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VOL.1 NO. 6




Atithi Devo Bhava

Welcoming the world

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EACHING, TRAINING,edit KNOWLEDGE, CAREER, PLACEMENT, JOB, Editor in chief Bijay Kumar Agarwal Consultant and Managing Editor Pradeep Gooptu Digital Head Kirty Kedia Chief Sub-Editor Ashok Chatterjee Reporter cum Copy-Editor Farah Khatoon Reporter Shaheryar Hossain Reporter cum Copy-Editor Monami Ghosh Overseas Correspondent Snehasish Chakraborty (United Arab Emirates - UAE) Design Shubhodip Das Communication Consultant Sagittarius Communications Pvt. Ltd.

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All rights reserved. Reproduction in any manner is prohibited. Printed and Published by Bijay Kumar Agarwal on behalf of the owner, GPF Trading Pvt Ltd. Printed at Satyajug Employees Co-operative Industrial Society Ltd, 13 & 13/1A, Prafulla Sarkar Street Kolkata – 700072. Published from 34/1Q Ballygunge Circular Road, Kolkata – 700019 Ph : (91) 33 – 40229000, Fax : (91) 33 -24755324 Volume 1 Issue 6 for the month of February 2014 DL No- 39 dated 28/02/2013

Six months

of hard work The support of our friends and partners, and the constant attention of our critics, have helped us at Education Affairs to sail through our first six issues. Six months is a very short time in the life of a publication devoted to education and knowledge — the oldest and most constant quest of mankind. Nonetheless, we have now gained enough confidence to look ahead and break new ground. In keeping with the themes presented in the last few issues, this issue looks at a sector that is possibly the highest net foreign exchange earning segment of the Indian economy: hospitality and tourism. The players in this sector need trained, well-groomed, smart young professionals, and offer compensation and salaries that are not bad. Despite this, India is not a top priority among international travellers. If anything, India is better known overseas because of the regular travel warnings and advisories that are issued by foreign governments, warning their citizens to visit India at some risk. So there may be tragic bombings and school shootouts in USA or terrorist attacks in the Philippines, but sadly, it is India which gets a bad name easily even if a minor problem happens here. It clearly shows that we Indians need a new generation of confident, educated and intelligent professionals who will inspire great confidence overseas and within our country. Only then will our travel, tourism and hospitality sector start delivering on its great potential. The cover package explores both the established practices and the new formats in this sector, from the activities of the Indian Railway tourism arm to Net based firms that promote everything from backpacking (set up by IIM graduates, no less!) to settling foreigners who relocate for professional reasons to Kolkata. We also explore the opportunities before bright minds who have a great business idea, from the recent TiECon event that generated funding for exciting new business plans. December 2013 and January 2014 were packed with events, some of which are covered here. Please do read the report on the special session on how to achieve excellence in education, held at the Victoria Memorial Hall as one of the events of Kolkata Literary Meet 2014. We look forward to your support and feedback to improve further in the coming months. And thank you once again, dear reader, for our first six exciting months. Bijay Kumar Agarwal Editor in chief education affairs 1


Tourism drives training sector growth

4 Professional

resumes: Key to a dream job?



Interview Excellence in education on the decline


7 Tourism & jobs: The WB perspective I 10 Young guns explore the tourist prospects of the Sundarbans I 12 Adventure tour operation: A booming sector I 14 Hospitality training develops multi-sector skills I 16 Zomato COO talks about their rating parameters I 18 Helping expatriates settle down I 20 India and the Zostel backpacker I 23 Tour operators look for quality manpower I 26 Old is gold thanks to restorers I 29 Railway travel arm opens up new option I 35 Astronaut Oefelein speaks about the rough terrains of space I 37 Europe attracts Indian students I 41-54 Events I

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BE WHERE WHERE IT MATTERS.. MATTERS.. Education is aaplatform platformforforeminent eminent educators, practitioners, students and researchers Education Affairs is educators, practitioners, students and researchers from from across the country, with specific focus on Eastern India, to come together and share across the country, with specific focus on Eastern India, to come together and share their their knowledge, innovationsand andthethe latest trends in education. It engages with its knowledge, experiences, experiences, innovations latest trends in education. It engages with its audience on pressing and relevant issue pertaining to education. If you want to address aspirants audience on pressing and relevant issue pertaining to education. If you want to address aspirants and theeducation educationfraternity, fraternity, is the place to be. andthought thought leaders leaders ininthe thisthis is the place to be.


RS 1,20,000 1,20,000 1,50,000 70,000 1,30,000 1,40,000 35,000 20,000 25,000



17cm(W) X 24.5cm(H) 19.5cm(W) X 27cm(H) and 4mm EXTRA ALL SIDE 17cm(W) X 12.5cm(W) 19.5cm(W) X 13.5cm(H) and 4mm EXTRA LEFT RIGHT, BOTTOM 36.5cm(W) X 24.5cm(H) 39cm(W) X 27cm(H) and 4mm EXTRA ALL SIDE



Tourism drives training sector

growth ENTREPRENEURS AND PROFESSIONALS OF THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY SHARE THEIR OPINIONS ON THE POTENTIAL OF TOURISM AS A CAREER AND THE SKILLS A CANDIDATE SHOULD POSSESS TO VENTURE INTO THIS INDUSTRY Monami Ghosh Paul Theroux says in his book, Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Capetown: “The wish to disappear sends many travellers away. If you are thoroughly sick of being kept waiting at home or at work, travel is perfect: let other people wait for a change. Travel is a sort of revenge for

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having been put on hold, having to leave messages on answering machines, not knowing your party’s extension, being kept waiting all your working life — the homebound writer’s irritants.” Whether it is just this tendency to transcend a life and job of drudgery or just sheer wanderlust, the tourism industry is today the fastest growing industry in the world and India, which is a tourist’s paradise, also has a promising and developing tourist sector. While travel, sightseeing and hospitality

OB, BOOKS, GADGETS, GROOMING, SPORTS, FINE ARTS, MUSIC offer enjoyment to millions, the sector needs highly trained, motivated and hardworking service staff to succeed. The sector is therefore a major employer in many countries and also in some Indian states, like Rajasthan and Kerala.

Tourism as a career The relevance of tourism as a career has risen sharply in recent times. Kiran Naidu, director of Kshitij Academy Pvt Ltd. (a franchisee of Kuoni Academy), says, “It is very relevant in India today as there is a huge demand for trained professionals and the Government of India has not done anything about it. India has far more to offer than most other countries in Asia but tourists bypass India to visit those countries, whose cultural heritage originated in India.” She adds, “The Government of India has not made historical sites accessible as much as they should be. There is lack of infrastructure and disparity in entrance fees. It is only a hardened foreign traveller who would visit Hampi or Nalanda and once there, the lack of guides is deplorable. Tourism could very easily be put into a History curriculum – after all not all students are going to be research scholars!” As far as states go, tourism is in poor shape in West Bengal but some improvements are visible. “Until recently a career in the information technology industry was the most lucrative option. The tourism industry is catching on too in terms of being a promising career option,” says Prabir Singha Roy of Panways Travels who is also the Joint Secretary of the Travel Agents Association of Bengal. He goes on to claim that the association tries the best that it can do to propagate the relevance of tourism in modern times and the importance of introducing tourism as a subject in schools, colleges and universities. He cites as an example the fact that Muralidhar

Women’s College at one time offered a tourism course which initially fell through but is now being offered again.

Tourism in the classrooms West Bengal Tourism Minister Krishnendu Narayan Chowdhury has always maintained that the state has immense potential as far as the tourism sector is concerned. He has suggested that tourism be introduced into the school curriculum. He has gone on record stating his intention to develop “school tourism” or organized excursions for students to places of interest and historical sites as an attempt to increase their awareness about the state of West Bengal. Speaking on the introduction of tourism in the school curriculum, Mrs. Aparna Chaturvedi Basumallik, CEO of Club7holidays, also the Chairperson of the Eastern Region of the Travel Agents Association of India, says, “The world has now shrunk. Travel is an integral part of everyone’s life. People having a basic understanding of what travel is all about is very important. It may be domestic or global. It is important that it is introduced as a subject which is a part of the elementary academic curriculum.” Prabir Singha Roy shares a similar opinion and believes that the government should introduce tourism in the school curriculum. He says, “Often the candidates who apply for jobs are keen to work in this sector but are not trained in the manner that we would like. Some of them have pursued diplomas but most haven’t pursued academic courses in tourism. In my company, I have to train most of my recruits.” Aditi Pal of Wheels Tours and Travels also agrees, “I recruit trainees who are coached under the tutelage of the more experienced ones. Initially they assist experienced guides and coordinators and are allowed to function on their own only after I am sure that they have learnt.”

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TEACHING, TRAINING, KNOWLEDGE, CAREER, PLACEMENT, JOB Skills needed inThea first candidate important requirement in a candidate applying for a job in the tourism sector is communication skills. Aditi Pal explains, “The various departments include front office, booking confirmation desk, accounts including auditing, travel coordinator and manager. Now, each of these roles requires speaking skills.” The applicants should be able to solve queries of clients on the phone, in person as well as via email. Knowing more than one language helps especially when one is dealing with foreign clients. Organizational qualities like preparing itineraries, creating



Youth should be interested in people and sensitive to their culture and habits

brochures and travel guides and booking accommodations are of equal importance. Another significant aspect is knowledge of the place of visit, at times entertaining customers is not just about gift of the gab or wit, and tourists want to know about historical, geographical and cultural interest points in a place. Aparna Chaturvedi Basumallik says, “Co-ordination is the most important role in travel. Be it handling airlines, hotel book-

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ings, group travel etc. You need to have knowledge of everything as the clients may ask you anything about the destination, how to reach there, hotels, comparisons, etc.” Speaking on what can help youthful candidates nurture such skills, she points out, “Patience and a desire to learn are the key factors.” Kiran Naidu offers a similar view, saying, “They must have interest in the subject i.e. their Country or Region where they work and this has to be inherent and cannot be taught. The youth should be interested in people and sensitive to their culture and habits. They should be groomed to deliver, a lot of which is inherent but can also be taught at school from an early age. The teachers must impart this sense and they in turn can build on it.” She adds that a keen desire to be involved in this field is more important than being high-browed about the nature of the job. “They should be able mentally and physically to handle anything and most importantly, should enjoy what they are doing. If they come with attitudes and are designation-conscious it is not going to work,” adds Naidu.

Salary expectations A candidate employed in a travel agency can expect a starting salary of Rs 5,000 and as a fresher who has not interned anywhere or lacking a degree in tourism. The salary, however, can go up to Rs. 20,000 and more depending on the qualification of the candidate and the designation. “The starting salary is between Rs 15,000 and Rs 18,000 but there is a hike depending on the efficicency of the candidate,” says Joy Sengupta who works for Makemytrip.


Tourism & jobs:

The West Bengal perspective Pradeep Gooptu Tourism has the potential to be the leading employment generator in the services sector, with encouraging data coming in from states like Goa, Kerala and Rajasthan. The government of West Bengal is keen to tread this path and create lakhs of jobs in the tourism sector. The aim is to see the sector as state’s the top employer and the largest mass-based economic activity. At the national level, the tourism sector is already the largest service industry in terms of gross revenue, foreign exchange earnings, employment generation and local wealth creation. It also does not lead to brain drain or migration of skilled professionals unlike most other services. Overall, tourism is the second largest earner of foreign exchange in the Indian economy, and possibly the highest net foreign exchange earning activity. This dream is shared by Ms Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal, and is being implemented through the state tourism department, says the minister

concerned, Mr Krishnendu Narayan Choudhury. He says his department has drawn up a statewide plan to achieve this. The plan has three aspects: preserve and market the state’s heritage; promote cultural tourism; and develop tourism based activities. Budgetary allocation has been increased sharply to create more facilities, develop accommodation options and build relevant infrastructure. A recent survey conducted by the tourism ministry of the Indian government placed West Bengal fourth among domestic tourists and sixth among foreign tourists in terms of popularity. “We aim to be in first position”, says Chaudhury.

Infrastructure To ease the problems of travelling within the state, 14 new jetties are being built along the river Ganges all the way to central Bengal. More will be built as and when locations are identified. This is expected to become destinations for tour operators and local businesses once tourists start using them. Many tourists are backing out from visiting the area because of bad roads. A boat service will solve this problem and provide a unique experience.

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TEACHING, TRAINING, KNOWLEDGE, CAREER, PLACEMENT, JOB For accommodation, the state tourist lodges are very well located but are considered to be nightmares in terms of maintenance and service quality. The lodges are to be privatised and placed under entrepreneurial hospitality sector investors under a transparent process so that the land and buildings are maintained, used properly and made welcoming to visitors. General gaps in infrastructure like municipal services, sewerage, wayside facilities and rural tourism amenities have been identified and are being rectified using additional funds allocation. Training of youth in the unorganised sector is being done to support tourist circuits and marketing of smaller destinations, while the clearance of all projects is being speeded up.

ages employing many people. For example, money spent on lodges at places like Digha and other seacoast locations is wasted because there is no activity in the evenings. The government will use its funds to develop cultural and other activities in the area so that both visitors and locals have a fruitful interaction. Also, waterside or sea-facing cafes are to be encouraged so that tourists enjoy every minute of their stay there. Overall, all locations will get entertainment and recreation zones, hygienic dining options and clean, proper rest rooms for visitors. This is to be done through the private sector so that there is employment generation and proper service delivery.

Harassment Law and order Tourists are often harassed by operators or Mr Choudhury says, “Peace has returned service providers who demand exorbitant to two of the most beautiful places in the country – the Himalayas around the Darjeeling Hill area and the jungles of Bankura, Purulia and Midnapore. So long, Darjeeling’s disturbances forced tourists to go to Sikkim. Now they are back”. To cash in on this opportunity, the state government is encouraging tea garden and orchid farm owners in the Himalayan region to develop homestead tourism infrastructure. The government department will back them, as well as investors in other parts of the state with three tourism options: heritage/religious or cultural or nature-based travel packages.

sums for what they provide, or extort money by concealing information on what options are available. The minister says, “Our department is finalising charts providing comprehensive information like indicating proper rates, service options and rules, tariffs for rooms and infrastructure use, car rentals etc. We think this will bring down harassment faced by tourists and also make our state a safe and comforting place to visit”. Once this comes down, it will be easier for youth to offer and provide service like local tours, liaison with agencies, escort services during long distance travel, etc.”

