Heptathlete, songstress, actor with a heart, these three and more do Kolkata proud.

first_img1)On her toesSwapna Barman, 19, AthleteSwapna Barman, 19, is desperately homesick. Though just back from her hometown, Jalpaigudi, she still misses everything about home-her parents, her elder brother and his wife, her elder sister and her two-year old nephew. Training as a heptathlete can be a lonesome job.Barman didn’t start,1)On her toesSwapna Barman, 19, AthleteSwapna Barman, 19, is desperately homesick. Though just back from her hometown, Jalpaigudi, she still misses everything about home-her parents, her elder brother and his wife, her elder sister and her two-year old nephew. Training as a heptathlete can be a lonesome job.Barman didn’t start out wanting to be a heptathlete, which means she has to compete in a seven part race that includes 100 m hurdles, high jump, shot-put, 200 m sprint, long jump, javelin, and another 800 m race. She wanted to be a footballer. “Messing around in school sport in Jalpaigudi,” was how she discovered her knack for high jumps. Coach Subhash Sarkar wasn’t easily convinced. “She had a broader, shorter frame not ideal for high jumps. But later, I was impressed by her performance in an all India meet at Ludhiana for under-14 girls,” says Sarkar. For a diminutive 160 cm frame, that’s a quite a feat. “I started training her in March 2013 and by May she had come second in a junior federation match,” he says.But Barman is held back by her own body. Born with six toes on each feet, it gets painful for her to run in regular shoes. “New shoes always hurt. They take long to wear in so that they can accommodate my toes, but it also means they don’t last too long,” says Barman. Since each event requires a different kind of footwear, her shoe budget alone crosses Rs 1 lakh a year. “I never thought they could be an impediment. It just is the way it is,” she says. Busy preparing for Doha Asian Indoor Championship, now her coach rues that the only thing holding Barman back is her speed and endurance. Both of which would get a boost with running gear that’s customised for her feet. “If her endurance improves, then we will see its effects in the 800 m race and speed will affect everything from long jump to javelin,” says Sarkar.advertisement2) SongbirdKaushiky Chakraborty, 35, classical vocalistOne must have won a lot of awards for them to not matter anymore. Or if they matter, they matter little. “Awards do make one feel special. But the next day, you are back to being who you are,” says classical vocalist, Kaushiky Chakraborty.Kaushiky Chakraborty, 35, classical vocalistThis songstress measures her achievements through moments. Like opening for a Zakir Hussain concert in Delhi when she was just 16. Or performing in Mumbai in 2014, when the tabla maestro made an exception to come to watch her perform. Her musical group, Sakhi, comprises Shaoni Talwalkar on the tabla, Mahima Upadhyay on the pakhwaj, Debopriya Chatterjee on flute, Nandini Shankar on the violin, Kathak by Bhakti Deshpande along with her vocals.”Within a year of forming, we were invited to perform in Carnegie Hall, USA ,” she exclaims. However, a memory that is still fresh with her is when Lata Mangeshkar complimented her on her rendition of a Marathi abhang. “I though I was hallucinating. I had tears in my eyes,” says the elated singer.3) Bag itAmrita Kajaria, 28, Director, JutifyAmrita Kajaria, 28, Director, JutifyAmrita Kajaria doesn’t call herself a feminist. And yet the promoter and director of Jutify, a company that manufactures jute products, employs a workforce that is sixty per-cent women from underprivileged backgrounds. “We trained them, convinced families to let them work, provided a system of transportation and ensured a creche so they would have a place to keep their children in,” says the marketing and finance graduate from University of Southern California, USA .Within a year of its opening, Jutify has managed a turnover of Rs 5 crore, manufacturing 8,000 shopping bags a month. While most of them are exported to markets in the USA and Europe, they will be available in the country soon too. “Just a simple solution like carrying your own bag can make a difference to the environment. In our country, plastics may be banned and many are beginning to charge for plastic bags but the average vegetable seller and the consumer take it for granted,” says Kajaria.4) Old world charmLata Harlalka, 64, founder, PalkiWhen she started Palk i in 1998, Lata Harlalka faced criticism from her peers. “You can’t run a business this way,” they told her. “But I was adamant. I wanted to do something on my own. And I figured that even if this was