Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Rich Haul

I just returned from a short and hectic ten day tour of Bangalore. Of this trip, I could have chosen to tell you about the flight which got cancelled, or the flight which we missed, of the various airports that we spent a LOT of time in, of how Bangalore can now only be described as a city under construction, of the many plans made and the many more that were cancelled even before they were made, of how I almost visited Mysore, Belur, Halebid, Sringeri etc... Though these were exciting and fun in themselves, I choose to tell you instead, about what excited me the most - My overall haul of 10 books this summer.

These last two months have seen me come by 10 books at the overall cost of 1100/-. The price of these books have ranged between Rs 20/- (for a Colleen McCulough Classic) to Rs 395/- for "MyChina Diary" by K. Natwar Singh. The genre of the books encompasses everything from the super trashy ("Why Mars and Venus Collide"), to general fiction (2 Sidney Sheldons) a classic (Colleen McCullough's "The Ladies of Missalonghi") Contemporary Fiction (Kiran Desai's "The Inheritance of Loss") to Self Development (Deepak Chopra's "Power, Freedom and Grace" ) Political Non Fiction (My China Diary), Political Fiction ("A Case of Exploding Mangoes" - about General Zia Ul Haq's assassination), History ( Killing Rage - about the IRA and it's struggle), and Biography (Angela's Ashes).

Even the places from where I acquired these books are just as varied - ranging from a mail order from the India Today Book Club, Delhi, a footpath and a second hand book store, Bangalore and a Bookstore at the Kolkata airport.

What has remained constant however is my smug pleasure at each of these acquisitions. :-)

Monday, May 18, 2009

बस एक बार और...

Reproduced below is a wonderful poem I found here. It captures exactly what I was trying to say yesterday and why it is that I'm so upset that I'm flying through Bombay now and not Kolkata:

बस एक बार वापस लौटने का मन करता है
आज हर वो दिन जीने को मन करता है.
कुछ बुरी बातें जो अब अच्छी लगती हैं
कुछ बातें जो कल की ही बातें लगती हैं.
एक बार और क्लास Attend करने का मन करता है
दोपहर की क्लास में आखें बंद करने को मन करता है.
दोस्तों के रूम की वो बातें याद आती है
Exam के टाइम पे वो हसी मजाक याद आती है,
कॉलेज के पास 'काकी के ढाबे' की याद आती है
तब की बेकार लगने वाली फोटोस चेहरे पे हसी लाती है.
अपनी गलतियों पे तुमसे डाट खाना याद आता है.
पर तुम्हारी गलती देखने का अब भी मन करता है.
एक ऐसी सुबह उठने का मन करता है
बस एक बार वापस लौटने का मन करता है.
बस एक बार और
वापस लौटने का मन करता है.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Diversion.

I was supposed to be writing this post from Bangalore. I was supposed to have reached there last night. Instead am still in Ranchi. Only because Air Deccan did not think it profitable to fly us to Kolkata from where we had our next flight. Anyway, so the plan was such that I would have had a seven hour halt at Kolkata. I was soo excited to be going back to the city 'one last time', to visit friends, go back to college for a while, (maybe even make a face or two at a particular teacher), go 'hang out' again at City Center, have an 'Amul' Mango ice cream there, and what the heck maybe even squeeze in a visit to Mani Square.
Instead I will now be flying via Mumbai tomorrow(Air Deccan willing). Darn!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

From A Railway Carriage

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.
Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And here is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart runaway in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill, and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone forever!

- R.L. Stevenson

Thursday, May 14, 2009

One too many?

Voters in Haryana's Bhiwani required unusual discernment in 1989. The seat had 5 candidates named Om Prakash, 4 named Rajbir, 3 Jaivirs, 3 Dalbirs, 3 Hawa Singhs, 2 Suraj Bhans, 2 Ramphals, 2 Ram Niwases, 2 Ram Mehars, 2 Ram Singhs, 2 Sumers, 2 Man Singhs, 2 Rajenders, 2 Diwan Singhs, 2 Nihal Singhs and even 2 Ishwars.

Bansi Lal of the Congress won.

Any guesses why?

(Sourced from TT Titbits, The Telegraph, May 13, 2009.)

