Sunny Sarkar in a black winter jacket which she has brightened up with a violet scarf

Sunny Sarkar in a black winter jacket which she has brightened up with a violet scarf

Soumyasree Chakraborty was applauded for her courage and her style when she wrote “I am fat but I know how to rock my style” a few days back. Sunayana Sarkar applauds her too.

Like Soumyasree, Sunayana has never let her weight come in the way of her confidence or her style aspirations. While we were studying together in Presidency College, Sunayana was the one who was choreographing us for the fashion show competitions and helping us bring home the prizes. She went on to choreograph Bollywood stars Bipasha Basu, Celina Jaitley and Koena Mitra, when they were all modeling in Kolkata.

Sunayana is settled in the USA, a mother of a four-year-old daughter and a senior vice president at a global marketing communication company. While she has adopted a more casual approach to fashion, she still loves to dress-up and experiment with new make-up on occasions. (She was the one to get me my first eye-lash curler when I didn’t even know how it looked).

But Sunayana feels there is the urgent need to talk about health in plus-size women.

Over to Sunayana:

I have struggled with my weight since I was eight years old. Just like Soumyasree, I have been lovingly nicknamed “Muti”, “Fatty” and “Fats” by some of my friends. My fashion in teenage years was limited to salwar-kameez, baggy T-shirts and skirts and if I had gone camping then there was no need to carry a tent because my clothes would have served the purpose.

Sunayana is completely comfortable and confident in a pair of shorts and T-shirt

Sunayana is completely comfortable and confident in a pair of shorts and T-shirt

Discussing fat people was never anyone’s agenda

Growing up in India in the late 80s and early 90s, the cultural norms dictated that fat girls should hide their body and western outfits were almost a strict no-no. It was not until I moved to the US in 1998, that I started to wear outfits like everyone else — shorts, tank tops, pants, dresses, swimsuits — partly because they were available and also culturally acceptable. So, I really want to congratulate Soumyasree for opening our eyes and starting a dialogue in our culture on a topic, which was never even considered worthy to be on anyone’s agenda.

Sunayana looking classy in a silk saree.

Sunayana looking classy in a silk saree.

Beauty is skin deep and confidence matters

Between my baggy T-shirts and oversized skirts, I never ceased to feel that I am beautiful and I never felt the need to lose weight to look beautiful. I love food and refused to sacrifice an extra helping of my sister’s Chinese food or my mom’s pudding just to fit into a jeans or a dress. I have always believed beauty is skin deep and if I am confident and happy it is all that matters.

Social media is glorifying anyone with a double digit size

We are starting to see that growing consciousness of beauty in all shapes and sizes in USA over the last few years starting with Dove commercials to plus size runway models. Social media is reveling and glorifying anyone with a double-digit size, who is daring to be a model or celebrating their beauty in photos that have not been photo shopped.

This really feels good because I am also one of them. But what is starting to bother me is that in the process of being politically too correct, we are starting to overlook a very important part of this conversation. It’s about HEALTH.

It’s a stupidity not to talk about health

Health is such an integral part of our beautiful self, that it’s almost a stupidity to not talk about it.  At an annual check-up in 2007, my doctor warned me about serious health issues, if I did not lose weight and change my reckless eating habits. Over the next two years, I was able to lose more than 20 kilos through healthier food, portion control of indulgent food and an active lifestyle.  However, I gained back most of the weight during pregnancy and the first year of motherhood.  I was so focused in learning how to balance motherhood and career, I forgot to take care of myself.

Now that my daughter is four years old, I have managed to get back to healthier eating habits and am going to the gym. But I have a long way to get to my healthy weight or Body Mass Index (BMI) and I am still struggling with health issues, which is very much a result of my overweight or obesity (depending at what time of the year, you weigh me).

Sunayana in 2009 when she had knocked off 20 kgs

Sunayana in 2009 when she had knocked off 20 kgs

Health is critical for happiness

I realize how health is critical to my confidence and happiness, which in turn makes me look beautiful. A healthy weight is co-related to how we feel and that reflects on our beauty.

