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Thursday, 8 October 2020

Chai Chai

Tea, coffee or... real cheesy line of yester years 😊! Tea it would be for most of us , in daily mornings , family evenings, work breaks, in between studies, for the masses as well as for the classes. Yes in airport lounges though hold the boisterous coffee cup for a whilefor somewhat peer pressure may be, yet most of the times we Indians have that Dil Se connection with chai be it cutting, adrak wali , doodh patti ( I never knew it existed) ,masala chai, lemon tea...just strikes a chord with heart and the cup of freshness plucks the strings just at the right places.

Reminiscence of childhood summer vacations often take me to the lush green tea gardens of one not so famous tea estate owned by the Tata's, Hathigor tea estate! My grandpa's quarter was my idea of a big house, three bedrooms , one living room and the huge space in front of the house and the larger backyard along with a big garden full of mango, jamun, jackfruit trees and yes a pair of toilets almost hundred metres away and just beyond the toilets there was this wire fencing and acres of green tea gardens almost covering the horizon! Tea garden labours were heard chatting, blabbering as they made their way to the gardens in the morning and while they returned in the evening after the siren . The tea leaf factory was nearby, we could hear the machines buzz, look at the exhaust fans roll and smell the warm whiff of tea leaves, specially at night . Naturally being from this land , tea was our go to drink once you reach adolescence or teens, for those evenings with chai samosa or chai pakoda or dipping those Marie biscuits or rusks in the morning, or those late night study sessions with a cup of laal sa may be.

Being a hardcore foodie, I know tea lovers will vehemently oppose, for me tea was  always an accompaniment for muri bhaja, biscuits, dalmoth and without snacks I’d be lost with my cuppa like a rudderless ship! Though sometimes for the sake of long hours of study did manage a biscuit less cup of tea  but no not at all my cup of tea exactly. Getting hitched with someone who can gulp gallons of tea changed the equation a bit and I began to long for my morning and evening cuppas as my habit, needless to say with accompaniments galore. Rainy days ( rains are scarce in NCR region) calls for chai pakoda, as ideal as it gets for a combo and with it if you add the bong quintessential adda and some music ,heaven it is! Winters too just hanker for tea , the warm cuppa dealing with the chill specially if it is served in bed and you just need to get one arm out of the blanket to hold the cup! That's called a treat really.

Sipping tea with elders was considered first official entry to the adult world! College canteen, umpteen cups of runny tea  with occasional matthi, balusahi, literal storms over tea cups, from politics to art, tea has seen it all. Slipping through the backdoor, buying sweets and samosas to be served with tea for the unannounced guest! Well guests if at all, aren't  unannounced any more. Back in Assam we love our tea with strong flavour of tea leaf while here in north it's more milk and ginger and masalas. All said and done nothing like this concoction for our Indian minds to rejuvenate, refresh, give soul to our addas... and from the tea gardens of childhood, to the solitary chaiwala humming Chai Chai untiringly in the wee hours past midnight in a compartment with passengers peacefully tucked in their blankets!

' Bhai do baje koi chai lega'  Someone spoke with exasperation

' Kya pata sahab!'   He  went on , ' Chai Chai'

Still railway stations and train compartments reverberate with the sound... Chai Chai.... Chai anyone!

Time for my evening tea.

Axom deshor baagisa re suali...after all...as Bhupen Da had mentioned ☺️!

Monday, 28 September 2020

Dear Daughter


Exaggeration you shudder at

'Cut the drama' is what I get!

The stage was set long back

When the pediatric waved a little bundle

Is it a girl, I nudged your dad!

The warm soft wrap who smelled of love

Bellowing, grunting for food moment she was up!

Of moments of growing up

Toothless smiles and colic galore

Of sleepless nights and lulabies sans notes

Of My Little Pony,unicorns ,Chota Bheem too!

Of a little lady caught surfing youtube in online classes!

( Already being killed for this!)

Of a supercool mom screaming discipline 

While editing her dp in insta!

The show is on girl!

Monday, 3 August 2020


The drift was there, slow and steady 
Dark clouds gave way
To a listless bleak evening.

Could we freeze the perpetual flow of time
Hit pause button may be,
Lock those fervent moments, for time immemorial!

The roads we walked, the closest we stood
The cracks that crept in stealthily 
Love that slipped lucidly 
Were we ready to lose 
What we could never have!

The road ahead ,dead and deserted
Few twists and drifts later, 
Together would we tread ,
Deadly curves , unlimited speed
Yet closest would we meet!

Like floating clouds,would we merge
And prittle prattle as much!

