Thursday, October 27, 2016

Epic 1 by InFocus ~ Challenging the biggies!

“Hello Sir. Please step aside. You’re disturbing us. This is the last warning”- The elderly looking man advocated. Yes, it was pretty evident that he was annoyed at this late-evening “onslaught”.
“But dada, we are just clicking photos…..”- One of our young team-mates decided to take the onus of being the spokesperson...ermm, all in vain. He was abruptly stopped midway through the lines.
“We simply don’t care. Thousands of photographers come to Kumortuli at this time of the year with their huge lenses and camera bags…it hampers our work to the core. It’s the business end of the year right before Durga Pujo, people should respect that.”- The grumpy old man delineated. Well, let me confess, he had a point.
Historically, Kumortuli, the pottery hub of Calcutta, transforms into the favorite hunting ground of photographers right before Durga Pujo; yes as a photography enthusiast, this place serves as the perennial source of delightful frames - the lights, the colors, the textures and the charm of traditional artistic excellence reflects through the photographs. Having said that, the “crowd” of photo-hunters has increased exponentially over the years resulting in superfluous chaos; their sophisticated gear complicating the woes. I have even seen people struggling with their “towering” 70-200 mm, f/2.8L lenses in the narrow by-lanes of Kumortuli.
“Sir. Why would you need such high-end cameras for clicking pictures within such a narrow space?”- I remember somebody had posted this question as a photo-comment on a reputed photographer’s profile and that in turn, turned out to be a very engaging activity. The thread fetched around 150+ responses but the focal point of discussion was revolving around- “Can a mobile phone camera effectively match up to the standards set by a DSLR?”
To quote one of the best replies in thread- “I won’t mind investing in a high end phone that can click fabulous and sharp low light photographs. Who wants to carry heavy DSLR’s while shooting in tight spaces anyway?” – Oh well, very interesting take indeed. In-fact, he echoed many of our thoughts through these couple of subtle statements; here’s a couple of key deductions from the statement above:-

  1. It is pretty evident that NOT using a mobile phone in typical scenarios is, perhaps, not by choice but by compulsion,
  2. It has been well established in people’s minds that mobile phones could be a very convenient solution; that too for a value added functionality-primarily because of its light weight.
And here lies the catch- now that we have assessed the As-Is scenario, it’s not very difficult to re-engineer and gauge the To-Be solution when it comes to mobile phone photography. Talking from experience, I have had the opportunity to glance through Padmanshree Raghu Rai’s mesmerizing mobile photography series that was displayed at the Delhi Photo Festival last year; it strongly establishes the fact that mobiles phones could actually challenge the output of modern day high end DSLRs…of course that comes with the caveat that you need to be more creative and patient while clicking through a mobile device. And of course, coming to the aspect of “sharpness” of an image, the primary parameter in question is whether the lens has a large aperture. A large aperture opens up the possibility of more light falling on to the sensor and thereby enhances the possibility of better focusing and better results in low-light conditions. Also, point to be noted is, the use of a faster shutter speed is eased out because of the larger aperture which also results in crisper images and less of vignetting. The larger aperture, in general, allows the leverage of a shallow Depth of Field that becomes extremely critical while shooting products or portraits – the shallow DOF blurs the background substantially and allows crispness to step in while focusing on a subject; it could be a very interesting exercise to test whether a mobile phone camera can generate precise results while shooting a Diwali Diya with multi-colored bokeh in the backdrop. Alright…before it gets too technical, let us explore whether the existing mobile phone brands are investing in R&D and putting their thoughts together in terms of developing such a handy solution.
The answer is YES.
Presenting the all new Epic 1, the premium variant of the new series of phones (Epic) brought to you by InFocus.
Epic 1 offers to the customers, one of the best mobile phone front cameras available in the country; though personally speaking I’m more interested in exploring the 16 MP rear camera, with a large aperture of f/2.0 and most importantly the embedded hybrid AF that is ideally a combination of Phase and Contrast Detection. Any photography enthusiast would agree with the fact that having lens with a large aperture in itself is a big boon; the image quality is makes a “sharp” rise as a result. The fact that Epic 1 is offering you the leverage of f/2.0, I reckon you can now give your DSLR a much needed break. Also, ideally, if phase and contrast detection are assembled, you can in turn expect the best of auto-focusing functionality integrated with your device - that in turn, ensures speed of focusing and the crispness it generates on auto-focus lock. There’s another key aspect that I’d like to highlight here - I’ve been working on light trails since the last couple of months, in close concurrence with slow-shuttered images and I have been facing a hell lot of issues while focusing on the stagnant subjects in the same frame in the hand-held mode. The reason is pretty simple, if you have to operate at a shutter speed of 2 seconds, you need to hold your breath pretty tight to keep your hands steady; the issue is aggravated since the DSLR’s (with lenses on) would be pretty heavy. Now that Epic 1 promises to offer precise Object Tracking & Dynamic Auto Focus, this could turn out to be a revolutionary addition to the world of technology; I won’t be surprised if it generates decent output in while shooting moving objects in low light condition. I am presuming that we could control the ISO moderately to reduce grains in the image.
By the way, when I say that Epic 1 offers one of the best front cameras ever, I am convinced that the 8 MP, f/1.8 aperture lens is going to be a legendary inclusion. My word, clicking selfies in low light conditions would now be a cake-walk. There has been a growing controversy based on the traditional definitions and concepts, whether “clicking selfies” qualify under the umbrella of “photography”; Epic 1, equipped with a fabulous front camera with a large aperture, might just put an end to all that. Leveraging the AIS Support, the processor can instantaneously combine four consecutively captured images into one final output, eliminating the unwanted blur generated due to camera shake. Although I personally prefer still photographs, but shooting 1/32nd super slow-motion videos on your mobile phone could be fun - I am planning to implement the same while covering the Diwali Sky Lantern festival covering the entire trajectory of the lantern once it’s released. It could serve a dual purpose –

