Thursday, December 18, 2008


Tuhina was meticulously preparing herself for the evening. The apartment sparkled, and the dinner table was laid for two. Nothing could go wrong tonight. She couldn’t bear the thought of mistakes. She looked at the wall clock as it chimed 8:00 pm, and thought to herself, “It’s been more than 45 minutes. Where’s the damn guy?” She was waiting for the delivery guy, and was running out of time. She wanted to serve the dinner she had so lovingly prepared exactly at 8:30 pm.

She settled herself on the sofa, and re-read the letter she had been writing. It brought back those memories. Like sharp stabs of pain… and yet, she reminisced.

Tuhina was only a school going teenager when she was orphaned. Her parents had been quite well insured – the insurance companies informed her that she need not think of earning her luxuries, let alone survival, for a few years. The large sum of money didn’t quite mean anything to her. But to Raju Uncle, her father’s younger brother, it meant a great deal.

Raju Uncle tried every thing in his powers to lay his hands on the insurance money, but Tuhina’s Dad had chosen his lawyers very carefully. Raju Uncle realized soon enough that he would not be able to rob Tuhina of her property, and he wasted no further time in turning his back on her. Her mother had no living relatives.

How Tuhina battled on with life was a mystery even to her. She contemplated joining her parents almost every day, but then told herself to hold on. She completed schooling, and then graduation, with little support from the world. She had very few true friends, and no boyfriend, but she tried her best to stay oblivious to it. Her life seemed aimless, and yet, she lived. Starved of affection, incessantly ignoring the blaze of loneliness in her heart, Tuhina grew up.

Not every one appreciated Tuhina’s beauty. She was a startlingly pretty woman, but not in a conventional manner. It was in fact her dark eyes, which spoke volumes, and the curiously tilted smile on the corner of her lips, that made her so pretty. Whether these were the results of her hard life, or whether these were inheritances from her mother, no one could say! What one could say however is that, these were the precise things that Abhra noticed when he first saw her – and fell in love.

Abhra came into her life at a time when Tuhina had almost resigned herself to the fate of remaining alone for the rest of her life. All her friends had found their partners, and she’d not yet managed to have one affair! It was as if God had intended her to remain friendless and alone all her life. But then, she met Abhra.

Tuhina & Abhra’s backgrounds could not have been more different. Where Tuhina had led an almost deserted, neglected life, Abhra had been the life and soul of his family. It was this stark difference perhaps that brought the two of them together. Abhra loved and understood Tuhina like no one had ever done. She felt cherished and loved. Abhra even missed her if she was away for too long. For the first time in her life, Tuhina found happiness. She felt as if she truly belonged. She felt Abhra had made her dreams come true.

It wasn’t difficult for Abhra to convince his parents about his choice of bride – Tuhina wasn’t poor, unqualified or ugly. Abhra and Tuhina’s wedding was fixed for December 17, 2008.

Tuhina’s happiness knew no bounds – she was about to marry the man she loved and get a family of her own – in short, everything that she’d ever wanted!

It was a phone call in the early hours of October 5, 2008 that changed every thing. Abhra met with an accident, and didn’t survive to see the next sunrise. Tuhina’s dreams came crashing down around her.

It took Tuhina a long time to really comprehend what that phone call had meant. But today, she was wiser. Today, sitting alone at a table for two, she knew that it had meant she would never belong anywhere. It had meant there was no one left in the world to love or cherish her. It had meant she was all alone, once again, in this big, bad world. From now on, there would be no comforting arms around her, no gentle lips would kiss away her tears, no soothing voice would calm her fears down…

The tinkling sound of the bell brought Tuhina back to reality. She opened the door and the delivery guy handed her a bottle of sparkling red liquid – a bottle of wine. She paid the guy, and turned back to the sofa. She poured out two glasses of wine, and emptied the contents of a packet in one of them. She toasted an invisible companion, and then drank deeply. The effect was instantaneous – she felt drowsy, and all her thoughts began to drift away. But no, Tuhina had one last thing to do. Slowly, she picked up her pen, and put down today’s date on the letter:

17th December 2008.

Tuhina smiled. Now she could sleep peacefully. Now she knew, tomorrow she would wake up in the arms of Abhra, her sweetheart, and they would enjoy the sunrise with her Dad and Mom.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Posto Chicken Spiced Up!

9th December, 2008

Inspired by a few people, I have decided to diversify the ambit of my blog a bit more. So, here comes the new feature – my cookbook, “Tadka Laga Ke”!

Let me tell you that the first recipe being posted here is not an original one. This one has existed from time immemorial in the kitchens of the average Bengali. However, it features here because I’ve majorly improved upon the original recipe, and therefore I feel it is worth a mention here!

So here you go, wish you all the best in trying out this recipe of a spicier version of Posto Chicken!

500 gms Chicken (washed and cut into pieces), 5 medium sized onions (peeled and sliced finely), 100 gms sour curd, 100 gms poppy seeds (commonly known as khus khus/ posto) ground into a paste, 1 dried red chilli, ½ tsp turmeric powder, 1tsp each of chilli, Everest chicken masala & Everest garam masala powders, 1tbsp ginger paste, ½ tbsp garlic paste, all garam masala (whole) & oil/ghee, salt and sugar to taste, dhania leaves (optional).

Pour the oil/ghee in a kadhai / frying panand heat on medium flame. Once hot, add the whole garam masala and the dried red chilli, and after 30 seconds, add the onions. When the onions are fried enough, add the ginger & garlic paste, and after 1 minute, add salt and sugar. After 2-3 minutes, add the other spices (i.e. turmeric, chilli, chicken masala & garam masala powders) and sauté. After about 5 minutes, add the sour curd and sauté again. Once the curd is blended properly in the mixture, add the chicken pieces. Cover the frying pan/ kadhai and cook on medium flame till the chicken becomes tender. If the chicken does not emit enough water, then sprinkle additional water till the chicken is tender. Now add the posto / khus khus / poppy seeds paste with a cup or two of water, and bring the whole thing to a boil. Keep cooking till the gravy becomes thick and nearly dry, and the posto/ khus khus/ poppy seeds paste coats the chicken pieces. If you want, you can sprinkle some dhania leaves over the preparation. Serve hot with parantha or rice.

You can find the original Posto Chicken recipe here.

Bon appétit!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Funny Side Up

2nd December, 2008

I remember having
once talked about the two funniest incidents I’ve experienced in my life. I’ve finally managed to pen the two of them down here, and I must say, it feels great to be able to share the funny side of life in these times of great depression.

Incident 1

This incident dates back to the days when I was an eleventh grader in school.

As our school rules required students of the eleventh and twelfth grades to travel by public transport (we were denied the pleasure of school buses in an effort to acclimatize us to the urban public transportation system!) I was travelling to school by a public bus. The lady sitting next to me struck up a conversation, and asked my opinion about which school she should admit her 4 year old son to. I suggested a few names, and as Don Bosco, Park Circus was just next to my school, I mentioned that too. She asked me what the timings of the school were, and I rattled off the same. Since a few of my very good friends were from Don Bosco, I knew quite a lot about it, and being the good soul, told her all of it.

She heard it all, and asked me, “Do you study in Don Bosco?”

I was shocked! It was impossible to think of an average Calcuttan who does not know about Don Bosco (it’s one of the premiere schools for boys in Kolkata), and more so of a woman dreaming of getting her son admitted to one of the top bracket schools of Kolkata! I would bet anything that 99.99% of Calcuttans know that Don Bosco is an all-boys school! And I was very definitely a girl!!!

I myself have no idea how I bit my laughter back, and explained to her very politely that Don Bosco was not for girls! Later on, both in my own school and with my friends from Don Bosco, I had a gala time recounting this story.

In the times to come, I have narrated this tale to many people, and have even smiled to myself in reminiscence!

Incident 2

This was, if possible, an even funnier incident. This too dates back to the days when I was in the eleventh grade, not long after the one written about above.

I was walking down from my school to the nearest bus stop to catch a bus back home, when I noticed a lady walking towards me, looking rather confused. I stopped as she opened her mouth to speak. She asked me which school was I from. Considering the fact that the Pinks-n-Whites were from quite a famous school of Kolkata, MBG, many would consider it to be a stupid question. It was however courteous to answer the lady, and so I identified myself as belonging to MBG.

