Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Shah Rukh to Promote ‘Sweet’ Bengal

Our Correspondent Kolkata: Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan will promote West Bengal as the ‘sweetest’ tourist destination in the country, as the state government goes on an overdrive to attract domestic and foreign travellers.

“We have roped in Shah Rukh for promoting tourist destinations in West Bengal. He will soon come over to the city for a two-day shoot,” state tourism minister Bratya Basu told newspersons today.

“New advertisement films will be made featuring Shah Rukh in both Hindi and English,” Basu said, adding that a ₹8 crore budget has been earmarked to showcase the state as an attractive tourist destination. Road shows would be held in seven cities across the country to attract tourists to the state with a new catchline ‘Experience Bengal—The Sweetest Part of India’, he said.

With the Durga Puja coming up in the third week of October, the state tourism department has devised several package tours. People can avail these tours and enjoy the festivities in the metropolis as well as in other parts of the state. The yours during the festival would be from one of eight hours that would cover popular pujas in different parts of the city. There’s also a two-day schedule that would take tourists to see pujas in different districts.

A Reader's Heaven

Our CorrespondentKolkata: Book lovers of the city have been enjoying a gala time just ahead of Durga puja with the week-long Boi Bazaar (book market), a pre-puja book festival, going on at the Nandan-Rabindrasadan area. This year the festival began with a simple traditional ceremony at the Bangla Academy Sabhaghar on 26 September. The book-festival will continue till 4 October. 

The bazaar
Boi Bazaar offers incredible discount on all sorts of books. The festival this year, with more than 30 stalls of various publishing houses like Ananda Publishers, Mitra & Ghosh, Dey's Publishing, Sahitya Academy, Subarnarekha, Naya Udyog and Gangchil etc, is offering more than 25 to 50 per cent off on books. 

A college student Rijurekho Roy, who is visiting the gala event for the first time, could not believe his ears when he first heard discounted price of some of his dream books. However, some customers have complained about quality of such discounted products. They told that most of those books are in bad shape. Nevertheless, there is no shortage of enthusiasm. People are coming to Boi Bazaar to bring home their favourite reading desires.  

The Maharaja, a Vacant Chair, and a Coup

Prabuddha Neogi writes on Saurav Ganguly's elevation to the president's chair at the CAB, a decision which is largely guided by political interests rather than cricketing reasons

Former India captain, Saurav Ganguly, has driven all opposition out of the window and is now sitting tight on the president’s chair at the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB). His selection is the result of a carefully engineered plan perfected to the hilt, behind the closed doors of Nabanna, the West Bengal government secretariat.

It may be recalled that West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, appointed Ganguly as the top boss of Bengal cricket on 24 September, in the presence of senior CAB officials and state government ministers. 

What led Banerjee to involve herself with the CAB can be easily guessed. CAB is the most powerful sports organisation in the state and planting someone in the president’s chair will definitely lead to having a greater say in the state of affairs of the game at the national level. Besides, Mamata didn’t appoint any Tom, Dick, and Harry of her party to the president’s chair. It had to be Ganguly, the most influential cricket personality in West Bengal.

Popular opinion about Ganguly, at least in this state, is overwhelmingly in his favour. The hugely emotional race that Bengalis are, this was one decision that the public didn’t oppose. Dada, as Ganguly is fondly called in the state, can’t err, and that’s the general belief. Not even when he went knocking at the chief minister’s door so that she could throw all weight behind him to fill the chair which fell vacant after the death of Jagmohan Dalmiya.

Dalmiya's son Avishek (left), Ganguly, and Banerjee (front) at Nabanna
But what came as a shocker to the cricketing fraternity, was the way in which the chief minister announced Ganguly to helm Bengal cricket. She did it much in the style of announcing a Trinamool Congress (TMC) subcommittee, the party which she heads. Never, not even in the 34 years of Left rule in the state, was a sports administrator’s name announced from the annals of power.

That Banerjee and her party want to have a say in the affairs of every organisation is nothing new. Right from the schools, colleges and hospitals, TMC mandarins are found in the governing body of every other association. Even the 15-member committee to look after the T20 World Cup matches to be held at the Eden Gardens, has only four CAB office bearers. One of them, Dalmiya himself, is no more. Senior TMC leaders in the committee include Firhad Hakim, Arup Roy, Subrata Mukherjee, Partha Chatterjee, Arup Biswas, Krishnendu Narayan Choudhury, Jyotipriyo Mallik, Jawed Khan, city mayor Sovan Chatterjee, and MP Sultan Ahmed.

