Bonjour India Night of Ideas Event at Alliance Francaise Chandigarh

Bonjour India Night of Ideas Event at Alliance Francaise Chandigarh

Discussions included stream of ideas between countries, cultures, topics, and generations

Building sense of community and exploring challenges of modern times in a convivial ambience

Chandigarh, 14 May, 2022: As part of Bonjour India, the recently concluded Night of Ideas event presented an opportunity to explore the latest discoveries in knowledge and arts. The event included discussions around the biggest issues of our time including a debate upon “rebuilding together” in a post-covid world. Six eminent speakers from India, France, Spain, and the Czech Republic participated in the debate which was moderated by Swati Janu, an award-winning architect and artist.  The speakers included Vandana Shiva, Indian Environmental activist & scholar, Léopold Lambert, French activist architect & writer, Marie Darrieussecq, French Writer & translator, Shrayana Bhattacharya Indian writer & economist, Lukáš Houdek, Czech activist & artist, and Juan Arnau, Spanish philosopher & essayist.

This year, the Night of Ideas was held at a unique and iconic venue - the Open Hand Monument. A symbolic structure designed by the architect Le Corbusier in Chandigarh’s Capitol Complex. The monument and the Pit of Contemplation were opened especially for this event. The theme of the event revolved around living together, a sense of community, and building new solidarities. The venue was ideal as the event was representative of peace and reconciliation.

Speaking about the Night of Ideas event Mrs. Ophélie Belin, Director of Alliance Française Chandigarh said "We are living in turbulent yet exciting times. On the one hand, there is great optimism that a utopian world – which has been the dream of mankind for centuries - may finally be within reach. Yet alongside this great optimism, there is considerable turbulence and much that can derail our quest. However, listening to the eminent panel, I felt convinced that a more unified and peaceful world is indeed within our grasp. The ideas that were shared during the event, when implemented, can help build such a world. The Night of Ideas event was brought alive after a gap of two years because of the pandemic. Indeed, hosting the event at the Open Hand Monument signified our optimism about the future!”  

According to Mr Ranjeet Oak, Chief Commercial Officer, Pernod Ricard India, “The "Night of Ideas", an event which celebrates the stream of ideas between countries, cultures, topics, and generations, gives a platform to voices of hope  –  spreading a message of Conviviality for all, and the significance of building authentic human connections, something that we at Pernod Ricard not only live as our core value but also drive as our commitment! Pernod Ricard India is happy to associate with the Embassy of France and its cultural service, the French Institute in India on Bonjour India 2022  –  a festival that celebrates the long-standing relationship between India and France in art, science, and culture. ”

The Night of Ideas (“La Nuit des idées”) is an international event held annually by the French cultural network to celebrate the stream of ideas between countries, cultures, topics, and generations. Every year, the Night of ideas facilitates the discovery of the latest trends in knowledge and arts by bringing together speakers who have contributed significantly to their fields. Such speakers take part in a discussion on the compelling issues of our times. This year, it was a part of the Bonjour India festival, an artistic, cultural, educational, and literary initiative by the Embassy of France and its cultural service Institut Français en Inde, the Alliance Française Network, the Consulates of France. Night of Ideas has also been organized with Instituto Cervantes and the Embassy of the Czech Republic, in the framework of the ongoing French Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The Speakers and Moderator

1. Léopold Lambert

Léopold Lambert is a Paris-based trained architect. He is the editor-in-chief of The Funambulist, a print and online magazine dedicated to the politics of space and bodies. He is the author of four books including Weaponized Architecture: The Impossibility of Innocence (dpr-barcelona, 2012), La politique du bulldozer: La ruine palestinienne comme projet israélien (B2, 2016), and États d’urgence: Une Histoire spatiale du continuum colonial français (Premiers Matins de Novembre, 2021).

  2. Marie Darrieussecq

Marie Darrieussecq was born on January 3, 1969 in the Basque Country (France). She is a writer and used to be a psychoanalyst. She graduated from the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris and wrote her Ph.D. thesis on auto-fiction. Since “Truismes” (“Pig tales”), her first book published in 1996 & translated in 45 countries, she has published numerous books at P.O.L publisher which are translated all over the world. She received the Medicis Prize and the Prize of Prize in 2013 for her book “Il faut beaucoup aimer les hommes” (“Men”). With her characteristic intensity, edginess and humour, Marie Darrieussecq explores female desire, what it means to be a woman ; her novels also deal with the figures of ghosts, animality and climate. Last book published: “Pas dormir” (“Insomnia”, (2021). The writer has made a wonderful story of her sleepless nights, No Sleep. She, who has tried everything to fall asleep, delivers her many experiences, but also her reflection on this mysterious waking state which seems to increase with deforestation. Today, Darrieussecq is a notable figure among the distinguished younger generation of French writers.

