Daring Drive 2300km+

On that fateful rain soaked evening of April, Ayush was totally frustrated… he has been trying book a cab to go home for over 30 minutes… 4 cabs cancelled the booking at the last minute… finally he got a cab after harrowing 45+ minutes. Then and there, he decided to buy his own car at the first opportunity.

After a thorough research in terms of safety issues and performance, he shortlisted 3 cars – VW Taigun, Skoda Kushaq and MG Astor which were all within his budget. He checked out the respective dealers in Bengaluru and booked his test drive for the following weekend. Astor was not available for test driving at that point of time. After testing both Taigun and Kushaq, he favoured the latter but the Skoda dealership wasn’t very enthusiastic about delivery confirmation. VW dealer on the other hand was quite optimistic of immediate delivery. Next, the issue was about registration… he was averse to getting the car registered in Bengaluru not knowing how long he will be stationed there, on the other hand, he can’t keep driving a non-Karnataka registered car for long without getting harassed by the cops.

The solution was to get the newly launched BH registration… the GoI had recently started a new registration BH series which is valid pan India. This has been done for the people with transferable jobs in govt and private sector with offices in multiple cities (minimum 4 locations in 4 states). However, barring Delhi, none of the other states are issuing this BH series to non-govt employees. So, Ayush came down to Delhi in mid-May to book and buy the car.

We visited both Skoda and VW dealerships in Safdarjung Enclave and did a test drive of both cars. There was not much difference between Kushaq and Taigun but I liked the looks of Taigun better… also it was costing less with all the discounts thrown in by the VW dealer. Ayush preferred the Yellow color but was told that there is long waiting for that particular color. He was offered a choice of White, Silver, Dark Grey and Cherry Red which were more likely to be available within a month’s time. Ayush booked the car and was assured delivery latest by June end. He flew back to Bengaluru at the end of May as his office was opening up again on 1st June.

As the days went by, we got a bit itchy because the dealer was not confirming the delivery schedule and Ayush had to book his flight tickets only on confirmation from them. So, on the third weekend of June, Deepika and I went to the dealership to find out the status. I lost my cool when the GM of the dealership kept saying he can’t confirm as the number & color of the vehicles being allocated by the company is not consistent with the bookings. I threatened them to cancel the booking if they can’t deliver by the month end. Although knew there’s not much options available as practically all vehicles have a minimum 4-6 weeks waiting with few of them as long as 1 year+.

We saw one Yellow Taigun that had come for some repair (dent) and realized the color is very different from the print and video representation. It had a greenish tint that made it look dull and dirty. I told Ayush to reconsider his options and go for Red or Dark Grey.

Probably, my threatening helped as within two days, the dealer confirmed that Yellow is not going to be available any time soon but we can have our second option of Cherry Red by month end. Ayush reached Delhi on 25th June morning on a month long WFH arrangement. The dealer asked us to visit them on Monday or Tuesday to do the paperwork formalities as they were all occupied with launch of VW Virtus during the weekend.

On Tuesday we went to the dealership and completed the formalities and also checked out the car allotted to him. We were promised delivery latest by Friday evening and it was delivered as said. Ayush drove the car to Durgabari Kali Mandir for puja of the car as wished by his mother. Incidentally, his maternal uncle also took delivery of same model car in dark grey that very day.

We decided to get the first servicing of the car at 1000km mark done here in Delhi before embarking our journey to Bengaluru (2300km approx.). In the intervening period, the car was driven as much as possible to reach near about 1000km mark. We had decided to start our journey on 29th July to reach Bengaluru on 31st July.

I told Ayush to tank up the car a day before our journey but forgot to mention that he should get the tyre pressures checked as well. It was a big lapse on my part and we had to pay for it…

THE JOURNEY: FLYING WITH THE TAIGUN

We had planned to start early around 5 am on Friday 29th July but poor Ayush, in the excitement of the adventure he forgot to put wake-up alarm and got up only at 4:45 am. We started at 5:55 am from Delhi with a almost clear sky. Google suggested we take the DND followed by Agra Expressway but I decided to take the NH19 (Faridabad-Mathura-Agra) and take the Agra Bypass to Dholpur and beyond.

As soon as we hit the highways of Faridabad, rain started and continued for about 10km… with some part of the road submerged… it was the precursor to what was in store ahead. I drove sedately never going above 100 but keeping it above 70kmph till we cross the populated areas. We were not in a hurry and decided to be safer than being faster. We reached Chambal around 10:15 am decided to stop at the newly opened restaurant called CHAMBAL SPICE for breakfast. We were the only customers at that time but their service is admirable, we were served with hot Aloo-Paratha with Curd and Pickle. It started raining again as we devoured the tasty non-spicy parathas and hot Masala Chai.

I asked Ayush to take the wheels when we started again after half hour break. Initially, I was guiding him but soon realized he is driving almost like a pro… and this was his first time driving on the highways. If you are a driver yourself but seating on the passenger seat, it becomes monotonous and boring, you feel sleepy. That’s exactly what happened to me, I fell asleep right after crossing Gwalior and only woke up after we had crossed Jhansi. It was over 100 km stretch that Ayush drove on his own without any assistance including maneuvering through the Jhansi Bypass which is a bit tricky and the roads are not very friendly. I felt proud of him. He insisted on carrying on till evening…

During my previous trips to & fro Delhi-Hyderabad, I used to fill-up the gas when meter indicated 25% remaining, we applied the same strategy and when the last 2 bars remained we searched for a gas station near Sagar (MP). It was 5:15pm and changeover time… I didn’t want him to drive as the lights started fading, on a stretch that has a sizeable bovine population scattered on the road. The situation was further aggravated with innumerable potholes throughout the route. Some were sporadically filled up making them speed bumps. Till there was daylight one could see the potholes and maneuver around it but as the lights faded and with the downpour, it was impossible to see the potholes or the improvised speed bumps… in quick succession we hit two very bad (deep) potholes but Taigun remained stable and we continued on our journey. As we neared Deori, it started drizzling which soon became downpour and continued till about Narsinghpur. Thankfully, it was dry as we approached Seoni where our destination Pench Jungle Camp was situated.

We were originally booked at Rukhad Jungle Camp on the NH44 itself but the persistent heavy downpour in the region had made the resort inoperable. Therefore, we were advised to reach PJC a further 30 km down the highway followed by 10 km through the jungle roads. Google estimated our arrival at the destination at 11 pm but we beat the estimate by 40 minutes and reached PJC at 10:20 pm.

We have stayed at Pench Jungle Camp on another occasion along with our friends, the Basu’s. It is a decent place but doesn’t warrant a second visit. In the name of being eco-friendly, the place has become very Spartan with minimum luxuries that one expects in a Resort accommodation. Anyways, we were there just for the night stay so it did not mattered much. Since, we were not sure about our ETA, had informed the resort to keep our food cooked and ready, hot or cold, were acceptable to us. Surprisingly, the food was still hot which we enjoyed with the Elixir of Life that I carried with me.

In the morning, we were ready to go around 7:30 am and went to look for the restaurant for breakfast. The place was getting cleaned when we reached and was told the breakfast would be ready in about 15-20 minutes. After some time we were served with a bowl of fruits consisting of Watermelon & Papaya along with a small glass of watermelon juice. This was followed by hot idlis with sambar (Deepika makes much better sambar) and coconut chutney, also Poha with green chutney. The food was good but not exceptional. The steward came to check if we needed anything more… I asked for a masala omlette while Ayush settled for a pancake which turned out to be “set dosa”!!

We put our overnight bags in the car and I went to the reception to settle our account. There was nobody at the counter… the guard came and called up someone who asked him to guide me to some inner office. I had paid an advance of INR 1800 and the final settlement came to INR 2461.40… I was carrying cash knowing well the poor network connections inside the jungle area making card/ UPI payment difficult. I offered 5 currency notes of 500 denominations… the person asked for change… I could find 450 in currency notes but he insisted on the balance as well… the coin section of my purse provided 2 five rupees coin which he accepted reluctantly and returned one of the 500 notes. I thought from my experience, in the northern part of the country, the hotel would have given a 100 note letting go of the change part in such a scenario.

When I reached, the parking lot, I saw Ayush standing by the car and looking intently at the front right tyre. My heart sank thinking we have a flat tyre which would mean driving slowly on the smaller spare tyre and getting in Nagpur City to get the puncture repaired. Ayush said, “Dad, look at this tyre, it has deformed at this point”. Initially I couldn’t see anything but closer inspection revealed a small inflation or bubble on the side of the tyre. I checked the spot but it as hard as the rest of the tyre. I told Ayush that we can’t do much at that point of time drive with caution and get it checked when we reach Hyderabad. On hindsight, we could have got it checked in Nagpur as well.

