Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sunday, December 26, 2010


It was an exciting Sunday. A little over ten in the morning my wife and I headed for Narendrapur for a rather remote village to keep an invitation for lunch. Mr. Sunil Raychowdhury had invited us. The weather was simply divine. The place was called Chandramallika and it had 2 ponds, one larger than the other. We reached there at about 11.30am and I immediately sat to down with others for chatting. Wonder what all topics do we have in common to talk about! Whether it was the Roman Emperor Caligula or the Caliph of Baghdad or a very mundane person from Burdwan: all were rightly toasted for their unique contribution to our entertainment. There was plenty of Royal Challenge whiskey to enliven our discussion with snacks in tow.

We had a sumptuous lunch with fish curry and polao, followed by chilly chicken. There were sweet dishes too.

My wife and I had a thoroughly enjoyable time, and we headed home after wishing our hosts the very best wishes for the New Year.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


It simply couldn’t have been better. For my wife’s birthday we went to Stadel, a delightful restaurant in the Salt Lake stadium on Monday evening. We chose Heka, a theme centre based on ancient Egypt. The lighting was just right and the décor perfect. Believe me we had real coffins for tables! Not very ghoulish I should say.

For starters she had a charming concoction, Sinful Chocolate. Ancient Egypt had plenty of sin and being sinful was fashionable, but chocolate? South America was still terra incognita. I warmed myself with a Bloody Mary. Sure it was chilling inside.

The grilled Fish was delectable. The boiled vegetables added élan.

For the main course tandoori prawns ruled the roost. They were really jumbo and succulent to. We were filled up to our gullets.

Don’t ask me whether we relived our honeymoon. We surely did.

Many thanks Heka.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

POSH at 497

Posh had been to Bhowanipur this evening and on her return I had this video of her. She really was all smiles. Her birthday is soon.h

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Feline Obsession


Now a feral feline comes regularly to our kitchen and my wife gives her the offal of chicken and fish.

You are most welcome to give her a name. Go right ahead!

The Basement at Samilton Calcutta

We had been to the Basement of Samilton Hotel on Lansdowne Road last evening. It is styled as Spice Garden. It was shortly beyond 8 when we stepped inside and made ourselves comfortable on a sofa. Let it be clear that this happens to be a Disco and a favourite watering hole for the younger generation when the revelry starts at about midnight. The light was dim as it aught to be to enhance intimacy!

There was some difficulty in reading the menu but the waiter gave us a torchlight. I ordered whisky 2 pegs at Rs 100/- each while my wife had a mocktail Scarlet Lady at Rs150/-. For snacks we had chilly prawn @Rs. 250/- and Mutton Seek Kebab @Rs, 160/-. The chilly prawn was rather tasteless and the seek kebab could have been better.

The main course we sought was Mutton Vindalo @ Rs.190/- along with Rotis 2 Rs.25/-a piece.

They took ages to serve the main course and we were getting exasperated. Believe it or not a rat was quietly nibbling away at the fallen leftovers and the waiters smiled helplessly. The main course was indeed delightful and we left at about a quarter past 9. No we did not wait for the real action to begin.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


This is a letter published in the Statesman Kolkata on the 10th of April 2010 in which the coorespondent waxes vitriolic on P Chidambaram. I rose to the defence of our Home Minister in a letter published today.
 First the correspondent's letter and then my reply.

Where does the buck stop now?

SIR, ~ P Chidambaram met the media at Lalgarh and blamed Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee only to please the Opposition in West Bengal. Perhaps he spoke a little too soon. Ironically enough, the buck has moved in the direction of the union home minister with the killing of 76 CRPF personnel by the Maoists in Chhattisgarh.

Mr Chidambaram is a Harvard-educated lawyer and a master in sophistry. He had taken up the legal cudgels for Enron in India. Against the backdrop of the recent tragedy one is inclined to ask: “Where does the buck stop now, Mr Home Minister?” The country is waiting to learn.

Yours, etc., Indrajit Sen, Kolkata, 8 April.