All the 121 affiliated clubs are annoyed over Ganguly’s selection. None of the clubs’ opinion was sought before the appointment. Besides, the law of the land states that an elected chair can be filled only by a fresh election. Ganguly’s appointment, in a way, has violated the principles of natural justice. Sources close to the development informed that former Mohun Bagan assistant general secretary Srinjoy Bose, along with his set of followers, was about to lobby before Banerjee for the CAB top job. Ganguly, sensing the move, pipped Bose to the post and successfully garnered the chief minister’s support.

Dalmiya fiercely guarded CAB from all outside influence
There are other uncomfortable questions that have no answers. While the CAB office was Dalmiya’s second home, Ganguly’s time is divided between his academy, cricket commentary, hosting TV game shows, brand endorsements and several other activities. How much time he can really devote to the game, is a big question. Besides, Dalmiya, one of the best administrators of world cricket, had protected CAB, an organisation that was much like his child, from all political interference and vested interests. Not even the then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee could bite his teeth by campaigning heavily for his handpicked presidential candidate Prasun Mukhopadhyay. Bhattacharjee was also despised by his party for blatantly involving in the electioneering of a sports organisation, something which the then ruling Left Front government never endorsed. Dalmiya had made several political heavyweights bite the dust for wanting to politicise CAB, an organisation which he passionately guarded from all influences.  But it’s surprising that the same officials who had rallied behind Dalmiya and won him against Mukhopadhyay, have now fallen silent. Maybe it’s because of the absence of Dalmiya himself. Maybe the voices have now been stymied from Nabanna.

Last heard, some of the clubs are seeking legal opinion and are scouring  a ‘safe’ way to move a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the appointment. A court case, undeniably, would bring ignominy to Ganguly. Worst still would be an interim order staying the selection. But the clubs are treading the path cautiously because none wants to earn the wrath of Banerjee.

Ganguly’s echelon to power, regardless of the manner, is unlikely to alter the larger Bengali psyche. Neither the Marathis, nor the Kannad, are melodramatically emotional about their cricketing icons Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, like Ganguly in West Bengal. He is petnamed Maharaja (the king) and who doesn’t know that the king can do no wrong.

The writer is the chief editor of WebPressClub

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Eastern Railway Introduces Puja Special Trains

Our CorrespondentKolkata: Eastern Railway, keeping in mind heavy rush during the impending festive season, has decided to run 45 pairs of puja special trains, thereby creating an additional 2,14,296 berths to cater to the long waitlisted passengers. The trains will run in October and November and reach various destinations like Alipurduar, New Jalpaiguri, Kamakhya, Puri, Nautanwa, Raxaul, Patna, Haridwar, Anand Vihar, Lokmanya Tilak, and others. 

Eastern Railway general manager, RK Gupta, released the Combined Mail/Express Time Table for Eastern Zone (Eastern Railway, East Central Railway and Northeast Frontier Railway) in the city today, as well as the Combined Time Table for Suburban Services of Eastern Railway, South Eastern Railway and Metro Railway.

Gupta said that the preparation of the time table was a year-long exercise, during which a number of suggestions were received from various passenger associations, people’s representatives, rail users and the civil society. All suggestions were examined at the divisional and headquarters level, considering all the ground realities and possibilities, he said. Several changes were made to suit to rail users.  The time table, Gupta said, will be effective from 1 October.

Some services have been extended keeping in mind passenger demand. A few new services have also been introduced. Some trains have been augmented with permanent coaches, while in a few others, additional coaches have been appended as a temporary measure. 

The new time table includes the change of terminal which has been done to de-congest New Delhi and Danapur and to improve punctuality. The new satellite terminals have been well equipped with passenger amenities. 

Duranto Express trains will now stop at Dhanbad, Kanpur Central and Kharagpur for the benefit of passengers and better utilisation of capacity.

Freedom Trophy: A Historic Battle

Arya Sekhar Chakraborty contributes in the rising cricketing fever ahead of Freedom Trophy. The countdown begins.   

Come 2 October and one of the most eagerly awaited cricket series of the year will commence, with India taking on South Africa at Dharamsala in the first game of the three match T20 series. The sleepy Himalayan town is home to probably the most scenic cricket ground in the world, with the breathtaking Dhauladhar range in the backdrop.