I asked Ayush to drive till we crossover into Telengana from where I will take it up. When we had entered the Jungle Road, there was Toll Booth some 50 meters ahead of us but courtesy Google Map guidance we came out on the highway bypassing that Toll Booth and saved some money and some kilometers as well!!

The newly constructed highway on Pench-Nagpur sector is a dream run with wide roads and no potholes. We zipped through the section with ease driving at a sedate 95-110 kmph and soon reached the Nagpur Bypass. There was a posse of Police some 100 meters away and we were flagged down. We thought it might be for over speeding but the signage had clearly indicated max speed 100kmph. The policeman came to the driver side window and asked for the license, RC and PUC. I told him PUC is not applicable as the car is brand new only a month old. Then we realized it was a ploy of MAHARASHTRA POLICE to do HAFTA WASULI. The policeman without a shame asked for money which we had give to avoid further harassment.

The rest of the journey till Hyderabad was uneventful barring the maneuvering of the potholes which remained in large numbers till Adilabad (Telengana) and sporadic downpours which slowed us down a bit. When we crossed Penganga River, a tributary of Godavari River, I knew we have entered Telengana… it was time for me to take the wheel and also fill up gas. I knew there was a HP Petrol pump in Dollara (Sri Ambica Filling Station) and told Ayush to keep an eye for it to stop.

Ayush meanwhile had done his research about the “bubble” on the tyre and became a bit paranoid and asked me to slow down from 100+ to about 80kmph because the bubble might cause tyre burst according to the SM posts. I assured him that if it was to happen, it would have happened by then… we had covered over 1500km by then. I asked him to find out Tyre Shops selling similar size tyres in and around Gachibowli, Hyderabad where we were going.

Fortunately, as we moved closer to Hyderabad, potholes on the road became less evident and most were re-laid with patchwork. After Medchal (one of the entry point to Hyderabad) we took the ORR which I maintain is the biggest boon to all Hyderabadis. Initially, Google suggested we exit the ORR from Exit #18 to Gachibowli but due to congestion at the Gachibowli Circle and at the Toll Gate before that, it altered the route through Exit #1 at ISB Road, Financial District. However, it was equally choked with evening traffic and became worse with sudden downpour. It took us almost an hour to reach the tyre shop opposite SLN Terminus Mall (Whitefield) on Old Mumbai Highway. The technician there reconfirmed the tyre burst theory and suggested we take it to the VW Dealer to claim warranty. We told him that would mean going back 1600km from where we started!! He checked his stock register and informed that their other shop at Madhapur may have the required size of the tyre.

Though, from the direction he provided, I could figure out where the shop was but Hyderabad roads especially in the Cyberabad area has changed much since I left the city 1.5 years ago. So we asked Google Map to assist us which it did through long winding roads much of which I could recognize.

The Madhapur shop did not have exact brand in the required size but suggested a wider tyre (new) or a slightly used same spec tyre (for which it stood guarantee)… buying the first means a set of 2 tyres plus a question of alignment. We negotiated for the used one and got it changed. We also requested them to check the tyre pressure of all the tyres. All of them barring the new one were over inflated and it became clear the bubble was caused when we the pothole because of extra air in the tyre. It was a costly lesson to learn which we will remember forever.

We had planned to visit IKEA to pick up some small items but postponed it to the following morning. Around 9 pm we checked in at Hyatt Hyderabad, Financial District Gachibowli just across the Amazon campus. We had thought of going to Fisherman’s Wharf, a Seafood Restaurant close to the hotel but driving through the city in such thick (and unruly) traffic had taken a toll on our enthusiasm so we ordered food (Oriental) in the room and poured ourselves SM to wash away our fatigue.

Following morning after a sumptuous buffet breakfast we went to IKEA on Hitech City Road. I wanted to checkout our erstwhile residential complex NCC Urban which is right behind the IKEA on NASR Boys School Road. But the road was under construction and the detour was a bit complex so abandoned the idea and proceeded to IKEA on Hightech City Road.

We left for Bengaluru around 12 noon and I handed over the wheels to Ayush as we entered the ORR. The ORR Stretch from Financial District to Shamshabad has been constructed under the supervision of my childhood friend, a civil engineer by profession. I have extensively used this part of the ORR during my 3 years in Hyderabad. Ayush drove with ease and soon we were on the Bengaluru road. There was quite a heavy traffic considering it was Sunday but then the same road also goes to Tirupathi besides Kurnool, Anantpur being the major towns on the route.

Somewhere in between Kurnool & Anantpur, we stopped at a KFC outlet (actually a food court in the making) and ordered for our respective dishes. The service is hopelessly bad… we waited for over 20 minutes before I had to give my piece of mind to the counter guys and only then our tray was made. They would call token no.45 and then the next call is for token no.49… what happened to 46, 47 and 48??? No answer!!

The sun was setting on the western skies giving a nice hue of colors (took few pics) and sky ahead of us was getting covered in dark clouds. I took the wheel from Ayush and proceeded at a good speed hoping that we might cross the cloudy stretch before it starts pouring but it wasn’t to be and the drizzle soon became a downpour and then a deluge. The visibility reduced to 10 metres and speed reduced to 30kmph besides becoming pitch dark at 6pm. Thankfully there were no potholes to negotiate but one couldn’t avoid the water logging at the low lying spots. I checked with Ayush if should stop like other vehicles had done but he said, “If you can drive slowly and follow the truck with reflectors then let’s move on because we don’t know how long this downpour will last”. It was a good suggestion as pretty soon we were out of the deluge and again speeding away on dry stretch.

We crossed Anantpur and saw the KIA Motors factory which I had last seen as a under construction unit nearing completion. On my last journey I had seen one or two Korean food joints around this factory but this time in the darkness couldn’t locate them. In any case, we were filled up with KFC Chicken and Fries.

We reached the outskirts of Bengaluru (Yelahanka) around 9pm and then followed the traffic on NH44 followed by Old Madras Road and finally 80’ Road to reach our destination at Defence Colony, Indira Nagar, Bengaluru. It was a total driving time of 36 hours… same as what Google Maps had predicted. I told Ayush that at any other time of the year I would have beaten the prediction by at least a couple of hours which I had done in all my travels to and fro Delhi-Hyderabad-Delhi.

Ayush has a nice 3BHK house which he shares with two of his friend and I was mighty impressed at the way they have kept the house clean and orderly. Even though I wanted to stay a bit longer but couldn’t do so because of my aging Rolfie and flew out to Delhi on a Vistara Airlines flight a day after. But before that on Monday evening, we went to The TOIT Brewpub and the famed NAGARJUNA Restaurant. The beers at the Toit was amazing however I didn’t find Nagarjuna food to be exclusive as some friends had said.

I hope the journey and the driving on the highway has given a life lesson to my son who drove throughout with great composure and like a pro. It was a daring drive of 2300km plus in the monsoon time and all those who were privy to our journey were a bit apprehensive. It was not just the highways but unpaved roads through the jungle in the darkness that kept us on the edge throughout.  

I plan to take to the road again in about a year’s time to Goa when the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway will be operational. Surely, I will cover the distance in less than the estimated 12 hours…

By the grace of my dear friend Madhav…   

The One

Saw this excellent piece from facebook post some 5 years ago…

Eu. – So, Erode, we were discussing about your name before you came.

Me. – What about it?

Eu. – Is Erode your first name? Is it your given name?

Me. – (laughing) Erode is not my given name. Prabhakaran is. Erode is the name of the city that my ancestors apparently came from. It is like Faro, or Lisbon or Bologna.

Eu. – Then how come it is your first name?

Me. – See, when I was filling my passport details during my graduation, I had to fill something into the First name and last name column. I had no idea what these meant then. This is how my name appears in my school registers and this is how I filled it in my passport.

Eu. – Ok. We were wondering, because, who would name their child Erode?!

Me. – Why?

Eu. – You know that Erode was one of the bad kings in Bible right?! We won’t name our kids Erode!!

Me. – I know the king Nero. But not Erode.
Anyway, I don’t know how many people read the Bible here in Italy. But in India, in general, we hardly sit and read these books. We respect those who follow religion, just like we love and respect all. But the stories that are prevalent in India about anything – not just religions – are those that talk about their positives! Like the Loving nature of Jesus. His teachings, etc.

I can assure you, almost no one in our who society would have known about the biblical connection to Erode when they included it in my name!!!! (laughter)!

Eu. – So what percentage of Indians are Hindus? You are a Hindu right?

Me. – All those existing in our country are Hindus.

Eu. – But I have heard that lot of muslims and Christians are there too!?