Privatisation & jobs New locations The minister says, “We want to privatise Historic buildings have been identified for all loss making tourist lodges so that we can save the huge subsidy we have to pay to run them, and then use the saved money to facilitate tourist-oriented activities and pack-

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special restoration at Mushidabad and Jhargram towns, and the two Midnapore districts. Wasif manzil, a run down palace of the former nawabs of Murshidabad, was

B, BOOKS, GADGETS, GROOMING, SPORTS, FINE ARTS, MUSIC being restored. The minister says all this will be done by entrepreneurs and individuals with the government providing administrative support. In Darjeeling, the restoration programme covers many heritage structures and includes the St. Andrews church. New infrastructure is being developed at wildlife locations like Jaldapara, Gorumara and Bethudahari. On the river Ganga, completion of the jetties will make it possible to travel from Kolkata to Murshidabad and Azimganj. Beach destinations like Digha, Shankarpur, Mandarmoni, Bakkhali, Tajpur and Junput will get new illuminated beachfronts as well as public sanitation infrastructure. Private investment has been invited to develop a 200 acre tourism hub at Gajodoba near Siliguri. Activity centres, food outlets and accommodation will be developed there. In the sunderbans, a Tiger Rescue Centre is being built at Jharkhali for tourists while natural improvement works are being undertaken in the mangrove forests. One day package trips from Kolkata to Gangasagar and conversion of locally suitable vessels into houseboats are in the works.

United Nations project The government has initiated a project jointly with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation to prepare a roadmap for the development of heritage and cultural tourism at locations like the Murshidabad zone and two Midnapore districts. Discovery of exciting and very large new Buddhist and Hindu heritage structures at locations like Moghulmari, Chandraketuga and Malda are expected to benefit from such a programme. The state’s colonial heritage – at places like Kolkata, Hoogly, Murshidabad, Bankura and Purulia – are also expected to see new investments and developments.

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Young guns explore the tourist prospects of the Sundarbans WHILE THE GOVERNMENT IS TRYING TO PROMOTE TOURISM IN SUNDARBANS AND IS ENGAGING PRIVATE PLAYERS, YOUNG TOUR OPERATORS ALSO EXPLORE THE PROSPECTS THEMSELVES Monami Ghosh When Vivek Nayak, an erstwhile tour operator with a travel agency decided to accompany his Irish friend Brian O’ Donovan to Sundarban for a trip, he came back with an idea. Mesmerised by the beauty of the place and its potential of being a fascinating tourist hub, Vivek, along with his cousins set up Sundarban Chalo. It is a private travel company that conducts tours

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particularly to Sundarban and caters chiefly to foreign tourists. Born and brought up in Sudder Street, mingling with tourists was a regular affair for these five brothers Vivek Nayak, Santosh Nayak, Vikas Tamang, S Rohit and Kamal. And when they decided to set up a business, it was only a matter of taking the skills of interaction a little further mingled with seriousness and professionalism. Captivated by the serene beauty, the culture, fishing, honey collection and all the other beautiful aspects like the wild animals, Vivek had decided to start this in 2009 and today in 2014, it still goes strong and is getting more popular by the day. “Trip Advisor had us on Number 1 in their rankings for quite a while,” says S Rohit, one of the partners. Sundarban Chalo ensures that its clients have to take no stress and can only enjoy the beauty of the Sundarban while the food, lodging and transport is entirely their responsibility. Sundarban Chalo has offers of

B, BOOKS, GADGETS, GROOMING, SPORTS, FINE ARTS, MUSIC the finest and most popular Sundarban tour packages to its clients. This young and enterprising team of brothers can be an inspiration to many who want to take their passion for travel further and make a career out of it. “Although this involves a lot of responsibility, it is also a lot of fun and a rather adventurous career to embark upon,” reiterates S Rohit. He thinks that apart from communication skills mingled with wit, one needs to be able to deliver in a tight situation. “There are times when things don’t work out the way planned and you never know when a car might break down but handling that crisis well is the trick. Also, one has to have a keen eye for complaints and requirements of clients because each is distinctly different from the other with a specific set of requitements,” he further adds.

Government of West Bengal promotes Sundarban Tourism The Government of West Bengal is also working towards the development of tourism in Sundarban. The Benfish Sajnekhali Tourist lodge and a tourist rest house are run by the Government. Another aspect the Government wants to introduce is the river cruise. Since Europeans are particularly interested in visiting the Sundarbans, the river cruise will be a major draw, the tourism department

opines. State Tourism Minister Krishnendu Narayan Chowdhury is focusing on improving upon the existing infrastructure in order to provide better facilities to tourists. The tourism department has been looking to do tie-ups with private travel agents and tour operators, other state governments as well as foreign governments. The state budget allocation has been increased to Rs 120 crores. They have tied up with Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd to provide helicopter facilities particularly in places like Deegha and Sundarbans. The tourism department is trying to create new infrastructure for places that include the Jharkhali in Sundarban. This influx of new energy and enterprise will also ensure career opportunities for aspiring candidates who are looking forward to a career in the tourism industry.

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Adventure Tour operation:

a booming sector IF ONE LOVES TO EXPLORE NATURE AND TRAVEL, ADVENTURE TOURISM IS THE BEST CAREER FOR HIM Shaheryar Hossain With India comprising Himalayas in the north, Indian Ocean in the south and Thar Desert in its west, adventure tourism has emerged as a booming sector with innumerable job opportunities. While the competition in the travel industry is increasing globally, adventure tourism is booming with abundant job options.



V-Resorts recruit from nearby villages or hotel management institutes Aditi Balbir

Why Adventure Tourism is booming People want a break from their normal routines in the cities. They prefer travelling to offbeat and less explored areas rather than crowded tourist spots and they look for peace and relaxation with a bit of adventure.

How adventure tour Operator Company operates In a broad sense, adventure tour operating company comprises two teams –marketing and execution. While the marketing team convinces its clients (individuals, families, schools and colleges) with different tour packages, the execution team includes a director, coordinating-manager, 12 education affairs

in-charge and escorts who arrange the tour. Depending on the designation and experience, remuneration of the employees varies. Being at the highest level of hierarchy, the director receives 70% of the profit from trip and 30% is received by the coordinating manager. While the salary of the in-charge ranges between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000 per month, escorts get a salary of Rs 8,000 per month. Prior to getting an offer letter from an adventure tour operating company, an escort works on a daily payment basis. Based on the performance of a month, the offer letter is given to the escorts. Sheikh Ziaul Haque, a junior in-charge at Adventure Education Tours Mumbai Private Limited, shared how interesting his job is. “Although I have to keep vigilance on the school students while on a trip which is a hectic for me, I also get to explore new places. Throughout the year, I travel all over India and the cost of the trip is borne by my company. Every six months, the employees receive a hike in salary of Rs 1000 approximately,” said Haque with a smile. However, adventure tour operators organize trips for groups with collective hobbies or interests like rock climbing, mountaineering and others. Besides travel arrangements, the duties of an adventure tour operator vary depending on the travel activities. Rajesh Chowdhary, who is associated with Salt Lake Focus Club affiliated to Indian Mountaineering Federation, informed Education Affairs about the challenges and interesting task of an adventure tour operator is. “Our club conducts rock-climbing for school students. We approach schools and seek permission from the principal of the respective schools to allow students to participate in the course. Prior to joining the course, we ask for a physical fitness certificate issued by a doctor and a

B, BOOKS, GADGETS, GROOMING, SPORTS, FINE ARTS, MUSIC risk bond has to be signed,” Chowdhary said. Salt Lake Focus Club offers a rock-climbing course, meant for those above 16 years who have a taste for adventure. This apart, the Club also conducts adventure course for those aspirants in the age group of 8 to 12 years. The adventure course includes activities like night-sky watching, trekking, camping, basic mountaineering knowledge and others. The parents or anyone willing to join as a Guest-Observer are also welcome. The course charge for both the categories is Rs 2000 per individual, inclusive of transportation cost, food and lodging.

Recruitment of Adventure tour operators Recruitments of adventure tour operators are done via hospitality and aviation institutes. However, for technical jobs, a bachelors or masters degree in technology is a must. Recruitment is done as per industry standards. Qualified candidates apply and undergo a series of interviews which assess their presence of mind, attitude, communication, guest handling abilities and motivation levels to perform simple tasks. A tour operator needs to be alert, conscientious and friendly. With a keen eye for safety and guest satisfaction he needs to make sure guests enjoy thoroughly but safety needs to be the topmost priority. This apart, an adventure tour operator should be conscious of the environment, a good communicator, committed to customer service, a great networker and well organised. Aditi Balbir, co-founder of V Resorts, said, “V-Resorts recruit locally, from the nearby

villages or hotel management institutes. Once within the system, V-Resorts conducts an orientation programme which all employees go through after which the job training commences,” However, adventure tour operator companies recruit its employees from hospitality and aviation institutes.

Types of adventure tourism Advenuture tourism is classified under Hard Adventure and Soft Adventure. Hard Adventure: It covers trekking, climbing (mountain, rock and ice) and caving. It involves high risk and requires a high level of specialized skills. Over the past few years, the number of hard adventure has increased tremendously in India. Soft Adventure: It is also a fast growing segment of the travel industry in India. It is less risky than Hard Adventure. It includes snorkelling, casual bicycle tours, cultural art walks, fly fishing, skiing, snowshoeing, teambuilding, wildlife viewing and simple horseback riding.

Government’s initiative to boost adventure tourism In a bid to promote tourism, Indian tourism ministry adopted the Incredible India campaign a few years ago. According to the estimates of Visa Asia Pacific, India has the fastest growing market based on rankings of international tourist spending.

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Hospitality training develops multi-sector skills FLEXIBLE CAREER OPTIONS MAKE COURSES ATTRACTIVE TO CANDIDATES Farah Khatoon The World Tourism Organisation has identified India as one of the largest tourist-puller countries of this decade, which translates into bright career opportunity for millions of Indians in the hospitality sector. Hotel management, in particular, is a booming industry. Taranjit Singh, Managing Director of the JIS Group says, “A career in this discipline promises candidates an ocean of opportunities, for they get to work in various sectors like hotels, resorts, spas, airlines, air catering, restaurants, cruises, railways, banks, hospitals, BPOs and other industrial and guest catering houses, both under private and government undertakings.” The JIS institute has been trying to improve the quality of its faculty by bring-

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ing in teachers from Germany, Switzerland and Thailand, who share their international experiences with students. Guru Nanak Institute of Hotel Management is the only hotel management college in West Bengal to have received Education Excellence Award – 2013, from the Indo-Italian Company, One Planet Research Organisation. Former chef and die-hard optimist Shaun Kenworthy is today director of Indismart group that runs hotel management institutes across the country — IIHM and IAM — with affiliations to the University of West London and Edinburgh Napier University in the UK. Kenworthy says, “Just look at the way the industry is growing in India. Nationally new hotels and dozens of restaurants are opening every day and once you have that degree, you can travel the world and you’re not just stuck with the hotel sector if you find it’s not for you. Almost all sectors are recruiting from the hospitality management sector because we teach basic life skills, which if you did a degree in most other subject you would still have no clue!”. His point is that this sector is the only one that teaches under a single umbrella skills like customer service, basic etiquette, communication, how to dine, how to drink etc.. “In addition to all these, students are becoming chefs, sommeliers, food and beverage directors and general managers of the future. There are great opportunities in aviation, training, HRD, sales and marketing, to name just a few and of course the world is your canvas,” he adds. A number of government and private institutes offer undergraduate and post graduate courses in hospitality management in the city. According to Singh, the combined module of hotel management and catering technology and hospitality


management is a top ranking and combined course. These modules are extremely popular among students who aspire towards a permanent and a successful career. Most of the institutes have good placement opportunities for students after the completion of the course. Talking about his institute Singh claims, “JIS Group’s Guru Nanak Institute of Hotel Management has partners including leading hotel chains like The Taj, The Oberoi Group, The Park Hotels, The Hyatt Group, Marriott, Hilton, Accor, Sheraton Hotels, Swissotel and Sayaji.” Students passing out of the institution have been absorbed by these hotels, not only in Kolkata, but also all over the country. Apart from this, students have also been placed in the airlines and the Navy. Opportunities for self-employment is also there. In such cases, JIS Group provides support to any student who wishes to take up such an initiative. “In the 2013 -14 session, 20 large national and international groups turned up at the campus recruitment drive, and they have absorbed a huge number of students from Guru Nanak Institute of Hotel Management,” he stated.

Besides quality working environment, the industry offers attractive salary packages. Kenworthy says, “The starting salary really does depend upon the candidate and how focussed he or she is on nailing that first job. Varying widely from Rs 12500 to Rs 28000 pm but again depending upon all the qualities listed, within just a few years a candidate can exceed one lakh easily.” The salary is higher abroad says Singh. He adds, “A lot of students are showing interest in working abroad. We are committed to giving international placements to the deserving students of Guru Nanak Institute of Hotel management.” Since hotel management and catering technology are ‘service’- based sectors, there are certain qualities that are required in this industry. Teamwork is extremely essential here. In addition, candidates have to be physically fit, with excellent communication skills, polite, disciplined and punctual besides being well-groomed. A good knowledge and understanding of sanitation and hygiene is important as well. Singh said success depended on 6-S: Service, Sincerity, Skill, Smartness, Speed and Smile. These are the core values in the industry. education affairs 15


‘Users have a whole range of options on their platter’ Shaheryar Hossain Pankaj Chaddah, chief operating officer and mastermind behind Zomato’s marketing programmes, talks about the importance of the online restaurant guide in hotel industry. Excerpts from the interview: How does Zomato serve as a restaurant discovery guide for foreign students pursuing higher studies in India? Zomato has helped foreign students in India, tourists and locals alike by serving as a guide to discovering great places around them where they can go to eat. Instead of




With the growth of working professionals, eating out with families and friends has grown

relying on traditional methods such as recommendations from fellow travellers, homestay hosts and fellow students, Zomato has gained popularity as a reliable and up-to-date restaurant search engine. Foreign students have reliable information of restaurants at their disposal. With genuine user reviews and ratings available on the website, foreign students can choose the best eating options without the fear of landing up with an unappetising dinner or, worse still, falling ill. Based on location and user preference, Zomato provides exhaustive and relevant information and that is what has helped us gain customer loyalty and brand appreciation. On the other hand, restaurants get 16 education affairs

valuable feedback from the website in terms of reviews and ratings. It is a great platform for restaurants to reach out to their customers. Restaurant owners, for this reason, see great value in our product. Who are the target followers/readers of Zomato? We are looking to provide information to people who are looking for places to eat at or order from. Our users are internet savvy people with high disposable incomes looking for restaurants to get food delivered, dine out and for nightlife options. With the growth of working professionals, eating out with families and friends has grown exponentially. Our data shows that a lot of our users visit Zomato during lunch hour to order food into office. Most of our users eat out anywhere between three to four times a week.


