Saturday, April 24, 2010

From Basanti to Lisbeth

Or

My Travels in Assam (Part III)

NOTE: Parts I and II are also online.

The drive back to Guwahati was a long one, past the crowded roads of Jorhat, across the long, long (3km) bridge at Kolia Bhomora. This bridge, symbolically linking the seven states, is also known as the Bridge of the Seven Sisters and has really some pretty decorative sculpture on the theme.

Before that though we crossed Kohora (Kaziranga) once more, drove down endless, night-darkened highways and I comforted myself with the reminder that we did have a day left of our holiday.

We crossed the river twice, stopped at a petrol station and bought CDs of Vaishnav kirtans and Kishore Kumar songs. We listened in peace to the former and sang along lustily with the latter. We had another great dinner around midnight at a dhaba on the way – chicken and mutton curries with tandoori rotis – and then, finally, I recognised Guwahati roads.

We drove home and threw ourselves into bed. I threw myself at the third, having endured an anguished wait for it for over a day by then. The boys slept, from the 3 year old to the 38 year old, while I read on and eventually conceded defeat and fell asleep. I woke up early the next morning, slightly disoriented, and began to read once more. My missionary zeal towards cleaning Sen’s pad had long been overtaken by my desperation to finish the trilogy before I left Guwahati.

Sen eventually woke up and started work on a brunch of ham and sausages and fancy scrambled eggs and toast. He’d fed us a similar meal before we left for Kaziranga, but he didn’t repeat his mistake of trying to feed us random greens. (The prior attempt had seen us all – Sen included – dump the greens on Priyo’s plate.)

Then he, Beq, Rahul and I set off for a spot of shopping. Priyo was not well and in fact slept through the day. We walked through a nearby Fabindia to get to another shop that had interesting woven stuff – if you could afford them which I by then couldn’t. A little disappointed we went to the Assam Emporium instead where I finally assuaged my mekhla-chador longings with a bright red cotton mekhla with Mishing work and bought some trinkets for gifts. Speaking of gifts, Rahul charmed Beq into buying him (Rahul) a wooden car by dint of explaining to him (Beq) that he (Beq) ought to give him (Rahul) a “geef”. We also checked out a little exhibition happening next door where Beq bought some pork pickle and I bought pretty table napkins.

Rahul, who hadn’t eaten much of anything all day began whining for juice. I was all for smacking him into silence by then but Sen insisted that juice must be found and what do you know, he actually did.

Then, late into the afternoon, we finally made our way towards the Kamakshi Temple or the Kamakhya Temple, whichever you want to call it. Now that was an experience. The temple is at the top of a hill and it doesn’t really look like all that much from the outside (except from certain directions) but suddenly you look down and notice that those blurry sculptures you’re casually standing next to depict gruesome hags doing horrifying things.


Sen had contacted a priest he knew (I have the chap’s card if you want an intro!) and so we handed over some cash and arrangements were smoothly made for our darshan. Sen and Beq offered puja moreover, an act to which Rahul took strong exception. He kept urging them to take those garlands and scarves off and rub the tilak off their forehead.


In addition he was annoyed because I wouldn’t let him wade in a courtyard being washed, like all the other kids, but mindful of the next day’s journey, I picked him up and walked him out. There were a lot of rams, goats and pigeons around.


We went home after this but fed up with Rahul’s whining, I yanked him into a coffee shop near Sen’s place and bullied some cake and milkshake into him. While I was engaged thus the boys landed up with a bright-eyed Priyo and we had another round of cake and coffee. That was rather pleasant, in retrospect, and made me miss Vicky a little less at last. I’d missed having him around to shove the boy towards, all day.

Sen made Mutton Zaheer Abbas for dinner, a fanatastic concoction that involved tender mutton and lots of Good Stuff and ended up making a delicious meal for the five of us plus Mukut who came to dinner. Rahul watched Persepolis yet again, and re-did the interior d├ęcor and ‘fixed’ the remotes while he was at it.