This conversation is patronizing at times

While I love the celebration of my size 12 beautiful self, I am starting to feel this conversation is patronizing when no one is talking to me about how those extra pounds may not be good for my heart or my bones. I applaud the new consciousness about beauty that is emerging in India but I hope that India is not going to get warped in the political correctness like USA and leave out the discussion on the need to be at a healthy weight.

Rocking a floral summer dress on the streets of New York

Rocking a floral summer dress on the streets of New York

Doing justice to the monochrome trend.

Doing justice to the monochrome trend.

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Going the casual way in a pair of specs and a green shirt.

Black Resham-Gheecha from Baanshi by Aditi Sircar

Black Resham-Gheecha from Baanshi by Aditi Sircar

Fashion is not something I have ever written about in this blog but today I write about someone who’s constantly making a fashion statement rising above the negative comments and criticism that often come her way.

Soumyasree Chakraborty, a content writer by profession, has proved that to look good you don’t need to bow down to archaic social perceptions – the slim and fair kinds – all you need is oodles of confidence and a will to dress up.

What makes Soumyasree’s sartorial journey special is that she didn’t let other people’s perception of her body image come in the way of her fashion aspirations. When most of us are spending time on what suits us and what doesn’t and we are discussing crash diets to slim down in a jiffy for special occasions, Soumyasree is collecting accessories, clutches and shoes to ensure that she is impeccably turned out and in the rest of the time she is tossing up her favourite dishes (she is an amazing cook).

It’s because of this attitude of her’s and her lovely dress sense (each blouse of her’s is a fashion statement in itself) that she is in this post today.

PS : When I asked her if I can write “fat” in the headline or does she want me to write “plump”, her quick reply was, “fat” is just fine with me. I guess this attitude is what defines her.

She’s penned down her own thoughts for this blog. Over to Soumyasree:

When I discovered that Westside offers Plus Size clothing both in Indian and Western options, I was too excited and bought a couple of tops. This one is a single piece with a layered  look, teamed with an ankle-length jeans. To break the monotones, the turquoise necklace seemed to be a savior -- a gift from brother-in-law who got it from Darjeeling.

When I discovered that Westside offers Plus Size clothing both in Indian and Western options, I was too excited and bought a couple of tops. This one is a single piece with a layered look, teamed with an ankle-length jeans. To break the monochrome, the turquoise necklace is the saviour — a gift from brother-in-law who got it from Darjeeling.

When I was three years old the helper of my school bus named me “motu”.

When I was in my early teens a self proclaimed neighborhood macho man named me “moti bahenji”.

When I was 24, I got to try on western wear on myself for the first time.

Now that I am in my 30s I got featured in a Facebook page that has about 6500 followers, as cover girl to celebrate “women in all shapes, all forms everywhere in the world.”

As you can see, my sartorial journey has been an interesting one indeed! As I was growing up, it was a very natural thing for me to accept that whatever I would like in a shop, while shopping, would not come in my size; and this applied (and still does) to shoes as well. Sigh!

I was made to believe flab had to be covered under ill-fitting clothes

Whatever came in my size were for people decades older to me. So from a very young age I had to take to clothing that were not “in trend” for people my age. Added to that was the fact that my parents (and later on my in-laws) are pretty conservative in their approach. I was given an impression that flab was meant to be all covered up under loose (read: ill-fitted) clothing, and I started to believe in it. So much so, that when I set foot in the US, post marriage, I was sent off with a suitcase full of sarees and salwar suits to nearly sub-zero temperature, and I did not utter a word of protest.

So you see my experiments with clothing started out of necessity. I urgently needed to replenish my wardrobe with attires that would help me survive in that weather. By that time the husband too had warmed up a little with his new bride and suggested, “Why don’t you look for attires that would give you a shape instead of making you look dressed up in a sack?”

“What?” I exclaimed. “Don’t you know those stylish trendy stuff look good only on certain types of bodies? Flab should always be kept under cover.” But he eventually won. I started to explore options and eventually had a blast experimenting.

The US trip was the game changer

My husband is someone who could live in jeans all his life -- so matched up to him with my jeans and they say black is slimming, so is a natural favorite. Induced some color with beads from Nakshaa by Rijula Duttaroy. Belle shoes from Clarks.

