Thursday, August 31, 2017

Kolkata Kaleidoscope- Kolkata Street Art Festival

Anecdote 1: May 2006
Jadavpur University, Calcutta
“I hope those pamphlets are ready?”- Let me confess, I was extremely nervous. It was perhaps one of our earliest attempts at creating something extraordinary, we had very few members in the team but there was no shortage in talent.
“The printing press takes its own sweet time, mate”- Swaroop uttered- “We have reminded them almost thrice today, still no response.” This meant disaster.
“The event is just a couple of days away my friend!!”- I shouted frantically- “If we do not get the posters and pamphlets on time, how do we spread the word in such a short period?”
“WAIT! Let’s no panic. I have a better plan.”- Swaroop’s resounding assurance took us by surprise- “We have such talented artists in our team, why don’t we start painting on the walls? Without wasting resources, we can spread the word effectively.” Believe me, at that moment of crisis, these words were like gold dust. The canvas was rugged, approvals staggered, resources limited, but at the end of the day, the intent was right. A team of 5 students transformed one filthy, overlooked corner of the campus into their cherished canvas.

Anecdote 2: May 2016
Lodhi Art District, New Delhi
“Sir, it’s been more than 6 hours. When will you be done?” – The grumpy auto-driver screeched impatiently.
That broke my trance. I quickly checked my watch and realized that it was already 7 PM; Delhi, unlike Calcutta, experiences extended hours of sunshine and the visibility was decent. But then, that was merely the reason. Honestly speaking, I was absolutely blown-away by the fact that an entire colony has been transformed into a vivid gallery, an exhibition of artistry, adroitness and unmatched skill. Something very similar to what we had envisaged almost a decade ago; it was almost like a walk down memory lane…those hours spent in conceptualizing, rather dreaming of a day when our city would be sheathed in colors of hope.

Walk down memory lane: Self portrait at the Lodhi Art District
An unforgettable experience
I stood for almost an hour in-front of the gigantic-bird-etched-murals; it was magical indeed. It was as if I was transported to those child-hood days, the yearning of being flown “around the world in eighty days” by this mighty bird. They have attached a technical terminology in line with this initiative called “city beautification”, but if you ask me, a drive as altruistic as this, could have multiple positive implications:
  • Inspiring creativity: Since the seeds of creativity are inbred right from the child-hood, a colony full of colorful wall-art and murals can inspire the younger generation. Not only would this motivate them to try out newer forms of art at home but inculcate the awareness that walls are not supposed to be littered.
  • Photographers’ paradise: Being a passionate photo enthusiast, I do realize the necessity of interesting backdrops that can, in effect, make or break a photograph. And the statement is genre-agnostic, a colorful, vibrant and meaningful back-drop is alluring for both fashion as well as street photographers.
  • Promotes underground artists: A properly outlined drive can actually create a lot of buzz across the various layers of the society and it can, in effect, bring the supremely talented underground artists out of their closet. I believe, every city has a huge pool of such ingenious “beings” who are gifted with the flair of transforming a Nation with their unique “mode of expression”, if they get the right platform. As a matter of fact, St+Art India who have been instrumental in “revving up” the Lodhi Colony, has involved a number of such artists. At the end of the day, a consortium of “skill” makes a huge impact.
  • Uplifts the face of your city:  Imagine hundreds of people clicking selfies with the wall in the backdrop and sharing on social media every day, imagine popular media channels covering such initiatives regularly, imagine the impact your Instagram post uploaded with popular hashtags like #graffiti or #wall art- the reach is uninhibited, we call it the “multiplier” effect. This, in effect, glorifies your own city and establishes the fact that it is indeed one of the artistic hubs of the country. The fact that these art-works represent the true essence of the city, makes them all the more magnetic.
  • Boosts the Tourism sector: I was recently having an animated conversation with one of my Instagram followers who resides in Belgium and loves documenting street art from across the globe. And since Calcutta, of late, has made a sparkling entry into the wall-art scene, she was extremely inquisitive about the kind of initiatives that are taken by the artists in collaboration with popular brands of the city. Mid-way through this conversation, I realized that the “City beautification” drive could actually lead to a boost in the tourism sector and of course, enhance footfall in those particular “hotspots”. The “quirk-factor” coupled with depiction of traditional art forms is the key growth driver.
In this very context, let me take this opportunity to congratulate Berger Paints India for launching an absolutely phenomenal initiative “Kolkata Street Art Festival” (#KSAF) that not only ticks the 5 key pointers, but goes beyond that and emphasizes on the principle of “sustainable art”. Honestly speaking, purely from a photographer’s point of view, I was elated to receive an invitation from Berger Paints for a day-long-bloggers-city-tour because that not only gave me an opportunity to document some unique frames, but took me back to those nostalgic college days. As a part of this path-breaking initiative, Berger Paints intends to paint 10 walls, 3 metro stations and 2 trams in the first phase and extend the coverage there-after based on the response they get from the citizens; and we would love it if they cover major parts of North Calcutta as well. The best part is, the intention is to carry this “drive” to the other cities as well; that opens up the vision of this entire campaign for me.

