Hyderabad Days

Loved the sunrise in the distant horizon

Three years ago, almost to the date, we had taken the call to relocate to Hyderabad after living in Delhi since our birth and through the ups and down of life. The reason we could take such a drastic call was because we no longer had any strings attached with the city, both our parents had crossed over the rainbow bridge, the only child is grown to be a fine person and living independent life in another southern city. We were looking forward to a great second innings of our life…

Well, it wasn’t such a great knock as far I am concerned but Deepika did love the city. Frankly, if asked, I can’t really find any fault with Hyderabad. The weather is generally good with only about 3 months of acute summer as against 6 months in Delhi, there’s practically no winter making it a place with even temperature all through the year. It’s a growing city with infra development all over the place and still having huge tracts of land for further growth. The govt of the day is thinking progressively and have some of the biggies in IT/ITES organizations to invest in the city generating employment. Then, what???

As I look back to this second innings, I realize we had missed few hard realities when we took the call…

We came to Hyderabad, a new city for us after crossing the half century mark of life. We didn’t have any friends except office colleagues for Deepika and a distant acquaintance from my Dabur days. We called both sets over dinner and lunch to bond and have bonhomie but it was not to be… colleagues, especially the ones reporting to you can’t become friends till you are their boss. With the other couple, I really don’t know their psych because they never called back or made any attempt to nurture the relationship. Once I met the lady while driving back home and had a forced conversation at the roadside for 5 minutes. There was no follow-up even though I was assured of a call back. I am a self confessed snob and egotist; I carry my ego at the tip of my nose… I am not going to call, ever again!!!

Despite such unwelcomeness, we managed to live in the city for almost 3 years now. We also met few guys who are like us ‘outsiders’ but have made Hyderabad their home now. These gentle souls are amiable and friendly; we perhaps would have bonded more but then covid jumped in the frame of things and all physical socialization became a taboo.

Coming from the city of forts and monuments, the famed Charminar and the Golconda Fort did not charm me but I was visibly impressed with the Salarjung Museum even though there’s a serious lack of maintenance and upkeep if you compare it with the European museums. I am also impressed with the Falaknuma Palace, the Taj Group that manages the hospitality section has kept it nicely and entertains the guests with lots of insight with a guided tour of the palace. Though the visit to Falaknuma Palace will make you poorer by few grand, it’s still a worthwhile visit, at least once in a lifetime for many of us.

One aspect of Hyderabad that amazed me and frankly I liked it a lot, is the size of the stand-alone shops, especially at the newer expanded part of the city viz. Gachibowli, Madhapur, Hitec, Jubilee Hills etc. I remember the Hypermart (now closed) inside the Inorbit Mall was my first experience of the hugeness of the supermarket both in terms of size as well as items. It was quite like Walmart stores in US. Talking about supermarkets, there’s a overload of them in the area where we live…with Spars, Vijetha, Big Bazaar, Reliance Fresh, Spencer, More and Ratnadeep having multiple outlets. There’s even one Tata-Tesco outlet too though I haven’t been there so far. These large outlets do elevate one’s shopping experience to another level and we found our solace visiting such outlets for our weekly rations every weekend. One could pick-up the dry grocery, vegetables, meat/fish/egg, and household cleaning items and even crockery-cutlery, kitchen utensils and even small electrical appliances too. So, even if you don’t intend to purchase anything beyond the veggies, it is a great place for hours of window-shopping!!!

The ONE thing that helped in favor of living in Hyderabad is choosing the right residential society. When we had decided to move here, many people suggested that we take up independent house preferably with lawns for Rolf to roam freely. We did our searches and realized that such houses don’t come cheap or even affordable besides having its own discomforts and disadvantages. Even Mr. Agarwal, the property consultant who was helping us to find a suitable accommodation advised against such places. The biggest disadvantage is the security besides the little errand jobs that would keep surfacing like plumbing and electrical repairs… honestly, though Hyderabad is much less polarized on language front compared to the other southern cities, it is still a difficult task explaining your problem to that class of people who mostly are proficient in their native tongue and has an understanding of English. So, living inside a relatively large residential complex takes care of these issues as they provide such concierge services. We were extremely lucky to chance upon the NCC Urban Residency and a fully furnished apartment where we just moved in with our clothes and few other items. Most of the apartments here have open spaces greeting them (no face-to-face flats) resulting in airy, naturally lighted rooms. Another advantage here is that there’s no surface traffic of vehicles, the parking is below ground giving much needed respite to the vehicles from natural wear-n-tear like blazing sun and incessant rain. There’s also a convenience store within the complex which was a great help during the lockdown period.

I must mention here that Hyderabad is much more pet friendly than Delhi, especially the kids are generally more dog loving and fearless. In our everyday walk, many of the kids would stop Rolf and cuddle him. There have been people in high-end luxury cars stopping and requesting a photo shoot with him!!! Also, there are dedicated individuals in the complex who regularly feed the street mongrels’ morning and evening. I found the Streetys’ of Hyderabad much docile compared to some of the resident devils that we have in my New Delhi residential colony. Every day, two of such streetys’ accompany us in our walk since the lockdown began in March and they are kind of bodyguards to Rolf!!!

I have mentioned earlier too but it needs to be reiterated again…the daring devils in 2-wheelers, both male and female. It seems that the covid hasn’t been able dampen their spirits; on the contrary, the near empty streets have made them even more brazen in their misadventures on the road. Earlier, the excuse for rash driving was to reach the work place on time (which is a misnomer in Hyderabad – no one takes the appointment time seriously; reaching in 10 minutes may mean “reaching in 2 hour” and without apology), but now why are they putting theirs as well as other’s life on the edge, is unfathomable. The closing of the offices had taken out the Mahindra Xylos and all such call centre vehicles from the equation giving much relief to the normal humans behind the wheels.

As I was writing this, Hyderabad faced unprecedented rain for over 3 days due to depression in the Bay of Bengal. Normally such depression and subsequent landfalls doesn’t have much impact on the city as it is at least 500 km inland from the shores. But this time, the rains created havoc, especially in old city and other low lying areas as almost all the lakes and water bodies became full to the brim. The floodgates of Himayatsagar Reservoir were opened up after 8+ years and river Musi flowed with full glory of the past. We were spared the agony as the area where we live is on higher grounds and relatively better planned than the old city. The only damage our residential complex witnessed was few uprooted trees including one that we had planted and grown to about 10 feet height. And as per the IMD, there’s no respite for at least another 7-10 days with sporadic rain across the region. Most of the times, in Hyderabad, the rains start in the evening hours and then continue till about midnight or sometimes carry over to the morning as well.

The overflowing Musi River

One disturbing trend that I have noticed not only in Hyderabad but in Bengaluru and Chennai as well is the lack of civic sense; barring the main roads of the city, the sidewalks of the colony roads are used as dump yards. And most of the cases it is the well to do households that dumps their daily garbage and other disposable/ discards on the roadside. The municipal corporation is either ill equipped and/or least interested in clearing and cleaning of the muck. In Bengaluru, they simply burn the stuff at site once the dump becomes eyesore for the bosses.

Our residential complex Nagarjuna Residency is situated on a connecting road between Old Mumbai Highway and Mindspace Road which also boasts of two of the most popular schools viz. Prerana Waldorf School and NASR School for Boys. It is the latter that is the cause of concern. It has a sprawling campus with separate grounds for football and hockey and also houses the bunglow for the Principal or the Head of the Institution and is well landscaped with water bodies for the ducks to swim. Since about a month back the housekeeping workers from the school started dumping first the pruned tree leaves and other remnants and then even the household garbage including food waste on the sidewalks just opposite the school. The situation has gone from bad to worst with the garbage now overflowing onto the road as well. I understand that the workers were told not to dump but they haven’t heeded, in fact they openly flaunt a devil may care attitude, obviously assured of support from their politically well connected boss’s. I am told that numerous complaints/ requests have been lodged with GHMC but so far no action has been initiated to clear up the mess. Don’t know what values are they imbibing in their students!!!

First time in the last three years, we will be spending the Durga Puja in Hyderabad but alas the covid has ensured that we don’t get to see the Durgotsav of Hyderabad as most of them are either doing a symbolic puja or have restricted the entry to the members only. The Durga Puja, as I have seen growing up is “Sarbojonin” meaning it is open to public from all walks of life without restriction and without bias of race, religion, color and caste…but the Covid19 has taken out the “Sarbojonin” out of it making it a private affair of the few. I understand it would be difficult for the organizers to control the devotees if it is kept open to all but then why have it in first place? This year, so many other religious and cultural celebrations were cancelled or curtailed across the country, so why not cancel the Durgotsav as well. I can smell politics… WB will be going to polls next year, so they have to please the citizens who have been waiting for the biggest cultural festival of the land. There’s commercial angle to it as well, the Durga Puja coincides with Navratras culminating in Dusshera and ushers in the festive season of Diwali which also witnesses a frenzied buying season. The argument in favour is that the “economy needs the boost” and I agree on that point but can it be at the cost of the health of people? I don’t want to be the judge, let people decide what’s best for them. On my part, with great reluctance and at continuous pestering of Deepika have agreed let a Purohit come and do the annual Kojagori Laxmi Puja in a much smaller scale…

Contrary to the popular belief, the Goddess neither arrives nor leaves. She is the omnipresent, she has existed before time and will continue to stay beyond eternity… She is always around you and also within you, She lives in your conscience and in your breath, often guiding your soul when you invoke her, showing you the path whenever you deviate. Durga Puja and the nine nights of Autumn are therefore symbolic of our life. We arrive, we live through our blessings, we celebrate our existence, and we merge back into our elements.

For me Maa Durga manifests in two primary forms…

(1) AS MOTHER: Ya Devi Sarbobhutesu Matrirupenam Sangsthita, Namasteswai Namasteswai Namah Nama…

and

(2) AS SHAKTI: Ya Devi Sarbobhutesu Shaktirupenam Sangsthita, Namasteswai Namasteswai Namah Nama…

This year, I would like her Shakti Roop to unleash her fury on Coronasur and vanquish the demon of Covid19 from the face of the Mother Earth!!!

My Circa 2020

In the closing days of 2019, the popular joke was “How different will be the new year 2020?” and the cryptic answer in Hindi used be, “Zyada nahi, Unnis-Bees ka hi farak padhega.”

Well, I guess the Kaal Chakra probably was having a hearty laugh… the 2020 has turned world upside down, we are past the 9th month and is on the verge of forgetting what’s it like being normal. The term “New Normal” has been coined to calm the nerve of the human race but how long can this new normal be sustainable? In the process of keeping physical distance, we are getting socially distant, the grandchild is not allowed to hug the grandparents, the best buddies can’t even shake hands, there’s always a fear, “Will I get infected doing that or that?”

So, how’s my 2020?