a failed venture, at least I could use the clothes in my daughter’s trousseau,” she says.Lata Harlalka, 64, founder, PalkiPalki, her brand, began with two karigars and was run from Lata’s own bedroom. Palki’s calling card became its ‘fusion wear’ saris. One can see the amalgamation of different weaves in one sari like Benarasi and Bandhej together. “Our biggest mover is the bridal wear that is priced between Rs 30,000 and Rs 50,000,” says Anwesha, Harlalka’s daughter-in-law who joined the business in 2002.advertisementHarlalka claims to not be driven by money. “For us the relationships are more important. I would rather my clients be sure of investing their time and money in our clothes, than regret it after ordering. There have been times when I have resisted taking orders as I felt it may be taking a premature decision.,” says the matriarch behind the 17-year-old brand.5) Art StruckRicha Agarwal, 37, Director, Emami Chisel ArtMarried at 19, the only exposure to art Richa Agarwal had as a young girl was making Tanjore paintings in school. It was after she married and was shopping for a gift for her father-in-law, that she first understood the importance of art. “We wanted to give him a Bratin Khan painting. And it was only then I realised that art could be a luxury product,” she laughs.Richa Agarwal, 37, Director, Emami Chisel ArtNow, nearly seven years as the director of Emami Chisel Art Gallery (ECA) has her rattling off the names of contemporary artists with elan. ECA focuses on providing young and emerging artists a platform. Her annual show and art fair both make room for upcoming talent. For Agarwal, each humble exhibition is important. “To me, a small art walk is as important as big exhibitions. It’s through events like these that we build a sensibility for art,” she says.6) It’s naturalMadhura Lohia, 34, Owner and founder, KalpatreeIt was while pursuing her Phd in cell biology at the University of Virginia, USA that Madhura Lohia woke up to the need of finding natural solutions to common physical ailments. A bad case of fungal infection that kept recurring even after being treated by a strong dose of allopathic medicine, had her researching for a natural solution. “I was a scientist first. I couldn’t just use commonly known natural solutions. It had to be scientifically proven,” she says.Madhura Lohia, 34, Owner and founder, KalpatreeBut a little bit of research on the Internet proved that coconut oil with essential oils like cedarwood oil and lavender could help. It was also during the same time that the harmful effects of chemicals dawned on her. “The thought that something one uses for vanity could affect the very thing one was so vain about, really disturbed me,” she said. Her brand ideology for Kalpatree Naturals and Organic Mandi arose from this philosophy. While Kalpatree Naturals is about organic cold pressed oils, balms and lotions, Organic Mandi provides fresh organic produce like vegetables and fruits as well as products like honey, ghee and nolen gur.With farmers markets and organic pop-up shops happening year round and thrice-a-week deliveries, Lohia’s plate is quite full. She isn’t quite ready to give up her labs and experiments yet. “My dream is to add a small R&D unit that will prove all these home remedies through science and make easy-to-use products from them,” she says.advertisement7) Acting chopsMimi Chakraborty, 26, actorThe doe-eyed Tollywood actor was going back home after a long day of shoots when she saw a car hit a bike and speed away, leaving the man bleeding and grievously injured. She followed them, asked her security team to apprehend them and later handed them over to the police. But she makes no bones about being a Good Samaritan and attributes it to her small town roots. “I grew up in a small town in Bengal in Jalpaidgudi. We always had that attitude of helping people if we saw them in trouble,” she says.Mimi Chakraborty, 26, actorMimi’s claim to fame was playing Pupe in Rituparno Ghosh’s Ganer Oparay, a hit television show that revolved around Tagore’s songs. The actor had just missed going to finals of the Miss India’s pageant when the call came for a look test for the show. “Ritu da saw me and said this is my Pupe,” says Chakraborty. One would assume the rest to be history except for the minor problem of Mimi’s inability to read Bengali. “Ritu da would record the dialogues for me on tape and I would memorise them. Since the series was on Tagore, the sentences were long and verbose,” she says.But she’s come far from those days and is busy with promotions of the just released Ki Koray Tokay Bolbo. “I can now read the script in Bengali,” exclaims the actor.last_img