RSS

Category Archives: Life and Times

My first attempt and first failure

‘Dil na umeed toh nahin , nakaam hi toh hain/ Lambi hain gham ki sham magar sham hi to hain’
– Faiz Ahmed Faiz

This one is a self-introspection post. A reminder to awake me from the complacency whenever I feel lazy. I had worked hard for the civil services examination and yet could not make it, falling 46 marks short of the cut-off. I had not expected to make it this time because I wasn’t satisfied with my mains examination and my fears were true, I had just marginally passed the mains. Although close, I shall not sugar-coat it, a miss is as good as a mile. And it hurts.

I am now aware of my strengths and my weaknesses, and can channelize my hard work better this time. I can pull off an impromptu essay pretty well and my understanding of ancient and medieval Indian history is something I am happy about. And now for my faults.

1. I had not written enough answers for practice

2. Piling up newspaper cuttings which I could not revise properly

3. I had planned to finish the syllabus before beginning revision. The syllabus is so vast that it never finishes off. I need to revise simultaneously as I read.

I am sorry to disappoint all those who ardently wished for my success. My parents, Suvro Sir, my dear cousin Moonie, my dear friends, especially Pritam, Suchandra, Paulami, Vaagisha, Reeti, Saurabh, Shishir, Shikha, Rajarshi and a few others ( I am sorry if I miss out any of you :-P) and most of my relatives. Among the ones mentioned last, there were many who discouraged me as well. I shall get back to you when I succeed, now I do not have much to say. For the rest, I shall strive hard to succeed this time and mention all of you again next year in my Oscar speech. 🙂 My special thanks to Sir for taking out time and painstakingly preparing me for the interview, where I was confident and happy with my performance. I hope to better it next year.

I did not want to include the following part. But suddenly, there has been a spurt of ‘friend’ requests on Facebook, all wanting to know the secret recipe for cracking civils.

To all those who have been asking me about tips to crack this examination, I am sorry that I have no such tips since I couldn’t crack it. I can only share my experience.

My preliminary examinations had gone well so I hoped to crack it. I had studied NCERT textbooks (history, geography, political science, economics) of Class XI and XII (available here), India Year Book by Publications Division, General Studies Manual by TMH and the Economic Survey (in full). The Year Book and the Economic Survey are very boring to read, but I had completed them. For paper II of prelims, I had only solved previous years’ question papers. I am good at English comprehension and also reasonably good at reasoning and data interpretation and basic mathematics. If you are not, you may require more practice. Do not follow me blindly, judge on your own.

The mains examination had a completely different pattern this time. I scored dismally in General Studies, so I do not know how to prepare it. I am myself trying to figure out the right method. You may check this website, which provides numerous topper interviews that can guide you better. For my history optional, I read Bipan Chandra’s books on modern India, Satish Chandra for medieval India, IGNOU notes and DN Jha for ancient India, Jain and Mathur and LN Mukherjee and IGNOU notes for World History. IGNOU notes are available in the egyankosh.ac.in website and also in College Street. I did not attend any coaching or mock tests because it is difficult for me to travel and stay in Delhi/Kolkata. I like to study at home and self-study makes me more confident than coaching. I have always been against tuition since childhood. However, it may not suit everyone, so do not blindly follow, I repeat. I read The Hindu daily and Yojana and Kurukshetra magazines. Check Publications Division’s website for the procedure to subscribe them. You can get previous years’ question papers and syllabus in the UPSC website. That’s all I can tell you as of now. If I succeed this year, I may give you the details of GS preparation next year.

A piece of advice: Please go for it only if you have a strong desire and not just a plain whim. Chalk out your own strategy assessing what you are good at. To each, his own.

And now all that haunted me put to rest. Back to my books. 🙂

 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Life and Times

 

‘I had a dream’

“Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?

We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.

They can keep their heaven. When I die, I’d sooner go to middle Earth.”

― George R.R. Martin

I used to believe in this statement. Not any more.
(The first part, I mean. I am a die-hard crusader for fantasy fiction. Period.)

The last three months have been quite eventful for me. I discovered that I am ending up doing things I had never imagined myself doing ever. I have stumbled upon Joycean epiphanies in unexpected corners, which have both made and marred my joy. Mostly, I have been happy, and hence, I am not complaining.