My husband Sougata is someone, who could live in jeans all his life. So matched up to him with my jeans and they say black is slimming, so is a natural favorite. Induced some color with beads from Nakshaa by Rijula Duttaroy. Belle shoes from Clarks.

Being in the US, that houses a huge number of plus size people, made sure that there was an inventory of bigger sized clothing available for me to experiment with. Right from Walmart to J.C.Penny, from Macy’s to Saks Fifth Avenue – all had special sections for bigger women. Apart from that were brands like Lane Bryant and IGIGI that catered especially to larger women. I felt like a kid in a candy store. What I liked was finally available in my size. It made me aspire to transform how the world views beauty and fashion.

I have to work doubly hard to prove that plus-sized people can have a presence

Soon it became a favorite pet project of mine. Especially because being a plus size woman I have to work doubly hard to prove that we plus size women can have a nice presence too. You could be sexy, stylish, sophisticated in whatever shape and size you are in. The trick is not to hide the flab, but to accentuate the curves. The key is to find the right fit and apparels that would bring out the best in you and then accessorize properly to create a well coordinated ensemble. Once you start doing it, you shall start enjoying it too. It is like an art project; creating your own style board, each day, each time.

I completely ignore criticism which is not constructive

The more you experiment the more you’d discover what can bring out the best in you. Oh and you also have to learn to ignore criticisms that are not constructive in nature! I get it all the time! Especially since I love cooking and my Social Media feeds have photographs of my culinary experiments, people gleefully attribute my cooking to be the culprit that makes me obese. (As if, I cooked and ate at will when I was three years old, or thirteen, as a matter of fact.)

Then there are people who label me a narcissist for uploading my dressed-up pictures on my own timeline. (Get a life! It is my timeline – you always have the option to unfollow, unfriend or even block!)

But when you are happy the way you are, you become an expert in dodging anything that can mar your happiness. After all you get only so many years in one life, and you better fill them up with happiness and positivity!

Dyed Tussar with Cross Stitch Embroidery pink from Sanskriti by Lalia Duttagupta. Accessories include a matching clutch and a simple necklace.

Dyed Tussar with Cross Stitch Embroidery pink from Sanskriti by Lalia Duttagupta. Accessories include a matching clutch and a simple necklace and ring.

I have teamed bright colours and played with my hair. I salute weavers of Bengal in  a matka silk saree from Angachaya by Nisupta Bhattacharya.

I have teamed up bright colours and played with my hair. I salute weavers of Bengal in a matka silk saree from Angachaya by Nisupta Bhattacharya.

I dress up for each occasion

Layered dressing when done right looks good on plus-sized people. I also avoid tops that have snug necklines. Seen here in Jeans from Alto Moda (the Plus Size section of Pantaloons), Top is from San Francisco based plus size brand IGIGI. Jacket from Lane Bryant, a plus size American brand.

Layered dressing when done right looks good on plus-sized people. I also avoid tops that have snug necklines. Seen here in Jeans from Alto Moda (the Plus Size section of Pantaloons), Top is from San Francisco based plus size brand IGIGI. Jacket from Lane Bryant, a plus size American brand.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not someone who believes that only the West can churn out fashionable clothing. I am still equally comfortable in my sarees and salwar suits. It is just that I would no more wear them for say a pool party or for a picnic; just as I would not wear jeans to a family wedding or a traditional religious ceremony. In fact those who know me can swear by my obsession for sarees. But then that is another story altogether!

I am now settled in my skin

By the time we relocated back to India the plus size fashion scenario saw a little shift in gear, albeit a very slow one. Departmental stores like Pantaloons and Westside today host a separate section for plus sized women. There are brands like Mustard Fashions and Amydus that specialize in plus size clothing. Apart from that designers too have become less snooty about designing for bigger people – this gives you the option to get tailor made trendy clothing according to your taste and budget! No, the struggle isn’t over yet. People still stare if they see a plus sized woman wearing a Sundress or let’s say a pair of Capri or a pair of Bermuda. But as you feel settled in your skin, you shall start feeling happy about your experiments, and all the positivity would make you ignore the naysayers with grace and élan.