Me. – You are confusing religion with Geography. Hindu is not a religion. It was a name given by Aristotle / Plato while referring to the geographic peninsula that was East of the Indus river. Megasthanis and Selucus who accompanied Alexander also mention it for the first time in their description of this land, which is called as Bharath.

So, everything here is Hindu.

Eu. – But I am talking about the Hinduism. The religion.

Me. – There is nothing called as the Hinduism or the Hindu religion. We never had religion in Bharath. Religion was introduced in our land through incursions and invasions by the Arabian slave dynasties in the 12th century. After that people like Marco Polo and Vasco da Gama and later the Brits brought the religion of Christianity to our land.

(There was a discussion on Jesus coming to India – which I will mention in another write up).

What you “mean” as Hindus are those who follow “Dharma” – which is righteousness.

Eu. – Let me put it this way. What is your holy book?

Me. – Ha Ha Ha!!!! What is Not Holy? Especially in our land of Bharath?!
We see divinity in All existence. We believe that everything is an expression of the same One Divinity. We see Divinity in a mouse, a mountain, a snake, a bull or a human! Perhaps you can call that as Hinduism! Seeing Divinity in All!
So, we don’t have any book that is holier than the other.

Eu. – What about the Taanthra, Kamasutra?

Me. – Ha Ha Ha!! Nice that you have been introduced to these! These are a part of a large body under the Sanskrit Literature. Sanskrit literature is vast and is broadly divided under the categories. Sruti, Smriti, samhita, Itihasa, purana, kaavya, shastras. These Taantra and Kamasutra are a miniscule part of Shastras.

Each of these categories is rich in anecdotes, prescription if you may, of Life and Living.

Shastras, for example, are the compilation of the research findings of our ancestors. Yoga shastra is one of them, for example. Artha Shatra (Economics and accounting), Ayurveda (medicine), Vaana Shastra (Astronomy, Panchaanga Shastra (Astrology), etc. are all part of it.

They are not by one single person. Nor are they from one single time domain. They are collective literature of verifiable experimental findings on existence, transactions of existence and their well-being.

Eu. – So you don’t have a particular revelation? The holy book like the Bible?

Me. – No. We don’t have any book of commandments. There is nothing that says, you follow this or you are doomed.

Eu. – Wow!!! “You” are just a book of revelations now! This a absolutely mind-boggling! You people don’t have a religion!! This is just Huge! So, is morality important in your … in you?!

Me. – Do you realize that you don’t have to have a religion to exist?!
Vyasa, who compiled a lot of the Shrutis and Smrutis of the Sanskrit literature several thousands of years ago, was asked to condense the essence of all of the Upanishads and the Vedas into a couplet.

He said – the essence of all Puranas, Itihasas, Srutis, etc. is

“Love All, Serve All.
Help Ever, Hurt Never.”

That is all.
Perhaps this is our only commandment – or prescription.
As long as you follow these, you can improvise in life.

Eu. – But what about when you need guidance? Like situations in life?!

Me. – What guidance do you need in life other than “Love all, Serve all”? These define both the Goals and the Methods.

If your child falls into a pond, which holy book will you first consult before jumping to rescue it?!

Eu. I must say Erode, I am sorry Erode is easier to pronounce for me, I have never heard such broad but crisp revelations before!

Me. – Come to India! Our taxi drivers can give you these!

Eu. – So, where is God in your scheme of things?!

Me. – You tell me? Where is God? There is Divinity in Everything, Everywhere, Every instance. Everything is Just ONE. When Everything is ONE, then God must also be You! and You must also be God.

See, You see the variety in creation. And see that it is changing and infinite.
We see the underlying principle that is connecting ALL this variety. Which is ONE!
You see the Pots and Ceramics. We see the Clay!
You see the stars, We see the sky!
You see the ornaments, We see the Gold!
You see the religions, We see Divinity!

Eu. – This is just mind boggling! Is there a way to convert to Hinduism?!

Me. – You don’t have to leave your religion to be a Hindu!

Eu. – ?! You mean yu can follow Hinduism along with other religions!

Me. – Ha Ha Ha …. See, I told you, it is not a religion! It is a way of life. It is Dharma. It is Clarity of Vision. It is Pure Existence!
The moment you appreciate “Love All, Serve All”, you have realized the so called “Hindu” in you! You can give it any name you want to – if you still have not realized that there is nothing in these names like Hinduism, Christianity, etc.

Eu. – Are you a Guru?

Me. – Well, today, I Am. To those of you who have seeked.

Eu. – Erode, we should do all our lunches together! This is awesome! We are loving it!

Kali

To begin with, I am neither religious nor ritualistic. I consider religion to be a matter of personal choice and should be practiced in the privacy of one’s own home. As a tourist, I have visited temples, stupas, churches, mosques and gurudwara to appreciate the architecture and wonder at the throng of people who seems to be intoxicated in their chosen faith.

However, being born a Hindu, the greatest philosophy that the world has seen, I do feel insulted and outraged if someone talks or shows filthy about the any of the manifestations of the Supreme Almighty. Hinduism is unique because it is not guided by any one single book. It allows you to feel and reach out to the Supreme One in whichever form you want visualize. Hinduism does not shun the non-believer and not only allows them to debate but embraces them as well. Hinduism has survived the onslaught on its existence for centuries and yet not only survived but thriving even today and shall continue to eternity as long as human race exists.

Recently, a member of the parliament (and that too a woman) had said on record to media that for her, the Goddess Kali is meat eating and alcohol consuming god. It is true that in some sect (especially in Bengal), the deity is offered meat/ fish and alcohol but that’s a small community. Two of the biggest and most popular Kali temples are Dakshineshwar built by Rani Rashmoni and presided over by Shri Ramkrishna Paramhans and Kalighat on the banks of Ganges in Kolkata. The Kalighat Temple is regarded as one of the Shakti Peethas (out of 51) of India, where the various body parts of Sati are said to be fallen in the course of Mahadev’s Tandav. Kalighat Temple represents the site where the toes of the right foot of Sati fell.

None of the above two temples offer meat and/or alcohol to the Goddess but interestingly, at the famous Kali Temple of Patiala (Punjab), offering meat and liquor to the deity is a daily ritual.

I am giving below a shloka from the Chandi Path which is narrated and broadcast on the early morning of Mohaloya Day by the All India Radio and now available in various forms on YOUTUBE.

Garja Garja kshanam moorha, Madhu yavat pivamyaham.

Mayaa twayi hatetraiva, garjishyantyashu devatah.

Shloka: Goddess Durga says just before she slays the demon Mahishasura and means….

“Take your time to squall and scream as long as I don’t finish up my (divine) wine, O foolish Mahishasura! I will soon slay you (after I finish my drink) and The gods of heaven will burst in the joy of victory!!”

It would be wrong to interpret the goddesses of Shakti in their many manifestations as only meat eating alcohol drinking divas. On the contrary, in most communities across the country, the gods and goddesses are completely vegetarian and teetotaler. And besides, who can ignore the logic behind the manifestation of the supreme one in a particular form…

Madhav said…

Yada yada hi Dharmasya glaanir bhavati bharata,

Abhyuthanam Adharmasya tadatmanam shrijamyaham,

Paritranaya Sadhunam, Vinashaya ch duskritam,

Dharma-sangsthapanarthay sambhavami yuge yuge…

Therefore, for me, Kali represents the true women empowerment. She emerged at a time when the patriarchy was the way of life in the form of Asurs who believed in anarchy. Kali represents the combined power of all those women who have been abused all their lives for being dark skinned. She emerges once again when girls like Nirbhaya dies a thousand deaths before dying and young girls are saved from being trafficked. A piece of Kali is born inside the acid attack victims, when they will to survive and lead a new life. It is said that both Durga and Kali emerged when the combined forces of the gods were defeated by the Asurs. The goddesses’ then had slayed the Asurs to bring parity and peace on earth.

So, my Kali cannot remain limited to the “meat eating, alcohol drinking deity”… The poster of the film that showed Kali as smoking a cigarette and created the controversy is directed by a lady of Indian origin calling it a piece of art… what a bull crap she’s peddling? But she’s not alone in this game of disruption, there are scores of them who would paint a goddess in nude, ridicule the Sanatan Dharma rituals in cinema and claim to be the Art Form and flag bearer of the progressive thoughts. For these scoundrels, women empowerment simply means nudity, alcoholism and drug abuse.

There is a large section of women in the country who are being denied equality and a chance to live with dignity because of patriarchal biases, but the elite feminists with wine glass in hand and puffing marijuana filled cigarettes, royally ignores them. The scores of disadvantaged women only want a dignified life where their pay is at par with the male colleague, they would like their daughters to have same education as their sons and not get shackled inside their patriarchal homes. For these women Kali and Durga are the inspiration to fight along a biased society and not only continue to live with dignity but create a level playing field for their daughters as well.