The next question took me completely by surprise! She asked me, in a rather confused manner, “But isn’t this the uniform of *** School?”

I coldly told her, “I don’t think I’d go to one school wearing the uniform of another school.”

She asked, “Are you absolutely sure?”

This time, exasperated, I couldn’t stop myself from answering back rather rudely, “I think I am absolutely sure about my own school and its uniform. Much surer than you are. I’m not off my rocker, thanks.” And I walked off.

But thinking back upon it, I have laughed my head off many a times, and till date, I must’ve recounted this tale to at least a hundred people! After all, it is a tale worth recounting – I don’t think many students have faced a situation where someone has expressed doubt about he/ she wearing the uniform of one school and going to another!!!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Afterthoughts on the Mumbai Attack

1st December, 2008

The Mumbai attack has shocked us all. It has made us all wonder, how safe are we really in this country? Or rather, is there any safety at all anywhere in the world? Maybe we should seriously consider making a beeline for the moon instead! But jokes apart, there are some things that have been haunting me, and I think the best way to get it out of my system is to pen them down.

The first thought is about a rather freakish generalization that every one makes about the Muslims of our country. After every terrorist attack, esp. in India, I get to hear every one – my friends, family, acquaintances and strangers – blasting the Indian Muslims off. It’s all down to them, it’s only because of these people that these terrorist attacks happen, and it’s these people who abet the terrorists. I sympathize with the Indian Muslims, try to defend them, but no one is in the mood to listen. I can’t but help feel vulnerable. I have quite a few Muslim friends, and they are no more involved in terrorist activities than I am, and yet they come under fire, when a lot of the others, who really are involved, go scot free.

I can’t understand this urge to generalize. And that too, only against the Muslims. Every one knows that there is no dearth of Indian Hindus (or belonging to other religious sects) who would, for the sake of money, sell their country and men to these terrorists. During their meticulous planning of these attacks, are we to understand that these terrorists did not take the help of any Hindus, Christians, Sikhs or others? Of course they did. And those Indians did not feel a thing while selling off their motherland to the terrorists. And yet, it is only the Muslims who come under attack.

Why do we do this? Why are we so eager to shift the blame off to other shoulders? Why can’t we take responsibility of our own actions and say, “Yes, we Indians come from a land of traitors, where no one loves their country. It is only money that matters to them.” Not family, not love, not even religion. Because no religion endorses killing of innocent lives. And yet, we do nothing to stop it.

Is it because we really can’t do anything, or because we don’t want to do the dirty work?

Secondly, I can’t but help doubt the strength of our country’s defense mechanisms. Bulks of RDX were shipped into the commercial capital, and police was aware of it. The terrorists were staying in the city, and planning their attacks, and the intelligence did nothing. And finally, what security did these large five stars have? None.

One would think that after the episode of the JW Marriot in Pakistan, we would have learnt. Evidently not. We believe in learning through our own mistakes, rather than through the mistakes of others.

When we all were wondering how these terrorists could’ve entered these hotels and create such havoc, an acquaintance of mine pointed out a very pertinent deficiency in the security system of the five stars. They frisk the visitor, but do they check the luggage? No, they don’t. The visitor can carry anything inside – anything at all. There is no baggage x-ray system, like in the airports. It turns out that it is quite a necessary system that should be installed in the hotels. Why is it that we are thinking about all this after such destruction? Why didn’t we plug the holes before anything of the sort could’ve happened? No one knows.

But we do know that we are not safe anywhere. The railways are a fiasco. There is no one to check the travelers. If the terrorists want to blast off the Howrah or the Sealdah stations, it would be only too easy – and it would cost a lot of lives. If the terrorists want to carry RDX or other stuff from one place to another by train, no one will even detect it – because there again, no one checks the baggage. The security system is almost equally dismal in the naval transport, seeing as the terrorists had used it to gain entry into Mumbai.

Which basically means, we are not safe anywhere. Except perhaps in our own homes. Or may be not even there, as one blast on the street, caused by the very same bombs which have been smuggled in through the railways or the ships, can claim our lives even when we are in there. A terrifying fact which the media is almost painstakingly etching into our minds.

That brings me to the third thought that has been haunting me real bad. The media. Are they doing anything worthwhile? Is it any good broadcasting to the world what the government, police and commandos are doing at every stage? They are merely forewarning the terrorist outfits about our strengths, and consequently our weaknesses. The common man does not need to know the nitty-gritty of the evacuation activities, not do they need to see the gruesome details on television.

But the media also is too selfish to care. They just want their channels / magazines / papers to sell, and in their race to report the most gruesome, most intimate details of such terrorist attacks, they don’t stop to think about the security of their nation. They forget the might of the pen, and instead, glorify the sword. The media does not hesitate to highlight the worst, and neglect the best. They think that by flashing the human remains of the martyrs, they will sell themselves to the public. But they do not stop to think once of how the morale of the public would drop, what insecurity they are injecting into the public mood.

Has the media forgotten its duties? Has it forgotten that media lives to brighten up the lives of the public, and not to demoralize them? Has it forgotten that its objective is not to scare the public into reticence, but to inspire them to march ahead, irrespective of the hardships?

Having been a part of the print media before, I really feel relieved that I am no more a part of a system which thrives on the negatives of lives, and exists to wipe out the positives.

The last thought pertains to us Kolkatans. And the false, really selfish sense of security we suffer from. Post Mumbai attacks, one refrain was to be heard from almost every Kolkatan. “We are safe here. Kolkata is the exit route for these terrorists; they will not do anything to jeopardize that one.”

It shames me to think of myself as a Kolkatan these days. Because like the rest, we too think only of our own safety. We know Kolkata is a safe haven for the terrorists. We know that they enter our country through the minimally protected Bangladesh borders, mingle and stay with us, gather information through us, plan and then carry out their objectives. And yet, we are shameless enough to say that we are safe, because the terrorists do all this here. We forget that by saying this, we are actually saving our own necks at the cost of numerous other who die as a result of these terrorist activities. And yet, the average Kolkatan will do nothing upon hearing or seeing anything suspicious. He loves himself too much, even more than the brother who stays and works in Mumbai, or the friend who resides in Delhi. He doesn’t care even about his own family going up in flames in the U.S. He is just happy to be alive himself.

The average Kolkatan forgets that the terrorists will leave none. They do not target Kolkata as often as they target Delhi and Mumbai because Kolkata is dead – in terms of investment, industry or people. One day, when Mumbai, Delhi and the other cities become impregnable fortresses, learning out of the many scars that the terrorist attacks have left on their faces, these terrorists will realize that Kolkata is the most soft target – and that day, they will take advantage of this false sense of security, and blow the city up in flames. And that day, we Kolkatans will perhaps not even get the time to rue the moments when we could’ve ended it all, but we did not bother.

I wish it was not like this I wish I was not a part of a world that might go up in arms and flames any day, any time. I wish we could all join hands to do something about it. But alas… I belong to a nation of traitors. Neither will they do anything themselves, nor will they let me do anything to make this a better place to live in…

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Delicious Snippets…

1st November, 2008

I’ve heard my ancestors had quite a penchant for treating their guests to delicious food, and I seem to have inherited that particular gene! I find it greatly satisfying when someone appreciates the food I’ve cooked, or even something that I’ve recommended. Here are some snippets of such incidents which have given me great joy, and the intention behind posting it here is to create a mass effect – so that anyone reading this also knows my recommendations, and hopefully, will taste them someday (although, since most of it is to be found in Kolkata, it might take the non-Kolkata-residents / non-resident Kolkatans a lot of effort to do so)!

Snippet One:
I think I’ve had the world’s most enticing, delicious and yummy fresh strawberry milkshake in a rather shabby roadside shanty in Pune. This shanty however is pretty famous in the city, and is situated on the Dhole Patil Road, right beside a massive building called The Connaught Place (that’s right, Connaught Place in Pune!). My roommate Mansi introduced me to this intoxicating milkshake, and I in turn passed the infection on to two or three friends of mine – and I noticed with satisfaction that they were as smitten by it as I was, if not more! So much so that the last time we were in Pune to collect our degrees, etc. (it was for two days only – fortunately though, it was in December, the season of strawberries!), we made it a point to have two glasses of fresh strawberry milkshake each day!