Well, the year started off promisingly… in the first week of January we were in Delhi enjoying a particularly good chilly winter which we have been missing for three years having relocated to the southern cities. Then in February, we went to Goa to celebrate my son, Ayush’s 25th birthday. Though it was a short stay of 2N3D, it was thoroughly enjoyable. We used the opportunity to take possession of the One Bedroom pad that we had taken up jointly with our long time friend Robin. Looking back it was a wise decision to complete the govt formalities using the short sojourn.

We were in the middle of discussion about our June (anniversary) vacation that we usually undertake with Basu family when the lockdown happened. At first it was fun getting locked up with all offices and school/ college closed, shopping malls, multiplexes and restaurants closed… nowhere to go, no one to visit you. The lockdown happened from 23rd March and because of our Goa trip the previous month, the buying cycle of our monthly groceries had somehow moved to the middle of March, so we were well stocked up for a month and more. As far as vegetables and fruits and dairies were concerned, the convenience store within the housing complex geared up to cater to 350+ families. The NCC Urban Residency did an excellent job by arranging fruit, vegetable and meat vendors to come to the complex and set weekly shop and/or deliver the online orders. In fact, we were never out of any stuff during the complete lockdown of the phase I.

However, our son who lives in Bengaluru wasn’t so lucky… he had gone to Goa again in March 2nd week with his school/college friends and as a conscious citizen went ahead with one week self isolation upon his return on 16th March. Ironically, the day he could go out was the day nationwide complete lockdown happened. To make matter even grimmer, his flat-mate decided to move with his girlfriend in the same city, thereby leaving him alone in the apartment. It had a positive side as well… he no longer had to share the limited grocery and other food stock and could extend till the relaxation happened. Deepika used her connections in Bengaluru to arrange for some medicine that he had run out but beyond that we could not help much. It was agreed that at the first opportunity he will come over to Hyderabad as his company like many others had announced WFH till end of the year, so location did not matter…

One item that reached critically low (quantity) was the Dentastix of Rolf and surprisingly, the Pet Food was not considered “Essential” by the govt, therefore no e-commerce sites were delivering any pet food. I had to cut them in half to extend the inevitable end and every day would remind Rolf that soon it will be over…

Then one evening during our daily call, Ayush suggested that I try the Swiggy app which had started delivering grocery and other stuff. It was such a relief when the following day I could locate one shop having stock of Pedigree Dentastix, I ordered for 8 packets good for 8 weeks hoping that life would step back to normalcy by then.

One gets used to certain luxuries of life, mine being my morning cup of Lipton Darjeeling Tea which I have been having since the time I started drinking tea!! Unfortunately, my stock got over by April end and it was not to be found in our convenience store (though it was an extension of a large departmental store) and I had to look at outside avenues. The famed BIG BASKET failed miserably in our expectations, though they had the tea but for continuously 15 days, their delivery slots were always blocked and all this while I could see their delivery executives visiting our complex not once but twice a day to deliver to different apartments. I had to adjust with whatever was available for about a week before I could get it from Amazon pantry.

I was addicted to gutkha (mixture of betel nut & chewable tobacco) for over two decades… my stock got over in the second week of lockdown and since the pan shops were shut, there was no way to replenish; the first week I did show some withdrawal symptoms like headaches and irritability but I suppressed the urge knowing that this was one opportunity to chuck the addiction. Once the shops opened up I crossed my regular shop while driving back home but there was no urge to have it…     

NRFOWA, the RWA of our residential complex proactively stopped the services of the maid, drivers and other helps to all apartments except to few senior citizens living alone in the beginning of March. They also put an embargo on visitors to the complex much before it was official, thereby reducing the chance of infection. We have had sporadic cases since the lockdown relaxation and the figure approx. 10-12 out of over 1000 residents.

I must mention here the need for clear communication to the last man at the front… recently I read a story of a Delhi based advocate winning a case against Delhi Police. The person was fined INR500 for not wearing a mask while driving alone in his car. Apparently the policeman who challaned him was not briefed properly as to what constitute as public space and what’s a private domain. Similarly, when the lockdown happened on 23rd March, the RWA had issued advisory that morning walk/ jogging etc along with sports arena are being closed to residents. There were exceptions mentioned like pet walking and visiting the convenience store for essential items… So, as soon as I had had stepped out with Rolf for the morning walk, a young guard came rushing towards us and said we must not walk and should go back immediately. Since I had read the advisory earlier, told him politely that pet walking is allowed under exceptions, but he was adamant that there’s no exception and we must turn back. It was irritating so I told him to convince Rolf otherwise we are going ahead, he can take a chill pill. As expected, he rushed to his Supervisor at the main gate and complained. As we approached the gate (about 200 meters from our apartment), the Supervisor came up with the same narrative; I showed him the entire communication of the RWA to which he said that he wasn’t aware of the same and can’t allow me to go out of the complex. Needless to say, I was furious and told him that I am going out definitely and he can complain about me to anyone he deems fit. I think I had raised my voice a bit high and also used some choice words which made him realize to back off… 

In April, Rolf became 11 (hooman) years young… the celebrations were low key due to complete lockdown but he got extra portion of “Chimken” and 2 scoops of Vanilla Ice Cream…

In Hyderabad, the worst months in terms of weather are April to June when the dry heat of April-May becomes humid and sultry by the beginning of June, you simply pray for the rain god to come soon!! This year, because of the lockdown, staying indoors, the severity of the weather was not felt, especially for people like us who are living on the ground floors of multi-storied complexes. We also avoided the severity of the monsoon which this year had been above average resulting in many water logging in the city. So, to that extent the lockdown has been a blessing in disguise.

After two cancellation of flight, Ayush finally managed to reach Hyderabad on 7th June morning and immediately quarantined himself for the next 7 days. The 3 months of no-gym had a toll on his body both physically and mentally. For a young man, being locked up at home without any social contact is really frustrating. Even under normal circumstances, I rarely moved out but when you are forced stay indoors because of external factor, there’s kind of rebellion enters the mindset. I could sense that in Ayush with his constant irritable stance and practically non-communication. His mother and my wife Deepika was concerned and upset at the situation but I knew that over time, he will be fine. Since 2013, he has been staying away from home, first in college hostel and then with flat mates when he started corporate life…he had tasted the gay abandon of living separately from the parents… what he needed was an assurance of having a private space while living with us which I ensured through minimal interference in his life. His presence also provided me with an opportunity to explore my culinary skills. I have never cooked as much as I did in the last 3-4 months. He has settled down now and is enjoying his stay at home, although he refuses to acknowledge Hyderabad as home and calls it a camp and frankly I agree with him on this count.

Actually, the private space factor is very important in all relationships… it affected me too in some ways… Since the time we moved to Hyderabad in the beginning of 2018, my life had seen a kind of solitude 5 days a week… from Monday to Friday I used to be on my own once Deepika left for office or I dropped her to office. However, with Deepika working from home, I first had to give up my desk and the cozy corner office that I created for myself, then my OCD came to the fore and we would often get into arguments over trivial issues. The presence of Ayush helped in minimizing the domestic skirmishes as well, although my OCD is still quite strong but I am now simply going about it quietly.

In June, we celebrated our 29th anniversary quietly with Ayush in attendance taking pictures for memory sake. Normally, every year barring a few emergency situations, we have gone for “destination celebrations” with our dear friend the Basu Family (and sometimes the Dutts as well), but this was exceptionally different.

Now, most of the lockdown restrictions are gone, not because the epidemic is over but people are impatient to get back to pre-covid freedom but there lies the real threat of another wave of the pandemic in the near future. The least one could do is to maintain physical distance, wear a mask and keep oneself sanitized while in the public places. It is really surprising to see the educated people not wearing the mask properly covering the mouth & nose or even not wearing at all. I am told by my friends in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata that this is an issue even there too; in fact a friend who drove down from Siliguri to Kolkata said that about 60% people are covering their faces in some form in Kolkata but in the hinterland it is business as usual…no mask, no physical distancing.

As I was concluding this piece, the news came in that C-19 has entangled my in-laws family in Delhi. My prayers are with them for a speedy recovery.

The Unnees-Bees joke has given way to “I am not adding 2020 because I didn’t use it” statements from all netizens. Frankly, I don’t care if it gets added or subtracted, I want the last quarter to sprint to the checkered flag… and I would surely like to welcome the circa 2021 with all my friends around in a grand celebration.

We have lived through the 9 months unscathed and sincerely hope to scrape past the balance 3 months as well in good health and high spirit.

Hyderabad Days

Three years ago, almost to the date, we had taken the call to relocate to Hyderabad after living in Delhi since our birth and through the ups and down of life. The reason we could take such a drastic call was because we no longer had any strings attached with the city, both our parents…

My Circa 2020

In the closing days of 2019, the popular joke was “How different will be the new year 2020?” and the cryptic answer in Hindi used be, “Zyada nahi, Unnis-Bees ka hi farak padhega.” Well, I guess the Kaal Chakra probably was having a hearty laugh… the 2020 has turned world upside down, we are past…

MIRACLE WITNESSED

This interesting scene was in Supreme Court of India where the Bench was hearing the issue of Ram Janma Bhoomi. There were counsels representing both the sides and each side had their own witnesses to provide evidences. While Sri. Parasaran was putting forth the justifications for Ayodhya As Rama Janma Bhoomi, the Honourable Judge intervened.…

MIRACLE WITNESSED

This interesting scene was in Supreme Court of India where the Bench was hearing the issue of Ram Janma Bhoomi. There were counsels representing both the sides and each side had their own witnesses to provide evidences. While Sri. Parasaran was putting forth the justifications for Ayodhya As Rama Janma Bhoomi, the Honourable Judge intervened.

He asked “You quote from vedas and scriptures for proving that Rama existed and other relevant issues. Is there any evidence in the scriptures that specify the place of birth of Sri Rama?”

An old gentleman rose from the group of witnesses. He was one of the Pragyasakshi ( Chief Witness) and his parents had named him Giridhar. He said “Honourable Sir, I request you to refer to Rig Veda”

He specified the chapter and verse and said “There it is mentioned in Rig Veda, Gaiminiya Samhita. These verses specify the directions and distances from a specific point on the banks of River Sarayu, to reach the birth place of Sri Rama. If one follows those directions, one reaches a specific spot in Ayodhya”

The bench ordered for immediate verification and it was done to find that Sri. Giridhar was right. There it was glaring at them from Rig Veda. And this person was quoting the verse verbatim from memory.

The bench remarked “This is a miracle I have witnessed today.” But the witness who was christened as Giridhar was very calm and serene as if it is a chore in the office on a normal working day.

To understand the wonder expressed by the Judge, one has to go back in Indian History, which needs overhauling at the earilest.

