Monthly Archives: May 2016

A Kolkata Laundry Helps People With Special Needs Find Employment

Kolkata :

A laundry service launched at Kolkata’s Pavlov Hospital, ‘Dhobi Ghar’ is being called a laundry with a difference.

The service will be run by people who have suffered stigma and often been abandoned by their families due to mental illness and aims to provide them an opportunity to a live a life of dignity.

Health and Family Welfare Minister of West Bengal Shashi Panja told NDTV, “This is the first of its kind project taking off in West Bengal. This laundry project empowers these individuals who are going to work here who have been through mental illness and recovered. It is about empowerment, self-respect and hygiene.”

The West Bengal government says it wants to improve conditions at hospitals for persons with mental illness. The government says they will work with NGOs and private players to create more such opportunities to integrate them into the work force.

The laundry project was set up by Anjali in collaboration with state government’s health and family welfare department. It has Sparsh Foundation as a technical partner and is enabled by The Hans Foundation.

Executive Director of The Hans Foundation Dr G V Rao told NDTV, “We are going to continue to see how we can replicate this and take it to the next level in order to increase the numbers.”

Those who have found work at the laundry say they want to be independent. Gita Kundu, who is undergoing treatment at Pavlov Hospital, told NDTV, “We feel nice doing this work. I am ironing these days. I feel better.”

“If we can do what we have been told to do here, then I can call myself successful as being able to earn and live independently is a man’s first responsibility,” added Ratan Nandi.

source: / NDTV / Home> Kolkata / by Saurabh Gupta / May29th, 2016

Bengal policeman scales Mt. Everest

A West Bengal police wireless operator scaled the Mount Everest, bringing cheers to the mountaineering enthusiasts who were distraught by the news of recent deaths while attempting to reach the world’s highest summit.

According to a statement released by the West Bengal Police Directorate, Rudra Prasad Haldar (39) reached the summit last Saturday at around 5.24 am. Halder had set out on his mission “Mount Everest” on April 7. He reached the top on May 21 and returned to the base camp two days later, the statement said.- PTI

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kolkata / PTI / Kolkata – May 27th, 2016

On a mission to save old buildings

CAL wants to go beyond heritage structures


The Chaudhuris of Latu Mullick Lane in north Kolkata have unknowingly become part of a rather silent movement. Once part of Bengal’s landed gentry, they now have just this two-storeyed building left to their name. Built some time in late 19th century, the house does not offer much in terms of heritage value, given it was just the residential building of a family that had no great role in uplifting Bengal’s social or political consciousness. It is buildings like this that interests author Amit Chaudhuri.

Chaudhuri does not share any links with the said family, except a surname spelt the same way. Neither is this particular building, tucked away in a dingy lane, part of the initiative that is taking up much of his time these days. The author, however, is concerned with how the “heritage” tag is used in Kolkata. He feels somewhat disturbed that heritage only refers to buildings that had some role to play, even though the term should encompass much more than just achievements, he believes.

Once the second city of the British Empire after London, Kolkata, offers a visual feast of old houses, which stand out for remarkable architecture. These buildings represent not only an era but also stand testimony to the city’s history, giving an insight into the structural changes that influenced architecture over the years. Chaudhuri’s love for the architectural aesthetics in old buildings inspired him to launch the Calcutta Architectural Legacies (CAL), a mission to save old buildings.

It is also probably not a coincidence that the acronym spells out as CAL, the name most English-speaking Kolkatans refer to their home town by. CAL is what one would call a citizen’s initiative, with Chaudhuri bringing together a group of interested people. From conservation architect Partha Ranjan Das to G M Kapur of heritage preservation group INTACH, to activists Bonani and Pradeep Kakkar, ad guru Ram Ray and even Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, they will all pull in their ideas to help conserve buildings that have not found place on state’s heritage list.

