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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Yours...

Dear Ashish

I wanted to be yours and only yours.  But...these buts in our life...and those ifs.. Sometimes i feel i moved on too fast and once i started moving on...well i never looked back i guess. Ashish.. present is what makes my life, true i shed tears for you, wrote those silly verses, heard those senti songs over and over again, would ring your number from any phone booth i can find...but then i got this job and left our small town. Once out in the proper world, there was this whiff of success and eyes of men...i had so many men vying for attention..may be i had no peers and i enjoyed all that to the full. And that was when i guess i stopped waiting for your calls or our chat sessions.. you know live men staring and admiring you.. was i so men hungry kind beneath my humble veneer..i might have been...

I was bedazzled by my new life and you no longer held the key to my dreams and hence your charm was loosening its grip on me. Then those misunderstandings...your estranged wife and a dark future with you... sometimes i used to be just fed up and began to enjoy life in the city thoroughly. And one fine day we broke up... we had major hitches before too and each time i felt i just could not make it without you. But this time it was so easy... yes i would admit it was Saurav whose message occupied my inbox and whose number dominated my call logs... and when the break up was official i was more relieved than anything. I hardly shed any tears, Saurav and i got along so well...but Saurav did not want a messed up me and as per his plans he was out of the country after a few months. I don,t know how my boyfriends get international..am i the lucky charm!! I got over Saurav as well.. a few days of shock and see i was again alive and kicking.

I saw a few more men and finally settled down. People say first love and its magic... they haunt you but nothing like that happened with me..i started absolutely afresh...even fell for someone after a couple of years of marital bliss and after the initial turmoil got over that as well. Ashish should i blame you for everything...my dreams love when nothing came near to reality and i moved from one to another...or should i be thankful that we broke up and finally i could lead my life. Had we been together would i be a different person...still dreamy and yours.. totally, fully yours..

Sometimes i wonder... and still love the independent person i have become...

Yours.... i could have been all yours...

Yet i am...

Tanya

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Sariska Tiger Reserve

Weekend getaway from Delhi...choices are many. This one was very short and close by but a real getaway from the city to nature. No we didn,t spot tigers..content only with the pug marks but then i wasn,t expecting much given that there are only eight tonine tigers in the entire jungle.

We stayed in Gulmohar Resorts around twenty kilometres from the forest, not much recommendable but suited us economically, food was a pure let down... buffet dinner,  breakfast all were just edible and nothing to savour. What i loved about the resort was the Amla ( should be Indian Gooseberry) gardens which were in full bloom at the backyard.





                                                                           Indian Flycatcher

We took the morning safari, quite disorganized affair in the morning and the sad part all non enthusiast guides who for the most part would drive in a manner that one would simply stop enjoying and wait for this horrific experience to end.




Drongo


The guide somehow told us that it was a bird which migrates from Karachi.. name we could not make out.


                                                             Most probably Sandpiper


Intermediate Egret


This pic i really loved.... Comb ducks


                                                                    Rufous Treepie




Brahmi Mynas


Flameback Woodbecker...


Common Magpie Robin






At work...


There was this eerie moment when a peacock was letting out a cry which surely meant something.. something dreadful was going to happen.. all the langurs jumped up to the top branch of the trees and this uncanny silence broken by the peacock,s cries. Some tiger footprints were near by... a real eerie momemt and my daughter still gets scared by the sound of peacock.


                              They seemed so relaxed... just family time after breakfast.....              






The Marks...

                                                     
                                                                      GPS to trace tigers


Magpie Robin


                An aww  moment... and his effortless movements... my heart skipped a beat







Pandu Pol... the temple in the jungle...Hanumanji was supposed to spread his tail here which Bheem could not lift...


The most interesting part... in the shop near the temple they serve Kadi Kachoris



Kadi Kachori is supposed to be Rajasthan,s speciality.... they do not have kachoris with normal Alu ki sabzi. A must try after the temple visit in the middle of the  forest.


Grey Patridge


Sariska is a nice place to visit... we saw plenty of spotted deer, Sambhar deer, Neelgais, Wild Boars and so many variety of birds... and yes if you visit from Delhi you can stop once in Highway King for a plate of Kulfi Faluda  and Rabri as  is recommended by the show Highway on my Plate...it won,t let you down for sure.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Radio

A tiny rectangular box and in it lay my ticket to escape. Escape to dreams... as i got my own room when my uncle got married and shifted to a double bed room. The room did not have any stuffed toys.. either my parents never got around to give me any or i did not have an inch of interest...may be a few dolls which i got over soon, nor i hung any posters of rock stars or film starts... tried once for poster of soccer players but most of my crazes were very short lived. So i had a tiny bed, a study table and chair, a mirror which had been broken once and then somehow fixed on that room, an old bicycle my grandma used to ride...and yes i never got around to learn cycling and a wooden book rack from where normally i would hide books under my text books! And i had a radio.. well it was not mine but as soon as father went out it became all mine.

Music started from 12 pm in the afternoon and i,d switch it on dot... hindi film songs..most of the time i needed a company as i solved equations or immersed myself in novels. 12:30 there would be this music played and just after that Fauzi Bhayion ka Karyakram , i,d switch between two channels available till the 1,o clock news and after the English and Hindi snippets would continue with music. There would be a normally void time after two and after my siesta i would catch up again with music for a few minute from 5:15 to 5:30 i guess ( news English and Hindi from 5 to 5;10, programme announcements another 5 min and then finally some songs). I was not an avid music lover nor any singer, just the feel of radio drew me close to it and my bosom buddy in school to whom i would murmur excitedly about the song we heard in radio last night in the morning school assembly. Around ten at night just before sleeping, would listen to Chaya Geet and then when i,d study till late night... would surf more channels but with weak weak transmission.

When i left Guwahati, for a few years in Shillong, i did miss the radio as my ear was and still is not tuned to western music barring a limited few. I  had left my little radio at home which i had demanded from my father at my fifteenth birthday and when i joined training for my job at Allahabad... my mobile still did not have ' radio' option... so shamelessly demanded a radio again from the few colleagues i was close to. The first one i got did not work at all, sometimes i had to put it over my tummy for ' earth connection'!! So my roommate had pity on me and again collected money from others for a better radio. Both of us listened to it for a long  time..almost the entire duration of four months after we shifted to Delhi. There was an onslaught of music channels, babbling RJs and the latest songs while in Delhi... i was in for a shock... what to hear old or new, slow or peppy!! Then i shifted to radio on my cell phone as i could not repair my radio in Delhi... as we could not find who would do it.