  1. To test the “mettle” of the rear camera in terms of capturing low light images/motion pictures 
  2. “Smoothness” of the recorded video and to check whether the quality degrades if two or more videos are combined to form a short movie. I have also been told that the camera supports 4K Video recording that indeed adds to the quality and the richness in color & tone. 
Having said that, I can’t wait to get a hands-on experience! Who knows, I might put my DSLR up for auction if I’m happy with the results! Perhaps the artists at Kumortuli can now breathe a sigh of relief. ;)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster

“Thanks Sam. I have fallen in love with the city already!”- She predicated.

I was rather taken aback; yes Calcutta is indeed a photographer’s delight but then for someone who has arrived just a couple of days back, isn’t it a slightly expeditious call?  
“I did manage to reach Daw Bari yesterday and I cover Chatu Babu, Latu Babu’s ancestral house on the way as well. I was mesmerized.”- She continued, I could sense the kinetic euphoria in her voice.
Damn! That’s very impressive; new in town and hunting down those traditionally key focal points within a short span of time…
“Oh and I must mention that the popular myth that Calcutta is over-crowded during Durga Pujo has been busted this time around. Laudable traffic control by the Kolkata Police”- She ratified over call.
Goodness gracious me, I was rather startled at this….she is pretty much echoing my thoughts. I strongly believe that the “traffic scene” has been rather impressive this year; we have been covering almost all the major Pujos across North and South Calcutta, not too many road blocks or traffic congestion this time around. Yes, there have been times when Pandal hoppers have been asked to take a slightly longer course, but then that those calls have been taken rather strategically. Apart from the bizarre hike in Ola and Uber prices, this has been a pretty seamless affair.

“Oh yes, I forgot to mention this….this would rather be the pivotal talking point of my trip”- She narrated, I was dying to listen to the rest of the story...”That boy helped me a lot! I don’t know why he did, but he was the one who made it possible.”
“Who?”- My impulsive reaction followed. She had been with us right through the day at our friend’s “Bonedi Bari” and as far as I remember, she had left alone.
“I don’t know his name, but I met him near Beadon Street. A young chap, he seemed very interested to see the photographs that I had clicked and in turn, agreed to take me to some of the famous Bonedi Bari’s of North Calcutta. He also wanted me to click a couple of his photographs; and I happily agreed. I could see the jubilance on his face; he never wanted money….”- She recited.

#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - Poto-chitro depicting "Chokkhu-Daan"
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - Gearing up for the mega-event of the year 
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - The stars are shining bright :)
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - No refusal in this very case ;)
Eureka. I have been shooting and compiling a series called “People of Pujo” this festive season and I reckon I have already got a lead. But mostly importantly, this cardinal segment of the conversation made my day…in-fact the rest of my otherwise grueling post-Pujo-week. I remember our Pre-Pujo telephonic conversation when she had expressed her concern in terms non-acquaintance with the local language or Hindi; but then Calcutta has been historically hospitable towards tourists…the City with a Soul as they aptly say. The guy was pretty much with her right through the evening, guiding her through the “famed” by-lanes of Calcutta and even assisting her in finalizing her Nabami and Dashami itineraries. This episode reminded me of a German friend (I had met him through Instagram) who had a similar experience in Calcutta during Durga Pujo 2014; he was pretty much track of directions in the soaring late night Behala crowd when a rickshaw-puller stepped into the scene and guided him back to his hotel. In-fact renowned Street photographers from across the world who have come to Calcutta to shoot, have praised her perennial conviviality and amiability. I distinctly remember an incident that had made it to the head-lines during Pujo 2013- a yellow-taxi driver drove all the way from Salt Lake, hunted down a British passenger’s guest-house in South Calcutta and returned his mis-placed DSLR; this is Calcutta for you. When in Calcutta, you are in for surprises...this city never fails to mesmerize her visitors...!
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - And the stage is set for her magic!
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - Blessings on offer for my blog readers :)
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - The dazzle- she has almost arrived.... :)
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - She is getting all decked for the carnival
"Hey…are you there?”- She perturbed voice broke my trace. I haven’t been speaking for a while, it was a rather overwhelming feeling.
“Yeah. Sorry. So when is flight back to Chennai? Joining work right away?”- I asked rather un-mindfully.
“In just about 20 minutes…I thought I’d give you a call before leaving. It has been such a nice stay, all thanks to you and…..”- I stopped her mid-way, I did notice that she says “Thanks” way too many times. And I’m rather allergic to this, I wish I could have spent more time with her in this duration. I would have loved to have seen more angles and perspectives of my beloved city through her lens.
“I saw some of your pictures on Facebook and on our group. Those are really nice. As a photographer if you had to pick two of your favorite Durga Pujo moments, what would those be?” – I asked analytically. It’s a very interesting study I believe; to gauge a photographer’s unique point of view.
“Ummm…very difficult to pick, there were too many moments to my liking. However, I personally loved shooting Shondhya Aarti (evening prayer) at Kalighat and the holy Sindoor Khela (The Pre-Idol Immersion Vermilion ceremony) at Daw Bari, some beautiful frames in there. I would love to come back next year and shoot again.”- She asserted.
“Have a safe flight, V. Subho Bijoya!”- Yes. I made a new friend, a new connection, this Pujo; this, my going to stay!
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - And the coveted rituals would follow...
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - This looks supernatural doesn't it?
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - Final moments before she leaves.....
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - The pre-immersion Sindoor Khela....
Thanks to Kurlon for launching this very innovative #Kurlotsav campaign covering the major social networking platforms and creating a huge buzz on the digital space. I must say that your festive season offers are very lucrative; I personally loved the TVC since it aptly portrays the essence of celebrations through vivid imagery and engaging clips.
P.S. I know for sure that V, being a fantastic photographer, has sent in her entries for the #KurlotsavKaptures competition as well; I firmly believe that, is a critical success factor of this campaign which is pretty much in discussion in the photography circuit of the city. #KurlotsavKaptures has recorded over 2000 high quality entries across all the platforms combined; that is a remarkable feat indeed. I'm very sure of the fact that the entire photographers' community is eagerly waiting for the final results!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Restaurant Week India: The Conversation...

