Saturday, April 26, 2014

Flying a Pigeon: Revival of a lost passion

When this little piece of paper fell into my hands, I could not help sharing it.  Any comment or Commentary  will do injustice to this little piece of gem

Monday, July 22, 2013

Yet another ID card

The other day I came across an ID card issued by our Bridge authority. A very nice looking card of the PAN card size with your picture in it. Nicely laminated too. That set  me thinking. What is special  in this card?  Taking cue from the modern way of comparison ,I made this following chart.

Can open Bank a/c
Can book Tatkal Ticket
Can get entry fee discount in a tournament
Entitles you free lunch during lunch break
Helps wiping your arse
Voter Card

PAN card

Bridge card

So , after all, there is an use. And though it is a bit costly ( voter card costs  nil, PAN card Rs.94/- & Bridge card Rs.100/-) still, a card is a card is a card... besides ,it is issued by people who understand cards- all 55 of them, including Jokers, of course.

But if you think carefully you'll see that it is not that costly compared to soft tissues as it can be used & reused several times..A true  multi-session card.
And, Directors forbid, if you can get hold to a bottle of Dettol, Voila, you have the world's first multi user & multi tasking toilet card.
Long live  wb  Contract Bridge

Friday, July 19, 2013


দেবুদা  চলে  গেলেন .

 He was carrying a razor sharp mind of 49 years in his 69 year old frail body. A typical Bhatpara Brahmin of বশিষ্ট  lineage, his ancestors were proud Aryans of Kanauj (Kanpur) who migrated to this culturally fertile land of Bhatpara to hone their wit & intellect. 

He did not disappoint his ancestors.

He had all the hallmark of a Bhatpara Brahmin. Tall, fair, long nose, sharp face & a pair of bright mischievous eyes. 

I first met him in the year 1987. He, perhaps, became aware of my existence after a couple of years when we played together, for the first time, in a team at a  Durgapur tournament. He was , then, a renowned player of my district.

This is no place to describe his bridge prowess. He , so far I know, read a book on kaplan sheinwold system. But he had what is very uncommon in a player..the commonsense. Whenever I used to discuss the merits of a new system or conventions, his skepticism became evident. He would not advance any solution either.
He was a man of many questions & few answers in the field of bridge.  I do not know what demon possessed him in his last months.. he started learning systems from a few bona fide morons.

He fascinated many & had many admirers. And true to the spirit of a Bhatpara Brahmin, he hurt them all. But no one seemed to mind. Such was the mysterious charm he exuded.

He was very polite & civilized with people he did not like. He tried his best to keep any request asked by such people & blunt in rejecting requests from his well wishers. One must be well versed in his study of Bhatpara gene to understand it. Otherwise chances of misinterpretation remains. 
Every time is Tea time for him.

He had an ego of the size of Empire State Building. Many a times seemingly innocuous action of me hurt his ego & it took months or some times years to normalize.  He demanded attention & small favors only from a few selected people he loved , cared for, and insulted . He knew all the details of their families. A very inquisitive man. A very frank man too. He was a self appointed guardian to his loved ones. And sometimes this created problem. 

His sarcastic remarks ,designed to hurt people, stemmed from his unusually high sense of humor. But No body got hurt as his nature did not allow him to inject sufficient venom in those remarks to work.
Inquisitiveness  does not spare even a Bhutanese

No one was more shocked when Khokada transferred his mantle to his in-law to continue the legacy of Nanda's rossogolla. He briefly transferred his allegiance to Mansa , but he was not happy at this  decadence  which essentially strikes at the very root of Paanchmandir's  cultural foundation.

I have spent nearly hundred nights with him while playing
when I was for him, he was always young
outstation tournaments. He preferred to stay with me as I do not snore. Among the multitude of topics he discussed , he never told me whether he believed in God or not. I have a strong suspicion that he was an atheist. During the last couple of years, perhaps, he showed a trace of weakness in this regard. ( I remember bringing বটুক ভৈরভের ছাই  for him, or maybe, it was for বৌদি )

 with debudajethu
Paresda (Pal) was with me when I last  saw him alive. Paresda , went back home in a hurry. Didn't want to face his daughter.

with Siddharthada 
Siddharthada (Roychudhury) saw him just after he died. He was a genuine Debuda admirer & a highly unusual &  remarkable man himself. I wish I had  recorded some of their conversations. They were not a dialogue actually, rather a monologue of Siddharthada who ripped apart the veil of excuse Debuda usually hides behind.The language he used is a treat to any Bengali ear. I'll try to write more about it some other time.