Year was 1950. Month January. 14th day of the month. In the village Jaunpur in UP, Mishra couple – Pandit Rajdev Mishra and Shachidevi ( It is nice to note that that child became a main Sakshi later in life, to reclaim RamJanmaBhoomi) – were waiting for the birth of their child. A very hale and healthy child was born that day and they christened him Giridhar.

Giridhar Mishra was fine till a cruel hand af fate played with him when he was 2 months old. That changed the life of the parents and the child.

Imagine a child who was eager to aquire and improve his knowledge but just could not read or write. Pandit Rajdev would sit besides the child and recite Vedas explaining each word in each verse. He was delighted to find that Giridhar had a great retaining capacity and could memorise every single word taught to him orally.

After imparting whatever knowledge he could, Rajdev admitted his son in one of the Mutts of Ramanand Sampradaya. He was taken in as a disciple and he was given a new name RAMABHADHRA. And the child got a guru who could teach him and encourage him to expand his knowledge beyond the limits of any normal human being.

Ramabhadhra in his zeal to explore the universe of knowledge, learnt and mastered 22 languages including a few ancient ones. He could not read or write and had to depend on his memory and its retention power.

He learnt scriptures and modern verses too. He became a fan of Thulsidas and explored the world of Rama Charitha Manas.

Imagine. Somebody would read these epics and scriptures and he would store in his memory for further analysis. He excelled in his work often dictating to people and getting the feedback orally.

At the age of 38, in 1988, he was crowned as JAGADGURU RAMABHADHRACHARYA one of the four Jagadhgurus of Ramanandha Ashram.

You must have guessed by this time, why he could not read or write. Yes. HE LOST HIS EYESIGHT COMPLETELY WHEN HE WAS TWO MONTHS OLD.

It is really staggering to learn about his achievements. The blind Jagadguru, in addition to mastering 22 languages is also famous as Spiritual Leader, Educator, Sanskrit Scholar, Polyglot, Poet, Author, Textual commentator, Philosopher, Composer, Singer, Playwright and Story Teller ( Katha Artist)

He has authored more than 100 books such as Gita Ramayanam, Sri Bharghava Raghaviyam, Arundhathi, Ashtavakra, Kaka Vidhura and others. He composed Sri Sitarama Suprabhatham.

As a poet he produced 28 famous set of poems ( Sanskrit and Hindi) including four epics

Authored 19 famous commentaries on various scriptures, the popular one being on Rama Charitha Manas by Thulsidas.

Composer of 5 Music Albums

And 9 very popular discourses.

Founder of Jagadguru Ramabhadhracharyas University for Handicapped

Lifelong Chancellor of Tulsi Peeth ( named after Tulsidas)

He was decorated with PADMAVIBHUSHAN in the year 2015.

I was filled with amazement as I was collecting information about him. A child who became blind and fought his way up to reach the pinnacle of knowledge and education and its propagation. What a marvellous example to inspire one and all. I felt very very small and insignificant, I am sharing this with you all as it amazed me no end.

There is a niggling thought. How many of us were aware of this great blind man. While Helen Keller was propagated for her achievements as a blind person, and lessons are taught on her, Jagadguru Ramabhadhracharya is a non entity in our education system. Thats how we are.

No wonder the Judge remarked “I witnessed a miracle in my court”

Jai Sri Ram

Suicidal

Tie-a-Noose-Step-10-Version-4

Sushant Singh Rajput took his life… committed suicide at the young age of just 34 years!!

Somehow, this news has rattled not just me but a whole lot of people. Why? I did not know him personally nor did I follow his film career as a fan. He did some remarkable cinemas like Kai Po Che, MSD, Kedarnath, Chhichhore etc which shall remained etched in ones memory for years… but the question remains why did he take the extreme step?

As my son pointed out, the “suicidal thought” is something that’s embedded in the persons mind for a long time but is subdued by the happenings in one’s life. I agree with him, in fact I would like to point out that a large section of the society around us have a dormant suicidal thought deeply embedded in their subconscious and in most of them it remains dormant all through their life.

I remember of a death by suicide in my distant family… the person was highly educated (Gold Medalist), well established in profession (professor at a renowned university) and had a beautiful family. I have met him once or twice as a child and my memory is that of a benevolent uncle who would give me a Cadbury Chocolate bar every time we met. However, my mother and elder siblings believed otherwise; according to them he was self-centered, selfish person who ill treated his wife and child and made her leave home with their child never to return again.

Why I brought it up? Well, I wanted to bring about a different dimension to the narrative of suicide.

Many years later, that child and I became very good friend, we used to communicate every week through snail mail (the only option in those days) and would meet once or twice a year. In one such communique, she informed me of her father’s demise by an act of suicide. She wrote and I am quoting from memory, “I don’t know whether I should grieve on his death or feel freedom from a suffocating relationship. Frankly, I do not know him much or rather he did not let me know him all these years. All I know is that he loved oneself immensely which to the outside world seemed self-centered, selfish and therefore, his taking this extreme step reveals that he was in some kind of deep pain which he could not withstand anymore.”

I think I wrote back some consoling thoughts which I did not believe myself. But her words that “how could a person who loved himself so much take his own life”, remained etched in my subconscious and surfaced now when I read the news of SSR.

Most people consider suicide to be act cowardice, I don’t. It takes guts to jump off the 20th floor, put the noose around one’s own neck and then kick the chair, gulp down a bottle of high-dose sedative or slash the vein of your wrist. Yes, it takes lot of unbearable pain, both mental and physical that induces the person to take the final step. Why guts? Because, the person is fully aware that there will be no turning back once the clock is set in motion.  The desire to live for something… to love someone gets erased momentarily but completely… it is like one has entered a tunnel where it is only way forward to an endless abyss. So what triggers this? Many things actually in succession or simultaneously… be it a financial or emotional loss… it could be certain physical ailment that has reached incurable stage.

The counter argument often is that one should talk to family, friends or doctor to get out of the misery. But what to do when one has lost all the zest for life? Think of the terminally ill patient counting days while experiencing excruciating pain every moment that refuses to subside even with the strongest medication. Think about the person in vegetative state where the mind is alert but rest of the body including the tongue is inert or the comatose patient occupying the (hospital) bed for years together. There is no coming out these miseries even if you have tons of wealth to garner the best medical team. Will it not be logical or rational to let the person go with honor? It does sound politically correct to say that the family will take care… arrange for best medical facilities… and hope the person gets well, when it is evident that it is not going to happen, the vegetative figure will never get up and stand on its feet.

The mental illness or the depression is something that doesn’t happen overnight but seeps into the brain cavities over a period of time. What triggers it is a point of debate…

Let’s take a hypothetical case of a person who had been in a administrative job all his/her life…the person having worked in middle management level was never a decision maker but a good follower and implementer of the instructions… suddenly with the lockdown across the country forcing the employees to work out of home, makes his/her job redundant… with still few years before retirement… with no other skill set to explore newer alternatives… becomes kind of unrelevant to his/ her own universe. The person is physically there amongst people but has nothing to contribute productively. His/her existence is taken for granted and doesn’t have any impact on the people around except probably as an irritant. He/she quietly waits in silence to become completely irrelevant from this stage of unrelevant before fading away completely.

There’s a section of such people who disappear in milling crowd in anonymity, some take the spiritual route to find relevance of their existence. Though the thought of going to Dikshunnopur is highly romantic as has been painted by the Bengali author late Shri Sunil Gangopadhyay or Neel-Lohit (pseudonym) but I find it to be uncourageous because one remains as useless as before… still unproductive, a parasite living off the society… only the environment changes.

I strongly feel that if such a situation arise in one’s life, it is better to go with your dignity intact. There is no shame in accepting the final defeat and cross over the rainbow bridge to a world of classless society… (I am guessing!!)

NB: Won’t be apologetic to those who may find this “defeatist and/or morbid”… I have the freedom of thoughts…

The Lockdown

The Covid19 lockdown has entered the phase 5 with more relaxation than restrictions, so I thought of penning (or keying?) down my experience and not-so-serious-thoughts…

We all knew by the beginning of March that India will go for a lockdown in some form or the other, though I must confess that neither I nor my friends thought a complete lockdown of the whole country as big as India is possible!! Then, on the 20th March the Prime Minister addressed the nation at his favourite time slot of 8:00 PM and urged the citizens not only to follow a self imposed one day lockdown on Sunday 22nd March but to come out to their balconies/ rooftops/ doorsteps to clank the bell in solidarity with the doctors, nurses, policemen et al who are at the forefront in fighting the pandemic. There were doubting Thomas’ who thought it will be a utter failure as Indians known for indiscipline specially in adhering to govt directives (traffic violation is a glaring example). However, surprisingly, people stayed home on a Sunday… came out on their balconies and rooftops to clank the bells, blow conch shells and sing songs like Vande Mataram and Saare Jahan Se Acchha Hindustan Hamara. The only sore point was the sporadic incidence of over enthusiastic people coming out on the streets to do a parade of sort.

I had predicted to my family and friends on Sunday itself that the 14 hour self imposed lockdown is the precursor to the longer version. I thought like others that it will happen from the following week but Prime Minister believes in surprising the citizens with such announcements (e.g. Demonetization) and called for a nationwide complete lockdown of 21 days starting 25th March 00:00 hours once again at his favourite time slot of 8:00 PM giving no time to the people to buy and board up for the long haul.

Anyways I am not here to look and point out the flaws in the decision making of the govt. though in hindsight it seems that there should have been a time gap of 7-10 days to allow not just the migrant labourer but a large number of people who got stuck at distant places because of the suddenness of the lockdown, to go back to their homes.

The RWA of the Residential Complex where we stay in Hyderabad had banned entry of all e-commerce deliveries, the maids and drivers from the beginning of March itself. Now they imposed ban on people moving out as well with exception to essential services, medical emergencies and pet walking. The last one was a great relief for me and Rolf who being a high pedigree dog refuses to poop inside the complex and necessarily walks quite a distance away from it to find a secluded place to do the job.

As I had anticipated, the lockdown measures were like the Chinese Whispers… the messages or instructions announced by the higher authorities got twisted or did not percolate down to the last man guarding the gate/ barricade. The first such experience was when on 25th March I took Rolf out for morning walk, one of the guard of our complex came and asked me to turn back as walking is not allowed. Luckily for me, I had the detailed guideline issued by the Covid19 Team and therefore I told him that pet walking is definitely allowed as an exception. He was not convinced and complained to his supervisor who met me at the main gate to stop me from going out. I showed him the guidelines and told him in clear terms that I will be going out twice a day (morning & evening) and he is free to complain to whomsoever he wishes. I also gave him details of my apartment. I did not face any further resistance which may be because the guards including the supervisors were suitably made aware of the guidelines. In later days I came across many instances of highhandedness of the beat police at the road barricades because of lack of clarity in communication, as narrated by friends who being in essential services had to traverse every day.