“Sir, can I take 5 minutes of your time?”- He catechized, splintering through the impervious layer of silence. Aha! That wasn’t too dramatic anyway.
“(Arghh)…Ermm…okay….sure”- I responded laboriously; trance was broken for sure. Not the best state of affairs, but then that’s how life is; euphoria is fugacious. 5 minutes was a hell lot of time.
“Sir, I heard that this Quest Mall has a host of fantastic eateries. Are they affordable?”- He investigated. Goodness gracious me, is he a mind-reader? Yes, he did pick me up from Quest Mall, but then, such pin point questions? Oh wait! Has he been stalking me all the while? Why didn’t he raise these questions in Sohini’s presence?
“Umm…yes, there are. Why?”- I sounded rather skeptical with my response. Why was he asking such flaky questions in the first place?
“Sir, girl-friend ko leke jana hai….aap madam se baat kar rahe the, to maine socha…..” (Sir, I wanted to take my girl-friend along, overheard your discussion and thought of asking) - He was interrupted midway by an imbecilic tippler crossing the road; he had to pull the brake real hard. Ah, you do expect these things to happen at this juncture; kinda scary when it happens on the E .M. Bypass of course…I checked my wristwatch, it read 10:52 PM.
This brake (read- break) was a much needed one; the thrust “shook” me and in turn, gave me that extra bit of time to gather my thoughts. Yes, he has been following every bit of our conversation rather punctiliously and of course, waited for the right opportunity to shoot those questions. But then, are his intentions right?
“Sir, it’s our anniversary next week and we wanted to celebrate in style. If you could kindly suggest…..”- Of course the interruption couldn’t stem the flow.
Hmm…I was perhaps assuming way too much. But I decided to keep silent for the time being, I was waiting for more “information”.
“Sir, she loves Spaghetti….but I can’t afford it most of the times. I heard you discussing this with madam and couldn’t resist myself from asking, I hope you didn’t mind.”- He said. And for the first time he turned around and looked into my eyes. He was a young man, perhaps of the same age-group…but he had bright and glossy eyes. I couldn’t make out his expression in the dark….but by now, I was rather sure that there was hope in there. He was referring to our conversation on our way back home from the Quest Mall, the conversation that was pretty much woven around the delightful cuisines that we tasted at the Smokehouse Deli as a part of exclusive preview of “The Restaurant Week 2016”, Calcutta leg. As a part of this preview, we, the bloggers were also given complimentary Ola Prime rides to and from the restaurant of our choice; the person in discussion was my Ola Prime chauffeur on the way back home. We were pretty much on a “high” during the first half of the journey….savoring each and every moment of our dining experience at Smokehouse Deli; “we” as in me and my wifey, the aftermath of a delightfully piquant outing. The signature “Boss Style Spaghetti” (that was served right at the climax), pretty much dominated the discussion…it’s perhaps the best spaghetti that I’ve had in recent times. And very importantly, it wasn’t filling too. Of course, the Peri Peri Rubbed Grilled Chicken with Citrus Pimento did impress us too….I’ve always had a thing or two for Peri Peri chicken, remember having a great one at the DLF Cyber hub in Gurgaon, but this one was class apart. Sohini, by the way, loved the Spiced Coriander and with Lemongrass Chicken Skewers starter as well, I have always felt that the mere presence of coriander enhances the taste of a specific set of cuisines; this was no exception. Loved the tenderness in its texture, the way it coats on to the taste-buds and almost melts in your mouth, arghh…I’m almost getting carried away with the flow as I write it. The smoked chicken & onion pizza, with a thin delectable base was impressive because of the idiosyncratic flavor, I found the non-veg sliders slightly filling. Smokehouse Deli was kind enough to allow us to taste all the signature dishes despite the three-course-set-menu format of the Restaurant Week India initiative- and it goes without saying that we relished the experience to the core. Special mention for the Devil-led Roast Tenderloin served with Garlic Jam Bites that was luscious to the core; I'm generally not a beef fan, but then this one would perhaps change my perception...I reckon this would pair well with Red wine pretty nicely. The Moremelon was an interesting rendition for me, experimenting with fresh fruits has always been my thing- the revitalizing dose of Moremelon was much needed on an otherwise grueling weekday. Not to forget, the ambiance is beautiful and the hospitality amazing, never had a chance to dine at Smokehouse Deli before and it was quite a pleasant experience. Of course, in course of the Restaurant Week, you can actually try all of these at a flat rate of INR 900/- per diner, the signature appetizers being priced at an additional INR 100/- and signature main courses at an additional INR 200/- only; that for me does the trick. I firmly believe that Calcutta is the food central of country and a Pre-Pujo pocket-friendly solution makes this deal all the more lucrative. A mere INR 60/- as reservation tariff, is again an affordable proposition in my opinion; that completes the entire cycle..!!
Smokehouse Deli Delights: The Refreshing Moremelon
The excitement was slowly settling in…a palliative phase I would rather say…I was also enjoying the ride back home via the stretches of E.M. Bypass; aaaaand my trance was broken. Blame it on Sohini, who was over enthusiastic with her explication or our overall eloquent food-versation that tickled his dripping spirits. The tête-à-tête began just a while after Sohini got down at Dhakuria, ermm….it was a rather one sided interaction, but then, the damage was done. Rahim (Just about realized that his name did flash on the Ola App when I booked my Ola Prime) was desperate to take his girl-friend out for an affordable-dinner-date...!