From fabulously spun yarns to pretty castles in the air, from whispers that I chanced to hear to the seeming matters of consequence that I was prodded about, I conclude that grown-ups are an amusing species.

And that reality and fiction are too close to be separated. I had no doubts about it, but this time what I experienced was too direct. I did not expect that things can be so similar. That reality can turn out to be so fantastic and fiction so real.

Do dreams really become smaller? If taken literally, yes. But what about the joy that comes with it? Isn’t it the philosopher’s stone that changes the drab colours of reality into gold and azure?  Is it the length of the shadow that falls between the idea and the reality that makes the dreams smaller? But that’s for hollow men, who perhaps have a wrong vision. When the sun is at its peak, the shadow disappears. The elation itself turns the dreary parking garage into the ancient ruins of a vanquished fortress. Glimmers of fantasy are already entwined in reality.

Sadly, the reverse is true as well. The wings did melt. And Icarus fell.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on February 17, 2014 in Life and Times, Uncategorized

 

My Captain Haddocks and Obelixes

“Think where man’s glory
Most begins and ends
And say my glory was
That I had such friends.” 
― W.B. Yeats

Dedicated to (yes, I am intentionally cryptic here): the one with a pure smile, the mint, the goddess of speech, the lover, the one as beautiful as the moon, the welcoming one, the abode of god, the flame, the dew, the one who never extinguishes, the silent ascetic, the limitless one, the tradition, the calm beauty, the one who unites with god, the king who reigns as a saint, the one who knows and another one who doesn’t have a fancy name

“All Scorpios are highly selective in friendships. They’ll keep the worthy companions through an entire lifetime, and freeze the shallow, the common or the unworthy.” Linda Goodman

I was interested in zodiac signs only after I found people exclaiming, “Oh! You’re a Scorpio!” as if I am something to be scared of. After I had read all that I could get hold of regarding Scorpios, I conclude that this is a trait that fits me undoubtedly.

One of the few chemistry lessons that I had enjoyed was the structure of an atom. That the nucleus is at the centre and the electrons navigate around the nucleus in their respective orbits or shells: ‘s’ shell being the closest one and ‘f’ farthest. I have seen my friends in the same way.

I have no all-conclusive definition of the word ‘friend’. I am mostly a live-in-my-own-world kind of person and do not have too many ‘friends’ in the sense it is generally used. The ones to whom this post is dedicated is the longest list I could make, and the aspect that is common to all of them is care. Now that I am more than a quarter of a century old, I don’t think the list is going to change much. The ones I mentioned may fall out, but I do not foresee much addition from here. I have been completely honest, I don’t intend to hurt any of you through my assessment for I love you all and I believe that I am fortunate to meet you, fellow-sailors, as I sail my little boat in the ocean of life.

Although all relationships require a degree of friendliness to grow, this post is only for those whose foremost identity to me is ‘my friend’. I have left out all those who would get in touch once in a while (mainly when they need me), only to disappear and emerge months, even years, later. And the ones who wish me on my birthday (after seeing the reminders in Facebook), ask me what I am up to these days and then forget all about me. For these two kinds, I remain indifferent and pay back in the same coin- birthday wishes. I neither bear grudges nor expect more of them. I prefer to be a small atom. Aren’t the bigger ones unstable and radioactive?

Only four (or three? I give the benefit of doubt) neutrons and protons inhabit with me in the nucleus. These are the ones with whom I connect both intellectually and emotionally, with whom-as the fox in The Little Prince says-I have established ties at the highest level. I hardly speak unless it is necessary, but when I find a worthy companion, I never stop. They are the ones with whom I never stop. They have the same interests as I do and we discuss everything, from philosophy and religion to Harry Potter. I share with them all that I read and write (even the ones I do not publish) and they take care to respond and criticise, they can be very harsh critics at times. They never seem to tire of my ramblings and will listen both patiently and impatiently. They listen, that is what matters. They care to know what I think. They will push me to write and think and do. Often, I am astonished to see their faith in what I can accomplish. They are the ones who take the trouble of calling me up although I don’t. The ones who will share with me every time they get to do something new or good, to see or to eat, even when I can’t keep my promises. They are the ones who give without calculating what they would receive in return. I am always the one sending them return gifts, they begin it. It seems I am quite selfish when it comes to them! I promise to make amends. These are the closest ones whom I allow inside that impenetrable nucleus. I do not need shields or masks before them and I can tell them whatever I feel, I don’t need to pretend and put up the sham. I do not care if they forget my birthday. But they care enough to make sure that they don’t! Birthdays or no birthdays, these are the ones I treasure most. They are the ‘kindred spirits’, as Anne Shirley of Green Gables would say. Yes, they are the Piglets, Diana Barrys and Gilbert Blythes, Huck Finns, Heathcliffs, Rons and Hermiones, the tunes that sing in harmony to my song. As Walt Whitman says, “I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I don’t believe I deserved my friends,” I don’t believe that I deserved them. The most these friends can do for me is to be my friend for the rest of our lives, which I believe they will.  The nucleus gives the atom mass, so they are the ones that make me what I am in a big way. Interestingly, the Big Four belong to the four different elements- fire, earth, air and water- according to their zodiac signs. No more hints. 😉

