Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Ultimate Escape

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Paddy Field

Paddy Field

Bolpur is far away from the flashy buzz-a three and a half hours drive from Kolkata, India. We were on a trip to a village – Panchshoa, Bolpur for the Holi (festival of colors) celebration. We took the Durgapur Expressway (NH 2).  This motor able route is exceptionally smooth & we had a glitch free travel. The four lane dividers are beautifully landscaped. The route had an extensive paddy farm land and the hues of green on either side looked magnificent! The enchantments included many other small observations, like the bullock carts, mud huts, cow dung cakes, etc. The greenery was flourishing as we were nearing our destination.

“There, can you see the Tata Building?” Manhawar, our driver pointed at the huge deserted land. We were taken aback by the stretch and its vastness. The infamous Singur is significantly a huge barren land we crossed by. The gigantic Tata building lies abandoned. It is the disputed land of Tata Nano project. What a waste!

Shaktigarh was our tea break, a famed stopover popularly known for “langcha”, a sweet meat made of fresh cottage cheese.

The setting sun

The setting sun

 We watched the orange haze casting over the nearby trees with a glowing light on the horizon. A warm sensation splashed onto my face from the beaming rays of the setting sun. We finally reached our destination through muddy and dusty road. On arriving, we were transported to a different place altogether. The surroundings dazzled with lightings and all preparations were on for the big occasion – Holi that was on the very next day. We were welcomed by cousins and relatives.

As we tried to settle down and relax, within half an hour tea with puffed rice and some yummy fries were served. Eat like locals with locals as they say.

The huge area of land, consisting of the main building is my hubby’s cousin’s house. It has a rajbari (palatial) look. Just beside the Rajbari (as I call) is the temple of Radha-krishna along with a shiv mandir and opposite is the temple of Shinghabahini (Durga) with a podium on both sides. bolpur2A part of the temple area is the guest house and just opposite is the area where hay is stacked from the recent harvest. Basically, the family owns a huge farmland where rice is grown in abundance. Adjacent to it is a community kitchen and a dining hall. The stage was already set and the evening saw some soulful numbers by some local baul singers. This continued till late at night.

The Dhakis

The Dhakis

Early next morning, the temple reverberated with Rabindra Sangeet accompanied by the beats of drums. Some 12 dhakis (drummers) were gloriously drumming in majestic rhythm bringing a typical festive aura. What amused me were the decorative drums and the number. I’ve never seen so many dhakis at a time, not even in Durga puja celebrations.

It was after 11.00 a.m. the pujas started and soon after, the head priest applied abir (color) on everybody’s forehead. The festival of colors came alive.

Evening saw some wonderful music by Shantinekatan students performing dance drama and the likes. The ground was filled with all village folks from young to very old. This continued till the wee hours.

Food was exceptionally sumptuous all through our stay. Dinner on “Holi ” night was just awesome. The menu was tastefully set with crunchy fish fry and salad to start with, followed by lobster curry dipped in coconut milk, mutton curry steaming out of the serving bowl and an array of  vegetarian food & desserts to wrap up. Not forgetting a pint of the best scotch whiskey and many other I don’t know drinks( i don’t drink 🙂 ) for some, to honor the celebration before diving to the dinner table.

Shobuj Bon

Shobuj Bon

To wind up, we set out to Shobuj Bon (Green jungle) the next morning. The entrance made me feel very excited. It had a rugged pathway. A flash of memories of our jungle adventures came back. The owner, a bald headed middle aged man greeted us and we made rounds to the 120 acres of land cover. The amazing part was the variety of flowering plants that were carefully handpicked to landscape the property – noteworthy natural attraction. As we explored, we came across few thatched houses. It is a Jungle Resort as well. We met few tourists here and their experience was good. “If you want a real jungle experience, this place delivers”, said one of them.You are sure to love the exotic and once in a lifetime experience of staying inside the jungle. Where the heat, humidity, and discomforts, this place can be met with considerable comfort. Perhaps this will be my next destination very soon.

Shobuj Bon

Shobuj Bon

Kochor & Mochor

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A mild sniffle somewhere near our house woke me up last early winter morning. My fingers tingling from the chill, I peeked through the window and rubbing my eyes clear, saw three tiny puppies huddling! Yes, they were so cute and their eyes yet to see the world. The fallen leaves made wonderful crunching sound as the mama came running through the crispy floor of dried leaves.