The Proteas are in India for a full series this time, with the itinerary also comprising four Tests and five one day internationals (ODIs). The two sides, for the first time, will battle for the Freedom Trophy. Cricket South Africa (CSA) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have declared that all series between the two sides in the future will be titled Mahatma Gandhi-Nelson Mandela Series, in remembrance of the two undisputed national leaders who played a vital role in liberating India and South Africa respectively. 

Two legends one frame
Gandhi is one of the greatest men of India who gave shape and character to the country’s freedom struggle and is worthy of a standing ovation. He sacrificed his life for the sake of his country. An austere of the rarest kind, Gandhi won global respect for the way he steered India’s freedom struggle. His principle of non-violence and peaceful opposition laid the foundation for gaining independence from the British. Mandela, on the other hand, played an equally important role to free his country from the brutal and racist apartheid regime that prevailed for several decades, because of which South Africa was quarantined from all global sporting events for many years. Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years because of opposing apartheid. His long walk from an apartheid prisoner to being the President of South Africa, rewrote the history of the country and inspired a whole nation.  The series, no wonder, has gained an iconic status courtesy the influence of these two greats.

Jagmohan Dalmiya, former BCCI president, had said just days before his untimely death that the freedom struggle is what binds the two countries. Gandhi and Mandela played a pivotal role in this regard and used non-violence and non-cooperation as a common weapon, which not only inspired the world but also redefined history. That inspired BCCI and CSA to dedicate the trophy to Gandhi and Mandela, he added.

Anurag Thakur, the Indian cricket board secretary, recently said, “BCCI on behalf of every citizen of our country is able to pay tribute to these great leaders by naming the series after them and appeal to each and every citizen of our country to imbibe their ideals and follow the path advised by them”. 

A much awaited series

Chris Nenzani, CSA president, on his part, said, “The revered names of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela leave us with a huge responsibility to live up to the legacies they have left us. Above all else they stood for doing the right thing and persevered at great personal cost to achieve freedom for their country regardless of how long it took them.”

CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat, echoed Nenzani and said, “For the people of both our countries there is no greater duty than to uphold the ideals of both Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. As cricket loving people we must fight hard to win on the field of play but never forget to do the battle in the spirit of these two great men.”

Both sides had fought several memorable battles on the cricketing field, ever since their bilateral series began in 1991. India, for one, will be high on confidence following the Test series win in Sri Lanka after 22 long years. The Gandhi-Mandela series will provide opportunity for rookies like Sreenath Aravind and Gurkeerat Singh to prove their mettle at the highest level for the first time. Captain Virat Kohli will be a much relieved man with Shikhar Dhawan regaining his fitness. Dhawan holds great record against the Proteas. The key to India’s success will be sticking to the basics as they are a tremendously dominant team in their own backyard. Indian T20 and ODI captain MS Dhoni will be back in the team after three months. He will be all set to prove his critics wrong, who had earlier tipped in giving the captaincy to Kohli, even in the shorter versions of the game.

Playing for pride
The touring South Africans, on their part, have always been a formidable team and have the best records as a visiting side in the longer version of the game. They have lost just 15 Tests abroad, winning as many as 19 and drawing another eight in that period. But at the same time, this South African side is an inexperienced lot. They will be heavily depending on the services of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis. The bowling will be spearheaded by the temperamental Dale Steyn, who has been leading their attack for several years now, ably accompanied by Morne Morkel. Amla has a tremendous record on his ancestral land, with an average of over 100 in Tests. Steyn, like always, is the bowler to look out for as he had single-handedly won the Proteas two games in India, in two different series. But on both occasions the Indians managed to bounce back strongly to level the series. Sachin Tendulkar has already warned the Indian team not to take the inexperienced South Africans lightly and also warned to be careful against Pakistan-born leg spinner Imran Tahir.

A keen contest is waiting to unfold within the next few days. Cricket aficionados from both countries will be glued to their TV screens, lapping up some top class cricket.

The writer is a freelance contributor. Comments personal

An Unlikely Marriage of Convenience

In a strange political turnaround, the Congress and BJP have joined the same ruling alliance in the northeastern state of Nagaland. With the AICC failing to read the mind of its activists, it's BJP which is smirking in the background. Prabuddha Neogi writes

Politics makes strange bedfellows. And that has thrown up a peculiar situation in Nagaland. While arch rivals BJP and Congress are at loggerheads in every other state in India, in Nagaland, legislators of the two parties have joined the same ruling coalition government. Political observers say that both parties lack any conviction on their respective party’s ideologies. Others argue that compulsions of the present circumstances have made the bonhomie possible. 