There are some who don’t bother to know what I think or read or write. But that does not mean they do not care. They do that in their own way. They would not think twice before helping me out if I am in a fix. I hardly converse with them, often not because of a need to converse, but to show that I care. And I run out of things to say to them. But I know I can turn to them when I need them, and they will be there. They are the sentinels of electrons that guard my atom-fortress. I don’t think they are any less important, it is these that determine the nature of the element, don’t they?

Most mentioned above, however, fall somewhere in between. The ‘s’, ‘p’ and ‘d’ shells. There are variations of many kinds in this group. They confide in me with their secrets and can be great confidantes, too. If they ever read what I write, it is not because they are interested in what I am thinking, but that they do not want to hurt me. Some of them however do occasionally enjoy reading what I write. They too would help me in times of need and can often inspire me, show me the right way and give valuable advice at times when I feel lost. I can discuss many things under the sun with them (but not all) and they will be honest with me. We share a beautiful companionship, but our interests differ, and they do not exactly fit into the mould of ‘kindred spirits’. They care about my well-being and I care about them, but the attachment is limited because we are made of different stuff. They are the particles in motion, constantly shifting from one orbit to another, but they can’t break into the nucleus, however close their orbits hover around. One of them has the potential, I believe, but we do not spend much time together. With some of them, I had shared a close camaraderie at some point of time in my life, but not any more. Despite that, we keep in touch, help each other in times of need and recollect old memories.

This reminds me of another tribe whom I have not dedicated the post to. The ones who had been great companions at some time and have moved on. I have tried to reach out to them many times, but they have not cared enough to reciprocate. They are those autumn blossoms that do not bloom again in spring. I cherish my memories with them, but with a dint of sadness. Although I wish I should have better invested the time I spent to reach out to them with my ‘kindred spirits’, I do not bear any ill-will. I shall like to see them do well in their lives. And there are the ones who need me at times and I help them. But I rarely need them. As long as they do not turn into the fiends mentioned later, which hopefully they would not, my best wishes are with them.

I have no siblings but I have huge extended families on both sides. I have witnessed the hypocrisy and betrayal of the ones I had loved dearly. From estranged brothers to slandering aunts, I have seen it all and I think I know better who my real family consists of. Not all my family is as bad as it sounds here, I love them, but yes, some of them have hurt me much more than any friend ever has. So I need to set my priorities right. It was Arjun, a brother, who killed Karna (and that too, treacherously), not Duryodhan, the friend. My friends are the family handpicked by my soul, not arbitrarily determined by my genes. 

Then, there are the fiends. Shallowness and hypocrisy are my two words for them. They are the ones that pretend to be the most caring, do not hesitate to ask for my help when they require it and again, will not hesitate in bad-mouthing me in public or spreading rumours about me. I can go on, but I do not want to spoil my post spewing venom at them. Instead, I would thank them for awaking me from the slumber, for prompting me to take stock and be grateful to my core circle and henceforth, become completely private.

The last one in the dedication list is a childhood playmate who spent time playing the age-old game of ‘rannabati‘ with me. She was the one who shaped the leaves into ‘luchis’ and brought the fine sand to make rice. Her mother was the maid in our house. I had taught her how to read back then and she listened when I read out the poems. But she hated school and soon dropped out to work with her mother. She was married off at an age when I was still playing cricket in the streets and the only problems that haunted me were geometry riders. (She is hardly a year older than me). Now, she is a mother of two school-going children, has separated from her husband and works as a maid. Even today, she cares to find out how I am doing and wishes me well.