What are the services offered by Zomato? Zomato is a revolutionary online restaurant search guide providing information for users to help them discover places to eat around them. We currently list over 206,300 restaurants globally (these numbers are only increasing by the minute), providing detailed information such as menus, choice of cuisine, pictures, contact details, maps, ratings and reviews. We have always focused on creating a product that people find useful in their lives. Restaurants get visibility on Zomato by connecting with the target audiences; it helps them create a brand name for themselves and in turn, gain customer loyalty.


What do the customers look for? Users are looking for the best available options to eat from and in this fast paced world, they want this information instantly. Zomato provides the most relevant and up-to-date information of restaurants which include menus, location on map, budget op-



tions, choice of cuisine, dine in or take away options, reviews, ratings and operation timings. Our user friendly interface enables people to check out photographs of restaurants and food options and makes it much easier for them to decide where to eat from. On what basis does Zomato rate restaurants across India? The users registered on our platform make all ratings and reviews based on their experience and knowledge of the restaurant. The ratings system in place is completely unbiased and gives other visitors the choice of picking the best eating options out there based on the reviews and ratings of their fellow eaters. Registered users are allowed to rate restaurants on a scale of 1 -5 stars which is purely based on user voting.


Does Zomato operate abroad? If yes, is the criterion of rating a restaurant abroad different from the criterion of rating a restaurant in India? Zomato is currently present in 11 countries which include Brazil, India, Indonesia, New Zealand, Philippines, Qatar, South


Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey, UAE and United Kingdom and, 40 cities in India. The ratings and review system followed across the globe is standard and is based on unbiased user generated reviews. Besides ratings and reviews done by Zomato, based on what other parameters do customers choose a restaurant? Users have the option of searching for information related to restaurants based on location on map, budget, cuisine, menus and photographs apart from reviews and ratings for each establishment. Our users can also search for restaurants on the basis of cost for a meal for two, business hours and facilities such as whether the restaurant accepts credit cards, has home delivery or dine -in services, serves alcohol (includes information about happy hours and the approximate cost of a pint of beer), has a smoking area, non-vegetarian food, airconditioning services, Wi-Fi Internet and outdoor seating. The users have a whole range of options on their platter before deciding where they want to eat from.


education affairs 17


Helping expatriates settle down CORINA POPA AND FERNANDO ARROYO HAVE INTRODUCED AN INNOVATIVE ENTREPRENEURSHIP CONCEPT Monami Ghosh They deliver hospitality with a difference. Rumania-born Corina Popa, an expatriate herself, has launched a unique venture to cater to needs of expatriates relocating to Kolkata and looking beyond a hotel room. Formerly a Guest Relations Officer at the

couldn’t find anybody who understood my needs. In fact, for more than a month, I was staying in a hotel. This is the chief reason that triggered off my interest in catering to the needs of an expatriate. And what is a better way to do it than set up a firm. That is how 4incomers happened.” The company today, 4incomers, not only helps an expatriate find suitable lodging but can also ensure that the client finds appropriate commercial space if needed.

Handling clients

Taj Bengal, the hospitality industry was familiar ground for her and she took it a step further by setting up her company, called 4incomers, with the aim of providing quality relocation services to expatriates. Having pursued a course in Economics of Tourism, Trade and Service (somewhat similar to an Indian hotel management course), Corina had a fairly clear idea on how to develop her services business when she set up the company with her Spanish husband, Fernando Arroyo, the co-director of 4incomers. It was personal experience and issues that inspired her to set up a company that aimed to aid foreigners relocating to Kolkata and enabled them to settle down here. Corina, officially the head of Client Services at her company, says, “When I came to India, I 18 education affairs

Handling a client requires the right attitude and communication skills- these are the most significant tools in concluding a deal successfully. Talking about how her company handles clients, she says, “When clients come, we interview them, trying to understand exactly what their requirements are. Then we shortlist properties and make prior negotiations with landlords. The idea is to take stress off from the expatriate and help them settle down in this new environment.” says Corina.

Skills that 4incomers looks for in employees Corina is a stickler for dedication to the job. High quality service can be provided to a client only if the people involved are attentive to their duties and sensitive to the demands of their job.“The first eligibility criterion is being industrious. Having the motivation to carry out the duties assigned to the person is also important. The person I am hiring should have an open mind and should be sensitive to the needs of a foreigner. Sometimes, being well-travelled

B, BOOKS, GADGETS, GROOMING, SPORTS, FINE ARTS, MUSIC helps but that is not of utmost importance,” she says. Corina is open to hiring fresh candidates and thinks that young people can be an asset to the company. “I had hired an 18 year-old boy once and he was very efficient. He was getting things done in no time,” she points out. Apart from full-time employees, 4incomers also hires interns which include both Indian nationals and expatriates. “I have had interns from Mexico, Columbia and Morocco. Two Polish boys have also worked with us. Thus, there is a healthy juxtaposition of locals and expatriates,” adds Corina.

Positions at which 4incomers hires The positions under which 4incomers hires include Marketing Manager, Guest Relations Officer and Website designer. She also has a team that looks after the administration. The salary of employees can range from Rs 10,000 to Rs 40,000 depending on credentials and designation. A person working on the field is entitled to incentives in addition. For an employee who is hired for closing deals with clients, the salary will depend on how many deals were successfully finalized. Every success is rewarded with a bonus payment in addition to the fixed salary.

Laundry service: One of its kind The Swiss Laundry which was started in Europe has been brought to India by 4incomers. The reason behind the laundry launch was also the “rather bad experience” that she had with laundry service when she first came to India. The Swiss laundry has seen a considerable growth in its clientele since it first started. “Starting with six clients in the first week, the number has gone up to 40 in three months,” shares Corina. However, she stresses that the laundry, still being in its very early days, needs to be marketed. “We already have 20 employees on board and I am looking to hire marketing professionals who can sell my brand to the clientele in Kolkata, particularly the residents of apartment complexes across Kolkata”, says Corina. 4incomers has recently hired trainers to groom the apprentices in the laundry service. “This is relatively new in Kolkata and we believe in coaching our recruits in learning to do it well. Recently, we had a trainer from Spain who gave them rigorous lessons,” Corina points out.

Making expatriates feel at home 4incomers makes an attempt to introduce their clients to the locale expatriates and arranges for them to meet and spend time together. 4incomers has a Facebook group, By Expat -For Expats which is incidentally also the company tagline. This group which is already very popular enables the expatriates to connect with each other. “We have an international Women’s Club for our women expatriates who catch up with each other in the monthly meetings that we organise for them,” shares Corina. In addition, Corina is the Kolkata ambassador of Inter Nations, a worldwide community developed in Germany. She conducts several of their events in Kolkata, also aimed at making expatriates communicate with each other and feel at home in the Indian environment.

Why take up a career like this? There are many incentives behind taking up a career like this, according to Corina, who says, “If somebody thinks that this is just an innovative way of being a property broker, they will not enjoy this career. The nature of my work is very enriching because it deals with meeting people from various cultural backgrounds. This exchange with different ethnicities is something no other profession guarantees as much and it is very rewarding.” Her works hours are very flexible and she can even work from home. However, sometimes when a deal may get aborted at a final stage, and this can be depressing. “At times this job can be stressful too,” says Corina. Expatriate service is a normal phenomenon in the West, also in many cities in India like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. “It is a relatively new concept in Kolkata. But this is a rewarding job and can also be very profitable. The running around is worth it!” c l a i m s Corina. education affairs 19


India & the Zostel backpacker Ashok Chatterjee Meet Tarun, Akhil, Dharamveer and Paavan. Taking the cue from the huge potential of the Indian travel and tourism sector, this bunch of students from IIM, Cal20 education affairs

cutta has started a backpacking chain as a business venture, Zostel. This effort is surely a step in the right direction The IIM Calcutta quartet would be graduating by the end of February, this year. Two of the co-founders (Abhishek and Chetan) are from IIT BHU and pursuing this venture full-

B, BOOKS, GADGETS, GROOMING, SPORTS, FINE ARTS, MUSIC time. They have a co-founder, Siddharth, who is currently working with JP Morgan in Mumbai. Apart from this, they have a team of interns and members. The team responded to some queries from Education Affairs. Excerpts from the response:

Idea behind Zostel In one line, we are India's first chain of backpackers’ hostels offering secure, hygienic, centrally-located and pocket-friendly accommodation for young travellers. Immediately after stepping into graduate school, we wanted to start something of our own. We had always been tossing around ideas that can keep us motivated enough to go to work every morning, something, that doesn't seem like a job. We realised that a common string that connects all of us is the love for travelling. We have each spent time backpacking across Europe and Asia, and something we had all found glaringly absent in the Indian tourism sector is the concept of backpacker's hostels. A hostel for backpacker's is a place where young travellers meet, chill and party together. Owing to the facility of shared dormitories, bed rates come off much cheaper than expensive hotel rooms which not only charge a bomb but also tend to ensure their guests stay within the four walls.

Stepping into entrepreneurship's shoes Some of us have stayed extensively in International hostels. Others have been closely associated with hospitality and travel industry. That's as close as we could have got since there isn't any chain (or hostel) for that matter where would have gained some firsthand experience.

Challenges on the way To start with, Indian accomodation isn't very developed. Most of the affordable options have gained a bad reputation. Often, they do not meet the standards. They can be unhygienic, lack sufficient security and some amenities that are commonly found elsewhere. Additionally, there is a large amount of people who have various misinformed notions about hostels in general. We are putting a great deal of effort into outreach via social media and various other promotional channels to dispel those myths and prepare the Indian audience for this kind of concept.

We write regular blogs on our website for the purpose of explaining the difference between a hostel and a hotel, or what makes hostels a popular concept among international backpackers, and have racked up a No.1 ranking on Tripadvisor with a five star rating in all the cities where we are present. We have also been active on Facebook, gaining a reach of over 70,000 people in just three months. Taking this one step further we have education affairs 21

TEACHING, TRAINING, KNOWLEDGE, CAREER, PLACEMENT, JO recently launched 'Zostel Nurture', through which we organize and lead educational tours for school students (aged 16-17). This not only gives them the opportunity to learn more about the country they live in, but introduces them to the idea of hostels in a positive way.



India is short of 65,000 budget rooms. Being the first movers in the hostel space, there is a huge room to expand

Another problem we faced was finding the time and the money to get the business up and running. As majority of the team either had full-time jobs or were in full-time education, it was difficult for us to find the time to talk to each other and develop the business. We wanted Zostel to be a self-funded idea, which has been very difficult at times as some of us have student loans to repay. We have had to operate on a shoestring budget but have been helped by our friends and families who have all donated money to our venture.

Indian market — niche playing field It's a huge market. India is short of 65,000 budget rooms as we speak. Being the first movers in the hostel space, we feel there is a huge room for expansion. We have some serious expansion plans. It's like a lemon spoon race for us, you got to be fast, but cautious. We have consolidated the learning from our two hostels and formally documented it, so that we can use it to grow faster and meet the aim of starting four new hostels in the coming eight months. We are also working towards a solid IT infrastructure, whether it is about our internal processes or our interaction with guests and vendors. Apart from lodging, we are also exploring end-to-end tour planning. One of our newer initiatives is ‘Zostel Getaway' through which we organise and lead expeditions for guests. So far, we have successfully organised multiple trips, including a seven day trek for 50 students from IIM Calcutta.

Zostel’s investment so far As we are entirely self-funded, and we have been bootstrapping the project until now. Building hostels is a capital intensive project and we had so much faith in our concept that we didn't shy away from putting all our savings into our venture. Funding our business school education at the same time as finding enough money to put behind our start-up was a pretty difficult task which couldn't have been achieved without the support of our families and friends. To meet the ends we had done everything from taking education loans, to pinging friends on Facebook for $100 donations. 22 education affairs


Tour operators look for quality manpower THE TRAVEL AND TOURISM SECTOR IS FACING MANPOWER PROBLEMS, AND COMPETITION FROM UNSUPPORTED TOURISM WEBSITES WRITES ASHOK CHATTERJEE Tourism may be one of the biggest foreign exchange earners and may offer immense career possibilities as a sector, but there are problems. With India’s vast landscape, there is huge potential to develop its travel and tourism sector. With domestic travel looking up, there is all the more reason to cheer. The Indian tourism industry has seen phenomenal jump in foreign tourist arrivals since the last 10 years. A greater number of Indians are travelling to domestic destinations than before. In the past few years the real growth has come from within the domestic

sector as around 30 million Indians travel within the country in a year. Strong growth in per capita income, rising young population coupled with changing lifestyles are adding up to greater expenditure on leisure services. Naturally, the travel agents are optimistic about the sector's prospects. The fortunes of the hospitality industry has always been linked with the development of the tourism industry. The travel and tourism sector’s contribution to capital investment is projected to grow at 6.5% per annum during 2013-2023, against the global average of 5%. The industry is vast. Travel agents, who are the gateways to any country’s tourism sector, education affairs 23

TEACHING, TRAINING, KNOWLEDGE, CAREER, PLACEMENT, JO form a major force in this segment. In terms of employment generation, the sector has immense potential. Airlines, airports and railways are major employers apart from the ground handling staff at airports and the cargo managers. The basic qualification to get into this sector remains graduation and in some cases a 10+2

exchange earners. Foreign exchange earnings (FEE) during the month of August, last year were US$1.294 billion. There is great scope for investment.”

Role of IATA The airline industry is governed by the Integrated Air Transport Association (IATA) with headquarters in Montreal, Canada. IATA has internationally divided into many zones – Area 1 (North, South and Central America), Area 2 (Middle East & Europe) and Area 3 (South East Asia, Japan & China). An IATA certified course has immense value in this sector and it can lead to good work opportunities. Mukherjee, who himself pursued IATA course, says, “I got selected for the IATA advanced course after getting distinction in the basic course. It took me three and half years to complete the course. And then I started my business in 2000. A degree from the international body can ensure that pass-outs can work in any country and in any airline". The basic, starting salary in the sector today is roughly in between Rs 8,000 to 15,000. People in the front office need to have excellent command over English. Knowing a foreign language would be an added qualification. But for back office, specialists are needed as it involves lots of numbercrunching calculations and thorough knowledge of cargo handling. "For travel agents, good knowledge of geography, history of regions and countries, knowledge of currencies and different country-specific regulations is a must. As agents we need to carefully study the travel time, visa regulations and relevant papers,” he adds. Marketing too plays a major role for the agent to get business. Better the advertising, better are the prospects of returns.

certificate. A basic tourism course can be done through correspondence as well as through classrooms at many private institutes. Jaydeep Mukherjee, director and CEO, Meghdutam Travels, which mostly deals with corporate clients, says, “This is the biggest industry in the world in terms of employment, infrastructure, technology, modernization and growth of GDP. Out of India’s total GDP, tourism sector alone contributes 40%. There are close to 200 countries, which are heavily dependent on tourism for its growth. For India, this sector is one of the highest foreign 24 education affairs

Selling Durga Puja Citing an example , Mukherjee says, “I have now an office in Montreal from where I promote India and Kolkata’s Durga Puja as one of the largest spectacles in the world. I do road shows and also show documentaries on Durga pujas in different languages.” The young travel agent feels the city has huge potential in terms of tourism. “Take for example the largest mangrove forests in the world – the Sunderbans. There are some teething problems in this sector. Out of other problems faced by tourists, there is the issue

B, BOOKS, GADGETS, GROOMING, SPORTS, FINE ARTS, MUSICof non-availability of passes at the entry point. That means, tourists lose time as one has to keep in mind the high and low tides. Another thing we need to look at is availability of good quality food at the entry level. At present there are not many options or foreign tourists,” he adds. Being a conventional travel agent, Mukherjee feels online travel sites are good employment option for youngsters, and some sort of IT background really helps.

