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A dash of Spain

Reclining on a cushion, nibbling on Pinchos (a Spanish omelette) amidst a host of people from all over the globe and realising that The Da Vinci Code on the table is a Spanish translation, you could forget for a moment that you were in Calcutta.

There is little chance of you bumping into Raj’s Spanish Cafe in a nondescript corner of Sudder Street unless you already knew it existed. Rajendra Prasad Pal, 36, or just Raj, who learnt Spanish by talking to his customers, started the cafe two years ago. “We only served coffee earlier. But people wanted a place to eat. So I asked them what they would love to have. When they told me, I asked them to show me how to make it,” he said.

Raj has put together a menu that is mainly a Spanish and Italian fare. But a vegetarian, he serves only vegetarian food and eggs.

“I don’t eat Italian when I’m out of my country,” says Lisa from Italy. She is working with the Missionaries of Charity and has been staying on Sudder Street for more than a month.

“But I have tried the Nutella pancake and Lasagna de verduras here and they’re both very good,” she said.

One of the best things about the cafe is its owner. Raj helps his guests in whichever way he can. They also like the Wi-fi facility here. Then there are games like darts and carrom and a small library put together with books donated by guests.

Do Indians visit his cafe? “Rarely. Not many are aware of this place,” says Raj.

Spare the rod, help the child

It is not necessary to make a child feel bad to make him good. That was the message that came across at an open discussion on “positive disciplining” at the Oxford Bookstore recently. The event saw the launch of Childwise, an open forum involving parents, grandparents, teachers, principals and educationists.

“A string of recent incidents highlighted the need to address the issue of the welfare of children. That was the basis of the formation of the forum,” said educationist Ayesha Das.

The discussion focused on the need for both schools and parents to listen to the child and draw up more child-friendly ways of disciplining.

“Adults don’t know how to talk to children. They think they can use the same language that their parents did, but they don’t grasp the fact that because of various circumstances the maturity level of today’s children is different,” said educationist John Mason, who was part of the audience.

He added that schools should be issued a report card that would measure how happy the children were.

Involving parents in school activities, not just to spend time with their children but to understand the needs of all children, creating accessibility of teachers to students and making schools less intimidating to parents emerged as important criteria to make schools better.

While Sister Cyril, principal of Loreto Day School, Sealdah, stressed on group teaching, Father George, principal of Don Bosco, Bandel, talked about a “non-negative” way of teaching the children right from wrong.

Restoration, live

The solemn beauty of Johann Zoffany’s painting of The Last Supper, which hangs in St John’s Church and is the city’s most prized artistic possession, was revealed earlier this year after it was restored over five months by a team of conservators from the Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage (Intach) headed by Renate Kant, a German painting conservator based in Singapore.

The restoration is the subject of a documentary by Sandip Ray, who had made Himghar and a film on Mahasveta Debi.

The restoration was proposed by Intach to upgrade the skills of its conservators. Goethe Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan, Calcutta, provided Rs 11 lakh. The process was documented by Ray. The institute has funded the 23-minute film.

Restoration is a much-abused word in this country, and the film projects how it can be done in a scientific manner and is well worth it.

Arnab Nandy and Chandreyee Chatterjee

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