeet, FIDE rating 1443, is yet to qualify for Category A of the national meet, Yudhajeet has played it twice.

“Both brothers are keen learners. Yudhajeet is quick to grasp the openings and remembers the moves I teach him. They have improved a lot in the past year. They have to compete more with sighted players now at the national level to gain confidence,” said chess player Laltu Chatterjee, who has been training the boys for more than a year.

The Uttarpara boys met their present coach at an all-Bengal open chess tournament in Rishra and requested him to train them. Before that it was their tutor, Madan Jana, who had taught Yudhajeet the basics of the game and got him interested.

When their mother, Ruma De, wanted Yudhajeet to engage in an indoor sport, she decided chess was the best option. “I thought he could excel in it as it’s more of a brain game and he has always been a good student in school,” Ruma said.

Yudhajeet’s first competitive event was an all-Bengal tournament for the visually impaired in 2008.

“It was held at St. Xavier’s College and I won the runner-up trophy. The taste of success in the very first tournament gave me a huge boost and made me dream,” he said. In 2012, he came third in the junior open national chess meet for visually impaired and in 2014, he found a place among the top 10 in the national A championship.

Last year was also good for Deeptyajeet, who started playing the game at age 10 and played his first tournament in 2011. In 2014, he won three all-Bengal tournaments.

A late entrant in the game, chess is now Deeptyajeet’s sole passion. It is brother Yudhajeet’s first love, too, but he also plays the sitar and is a big fan of Virat Kohli.

A dream they share is to become international masters, but their immediate goal is to make a mark in the ongoing open national chess meet in Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu.

What is your message for Yudhajeet and Deeptyajeet De? Tell

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta / Front Page> Calcutta> Story / by Ayuan Paul / Saturday – February 28th, 2015

Bengal government gives thrust to ‘Lok Prasar Prokalpo’ to promote folk culture

Kolkata :

The Mamata Banerjee government is exploring the low cost media options to publicise its various schemes and projects across the state. With this in mind, the state information and cultural affairs department is giving much thrust on the ‘Lok Prasar Prokalpo’ that it has introduced not only to uplift the living standards of the folk artists across the state by giving them chance to perform in various stages organized by the government, but also to publicise government schemes through them.

The I&CA department has lined up several cultural programmes across the state this year to promote Bengal’s art and culture but officials said that the Lok Prasar Prokalpo could become the most effective in the government’s endeavor to promote Biswa Bangla brand.

According to the administrative calendar, the I&CA department has set a target to enroll 60,000 folk artists in the current year to bring them under the Lok Prasar Prokalpa.

I&CA department officials said that the objective of the scheme is to provide regular income to folk artists across the state and to preserve the art and culture of Bengal. In this way, the government thrives to publicise their various schemes and projects through the help of folk artists. “The process is going on to identify and select folk artists from across the state. The folk artist are being selected after audition and they are being given identity cards.

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / by Suman Chakraborty, TNN / February 25th, 2015

The last burra memsahib – Absolute Anglo-Indians

Sir Edward Barnes by William Salter
Sir Edward Barnes by William Salter

Satyajit Ray astonished me at our first meeting. I had trotted out various Santiniketan connections I expected him to know. He looked at me for a moment while I felt his brain darting through the lanes and bylanes of the genealogical network. Then he said, “You must be related to Bussa Susheila Das!” It was the last name I expected to hear from the Maestro. Bussamami – whose death last week, three years short of a century, must be counted a merciful release – was the most fashionable, Anglicized and probably richest of my relatives. In georgette and furs, sporting a long cigarette-holder, she was a vision of elegant grandeur, the Last Burra Memsahib. When I told her about Ray, she said, “It must be because of Keshub Sen!”

If so, the Brahmo Samaj meant more to Ray than anyone imagined. Although neither Bussamami nor her husband, Mohie R. Das, had set foot in a Brahmo temple for many years, she was Brahmananda Keshub Chunder Sen’s great granddaughter. She was also the great granddaughter of General Sir Edward Barnes, India’s commander-in-chief and governor of Ceylon. That connection was embarrassingly highlighted when Bussamami stayed with us in Singapore. On the day she arrived, the afternoon tabloid, New Paper, which normally confined itself to sensational local tidbits, went to town with an unexpected cover story on Barnes and his Ceylonese mistress. As governor, he lived in what is today Colombo’s Mount Lavinia Hotel from which a secret underground tunnel snaked away to his inamorata’s dwelling. Bussamami wasn’t disconcerted.