We as individuals living inside a gated community were more or less insulated from the happenings outside. The welfare association had arranged vendors for fruits, vegetables, eggs and chicken to deliver twice a week besides the community store that opened through the day to cater to the demands of the residents. In addition to the above they tied up with Apollo Pharmacy to deliver medicines and during the subsequent phases of lockdown they arranged for bakery and other sweet-n-savory items as well. So, in reality, we were better off in the lockdown with everything available to us in the convenience of the residential complex.

However, the situation was not so good for people staying in non-gated community residential apartments, for they faced huge inconvenience in the initial days even for the essential items including medicines. My son living alone in Bengaluru (his flat mate left as the lockdown started) faced issues with getting medicines as well as vegetables and chicken. For few days he literally survived on dal-chawal, Maggi noodles and oats. His medicine requirement was arranged by my wife through her friends in Bengaluru. However, the whole experience made him self sufficient in managing the household while working from home. His only complaint was that he did not get time to stock up on beers!!

There are many positive outcomes from this lockdown as well… I sharpened my culinary skills through cooking up many traditional dishes giving them my personal twists. I mastered the art of making Bengali Aamer Mishti Aachar (Sweet Mango Pickle Bengali style). Tried my hands (successfully) in making Bedmi Puri-Aloo and other vegetarian delicacies that were liked by my (veggie) wife!!

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However, the most positive outcome of the lockdown is getting over my addiction of Chetana Churan (the combination of Rajnigandha and Zafrani patti No.120). The addiction happened 3 decades back when for a very short period I had taken up field sales position where the sales reps would be having this concoction in between the sales call and/or after every cup of tea/ meal. 8-10 hours in the market negotiating with the shopkeeper not just on the number of items to stock but the discount and other schemes was really frustrating and this concoction worked out to be a great healer, even better than cigarettes which I had given up in one shot a few years earlier. I have tried to bunk it earlier too but the easy availability and the job stress would invariably dilute my resolve. When the lockdown happened, I had stock to last me for a week or 10 days at best. I prepared myself mentally to accept the inevitable and slowly started reducing the intake quantity as well as frequency. So, finally when the last bit was consumed, I simply threw the container that was part of my life for many years. It is not that I did not feel the talab for it but resisted the urge with my legendary “Will Power” or resolve. Another point that acted in favour of giving it up is the source of procurement…. I wasn’t too convinced about the hygiene of the shop or its owner(s). It is now over 2 months without the Chetana Churan and I am convinced that the addiction is finally over.

Animal Instinct is something you need to experience to fully understand. During the morning walks with Rolf, he used walk close to 2 km wandering through the lanes as if he owned them. The street dogs would bark at us initially but the snobbery of Rolf made them realize it was futile. A few of them would come to me for petting wagging their tails but a mere look from Rolf would chase them away. However, a couple of days into the lockdown, suddenly Rolf would go out of the complex barely few hundred meters, do his job and turn back for home immediately. Initially I was worried that he wasn’t keeping well but the dogs have a god gifted strategy to tell their hooman parents if they are unwell… they stop eating. However, in this case, his appetite was strong and there was nothing in his movement to suggest otherwise. He was due for vaccination as well as de-worming April and May respectively, so I waited for the relaxation of rules to take him to the vet which finally happened in the first week of May. The Vet also said that it could be psychological… the absence of both pedestrian and vehicular traffic may have psyched him because health wise he is doing well for his age.

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The day I took Rolf to the Vet, I also visited the dog grooming parlor – Scoopy Scrub to give him a much needed bath and a hair trimming. It was a hot, humid day and I realized it was very taxing on him but once done, he actually felt nice and relieved. The usual bounce was back in his stride…

As I write this, we are inching closer to the Unlockdown 1.0 wherein the places of worship, malls and most other shops will open for business. The Govt as well as Private Offices will function at 100% capacity and the RWA’s are advised to open their gates for the maids, drivers and other workers. When the lockdown happened, the country had only 500 confirmed cases of Covid19 and now when it is being rescinded, the numbers are at staggering 200000+!!!

It’s a catch22 situation, if the lockdown continues; there will be serious repercussions on the economy which as it is has taken quite a beating; on the other hand, the opening up of the lockdown poses serious health issues for all as even to this day, the Covid19 virus remains a mystery… how and what circumstances it spreads is still baffling the medical community.

Interestingly, many of the tech companies have already decided to allow its employees to WFH till end of the year 2020. In my wife’s organization, a poll was taken amongst the employees and overwhelmingly people have voted for WFH statuesque. Those who can afford to work from home are likely to continue with self imposed lockdown. The most affected sectors will be the travel and hospitality, the automotives, the retail business as people would only be interested in spending on the essentials and postpone their holiday plans, new vehicle purchase or go for the trendy clothes and accessories. Another sector to get affected will be the unorganized retail sector where the main issue with consumer will be state of hygiene of the vendor.

We have covered almost half of 2020 wherein the country has faced the pandemic of Covid19, the fury of Amphan cyclone, the earthquakes in Delhi and the cyclone Nisarga is making landfall on the western coast of the country. What next… the monsoon havoc… the flooding of the plains???

I wish I am in the midst of a long nightmare and when I wake up tomorrow all these are gone and A NEW DAWN BECKONS US…

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The Pakud Case

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The Covid19 pandemic and the lockdown thereof have people wondering whether this is a natural virus coming from animal source or artificially created albeit by accident in a science laboratory. There is a section of society who would like to categorize the Covid19 as bio-terrorism and they do have buyers of their theory.

My friend Indrajit Roychowdhury in his article on the subject (https://indroyc.com/2020/04/22/coronavirus-new-blueprint-for-bio-terrorism/) has highlighted the use of biological weapon that gave shape to epidemics and I quote him as under …

“By the fourteenth century, the idea that the immediate cause of epidemics was some sort of corruption in the air was widely accepted. It was believed that this corrupted air could gain entrance to the body by way of the lungs or through wide-open pores in the skin as a result of excesses, bathing, or heat. Also in the fourteenth century, additional prominence was given to the idea of contagion. In the theory of contagion, the “poison” was originally generated in man himself and spread person-to-person by contact with the sick or dead, or with their personal effects (fomites).

A report by the Italian chronicler Gabriel de Mussis of the siege of Caffa (1345–47) is often credited as describing an early deployment of a “biological weapon”, thus triggering the “Black Death” in Western Europe. He reports that Mongol troops threw plague victims into the city with catapults, thus contaminating the inhabitants. However, re-evaluation of historical, biological and epidemiological data indicates that the spread of the disease was probably an inevitable consequence of the intense trade relations along the coasts of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Therefore, the alleged catapulting of infected corpses would rather have been a marginal contribution to the diffusion of the disease (if it took place at all). The infection was subsequently spread by refugee ships via ports at Constantinople and along the Mediterranean trading routes and harbours towards Genoa, Marseille and Venice, thus initiating the Plague in Europe.”

However, this story is closer home in India and happened in the last century. This is perhaps the very first murder committed using biological weapon in India. We are aware of numerous cases of murder by poisoning but those were poisons with single or limited use like curare or cyanide etc. but this is one for mass killing used for a single murder. Read on….

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26th November 1933, Howrah Station: The Prince of Pakud (now in Jharkhand State) Royalty Shri Amarendra Chandra Pandey along with his sister Princess Bonbala Devi were walking on the crowded platform towards their train coach having bought their tickets for the journey to Pakud. Their elder brother Prince Vinayendra Chandra Pandey has come along to see them off and was walking a little distance behind trying to dodge the oncoming disoriented crowd.

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“Auch” cried Prince Amarendra holding his arm in pain. “What happened brother” asked Princess Bonobala Devi. “I collided with a person and felt a sharp pricking pain in my arm” replied Amarendra still holding his affected arm. Bonobala turned around to see who could have collided with her brother and could get a glimpse of a beggar wrapped in dirty shawl looking back at them. By now Vineyandra too joined them and enquired “Hey, what happened? Let me see.”

Vineyandra took his brother on the side away from the crowd and Amarendra took his shirt off to show where it hurt. There was a small pinhole and instead of blood it had a yellowish drop of fluid.

“Let’s go to a doctor right now, I am very scared dada”, insisted Bonobala. But Amarendra laughed at the suggestion and said, “Huh, it is hardly any injury warranting a visit to the doctor.” Vineyandra suggested to checking with the doctor once they reach Pakud to which Amarendra agreed.

Once they were on way to Pakud, Bonobala again said, “Dada, I am very scared. I now remember having seen that guy at the cinema hall near the ticket counter… same clothes and the dirty shawl!!”

You are getting paranoid, sister, retorted Amarendra. However, after 6 hours of train travel upon reaching Pakud, Amarendra’s arm had swelled up and he was running high fever. Next day Bonobala along with their family friend Kamalaprasad took him back to Kolkata for consultation with Dr. Naliniranjan Sengupta.

After checking him the doctor said, “He is suffering from Septicemia.” Dr. Sengupta clarified that septicemia is a contagious infection that spreads to body parts very fast and is lethal. To confirm whether the infection is viral, the doctor sent Amarendra’s blood sample for culture and at the same time started the treatment to contain the infection. However, before the blood culture report could come, Amarendra at the young age of 20 years passed away on 4th December 1933. His last rites were performed by his elder brother Vineyandra.

When the blood culture report finally came, Dr. Naliniranjan Sengupta was dumbfounded. The report said, “Growth of Yersinia pestis.” In other words, it is a virus causing plague… it could be bubonic, pneumonic but instead it was septicemia. Since the body of Amarendra was already cremated, postmortem could not be done but the suspicion remained.

The following day, Dr. Sengupta, Bonobala and Kamalaprasad went to see the Deputy Commissioner of Police. At first the DCP was not convinced about any foul play but at the persistence of Bonobala and Dr.Sengupta agreed to get the matter investigated. He gave the charge of the case to seasoned detective inspector Sharatchandra Mitra but warned him that it was a sensitive high profile case and therefore the image of Calcutta Police should not get tarnished.

The very next day Inspector Sharatchandra along with Bonobala and Dr. Sengupta went to the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine situated at Central Avenue. In those days, the institute was amongst the pioneers in the field of tropical and viral diseases. They with the director of the institute and asked him a direct question, “Can Septicemia happen if the plague virus comes in direct contact with the blood of the victim?” The answer was “Yes, if it comes in contact with an infected or injured part of the body.” Sharat Babu asked Bonobala if there was any such injury on Amarendra’s body. She hesitated and then said, “No, not any injury as such but he collided with a person at the Howrah Station and he felt sharp jab on his arm. It seemed like some injection needle had pierced his upper arm.” Dr. Sengupta confirmed having seen such a mark on his body.  Inspector Sharatchandra turned towards the director once again and asked, “Can this virus be injected in the body?” The director said, “It’s very strange and I haven’t come across such cases but yes, it is a possibility.” “Are there any cases of plague in the country reported?” Sharat Babu asked. “No, there are no reports of any plague anywhere in India. We would have known if there was any.” replied the director of the institute.

