Monthly Archives: March 2015

Sculpting A Dream

Kolkata :

This is a unique story of a man not only going to the mountain, but also taking it on to realize a daring dream — that of leaving his permanent imprint on it.

The last time man attempted such a feat was nearly 14 centuries ago, at Mahabalipuram.

A similar exercise is now underway in West Bengal’s Purulia district, where a group of craftsmen, led by master sculptor Chitta Dey, are sculpting giant birds in flight on the rock face of a big hill and burrowing a network of caves inside it to create a wonder that generations to come will marvel at.

To say that the 57-year-old Dey, a graduate from the Government College of Art & Craft in Kolkata, is creating history would be too much of a cliche. The dream that Dey is pursuing with liberal help from the erstwhile Planning Commission is nothing short of the monumental projects that only kings and emperors, with enormous resources at their command, could muster the courage to undertake.

The gargantuan dimensions of the project, which he conceived in 1991, could not faze the portly Dey. “I wanted to create yet another showpiece of Indian craftsmanship for the world to appreciate. And so it had to be grand in scale. If you dream, then dream big,” he says.

The 800-foot-high hill, part of the Matha range that’s connected to the well-known Ayodhya range of hills, was chosen by Dey in 1994. “I had toured many places in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa to choose a hill to sculpt my dream on in the early 1990s. Ultimately, the West Bengal government requested me to narrow down my choice to a hill in this state,” says Dey, who first came to this site, about 46km west of Purulia town near the Bengal-Jharkhand border, in 1992. Sourcing funds for the project took a lot of time, he says, adding that it was Pranab Mukherjee who was instrumental in getting the Planning Commission to sanction Rs 4.26 crore for the project.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who was the culture minister then, also helped. After getting permission to implement his dream on the hill, which is now known as ‘Pakhi Pahar’ (Bird Hill), Dey went about selling his project to the people of eight surrounding villages. “They were sceptical initially and laughed off the idea. But I persevered and ultimately, could rope in about 35 of them to undergo training in sketching and sculpting. I finally selected 24 of them for this project,” he says. These men were also trained in rock-climbing by coaches from the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling.

Geologists were involved to test the nature of the rock and only after their green light did the actual work start in 2004. The first step was to paint the birds on the rock face. “That was a laborious process and we often went wrong with the dimensions. We had first planned that the smallest bird would have a wing span of 17 feet but when we painted a bird of that size on the rock face, it looked too small from even the base of the hill. Now, the smallest bird has a wing span of 55 feet and the largest one a wing span of 120 feet,” Dey says. This process took about four and a half years.

The entire project is under the aegis of Dey’s Flight To Harmony Foundation. The sculptor roped in civil and mechanical engineers to guide the team in erecting scaffoldings, fixing two 25-tonne anchor bolts on the peak of the hill to enable the craftsmen to rappel down the rock face and work and other such works.

They craftsmen wear harnesses, helmets, eye shields and take all safety measures, he says, adding that they have individual insurance policies and are covered by the workmen compensation policy as well. They are paid Rs 160 a day. Every morning, they congregate at ‘Pakhipahar Ghar’, a nondescript, three-storey house that squats at the base of the hill and is home to Dey and some of his companions, around 8am, discuss the work of the day and head to the hill around 8.30am. They work till 3pm and return to their homes after that. “We can only work from late October to March because of the extreme heat and the rain during the rest of the year,” says Upen Chandra Mahato, 35, who believes he is creating a beautiful masterpiece for posterity.

Dey took his 24-member team to the Ajanta-Ellora caves as well as Aurangabad in 2010. “That was hugely inspirational for us. We realized the importance of what we were doing,” says Mangal Ghatwal, 34. “Sir (Dey) pointed out the intricate carvings there and showed us how to achieve that fine craftsmanship. We gained a lot of confidence from the trip and felt proud that we were part of a project that would be like those caves which future generations would admire,” says Shankar Handsa, 30.

Along with the relief sculptures of birds on the rock face, the team is also chiselling away at the base of the hill to burrow 20 caves, the walls of which will have carvings of locally found animals like deer, pangolin, turtle, squirrels, peacocks and other birds as well as trees and plants indigenous to that region. “If these animals or plant species ever become extinct, future generations will know from the carvings that they once existed here,” Dey says. Many of the boulders that lie at the base of the mountain or on the way to the peak also have local flora and fauna carved on them.