Legislators of both the Congress and BJP in the Naga People’s Front-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) coalition, headed by chief minister TR Zeliang, have patched together a strange twist of fate. Dissidents in the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF) can take credit in this regard because they forged a political crisis which ended up bringing the political foes closer. While legislators of both the parties are less inclined to talk about their ideologies, senior Congress and BJP leaders continue to reiterate their differences and insist that they can’t have truck with each other. Party ideologies, undeniably, plays a key role. But it hardly mattered to the legislators who justified their patch up, either on the pretext of backing Zeliang, or on the plea of coming together to reach an end to the Naga political problems.

People queue up to vote during the recent assembly polls in the state
The All India Congress Committee (AICC), meanwhile, suspended eight of its legislators. But they still remain as Congress MLAs. The party has been losing three elections of the trot. Its tally fell from 23 to 19 and now eight. The AICC suspended the eight legislators after it found their responses to the show cause notices ‘unsatisfactory’. It submitted a petition seeking disqualification of the suspended legislators. The move backfired and it irked the majority in the party across its rank and file. It also heightened resentment against the ouster of nearly 60 percent of the Assembly Constituency Congress Committee (ACCC) members to revamp the organisation under the new leadership. 

The Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee (NPCC) programme at Kohima on 24 September, to launch the party’s roadmap, didn’t go according to the plan. Anger and resentment reigned supreme among the suspended legislators. Hundreds of party activists started shouting slogans and berated AICC officials present at the event, including the NPCC president.  The protests and sloganeering exposed a big crevasse in the Congress over how the matter was supposed to be handled. There are likely to be different interpretations regarding the division as to whether it was because of ideology or factional feud.

The AICC too erred on not being able to read the pulse of the party workers. There were allegations that the AICC officials had instructed the legislators to support either the Zeilang group or the dissidents headed by Neiphiu Rio, provided no BJP legislator was in any of the groups. It only exposed how unawares the AICC officials were about the ground realities. Most of them were never seen in Nagaland in the months when the state plunged into a deep political crisis. Or maybe it’s the present state of affairs that has brought together legislators of all parties together. Should that be the case, then it would perhaps be the first time when warring legislators set aside their personal differences and came together for the welfare of a state. 

BJP, on its part, is silently watching the Congress drama from the sidelines.

More on the North East: The Growing Maoist Threat in Assam

The writer is the chief editor of WebPressClub

Monday, 28 September 2015

Dhansere Published New Collections of Poems

Our Correspondent ● Kolkata: Dhansere, a Kolkata-based publication house has published a number of collections of poetry in a programme at U N Dhar Gallery on 26 September evening.  The three books, C R P C Bhasya, Mithchor (reprint) and Choshma Jaa Dekhte Pachhe Naa, published on the day are written by Amitava Maitra, Sukalpa Chattopadhyay and Palash Dey respectively. Veteran poets of the 70s Prasun Bandhopadhyay and Ranajit Das and their later  literary successor Rahul Purkayastha have inaugurated the books formally.

Prasun Bandhopadhyay launching book of Sukalpa Chattopadhyay
A poetry reading session was held later with the poets of the three inaugural collections. Poet Manisha Mukherjee has anchored it. The readers and fellow poets present at the programme appreciated all the collections. Owner of Dhansere, Subho Bandhopadhyay, promised the readers of gifting more such cerebral collection of poetry in future.  

Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Growing Maoist Threat in Assam

With activities largely muted in the traditional strongholds of Jharkhand, South Bengal and Odisha, the Maoists have zeroed in on Assam as a base for their northeastern operations. Prabuddha Neogi peeks through the looking glass in the first part of a two-part series

Increasing Maoist activity in Assam, where polls are due early next year, has emerged as a serious threat for both the government and the security forces. With the influence of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) waning in this northeastern state, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) is increasingly stamping its authority, starting with some selected areas. The Maoists are now a security challenge to the government which has been already tackling ethnic and Islamic militancy for the past many years. 