Quality manpower If Mukherjee is upbeat about the the travel industry, Manoj Saraf, managing director of Gainwell Travel and Leisure, says he fails to understand why so little is done to highlight opportunities in the sector. Only then will good students choose travel and tours as career. “We do not get good candidates,” he rues. He admits, “The industry does not pay too well. The starting salary here would be around Rs 10,000 a month for a graduate, which is seen as low. Many of students, who do not manage to get any lucrative career elsewhere, come to tourism sector. That’s a pity." But, as he points out, "The various training centers such as the in-flight training centers promise lucrative jobs. But the reality is, out of 5 lakh students, who are being trained, only 15,000 manage to get jobs as a cabin crew. What about the rest? So the course fee is very high. Many of these pass outs work with us and I feel bad for them.”

Tour managers The career of a tour manager or escort is exciting and attractive. They are mostly sent along with large groups to assist in the travel itinerary. At the same time, it is difficult to find a substitute for a good local guide. Guides are an integral part of any tour as they not only help explain the surroundings but also inform tourists about the history and stories of any location. Saraf says, “We do take the services of local guides in different countries. In India, they are paid either on assignment basis or they work with us as freelancers. If these guides are working with an agency on a full-time basis, they earn in the range of Rs 25,000-30,000. If they are hired on a daily basis, they are paid Rs 1,500." Saraf, who did his MBA from USA, says the industry is going through a temporary slump: “Unfortunately, the industry is going through a

bad time now."

The Net challenge Also, with the Internet promising power to travellers, traditional agents are suffering. "The only silver lining is that these websites are employing lot of professionals. But that has also meant that many a conventional agency has shut shop. The fact that very few well-trained professionals are coming into the profession, is making the situation difficult", he adds. On the travel portals doing great business and giving traditional travel agencies a run for their money, Saraf says, “The dotcom boom has been giving us tremendous competition. But they do not have a human side. There is no one

Favoured customer n Individual travellers on leisure budgets n Honeymooners on a customized itinerary n Senior customers n Group and corporate travelers

Budget destinations n Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore.

Leisure destinations n

Australia, South Africa, USA, Europe and Egypt.

to go to in case of any problem or query. But the younger generation feels comfortable doing business through such sites." Bad experiences abound, and that gives a destination a bad name. Travellers then start avoiding the location, and the organised tourism sector players suffer. The websites move on to other locations. Gainwell Travel and Leisure also conducts study tours for different city schools. “We deal with lot of school students for study and adventure tours. The educational tours are designed according to the needs of the schools. Schools such as La Martiniere, GD Birla, Calcutta International and Xavier’s schools have taken our services,” says Saraf. education affairs 25


Old is gold thanks to restorers HERITAGE RESTORATION HIGHLIGHTING THE GLORIOUS OLD STRUCTURES IN THE STATE IS EMERGING AS A MAJOR ATTRACTION FOR TOURISTS Ashok Chatterjee Heritage tourism is finding new admirers every passing year. The heritage of glorious old colonial buildings, which were landmarks in the city and elsewhere, but are no more in use, are being sought by corporate houses (and some have been taken over) for use as heritage hotels. In some cases, the facades have been kept intact, while in others ,alterations have been 26 education affairs

necessary to a certain extent. Overseas, there are examples like Old Charles Street Jail in Boston, US, which once housed famous prisoners like Malcom X, which today runs as the Liberty Hotel. The Schazenturm, Europe’s biggest water tower, was converted into Movenpick Hotel in Hamburg, Germany. Converted buildings like these abound abroad. India is fast catching up. Havelis of the Indian landholders and tycoons of yesteryears have been converted into heritage hotels in


Rajasthan. Everybody, but perhaps more so foreign tourists, love the experience of staying in these hotels. Converting an old history-laden building into a new structure, retain authenticity as far as possible, is not so easy. It requires the work of experts and architects specially trained in this field. Kolkata has more than its share of such properties, which developers are trying to resurrect. Take the case of 134-year old Basubati building in Bagbazar. There have been efforts to convert it into a usable, userfriendly structure. The Shahi Mosque at Esplanade, and its twin, the Tollygunge Mosque, are both 19th Century structures built by Prince Ghulam Mohammed Shah, eighth son of Tipu Sultan, and both been restored, conserved and displayed. As a result of all this, restorer Manish Chakraborti is a busy man these days. He is working on The Danish Governer’s House, St Olave’s Church and many other such structures at Serampore.

Skills needed Talking about restoration, Chakraborti says, “Restoration work will vary from building to building. Documentation, followed by survey, identification of the problem and then fixing of the problem, is the natural course of restoration. It is no rocket science. It depends on careful observation, which comes from experience. Correctly assessing the condition of the building to be restored is the key to success. The cause of the decadence of the building may be hidden behind the surface of the building.” An old, ailing building is like an elderly human, he says, adding, “It is like treating a patient. Doctors do lot of tests which help them treat the patient better. We too do the same with old buildings.” He says restorers today need to develop special skill sets even if the candidate is an architect. He rolls out a checklist: “Specialists need to use lots of common sense, which is very rare these days. The old buildings were built education affairs 27

TEACHING, TRAINING, KNOWLEDGE, CAREER, PLACEMENT, JO by ordinary masons. The bulk of heritage buildings were built with brick and mortar. So the restorer should demystify and simplify the right causes of its decay and decadence. Apart from having proper understanding of the job at hand, specialists need to have a passion to complete the job. In addition, the objective behind the restoration has to be very clear". He adds, "Study of the building should be done to identify which areas need immediate restoration and which areas can be left for later for the survival of the building. Invasive investigation or doing indirect tests like surface testing needs to be done to affirm any assumption and take a decision. Finally, proper equipment is needed for studying any building”. G M Kapur, state convenor and governing council member of Intach, agrees with Chakraborti when he says, “We have to have trained specialists make a thorough assessment of the building with respect to its structural stability to start with. Then check for water ingress — rising damp and roof leakages, check for pest and insect infestation. And finally, check for the material of construction. These are the initial examinations of the building.”

Guiding principles Both are on same page that the guiding principle of restoration should be to do essential repair, restoring the basic fabric of the structure. The repair has to be minimal. Chakraborti cautions, “Training is needed to use materials that are compatible to the ones used earlier. Restoration should be reversible, so that the next generation can do a better job if the need arrises. Restorers have to learn to never over restore any building”. Kapur on his part says, “Most of the buildings in Kolkata are brick-structures using lime-surkhi as mortar. Also, the weather conditions in Kolkata are quite adverse with high temperatures, pollution and humidity all of which affect the buildings.” Sharing his experience, Chakraborti says, “Kolkata sits on high water table and water is susceptible to rise from bottom though osmosis. It carries with it sulphate and salt. Most of the heritage structures in the city were built during the 19th Century with lime and the use of cement started only around the 1910s. Training is needed to use more of lime, surki and mortar for restoring Kolkata’s buildings.” 28 education affairs

How to be a restorer “A student has to be full of questions and find out from practice. Not everything is mentioned in the curriculum. Passion is very important as it will help one find answers. That is the best education. What we are doing in India is just giving training and preparing him to get a job. Is this formal education enough? Basic understanding of architecture and civil engineering, knowledge of chemical, history, are all important ingredients of conservation,” says Chakraborti. Kapur on his part says, “A degree in architecture with specialisation in conservation studies is recommended. Institute like Jadavpur University/ IIT, Kharagpur have such courses.”

Working with masons Kapur feels it is probably easier to get masons with expertise in traditional materials of construction such as lime-surkhi here compared to other states. Citing some cases in Kolkata, Kapur says, “The adaptive reuse of heritage buildings into hotels has started in West Bengal as well. Itachuna Rajbari, Bawali Rajbari and Maheshgunge Rajbari are a few cases. But the problem is is that most of the buildings are owned by a number of family members, who do not always see eye to eye.”

The cost factor “It is a myth. The issue of cost is directly proportional to what you want. Conservation should be your approach. It should not be expensive. Judicious use of material is very important. By inflating the cost of restoration it is like deceiving yourself,” says Chakraborti. Kapur though says, “It is expensive but still cheaper than the cost of new construction.” But both the restorers are optimistic at what the future holds in this field. “Restoration professionals are now becoming increasingly in demand, and this should offer good prospects to architects,” says Kapur. Chakraborti agrees that the tribe is increasing. Both experts are happy with their experience till now. For Chakraborti it has been a learning experience while Kapur has enjoyed working as a restorer.


Railway travel arm opens up new option INDIAN RAILWAY CATERING AND TOURISM CORPORATION IS EMERGING AS A PREFERRED EMPLOYER Shaheryar Hossain With the escalating number of internet users in India visiting its site and using the services offered, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has given a new dimension to Indian Railways. Introduced a few years ago, IRCT has created new job opportunities. As Madhumita Chatterjee, Deputy General Manager (Human Resource Department) of IRCTC, said, “Along with ticketing, IRCT is also into catering and tourism. All these three different verticals require different skills. IRCTC takes in freshers from hotel management Indian Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM) or Indian Institue of Travel and Tourism Management (ITTM).

Those are some government recognised institutes from where we take students who work as freshers at IRCTC,�

IRCTC recruitment process When it has to go in for recruitment, the IRCTC conducts competitive exam. Depending upon the vacancies, the Indian Railways conduct its exam on quarterly or half-yearly basis. The tentative dates of the exam are usually informed to candidates via Employment News, Newspapers, Vernaculars or Electronic media. The written exam comprises 200 objective questions. If the candidate gives a wrong answer there is negative marking. education affairs 29

TEACHING, TRAINING, KNOWLEDGE, CAREER, PLACEMENT, JO Like any other competitive exams, the IRCTC written exam is divided into two parts. Part-I is of 100 marks based on General Awareness, Reasoning, Numerical Ability and proficiency in English Language. Part –II has 100 questions based on professional ability. Depending on the marks obtained by the candidate, applicants are ranked and then called for a personal interview. Only those students who have successfully cracked both the written exam and the interview are allowed to join as a trainee. “After the candidates are finally selected, we groom the students. The training is given while they are on the job,” said Chatterjee.

Application process Prior to the written examination, the IRCTC gives the notice or advertisement mentioning the number of vacancies, eligibility criteria and other details of the post. The application can be made in two ways – offline or online. In case of offline, the candidate needs to send a handwritten or typed application on the specified address mentioned in the advertisement. However, in case of online applications, the applicant need to log on to or www.irctc, then click on the career option, the seventh option on the website at the left side. Four new options would appear at the

30 education affairs

screen. These options would be New Jobs, Notices, Interviews and Results. The prospective candidate should select New Jobs. There the candidate would find the official notification along with the download form option.

Eligibility criteria Depending upon the hierarchy in the placement process and the post applied for, the academic qualifications for different posts vary. Prior to retirement of senior officials, the IRCTC starts its recruitment of candidates for the post of deputy general manager, assistant general manager, executives, supervisors, senior/ junior supervisors and senior/ junior assistant manager. However, there are categories of employees working in the Indian Railways. These are Group A, Group B, Group C, and Group D. The Railway Recruitment Board accomplishes the recruitment process.

Conclusion An employee working at IRCTC enjoys the best possible job security because it’s under a ministry of the Government of India. Besides, all IRCTC employee is entitled to similar privileges and benefits enjoyed by employees in the other government sector. These facilities are not available in the private sector.


Burden on Childhood All of us are witness to the sight of little children trudging out of their homes, bleary-eyed, at an ungodly hour of the morning, bent over with a sack full of books on their backs. On 27 April 1989, author R.K.Narayan (1906 -2001), who was a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha, spoke on the burden of modern-day education on children and its role in robbing them of the joys of childhood. This short speech brings out the joylessness and ineffectiveness of the modern system of education and urges Parliament to take practical steps to mitigate children’s suffering and restore them their childhood. Madam Chairman, I am taking this honourable House to another world. In the stress and concerns of adult world, the problems or rather the plight of children are unnoticed. I am not referring to any particular class but to the childhood itself. The hardships start right at home when straight from the bed the child is pulled out and got ready for the school even before his faculties are awake. He or she is groomed or stuffed into a uniform and packed off with a loaded bag on her back. School bag has become an inevitable burden for the child. I am not pleading for abolition of the school bag by an ordinance, if necessary. I have investigated and found that an average child carries strapped to his back like a pack mule not less than 6-8 kg of books, notebooks and other paraphernalia of modern education in addition to lunch box and water bottle. More children on account of this daily burden develop a stoop and hang their arms forward like a chimpanzee while walking and I know some cases of serious spinal injuries in the children too. Asked why not leave some books behind at home, the child replies it is her teacher’s order that all books and notes must be brought every day to the class. For what reason God alone knows. If there is a lapse the child invites punishment which takes the form of being rapped on the knuckles with a wooden scale, a refinement from our own days when we received cane cuts on our palm only. The child is in such terror of the teacher whether you call her sister, mother superior or just madam that she is prepared to carry out any command issued by her who has no imagination, sympathy or whatever.

The dress regulation particularly in convent schools is another senseless formality. Tie, laced shoes and socks, irrespective of the climate is compulsory. Polishing a shoe and lacing it becomes a major task for the child first in the day. When the tie has become an anachronism even in the adult world, it is absurd to enforce it on children. After the school hours, the child returns home only to find her mother or her tutor waiting to pounce upon her, to snatch her bag and compel her to go through special coaching and home work. For the child, the day has ended with no time for play or dream. It is a cruel harsh life imposed on her and I present her case before this House and the hon. Members to think over and devise a remedy by changing the whole educational system and outlook so that childhood has a chance to bloom rather than wilt in the dreadful process of involvement in adult activities such as protest marches, parades, lining up on roadsides and waiting for VIPs. Children are made to stand in the hot sun for hours without anyone noticing how they suffer from fatigue, hunger and thirst. Children must be protected and cherished which would seem especially relevant in the year of Nehru Centenary. Now how it is to be done, it is up to the members and administrators to consider but perhaps not by appointing a commission of inquiry but in some other practical and peaceful manner. education affairs 31


Micro Xlabs tops TSEC ENTREPRENEURS WITH AN AIM TO CREATE AN ECOSYSTEM OF PROGRESSIVE ENTREPRENEURSHIP SHINE AT THE TATA SOCIAL ENTERPRISE CHALLENGE Shaheryar Hossain As their heroic tales of courage were revealed, the applause got louder and they walked on to the stage at the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta auditorium to receive their award. The second edition of Tata Social Enterprise Challenge, hosted by the Tata group in partnership with the IIM-Calcutta, gave these budding young professionals a reason to smile.

