Monthly Archives: July 2016

Very warm, also blunt – The thing is… that I have to write – Mahaswetadi to Bengali literature, Ma to tribals

Mahaswetadi and I have quite a few things in common. Both our fathers are poets; both of us have four-syllabled names; both our nicknames are Khuku; and both of us were born on Poush Sankranti.

I remember seeing her father Manish Ghatak and her in our house in my childhood. Mahaswetadi was very affectionate towards me and treated me as a sister far younger in years. Possibly because she was the eldest of 10 siblings and had practically raised all of them, there was that maternal air about her.

Her mother Dharitri Devi, who brought out a Little Magazine, was often ill. If Mahaswetadi was maturer than her years I, a single child, was far more naive than my age.

I have seen her remake herself time and again, breaking the barriers of middle-class life and values. She never cared for public opinion. Smoking cigarettes and bidis, marrying twice, roaming villages in keds shoes – she did exactly what she pleased. I admired her hugely.


She was writing her newspaper columns -in Jugantar – besides teaching in Vijaygarh College. In her single-room establishment in a mess in Ballygunge Station Road, she did much of her writing besides keeping an open house. It bustled with people – friends, folks from the villages, her pet cat… she would cook for everyone. I would drop by often on my way back from Jadavpur University.

She was tremendously hard-working. While she was very warm, she was also blunt. (This is perhaps the only virtue of hers that I share!) Many who did not know her well feared her. Like most members of her family, Mahaswetadi had a wonderful singing voice. She was Suchitradi (Mitra)’s contemporary in Santiniketan.

The one image of her coming most to my mind today is of the day when my father (Narendra Dev) passed away. She sat on folded knees by his bed, singing one Rabindrasangeet after another. That was all we needed, my mother and I, to deal with that moment.

It was awe-inspiring how, relinquishing her middle-class identity, she chose to embrace the cause of the Shabars, and more importantly got accepted as one of them. What did she not do for them – staying in their huts, sharing their food, opening her home to them, highlighting their problems through her writings, even fighting long-lasting court cases on their behalf spending money from her own pocket…. She tried to understand them by analysing our socio-political history and showed us how they have continued being victims of the feudal system.

She showed how history and society are against those who work – be it tribals, be it women. She rebelled against the feudal system, be it the land system or the social structure. When her name was raised for the Jnanpith Award, some members objected to her nomination saying she was an anthropologist. We had to point out that no, she was a writer.

That award gave her national renown and led to her Hindi translations. Meeting Gayatri (Chakravorty Spivak) was a turning point in her life. She presented her as the voice of the subaltern.

Had Gayatri not translated her work into English, Mahaswetadi would not have become the international figure that she is. She is taught in various universities abroad.

I remember at a meeting on Nandigram how she urged a woman who had been gangraped to speak up.

She never called herself a feminist but in her writings she always sided with oppressed women, who are doubly victimised if they are from “untouchable” communities.

Mahaswetadi has made her place in the history of the Shabar tribe and of Bengali literature.

As told to Sudeshna Banerjee

source: / The Telegraph,Calcutta,India / Front Page> Calcutta> Story / by Nabaneeta Dev Sen / Friday – July 29th, 2016

There will never be another Indian soldier-diplomat like you, Ms. Ghose

C’est n’est qu’un au revoir


Journalist: “Ambassador, Madam Ambassador, is India walking out of the talks?”

Ambassador: “India is going to the loo.”

The journalist was a correspondent for a Japanese news agency. The Ambassador was Arundhati Ghose who passed away this week (1940-2016). She was the Indian Ambassador to United Nations (UN) in Geneva. The year was 1996 – she was negotiating the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) on behalf of 900 million Indians. The diminutive lady with a cigarette in one hand, papers in the other and India in her heart single-handedly wreaked havoc on the Conference on Disarmament (CD). She did this for India.

Leading from the front and all guns blazing, she defended India’s decision to oppose the treaty. The talks hinged on India’s decision and pressure on New Delhi to sign the skewed and dishonest CTBT was multi-pronged and fierce. She didn’t blink – diplomats will tell you what blinking in such negotiations can mean. No she didn’t blink and ensured no one in India did either. That is an even more difficult task for an Indian diplomat to achieve.

I covered the talks. Staking out with hundreds of journalists at the UN became normal life if not at GATT-WTO, then at the UN. Has Ms. Ghose spoken to India, has Washington spoken to India, will India sign, do you know anything, what is she going to do next went the drift. I felt good – this was a great story.

More importantly, in all my years of reporting from abroad including from the UN, I had never seen an Indian diplomat defending India’s interests with such force, grit, grace and determination. At the GATT-WTO, down the road from the UN, India was conceding paragraph by clause on trade and market access to the demands of the very same P5 who were being dismantled by Ms. Ghose for their double-speak and hypocrisy at the CD.

Didn’t national interest include protecting trade interests? For a journalist, the contrast was stark and which each passing day, I admired Ms. Ghose. If she could do it, why not the other guys down the road? The answer was and continues to be simple – she was a committed Indian, India’s defence interests were not just a treaty, it was her soul and her substance. She walked and talked national security, especially South Asian security.