Snippet Two:
Months ago, I was very surprised to know on a hot summer afternoon that my colleague Sanghamitra (we’ll call her Mou for short) had never had iced tea. I promptly decided to introduce her to the world’s best natural cold drink. So, in we went to Barista, and had a glass of peach flavoured iced tea each. Mou was so impressed by it that ever since that afternoon, she’s preferred an iced tea over a cola, and yet can’t appreciate the beverage served at any place other than Barista (for which she squarely blames me!), as they seem positively drab compared to the heavenly drink we had in there!!!

Snippet Three:
I had the privilege of introducing Mou to another wonderful place a few days back – the famous Nahoum’s Bakery at New Market. Ever since I was big enough to have cakes and pastries, Nahoum’s was the place my Dad took me to. Nahoum’s has given me the exquisite delight of having delicious cakes and pastries at a time when there was no Monginis, Sugar n Spice or Kookie Jar in Kolkata, and I daresay the items from Nahoum’s taste much, much better! Though we were full to bursting point when we visited Nahoum’s that day, we still could not resist ourselves from having a host of cakes and pastries, and Mou particularly enjoyed the blackforest pastry, which has been a speciality of theirs for long!

Snippet Four:
Ashish had of late been quite smitten by the kochuris (a kind of hand stretched and fried bread, quite popular in India) of a roadside hawker near our office. To my palate, the kochuris were no better than average, and so I decided to treat him to some really good roadside kochuris. And what better place than Shyambazar to look for such things?! It is common knowledge that kochuri, shingara (samosa for some) & jilipi (jalebi to some) form the breakfast of a typical Bengali on a Sunday. Therefore, one Sunday, we drove out to Shyambazar, and went to this place just beside the Duff School, and treated ourselves to some amazing kochuri, aloo-r dum, ghugni & jilipi. I had initially planned to take him to a shop just opposite the Chittaranjan sweets shop, which is by far the best in the locality, but due to some unavoidable reasons we had to restrain ourselves to the second best! The effect however was no less grand – trust me, since that morning, Ashish has not, even for once, praised the kochuris of the roadside hawker near my office!

Sharing Experiences…

It's been quite some time since I wrote about my real life here. So today, I thought I’d share two of my recent experiences – one which touched me immensely, and the other which amused me to no end! Such experiences are rare and unexpected in daily life, and therefore it feels truly good to be able to share them with the world.

September 9, 2008

My story starts at a time when I was on my way back home from Durgapur (I’d been there on an official trip). The Volvo bus that was to carry me to Kolkata was waiting to depart at the Durgapur Bus Stop, and I was sitting aboard, quite immersed in the book I was reading at the time. A small voice of a girl was barely reaching my ears, very sweetly requesting the passengers on board to buy a few packets of incense sticks from her. She reached my seat and made the same request to me, and I looked up to find a little girl of about 10 years of age, selling scented incense sticks. Since I had no wish to light them, I refused to buy any. She requested me to help her by giving her some money, which she would use to buy her school stuff. May be there was a ring of truth in her voice, or may be it was just the sweet way of her talking, but I reached into my purse, extracted fifty bucks and handed it to her.

The look on her face will stay with me forever – she was speechless. It was evident that it was beyond her wildest dreams that someone would just give her fifty bucks without even buying something from her, just like that. She looked at me for a few seconds, then muttered a little prayer, and tried to push a box of incense sticks into my hand. I refused it – I wasn’t about to use it, and I reckoned she’d get some money by selling it to some one else. She thanked me profusely for being so generous to her, and went her way. I took it for granted that I would not see her again, like so many others of her kind. Till then, there was nothing unusual about the story.

However, just as the bus was about to roll out of the Stand, the little girl came hurrying back to me, and pressed into my hands a small packet of roasted and salted groundnuts! This time, it was my turn to be speechless – I have known many street urchins, beggars and even genuinely needy children who ask for money as they have no other way out. I’d deduced that she belonged to the third category – but even so, I did not think she would be this thankful for my help! But evidently, she was a cut different from the rest… I was so touched I couldn’t even thank her properly, and before I could gather myself together, the bus rolled out, and I watched with misted eyes at the rapidly shrinking shape of the little girl by the side of the road…

October 18, 2008

The second experience is actually quite unconnected to the one above, and also very different – I’ve never had a funnier experience! (Actually, no, looking back, I think I’ve had two experiences which are funnier than this one. But more about them some other time – now to get on with the story!)

We’d been to RDB Adlabs to catch a newly released movie. The movie was a hideous disaster, and it seemed the city folks had realized it much before we did – for the hall was not even half-filled. Among our fellow spectators, some were there to get cosy with their guys / gals, some because they had nothing better to do, and some because they didn’t trust the movie reviews published in the papers (to which category yours truly belongs). One person however seemed to have found the perfect excuse to buy a ticket for the movie – to sleep!!!

I don’t know how many people noticed him during the movie, but once it was over and people started leaving the hall, they really couldn’t miss the sight - there he was, alone, with his feet up on the row in front, sound asleep as if he was on the most comfortable bed possible!!! Indeed, the cleaning staff had to shake him quite hard to wake him up, and a little later, we noticed him wander into the parking lot (although he had no car), utterly confused and most probably still half asleep, trying to figure out where the exit was!

Laughing our heads off, we imagined what the director of the movie would say to this man, if word of the latter’s actions reached him! Would the director have woken up to the fact that his movies are being treated as lullabies by many?! Or would he simply have treated such action as an extreme insult to his directing capabilities?!

Either way, I think the man proved what we so often hear in sermons and lectures – that “Actions Speak Louder than Words”!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Christmas Getaway…

Wednesday, 26th Dec. '06

Christmas was quite merry and gay this year! We had planned a Christmas getaway to a small nearby town, just a little way outside the city, which is famous for its ancient cathedral. We – meaning the whole gang of Anu, Ayush, Sameer, Pari, Mallika, Ritika, Sandeep, Pranati, Prithvi, Sajid, Gaurav and me – left on Christmas Eve, by Anu’s Qualis. We were absolutely packed in the car, and yet it was so much fun!!! We really missed Shubhra n Abhigyan a lot – they couldn’t make it, as they had their plans with families.

It was a five hour journey, and we took turns in driving the car. The journey was dotted with many anecdotes, jokes and leg-pullings! Shortly after 11 in the night, we reached our hotel. We unloaded the luggage in the lobby, and immediately headed towards the cathedral. The midnight mass was just about to begin, and we were lucky not to miss any of it…

After singing ourselves hoarse, and listening to much Bible, we finally came back to the hotel at 2am. We had taken three 4-bedded rooms – we let Sameer & Pari share a room with Anu & Ayush, as these were the two love-struck couples in our group! Sandeep, Prithvi, Gaurav & Sajid were in another room, and the four girls, Pranati, Mallika, Ritika & I shared the third room. Once we had all carried our luggage up into our respective rooms, everyone gathered in the girls’ room for a late night chat session!!

The two love-struck couples were the first to retire, and though originally it had been decided that the boys would sleep in one room and the girls in the other, Sajid, Ritika & Mallika were so sleepy that they soon got into the boys’ room and slept off! I had had a long day at office, and sleep was tugging at my eyelids, but I still stayed awake to chat and sing with the other four… in fact, I didn’t even realize when sleep stole over me…

When I woke up last morning, I found myself sleeping with my head on Prithvi’s leg. It was small consolation for me that the others were in no better postures – Pranati had her legs across Gaurav’s chest, and Sandeep had fallen off the bed and was sleeping on the carpet below! I was the first to wake up, and the fact that I had slept all night on his leg struck me full in the face. It was quite obvious that Prithvi had not even attempted to prise me off his leg, and had slept all night in a weird posture to let me sleep in peace…

I didn’t know what to make of it… may be Prithvi was just being the gentleman that he is to all the others… or is there something else?

Relieved suddenly of the weight on his leg, Prithvi woke up quite abruptly, rubbed his eyes and sat up… realizing that I was up already, he grinned widely at me and said, “I didn’t know you were so fond of my leg! Or is it that you worship me to no end, and thought sleeping on my leg will help you achieve salvation?!”