Smokehouse Deli Delights: The Luscious Devil-led Roast Tenderlon & Garlic Jam Bites
Smokehouse Deli Delights: The Delightful Smoked Chicken & Onion Thin Crust Pizza

Smokehouse Deli Delights: The Savory Peri Peri Rubbed Grilled Chicken with Citrus Pimento
Smokehouse Deli Delights: The Signature Smokehouse Deli Non-Veg Sliders
“Sir…can you suggest some budget dining options? Where did you have Spaghetti…? The Boss style Spaghetti?”-  Rahim poked again. He wanted me to speak up….at the same time, he sensed that I wasn’t willing to. And the mere realization that my drop location was approaching, literally freaked him out…I wasn’t a savior by any stretch of imagination. But his concern was genuine….fine dining is indeed a pricey affair these days…the concept of luxury-budget-dinner is pretty much non-existent these days; I quickly did a back-ground research on the internet using Ola Prime’s Free Wi Fi, I wanted to double check on the Restaurant Week India 2016 dates before floating the idea.
“I am a Mechanical Engineer Sir….we were victims of the recession period; but then I have had a fascination for cars and bikes right through. Driving with Ola for the first time and loving it!”- I don’t know why he said this; perhaps that was his last resort…. but then, whatever he said made an impact. Yes, I’m not an overtly emotional person, but for somebody who’s doing series on the “Humans of Calcutta”, I reckon, this is indeed a moving account and a source of strong content.
Well, my destination had arrived and I could sense his disgruntlement as I stepped out of the car.
Smokehouse Deli”- I whispered as he was about to leave, I could see his face lit up...”Try and avail the exclusive Restaurant Week India offers running from 16th-25th September 2016 at INR 900/-. I have your number, I’ll text you the details. Take care!!”
Smokehouse Deli Delights: The Show-stopper alright....
Boss Style Spaghetti (High Recommended)
* About Restaurant Week IndiaOLA Prime presents Restaurant Week powered by John Jacobs is the largest and amongst the most popular pan-India culinary events, where the foodies and food-enthusiasts get an exclusive opportunity to dine at some of India’s finest restaurants at a fraction of the a la carte rates, that's a quality-pocket-friendly-solution. Restaurant Week India commenses from 16th September and continues till 25th September 2016 covering some of the premium fine dining hubs of Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune. Follow the hashtags to catch all the action from the preview -#RestaurantWeek #RWI #OlaPrime. As a part of the blogger's preview of #RWI, I decided to dine at Smokehouse Deli, Quest Mall, Kolkata and I found the food pretty good. Verdict: Highly recommended.
* Tariff- Restaurant Week Kolkata features 14 participating restaurants that will offer a three-course prix fixe menu (with an option of vegetarian or non-vegetarian) at INR 900/- for lunch and INR 900/- for dinner per diner. The signature appetizers are priced at an additional INR 100/- & signature main courses at an additional INR 200/- only. A mere INR 60/- needs to be paid online to secure reservation beforehand; the offerings (and also the online reservation facilities) are listed down in the Restaurant Week India website. The price, per individual, is exclusive of applicable taxes, service charges and anything ordered outside of the special Restaurant Week menu. Ola Prime customers to get exclusive discounts as well.
* List of participating restaurants: Calcutta Leg-  This is indeed a fantastic list- 1. Bodega Cantina Y Bar, Park Street, 2. Gucchi, Hyatt Regency Kolkata, 3. La Cucina, Hyatt Regency Kolkata, 4. Pan Asian, ITC Sonar, 5. Peshawri, ITC Sonar, 6. Saffron, The Park Kolkata, 7. Smoke House Deli, Ballygunge, 8. Souk, Taj Bengal Kolkata, 9. Studio – The Pan Asian Galerie, Novotel Kolkata Hotel and Residences, 10. The Legacy Grill, The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata, 11. West View, ITC Sonar, 12. Yauatcha, Quest Mall, 13. Zen, The Park Kolkata, 14. Kalash, Hotel Hindustan International, Kolkata.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Tata TISCON- The Glossary of Joy!