Although CAL was formally launched in February, Chaudhuri has been working towards this for more than a year. In an article for The Guardian in June 2015, he laid down his ideas. He pointed out that in Kolkata, a heritage building is a landmark, either because it is a “significant institutional building” or “because a famous person frequented it or lived there”. “The architectural distinctiveness of the building is a secondary concern, or is a pre-ordained, generic feature of the structure: that is, we already know it qualifies as a heritage structure because it adheres to our idea of what a heritage colonial building looks like,” he wrote.

The author went on to say that heritage for Kolkata also “…means we cease to engage with the architectural individuality and difference of buildings and precincts. We don’t periodise, falling back on catch-all terms like ‘colonial’ or historicise; or describe; or define. Simply put, ‘heritage’ means we don’t see, or think about, buildings.”

While launching CAL, he pointed out that the time has come to rethink words like “architecture” and “heritage” in order to save buildings “before these are brought down and turned into generic multi-storeyed buildings”. CAL would also attempt to move beyond heritage and take the initiative to everywhere in Kolkata.

Chaudhuri pointed out how the city developed into neighbourhoods, “para” in Bengali, which were oases of resident communities, and stressed on the need to preserve their distinct characters, before these fall prey to realtors. He is of the opinion that the heritage tag should include far more than landmarks and involve buildings, which give the city its character. He also talked about the need for residents of such buildings to come forward and join the initiative, if they are keen on preserving their individual heritage, instead of a generic sense of history.

Chaudhuri’s campaign among the urban educate class for more than a year found fruition when Kumartuli Sarbojanin Durgotsav, the Durga Puja committee at the idol-makers’ district in north Kolkata, decided to turn his efforts into the theme for its Puja offering last year.

A much-visited Durga Puja marquee, the committee celebrated its 84th year with a cause that has faced criticism from some quarters as “elitist”. Disparagement aside, artist Subal Pal persuaded the Puja committee to go with the theme.

Chaudhuri observed how a number of aesthetic old buildings are being razed to ground, making way for box-like high-rises, on the Pratapaditya Road in south Kolkata. Pal, who has been noticing similar changes in north Kolkata, felt one with Chaudhuri’s woes and etched out the theme in his Puja marquee. The artist, however, admitted that without proper conservation of these buildings, there would be no point in having the theme, at a time when such houses are getting lost across the city. “…the message needs to be sent out to people before it’s too late,” he said.

A regular visitor to Europe, he pointed out in his Guardian article how the British have managed to preserve even the most mundane, old buildings, just because of their architectural and aesthetic brilliance.

The author, who first started the campaign online and sought signatures, stated in his expression note how the old-world Kolkata is fast falling prey to the real estate mafia. While the online petition received nearly 2,000 signatures in a matter of days, Chaudhuri said, “I am an admirer of Kolkata’s neighbourhoods. Its architecture is not just confined to colonial legacy or north Kolkata-based buildings owned by landed families. But there are many interesting architectures spread across the city which were built by the educated middle-class in the past,” Chaudhuri said. This petition also drew support from Sen, who has spent years amid the heritage corridors of educational institutes in Kolkata, England and the US.

The real deal for such an initiative, however, is to get the administration’s attention, admitted those pushing the initiative. While Das talked about the apathy of Kolkata Municipal Corporation, which is in charge of refreshing the city’s ‘heritage list’, Mayor Sovan Chatterjee seemed oblivious to such concerns.

Chaudhuri noted how bodies like the West Bengal Heritage Commission, entrusted with the job of refurbishing the list from time to time seem mostly toothless. “…the list of heritage buildings should be urgently revised and various neighbourhoods should be declared heritage zones,” Chaudhuri said.

While the author asked for empowering the Commission for better functioning, Das echoed his thoughts. A former member of the commission, he submitted a proposal to introduce transfer of development rights or TDR in 2013. A successful process at Mumbai and Ahmedabad, TDR provides a residential building owner to retain it, with the developer buying the land getting to build elsewhere where new construction is not an issue. There has been no move in the direction of allowing TDR, he said.