About 30% of the work on this project has been completed and, says Dey, ‘Pakhi Pahar’ will start taking its proposed shape by 2020 if work continues uninterrupted. “This work has gained a momentum of its own and will continue even after I am no more. The community of local sculptors that has grown here from this project will continue the work and will hand over and further hone their skills from one generation to the next. The local community has taken ownership of the project just as I had intended,” he says.

Dey has also created another group of stakeholders in the project — six inmates of the Alipore Central Correctional Home, who were taken to the site last weekend and given the opportunity to take the chisel and make their marks on the rock face. Marks that, when viewed from afar, will look like giant birds in motion which will stand testament yet again to humankind’s enterprise and perseverance.

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / by Jaideep Mazumdar, TNN / March 28th, 2015

Start-off to Story

Story at Avani Riverside Mall. Picture by Gopal Senapati
Story at Avani Riverside Mall. Picture by Gopal Senapati

Its Story time in Howrah, with the Elgin Road bookstore opening an outlet in Avani Riverside Mall. The 685 square feet store on the ground floor that opened on January 15 is drawing many customers, who are walking in to browse through the titles.

A lookaround reveals that Story focuses on children’s books. Activity books, drawing and handwriting books and illustrated story books for the little ones line up the shelves. Parents walk in from time to time looking for something for their growing children. For those who can read, there are a large number of colourful Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl books to choose from. For the studious ones, there are illustrated encyclopaedias or guide books on how to write essays and letters. “One of the main reasons behind making a store dedicated to children’s books is that Avani Riverside Mall is primarily a family mall. People come with their children and usually like to shop for them,” said Sidharth Pansari of Story. “In Howrah, there is no good standalone bookstore and so we thought of opening a branch in Avani Riverside Mall,” he added.

Reema Sen, a weekend shopper at the mall, said, “I came looking for stationery items and educational toys for my son. This is the first time I came to Story and found that they have a good collection of books, but I didn’t go through them properly.”

This is the third branch of Story with another two in Junction Mall in Durgapur and Diamond Plaza in Jessore Road. Due to its small size, this store is being called an express outlet. “Since we do not have the space to stock up on a large number of books at a time, we try to keep the best titles and popular authors at this store,” said Pansari.

The Bengali customers are delighted to see a bookstore with Bengali books at Avani Riverside. However, some feel that some more titles and authors could be accommodated. “The collection of novels and short stories here are good. They have some popular writers too but I am sure booklovers will also want to see titles by Tasleema Nasreen, Tilottama Majumdar, Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri, Tarapada Roy, Syed Mustafa Ali and so on,” said Arun Kumar Mitra, a resident of Shibpur who had come to browse through the collection at Story.

Ranjan Das, the store manager said, “We have already sold several copies of Byomkesh Samagrah and Satyajit Ray’s Feluda compilations. For those who are looking for some serious books, Suchitra Bhattacharya, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Sirshendu Mukherjee and other well-known authors’ works have been stocked up as well.”
There are some buyers who ask for poetry collections. Although all books may not be available off the shelf, Pansari promises that if a customer places an order for any particular book, he or she will get it within a day. “We have a large stock of books at our main store and can supply the required books overnight,” he said.

Among the young generation, Chetan Bhagat is a craze, specially his new book, Half Girlfriend. John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska are also selling at Story. Collections of short stories by O’Henry, Rabindranath Tagore or books on assorted short stories are also in demand.

source: / The Telegraph, India / Front Page> Howrah> Story / by Dalia Mukherjee / Friday – March 27th, 2015

Guv attends Garia school’s lit fest

Kolkata :

Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi recently presided over the literary festival celebrating the golden jubilee celebration of BDM International school near Pratapgarh in Garia. Tripathi, who was accompanied by Usha Mehta, director and administrator, Shailesh Khaitan, chairman and Shankar Lal Gupta, secretary of the school, stressed on the promotion of Hindi literature by the students and teachers of the school.