The first one is my Helen Burns. I had always wanted to write something on what she means to me but words have failed me. I befriended this vivacious girl with plaits and ribbons when I was eight. Besides those silly games, sillier quarrels, bitter fights, we shared a unique solidarity. She was the one ‘kindred spirit’ since those days, before I knew the term. She was the one who taught me to imagine and invent. To dream. The one with whom I pretended to be an explorer, own islands (we had chosen the Falkland Islands as they are side by side) and go on treasure hunts in secret tunnels and dungeons under huge castles. Now, I realise that she was the Treasure. My memories of school are incomplete without her smiling face. From my first Famous Five book to Little Women, from discussions on Mahabharat to slambooks, she remains. As we grew up, I knew of that aura of melancholy that pervaded her, but I failed to live up to our friendship. I failed to be Jane Eyre. I had been too selfish and mean to reach out to her when she needed me the most, to make her share her grief with me and I can’t forgive myself for that. Perhaps, I did not deserve her. I guard everything that I still have of her: the photo-frame, an inane game in which we pretended to be super-sleuths, the slambook page and the memories. Dear Suchismita, rest in peace. Indeed, there will be a time when we meet again.

And the rest of you, thank you for being there. I will not let go of you. You won’t either, will you?

Time will answer that better. Till then, I choose to trust you.

Signing off, with love, the one born at the end of the evening

 
11 Comments

Posted by on September 24, 2013 in Life and Times, The Age of Innocence, Tributes

 

Of Afghanistan and Hosseini’s novels

Afghanistan was simply a rugged terrain shrouded by mists hovering over the Hindukush mountains, tucked away in the north-west corner of India to me before I read Hosseini. When it came to the people, all that I could imagine were Kalashnikov-wielding fundamentalists and faceless, veiled women. When I was in my early teens, Afghanistan often made to the news headlines, thanks to 9/11, Osama bin Laden and George Bush’s ‘War on Terror’.  I had even collaborated with my dear friend Suchismita to write a poem called The Afghan Child for our school souvenir. I have lost both the poem and Suchismita, all that I remember was that it described a child in the war-ravaged country and how we had struggled to find the words to fit the rhyme and metre. Like Hosseini’s novels, the pain of losing Suchismita still haunts me whenever I think of Afghanistan.

However, my interest in Afghanistan was triggered long ago, ever since I read Kabuliwala by Rabindranath Tagore. I had always known that loving fathers like Rahmat existed among those Kalashnikov-wielding fundamentalists. Tagore too, deals with loss of innocence but Tagore never gave a first-hand account of Afghanistan.  Later, it was Polo who urged me to read The Kite Runner in the first year of college. The shrouds of mists vanished and I could see the mighty Hindukush mountains, ravaged by years of pain. They housed tales of tarnished innocence and eventual redemption, although smeared by that tragic sense of loss, that yearning for times that were never to come again. The times when Amir and Hassan proclaimed themselves the sultans of Kabul or that pomegranate tree, under the shade of which they recited verses from Rustam and Sohrab. Hosseini’s use of short, staccato sentences makes the pain all the more poignant, makes the reader ask for answers about the brutality of circumstances or fate. I was impressed with the little touches he puts in at the most unexpected of places. Like the serendipitous meeting of Amir and a former professor of Kabul University, who was begging in the streets, who told him much more about his mother than his Baba had ever done. Besides the main plot, Hosseini subtly adds the condition of Afghanistan under the Talibans, where professors have to go begging in the streets. (The film version conveniently dropped this scene, so don’t go by the film only and read the book!) This was the book that gave life to the rugged terrain. Kabul became a bustling city with children flying kites, streets smelling of kebabs, women teaching in universities, Rumi and Hafez being recited often.

After this book, I collected enough facts about this country, the Soviet invasion and the creation of Taliban, the reign of the kings and further back in history, the Anglo-Afghan wars, of how this country has always been a part of the Great Game. And after all the war against Taliban, they speak of reconciling with the ‘good’ Taliban! But, Afghanistan was no longer foreign to me. When I went to the trade fair in Delhi, I enthusiastically purchased walnuts from an Afghan trader. I came to know that a person I have known had been to Afghanistan during King Zahir Shah’s reign, and he fondly described the country and the people.

