Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Travels in North India -- Phase II

Well, Id saw me back in Delhi, after a long and extremely dusty train-ride through the desert. Beq came to pick me up at the Delhi Cantt. station which turned out to be nowhere close to C.R. Park as I'd been hoping. But it was great to see his silly face after so very long, even though he chose to hide it behind his old Lotto/Reebok jacket from vanity and the cold. (It says Lotto on one side, and if you turn it inside out, you get the Reebok logo. Two-timing designerwear, if you like.) The flat he and Rudder are 'living' in (as opposed to a proper, involved occupation) is rather nice, with a huge verandah and west-facing afternoon windows which capture the welcome warmth of the setting sun. Not that I saw much of it, for after a bath and a change, the two of us popped down to Debo's place, down the road, where we joined her, Sujoy and a friend of Sujoy's for an Id dinner of kebabs and tandoori rotis at Nizamuddin. I hope I'm getting the place names down right. Food was scrumptious, as I'd expected. That was the Friday.

Saturday I spent with Neel'da (Sonali's elder brother) and his family. More specifically, I spent it with his son Ghocha, who was my other reason for visiting Delhi (the primary reason being of course Beq (",) ). We shopped at Nalli, where G and I played games of swing-Ghocha-till-what-passes-for-his-brains-are-thoroughly-addled; we had lunch in Defence Colony, where G and I had fun with the liquid soap in the washroom; and we finally went to their place, also in C. R. Park, where G and I crashed all his toy cars into smithereens playing at Accidents. For dinner Neel'da honoured his son's promise (made just before Sonali and I left in the bus westwards) inviting me to a paratha dinner.

Sunday began with a sumptuous breakfast at the Connaught Place Nirula's, where Debo and I packed away enough food to stun the three males accompanying us (Sujoy, Beq and Rudder). I remember having seconds of everything on the buffet except for the idli and chutney, which I refused to have in North India, and the coffee, of which I had only one cup. There were delicious salamis, cheeses, bacon, hash brown, eggs and other stuff which I don't remember now. She and I rounded it off downstairs with a choco fudge sundae each, which was basically a coupla of scoops of vanilla ice cream with a rich, choco fudge sauce, topped with lots of chopped nuts. Yummy! We walked around C.P. a bit more and then went home. Misha had reached Delhi by then, so I spent the rest of the day catching up with her. It had been ages since I saw her too. In the evening us ladies wandered around the 'M' block market in GK II, dining off Subs and finishing with a Kaluah mousse in the cafe Mocha.

The next day Mish, Beq and I met up with Tua at the 'N' Block market in the same place, which is where the Fab Indias happen to be. I spent a blissful afternoon shopping for Vicky and Dada and rewarded myself with a blue silk top for being such a good girl. The table napkins and coasters are of course utilitarian and therefore not to be thought of as my indulgences (even if they do come in such lovely colours.) B went off to work, the NDTV office being nearby, and us girls bitched over (very bad) tea in a nearby cafe. It being nearly dark by then, Tua was packed off back to JNU and Mish and I did a little household shopping before heading home laden down by a million bags. Later that night I saw M off on her train to Indore. The cabbie was nice, but why are the taxis so frightfully expensive?

Tuesday's highlights included buying Beq a lampshade from Fab India and dining with Neel'da, his wife Monua and meeting Maitra. He's changed some, looks more assertive in a way, and I must say it suits him. I thoroughly recommend the Lakshmi parathas at the C.P. Nizam's, incidentally.

Treated Tua (and Beq) to lunch at Kake da Hotel on Wednesday, even calling up Baba to ask what to order. Food was worth the wait. Spent the afternoon looking for mufflers (the demands of mothers!) all over C.P. Thankfully, we went to Khan Market after a while, where Beq bought himself a dandy new watch.

My last full day in Delhi was spent fruitfully, sightseeing with Beq. We went to Humayun's tomb, which I vaguely remembered from my earlier visit 18 years ago. My favourite place remains Isa Khan's tomb and mosque which are to one's left before one enters the main tomb itself. The gardens were so beautiful, it wasn't hard to feel regal. I might have been a Mughal princess once after all. I could see myself gorgeously attired, spending my days in luxury, playing with my friends in the shrubbery. After spending most of the day there we went to the Lodhi Gardens, picking up sandwiches from Khan Market to picnic there with. Saw more basset hounds in the Gardens than I'd ever seen in my life before. After losing our way for while we finally managed to make it to Debo's office which happens to be right next to the Gardens themselves. Met an extremely cute girl there, but in the way of cute girls, she already has a boyfriend. Too bad for B. Met Debo and Sujoy once more that evening, for a Chinese dinner at Country Oven (?) which makes pretty good chocolate pastry.