This piece of land is perhaps the only vacant area that houses so many beautiful fruit trees. The owner one day pulled down two of them, the most fruit bearing ones. The reason, the fruits get stolen and he thinks it is pointless keeping them. The fallen green leaves turned yellow and then to brown, hence, the crispy floor. The boundary wall separates our house and the land. Every morning I would crane my neck to see them. They were always in sleeping mode. Our affection towards them started to grow.

One evening the mama’s woof turned into helpless howl. We wondered what was wrong. To our astonishment we saw one puppy, stained with blood lay lifeless. We have wild civets; we call “Bham biral or Gandho Gokul” in Bengali, roam after dusk, here in our area. They are a real nocturnal nuisance and they stink!  They climb trees, buildings and peek through windows. Newly born babies, puppies, kittens are vulnerable if left unguarded. They even steal food like fruits and vegetables. It was a painful scene to see the mama’s whimper as it sat by the dead. After sometimes, as if in ritual, it dug a small hollow and placed the dead and covered with earth and dried leaves. Rest in peace!

How time flies. The two were growing up. They now started exploring their terrain. The stumps were their pedestal for viewing their enclosure. With every passing day, the puppies learnt to hide under the leaves. They appear only when they sense their mother is around.

The winter chill was on its final lap. One night a sudden thunder storm brought incessant rains. Our sleep broke with the puppies’ feeble cries. This little territory has so many unknown creatures from snakes to mosquitoes and don’t know bugs. The floor has over grown shrub covers, making it pretty creepy. We couldn’t dare get in there. They cuddled and moaned till the rains stopped and the peeping sun brought some warmth. We wondered why the mama came so late to their rescue. We thought they wouldn’t survive but we were wrong. As the saying goes, “Survival of the fittest” is so true to them.

crunchy-crispyWithin two months or so, the two started responding to our calls. First, their tails, then heads would appear from underneath the leaves. Sometimes their fights were simply funny but when they became violent the mama would make a shrilling howl and they sense the game is over. Kochor (Crunchy) & Mochor(Crispy) as we named them after one of our neighbors started calling them by those names. We thought the names were appropriate for the sounds they make as they trample and run through the dried leaves. They would stand, waiting for me patiently as I feed them with some food. Kochor pauses and puts her paws up on the wall, as it tilts its neck with violent shake of its tail. It leans to touch my hand but bounces back. Mochor is an introvert as it would only stare at me blankly, not as bubbly as Kochor. They are very different from the street puppies. So enclosed was their life that we are like strangers- it is like friendship from far. If the mother sees me, it would run at full speed to greet me or fling herself against the gate when he sees me coming, as if my arrival is the most important thing that’s ever happened to her in her life.. as if we have been friends for a very long time.

Its dinner time and the mama dog would sit far on the boundary wall and keep vigil on what we are feeding. She never ate the food we gave her kids.

Days were getting warmer and Mochor became sick and stopped eating. He kept hiding away among the shrubs or just kept lying under tree shades. He was becoming frail and looked sad. We couldn’t figure out what really went wrong. I tried force feeding him with some homeo medicine with glucose water. But every time it would run away but somehow we managed. Half the time Kochor would playfully pounce on Mochor’s glucose bowl. I would chase him away. The mama would groom him but it was so weak with little response. Kochor would try playing but he won’t move. After two days, he started limping back. I was optimistic! A little hope turned into a big sigh. He gave me a real scare.

We were so much observed with Mochor when suddenly the obedient Kochor disappeared. Assuming it has grown, we thought she must’ve found her clan. We were extremely apprehensive and very sad. After two days, the stinking smell from the land made us awfully confused. The municipal Corporation was informed. The truck came and lifted the enclosed bonnet. I saw piled up dead dogs and cats. It was a very sad scene. The man got down to the bushes and found kochor half decaying! The bushes are so thick; it is just not possible to locate anything .May be it died of snake bite. He picked up and placed it inside the truck. Heart stopping scene it was, seeing the mama and Mochor witnessing the dead being carried away. I couldn’t hold my tears. This is how street dogs survive I remind myself.

This pic. has so much resemblance to Kochor .Rest in Peace!    Image: Google

This pic. has so much resemblance to Kochor .Rest in Peace! Image: Google

Nostalgia !