Being a tourist at home

Recently, two of my friends from Kolkata visited Ranchi. They carefully co-ordinated their trip so that the second arrived one day after the first one left. What that meant was that, everyday, for about a week, we would leave our house at 9:00 am (just when the sun had decided that it was time to turn on some serious heat) and stayed out till 4:00 pm (till just when the sun decided that it was time to start winding down for the day), making sure that we caught as much of the summer heat as was possible. What it also meant was, that for the first time in a really long time, I got the opportunity to sightsee around Ranchi. Twice. I have raved about the beauty of Sikkim and Kerala and Tamil Nadu , and now it is time to tell you about Ranchi.

Ranchi, was the Summer Capital of Bihar for a really long time. Situated on the Chota Nagpur plateau at a height of 2140 ft, this quaint little hill station was known for it's pleasant weather, water falls and lakes. The temperatures, I have been assured, never rose beyond 30 degrees and it used to be the talk of the town the day it rose to 32 degrees. And almost every evening, I am told, it used to rain. Now those days are gone of course. But the temperatures here, rarely go beyond 40 degrees these days and two or three days of intense heat is still invariably followed by a cool, refreshing shower.

As with all the other places I have written about, I will not talk about the various 'tourist spots' of Ranchi, be it the Jagannath Mandir, Pahari Mandir, Tagore Hill, Crocodile Park, Rock Garden, Nakshatra Van, Dhurwa dam, or the Kanke dam etc. I will however, spare a word or two for the wonderful Ormanjhi Zoo, to say only this - that in all my 22 years of zoo visiting I have come across only four that are worth putting on the favourites list:
1. The Himalayan Zoological Park, Sikkim
2. The Trivandrum Zoo, Kerala and Ormanjhi Zoo, Ranchi and
3. The Mysore Zoo, Karnataka.
(Here, I must record my dissapointment with the much touted Alipur Zoo at Kolkata. Appalingly, it has become merely yet-another-ill-kept-zoo!)

Also, worth mentioning are the various water-falls and lakes around this city. Dassam Falls (10 falls), Johna falls, Hundru Falls, Ranchi lake etc were a major tourist attraction even till around 10 years ago. Sadly however, Naxal infestation has meant that only the Ranchi lake is accessible these days and in a limited at-your-own-risk kind of way, - the dassam falls.

However the thing that makes Ranchi so endearing is the typical small town feel - where it is still scandalous for a girl to sit on the front seat of an auto, where eyebrows are raised when kids take up anything other than science or at the very least commerce for their +2, where you still draw stares if you wear sunglasses, but also where neighbours bring you food after you come back from a long trip out of town, where there is still enough greenery enough to ensure that squirrels, sparrows, a variety of other birds, butterflies etc are not a rare commodity, and where organic food is unheard of since all that you get is farm fresh anyway. People would be appalled if it were otherwise.

But the best thing about Ranchi, a trait which it shares with Bokaro (another city where I spent 6 of the most formative years of my life) is simply that it is inhabited by Biharis. Throughout my life I have drawn stares which have ranged from disgusted to pitiful when I have told people from the more 'developed' parts of the country that I am from Bihar (OK now, technically, Jharkhand). I only smile in response. You would have to have stayed here to appreciate that a typical Bihari is one of the friendliest people in the country, he is also one of the most cultured. (yes yes, scoff away) He has a sweet tongue (be it Maithli, Bhojpuri or the many other dialects they speak here) and has a few of the tastiest dishes I have ever tasted. (do make it a point to try malpua, litti, sattu ka parantha, dal puri, kheer, thekua, dahi chuda, and lai). And of course he has chatt and holi. Enough said.

Monday, May 11, 2009

And speaking of Ads...

...I have also decided to post my pick for the top five Best and Worst Ads on TV (seen either today or in the near past):

The Best Five: -
5. Max New York Life Child Plans: 'Czechoslovakia'.
4. Sundrop Refined Oil: 'जलेबी!!'
3. Airtel: पापा का फ़ोन आया था न? + The first ad with Rahman and his tune.
2. Havells - Wires that don't catch fire. (what I love most abt this ad is that it's a 'silent' ad)
1. Orbit Chewing Gum: TOW the slaves lighting up a medieval city!

The Worst Five: -
5. BSNL Broadband - '2mbps superspeed, BSNL is all you need'
4. Airtel - The Mahadevan and Vidya Balan series.
3. Hyundai I10: 'It's zippy too'.
2. Havells - 'छूटे पसीना मुश्किल है जीना.'
1. Axe: The Axe Effect - ALL Ads in this series.

Friday, May 8, 2009

And speaking of Zoozoos...