The jocular attack was so sudden that it put all my thoughts away, and I picked up the first pillow that I could lay my hands on and threw it at him! He ducked, and then threw one at me, which missed me because I had jumped off the bed! Within seconds, we were engaged in a furious pillow fight, and the three others woke up to cheer us on!! We had to call the pillow fight off after some time though, as Sameer and Ayush had ambled in to find out if “we were all in one piece” still! That prompted me to throw the next pillow at Sameer instead, and soon all the others had also joined us, and someone suggested that we call for breakfast. That brought us right back to our surroundings, and we immediately started deciding what to call for.

I felt relieved. It didn’t matter to Prithvi, he had taken this event of the night just as a friendly thing. For him, it was one of those million things that just happen between friends. I don’t know why, but I felt relieved to think that Prithvi didn’t feel anything else… it was weird, and I asked myself why I was so relieved – but I had no answer…

The delicious smell of the pancakes, scrambled eggs and toasts wafted through my chain of thoughts, breaking it so effectively that, all thoughts forgotten, I quickly joined the others in attacking the plates with vigour. After the sumptuous breakfast, we went down to the lobby. It seemed as if we had burst into the home of a very ardent Christian! The lobby was beautifully decorated, with a model of the Virgin Mary with little Jesus, a Christmas Tree and a live Santa Claus, who promptly bounced towards us and handed a lollipop to Ritika! We all had a hearty laugh at this, and kept teasing Ritika for the entire morning about how she was still the “baby” of the group!

Though there was nothing much to see in the town, we still ambled out of the hotel and went to the Botanical Garden nearby, where we had mini picnic beside the river that flows through it. Soon after, however, some of the group started feeling bored of sitting around, so we hired a couple of motor boats and went boating. That was so enjoyable that we did not realize where time flew, and before we knew it, it was 5pm already and it was time to leave!

Having nothing better to do, we trooped into the games parlour of our hotel, and spent quite some time in there, playing pool, striker, video games and casino. Soon it was time for dinner and we went into the hotel bar-cum-restaurant, where a Christmas special dinner had been laid out! We had roast turkey, Christmas pudding and wine, and the food was amazing!

In the night, we hired a video cassette of a couple of newly released movies, and watched them in our rooms. We went to sleep after 3am, but this time we slept in our allotted rooms.

Early this morning, I woke up to the ringing of my mobile phone. Startled, I noticed that it was Prithvi calling… I answered, and Prithvi asked me if I was awake yet. I joked, “No, I’m sleep talking! Tell me, wassup?”

He laughed and asked if I wanted to see something “incredible”. I asked him what the “incredulous” thing was, but he refused to tell me, and called me to the terrace instead. Curious, I walked up there – and I indeed saw the most incredible sunrise ever! The red sun was looking like a semi-circle in the horizon, its scarlet rays reflected in the river… the birds were chirping sleepily, and the town had not yet woken up to the day… it was the most romantic scene I’ve ever watched in my life…

Prithvi and I stood side by side, watching the sky turn slowly from orange to pink to purple to light blue… I could tell that Prithvi was as conscious of our hands brushing and our nearness to each other as I was… but we steadily ignored the whisperings of the wind and slowly came back to our rooms. Without waking anyone, or letting anyone know, we slipped back into our beds, waiting for them to wake up…

Not long after that, we started back from the hotel, and six hours later, we are now all at our respective homes… and I still don’t know what to make of all of it. I don’t know why he asked me to witness the sunrise, and not the others. I don’t know why he could not break the spell of nearness up on the terrace. At times, I feel Prithvi only regards me as an especially good friend, and is quite unconcerned about any “special feelings” between us. But during this morning, and the drive back home, he was unusually quiet, especially with me. Just coincidence? I certainly hope so…

And don’t ask me why I hope so – I just don’t feel anything special, anything like “love”, for him… And if I did, I wouldn’t know how to handle it with him… It would certainly be strange, and I got the first taste of it this morning. May be he too felt the same? May be he too was quiet as he didn’t know how to handle it? I don’t know… some one help me, please…

Journeyed High through the Clouds

15th October, 2008

The mundane chores of every day life, tensions of office and the hot, humid weather of Kolkata were weighing us down for quite some time. And then, a wet, muddy Puja was promised, and we (meaning Mom, Ashish & I) decided to take immediate flight from this place!!! This October, therefore, we decided to explore the Himalayan terrains of
Sikkim, and so, a short tour plan was chalked out almost at the last moment, as per which we were to cover Gangtok, Pelling and Siliguri mainly, with a few other places thrown in during the course of the journey.

Getting to Gangtok is easy… The capital of Sikkim is well connected by roads to nearby cities like Siliguri, Bagdogra etc. Trains and flights do not go directly to Gangtok (or to any other city in Sikkim, for that matter), but the nearest railway station, i.e. Siliguri, and the nearest airport, i.e. Bagdogra are only hours away from the city of Gangtok. A number of trains touch the New Jalpaiguri (NJP) station in Siliguri, and there are regular flights to Bagdogra also. Both these cities have excellent roadways connectivity with Gangtok. You could also take a chopper service from Bagdogra to reach Gangtok, which would take you much less time and would also give you a great experience of cruising through the mountains. We however took a train to NJP, and from there a hired Indica carried us to Gangtok.

That, I think, is quite enough logistics – now let me get to business! The tour of Gangtok promised us a lot of scenic beauty and the major highlights of this trip were to be the closeness to the Himalayas, which is quite a majestic creation of Mother Nature. The scenic beauty that is so famed in this region was revealed to us quite early in the trip – the long winding road from Siliguri to Gangtok was spectacular! We drove through the foothills of the Himalayas, while River Teesta gushed by, as you can see from the picture below...

Pics Above: River Teesta enroute Gangtok from Siliguri

We took a little over five hours to reach Gangtok. It was cool and pleasant, and the sun shone quite brilliantly still when we reached Gangtok, but by the time the three of us had finished bathing, lunching and dressing up for the evening, the sun had set, and the temperature had dipped a little. Mom was too tired to take a walk outside, so Ashish & I took off, intending to explore the nearby places. We walked down to the famous market place, M. G. Marg, and also visited a Durga Puja pandal on the way. After exploring the shops for quite some time and purchasing some necessaries there, we promptly headed towards a restaurant to fill our aching stomachs. [Just for your information, there are quite a few good hotels with restaurants there –
Hotel Bayul, Hotel Dzong, Hotel Golden Pagoda & Hotel Hungry Jack are by far among the best ones.]

Once inside the restaurant, we were shocked beyond all expectations! I knew alcohol was cheap in Sikkim, but I didn’t know it was this cheap!! We could never imagine drinking wine for 35 bucks a peg / 135 bucks a bottle! Perhaps for the first time in our lives, we paid more for our food than what we paid for our drinks… and that too after drinking a lot more than we ate!!!

The next day found us chugging along in a Mahindra Maxx, along with seven others, for we were to visit the Nathu La Pass, Baba Mandir and Tsongo Lake. It was a cold, cloudy and wet day, and our breath misted as we spoke to each other, but we kept our fingers crossed and kept our spirits up! To keep the cold away, we had carried some chocolates and pistachios with us, but in my opinion, we would be much better off if we had carried some brandy or rum instead!!!

The road from Gangtok to Nathu La can only be described with one word – scary! In the beginning, the roads were good and wide, but as we climbed higher, the roads got rockier and narrower, and my heart skipped a beat every time the car took a steep turn… It was however a treat to watch the roads. Cut through the mountains, they winded and twisted and turned and seemed never-ending to us. On one side of us rose the hills, and on the other side the valley sloped down. The flora was strikingly bright & colorful, and at times, I felt as if I was watching a scene out of a framed painting rather than a real vista! Every now and then, some terms kept popping into my mind – ethereal, glorious, picturesque, breathtaking, exquisite… I could not stop admiring the work of Mother Nature! Through the pictures below (which, incidentally, I had taken from our running car) I hope to bring to you at least a fraction of the real beauty of the scenes.