The Maoists carry out regular recruitment drives in the valley
The Maoists—ultra-left radicals—want to build a ‘red corridor’ in Assam and are operating in the districts of Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Tinsukia, Sivsagar, Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Karimganj, Golaghat and Cachar. Two years back their cadre strength was 300 and they had formed armed units in Tinsukia and neighbouring pockets in Arunachal Pradesh. Assam chief minister, Tarun Gogoi, had pointed out that Maoist activity was in its infancy but could soon become a major security threat because they had already established contacts with their brethren in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

In 2013, the Union home ministry for the first time, declared Assam as a Maoist-hit state. Their cadres were largely active in the Upper Assam division that’s home to many ethnic groups. The security forces are worried about the current recruitment drive of the Maoists, and their aim to spread ultra-left ideologies in Assam. They have been reportedly organising political classes in some areas for mobilising people from several communities. They have also formed the Upper Assam Leading Committee (ULAC) which consists of five districts. Many training camps were held in the region. They also allegedly have ‘explosive experts’ trained to handle all types of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

All these developments are collectively important because Maoists are repeatedly foraying into Assam politics for expanding their influence. The reasons for them targeting Assam as their next hunting ground, is quite apparent. They were closely monitoring the turn of events in the crisis-ridden northeast which is also one of the least developed regions of the country. They also want to capitalise on the disharmony of the marginal and deprived ethnic groups. Maoist leaders in Assam are aware of the ground realities. With no ‘class war’ as elsewhere in the country, they have to fuel the ‘rebellious instinct’ of some of the communities. 

Maoist cadres in Assam are mostly recruited from the adivasis and the tea growing tribes. A major section of adivasis, whose ancestors were brought to the state from Chota Nagpur by the British in the 19th century to work in the plantations, still live in miserable poverty because of the indifference of successive state governments. Maoists are exploiting the situation in this resource-rich northeastern state. They are also refraining from extortion to project them as pro-people and enhance their acceptability among the locals. They never engage in confrontation with the state’s active militant groups, including ULFA, which still has a large influence. Instead, they absorbed many former ULFA activists and sympathisers, for consolidating their base in Tinsukia.  

In Assam, the Maoists are trying to cash in on popular grievances. They are targeting the segments that are embittered with the actions of the government and are offering all out support to their causes. Burning issues like poverty, unemployment and land conflict are weapons in their hands. An underdeveloped Assam is turning out to be a happy hunting ground for them for radicalising the peasants. Farmers in the state are under an existential crisis because of recurrent floods and soil erosion of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries. Adding to the woes of the authority, are the various hydel power projects started in neighbouring Arunachal, sans any assurance of rehabilitation of the displaced people in Assam. 

Under such circumstances, it came as no surprise that Maoists infiltrated the anti-Subansiri mega dam agitation, led by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity. The junior Union home minister, HP Chaudhury, informed Rajya Sabha on 29 April that the Maoist and UALC cadres are actively campaigning against the dam.  (To be Concluded)

The writer is the chief editor of WebPressClub

Karubasona: A Play Within

Aitrayee Sarkar shares her experience watching Karubasona, a play enlightened with inner search of a creator.   

Karubasona is not perhaps the most popular works of Jibanananda Das but it has the flavour of eternal dilemmas faced by a creator and his creations. Kolkata-based theatre group Pancham Vaidic deserves applause for selecting such a difficult text to stage before the cerebral audience of the city. Honestly, Director Arpita Ghosh seems to have no intention of creating too much dramatic moments with Karubasona. Knowing well that a symbolic piece by Jibanananda Das would be hard to transform in to any visual medium, the Director has not tried any short cuts. She sticks to the original story-line mostly and has improvised with the overall designing of the play. It’s obviously an experiment that would come up with flying colours in future. 

Sujon (right) and Anirban (left) with Joy Goswami

The scenography done by Debesh Chattopadhyay is another key aspect that has contributed in transformation of the play. The light, music and stage designing are complementary to the inner pain that a true creator feels throughout his life. Without realizing that pain even approaching such a work is difficult. But the Arpita-Debesh combination has not only portrayed the search of a creator in a realistic light but also gave the opportunity to the audience to relate with that.     

The protagonist of the play, Hem, has been portrayed by actors of two generations—Sujon Mukhopadhyay and Anirban Bhattacharya. Preferring one out of the two is difficult. Both are apt and have done justice to the character.