Coming out from the institute, Inspector Sharatchandra asked Bonobala if she can describe the person who collided with Amarendra so that a sketch can be made. She agreed but even after the sketch was circulated across all police stations, the man couldn’t be traced.

Inspector Sharatchandra went back to the Tropical Institute for another chat with the director. “Other than the infected body of the victim, where else can one find this virus?” he asked. “Well, the Halfkine Institute in Bombay is working on a vaccine for the plague, they will have the bacillus for research purposes”, replied the director.

The very next day, Inspector Sharatchandra left for Bombay to meet the director of Halfkine Institute. He had a list of questions…. (1) Where do you keep the plague bacilluss? (2) How secure is the place and who is in charge of the security? (3) Are all the units of bacillus safe and not pilfered in the last couple of months? “The security for such deadly virus is absolutely secure and no, not a single phial is missing” replied the director.

As Inspector Sharatchandra got up to leave, the director said, “I just remembered an instance that happened few weeks back… a diploma holder from Tropical Institute, Calcutta had come asking for sample of the virus for his research project. Since his project was not govt sanctioned, we refused him the sample. Then again he came back with letter of recommendation of two doctors of medicine. But we refused once again as none of those doctors were government authorized. I don’t know how far this information is useful to you.” Inspector Sharatchandra smiled at the director and said, “Please give me the details of those three people from your records.”

The records revealed the names; the diploma holder was Dr. Taranath Bhattacharya and the doctors who had given the reference are Dr. Durgaratan Dhar and Dr. Shibapada Bhattacharya, all three of them are residents of Pakur!! Moreover, Dr. Taranath was the official doctor for the Royal Palace of Pakud. However, further investigation confirmed Dr. Taranath Bhattacharya to be a fake doctor having some work experience as a bacteriologist at some laboratory in Calcutta. The other two were genuine doctors of good repute.

Inspector Sharatchandra announced to the DCP, “Sir, please issue the arrest warrants, I have found the culprits.” The following day all three were arrested from Pakud and brought to Calcutta for interrogation. Under extensive interrogation, Taranath accepted that he had gone to Halfkine Institute for the bacillus of plague because he needed it to confirm the efficacy of antidote he invented, but they refused. Both the doctors, Durgaratan and Shibapada confirmed his story and said they had given the reference letter in good faith.

The police couldn’t deny their logic and had to release them on bail. The two doctors had no motive behind the murder but Taranath being the house physician was not fully above suspicion. His claim of finding the antidote for plague and therefore needing the virus sample sounded too convenient a story. Inspector Sharatchandra started looking at all the clues right from the beginning…

    1. Amarendra died of plague
    2. However, there’s no plague pandemic anywhere in the country
    3. Therefore, the virus must have come from the laboratory

But how? As per the director of Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine, the plague virus bacillus is available only at the Halfkine Institute, Bombay. Therefore, it must have come from there only by some means!!

Inspector Sharatchandra once again met with the director of Halfkine Institute. “Have you given the plague virus bacillus to anyone in the last few months for any kind of research?” he asked the director. “Well, Infectious Disease Hospital, Arthur Road had requisitioned few phials of plague bacillus which we supplied to them.” Came the reply from the director of Halfkine Institute. Inspector Sharatchandra rushed to the Arthur Road hospital and met with the directors, Dr. Mehta & Dr. Patel and asked, “Where are the phials of plague bacillus that you requisitioned from Halfkine Institute?” The answer was not only shocking but astonishing too…

“A young man from Bengal had come to do research on plague vaccine. He claimed to have developed a vaccine for plague and needed the plague bacilli to test the efficacy on rats. So we arranged for the bacillus from Halfkine Institute. However, his vaccine was a failure as all the rats died. But he left for Calcutta sighting personal emergency even before the results were confirmed.”

“Can you confirm if the research scholar used all the samples or have taken out a phial with him?” Inspector Sharatchandra asked. “We have no clue about that” replied the director duo in unison.

“Is this the person?” Sharat babu asked showing the picture of Taranath. “Yes” confirmed Dr. Mehta & Dr. Patel.

“Isn’t it a bit irresponsible on your part to allow an outsider to play with such deadly virus without any background checks?” Inspector Sharatchandra admonished the directors. “What can we do? He came with recommendation from a very influential person. We have the letter of recommendation in our files.” Dr. Mehta replied.

Dr. Patel took out the personal file of Taranath and showed the letter of recommendation. The letter was signed by none other than Vinayendra, the elder brother of the victim Amarendra. Inspector Sharatchandra called up his boss, the deputy commissioner of police immediately and said, “I have cracked the case, Sir. Please arrange for the arrest warrants….”

Vinayendra alongwith Taranath were arrested and confessed to their crimes. The plot was hatched to eliminate Amarendra so that all the wealth of Pakud Royalty would belong to the elder stepbrother and he can splurge it on gambling and womanizing.  The idea of using plague bacillus was ensure that the death would be treated as natural cause; which probably would have but unfortunately for them, there was no epidemic of plague anywhere in India at time and thus the cause of death became suspicious.

The case in Calcutta High Court was famously followed by the press as well as public at that time. Both the culprits were found guilty and sentenced to death. However, on appeal, the death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment at “Kalapaani – the Cellular Jail at Andaman’s”.

The actual murderer – the man at the railway platform & the weapon – the hypodermic syringe with plague bacilli were never found.

Forgotten Heroes of India

Remembered in Japan, forgotten in India……..

Tokyo trials on Netflix, Actor Irfan plays the Indian judge!

Does anyone in India know this piece of history?
Answer must be a firm “No” from most of us!
Now pl read on.

The day was 12 November, 1948. Tokyo Trials are going on in a huge garden house on the outskirts of Tokyo. The trial of fifty-five Japanese war criminals including Japan’s then Prime Minister Tojo, after losing WWII.
Of these, twenty-eight people have been identified as Class-A (crimes against peace) war criminals. If proved, the only punishment is the “death penalty”.

Eleven international judges from all over the world are announcing…
“Guilty”….
“Guilty”……
“Guilty”……… )

Suddenly, one thundered, “Not Guilty!”

A silence came down in the hallway. Who was this lone dissenter?

His name was Radha Binod Pal, a Judge from India.

Born in 1886 in Kumbh of East Bengal, his mother made a living by working as a maid and taking care of a household and their cow. For feeding the cow, Radha used to take the cow to the land near a local primary school.

When the teacher taught in school, Radha used to listen from outside. One day the school inspector came to visit the school from the city. He asked some questions of the students after entering the class. Everyone was silent. Radha said from outside the classroom window…. “I know the answer to all your questions.” And he answered all the questions one by one. Inspector said… “Wonderful!.. Which class do you read?”

The answer came, “I do not read… I graze a cow.”

Everyone was shocked to hear that. Calling the head teacher, the school inspector instructed the boy to take admission in school as well as provide some stipend.
This is how education of Radha Binod Pal started.
Then after passing the school final with the highest number in the district, he was admitted to Presidency College.
After taking M.Sc. from the University of Calcutta, he studied law again and got the Doctorate title. In the context of choosing the opposite of two things he once said, “Law and mathematics are not so different after all.”

Coming back again to the International Court of Tokyo…

In his convincing argument to the rest of the jurists he signified that the Allies, (winners of WW II), also violated the principles of restraint and neutrality of international law.

In addition to ignoring Japan’s surrender hints, they killed two hundred thousand innocent people using nuclear bombardment._

The judges were forced to drop many of the accused from Class-A to B, after seeing the logic written on twelve hundred thirty-two pages by Radha Binod Pal. These Class-B war criminals were saved by him from a sure death penalty. His verdict in the International Court gave him and India a great reputation.

Japan respects this great man. In 1966 Emperor Hirohito awarded him the highest civilian honor of the country, ‘Kokko Kunsao’. Two busy roads in Tokyo and Kyoto have been named after him. Contents of his sentence has been included in the syllabus of their Law . In front of the Supreme Court of Tokyo, his statue has been placed.

In 2007, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his desire to meet his family members in Delhi and met his son.

Dr. Radha Binod Pal (27 January 1886 – 10 January 1967) name is remembered in the history of Japan. In Tokyo, Japan, he has a museum and a statue in Yasukuni shrine.
Japan University has a research centre in his name.

Because of his judgement on Japanese war criminals, Chinese intensely hate him.

He is the author of many books related to law. In India, almost nobody knew him and perhaps not even his closest neighbours knew him!

A Hindi movie was made on him, Tokyo Trials, starring Irfan Khan but that movie never made any headlines….

…. just one of the many, many underrated and unknown Indians, who were great!

I wish we had been taught about such heroes in our history books.

Covid19: Fight Back

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China, Iran and then France…

I am in self quarantine in South of Paris, once a happening place with hundreds of eateries and revelers that lighted up not just the streets but life as well. But all that is past. Today, I am locked up in my apartment. It’s been one week now, I haven’t even ventured on to my balcony which is now sporting an inch layer of dust. I am watching the streets from behind the glass window of my bedroom. The street, one of the main throughways of Paris which at all times is full of not just cars and motorcycles but bicycles and pedestrians jostling for space. Where the vehicles used to screech to a halt paving way for the pedestrian and cross traffic to pass as the signals turned red from amber, today is completely deserted. I am trying to see trace of any life form but alas not a single soul on the streets since morning. The shops are all closed. Just across the road is the railway station which was always a hustle bustle of the crowd on the move is now deserted.

There are a few men and women walking by with their faces covered in mask and they too are not acknowledging the existence of the fellow walker, something unthinkable on the streets of Paris. Then there are few vehicles, either ambulance or Police cars probably carrying the very ill to the nearest hospitals. In short the canvas is like a disaster movie from Hollywood. Till last week the guy who was working hard to save his/her job, the love of his/her love and/or planning for the summer vacation, today they are just busy saving their lives.

The French Govt has declared wartime emergency. Only the daily essential time stores and pharmacies are open. Anyone venturing out is required to fill up govt specified forms stating clearly the intended visit to the pharmacy or to the daily needs stores. There are policemen checking the documents and if answers are not satisfactory, the person can be fined Euro 135 or put behind bars for 6 months.

In the morning only two passengers alighted from a taxi, mother and her teenage son; both covered in face mask but their eyes depicted ghostly fear. They must be inhabitants of our building which is now sans the concierge at the entrance. Some of the apartments have been vacated but no one has come forward to lock them up or sanitize.