I listened to the All India Radio channel for good old songs and ghazals... and these days i try to listen to Yaadon ka idiot box as i stroll around in the evening... and i listen to radio a lot while i am driving..my husband would crib as usual..more than eyes on the road my attention is on the buttons for surfing music channels!  Radio led me to my love for music ..and i guess the surprise element  in radio puts it above any other collection i,d  love to hear where i know the next song coming to this unpredictability in radio and this mish mash of surprise and wave of happiness....

One friend who has long been a friend.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Quick Recap

Q... this one is tough. Since i am through more than halfway of the challenge..i am exhausted, compromising with quality and feel somehow just putting some lines together and winding up.

But that,s o.k i guess...i have the feeling of running behind the letters ,trying to keep pace...breathing hard. Well being the disorganized person i have never planned for any topic or any theme so most of the days struggled with the theme. Some posts i felt i have been too energetic and felt drained after the write up and some just wrote hurriedly after office. I have pestered husband and my domestic help with A, B, C, Ds...to the extent they are all fed up, even when i went for a weekend trip where i continuously cribbed about k and l and our friends also began to  get all worked up in thinking about my further posts, giving an idea or two. I pined for net connection in the forest reserve we went and somehow before midnight clicked on ' publish'. This is some kind of craziness and husband has given up now...it had been a proven fact that i am a mom with too much time for myself and little time for my kid. All said and done i am still on... writing, reading.. though not as much as i would like to.

I started A with Adrita, the name of my daughter and attempted a short story on that, the peculiarity of her name in a different land. B was easy.. the aromatic mouth watering Biryani. C i felt was quite good...the short story Charu though i don,t believe anybody read it,  D was a letter to my daughter.. Dear Ninni  a candid confession from my side.

E was Email...it was dear to my heart... teenage love and feelings..i might have done a fairly good job though i am not supposed to say that, F was Fishy Business... about Bengali,s fish fascination, G for my favourite lyricist whose songs play magic on me Gulzar and H was another romantic take with short story Holiday...i was happy with some romantic writings...

I... i made a short cut with a post If... not sure it was a poem or not just scribbled some lines , J was a write up on Jeans...the attire we craved to wear once, K was... again i went for food..something that would be easy and about something i was high on passion.. so Kebabs. L was about one of my favouite classics i read long time back ' Lost Horizon' the book which gave me Shangri La...the Utopian land. For M... i wrote about Minority..little bit of take on social and political hierarchy though i am not good at those kind of writings and not well informed, just tried my hand. N was again a book i read during my teens and made me fall in love with love...Na Hanyate...even narrating the story to someone gives me goosebumps. O... i went easy on Oats.. and varied recipes i have tried for the grain. P was for Polls... the democratic extravaganza going on in our country... though my take was simple and emotional i guess...

A recap was necessary to see where i started from and where i am heading... read some interesting posts, got myself some readers... no less than an achievement for me... will run after the alphabets upto Z...and then breathe...if i can make it. Well i have tried my hand at different themes and enjoyed the process though exhausted after the exhilarating showdown and i know my family would heave a sigh of relief with me when i reach Z finally!! I still marvel at the few persons who could manage time to read my posts among the myriads..and may be that,s why i could go on and reach Q!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Polls

India goes to polls. Yet another time. Democracy...we go to polls and elect our government . Sixty seven years since we had been  on our way to electing and forming our own government. As Indian middle class most of us are very nonchalant about the parties coming to power and i believe end result is what we seek... more money, more prosperity, more roads, more hospitals and more for us.Though we nurture sentiments for some parties but most of the times for weird reasons... reasons which most of the times have nothing to do with development and we end up electing based on those sentiments. What do we do exactly...most of us will say what are the options available... politics is and has been a shrewd game for ages and out of the worst you do not know to select the best. So how do we know...and why are not active, honest, visionary men coming into politics... why not we see anyone like the leaders of yore.

I do not have answers. But as a middle class woman i might say that i am simply not interested. Why..because i have a decent job and the government pays me a decent sum, not exorbitant pay checks but a decent amount to lead my life, to school my daughter not in a government run educational institution but in a ' decent' one , to go and splurge in malls and holidays more than necessary, to own a car and a house. Do i sound complacent..i know there is no end to what one can dream and achieve but as a middle class we have come a long way...where my parents would calculate before spending an extra pence here i am with a debit and a credit card swiping at any step. So there is development...we have good roads, flyovers,sky scrapers... we had this economic boom in recent past. As i have set the benchmark..the domestic helps who had been working in our house in the past and the ones working now... marked difference is visible. They have television if not food, cell phones if not jobs...but progress had been there...  rarely though but they can go to a doctor if required and may be pay the hefty fees at least once. But this nonchalance why am i not interested, i know i might not be speaking for all but at least there would be many like me... why apart from paying government taxes we are not involved, not concerned. Forget decision making in the highest body... why don,t we walk an extra mile for a person who works in our house, the little boy who comes to collect cloths to press on behalf of his father, why do we employ children for work, why we do not take a pregnant woman to a hospital... and why as we are so pissed off with corruption we try to bribe for jumping a red light and we submit that extra false bill in office !!

This is how we are not going to live. We would dream of our children making it big and the next thing we want is success to sweep them away from this country.Corruption, poverty, pollution all cannot vanish in a day but i believe there has been progress... yes lots could have been done, more equi distribution of wealth, more employment...but let us take the plunge at least.. go to the polls.. vote. Yes the leaders never work for us.. but let us work for the ones we can..so easy to say i know..let someone take the step and i will follow.

At least this time a parliament with sober representatives, decision making debates, active oppposition...a parliament which would encourage us to go to the polls.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Oats

Well i had never heard of oats until a few years back and for that matter any kind of cereals apart from rice and wheat which constituted majority of our meals. Breakfast was also nothing different... with age catching up and the need for healthy substitute some were shifting to cornflakes and milk. Utterly tasteless compared to our Indian breakfasts of  Alu Paranthas , Idlis, Upma but easy to make and aggressive marketing led it to our dining tables. I need to mention those ads promising to make you look skinny and petite was also a significant factor as Indians took to cereals and milk.

