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Rebirth refuge by the river

Rebirth refuge by the river

A lazy afternoon by the water at the Ffort Serena SpaMembers of Abybaby belt it out at Rendezvous, the reunion meet of South Point School, at International Club. More than a thousand alumni members danced through the evening, organised by Aspexs. Rokeya Hosain

Enjoy the magical purity of an oil-and-water massage in the multi-stream Vichy shower; defy gravity with Epsom salt and float on warm water in the Floatarium; take a seawater bath to relax and soothe sore muscles; or revitalise yourself with a traditional South Indian Kalari massage.

The Ffort Serena Spa, located on the banks of the Hooghly in Raichak, about a 90 minute drive from the city centre, is now ready with its array of international-quality “personalised pampering treatments”, based on a fusion of aromatherapy, ayurveda, European and Thai traditions.

Promoted by GGL Hotel and Resort Company Ltd, in collaboration with The Serena Spa of Maldives, the rejuvenation refuge is designed by architect Prabir Mitra, who had created the adjoining Ffort Radisson as well. “This spa is a metaphor for rebirth or return to the mother’s womb. That’s where life is born and nurtured, where peace and tranquillity, security and innocence are found for the first and perhaps, the last time. That’s exactly the environment we have created for visitors to the Ffort Serena Spa,” explains Mitra.

There is a central water-body with a “tree of life” in the middle. The landscaping is of aquatic plants, floaters and creepers, to induce a soothing feeling. The three-level structure can be negotiated by a circumambulatory ramp, which ensures that “no kinetic energy is lost while going up, even as one gains in potential energy”.

The spiral journey leads to the top of the “womb” which provides a breathtaking view of the river on one side and a bird’s-eye view of the central waterbody on the other. “The healing process starts during the walk itself, since both body and mind are put at ease,” observes the architect.

Managed by Serena Spa, which has close to 20 spa and resort operations in Maldives, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Thailand, the Raichak spa offers a host of regular and customised anti-stress therapies. “We have tailor-made programmes to treat various degrees of stress, through different kinds of massages, hydrotherapy, body scrubs and wraps, cellulite reduction, spiritual and exercise disciplines,” says Reena John, spa in-charge.

The Ffort Serena Spa also offers slimming programmes, health and beauty treatments at the specialised beauty salon, cardio-vascular machines and free weights at the fitness centre, low-calorie vegetarian meals at the spa restaurant and fresh vegetable and fruit juices at the natural extract bar once the treatment is complete.

Level One has the boutique, salon, locker rooms, the Vichy shower and Floatarium, the plunge pool, jacuzzi and steam bath and the knife-edge pool and the herbal bath in a pool of warm water, aromatic oils, salts and floating flowers. The yoga and meditation rooms are located on Level Two, while the treatment area, relaxation room and the bistro are housed on Level Three, all looking out on the river. Manicured gardens, jogging and walking trails by the Hooghly complete the “international spa experience”.

— Subhro Saha

Lifting the veil

There is scant material on her extraordinary life and times. The decrepit buildings on Waliullah Lane, Taltala Lane and Asylum Lane are probably the last vestiges of her service to women’s education in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. When Bani Dutta started digging up material for a documentary film on Rokeya Sakhawat Hosain, all she had was this lone semi-blurred photograph (left) to fall back on.

“Rokeya had a very subdued personality and she has scarcely written anything about herself. The modest house on Waliullah Lane, where she started a school with eight Muslim women as students, doubled as her residence. I wanted the film to capture her versatility — this self-taught woman from a conservative family who learnt several languages, wrote numerous essays and a novel in English, and made a tremendous impact on women’s education with her progressive ideas,” says the reticent 66-year-old director of Rokeyar Katha. Dutta earlier made a documentary on Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay that was screened at Bangladesh Film Festival 2000.

For 30 minutes of Rokeyar Katha, Dutta canned the weather-beaten school buildings in central Calcutta and the graveyard in Panihati, where Rokeya is supposedly buried. Besides, Dutta procured books authored by her from Bangladesh and also fished out a rare photograph of a young Rokeya with her husband.

“Her concepts are extremely relevant even today. The film was conceived in order to highlight the aspects of this modest personality,” says Dutta, a graduate in film-direction and script-writing from FTII, Pune.

Keeper of the legacy

The sweet melodies of Dwijendra Lal, Rajanikanta and Atulprasad are fading fast from public memory, largely due to lack of awareness. Of the few singers trying to carry forward their rich legacy is Nupurchhanda Ghosh. “I began my singing lessons at Dakshinee and got a diploma in Rabindrasangeet. Pandit A.T. Kanan trained me in Hindusthani classical music for some time. Later, Samaresh Ray taught me the songs of Himanghsu Dutta,” says the 45-year-old singer.

“But all along I had been under the strict guidance of Krishnadi,” adds Ghosh. Twenty years of training under Krishna Chattopadhyay, the exponent of Dwijendra geeti, Rajanikantargaan and Atulprasader gaan, has given her voice a silken touch and her expressions a certain degree of maturity. Since 1995, Ghosh has been regularly performing at shows abroad, enthralling audiences at New Jersey, New York, Albany, West Virginia and Canada, besides being part of the Boston Biswa Banga Sammelan in 2001.

In a bid to reach these musical maestros to a wider audience, Ghosh translated some of their songs and rendered them in English at the New York State University and University of Pennsylvania, drawing “spontaneous and enthusiastic response” from students.

Music sessions apart, Ghosh is equally keen on researching the works and multifaceted talents of the trio. Her Ananya Atulprasad is a well-researched biography. Last year, Bandish — a neat package of the book, a cassette (Eto kolahole, comprising Dwijendralal and Rajanikanta tunes) and a bunch of cards painted on the songs — was released at MusicWorld. The Nehru Children’s Museum will present Ghosh in a workshop with youngsters between seven and 18 this weekend.

Fresh act

Buoyed by the recent public response to his stage performance as Biswatrash Hitler, Santigopal is on the lookout for a playwright who can help the jatra samrat bring Rabindranath Tagore alive on stage.

Back under the spotlight after more than 15 years in hibernation, the man known for portraying myriad roles, mythological and contemporary, now wishes to play India’s first Nobel laureate. “I have played Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Swami Vivekananda and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose since the early 70s. Now I am keen on appearing in the role of the beloved poet,” he says. “However, I am yet to find a playwright who can dramatise Tagore’s multi-dimensional personality and diverse pursuits,” he adds.

Santigopal, the stage chameleon who could don different faces with effortless ease, has re-emerged in the jatra arena under the banner of Nandik. “If I get somebody to write a drama on Tagore, my life's ambition will be fulfilled,” smiles the 65-year old.

At present, however, he is busy rehearsing and enacting the role of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. The big day, of course, is Netaji’s 106th birth anniversary, when he will perform at a state-backed do for which he is in touch with minister for fire services Pratim Chatterjee and minister of state for civil defence Srikumar Mukherjee.

January 23 will see Santigopal delivering the famous lines Aamay rokto dao, aami tomader swadhinata debo (Give me blood, I shall give you freedom) in full INA gear from a makeshift dais on Red Road with nearly 100 civil defence personnel dressed up as jawans. “Though I enacted the role of Netaji in Aami Subhas Bolchhi way back in 1972-73, this will be special,” he added.

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