Saturday, December 1, 2018

Assam Revisited

A few days back Sailada asked me if I could come to Gowhati (or is it Guahati these days?) for a tournament in place of N P Kabiraj as he has fallen sick.

Imagine ! me in lieu of  kabirajda !  Back in 1984 or 85, when I was trying desperately to learn this game, I remember reading in the newspaper that N P Kabiraj has been selected to represent India in some event. His surname caught my attention & I remember him since.

I know a sick Kabirajda is way better to me anyday. But he was not in a position to travel  & I kept it no secret that I am dying to feel and enjoy the hospitality of the people of Maligaon.

So there I was , trapped in a Circuit House room with a person who is to be my partner for the next three days.

But these three days turned out to be  the three days that I enjoyed most in recent times.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Sailada is a man of many virtues and a few vices but you  must count smoking and drinking as vices to tick entries in that column. And who can blame him for he was initiated on the auspicious day of Kali Pujo at an auspicious place of Mission Hostel with a bottle of Beer and after disposing of the instrument of crime ,that is the bottle, he prayed or slept thro' the whole night in front of the dark lady & thus purging himself of any sin that might have been committed!     


   Then there was Satyada, Satya Ranjan Das.
At 82, he is probably the only National Master in Assam . I will not take any offence if you mistook him for a Life Master if you see him play.     

                                                                                                                                     Sudip Bhattacharyya of Dibrugarh is a fine player I was fortunate to play against  for 3 sessions.He has a nasty habit of leading accurately . You will either hate or love him depending on which side of the table you are occupying.

Debasish Mazumder ( he plays with his namesake) did a tremendous job in organising the tourney. So did Rana, Jaydeep Bhattacharjee. And Gautam Roy as well. 

It was heartening to see two young ladies from Dibrugarh came and play through all 3 days. Something which is becoming a rare sight in Indian Bridge.

Should I say something about Dr. Sujit Chakraborty? Is that really needed? I don't think so. How does one describe life? He is the life of ABA.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Defaulter's Day Out

The Prelude:

Last saturday I broke my promise what I made to myself about 5 years back : Not to play in Calcutta till I felt like playing. Well I felt like playing & played in a one-day at Salt Lake. ( Promises are meant to be broken, isn't it?)

As a consequence, I was tempted to and  agreed to , this time with Pinu, for yesterday's State championship.

I had a stiff neck and a frozen shoulder so I had to avoid office time train to avoid the crowd on a weekday & reached late.The 1st session had already started.

Played in the second & a brilliant/lucky  Ace under-lead by  Mrs.Kalpana Mishra in the very first board against our  small slam , striking KJ  doubleton in dummy , held our win to a mere 4 IMP.

The Interlude:

As I was having little chats with fellows I am meeting after a few year's absence from the field, Swetadri Saha of Rahara came & told me  that CTD is looking for me.

Went to the dias , CTD was busy with computer & I waited. Suddenly a voice came " saswata, come here"

"oh , the secretary himself !, what a surprise, he even seems to know me by name"

went near the chair he was sitting on & the conversation ran like this:

me:            "বলুন "
secretary:  "শাশ্বত , তোমার  চাঁদা বাকি আছে "
me:            "হ্যাঁ , অসীমদা সকালে বলছিলেন "

( some explanation is needed here. Myself and Pinu, both are Life member of both WBBA & BFI, but it appears that we have to pay Rs. 100/- per year  for WBF- world bridge federation & IOC-olympic committee  fee which  started a few years back. I was not playing in calcutta for a long time & neither was I sure  if it was  mandatory to pay in order to play  local level tournaments.

I also gathered from Asimda ( our unit secretary) in the morning that so far WBBA is paying the same on behalf of us, ( the life members), to BFI  to the tune of about Rs. 14000/- or 21000/- or something like that  and that  they no longer will continue to do so & scratch the non paying life member's names even though they will be able to play------I don't know how they will be able to play once their names get scratched. 
But then it is very difficult to make any head or tail from Asimda's narratives. However, as I started playing again , I told Asimda that in that case I would pay)

I  don't remember seeing any such circular to this effect ( but , then again, I do not get to see all circulars). 

back to our conversation:

me:                  " কত  বাকি  আছে  ?"
secretary:         " তিন  বছরের "
me:                   "ঠিক আছে , দিয়ে  দেব "
secretary:         " কবে ?"
me:                   " অসীমদাকে  দিয়ে দেব "
secretary:         " এখনই দিতে হবে , নাহলে আজ আর খেলা  যাবে  না "
me:                  "ঠিক আছে  তাহলে  খেলবো  না "

 At this point I left.