Pics Above: En route Nathu La Pass

When we reached Nathu La, it was raining, and the weather was dark, murky & cloudy, and it was very, very cold. We however braved all of these, and stepped out into terrain that was about 14000 feet above sea level! Our teeth were very nearly chattering, and the rain soon drenched our woolen gloves. The oxygen levels there were pretty low, and it was difficult to walk and breathe at the same time. The clouds were all around us and had completely veiled the peaks and mountains all around us. Each time we walked through a particularly moisture-laden cloud, we felt wet & frozen to the core! There were times when we could not see the people walking right in front of us, as the clouds had obscured our vision…

Honestly, we were quite thankful to leave Nathu La about half an hour later – by that time we felt we were half dead already, from all the walking that we had done in that time! The moment we were back in the car, we started munching on the chocolates and pistachios, in a vain attempt to warm ourselves up. Soon the car had rolled out, and after driving through the clouds for about half an hour more, we reached Baba Mandir. There is a very strange story about this shrine, which has been built in the memory of Baba Harbhajan Singh, an erstwhile Major in the Indian Army. You can read the story

Pics Above: The Baba Mandir

Next, we descended to the Tsongo Lake, at an altitude of about 12000 feet above the sea level. While climbing up to Nathu La, we had crossed this lake in its full charisma, as it was slightly sunnier at that time. But the weather had deteriorated since then, and now it was cloudy and wet here too. However, Tsongo Lake still looked beautiful, and it really seemed worth having braved biting cold, freezing rains and so many other hardships just to reach and to set your eyes upon this gorgeous lake.

Pic Above: The Tsongo Lake

Soon however, the lake was completely obscured by the clouds, and we waded through them to descend further to the Tsongo Lake Shopping Complex. Thankfully, though, the clouds cleared after a little while, and we were able to enjoy the feeble sun for a quarter of an hour, and then it was time to head back to Gangtok.

Pic Above: The Tsongo Lake being obscured by the Clouds

On our way back, the clouds came back to haunt us, and visibility was reduced to such an extent that we could barely see the tail lamps of the car rolling ahead of us. We sat tight in our car, hearts in our mouths, hoping and praying with all our might that we get back from this trip alive and in one piece! We thanked God after about an hour and a half for granting our wish, and I, for one, thought that there could be no better moment to recite “Thank You God for the Life we Lead…”!!

Once in Gangtok, we headed to the Hungry Jack, where we drank wine and brandy most thankfully, and then proceeded to fill our empty stomachs with some amazing Chinese dishes!

The next day, we drove to Pelling from Gangtok, and saw quite a few places en route. It was slightly sad that we couldn’t do much of sightseeing in Gangtok itself, and though we did pass Hanuman Tok, Tashi Viewpoint & the famous Ropeway of Gangtok on our way, we did not have time to really enjoy them. We drove to Rumtek, which is famous for its monastery. En route, we passed the Rumtek Viewpoint, and the view of the valleys from there was truly breathtaking! We also noticed that there was a hotel,
Hotel Rumtek Dzong, bang opposite the viewpoint, which seemed much more inviting and charming for a stay than in the city of Gangtok, and we promptly decided to schedule our next stay there!

The Rumtek Monastery was striking in its vivacity and bright colors. The interiors of the monastery were rich, colorful and flamboyant, but at the same time emanated a strange serenity. After spending some time there, we slowly proceeded to our car and journeyed on.

En route Pelling, we must have crossed at least a hundred small springs and falls. I was quite fascinated by the thought of how each one of these springs finally find their way, very determinedly and doggedly, into either River Rangit or River Teesta! We also passed through many small sweet towns, among which Ravangla, Singtham, Geyzing & Legship were enticing. Ravangla and Geyzing were especially beautiful, and we arrived at Pelling shortly after noon. It was a cloudy and murky kind of weather here too, and was much colder than in Gangtok, so after lunch, we went out very shortly to arrange for the tours for the next two days, and then returned back to the comfortable warmth of our hotel.

Pics Above: (from top to bottom) Some Waterfalls en route Pelling, Terrace Farming in Ravangla, View from Geyzing

The next morning, when Mom woke me up, it was nearly 6am. In my barely conscious mind, the first thing that pervaded my sleep was the thought of seeing Kanchenjunga! The only reason why people rush to Pelling is because from this town, you can see this snow capped peak (which is the third highest peak in the world) so closely that you feel as if you can touch it… and my major reason for visiting Pelling was most definitely Mt. Kanchenjunga.

I very nearly jumped up from my bed, and rushed to open the windows. Before Mom & Ashish even understood why I was acting so weird, this captivating sight greeted me (picture below), and I called out to Mom & Ashish to come and share my joy! My Mom gasped, and Ashish jumped off his bed too so that we could go up onto the terrace and take some more pictures of the enthralling Mt. Kanchenjunga – such was the impact of “Mt. Kanchendzonga” on us!

Pics Above: Kanchenjunga from our Hotel Room and from the Terrace Top

Soon, it was time to drive out in our hired Alto for sightseeing in and around Pelling. Our driver cum guide introduced himself as Philip Tamang, and from that moment on, we had the best and most memorable trip in the entire tour programme! Philip was not just a driver who took us around to the various tourist spots and left it to us to see them. He took it upon himself to narrate to us the importance of the various places, and also to take us to places to which the normal driver would not bother to take tourists.

Philip took us first to the Kanchenjunga Falls. But the Kanchenjunga Falls that the normal tourist visits is just the tip of the iceberg. Philip took us to the real falls that remain hidden behind the rocks, and which are quite difficult to access. He took Ashish across the rocks, through the falls to the very base of the falls and, though scared, Ashish enjoyed the experience to the hilt!

Pics Above: The Kanchenjunga Falls and the Real Kachenjunga Falls

Philip took us to the Khecheopalri Lake from the Kanchenjunga Falls. The lake, also known as the Wishing Lake, has a religious significance among the local people – they believe that any wish made to the lake is always fulfilled, and there is much offering done to this lake and it is ardently worshipped by them. It is also said that although the lake is surrounded by trees all around, yet no leaf floats on its waters, as every single of the fallen leaves are scooped up by the birds. It is indeed quite remarkable how the surface of the lake is absolutely clear, and no debris floats on it!!!
Pic Above: The Khecheopalri Lake

Next we went to the Rimbi Rock Gardens, where a garden has been cultivated along the River Rangit. The effect and the milieu were truly picturesque, and neither Ashish nor I felt like leaving! We walked through the gardens a bit, and then headed to the Rangit Hydel Power Plant and the Rimbi Waterfalls. After that, it was time to break for lunch and we headed back to our hotel for refuelling ourselves!
Pic Above: The Rimbi Rock Gardens

Post lunch, Philip took us first to the Rabdentse Ruins. Rabdentse happens to be the ancient capital of Sikkim, and is ideally situated on top of a hill, from where the monarch could actually see the whole of Sikkim. The Namgyals, who are the royal family of Sikkim (the King is known as the “Chogyal”) abandoned Rabdentse later on, but the ruins are now protected by the Archaeological Survey of India as a national monument. The view from various points of the ruins were truly spectacular, and though one has to trek for about a kilometer through the hills and dense forest to reach the ruins, it is truly worth every painful step taken to reach it!

From the ruins, we went to visit the Pemayangtse Monastery, which is not as big as the Rumtek Monastery, but is famous because of a petite, beautiful but massive structure made of wood. It is said that the structure has been carved out of the trunk of one single tree, and is truly exquisite and looks like a riot of colours.
Pic Above: The Vibrant and Petite Wood-Carved Structure at Pemayangtse Monastery

The last place we visited was the helipad ground. We were informed that since these regions are very prone to landslides, and at times they remain cut off from the main land for months, the Sikkim Government keeps a few helicopters handy, which are used to deliver necessaries and relief items to the local people in such an event, or to ferry stranded tourists. When we finished the trip at the end of the day, we were riotously happy and satisfied to the hilt! We decided on the spot that we would carry some souvenirs of the trip back to Kolkata for our friends and family, and we did some rather impromptu shopping outside the hotel. A sumptuous dinner and some pegs of wine later, the warm hotel beds seemed to hold a magnetic power over us, and we snuggled into them with wonderful thoughts of the day.