Soon i was searching for health foods as well... one because i loved too much unhealthy foods..two because i was caught with all sorts of illnesses. High cholesterol was one so the change in diet brown rice, olive oil and oats. Oats could be so so bland and tasteless..i tried different brands...then introduced nuts... walnuts, almonds , sliced fruits and substituted sugar with honey. The end product with milk was good though not wonderfully tasty but can be had as healthy breakfast. At least it would lead to some dietary fiber as the grains claim.

Next my foodie cum excellent cook friend suggested oats with shredded chicken and veggies. Well i thought what was the point of dieting then...but thought of taking up the idea. So olive oil, sauteed garlic lots of vegetables likes carrots, beans, cauliflowers...finally oats and water for sufficient consistency. I added chilly flakes, black pepper or some seasoning for that punch. I did not have that every day of course, used it as dinner every five days as i went for night duty where the dish was appreciated by the girls and i began to put bell peppers, broccoli , baby corn for variety. By that time market was also full of  Masala Oats sachets. 

Finally i had this dish of baby corn-peas oats..in one mix and match day and the product turned out quite delicious and nutritious as well.



Baby Corns, Green Peas, Garlic, Onion

Olive oil and garlic is a good combo for that flavour... i use little bit of oil and then add baby corn, peas and onion... saute lightly and the vessel can be covered until they turn soft, add  salt oats and water for the required consistency. 




The dish is finished with a dash of black pepper, chilly flakes and any kind of seasoning..i don,t have the final pic but the taste is savourable.  Thanks to my domestic help for the pics and being the excellent cook she is as she executes the ideas i conceive and adds her own creativity and the magic of her deft hands!!

Na Hanyate....Indestructible





Na Hanyate...  Na Hanyate hanyamane Sarire... translation says Consciousness is eternal  and cannot be vanquished...in more mundane words soul is eternal and it is the body which perishes. An apt name for the novel.. love survives even as the body gets decayed, even if physically two lovers fall apart love breathes and survives through the soul.

I know such idealistic words are out and out unrealistic and in today,s times more so. But the novel speaks of love and yes surprisingly true love which fought and struggled to survive to withstand the tests of time. Na Hanyate was something most of the Bengali women read and fascinated at the marvel of love. It was about the story of a young girl and the foreigner who comes for lessons from her father an eminent scholar. It was virtually an autobiography i can safely say...and the reader can sniff a real love story blooming in between the protagonists. Diverse cultures, different languages, different continents but would love listen to these.... They fall in love in the conventional Indian society where caste, religion called the shots. Mircea Eliade was having lessons on love and romance along with Sanskrit shlokas and the story weaves their romance intricately with minor details with all their tit bits and all those lovey dovey moments and with two persons of such diverse ethnicity... a common intelligence and humour brought them closer where feelings were expressed with eyes and smiles and love suppressed  in the rigid social framework. I suppose it was the reality of it all which instantly strikes a chord. Mircea chewing chilies to prove to his love that he can go all Indian..and the creeper outside his balcony swinging outside her window... as far as i remember.

Their love falling apart in the ruthless waves of society, the foreigner wandering all over India looking for inner peace..seeking peace in the Himalayas. Pre Independence india fed with a dose of rennaissance and liberation leading to a love story which even her scholarly father could not allow and had to forego the veneer of liberation to get them apart. I could not believe all unless after some years of reading  Na Hanyate i read Bengal Nights by Mircea Eliade...and yes critics said facts were different but no one could mistake the underlying love and the upsurge of emotions... this happens... can happen in real life!! Yes Na Hanyate was something i could relate to in fact many Bengali women would... it was about the society my grandmom would talk of...but reading Mircea Eliade... a foreigner who believed he being the favourite disciple of the guru, getting his daughter would be a cakewalk... little did he know how Indian societies worked  and how losing her he totally loses himself and finally leaves the country which gave him the love of his life.

A true love story, a gem... a union of soul...just by reading you would want to believe...in love and in life. Na Hanyate would always be with me for the love,for the pain may be we all go through.. for the account of an eminent writer and poet exposing the society we were in which hardly ever could give any woman the respect she deserves let alone the love she pines for.


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Minority

I have grown up with this term..lingual minority, religious minority, sexual minority.. It is a deadening term , with consequences far reaching. I was born in a state where i belonged to the lingual minority and it took a while to realise , the language we spoke at home was unutterable outside. I adapted to the local language, gradually took a liking for it...but this minority feeling always struck from behind. Soon i was aware of other minorities as  well..religious minority being the most prominent. The term scared me out of my wits...culture, religion, lifestyle everything becomes a part of our being...but being termed as a ' minority' on the basis of religion or language...is natural i guess or the law of the land. An atheist part of me though can appreciate the concept based on language to some extent.. but.the majority minority based on religion.... is beyond my comprehension i guess...i know believers will disagree vehemently...but most of the times religion creates more shackles then freedom.

Sex based minority is also very common in our country. With a shameful sex ratio this is not really a surprise and the best part there is hardly anyone who can relate to this minority... even the fairer sex as we are called.. we are used to having men run our lives and quite comfortable under the security cover the man provides and who looks for liberation ! The discrepancy is evident as in the number of women in the workplace more so as one goes up in the  corporate hierarchy. And the great sacrifice fables of the women who gave it up all for family and kid!!  

Growing up in a place where i belonged to the local minority, i treasured the books written in my language and the wide range of literature and gradually as i moved to a bigger city i still continued to be minority, more so because my fish eating habits, gulping sweets with tea, not fasting in the mandatory rituals performed here and other Bengali tit bits were continuous under scan till i became a full fledged minority. Even when we go to Kolkata, the hub of  Bengalis... no one really speaks the dialect we do and it attracts more sarcasm and humour than anywhere else!! So much for the uprooted minorities... struggling, adjusting, surviving. And the religious minorities... i think that is the deadliest of all, being alleged as the cause of all things unpleasant..how does one live with it.. they get more strong as a minority and fight for their rights.

