Thursday, April 29, 2010

Graphic, But True

Click pics to enlarge.

This reminded me of Rahul. He breaks his toys every few minutes and goes to Baba the Wonderful to get them fixed. (Babu the Bored refuses to deal with this any more.) He earnestly believes his wonderful, omniscient father can fix every single thing, if only he'd consent to. Reminds me of me and my dad in a very cute way. For years I believed Baba could fix anything, the states of our toaster and sundry other appliances notwithstanding.

Calvin's mom's surprise is in the background could be me. Although my own mum does it better, the killing mixture of shock and disbelief.

This other strip is more me:

That's why I married the man, so he could take the blame. He's totally reneged on that agreement, though.

By the way, isn't Calvin's devastated face the cutest?

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?

Friday, April 23, 2010

From Basanti to Lisbeth

Or

My Travels in Assam (Part II)

NOTE: Parts I and III are available at the links given.

On Monday morning we set off bright and early – 12 pm! – for Kaziranga. Mukut and Sen’s driver Jiten came along because Sen, unlike us, wasn’t on holiday. We set off to cloudy skies.


The dust and construction work of Guwahati gave way to scenic village schools and incredible greenery. We drove into a spot of rain, which made the landscape even more brilliantly beautiful.


I still can’t get over how green the land is, and I come from AP, a land of ricefields.


We stopped at a sidey dhaba for a late (and disappointing) lunch of dosas and chholey bhaturey. Then Priyo took over the wheel and drove us through the gathering darkness into Kohora, Kaziranga.


This is a picture of brush being strategically fired, done to control and fertilise the jungle.

There was some confusion over our bookings so we had to wait a while but eventually we got rooms at the place I’d wanted to stay, a nice, old-fashioned building with huge, high-ceilinged rooms.


There was a stuffed monitor lizard on the wall in the reception counter (to the extreme right of the photo above), to Rahul’s intense interest and my equally intense disgust.

There were monkeys and birds in the trees. Priyo and Rahul watch some monkey business here.


We spent two nights at Kaziranga, going for the early morning elephant ride there.


That was nice but rather touristy and we felt a bit cheated, Sen and I, because our chap hurried us through and dropped us off first. We only got about 40 minutes so it was a bit disappointing.


It was exciting though, or so we felt, until we went for the jungle night patrol with the rangers. Now that, folks, was an experience to treasure for a lifetime. We left in an open Gypsy at 11 pm or so, Rahul a sleeping bundle in my arms. We saw rhinos, with babies and without, buffaloes, deer of many kinds, a porcupine and to Beq’s excitement, a domestic cat. (Don’t ask, he’s rather sensitive about this.)


However, none of the photos came out well. Of course, judging by the one above, we may have been viewing the ghosts of animals too. In the jungle at midnight it's hard to tell.

No tigers though. I had a stern word with Sen about his arrangements, but not too stern because I thought he’d done a pretty good job till the lack of tigers. Oh and thanks to Mukut, we ate a lovely dinner of chicken and mutton curries at a little eating house in Kohora.


Rahul found himself another elephant to ride at the eating house, one made of wickerwork.

The food at the guest house was good too, light, healthy and filling, and they were very accommodating about Rahul’s needs.

During the course of the day I fought with Rahul and Beq, read my Larsson and went for a walk down to a nearby children’s park. All exciting stuff. The post office nearby had no stamps, postcards or envelopes but the handicraft shop did have a pretty mekhla-chador. A shop near the park had good cupcakes. The tea estate nearby was beautiful, as they all invariably are.


We left for Majuli the next day, after a peaceful breakfast of luchi-alur torkari at a shop on the highway. Had some of the famous pedas (sweets) of the region. The drive down to Nimhati was, predictably, beautiful. Towards the river we began to espy these colourful, imaginative gates on either side of us, leading to kshatras, I think.

A word on kshatras – I’m not sure I’m saying this right, but from what I could make out, these are a kind of commune, presided over by a head, dedicated to a certain form of worship, life-work and lifestyle. Majuli is broken up into various Vaishnavite kshatras.

We took a steamer from Nimhati to Majuli.


The ferry took us and our vehicle across the Brahmaputra in just over an hour. The boy jumped around, I read, Priyo dreamt and Sen took the most amazing photographs while Beq sat around looking poetic.


Accomodation in Majuli seemed like a bit of a problem. The rooms over a shop in the bazaar in Kamlabari weren’t to our taste (poky and shared bathrooms), and elsewhere we only found dormitories. We heard of a 'Frenchman’s Mishing cottages' but only found one with 3 beds available. Eventually, some urging produced two cottages back to back in a resort in Chitador that wasn’t quite ready yet. This place too had cottages raised off the ground Mishing style – Majuli loses a great deal of land to the river every year and flooding is a regular occurrence – but these were sturdy concrete structures with tiled Western bathrooms (with thatched roofs and floors, mind you!)