The governor was praised students for their performances at the event, which revolved around the richness of Indian culture, art and literature. He described the five-decade journey of BDM International as a story of success, which began with Usha Mehta, and just two learners, in 1966. It is now a leading CBSE-affiliated institution with nearly 8,000 students.

Speaking about the late Draupadi Devi Khaitan and the late G N Khaitan, who dreamt of the school changing the academic landscape of the area, Tripathi said, “I am happy to know that the school authorities have introduced subjects like mass media and biotechnology to keep pace with global education trends.”

The governor told his audience, “If you get good marks in exams, don’t think yourself to be an educated or learned person. Rather imbibe moral values to become ideal citizens of India in the future. The society has high hopes from you and I want you to fulfil them.”

An author and poet, whose chief literary works include anthologies like ‘Manonukriti’ and ‘Aayu Pankh’, Tripathi lauded the students for depicting different segments of Hindi literature in their presentations.

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / TNN / March 30th, 2015

Sarala Birla passes away

Sarala Birla, wife of industrialist Basant Kumar Birla passed away on Saturday in Delhi.

She was 91 and is survived by her husband and two daughters — Manjushree and Jayashree.

Birla group sources said that the death came unexpectedly.

Born on November 23, 1924 in Rajasthan, Sarala played an active role in the expansion of the Birla empire as her husband Basant Kumar Birla stepped into new areas that shaped the course of Indian business.

“In the Birla household where enterprise, culture and convention went side by side, Sarala stepped out of her role as an exclusive home-maker to carve a niche of her own in the spheres of education, art, culture and philanthropy.

In partnership with her husband, she laid the foundation of some 45 educational institutions including the Birla Institute of Technology & Science.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kolkata / by Special Correspondent / Kolkata – March 29th, 2015

It’s a pat for Bengali film industry

Last year, your ‘Jaatishwar’ won four National Awards. Did you regret missing out the Best Direction award?

I genuinely feel it’s a team effort. Like last year, this time too I feel all the awards belong as much to me as my team. After a very long time, a director has got two awards — Best Direction and Best Screenplay (Original) — at the same time. In fact, I don’t remember when such a thing happened last. It’s a top-of-the-world feeling and a validation of all the hard work that has gone into making this film, especially in this part of the world where budgets and logistics are a fraction of what the biggies enjoy. I think it’s a huge pat on the back for the Bengali film industry. That Bengali cinema can hold its own on a national stage is a huge feat for us. Bengali directors are on a roll.

It’s not been many years since you started out. This is indeed a big win…

There is something which Rituda (Rituparno Ghosh) used to tell me — don’t think about awards, just keep doing your stuff the way you want to. If the content is good, you will get noticed, he said…

In 2009, Rituparno Ghosh got the Best Direction award for ‘Abohoman’. ‘Chotushkone’ too was supposed to feature him.

Life seems to have come full circle. Rituda was an integral part of ‘Chotushkone’. I started writing the script right after ‘Autograph’. Rituda loved this concept and was keen to act in it. My intimacy with him started because of ‘Chotushkone’. When I was writing the script, he would call me very early in morning when I was about to crash. ‘Chotushkone’ brought us together. Rituda was supposed to play the role, which was ultimately essayed by Parambrata Chatterjee. The last conversation I had with Rituda was about the wig, which I was trying to get from Mumbai. I wanted him to sport curly hair and round glasses. He said, ‘Then I’ll have to put on weight.’ I miss him today. I dedicate this award to him, along with all the members of ‘Chotushkone’.

You crossed many hurdles to make this film…

Yes, I’ve gone through troubled times. After ‘Jaatishwar’, I wasn’t keeping well and ‘Chotushkone’ got pushed back. Because of this, Soumik Halder (DoP) pulled out. Ironically, Sudip Chatterjee has now got the award for Best Cinematography. I would call it a twist of fate. Anjan Dutt was supposed to be a part of the cast; he too pulled out because of differences with the producer. But two people stood by me — Aparna Sen and Goutam Ghose. I’ll be eternally indebted to both of them. Of course, I have to give it to the producers — Reliance and Rana Sarkar.

Weren’t you expecting the award this year?