Debuda knew he was dying. Asked me to take him back home. I just could not do that. Only time I didn't meet his demand. Acted like a Bhatpara Brahmin myself. And why not? I carry the same gene.

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Raimatang & Lepchaka

The person who caused me to  take up pen keyboard is Karna Bahadur Chhetri of  Buxa... but , well, lets start from the beginning.

Son's summer vacation was preponed  by the wish of G  Mamata Banerjee ( & she did the right thing, didn't she?) & I tried desperately  to prepone our journey ticket. But Mr. Tribedi must have left some virus in the IRCTC server before he left, so getting a Tatkal ticket was beyond my capability. So the mid-noon Teesta Torsha  in that record breaking hot , was our chariot of fire. 

However , Coochbehar was cool & Vivek-Debashree , or should I say Drs. Bhattacharya or is it Dr.Bhattacharyas or perhaps Drs. Bhattacharyas, (অশ্বিনী কুমারদ্বয়  এর মত ভটচাজ ডাক্তারদ্বয়  )came rushing to the station with a battered Ambassador & Afjal the driver whose pastime is manipulating milometer.
Gunghatia River.. the other side the car is heading to , is Raimatang.. this place is inaccessible  in monsoon when the river is full.  This is the one &  only entrance to Raimatang

Raimatang was not far, a 3 hour journey took us there( that 3 hour included breakfast time at Alipurduar.. Parota  made of cornflower!! (ভুট্টার আটা ) was not that bad as one may incline to think. Pushparaj was informed beforehand to arrange for our lunch & everything was smooth thereafter. Climate was on the hotter side (there  is no electricity at Raimatang either & will not be any ever), still it was not that unbearable.

Evening was great . So was our hare (খরগোশ ) sighting. But the beauty of Raimatang lies in the early morning excursion to the interior of forest where the cacophony of birds of innumerable species, including peacock, will keep one mesmerised.

Pushparaj arranged a car for us to Santalbari @Rs.700/- & he himself came with us. The incharge of Forest Office at Santalabari was one Mr. Sarkar. He gave us a letter so that we can stay at the Dormitory at Buxa Fort (  we didn't know about the dormitory's existence till we saw a board at Santalabari).
Santalbari-- Motorable upto this point.. Trekking beyond this point.

We hired Nakul Chhettri,the porter who will charge Rs.200/- upto the dormitory & Rs.300/- if we are to go upto Lepchaka.

Took us exactly 2 hours to reach the Fort area, 1 km from Buxa Sadar Bazar where Kalpana Thapa/Indra Bahadur Thapa runs their lodge Rovers inn.
Sadar Bazar (Buxa). The The building on centre-left is Rovers inn.

It will be absolute stupidity if one decides to stay at Sadarbazar when a kilometer up he can stay at Fort area.  But many tourists do not know about that & most come back the same day after seeing the Fort.

The Dormitory is a marvelous colonial bungalow. But it's in-charge, Karna Bahadur, whom I have mentioned in the beginning, had gone to Alipurduar , but was scheduled to come back by 3pm ( that's when the transport from Alipore to Santalbari arrives ). Meanwhile we discovered the Forest Rest House  behind the dormitory & it was locked too. On enquiry we learned that it was also managed by Karna Bahadur. 
Dormitory at Buxa Fort

we had our lunch at Dawa Dukpa's shop ( next to that beautiful post office) while Nakul waited at the dormitory with our luggage. Next he had his lunch & went to Karna Bahadur's house to send message of our arrival. 

Evening fell in. No sign of Karna Bahadur. At 7pm we got panicked & upon enquiry found  him -a lean , mean looking person sitting at Dawa's shop. Never thought that a hill person can be so bad tempered. He savoured our helplessness at such a remote place at such an ungodly hour fully knowing we had nowhere to go. Perhaps he gets a commission from the only private lodge opposite Dawa's shop ( the lodge charge is Rs. 700/- while the dormitory charge is Rs. 75/- per head). However , after much persuation he says that he is not in charge of the Dormitory & one Gopal Dukpa will come & open it for us.

It was evident that the local people were afraid of him & when he left the shop, Dawa called up Gopal's son  who opened the dorm. for us.