She had flown in wearing a saree. It was her habitual garb when travelling abroad she explained. “I get better service.” At one time people laughingly called her “Susheila please!” because of her strenuous but unsuccessful efforts to banish the Bussa nickname. She was indignant when a British Indian woman in Singapore asked why she didn’t have a British passport. “Why should I?” she retorted. “India is my home. I’m Indian. I have property there.” The patrial clause in British immigration law would at once have granted her British citizenship. But people like her didn’t need to emigrate to raise their living standards or become Westernized. They easily did both in India. Her sister, Moneesha Chaudhuri, whose husband was the first Indian head of Andrew Yule, the biggest British managing agency in India, and an army chief’s brother, was also like that. She once refused the then whites-only Saturday Club’s invitation to play the piano in a concert under her English mother’s maiden name. “After all, you could pass for English,” they pleaded. She didn’t take it as a compliment.

Singaporeans found it intriguing that Bussamami and I were related twice over. She and my mother were second cousins, great granddaughters of Annada Charan Khastagir, who presided over an All-India National Conference session in 1883, preparatory to the Indian National Congress being launched two years later. Her husband, Mohiemama, and my mother were first cousins, grandchildren of Bihari Lal Gupta, who was responsible for the Ilbert Bill, which led to the AINC and INC. She and her husband being related, the marriage presented difficulties: one version for which I can’t vouch was they went to French Chandernagore for the registration.

Mohiemama’s father, S.R. Das, founded Doon School. He himself was the first Indian head of Mackinnon Mackenzie, the Inchcape shipping giant. When he joined Mackinnon’s exalted band of covenanted hands (UK-based officers who had signed a contract with the company) in England, the Numbers One, Two and Three were known in inverse order as Three, Two and One. Those figures indicated their monthly salary in lakhs of rupees. Mohiemama’s ways were upper-class English, the legacy of public school in Britain and Cambridge. My son, Deep, quoted Bussamami in this newspaper (“Learning To Speak Like The Masters”, October 13, 2004) as saying when asked if her husband went to Mill Hill or Millfield school, “Mill Hill of course. Millfield was only for the post-war nouveau riche!” Being dark and heavily built, he borrowed a turban from Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II of Jaipur – husband of the beautiful Gayatri Devi, who was Bussamami’s cousin – to visit America in the Fifties. He enjoyed describing how he clamped the turban on his head before entering restaurants in the American Deep South.

They settled down in a gracious villa called Faraway in remote Coonoor. But their world straddled Calcutta, Darjeeling, Hong Kong, London and the south of France. Or rather, small gilded niches in all these places, with extensions to Simla, Colombo and Singapore. World War II and the 300 Club had lent zest to their cosmopolitan set. Not everyone could come to grips with this dizzy diversity. Raj Thapar, wife of Seminar magazine’s Romesh Thapar, betrayed her own provincialism by dismissing Bussamami in All These Years as “an erstwhile crooner”. Yes, she, Moneeshamashi and their only brother K.C. (Bhaiya or Kacy) Sen were all gifted musicians. In her youth, Bussamami had indeed given music lessons in Calcutta, and Moneeshamashi continued to do so for free at St Paul’s School, Darjeeling. But the sleaziness that Thapar’s comment sought to convey just didn’t go with the Ingabanga (Satyendranath Tagore’s term for Anglicized Bengalis) elite.

Kacy called his delightful memoirs The Absolute Anglo-Indian. He wasn’t “a person whose father or any of whose other male progenitors in the male line is or was of European descent, but who is a native of India”, which is how the Government of India Act, 1935, defines Anglo-Indian. Nevertheless, his was the culture of the Rangers Club, Grail Club and the club of which he says “if ever there was a place that separated the men from the boys, and no angels feared to tread, it was the good old Golden Slipper”. I was struck as a child by his imaginative wedding invitation, “Bridgette and I are going to be married at the Golden Slipper Club.” His Cavaliers was a popular band. He frequently compered at the Oberoi Grand Hotel’s open-air Scherezade night club, which occupied the space now taken up by the swimming pool.

He provided Ray with Devika Halder aka Vicky Redwood for Mahanagar “over a cup of tea on the verandah” of his flat. The voice off-screen in Mahanagar was Devika’s, but the song was a ballad, Time Gave Me No Chance, he had composed in his rowing days. Major Sharat Kumar Roy of the American army was an unusual wartime buddy and surely the only Indian to be commemorated by a mountain in Greenland: he discovered Mount Sharat. Laced into the light-hearted banter of Sen’s memoirs was the fear that the “Absolute Anglo-Indian” would become the “Obsolete Anglo-Indian”.