In safe hands

SIR - Indrajit Sen’s letter ‘Where does the buck stop now?’ in today’s edition reminds me of Byron’s famous words: “A man must serve his time to every trade. Save censure ~ critics all are readymade’. Our Home Minister had the grace and decency to own up to his responsibility for the Dantewada massacre of the CRPF jawans. He had offered to resign. How often do we come across a minister, whether at the Centre or in the states, who is willing to stand up and be counted? Two incidents come readily to mind: the killings at Nandigram and more recently the fire at Stephen Court?

Mr Chidambaram is privy to many confidential reports. As a lawyer he is surely aware of the possible impact of his statements. He does not play to the gallery, as claimed by Mr Sen. We can rest assured that the country’s internal security is in safe hands, a point which even Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee concedes.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


My brother Samirda is an excellent host when it comes to entertain us to dinner.

Last Sunday he took us to Spring Club on the EM Bye pass and we had an excellent time.

To start with we hit the bottle straight away and had Antiquity with soda while Tatini had a mocktail. This went on very well with Chicken Malai Kebab and Golden fried prawn.

For the main course we had Mutton Bhuna and Fish Goan curry with Butter Naan.

The food was simply superb and the ambience was homely.

Many thanks Samirda.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


There was an article in the Statesman ,Calcutta  by an alumnus of Viswa_Bharati University on the current state of affairs there. I was provoked to write a letter to the Editor  airing my views which is published today.
First the article and then my letter.

Massive erosion of values

Instead of holding a beacon to the rest of the world and showing what India can offer, Visva-Bharati has become academically insignificant and a home for the undeserving, says Santanu sinha chaudhuri

In the recent past, violent protests were reported from places where students were not allowed to copy during the Madhyamik examination in West Bengal. These incidents were spread over five districts: Murshidabad, Birbhum, South 24-Parganas, Hooghly and Malda. Significantly, parents joined examinees in the protests. After the last day's exam, there were demonstrations at six places in Murshidabad, during which the protesters broke furniture and injured a headmaster. The most bizarre incident took place at Lashkarpur High School in Lalgola where irate parents went in to beat up teachers as punishment for "strict" invigilation. The teachers overpowered one of the parents, thrashed him, and handed him over to police.

From cheating in exams to parents actively helping their offspring to cheat is a downhill journey that illustrates a massive erosion of values. And this does not exist only in the rural backwaters where India doesn't shine that brightly.

At Visva-Bharati, the university set up by Rabindranath Tagore, a different kind of incident revealed a similar decline. On the night of 27 February, some students of the arts faculty entered a hostel for girls and used filthy language to harass and intimidate them. As if this was not bad enough, the perpetrators of this shameful act also beat up the boys who protested, injuring 17 fellow students. They also vandalised some priceless works of art.

The students who sexually harass their own classmates are despicable. The incident is more disturbing because it happened in Santiniketan where one of the tallest Indians tried to recreate a traditional Indian school, an ashram. Instead of holding a beacon to the rest of the world and showing what India can offer, Visva-Bharati has become academically insignificant and a home for the undeserving.

Education these days means acquiring saleable knowledge; it has nothing to do with building character. In older days, parents from many corners of the country sent their children to the school set up by Rabindranath not because it would assure them good jobs but because they wee expected to become better human beings. That the education that produced better human beings also produced brilliant creative artists and professionals is another story. Countless among the alumni of Visva-Bharati have excelled in their chosen fields. Syed Mujtaba Ali, Pramatha Nath Bishi, Ramkinkar Beij, Kanika Bandopadhyay, Satyajit Ray, Mahashweta Devi, Suchitra Mitra, KG Subramanian, and Amartya Sen are not exceptions, but dazzling motifs on a general pattern.

Visva-Bharati stopped producing people of such calibre long ago. And it no longer attracts talented students from far and wide. These days, mostly ordinary and substandard students from the nearby areas ~ not even from the rest of the state ~ join the university because it has become so bad that hardly anyone from outside enrols there. Consequently, Visva-Bharati has become a cesspool of mediocrity, with one or two exceptions.

But the reign of mediocrity is one aspect. What make the students ignore the norms of civilised behaviour so completely, just like the parents who fight for their children's "right" to copy in exams?