So, with folded hands, I would request all the progressive thinkers whether Hindu or Kafir, please spare the Sanatan Dharma Gods & Goddesses from your crude art forms… there are billions of beautiful things in the nature, go recreate them in your own way on the canvas or on the film… why look at imagery that has a revered connotation to the billions of Indians?  

To me religion is not reciting few difficult to pronounce shlokas or hymns but an idealism that gives hope to billion of souls. A correct and just interpretation of the Dharma can take the society to great heights while an incorrect interpretation can destroy the society. Therefore, choose wisely…

Jamai Shoshti

Image courtesy: Indrosphere/ Kinjolkini

The essence of the family bonding is usually expressed through the tradition of festivities. In the north, it is usually Diwali-Bhaiduj when the extended family members gather together to celebrate the occasion.  In Bengal, however, there is a day marked for the Son-in-Laws called JAMAI SHOSHTI, which is perhaps unique not just in India but for the world culture as well. The day usually falls in the last week of May or first week of June, every year (Jaisth maser shukla pokkher shoshti tithi as per the Bengali calendar).

The concept Jamai Shoshti evolved centuries ago to involve the women of the household in the socio-religious affairs of the society at large and specifically the family. It also helps in bonding of the son-in-law with the family of his wife and vis-à-vis… the day marks the gathering of all family members to enjoy the festivities.

On this day, the son-in-law or the Jamai becomes the centre of attraction and the mother-in-law traditionally makes a number of delicacies to feed him. In some traditional Bengali homes it starts with breakfast and ends at dinner. I vaguely remember, my sister coming with their husbands on this day for lunch at our home till my mother was in good health to make the food herself.

The son-in-law requested to be fed on banana leaf…

My dear friend Indro says that after marriage, the first time when he went to his in-laws home for Jamai Shoshti, his mother-in-law had to be hospitalized and he abandoned the idea of going there for Jamai Shoshti. Recently, his son Judha got married and was all excited to attend his first Jamai Shoshti this year… a week ago, his mother-in-law got admitted to hospital for surgery. But our Judha is a smart chap, the surgery was successful and he got her released from hospital just in time for the Jamai Shoshti!!!

A few of my friends have their mother-in-laws living with them and they enjoy the Jamai Shoshti every single day of the year!! Yesterday, a friend suggested the English term for Jamai Shoshti as Dissatisfied Customer Compensation Day

Having married in a non-Bengali (Punjabi) household, I never experienced the occasion called Jamai Shoshti… my mother-in-law was totally unaware of such a tradition and my mother never ever insisted.

Today, the 5th of June 2022 happens to be the Jamai Shoshti and I am going to treat myself… order food for lunch, may be a traditional Bengali cuisine from Oh Calcutta…

The Missed Ranchi Rendezvous

Dear Gora,

You have truly been my Langtoos since we roamed the lanes of Karol Bagh in our langots. By the time you read this, I would have gone far far away never to return. Unlike the popular belief there’s no afterlife… we are just dots of different sizes according to our deeds on the earth… I will be able to communicate with you only for few more hours as I am shrinking every moment and racing towards a big dot, perhaps bigger than the sun that we see from earth. It seems every soul or the dot gets shrunk and is absorbed in that big dot… may be it is the Baikunthadham, the ultimate resting place for the souls.

Goodbye my friend, we won’t meet again.”

The above thought lingered in my mind in the delirium of extreme high fever…

I was all set to take the mid-morning flight to Ranchi on 5th May 2022 to attend the wedding reception of dear Judha & Tania, in fact I convinced my friend Alok to go with me a day earlier than he had planned. However, there is many a slip between the cup and lip… on the morning of 3rd May I woke up with bad throat, even drinking water and tea was hurting. Just a week before Deepika and the housekeeper were down with Omicron variant of Covid-19. Though both recovered within 4-5 days, the doubt that the virus is lingering in the house somewhere to attack the unsuspecting remained. Deepika had a spare test kit of Rapid Antigen Test and used it to check me… immediately I became covid affected!! The good part was that all three of us have been living in isolated condition for the last one week and continued with the same arrangement.

I knew my Ranchi trip stands cancelled but there was a glimmer of hope that the test may not be correct and I am actually covid negative. Deepika suggested that if I have no other symptoms namely, fever, cough or body ache, then I test again on the morning of 5th and take the final call.

We had decided to bless the newlywed couple collectively with cash to be presented in a nice carved wooden box along with a citation. I was entrusted with creating the citation and getting it printed on a good quality paper. My venturing out to the market to get it printed was ruled out. There was also the issue of handing over the contribution money, not just mine but Jallu’s as well. He was not able to join the party as his appointment with the doctor for his wife, Rupa at Vellore hospital happened to be at those very dates… and therefore he had sent his contribution to me.

I called up Satyabrata and explained him the situation, told him that I will be sending him the PDF file of the citation for printing at his end. His reaction was and I loved it, “You are absolutely fine… the RAT is not authentic… test it again on 5th morning before getting on the flight”.

My next call was Gora to update him. I told him that I will be transferring the contribution amount of mine as well as Jallu’s. His bank details were registered with my bank as I had transferred some money while we were in Hyderabad. His reaction was more balanced with suggestion to take ample rest and if the health worsens, then go for RTPCR test and consult the doctor. I told him that I had a video consultation with doctor and taking the medicines as prescribed.

Having accomplished both tasks, I decided to take it easy and rest if that would help in quick recovery. But I had already decided to abandon the Ranchi trip knowing well that my conscience wouldn’t allow me even if the fresh test result is negative.

On the insistence of my son, we consulted a doctor on the Practo App over video call. He prescribed medicines and suggested blood and urine test, which we immediately got done on 3rd May itself. The result was available in the evening which showed some anomaly in the urine result but nothing to worry as per the doctor.

On the 4th early hours of the morning, (around 2 am), I suddenly felt extreme shivering with burning body temperature… it felt as if I am at Rohtang Pass and at the same time inside a boiler room. I wore my “down jacket”, doubled up the blanket to stop the shivering. I did not check but it was good 30-40 minutes when the shivering subsided to allow me to search for a paracetamol and take it. Soon I started sweating and the fever subsided and I slept. I thought the fever was a freak case but no, it made a comeback post lunch to put the scare not only to me but Deepika as well. She consulted with her brother who arranged for the home visit of CMO of Sitaram Bhartiya Hospital following day. Meanwhile, I had a chat with Indro and he told me send him the test result and the prescription for Judha (he is a doctor by profession) to check as well.

The doctor from Practo had prescribed some 7-8 medicines but both CMO of SBH and Judha cut them down to just 3 and prescribed one additional medicine after they diagnosed the fever to have caused by urine infection. I was mighty amazed with the fact that both of them removed the exact same medicines from the schedule and prescribed the same medicine for urine infection. Not only that, both doctors said that a single dose of the medicine is good enough to cure the infection.

The fever did not come back and I started feeling better but decided to go for RTPCR test as well, only to reconfirm that I am still covid positive. I received numerous calls from Delhi govt as well as GoI health department advising me to remain in isolation and take medicine as advised by the doctor. I told them in each occasion that I am in isolation for over a week and taking medicines as advised.

I received a long text message from Gora on the intervening night of 3-4 May. It asked about my health situation and advised to consult doctor. And then he also mentioned about the apprehension of some of our childhood friends about my joining them still being infected. Some of them even threatened to cancel their trip if I decide to go. Initially, I was hurt, irritated and angry but then realized in the mass of some 20+ schoolmates, there are only a handful of real friends and only they matter to me… the rest are not friends but just acquaintances with whom you do handshakes and smile at gatherings.

Anyways, I posted my position on the WA group (specially created to communicate between the ones who were attending the wedding reception) with assurance that I am not joining the celebrations because of my sudden illness. My inner self heard lots of “sigh of relief” from my so-called friends!!

There’s a silver lining to all dark clouds… in this case, it opened my eyes to the fact that one doesn’t become friends just by attending school together for few years. It was hurtful that few of them doubted my wisdom and thought I will be irresponsible enough to not just infect them but a wider group at the wedding reception. I am happy to have few lesser number of friends than a large group of acquaintances, for me they have ceased to exist in my world.

Way back in February when Indro finalized the wedding dates, I had told him that in all probability I won’t be able to attend… then the reason was completely different. Our housekeeper was going to her home in WB after a gap of 2 years for about 1.5 months and we were not sure if she would come back on time or at all. In her absence, I had to take care of the needs of our aging pet Rolf including cooking his food, feeding and cleaning him making it impossible for me to leave station. Whatever be the reason, my prophecy came true.