Friday, 26 June 2020

Dear Ninni

'Unlock the Lock Down'

These are the days of lock down! Corona virus has creeped in to our country, city, society, building and we stay huddled in our homes most of the times! You too play those strange games in tab and listen to those strange songs day and night! Your so called wanderlust mom too initially blown apart by lock down cringed and fretted  but then you learn loving what you have, once you find out ways to deal with it! We all dealt with it in ways we could find. 

This post isn't about lock down though. Lock down, corona would be etched in your memory. Online classes , sessions with friends and as I see you growing tall all within the four walls, as if you almost are going to miss a year of your life. But then we do not know what lies ahead, global warming, pollution , would there be air to breathe, would there be life as we call normal,we do not know really. At this stage being alive and healthy in our country seems an accomplishment.

People are doing wonderful things in the lock down, facebook flooded with posts of exotic food, jaw dropping paintings, dance, music what not and finishing all household chores deftly as well. First few days I was at loss, slept, slept and slept more, barring a few chores, slept through the day! Then gathering myself a bit, juggled between books, bit of cooking or chores, bit of exercise, unlimited time in mobile marveling at others' feats and life wasn't so bad after all. Holidays, vacations, socialising weren't  as important as it seemed in social media and the beauty of doing nothing was setting in. 

There wasn't any dearth of time, though we used to have long talks earlier as well, me and and your grandma had longer talks these days. All mundane regular talks, what to cook, what to eat, what my neighbours did, what my masis worked at and lots of reminiscing of bygone days! Of grandma and aunts, of childhood days when I used to throw huge tantrums, and gradually conversation would drift to those uncomfortable genres, ' You were so so spoiled, look at your daughter, she isn't like you!'
'Yeaah, ok, Let me hang up.'  I would shift uncomfortably, then she would add ' Ok I wasn't so lovey dovey, you were so scared of me!' Then as I would relax bit, would come the smash ' You were impossible though'. Conversations would linger, reflections, music, movies, relatives , Baba being withdrawn in his world of books, sports with an ailing ear, my handsome brother's photo been rejected here and there,we would talk and talk. 

With time immense, catching up with old friend, ignited some memories of the late eighties, when Baba was posted at Goalpara. The quaint little town, with the mighty river and hills was my grazing ground. Not at all aware of the realities lurking around, I used to roam around the town with friends, whose parents let them. Ma being busy with infant brother, I almost knew the little town , its lanes, road to the river, the club where my father played table tennis and quite well at that , the dreamy road to circuit house, the tower up the hill. 
'How I let u wander like that'  Ma would ponder, some guilt and some dread at the possibilities thirty two years back.
Then memories working overtime, I could recall all the names of the roads, shops, the directions, the people I knew, the names we called them, Baba would have some fictional names for all. Friends I had, things I tried to do, from being Famous Five to emulate Steffi Graf ( Not to be disclosed how). Then it was confession time and I disclosed, first to you and your father, then to your grandma , well I was a little younger than you when I watched the first movie with my classmate without telling anyone of course! Movie was Qayamat se Qayamat Tak, which after much persuading Baba had taken me to watch, then why I...just we wanted to watch again so me and my classmate, one fine day amidst all the long walks we had, I don't remember how we gathered the funds, might be I saved money from rickshaw fares and we barged in to Kalpana Cinema Hall with hearts beating fast. Rest of the movie passed by incident free, except for the man sitting by my side staring hard or pushing slightly with elbow, we were too dazed to be bothered with something so trivial! Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla painted our world for us, though I remember my classmate was not promoted to sixth class and might be her parents enrolled her in a different school. Me too guilt ridden and with the gory realities I was vis a vis with, hushed hushed our adventures and tried not to remember . Though picture postcard of Aamir Khan in white jogging suit, sun behind was tucked safely in the last page of  LIC diary I got from Baba, important to tell you here good boxing I got in my ears as Baba discovered the post card!!

Finally the cat was out of the closet, and my Ma howled ,' How could you!! You were just ten may be! How did I not know! Why did I let you!'

Year was 1988, and I still didn't know why I did or how I could. Certainly not proud of myself and the man next to me pushing elbows, but then it was done. Yes you may say or your grandma would say I did take advantage of all the freedom they let me have  unless I was scared stiff of the world around and would think of cringing in my home and not venture out.