.... here are my picks for the top ten zoozoo ads: -
10. Cricket Commentary on your mobile
9. Fashion Tips
8. Be the Star of the match
7. Dating Tips :)
6. IPL Alerts on your mobile
5. Phonebook Backup
4. Beauty Alerts
3. Vodafone Maps
2. Download Games
1. Stock Alerts
Honourable Mentions: -
1. Bhakti Geet
2. Fun Box with two year warranty
3. Chote recharge
4. Can't Answer? set a busy Message
5. Send a Voice SMS

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

IPL Season II

Watching IPL this time round, brings back memories of last year: We were all interning in Bombay, had no access to TV and thus only distantly and sporadically followed the fortunes of the various teams. No TV also meant a few other things:

1. That we spent most free evenings hanging out on Marine Drive. And once....
After spending an entire day bumbling around Bandra and Hill Road - 'shopping', we landed at Bandra Banstand for, you know hanging out, were extremely disappointed at the kind of sea front we encountered, decided that ONLY Marine Drive could be good enough for our tired souls, made the hour long train journey to Grant Road and then started the 15 minute walk required to reach our favourite quiet spot. But Lo and Behold! The fast moving traffic on Marine Drive was crawling, the entire place was swarming with police vehicles, policemen, the Press, the general public... pandemonium prevailed! It prompted us to ask a policeman for an explanation. "The Match!" was the only thing he said before rushing to sort out yet another road fight. It took us a little while longer to put 2 and 20 together - to remember and realise that it was the IPL opening ceremony at the Wankhede stadium that we had stumbled upon. I would like to believe that but for the near empty pockets, we would have gotten into the stadium. So anyway, we contended ourselves with sitting on the embankment, our hair blowing in the cool sea breeze, licking a series of Naturals Ice creams, listening to the music playing inside, hearing the crowd roar every time a new jig started, and then finally seeing first hand, what was arguably the best fireworks display I have seen in a loong time. And that is how ladies and gentlemen, I ended up 'watching' the opening ceremony of IPL! It is indeed a unique pleasure to be able to tell people, while watching a rerun of last year's opening ceremony on TV, exactly which flavour of ice cream you were eating, right outside the stadium when a particular roar from the crowd went up. :)

2. That I waited to get to office everyday so that I could read the newspaper to find out as much as I could about the previous day's match and read the post match analyses. It was during these surreptitious paper reading sessions that I fell in love with the printed, one day late coverage of cricket matches. All I can say is, it has a charm which watching the match or watching the news of the match on NDTV and such like, can never match.

Last year, my favourite two teams did horribly, Vijay Mallya cried foul and washed dirty linen in public, I got all the IPL news in slow-mo, watched nearly nothing live, and hated the cheerleaders. This year by contrast, though I missed the opening ceremony (both live as well as the rerun), my favourite team has suddenly started doing well (touch-wood), I like the jerseys better, there has been very little washing of dirty linen in public, and the only kind that exists (the Fake IPL Player) - I find very funny, and I have seen the ball by ball coverage of almost every match on TV. Also, off field, I love the new Vodafone ads and wait anxiously everyday to see what new wonder they have come up with.

So, all in all I should have enjoyed this year's edition better than last year's. I wonder why it is then, that IPL for me, still means IPL 2008.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Uniquely Sikkim!

Well enough is enough. I spent the week between April 17th to 24th in Sikkim. And ever since, this post has been in 'draft mode'. I have finally decided that I am sick and tired of seeing incomplete posts on my dashboard and thus here it is.....
Tales of the beauty of this tiny state nestled between the mountains of the lower Himalayas is a tale that has been told umpteen times. I do not wish to repeat it here. Here are a few pics though to give you an idea:

Instead, what I will attempt to do is, give you an idea of a few things that combine to make Sikkim, uniquely Sikkim: -
My first impression of Sikkim was of its excellent administeration. Literally the first thing our Taxi Driver said on entering Sikkim was, “Yahaan ka kanoon bahut khatra hai”. By that, he definitely did not mean that the laws there are any more or less barbaric than the laws in the rest of the country, but only that the implementation of those laws there is far better than anywhere else I have seen. :)

Secondly, the people seem to love their Chief Minister. Mr. Pawan Chamling has been in power for fifteen years in Sikkim, and everybody we spoke to was very confident that he would come back to power this time too. Well, it’s not difficult to see why. He’s brought such a lot of development and prosperity to Sikkim! I am yet to visit any other place / state where I have gone a full week without seeing signs of abject poverty or encountering people begging from tourists. However, What development and prosperity has also meant is that there is a LOT of construction going on everywhere in Sikkim. That has compromised with the cleanliness of the place a little bit. But definitely nowhere near the levels we are used to seeing on the streets of Calcutta or Ranchi or any other city.