Saturday morning found me packing like crazy (and tidying Beq's room knowing that this would be the only cleaning done for goodness knows how long) prior to dashing down to CP yet again, this time for a few last minute purchases. I bought some stamps for Baba, Wenger's chocolates for Vicky and the ideal muffler (at last). Rushing home in a panic I had time for a quick lunch after all, before Beq returned from work and we went to catch my train.

This was my time in Delhi and a great time was had by me. It was followed by a week in Calcutta whose description shall follow when I've got over the exertion of writing this post.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Travels in North India -- Phase I

Ok, here's the dope on my travels in North India. I know this is a well-overdue post but I was feeling too lazy to do this earlier. Humble apologies and all that, I'm sure, gentle reader, but for now, read on...

Phase I: Ab Dilli Duur Nahin

I was supposed to leave for Delhi on the last Friday of October, catching the Rajdhani Express from the Chennai Central Station. So much for the best-laid plans. It poured the day before I was due to leave, flooding Chennai. We had no power all day and couldn't go out because of all the water (not to mention the incessant rain) but all that was an adventure until I was informed that Central was flooded and therefore all trains were cancelled till noon the next day, including mine of course. Then it became a calamity to which I reponded with my usual, mature sulks and disbelieving rants against an unsympathetic cosmos.

Baba managed to get me a ticket on an IA flight the next night. (I am not spoiled. It was a cheap one from his Frequent Flyer points). The flight was scheduled to leave at 2000 hrs, so it came as no surprise to hear at something after 1700 that there had been bomb blasts all over Delhi and the place was consequently under red alert. Amidst much dire prediction and flutter in the (extended) familial dovecote, I was finally allowed to catch the plane by grim-faced parents. I reached Delhi around midnight and was picked up after a short wait by Chhotokaku and gang. I spent the night at his place and this uncle of mine, the youngest of Baba's cousins (in India), showed me around the Gurgaon malls the next day. I contacted Sonali who as it turned out was returning to Nal/Bikaner that very evening, so after a spot of deft driving Chhotokaku and his family saw me off from Delhi within less than 24 hours of entry.

Nal is where Sonali’s husband Akhilesh is posted at the moment, and I spent about four days there. Enjoyed life in the Air Force base. Played teen patti on Chhoti Diwali and helped put out the diyas on Diwali itself. Saw Akhilesh fly an MIG-21… quite an experience, being up close to combat aircraft. They look nowhere close to being as sturdy as one would wish. Oh, and Sonali and I also spent a night in Jaipur, with some of Akhilesh’s friends, en route Nal. He met us there and drove us down to the base in their new Scorpio, which was quite an enjoyable ride through the desert. Four days of perfect peace, before I took the train back to Delhi.

Before I end this post, I’ll add a note on the way the Western Railways con their passengers. I’d booked a seat on the AC chair-car coach on the train back to Delhi, but when I went to the Bikaner station I found that the bogey had not been attached to the train. Us AC chair-car people were forced to travel in the non-AC first-class (an enjoyable experience, I admit) or settle for the ordinary 3-tier. The problem I have with this scheme of things is that after boarding the train I was asked to pay an additional Rs. 200 as extra fare for the upgraded reservation. What price Laloo’s promise of free upgrades?

Later phases will be written up in future posts. Watch this space. And if there are any Pepes, please breathe. It’ll be a day or two before my next post, busy creature that I am.

My Two Bits

Greatbong, thanks for raising the issue. I've personally helped too many friends get through the trauma of being molested by people in authority ('uncles', teachers) and I have seen for myself how traumatic an experience it can be. Since your post seems to be read by a lot of people of our age group -- I'm assuming quite a lot of them will have something do with children, others' if not their own, someday -- I'll share something which I believe spared me all this as a kid.

My mother took great pains when I was about 11 to explain to me exactly what 'good' and 'bad' touches were, how to recognize where a ‘hug’ crosses the line of being merely affectionate. Most importantly, she told me that if ever I felt threatened, no matter who by, I was to come to her and tell her exactly what happened. And she made it clear that it was never my fault.