Bussamami built personal bridges to very different milieus. Cooch Behar, Mayurbhanj, Jaipur, Nandgaon and other royals, some also descendants of Keshub Sen, were relatives and intimates. When I mentioned the novelist, Maurice Dekobra, she told me she had known him as the Paris-born, Maurice Tessier. Axel Khan, whom I met as India’s ambassador in pre-unification Berlin, was another old friend. Rumer Godden produced a flood of memories, which were borne out by Ann Chisholm’s biography, Rumer Godden: A Storyteller’s Life. Her apology for arriving late for dinner with my wife and I in our Calcutta flat was that she had got lost in the suburban lanes to Kanan’s house. Kanan who? She meant the legendary star, Kanan Devi, whom the young Bussamami had taught her dancing steps in the Thirties. They had remained friends ever since.

The real burra memsahib didn’t need to keep up appearances. Neither did she have to try to be stylish. To adapt the Comte de Buffon, the style was the woman herself. There won’t be another like her.

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta / Front Page> Story / by Sunanda K. Datta-Ray / Saturday – February 28th, 2015

Sushmita Sen receives Mother Teresa International Award!

Credit :
Credit :

The Main Hoon Na actor is recognised for her efforts towards achieving social justice
Former Miss-Universe-turned-Bollywood-star Sushmita Sen has been awarded the Mother Teresa International Award by NGO The Harmony Foundation for her efforts towards achieving social justice.

Sushmita, who is associated with charitbale projects and NGOs, received the award Sunday and took to Twitter to express her feelings.

“Beautiful People!…wanted you to wake up to The Mother Teresa International Award, which I received last night…precious,” Sushmita posted on the microblogging site early Monday morning.

The Harmony Foundation also honoured former Outlaw motorcycle club member Sam Childers for his efforts towards rescuing children from a war-zone in Sudan.

“What a privilege to meet with Sam Childers..his life dedicated to saving the lives of children in Sudan from a Militant outfit,” the leggy lass added.

source: / / Home> Sushmita Sen / by IANS / Monday – October 28th, 2013

KMC school brings hope for poor kids

Kolkata :

Md Bilal, a student of Class II at a primary school near Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road, never liked his classroom where thirty odd boys are crammed in a small room. But Bilal, son of a grocer in Ripon Street, knows that his father cannot afford to send him to schools which have big classrooms and large playgrounds. Hundreds of kids like Bilal, who live in and around Ripon Street, go to schools which lack basic infrastructure.

But, their dreams will soon come true when an English-medium school will come up in the area. The school, being built by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), will cater to more than 1,500 students. Proposed to be affiliated to the ICSE board, the school will bring best education to these children free of cost. The foundation stone for the school was laid on Saturday.

“Unlike traditional corporation schools, this school will be run by professionals. The idea is to bring best education to those who can’t afford it,” said Iqbal Ahmed, local MLA. The school, proposed to be run under the guidance of some well-known ICSE schools in the locality, will involve an investment of Rs 2 crore.

“We have tried similar models in six places in the city before. This is the seventh such school. While we are starting with upper-primary sections, we will gradually expand to the tenth standard,” said Mitali Banerjee, MMiC (education) of KMC.

T H Ireland, principal of St James School, believes that good communication skills in English is the need of the hour for the children. “It is therefore essential that these kids get their education in English,” he said.

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / TNN / February 22nd, 2015

ISI felicitates its director for Padma Shri nomination

The Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata, felicitated its director Bimal K. Roy, an eminent cryptologist here on Wednesday on his nomination to Padma Shri award by the Union Government for his contribution in the fields of literature and education.

Dr. Roy has held several important academic positions in over 15 universities abroad.

Former Reserve Bank of India Governor and president of the Indian Statistical Institute Council, C. Rangarajan, stressed the importance of more research in applied Economics and Statistics as they provide vital inputs in the formulation of the country’s economic policy making and socio-economic development.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kolkata / by Staff Reporter / Kolkata – February 26th, 2015

Artist from a farmer’s family

He is a still life artist who loves to paint in oil. Biraj Kumar Paul respects abstract art, but is not of that genre. As a teacher, he believes that an artist must first learn form before trying to break it. Paul is also one of the few artists who still likes to paint in oil. It takes up a lot of time, but the outcome is far more impressive and lasting, he says. Two large canvases in his room, based on still life, showing musical instruments in a classical singer’s house, are among his latest oil paintings that Paul exhibited at the Academy of Fine Arts in December last year.