The next day, we left Pelling early in the morning for Siliguri. Philip drove us out and took us to a place near Siliguri, where we went rafting on River Teesta for about 8 kms (from Malli to 29th Mile). We crossed the point where Rivers Rangit & Teesta converge, and were treated to some interesting folklore about the two rivers (you can read the story
here, this is the best version that I could get online). Soon however, the fun day was over, and we had to resume our journey to Siliguri.

Once we reached our hotel in Siliguri, it felt as if the tour was over already. Although we did have plans of visiting the famous Hong Kong Market there, we felt quite lazy and drained, and the very thought of traversing the hot, humid plains nauseated us – so, we stay put in the hotel, watched television and finally went to sleep after an early dinner. The next morning dawned upon us a bit too soon, and before long we found ourselves on the train that was to bring us back to Kolkata.

Thus ended one more tour of mine. Our glorious days of walking through the clouds and reaching out to the paradise are over, and it is now time for all three of us to get back to our mundane daily chores… Sigh… How I wish these tours of mine never ended!!!

P.S.: If you want to see more pictures of the places I’ve just described, this is the place to go to!

Thursday, September 25, 2008


16th September, 2008

Honestly, I have surprised myself by finally managing to stage a comeback to the world of blogging!!! Much as I have been full to the brim with snippets of my life that I would want to share, I somehow never find the time, energy and enthusiasm to write about them all! But today, I am determined…

Hmmm… where do I start? I think I will tackle my favorite first – travelling… I’ve been travelling quite a lot lately – most of them business related and some of them for the pure pleasure of it all – but I suppose it’s the latter category that I should share.

Well, I should start with the one I had last year. Last October, Mom and I visited
Vizag (aka “Vishakhapatnam / Vishakhapattanam” to many), one of the important port cities of Andhra Pradesh. One of the reasons why I found this city great is that it is a coastal city surrounded by the hills of the Eastern Ghat. You can actually see the hills merging into the sea here, and I loved that. Of course, I discovered other reasons to visit Vizag too, but more of that later.

Getting to Vizag is quite easy and comfortable. You can reach Vizag by road, rail or by air. It has its own airport, which is well connected to the major cities. By rail, Vizag lies on the Kolkata - Chennai main line and therefore almost all trains which go to Chennai from Kolkata pass through this city. Road transport also connects Vizag to the rest of the country as it lies on National Highway No. 5. However, we travelled by an
Air Deccan flight from Kolkata, considering the time constraints and comfort.

Enough about the logistics, now down to the more interesting details! We had a five day trip planned, including the days of the journey. Therefore, the schedule was quite a packed one, and I shall now proceed to give you a day-to-day account of the trip, so here goes!

Day One: Our flight took off a little later than 7am, and we reached our hotel in Vizag within 11am. That day, we just lounged around and arranged the trips for the next few days. We also discovered some yummy food joints near the hotel, and treated ourselves. Within the city, we were informed that there were quite a few spots worth visiting – the Ramakrishna (RK) and Rishikonda Beaches, the lighthouse at the Dolphin's Nose, the temples at Sivagiri & Kailasagiri, Matsyadarshini, Mudasarlova Water Park, Submarine Museum and the famous ropeway of Vizag.

(pic above: a view of the city of Vizag)

Day Two: We left our hotel at around 8am in the morning and actually visited all these places. Pleasantly enough, I bumped into a colleague of mine, Haimanti, at the first place we visited, i.e. RK Beach, as she was also visiting Vizag during those days, and I kept bumping into her at all the places that we visited that day!

The RK & Rishikonda Beaches were beautiful and serene. I especially liked Rishikonda Beach, where we had an amazing view of the Eastern Ghats sloping down into the Bay of Bengal, and the waves lapping the feet of the hills… We skipped the temples at Sivagiri & Kailasagiri, though we did visit the other places of interest in Kailasagiri, including the toy train and the ropeway. Riding the ropeway was good fun – we could see the beaches lining the city, the hills hovering above it and the city itself lying serenely in the midst of all of it. The boats, houses and the cars appeared tiny from up there, and the city looked stunning!

(pics above: The Ropeway in Motion & View of Vizag from the Ropeway)

Matsyadarshini & Mudasarlova Water Park also did not strike us as anything out of the ordinary. The lighthouse at the Dolphin’s Nose was intriguing, though sadly enough we couldn’t climb up to the top as it was a Sunday.

The icing on the cake for that day however was the
Submarine Museum. This is India’s (indeed, Asia’s) only museum that has been built in a real submarine. This submarine, INS Kursura, has had a long life of 31 years, and has served in the Indian Navy. After being decommissioned in 2001, INS Kursura has been turned into a museum on the RK Beach. It was truly wonderful to get into INS Kursura, and I felt the hair on the back of my neck prickle as I looked at the various parts of the submarine – the torpedoes, the cabins, the storage compartments, the periscope and the control panel for piloting the submarine!

(pic above: The Submarine Museum)

We came back from the city tour at around 7pm, exhausted but really exhilarated with the day!

Day 3: We took a car to visit the much talked about Araku Valley. En route, we visited the Simhachalam temple and the Borra Caves. These two are perhaps the most popular tourist spots in the state of Andhra Pradesh which fall en route Araku.

Simhachalam is a very old temple with exquisite stone carvings, situated on top of a hill. The stairs leading to the temple seemed to go on and on and on, but what awaited us at the end of the never ending steps did make the pain worth it!

The Borra Caves also intrigued us a lot. These caves, with their ancient stalactites and stalagmites, are said to be millions of years old… the caverns and the tunnels are truly scary, and the steps through these caves are really, really endless…

We finally reached Araku after 4pm, and we did have a wonderful time there too, among the blooms and the peaks… Araku Valley is truly one of the richest places I have seen in terms of natural beauty. There are dazzling wild flowers of all colours, blooming out of the hills, little streams making music against the backdrop of the rocks and waterfalls catching you unawares. There is also the sheer overwhelming power of our magnificent Mother Nature.

Araku is also populated with a lot of tribes, and we were lucky enough to catch a tribal dance session in the Tribal Museum there – it is called Dhimsu, and is a treat to watch!

(pic above: View of the Araku Valley)

We got back to our hotel really late in the night that day, and by the time we did, we were nearly falling off our feet! Fatigued, but thrilled, we somehow managed to call for dinner, and nearly fell asleep while eating!

Day 4: We utilized this day to visit the Submarine Museum again, and also visited the port. We however didn’t have enough time to visit the lighthouse at Dolphin’s Nose. We also did a little shopping, mainly for local souvenirs that we wanted to give away to friends and families, and a nice Hyderabadi pearl wristlet for myself.

Day 5: Our Air Deccan flight back home was to take off around 1pm, and after lounging around in the morning, and packing, we headed towards the airport. The Vizag airport is a quiet and small one, and soon we were boarding the flight and taking off and leaving the beautiful city of Vizag behind, carrying only memories of the trip back with us…

Coming Up Next: Our Trip to Geonkhali

Monday, September 15, 2008

Prithvi’s Birthday Dinner…

Tuesday, 10th Oct. '06

It was Prithvi’s birthday today, and a few of us friends went out for dinner. It was Sajid’s idea to give Prithvi a surprise birthday party – he would be made to think that he is treating us, but actually, it would be us treating him! But that didn’t appeal to us at all, so I thought of a different way of surprising Prithvi… I told all the guys and girls not to call him or wish him, and we all pretended that we’d forgotten his birthday! And then, in the afternoon, I called him to invite him to this bash I was supposedly hosting at The Boulevard, to celebrate my new job… of course, though disappointed, Prithvi agreed to come – he’s such a gentleman!

It was real, real fun to see his face when he arrived at The Boulevard! We had ordered this huge three-tier black forest cake, and we had placed it in the middle of a huge, empty table. The waiter had been instructed to take him straight to that table, and the moment he reached the table, the orchestra started playing “Happy Birthday to You”! he turned around to look at the orchestra, and bang! There we all were, playing for him!!! We were the orchestra!!! Prithvi’s face went from ashen to white to red in about a couple of minutes!