Rahul surprised me by quickly mastering the ladders that led up to the cottages. He and I wearily threw ourselves on the bed of the first cottage while Beq, Sen, Priyo, Mukut and Jitin went to have lunch at the first resort since food wasn’t available at this one.

I could write a whole post on the food at Majuli. The food in Assam. The cooks there managed to make me eat all sorts of unknown vegetables and leaves and what’s more, have me mop up my plate and ask for more. That lunch was not remarkable, but the dinner that night was – lovely, tender chicken in a very subtly flavored curry, brown rice that I actually liked (I don’t much care for it in general), lip-smacking dal, fish dishes that the boys went gaga over, mmm… Breakfast the next day consisted of puris with delicious potato curry made heavenly with some local leaves.

Before breakfast though there was a whole evening we spent mainly lazing around the resort, wondering whether to eat up the kid that bleated in front of us all evening or not. (We didn’t.)


Rahul fell in love with it, obviously, and wanted me to untie it so he could play with it.

As the sun set we drove down to Auniati Shatra (Aa-oo-nee-aa-ti) known for its evening worship with kirtans and instruments. As things turned out though, the kirtans were mangled by a motley bunch of ten year old boys while an old priest played this instrument I didn't recognise.


It was a pleasant place, with beautiful wrought iron grillwork at the entrance that declared it have been established in the mid 1600s.


After dinner we sat around drinking – Priyo tried the local rice wine and loved it – and chatting. Sen, Beq and I sat around till past midnight, giggling at nothing and as happy campers as ever you’ve seen. The night sky out there was so perfect, so thickly dotted with the twinkles that I kept taking Rahul out to see it, telling him stories of the people and animals up there. He was too young to appreciate how remarkable the place was, of course, but I hope some vestige of a memory remains. It was all so beautiful that just thinking about it now, a month later, makes me sad to think I might never see it again.

The next morning we made a brief trip to the nearby river Luit (pronounced Loo-it) and saw a cowherd ford it with his cows. They were in the water up to their ears, at one point.


Then we went around tracking down the things we wanted to see. A trip to some looms nearby proved abortive because the women who made the cloth were away. But it was lovely to see up close the bright cottons that are used for clothes, home linen, everything over there.


Then we set out for Shamagri Shatra (pronounced Sha-mo-gri Khaw-tro) where the Shatradhar was reputed to make the most beautiful masks.


It took us some time to find it but the drive carried us around these lovely fields and across the prettiest bridges.


The masks, when we did arrive, were satisfyingly grotesque absurdities. The one I liked was not on sale but perhaps, given Rahul’s terror of the masks, I shouldn’t have bought one anyway.


The delicate bamboo and papier mache structures would have been a pain to pack anyway. (But I did want the one I’m wearing here.)

Then, after a quick lunch of unknown vegetables (nobody tell my parents I’ve finally eaten some vegetables!) at the Kamlabari bazaar, we set off for the ferry to Nimhati.


The journey this time was faster since we were going with the current and in no time at all we seemed to have reached.


Since we were travelling in the afternoon it was soon comfortable enough to sit up on the roof so that’s what we did. Lulled a little boy to sleep sitting on the roof of a steamer sailing across the Brahmaputra. Such a soul-satisfyingly normal thing to do.


And there ends Part II. Part III will conclude the series.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

From Basanti to Lisbeth

Or

My Travels in Assam (Part I)

In Delhi last winter Beq mentioned a vague plan of going to visit Sen this March. I instantly decided I needed to be a part of this trip. Inspired greatly by Sur, I decided to take the boy along. So, from the 13th to the 20th of March Rahul and I were in Assam.

We reached Guwahati exhausted after a sleepless night (I had Shuki and Dana over for a mad pedicure party while I packed – we even painted Vicky’s toenails green and blue). The Sen arrived with his cameraman and friend Mukut to give us a traditional welcome, Assamese style.


Sen stays in one wing of a lovely, old-fashioned bungalow: it has high, airy rooms, these awesome chairs that I wanted to kidnap (the bamboo backs tilt as you lean back, adjusting perfectly to your shape), and it’s all so pretty I wondered if I should just make like a squatter and move in.


Plus, the man can cook. He made us lunch and then we went to visit the Guwahati Zoo.


Where a giraffe saw us.


Rahul missed his afternoon nap so he was sleepy.

But he was excited and loved traipsing all over the place with ‘Kishandada’ (Mukut’s son).


It was a fun hour before we went to pick Beq and Priyo up from the railway station. (They also got their gamchha and japi.) That was the Saturday.


Sunday morning everybody slept in, worn out by all the travelling. Then we went across the river in a boat to the Doul Gobinda Mandir.


It’s a bit of a walk from the river but it’s a pleasant little Krishna temple where we were served prasad. Rahul measured his length out in the sand by the river so obviously I got covered in it too. *sigh*


Afterwards we had the most fabulous late lunch at Delicacy.

We had pork and duck and fish and pigeon and whatnot. All delish, with the most fab rice. That, in hindsight, was characteristic of this holiday. We ate well for the most part. Really well.