Now, I look forward to attending the Annaprashan ceremony of Indro’s grandchild!!

PS: I heard the stories of Ranchi from my friends, how they enjoyed their tiny vacation as well as all the gossips they shared while drinking the elixir of life… but since I was not at the spot, I decided not to include those snippets even the juicy ones…        

Chhordi

If the year 2020 was ominous, we all shall remember 2021 as the year of catastrophe. The Covid-19 in its original form did not scare us as much as its mutated form Delta did… The continuous blaring sirens of the ambulances day-n-night all through mid-March to end-May of 2021 and to top it all, there were news of a people succumbing to the virus every other day. They were old, young, unwell and completely healthy people who suddenly took ill and never recovered. All of us who experienced the loss of our near and dear ones will never forget the circa 2021.

Amidst these chaotic times, one Saturday (3 April) evening, we got a call from my sister’s daughter-in-law that she is admitted in hospital and in critical condition. Without giving much thought to the environment we immediately left for the hospital situated in Dwarka. We knew she wasn’t keeping too well but never realized that she had reached the point of criticality. I cursed her family for not telling us earlier about her health status as we sped towards the hospital. As we entered the Dwarka, there was another call from her daughter-in-law, Smita, telling us that she was no more… she has left this world and all her pains behind.

She was my third sister, my Chhordi as I used call her… most affectionate and life of the family. A simple soul without an iota of diplomacy which she inherited from our mother; she would speak from her heart at times not realizing that her words may sound rude or hurt the other person even if they were truth. I have so much memory of her that it will take forever to be told, therefore, I decided to put a few that had an impact on me as a person and remained etched in my memory for a long time…

I was probably 9 or 10 years old when she eloped with my Jijaji… I did not understand then but it hurt me a lot then… for me, she went missing and it happened within months of my other sister’s (Mezdi) marriage… Somehow none of the elders at home did nothing to look for her… I asked mother many a times but she always answered in tears… I did not had the courage to ask Dad!

Anyways, after a few days, Mezdi visited us and told me that Chhordi had got married to my Jijaji… again, I did not understand, “Why couldn’t she get married like you?” I asked. It took some time for her to answer, “Once you grow up, you will understand” she told me and promised to take me to meet Chhordi.

I did not have to wait long. It was summer months and the season for kite flying which was my favorite recreation back then and courtesy my brothers had developed certain expertise. Chhordi knew it and one evening when I was playing outside, she simply appeared in front of me holding a bunch of kites with a Charkhari full of Maanja along with couple of Cadbury Chocolates. We hugged each other for long time and cried. I requested her to come home but she refused saying “Some other time” and promised to meet me as often as she could. She informed that she now lived near my school in Gole Market area… She lived up to her promise and would meet me at the school, every time bringing some goodies for me.

It took couple of years and the intervention of my maternal uncle (Badhe Mamaji) to thaw and normalize the relations between the two families. I was happy because we could meet at home instead of on the roads or at school.

Over the years she became my friend, philosopher and guide. She also became very close to my mother… at the time when there was no phones, she would make it a point to visit us practically every week. Later, she would speak to mom every day and keep her cheered through her age related ailments.

When I joined Dabur, I desperately needed a motorcycle to commute from GK-1 to Connaught Place as  the public transport (bus service) used to be pathetic but I was short on funds without any hope of generating the required funds. My brother though worked for bike manufacturing company was dead against my driving a motorcycle, so any funding from him was ruled out. I spoke to her and all she said was, “Come over in the evening and take the money”. She didn’t ask when or how I am going to return the money… she knew that I will repay her. I did repay her with interest though it took me 3 years to do so… Her timely help went a long way to boost my confidence and advance in my career.

When I decided to get married outside my community, I confided in her and she turn told my parents which helped in easing the process. Besides, she got wholly involved in the preparation and ensured the ceremonies are without any hiccups.

One of her great initiatives was to ensure all the siblings meet at our home on the Bhaiduj, after the passing away of our father so that Mom gets to meet them all at least once a year. She would also take the lead and arrange for the Diwali Card Parties irrespective of the fact that she never won handsomely.

With my sisters at happier times…

We relocated to Hyderabad at the end of 2017 and we would meet only when we came to Delhi around Durga Puja for a month. The last I met her was on the Bhaiduj day of 2019… When we decided to move back to Delhi just before Diwali of 2020, she was very excited at the prospect of everyone meeting on the Bhaiduj day. However, I wasn’t very sure of it because the Covid-19 was looming on our heads, besides I was driving back and had an overnight stay at a hotel which was risky at that time. Moreover, with her age and co-morbidity, it was not advisable that she gets exposed to a large enough gathering. She was disappointed, we all were disappointed at missing party but thought we will make up the following year…

However, the Almighty had other plans and took her away from all of us on the evening of 3rd April 2021. I shall always have the regret of not heeding to her request for a family gettogether on the Bhaiduj (2020).

I am sure, she is blessing us all from the lap of the Almighty. May her divine soul attain Moksha…

Om Shanti. Om Shanti.  

Mother

Mothers are the best thing that the Almighty has provided to us. All mothers are best to their kids but my mom is the bestest… yeah, all humans feel that way (must confess that I dunno about the animal’s feelings in this matter).

Today, 22.02.2022, Tuesday, is both a palindrome and an ambigram… also it happens to be my Mom’s 100th birthday. Therefore, the idea of penning down my thoughts living with her is my tribute to her. Being the youngest, I had the privilege of spending maximum time with her… right from my birth till her last breath; she remained with me and even today in my thoughts.

She was born in the muffassil town of Narail in Jessore (now in Bangladesh), the first born child to my grandparents. She did her basic schooling (till class 9 or 10) before being married of to my Dad (resident of Ujirpur village, Jessore) at the age of 17/18 years. My grandparental house was always full of people… besides the immediate family members, there were some distant relatives staying over all the time. It was the job (through unwritten writ) of women of the house to cook up 4 meals a day to satiate the hunger of all present at the premises on that particular day. My grandparents were wealthy with sizeable land holdings that provided most of the food requirement for the whole household and more. I am told that the only item that was bought from the market was Salt. The great Bengal Famine of 1943 did not affect them or the villagers of Ujirpur because the granary had enough to feed them all.

Both, my grandfather and father used to work in Kolkata (then Calcutta) and used go back to the village during the weekends. My grandfather passed away sometime in 1943 and the family decided to move to Kolkata leaving the village affairs to some relations (I am not sure how close or distant). Then in 1944-45, my Dad got transferred to Patna and the family moved along. Meanwhile, my 2 aunts (Bua/Pishi) got married and my youngest uncle (Chacha/ Kaka) went to live with my elder aunt because her husband was in police force with irregular work timings and a male at home was welcome those days. My elder uncle and grandma along with my two eldest siblings formed the family of my parents which in next 10 years saw addition of 3 more souls (my siblings) and departure of two… my elder uncle decided to move back to Kolkata and start his family and grandma attained moksha.

While, they were in Patna, India became independent but at the cost of breaking the country. The independence was painful for the affected ones… though my parents avoided the genocide in Bengal, being in the relative safety of Patna but lost everything (land holdings) in the partition of the country. The relative who was put in charge to manage the affairs in the village, traded off the huge tract of lands for a considerably small piece of land on this side of the border, in his own name.

My parents moved to Delhi sometime in 1954-55, initially residing in Minto Road (Thomson Road) before moving to Karol Bagh. My youngest sister arrived while my parents were living in Minto Road while I chose to be born in Karol Bagh. We joke that both of us are accidental child but probably had the best childhood amongst the siblings because there were so many hands to take care of us!!

By the time I had some sense of this world, things at our household had changed a lot… dad was no longer in the high income category rather in a significantly less glorious job with much less earnings, the eldest sister and brother were in college while the rest in school, so in the morning hours I had the undivided attention of my mom and she had mine. And that’s how our bond developed.

My mother was a humble uncomplicated and most of the times undiplomatic (I inherited the last trait) person… spoke her mind loud and clear which at times put her in a spot. She had tremendous sweet tooth and refused to cut down her sugar even when the doctors suggested. I remember one incident… I was with her at the clinic of Dr. Ashok K Ghosh (our family physician), he told my mother that unless she cuts down her sugar intake, medicines won’t work… to that she blurted out, “what is the point of taking such expensive medicine if I can’t have my daily Sondesh/Rosogolla?” To the last day of her life she insisted on 2 spoonful of sugar in her morning cup of tea… she was okay with less sugar in the evening cup but the morning must start sweet for her.

There’s a story about it…

When she got married, my maternal grandpa told my other grandpa that she being the first born is spoilt to the extent that she needs some sweet to open her eyes in the morning. My grandpa ensured that till he was alive, my mother got a plateful of Sondesh/ Rossogolla or some sweet early in the morning to start the day. My granny and aunts were distraught but couldn’t disobey grandpa. They started calling her Maharani!!!