There are two main reasons. First, most parents have fuzzy ideas about education, and do not have a roadmap for their children's holistic growth. Many of them do not inculcate values in their offspring; on the contrary, they offer poor role models for their children.

It is common knowledge that many parents cut corners to admit their children to good schools. Many would not even hesitate to pay bribes to secure admission. Seats in private medical and technical colleges are auctioned to the highest bidders. Such children begin their education through deceit or money power. But who cares?

About 30 years ago, a father-son duo, who ran a flourishing high school for mainly middle class Bengalis in Kolkata, were under a cloud following the unnatural death of the son's wife. While the case lingered for years, the school continued to produce state toppers. Although a shadow of doubt hung over the principal, particularly during the progress of the criminal case, parents did not withdraw their children from the school. And many more were eager to get their offspring admitted to a school.

It was not a question of someone being treated as innocent until proved guilty. The question simply was whether one was prepared to put one's child in the hands of people of questionable morals. The parents, among whom were my friends, thought that if a school improved the chances of academic success, nothing else mattered. In other words, for many educated Bengalis, education had little to do with values. Should anyone be surprised that 30 years down the road, parents demand their offspring be allowed to cheat?

The second reason that emboldens people to do what they like is the absence of the rule of law in West Bengal; every transgressor today knows there is a fair chance that they would get away with murder. After the vandalism by the examinees and their parents, the police super of Murshidabad district said, "Police will take action if written complaints are lodged". He added, rather thoughtfully, "It is also important to identify the parents who indulged in violence".

Who will identify them? One thought it was the policemen's duty, which they perform shabbily in Bengal. The decline began with the unionisation of the policemen after the present government came to power in 1977. The process was accelerated by unbridled political interference in running the force.

On 22 January 2002, five men of Calcutta Armed Police died on the spot in front of the American Center when four terrorists sprayed bullets on them. Fifty-four shots were fired by the attackers, but the 34 policemen present there didn't shoot back one round. Many of them took bullets in their back, while fleeing. The incident ripped open the abysmal state of the training, preparedness, and morale of the police force in the state. Yet, not one senior police officer was taken to task; neither did the home minister resign in shame. In many other organisations, functionaries would lose their jobs for much less, because there is something called accountability. Should we be surprised about what happened in Silda in 2010?

The police alone don't suffer from lack of accountability. The first organised act of violence happened in Santiniketan during the hoodlum years of 1970s. Some students belonging a mainstream political party attacked the students of a different political dispensation. It is no one's case that the victims were angels, but they were unarmed. Armed to the teeth, the attackers launched a pincer attack from two sides of a boys' hostel. Several hoys were seriously injured. The offensive had been planned at the house of a professor. After the assault, the attackers took shelter in the same house. Everyone knew who the perpetrators were and who backed them. The university took no action against the guilty.

Therefore, there were many instances of violence in Santiniketan, but the guilty were never punished. Things naturally went from bad to worse. The time has come for people to demand that the university authorities throw out the latest bunch of ruffians from the premises of the central university run with tax payers' money.

We have come to the present sorry state because of general corrosion in people's attitude and a decline in the quality of governance. Attitudes won't change soon, but something can be and must be done to enforce the rule of law. People must be made to believe that a high price tag is attached to breaking law.

The writer is an alumnus of Visva Bharati


SIR ~ This is with reference to Santanu Sinha Chaudhuri’s brilliant article on Visva-Bharati, ‘Massive erosion of values’ (30 March). It is a tragedy that a university, conceived by Rabindranath Tagore, is today in a shambles. To the extent that a research scholar may even wish to write a dissertation on ‘how not to run a university’. It showcases the malaise that plagues our education system. The irony is that as a Central university, it has considerable funds at its disposal and all at the tax-payers’ expense. Visva-Bharati is an affront to the memory of Rabindranath, an affront to decency and an affront to our culture.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Ketaki is the Professor and Head of English at BN Seal College Cooch Behar. An interview of her's was published in the Statesman calcutta on the 27th of narch 2010.
First the interview and then my letter to the Statesman publishe today.