This is a complex land.. the country i live in...and there would be majority and minority even as we go global netizens and this would dictate the verdict in democracy more than education, medicines, roads , transports , a receding economy and myriad problems facing the country. Governments would form and collapse and minorities would survive... find their own ways.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Lost Horizon



I had read  Lost Horizon almost when i was a kid. The times after exams.. generally exams ended around December first week...and those long, lazy winter breaks at home. Physical activity used to be almost nil and so were other entertainments, well it worked for me fine..as i gulped down quite a number of books during those times. School being closed, could hardly meet friends who used to stay far off and no there weren,t phones in those days. It was like being in a world of my own...onset of teenage is a brilliant time for those kind of things. Anyway during those days someone gave me Lost Horizon to read.

It took a while to fall in love with Shangri La...but the magic of books they do take you where actually you have never been or never can be..and you actually start living in the place with the characters as long as you finish reading the book. I think it was the world of monastery in the forbidden land of Tibet..and how the four persons from normal world lose track of time there. A place where time stood still and one didn,t age, nor did anyone run after money and other worldly stuff. I think this was what captivated Conway the main protagonist...the mysticism of the east, a world outside the world and the timelessness of it all. The book had aroused my senses..and for a few days i had virtually lived in Shangri la ... can it exist...does it exist...

With Conway the reader is mesmerized by Shangri La, the monastery, the gold mines...but where gold has no value and the mysterious Tibetan woman in the monastery who plays the piano. An insight into the monastery and Lamas...and Conway,s encounter with the chief Lama wherein he was asked if he was ready to take over...  It was thrilling as an outsider was beckoned into this strange land and then trusted with its sacrosanct inheritance and Conway,s dilemma... this timeless land with the mysterious woman... away from the world of turbulent wars on one hand and the normal world he was in, call of normal life and normal needs.. what would he choose...

I waited breathlessly would Conway take up his new role in the monastery...but the lure of life..his assistant decided to flee, arranges everything..and his astonishment at finding the mysterious woman...who resembled emancipation and all things sacred ready to elope to the normal world. I think this shock tilted the balance and Conway deserted Shangri La for mundane life...was i disappointed...may be. The ending was tragic  as Conway dies when he leaves the Utopian world for the lust of life in a normal world where he grows very old at once and he was brought to the hospital by a lady who was very very old...the mysterious sensual Tibetan lady who when out in the world aged by normal standards!!

I do not remember all i read, verified some facts from google..nor i have an excellent memory... but it was the feeling, the sensation i had still carried all these years.. of a forbidden Tibet and a mysterious Shangri la a land defied by space and time.. a land of magic.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Kebabs

Seekh Kebabs from Karims  Near Jama Masjid Delhi

What else for K.. but the succulent sumptuous mouth watering dish.. Kebabs. History says Kebabs came to India from the middle east and being a hot favourite with the Mughals soon was improvised in Indian fine dining.  Basically grilled minced meat or a form of Indian sausage to have a precise idea . Seekh Kebabs i guess are the most popular..and India,s own Shami Kebab , Kakori and Glaouti Kebabs.

Being in Delhi i am spoiled  for choice for kebabs. Plenty of joints serve traditional, spicy, juicy kebabs...Karims, Nizams, Qureshi, Khan Chacha, Arza Biwi ke Kebabs... and specially during the Delhi winters savouring  kebabs out in the open is an amazing feeling which we cherish every year. Old Delhi is a hotspot for kebabs for the bold who has a flair for local cuisine and a strong gastronomical system to bear it all ! In north India Lucknow is another place where wonderfully done kebabs are served in many corners     of the city at a surprisingly reasonable rate with an exquisite taste and flavour. Though I have not  been to Lucknow..another place in the vicinity of the city where i had excellent Shami Kebabs was Allahabad...and who would believe mutton shami kebabs at Rs 15 per piece were served with Roomali paranthas, a must visit for food lovers in Allahabad.


Joint in Civil Lines Allahabd serving excellent mutton Shami  kebabs



Shami Kebabs

 Burra  Kebabs are another delight .... made of mutton, grilled in charcoal and the taste lies in the softness underneath and the marination...I,ve had excellent Burra Kebabs at Karim,s in old Delhi. Galouti kebabs are another interesting form of kebabs...and history has it Nawab,s chef made kebabs marinated with papaya...for a melt in mouth version. Kakoris are also authentic and indianised and a very finely textured version. Tangri Kebabs , one of my personal favourite for grilled chicken breasts and last few years we have Shawarmas...these are excellent Lebanese rolls, done with roomali rotis ( as in without oil) and herbs and tastes nothing like we had here before.. Doner Kebabs i guess from Iran and has a double coating of meat, the outer covering of minced meat and stuffing a different kind of meat.Though high on taste excessive protein content makes it a turn off.
              

Burra Kebabs

Kebabs remain one of India,s favourite starters or a main course dish with Indian breads. I still long to taste it in different countries further down west and marvel at how history and food had travelled through time and globe.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Jeans

A- Z challenge is getting tougher and running after the alphabets more intriguing...

Jeans would be my pick for J.
Indian women... do not they look beautiful , vibrant in so many attires. it wasn,t like this before. I have seen my mother, grand mother, aunts all in one single attire...the quintessential indian Saree...and it was worn without any complaints.. difficult to drape, who would arrange the pleats...no questions asked..it was saree all the way. Then women from my part of the country, eastern India , gradually adapted to the more comfortable and adaptable Salwar Kameez and i guess women started venturing out of their homes for work by then.

I had also embraced Salwar Kameez merrily as i entered into teens, the safest dress to have around, avoid all the weird looks ( well at least i felt safe). But then for me world consisted of two kinds of girls who wore jeans and who do not...!! Strange...does it sound weird... i don,t know how many would relate to me. But believe me the blue miracle beckoned many of us.. and it was not easy in middle class families ,even if you managed to convince your parents and that omni present big brother or cousin..stepping out of the house and having so many pairs of eyes following you and not in admiration necessarily was an uphill task. In my part of the city.. things were more taboo may be because it was a colony of all settlers after partition and economically and socially we were lagging far behind the others who came from the so called well off portions of the city... guess a sort of west Delhi and south Delhi for those who can relate. I had this blue pair of denims but not the guts to wear it. In today,s context things are a bit unbelievable..but girls do assess what they are going to wear according to the looks they would get basically from the men present and sometimes women as well... and somehow in our country dressing is related to the safety of women.