3. Dr. Vandana SHIVA

Dr. Vandana SHIVA is trained as a Physicist and did her Ph.D. on the subject “Hidden Variables and Non-locality in Quantum Theory” from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. She later shifted to interdisciplinary research in science, technology and environmental policy, which she carried out at the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore. In 1982, she founded an independent institute, the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in Dehra Dun dedicated to high quality and independent research to address the most significant ecological and social issues of our times, in close partnership with local communities and social movements. In 1991, she founded Navdanya, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, especially native seed, the promotion of organic farming and fair trade. In 2004 she started Bija Vidyapeeth, an international college for sustainable living in Doon Valley in collaboration with Schumacher College, U.K.Dr. Shiva combines the sharp intellectual enquiry with courageous activism..Time Magazine identified Dr. Shiva as an environmental “hero” in 2003 and Asia Week has called her one of the five most powerful communicators of Asia.Forbes magazine in November 2010 has identified Dr. Vandana Shiva as one of the top Seven most Powerful Women on the Globe. Dr. Shiva has received honorary Doctorates from University of Paris, University of Western Ontario, University of Oslo and Connecticut College, University of Guelph.Among her many awards are the Alternative Nobel Prize (Right Livelihood Award, 1993), Order of the Golden Ark, Global 500 Award of UN and Earth Day International Award. Lennon ONO grant for peace award by Yoko Ono in 2009, Sydney Peace Prize in 2010, Doshi Bridge Builder Award, Calgary Peace Prize and Thomas Merton Award in the year 2011,the Fukuoka Award and The Prism of Reason Award in 2012, the Grifone d’Argento prize 2016 and The MIDORI Prize for Biodiversity 2016, Veerangana Award 2018, The Sanctuary Wildlife Award 2018 , International Environment Summit & Award 2018 and Amrita Devi Award 2021.

4. Shrayana Bhattacharya

Shrayana Bhattacharya trained in development economics at Delhi University and Harvard University. She specializes in the areas of social protection and jobs. At present, she is a Senior Economist at the World Bank and leads a series of initiatives on safety nets with the national government and state governments in India. Prior to this, she worked with SEWA, Institute of Social Studies Trust, Centre for Policy Research and ILO on research projects dealing with labour and gender. Her first book of non-fiction Desperately Seeking Shah Rukh: India’s Lonely Young Women and the Search for Intimacy and Independence was published by HarperCollins India in November 2021. Shrayana has won several awards including the Times of India AutHer award for Best Non-Fiction Author and SKOCH India Economic Forum’s Literature Award. She is based in New Delhi.

5. Mr Lukáš Houdek

 Tcheque Human rights propagator Mr Lukáš Houdek who already has activities in India among the Hijra community (excluded transgender community) in northern India. He has been mapping and photographing the community since 2012. Mr Houdek is a coordinator of the Czech government initiative called “Hate free culture”, which supports minorities and people from different cultures etc. Houdek graduated from Charles University in Prague; he obtained the Czech Journalist award in 2019. The themes of his performance are identities, violence, hate, homophobia and injustice. Besides activities with the Hijra community in India, he has a supportive program for people with albinism in Ghana. He is also interested in the problem of Sudeten Germans, the German minority of circa 3 million people in former Czechoslovakia who were drastically expelled from the country after WWII.

6. Juan Arnau


After a few years working as a sailor and several trips to Africa, Juan Arnau studied Astrophysics at the Complutense University of Madrid, where he graduated in 1994. He traveled to India in 1995, with a fellowship from the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation (AECI) and at the University of Varanasi (Banaras Hindu University, BHU), where he began his studies of Indian philosophy and culture with Catalan Sanskritist Oscar Pujol. From India he went to Mexico, where he did his PhD at the Centre for Asian and African Studies at El Colegio de México, studying Sanskrit with Rashik Vihari Joshi. After completing his PhD he moved to Ann Arbor (Michigan) for six years, where he did postdoctoral research at the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures of the University of Michigan, with Luis Ó. Gomez. Meanwhile he taught Spanish, and Latin American Literature and Cinema, in the Department of Romance Languages. Currently a researcher at the Institute of History of Medicine and Science López Piñero (CSIC-University of Valencia) and associate professor at the University of Barcelona.

Moderator: Swati Janu

 Swati Janu is a Delhi-based architect working on issues of social justice and housing rights, for which she was selected as one of 13 Young Leaders from India by the French government in 2018. Her interdisciplinary practice combines community engagement and activism at a grassroots level with policy advocacy. She is the Founder of the studio Social Design Collaborative which was awarded the international Beazley Design of the Year 2020 in Architecture. She also teaches and writes on urban issues from affordable housing to inclusive public spaces, with her articles featured on City Lab, Scroll and Indian Express.