The Tata Social Enterprise Challenge 2013-14 kicked off in October 2013 but the winners were announced on January 17, 2014 at the IIM Calcutta campus. While Bangalore based Micro Xlabs bagged the first prize for its incredible invention of technology for counting the blood cells based on upcoming technology of Lab on Chip and MEMS (Micro electro mechanical systems), Bodhi Health Care were declared runners-up for initiating elearning in regional languages in rural areas and Green Agrevolution Pvt Ltd was declared third for supply of quality products directly to the end users without any intermediaries. “Keeping in mind the low literacy levels of the health workers, we started the Bodhi Health Care. The main objective of Bodhi 32 education affairs

Health Care is to explain complex medical topics through videos in regional languages to health workers in rural areas. ‘Delivering healthcare knowledge to the last mile’ is our mission,” said Shrutika Girdhar, cofounder of Bodhi Health Care from Gurgaon. Bodhi Health Care has developed lowcost android based tablet solution for training Community Health Workers which comprises simple illustration based videos in regional languages suitable even for less literate audience, built-in assessment modules to check progress of the user and monitor and measure the usage with a web-based tracking module. The national-level competition was held to unearth India’s most promising earlystage social enterprises working hard to up lift and bridge the gap between small and big entrepreneurs. The shortlisted candidates were offered mentorship support, funding opportunities and an opportunity to be incubated at IIM Calcutta’s incubation centre. “Right now, our combination centre is helping some four to five entrepreneurs. But we have plans to expand it at national level and in a big way,” said Professor Saibal Chattopadhyay, director of IIM Calcutta. However, the second edition of the Challenge attracted 160 entries from across India, including Assam, Odisha, Mumbai, New Delhi and Kolkata, among others, and an entry from Bulgaria, showing wide interest in the area of social entrepreneurship. The participants were shortlisted after three rounds – prelims, semi-final and the finale. At the preliminary round, the participants were required to submit Impact Proposals online in the format specified on the website. After proper scrutinising, 20 participants made their way to the semi final round. Again at final the first to third rank holders were felicitated with prize money of Rs 1.75 lakh, Rs 1.25 lakh and Rs one lakh, respectively. Judged for the event was Harinde Hande, founder of SELCO Solar Pvt. Ltd.


Professional resumes

Key to a dream job? RESUME WRITERS ARE ADDING PROFESSIONAL TOUCH TO RESUME TO MAKE SELECT CANDIDATES STAND OUT AMONG THE MELEE OF APPLICANTS. IT ALSO IS A VIABLE CAREER OPTION, WRITES FARAH KHATOON It’s a competitive world with 100 candidates competing for one post in a company. Hence apart from other skills, a good resume can land you the dream job. And this is where professional resume writers come in; they are

helping prepare good resumes that have the right qualities to sway the interviewer. Amit Mishra, Manager — Product & Communities, INFOEDGE who has had experience of dealing with resumes at points out the need of professional resume writers. He says, “There is certainly a need as at times people do not have good command over education affairs 33


Amit Mishra the language making it difficult for the recruiters to understand apart from creating a bad impression. Professional resume writers understand the value of highlighting key achievements which help the resumes stand out and be different from other applications. Professionally written resumes have certainly more impact compared to ordinary resumes as the content is written in a well-articulated way. On an average, recruiters gets over 200300 resumes per position and most of the time they don't have the bandwidth to read through the entire resumes to understand the relevancy of the candidature for a certain position. Therefore, they prefer resumes which are neatly written with information that can be easily identified.” However, Mishra points out that though there is a need for professionalism in resumes also, it would be wrong to say that unprofessional resumes cannot fetch a job. “Professional resumes are not a sure shot guarantee of landing a job but they certainly increase the chance for a candidate of getting his resume viewed and hopefully called for an interview. After that, it is totally upto the candidate's performance,” says Mishra. Explaining the work of professional resume writers Mishra who has also worked as an independent coach - Personal Branding and Career Transition to CXO's and senior professionals, said, “An individual may or may not be able to communicate the role, responsibilities in the best way possible because of lack of right language skills. Resume writers also try to push the candidates for more information regarding his present job and expectation which also reflects while a resume is being written professionally. The resume writers also have access to different templates which are used for different set of industries and are necessary while applying for international jobs.” There is certainly a growing demand for resume writers and Mishra feels that the demand for this service will certainly remain

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There are both full time and part time professionals working as resume writers. It is a time consuming and people centric profession

for years to come. There are individuals as well as agencies working on the art of writing resumes. The cost of the service depends on the service provider. Big organisations with good experience in the domain charges anything between Rs 3500 - 6000 for resume writing and other additional services. Small firms will charge anything between Rs 500-2000. So can one make a career out of writing resumes? Mishra says, “There are both full time and part-time professionals working as resume writers. Resume writing is a time consuming and people centric profession where the writer need to understand the individual thoroughly, filter and transfer it in the resume according to the requirement of the job. It is imperative that the writer understands and creates good profiles as these services get marketed especially for individual writers mainly through word of mouth and reference. A typical resume writer’s salary will depend on the understanding and command over the language. It also largely depends on the time spent and the business generated. An experienced resume writer can earn anything between Rs 30,000-50,000 per month.” A good command over English (both written and oral) and a flair for writing are very important for the profile of a resume writer. Usually people with English in their bachelors and masters degrees are preferred for the role. But in case the professional has good communication skills with good writing ability addition to work experience in any industry, it adds a lot of credibility to the profile. The person can then offer industry specific services as she understands the industry and the responsibilities pretty well. Other qualities which are expected are patience, good listening skills and people management. With minimal requirement resume writing can be a good career option, especially if you are good in the language.



Farah Khatoon Can you sum up your venture AdventureWrite? AdventureWrite is a company that Colleen and I started several years ago. It began as a venue to chronicle life’s adventurous journey and share that journey with others. It has grown from there. It now includes one of the US’s only free writing contests for kids as well as a writing tutorial. Over 50 educators in the US currently use our tutorial and writing contest as part of their curriculum.


What prompted you to start this venture and how can it help budding astronauts? It is important that young people dream. This is what makes an explorer and adventurer. It is also important to clearly convey thoughts and experiences. The kids’ writing contest helps motivate kids to write and to hone their writing skills. It provides an opportunity to dream and share that dream with others.


You seem to be synonymous with adventure. Is it one of the particular traits that an astronaut should possess? Astronauts should be dedicated profession-


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TEACHING, TRAINING, KNOWLEDGE, CAREER, PLACEMENT, JOB als, adaptable, team-oriented, and possess a well-rounded background. It is not enough to only be “book-smart”. One needs to bring a variety of skills to the mission as spaceflight is still “expeditionary” (although that is changing with the commercial spaceflight industry). If one is ‘adventurous’, that trait can hone other skills while in pursuit of those ‘adventures’; skills such as teamwork, selfcare, risk analysis and goal orientation. Did you always wanted to be an astronaut? I grew up with a great interest in space. However, I always wanted to fly airplanes as a kid and started doing so as soon as I was able. I flew my first solo when I was 14. I


It is extremely competitive to even get an interview, let alone be selected as a NASA Astronaut. I was told the year I applied, there were more than 3000 applicants and over 100 interviews. From there, slightly more than 20 were selected to train as Astronaut candidates, and fewer still made it to space. As far as challenging, in truth, some of the things I did in the Navy were more challenging, such as graduating from the US Naval Test Pilot School and landing on an aircraft carrier at night in bad weather. However, to be a professional astronaut requires dedication, study, and much training. Do you think the demand for astronauts is rising with more missions being planned? With the commercial space industry beginning to literally “take off”, the demand for astronauts will increase. No longer will spaceflight be possible for a lucky few. Space will certainly become more accessible in the years to come, and the demand for competent astronauts will rise.


Which section in the aeronautical profession is showing a brighter sign for aspiring professionals in this field? Every section in the aeronautical profession is showing signs of growth especially with the commercialisation of space. As I tell most aspiring professionals, it is most important to find something you enjoy doing and pursue that with passion. For me, that was flying. As it turned out, I went from being a recreational pilot, to a fighter pilot, to a test pilot, to a space shuttle pilot. It was my operational and test flight experience that led me to this field. However, many engineers, scientists, doctors, and other professionals become astronauts. The common thread is that they are all doing something they enjoy.


ended up joining the Navy to pursue an interest in aviation, and it was that which led me to become an astronaut. You had worked in the navy before joining Nasa. How much did that help you later? For me, my Navy experience was critical in becoming an astronaut. I gained valuable experience in complex aircraft operations, mission execution and teamwork. I also trained to be a military Test Pilot, a necessary skill to pilot the space shuttle.


Q 36 education affairs

Astronaut is a fancied profession, but how competitive and challenging it is?

We know you were in the same crew with Sunita Williams, but did you ever interact with Kalpana Chawla? And how are Indians perceived in this sector, as I believe the sector has lots of Indian scientists in America. I did interact with Kalpana. There were, and still are only so many astronauts that eventually, one gets to meet with all. More than being perceived of Indian descent, Suni and KC were and still are perceived as capable crewmates and astronauts. That holds true elsewhere in the industry – people are evaluated for their skills and performance, not from where they originated.




Europe attracts Indian students Shaheryar Hossain A student trained in Europe is accepted worldwide thanks to the fact that the Continent has among the most advanced environments as far as science and technology are concerned. European cars, for example, are seen as the best in the world, as are European aircraft and telecommunications equipment. In the services sector, European hospitality schools are recognised as the best in the world as well. Bright students seeking the best in education, technology and services choose Europe as the preferred destination. In recent years, Europe has also acquired a reputation for offering the best options in sustainable development and renewable, environmentallyfriendly technologies.

Experts say European schools offer the best environment for all round development of a student, far beyond learning or planned instruction that is delivered formally through a syllabus. Mobility within the European Union makes acquiring multiple, versatile skills easier alongside specific competences which are relevant to the employment in the wider global economic market. Moreover, Europe's developed countries are excellent in providing appropriate learning outcomes. Sushanta Kumar Mahapatra, who pursued a two-year master’s course in Life Long Learning Policy and Management from Europe, shared his experience while studying abroad. “I applied for the course in 2006, so that I would be able to join the course in 2007. And at the same time, I applied for scholarship. Later on, I was offered scholarship by the European Commission which included the education affairs 37

TEACHING, TRAINING, KNOWLEDGE, CAREER, PLACEMENT, JOB course fee and living allowance,” said Mahapatra, who is the founder and secretary of Kolkata-based Tagore Academy of Life Long Learning .

Easy process of obtaining visa

For students who aspire to pursue higher studies abroad, visa are not seen as a problem for the right candidate. Nowadays, many operators take the responsibility of arranging the visas for students. After furnishing all the necessary documents and getting the approval to pursue the course, the student needs to apply for the a pan-Europe visa from any member country of the European Union.

Sushanta Kumar Mahapatra



I was offered scholarship by the European Commission Work and study policy abroad

Depending upon the policies abroad, students are allowed to work and continue its study. A student who holds a student –visa for the European Union is allowed to take up causal work. The timing of casual-job is restricted to 20 hours per week. This apart, during summer vacation, they are allowed to work full time.

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Scholarship scheme In a bid to attract international students millions of Euros are offered as scholarships by Colleges and Universities in Europe. Both the European Union and European States have joined hands to avail governmentfunded scholarship to foreign students. Some of the scholarships are: Erasmus Mundus Scholarships (European Union) Danish Scholarships for International Students (Denmark) Italian Government Bursaries for Foreign Students (Italy) Greek Government Scholarship for Foreign Students (Greece)

Initiative Statistics from the European Travel Commission reveals growth 5 % in the last few years. Sources confirmed that 1.5 million tourists from India travelled to Europe in 2013. “There is a lot to discover in the old continent", said European Commission VicePresident Antonio Tajani, in charge of industry, tourism and entrepreneurship. "We are taking initiatives to help tourists from third world countries access Europe. We are identifying challenges and improving the business environment as cooperation with third countries in the tourism sector is an essential part of our vision of the European tourism future,” Tajani pointed out. With foreign government favouring international students, Indian students should not lose the opportunity of grabbing a foreign degree. Higher study degree from a foreign country would not only pave unlimited career opportunities but also open doors for a hefty pay packages.


The Biblical story of Paradise Lost has been Professor Malabika Sarkar’s area of interest as she specialises in John Milton. She has now interpreted Paradise Lost in newer light in her book Cosmos and Character in Paradise Lost. The launch of the book at the British Council Library was attended by the city’s literati and friends of the author. A wine and cheese session led to some fine discussion on the book between the author and Souvik Mukherjee, Assistant Professor at Department of English, Presidency University. Discussing Milton’s connect with astronomy, Sarkar said she was fascinated with space travel and also Paradise Lost when she read it. They also deliberated over why Milton created Adam and Eve who are similar yet so different and on Milton’s kindness to Eve. The audience too got their chance to ask questions to the author about their queries on the poet. After discussing the book and Milton in detail, Sarkar informed that she has another book in mind as she has not yet written on Paradise Regained.

culture of vibrant intellectual discussion of the UK and India. The two teams were divided for and against the motion: ‘This house believes that young people should be argumentative’. The event was organised by the British High Commission, Kolkata in association with St. Xavier’s College Students’ Union Calcutta Debating Circle and Virgin Atlantic. The judges for the debate were industrialist, Harshvardhan Neotia, Scott Furssedonn-Wood, British deputy high commissioner, Eastern India, Roopen Roy, MD of Deloitte Consulting among others. The debate was conducted by Kunal Sarkar of Calcutta Debating Circle. Few of the judges, recalling their days as debaters offered a word of advice to the young debaters that such debates should have their share of humour. Jadavpur University followed by IIMC and NUJS were declared winners, respectively.

AAP triggers debate at PU While Delhi was steaming at Aam Aadmi Party’s performance, closer home, Presidency University’s annual debate saw the past and present students debate over the party’s capability of pulling India out of its colonial hangover.