Then you need to look good if you wear something different.. Jeans was different. And being on the healthy and plump side it invited more of the unnecessary attention... i hope things were not my figment of imagination... really who would have time.. but the boys in the locality did.. they would stand in groups, in any shop, in any corner available pass the occasional lewd comment, what made me so paranoid... why i could never speak up!! There was this guilt, burden of being a woman.. no, actually i am not being dramatic... even if in that age i was well read and knew about women,s rights and liberties..even then as i passed the group of boys... i,d feel uncovered ,bare and hopeless. Some girls i remember would never go out alone, tag along mother or sister or anyone...but all were not so lucky. I am deviating from my Jeans post.. my blue pair wore out unused..as i moved from school to college barring few occasions

I took the opportunity while we went out for holidays to wear the cherished jeans team it up with a top or shirt. Was the rest of India more liberal...i don,t think so..but may be you do not need to carry the baggage of your own personality everywhere... Then as i moved out of my house, liberation came with job, money and more importantly the choice of outfits. I remember being proud and happy as i wore my first branded  jeans. Empowerment for women has different meanings i guess..being able to wear the blue magic was the paving stone for liberation. Before, we would talk about girls who wore jeans, species from a different world. Well, well things have changed a lot... we never wear saree, though not fail to buy expensive ones...always complain of sarees being cumbersome, impossible to drape, even disposing off salwar kameez with dupatta gradually.

Jeans had invaded all our homes, comfortable, trendy a must have for men and women of all ages... other outfits continue to rest in wardrobe at peace.. while we pull the jeans and top it up with almost anything and little by little capris, skirts, dresses... all with more dose of liberation.


If....


I was born.... different..with loads of intelligence and lots of good looks...
I wouldn,t have spent my earlier years wondering why i exist.

I cracked more exams with more marks...
I would have been...somewhere else

I was wooed by  handsome young men
With chocolates and flowers...

I had a lucrative job with loads of money
And i,d travel round the world

I could have been a free bird
Working for slum children or shooting movies

I could be slim yet savour the joy of eating
Look drop dead yet vulnerable

I could recite verses like a flowing river
And compose my own

I could change the world
Yet be loved

I were somebody else...
With 100 comments below my blog.....

No end to ifs....


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Holiday

Whats app icon was blinking...another message. I tried not to look at my smart phone and concentrate on my senior. Nodding in affirmative was the key and i did just that.

Hi...what,s going on

My message inbox hurled out the words at me as soon as senior was gone. The words were shy, staring at me beneath their long lashes just the way it happened in the Himalayas, foothills of Himalayas rather. Fingers ached to reply..and wait for her reply..Come on what,s stopping me...

Nothing much.. missing the Himalayan evenings

Fingers shot back..would it have the exact effect i wanted..it would..this little hide and seek game with a few words can do wonders and i was good at it. I knew what she would be reading into this..and i knew she,d be wanting for more. Well so long..i was winding my day at work and about to leave the office when the phone rang. Just stared at the number i have known so well, few years now...and wondered at my aversion to pick it up...men...we get bored...but mechanically i picked up the call as i headed towards the elevator.

You are out of office... more a statement than question... Good i,ll be there in five minutes

Before i could say much, elevator was there in my floor and all of us waiting stormed in. Divya.. my steady girl friend and to be wife..whom i won out of so many contenders in college. I was about to stuff the phone in my pocket..the chirping of whats app message...i knew the sender, my eyes sparkled in delight as i contemplated her next message, before actually opening it!! 

Are you... 

Two words..yes i am missing the Himalayan evenings damn it.. Just before reaching the parking lot i typed in a hurry...

Aren,t you...

How long i will continue this nonsense.. my car sped through the evening city traffic.
The Himalayas, where i went exactly... Dalhousie.. a long due holiday with mom and dad. And there i met her, so young.. fresh...travelling with her aunts. Whose idea was to share the cab...nevertheless i was very happy..she had this innocence and that small town look..and i was going to have a nice weekend. The mountains of Dalhousie..anyone would fall in love there..and i was just...well i am a man. The same hotel, and as i was sent to knock at their door to inform that cab was ready...i almost stopped breathing as the door was opened by this...morning beauty to say the least. Obviously i didn,t remember much of Dalhousie after that...who would...and i knew this Happy-Go-Luckyness of mine is a sure winner..well i had someone like Divya all over me...and this one would be an easy task. Aah i,m not flirty and selfish as i sound, i knew it would happen with anybody...and winning over each woman was a victory..every woman is unique... Three days... i was taken over by Anwesha.. even the name spelled magic. Dalhousie, Chamba, Khajjiar...and i had more of Anwesha, wanted more of her.

Asking her number was easy, yet i fumbled.

In case i send you a friend request...  I had smiled nervously.

It,s fun...this texting, waiting for her texts.. and finally i would call her. It isn,t a crime... men even women get into such things...few texts and chats, one doesn,t feel guilty because of this. That isn,t the problem. Did i want Anwesha..

The light was green, and i whisked my car along. When we started me and Divya.. a few years back..there was this magic of love..we longed for each other,we still do may be but that spell is gone..and i wonder after years of togetherness and under the wheel of ' real life'...where we would stand.

Once way back in childhood , i got a pine sapling from the hills during a school trip. I planted it at our backyard and watered it regularly. It withered after a few weeks

' Pines do not survive at an altitude less than 3000 feet, son. They are made for the hills'   Dad had explained.

Indeed. Some things are made for the hills, for the holidays... they would wither in plains like my moments with Anwesha.

My car took the service road where i could see Divya waiting impatiently.


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

G for Gulzar

Yeh saaye hain ,yeh duniya hain parchayion ki
Bhari bheed mein, khali tanhayion ki

Gulzar,s songs would echo through the house..in our tiny radio and with my limited knowledge of Hindi and more limited knowledge of Urdu...somehow there was a magic which held me...the magic of poetry coupled with mesmerizing music. Music has no language...and poetry has a language so strong that even without grasping the full sense it leads to a door half open and a world unknown. The power of his words led me to this world of film music...