The Organisers:

Overall, Bonjour India covers 19 cities across the country, showcasing Indo-French expertise and collaboration in innovation, education, research, science and technology, arts and culture. This artistic, cultural, educational and social initiative is an Indo-French moment put together by the French cooperation network in India mainly comprising of the Embassy of France and its cultural service, the French Institute in India, the Alliance Française network and, the Consulates of France in collaboration with Indian Council for Cultural Relations, with support from various public and private partners along with Instituto Cervantes and the Embassy of the Czech Republic.

Institut Français

The French Institute in India (Institut Français en Inde - IFI) is the educational, scientific and cultural department of the Embassy of France in India. It facilitates academic and scientific exchanges between higher institutes of learning and research, enables student mobility, and promotes the French language, and artistic and cultural partnerships. Cooperation between India and France takes place through a number of sectors: Arts & Culture, Books, Ideas, French Language & Education, the Study in France programme, Academic Partnerships, Science Technology, as well as Innovation and Multimedia.

Alliance Française in India:

The 14 Alliance Française centres across India are part of a worldwide network of associations founded more than 135 years ago, established in 133 countries and welcoming nearly 500,000 learners every year. Enrolling at an Alliance Française centre in India is an opportunity to learn the French language, discover France and explore the unique character, diversity, history, heritage and gastronomy of the country. Quality courses, a warm welcome, professionalism, innovative methods, cultural programmes, a friendly atmosphere – everything is in place to ensure that French learning becomes an unforgettable experience.

BNP Paribas India: Presenting Partner

About BNP Paribas (printed version)

BNP Paribas, which has been in India since 1860, has branches in key metros and offers the entire range of corporate and institutional banking products and services, covering flow banking (transaction banking), financing, hedging, global markets, derivatives and investments. The wholly owned subsidiary Sharekhan, provides personal investment services to individuals across 540+ cities. Further, Technology and Operations global delivery centers in Bengaluru, Chennai and Mumbai support banking operations worldwide. BNP Paribas India Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation, deploys BNP Paribas’ CSR efforts in critical areas including education, youth skilling, culture and environment.


About BNP Paribas (digital version)

BNP Paribas has been in India since 1860. Corporate and Institutional Bank branches in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, and Pune, offer the entire range of corporate and institutional banking products and services. The wholly owned subsidiary Sharekhan, provides investment services to individuals. Further, Technology and Operations global delivery centers support banking operations worldwide.

About Pernod Ricard India

Pernod Ricard India Private Limited (PRI) is a fully owned subsidiary of Pernod Ricard SA and a fast-growing multinational alcohol-beverage company delivering quality products to its consumers across the country. With leading brands in each category, Pernod Ricard India holds one of the most dynamic and premium portfolios in the industry, led by Seagram’s (Pernod Ricard acquired in 2001) whiskies that include Royal Stag, Royal Stag Barrel Select, Blenders Pride, Blenders Pride Reserve Collection, Imperial Blue, 100 Pipers and a wide range of international premium brands such as Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s, The Glenlivet, Royal Salute and Jameson Irish whiskey. Some of the eminent brands in the white spirits category include ABSOLUT vodka, Jacob’s Creek and Campo Viejo wines, Martell cognac, Beefeater and Monkey 47 gin, Kahlúa, and Malibu liqueurs, Mumm and Perrier-Jouët champagne.

Pernod Ricard India is recognized as an industry leader with various honors and awards under its share of achievements, including the prestigious ‘Best Places to Work 2021’ by BW People, Stevie 2021 – Gold for Great Employers and The Economic Times ‘Best Places to Work for Women 2021’. The company has also been certified as 'The Great Place to Work 2021' by the Great Place to Work Institute. The organisation believes in ‘Creating Shared Value’ for the business and local communities in a way that drives transformational growth and development for the country.

About the Embassy of the Czech Republic (Partner)

 After the friendly dissolution of Czechoslovakia almost 30 years ago, the compound of the Embassy of the Czech Republic still consists of the Czech and Slovak parts. We both share the place that is the seat of our diplomatic missions in India. We believe that this friendship between our nations, which takes more than one hundred years, could be an inspiration for others around the world. The compound of the Embassy in India was designed in the brutalist architectonical style of the 70th by the Czech well-known architect Karel Filsak who projected our Embassies in London, Geneva, Cairo, and Brasilia.

 About Instituto Cervantes (Partner)

Instituto Cervantes is a non-profit organization founded by the Government of Spain in 1991. Its mission is to promote Spanish language teaching as well as that of Spain’s co-official languages, in addition to fostering knowledge of the cultures of Spanish-speaking countries throughout the world. Instituto Cervantes New Delhi was inaugurated in 2009, and it is located in a new building in the heart of the city, next to Connaught Place.


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