My mother was an excellent cook and this is not just my word but there are many who have tasted her food will surely vouch for it. She could cook up a complete meal for half dozen of my friends within the hour when they landed up during meal time without announcement. The most favoured dish was Egg Curry aka Dimer Dalna with my friends which they devoured with gusto.

My mother being a hardcore Bengali, picked up the Bihari Hindi while in Patna and continued to speak the same language even after living in Delhi for 5 decades. However, she was able to communicate quite well with the Punjabi neighbors in Karol Bagh. There was a Sardarji Tandoor wala who used make the traditional Punjabi dishes viz. Daal Makhni and Punjabi Kadhi Pakaudi which we loved and would often buy from him. One day my mother landed up at his humble tandoori shop and demanded the recipes… the poor fellow reluctantly told her hoping that the Bong woman would make a mess of the dishes. He was so wrong… the following day she cooked Kadhi-Pakaudi and it was near perfect. Over the years she mastered the recipe and frankly I have not had a better Kadhi-Pakaudi than what she used to make. I have attempted to cook it but it was miles away from her perfection.

These days, I go to Chittaranjan Park to buy Kasundi and Vadi but during my childhood, she used to make both these items at home in large quantity, some of which used to be lapped up by our neighbors. The same about the pickles too… I particularly loved the sweet mango chutney and the jujube chutney and would be very upset if any neighbor took even a small portion.  

In the growing up years, we only had Coal Angethi & Kerosin Stove, the former was used for cooking meals while the other one for tea and snacks. We neither had a pressure cooker nor any other fancy gadget (available those days), so most of the cooking was based on the principle of Slow Cooking and today this has been proved to be the best option to retain the maximum flavor in any Indian Cuisine. My mother wouldn’t waste even the peels of potato or bottle gourd and cook up a dish that tasted amazing. In later years, she would stand with me in the kitchen and guide me to make mutton/chicken curry like a true teacher. Her knowledge about the proportion of spices was excellent and today I can say with pride that I had absorbed that knowledge like a sponge from her.

As I was growing up, our family of nine started to shrink with my sisters getting married and moving out. When I was in the 10th standard, my eldest brother announced his intention to get married. We were overjoyed with the idea of finally having a bhabi… I must mention here that my parents were most liberal and did neither believe nor practiced the caste system. So, they had no objection to my brother’s choice of girl and warmly accepted her as the eldest bahu of the family. But this joy de vivre was short lived as within two years my brother and his wife moved out after creating lots of drama in the ensuing period… and they did not leave a forwarding address. It happened on a week day when Maa was alone at home; they simply called a Truck, loaded their stuff and went away. My mother pleaded with them to stay on till the rest of us return but they did not heed to her plea. And for next 3-4 years we had no contact with them and the reconciliation happened after my nephew was born. I am still baffled by this incident because she lived with Deepika, my wife for almost 12 years but the two never even had an argument rather they had a relation like mother-daughter.

When my younger sister (Rangadi) introduced her boyfriend (few years younger to her), it was Maa who stood by her and convinced my dad and bro to solemnize the marriage. It was Maa who looked after her and the granddaughter for good 6 months before she could gather up the courage to handle the new life of motherhood on her own. Therefore, it was ironic that she and Maa had some misunderstanding and did not speak to each other for several years, in later life.

Since the time I knew my mother, she was obese with multiple health issues and would need constant medication and visit to the doctor. I remember her blood pressure hovering in the range of 220/140 all through years we were in Karol Bagh and she under the care of Dr. Ashok Ghosh. However, she did not let those deter her from caring for the family. And the way she managed the family budget (and saved few rupees every month) she would have made an excellent finance minister of the country (hahaha)…

My Dad passed away exactly 5 months after my marriage… I am sure it was devastating for my mother to lose her companion of 50+ years but she remained calm, composed and in control of her emotions. A month later when my brother (in whose house we were residing) made it clear that I should move out to my own place, she made it abundantly clear to all that she will move out with us as well knowing well that the comforts of that house won’t be there with us.

With her blessings we found a decent accommodation in the heart of South Delhi, a colony called Soami Nagar (North) within our means and started our journey… She was very supportive of Deepika and encouraged her to continue working while she took over the reign of the house. Life was slowly but surely becoming comfortable with both us in decent gainful employment but then suddenly her Asthma which had been dormant for several years started giving her sleepless night. One late evening, when she had a severe bout of asthma, our landlord suggested a doctor residing few houses from us and we immediately contacted him… Dr. Sandeep Saluja was god send to her rescue; not only she recovered by his medication but survived more than 10 years under his care. And this doctor refused take any money from us… initially we thought may be because we were neighbors but it turned out that he had left his lucrative job with AIIMS to pursue his calling in life of social work. He treated all his patients absolutely free. I have lost touch with him but sincerely wish him a happy peaceful and fulfilled life.

When my son Ayush was born, she got a new lease of life and took care of her grandson right from his bathing to timely feeding and because of that Deepika could continue with her profession. I must confess here that I was envious of Deepika because her relation with my mother was very close like a mother-daughter instead of typical Saas-Bahu that was evident with my bhabies … she relied more on her than on me or any of my siblings. Deepika became her confidante… every evening they would spend time catching up on day’s events.  

Those days it was mighty difficult to get a phone connection (landline), I had many people who took my application (to MTNL) details promised to use their influence to get me a phone connection ASAP… but nothing really happened. One day a chap from the media community came to visit me in the office and both of us recognized each other… he had come to our Karol Bagh house on some errand for my brother. After pleasantries we talked business and as he was taking leave asked for my home telephone number to which I told him that I don’t have one. He immediately asked if I have applied for one and if so, then do I have the relevant document with me. There was no reason to carry the ‘application copy’ around so he said that he will send a guy to collect a copy of that the following day. I had no illusion that it was just another soft talking by one vendor to get a favourable response but on advice of my boss carried the doc with me to office. Surprisingly, a person landed up early in the morning to collect the paper. I handed him the application photocopy and did not think about or spoke to anybody about it. About 10 days later I was shocked to hear my mother’s voice on the phone as she excitedly said that just about that time a phone was installed at our home and she gave me the number. I called up the person (I do wish to name him) to thank, to which he said it’s a temporary connection for 6 months but assured that it will be converted to a permanent one before the expiry which actually happened. For us it was a great relief to be able to contact home to find out well being of both my mother and my son. Did I return the favour to the gentleman? Well, even if I wanted, I could not as he was in a particular media line which did not interest my organization that point of time… few years down the line when things became promising, I could not locate him, his telephone went unanswered and some other entity was occupying the business address given to us. He had simply vanished in thin air!!

We moved to our own apartment in Vasant Kunj on 6th October 1995 when my son was 6 months old and becoming naughty every passing minutes so we looked for a maid who would take of him and help mom in household chores. This arrangement continued for about two years with help of two subsequent young girls (cousins) but both wanted to start their own family and left. Then my sister sent a middle aged lady who could look after both as well as cook. My mother did not like the idea of sitting idle and would invariably walk into the kitchen to cook. She was getting old and her energy levels definitely going south and it took lot persuasion to make her retire from the kitchen.

I left my corporate job at the end of 2002 to start a new chapter on my own to ensure I can be near home in case of any emergency. But soon it became even more hectic than my job with no fixed time but a 24×7 kind of assignments. She realized this and would deliberately not tell me if she wasn’t feeling all okay. Years of taking high sugar content had its effect on her with extreme diabetes which eventually affected her kidneys. She would confide with Deepika about her status and even then she did not tell her till the last day that she was unable to pass urine for almost two days. On the morning of the fateful day, I called up Dr. Saluja who asked me to immediately pick him up from his home. After a thorough check up, he advised that we shift her to a hospital and recommended Batra Hospital on MB Road. He also called up the hospital and arranged for an ambulance confirming that he will also reach the hospital alongside… My mother was insistent on walking to the parking where the ambulance was waiting but the medics insisted on her being on the stretcher. Whatever be the cause, it seems her time was up and she was all set to finally reunite with her mate on the Valentine Day. She had started her journey to Baikunthadham well before the ambulance reached the hospital.

She remains in the heart of all those who came in contact with her. Om Shanti.    

In the times of C

For 2 years in a row, we have been house arrested, by force as well as voluntarily. Never imagined in my weirdest dream that I will be scared to move out of the house but 2020-21 taught us to be patient with life… not to take it too seriously… live in the present… be thankful… for there can be no tomorrows…

Two years in a row, I did not go out and celebrate the New Year eve but spent the evening with my family… ordered food and ate it solemnly. There was no invitation from friends or family neither we dared to invite anyone, rather we discouraged someone who was keen to join us for the evening. Fear of unknown was at its peak.