Yahan saare chehre hain maange huye se
Nigaho mein aasu hain taange huye se
Badi neechi raahein hain unchayion ki

And the sultry voice of Asha Bhonsle, which would invariably bring me to the music of Ijazat. R.D , Asha Gulzar...

Mera kuch samaan tumhare paas pada hain
Sawan ke kuch bheege bheege se din rakhe hain
Aur..mere ek khat mein lipti raat padi hain
Wo raat bujha do... mera wo samaan lauta do





Haunting, gives me goosebumps and when alone...some moistness in eyes, never fails...
Songs are endless and the poetry captivating.

Humne dekhi hain un aankho ki mehekti khusbhu
Haath se chuke ise rishton ka ilzaam na do
Sirf ehsaas hain yeh rooh se mehsoos karo
Pyar ko pyar hi rahne do...koi naam na do 

I cannot dare to translate.. simply breathe in the soulful music and wonder at the magically woven words.
And more...

Yeh soch ke baithi hu...ek raah to wo hogi
Tum tak jo pahuchte hain
Is mod se jaate hain

And my favourite road song

Raah pe rahte hain
Yaadon pe basar karte hain
Khush Raho ahle watan
Hum to safar karte hain

And the song i love to hear in the hills

Phir se ayo badra bidesi
Tere palko mein moti jadungi...




It is difficult to share what i feel in this script and i am unable to upload the videos as well...but i know all Gulzar lovers we share a bond...bond of music and poetry...eternally.I have left out so many...only three out of innumerable jewels...a world of it own..his compositions.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Fishy Business

Wikipedia Images





So fishy. Ever since a Bengali infant officially and religiously is found eligible for proper eating...he is being fed  with fish. We learn to have fish in all days, macher jhol bhaat ( light fish gravy and rice) for regular meals, sorshe maach ( mustard fish) almost everyday until an overdose of mustard upsets the now fishy digestive system!! Be it weddings, parties any functions..it,s all fishy...

My earliest memories is of the fish made by grandma. And grandpa loading  bags with fish and veggies ringing his bicycle bell impatiently outside the gate of our house... me rushing to the gate first but he would be ringing more until he had the undivided attention of all! That was a daily ritual. Lunch would be an elaborate meal normal  four to five course if not more and fish was an inevitable part. But then there were so many different kinds of fish, so many ways to cook and i cherished grandma,s excellent cooking...from normal maacher jhol to that dry choto macher chorchori ( a medley of tiny fish and spices really) and muri ghanta ( we make it with fish head combined with rice or you can subsitute rice with veg, when it becomes lau diye murighanta.)And to take out the fish bones, somehow each bengali did it automatically and the tongue served as an excellent filter separating bones from the fish and most of the times i loved chewing the bones off as they were done very juicy and spicy. Yes we do not get the bones off and  it is cooked with bones intact!!

Living on the coast of a mighty river had its advantages and having access to fresh water fish was one of them. Preparation was cumbersome most of the times, specially cleaning and cutting in those days. Ladies would squat and clean and peel fish with the special Indian knife used for the purpose balancing it with feet and it would take hours specially for the smaller variety and next part frying them in mustard oil which is supposed to take away any raw stench associated with the fish. Last part is the cooking which is relatively simpler.
No story of fish ends in a Bengali home without Ilish (Hilsa)...the flavour the taste makes it the undisputed  king...not for the meek because of being way bony than its counterparts, Ilish invites the daring to come and fall in love with it and hence i guess it remained confined in bengali homes.


Earlier days there was this pride in hanging the costliest fish available in market and carrying it to home, being the object of  neighbour,s envy!! In a function before my wedding i remember there was this huge fish lying in front of me marked with vermilion, brought by my in laws, being the necessary  talisman. Guess along with being part of daily meals it is integrated into the hearts of  bengalis and their emotions..to the light stew during times of illness to the spicy chorchori fish is everywhere. Cooked with vegetables at times it can be quite healthy, or the simple maach bhaja ( fish fry which we gobble with rice) so many combinations are possible.



So happy Fishing for us!!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Email

Hi

I didn,t think we will meet again...well i did...but in dreams !! Well, well no idea what you would be thinking about me but you know i had worried about that all through my school and college days and at least today i deserve to... you know open out...

Swati, i think you know or at least have known that i had a serious serious crush on you!! How i wish to see a smile on your lips as you read this. (Today i am going to take all the liberties and continue albeit shamelessly.) Our school i know you remember as well as i do , somehow studious students were a separate brand altogether and well left out and avoided by all!! I think we both were in the same category in different classes plus if you look thin and short like me and healthy and hearty like you ( you would not want to kill me for that would you!!) we should not even exist. But we did  you and me and so many like us... I don,t know exactly when i knew i had this thing for you or those boys made me think that..but i was happy with it. Like me you were not a wanted species with the opposite sex, i always saw you with what were their names...can,t recall really, either scribbling in class, or giggling among yourselves during lunch..three of you were hugely shy, awkward and under confident.Was i better off, not really but being a boy had its own advantages at least in those days.

You had and still have beautiful expressive eyes ( some boys knew about it)..and i think someone pointed that to me and from some day i began stealing glances . I know you never knew of that, you were in another world with those two girls i began to hate who would not let you alone though i had no idea what i would do alone.I continued like this for one year and then just after my school finals i had this fatal attack of typhoid , it was dreadful , guess i was you know about to die...lots of doctors, sadhus.. finally i was able to be on my own and you know i was in the same class as you!! We were in a bigger school then and you hardly knew me. I wondered so many times if you ever knew what happened to me and if you would ever come to see me...but i suppose the truth was you barely knew i existed. In the bigger school you looked a bit different, the awkwardness gone a bit and yes i have to say you looked beautiful...this time i made my presence felt to you in the pretext of lending some book through another guy of our class.( I simply told, tell her to come and take the book from me..boldest thing i ever did) After that i knew you were aware of me, i caught you staring at me...and you know you made me absolutely speechless and i think i stopped dead in the stairs one day...before you removed your eyes!! Do you remember Swati... I was certain of the look you gave me, gave me goosebumps but you know that tough exterior of yours...made me go numb. Swati i could not come near you...ahhh mobile, facebook, email...nothing was there in those days. When we had appeared for our exams, i knew i had very little time, i would lose you forever. And i did. I could not come to you.

