Thursday, 14 June 2018

Suresh Bhai RIP

If it was a small world and we would all be staying near each other, Suresh Bhai was one person I would definitely love to have as one of my neighbours.
We were all young kids, playing, going to school, not caring about the world as kids do, when this Marwari family moved into the neighbourhood. Initially they were introduced to us by a close doctor friend of my father. My first memory is of a young Suresh standing on our doorsteps with a box of nail polish as a gift. Young, shy and answering my father's myriad questions. They had a stationery / electrical / all in one shop right on the main Ranihat Square which seemed to populate the streets of Cuttack. I guess this was their attempt to know the local families and integrate with them.

Over the years Suresh became an integral part of our family even calling my parents Nana and Bou. Their shop was a favourite pit stop for everyone from our house. I sometimes wonder.. why did they chose us when our colony had another 20 odd households? His mother would drop by for gossip while his father remained the quiet soul he was. Suresh was brash, exuberant and fun while Sushil Bhai, his brother, seemed to be the responsible one. But there was a spark to him, a jest for life, a wish to go places all bound with an overwhelming love for people he liked.

I got married and moved away from home. Lost contact with my town for a long time. My brothers too moved away but hardly ever lost touch with anyone. Ten years back when I caught up with happenings... realised Suresh and his family were doing well. From the small shop, the brothers had graduated into real estate and other shops. Last time I met Suresh was just 3 months back. At a wedding of the grandchild of a friend of my father's. The same friend who had supported the Agarwal family when they had first reached Cuttack. (This is how some relationships in Cuttack endure!) Met the same Suresh with his wife and kids. The kids looked ready to take over.

I didn't know that was the last I would see Suresh Bhai. Feeling an overwhelming sadness with the knowledge that he is no more. I do hope he realised at least some of his dreams. And his sons carry the love he had for life and people, forward.


Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The Missing Key

Today morning while driving, when I did my customary obeisance to HIM, I felt a strange sense of foreboding. Some unnamed fear seemed to follow me, to beckon at me.  For generations we have worshipped a wooden God with His round all seeing eyes. On large wall calendars, recent desktop calendars, pocket calendars, key rings, wall hangings, dashboards, book covers, He is everywhere. And when He is not present in any seeing form, He makes His presence felt somewhere deep in our minds and hearts. He seems to be just Present.
Kids exams, problems at home, fight with family, husband,  problems at job, ill health, anything,  any small problem or non-problem, I run to him, seek solace and find it. Today He was there sitting on my car’s dashboard, when I started my car, closed my eyes for a second… when I felt this strange thing.
Now, why?
Is it because of something personal? Some deep seated fear or insecurity? But ups and downs are part of life and I accept it. I prefer to think it is because of something more encompassing, less personal.
Is it because we are so far gone as a world, so bent on destruction, that he stirred, and hence sent those waves of uneasiness through his followers? Is it just the case of a lost key to his wealth, to the inner recesses of the Ratna Ghar? Is it because His personal sanctuary has been invaded? Being as sought after as He is, wandering from house to house, heart to heart, He does need a place to call his own. So when the key to His inner abode got lost, was He that woebegone?
We are talking of the same Form who was hidden deep in a cave for centuries by His devout followers, to be saved from alien marauders, and came back to rule our small universe.  Is He feeling as unsettled now as he did those aeons ago? He probably needs to hide again, to stop this constant violation of His quiet life by the descendants of those same devotees who saved him once. High court rulings, bureaucratic dictates, political upmanship, missing “brahma”, missing keys, hidden treasures, it is enough to jolt insensitive man.
He is but a sensitive, soulful wanderer, seeking a place to rest. Let us please give Him that.

(In response to the furore caused by the missing key to the Ratna Ghar)

Monday, 12 March 2018

Bhutan Trip - on the way back

At Paro International airport on the way back to India after an eventful trip. Checked in, security cleared, now waiting for the flight, which is almost 2 hours away, with a fresh brew of the Himalayan Java. Nothing moves without a Java.

Quite like this airport. Nice to see an airport that still retains its old world charm. Otherwise all airports look the same these days ... sterile and uniform. The roof has what I call the Bhutanese motto. The checked tiles.

The take off was breathtaking. In a fairy tale kind of way. The land of Dragons and the Yeti seen from the sky. Would love to come here in different climates. And explore the ancient country more.

Airport Toilets.. the Paro toilet was squeaky clean. Now coming to India. Why can't we have Indian type toilets? Western toilets are being used by most urban householders and they are the target customers for airlines. But can't we have simple India style toilets that many ladies are still comfortable using? Every time I see a suburban lady in saree struggling to use the loo at airports, I wonder why they have to face such inconvenience in their own country! The Indian toilets are hyiegenic too by many standards. One good thing I saw this time were the sanitary napkins vending machines. Even though it has taken us so many years to put them there, at least it is one small step to make travel more comfortable for women. Do we have to thank Akshay Kumar and "Padman" for that? 