Raimatang FRH... Forest people at Alipurduar will find 107 excuses to refuse you.
Leo FRH at Rajabhatkhawa: WBFDC has taken over from dept.
 of Forest. you can resonably expect to book it online within a
couple of year or so.No more begging from DOF even though they
are not giving it free but  they seem to pretend as if
আমাদের  উর্দ্ধতন  চোদ্দপুরুষ  উদ্ধার  করে দিচ্ছে
Government of West Bengal is at last doing a good thing taking the FRHs from the forest dept & handing it over to WBFDCs . The FRHs are lying empty at least 300 days a year &  they are not allotted to general public even though the provision is there. I myself tried to book many FRHs several times  & every time I was informed that some officials are scheduled to come there when  every body knew that  no Govt. servant, on duty, will go to that godforsaken place ( in terms of conveyance). & they remained empty while I  spent days beside them in some local people's home-stay of some sort.  

Had Chicken meal at Dawa's place & sat in the splendid sprawling lawn of the dorm till midnight.

Torrential rain came tumbling down the sky around midnight & we feared that the dorm would be washed away eventually. But the British house survived.

Gopal Dukpa came in the morning. He is a nice, informative & helpful man. He lives at Khataline , midway to Lepchaka. He asked one of his son to act as our porter. We tried to give some tips  but he would take none. I do not know how he survives working under Karna Bahadur the butcher.

The doctors left for Coochbehar after breakfast & we left for Lepchaka. 

The one hour trek  was wonderful even though we can give only a half of our attention to the nature. The other half was busy spotting & evading from the Leeches ( How ironic ! I love freeleeches at my private trackers but hate them here).

Pentso Dukpa: he managed 4 rooms( Extreme right)
Tsring Pentso's mother ( sister of Pentso Dukpa) cooks for guests of all 3 homestays
Reached Lepchaka at about 10 in the morning . How is Lepchaka? well, just see for yourself.. The flat ground belong to a man who  made it flat using the cheap Nepalese labour of the orange gardens  & given it to three of his children.

Bathroom is not attached (detached?) for this house .We stayed in one of the 4 rooms of this house.
Debidas Bhattacharya & his wife was the only tourist whom we met there.
Kitchen: only egg & potato. But  delicious

 Have you ever bathed in rainwater? well, they store rainwater at Lepchaka & use it for bath & washing & toilet. Bathroom was clean, water at pleasant temperature & there are ropes to hang washed clothes. 

Tossed the idea of going to Oncholoom   next morning & when next morning arrived, we discarded the idea in favour of returning Buxa Fort & spending the night at the Dormitory again.
But at Fort, we decided to leave for Santalbari. Gopla's son was with us carrying our bags. Reached Santalbari at about 11 AM & lucky to get an Autorickshaw for Rajabhatkhawa. 

If you have not dined at Maman's Hotel opp. Rajabhatkhawa Railway station, You will not believe if I tell you the quality & price. Since you are not going to believe anyway, I am not telling you & so ending my blog here.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Revisiting the Land of God


Epilogue as a prologue

The Cohin-Gauhati Express arrived at Chennai Central at 9.35AM,exactly 30 minutes after its scheduled arrival. It was to stop here for 25 minutes--so the printout from the timetable said.200px-ChennaiCentral2

Myself & Bhaskar were the first to disembark & ran towards the outlets of AnanthBhavan,a reputed food joint, to buy our lunches & thus deprive ourselves from the meal (or at least what they try to pass on as meals in the Indian rail these days) they serve in the train.

Having finished buying the lunch packets & sweets, Bhaskar set off towards the train while I stood in the queue to get a cup of milk for my son. After all, there were still 10 minutes to go before the train starts again.

With 5 minutes to go, I came back to Platform no.7 & saw with horror my train has left.H-Calicut train station

There I stood on the platform, with a cup of milk in my hand, not exactly penniless but wearing only a bathroom slipper & a dress that was being worn for the past few days & our train ticket in my pocket.

Fortunately I had a spare little gadget of communication commonly called a cellphone but the battery indicated 2 little bars which did not exactly raised my confidence.

However I called my wife & told her what had happened ( Bhaskar, meanwhile, knew for certain that I missed the train as he himself had to embark on it running.. but he too had his cellphone left in the train when he got down with me & had no way of warning me ..not that his warning would have done me any good).

That there is a thing called "pulling the chain" escaped all of us & I told them I was taking up measures so that they would not get thrown out from train by the TTE as the tickets were with me.