Kolkata Street Art Festival: The wonderful wall-art right outside the iconic Eden Gardens
Kolkata Street Art Festival: The wonderful wall-art right outside the iconic Eden Gardens
Absolutely indebted to Prof. Jogen Chowdhury, an eminent artist & Member of Parliament who has mentored this program and the team of 20 fantastic artists led by senior artist Mr Barun Saha and Mr Rintu Roy who have embarked on a journey that would probably change the face of Calcutta on the global landscape. Super thanks to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, concerned police stations and local clubs who extended their whole-hearted cooperation for successful execution of the project so far; it re-establishes that fact that a consorted effort leads to unbelievable results. We sincerely hope that with a joint pledge of preserving these art-works, we will be in a position to call it an “effort that is going to stay”, sustainable effort so to say.

Kolkata Street Art Festival: The wall-art near Rabindra Sadan Metro Station, such intricate details
Kolkata Street Art Festival: The wall-art near Rabindra Sadan Metro Station, such intricate details
Kolkata Street Art Festival: There are two Owls in the picture ;)
This combined with the fact that the artists braved unfavorable weather conditions and created an epiphany within a month’s time ratifies that a combination of skill, intent and the right choice of resources (application of the Berger Paints Weather coat to ward off the inherent moisture content) can do the impossible. On a number of occasions, the wall had to be suitably “treated” with plaster and putty before application of the paint.

Anecdote 3: August 2017
Gariahat Tram Depot:
As I’m all set to strike a signature pose right beneath the “stair-case of enlightenment”, I reckon, I am freezing a moment of a lifetime; I can show this photograph to my grand-children saying that- “I was alive when the first organized Street-art drive was launched in Calcutta”.
Yes my friend, Calcutta is climbing up the stairs real fast and this initiative by Berger Paints is likely propel the cause.

Kolkata Street Art Festival: Posing outside Gariahat Tram Depot
Kolkata Street Art Festival: Wall art outside the Gariahat Tram DepotWork in progress
My Pick of KSAF:
Having worked with a talented bunch of artists for a couple of recent projects, I know the kind of effort and energy it takes to create wonderful art-work on rugged walls. Hence, the murals located at Topsia have drawn my significant attention primarily because of the substantially low height of the “canvas”; it takes hell of an effort to sit in that posture and execute such intricate work within a limited time period. The subject of wall-art in this area is primarily focused towards drawing the attention of school-going children owing to the presence of a number of educational institutes in the locality. Hence, it is safe enough to infer that “relevance” and “congruence” are two major pillars of this bench-marking initiative.

Kolkata Street Art Festival: Juxtaposition, a hint of street photography while shooting at Topsia
Kolkata Street Art Festival: The wall-art near Topsia is quite colorful and engaging at the same time
Kolkata Street Art Festival: The wall-art near Topsia is quite colorful and engaging at the same time
Kolkata Street Art Festival: The wall-art near Topsia is quite colorful and engaging at the same time
We hope to see more of such wall-art spread across the rest of the city in the near future; perhaps a “graffiti smash” involving multiple city-artists to create an interesting composite wall-art is also on the cards. :)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Great Indian Restaurant Festival 2017- The Alfresco Tyrst