Handloom from Cupraa by Sarmishtha Som

Handloom from Cupraa by Sarmishtha Som

Batik on tussar from Angachaya by Nisupta Bhattacharya

Batik on tussar from Angachaya by Nisupta Bhattacharya

The highlight of this attire is the specially designed blouse.

The highlight of this attire is the specially designed blouse.

Anshu's Rongeen Collection by Pritha Mukherjee. Notice the Bengal special jamdani in the pallu. Necklace: Tantra by Meher Dasgupta. Bracelet: Nakshaa by Rijula Duttaroy

Anshu’s Rongeen Collection by Pritha Mukherjee. Notice the Bengal special jamdani in the pallu. Necklace: Tantra by Meher Dasgupta. Bracelet: Nakshaa by Rijula Duttaroy

A different take on the Bengali fave red and white saree. Saree and the unique blouse are both creations of Nextile by Suchismita Dasgupta. Jewelry: RuHH by Debarpita Sen

A different take on the Bengali fave red and white saree. Saree and the unique blouse are both creations of Nextile by Suchismita Dasgupta. Jewelry: RuHH by Debarpita Sen

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RJ Snigdha and Roopa Sengupta organised the event Wonders of Women in Bangalore to salute women of substance

Bangalore witnessed a unique event recently. And there was actually a reason to say WOW. In a glamour-obsessed society when achievers are most often singled out by the way they look, the industry they work in or the network they have, RJ Snigdha decided to organize an event where she felicitated ‘real’ women.

A finalist at the Miss India pageant, a radio jockey and a super mom, RJ Snigdha said, “Since 2012 I have been weaving this project to salute the woman of ‘real’ substance.”

Called Wonders of Women, hence WOW, the event was held to felicitate unsung heroines – women who have battled physical handicaps, domestic violence, social and peer pressure, terminal diseases and have still become achievers and reached professional heights.

Roopa Sengupta, a corporate professional, who helped RJ Snigdha organize the event said, “These ladies have been nominated either by their neighbours, friends, colleagues, relatives or through the social media”

The event is a dream project of RJ Snigdha, who has been an anchor, a host at various large events for the past decade and is now actively into organizing her own events through her own company Get Going for the past four years.
Snigdha said: “Many a times when ‘Super Woman’ or ‘Super Mom’ contests were held, where I have been a participant myself, I have seen that organisers/ judges do not recognise the woman or mom who might have faced umpteen challenges in life and yet approached life head on with dignity and aplomb. This has always bothered me. That is why I started WOW. I believe you just salute women of substance there can’t be a contest about it.”

WOW is a non-profit event and the concept is to recognize and felicitate unsung women achievers who have seen hardships and faced challenges in life and yet are living examples today and inspire many other such women around them.

This touching tribute was followed by a musical evening by an all women band playing and singing upbeat Bollywood songs to enthrall the audience.

An all-women band performing at WOW

An all-women band performing at WOW

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Alaka Sahani won the National Award for the Best Film Critic for the year 2013

Alaka Sahani received the National Award for the Best Film Critic for the year 2013. She received the award for her phenomenal writings on Indian theatre and new facets of documentary film making, for writings that took Indian entertainment beyond the staple of glamour. No wonder when entertainment journalists in India are obsessed about chasing glamorous stars for their pictures, quotes and interviews, Alaka chooses to stand apart and says she finds Tun Tun, fascinating. In a no-holds-barred interview Alaka Sahani talks about current state of entertainment journalism in India and why she rarely takes selfies with the stars.

Do you feel that there is an obsession with glamour?

Definitely, yes. As a movie-crazy nation we all are interested in gossip, glamour and stars’ private lives. Most leading newspapers and tabloids cater to this. They have special sections and supplements that feature such pieces along with glamorous photos of stars. An array of websites too feed on Bollywood gossip as well as photographs of stars making an appearance at events, walking the red carpet or sneaking into their lover’s pad. Even an insipid photo of an actor having dinner or coming out of an airport can create a buzz.