Thirdly, the only vehicles seen on the roads of Sikkim are: Local Taxis and very few local private vehicles. Due to the hilly terrain and roads that go up or down at angles of nearly 60* all the while incorporating hairpin bends, no two wheelers, rickshaws (whether of the auto or cycle variety), cycles, or even public transport such as city buses etc are seen on the roads. A few buses owned by the Sikkim Nationalised Transport can be seen plying, but they are few and far in between. The roads are just too narrow to allow a bus to take up the entire space. Stringent license requirements, and rigorous driving tests ensure that Sikkim has one of the lowest rates of road accidents, despite having roads at gravity defying angles! So most people walk to their various destinations, which means Sikkim must also have a very fit population!

Fourthly, we kids from the plains are plain spoilt. What with the buses to take us to and from school, public transport wherever we want to go or private vehicles at home to ferry us around. Lines of Sikkimese kids can be seen every morning, happily walking precariously on the edge of the road, collecting flowers and other knick knacks on the way, wearing traditional school uniforms, merrily make their way to school – which could be anywhere between 5 to 10 kms away one way. Little kids from Nursery onwards are expected to walk long distances, since even older kids cannot be expected to carry them for upto 10 Kms. Pity I didn’t think enough to take a pic of any of these kids.

Fifthly, the fact that the Sikkimese aesthetic sense translates into all houses big or small, rich or poor, have flowers adorning them. Every last one of them! If there is a man living somewhere, there will be atleast be a flowerbed / a pot adorning it. And it makes the entire city look so pretty!!

Sixthly, I love how friendly and warm the people are. Despite the enormous hardships they have to face due to the terrain, they are a hardworking happy people, ever smiling and ever ready to help. And that pleasantness rubs off on the tourists too – making the entire stay all the more pleasant. I also love the straightness and the simplicity of the Sikkimese people. Sample a random conversation I overheard:

Random Girl to Policeman guarding entrance to Rumtek Monastery: Police Uncle, aap bole the thoda phool denge. (think of it said in the lilting accent of the Sikkimese)
Policeman (gruffly): Kaun sa phool?
Random girl: Mamma bola ki aap phool denge ghar ke liye!
Policeman (gruffly): haan haan, kaun sa phool?
Random Girl: Dheere boliye na, Dar lagta hai. Rose chahiye tha.
That girl was easily at least 15 – 16 years old. Now where else would you find a person scolding and telling a policeman to keep his voice down and tone normal because it scares her?

Seventhly, of course this is the land of the Red Panda and the Snow Leopard and the tibetan wolf etc etc. as also the land of the thousands of kinds of flowers and the three kinds of bamboo.
A co-passenger who was on the train with us both on our way to and from NJP remarked on the way back, ' Sikkim में लगता ही नही है की India में हैं। Foreign लगता है "। He couldn't have hit the nail straighter on the head.

Friday, May 1, 2009


I almost started by apologising for the long hiatus from blogging. But then I figured - who am I kidding, this is more for personal satisfaction than for an actual readership. None exists anymore anyway. This realisation has given me the freedon therefore to post on the most inane of subjects. Blogrolls.
I was recently deleted from a blogroll because the owner of that particular blogroll likes to keep his blogroll short. (Ok, this entire post is actually so that I could put that sentence in!) I was most inconvenienced due to this newest obsession of his. See, I like to keep my blogroll short too. That is why, my blogroll is never an accurate account of all the blogs I follow. Actually, it is not even necessary that I follow the blogs appearing on my blogroll. Mostly, I use my blogroll as the shortest route to access the blogs that I do follow. i.e. I use my blogroll essentially to access other people's blogrolls.
So now you see why a trimming of the blogrolls by a person on my blogroll would greatly inconvenience me? Especially since I do not make any attempt to pagemark / bookmark the blogs I like or even remember their url nor do I know how to effectively use web history etc.? So here is an appeal to all on my blogroll - please do spare a thought for your readers - do not detrimentally tamper with your blogrolls. Additions will always be welcome ofcourse! :)