‘I’m a romantic at heart’

27 March 2010

DR KETAKI DATTA’S brilliant debut novel, A Bird Alone (2008), is centered on Anita, an elderly lady living in Dajeerling, whose story is shaped through the other characters’ lives in an intricately and finely woven pattern.

Sourav, Anita’s husband, had deserted her many years ago, leaving her with two small children, Nina and Sanju. Nina moved to Paris, where she lives with her family. Sanju, after settling in Bombay, does not seem to care much for his mother. When she was younger, Anita decided to foster Chandana, the daughter of a banji, thus securing a better future for the girl, whom she treats like a daughter. What prompts the narrative and its complex, unforeseeable development is an 80-page letter by Merlin, Anita’s childhood friend, which gives her the opportunity to introspect her past, present and future resolutions.

A Bird Alone is a poignant narrative of friendship and loneliness, a deep reflection on human values and the quest to unveil the true meaning of life. Datta talks with Elisabetta Marino on much else besides the novel

Isn’t it rather unusual that a prominent academic is also such a successful creative artist? What prompted you to begin this parallel career? Who are your literary influences?

When I was just a toddler my mother left me to my grandmother’s care. She was a scholarly lady who pampered me to the extreme. I was admitted to the reputed St John’s Diocesan Girls’ HS School in South Calcutta. Incidentally, Gayatri Chakravertty Spivak was one of the successful alumni of the school. With its sprawling playgrounds (not one but four), St John’s Diocesan played a considerable role in shaping the creative artist in me. During the recess, I used to go and sit at a lone nook to scribble whatever came in my mind, throwing a longing, lingering look at the blue sky, the acres of green grass, my feisty friends engaged in a hopping-race or a hide-and-seek game or basketball at some corner or the other.

Back at home, my granny, grandpa, and I formed a jovial household, while my maternal uncle — a renowned chemist — stayed in an industrial locale a few hours off Kolkata. He was in charge of a chlorine plant. My father, a radiologist, used to stay a few miles off my grandma’s place in a hospital apartment with my mother, a postgraduate in philosophy and a promising singer, and my younger brother who was more happy with his toy-engine at home than attending a play-school. The serene two-storeyed house, the silent afternoons, the fairy tale sessions with my granny, the incessant hours of reading storybooks all helped hone my literary panache. By 13, I began to write for the school magazine, The Dio.

Left to myself in the long leisure hours with a storybook in hand I felt the inspiration of the muse. I used to register the train of thoughts in a notebook. Much later, it helped me to write short stories. I started to write stories way back in 1982, when I was in my final year in school.

After that a new chapter in my life began to unfold. My father got transferred to another district hospital, some four hours off Kolkata. It was Murshidabad, a place smelling of history where the great monuments trigger a writer’s imagination. I dropped in often and each time a new experience gave birth to a new write-up. Then, with my grandma’s demise and my days in college in a “heritage” institution of a district headquarter where my father had been transferred the creative artist in me started taking shape with each passing day. During my graduation I wrote a novella, which I lost during transit.

During my postgraduation and research I hardly had the time to write, but each and every moving experience stayed locked in my heart. After I got a job in a college, those treasured memories found expression in short stories — all beside pieces. Meanwhile, the thesis on Tennessee Williams, which brought me a hard-earned PhD, took much time. Hence between 1992-1996 my creative writing took a backseat.

However, from 1998 onwards I began contributing pieces to journals and newspapers of repute. I also started A Bird Alone during this time. Meanwhile, two major incidents left me battered: the sudden death of my father in 2001, and that of my mother in 2007. In the formative years of the novel, she had inspired me a lot. I found solace in the company of a few trusted friends.

I will be always be indebted to my mom, my friends like Gitanjali Chatterjee of Sahitya Akademi and a few legendary teachers like Professor Sanjukta Dasgupta of the University of Calcutta, Professor Benoy Kumar Banerjee of North Bengal University and Professor Mohit K Ray of the University of Burdwan.