Chaudhuri hopes that like in Europe, owner of old buildings will take up the cause themselves and fight to preserve the character of their localities. The administration, however, continues to remain aloof, even after the Nobel laureate economist wrote a letter of support to Chaudhuri, stating, “We owe to future generations a preserved and un-mutilated heritage of Calcutta’s eccentric but exciting old buildings.

source: / Deccan Herald / Home> Special Features / by Drimi Chaudhuri,Kolkata / May 29th, 2016

Indian-American scientist wins Springer Theses Award

Mr. De has dedicated his PhD thesis to cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar and his alma mater, Kolkata’s Presidency University.

An Indian-American scientist has received the prestigious Springer Theses Award in recognition for his outstanding research in which he developed transgenic mice to study a critical tumour-suppressor called A20.

Arnab De’s thesis was nominated by New York’s Columbia University. Before this, Mr. De, who has also developed peptide-based prodrugs as therapeutics for diabetes, had received the Young Investigator Award at the American Peptide Symposium.

The thesis prize is awarded by Springer, a leading global publisher of renowned scientific journals and books, to recognise outstanding PhD research.

Internationally top-ranked research institutes select their best thesis annually for publication in the book series: “Springer Theses: Recognising Outstanding PhD research”.

Additionally, winners also get a cash prize of 500 euros.

The research work was highlighted by the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) Reports.

Only research considered to be of ‘fundamental relevance to a general readership’ is chosen to be highlighted by EMBO.

Mr. De has dedicated his PhD thesis to cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar and his alma mater, Kolkata’s Presidency University.

Mr. De said: “Two things that have influenced me the most is sports and education. This thesis is dedicated to Sachin Tendulkar not only for the cricketing joy he provided me, but also for being a constant source of inspiration to all Indian youth.”

Ole John Nielsen (University of Copenhagen), who shared the 2007 Nobel peace Prize as a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change along with US vice president Al Gore, had in 2012 described the Springer award as an “insanely great honour”.

source: / The Hindu / Home> International / PTI / Singapore – May 28th, 2016

Start-ups… straight from the (he)art

It is often said that a successful start-up is like a love affair: demanding, but has its own prize. The story of Kultprit is like that, but with a twist. It all started when Salt Lake boy Saumya Jain, with a background in mining, went to London for a cousin’s wedding. He had no clue how his life was going to change.

Saumya always had a passion for fashion. Though he never had any formal training, he followed fashion trends and dreamt of starting a fashion start-up in Kolkata. But the fear of moving out of the mainstream always bothered him. In London, during a ride in the underground, he met Olena, a young Ukrainian girl. They had an instant connection, and love blossomed. Olena was mad about fashion and was working in the fashion industry in London, and Saumya always dreamt of the perfect partner with whom he could share his life and passion. Kultprit was born out of their love.

The merchandising brand has a website that deals in clothes and accessories. It has slowly carved a niche in the international circuit. “Kultprit was born in July 2014. We just got married, came back to Kolkata and wanted to do something different. So we decided to unite our passion for fashion and form a brand that represents the spirit of youth,” says Saumya.

The brand employs eight permanent designers and several freelancers from all around the world. “Designers and doodlers from India, Brazil, the UK, Singapore, Spain, Ukraine, the Czech Republic regularly contribute for us. Though Kultprit is our brainchild, it is also a stage for the amazingly talented young designers around the world to showcase their talent,” Olena says.

Speaking on the brands sustainability and future Olena said, “Kultprit is not only a fashion label. We support lot of fashion influencers around the world. Musicians, bloggers, actors and artists all over the world who give out strong messages to the youth are our fashion influencers. They are not our brand promoters but we are inspired by their work and in turn promote them though our designs,”

Colours used to intrigue Ranodeep Das since childhood. When teachers demonstrated algebra problems, he was busy scribbling and sketching a bird’s nest he could see outside the window. Since childhood, almost like every 90s kid, he was in love with Batman and Superman. And as he grew up, the idea of designing these characters and their merchandise came to him. And he gradually realized that the young generation was increasingly getting addicted towards customizable products.