I very rudely stuck to my room as long as I could, devouring the Larsson. The boys enjoyed a long after-dinner chat complete with Mukut’s enactments (he's a very talented mimic and a gifted storyteller) which I could hear in bursts and which I missed completely, but such is life.

Luckily for me, I managed to finish it while putting Rahul to bed, because Beq had turned faintly murderous in his sulky way by then. What was left of the night was whiled away in one energetic adda. Priyo went to bed and Mukut went home but Beq, Sen and I discussed politics, love lives and other random things, all the things you mean to discuss but always forget to, until the sky turned light and the crows made their presence felt. It was a beautiful finale to the holiday of a lifetime.

The next morning passed in a blur of packing and breakfast and goodbyes. Soon we were passing the Guwahati High Court and then the University and then heading out of the city. Soon we were hugging the boys and running into the airport. The flight back was comfortable and there was Vicky waiting for his family at the end of it. What more could you want to know?

13 comments:

Aneela Z said...

oho the ma in law has a boutique in Fancy Bazar and sells all things mekhla, if i had known i could have pushed you off there and prevailed on her good graces to give you a generous *phamily deescount*

Sue said...

Aneela -- Dang, what a pity. I drove myself wild searching for a cotton mekhla without stitched on borders or zari work (for laundering as well as aesthetic reasons!) made in a colour I loved.

I do like the one I picked out in the end but some more choice wouldn't have been bad, nor would I have minded a *phamily deescount* LOL. Next time!

dipali said...

Awesome travelogue, Sue. And you managed to read the Trilogy. Wow!

Rohini said...

Holiday of a lifetime indeed.

What does your title refer to?

randomrandom said...

@offering puja: i couldnt back out.

again, a lovely post!

Beq said...

and while we were at kamakhya, i should've been catching that flight instead...oh well. Nice one Sue

Sue said...

Dipali -- Thanks. No way was I leaving Guwahati without finishing all three books.

Ro -- 'Bashun' in Bengali means vessel. Since I kept washing the dishes every chance I got, I got called Bashonti/Basanti. Then, when Sen and I were obsessing over Lisbeth Salander (from the Millenium Trilogy) he decided I would make a good Lisbeth. Also, Lisbeth Salander totally seduced me away from the kitchen sink. The title sums up my journeys, at various levels.

Sen -- I know, you looked shanghaied, almost! And thank you.

Beq -- LOL I meant to put that in but the ending came out so nicely without that I didn't.

You know, you sound as wistful as I feel?

Rohini said...

Nice. You should have put that in your post

Sue said...

Ro -- I briefly considered it but the posts were long enough already!

starry eyed said...

Totally off-topic...how are the goldfish doing? do they actually live long and does Rahul enjoy them...we're researching goldfish bowls and I remembered you!

Sue said...

Starry -- Pranav ('Panaw') and Uttam are doing fine, swimming around in their mouldy old bowl, making like they never get fed every time I look at them. (I think goldfish are daft. I wanted angel fish.)

They haven't grown any -- we have them in that small bowl and we were told that they wouldn't grow unless they were put in a larger space.

Low maintenance. We feed them twice a day and Vicky cleans the bowl once a week. Rahul feeds them before leaving for school and likes the occasional chat with them but I had to put them high up partly because I had no space lower down and partly because he kept putting 'toys' (dirt) into the bowl!

Ideal pets for Dhruv. Div can clean out the bowl if she isn't squeamish.

But really, goldfish are such silly things. All they want to do is look goggle-eyed at you and make like they're starving.

starry eyed said...

Thanks Sue, for the Pranav-Uttam tale :) Sounds encouraging...I don't have place either...it does make sense to keep it out of little-boy-reach...it'll be great for first pets around here considering I couldn't possibly look after a dog or cat! And a bowl/tank is easier to foist on a friend during a vacation!

Sue said...

Starry -- LOL I see I couldn't dissuade you after all. Yeah, they are easy to foist on unsuspecting friends for holidays. We have left the fishies with the MIL. Once we left them for ten days which was a bit long given she wasn't confident about cleaning the bowl, so I asked her to remove and replace two cups of water everyday. Not ideal but better than nothing.