And with that we conclude Part I.

Parts II and III are also online now.

Bheblu Babu on Relationships

I came home from work yesterday to find Rahul and my mother cosily watching Monsters vs Aliens on the TV. Since the boy refused to talk to me I huffily told him I would just sit there cuddling my mother instead.

B: Na, eta amar Ma. (No, this is my mother.)
Me: Ami tomar Ma! (I'm your mother, you nitwit!)
B: Ami tomar Ma na. (I'm your mother, not.)
Me: No, you are not my mother!

At which point I took refuge in the bedroom. He seems to have mastered the fine art of confounding the Sue by speaking in irrelevancies. Beq probably trained him in Assam.

...

This morning he was trying to explain to himself (and me) that certain toys would be his when he grew up (which he would, in the very next breath). That led to a discussion that ended with
  • Bhabs growing up to become Babu (I love the elasticity of 3 year-old thought)
  • Me growing up to become Babu
  • Baba (Vicky) growing up to become Diddi (my mother!)

Baba declined comment on the matter.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I think Vicky is really lucky

... that he found somebody who appreciates him as much as I do.

My first day back at work after a nasty viral attack and I feel the need for some serious pampering.

*sigh*

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sojourner Truth

Just stumbled upon this little speech I really liked.

My favourite part is
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Lovely, just lovely.

On that note of humorous cheer and confidence, subho naba barsha to you and yours. May the new year (1417 according to the Bengali calendar) treat you well.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I'm trying to clear out my Gmail account

(I crossed the 95% mark but I blame the girls for that.)

Anyway, so I've been coming across all these mails. And now I see why Beq felt so abandoned, why Cousin T's departure meant so much and oh, I used to write so differently.

Found a paragraph that still echoes in the life I now lead:

I'm a permanent exile. No matter where I am, it's never where all the
people I love are. I realized that a good ten years ago. It's an
unsettling way to live. If I'm with the parents I won't have you and
vice versa. Or Esha or Soumya or Beq. Somebody is always left out of
the equation. I know I'd rather have you than the rest of them, but
some days I miss them and wish it could be possible for a few months
maybe, to have it all.
'You' being Vicky, since this mail was written to him.

Another mail, to my Shejomama, went thus in the middle:

About marriage plans, check with Mater. I chose the chappie and have
been told that's all the say I have in these matters.
Chappie being a nice chappie. Told Mejomama about him, I remember.
Very worthy sort of chap, but not too worthy, know what I mean? So
he's no Austrian millionaire (not a count) but he does speak Bengali
and the Didima was categorical upon that being vital, ages ago when I
told her I had decided to marry after all, someday. And I rather
believe he owns a millionth part of a tea-estate or maybe that's only
through various other relatives who have to be slaughtered before I
can claim it.

...

Someday you'll meet Vicky – that's the chappie – and I do believe
you'll approve. He's the kind of person everybody approves of. That's
why I called him worthy. You'll like him because he's fun so long as
he isn't busy going silent. But he has a wicked sense of humour and
you will admit that is very important. Incidentally, Ma calls him
Soubhik (determined to be formal about it) and gives unsuspecting
people the impression that I'm two-timing my boyfriends… Mejomamidida
(at Bhowanipur) thought so, as did sundry other cousins etc. I ask
you! A conservative young woman like me being subjected to cold looks
because my own family believes I stir the broth with two ladles…
didn't that sound deliciously lewd?
And here's a lovely couple of lines from Beq:

There's the age- old adage (which I will create in a second) that "if you are bored then drink!!!" Which is precisely what you should be doing you know...
What's the Vicks vaporub up to? Why isn't he cuddling you AND mollycoddling you?
Vicks Vaporub. LOL.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

I think these days I'm about the only person in the world

who says "I don't give a damn" when she means "I don't care."

The rest of the world seems busy saying "I give a damn" not for the slightest second realising that they are, effectively, saying the very opposite of what they mean.

If you, like me, say what you mean, do raise a hand or bung a sheep or something. It's getting very lonely here on Comprehensible Island.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Misleading Conversations

V on the phone: You call me now? When did you reach? What! That was 27 hours ago and you remember me only now? Couldn't you have called me yesterday or last night at least? I was wondering when you'd get here [etc etc]


You'd be forgiven for thinking that was me he was ranting to, but actually, it was directed to his best friend. I rate a few seconds of his time to check that I've reached my destination intact, when travelling. Lover-like rants go to Jiyon.

...

Me: Ugh! Go let out those horrible smells elsewhere! Oh man, go away, do you have to do this while I'm eating?

V: It's just gas, I'm trying to get it all out properly.

Me: Well go let out the gas elsewhere then, the whole room's stinking now.


This was about him spraying himself with deo, appearances notwithstanding.

Anyway, I've been chilling a lot recently. Blogging seems like hard work and it's easier chatting with friends or hanging out with my boys after a hard day's work. Hope you're all enjoying your long weekend.