When all his friends were busy hunting for mainstream careers, this young entrepreneur chose to have his own start-up: Rare Planet. On being asked how he dreamt up such an idea, Ronodeep says: “Everybody loves celebrity merchandise, customizable and designer products. And that is how I thought of the idea of Rare Planet.” Rare Planet designs superhero-themed earthen pots, kettles and wall art. Among the various products that Rare Planet has, the best are the colourful busts of Hellboy, Bane and the Joker. It also makes customized masks and movie memorabilia.

For Ekta Bhattacharya , it all started when she saw a poster of Satyajit Ray’s ‘Gupi Gayen Bagha Bayen’ at Nandan. She fell in love with the illustration. Since then, the girl from Barrackpore looked up to the other side of Ray — the illustrator — for inspiration. “I always loved painting, but Ray’s illustrations gave me direction,” she recalls. “Though I was never interested in a mainstream career, I was not sure of becoming a poster artist either. It happened by chance. A friend of mine, a short-film maker, asked me to design a poster for his film. He suggested I paint it, as it is rarely done nowadays. I always wanted to do a poster like that and readily agreed. It got lots of praise. I then realized this is what I am actually good at. I realized that that was who I am — a designer,” Ekta says. She launched her company — Ekta’s — in 2015, and leads a team of seven designers.
Her painted posters were hugely appreciated by artists like Soumitra Chattopadhay, Anupam Kher and Mahesh Bhatt. Ekta even painted a poster for Mahesh Bhatt’s last production ‘Hamari Adhuri Kahani’. “Money has never been the driving factor. It is the creative satisfaction that I derive working for my clients. Each one of them is a challenge,” she says.

From a very young age, Sharmila Dutta never liked looking at things devoid of colour. When kids of her age were busy playing, she choose to scribble and paint the walls of her room. Sharmila took this love forward and formed Colorblot , her start-up for those seeking customized walls an ​ interior designing.
Her company aims to design and customize rooms according to customers’ needs. “I have painted a lot of walls in people’s homes. Getting your wall painted is like getting a tattoo done. The art becomes a part of your existence,” she feels.

Sukanya Majumder never thought she would someday form a brand that would style some of the biggest Tollywood actors. The Behala girl was always into dancing and play-acting in her school days. But when she went to college, she saw herself in a new light. Her fondness for mingling metal and art became her calling.

“It was in college that I first met Neha Panda, who was a well-known stylist then. I was intrigued by her work. I thought about creating jewellery differently for people to wear it at work and play. Why not create something that is a statement and becomes part of one’s identity? It is then that I formed Sukanya’s, in end-2014,” she recalls.

Sukanya’s makes all kinds of daily wearable jewellery, from anklets to arty jhumkas and Rastafarian headgear. Everything she does is customizable. “I try to make my creations in a way that reflects the identity of my customers. Whatever one wants to wear, I try to make,” Sukanya says.

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kolkata / by Sayan Mazumder & Abhro Banerjee / May 28th, 2016

Darjeeling girls scale Mount Everest

– College students from hills make up first all-girl team of NCC to conquer the highest peak

Trishala Gurung (left) and Sulaxchana Tamang. File picture
Trishala Gurung (left) and Sulaxchana Tamang. File picture

Darjeeling :

The first all-girl team of the National Cadet Corps to Mount Everest, which included two college students from Darjeeling, has successfully climbed the world’s tallest peak.

Trishala Gurung and Sulaxchana Tamang, who study at Southfield College and Ghoom Degree College in Darjeeling, respectively, were among the 10 girls to be selected from across the country to be part of the NCC team to scale the highest peak.

Speaking over the phone from Delhi, Lt. Col. Umang Kohli, additional director publicity, NCC (headquarters), said: “It is confirmed that the first all-girl team of the NCC has successfully climbed Mount Everest. They were part of a 19-member group which reached the summit. The NCC team has done us proud.”

The expedition team consisted of 10 NCC girls selected from across the country and 15 officers. Of the total 25 members, five, including the team doctor, were to stay at the base camp. “Of the 20 members, who were to climb the peak, 19, including 11 girls, have succeeded,” said Lt. Col. Kohli.