Reading The Thousand Splendid Suns was a different experience. I have read the book twice and both the time, the description of the pain and suffering numbed me. This book was fraught not just with pain, but the agony which we often fail to imagine and perceive. The misery of existence is beyond the comprehension for us, we who live smugly inside cocoons of comfort, and take it for granted, even when many of our brethren continue to be deprived of the basic necessities, such as anaesthesia.  That subtle touch of Hosseini that I loved the most in this book is Laila’s father taking Laila and Tariq to see the Bamiyan Buddhas. Ancient Afghanistan, or rather Gandhar, a land which had once been swept away by Buddha’s message of peace, has turned into a battlefield where the dogs of war have been unleashed.

Now, we have And the Mountains Echoed. I found a lot of hue and cry over this book. Unlike the other two books, this one deals with multiple narratives, of Pari and Abdullah and the different people who touch their lives at some point of time. The canvas is a much wider one as the novel takes us to different parts of the world. My only complaint regarding this book was that the episode in Tinos, Greece was a bit long drawn and that the characters of the protagonists- Pari and Abdullah should have been developed more. Especially Abdullah, we hardly know about the adult Abdullah except for Pari’s (his daughter) account. I also wanted to know about Roshi, Parwana and wished for a reconciliation of the next-generation people with Iqbal’s children. As some of my friends, I too wonder why the author left all these as loose ends. But again, I argued that life is more about such loose ends which are left untied and novels always reflect life. Instead of the stark daylight showing us all facets of a character, Hosseini chooses to give us a glimpse of each of them, as the moonbeams would of a person, and leaving the rest for the reader to imagine. Apart from that, I loved the beginning of the novel, a folktale which alludes to the rest of the story.  And the sublime note of tragedy that pervades the mind when I feel that Pari should have known what the box of feathers really meant. But if she had known, it wouldn’t have had that touch of transcendence. The transcendence that the author speaks of when he quotes Rumi in the beginning.

All the three novels are united in that they describe the agony of life and end with a glimmer of hope. Amir’s redemption as he runs the kite for Sohrab, Laila expecting the birth of another Maryam and with Abdullah’s daughter finally reconciling with Pari’s children. Although I like The Kite Runner best, I love these two books as well. And I am certainly not disappointed with the third one.

If you call me a Khaled Hosseini fan; yes, I am. Proudly so.

P.S. Thanks to Sir’s blogpost. It inspired me to write this post.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on July 1, 2013 in Life and Times, Tributes, Uncategorized

 

FIRE!

I thought I would continue with the travelogues but with a myriad of experiences last week, especially of escaping from a fire-struck building and its aftermath, made me change my mind.

Office had given me the opportunity to face a number of experiences. And since I have already put in my papers a few weeks ago, I expected the last few weeks would be spent in peace. But this was the climax ordained by Fate. Last Thursday, at quarter past eight, I was relaxing, checking my mail and other sites. A half an hour, and I would leave, I was thinking. There was a full-page ad on page 2, so my metro special feature was going to be held over for a day. This was when we heard a commotion in the staircase and everyone was rushing out. I sit in one of the farthest corners from the entrance, so I had not budged till then. But soon, we heard ‘FIRE!’ and everyone at the desk was told to evacuate. I was quite calm (I never reckoned that I could remain so calm in such a situation) but brisk as I joined a multitude descending down the stairs. All that I gathered from the tense voices around was that the fire had broken out on the 10th floor. (Our office is on the 7th)

Once out of the building, there was hurrying and scurrying around, with terrified voices shouting out instructions, someone was calling the fire brigade. As I moved out of the premises, I cast a look upwards at the building. A bright blaze with tongues of flames stirring furiously, trying to break-free of the confined ceiling. Burning ashes, hungry with a reddish tinge on them, were falling down, like a swarm of glow worms, and had I not stopped at the right instant, some of them would have hit me. I went out of the premises as quickly as I could and looked at the fire from the pavement. It continued blazing with all its fury. I had never seen a calamity such as this one before, and I was staring with awe. After sometime, I left the place, wondering what was going to happen.

Later at night, I came to know that the fire was doused by 10 fire tenders, and thankfully, no casualties.