JUTheupholds the argument inter-college debate titled The Great Debate 2014 was held at the St. Xavier’s college auditorium recently. This competition celebrated debating prowess and the shared

The Udaan Mukherjee Memorial Debate saw an interesting exchange of arguments between the alumni and the present students. While the present students concentrated on defining the words and phrases, the opposition tactfully put forth instances and statistics to prove their point. While some questioned the hierarchical character of AAP, a trait of colonialism, others termed it to be no different from the Congress. Other arguments chronicled on colonialism as an integral part of the Indian system that is hard to do away with and the strong inclination education affairs 39

TEACHING, TRAINING, KNOWLEDGE, CAREER, PLACEMENT, JOB towards elitism in India; the desire to become khaas from aam. While the upholders of the motion highlighted the effort of the party to do away with the babu culture, the opposition smartly reminded us of the usual path that AAP is following, emulating other parties in Indian democracy. The alumni consisting of Saikat Bose, M Islam, Pradeep Gooptu and Ujaan Ghosh won the argument with ease. Satyaki Majumdar was declared the best speaker.

Presi finds first chair

Government is all set to open a coaching centre for students preparing for Union Public Service Commission exam. The training is scheduled to start from February at Administrative Training Institute in Salt Lake. According to media reports, for civil service aspirants who want to take admission will have to qualify an admission test. The test will take place in the third week of January. However, for students who have cracked the West Bengal Civil Service exam will be eligible for direct admission. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who pointed out about the dearth of IAS and IPS from Bengal, the decision to open a coaching centre was taken. According to estimation, West Bengal has a quota of 349 IAS officers. However, nearly 150 posts are vacant.

Colourful competition B.E. College Udayan Sab Payechir Asar

professor After getting approval from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the Presidency University finally appointed its first chair professor. Amitabha Dasgupta, a senior professor and the dean of social science and humanities at University of Hyderabad, has been selected as distinguished Swami Vivekananda Chair Professor for Philosophy. Presidency University vice-chancellor (VC) Malabika Sarkar informed that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee approved Dasgupta’s name on January 14, 2014. The appointment letter will soon be issued and he will be asked to join the University at the earliest. Dasgupta’s name has been selected by a search panel comprising Presidency mentor group chairman Sugata Bose, Vidyasagar University VC Ranjan Chakrabarti and former Ranchi University professor K K Lalkarna.

Government to open UPSC coaching centre In a bid to ensure that more students from the state crack IAS exams, the West Bengal 40 education affairs

(BECUSPA) organised the ‘All Bengal Sit and Draw Competition’ at the Bengal Engineering and Science University campus recently. While Rathin Chakraborty, Mayor of the Howrah Municipal Corporation was the chief guest, Ambaransu Das, BECUSPA general secretary, professor A Bandopadhyay, BECUSPA President, Sambhunath Dutta, BESU deputy registrar and others also were present on the occasion. The competition commenced with a Bharatnatyam dance recital, choregraphed by Prantika Mukherjee. “Today, 1200 students participated in the competition. Asar came into existence in 1984. During the last 30 years, it has been organising various competitions like sit & draw, yoga, recitation, dance, music, folk dance and badminton competitions,” said Das.


AKLF commemorates Azad

The fifth edition of Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival (AKLF) gave a head start to 2014 by celebrating art and literature in its different form from January 8 to 13. The festival had a star studded launch with Amir Khan inaugurating it along with governor M K Narayanan at the lawns of Victoria Memorial. Celebrating Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad’s 125th birth anniversary, the festival gave a tribute to the patriot, nation builder and Islamic scholar. As a scion of Azad, Khan credited Azad for his intuitive and secular sense. He read out excerpts of an old interview of Azad to highlight his greatness. Disappointed at the fact that Azad never got the due recognition, the actor expressed his desire to make a film on him. Sayeda Hameed, member planning commission launched her book Maulana Azad, Islam and the Indian Movement on the inaugural day.

Remembering maestro After a grand launch, the fest saw sarod maestro ustaad Amjad Ali Khan launching a book on his father – My Father, Our Fraternity: The Story of Haafiz Ali Khan & My World. Khan shared anecdotes from his father’s life talking with Amit Chaudhuri who moderated the session. A very interesting session, it was punctuated with raagas that made the morning of January 9 melodious. “My father was against recording because once he found people chatting over and drinking while the music played. That led to a great loss of his prime time music. He used to sing through his instrument and it’s an honour to be his youngest son,” said Khan, the maestro.

Workshop for kids AKLF in association with WWF India recently curated a workshop for children on

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TEACHING, TRAINING, KNOWLEDGE, CAREER, PLACEMENT, JOB Aarshi Chatterjee, from Our Lady Queen of The Missions school, Salt Lake, found the whole act little mesmerising. But she was very happy to get help from the mentors. Artiste Ramkumar Manna, was happy to see the kids fiddle with clay, which led him to say, “Kids are innocent and they used their pure imagination to draw a model of the rhinoceros. Clay is a medium which is the oldest medium by our predecessors. I’m really impressed by their skills.” Children from Ballygunge Shiksha Sadan, Haryana Vidya Mandir, Abhinav Bharti, BDM International, Indira Gandhi Memorial among others were in attendance.

Author speak January 10 saw author Farrukh Dhondy

one-horned rhino in the age bracket of 8 to 12 plus years at the Apeejay Lawns. Oxford Bookstore chose rhino conservation and through such activities is spreading awareness for the endangered animal. The particular type of rhino is mostly found in Assam. The morning turned out to be fun with close to 200 students from across schools from the city sat cross legged to shape the animal, which is so dear to most of them. The school children were provided with a tray with clay, water and some tools to make an impression of the fascinating animal, using their imagination. Eminent artistes such as Bimal Kundi, Ramkumar Manna, Gopinath Roy, Dipankar Roy, Debotosh Kar and others were present to judge the students. They also took turns to go around the children and help them give shape to their artwork. Many of the kids, mostly the younger ones, found it little difficult to adjust to the medium as they never handled it before in school or at home. But the artistes were around showing them the finer points or even giving the basic shape to the animal. 42 education affairs

launch his book Prophet of Love and discussing the nuances writing a book and different aspect attached to it. Sharing the dias with him was Upamanyu Chatterjee and Sharbani Basu. The author spoke about his latest novel that deals with sexual duplicity and is intrigued with a charismatic godman at it’s centre and that dares to explore the corridors of spiritual power in India. Another session of the festival saw a host of authors coming together in the segment New Expressions in 21st Century writing from the subcontinent. The session had authors like Omair Ahmed, Somnath Batabyal, Palash Mehrotra, Vishwajyoti and Prajwal Parajuly talking about their works and challenges in writing fiction and non-fiction works. The session witnessed two book launces – Omair Ahmed’s The Kingdom at the centre of the world and Prajwal Parajuly’s Land Where I Flee.

Advocating women empowerment It was women empowerment all the way at AKLF when the book, Women of Pure Wonder was launched with ladies Neera Nundy, founder at Dasra, Madhu Singh Sirohi, head Vodafone Foundation in India, Sudha Kaul, vice chairperson and trustee of Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy and Ratnottama Sengupta, art critic sitting in discussion. The talk was moderated by columnist, Bachi Karkaria. The ladies deliberated what women empowerment meant to each of them. If it meant the ability to make choices for some, for others it meant equality in the society. There was a need felt to protect women. Bachi, moderating the debate and taking it further felt working women have to make compromises because of the society and its demands. And then there is the case of

B, BOOKS, GADGETS, GROOMING, SPORTS, FINE ARTS, MUSIC women being married early. Explaining one of the reasons for early marriage the panelists said that the parents don’t want to share property rights with the girls. That also explains why in India boys are more preferred than girls. Taking up the issue of working women further, it was argued that working women slip in the corporate ladder in the age bracket of 32-40 years. Statistics have also shown that 70% of women IIM graduates do not pursue a career. With 81% of workforce consisting of men, culturally, working women are not groomed for top job. So when they come close to grabbing the opportunity, they don’t know how to handle it. Women have to not only fight with men in the society they also fight another battle at home. So, culturally too we have to be more modern in outlook. Women have to start with confidence and economic empowerment is a must in this regard. The topic of discussion then veered to women’s sexuality and the access to contraception and family planning. The panelists argued that the relation between sexuality and media is like a doubleedged sword. On one hand media accepts that item numbers contribute to rise in cases of sexual abuse, while on the other hand these songs are repeatedly played at public gatherings. In the end Bachi was convinced and so were the panelists that women empowerment is closely related to sexuality. It is about knowledge about the body and making choices. For this sex education at home is a must.

AnBooks untold story have always been a good medium for people to express opinion or ideas. Also people write autobiographical books detailing their life. Author Bina Ramani’s book Bird in a Banyan Tree: My story not only talks about her story, it also is used as a platform to express her strong words on one of the most infamous episodes in Indian society, known as Jessica Lal Murder case. Bina Ramani, has had multiple identities – fashion designer, entrepreneur, restaurateur, social worker, socialite and a visionary. And playing all these roles she also has had a multitude of experiences to share through her book. The discussion on the book was moderated by author and film critic, Bhaichand Patel and the panelists included Rita Bhimani and Syeeda Hameed. Heaping praises on her new found friend, Ramani, Syeda said Ramani touched life like a feather. The author wrote this book while she was housed in Tihar Jail. Patel, remembered his initial days in London, where he first met Ramani and since then they have remained friends. Talking about the book, Ramani said the book is her untold story which she has been wanting to tell to the whole world. And the book also dwells upon another high point in the author’s life – her romance with Shammi Kapoor, the matinee idol. But she made it clear to the propspective readers that the book is not just about Jessica Lal but on the emancipation of women.


General encourages students at Heritage

ARMY’S WAY OF LIFE PRODUCES TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERS WHO ARE ALSO FUNCTIONAL MANAGERS: A K CHOUDHARY Shaheryar Hossain If one wants to be a leader in business, follow the facets of military leadership which is relevant in every aspect of life – this was the valuable piece of advice for the students of Heritage Group of Institutions. A K Choudhary, Lieutenant General and General Officer Commanding Bengal Area, interacted with the students at the campus auditorium on January 31. “Army’s way of life produces transformational leaders who are also functional managers. Skills and values inculcated in the army can be applied universally in every sphere of life,” said Choudhary who is also the recipient of Ati Vishisht Seva Medal. Chaudhary was welcomed by H P Budhia, Heritage Business School chairman and Trustee of Kalyan Bharti Trust. Seema Sapru, principal of The Heritage School and others were present on the occasion. Comparing the traits of business leaders and military leadership, Choudhary elaborated the ten principles of leadership – leading from the front, seeing the battlefield, indomitable way to win, leading by example, imagination, an44 education affairs

ticipation and innovation, leading in uncertainty, embracing change, ethics and values, quality and concern for others. “Army is not a professional sphere but a complete way of life. Leadership in army is the fundamental ingredient of warfare. A military leader is determined, charismatic, and confident in the delegation of command and authority. He motivates his peers to achieve the impossible,” pointed out Choudhary while interacting with students. Correlating military leadership and corporate world ethics, the Army veteran focused on how branded products like Google, Rolex survive in the market and others do not. “The reason why branded products attain reach end-of-life status is based solely on the consistent commitment to deliver quality product each time,” he added. Minutes before concluding his interaction, Chaudhury repeated former US President John F Kennedy’s version, “I repeat Kennedy’s quote— Leadership and learning are indispensible to each other,” quoted Choudhary. Just after the interactive session, the students were allowed to clarify their doubts by asking questions. This was followed by the memento felicitation ceremony to Choudhary. The programme concluded by the vote of thanks by Sapru.


Show of science at BITM Like every year, students from across the Eastern region exhibited their skills in science, blurring the gap between theory and practice. Eastern India Science Fair 2014 held at BITM was a spectacular display of talent that reflected social consciousness among the participating students who liberally applied science to answer solution to the problems plaguing society. While some exhibits dealt on the usual topic of deforestation, water purification and soil erosion and other were more practical based. Rohan Kumar Jha, a student of Class X from SNK High School, Saharsha, Bihar, devised a multi-purpose shoe to help his fellow villagers. Jha smartly fitted a magnetic campass, a digital clock, a small fan and an LED light enhancing the character of the shoe. Jha also had the solution to charge a battery to provide electricity to the LED light installed in the shoe. He smartly fitted a pressure machine in the heels of the boots that would rotate when pressure was exerted and thus produce energy thereby charging the battery. “Once fully charged the battery can sustain LED light for hours,” said Jha. Equally interesting was Biswajit Behera’s sensor fitted helmet that would encourage using helmets while riding a motorbike. “The helmet is fitted with a remote, which when hooked will send signals to the sensors at-

tached to the bike. And the circuit is attached to the bike. So the bike will start only when the helmet is hooked,” said Behera of PBK High School. More than 15 states participated in the fair and impressed one and all. Aroop Biswas, MIC, Dept. of Youth Services, Govt. of West Bengal inaguarated the event. Other guests were Prof. Bikash Sinha, eminent Scientist and Helen G LaFave, Consul General of USA. The guests encouraged students to embrace science as it is the basis of all knowledge and an answer to all the problems in the society. education affairs 45


American Pavilion at KBF US Consul General Helen LaFave inaugurated the American pavilion set up at the 38th Kolkata Book Fair on January 28. The American Pavilion was designed on the model of an Ivy League College library. The theme for the American Pavilion this year was ‘Higher Studies in the US’ The United

States-India Foundation (USIEF) held regular counselling sessions at the pavilion and answered queries about educational opportunities in the US. Students who have studied in the United States will also give presentations in the pavilion every day along with other cultural programmes that have been planned for the duration of the book fair.

Celebrating Republic Day Milan Utsav, the Republic Day celebration, was observed at the KMCP school premises at Chakraberia on Sunday, January 26. While the chief guest was Nilmoni, Bank of Baroda Landsdowne branch manager, Tamal Kanti Ghosh, executive editor of North India Patrika and others were present on the occasion. The celebration commenced with flag hoisting ceremony followed by a patriotic song sung by Mou Sanyal and dance performance by the KMPCP students. The programme was organised by Agragami Sechha Sevak Sanstha (ASSS), 120 students from 10 different KMCP schools across the city participated in the celebration. “We have been organising the Milan Utsav for the past two years at the KMCP school at Chakraberia. This year, we distributed clothes and books to all the students who participated in the celebration. The Daibaddha alias K M C Employees Social Welfare Organisation provided us the clothes of the students,” Sanat Sarcar, ASSS secretary. 46 education affairs


Fest for awareness In a bid to make students aware about environmental degradation in India, M C Kejriwal Vidyapeeth organised its annual fest Spectrum 2014. Named Himotsav, the two-day fest unfolded on January 25. Packed with fun and frolic, the annual fest comprised traditional dance performances of Bihu and Manipuri by the students. Simultaneously, the students also put up an exhibition which showcased school syllabus oriented models and experiments based on Science,

Literature, Language, History, Geography, Arts and Crafts. “It is always such a heart-warming experience to see these children perform so beautifully. Spectrum 2014 is an integral part of the larger curriculum. It brings all students together and in a mood of celebration. It also brings to light the various talents in our students. Moreover, there is an additional agenda is to raise awareness among the students about the environmental degradation that has been taking place in the Himalayas.� K K Kejriwal, Managing Trustee.