Since it’s a vintage Jibanananda Das creation poetry has played a key role in it. The narration at times came in a poetic rendition. Poet Joy Goswami’s on stage presence is a refreshing and surprising idea. The way he read out lines of poems to manifest the intricacies of a creator’s life is remarkable. His symbolic presence has actually bridge the gap between the two forms of art—poetry and drama.

Protagonist Hem
However, trying Jibanananda is not new in Bengali stage. Another theatre group Swapnasandhani had staged Jibanananda’s Malyaban a few years ago. After the success of Karubasona more groups would hope to try that path in future. That would surely throw light at the lesser known areas of work done by masters like Jibanananda Das.   

A play like Karubasona may seem less dramatic to many but the eternal poetic language is there to create a new form of conversation between the stage and audience. Pancham Vaidic has staged the production as a tribute to the artists across the world on the 100th birth anniversary of legendary Sombhu Mitra. It’s a fantastic tribute to a man who himself was the master of experimentation.  

The writer is an editor of WebPressClub


Saturday, 26 September 2015

New Magazine to Inspire the Two Bengals

Our Correspondent ● Kolkata: Famous art and literary magazine of Bangladesh, Kali O Kalam, has been formally launched in Kolkata in July this year. The Kolkata edition of the magazine, edited by veteran writer Nirendranath Chakraborty, has been adored by the readers in this part of Bengal. The Kali O Kalam authority has hosted a formal inaugural function at Kalamandir on 26 September and published a special issue of the magazine on the occasion. Legendary Bengali writers, including Shankha Ghosh, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, Anisuzzaman and Abul Hasnat, from the two Bengals were present at the inaugural ceremony. 

The publisher of the Kolkata edition of the magazine, Suchisree Ray, thanked the extended family of Kali O Kalam for supporting a project like this and hoped that the magazine would play the role of a bridge between the two people. The readers of Kolkata, too, hope to get access to more literary works from Bangladesh more regularly with publication of such a magazine.  
The second part of the programme was a complete musical treat. Pandit Tejendra Narayan Majumder and poet Joy Goswami presented a remarkable jugalbandi. The programme ended with famous Rabindra Sangeet singer Rezwana Choudhury Bannya’s soulful music.

Bengal Govt to Award Community Pujas

Our CorrespondentKolkata: For the second year in a row, the West Bengal government will award the best pujas not only in Kolkata, but also from other Indian cities and abroad. The highest cash reward in this regard is ₹5 lakh. 

Atri Bhattacharya, principal secretary, information and cultural affairs department, said: “Puja committees under the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, and the municipalities of Baranagar, South Dum Dum, and Biddhannagar, can apply for the award.” Only community pujas can participate in the competition, titled Biswa Bangla Sharod Samman, launched last year.

“The pavilion artists are trying their best innovative skills, the fashion designers are flying on the wings of fancy, the shopping malls are throbbing with thousand possible colours, and the dhakis are trying the breakthrough beats. Yes, it is our annual chance to rejuvenate, to cleanse our entities.” Bhattacharya added.

Meanwhile, city mayor Sovan Chattopadhyay, confirmed that KMC, following the instructions of chief minister Mamata Banerjee, will give a grant of ₹10,000 to pujas organised exclusively by women. This will enthuse more women to start durga puja, as the deity is considered as ‘nari shakti’, Chattopadhyay added. 

Related Story: Inflation Hits Kumartuli Hard

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

A Cricketing Moment of Truth

Arya Sekhar Chakraborty recalls Jagmohan Dalmiya’s contribution to restore prestige for South Africa as a cricketing nation. 

World cricket will forever miss one of the greatest administrators of the game Jagmohan Dalmiya. The sudden demise of incumbent president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and former International Cricket Council (ICC) chief Dalmiya came as a shock to the whole cricketing fraternity. He was the true pioneer in globalising the Indian cricket and during his tenure as the ICC president he raised the financial funds of the body by leaps and bounds. He was the man who brought money into the game.
However, Dalmiya’s biggest achievement was perhaps ensuring return of South Africa to the international arena of the game.  Cricket South Africa (CSA) will forever be grateful to him for his guidance and continuous support. 