The aftermath

As I walked up the stairs the next day in the afternoon heat, I saw the debris around. Black ashes and sand all over the place. When I reached 7th floor, the office was hot and there wasn’t a drop of water in the office since there was no electricity. Bosses were discussing about no-objection certificates and the possible steps that could be taken, while I sweated, fanning myself with an old magazine. After about half an hour, I left office to wander around since it was too hot up there and I wanted to use this time for some fun, since it wasn’t likely that work was going to begin without electricity. My cousin Moonie’s college was over and I asked her to come to Exide. We visited the Nehru Children’s Museum, since we had already been to the Netaji Bhawan a few days ago and checked out on the dolls of various countries. I had visited it once before, but it had been a hurried visit. This time, I took my time. Next, to while away some more time, we went to Haldirams and sat there with cold drinks. After about three hours, I received a call from office. Temporarily, we were going to work from the Press Club. I went to Press Club with some of our reporters and one of them said, truly, “It seems less like office and more like a picnic.”

My computer was one of the few to be brought to the Press Club because my held-over page was going to be one of the very few pages to be released today. Most were working from the reporters’ laptops. But since all my files were in the server which couldn’t be accessed, the designer and I had to compile the same page once again. At around 8, when I had finished and the boss had approved of the page, we heard that electricity has been restored in the office, presumably after requests to the chief minister. Hence the page was going to be released from the office. I accompanied the systems person to the office on the pretext to finally check the PDF version of the page, but more because I was curious to see whether everything was going to normal from next day. And it was normal, except that the elevators didn’t function. After informing the boss that the page has been sent to the press, I climbed down the stairs once again, which were now relatively cleaner.

Much later, a thought occurred to me. What if the fire had struck at the bottom and not the top floor? We would all have been trapped inside the building with a furnace blazing below! That would have indeed been horrifying and I pray that I do not have to face that.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 6, 2012 in Life and Times

 

An odyssey to the heart of India-1

This post is a part of the series on my recent trip to Madhya Pradesh. I am supposed to write 700-word travelogues for the newspaper, but these posts would be more like diary entries. They will include all the details that I can recollect, what I liked and what I didn’t—unlike the article which is supposed to be like a typical travelogue, waxing eloquent about the place. I will try to include all the nitty-gritty of a trip here, from bedbugs in hotels to potholes in the road, from the pain that nabbed my thighs after visiting Pachmarhi to the disappointment of not spotting a tiger, from irritating co-passengers in the train to fuming over regarding lack of punctuality among ourselves.

The Planning

It was my idea to visit Madhya Pradesh, all for the reason because my boromasi has been living in Chhindwara for almost 40 years, and none of us had ever been to her place. She had kept complaining time and again. So, I suggested that we take a trip to Madhya Pradesh and as we cover the state, we can stay for a day or two in Chhindwara. My parents agreed, my sejomama joined in and my cousin, Moonie, was more than eager. In fact, Moonie and I had planned this before.

For the next month, Baba was busy checking the map of Madhya Pradesh and planning our itinerary. Baba believes that one lifetime is not enough to see everything, so we must try to cover as much of the place as we can. After a lot of discussion and pouring into maps, our final route was Khajuraho-Jabalpur-Bandhavgarh-Amarkantak-Kanha-Chhindwara-Pachmarhi-Bhopal-Ujjain-Omkareshwar and Maheshwar-Mandu-Indore. Baba had wanted to squeeze in Chitrakoot, Orchha and Maihar, but it wasn’t possible. Tickets were soon booked, and I started a countdown when the trip was going to begin.

The Bombay Mail

Our first destination was Satna. The agent couldn’t get seats from Durgapur. So our boarding was changed to Panagarh. We (a group of nine, Baba’s friend and his family joined us) arrived at Panagarh station an hour early, at 11.30pm, apprehending the nightmarish traffic jam. Fortunately, the road was clear. The platform was desolate except for two other families. I took a walk from one end to the platform to the other with sejomama, praying that the train reaches on time. Finally, when the train came, we had to rush and run with our enormous luggage to get to our coach. I was the first to get in and swiftly moved to our compartment, where four of our seats were reserved. An elderly man was sleeping in our berth. He woke up, and thankfully, without causing any trouble, went to his own in the other compartment. After all of us had settled down and the tickets were checked, we got ready to sleep. The lower berth was for Ma and Moonie jumped to the upper, and Baba and I had to settle for the middle ones. The swaying of the train rocked me to sleep in no time.