Before I begin, let me tell you that I've been dying to write this account...not just because I had a memorable dining experience at one of my favorite restaurants in the city, but I also wanted to share some instances on how a good meal can create (or at times recreate) certain indelible associations. I'm not sure whether there's an under-lying connection between the set of events but then every-time I visit the Alfresco, the Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata, I experience something very unique; it goes without saying that the experiences have been quite pleasant. I attended my first client meeting on behalf of Calcutta Instagrammers at Alfresco; we were just about a couple of months old and it needed something exceptionally special to convince a very reputed brand to get us on-board for prestigious project. Honestly speaking, the meeting could have turned out to be pretty ordinary had the discussion not diverted to "food", "good food", "great food" and "delightful Bengali food". Although we didn't manage to "win" that particular project but ended up building a great relationship with the brand....and of course worked with them for 3 subsequent campaigns. 
On my second visit to Alfresco in the first half of 2016, I over-heard a lovely little conversation that marked a new beginning; "they" were on the verge of reviving "their" broken marriage over a 'divine' Bengali platter. What a lovely moment indeed. And of course, if you are a full-time working professional, the prospect of taking your family out for a brunch on a lazy Sunday afternoon is enticing enough. And the best part is, now, you can temporarily stop worrying about the PPQ (Pocket Pinching Quotient) since the Great Indian Restaurant Festival (GIRF) by Dine-out is here to blot out your perennial concerns. 
"How much bonus are you expecting this year?"- Le Corporate 1 investigates.
"How does that concern you?"- Le Corporate 2 snaps.
"Yaar !! That would help in pre-booking your gala treat at an affordable eatery. We understand how costly it is these days...."- Now that made a lot of sense. Infact, I would compliment my colleague for being so considerate...and I guess, the idea of treating them at the Alfresco during Great Indian Restaurant Festival (GIRF) was a great idea. Availing an exclusive offer of 50% discount on Lunch buffet, that too on a weekend is indeed a pretty lucrative offer. When a Consultant certifies this, you gotta believe it :D

GIRF 2017 Offers home-page- You can view the city-specific offers by visiting
www.dineout.co.in/girf
As a part of GIRF, you can avail 5 broad categories of discounts across multiple restaurants: 50% off Food, 50% off Buffets, Special Deals (specially curated menus), 50% off Alcoholic Beverages and 50% Off Valentine’s Day Packages. And of course, these are pre-paid deals and the customer doesn't need to pay any additional amount at the restaurant; this again has a two-fold advantage: i. You are not required to carry cash alongside (say "Bye" to the demonetization woes) ii. I have been experiencing issues even while resorting to Credit/Debit Card payments at restaurants because of frequent link failures. This could be a boon in such cases.

GIRF 2017 Offers Deals Page- You can view the existing offers by navigate through the website
www.dineout.co.in/girf

GIRF 2017 Deals Confirmation Page- Reviewing the deal that I availed- Alfresco
The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata
Alright then, now that we have discussed about the possibilities, let's take a look at the illustrious spread on-offer at the Alfresco; I know that you guys have been waiting to see the photographs and of course, try and gauge the GQ (Gratification Quotient) in the process.
I might sound biased, but I love the interiors of Lalit, Kolkata primarily because of unadulterated love for heritage; Lalit, however is a fantastic juxtaposition of the "Past" and the "Present". It's almost like a Vintage property (it is effectively, one of the very oldest hotels in the city) that has been revamped and "synthesized" to "symphonize" with the present. Also, very importantly, as a photographer, I love the light inside Alfresco- the bright white-walls in day-light helps food photography immensely.

Alfresco, The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata- A sneak peak into the ambiance 
Alfresco, The Lalit Great Eastern KolkataA sneak peak into the ambiance 
Full-marks to the food as always, I'm hereby presenting by favorite Starters served at Alfresco that I've tasted in course of frequent visits, they'd include Mochar chop, Aamada aloor chop, Murgir piayazi, Bhekti Patishapta- the idiosyncratic Bong selections, the classics with a contemporary touch.