‘Autograph’ onwards, all my films have been sent for the National Awards. Since ‘Jaatishwar’ was the toast of the 61st National Film Awards, I knew ‘Chotushkone’ will be in the reckoning too. But I didn’t know I would win the Swarna Kamal.

Detractors said ‘Chotushkone’ wasn’t even a hit…

Green-eyed monsters will always be there. People had doubted ‘Chotushkone’s run. The film completed 100 days and it shut them up. It was certified as the first hit of 2014 and it was a milestone as it brought back Bengali audience to the theatre after the post-‘Chander Pahar’ drought.

There are also allegations of lobbying at the Awards…

There’s lobbying in Oscars too, isn’t it? Where’s the harm in that? The biggest lobby is a good film. First, you need to make one. My detractors have nothing to show for their efforts. I have nothing for them but pity.

Do awards make a difference to your life?

Yes, of course. I’m now in the august company of huge names. That’s intimidating as well. The burden of expectation will be huge. Once you touch a pinnacle, you have to sustain being there. That’s a huge responsibility. But awards do make you feel good.

So today, there’s something called Brand Srijit…

Talk of brands and I feel like a toothpaste or a soap. I make films, I tell my stories the way I want to, that’s it. Consumer behaviour is not for me.

source: / The Times of India / Home> City> Kolkata / by Zinia Sen, TNN / March 25th, 2015

Jatiya Sangha turns 70

Prize distribution at Jatiya Sangha’s programme
Prize distribution at Jatiya Sangha’s programme

The members of Jatiya Sangha, Shibpur celebrated the club’s 70th anniversary with cultural programmes on February 28 and March 1 at the Shibpur Public Library. The prize distribution ceremony of various competitions held through the past year took place on the first day, which was followed by a sarod recital by Rupak Dey.

On the second day, members felicitated two founder members of the club, who are still alive. Amarnath Chatterjee, 93, and Nirmal Kanti Chatterjee, 89, were members of the first committee that was formed after Jatiya Sangha took shape. Kinjal Chatterjee of Zee Bangla Sa Re Ga Ma Pa fame regaled the audience with both old and
new popular Bengali and Hindi numbers.

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta / Front Page> Howrah> Story / by Amrita Ghosh / Friday – March 20th, 2015

Honours galore at Howrah salon

Vladimir Proshin’s photograph ‘In the River’
Vladimir Proshin’s photograph ‘In the River’

Vladimir Proshin caught five country boats floating together on a river. Their masts high, the boats were setting sail at dawn, through thick fog that was beginning to clear as the sun came up. Vladimir named this picture, ‘In The River’, which won a gold medal from the Fèdèration Internationale de l’Art Photographique (FIAP) at the Society of Photographers’ (SOP) 47th Howrah Colour Salon 2015.

FIAP gold medal is considered to be the highest honour for photographers, who participate in competitions. At the 47th Howrah Colour Salon, 440 photographers from 41 countries sent in 3,120 entries. The panel of seven judges selected 761 photographs which were displayed through a slide show every evening from February 28 to March 1 at the Howrah Medical Club hall. There were three segments of the colour salon, open, creative and nature. This year’s colour salon was inaugurated by artist Nikhilesh Das. Also, a postal stamp with the SOP logo was launched on that day, marking the 50th year of the society.

Artist Nikhilesh Das launches a postal stamp with the SOP logo. Picture by Gopal Senapati
Artist Nikhilesh Das launches a postal stamp with the SOP logo. Picture by Gopal Senapati

FIAP contributed three gold medals at the Howrah Colour Salon and Vladimir Proshin received one. Marcel Gustave Beauraind from Belgium won the second and Prabir Kumar Das from India won the third. The Photographic Society of America (PSA) contributed three gold medals and one silver medal at the competition. Martina Wolf’s photograph of a woman draped in lace won a PSA gold medal. India’s S P Nagendra’s wildlife shot of a cheetah chasing a deer, in the nature segment won the second PSA gold medal while the third went to India’s Shantanu Saha. Ian Whiston of UK won the PSA silver for the photograph of a lion and lioness in a fight.

“The quality of photographs have improved over the years,” said Asim Bhattacharjee, the secretary of SOP. Since digital photography is the order of the day, there is also place for experimentation in this art form. “A lot of photographs in the creative and open section may look less like photographs and more like creation through software. It is up to the experienced eyes of the judges to decide how much of the image is a photograph and how much has been created,” said Bhattacharjee.