However, my understanding is that such obsession is more acute in urban centres. In the Tier-II and Tier-III towns of India, people are more interested in politics, developmental issues and sports.

What kind of articles you feel work with readers but are rarely written or researched?

We hardly come across a piece, unless it’s a blog, which goes beyond an A-lister’s stock replies and brings out his or her quirks, concerns and insecurities (A case in point is this piece I had read long ago http://www.theguardian.com/film/2008/may/16/ewanmcgregor). Also, it is rare to find a star who does not stick to politically-correct answers. That’s the reason Kangana Ranaut’s straight-speak on Anupama Chopra’s show The Front Row was so refreshing and went viral in 2013.

Do you feel the internet has changed journalism to a great extent?

Yes, it has. It gives previously unimaginable reach to all kind of film-related writings – be it a news break on Twitter, Facebook post or blogs. The online department of leading publications too religiously upload Bollywood-related tidbits with attention-grabbing headlines. YouTube has been yet another major gamechanger.

Are stars and PR people manipulating the media?

Absolutely, yes. And this is not a startling fact anymore. In fact, both the parties — stars and their PRs as well as media — feed off each other. Today, money can buy the stars, or for that matter anyone, space and visibility in media.

Gone are the days when journalists and stars shared a very informal rapport. Even though some prominent journalists might have access to top stars, the latter mostly speak to the media only when they want to. For example, when the release date of their movies is nearing or they are keen to clear their stand in a controversial matter or they want to push their pet cause/project.

An article/interview that you would want to write but haven’t managed to write yet.

Someday, I would like to write about popular and talented supporting actors of India such as Tun Tun, Mukri, Kanhaiyalal, Leela Mishra, Om Prakash and Iftekhar. I have grown up on a heavy dose of black-and-white classics as well as movies of the 60s and 70s thanks to my parents. So those worlds continue to fascinate me. I find these actors with their mannerisms and character traits so endearing even though they were typecast.

Tun Tun was called the first woman comedian of India

Tun Tun was called the first woman comedienne of India

How has winning the national Award made a difference to your life and work?

It has not made any major difference in my life so far. But, thanks to this, today I am connected to a lot more people from various fields — the film industry, writers and, most importantly, people from Odisha, my home state. After the award was announced, I received immense warmth and love from all around — my office, family, friends, lost friends and cinema lovers. Recently, my father, a former deputy commissioner of Income Tax, received a thunderous applause at the annual meet of his department’s pensioner’s association which celebrated my award. This was priceless.

In an age when journalists are doing everything to show how happening their lives are you are very low profile despite being a National Award winner. Why?

I am a bit inhibited when it comes to showing off every little achievement. I would like to change that about myself to some extent. To begin with, I will post my bylines on Twitter and Facebook more often.

Alaka Sahani receiving the National Award from the president of India

Alaka Sahani receiving the National Award from Pranab Mukherjee, the President of India

Most journalists publish selfies with stars on FB I have never seen you doing that. Why?

I believe selfies should be for fun, not to show off that I just met this actor. Since most journalists are fans of stars as well as movie-buffs, I understand there is natural urge to take selfies. Later on, they post it on social media partly due to the pure joy of meeting a film star but mostly to have more followers or grab attention on social media. Stars too understand this and rarely decline a request for selfies.

Having said that, I am not immune to such temptations. I do take photographs with the stars I love as well as with whom I end up having a memorable conversation. In the past, I have put up a photo with Naseeruddin Shah (it’s my favourite. The camera that was focussed on him had caught a hazy reflection of mine on a mirror behind him) and Wong Kai Wai whom I met at IFFI, Goa. I will admit to you that I have selfies with Hrithik Roshan, Varun Dhawan and Dimple Kapadia on my phone. Someday, I should be able to post it on social media. Someday.

What is your opinion on the current state of film journalism?

It is an exciting time for film journalism, given the multiple platforms and wide reach that it enjoys today. While magazines and newspapers continue to carry regular stories related to cinema such as interviews with film personalities, trend stories and gossips, some of the websites and blogs have been putting up in-depth and well-researched pieces. What makes some of them a nice read is the quality of writing.