Remembering Vivekananda

On the sidelines of the celebration of the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda and special youth convention, the MCKV Institute of Engineering (MCKVIE) launched a magazine named Renaissance on January 19. While Dr Jayanta Sirkar, former Associate Dean of Harvard University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences released the magazine, Swami Tadbodhanandaji, Maharaj of Belghoria Ramakrishna Mission and others were present

on the occasion. Based on the teachings of Swami Vivekananda, the magazine comprises articles, essays, poems and freehand sketches. "The growing stress factor in the lives of students today is a well known fact. High rate of suicides, de-motivation and low levels of confidence are common factors. This convention at the Swami Vivekananda Centre for Positive Thinking has been initiated to invoke the values of Swamiji so that students get motivated to visit this centre in times of duress," said, KK Kejriwal, Managing Trustee, MCKVIE. education affairs 47


TiECon encourages young entrepreneurs

The ballroom hall of a city five-star hotel teemed with young and not so young executives from the city and beyond, as they rubbed shoulders with the doyens of the industry, at TiECon 2014, held in Kolkata. With its theme ‘Idea to Corporation’ the meet sought to bring in people from new media. One of the key highlights of the daylong event was the talk by Deep Kalra, founder of who spoke about his entrepreneurial journey. Sanjeev Bikhchandani, founder of, shared the dias with Kalra who discussed ‘Social entrepreneurship in today’s world of entrepreneurship’. The Hot Pitch session rejuvenated the audience and got them involved when the young entrepreneurs vied for attention to get investment for their ventures. Amidst exchange of cards, entrepreneurs also exchanged ideas and ways to collaborate. 48 education affairs

Deep Kalra, remembering the time when he started in 2001, said we should all make one decision very early in life: what we want to do in life because that is one of the most difficult and time-consuming decisions in one’s life. He went through difficult times till 2003. That was the time when for 18 months he did not take his salary. But post 2003, things changed in India and so did his fortune. He could manage to raise venture funding. But two things which worked for him and came at the right time for him were the advent of lowcost careers and the starting of IRCTC, which changed the platform of payment in India. He launched his website simultaneously in India and for the NRI market but he had to close the Indian operations because his NRI operations were doing well unlike the Indian one. That gave him the lesson on getting the market right. Another interesting point he mentioned, which he follows in his business as well, was about hiring better talents than the owner. The

B, BOOKS, GADGETS, GROOMING, SPORTS, FINE ARTS, MUSIC challenge is going one step above starting up. That is when most of the start-ups falter and slip. The man who had the patience for the right time to come, Kalra’s advise to youngsters starting fresh was to not just depend for advertising for brand building but build a brand through experience. For him the toughest decisions in his business has been the decisions involving his employees. Tipping the young, fresh brains is to start early. Just like he did in his case, he asks every entrepreneur to be honest. One should not charge more than price margins. What is important in business is reliability. It always pays in the long run. He shared the secret of his success saying, “The secret lies in advertising, offering a 360degree experience to customers, constant innovation and offering the best choices and prices. Companies should offer reliability; customers should feel confident that their problems and complaints will be addressed. To the question on what next, he said he would like to be part of a not-for-profit venture. The discussion on social entrepreneurship brought out the fact that every entrepreneur is a social entrepreneur since he is also working towards making the society better indirectly. The panelists deliberated over how to sustain every project which they take

up so passionately. Many of the fund managers in this regard felt that what they look for in a project before financing it is the idea causing a social impact and the quantum of risk involved. The discussion was moderated by Vasant Subramanyam, Rajiva Sinha, principal secretary, MSME&T, government of West Bengal, Chandrashekhar Ghosh of Bandhan, Vineet Rai of Avishkaar Venture Management Service, Swati Choudhary, founder of Gea Satis Trust and Viji Iyengar of Round Table Foundation. It was the Hot Pitch session where seven of the best teams were chosen of all the entries in this segment. First in the block was a fashion brand Ms Chase followed by Bengal Speech and Hearing who wanted to start their own clinics in this segment which has a market of Rs 550 crore. Zostel, who are a backpacking hostel chain wants to capture the segment where there is a shortage of 65,000 budget hotel rooms in India. Live Braille, who make electronic gloves for the blind, said their gloves can detect obstacles and direct the person and even guide them on staircases. The judges after asking them tough questions were convinced about their viability and many present there promised funding for them. Live Braille was adjudged the best with their presentation and projections while Zostel was judged second best.

education affairs 49


An ad man striving for contentment

Michael Fischman, former President of the USA Chapter of the Art of Living Foundation, launched his book, ‘Stumbling into Infinity: An Ordinary Man in the Sphere of Enlightenment’ at Kolkata’s Bengal Club recently. The book launch was preceded by a discussion on spirituality. The author answered questions from the audience as well. In the prologue to his book, there is a reference to Fischman being called a “lucky man”. In response to a question as to why he considers himself to be lucky, Fischman says, “I feel extremely lucky to be living in a very special time.” He refers to the joy, contentment, happiness and wisdom that we are capable of achieving in the present times through self-realisation and spirituality. The book, winner of the Nautilus Silver Award, the Eric Hoffer Prize and also one of the finalists in the ‘USA Best Books 2011’, is primarily autobiographical and depicts how Fischman embarked on his spiritual journey. From being an advertising executive he assumed a rather unconventional position of being a friend, associate and helper of spiritual guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Although Fischman shares his personal experiences, he says that much of the knowledge that he 50 education affairs

shares in his book is a deduction from the conversations he had had with guruji. The book has been translated into several languages that include Russian, Spanish, Mandarin and Hindi. Talking about Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s inf;uence on his life he said, “I have blossomed in a different way. Guruji has taught me the freedom of emotional expression.” Fischman maintains that spirituality is a “natural” process. He opines, “There is nothing strictly other-worldly about spirituality. We all have a consciousness, it only needs reawakening. And that is where Art of Living comes in.” He says he has been meditating for over twelve years before he met Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the association with guruji ensured that it became a lifelong practice. He explains how meditation can actually help people to do away with the negative feelings and ideas that reside within them. “I have seen young boys devastated after a bad break-up. But the idea is to understand that everybody has the right to a healthy life. And the aftermath of emotional crisis which is essentially both depressing and exasperating should not be given a place in one’s consciousness; it should be done away with,” he asserts.


SCIS looks Beyond Classrooms

It was an interesting evening at the South City International School on January 28 when Beyond Classrooms, an initiative to do away with the monotony associated with the traditional classroom module of teaching, was launched. The co-founders of BOL, Debjani Mukherjee, an animation filmmaker and sand artist, and Sayak Mukherjee, trained in Hindustani classical music and currently a vocalist with Bangla band Lakkhichhara, have conceptualised Beyond Classrooms. In collaboration with Ahava Communications, the initiative aims to conduct a series of workshops for children between 8 and 12 years of age. The sessions will include reading, music, theatre and toy-making, among others and will be for students of international schools, consulates, embassies as well as NGOs. “We tend to underestimate children in general. We don’t give in to their wants usually dismissing them as irrational. And yet, children like Anne Frank have made a difference in this world as opposed to adults who spread corruption,” Sayak said. Sayak and Debjani screened the curtain raiser for Beyond Classrooms. The chief guest for the evening was Devi Kar, director of the Modern High School for Girls. The screening was followed by a discussion moderated by Oindrila Dutt on the topic ‘Children and the Pleasures of Reading’. Ahead of

the discussion, Kar said that learning at large was very important and although schools will never become redundant, learning happened everywhere, for a child learnt majorly from the immediate environment. She added that popular culture was important and not to be dismissed, for it contributed in its own way to the development of a child. One of the major points that came up in the discussion was the growing aversion of children to read perhaps as a result of so many other diversions. Interestingly, Parijat Banerjee, a class IX student of Akshar School, recited Roald Dahl’s poem, Television. In response, Meenakshi Atal of Heritage School was quick to point out how it was the idiot box Dahl referred to that had held a child’s attention in the present times more than a book. The panelists were united in their opinion that even parents had moved away from reading and thus were unable to motivate children. John Bagul, Principal, SCIS, said that “reading can’t be enforced”, adding, “If an adult is fond of reading, his child may or may not emulate him”. The panel discussion was followed by the play reading of Alyque Padamsee’s production Antigone in collaboration with Theatrecian. The students and other members of the audience were overwhelmed to have Alyque Padamsee in their midst and particularly to see him perform on stage. education affairs 51


BCL delivers a treat for documentary lovers The British Council, in association with the Grierson Trust and Nandan, presented an exciting array of contemporary documentary films for film enthusiasts and children last month. John Grierson, considered to be the doyen of British documentary films, was remembered, and the films were chosen keeping his spirit of film-making in mind. The trust, founded by the Scottish filmmaker, supports documentary films from across the world. Each year the Trust recognizes the best documentary film from Britain and abroad through their prestigious British Documentary Awards. The Grierson Film Festival is part of the British Council Library’s film education programme. Inaugurating the festival, film director Bedabrata Pain of Chittagong fame, remembered his documentary, Lifting the Veil, which is based on the impact of globalisation in India. A documentary, he said, should have a narrative and possibly look at something like investigative journalism. “A documentary should not only show reality but should probe deeper. It should, almost always, attempt to

52 education affairs

make a social impact and in that regard, it is different from a mainstream feature film.” Talking about the various mediums of shooting a film that are used nowadays such as digital cameras and mobile phones, against the limited equipment formats available in the past, he said documentary film-making has found a new meaning in the present times. He encouraged school students to experiment and take up film-making as it could have some positive impact on society. The festival started with Fire in Babylon by Steven Riley, which showed how the West Indian cricket team triumphed over their colonial masters in particular and world cricket at large with their determination and grit. Other films presented from the repertoire included Man on Wire, which showed the illegal scheme of walking on a wire between the now destroyed twin towers of New York. The audience experienced some emotional turmoil as the documentary on the death of legendary singer John Lennon of Beatles fame was screened. It showed the fan who clicked the killer and the doctor who battled for Lennon’s life.


Learning about Japanese culture The Japanese education seminar was held recently at Presidency University’s AJC Bose auditorium. It was an exercise to enable students to be part of Japanese universities and get a first-hand experience of their culture and educational programmes. Called The Japan Initiative, this was initiated by the Japanese consulate of Kolkata and Presidency University (PU), and it talked about the opportunities of studying in Japan and also the Global 30 project. Present at the occasion were Malabika Sarkar, vice-chancellor of PU, Mitsuo Kawaguchi, Japanese consul general, Kolkata, Ashok Chawla of Ritsumeikan India office, Hiroshi Yoshino, director, University of Tokyo, India office,

Madhuchanda Ghosh, assistant professor and Aneek Chatterjee, head of Political Science department, PU. Representatives from other Japanese universities were also present to educate students on how and when they can enroll in courses of their choice. The good thing about the curriculum in Japanese universities is that many of them are offering courses in English with the provision to learn the Japanese language. Most of the courses talked about in the seminar were about masters, doctoral and post-doctoral courses. However, institutions like Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto also offer short term courses, which are easy to apply for. For most of the courses there is no entrance test. They also offer scholarships. But most of the representatives agreed that female students in science subjects are less than 10% of the total students.

education affairs 53


Budding actors rejoice

Under the patronage of the American Center, Kolkata, internationally acclaimed theatre company Arena Stage —one of the original resident theatres in America established in 1950 —conducted a theatre program titled Voices of Now: Kolkata Youth Speak for students in Kolkata. The program comprised a series of workshops that culminated in a stage production at Vidya Mandir, Birla High School on January 18. One series of workshops was held at Lincoln

Room, American Center from January 15-17 and members of theatre groups Stagecraft, Theatrecian Productions, Mad about Drama and NGO Prayasam participated in it. The educational institutions that also participated in the workshops were Calcutta University, Jadavpur University, Shri Shikshayatan College and ILead. Another series of workshops was held at Birla High School, also from January 15-17, in which students of city schools participated. The schools included Birla High School, The Heritage School, Modern High School, Lakshmipat Singhania Academy, Sushila Birla Girls’ School, Don Bosco, Loreto Sealdah, Rainbow and Aksar. The interactive sessions were followed by the final performance on January 18. The group comprising school students staged a performance titled “Breaking Through” while the other section comprising students from colleges, universities, NGOs and local troupes staged a theatrical performance which they called “Train of Thought”. After the performances, members of Arena Stage as well as the participants addressed questions from the audience.


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Put on your thinking cap When was the Oxford 1 English Dictionary first published?

Who was the 1st man to fly 8 solo across the Atlantic Ocean?

country introduced 2Which passport photos? was the 1st public 3Where toilet inaugurated? is called the father of 4Who today’s Iran? When did the USA 5 allow the collection of income-tax?

were the three leaders 9Who at the Yalta Conference? did Sri Lanka 10When become free? Who invented the 11 pneumatic [air-filled] tyre?

The 1919 Paris Peace 6 Conference saw the birth of the 1st world

it lost and where?

body of countries; what was it called?

The US lost a fully armed 12 hydrogen and it has not yet been recovered. When was When did the Maoists 13 start their civil war in Nepal, which also affected India?

Which was the first spacecraft to send back pictures of the moon after landing there?


Which was the first 14 product to be made from nylon/plastic? Answers on page 59

TEACHING, TRAINING, KNOWLEDGE, CAREER, PLACEMENT, JO ‘Democracy has a terribly bad smell about it’ What made you write this book, Maggot Moon? This came out of a research that I had been doing for another book, The Double Shadow. And during the research period, I became very interested in the ‘what if’ factor in histories. It’s interesting to decipher what if a certain event would have happened, how it would have altered history etc. That’s where Maggot Moon started. Was this more interesting than what you were researching on initially? Yes, actually it was. Of the two ‘what if’ incidents which actually triggered it, one was when Sir Churchill was crossing Sixth Avenue in about 1937 and he didn’t look the right way and a taxi actually hit him. He was saved from being killed by two centimeters of fat. And the other interesting thing is of a young Oxford graduate, who goes off to Berlin and his car hits a pedestrian and the pedestrian is Adolf Hitler. Hitler doesn’t kill him for that! The question that I asked myself was what if Churchill had died? Would there be another Churchill. And what if Hitler had been killed, would there be another Hitler? Then I put all that in what if there is a moon landing. You are fascinated by history and psychology of fairy tale. I just love the past. You can’t make it up and you can’t fleece it. In England particularly children now are not allowed to have adventure at all. Everything is about safety nets, everybody is concerned and upset and that isn’t the way the world really is. If you can put a child in the past and give a young person a great adventure, it will be interesting. People did smoke and things did happen and there weren’t safety nets all over the place earlier. It is very important to give and to show what I call ‘wheels of history’ going back on itself. In a way we only learn in isolation. Fairytale for me is one of the most wonderful way to talk about psychological problems. It has two characters – the prince and the princess. It also has the wicked step mother or a witch. And then it allows you to go deep into the problem. That is the genius of a fairy tale. How close is Standish to your heart? He is me in a lot of ways because I wanted to show Standish in a way, that was true to a picture thinker, as I call a dyslexic person. I wanted to tell the story the way he saw the world. In that sense, a lot of his experiences are mine. I couldn’t do my tie, my shoelaces, I had great problems keeping myself in school. I wasn’t good at all this. That way, Standish is obviously close to my heart.