Alfresco, The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata- Oh damn, the fish looks absolutely luscious.
Alfresco, The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata- The entire platter on offer, this is a delightful combination
The main courses spread is of course very illustrious, let me pick up some mouth-watering ones. As a bong, I believe Parser Aam kasundi is the best thing that has happened to mankind, you must taste it to believe it. The Bhekti dhokar Dalna and Goalondo steamer mangsho jhol would be very gratifying as a Sunday meal after a week-long corporate grill. The Murshidabadi Morog biryani is also a personal favorite because of the twist in the signature recipe, this is a must try if you are visiting Lalit any time in the future...you'll realize how Calcutta made biryani can surprise you at times. Last but not the least, Nolengurer baked yoghurt and Narkel narur millefeuille made my day; I have always believed that you can judge any eatery on the quality of the desserts on offer- Boy oh boy! Alfresco passes the acid test with flying colors.

Alfresco, The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata- I made someone pose with this delightful dish....
It deserved some attention ;)
By the way, before I forget, I just about figured out that during GIRF, you can actually end up earning a 100% cashback up to Rs 1000 in your Dineout Earnings on the app. Damn it! That's awesomeness redefined. So have you pre-booked your GRIF deal already? Hurry up because the Great Indian Restaurant Festival lasts only till 10th February 2017.

Alfresco, The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata- Bangali and Mishti are intrinsically related to each other :D
Alfresco, The Lalit Great Eastern Kolkata- Bangali and Mishti are intrinsically related to each other :D

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Market Place - Watch out for "SHARAN"!

Suppose you’re clocking a Ferrari at about 200 Km/Hr in the Buddh International Circuit and suddenly a bump or a pothole comes in the middle of your path, the result is fatal. Right?
So is smoking larger a bump or a deeper pothole in your journey called life. The contemporary lifestyle and our uncontrolled eating habits do pose a great threat to our lifeline. The condition is called “atherosclerosis”, the evil cholesterol (LDL) builds up layers on the inner lining of the arteries which ultimately result in increase in pressure when the blood flows, thus resulting in severe health conditions like hypertension and might even lead to stroke.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one out of every four Indians above the age of thirty, runs a high risk of death caused due to lifestyle induced diseases.

We all love food, don’t we? But still some lucky souls manage to stay lean and clean and some of us just get showered with fat. Don’t you get jealous while you see your friend stuffing in that sumptuous ‘cheese chicken parantha’ and you tend to gain weight with that ‘rosogolla’ you had the other day. Some people tend to be obese naturally, but some might gain it gradually with their food habits and lifestyle. But one can always fight it out to stay healthy and fit. A balanced diet and a bit of exercise is all you need to be in shape, and to be healthy.

Beating obesity is no mere task, we who constitute the ‘league of extraordinarily hungry”, must know where to punctuate when it comes to food. Gorging only on the burger patty won’t do, you also need to chew and gulp down the lettuce too. A balanced diet is very essential for the well being of the body and mind, by a balanced diet, I mean the food that we take in everyday should have the right amount of nutrients as required by the body along with roughage and fibers. The water intake is also a very important aspect when we talk about ‘balanced diet’, our body which is made up of 70% water needs to kept hydrated so that the metabolism works efficiently.
Western style breakfasts  has been my thing and I get head over heels when any  English breakfast is served. Tried out the innovative western style healthy tofu French toast and couldn’t get over it in no time. The delicious taste and aroma with the extremely healthy breakfast platter is one everyone should go for.
Sanctuary for Health and Re-connection to Animals and Nature (SHARAN) is a non-profit organization with the goal of spreading awareness about holistic health and an ecologically sustainable compassionate lifestyle. With the amount of pollution and junk intake around us even a person who doesn't smoke can have bronchitis ,a person with a healthy eating habit will have gastroenteritis .Health is such a major issue nowadays and SHARAN has come out with exclusive ways of restricting the natural aura and living a healthy life. The mission is to help regain optimal quality of life by guiding you to engage actively with your own help. SHARAN empowers to make lifestyle changes that will make you healthy for the rest of your life. SHARAN consists of  group of doctors and professionals connected by the same vision and has impacted the lives of over 20000 people in India and abroad. Workshops are held all around the globe and it's a delight to have SHARAN coming here to the city of joy with their workshop and it's one of its kind. And of course, a host of informative events to go alongside....this sure is going to be quite a learning exercise I believe. 
- Where? - The Market Place, Vedic Village Kolkata
- When?- 10-11th December 2016. Are you coming?

Keep watching this space for some exciting updates from "The Market Place"
"From a Consultant's Notepad" is a Blogging Partner for this engaging event scheduled to happen this weekend.

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 friend...is 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.

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