The neighboring state of Italy is in dire situation, everyday people are dying exponentially. There is extreme pressure on the administration to bury the dead and at the same time provide medical treatment to the critically ill. In Iran, they have dug up mass grave to bury the dead. Till the time, this deadly virus was confined to Wuhan province in China, sitting in the confines of our homes in Europe, India; we have only provided the lip service by expressing our sympathies. Now, in just over a months’ time, the deadly virus has reached at our very own doorsteps. It has infected the people, the air and the surfaces that we touch, all without our reckoning. The Europe today stands devastated.

Well I am not into fear mongering but trying to alert you all. Let us not spread misinformation through Facebook or WhatsApp but the bare facts and ways to combat the virus scientifically. Let us not repeat the mistakes of Italy or Iran or France. We in India still have time to overcome the threat posed by the Corona Virus. We have precisely TWO WEEKS in hand to defeat this monster and banish it forever. Let us resolve to postpone all non essential purchases and activities for next two weeks. Let us not venture out even to the Nukkad ke Dukan to buy errands. Let us not meet friends and relatives for next two weeks, there’s a telephone that can confirm the well beings of our friends and relations. Let us stay put in the confines of home and enjoy this forced holiday. For once, let us enjoy the solitude of our homes, may be we have to let go of three/ five course meals, let us be satisfied with only Dal-Roti for next two weeks. If we sacrifice this two weeks, probably the virus will meet its end or else there’s no guarantee that you won’t get infected sitting at your office or home.

Let’s just follow three things in the next two weeks…

  1. Let us stay put in our homes. No going out even for smallest of the reasons. No going out to meet friends or brothers or sisters and also not let anyone come enter your homes. It is total isolation from the outside world. Have simplistic food these days, it will not only be easy on your digestive system but perhaps can help you lose those extra kilos. Biriyanis and Kebabs can wait for another day. And you can always stay connected through electronic media.
  2. Let us maintain personal hygiene through a regimen of washing our hands at least once every hour. Sanitize our hands if we touch any suspected surface. Let go of the habit of touching your face, nose or any exposed body part.
  3. Get out of the mindset of “What can I do alone?” Yes you can do hell of a lot for your loved ones just by following the above and inspiring others to do too. You may be young, you may be strong and feel that the virus can’t harm you but remember back home there are your parents, your children who are highly vulnerable to this virus. Keep in mind that the older people with chronic history of high BP, Asthma, Heart Condition or Diabetic are likely to be fatally affected by this monstrous Covid19. Let you be not the cause of their discomfort or illness or even death.

Out of the above three points, the most important one is self quarantine. The question is how long? Well, if you can stay indoors in the coming two weeks then that is all it would be otherwise who knows how it will take to get rid of this Covid19.

Therefore, let’s show the world that through strong resolve and willpower India can win over this virus in the coming TWO WEEKS.

JAI HIND. VANDE MATARAM.

Inspired by Shri Sourav Mukherjee…

On the Roads… 2

Our Delhi visit was exactly for 4 weeks and how it passed out so quickly is beyond comprehension. We had just one day (Navami) of Durga Puja to celebrate. We went to Durgabari, Kailash Colony for Deepika to offer Pushpanjali and from there to Dakshinayan, GK-2 M-Block Market to have Bhog. Both places are important itinerary on our Durga Puja circuit. The day temperature being hot and humid, we planned to go to New Delhi Kalibari, Minto Road and some other pandals in the evening. However, after walking Rolf in the evening, I simply crashed out and slept till late evening.

Next few days we met few relations and prepared for the big in-house event of Kojagori Laxmi Puja, the tradition being carried on for generations for 100+ years as far as I remember my mother telling me. I am not a ritualistic person but have been facilitating the Laxmi Puja since my father passed away, first for my mother and now for my wife, Deepika.

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Earlier in my childhood, there used to be considerable gathering at our home for the puja with few Delhi based relations and large number of neighbors including non-Bengalis coming for Prasad & Bhog. But now the gathering is limited to my sisters, few friends and next door neighbors. The quantity of Bhog has reduced but the overall cost has gone up manifolds. But as Deepika says with some conviction that the show must go on till either of us are alive. This year the gathering was even smaller as two of my sisters couldn’t make due to ill health. Among the friends, Santanu Basu was the first to arrive and he reconfirmed to give me company on my return journey to Hyderabad. A pleasant visit was by my nephew, Ritam Bhattacharya (my maternal cousin Oli’s son) who is now based in Noida working with a tech company having finished college recently. The day had started very early for us and by the time the last guest left we were exhausted completely. It showed that age is catching up with us.

The other highlight of this visit was the get-together of my school classmates. Some 10 years or so back and after a gap of almost 3 decades we had managed to group together once again courtesy the Facebook. Most of us are based out of Delhi+NCR but still a sizeable number are scattered all over the world. We had tried to include all in the group but few of them after joining our WhatsApp group called Mastans of RBHS80 had quit for personal reasons. We communicate everyday on varied subjects like politics, entertainment and religion etc. We do not have homogenous thoughts but it seems the contradictions have created a strong bond amongst us. Among this group is Indrajit Roychowdhury whose school nickname used to be Pantua after the Bengali sweet version of Gulab Jamun for large eyes and round face. Just like the nickname, he is sweet inside out and is full of humor which prompted us to bond immediately. I call him Indrobodon, the face of Lord Indra. He is based in Baghdad as Advisor at Trade Bank of Iraq, a very senior post but he remains humble to the core. Coincidentally he was visiting home in Ranchi and promised to spend an evening on his return leg. We decided to have our get together (G2G) on Friday 18th October when Indrobodon lands in Delhi on his return journey. There was a bit of confusion on the menu, my friend Gora wanted treat us for his son’s graduation from High School and at the same time I wanted to show my culinary skills to my friends. After some hard negotiation, it was decided that I will make one main course and a salad while Gora would arrange for the rest. He insisted on paying me for the dishes to which I told him “You can pay for the raw material but what price will you put on the love and care that goes into the making of the final dish”!!

We had a grand successful party with 12 out of 16 guys making it possible to attend. I had made Butter Chicken and Salsa Salad… I don’t want to pat my own back but the empty containers at the end was proof enough for deliciousness of the dishes besides the huge compliments that my friends poured on me. I have always maintained that nothing is more satisfactory in life than feeding others and in the process if you are appreciated then that’s extraordinary, save it for lifetime.

One of the tasks I had decided on this visit was to sell of my SUV Duster which we had it parked in Delhi hoping to use it as frequently as we visit but in reality our Delhi visits quite infrequent and the vehicle was lying idle. Moreover, it was a six years old diesel vehicle and recent govt mandate had reduced the life of such vehicles to 10 years from earlier 15 years. I placed an advt. on OLX app and within few hours queries started pouring in, most of which were mere time-pass where they quoted ridiculous counter offer. I politely turned them down. One guy who had recently got transferred to Delhi wanted to buy in a hurry as he had sold his vehicle in Pune before coming but the negotiation failed as I had decided on a benchmark price tag and had decided not to go below that even if the vehicle remained unsold. Then a gentleman from Rohini introduced himself as some sort of lawyer and requested to hold the vehicle till following evening when he would come to buy. This guy was absolutely certain to buy and came next day evening with his full family including his octogenarian mother who kept sitting in their car. After hard negotiation, he finally agreed at my threshold price and paid an advance with the promise to pay up the balance next day and pick up the vehicle. I was honest with him and clearly told him that he will have to change the tyres and get the clutch overhauled. I had not done these jobs done because no one would have paid extra for these. Duster was a good vehicle but I had opted for this after driving Scorpio for good 7 years and frankly Duster was no match to Scorpio.

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Ayush came on 25th and we began our Diwali preparation of gift buying and planning a card party at our home. We had picked up most the give-away gifts from IKEA Hyderabad. Some were decorative while some had very practical use and the recipients loved them. This year Diwali, perhaps was the quietest one because of ban on crackers; however there was no letting down on lightening up the households with both electric as well as candles and earthen lamps. For the first time Rolf had a stress free Diwali and we loved it.

The next was the Bhai Duj Lunch at our home when all my siblings along with their children gather. This has been going on since my father passed away and I separated out from my brother’s dwelling along with my mother. It was one occasion when she could meet all her children in one go and she thoroughly enjoyed the day. Again the tradition continues but for how long, I don’t know!!

Deepika along with our housekeeper left for Hyderabad a day after the Bhai Duj. Ayush was to leave on Sunday and I decided to start for Hyderabad on Monday early morning. In between we had 3 days to do our stuff as father-son. We had a good fun time together along with Rolf whom I got checked up and had his de-worming shot as well. His Vet was happy to see him in good health. I thanked him for giving the most effective medicine BravEcto for tics and flea that had bogged him down for many years. We also picked up few bottles of Single Malts from L1 Lakeforest Wine Warehouse at practically duty free prices. I dropped off Ayush at the airport on Sunday evening; Rolf also went with us to see off his hooman bro and got a bit acclimatized of car ride. As agreed, Santanu came over to our home around 9pm by which time I had packed off most of the house leaving just about space for us to sit and enjoy our drinks and dinner.

Following day, Santanu was ready even before me and had made coffee for himself. I took Rolf out for walk hoping that he would do his job without much fuss which he did and we came back. I fed him boiled eggs and plain lassi knowing that he will only have his next meal when we reach our night-halt at Pench. We had targeted to start by 5:15 am as latest but were 15 minutes delayed. However, I knew if the roads are good, I will make up the time and should reach Go Flamingo Resort, Pench by 9:00pm.

I did not switch on the Google Map immediately knowing well that it will guide me to the Yamuna Expressway and I had decided to take NH19 via Faridabad-Mathura-Agra Bypass to Dholpur. Once we got into the Agra bypass I switched on the Google Map which confirmed that we are on the right direction. We crossed Dholpur on way to Morena around 8:30 am which meant that I had covered up the delayed start. I told Santanu to keep a look out for a Dhaba or eatery where we can have our breakfast and also let Rolf stretch his legs. As we approached Morena, I realized that in one month, the scene had changed a lot; the construction was in full swing resulting in traffic diversion to the service roads which slowed us down. Though there were eateries in Morena, there was no parking space due to the construction activities. We decided to try our luck nearer to Jhansi and meanwhile we had the butter toast and boiled eggs that I made at the last minute and was the cause for delayed start.

We finally found a dhaba nearer to Jhansi, at a place called Dabra. We stopped at Ashirwad Hotel Family Restaurant which was decently spacious and clean. It had opened couple of hours back for business and therefore the food was still fresh. Otherwise also, it is safe to eat at a running dhaba while you are on the road because they keep making fresh items throughout the day. We had Aloo Parantha and tea. Rolf stretched his legs, relieved himself and attracted lot of interest with the strangers around. The Aloo Paranthas were quite filling so we decided to skip lunch and probably stop in the evening for tea if such a place can be found.