My stiff neck didn't allow me to take a bow before leaving. Discourtesy may be condoned, if possible.

The Postlude:

Informed my teammates about the development. They understood . So would everyone (almost) else. Me & Pinu left the sacred venue, not willing to commit any more sacrilege with our, the WBF defaulters', presence

Only partially evolved human anatomy restrained me from kicking my own ass.

But there is always a good side.

The better side. 

No more nagging requests to play in a team match. No more lies to be told.  Hopefully.

A Typhoid Mary. For Fuck's Sake !

Saturday, September 17, 2016

In Assam It Rains

In Assam it rains. No, not mere water droplets from above ,but Hospitality (with a capital H) from within the hearts of the PMDBA members. Yes, that is Pandu Maligaon District Bridge Association.

As we stepped forth from Gowhati station,
( who cares if it is now Guahati or Guwahati , for me ,  it is always Gowhati as Madras is Madras and Bombay is Bombay), Ranada 

(Jaydeep Bhatchaz) sent us a Uber cab to take us to our rest camp--and funny though it may sound but it is named Rest Camp Kalibari.
Not a five star place but clean and the room does not stink. Mosquito nets are new and the bedsheets are as clean as could be.
Besides, u can actually see the Halo of Devi Kamaksha in the evening from the terrace. Well, it could very well be some halogen light from her earthly abode ( I was not sure which) but believe me, it is something that counts-even if the counting starts after your soul leaves this abode and starts bargaining with the gatekeepers of heaven for your period of tenancy there.

A general view of the place where we stayed , played and ate

And then Acharjee babu came.

 A man of simplicity and infinite grace, he is vice president of this small association and  took  all the pain to familiarize us with the setup. Took us to the venue . Even arranged for a few board's practice with Dr. Barpujari, a cardiologist wth Jorhat Medical College. He came back with us so that we don't loose our way and even directed us to a hotel for our dinner.
( It was some Hotel! Ma Manasa Hotel caters for at least a few hundred hungry people every day . They give changes with mint notes and I got  a few one rupee note from them that is printed in 2016 and not a person I showed them has seen it before)

Play started next day and there I saw two youngstars who might be mistaken for volunteers--one is Gautam Roy and the other is Linclon , son of Sri Kanu Paul, President of PMDBA.  It is unbelievable what labour they put and they were all smiles .

It true they don't have to face unruly, difficult , arrogant & bad tempered players like we see in Bengal but this trivial face does not diminish a bit of their accomplishment .

Time to talk about the Director:

well, there is nothing to talk or say about Dr Sujit Chakravorty. No praising can do justice . I understand that he infuses the blood that runs into this association.

We, Bengalis, don't get to see a dignified Director very often. Even considering this fact I must say I never seen any director with more dignity and dedication .


                                        Linclon:    bénévole par excellance
I didnt get a picture of Gautam Roy , a mistake I lament.

Brothers Karmaz das

Pradip Das is a fine player. I saw him for the first time but heard about him from Debuda who was a classmate of his. Bridge runs in his family and his team included his younger and elder brother as well. He too knew me from BBO. It was sheer luck that he missed first prize in team event by a whisker. It is amazing, by the grace of her ( who else but lady Kamaksha)... you see... you see.. I told you before, isn't it.. we met at faraway Gowhati while we both stay and play in Calcutta

I am not going to close this write-up without mentioning the most remarkable player I met there. Priya Lal Majumder or ক্ষুদি দা is now eighty seven & plays faster than a thirty seven & better than most serious forty sevens . When he came to our table , he was the only person at the table without a  spec. He took  4/5 seconds to to bid 6NT on the first board  for an above average score & played a partial in spades at a speed & accuracy that left me speechless.                                  

Twice a week he practices at the club. Needs spec only when he reads newspaper. And I managed to get one of his famous quote from a contemporary player : " Don't Double me kid, I can make an overtrick even in a Grand Slam"


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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