Picture this. Press conferences during the negotiations were held throughout the day with all of us chasing the P5 (United States, United Kingdom, France, China and Russia), sharing notes, placing each others’ tape recorders in strategic places – laptops and mobile telephones had just debuted. The more important CTBT press conferences were held in a large room, always jam-packed. What will India do or what do you think India will do was almost always the first question.

One such presser was called as the endgame neared. Sitting on the stage with the P5 manel, Ms. Ghose was unperturbed, taking notes, as Ambassador after Ambassador said New Delhi would be held responsible for the CTBT’s collapse. At one point a western P5 Ambassador said “…the people of the world want this treaty.” Ms. Ghose jumped in. Hello, she said. “Which people…I represent 900 million people and you will not ignore the wishes of my people. We are not signing the CTBT text on the table.” In a spontaneous gesture journalists were on their feet applauding Ms. Ghose. The logic was on India’s side – the world had failed its CTBT mandate. The air was electric.

In 1993 the UN gave the then 38-nation Geneva-based CD its first comprehensive mandate to negotiate a test ban treaty at the earliest. The scope of the proposed treaty quickly emerged as the most important and contentious aspect of the negotiations. Linked to the scope were verification and compliance protocols which obviously meant on-site inspections. An international monitoring system would check cheaters but fears grew that this was a fishing expedition in disguise.

Just ahead of the CTBT, India said that the indefinite extension of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) – a gift the then nuclear weapons states had given to each other to blow the world apart – was an act of bad faith. Given that reality, New Delhi said any meaningful CTBT could not be a standalone piece and must be part of a time-bound global disarmament process. That set the cat among the pigeons, then.

How did Ms. Ghose handle it? How many phone calls did the Indian Prime Minister take? It was a long way from Arkansas to Haradhanahalli – maybe the Indian Prime Minister was resting when the phone rang, maybe the two men just didn’t understand each other. All we knew was that Ms. Ghose had a mandate and she was going to work it for her people. Ambassadors are supposed to do just that. Serve their countries.

Ms. Ghose did all the heavy lifting and then there were moments that tugged at your heartstrings. She told me about a visit to a bank during one of her trips to New Delhi. The clerk looked at her name, jumped up, told her the entire nation was behind her as she negotiated the ‘NTPC’ in Geneva – such was the groundswell of support for her. There were other anecdotes, of people stopping her on the streets of India, Ms. Ghose and the journalists hanging out in Geneva over peels of laughter even as she scolded us for following her to the loo or not allowing her a peaceful moment for a puff at 3 a.m.

As I write this, I wonder if Ms. Ghose is not telling god what she thinks of the man with the yellow hair trying to make his way to the White House. There will never be another like you Ms. Ghose. This is but a goodbye.

source: / The News Minute / Home / by Chitra Subramanian / Wednesday – July 27th, 2016

Dial S for Shepreneur

If you have an idea and wish to turn it into a business, dial S for Swayam.

Swayam, a business consultancy cell for new and existing women entrepreneurs, was launched by FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO) on Tuesday. Goa governor Mridula Sinha was invited to launch the project as Anuradha Lohia, Presidency University vice-chancellor, chatted with her on the “changing role of women” in front of an audience of around 200 FLO members at Taj Bengal.

Governor of Goa Mridula Sinha (centre) launches Swayam, the business consultancy cell of FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO), with Anuradha Lohia, vice-chancellor of Presidency University (left) and Anupama Sureka, chairperson, FLO Calcutta, at Taj Bengal on Tuesday. Picture by B. Halder
Governor of Goa Mridula Sinha (centre) launches Swayam, the business consultancy cell of FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO), with Anuradha Lohia, vice-chancellor of Presidency University (left) and Anupama Sureka, chairperson, FLO Calcutta, at Taj Bengal on Tuesday. Picture by B. Halder

“The changing role of women goes hand-in-hand with the changing role of men,” said Sinha, who described herself as a “familist” – as opposed to “feminist” – to emphasise the importance of family support, especially from male members, in a woman’s journey to success.

Eight mentors are part of the Swayam team in Calcutta. “We will step in at places where women need help like writing business propositions, raising funds, getting them familiarised with government policies and marketing,” said mentor Nayantara Palchoudhuri, who was the first woman president of the Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The mentors have been prepping up in order to deliver their best. “I did a course on motivation because I was going to be part of this motivational team of Swayam members,” said Suksham Singh, who runs Lifeline Foundation, a free tele-helpline service for the depressed and suicidal.

“If a woman wants to get into a particular area of business, she needs to be told the ABC of business. Say, it is food processing. That’s not my area of expertise but I will put her on to experts. The mentors’ job will be to network… we are going to see that she gets all the attention she needs to take her down that path. They can be young or old… I’m looking for someone who’s 65 and wants to start a business!” added Suksham, who also opened the first all-women petrol pump in Alipore in 2004.

“As of now, Swayam is open to all women and students and not restricted to FLO members. Consultancy is available for a nominal fee, charged only so we get serious proposals,” ” said Anupama Sureka, chairperson, FLO Calcutta.