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hallAfter nearly 15 years or so, we tried to catch up with a movie that was not showing in any of the multiplexes in town. We all desperately wanted to see a movie- a Bengali movie. Recently, they have been really doing great. We made it to the nearby locality hall. It was neat and clean, sitting arrangement was o.k. but the only difference is, there is no air conditioning; the sound system is poor so is the picture quality. Nostalgia I should say as it remind me of my childhood.You can carry any amount of tit bits unlike the multiplexes. And yes, tickets are much much cheaper. During the interval, you get to see the hawkers selling those Rs. 10.00 pop corns. They don’t taste bad and believe it or not, you buy double that pack for a yippee Rs. 90.00 in the multiplexes. Well, the experience was not very bad.

But definitely, the difference is that, the multiplex changed the entire definition of watching a movie keeping the traditional impact as it is. Watching a movie in multiplexes at City Centre or South City mall, here in Kolkata, India is a fashion statement for most of us and why not, it’s a great place to hangout. Bigger screen, Dolby sound system, Air conditioning, more leg space, cosy seats, 3D experience and what more do you wish for? Now for the popcorns, you get a variety of flavors 🙂

a combination in multiplexes

a combination in multiplexes

Popcorns are o.k. but recently the counters started selling sandwiches, momos and a variety of snacks ..not to my taste 😦  And if you go for chicken sandwich or a chicken burger, everything is fine except that the chicken is missing ..as we say in bengali “chicken r chi o neyi ” 🙂

Images : Google

How safe are our skylines?

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The world Trade Centre rises again

originalThis is the headline that caught my eyes today morning as I was browsing through the latest news updates in Yahoo. No wonder, so many years gone by when the World Trade Centre‘s Twin towers came crashing down, one of the most horrendous incidences history will never forget. When news channels were showing live telecast of the first bellowing clouds of smoke and the subsequent pictures of men & women clinging to windows some 100 floors up and frantically screaming for help, little did we realize what the consequences would be. Within one hour, the towers were down like a pack of cards. I was just imagining when lifts fail and when all occupants take the stairs from so high up, it must’ve been a real chaos. Well, it was. Those who made it were indeed lucky but those helpless 2,753? It was a tragedy for all their loved ones and to the world. Most of the top trading companies world wide housed their offices here. The colossal loss was insurmountable! Terrorism is bringing more barriers to human relationship. Gopal Mitra, one of the eight architects, cried inconsolably when interviewed in one of the news channels, here in Kolkata, India, just after the news broke. He kept saying “I feel like I have lost a child. I feel so alone.’’

Nearly 11 years have elapsed and it still seems like yesterday. On 2nd May 2013, members of the media assembled on the 100th floor (the observation deck) of the newly constructed World Trade Centre – one of the tallest monoliths for a press conference. Some the shots taken from here are incredible and the building itself is magnificent. I was just going through the photographs of the nearly completed building. The skyline of New York now fills the void. The majestic high-rise is almost complete but as the news says, it will be operational by 2014 and  will be one of the premier tourist attractions.Now, as many high rise buildings rule the skies, what should be the safety measures? The spire that was just installed on top of the WTC, will serve as a broadcast antenna and will be connected with some of the international news channels.This is just a part of the safety measures. And as more such skyscrapers come up, more safety measures such as new generation of cement-based or ceramic composite materials of fire resistance, fireproofing, etc.will be a major importance to dimensional stability. Besides, many engineering giants who work for such high rise buildings are bringing new technologies for a safer and a stronger structures with the objective for safer passage and less casualty.

Image: Google

Check out the beautiful link below. It is a documentary of the rebuilding of WTC

Women! Stand up for your rights!

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oppressed-women
Holding back her tears, she boards a bus to her parents’ place some 2 kilometers away. The frail body seems too exhausted. Every time she recall back a distasteful incident, her eyes wells up. She wipes back as if an annoying insect got logged in one of her eyes, just to distract the onlookers. An old man by her side seems to sense her anxiety, stares helplessly at her face. He could feel her heavy heaves. In this crowded city, who can come to your rescue while traveling in a bus with unknown strangers?

This is the story of most Indian women who suffers silently, not only in rural but even in the urban society as well. Many women are caught in a web of violence and do not know where or how to get help. Their stories die with them. Even if reported, they are in most cases pushed under the rug.