Well, honestly speaking I'm feeling a bit nostalgic while writing this post...not because of the fact that I had worked with a TATA firm during the initial days for my career but then, the connection is much much deeper. If I go back to the roots, I did spend quite a few days of my childhood back here in Jamshedpur; it's a beautiful city indeed. This, combined with the fact that my uncle has been a TATA loyalist for over a decade, does strike those "chords" alright. Furthermore my dad, being a production engineer by profession, has often been associated with TATA Steel for various crucial assignments; he keeps traveling to various plants across the country right through the year and most importantly comes back with a smiling face. Oh well, this has been pretty much the story. Drawing a close congruence with the experience of my batchmates from Jadavpur University who did their internship at Tata Steel, well, you pretty much guessed it right- the story is a captivating one. They say that during this enlivening tenure of 3 months at Jamshedpur, they pretty much lived their life and in the process, gathered some quality knowledge from hands on experience. No wonder they had an added advantage during the core-sector-specific evaluation process during the recruitments. 
Ermm, since these are historical evidences, let me draw a quick reference with one of my recent visits to Jamshedpur for the #BuildingBlogsofJoy activity; oh well...I had to fight rather hard just to be there (for obvious reasons....damn, I got married 4 days ago) but knew that this would be one hell of an experience. And the build-up was quite fascinating as well. The furor to this memorable trip was galvanized by the exclusive access to the top most floor of the "coveted" Tata Center, the view from the top, as we all know it, is absolutely mesmerizing. You know what, as a photo-enthusiast, you crave for opportunities like these; as a matter of fact, I have been trying for almost a couple of years to get this endeared access and Tata did it for me in just about a couple of hours, such a "joyous" genesis. Perhaps this is what we call the spirit of "wondrous joy". We never looked back from there on. 

That's how it all started.....arguably the best ever view of the City of "Joy"
As we sauntered along, through the factory premises on a grueling day in the baking was almost as if by a celestial bliss that the ingrained euphoria enveloped us and pretty much "lead from the front". We could definitely sense the "immersion" alright but then they didn't forget to share a stray joke in between. The workers had their daily targets to fulfill; but that didn't stop them from exchanging happy smirks, the occasional chuckles and chortles did create a cheerful ecosystem. Yes, a recent study by World Bank concludes that "A congenial work environment can double up your efficiency" and it's absolutely fascinating to note that the charm of reciprocity and harmony is pretty much implanted in the "Tata" scheme of things. It was absolutely amazing to see the "managers" and their "sub-ordinates" hanging around in the premises, taking a quick tea-break in course of the day.
"Once I enter into the premises, it's a different world altogether, far away from the daily chores. The sound of cacophonous machines wakes me up and makes me realize that I'm at home"- Mr. Anup Kumar, Head Product Application Group, we entered into the pivotal hub of Tata TISCON. Plenty of winsome surprises were pretty much in store for us ;)

And a smiling blogger....the perfect way to end the #BuildingBlogsofJoy tour ;)
"The best part about working here is how the new-comers gel up with the veterans. There's absolutely no demarcation at all; it's almost like a family out here. Infact so many of my Earned leaves are still pending...I don't feel like taking them!"- Mr. Prabhat Shankar, employee, gas cutting and welding shop sniggled.  Now, that is quite a remarkable statement ladies and gentlemen...drawing an alternation with corporate slaves like us who check their leave balances almost every alternate day, this proclamation is pretty much a game-changer in my opinion. And believe it or not, the vibe is pretty much the same when you step out of the premises...the interaction with tea vendors, rickshaw drivers, litti stall-walahs are so engaging indeed, everything in and around Tata TISCON is so "upbeat". The fervor pretty much extends up to the curator at the Tata Centre of Excellence who amalgamated humor with generous dose of information....that for me, pretty much sums up the "Joy" of building. Infact, our chauffeur who dropped us to the Jamshedpur railway station early in the morning, had a charming smile on his face. What an "joyous" experience indeed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Poila Boishakh: The Nostalgic Call....

"The essence that articulates...
The sapidity that insinuates...
The wallop with a fling...
That the treasured squint and the grin!