We soon reached the district of Jhansi and directed by Google Map skirted the city and again got on to NH 44 heading towards Lalitpur via Babina, Talbeit and some other small hamlets. As the day progressed, we could feel the heat as well as the glow of the sun. The NH 44 at this juncture is very straight with minor curves and it does make one sleepy. I put on the music a bit loud and told Santanu that he can doze off if he felt so but he refused. I used to think that Lalitpur is part of MP but as we were crossing, realized it is very much in UP (the auto-rickshaws on the road had UP registration). But it was the last township of UP before you cross into MP somewhere after Gona, a small hamlet.

As we entered MP, the road became much better but at the same time, the cattle menace started which would continue till we reached Maharashtra. The cattle menace was less infuriating because it was afternoon and most of the cows were sitting or grazing on the side. Since one cannot predict the sudden movement of these beasts, it was prudent to drive at a sedate pace so that the vehicle can be maneuvered at the last moment. However, this meant delayed arrival at Pench. Santanu said, “Slow and steady wins the race. At least we will reach in one piece rather than colliding with the cows”. I agreed with him.

As we were passing through Sagar, I pointed out the Pathways Retreat on the highway itself and told Santanu how that particular place had played dirty by giving away our room to someone else even after confirming a day before the first time we were going to Delhi from Hyderabad.

The road from Sagar to Narsinghpur is curvaceous and keeps the driver on alert specially when there are enough bovines on the road that can suddenly decide to cross. Moreover, there were quite a few villages and these people have a particular liking for the highways to sit around which I had noticed during our road trip to Khajuraho from Bandhavgarh.

The sun was on the western horizon by the time we reached Lakhnadon on way to Seoni, the last township of MP that shares the Pench National Park with Maharashtra. It was dark when we reached the point of NH 44 that signals the start of Wildlife sanctuary. There were no street lights on highways but you do get scattered lights from the roadside dhabas or the scattered hamlets now and then. On this stretch of NH 44 there are jungles on either side therefore no dhabas or villages which made the outside pitch dark. I had put the headlights in full beam just in case we come across any wild creature!!

We were doing good speed even though it was dark because the highway was very well marked with reflector lights at the curves as well as on the sides which were guiding us smoothly. Then, as we reached the limits of Pench Wildlife Park, diversions started and continued for next 15 odd km. Once the hilly tracks ended, we had to take service roads which because of the use by heavy vehicles have turned into muddy patches with potholes every now and then. This continued for next 20-25 km with occasional reliefs in the form of newly laid portions.

Once we crossed the “under construction” patch on NH-44, I knew that our destination was just about 10-15 km away and this was confirmed by the Google Map too. The outside was pitch dark barring the occasional lights from on-coming vehicles. However, we were able to do good speed as the road was really good and practically no traffic on our side of the road. After a while, the Google Map started indicating a left turn ahead but there were no exit to be found. I slowed down and tried to look through the black darkness and found an exit for u-turn but we ended up with a dead end. I remembered last time too we had gone ahead and taken a u-turn to right just before the toll plaza. It had made us drive extra for almost 20 km but in this darkness it was the best option available.

We took the u-turn just before the toll plaza and kept driving towards Delhi once again and about 20 minutes later saw the first sign of Go Flamingo Resort. Thereafter, I knew how to reach the resort taking the service lane. When we finally checked in it was 9:35 pm on the clock and all three of us were famished. I ordered boiled chicken and rice for Rolf and Chapati with Chicken Curry & Egg Curry and salad for us. I had carried “Elixir of Life” in miniature bottles which came handy in rejuvenating ourselves as well as a sound sleep through the night.

I was up at 5 am and completed my morning chores, washed up and was ready to move. Santanu too got up and while he was getting ready, I took Rolf out for a walk. The main gate of the resort was locked and there were no signs of any soul. I knew Rolf being much disciplined, won’t poop inside the complex, so I looked for the security guard and found him at the back of the reception cum dining hall. He opened up the gate and we out for a stroll in the jungle environment. I kept thinking if we encounter any wild cat what will happen; will the hard rubber stick I am carrying be a deterrent? But, fortunately, no such sighting happened, few stray dogs started barking but retreated when Rolf and I walked straight on towards them.

For some reason occupancy at Go Flamingo Resort was low in fact we were the only occupant that morning with the other group having left even before us. As a result, the cook had taken it easy and decided to start the kitchen after 8 am. If we wait for the breakfast, we won’t make it to Hyderabad by 5:00 pm (our target). So we decided to leave early and try our luck on the way.

First thing we needed to do was to tank up the car at the first available gas station. We found one after about 25 km on our side of the road, although there were 2-3 on the other side that we skipped because of long detours. Once again we cruised on and turned on to our way to Nagpur bypass. There are two toll plazas within a span of less than 1 km but if you have paid at the first one, all you have to do is to show the receipt and they pass you through. We passed the second one and sped up to around 80 kmph when we saw a posse of Police with barricades, we slowed down and one them approached and asked for the documents. I showed him the RC, Insurance and my DL. He was almost returning them back to when he seemed to remember something and asked for PUC certificate. Sadly, I didn’t have that and told him I had forgotten it at Delhi but get it done again when I reach Hyderabad. I had to pay 500 bucks to make him happy on an otherwise scant traffic road where their earnings won’t bring smiles.

The next thought was to find a nice eatery to have our breakfast. We had almost missed it but managed to stop and reverse in the nick of time to Doon Punjabi Family Dhaba which is run by a Sikh ex-Army person. The place turned out to be very clean including the kitchen which one can see through the glass panels. The manager-cum-steward was from Haryana and also an ex-soldier of Indian Army and spoke good English. He was from Ambala, Haryana and was delighted to see our Haryana (Gurugram) registered car. We ordered for Aloo Parantha which came with curd and pickles. This Aloo Parantha was far better than what we had yesterday and we decided to pack two more for the road. We had two cups of tea, the first one was the regular masala chai and then black tea without milk and sugar. Both were of very good quality; will surely stop by this place on our next journey from Delhi to Hyderabad.

We continued our journey towards Hyderabad with renewed vigor having fed ourselves and stretched our legs including Rolf. As I had mentioned in my earlier post, the NH 44 in Maharashtra after the limits of Nagpur districts tends to become bad to worse. Because of my knowledge about the potholes right in the middle of the road, I drove cautiously but at a good speed negotiating the mid-road surprises. The good thing was that the cattle menace was way behind us now. Around 1:30 pm, we entered the state of Telengana and soon the road surface became very nice and I pressed on the gas to cover up the lost time. Moreover, I wanted to reach the city of Hyderabad before evening rushes of traffic hits the road.

Once we passed through Hinganghat, I knew that we will be shortly crossing over to Telengana and soon we reached the Penganga Bridge over the river by the same name that effectively separates the two states. On Maharashtra side, Pimpalkhuti is the last township and on Telengana it is Dollara, more of a village than town. I told Santanu that I have seen Mini Malls at most of the toll plazas in the southern states of Telengana, Andhra and Karnataka and we stop there for tea or coffee. The morning breakfast was too filling and I wasn’t hungry at all.

At the Dollara toll plaza, we stopped after paying the toll fee, at the Mini Mall. While Santanu lighted his second cigarette of the day, I walked Rolf for leg stretch as well as peeing. It was quite hot outside, so I fed him water and put him back in the car with the air-conditioner switched on. We finished our coffee which was quite lousy, full of sugar and milk, complete disappointment for a South Indian Filter Coffee, and hit the highway once again. The sugar in the coffee had given some extra energy and kept the speedometer at constant 100 kmph thereafter, slowing down only when we were passing through any township or hamlet.

As we neared the Adilabad, the road became picturesque with greenery on both sides and the hills in the distant horizon. The scenic view is so good that one forgets the time and we soon saw the signboard declaring that the Exit to Nirmal was only 500 metres ahead. I told Santanu that we would soon be crossing the mighty Godavari River after Soanpet. The monsoon had been quite good in the state and therefore the River Godavari too was flowing at full capacity. As we drove on, Nizamabad, Ramayapet, Narsingi besides many smaller township or hamlets could be seen on the signage only because the NH44 at this juncture has steered clear of the populous areas and at each point provided exit option with service road to the respective towns. That’s how the Highways should be built.

When we reached Medchal at the outskirts of Hyderabad, I told Santanu that we are almost home and should reach in next 35-45 minutes. At Medchal, we took the Nehru Outer Ring Road popularly called ORR that rings the city of Hyderabad and perhaps the best thing to have happened to the city. The credit for this must be given to Mr. Chandrababu Naidu who was the CM of undivided Andhra Pradesh when the idea was floated by him. The 158 km 8 lane Expressway was built between 2005 & 2012. My classmate Alok, a Civil Engineer with a large construction firm was involved in building the part of ORR that we have used most of time in last two years… Nanakramguda/ Gachibowli to Shamsabad for airport commute.

The best part of the 8 lane ORR is that one can maintain a steady speed of 100 kmph (permissible) constantly which we did and soon reached our exit (19) to Nanakramguda/ Gachibowli. The clock inside the car said 4:10 pm and we finally reached home 20 minutes later. It had been a exhilarating journey for two days and both of us needed a strong cup of tea. I showed Santanu the guest room and took Rolf out for his evening walk. It was good to see that even after a month’s absence from here; he knew exactly where he can walk and do his peeing and pooping!!

Santanu had planned for week stay in Hyderabad, meeting his friends from BHEL days. The following day he went to meet his friend for lunch while I unpacked and settled down to the routine. Santanu came back in the evening visibly happy meeting his friend after long time. They had gone to a place called Autumn Leaf for lunch and had excellent food in nice ambiance. I made it a point to visit the place as soon as possible. He also said that he would go over to his friend’s place next day evening for overnight stay and shall be back on Friday evening. They had to go over to another of their mutual friend’s place for dinner. Since he had told me in the very beginning that the purpose of his taking the road trip was to meet up with his Hyderabadi friends, I couldn’t stop him. Then on Friday morning he called up to say that he would be staying over as they have to visit another friend in the evening and he would surely be at our place by Saturday morning before breakfast. Initially I didn’t think much about it but in the evening when I saw the bottle of Monkey Shoulder still more than half full, I was a bit peeved.

On Saturday morning around 8:30 am he called up to say that he is running a bit late and that we shouldn’t wait for him but have our breakfast. I told him that he should reach by 10/10:30 as we have to go for grocery & veggies shopping and I wanted him to show the Spar’s Hypermarket from where we do our weekly shopping.

I was taking bath when I heard voices from the drawing room and thought that Santanu had come and talking to Deepika. But when I came out of the bathroom, I saw a new suitcase in the room and immediately realized that Sangeeta has made a surprise visit. Actually, we had discussed her visit but she refused saying that she can’t make it owing to her job. They wanted to surprise us but it wasn’t to be; because Deepika had seen them coming from the balcony as they had left the cab at the gate instead of bringing it to the basement parking, not knowing the way through. Secondly, I having seen the suitcase knew of her presence. Anyways, it was a happy reunion and we started planning for the activities ahead. We decided to visit Falaknuma Palace which is a Taj Hotel property and limited number of non-resident guests are allowed during Lunch, Tea & Dinner time at price that can easily be classified as exorbitant. Deepika, using her Epicura membership (of Taj) made the booking for the evening tea along with a guided tour of the palace.

