Wednesday, July 19, 2017

City of Trams - Sends an Invite

My 1st step on Calcuttan soil. I was tempted to ask the Cab Driver to take me, to the fictional
Shahjahan Hotel of "Chowranghee". I hold back my excitement and descend at the hotel I am booked for. To me this city carries no nostalgia, no appendage - yet have lived & loved this City through books & novels.

My 1st taste of Kolkata was served at the reception desk of the Hotel. The man across the desk, puts up a question in chaste Bengali. I knew language would pose a challenge, but wasn't prepared to encounter the challenge so soon. A few lines down the conversation & the reception desk is convinced I am a Non Bengali speaking visitor.
Our conversations shift to English. For a city synonymous to Literature - English is like a second language.

Going by my wish list- Writers Building was 1st stop of interest. But the receptionist suggested otherwise. He was quick to bring out the city map and explain that Writers Building should be my 3rd stop. I decided to go by his expertise.

He suggested I start with Ballygunge. This affluent Kolkatan neighbourhood has big names associated to it. Tram Depot Wall of Ballygunge was getting ready to play host to the Street Art Festival. Catching a glimpse of its
Circular Road reminded me of newspaper cutting that said, it once housed  the legendry"Suchitra Sen's Bunglow".

Street names in Kolkata give a flavour of their cherished politicos/ artists tempered with some anglized counterparts.
On one side, as you wade through the likes of Aurobindo Sarani, Ganguly Street, you also come across Camac Street and
Shakespear Sarani."Sarani" to Bengal is what "Saalai" is to Tamil Nadu.  [ both meaning street]

A vegetarian roaming on the streets of a Seafood loving city isn't a great idea. It means you literally drop the proposals of almost every famous restaurant coming your way. And eventually settle for a simple meal at a decent outlet, which hardly features in the City's Food Guide.

Five Point Crossing at Shyambazaar was a must see on my list. I could sense the receptionist in the morning raise eyebrows, at my choice of places. I was not following the standard tour guide format. I had to assure him, I will not leave the city without visiting Howrah Bridge and Victoria Memorial.

But more of interest to me, was the famous Kolkata Port which made East India Company choose Kolkata as their trading hub. My fascination was to take the longest possible Tram ride- even if it meant spending a major portion of a day just commuting. My attractions lay in catching a glimpse of at least 1 literary stalwart, whose car would fleet the path, I am waiting to cross.
May be, the day I visit Kolkata, this might happen, Till then, I choose to indulge with this fictionalized account of my trip to the City of Joy. Meet you at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose airport...someday....

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Old Diary Speaks...

It was my last day in the City....NO!! Thtats not what my diary pages say...
Excavation of an Old Diary, brings out,  a 12 page, handwritten account of Maternal Grandparents visit to our place for Diwali. Rewind to Nov 2001 & unbox some Aurangabad memories.


  • Ammama- Scrabble playing Grandma 
  • Thata- Diary Writing Grandpa
  • Viju- Partner in Crime – Sister

The Arrival:
Time is 4.45 am on a Tuesday morning.  Dad is on his way to railway station to receive grandparents. With Mom & Viju sleeping, I  intend to have a bath before grandparents arrive.  Not that I am able to. My hot water just got ready -and they are here.Mom & Viju are up hearing the doorbell ring. So soon, train is before time,  follows some smiles & hugs.  
Over the morning tea,  topics of varied interests spurce up. Dad & Thata , in the main hall, discussing global terrorism.Mom & Ammama, in kitchen, talking about family & functions. Viju & I are keen to show grandparents our new Diwali dress. We wait for an opportunity to interfere.

The Stay:
Playing Scrabble back to back with Ammama has become a routine. 2-3 games a day, at times even 4. But no disturbing her between 6 pm to 7 pm - she has 2 Tamil serials to watch. This coincides with Thata's evening walk. After each walk, he has something to note in his spiral bound pocket book.

Ammama's home cooked treat for us comes in the form of Badam Halwa & Kaju barfi . Succumbed to temptation, the consumption of Halwa has started even before its entirely solidified.

Diwali sweets arrive home - "Badusha" being trademark each year. More than Diwali, it's the 
preparations for Diwali that sets the festive tone.

Amidst the grandeur of savories- Mom reserves her Bissibella Recipe for leisure Sunday morning. This goes well with the Potato Chips & Pepper wafers - grandparents bought for us from Mumbai. 

Diary pages make a reference to certain establishments that no longer exist.
Punjabi Food Festival at Hotel President Park- where we relish a late evening dinner.
An Internet cafe called "Global Data Links. I visit this cafe,  as Thata wants me to check their return ticket confirmation status. 
Neither the net cafe nor the hotel, show up, on Aurangabad's city map today. 

The Return
Blink & miss -12 have days passed- their return journey is booked for tonight. Dad is off to railway station to drop them. Mom, Viju & I see them off from home. The night resigned with 3 of us watching Govinda starer "Kyunki Main Jhoot nahi bolta" on local cable channel.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Urban Architecture


Says a Market to a Mart...