On 16th December 2021, we had a get-together of friends at a Farmhouse and my guess is that everyone, who joined accepted the invite as it was in the open under the sunny skies. It may sound funny now but after the event for next few days, we checked on each other to find out if all is okay with them. One case of Covid19 would have sent the entire gang into isolation.

Now, we have almost covered the second month of 2022 and the cases of the Covid along with its variant Omicron is not only in the news but has affected many of us. Thankfully, the variant though virulent, is milder and not fatal. However, no one is willing to take the chances and stubbornly refuses to physically socialize.

My sister(s) and brother along with their family got infected and were quarantined for over a week at their homes. Normally, if one’s close relation is unwell, we visit them to cheer them up but in this case no such visitation only checking their status over phone. And the message is loud and clear that none is welcome to visit vise’ versa.

In my younger days, I could visit anyone be it my friend or relative without prior information (there was no means of doing it either) but then as I grew up and got entangled in the corporate race, the energy, urge and time disappeared and all such visits became an occasion. Even then, one would try and catch up at least once a month or two. The Pandemic killed that too, I haven’t seen my sisters and brothers for many months now.

January 28 happens to be a quirky date for my family… it’s a birthday that is shared by my brother-in-law, my better-half and yours truly… it is also the marriage anniversary of my brother. In better times, we used have a gathering at home to celebrate but this year was different. Fortunately, our son was here with us after a gap of few years (advantage of WFH)… Delhi Government was considerate enough to lift the ban on restaurants dine-in which prompted us to plan to go out. I persuaded my sister & bro-in-law through my nephew to join us and settled for an early dinner so that they could reach home before the night curfew starting at 10pm. It is actually farcical to impose the night curfew to control the pandemic as if the virus is waiting to strike as soon as the clock ticks to 10 O’ Clock!!!

My dear friend Gora (with whom I had many memorable escapades), officially turned SIXTY this January (actually he still has a year to achieve the feet) and as per terms of employment, retired from the CGS on 31st January. I had a long chat with him and suggested we should have a Retirement Binge Party. But he cut me short saying, ‘No party till we return to complete normalcy’ in other words, “Thanks, but you are not welcome in the foreseeable future”…

Thanks to my other dear friend Indro, we could break the jinx and meet up over drinks n dinner at the Air Force Golf Club courtesy yet another dear friend Gr. Captain (Retd) Suranjan Choudhary aka SuroKhuro. Indro, after 10 months 10 days of enjoying the pleasure of living with family was going back to Baghdad to join work. It also meant beginning of his bachelor days, and as had been the practice for last few years, he stops over in Delhi at least once in his to-and-fro journey to meet up with friends. This year, though, we could not arrange for a larger space to have big gathering and had to accept the constraint of club restrictions to limit the numbers. The joy of meeting friends after a long time was visible through the vibrant vibes we exuded.

Rishikesh

On Bhaiduj day, while chatting with my elder brother-in-law, the conversation turned towards the general boredom that has crept into our lives because of the covid lockdown leading to fear psychosis of the Corona Virus… and the need to go for a vacation. It is impossible for me to take extended break because of Rolf who with his advanced age has become clingy to me and needs care that perhaps only I can offer. After much deliberation, it was agreed that we will go for an ultra short trip of 2 nights to Rishikesh, Uttarakhand on the weekend of 13th November ’21. By evening, my brother-in-law confirmed the hotel (Ganga Kinare) bookings and we were all set to go.

On Saturday morning we started our long journey around 8 am from Anand Niketan taking the MG Road (Ring Road)-Barapulla Road to join the Delhi-Meerut Expressway. This road has made travelling to Western UP and Uttarakhand a much convenient journey.

My friend Ashish is a frequent visitor to Rishikesh and uses this route practically every 10-12 days visiting his project (Namami Gange) site, provided the details of road condition and pit-stops, so I was prepared when the 6-lane road narrowed down to 2-lanes for few kilometers. However, I was not prepared for the surge of traffic… it seemed that all of NCR is on way to wash their sin in the Ganges!!

We stopped at Namaste Midway, a food court that boasts of some of the well known restaurants. We decided to go to Naivedyam, a south Indian cuisine restaurant which we felt would be less crowded. We had Idli-Vada-Dosa in a relaxed atmosphere and charged up for the rest of the journey after a 45 minutes break. Ashish had suggested taking a right turn towards Cheela Dam-Rishikesh Road, however, because of the heavy traffic, the police had barricaded the turning and we followed the Google Map routing and reached Ganga Kinare just in time (2:00Pm) for check-in.

After a leisurely lunch and relaxation we went to see the Ganga Aarti at Paramarth Ashram, in the evening. The Paramarth Ashram is near the Janaki Setu (Jhula) which has 3 pathways, 2 of which is meant for up & down 2-wheeler traffic and the middle path is dedicated for pedestrian movement. The hotel car dropped us near the Janaki Jhula from where we walked the 1.5km to the Paramarth Ashram Ghat. By the time we reached it was teaming with devotees with ‘Havan’ in progress and 2 of the disciples singing Bhajans which were soothing to the ears unlike the ones churned out in Bollywood tunes. Deepika and others went down the steps to have a better view but in the end I had the most vantage position right below the arch to the Paramarth Ghat. After a while the head of the ashram HH Swami Chidanand Saraswati Ji along with Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati Ji made their way to the ghat and offered Purnahuti at the Havan Kund. Thereafter, the duo regaled the audience with soulful rendition of Bhajans and meaningful sermons. Sadhvi Bhagawati Ji is an American by birth now devoted to Hindu spirituality and spoke of life’s journey comparing it to the flowing Ganga from Gomukh to Gangasagar through the ups and down, narrow and wide passes, shallow and deep gorges in its journey never looking back.

Deepika had availed the service of a youth (Guide) and he took us to the Ashram to see the Kalpataru Vriksha which had purportedly churned out during the Samudra Manthan (as per the Hindu Mythology). We also saw the 200 years old Banyan Tree which had an impression of Ganesha in inverse besides the Glass Temple of Lord Vishnu in Vishwaroop. From there Deepika and I went to a Govt shop to see Ekmukhi Rudraksh (a rare variety). We ended up buying couple of things from there ensuring the guide gets his commission from the shopkeeper (in full honesty he admitted that the shopkeeper pays him at the end of each month based on the customers he brings to the shop).

Back in the hotel, tiredness gripped us completely and we needed some sort of energizer… I was carrying a bottle of Dewar’s 12 years just in case… of which I and my brother-in-law had a peg each before dinner. I had a chat with Ayush before calling it a day and was assured that Rolf had been a ‘good boy’ eating, walking and doing his chores without any fuss.

The following day, Sunday, we had booked a taxi to take us to the Neelkanth Temple, some 25 km from Rishikesh. The way to the temple is through Rajaji National Park, a wildlife sanctuary inhabited by leopards and elephants besides other species. Though the road was narrow and winding it was scenic.

At the entry point of Rajaji National Park near the Barrage, the Govt. of Uttarakhand had installed a Camp for Covid19 Test… which I found farcical; they refused to acknowledge our Double Vaccination Certificate and insisted on the test (Rapid Antigen Test) which does not give accurate result. We were told that by the time we reach Neelkanth Temple, the result will be messaged to us. They gave us a ‘Receipt’ which was supposed to be checked at the Temple Entrance. THERE WAS NOT A SOUL TO CHECK THAT RECEIPT NEITHER AT THE PARKING AREA NOR AT THE TEMPLE AND I CAN BET HALF THE PILGRIMS WERE NOT EVEN VACCINATED.

About 2 km from the temple, the police stopped us and directed us to the parking lot. We were told that we have to walk rest of the road; however we could see many vehicles, primarily local taxis were freely plying on the stretch. We managed to reach the temple which was not just chaotic but confusing as well. As a principle, I do not go inside any temple, church, mosque, gurudwara etc., so I stayed back guarding the shoes of my company while they went inside to offer puja. After a while, my brother-in-law and Bhabi came out visibly shaken and disappointed that they couldn’t find the actual temple with Neelkanth Idol. However, Deepika continued her spiritual journey and offered her prayers and puja. On the way back we managed to get a taxi which dropped us at the parking lot from where connected with our taxi for the return journey. We had planned to explore the city of Rishikesh but it was already 3pm and we were hungry, so, the next stop happened at the Chotiwala Restaurant at Laxman Jhula. Some 30-35 years back this used to be open plan Dhaba but things have changed… it is now an air-conditioned restaurant with a digital access menu card and bottled water. The food is still good and we were hungry from the trekking to Neelkanth… as a result missed out taking the picture of the food!!