I got admission in a good engineering college..though  i thought about you for many days but i guess i had also grown up to be a charming man  still short and thin but there were girls i,d go out with and in some day i didn,t realise i had actually stopped thinking about you. I had two very solid affairs and got married to my second girl friend. Somehow i never heard anything about you from anyone...upto a certain time when i visited our home town my eyes would look around frantically...if..if..i can see you. I knew you were studying in the same town, i,d visit our school sometimes...but you were not there. I,d turn the pages of my diary to find some verses where i could smell you or may be i can breathe in my first love..or let us say first crush. I also had this scene written down where we would meet in the future and i would the emotions pouring from your eyes...i lost the diary finally as i lost you and began to live my life.

I came to the hospital for routine check up, as is my habit stuck up conversation with your grand daughter....don,t get surprised..our hometown ,our school finally i asked her your name.I never knew Swati this was how we will meet. I followed her to your bed..you didn,t recognize...infact you never recognized me Swati in school. college never. 

Is she dying

Your granddaughter gave me a stern look

She will fight back

Before i left, i asked her if you had any email id and after i got hold of your address...here i am.
Swati you will open this mail won,t you...these are magic... mail and facebook and whatsapp had all those been there in our days...i,d have...i could have dared. You don,t believe me do you.. Swati was it real... the way you looked at me..or your eyes were pretty..did you stare at me so intensely that i stopped right in the middle of the class...finally i,d get a reply. 

P.S Don't worry i am a very happy well settled man with two pairs of grand children and one lovely nagging wife.

Waiting for your reply

Yours... at least for a few years was all yours...
Sujan



Friday, 4 April 2014

Dear Ninni

Dear Ninni

You are growing up...beautifully, slowly and before i know one day i will have this beautiful woman staring at me!!  I had only a faint idea how mothers feel and think before you and yes only after your entry into our lives i vaguely began to feel what it was about.

So what do i actually have to tell this growing young woman... not much really..you will discover all the magics and tricks of life, all by yourself and since, let me say this ,not a believer of any beliefs or rules you will never be loaded with my thoughts, so in a word you will be baggage free at least from my side. So i will go candid with you , one thing i need to tell you Ninni i am a non believer as in believing in God or any supernatural power neither i am religious. Having said that i need to tell you as well, i have grown up in a family where pujas were performed every single day and i have been part of the ritual and honestly i am not against any such thing rather love all the festivity. But i do not see any need to believe...that might sound downright audacious arrogant..but it is simple actually, i feel i do not need to believe in anything supernatural, believe in myself and believe in doing good. But i am not in a war, a simple human with all my weaknesses so there is no ego about it, i can join my hands before God and close my eyes yet actually not believe. As you grow up you may find this strange, so just a bit of explanation from my side..i try to be good and do good but then good is also a relative thing where you define your own parameters.

Next.. expectations..i would still like to say i don,t expect much but then as you are growing up, i have automatically started taking pride in your achievements. Hope it sticks to having that pleasure seeing you achieve and not feel that pressure, another form of peer pressure and start resenting if you do not in any instance. But somehow this confidence is there i would always see you as a happy, contented, successful woman. It is very difficult Ninni to detach yourself from the life of someone who took shape bit by bit inside you. I guess as much as we would like to be involved in your lives, at one point we have to let go and i hope i can do it at the right time and yet be there for you always , like my parents have been with me.

Love...yes i,d like to see you in love, believe in love, take your own decisions in love, write secret poems, wipe your tears in solitude...what kind of mother am i !! But there are some things in life where you have to fall and then find your own way to strike back again and i only wish to be there for you.But then this generation as i call it , the laptop, i pad, smart phone generation would you ever feel the pangs of love in teenage, nurse a wounded heart, listen to love songs or secretly admire someone...i have doubts. things are very fast ( of course in comparison) and there is hardly any time to ponder as you move in to next..but that,s  how life,s going to be fast, unforgiving, hard and you would do your best to be at par.Men are good to be with Ninni and i hope you meet the right men...yes men as ' right' might have different meaning in different stages of life.

Your father terms 'What,s in it for me' generation..indeed. Yet i would like to see you achieving, working, brave , independent..trying to change the world in a way i could not....So many things going wrong in the society we live, wouldn,t you attempt to change..at least stand your ground and stand to what you feel right.
All these are expecting too much my be...but that,s how i,d like you to be...bright, bold, happy as you are now..well may be not so bold, as you hide your face in mama,s lap as someone asks you about your new school...but this gives this proud ' mama' feeling i know all mothers have.All said and done you do not have the most perfect, fussy, caring mother in the world...one truth you would discover soon...but you have a loving mother, waiting to learn as much from you, see the world again through your eyes and whose world is filled by your presence, where you breathe life into her existence, shield her from all storms.

So much to tell you.

Love
Yours Ma

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Charu

Charu...the name....a bell rang very far off...did i recall... Ma was smiling at me.. See do you know her... Did i...a shy dark strongly built woman flashing her white pearls at me, an infant rubbing his face on her chest and a toddler tugging at her saree.

They all look the same basically, all the domestic helps ma appoints and disappoints..she should be another of them, hard to know them really, but Charu...was she the one who tagged along as her mom used to work and later tagged along with me...dark, a bunch of unkempt unoiled hair and those mystified eyes...well i was looking into same old Charu , my companion my Guru on those days, well the days which i have the earliest memories of.

A small house extended at various parts without bothering about geometry but a house with a backyard and yes... a pond and wherein me and Charu embarked on our journey of  childhood. How aptly she would climb trees and ridiculed me as i struggled with my steps...finally when i would manage she would jump off from the branch with squeals of laughter. She would dive into the pond when the whole house was in siesta...she was not allowed  with all the dirt oozing out of her shabby clothes. I remember her having her meals quietly with her mother on the floor outside the kitchen as we finished ours in the dining table.