“The effect of colours is far brighter and attractive in oil than acrylic paint. The painting also lasts longer,” explained Paul. It is not that Paul never uses other media. Currently, he is working on small paintings on nature that will be shown at the Charukala Utsav at Nandan from February 27. These paintings are made with acrylic. Another medium size canvas with an apple as subject placed on a mat, is also acrylic. “These are some of the few works that I have done in acrylic. But most of my paintings at exhibitions and those that I have sold, are oil paintings,” said Paul.

Paul makes his own canvases. “I still make my own canvas and treat it before painting on it. What is available in the market is never to my satisfaction. Also, painting on untreated canvas can cause fungus,” said Paul. His subjects are generally still life, figurative, landscapes and nature. “Many of my subjects are from my imagination. I sometimes mix reality with my imagination,” said Paul.

Biraj Kumar Paul working on his canvas. Picture by Gopal Senapati
Biraj Kumar Paul working on his canvas. Picture by Gopal Senapati

Being an artist was an impractical proposition for Biraj Kumar Paul, considering his socio-economic background. Belonging to a farmer’s family in Midnapore, education for the family was too much to ask, let alone learning art. However, creativity was in Paul’s blood and he gradually became a self-taught artist. “I did not know what colours are. My mother’s alta was red, soot from the lantern was black, pui (Malabar spinach) seeds were crushed to make violet colour and leaves were ground to make green. I tell my students today that they are lucky to find colour pallets and tubes of paint in front of them when they work,” said Paul.

After completing school, Biraj found his way to Rabindra Bharati University in 1974, where he took admission in painting. “I came to know about the course from a boy in our village, who had taken admission in Rabindra Bharati University. I decided that I would study art because that was the only thing that I liked. There was no inspiration or motivation from people around me,” said Paul. In 1981, Paul passed his MA and joined as a teacher in Kisalaya School in Andul. Gradually he shifted to Howrah from Midnapore. After staying for some years at Santragachhi, Paul shifted to Andul in 1991.

While teaching, Paul joined Painters’ Orchestra, a well-know artists’ group in Calcutta with members like Partha Pratim Deb and Suchibrata Deb. At present, Paul is the secretary of the group. He has participated in numerous exhibitions around India from Painters’ Orchestra. “Every year, I participate in at least three to four exhibitions in Calcutta or outside,” said Paul. The artist is also part of a four-member group, We are 4, that does exhibitions around India and abroad. After teaching in RBU and at home, Paul now has a lot of time to spare for his own works. “I have just prepared another large canvas. I will start working on it soon,” he said.


DoB: February 1, 1955
Born in: Midnapore
Education: MA (Painting)
Family: Wife, son, daughter (married)
Loves: Travelling
Hates: Misbehaviour

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta / Front Page> Story / by Daila Mukherjee / Friday – February 20th, 2015

An evening to remember

Kolkata :

The Times of India organized Times Evening at The Residency, City Centre-I, Salt Lake on Valentine’s Day.

Presented by Airtel in association with Toyota – Quality Revolution, IFB, Bhagirathi Neotia Women & Child Care Centre, Adrija Gold and Diamond Jewellery Collections, Re-Feel, Kent – Mineral RO, The Braands – E mall, Lifespan Diabetes & Cardiometabolic Clinic, Lawrence & Mayo, SIP Abacus, Bubble Blue – Montessori School, Keventer Fresh, The State Bank of India, IFB Agro Ltd and Rikshiva Fashion, Times Evening began with a medical camp where Lifespan Diabetes & Cardio metabolic Clinic conducted free blood sugar test and doctors consultations. Lawrence & Mayo did free eye check-up.

Toyota-Quality Revolution organized a free test session for all residents throughout the day and also gave freebies to all the persons who took test drives. The special offer to residents included Rs 15,000 worth accessories free for spot bookings.

In the evening, a sit-and-draw competition was held for young ones up to the age of 12. In the event ‘Paint your Imaginations’, 18 kids participated in it. The first prize was won by Trisha Khilani, the second prize by Diya Gupta and the third prize by Pranit.

In the cooking competition titled ‘Master Chef Competition’ sponsored by IFB and IFB Agro Ltd, Ankita Mundra who made moong dal ka halwa won the first prize, an IFB microwave oven. Susmita Dash won the second prize, an IFB induction cook top, for her chilli chicken. Nisha Sharma’s veg pasta with mixed sauce was adjudged third.