Apart from the foreign medals and honour mentions, SOP gives away 10 gold medals and also certificates of merit. Memorial awards in the name of veteran photographers, Benu Sen, KG Maheswari and T D Pal were given away. The Benu Sen Memorial Award went to John Harding from the UK. The KG Maheswari Memorial award has been introduced this year as a tribute to the photographer, who died in December last year. Danielle Rovangati from Argentina won this award. TD Pal Memorial award went to Daniel Lybaert from The Netherlands.

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta / Front Page> Howrah> Story / by Dalia Mukherjee / Friday – March 13th, 2015

Hawking legalised in Kolkata

Move comes a month ahead of municipal polls

Providing legal sanction to hawkers crowding several markets and footpaths of Kolkata, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday announced a policy aimed at legalising hawking in West Bengal.

The decision, which is seen as a sop to hawkers, comes only a month before the Kolkata Municipal Corporation goes to polls.

“We are the first State government in the country which has decided to legalise hawking. This will ensure you are not evicted by anybody. We have formulated a policy for the hawkers. We are the first in the country to start the process of registering vendors and hawkers,” Ms Banerjee said at a gathering of hawkers.

Interestingly, the Chief Minister announcement comes when shopkeepers in the city’s New Market area have declared a 72-hour shutdown against the hawker menace.

The process of legislation of hawkers will begin on July 15 and continue for three months.

“The process of verifying the applications will be carried out between January and March. Once verified, you will be given a registration certificate and free trade license. But this facility is available only for the existing hawkers,” she added

Though Ms Banerjee asked hawkers not to encroach the shops or inconvenience pedestrians, Opposition parties said that the decision will increase hawker menace.

According to reports, there are at least 2 lakh hawkers in Kolkata.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kolkata / by Special Correspondent / Kolkata – March 14th, 2015

All-Women Police Station Opened in Howrah

An all-women police station was today opened in Howrah (rural) district.

The police station was inaugurated by state correctional home minister Hyder Azid Safi at the Uluberia police station.

Parliamentry secretaries and MLAs Nirmal Majhi and Pulok Roy alongwith DIS Subroto Mitra was present on the occasion.

source: / Outlook / Home> Howrah / March 16th, 2015

India’s first private airport, at Durgapur, to be operational by April 14

Picture for representation purpose only. (Source: Reuters)
Picture for representation purpose only. (Source: Reuters)

India’s first private greenfield airport at Durgapur, promoted by Bengal Aerotropolis Projects (BAPL), is likely to be operational by April 14.

“The final calibration of navigational aids at the airport by Airport Authority is done. Now, we expect to get final DGCA licence in a month,” state Transport Secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay said in Durgapur on Monday.

In all probability, the airport, christened Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport, will be operational from April 14, the first day of Bengali calendar, BAPL officials said.

The West Bengal government has 1.2 per cent stake in BAPL, and Singapore’s Changi Airport is the single largest shareholder in the airport.

Bandyopadhyay said Pinnacle Air, a non-scheduled airline, will begin its operations from here four days a week connecting Bagdogra, Coochbehar, Durgapur and Kolkata soon after getting license from DGCA.

BAPL managing director Partha Ghosh said the company is in negotiations with IndiGo and GoAir for scheduled flights for connecting Delhi-Durgapur including Air India and non-schedule airline Air Coasta for connecting southern cities like Hyderabad and Bangalore.

Air Costa may connect these two south Indian cities for four days a week.

However, the final agreement will depend on concessions the Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport offers.

The major concessions demanded by the scheduled airlines are waiver of landing and takeoff fees, underwriting minimum of seats and 30 per cent surcharge waiver for ATF for a greater timeframe.

State government has already given a three-year waiver of surcharge on ATF for three years to Andal, Coochbehar and Bagdogra airports.

Utsav Parekh, one of the initial promoters of BAPL, said the company will focus on real estate and was holding dialogue with several global real-estate majors from Singapore, Japan and others.

source: /Business Today / Home> Sectors – Aviation> Story / by PTI / Durgapur / March 16th, 2015