Sumptuous Chinese and Thai dishes followed the cutting of the cake, along with plenty of wine… After the dinner, we dived headlong towards the disc, and danced and danced away to glory! The dance floor simply rocked because of us, and we got Prithvi majorly embarrassed by getting the DJ to play “Happy Birthday to Prithvi” while he was at the center of the dance floor! We all danced together for a while, but then, I found somehow we had all ended up dancing in pairs! And guess who was my partner? Well, of course, it was Prithvi.

I have danced a number of times with Prithvi, but today, somehow, Mom and Dad’s suggestion kept gnawing at the back of my mind. I watched Prithvi and tried to perceive from his actions if at all he felt anything but the usual friendly affection I was used to. But I was at a loss.

The evening was good, and dancing with Prithvi was great. But somehow, I still don’t find it in me to convert it to anything else. And I definitely don’t feel anything for him. Yet.

Maybe I will just have to wait and watch.

For now, I promise myself one thing though – if Prithvi makes a move, I will not snub him and say “NO”…

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Tripped Bandel!

20th February, 2008

It has been a long time since I've been able to enjoy the pleasure of simple things. Doing things on an impulse seems to be a faraway dream these days. And spending some time without any real aim has become a luxury that I can't afford. Fortunately or unfortunately, however, the last weekend provided me an oppurtunity to rectify this situation.

For some reasons which I'd rather not disclose to the world, I decided to spend some time alone, with only myself as company, and far, far away from the hustle and bustle of the metropolitan city that is my home. To do so within the city seemed an impossibility. So, on an impulse, I landed up at the railway station. The local trains looked inviting, and I, on an impulse, took the first local available at the time.

The local was supposed to carry me to Bandel. There was not much that I knew or remembered about the place. The last time I'd visited Bandel was perhaps when I was in middle school, and all I remebered from that trip was that there was a famous church in there, and that the Ganges flowed in its full charisma right beside the church. But somehow, I felt myself looking forward to the trip.

As I boarded the local train, I felt strangely excited! It had been a long time since I'd travelled in a train. Time constraints and other reasons ensure that though I do travel a lot, most of it is undertaken by air. Though I don't deny that travelling by air has its own charm and comforts, trains still give me that age old feeling of a "tour"!

The journey to Bandel was uneventful. Although I did enjoy the scenic beauty of the lush green fields, with the cows lazing around in them and the swans swimming in the adjacent ponds, through which the train was tearing away, there was nothing that can possibly be penned down.

However, when I reached Bandel a couple of hours later, I felt quite disoriented. The last I remembered of the place was the country-like feeling that it had infused in me. Today, however, I was standing in a small town that was perhaps smaller in size than many of its counterparts, but apart from that, was quite urbanised! ATMs, computerised railway booking offices, cyber cafes and AC buses greeted me, and I honestly could not match the Bandel I was in with the image that I'd had in my mind...

Soon however, I had to get over the initial disorientation, and I proceeded to hire an auto rickshaw along with some other visitors to visit the church. After negotiating through a maze of narrow, winding lanes for about quarter of an hour, we reached the Bandel Basilica. It stood, splendid in a demure way, greeting the visitors with a perpetual smile, it seemed!

The Bandel Basilica Church

As I entered the church, a sense of amazing calm overcame me. For a long time, I sat in the prayer room, communicating with my inner self and calming my doubts... Soon however, it was time for the church to close down for visitors, and we were requested to leave (none too politely, though!)

I strolled out of the church, and ambled across to the riverside. Here, a shock awaited me. Where was the magnificient River Ganges that I remembered, flowing beside the church? Where were the sweet waves that I remembered, lapping onto the shores? All I could see was a stream! The sight saddened me immensely... But the sad story of Ganga is not what I want to pen down here, so I'll save it for some other time.

I stood there, on the shores, watching all the activity that was going on around me. There were picnic-ers, playing with a frisbee... a few kids, playing cricket... a couple of lovers, walking down hand in hand... The sight of them all infused mixed reactions in my mind. I wanted to go back to my childhood, I wanted to escape from the life that I live, I wanted to hold someone's hand...

I noticed a few boats ferrying tourists around. Soon, I found myself surrounded by a crowd of boatmen, wanting to give me a ride in the waters of the Ganges. I hesitated for a minute... and then went ahead. The boat, precariously small and narrow, bobbed in the waves... Soon, we were in the middle of the river, with the outline of the church visible on my left, and the outlines of the factories on my right...

Even before I'd had my fill of the boat ride, it was bobbing back to the shore...

It was evening by then. Time to go back to the place I call my home, I thought... A strange sense of sadness filled my heart as I reached the Bandel station and boarded a Howrah-bound local, which would bear me back... The memories of the trip, however, remained with me. And they promised to spice up my day whenever I allowed them to invade my mind!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Unnamed Agonies...

27th February, 2008
With every passing moment of every passing day
That I spend with you my Angel,
I drown deeper and deeper
Into the fathomless ocean of your love.
I know I shouldn't. I know,
I should just let go - right here, right now...
I know I should set you free,
And you, me... because at the end of it all,
We'll just be two more of those
Nameless, faceless lovers...
Who trudge the dreary path of life in a vain search
Of their lost love...
And yet, I can't stop loving you,
I can't let go as yet...
Who cares about how much I'll lose
In the uncertain future, when I'm so much in love now?
Who cares about the pain I'll suffer,
When such a pure, glorius, blissful life is my present?
No. Definitely not me...
I simply can't give you up, my Angel...
I know I'll have to, one day soon enough.
But, for now, I'll pretend that one day is far, far away...
Just for now, let me hold on to you
As tight as I can. Prolong it, as long as I can.
For if you haven't still realised it my Angel,
I really love you a lot...

The Confession… A Short Story

8th January, 2008

Sneha started telling Armaan about the letter at a very vulnerable moment. Although she knew it wasn’t necessary: Armaan would forgive her anyway. No, she was not afraid of losing him. It was just that she felt like talking about it at that very time, when she was confident that Armaan would give her the best of what he had.

Armaan was shocked. She’d expected that. But she also knew that he would not judge her until she told him everything. So she expected the astounded silence to be followed by a spate of questions. And she was right.

“Why Sneha?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I wasn’t thinking straight. Or maybe I wasn’t thinking at all… I myself don’t know why I did it…”

“What happened?”


As she started telling him all about it, Sneha felt herself transported back to the first days of her friendship with Somesh. If she said that his friendship was not dear to her, Sneha would be lying. Somesh was a very nice guy, and the two of them had much in common. Sneha enjoyed his company immensely. She cared for him. And she liked him a lot.

But that was it. She liked him purely as a friend.

Initially, his sentiments towards Sneha were also the same. Somesh and Sneha had spent some truly memorable times with each other. They both loved being together. Over the time, though, Somesh changed. Sneha realized that he just wasn’t the same friendly guy any more. The hints of wanting something more than just friendship grew quite insistent, but she chose to ignore the intuitive signals that were gnawing at her heart. She did not want to lose his friendship. More importantly, she did not want to hurt him. Distraught, she started searching for ways to tell him that they had no future together.

It was not as if Somesh did not know about Armaan. She’d told him about Armaan on countless occasions: about how much she loved him, about how badly she missed him, and about what Armaan meant to her.

But somehow, Somesh just could not control the desires of his heart. He did not want to cause a crack in her relationship with Armaan. But at the same time, he could not help expressing his desire for her.

Armaan asked her why she did not severe all contacts with Somesh at that point. Sneha could not explain. She loved Somesh in her own way. She was not someone who befriended people easily, and once befriended, she could not let go of them easily. And Somesh was a very adored, loved and cherished friend of hers. She did not want to lose him. She did not want to hurt him, for fear of losing him.

She could not say “yes” to him, because she was already madly in love with Armaan. She could not make her “no” firm enough either, because it broke her heart to disappoint him.

Gradually, Sneha’s twin desires had begun to wear her out. Somesh started losing his cool too. So they fought – over things that appeared small to him, but were significant to her… over things which were trivial to her, but utterly important to him. Where there was a sweet, understanding friendship between the two, there now reigned only animosity and misunderstandings. Where there was happiness, anger and heartache held sway. And then came a time when they both started ignoring, avoiding each other.

The physical distances between them did nothing to improve matters. Sitting in two different corners of the country, they virtually had no way of sorting things out. For all the help that cell phones and emails were, they usually managed to convey quite different meanings than what was intended. When communication between them came to a stand still for months at a stretch, Sneha actually thought that their friendship had come to an end. There was no hope of reviving it. But she wanted to give it one last shot.