Did i ever feel there was some sort of  lack of parity , i didn,t i guess..i enjoyed looking at her mystified eyes as i was whisked into the car for school and after school would happily join her in running around the house or any silly game she invented. At her insistence would take out extra bit of chocolate bar, or some cookies or pickles and watch her as she licked all bit by bit. But then my world was widening... school ,friends and running after the sturdy unkempt Charu was falling way behind in my list of priorities. During one of those holidays and one of the regular puja performed  in our house...lots of cousins around and i was busy playing with them the entire day, Ma, grandma loaded us with goodies from puja in between and i never remember taking note of Charu staring from some corner. It was dusk... we were winding up our evening games, i went to kitchen for some water...and i felt like a wind Charu storm out of the kitchen with rustle of her frock.

Charu

I yelled and ran after her some sixth sense striking me, catching her up by her frock.

What are you hiding

Tried to pull open her clenched fists as tears brimmed her eyes.

Let me see

Some sweets of puja offerings crumpled in her fists, her cheeks flooded with tears as she ripped her hand apart from my grip.

Chor ( Thief)... the scream came automatically...i still didn,t understand why i had to do it...

Cousins gathered around me for the fun... as  Charu ran for her life before staring at me horrified for a couple of moments.
Guess that was the last of Charu i have seen.

At least till today.

Dadababu how are you

Charu was smiling

Something twisted inside my throat as i cleared it to speak... i could not frame words and put up a smile...twenty years almost i guess would Sorry make a sense.. can i get myself to do it...

I am good Charu

I smiled back.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

B for Biryani




B...for the dish whose aroma and sight tickles the palates of every food loving Indian, the dish is a magical combination of spice, flavour and taste and simply capable of a sensual revelation!!


Yes B is for Biryani...once designated as the epitome of good food rather food of kings and Nawabs...and over the years it has reached slowly to middle class homes from fancy restaurants to street joints and has become the ubiquitous Biryani...simply the name causes a sensation of breathing in the aroma and i can invariably feel the hunger pangs !!

Well basically rice and meat cooked together, yes we do have a veggie version which does taste good...but i guess the delight lies in this aromatic combination of rice and meat..though i agree vegans might differ. Anyway coming from a rice loving part of India since childhood i had rices of all kind and yes difficult to believe but three meals a day constituted of rice and yet it still does in my husband,s hometown ( guess that's the magic of abnormally high triglycerides in my lipid profile report). And gradually in our part of the country we learnt that long grained rice ( basmati) was costlier and had this magical flavour and which most of the times normal middle class families cannot afford. Eating out was not much a concept in vogue in those days and normally we did with three time home cooked meals...first it was common Indian snacks and sweets available plenty in the market, gradually rolls, noodles , momos later burger pizzas...the fast food brigade made their entries and with it gradually the concept of eating out..and i guess first tryst with Biryani...

Spices sauteed in clarified butter and this heavenly combo of rice and meat cooked in each other,s juices in a sealed pot..in short is the mystery of  Biryani...then comes Hyderabadi, Awadhi ,Pakistani and my favourite Kolkata Biryani. Nizami and Awadhi are often too rich in spices to be relished with the modern frail digestive system...but Kolkata adds a mildness or a fall from royalty just for the masses... a juicy combination of rice and meat and yes the USP..marinated potatoes with the dish...i heard when the Nawab fled from Lucknow with his chef to Kolkata..he used potatoes in lieu of meat in days of financial crisis...and yes potatoes cooked with mutton or chicken...dipped in rice and covered with fried onions...are a mini heaven in themselves and the boiled egg adds to the extra layer of fats you need to coat yourself with!!

Served with Raita ( yogurt flavoured with spices cucumber etc), mirchi ka salan ( in hyderabad) or some meat gravy the Biryani is unparalleled. No way humble or mild...rich, extravagant , sensual, hot all would fail to complement her and for Indian foodies B  would always be exclusively for her!! 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Adrita

Whoever thought of such a name!!  I shook my head in frustration. Adrita as in Aadrita... then why the hell second A is missing..we have kept it simple..mom,s standard reply...oh really..Aditya, Adwita etc etc simple really.

Born in Delhi to East Bengali or to be precise to sylheti parents,(whose parents were in turn uprooted from another land),torn between Hindi, Bengali, the strange sounding Bengali i heard all speaking at home...i never knew which language to pick up. I remember picking up Hindi early in life.. guess it was a safe bet. And the yearly struggles when they took me to their respective home towns...my attempt to frame Bengali sentences...ridiculed by the other children at times but most of the times i loved the attention as they watched me speaking the language of the movies effortlessly. But why Adrita... Well there wasn,t consensus in any more name...Mom used to say...Neera was my first choice ..from some Bengali poetry..But then people started saying it was an old name..so what next...i loved Mohona..u know where river meets the sea...your both grandmoms had objection...no naming after river...( imagine in the land of Ganga Yamuna Kaveri Sipra Narmada!!)...your teetu ( maternal grandma was teetu) dished out names after names from Bengali soaps Oishi, Oindrila and thammu ( paternal grandma) was after a name with 'K'.. Kanaya...to prevent the onslaught of K i dished out Adrita ( suggested by Teetu as she heard the name of a participant in Sourav ganguli,s show) and my own Drishti...and when the priest inserted chits of the three or four names under the earthen lamps...Adrita lasted longest...so here i was Adrita.

Then the constant frowns Adrita is it humidity...from Adrata i guess...nnooooo from Aadar...mom,s standard reply..Aadar as in love in Bengali and not the kind of respect as in Hindi...i heard these the umpteenth time from mom. Why did they move to Delhi...why not stay contented wherever they were rather than dragging their world with them...was what i wondered in my teens..and yes i knew the answer ..to make it big or simply for living...but torn between rice and roti, Bengali , Hindi , some Punjabi and Jat...Durga Puja and Diwali, fish and rajma...huh who would understand my daily battles...

My flight took off finally from Delhi International Airport...after some normal hitches...and i turned my head towards the window after the feisty conversation with the elderly lady besides me..lingering over my name. Delhi was vanishing from my eyes...i was touching the skies and within half an hour i would enter Pakistani sky...and then few more hours to Europe. How would i name the life inside me..an Indian name of course and spend few minutes explaining...as i am dragging little bit of home with me just as my parents did...and assert my existence in the land i live and force my child to feel in the world we are no longer a part of...