Your wanderlust mom still has it in her, the seeds of freedom sown in childhood you cannot let go. My soul still takes flights, my mundane body as well, be it through  books or travel websites or those trips with friends. And as I reflect, your grandma and I shudder at those possibilities, both have our souls loaded with guilts but then since when I wanted to be perfect and there remains still a lot of things I have done, which technically I must not have. Accepting helps, guilt isn't necessary, sometimes we do things unaware ,sometimes we know fully yet tread into paths which do not make much sense. Yes I know it was only a movie I watched, you having access to almost all the movies of the world , this hardly makes any sense also this twelfth floor balcony does not give you much idea of roaming in woods, river bank , climbing the lovely green hill. Yet your world is beautiful, all entertainment at your finger tips, hardly any curiosity or prying in the adult world. 

Make your memories, make your mistakes. Life isn't about being perfect .Would love to listen thirty two years hence and wonder how I let you! Preserve your guilts, love yourself , unlock the lock down and rock on!

Yours Ma

Saturday, 4 April 2020


I was thinking lunch...
We pondered...
Ok lunch then!
We shot those smileys at each other!
Whilst memories stirred...love,laughter
Togetherness..insane moments
There weren't lost promises...
 Promises there were none

Years between us
Love found and lost
Time won and we were apart
Yet we decided one lunch it would be.
Might be some laughter, some old times
We would hold hands, look into eyes!
Hum some tunes, speak of life
Of diabetes and kidney stones!

Awkward and shy, we met.
Years melted and there were us!
As we were, as we never had been.
We cracked stupid jokes
And laughed and loved
To be back to life by evening!
Like phoenix love rose
Raised her feeble voice...

We were busy, so busy
'Hey listen, listen to me, I'm here!!
I've always been here, listen to me once.'
Your rings of smoke, did pause once...
But we were smart, we called the shots
One lunch and we move on!
We did like always
She did wail..'Listen to me!'

A decade turned upside down
We couldn't answer the questions we posed
She laughed her way into us
'I told you, listen to me'
There was no coffee,only some badly assembled lunch
There were us, decade long us
There was love, gloating over her victory
There were us, whom she left, who left her
And found again!

Saturday, 28 March 2020


' Parichay on tv! I was what eight/nine,we were watching Parichay at the big coloured screen at our neighbour's when Baba dragged me midway. My hungry soul gobbled the story from u later, Ravi jumped from train for Rama!

' I was brilliant at  stories' Ma gloated, ' Once my sisters were spellbound when I narrated Basera, the story unfolding like movie '

' That explains! Girls common room, me spinning yarns from novels , "Is it a movie," Girls listened wide eyed!Carribeans to Pariries, my fables wandered!'

 Two decades later, two disagreeable, argumentative  souls smiled in agreement .


Wednesday, 9 October 2019


It stood tall, relentless as we stared awe struck ,sinking in its enormity . We, as in around twenty of us on our first day at IGI Airport in a foggy wintry morning in the NATS complex! The ATC tower was nothing like anything we had set our eyes on before, for most of us who came from different corners of the country and all small towners!

We stepped in with lots of pride, awe and really a mixed bag of feelings as one ponders a decade after. By this time we had a fairly good idea of what our job was going to be like after rigorous grilling sessions of six months in CATC but the sheer magnificence of the structure blew the arrogance out of the super smart among us even! For most of us seeing an airplane this close was something we never imagined we would be doing on a regular basis. Each departure and arrival was a manoeuvre of  grace, technology all rolled into wonder and it did take time to sink in actually the planes listened to us! Years later I remember overhearing my juniors, actually one explaining another pointing to a jumbo waiting in a taxi track intersection...” Dekh bhai a rickshaw won’t stop in your mohalla no matter how you scream, here ek awaz doge, jumbo ruk  padega.” I smiled in my chair, that was some synopsis of our job and funny it may sound ,actually holds true. Each word counts and counts dearly.

Before around fifteen years, when I joined Delhi airport, it was not such a complex mesh of taxiways and terminal buildings. Things were much simpler with one domestic and one international terminal and few taxiways connecting the main runway on domestic and international side. Tower position was a dreaded one with continuous arrival departures in a single runway and the quickening of heartbeat as an aircraft taking a tad longer to roll, arrival approaching and all so neatly visible most of the times. With the radar screen as aid, with various figures in display , controller making his decisions and sometimes the one and a half hour slot passed in a jiffy. Low cost airlines were mushrooming at that time, Air Deccan leading the band and traffic density gradually burgeoning. The single runway was unable to sustain the increasing load, and using existing converging secondary runway did not help much either. We were at the edge of our seats most of the time, waiting for the tail of arrival to steer clear of runway , read ‘ Cleared for take off’ , wait with bated breath till the aircraft is airborne and  assuring the arriving aircraft runway will be vacant till she reaches final all the while...some conviction it requires really! Surface movement radar was not commissioned initially and the great foggy days of Delhi were dealt with much difficulty and the total chaos once the fog lifts with all airlines jostling for sequence! Remember one pilot shooting at me , ‘ Madam, are you allowing me to leave Delhi or not today!!’  Glad he imagined Madam was bestowed with so much brains and brawn!