Only one NCC team member could not reach the top.

Om Prakash Tamang, father of Sulaxchana, 21, said: “My daughter called me around 7am today. She had just returned to the base camp. She said the team had successfully climbed Mount Everest. We are very happy.”

According to Om Prakash, Sulaxchana was part of the first batch to climb the summit.

Ganesh Gurung, father of Trishala, 22, said she had called him this evening to confirm the success of the team.

Lt. Col. Kohli said the team had climbed the peak in two batches on May 21 and 22.

Preparation for the expedition by the NCC team had started more than a year back. In November 2014, 100 girls from across the country had been selected for training at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling.

After completing a nearly one-month training, 40 girls were shortlisted in February 2015. “The 40 girls were then taken to climb Mount Deo Tibba (19,688ft) in Himachal Pradesh. After the 41-day expedition, 15 girls were selected for another expedition,” said Ganesh.

Between August and October 2015, the 15 girls were taken to an expedition to Mount Trishul (23,353ft) in Uttarakhand. After 50 days of that expedition, 10 girls were selected to scale Mount Everest.

The team led by Col. Gaurav Karki was flagged off in Delhi on March 9.

Mountaineer in Siliguri hospital

Chetna Sahu from Calcutta, who developed frostbites while descending from the summit of Mount Everest, has been admitted to a private nursing home in Siliguri. She climbed the peak, along with her husband Pradip.

source: / The Telegraph,Calcutta,India / Front Page> North Bengal> Story / Vivek Chhetri / Wednesday – May 25th, 2016

Nezone-Ok Play in pact to make indigenous e-rickshaws

Kolkata :

City based Nezone Group and leading moulded plastic maker Ok Play has forged a partnership to manufacture indigenous e-rickshaws.

“We have collaborated with Ok Play to manufacture eastern region’s first ICAT (International Centre for Automotive Technology) and Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) approved e-rickshaw,” Nezone group managing director M L Beswal told .

As steel pipe producer it is forward integration for us as we will be providing the chasis of the e-vehicle, he added.

Calcutta High Court’s direction to the West Bengal government to form a high-power committee to take steps against unauthorized e-rickshaws comes as a boon for us, he said.

According to estimates, over a lakh e-rickshaws are plying across the state, most of which are either built with Chinese components and are unable to meet regulatory requirements.

PSU banks have also approved this product which will help buyers to get subsidised Mudra scheme loan to purchase the vehicle.

This is a complete green vehicle as even components used for body are all UV stable plastic body which is non-polluting, long lasting and edge free, Nezone officials said.

Feasibility is being carried out to make solar powered e-rickshaw as well, Benswal said.

He said if some direct fiscal benefit scheme is offered by the West Bengal government it would help in quick switchover to authorised e-rickshaw in the state.

The Delhi government has announced a subsidy of Rs 15,000 per e-rickshaw. The Maharashtra government has waived registration charges on such vehicles.

Several state governments have waived VAT on e-rickshaws. The union government has reduced central excise to 6 per cent on these battery operated vehicles.

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kolkata / PTI / May 26th, 2016

Kolkata’s Indian Museum Collection Going Online With Google


Kolkata :

Beginning with its prized collection of Buddhist art including the famous Gandhara sculptures, the Indian Museum is now putting all of its galleries for 360- degree panoramic viewing for anyone to see online.

As part of a tie-up with the Google Cultural Institute, which allows art lovers to explore artifacts from all over the world on its website, the Indian Museum is launching an e-version of its exquisite exhibition titled Indian Buddhist Art on Wednesday.

Among the important highlights in the exhibit include a sculpture of the head of Buddha from fifth century in Sarnath which is featured even in school textbooks.

“This is the first virtual exhibition we are organising after which all our galleries will gradually be available on the Google Cultural Institute website,” museum director Jayanta Sengupta told PTI.

IMAGE CREDIT :  /  Buddha' First Sermon (100-200 C.E) by unknown exhibited at Indian Musuem pubilshed on google cultural institute website.
IMAGE CREDIT : / Buddha’ First Sermon (100-200 C.E) by unknown exhibited at Indian Musuem pubilshed on google cultural institute website.

