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…