56 education affairs

Not a child’s play Ashok Chatterjee Considering Maggot Moon is a children’s book, the impression one gets after reading it is what a children’s book should not be. The story of Standish Treadwell is grim. He is a dyslexic boy who is different from others in class and is distinct in his identity with eyes of two different colours. But like any other child and any other children’s story, here too we have dreams and innocent imagination, which classify children. The story is of a rebellion and survival of a teenager, whom the ‘system’ considers unfit and undesirable. Though there is excessive repression in this Motherland – a blend of Nazi and Communist Russia – the two children Standish and his best friend, Hector prefer to live in a dream world where they plan to launch their own spacecraft for planet Juniper and escape to the land of Croca Cola. Hector is Standish’s best friend because he is the only person in class and school who understands Standish. Hector tells his friend: “I believe the best thing we have is our imagination and you have that in bucket loads.” As a child, Standish, is pure. All the bullying by mates and teachers have no effect on him. He loves his grandfather, whom he loves and lives with. But his best friend suddenly disappears, just like his parents. It creates mystery and the author builds up on the mystery. What if the football hadn’t gone over the wall? On the other side of the wall there is a dark secret. And the devil. And the moon man. And the Motherland doesn’t want anyone to know. What is that secret? The constant surveillance of the ‘Greenflies’, the sudden appearance of the moon man, the presence of ‘obstructors’ and ‘pig-wigs’ all create their own mystery.

B, BOOKS, GADGETS, GROOMING, SPORTS, FINE ARTS, MUSIC Sally Gardner’s language is innovative and inventive. She may be dyslexic, but she has a very good sense of observation, which shows through her descriptions of the places and events. The book is thought-provoking and emotional at the same time. Another thing which stands out in the book is the empty spaces within pages, giving much relief to the eyes, missing in most of the children’s books these days. The illustrations by t h e author of the rat, maggot, poison bottle and death all point to the dark and dingy world the boy lives in. The drawBy Sally Gardner ings compliPublished by ment the gory Hot Key Books killings in Rs.399 school, Zone 7 and the life in the concentration camps of Motherland. The name of the book is apt with the man-made moon and men turning to maggot meat after they are captured or ordered for a re-education course. The use of metaphors by Gardner – woman’s eyes are “fishes swimming in a puddle of tears”; his heart is “an egg bumping against the side of a pan of boiling water”, “a kettle of liquid fury about to reach boiling point” and “words are the only medicine I have” – are refreshing. It is interesting to read the book till its end to find out if Standish finally manages to find Hector at the concentration camp or if he manages to rescue him with his plan. The ending of the story has been kept deliberately open to let the reader use his imagination and decipher what happens next. Throughout the book, the reader has to fill in the gaps to connect the dots.

You seem to paint a very dark picture of Motherland. What made you do that? I just think people have to be very cautious about what we call freedom or liberty. Democracy has a terribly bad smell about it. Whatever you wish to call it, you have to be vigilant. It is a very tiny and delicate bird, which if not looked after properly or treated wrongly, we will end up in a very, very bad place. And I think that’s what the Motherland has become. And in a way I feel very passionate about the idea of being careful and not accepting everything we are told. Just ask question, as much as you can, don’t accept the lies. Would you consider yourself a strong-willed person considering that you triumphed against all odds? Does your writing also reflect your personality? I suppose I would. I’m a fighter. If someone says I can’t do something, I probably determinedly do it and I think it has taken me a long time but I think I’ve come into my own now. I feel comfortable with who I’m, I don’t feel worried about it anymore. Yes, I think, it does. Again it has to do with caution, if you are cautious dealing with history, which I do, you can’t suddenly make women rip off their bodices and win battles. It isn’t in the society and it won’t work. But in a fairytale you can give a girl lot more power. But I think you have to be what I call, intelligent, with your characters. Otherwise, it just won’t ring true at all. No one will identify with anything. Did you also have a friend who resembled Hector? Yes, I felt, I know Hector very well. Being dyslexic, what are the challenges you faced as a writer? This year has been a real breakthrough for me. Ironically, I have written about a boy who is dyslexic and people are asking me about my writing. That has been simply wonderful. Did you ever consider writing on dyslexia? No, this book is one off. I’m not going to do it again. I never ever repeat myself, anyway. I don’t wish to. And if I do, I’m going to stop writing. You have been associated with theatre for a long time. Any plans of writing on theatre? I don’t know. I’m quite interested in doing pantomime, with my younger books and see what happens. I have got ideas for that. I love theatre. Theatre was my university. It taught me a great deal about writing. Do you plan to incorporate your experience of your first visit to India in your writings later? My observations and experiences show up somewhere in my writing. Everything goes into the old melting pot. Talking about the country, I couldn’t get over the roads (laughs). I hoped to see bit more of the country. The roads getting into buildings were extraordinary. To me it has been so amazing to the eye. It is like a feast. —Ashok Chatterjee education affairs 57


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Features: New Windows Phones comes with support quad-core processors support, the user once signed in to your phone with a Microsoft account (formerly Windows Live ID), would get apps, games and music from the Store, play Xbox games with friends.

11. John Boyd Dunlop 12. In 1958, in the ocean off the coast of Georgia, USA. 13. from 1996 14. Toothbrushes, specially the bristles

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The setting: The western quadrangle of the Victoria Memorial Hall and Museum, set in the heart of the city of Kolkata. The occasion was the discussion on ‘The Search for Excellence in higher education” organised as part of the discussions during the Kolkata Literary Festival 2014. The participants included, as moderator, Professor Jayanta Sengupta, eminent historian and currently director and curator of the VMH; Prof. Amiya Bagchi, eminent economist, economic historian and the author of many acclaimed books on the Indian economy; Prof. Prasanta Roy, emeritus professor at Presidency University (formerly Presidency College), who has guided generations of students studying social sciences, particularly in his own department, political science; and Prof. Somak Roychowdhury, holder of multiple doctoral honours in physics from foreign universities who has recently joined Presidency University to teach physics and guide students at the very college where he studied in the 1980’s. Jayanta Sengupta set the ball rolling by raising certain issues. Excerpts from the discussion


Jayanta Sengupta: Lets start with the issue or should I say about the quality of our educational institutions, perhaps as reflected in ratings, and whether it is linked to the freedom enjoyed by heads of institutions. Later, we may take up the terms set by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and whether they promote excellence or simply stability. Over to my former teacher, Prof. Bagchi.

Amiya Bagchi: If we are to achieve excellence at our academic institutions, we have to remember one thing above all: we must learn to attract the tigers, not mice. Let’s take the case of Amartya Sen – he was made a professor at 23 because his teachers, outstanding men themselves, in Kolkata realized his outstanding intellect, and had the freedom to provide him the platform he needed to grow from a scholarstudent. If you ask me if excellence has been eroded, I will admit it has, but it has not done so on account of

students. So why has it gone down? Because I believe quality education is made possible only through large benefactions or by state grants not tied to immediate returns or any motive for generating surplus or profit. Every American, British or European university of distinction runs on this model, not on the pattern that we see mushrooming all over our country today. I can say proudly today that the students who come to us at present are as good as any student was in the past; they are eager for knowledge and to explore new horizons. The institutions and their rules are failing them. What we should do to reverse this situation is to amend the rules so that we have a structure where all classes are held, but we allow the teacher to manage the teaching and research schedules.

Prasanta Ray: I have often been blamed for being too kind to students and allowing every student to explore all levels education affairs 61


and not rejecting enough. I do this because our students are adults. I do not think though that is any hindrance to excellence for the worthy student. Most students quit on their own when academic pressure rises and they find that they have to deliver to higher and higher standards which may be beyond them. We have to provide this exit. Like Prof. Bagchi, we enjoy a steady stream of brilliant students, as good if not better than in the past, but attendance and discipline is low. Maybe that is because of social pressure to develop a career path. Or maybe, pressures of lifestyle are to blame in part for absenteeism, though this too is a social factor. We have to take into account the rising expectations of parents who live their dreams through their children. But the pursuit of quality has to heartless at the highest level and in the final stage only those students and minds who have to potential to soar will survive without outside support.

Somak Roychowdhury: I fully agree with Jayanta that we in India need new parameters to measure excellence. I would go as far as to say that these new benchmarks that need to be different from standard western parameters like bricks and mortar and infrastructure, because as a country we are different from the developed and advanced nations. So there is a great need to set up Indian parameters for assessment of excellence, ratings and results. My own assessment, and this is borne out by external data, is that we continue to get 62 education affairs

brilliant students in terms of quality, keen to secure admissions in leading colleges. The hunger among young students for knowledge is unabated as is their passion for original work and desire to make a contribution. As for the University Grants Commission, I admit I faced a problem as despite my Aqualifications, I could not be made professor without sitting for the UGC exams for a fresher. Luckily, a special dispensation was obtained in my case so that I could teach at Presidency as a professor and not a fresher. JS: Would I be right in saying things are a little more difficult in the field of science as far as colleges and universities are concerned: SR: Sadly, you are right. Soon after Independence, Nehru’s cabinet took certain decisions in this field. Scientific education and research in the country was split into two independent structures owing to these central government policies from the time of Nehru, as a result, we have created isolated islands and silos of scientific research like the Indian institutes, where researchers are cut off from students community and new minds. I am very happy to report that within the framework of this structure, IISC and similar institutes have an overwhelming percentage of students from Bengal. Many of them go there because of the level of infrastructure they see, and support they receive within Bengal, may not be up to expectations, but that is a structural problem created by policy decision.


In other words, students opt out, right in the first year, or in later years, from all established regional or state or local universities as they know these suffer from the central policies that discourages and blocks programmes that combine research and teaching. Mind you, this is a problem that has been created only in India. Because of this, in the field of science, there is a major divide between researchers and teaching scientists, and also between researchers and the general body of bright students. Local retention of students at all universities is poor as a result. The number of students in college or university science classes comes down with every passing semester. I would say that this talent can be retained, nurtured and results of first class scientific research delivered through universities and colleges, and quality labs built up at these institutions, only if our laws are reformed through removal of the walls that separate students from researchers. I would argue that the present structure of complete centralization through multiple departmental arms at both the state and central levels cannot be the only or the best way of managing academic institutions. JS: What about private universities and institutes, or the role of private investment in the education sector at the upper and top levels? AB: My view on private universities is clear: I think they cannot deliver by

their very nature. I can see that even long running private universities have very little to show in terms of accepted research or patents. SR: Owing to changed circumstances private capital is essential for developments of labs at colleges and universities, and pursuit of research programmes. I think private capital will deliver in its own way and form the greater freedom that is hugely needed at single campus colleges and universities with a tradition of excellence. Private capital can help build up these colleges all over the country, be it Ravenshaw or Cotton or Christ college. There is no problem of building a structure that combines accountability with such higher responsibility; JS: Do you think teachers could do better? AB: Of course. I strongly feel that the Left Front is entirely to blame for ensuring salaries and providing job security not linked to performance of a teacher or scholar. Insecurity is needed to drive quality. JS: Indeed, as we know, students in colleges who have failed are allowed to give three supplementary examinations to pass because passing appears to be more important than quality. With that, we must end. I wish to sincerely thank my teachers Professors Amiya Bagchi and Prasanta Ray, and my friend Somak, and the audience today. Thank you. education affairs 63


Literature, creativity

& the academic world Kolkata has too many events in the winter, gripe some of my friends. Not only are there many, many musical, theatrical, dance and vocal music happenings, but there are also events like the Book Fair, the Handicrafts fair, the travel and tourism fair, the household goods fair (its marriage season, where many set up homes!) and food fairs. Over the last few years, two new events have emerged and these look well set to



Festivals, to be really successful, have to find the winning formula

achieve greatness and surpass most of the older events in popularity in the near term. I am talking of the two literary meets that happen: The Apeejay Literay Festival routed through the Oxford Bookstore, and the Kolkata Literary Festival, hosted in 2014 in most part by the Victoria Memorial Hall and museum. On one side, Mrs Bhagat or Anjum Katyal of Oxford bookstore arranged extremely significant and educative sessions with authors and creators, starting off with an inaugural lecture by Indian matinee heartthrob Aamir Khan, in his role as the grandson of Maulana Azad, one the greatest minds of 20th century India (do read the report in this issue). On the other, Kolkata Lit Fest gave us, among many others, wonderful sessions with American activist Gloria Steinem, IndoAmerican author Jhumpa Lahiri, actor Naseeruddin Shah and the queen of gazals, Farida Khanum of Pakistan. Ms Lahiri spoke of how she wrote for her-

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self and felt out of place everywhere; Ms Steinem inspired young Indians with her message; Mr Shah spoke on how theatre has changed and how it had changed him too; and the singer whom The Times of India called "Malika-e-Ghazal" shared her memories of a youth spent in Kolkata and how she suffered when the country underwent Partition in 1947 and the political event transported her as a young girl to Pakistan. A special session was held on how to achieve excellence in education, excerpts of which has been carried elsewhere in this issue. Elsewhere, Mark Tully, Adrain Levy and Ian Jack lectured on how to cover and present news and separate the lies from the truth, the fact from the fiction. Almost all these events were organized on first-come-first-seated basis and were open to all. Turnout was excellent in general. Yet in many of them, there were not too many present from the world of education, be it the decision makers in the sector, or well-known heads of institutions or surging crowds of students eager to absorb knowledge and enjoy the excitement of learning from the greatest creative minds alive today. This raises questions. Do youth today place more value in classrooms and book-based learning? Not so, said the famous teachers and scholars who spoke on academic excellence. Were the invitations for, and information on, these events not sent out? Not so, because they were all over the social media and invitations were posted in major print media properties. Or was the timing wrong? After all, this is exam season with finals for most school boards and multiple joint entrance/college selections looking ahead. Whatever be the real reason, the fact remains that such festivals, to be really successful, have to find the winning formula that will get them packed audiences from academia to supplement the listeners who come from other walks of life.

Education affairs february 2014  
Education affairs february 2014