Three galleries, including those on Buddhist sculptures, are ready for 360-degree panoramic viewing on the internet. “This allows anyone to have a walk through the gallery and see it as you do it with your eyes. You can scroll around to see even the ceiling and the floor,” he said.

Since last year a team of Google from the UK and the US have been working hard with their specialised and patented camera technology to click high-resolution photos of the treasures lying in the museum.

The process is taking time because the work can only be done on Mondays when the museum is closed to visitors. It is expected that all galleries will be online within a year’s time.

Over 200 years old, Indian Museum is the oldest and the largest multi-purpose museum in Asia.

The biggest repository of Indian antiquity, some of the museum’s prized possessions include an Egyptian mummy, Buddhist stupa from Bharhut, Buddha’s ashes, Ashoka pillar, fossil skeletons of pre-historic animals and a collection of meteorites.

For some of such cultural and historical treasures, the museum is also planning to have gigapixel images which will allow magnification upto a thousand times.

“If it’s a painting then you can see all intricate details like even the brush strokes. Seeing a gigapixel image is like putting the object under microscope,” Mr Sengupta said.

The musuem director rejects suggestions that once all galleries are online the number of visitors at their campus will decrease.

“Internationally this has been the case. After people see it online they are more motivated to see the real thing and so they walk into the museum,” he said.

Spread over 10,000 square feet area, it boasts of over sixty galleries of art, archeology, anthropology, geology, zoology and botany sections.

It houses rare artifacts of great archival and heritage value numbering more than a lakh.

source: / NDTV / Home> Sections> All India / Press Trust of India / May 24th, 2016

National Award for HA girl

Moumita Roy on stage with President Pranab Mukherjee, Arun Jaitley and Rajyavardhan Rathore
Moumita Roy on stage with President Pranab Mukherjee, Arun Jaitley and Rajyavardhan Rathore

HA Block has produced a National Award winner. Twenty-eight-year-old Moumita Roy earlier this month was awarded the National Film Award for Best Non-Feature Film Audiography for Edpa Kana, a film in the Kurukh language of Jharkhand.

“I wasn’t expecting this award. In fact, I had forgotten that the film had been sent for the National Awards,” laughs the fresh pass-out of Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI). The winning film was the final year diploma project that she and three of her classmates had to make as part of their course and Moumita was handling the audiography.

“Audiography includes all the dialogues, music and sounds that we hear while watching a film. One has to get the right balance between them,” says Moumita. The director of the film was her classmate Niranjan Kujur who belongs to Jharkhand’s Oraon tribe and speaks Kurukh. The film is about a tribal boy of the Sarna faith who falls in love with a tribal girl who follows Christianity.

“Most of the film was shot in Jharkhand and the actors were Niranjan’s relatives. We were using sync sound (in which dialogues do not get dubbed over in the studio later) so mics had to be hidden in the actors’ clothing. We were shooting in the winter of 2014 and the mics kept picking up rustle of the actors’ winter garments,” recalls the HA 36 resident.

The 26-minute-long Edpa Kana has been making a mark in the festival circuit too but the National Award is the icing on the cake. “The ceremony in New Delhi was very formal. I received the award from the President and was off stage in a few seconds. There was a lot of security protocol too so I didn’t get to speak to other award recipients but I got to meet Sanjay Kurien, who won best audiography (location sound recordist) for the film Talvar.

Her parents watched the ceremony from the audience. “Our daughter. is good at everything she does,” says mother Sikha.

“I have been receiving calls and Facebook messages from relatives, neighbours and even school friends I had lost touch with,” she laughs.

She also won Rs 50,000 with which she plans to buy sound equipment. “As of now I’m working on a freelance basis in Calcutta. Let’s see what happens next,” she smiles.

source: / The Telegraph,Calcutta,India / Front Page> Salt Lake> Story / by Brinda Sarkar / Friday – May 20th, 2016