Travels through Asia – dining in Kolkata

Kolkata Yauatcha

I had to visit the Michelin-starred Yauatcha in Kolkata’s high-end Quest Mall. Prices are around a third what you would pay at its twin/sister restaurant in London. Thoroughly enjoyed it, and still on the look-out wherever I go for the champagne/rose tea served there.

Special shout out also goes to the Bohemian Restaurant at 2/4, Old Ballygunge Place, 1st Lane, Kolkata. It’s a cab ride away from the mall. The menu includes enticing sounding dishes such as mutton and baby potatoes simmered with green mango and okra; prawn and crabmeat dumplings stewed in spicy Noler Gur reduction; jumbo prawns stewed with field grown herbs; mutton simmered with baby cabbage and fresh fennel served with steam rice and wilted greens; shall I continue? Main dishes are around 500 rupees (USD$8).

Kolkata Bohemian 2
The Bohemian restaurant. Kolkata, India
Kolkata Bohemian 3
Paraphernalia at The Bohemian restaurant.

Their home designed signature cocktails aren’t bad either, including the pictured Just Bohemian made up of Nolen Gur (Bengal date palm jaggery), ginger and dark rum. Cost around 230 rupees (USD$3.5). At this price, it’s tempting to go for more than one – but they are potent, you have been warned.

Kolkata Bohemian
The Bohemian

Turning right on human rights – the new world order? Philip Alston at the LSE

lse-alston-lecture

The second event I mentioned in my previous post was at the London School of Economics (LSE) on the 1st December, and nods to International Human Rights Day on December 10th.

Fresh from a flight, Professor Philip Alston delivered his lecture on populism to a packed theatre of listeners.

Right-wing populism was the focus, not only in a Trump-led United States, but also in Turkey, Russia, France, the United Kingdom (in relation to the rise of Farage and UKIP) and other countries. Whilst not quite a doomsday scenario, he said he believes we are certainly at a watershed point in history. At this time of ‘new word disorder’ it’s time to rethink our assumptions and re-evaluate our strategies about human rights, he said. In his view the key issues are:

  1. The threat to democracy – with many of us convinced that the need for security trade-offs legitimises (for example) extreme states of emergencies, such as the present one in France. Also, there is the constant erosion of civil liberties in some countries.
  2. Inequality and exclusion – we need a renewed focus on social rights, as well as the political
  3. International rule of law and international humanitarian law are dangerously undermined and threatened – including by the US and the UK
  4. The fragility of international institutions

Yes, he did offer some pointers towards potential solutions, including his urgent appeal for a social rights agenda that would address everyone and not only the most marginalised.

(My take on that last point is that he may or not be right. But I think one should have something concrete in place before viciously tearing up the rug from under peoples’ feet).

But his (almost) final pertinent point was the need for every individual to think about what their own personal human rights role or contribution might be, however seemingly small.

Professor Alston has worked broadly for the United Nations over many years but hasn’t been afraid to criticise it either, most recently in its treatment of Haitians over the cholera outbreak – read UN Chief apologises for Haiti cholera, six years later.

Grab a coffee and listen to the full lecture here.

Find and read The Economist’s review of the report The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics by John Judis (‘They want their countries back’ page 71 Dec 3rd -9th 2016)

 

Travels with the UN – Bangladesh (2011-12)

Dry, hot city. Wafts of diesel and food combined hang heavy in the air. Cars, motorbikes, rickshaws pile noisily back to back in densely congested roads. Street hawkers weave expertly through traffics of people and vehicles, whilst children scurry among the crowds, clutching goods for sale instead of school satchels. Welcome to Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Back with UNICEF for six months, this time in Dhaka. Lots of writing, lots of getting out to meet partners from international and local NGOs (such as the impressive BRAC), as well as talking to Bangladeshis inside their homes and work places about their lives and experiences with UNICEF supported projects.

25-year-old Sapan Miah teaches villagers about pneumonia and other health matters. Parathia, South Sunamganj, Bangladesh
25-year-old Sapan Miah teaches villagers about pneumonia and other health matters. Parathia, South Sunamganj, Bangladesh

I also spent a chunk of time visiting schools, including one where I had to give an impromptu ‘inspirational’ speech to the children at their prize-giving ceremony. They were very gracious – I felt like a UNICEF Representative for all of my two hour visit there!

I also got to work with a strong, hardworking and fun communications team at UNICEF Bangladesh. Click here for one of the newsletters we produced.

For more info about UNICEF Bangladesh see here