And then the spark of artistry sets in...
With the 'canvas' wide open...
Time to unleash the resourceful 'ingenuity'....
And create an impression to insist.

"Pick up the fresh chunk"- As she says...
Bargain as much as you wish...
The otherwise-condemned stinkers that rule...
Could 'contrive' a rubric grub!

"Ogo shuncho! Padma-r hilsa enechi..."- He declares...
And unlocks the euphoria,
A grand Sunday lunch is in store...
The 'weapons' are ready...ready to score.

The Bong connection as they say...
The culminating zesty blows to deal...
The 'bait' would suit and the sparkling 'flute'...
Time to add the luscious glow.

With the cloak of turmeric...
And the 'impulsive' chill's to spawn....
The blend of mustard to stitch a doggerel...
And the "maternal touch" to 'bridge the flow'.

It's an ineffable 'novel' as they say....
With strings of harmony dipped in every bite...
The flocculent 'vibes' that allure,
Ladies and's a photogenic reprise.

The cue is picked and the 'cohort' identified...
The snow-white plateau of rice-envelope in sight...
The touch of 'gondhoraj' as a 'uplifting crest'...
The guilt-free delight on offer, it's an ornate 'fest'.

It's a wicked blow for sure...
The pragmatic attempt and divine in it's *glow*,
It coats on the taste buds and melts in the flow...
Hilsa's 'elite', Hilsa's adored, Hilsa's the 'cure'.

"Whenever in doubt, go back to the roots"- They say. You know what, the journey called life might have drifted you far away from the origin, but then  with the slight waft of resurgence, you tend to retrace and revisit those salad days. Honestly speaking, people might put forward counter arguments when I say that over the years, our tradition, ethics and customs have retained the inner integrity; but then one thing is for sure...when it comes to Bongs and their folklore, there's an underlying fidelity for sure. I've been interacting with a number of Bongs who have settled abroad (termed as "Probashi Bangali") and believe me, their respect and enthusiasm in this very respect is remarkable. People often tend to draw a close synergy between the Bongs and their earnestness towards festivities; let's be honest with this, it is indeed our treasured endowment...every aspect of a Bong fiesta has it's idiosyncratic charm. And since I brought in the reference of "charm", let's quickly shift focus and talk about the tantalizing aspect of "charm on the platter"...ah I knew it. I could sense the glow in "your" eyes and the virtual lip-smacks as we dig deep into this intrinsic aspect of festivities errm "food" for thought.
Well, this has been pretty much our story...we can't, in the wildest of dreams, plan a festivity without freezing on the "menu" on offer; oh yes...that pretty much multiplies the jubilance. Erm, since I have been talking about the "love for food", let me quickly draw reference to one of my recent conversations with a friend who has been living in Delhi for the last 15 years; I had called her up to convey my regards on Poila Baisakh. This is how it went:-
Moi: "Hey whassup? Long time no see. What plans for Poila Baisakh?"
Le Friend: "Hola. Yaar, nothing much. I miss my life back in Calcutta....Nobo-borsho was so much fun."
Moi: "Yeah...I reckon no haal-khata ceremony(books of accounts) and stuff back in Delhi? Miss our competitive rivalry with the number of calendars and 'sweet packets' collected on this day. So much fun yaa."
Le Friend: "For sure. And remember, those mouth-watering snacking options that were on offer at these stores. Not to forget, these packets contained quality sweets from renowned sweet-meat stores of the city....especially the ones that were 'procured' from the jewelry stores in our neighborhood. This was pretty much synonymous to the coveted Pujo Parikrama during Durga Puja; we would rather term it as Halkhata Parikrama. Haha." I could pretty much sense the chomp of nostalgia, the conversation was engaging enough.
Moi: "Oh my, that was just about half the story my friend. Remember what used to wait for us back in hut? I'm like feeling so nostalgic at this moment."
Le Friend: "Haha, glad you mentioned. Aunty used to cook some amazing food back at home, such a rich spread...rather an absolutely rich and enticing Bengali spread. Do you remember the names of all those delightful dishes? Sigh, we don't get such food here in Delhi. And the lovely family get-togethers that used to happen on this day...such adda, fun and pranks; sigh...I'm so missing all this being away from Calcutta." That last bit had poignancy written all over it. I didn't want to aggrandize her misery but then she had pretty much shoved into a luring flow.
Moi: "Okay, since you brought up this topic....let me me do this. That's our Poila Baisakh menu for today. Jealous much?
  • Gondhoraj ghol
  • Aam porar shorbet, 
  • Ghee bhaat, 
  • Shakh bhaja, 
  • Narkel diye mochar ghonto,
  • Enchor chingri, 
  • Shona moong daal, 
  • Topshe maach bhaja, 
  • Bhetki macher paturi, 
  • Mutton kosha, 
  • Kancha aamer chutney, 
  • Sandesh,
  • Bhapa doi"
Le Friend: "Argh!!! I'm gonna kill you for this. I'm warning you, DO NOT POST ANY IMAGE ON INSTAGRAM, I'm gonna simply die seeing all this from here....
Hey wait...did you just say Enchor chingri?"
Moi: "Err, yes I did. Don't you remember that last time you dined with us...."- I was halted mid-way through the sentence...I could sense the growing jitters on the other end of the call.
Le Friend: "Dude, JUST GET ME THE RECIPE like RIGHT NOW. Listen, I never disclosed your secrets in front of your mom; this is your turn to return the favor. Please, please.....!"
Moi (Err...okay, yes she did. She never disclosed those bits and pieces of classified information, ahem, in front of my parents and I reckon I could do this much): "Okay relax. Lemme ask mom and will email you the recipe in 30 mins time. And err....Subho Noboborsho!" 
Le Friend: "Thank youuuuuu. Subho Noboborsho to you and 'pornaam' to kakima as well....will wait for the mail. Byeee!" And she hung up in a jiffy. Well, I did comply, here's the content of my email.