Like every other non-white nation India was strongly against the racial apartheid regime in South Africa and had no sporting connections with the country since the ICC banned it from competing in all forms of international cricket in 1970. India even denied to play the Davis Cup final in 1974 as their opponents were South Africans.
The brutal apartheid regime prevailed in South Africa since 1948 and that led to the country’s isolation in the world of sports. And finally international cricket tours to South Africa faced a closure in 1970. From more than 20 years the country was in oblivion from world cricket till the release of Nelson Mandela after 27 years of incarceration and that opened up the possibility of the country regaining its sporting recognition. 
In May 1991 former South African captain turned administrator Ali Bacher went to London to apply for a full member status in ICC for the country and thus, secure its return to the international fold. The then CEO of Australia Cricket (ACB) David Richards suggested Bacher to contact the then secretary of BCCI Jagmohan Dalmiya for support.  He did and the first reaction of Damiya was that he didn’t even know he could receive a call from South Africa. Reports claim that Dalmiya and Bacher held around 40 telephonic conversations over the matter from April to July that year.  But South Africa’s return was subject to approval of the then BCCI president Madhavrao Scindia and acceptance of some major cricket playing nations like West Indies and Pakistan.  Bacher attended an  ICC meeting alongside Dalmiya in London, with the latter approaching the then Indian high commissioner to UK LM Singhvi to enlist his support for South Africa’s return to international cricket. Dalmiya, Scindia and Singvi met together where Dalmiya discussed why they needed to support the beleaguered nation in the post-apartheid era and organised a tour for them. Scindia gave Dalmiya the green signal. Playing South Africa was not easy as it was a political decision. The then ICC president and West Indian batting legend Clyde Walcott was not even in favour of discussing South Africa’s reentry to world cricket but it was the continuous support of Dalmiya that turned the tables in favour of the beleaguered nation and both Pakistan and West Indies had no other options but to accept the proposal. Then BCCI arranged a three-match ODI series for South Africa at Calcutta (now Kolkata), Gwalior and New Delhi. 

Clive Rice
Clive Rice led a predominantly white South African side to India and they smoked and drank their way to Calcutta. It was a historic day for Rice and his men as they walked into a jam-packed Eden Gardens. They got a taste of international cricket after many years becuase of the support of late Jagmohan Dalmiya. After his death CSA paid their last tribute to the man who was instrumental in ensuring South Africa’s re-entry as a full member of ICC. CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat said that Dalmiya will never be forgotten in South African cricket circles for being the pioneer in welcoming the team back to international cricket fold and for spreading his hand of support in a historic invitation to the United Cricket Board to make the Proteas first ever tour to India. The upcoming Freedom Trophy between India and South Africa will serve as a special tribute to Jagmohan Dalmiya, the Machiavelli of Indian cricket.    

The writer is a freelance contributor. Comments personal

The Bengal Fashion Treat

Aditi Basu Roy lays her hand to describe the in-fashion of Bengal. This puja be selective to stand out in the crowd.  

Now-a-days intellect is dominating the women’s fashion arena of Bengal. The deshi hand- woven cotton with vibrant colours is very much in for sarees. Saree is the signature dress code for festivals here. It’s always in the wish list of the Bengali women, irrespective of socio-cultural background. New trends come and go but the love for that traditional attire remains the same. Handloom cotton and silk are the most preferred choice now. The reason behind that is perhaps West Bengal’s summer driven climate. And of course occurrence of some prominent Bengali festivals in April and May, the most hot and humid season here. So, women look to wear something soft and airy in that particular time of the year. Another factor is the elegance and matte finish texture of cotton sarees. Those are available here in Bengal with traditional graphics, inspired by other states of India too, printed all over the body. That offers a good length of variety. These sarees can be teamed up with contrast blouse and jackets to create an imposing yet elegant fashion statement.
Collection of handloom sarees
After saree, kurta rules over the Bengal fashions cape. In kurtas, horizontal and vertical stripes are very much in. Animal prints like parrot, peacock, tiger prints are the most desired ones. With Durga Puja, the biggest Bengali festival, knocking at the door the Kolkata market is flooded with bright coloured materials. Talking about variety, uneven cut kurta with collar spreads is all over here now. Frankly speaking, no fashion conscious young girl is willing to put on traditional churidar and salwar suits anymore since emergence of such unique designs. Another thing that’s they are dying for is palazzo. A modern girl’s wardrobe is incomplete without that. Earlier, girls used to wear short t-shirts with palazzo but now long-kurtas have replaced those short tees. The patiala-fever has gone with the growing palazzo-frenzy in the city. 