 

About Alaka Sahani: 

For the year 2013, Alaka Sahani received the National Films Award for the Best Film Critic. She was presented the award for her writings that highlighted facets of cinema beyond glamour and gossip. Currently, she is working as a Senior Assistant Editor with The Indian Express, Mumbai, and heads its Features section.

During her eight-year stint at The Indian Express, she has written extensively on cinema and theatre, apart from covering the Mumbai Film Festival and IFFI, Goa. She have also worked for some of India’s leading newspapers including Hindustan Times (Kolkata and Mumbai) and The Times of India, Kolkata, during her journalistic career spanning over 15 years.

 

Suzette Jordan (Pix by Diganta Gogoi published in Friday)

Suzette Jordan (Pix by Diganta Gogoi published in Friday)

Strangely Suzette has been on my mind for the last few days. Mainly because of everything that’s been going on about the documentary India’s Daughter. Many friends were asking me why I hadn’t written anything on the documentary on my blog.

I hadn’t because I was angry. One interview of a despicable rapist triggered such a debate and such quick action was taken by the government. But if you Google you will find a 100 interviews and articles both in Indian and international media on Suzette Jordan, the woman who had the guts to reveal her face after being gang-raped on Park Street, but the Indian government never bothered to order a probe into her case. Never bothered to check how a Chief Minister could write off a rape saying “it is a concocted story.”

I kept thinking Nirbhaya is gone but Suzette is there – still fighting, still struggling, still facing her rapists everyday in the courtroom, but her case and ordeal continues to be dragged on and on in a sham called a fast-track court. Nirbhaya’s family was given money, an apartment and jobs, but why did it continue to be a lone battle for Suzette Jordan?

Does tragedy work better in India?

Will Suzette’s death now bring the poignancy that her story lacked so far?

Now she will probably be, finally forgiven, for going to a disco late at night (the worst blunder an Indian woman could commit)? Her struggle will now be glorified, help will come to her family or will she still remain an untouchable, like she had become, because one insensitive lady one day had declared that Suzette was lying when she reported her rape?

When I heard about her death my first instinct was to believe that she had probably been murdered because there were plenty of people out there who would have loved her dead. I couldn’t imagine she had succumbed to meningoencephalitis.

We spoke last on Facebook messenger on February 27 and she wrote, “All okay with me except my back problems.”

This was Suzette Jordan. She might have been fighting a thousand battles at that moment but she always had the positivity to say, “All okay.”

Now I see people are writing that she had a contagious laugh had a great sense of humour. Why wouldn’t she? She was every woman and being a rape survivor did not take away her right to laugh and have a life.

I had once gone to interview Suzette on a summer afternoon and their home was like any other household. Her daughters were excited to spot a feline near their pet cat Hunter. They had a friend with them along with Suzette’s nephew. The kids were telling her, “Looks like Hunter’s got a girlfriend”, and all of them were laughing.

Completely unpretentious and at ease in her two-room modest apartment in Behala, Suzette brought up her two lovely and intelligent daughters being the best mother she could be.

On hearing about Suzette’s demise I thought of her daughters, of her mother Gilda Jordan. What they must be going through. Suzette was so protective about them. Once she said, “I am so paranoid about my daughters that because of me they don’t have a normal teenage life anymore. I am perpetually calling them on their mobiles.”

But the girls never held it against her. They loved their mother with all their heart and despite the fact that their life changed completely after that fateful night the girls continued to be the pillar of support in her life, the reason for which Suzette always said she had the will to live, the will to fight.

But very few people know Suzette’s battles brought small victories for Indian women. Even if the Indian Government did not announce a probe into her case the Delhi High Court invited her twice to know her views on her trial. She had told them that the two-finger test was the most humiliating thing any woman had to go through.

Since then the test has been banned in India.

Suzette was the kind of woman who demanded respect and ensured people gave her that. “Rape is not my shame,” is something Suzette always said.

This statement defined her.