Talking about my literary influences, when I was in Class VII, I read Of Human Bondage, and instantly fell in love with Maugham’s style. I read all his short stories soon after. A few books that have helped shape the writer in me are The Resurrection, Pride and Prejudice, The Last Days of Pompeii, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Roots, Alex Haley, Maugham’s entire corpus, Mrs. Dalloway, Anita Desai’s novels and stories, Gone with the Wind, The Agony and the Ecstasy, and, of course, Lust for Life.

I really owe a lot to Anita Desai who helped fortify my vocabulary and Maugham.

To get back to A Bird Alone. It revolves around men-women relationships are central...

In the novel men and women are spontaneously juxtaposed. It is not that, I have deliberately shown men as oppressors or escapists in different situations and women as liberty-seekers, warriors of independence; but they behave as the situations demand. For example, we find Anita going back to her Darjeeling residence when her husband Sourav goes missing. Her husband was always jealous of her preoccupation with reading-writing. But she couldn’t give it up for it was spontaneous. Was it only because she loved a “room of her own” or because she prized liberty?

The novel shows why women have to be self-dependent, strong and courageous enough to be alone. They need freedom and can achieve it. They are often compelled to rise up in arms against the eccentricities of their husbands and must be self-assertive in an alien world.

Do you see reading and writing as a means of protecting and securing one’s freedom, identity and mental health? Is it an antidote to loneliness?

Reading-writing is, no doubt, the easiest way of keeping oneself meaningfully absorbed. Hence, I have shown Anita and Merlin engaged in reading-writing and Chandana in regular sitar practice. These are the means to connect oneself with one’s own soul. A philosophical quest.

If you talk about loneliness, well, it surely is an antidote. An individual will never feel lonely if he/she loves to read and write. The desire to communicate with others will be satiated through writing. Anita and Merlin both write Robert Southey said, “My never-failing friends are they, with whom I converse day by day”. Books are, no doubt, “never-failing friends”.

From the idea of communion to that of “contrast” Culture clash, especially that between the East and West, forms the background of the novel…

Culture clash is not my subject. I wanted to enforce the tradition of human values that the East takes pride in. I had been to the University of Lisbon in July last year to read out a paper titled “Human Values and Modern Bengali Drama”. I noticed a few raised eyebrows when contrasting Indian family values with those of the West. But none could gainsay the fact that Indians still cared for the old, incapacitated and, if possible didn’t send them away to a ‘home for the geriatric populace’. In the West sons and daughters are so busy with their lives that they do not have time to look after their decrepit parents.

Similarly, the concept of motherhood in the East is really interesting — very different from that in the West. Here a mother can sacrifice everything for her children. An Indian mother hardly has any life of her own. She is the home-maker, the driving force of the family. Even if she earns she does so for the betterment of her family.

In the novel you seem to be overly concerned with the changing face of India. Newly constructed mansions are compared to “hydra-headed monsters” and chaos and political turmoil reign supreme…

Yes, you are right. India is changing every moment. The Kolkata of our childhood was a different place altogether. Though a metropolis, it was a greener and culturally healthier city. Where are all the lush playgrounds? Hydra-headed skyscrapers dot the city and all its innocence and charm is lost forever.

Look at Darjeeling and Kashmir. Political turmoil has robbed them of all their sublimity. Violence has desecrated these abodes of tranquility

“Nature never did betray the heart that loved her,” says Wordsworth. I, a romantic by heart, have placed my characters in proximity with nature. Whenever Anita feels lonely, she gazes at the tall pine trees, or comes out to the balcony to watch the moving flakes of clouds. I find something therapeutic in nature. Nature heals and shelters desperately lonely souls like Anita.