The torn jeans have finally reached here only a year ago to rule over the jeans era.  Only a very few popular brands used to import ripped jeans then. But now the scenario has changed completely. This puja almost all the shopping malls and street shops have been working upon their stocks of torn jeans in Kolkata. Besides traditional jeans floral print- jeans has also become very popular now. 
A junk jewellery shop in Kolkata
Capri and leggings are also popular particularly among young girls. Bright and colorful leggings have practically outdated churidars. Gujarati wraparound and a-lined skirts have added another feather in our fashion hat. The deshi- sleeveless shrugs are also preferred by many.  Kashmiri, Gujarati and kalamkari-printed shrugs are very much in. These are available everywhere. With all these dresses, matching accessories are ardently needed. Junk jewellery is now the thing to look forward to. These are made of various materials, beginning from clay, copper and ceramics to clothes. The current jewellery trend in inclined to slick pattern. Heavy jewellery is almost outdated now. So, tighten your seat- belts and fly across the vivid world of fashion of West Bengal.  
The writer is a journalist. Comments personal

Bitthanbai: A Timeless Journey

Legendary singer Reba Muhuri in Bitthanbai narrates story of the life of a Baiji, old Kolkata and death of love. Aitrayee Sarkar takes the opportunity to throw light at it.  

Bitthanbai is Reba Muhuri’s last book. We generally remember Reba Muhuri for the famous Meera-bhajan ‘Mohe Lagi Lagaan Guru Charan Ki’ used in Satyajit Ray’s Joi Baba Felunath (1979). But the two songs that had brought Reba the nationwide fame were the thungris sung for Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977). Those were—‘Bajaye Bashuria Shyam, Yamuna Kinare’ and ‘Chabi Dikhlaja, Banke Sabariya’. Unfortunately, we do not know much about this legendary singer other than that.  
Reba Muhuri (right) with Satyajit Ray and Bijoya Ray at a family function
Reba Muhuri’s first book ‘Thungri O Baiji’ was written in mid-80s. Unlike the first one Bitthanbai is a work of semi-fiction. The story of the protagonist Bitthan is narrated here in a novel-like style. The characters described by Reba are inspired by the life and time experienced by the then famous Baijis of the country. Her narration gives us the opportunity to get a glimpse of the old Kolkata which sheltered famous Baijis like Gauhar Jaan, Malka Jaan and many more after the past glory of cities like Lucknow, Agra and Delhi started to fade away in the post-Sipahi Vidroha (Indian Rebellion of 1857) era. Like every other professional the Baijis, too, migrated to the then Calcutta, the new capital of the British India, to try their luck once again. Though the writer has not mentioned anything directly but it’s not hard to assume that the shift in political stronghold must had played a significant role behind Bitthan’s epic journey to various corners of the country along with her love interest Meher Ali.  

The book is divided into three separate parts. The first part is dedicated to describe some personal memories of Reba Muhuri. It’s a remarkably written section by the editor of the book Ritaprava Bandhopadhyay. The second part consists of the story of Bitthanbai, And the last but not the least is an album of 14 unheard songs of Reba Muhuri, brought together from personal collection of several people. Some of those songs were sung in private functions in Jodhpur and Shantiniketan.  

Reba Muhuri loved singing from very early age. Her father Amiyanath Sanyal was an exponent of classical music too. Hence, she grew up amid music which remained with Reba forever. Surprisingly, Reba never had the opportunity to concentrate on her formal training switching off from her family responsibilities. She could only manage some uninterrupted years to dedicate to music only after her two sons grown up. Political unrest and heat of the Second World War had never let Reba and her Army-physician husband to settle down. 

They were traveling constantly from one corner of the country to another. But that could not affect Reba’s thirst for music. She used even the slightest opportunity available to train herself. Somehow, the character Bitthan, too, reflects that eternal thirst for excellence, for life. Hence, Bitthanbai is not merely a story but also a description of several historic rise and fall. Music played a pivotal role to shape up lives narrated in it. 

Bitthanbai is a must read for not only the classical music lovers but also the general people to rediscover Reba Muhuri as a complete artist. The writing style is realistic yet professional. Its a journey that we all should accompany Reba and enjoy together. The adventures of life, the deaths and sorrows would embrace us with their glorious uncertainties.         

Bitthanbai by Reba Muhuri 
Edited by Ritaprava Bandhopadhyay
Dey's Publishing
₹ 180

The writer is an editor of WebPressClub