Enchor Chingri:-

  • Enchor/jackfruit about 500-700gm, 
  • Pawns-300gm, 
  • Potatoes about 4-5 medium sized and diced,
  • Onion paste-250-300gm, 
  • Ginger paste 2 tablespoon, 
  • Garlic paste- 2 teaspoon,
  • Tomato-3-4 medium sized, 
  • Red Chilli Powder-- according to taste
  • Salt and sugar to taste, 
  • Mustard oil, 
  • Ghee.
Procedure: At the very onset, cut the enchor (jackfruit), potatoes and tomatoes into diced pieces, then rinse well in water. Thereafter, apply some salt and turmeric powder in the enchor and cook it in a pressure cooker, applying around 1 or 2 "steams". In the meanwhile, mix salt and turmeric with the prawns (please ensure that the prawns are washed and cleaned properly before cooking) and fry them till they become soft and generate a light orange colour. Set them aside and fry the potatoes till they soften. Furthermore, add adequate amount of mustard oil in a deep bottom pan, heat and then start frying the onion paste at a low flame. In the mean-time, slowly add ginger, garlic paste, red chilli powder, sugar for giving colour to the recipe; the diced tomato needs to be added next. Continue frying in a low flame till it starts separating from the oil; then add the jackfruit, fried potatoes, prawns and salt to taste.  By the way, the key here is to mix the masala well with the enchor and chingri in bengali (termed as "koshano" in Bengali) to extract the best flavor out of the entire mix. Once this is done, add around 3-4 tablespoons of water as the penultimate step. Once this is done, you need to add some ghee to add to the delectable fragrance, put off the flame and cover it. You need to serve it "hot" to the guests so that they can indulge in the luscious charm of this essentially Bengali delight.

Of course, this comes with the caveat that hygiene would be of prime concern when it comes to realizing the essence of healthy and food habits. Hence, the judicious application of a conventionally efficacious solution- Godrej Lal Hit pretty much comes into the scheme of things; it's almost intriguing that this has been pretty much the indisputable choice in all our households for over a considerable period of time. It's almost like a virtual shield that takes guard and restores "regimen" within the household and that my friend, in effect, multiplies to the festive euphoria. Now this, pretty much completes the cycle of geniality. শুভ নববর্ষ! :)

Poila Baisakh: The Gastronomic Affair
The assorted authentic Bengali thali, looks delectable isn't it?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Goodyear Safer Roads Safer You Initiative with IRTE is a change in itself....

I vividly remember the date; not for the right set of reasons though. Some of my friends have coined it as the "Red letter day", but again not for the right set of reasons at all.

You have no clue how it feels like to occupy the window seat of a "monstrous transport" that had literally minced a yellow taxi just a couple of seconds back. I was almost in a trance back then; the dreaded pool of blood that had veiled the E.M. Bypass had no iota of poetry nested in it... it was nothing but an epitome of reverence, the plethora of death. I could see the faces of my co-passengers, they were literally stoned...sloshed with trauma. Nobody, in their wildest of dreams, would have expected to have 'brushed' past such an encounter; I could see "her" dangling forearm peeping out of the mangled window....I could spot that 'ring' as well, it was shining brightly in broad daylight, proliferating the flicker of hope...sigh, all in vain. Yes, the 'rescue' team did arrive; there was nothing much they could do...the lady had already turned pale by then, almost debilitated of her senses, her fading pulses orchestrated a shuddering debacle. 

I couldn't sleep for a week after witnessing this appalling incident; those nightmares were eating me up from deep within, I kept visualizing myself sitting right there at the back-seat...hoping for a lucky escape, not to be. The shock was too difficult to handle, I had even stopped going to the University for a week or so; such calamities not only affect the families of the departed, but people like me, the ones who carry the burden of living with these abhorrent flashbacks. It's been over 8 years now, every-time I pass through this 'cursed' orbit, those disturbing scenes come back and haunt me all over again. Two innocent souls had lost their "reason to survive" on that fateful day, the scars would remain; the incident was portrayed as an outcome of heedlessness of the chauffeur...apparently, he wasn't aware of the basic axioms of road safety and regulations. It was derived that he was trying to take a shortcut (that was never there) by over-taking an ambulance and ironically, paid the penalty. 

