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Award for power girls & their mentor

Caleidoscope

It was a proud moment for the girls of Udayan Care when they received the Ladies Study Group Charitable Trust Award, 2013.

Saroj Agarwal, the president of the Ladies Study Group, described the convener of the Bengal chapter of Udayan, Kusum Bhandari, as “the driving force behind fulfilling the dreams of so many girls”.

The award was handed over to Bhandari by filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar. “I want to thank the Ladies Study Group for encouraging our work. Their appreciation is very encouraging. We are in expansion mode and want our family to grow. Anyone who wants to join in please come forward and do so,” Bhandari said before inviting the Shalinis, as the recipients of the Udayan fellowship are called, on stage to sing Hum ko mann ki shakti dena with her.

Kusum Bhandari with girls from Udayan at the award ceremony at The Oberoi Grand. Picture by Rashbehari Das

Scottish tune

Deep emotions meet alt-folk in Iain Morrison’s music. And, thanks to the British Council, you can enjoy it in person when the talented Scottish musician performs at Sandre Hall, Calcutta School of Music, on Monday. An expert at playing the Highland bagpipes, besides the guitar, and the traditional technique of canntaireachd (chanting), he has released seven albums over the past 10 years and is all set to record and release his next sometime this year. Besides being commissioned by the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow in 2010 to write songs that formed a show based on ancient melodies of the Scottish pipes, Morrison won the Composer of the Year at The Scots Trad Music Awards. Don’t miss this unique concert where imageries are heightened by a delicate voice while exploring several aspects of Highland music.

Iain Morrison

French connection

The birth of an English-French bilingual journal marked International Francophonie Day in Calcutta last week.

The occasion is celebrated globally on March 20 to commemorate the Niamey Convention of 1970, which formed the Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, an inter-governmental body bringing 21 French-speaking states together in a pledge of cultural and technical co-operation. The number has multiplied manifold since.

At the launch of the journal at Oxford Bookstore, French consul-general Fabrice Etienne underlined how Francophonie stands for not just the community of French-speaking states but also the values of multi-cultural exchange, which the journal embodied. “Indian scholars from various disciplines have contributed to this journal. I am glad to see evidence of so much precise knowledge about our culture,” he said.

Editor Anuradha Mukherjee, who has been teaching French for 30 years at the department of international relations at Jadavpur University, said Francophonie is not restricted to France. “While French is widely spoken in key countries in Africa and in Canada, Bengalis here love French as well. France is present in so many ways in what we teach at the university. So we thought of bringing this journal out to present our views like a bunch of flowers in a vase.”

Diane Torr (left) and Katarina Peters at Max Mueller Bhavan. (Arnab Mondal)

Man’s world

Imagine being a man for a day and doing everything “forbidden”. Gender activist and performance artist Diane Torr’s workshops, one of which was captured on film by Katarina Peters, aim at just that.

Man For A Day, which shows the entire journey of a group of unconventional women who opted for a day’s transformation at a workshop conducted by Torr in Berlin, was screened at Max Mueller Bhavan recently.

Post transformation, they went to bars, visited family or had a quiet meal, all the while gauging the reactions of others as well as their own. The participants spoke of the gamut of emotions they went through during the transformation and how it empowered them and helped them get over abusive relationships.

Both Peters and Torr were present at the city screening and shared their experience of the making of the film and the friendship they share.

Capital story

Jagat Seth of Murshidabad was a greater banker than all of Lombard Street (the Wall Street of London) put together — thus wrote Robert Clive about the Murshidabad businessman in his memoirs . This and many such tidbits were shared by professor Sushil Chaudhury in his lecture on the strategic importance of Murshidabad in the history of Bengal.

“Very few people know that the house of Jagat Seth made a profit of Rs 7 crore in 1760. Its working capital alone added up to Rs 14 million that year. Robert Clive and the Dutch officers have mentioned the figures specifically in their memoirs. You can imagine what power they enjoyed given the fact that they even lent money to the nawabs of Bengal,” said Chaudhury, a fellow at Royal Historical Society in the UK and former professor at University of Calcutta.

“Moneylending was the chief occupation of the Jagat Seth House. While the rate of interest was nine per cent in Surat in that era, in Murshidabad it was as high as 12 per cent per annum. This was because the Seths wanted it that way and the Nawab always listened to them.”

While discussing the trade scene of Murshidabad in the latter half of the 18th century, Chaudhury said in his lecture at Victoria Memorial Hall that silk and textile industry brought in maximum profits in those times. It was a cosmopolitan society where merchants from Europe and West Asia thronged to buy spices, silk and cotton. The economy was thriving and many Persian nobles from Iran settled down in the city in the latter half of the 18th century.

“The borders of Murshidabad spread across 24 miles in length and 14 miles in breadth. Popular Bengali literature written between 16th and 18th century reflects very little communal tension in Bengal,” he added.

Such was the importance of the city that in 1704, Murshid Quli Khan, the Diwan of Bengal under Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, transferred the capital from Dhaka to Murshidabad. In 1716, he attained the title of the Nawab of Bengal and made Murshidabad his capital.

The lecture was followed by a screening of a short film on Murshidabad, The Citadel of Bengal Nawabs, directed by Satarupa Sanyal.

Contributed by Samabrita Sen, Mathures Paul, Sudeshna Banerjee, Chandreyee Ghose and Showli Chakraborty