The evening ended with a musical performance. The prizes were handed out by guests of honours Sumanta Bhaduri of Adrija Gold & Diamond Jewellery Collections, Shantanu Roy Chaodhury and Arnab Bhattacharya of Topsel Toyota, Anil and Nidhi Khandelwal of The Braand and Nabanita Bose Mukherjee of SIP Abacus

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / TNN / February 20th, 2015

Weaving dreams in Shantipur

Shantipur :

Next time you marvel at intricate weaves on a handloom saree at an upscale garment retail chain in Delhi or Mumbai, it could well be the work of a weaver in a tiny hamlet in West Bengal’s Shantipur.

About 90km from Kolkata, Shantipur in Nadia district is historically famous for producing the fabled feather-touch handloom dhoti and sarees coveted by the connoisseurs. Besides being an ancient seat of Sanskrit and Vedic learning and Vaishnav culture, Shantipur has been a centre for handloom weaving for the last 500 years, at least.

Yet, skilled weavers have been struggling for bare survival for years. Some have shut down their looms and migrated out of Shantipur to eke out a living as day labourers at construction sites.

To tide over the rough patch, weavers are now breaking out of the traditional mould. Instead of the age-old matha sarees and jacquards, Shantipur weavers are turning to innovation to catch the contemporary woman’s fancy. They are picking up a colour palette including magenta, teal, burgundy and rust. Traditional motifs are coming alive with a modern twist to the ancient warp-and-weft saga.

Helping them with innovation and the much-needed monetary support is Madhumita Pyne of Kolkata. Her fondness for handloom fabric led her to explore its provenance. Somewhere on this journey, this former consultant with a global management consulting firm met Anjan Biswas, a young weaver from Shantipur.

Anjan belongs to a family of weavers. His father Manoranjan had experimented with innovative techniques like embedded sequins to up the style quotient of bland handloom sarees. Due to a dearth of avenues to market his ware, he, like scores of other weavers in Shantipur, stuck to the rut. They churned out a bland drape to earn a meagre livelihood.

Some, like Prasenjit Biswas, switched to the power loom, which churns out more sarees in much less time and effort. “The quality though is not half as good as handloom sarees,” he admitted.

After meeting Anjan, who introduced her to Shantipur’s weavers, Pyne’s long experience in corporate-marketing instantly helped her recognize the immense potential of handloom drapes.

“There is a huge demand for handloom fabric, not just in India but abroad, too. Foreigners love the fabric for its look and feel. More importantly, they are drawn to handloom for the unique story behind the weaves,” said Pyne.

Following her instinct and passion, she decided to take the plunge last November. “The weavers in Shantipur have immense skill. What’s lacking was marketing our products and keeping up with modern trends,” said Anjan.

Pyne pitched in with both and a little more. She designed sarees and chose the colours of the thread. After the first batch was off the loom, she was ecstatic with the product. She tapped several online stores like Indianroots and top retail chains to market Shantipur sarees. She also launched her brand Loomiere. She played on words to give expression to her intent — loom that can lighten up lives of weavers.

Pyne wants to make handloom popular and help weavers get a decent income. “It’s sad that such skilled weavers who create wonders on their looms have to battle only to survive,” she said.

“The response was unexpected. In the very first month, we were flooded with orders, including from the US and the UK,” said Pyne.

She has been goading weavers, used to a laid-back way of working, to stick to deadlines. “After the initial scepticism, the weavers were enthused about the project. They are working day and sometimes late into the night to meet Didi’s (Pyne) deadline,” said Anjan.

A boost in their income also helped matters. Lalon Biswas, for instance, takes two weeks to weave a saree on his family loom. “I earn Rs 2,000 for weaving one of these new sarees. About two years ago, one saree would fetch Rs 100-Rs 180,” he said.

They call Loomiere’s sarees “new sarees”. Over the months, Anjan’s enthusiasm for Pyne’s venture has grown. He calls her ‘Didi’ and does all the running around, getting more weavers into the fold.

Currently, 220 weavers are working on about 100 looms for Pyne’s project. With a steady stream of orders flowing in, she hopes to expand.

“Besides, we plan to hold workshops in May to introduce more weavers to improved techniques and hone their skills,” she said. Loomiere has also set up a sampling unit in a small brick room in Shantipur. Here master weavers experiment with trends and styles.

Encouraged by the way things are shaping, Pyne has given up her plum job as a consultant to focus full time on Loomiere. Anjan, too, now dares to dream big. Both hope for the day when every weaver in Shantipur will lead a decent life and their skills would bring them good returns.

source: http :// / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / by Rakhi Chakrabarty, TNN / February 22nd, 2015