Met the railways officials next & for the next one hour filled up several forms & then went to Southern Railways HQ control room to conclude the official procedures.250px-Southern_Railway_HQ

It was 11Am & ensuring that they would not be bothered in the train, I set myself to the next task of bringing myself to Calcutta... not an easy task considering it was December end & all tickets were sold 3 months back.

I went to the chief reservation supervisor & tried for a berth in any train & in any class leaving Madras in the next two days on sympathy ground. But the Lady was unperturbed & advised me to buy a sleeper class ticket & apply for emergency quota ... sleeper class because it offered me the best chance of getting it.. but even she was not very optimistic about it and neither was I very keen on travelling thro' the entire Andhra Pradesh & Orissa in winter with the cloths I had on me.

So I called up my wife in the train & asked her to retrieve my friend Selvaraj's number from my other cellphone kept in my bag.

Called Selvaraj 06012006(003)next & told him this "damsel  dumbass in distress" story. He asked me to come to his office . I crossed the road, bought a ticket to Mambalam & got into the local train .

Selvaraj called again before I reached Mambalam & asked me not to stop & proceed to Meenambakkam as there was a direct Indigo flight at 1.35PM to Calcutta & another Kingfisher one via Banglore at 1430 hrs. He said he'd book the ticket if I can make the 1335hrs flight in time & inform me the magic number upon uttering of which the airport people will get me a printout.

So I again got down at Guindy to buy another ticket to Trisulam ( next to meenambakkam as per the direction of Selvaraj and with my luck I was not willing to take a chance to travel without a valid railway ticket).

Got down at Trisulam tirusulam& as Selvaraj kept giving me direction over phone, I ran towards the airport with my cellphone pressed against my ears ( seen many such scenes in Hollywood movies). Made to Indigo counter in time. Two dumbasses sat there who didn't know how to key in the PCs before them. After much heated discussion they gave me the ticket for Rs.5282/- & asked me to run towards check-in counter & get the boarding pass. Now,WTF is a boarding psss? I already got a ticket, isn't it? Well, later it turned out that the little piece of barcoded paper is the omnipotent stuff that will allow me to get into the flying demon and the ticket is of no use thereafter.

Now, frankly, I hate Airplanes & never been inside any machine that flies. If God wanted us to fly,surely he'd have given us wings. So I was not accustomed with the ways of Airports & I am not ashamed of my ignorance either. So when I found out check-in counter, security people stepped in & after thoroughly observing my dress & appearance, asked for my ID card.

I always believed in God & knew he is specially kind in X-Mas. So when I fished in my pocket I found an ID card. What will you call that except another miracle ? It will probably remain the last miracle unless the communists win the next assembly election in Bengal.( but then the communists do not believe in any single God it had to be a miracle by the blessed demigods of politburo)

So there I stood, before the bewildering eyes of my co passengers, without any luggage or handbags. And then I suddenly remembered that I had not eaten anything since a cup of coffee at Katpadi station early in the morning. So I bought a sandwitch @Rs.50/- & a quick bite forced me to buy another canned pepsi for Rs.70/-(!!!). They sure know how to sell stuff.

So I drank the pepsi & put the half-eaten sandwitch in the wastebasket. There was no sign of any bus or airbus I was not sure what I should do now. Beside the wastebasket stood a few girls with Indigo logo sewn at  strategic position on their dresses. indigo_rajeshpratap_deal_8986540 - 2010-08 I coughed up enough courage & asked them if flight number 692 had already left. They asked me not to worry & additionally informed me that I was indeed lucky that day as I w'd be travelling with them. Yeah, sure, thank you ladies, that was indeed my lucky day.

Knowing that the airplane has not yet arrived ( yes,for once I had the feeling that I missed it again for the second time that day), I decided to pay a visit to the airport toilet & upon entering the ground floor bathroom, at once I felt at home. Here, at last ,the mask of modern & artificial makeup is absent. The smell & the flooded floor is no different than the urinals of Howrah & Sealdah stations. I breathed a sigh of relief and ammonia.

The Bus came & crammed 160 of us in its small belly & took us to the waiting airbus .
I got down first as I was the last to enter the bus & climbed a decorated ladder. Another checking of boarding pass & voila, at last I was inside an airplane. The airbus has come a long way since the Wright brothers. The fume-like emissions from allover the plane reminded me of some mystic meditation place . However, first thing first.. I needed to find my seat. So once again I asked another pretty lady as to the direction of my seat.It was 2D & after travelling the whole length from the tail section I, not my seat.. but the row no.2.