I wanted to sleep a bit late, since I was not interested in viewing the scenery of Uttar Pradesh. I had seen enough of the houses without plaster and extra-large dried cow dung cakes on my numerous trips to Delhi. But, I woke up hearing the conversation of Ma and the elderly lady who was in the lower berth beside her and I wondered whether there has ever been a train journey where Ma hadn’t chatted the entire way with co-passengers.

But I was wrong. I realised that it wasn’t Ma but the lady who was doing most of the talking. She had begun with how fat her daughter-in-law is (94kg, though I think her mother-in-law must have increased it by 20kg), and that she wouldn’t go for a diet despite her advice, and how her daughter is a perfect angel. (She herself, though, didn’t seem to maintain a diet, because when she wasn’t blabbering, she was eating.) Then she went on to remark how green the fields outside were, when the train was running past the paddy fields of Uttar Pradesh, and that the paddy was of basmati rice and that basmati rice is used to make biryani and gobindobhog rice for pulao, and how she can make great biryani, how her son’s sister-in-law had praised her culinary skills…..

Even Ma got exasperated and remained silent. In fact, we all remained completely silent so that she quietens down. After some time, she did, and we didn’t dare to utter a word in fear that she would start again. Soon, we reached Allahabad and she began again on how she had bathed in the sangam. She even went on to suggest that hers was a group of five and whether they could join us for the rest of the trip by hiring a car together. Baba very politely informed her that we were already a group of nine and our car was already hired, so there would be absolutely no space for any other person. Meanwhile, the car we had hired was waiting at Satna station, the driver had called up. I turned my attention towards the window, fields, villages, trees, small towns whizzed past. The landscape gradually changed, from plains to plateaus, and I knew that we were entering Madhya Pradesh.

Baba always gets impatient long before the station comes. This time too, he got ready briskly, told me to wear my shoes and dragged the luggage to the door. Everyone followed him hurriedly. But Ma and I knew better. We were sure that Satna wouldn’t come until an hour, so we remained in our seats. After about 45 minutes, I saw a station called Sagna and guessed that the next would be Satna. And, I was right! After a few more minutes, we were at Satna.

From Satna to Khajuraho

We identified our car parked just outside the station. But it took quite some time to wake up the driver, Manu bhaiyya, who had fallen asleep after a long wait.  After the luggage was tied securely at the top, we hopped into the car. The car raced past Satna and we saw grasslands, sometimes a hill here and there and huge herds of cows.  Something that we saw everywhere in Madhya Pradesh were the herds of cows. Just one person managing so many cows is a wonder! And also is the way the car was manoeuvred to stop them getting in our way.  I also noticed that the horns of the cows, unlike the ones here, had two curves.

The sun soon turned into an orange ball and the western sky turned crimson. As the sun set in the undulating landscape of the Vindhyachal, the air became cooler and we had to roll up the windows of the car. After some time, darkness engulfed the earth and we entered the Panna National Park. Tall teak trees lined both sides of the road. Our car headed straight, with the loudspeaker at the back blaring a song with the words ‘Ishq ki raat hai, barsaat hai, tanhai hai’ again and again. Sometimes, there were signs saying, ‘ghat prarambh’ and ‘ghat samapt’, which I later guessed to be the upward slope.

The journey through the forest was refreshing after the train. It was dark except except for the lights of the car and dim lights of villages gleamed at times. Occasionally, we saw a truck on the road loaded mostly with wood from the trees of the forest. I could hear the incessant buzzing of crickets and we came across a bridge on a small stream that was teeming with insects. I didn’t understand how so many insects had gathered in the same place. I wished some wild animal would suddenly cross the road and we would catch a glimpse of it. However, all that we saw were herds of cattle belonging to the local villagers. We crossed the river Ken (I later learnt that Ken was originally Karnavati), and the milestones said that we were near Khajuraho. Although the road to Khajuraho was not that good, with potholes here and there, but once you come near Khajuraho, the ride becomes smooth. Huge signboards announced that we were entering a World Heritage site.

It was almost 8pm, so we stopped at a hotel we saw. The rooms were clean and nice, and the rent too, wasn’t very expensive. Rooms were booked and we retired to the hotel to catch up with some rest.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 1, 2011 in Life and Times, Uncategorized

 

Escalating in life

Escalators were first a fear. Soon, it became an excitement. Now, I am yawning while riding them. Does it mean I am growing old?

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 23, 2011 in Life and Times