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Calcutta Club's Third Annual Sanskriti LitFest And Book Fair

Chitravanu Neogy

Sanskriti 2017, hosted by Calcutta Club USA on June 10th in Acton, was the third South Asian book fair and lit fest organized by the club since it’s inception in 2015. The event attracted a galaxy of top Indian speakers including Dr. Shashi Tharoor, internationally renowned author, former UN UnderSecretary General and Member of Parliament. An engaged crowd of 250 people packed into the Parker Damon auditorium where Dr Tharoor delivered an incredibly powerful oration on the background of his latest book on colonial imperialism called “Era of Darkness” (sold in UK as Inglorious Empire) and moved the crowd to its feet on multiple occasions. Dr Tharoor took many questions with perfect aplomb, including a difficult one from club member Dr Gargi Chakrabarty who wondered where Indian women would be without British education. After the speech, fans thronged into lines to meet Dr Tharoor for a book signing and photo op - incredibly, all his books were sold out at the book fair. Speaking on the occasion, Chitro Neogy, co-founder of Calcutta Club said “Our book fair continues to be a unique event across North America and is setting its own bar which will be harder to meet with every year. We are extremely happy that the event consistently surpasses our most optimistic expectations.”


Other key speakers, primarily on skype, included Devdutt Pattanaik, the #1 Indian mythologist who has many followers in the US; many requested that we bring him in person next time. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni joined from Houston and spoke on three generations of mother-daughter relations per her latest book “Before we meet the Goddess”. A vibrant conversation took part  between leading English translator Arunava Sinha (Delhi) and the controversial Bengali novelist Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay (Delhi) on her popular yet bold novel panty. Sanjay Roy, founder of Teamwork Arts, provided a historical anecdote of how Jaipur Lit Fest was started. There were a number of special interest panels. Actress Gargi Mukherjee (of Namesake) and director Harun Sarwar came down from NY to participate in the Bangla panel called Different Shades led by poet Alokesh Duttaroy. Noted local authors from Hindi Manch - Maneesh Srivastava, Syed Ali Rizvi and Sanjay Kau led a discussion on freedom of speech. Finally, there was a Mindfulness Panel led by Prithvi Banerjee and included industry experts like Gary Weber, Sol Sandperl, Adam Engel and Kevin Martin. The five hours of the book fair zipped by without a dull moment in a rich intellectual ambience.


True to it principle of helping the community we live in, the Calcutta Club USA donated $500 to Acton Boxboro United Way as a support for their teen health programs. The community has had an unfortunate spate of student suicides in the past year and measures are needed to spot early signs as well as offer remediative counseling. The club also honored Dr Shashi Tharoor and local state senator Jamie Eldridge with plaques.


Book sales surged this year with titles from Shashi Tharoor, Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, Arunava Sinha, Devdutt Pattanaik and Chetan Bhagat leading the charts. There was also an art exhibition by leading professional and student artists. The youngest artist Avni Mishra, a extraordinary Madhubani painter, caught the eye of ABUW executive director Rachel Sagan who invited her to display her artwork at the United Way annual meeting held this week.


At the conclusion of Sanskriti 2017, attendees had only one question - When is the next Calcutta Club event. Continuing with its tradition of producing differentiated programs, the club  will hold its third annual Caleidoscope Indian Film Festival on Sep 9 and 10. More information is available at the club’s web site at www.calcuttaclubusa.com and calfilmfest.org.

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