She has encouraged me all my life to wear whatever I want, her stipulation being that it must be in good taste. Also, that I learn to dress according to the place where I’ll be going. She strongly discouraged wearing jeans to a puja, but not because it was against tradition. Her argument was that wearing it would perhaps offend/ hurt the elders whose puja it was, and I completely endorse that stand. When I have a puja in my own house (again, not my parents’, but my own home) I shall feel free to wear what I please but in somebody else’s house it is only polite to follow their dress code. Yet those who know me personally cannot possibly argue that I am a conservative dresser…

Why am I rambling at length about my mother’s views? Because we will perhaps be lucky enough to guide our children/ nieces and nephews one day and it helps to explain to them that there are perverted creatures around but that there are ways of dealing with them. At the right age, properly explained, this can be the saving of a childhood and I do not use such a dramatic phrase easily. Too many molestations occur because the children do not realize what is happening early enough to run away. Also, given the reaction of Greatbong’s readers (read the comments for that post), I hope we will also have the strength of mind to offer these children our unconditional support if they ever feel the need to come to us. My point being, folks, it’s up to us, innit? We’ve been through it, firsthand and second, so we will perhaps be the best people to fight it.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

My Good Day

After way too long, I had a good day yesterday. The reason for my good day is now lying behind me, snoring, on his bed. He should be where I'm sitting, in front of his little pc, presumably hard at work, but he isn't. He's cute though, lying there with a half-smile plastered over his mug.

But back to my good day. I spent an instructive morning with Diya, who (as Tua pointed out to me years ago when we were both wee tots or thereabouts) is not really my dida, but hers. She gave me the hankies she's made for my trousseau -- I love good, handmade lace! -- and I showed her the lace I'd got made from elsewhere for the petticoats for those sarees. I read a bit of the autobiography she's writing and munched on her inimitable homemade cake. Then I wandered off to another dida's. My mother's mejomami, who stays (sadly, alone) in a soul-satisfyingly old-world three-storey house in Bhowanipore, is arguably the nicest of all my extant didas. She's a damn good cook too, which I hold to be absolutely fundamental to dida ratings. She made me dal, bhaat, alu bhaja (jhuri) and a veg. curry and managed to make it taste like a feast. I met my father there, which didn't surprise me too much since I'd got the feeling he'd manage to drop in there somehow once I'd told him she was cooking for me.

Had written so far sitting in V's room this morning but now I'm picking up where I left off from Dana's place. It's late at night and we watched Broadway Bound. Spotlight put up a pretty decent performance I'll say. But back to the day before:

Baba and I went from mejomamidida's to Golpark, acquiring Dali Khurima and Paul along the way. We browsed through the bookstalls and obviously I succumbed. Bought Jamaica Inn and two other books I can't recall offhand. Oh yes, one was Seven Greek Plays and the other was the activity version of The Twelve Tasks of Asterix, i.e. it has paper games and cut-out masks. From there I went on to Vicky's (Baba went off to the airport, being en route Madras) and at V's we decided to make hay while the sun shone, vis. we decided to make use of the fact that I had the keys to Moore Avenue which happened to be empty too.

Just bears out what I say: good sex is definitely an Experience. Feeling (and looking?) extremely nice and warm and obviously post-coital V and I popped up to Sudder St. afterwards to meet his colleague-of-sorts. We were supposed to go have the Irish coffee at Blue Sky but it's undergoing yet another renovation so we went into some other place instead and had a coupla rounds of brandy. Point being, it was a day like a whole lot of other days I've known, but it was a happy day. Unlike the ones I've known for so many months now. Don't mean to sound depressed there, but it's nice to feel so good once more.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Lazy Sunday Mornings -- My Favourite!

In Calcutta now, got here yesterday morning. Talking about mornings, Sundays are fun early on, aren't they? Ideally, I'd sleep in till about nine or so and then laze around a good while doing nothing very worthwhile. I can do that today I think. I did wake up around nine (slept like a baby) and now I don't really have anything earthshatteringly important to do before I land up at Vicky's for a post-lunch movie session. Then there's Dana's last show at Oxford in the evening, so we can always take in T3 while we're in the vicinity. Oh, but it's nice being back in Cal.

It's a nice world. Just thought I'd mention it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Plug till I have more time

In Delhi now. Jobs are complicated beasties to catch, I've decided. Way too temperamental. Vicky too.

Staying in C. R. Park. Seeing the sights near South Ex. Am currently relieved because I'm not lost yet.

Terrible keyboard, so more later.