Now the second problem had to be solved.. there were 3 seats D,E & F. and which one was what? Anyway, nobody boarded the plane before myself &airbus2 I chose the window seat though I had a suspicion that D is the aisle seat. The suspicion grew as an elderly lady sat on that aisle seat & asked me if D is the window seat or F is the window seat. I replied without hesitation that I sat as per the direction of the air hostess standing over there. The lady didn't say anything more & took out a novel & started reading.

After some mime acting by those indigo babies ( to show how to fasten belts, take oxygen, wear Death-jackets before the plane plunges into the Bay of Bengal etc etc) that would put even Yogesh Dutta to shame, the plane started to move at a leisurely pace.After a long , slow & a bumpy stroll, during which I thought of Meg Ryan in "French Kiss", it stopped. Then taking a long breath it surged forward & its whole body vibrated. I tried to remember the theories of fractrue mechanics & the probability of disintegration when there was no more vibration & a quietness that reminded me of Remarque's All Quiet ...

The plane was airborne & the scenery from the windows were much like a wikimapia page. Now the pretty ladies started to open their shop & coaxed to sell drinks,chocolates, key rings, Jackets, cosmetics & other stuffs in a moving trolley. However, seeing their expressions I gathered that the business was not good. I , having tested the sandwitch at the airport lounge, became wise. Perhaps I should have bargained for a coffee & chips but was not sure if bargaining was allowed while airborne.

The airbus ran (flew?) faster than the pilot anticipated & landed at DumDum airport 30 minutes before schedule.

Got out fast as I had to catch the 1750 Shantipur local. In between I had to recharge the cellphone as I ran out of talktime while I was connected non-stop with Selvaraj.

This is how the day 9 ended for me. Not a very eventful day but not a routine run of the mill day either. But then  a routine run of the mill trip was not exactly in our mind when we planned the trip . But there were anxious moments ,phonecalls& SMSes with Nair,(yeah, the old SR without whose active involvement  I would not have dared to come in he first place),cancellations & confirmations & then one fine morning we met Ashokan,      DAY-1   the driver who came all the way from Cochin, was waiting at varkala station . Took us to hotel Clafouti .
They gave us the rooms in the morning itself & 20122010(002) (1024x768)
we went off to the beach. The breakfast at Clafouti's restaurant was superb & so was the Hotel.r001-015 (1024x688)A 2&1/2 hours sea-bath made everyone hungry r001-035 (2) (1024x688)r001-033 (1024x688)
& we had our Thai lunch & came to know of the display of sea fish in front of the restaurant every
afternoon/evening. It was quiet a sight.110 (1024x768)You choose your fish or squid109 (1024x768)  & tell them how you’d like the preparation & they’ll cook it for you. Normally the cost of most of the fish or squid is Rs.250/- a portion, Prawns/Lobstars costing a bit more. We had squid fry, Tuna in Kerala style curry & Sword-Fish as a tandoor preparation. The next day was
I got up early to have a big cup of coffee alone in the just opened restaurant by the seaside while others were busy packing.
Whenever I go on a trip I find my co-travellers have a hobby of packing & unpacking. They love to pack,take bath,get freshen up ,have rest, search Bengali food before seeing the place they came to see.
Anyway, Bhaskar & Subhada were not so frantic a packer I had seen before & we were only 1 hour behind schedule . Started towards Alleppey at 9am & reached there at about 11.30 . Had breakfast on the way ( kerala style Paratha/Kurma & Dhosa).
r001-010Alleppey Boat Jetty (HouseBoats start from here)
Let me tell you about the houseboats. These boats are like floating hotels(1/2/3 bedroom). It consumes about 20 liters of Diesel/hour, runs a generator for a/c during night, have a well equipped kitchen,r001-004 (1024x688) ( inside the houseboat)
expert cook, awesome attached toilets with every room. The impressive part is that they don’t discharge any of the toilet water into the lake, instead it is stored in a tank & once ina month or so they discharge the contents in a septic tank somewhere on the mainland.The water for bath is stored in an overhead tank ( they don’t use the lake water even for flushing).r001-006 (2) (1024x688)
As for Journey, there is nothing special to write about. It was a memorable experience  but I’d have preferred  a public ferry to see the land & people rather than wandering aimlessly on the great Vembanadr001-006 (1024x688) lake most of the time.The Boat halted at Pallathuruthy for night stay.By the way, Lunch & Dinner were excellent on 205the boat.r001-016( lunch on board)