The writer teaches at the University of Rome

Delightful read

SIR, ~ Elisabetta Marino’s interview of Ketaki Datta ~ ‘I’m a romantic at heart’ ~ in the 8th Day of 28 March was a delightful read. The first novel often tends to be autobiographical. Ms Datta has weathered many a storm and has achieved a coveted position in the contemporary literary world. Her school is indeed proud of her but she has learnt the real lessons of life, which only the school of adversity can teach. Her point that bibliophilia is an antidote to loneliness is a very pertinent observation. The treatment of the old is a social problem in India as much as in the West. However, in our country, family values can yet instill a measure of bonding that age cannot rent asunder. Unhappily the scenario is changing and we do come across many cases of children driving out their aged parents from their homes. And we wish to believe these are aberrations and only posterity can deliver a verdict.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Last evening we stood the Dases a dinner at Chinatown. You see they had their wedding anniversary last Wednesday and we chose Sunday for the celebration. Big Boss was where we headed. The Dases were accompanied by their daughter and granddaughter. It wasn’t that crowded when we sat ourselves at the first floor family section but believe me it gradually filled up to capacity. The ladies had Sweet Corn soup to begin with while Mr. Das and I had a bottle of Kingfisher premium each. The snacks were Chilli Chicken and Chilli Fish. Mrs. Das doesn’t do chicken and we ordered egg fried rice for her. The rest had Mixed Fried Rice as the main dish with Honey Chicken and Hot Garlic fish. We finished the dishes with Pepper Chilli Prawn. The ladies true to their self had ice creams to end a splendid evening. We were surely full and we headed home after wishing the Dases a very good night.

Friday, March 05, 2010


I wrote a letter to the Editor of the Statesman Calcutta in response to an article by Naina Dey.
My letter is published in today's Statesman.

The Editor
The Statesman
Naina Dey has been unduly harsh on T.S. Eliot in her article ‘An unexpected arrival……….. and departure’ in 8th DAY of today’s Statesman. Tom never knew what hit him when he married Vivienne in 1915 after a brief courtship. It was a secretive affair and their parents were not informed about it. Vivienne’s mother had previously cancelled her daughter’s wedding to a gentleman approved by her father, believing her chronically sick daughter was not fit to marry and bear children. Tom was not aware of this and specially her menstrual disorder that made Vivienne surreptitiously take away the bedsheets home to be washed and returned whenever they spent a night at their friend’s.
Virginia Woolf was at her sarcastic best when she speaks of Vivienne as ‘to bear her on one’s shoulders, biting, wriggling, raving, scratching, unwholesome, powdered, insane, yet sane to the point of insanity, reading his letters, thrusting herself on us, coming in wavering, trembling.’ This memorable sentence ends by calling Vivienne ‘bag of ferrets’.
There have been attempts, notably by Seymour-Jones, to blame Eliot’s homosexuality both before and during the marriage as the chief cause of the marital breakdown. But Eliot’s homosexuality has never been proven. It remains a conjecture.
Bertrand Russell’s involvement with Eliot’s has been commented upon quite extensively. He believed he was helping two young people for whom he professed an ever-increasing affection and admiration. He sexually exploited the opportunity and later on was horrified and disgusted with his own behaviour.

Thanking you

Probal at Lake gardens

Probal my classmate from Bishop Cotton School, Nagpur dropped in at our place on Monday the 1st of March evening. Its about ten years now he is residing in Washington DC USA. We had a nice heart to heart chat on so many topics as friends meeting after ages do. We graced our reunion by sharing hock and soda water followed by a sumptuous dinner provide by my lady.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Sagar and his wife dropped in last evening to have dinner with my daughter Ananya and husband Sankar.

My brother from Shibpur, Howrah, came with a delicacy cooked by him: mutton biryani and mutton chap. Ananya had prepared chicken kebabs and baked Bhetki.

Samirda and I started off with Black Dog and kebabs while Sagar and his better half had kebabs and bhetki.

 The Biryani was simply delectable and the Chap was true to form. Soon, very soon, it was 11pm and it was time to call it a day.

 Many thanks Sagar and Samirda.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


We had lunch today at our favourite spot in China Town: Kim Ling. I started with Hayward’s 5000 and Sankar had Bloody Lady [whatever it means].

 Then we had Chicken vegetable wanton soup. The starters were Drums of Heaven and Chilli Lemon Prawn. Really succulent stuff!

The main dish was mixed chow and mixed rice. To finish it off we savored chilli fish with chilli garlic pepper chicken.

Surely we had an enjoyable time.