In the mist of
        Boulevards, Esplanades and Promenades
a Bassti,  a  Mohalla and a Chauraha
got lost.


Friday, November 18, 2016

"A visit to a Bank"

I  missed writing an essay in school on this topic. 
Last week, as I was waiting in the queue at a bank, I tried to recall, why my English teacher, never came up
with this subject for an essay.

With more than 20 people ahead of me, I had ample time to wonder, how my initial lines of 
this essay would have been, if my school had given me this topic to write.

So 19 years back, my starting lines would have been.....

Yesterday, I visited a bank in my area. There was a security guard at the gate, holding
a gun in his hand. As I entered the bank, I could see, different counters for Depositing and 
withdrawing cash.
Some people in the queue were holding a Paying in slip to deposit money.
Some others had a token in hand, with a number printed on it. They were waiting for their token number to be called out, to approach the counter.
Senior citizens at the bank, were given seats as they could not stand in queue for long. Bank staff was friendly and attending to each customer at a time.
When I approached the counter.....

I didn't get time to take my school essay further.........
My  turn came up & the security guard [ he didn’t have a gun in hand,this time] let me in. 
I entered the bank premises.
19 years on, the scene inside the bank was no different from my essay.....

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Dripping Roof...

Phase 1- Aurangabad
Tarpaulin sheets would cover the sides of the auto. Not that, they keep us completely dry. Winds accompanying the heavy downpour continue to splash drizzles on our face. "Haath baaher kaadu naka re" - the auto-driver says in Marathi, as we attempt to take our palm out of the tarpaulin sheets to feel the rain.  This is how, 5-6 school goers, packed in the back seat of the auto, would ride their way to school.
I was, one of them....

Phase 2- Mumbai
Mumbai rains made Aurangabad downpour look like drizzles. From purchase of rainy shoes to aligning an indoor cloth-stand, bracing up for monsoon became an annual affair. Train delays become acceptable. A typical rainy day, would mean, take a 9.35 AM "Ladies Local", tune into FM Radio and hear RJ Malishka say " Iss Khoobsoorat Baarish mein, ek garam chai ke saath, ye gaana toh banta hai..."

Phase 3- Chennai
From South West to North East Monsoon was quite a shift. "Bay of Bengal depression", "Cyclonic winds" suddenly became a part of my monsoon vocabulary..
There is a rationale behind every rain, is something Chennai taught me. But the rationale doesn’t linger long enough.
Today, when my kitchen window rattles and power supply quietly mutes itself, enhancing the sound of the moist winds…. reason behind the rain vanishes.What stays on…is the symphony of the raindrops.

‘This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Valley Memories

Prominence of Green is hard to miss. Airport cushions, Sign-board on shops, Bill Board advertisements- come with a Green backdrop. Javed, our 1st local escort drives us through the famous Amar Singh College of Srinagar.
Like any other Indian citizen, he asks for better roads, talks of tax payer’s money and better civic infrastructure. We gradually ask him, about the security concerns of the State and he is quick to retort, it is a media glorified issue. He insists there is more normalcy than what is projected. We try best to empathize with his assurances, but the presence of CRPF stationed at various locations, silently tell a different story.

Amid conversations & moderate showers in sub 12 degrees temperature, we reach "Dal Lake". Luxury is not to be hurried, and "Dal Lake" forces you to slow down.
A quiet sail on a Shikara connects water-borne houseboats to concrete roads along the Lake. "Nazira Palace" our houseboat, is our home for next 3 days. Zuhoor-our Houseboat manager greets us each time as we step out of the Shikara and step in to our Houseboat. Be it Maggi +Toast for Breakfast or Kashmiri Pulao with Dal Makhani for dinner, food in House-boat is served steaming hot. Zuhoor ensures, we take the food, while it is hot.

We would not have brushed up our negotiation skills, had it not been for Driver Wasim's cautions. Pony Riders and Sledge Owners of Gulmarg & Sonmarg, earn their living from its domestic tourism. It needed some bargaining to get a fair deal.

The following day, we have Younis driving us down to Pahalgam. En-route Pahalgam, Younis talks about 2014 Kashmir floods, introduces us to Kashmiri Kahwa. Each time we drive past a Dargah or a School, he mutes the car audio & silently drives on.

By Day 4- we are already familiar with words like "Phiran"and "Wazwan". We have tasted the Kahwa, felt the Pashmina Shawl.
Khyber Cement hoardings on the skyline of Srinagar- introduce us to a new word, as they read - "Mazbooth Tameer, Mehfooz Kashmir".

Charms of the Valley continue to surprise, even as we reach the airport for departure. There is a Multi-layered baggage screening, prior to security check.  But what blares louder is the message that an average local tries to convey.
From Javed to Younis, from a hand-loom vendor to a Pony Rider, they all have 1 common understanding “The Valley thrives on tourism of snow-capped mountains, let not security concerns ruin it".
With this message, we fly down to the warmth of Chennai.