It would be unfair to say that Indian society shunned Suzette Jordan completely. She explained her dichotomous experiences best when she said, “On the one hand I have been invited to talk shows on TV, NGO inaugurations, school seminars and award functions but on the other hand despite my work experience I have not landed a job. After the incident happened if I was asked by my landlord to vacate my apartment, the landlord of my current apartment rented this place to me despite knowing everything about me. I have had parents of my daughters’ friends agreeing to send their kids over to my place to spend time with them because I was scared for my daughters to go out.”

In the last interview that I did with Suzette she had said: “If I have come this far, I am not willing to give up hope. There has to be justice. But once the case gets over, hopefully I will be able to find some peace. I won’t have to remember every gory detail of what happened to me that night and talk about it in court day after day. I won’t have to see the people who did this to me, every other day.”

Justice is what Suzette Jordan deserves, not a candle march not flowers at her grave.

 

amritaspeaks:

My fellow blogger Fiza very beautifully brings out through this short story that how we have become immune to violence in other people’s lives but it just takes a simple step to stop it….Do read

Originally posted on insaneowl:

We Are Aware: Stop Domestic Violence
by Fiza Pathan

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Calvin was reading the Times of India in his sitting room when he heard the doorbell ring. Folding the paper and keeping it aside, Calvin sauntered to the door, peeped through the keyhole and beamed. On the other side of the door was his old school friend Jonathan with a can of coke in his hand. Calvin opened the door and the two men hugged each other after which they sat down in the sitting room. Jonathan kept on drinking his coke while he narrated to Calvin the happenings at his work place in Mahim. Calvin listened patiently but his hands were longing to hold and get back to his newspaper, especially the sports section.

Just then, a sound of broken glass was heard. Jonathan stopped in mid sentence while Calvin seemed unconcerned. The sound of the broken glass was followed…

View original 771 more words

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Jhinuk Gupta is a tax lawyer and a brilliant singer

Apart from the fact that their names start with “J”, Jhinuk Gupta and Jhelum Banerjee have much in common.

I should start with their capacity to hide certain facts about themselves. While I have known Jhinuk from school, I never knew she started singing Rabindrasangeet at four and was a topper at the music school Gitabitan, a fact she never wore on her sleeves.

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Jhelum Banerjee is a PR professional and singing is her passion

As for Jhelum the first day she walked into office I was quite excited to see a pretty face on TV (Jhelum was then working in serials like Bhalobasha Mondobasha and Ogo Priyotama) was going to be a part of a newspaper team. As I got to know her better I knew Jhelum continued to dabble in theatre and balance sales targets but I never knew she had so much music in her.

If some realizations are beautiful, it’s realizations like these. You know people for ages and then one fine day they take your breath away by their music, something they always carried in their heart, but you never knew.

Jhinuk’s rendition of Aguner Paroshmoni by Tagore during the staging of the dance drama Pujarini, at ICCR recently, had me in goose bumps and Jhelum’s Chhai Ronga Akash, a song which is a part of the album Kolkata Music Diary, which they launched recently, swayed me by its sheer passion.

These two women actually made me fall in love with Kolkata all over again. I realized,despite all the criticism, all our daily woes, all the issues, passion is still the crux of Kolkata’s social fabric. People still dare to dream, follow their heart and indulge in their passion.

Jhelum and team Kolkata Music Diary at the launch

Jhelum and team Kolkata Music Diary at the launch

Jhelum is now a PR professional keeping a hectic day job, yet she found the time to bring together a bunch of talented young people along with brother Pavlu Banerjee and cut an album that resurrects Mohiner Ghoraguli memories.

Jhinuk is a tax lawyer who followed the family tradition of joining the profession while keeping her love for music alive. Jhinuk is married to Rajib Gupta, the grandson of famous singer and music director late Pankaj Mullick, and in 2005 the husband-wife duo founded the Pankaj Mullick Music and Art Foundation, which aims at preserving the work of the maestro.

Looking at these two ladies I thought of my own passion for dance which got lost in a medley of day jobs, deadlines and duties. Or maybe I didn’t have enough music in me to keep the passion alive. Or did I?

Jhinuk and Jhelum taught me to think anew. I guess this is what real passion is all about.It makes others want to be a part of it.