With privatisation of the airport , like magic ,taxiways, new bays and an entire new runway sprung out of nowhere and we were floundering coping up with the changes and procedures induced by these rapid construction everywhere. The entire new group of bays, terminals and the slick swanky T3 (functional in 2010) the crafting of a new state of the art airport ,this tower witnessed it all. Change was so drastic and so overwhelming and so frequent that we stopped being perplexed and bowed down. Not that we had much of an option ! From the soft blue taxiway lights at lazy nights, mainly catering to few international departures and arrivals it turned into a busy airport with all the hustle bustle all 24/7 now with all sorts of lightings available , catering up to CAT III B arrivals ( RVR upto 50 metres) and LVTO departures. The number of movements increased drastically with many low cost carriers plunging into the field and aviation industry saw a major  boom. The figures kept soaring, and the new runway south of airfield was constructed as if with a magic wand, to cater to the ever growing demand of flights ,to feed the hungry giant of development. Our tower witnessed in awe the new runway and the total 360 degree occupancy of controllers, more and more complicated taxiways and more SOP s to cope with it all! We were growing and how! Like all things that grow and flourish, the growth itself gets so gigantic, it  consumes the agents which were the harbingers of change as a minuscule part of the system. So with new bays, new terminals, the epitaph of this tower was gradually being coined with the rapid construction of the grand new tower, taller ,mightier and in a few months seemed to stare down with amusement at its not-so-affluent counterpart.

We began working with Auto Track1, the automation system functional at IGI, and then upgraded to its advanced versions AT 2 and 3. With new radars installed, the entire system performed seamlessly and IGI was the airport yielding maximum daily and hourly movements.We were having over 1300 movements per day  which by itself was an achievement.  With all its glitches, the controllers, the system, the tower all worked in unison with a common goal and the output inspired to achieve more. But as they say nothing is more permanent than change. We were ushered into the tall, slick, gigantic new tower (DATS) and this new tower had a new automation system  just to make our life a tad more tough, as if the ensuing change was not enough!  We huffed and puffed and are still struggling to manage the entire traffic, to come to terms with this paradigm shift. The work we performed all these years suddenly threw more challenges and we are fighting as a team to achieve what we are supposed to.

 ' The old order changeth yielding place to the new!' Lord Tennyson could foresee it a century earlier so we just need to follow suit.  On being asked by our GM , I said ' Sir we are trying to adjust our eyes in the new radar screen' , 'Yes' he had nodded, ' Fifteen years of habit won't wane off in a day'. Indeed it won't. Our 'old' workplace and consoles are deserted now, that which used to be the heart and soul of Delhi ATC lies barren, untouched, uncared for. Seniors fondly recall the old tower which was operational from 1999 (NATS ) and what a shifting it had been twenty years ago! The shift from procedural to radar environment, secondary radar firming its foothold over primary, the feeling of practically ' seeing' each aircraft as a firm beep in radar screen, the controlling took a massive leap from conjuring images in the head to blatantly reacting to things visible clearly with the minute details. Delhi ATC was almost at par with its international counterparts.

 The NATS tower is etched in our heart and soul, the nooks and corners, the roof just beneath the tower area, where I had quietly watched many take offs and landings. Me and my friend had sneaked in to the roof to watch the Air Force One land in a misty morning and  had waved to Barrack Obama silently!! Saw the first Airbus 380 land ,  witnessed so many storms , spent  nights controlling and in the initial younger days, someone told me some prince landed from some middle east country, I had stretched my eyes for a glimpse... well , prince, really!!

Time to bid goodbye, to the place of work and worship with lots of memories, lots of love and tighten the seat belt for a tough road ahead. Shed off doubts and apprehensions and plunge in, like we always had and ensure perfect  controlling in DATS. The Delhi ATC fraternity will wade through this tough time  and emerge again confident, passionate and with a zeal to achieve more. Just a matter of time. With hopes high, aspirations galore, targeting high numbers as much as 1500 daily by next year, leap in hourly movements as well, we would be and still are a force within ourselves,striving for excellence and committed whole heartedly to assure the safety and security of  the aircraft we provide service to and an asset to the organization we work for.

Till then from DATS to NATS... Goodbye...time to let go!