Falaknuma Palace is built on a hillock and covers a 32-acre area, 5 km from Charminar. It was built by Nawab Sir Viqar-ul-Umra, Prime Minister of Hyderabad and the uncle & brother-in-law of the sixth Nizam. Falak-numa means “Mirror of Sky” in Urdu.

An English architect William Ward Marret designed the palace. Sir Vicar’s monogram “VO” is on the furniture, walls and ceiling of the palace. It is made completely with Italian marble with stained-glass windows and covers an area of 1,011,500 square feet. The palace was built in the shape of a scorpion with two stings spread out as wings in the north. The middle part is occupied by the main building and the kitchen, Gol Bangla, Zenana Mehal, and harem quarters stretch to the south. The Nawab was an avid traveller, and his influences show in the architecture, which combines Italian and Tudor influences.

One of the highlights of the palace is the state reception room, where the ceiling is decorated with frescoes. The ballroom contains a two-ton manually operated organ said to be the only one of its kind in the world but is now non-functional. The palace has 60 rooms and 22 halls. It has considerable collections of the Nizam’s artifacts including paintings, statues, furniture, manuscripts, books, an extensive jade collection, and Venetian chandeliers.

The library has a carved walnut roof, a replica of the one at Windsor Castle and houses more than five thousand books. It has an extensive collection of English, Urdu and Persian books as well as copies of the Quran, and rare first editions.

The dining hall can seat 101 guests. The chairs are made of carved rosewood with green leather upholstery. Burroughs and Watts from England designed two identical billiards tables, one of which is in Buckingham Palace and the other in the palace’s billiards room. 

[Source: Wikipedia]

In 2000, Taj Hotels started renovating and restoring the palace and opened the renovated hotel in November 2010.

While returning from Falaknuma, I switched on the Google Map and it made us take rounds of the PVN Expressway 4 times before I disobeyed it and took a road that I had taken in an earlier occasion to reach the Nehru ORR and reached home an hour late than the usual.

Following day I had booked 3 tickets to watch BALA in the evening not knowing the program of Sangeeta. I wanted to cancel the tickets but she insisted that we must carry on and that she will take a cab to reach airport.

In the morning, we went to Chutney’s for a south Indian breakfast and from there to the IKEA showroom which incidentally has become a tourist attraction in Hyderabad now. For lunch we ordered MANDI, a pullaw or biriyani dish but the unlike biriyani, the meat and rice are cooked separately. And I had cooked mutton curry on Saturday but had remained untouched. The quantity of one portion MANDI was too much and it got finished only by Monday lunches.

On Tuesday, post lunch, I dropped off Santanu at the airport for his onward journey to Kolkata. The 10 days since starting my journey from Delhi whizzed past like dream.

I got busy in the daily chores of life in Hyderabad and wasn’t sure if I would like to pen down the experience and therefore kept postponing. Now while writing it, realized that few details may have been erased from my memory completely.

On the Roads… 1

This year we had decided to spend the Durga Puja in Hyderabad and go to Delhi around Diwali only. This would mean leaving behind Rolf with our Housekeeper in Hyderabad for those days which was okay as long as there’s someone to walk him twice a day, morning and evening. We had engaged a person earlier named Ishwar for walking Rolf and he had diligently done the job but in the month of June when we went for a very short trip to Vizag, he simply ditched us even after confirming just a day before. Notwithstanding his previous strange behavior I tried to contact him over phone and WhatsApp but he did not respond. His attitude was puzzling as we had paid him whatever price he had quoted and walking Rolf is not such a tedious job as the boy is quite obedient and adjusting dog.

The non-availability of a dog walker made us change our plans and we decided to take the road once again to Delhi. This time, however, we arranged for our housekeeper to travel by train (Duronto Express) and asked my nephew to pick her up from Nizamuddin station and drop at our Delhi home. The idea was that she along with the other maid gets the apartment livable by the time we reach two days apart.

So, on 5th October, Deepika & I along with Rolf left for Delhi. As always we had planned to leave by 5:30 am but the clock in the car said 6:45 am as we hit the road. Last time Google Map had taken us through the city to NH44 and it was quite exhausting going through the narrow and often crowded roads and lanes, so we decided to take the Nehru ORR (Outer Ring Road) albeit it was longer by few kilometers but much cleaner route.

We were carrying Aloo Parantha and boiled eggs so as not to have a extended stoppage for breakfast. We stopped at a Mini Mart, a new concept by the Transport Ministry to have public convenience and eatery at all Toll Plazas, for tea and also allow Rolf to stretch his legs.

The NH44 of Telengana sector is really good, mostly 4 lanes with divider in place. However, the moment we crossed into Maharashtra, the road quality deteriorated with sudden potholes in the middle of the road, some of them big enough to breakdown a vehicle. The speed with which we started came down substantially to negotiate the stretch till Nagpur where the surface improved a bit and we could cruise at 100kmph.

We had planned to take a break at Go Flamingo Resort, Pench (Maharashtra) for lunch and also confirm my bookings for return. Deepika was using the map on her phone to navigate to Go Flamingo while I had kept mine locked for the hotel at Sagar, MP. As luck would have it, she missed the exit and by the time we realized the mistake, we had travelled around 70 km beyond, in fact, we had crossed into Madhya Pradesh. There was no point in turning back, so we looked for another alternative and Google suggested Kiplings Court. It was almost 10-12 km inside the Pench National Park, owned and managed by Madhya Pradesh Tourism. By the time we reached the place, their kitchen was closed and only sandwiches and pakodas were available. We settled for veg sandwiches and assorted pakodas. As Deepika was taking care of food ordering, I took Rolf for a walk and fed him two boiled eggs and Pedigree Gravy Chicken.

It was still another 400 km to our night halt at Sagar MP, so we revved up as soon as we hit the NH44 after negotiating the diversions for under construction highway. I calculated that if there’s no further slowing down, we will reach our destination by 9pm. Deepika had booked a small hotel called R-One Inn situated on Railway Station Road, Sagar. I was in the impression that it will be somewhere close to where we stayed last time, a mere 2km inside from the NH44 but we were taken through the often narrow winding streets of Sagar to the Railway Station and then inside a lane where we found the place. It was just like the mushrooming hotels of Paharganj or Karol Bagh but we were there just to sleepover the night and more importantly, Rolf was welcomed warmly.

Delhi was approx. 700km or 12 hours of drive away, so we decided to start our journey early. We checked on the availability of breakfast and were informed that the earliest it will be ready is 8:00 am. It was too late for us, so we left for Delhi at sharp 7:00 am. Unknown to us for next 200+ km that a great mishap has happened…

In the early morning, the hotel had served us the tea which we consumed with the Karachi Bakery Cookies that we were carrying. I fed Rolf the balance two boiled eggs and a pack of Pedigree Gravy Chicken. Then washed up his bowls and packed them in a polythene bag. Thereafter, I took the two bags that we had brought in the previous evening and loaded them in the car. Lastly, I took Rolf out for a walk hoping that he will do his job in the new environment (he is really very fussy in these matters) and at the same time asked Deepika to carry the packet of bowls with her and also settle the accounts with the hotel.

As expected, Rolf only sprayed at few places to put his mark but refused to do anything more, being distracted by few local strays which kept barking at him from a safe distance. I saw Deepika coming down to the Reception so I helped Rolf get inside the car and started the engine as also the Google Map for the final destination. We tanked up the car at the first gas station before hitting the NH44 and thereafter it was a smooth drive in the sparse traffic of early Sunday morning.

Around 9:45 am we crossed over to the state of UP (Bundelkhand) towards Jhansi. We were feeling hungry so Deepika started looking for a breakfast joint and we followed the Google Map into a town (forgot the name) and hunted for the elusive but famous shop. We couldn’t see any eatery where Google said it was but a few meters down the road was a shop selling Kachauri & Samosa. We checked with them if they have anything more filling which was not but one of the customers gave us the direction to Pathak Ji’s shop that serves lip smacking Puri-Sabzi. We kept the car parked there with the windows slightly down for airflow as Rolf was inside and walked down to the directed shop. But as luck would have it, Pathak Ji said it would take at least 30 minutes as the sabzi has just started cooking. We came back to the first shop and picked up the samosa and kachauri and retreated towards the highway.

The samosa & the kachauri were fresh and excellent in terms of taste. I found a patch where it was safe to let Rolf stretch his legs and have some water to keep him hydrated. Once he was ready to step back into the car, I thought of feeding him some water but to my utter dismay, the bowls were nowhere to be found. We searched every nook and corner of the car but those were not there. Deepika had forgotten them at the hotel reception. I was filled with rage and frustration… the first for her callousness and the second because there are no cities on the route where we can get bowls for the Pet. I kept quiet for some time and took a decision that we will now drive non-stop to Delhi, avoiding lunch or tea breaks and try to reach as early as possible. Deepika was feeling guilty and pleaded to stop at any of the Dhaba’s to check if they have any bowl or like utensil that can be bought. About another 100 km later we saw a Dhaba but had nothing that could be useful. I had taken out Rolf for stretching his legs and as usual he immediately attracted a handful of crowd who started taking his snaps. They, like many others have never seen such a dog breed. One young boy amongst the crowd took piety and rushed to his home and got us a small thermocole bowl. It wasn’t sufficient but worked at that moment and Rolf took few sips of water. It was clear that we have no option but to drive non-stop to Delhi now.

The roads till Jhansi were good and we covered the distance in good time. Last time the road from Jhansi to Gwalior was horrible, not only there were diversions every few 100 meters but the road was broken at most places. This time a major portion of the road was completed but still there were many diversions and narrow single file stretches that slowed us down considerably.

Google Map always recommends or rather insists that we take the Yamuna Expressway from Agra to Greater Noida to reach Delhi but I decided to take the NH19 via Agra Bypass as it was shorter though has more traffic. However, as we were approaching Mathura, suddenly the Google Map voice literally started screaming “Turn right… Turn right”. And I turned only to be taken through the lanes and roads of the Mathura outskirts to the Yamuna Expressway.

On reaching Delhi, my first stop was at the Pet Shop to buy the bowls for Rolf before going home. Rolf climbed the stairs a bit hesitatingly which was expected because of dehydration. And then he drank 2 litre of water before settling down at his favourite spot near the kitchen. Even with the stoppages we made it to home 5 minutes before 7 pm. Less than 12 hours beating Google Map’s initial prediction of 14:15 hours by over 2 hours….

… to be continued with return journey…