You can reach Swayam in Calcutta at 9163167789 and

source: / The Telegraph,Calcutta,India / Front Page> Calcutta> Story / by A Staff Reporter / Wednesday- July 27th, 2016

East India’s first cadaver liver transplant in Kolkata

Kolkata (IANS) :

Bolstering efforts to carry out cadaver organ transplants in West Bengal, a team of doctors at a private hospital here on Tuesday night performed what is possibly eastern India’s first such liver transplant in the city, the hospital said in a statement.

Family members of a 53-year-old male patient – Samar Chakraborty – who was declared brain dead on Monday assented to the procedure to transplant the liver that is expected to bequeath a new lease of life to a 46-year-old female recipient with liver damage.

The liver, the most important solid organ in the body, was transplanted to 46-year-old Madhuri Saha, a patient with a known case of autoimmune hepatitis, decompensated cirrhosis, ascites, hepatic encephalopathy and hypersplenism by a team of doctors at the Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals.

Following the necessary tests to validate an adequate match, gastroenterologist Mahesh Goenka and his team undertook a successful harvest and transplant of this vital organ.

Chakraborty had a history of diabetes and hypertension, and was suffering from chronic kidney disease. Admitted only recently at a hospital in north Kolkata with Intra Cerebral Haemorrhage, he had gone into a deep coma, suffering irreversible brain damage.

He was shifted to Apollo, where a panel comprising leading doctors from the hospital and the health department of the West Bengal government evaluated his condition and declared him brain dead.

The family consented to multi-organ retrieval, and following the completion of necessary formalities regarding blood type and stability of the organs, the process was undertaken.

Last month, a 70-year-old brain dead woman here bequeathed a new lease of life to four persons, with her kidneys and cornea successfully transplanted in the city’s first multi-organ cadaver donation operation.
–IANS / ssp/pgh/

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kolkata / IANS / July 27th, 2016

Our celebs are charging a bomb for Khuti Pujos


The lucrative business of celebs’ public appearances is known to one and all. In a state where people celebrate baro mashe tero parbon, festivities are aplenty all year round.

From mega stars to fringe celebrities — routine appearances during festivals like Durga Puja are great opportunities to earn those extra bucks, sometimes running into lakhs. But cutting the ceremonial satin ribbon to throw a Puja open is so last century.

With Durga Puja becoming bigger by the day, celebrations now begin from Ratha Yatra — which marks the making of the kathamo or the wooden frame on which the Durga idol is built.

Khuti Pujo, as it’s famously called, is now a rage with Puja committees going all out to make their paras bask in the reflected glory of stardom.

For celebs too, it’s the new Puja inauguration. The remuneration has been worked out, the list of dos and don’ts drawn up and a schedule added to their busy planners.

For some, however, the handsome paycheck is not the key factor — good PR is. Ever since Soham joined the political fray, he has not been charging a penny for showing up at Khuti Pujos. It’s the same with Rituparna Sengupta and Paoli, who attend the ceremony only on request. Rituparna has been to Khuti Pujos organised by ministers and bureaucrats whereas Paoli has done the same for those close to her. The latter charged approximately a lakh last year for attending a Khuti Pujo, but this year things are different. Then, there are those who are squeezing out an extra hour from their choc-a-bloc diaries as the reward is alluring.

Rachna Banerjee, we hear, takes anywhere between Rs 50 – Rs 70K to attend a Khuti Pujo. If she is familiar with the Puja committee, she travels by the car sent to her by the organisers; else, she travels by her own and gets the petrol bill reimbursed. Being choosy, she has turned down several offers to attend such a ceremony. On the other hand, she has attended many for free just for the rapport she shares with the organisers.

Sreelekha Mitra, who has already attended one this year, charged Rs 50K for it. Her remuneration goes up depending on the distance and she takes up an offer only if it is to her liking. Koneenica Banerjee, who attended the Khuti Pujo of Tridhara and Hindustan Park ‘out of love’, has several offers from Hazra, Baranagore, Barrackpore and Dum Dum lined up in the next few days. The actress charges Rs 50 – Rs 60K depending on the place and the time she needs to spend there.

As per Puja committees, it costs a bit more if they wish to get Tonushree Chakraborty or Paayel Sarkar on board, who charge somewhere between Rs 70k – Rs 80k. Tonushree has already attended six such ceremonies this year, while Paayel has been to four. On the other hand, Monami Ghosh has always remained a favourite with many. The actress, who charges `30k, stays for around 30 minutes and travels by the committee’s car. If she is attending one on the outskirts of Kolkata, the remuneration goes up to Rs 35k. Another hot favourite with Puja organisers is Vikram Chatterjee, who shot to fame with a popular megaserial. He charges around Rs 25k – Rs30k per event and stays for around 15 minutes. Last year, he attended three Khuti Pujos and 18 inaugurations and the numbers are set to soar this year. All the payments are made in advance to rule out complications of a starry kind later.

*The figures mentioned in the article are approximate and have been shared by Pujo organisers.

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kolkata / Zinia Sen & Ruman Ganguly / July 25th, 2016