With great trepidation, but a faint ray of hope in her heart, Sneha decided to meet him for one last time, in a last ditch attempt to save the friendship. Quite to her surprise though, Somesh spoke to her like old times, and together they planned a dinner at his place. She could not deny it – Sneha was ecstatic!

Things went on quite smoothly during the dinner. Much to her joy, Sneha found the old fun and companionship back in their friendship. Soon, the watch lay forgotten by their side, and they were swapping tales like old times! She did not even realize that it was well past mid night, and that she was supposed to have left long back. When she did notice the time, it was too late to leave.

In fact, she would not have noticed the time still, had it not been for the sudden change in Somesh’s behaviour. Subtle, yet certain. Her heart skipped a beat. She tried to bring the situation back to normalcy, but by then, the air had changed. At that moment, Sneha knew that it was hopeless, that she had no power to stop him tonight.

He said he did not want her just out of physical desire. It was “the way he felt” for her. And that he was just listening to his heart, not logic. That he himself didn’t know what he wanted out of this, or whether he should term this to be a one-night-stand. And also that she should not submit to him just because he wanted her.

There was so much that she wanted to tell Somesh at that moment. But words failed her. She could never give voice to her feelings for Somesh. But she wanted to tell Armaan, for she knew that Armaan loved her far, far beyond what Somesh did. And Armaan wouldn’t judge her. He would understand.

Why did she give in to Somesh, even though she did not want to? Why did she do something that was squarely against her lifelong principles? She didn’t know how to justify or defend what she did, or what happened that night. She didn’t even know whether it was right or wrong. She just knew that she had breached her own principles. She had broken her beloved Armaan’s trust. Yet, her heart felt no burden of guilt… She had, indeed, listened to her heart. And her heart had told her that she should make Somesh happy, just this once.

So she allowed him to pleasure her.

But from the moment he touched her, she felt violated. She could not respond to his strokes, his caresses or his kisses… she felt no desire for him, no pleasure in what she was doing. And yet, she did not ask him to let go of her. He stroked her, caressed her and kissed her some more, and took every pleasure that she had to offer to a man. And it felt like a dream-come-true experience to Somesh… but for Sneha, it was a nightmare.

But she allowed him. She thought that once it was over, she could get him out of her system… she thought she’d no longer think about it. But that was not to be. Day in and day out, she found herself thinking about that night, the injustice she’d done to Armaan. And about Somesh’s voice, dripping with love. Somesh’s words rang in her ears. The burden of guilt weighed upon her at times… at others, her heart was full of a light feeling, much like the one which invades the heart when you do something good.

Torn between the plethora of emotions, Sneha realized that if she were to retain her sanity, she would have to tell Armaan about the night of passion with Somesh, and tell Somesh about why exactly she had done whatever she did that night.

She knew talking to Somesh would make things a lot more difficult. So she wrote a letter to him. And Armaan… she could talk to. So, here she was, pouring her heart out to Armaan.

“I’m sorry Armaan… I know what I did was wrong. But I could not stop myself. Perhaps I was weak, perhaps I wasn’t thinking straight… I know I could’ve stopped him if I wanted to… but I could not. I’m sorry about that”, Sneha pleaded. “Will you please forgive me Armaan? You know I love you and only you…”

Armaan could not speak… Sneha’s tear streaked face was looking up at him… Her eyes were full of an unspoken fear of losing him, her trembling lips pleading for his reassuring kiss…

He loved her. And at that moment, he loved her a lot more.

“I can’t deny that I’m shocked Sneha… but I can’t also deny that I’d perhaps be a lot more upset if you hadn’t told me this yourself. But are you sure that you don’t feel anything for Somesh?”

“Of course not Armaan. He’s just a friend. I love you Armaan, only you…”

At that precise moment, Armaan chose to put all her fears to rest. He gently wrapped her in his arms, slowly wiped the tears from her soft, pink cheeks, and started to kiss her trembling lips, as if to say, “I love you Sneha… and I can’t live without you…”

The Letter… A Short Story

4th January, 2008

Dear Somesh,

For quite sometime now, I’ve been debating with myself. Should I bare my heart to you? Or should I keep it to myself, all that I want you to know? You always endorse following the heart, don’t you? So here you go – I’m following my heart, and writing to you.

You already know I want to talk about that night of passion we shared, don’t you? Good – I can skip the painful introductions…

I had so much to tell you that night. At every stage, at every point, I wanted to speak my mind out, but I bit those words back… Frankly, it is not at all clear to me too why I chose silence. Maybe I should actually have spoken.

Nevertheless, better late than never.

There is something that I’ve always wanted to ask you. What is it exactly that you feel for me? Your feelings for me have confused me for long. Would you term it as love? Or is it just a weakness, or maybe a soft corner? Or is it a mere physical desire? You mentioned that night, “its not just sex”. Then what is it really? You meant you feel something special for me. What is it that you feel?

I could sense you emanating a pulsing desire for me. I knew it was coming ever since you had started inching closer to me, and Heaven knows I was feeling as helpless as a kitten at that time. Possibly you’ve never realized, but at times like this, when you feel that “something special” for me, your body language, your way of speaking to me, your way of looking at me – everything changes. Your voice oozes love, and you talk to me as if you want to engulf me in your arms. If I can feel it from your voice, can you imagine how strong those vibes must be?!

You were right in a way – I couldn’t sleep because of you. Those strong vibes emanating from your persona were actually forcing me to keep awake. You were snuggling into my shoulder, wrapping your arm around my waist, entwining your legs with mine – I could not really have slept, could I? I was feeling the slow but certain progress, but I just could not understand how to dam it.

I did try to hold myself back. I stopped you once. But your dismayed, pained withdrawal pierced my heart. You will not understand why I feel bad whenever I rebuff you and your advances. You perhaps don’t even believe that I do feel bad while doing such things. But the truth is that I’m not made of stone.

I count very few people as my friends – and those whom I do count as friends, mean a lot to me. I love my friends a lot. As I’ve told you earlier, and I’m telling you again – I count you as a friend. Nobody likes hurting or disappointing a person he/she loves. If your beloved best friend asks for something, and you can’t give it to him, you won’t be feeling too happy about it, will you? I too don’t feel like denying you what you want. It hurts me to hurt you again and again.

To add to my woes, you felt that sleeping on different beds would be the best solution. Was that your idea of tying to make me feel better? Honestly, I felt it was your way of striking an open wound. I was already feeling terrible about having pushed you away so mercilessly, and your actions suggested that you feel I don’t trust you!

I wondered, and I still do: why did you want to make love to me that night? “It’s not just about sex. It’s the way I am feeling about you right now.” I so wanted to ask you, “What is it that you feel for me?” For you have told me earlier that you don’t “love” me. Then what is it that you feel for me that makes you want to make love to me?

I have always felt that you never wanted a “one-night-stand” with me. You desired much, much more – and something much more lasting.

But you knew that we don’t have a future together. Was it because of this knowledge that you wanted this to be a one-night-stand? You did not answer that question. All you said was that at times, we should just listen to our hearts, and not seek answers to everything. And that “it’s not just about sex”.

When you asked my permission the second time to go ahead, I could only tell you not to have any further expectations. I could not stop you. I did not have the heart to deny that permission. For once, I really wanted to make you happy. Remember you asked if I was letting you have your way with me only because you wanted it? To a certain extent, it was actually because of your desires that I gave in, but to a certain extent it was for me too.

I am happily in love with someone else, and you know that. Of course, I wouldn’t want to have a relationship, or even a one-night-stand, with anyone else. But I gave in to you, and I allowed you to have me for the night, even though I knew I would never be able to enjoy it. And I don’t feel guilty about it. Do you know why?

Let’s go back to the example of your beloved best friend asking for something from you, which you can’t give him. What is the next best thing that you will do for him? You’ll try to make it up by doing something else, or giving something else to him, just to make him feel somewhat better.

That one night of passion was the next best thing that I could offer you.

It is after all a man’s love that makes a woman beautiful. And as much as it may hurt you, I’m beautiful because of Armaan. You know that.

Your friend,