Was travelling with some of our co - rally-ers. Two of them won the coveted first prize. A simple conversation revealed they are real pros. High up there in the TSD league in India. Felt mightily privileged to have participated with them. They were obviously of a different league from us.

Thursday, 8 March 2018


Camera - checked
Cash - checked
Comfortable shoes and dual purpose sandals - checked
Medicine - general
Sunscreen / face cream
Mosquito repellent
Pee Safe
Sufficient Winter clothes since I don't wish to spend my nights shivering
Sufficient pairs of jeans tees undergarments
Lip gloss, ear studs and other wee accessories
And again sufficient cash and cards

So goes a checklist before my journey. All packed and ready to start. Despite the longish looking checklist. I pack quite light (or so I think).

It's International Women's Day. Don't know why only one day should be women's Day or various other days... but somehow fitting to be starting off on a car rally to Bhutan on this day!

Monday, 5 March 2018

Road to Thimpu - Plans

The planning for the trip is well under way. The flag off from Kolkata to Siliguri has started. Though we will join at a later date at Siliguri, our vehicle, an Ecosport has already gone ahead. We will be flying to Siliguri, driving from there to Thimpu and then again flying back home because to a real constraint of time.
It is Time Speed Distance Rally. So a bit apprehensive that might not be able to soak in the sights. Anyways... that can happen on another trip!

Friday, 2 March 2018

Road Trip to Thimpu - Really?

Here I was sitting in the movie hall a few hours back, when I get a phone call. Not sure if it was Bajaj Finance or whoever, I text back asking them to connect later. The caller was persistent and the number didn't look like a mass marketing number. I took the call in the middle of an intense scene (Haha I am joking, the movie was Sonu ka Tittoo Ka Sweety) and the caller said she was Sridevi from Kolkata.
It was interesting enough for me to text back, apologising for not being able to take the call.
Well turned out it was Sridevi, an acquaintance I had made when I was doing the TSD Rally at Kolkata. She gave me some rambling explanation, the gist of which was she needed a navigator for a TSD car rally to Thimpu from Siliguri.
I like to think I am not one to jump into situations. And I take calm considered decisions. So a few phone calls - to the organizers, to my employers -  and I am ready for Bhutan. In a calm considered manner.
So there's an upcoming car rally to Thimpu come next Thursday.
3 trophies in the space of 2 TSD car rallies has me day dreaming and pumped up for more!
Keep watching this space!

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

The Kunduli Girl

I was walking home from school
Running along, skipping along
Playing hide and seek
In the deep jungle trails
Loving their many secrets
Chasing the dappled shadows

The bag on my shoulders
My meagre notes and books
Forgotten in my wonder world
A smile on my lips
As I went hush hush after a squirrel
...Stepping on a twig

Was the noise very loud?
What did I hear?
Was that more twigs breaking?
Foolishly, still unconcerned
As I spy the squirrel again,
But not for long...

They creep up
Trample the mossy bed
Chase away the sun's rays
And give a howl of laughter
So I know they are near
With no place to go, No place to hide

Have you seen hyenas
Hunting sniffing playing with their prey
I am the prey
The bloody boots finally leave
With my smile... hunger satiated
Over my trodden bag, broken body

That was not the end
My halting story uttered
Hunted, haunted, deserted
My tale twisted, my virginity plundered
Many times over
I was a pariah, thrown to a hostel away from home

That was still not the end
Woken up at midnight for interrogation
Proven guilty by the learned
Police, doctors, human rights
Women commission, judges
For speaking up means guilty

This girl; How could she be raped
By the very custodians of safety
It has never happened before
She must be lying
The young girl tells big tales
Luscious images of a vivid mind, maybe

A rope to end it all
Distressed, depressed,
Disowned in many ways
An object of shame, pity, distrust
isolation, disgrace
And a hundred days of plunder

But that was again not the end.
The body dragged to the streets
Politician across parties
Fighting for their scrap of glory
Death too doesn't give dignity
While the jungle keeps it's secret, still

The only end is not to be born.

There are some tales which are so sad they need to be told and retold. Everyday we feel we have seen the worst... when actually the worst is around the corner. I would honestly have liked to name this poem "the death of humans".

Monday, 22 January 2018

On the subject of Architecture

I don't think any subject can aspire to be as aspiring or as all comprehensive as architecture.
People think architects only learn to make plans. No. They are taught to have an eye for colour, rhythm, pattern, taught distinctive styles ranging from the medieval to modern, taught climatic conditions and what type of built environment suits each one, taught about materials, old and new, learn about construction and structural techniques ranging from stone, bricks, steel, concrete to present day  new age materials.
History, sociology, botany, a bit of geology all form a part of what they need to know.
Truly, botany? Right! They need to understand plants and know which types provides what kind of shade and goes with which type of environment!
Plus obviously they learn drawing plans, elevations, sections to represent all that they know. Wait. They don't just sit at a computer and start drawing plans. They spend a couple of years practising drafting on a drawing board. Then they learn to translate their thoughts onto the ubiquitous software the language of which again they need to learn simultaneously with their other subjects.
So if you are an architect out there... love thyself is all I can say.