Well, it's easy to draw a denouement, it's easy to put the sword on someone else's shoulder and shrug off all the responsibility...but at the end of the day, we need to save these inculpable "souls". We all have our beloved ones waiting eagerly at the hut, to greet us with extended arms at the end of the day...that indeed completes the cycle. Talking from personal experience, I have lost my cousin brother in a terrible car-accident when he was just 19; propelled by the exuberance of youth and incognizant with the basic on-road safety guidelines; he broke the speed-barrier and drove 'us' into abysmal darkness. I don't know whether I could pen down my emotions through this post, but adversity like this shakes you right from the core. Even his soul-mate sitting right beside the driver's seat was shoved to death; she wasn't wearing her seatbelt either. You keep reading about road-accidents in the newspapers all day, infact due to the exponential increase in frequency of such updates, people tend to overlook them. But believe me, such alluvions etch deep within... somewhere, somewhere very deep.

Going by the statistics, approximately 1274 road accidents occur in the country everyday on the streets with the "Gory 2014" recording around 16 deadly accidents per hour on an average. As per a recent study by the Times of India, the top five states - Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Rajasthan accounted for over 40% of the fatalities. UP topped the list with 16,284 deaths, but Tamil Nadu with over 15,000 lives lost was much worse given its relatively smaller size. During that period, road accident accounted for a death-toll count of 382 daily, that is in effect 350 percent more in comparison to that of terrorism. However it's alarming enough to note that the Indian road safety laws do not meet the best practice requirements for four out of five risk factors: enforcing speed limits, prevention of drunk driving, safety of children and use of helmets. The scenario in Bengal is however growing from bad to worse in terms of accidents caused due to rash driving of the yellow-taxis; the percentage of accidents caused as a result has gone up by 6-7% in the last couple of years. I had once overheard an elderly gentleman requesting an arrogant taxi driver to drive slow through the over-crowded Burrabazar area; his earnest appeals could be heard even from a distance, sadly it made no impact. Honestly speaking, I'm perturbed...and concerned as well; these days I'm very unsure of boarding a taxi or a rented car, you never know what waiting for you as the wheels kisses the boulevard.

Well, as they say, no matter how complicated the problem is, the disclosure is pretty much round the corner- it was on such a "anxious" car-ride from Salt Lake Sector V to the New Secretariat that I came across a Kiran Bedi's tweet and it immediately changed my perspective. I wanted to know more about Goodyear's path-breaking initiative and to my utter astonishment, I did figure out that the hashtag #GoodyearSaferRoads was trending on twitter for the last 24 hours. Another prominent hashtag that caught my attention in this period was #SaferRoadsSaferYou. I quickly surfed through the content shared with the hashtag and what I deciphered was prodigious in true sense of the term. It's often said that whenever the problem statement seems formidable enough, go back to the roots....and this has been the backbone of this pragmatic initiative by Goodyear India. Their closely knit collaboration with the Institute of Road Traffic Education (IRTE) for formulating a unique road safety programme ‘Safer Roads, Safer You’, has been one of the key talking points of late. The initiative is aimed at offering complimentary training to selected taxi drivers in Delhi NCR and Mumbai. It goes without saying that the vision of this initiative i.e. to train 2,555 drivers in Delhi and Mumbai between December 2015 and March 2016 is a far-sighted one. A one-day workshop was conducted for groups of 20 taxi drivers to create awareness and cover critical aspects such as defensive driving, passenger comfort and safety, vehicle maintenance, personal management and incident management. Furthermore, a selected set of drivers were handed an incentive of Rs 500 and a complimentary accidental death insurance policy of Rs 2,00,000. Most importantly, a completion certificate was also handed over to all the participants of the workshop; that is an important record to keep as well. It pretty much meets the certification requirements as well. You can read more about the initiative here.

Some inspiring words from Rajeev Anand, Vice Chairman & Managing Director of Goodyear India- “Goodyear India is committed to helping build and support collaborative programs that create positive outcomes for the people, communities and the world around us. Specifically, the company focuses on promoting safe mobility, helping to make the communities stronger & safer. With ‘Safer Roads, Safer You,’ we hope to create a culture of safe driving and passenger care in the taxi service industry to help increase ridership of the public transportation system, thereby benefiting the fleet owners, taxi drivers, police organizations & end-users”. This would certainly qualify as one of the most effective & efficacious initiatives undertaken by any Indian brand so far.

Goodyear Safer Roads Safer You:
 Drivers Sensitization Session
Source: Twitter
“With our association with Goodyear India, we hope to improve the customer service standards and to control occurrences of traffic violations. This initiative will address these issues through its various workshops and will provide an opportunity to the State to regain the trust of people, especially tourists, in the taxi service and its public transportation system.”- Dr. Rohit Baluja, President, Institute of Road Traffic Education (IRTE) aptly summed it up. This collaboration would certainly ensure proper sensitization of the vehicle owners and drivers, thereby ensuring a safer and impregnable driving experience on the busy Indian roads. We sincerely hope to see an exponential fall in the count of road-accidents in next 5 years or so; my sincere regards to Goodyear India for taking up the first step in this very respect. You, my friend, have led from the front and pretty much shown us the way! You can connect to GoodYear's official Twitter handle for more details about this path-breaking initiative.
You can read more about this initiative by visiting the following links: Article 1, Article 2, Article 3, Article 4, Article 5, Article 6 .

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