There are shops in the vicinity from where we bought stuffs like Pashmina mufflers, ladies suits and t-shirts besides brass sculptures for gifting purposes. None of us had any strength or inclination to explore further so decided to go back to the hotel. On our way back we got stuck at the Triveni Ghat and our driver decided to take an alternate route through the serpentine winding lanes of Rishikesh. Right fro Haridwar to all the way up is Dev Bhoomi and none of the hotels/restaurants/dhaba’s serve non-vegetarian food not even eggs…therefore, I was surprised to see a shop inside the lane openly displaying and selling eggs!!

Early morning, on Monday we went for a walk on the ‘Marine Drive’ a walkway created by the govt along the Ganga which for a change was not only clean but without the usual crowd one sees around the river bank. This may be because all the properties on it were privately owned with many being hotels/retreats for Yoga & Meditation.

We had a hearty breakfast trying out all the varieties… stuffed parantha, puri-aloo, chhole-bhature and even idli-dosa. I also tried the Matar Kachori which was quite delicious. At around 9 am we paid the hotel bill and checked-out…the journey back to Delhi was much smoother and as promised to Deepika, I dropped her home well before 2pm before going ahead to Anand Niketan to drop our companions.

Rock n Roll Ranchi

On 24th September 2021 just as I was planning to take my afternoon siesta or catnap, my dear friend Indrajit aka Indrobodon aka Panto called up, “7th October is Judha’s engagement…” and before he could extend the invitation, I told him, “I am coming on 6th Oct.” I have never met his son, Judhajit personally but through his blogs I have come to know him and liked him a lot. Therefore, it was impossible for me to miss this opportunity to meet the young doctor personally.

The next proposition of Indro was the toughest one… he said, “I am calling up others and you follow up with them to ensure their participation”. It was easier said than done… we take minimum of 6 months to organize a G2G locally and this involves travelling 1250+ km!!! Anyways, I told him to let me know the initial reactions of the guys, based on the inclination I will try and persuade them to take the journey but I knew only a handful would finally make it.

Even before I could undertake Indro’s wish, Roma called up to ask about my plans. I told him that I will fly out on 6th morning and return on 8th evening (I can’t afford to be out for more than 3 days as my aging pet Rolf becomes unmanageable by others). He was insistent on driving down which I declined as it involved 4 days (both ways) driving for 2 nights stay. It made sense if we were to go for a longish period…say 10days or more. I knew that Roma was afraid of flying, nothing unusual, lot of people are scared of flying on a airplane. The next option of train was also turned down for the same reason… spending 18-20 hours on each way on the train was not acceptable to me for a short stay. Then because of the Covid issues, Indian Railway has stopped serving food and beddings so, one has to carry these for travel… cumbersome!!

I convinced Roma to fly along with me assuring him that I will ensure his safety onboard. He had 2 issues to resolve… (1) Arrange for a ‘walker’ for his pet dog (Phoebe) and (2) arrange for a care giver for his aging mother. He did manage the first but the second one could not be arranged and he regretfully declined 2 days after our conversation.

Based on Indro’s input, I called up Atish (Kolkata), Gora, Taposh, Satyabrata and Ashish who showed their inclination to take the journey. I also messaged Alok as I was not sure if he was in town or touring some remote places (which he does quite often for his organization). It was decided that I will buy the tickets (if they so desired) on Monday 27th September morning giving them enough time to take the call.

Alok messaged back that as he is scheduled to go on a weeklong vacation to Srinagar Kashmir starting 10th, it would not be possible for him to take another 3days off from office. Gora called up and we had chatted at length… apparently he could not take even the first dose of vaccination due to adverse circumstances. Moreover, he was down with viral and was not fully recovered. Also the fact that his fractured left leg (from accident) has still not recovered fully and doctors have advised him to take it easy. With so many issues I decided not to press further… there will be the wedding next year and by that time he will be fit to participate. Taposh called up on Sunday and confirmed he is ready to go and Satyabrata also confirmed… so it was 3 musketeers from Delhi. Ashish said he will go but cannot be certain on the date… later he made a mess of it!!! On Monday evening, Atish (Kolkata) called up and said he had made arrangements to reach by road as both air or train options did not suit him due to prolonged compulsive wearing of mask (a problem many people face these days).

Having booked our tickets on Air Asia morning flight, we were excited about the week ahead.

Indro informed that his nephew (sister’s son) is also going in the same flight (Air Asia 744)… closer to the departure date I called up Indro to figure out if I need to book the hotel or he has made arrangements as he said earlier. While chatting he said that the Air Asia morning flight has been cancelled and his nephew is now going by the afternoon flight #559 ETD 1540… and asked me check our flight status. This was a shocker because neither the booking portal (Make My Trip) nor the airlines (Air Asia) had sent any kind of communication in that regard. I started with the MMT App but it still showed our original booking… no mention of any cancellation or rescheduling. Then I tried the Air Asia portal and there it showed that we too were booked for the rescheduled flight. Now, the problem arose how to revise the Boarding Pass… Govt. of India has made it mandatory to do WEB CHECK-IN for all fliers as part of Covid protocol. My first 1.5 hours went in futility as neither MMT nor Air Asia allowed any revision or fresh web check-in… I left it at that hoping to resolve it later or take our chances at the airport itself. Then in the evening I received a message from Air Asia informing of the rescheduling and asking for fresh check-in at the link provided within the message. With some effort on second attempt I was able to generate the revised Boarding Passes… Air Asia is a big blot on Tata’s (their share holding is 84%) and sooner the management takes corrective actions, it is better for them as well as customers.

We were warned that due to Covid protocol, there’s much rush at the security check at T-3 (my son took 1.5 hours and just about managed to board his flight on 2nd Oct), so we decided to reach the airport by 1pm for the 3:40 pm flight. Surprisingly on 6th Oct afternoon, the IGIA T-3 was relatively light and we (Satya & I) were through the security check in 10 minutes and then waited for Topshe to come…he was coming by Airport Metro which in his case coming from other end of the city was a faster alternative than taxi. Although, I had my breakfast at my usual time of 9-9:30 am, I wasn’t hungry and Satya had a brunch, so we decided to skip lunch (later we found out it was a bad decision).

Satya had planned to take his strolley as cabin baggage but I persuaded him to give it to the luggage and keep his hands free (a good decision). He had a battery pack which he took out and gave it to me to keep in my “mail bag” – a small bag that I always carry when travelling… it is expandable and helps in keeping my personal stuff including medicines at the security check. Unfortunately, Topshe having reached later did not realize that his battery pack was in the checked in bag and had to go back and retrieve it with the help of the ground staff.

Having enough time in hand, we leisurely walked to the Gate (#47) and occupied 3 lounge chairs… Topshe was smart; he had bought a chicken roll for lunch and offered me a bite but declined. However, seeing him devour it, I suddenly felt hungry but going back to the food-court was long and tedious walk so I bought a chilled bottle of water to quench the thirst as well as hunger. Boarding was supposed to be at 3pm but there was no sign of the aircraft. The take-off time of 3:40pm too went past, still no sign of the aircraft…finally around 4pm we saw an Air Asia plane land in the distance and we hoped it to be ours.

Meanwhile, just pass the time we took up a game of identifying the “Nephew” of Indro without actually knowing anything about him except his name. I used the deduction process of elimination to arrive at the correct individual after getting a “description of the person” from Indro. Just before boarding, the “extrovert” Satya spoke to him first and later introduced us as well. It was the only fun we managed in otherwise a boring scenario…

Thankfully it was the same aircraft we boarded 10 minutes later and we took off around 4:30pm (after a good 50 minutes delay). The pilot informed us that the flight had come late from Srinagar but did not even once apologize for the delay on behalf of Air Asia. As soon as the plane took off, I reclined my seat and dozed off despite the continuous chattering of Satya sitting next to me. Topshe sitting on the window seat had field day taking pictures till the day light allowed and then he too slept.

We landed at Birsa Munda Airport, Ranchi around 6pm and as the airport is small, it did not take much time to retrieve our baggage and come out of the airport. Indro & Jagrata had come with 3 cars (their own, one hired Innova and one borrowed from Judha’s friend). Topshe, Satya alongwith Indro’s nephew, Dr. Amitava Mitra went to the hotel The Royal Retreat, in the hired Innova while I waited with Indro to receive the another set of guest (the bride’s sister and family) coming from Hyderabad. They came out within next 10-15 minutes and went with Jagrata… Indro & I took the third car to reach the hotel. As we hit the roads, I became aware that I am many miles away from Delhi metropolis, the traffic was haphazard with vehicles coming and joining the flow at will from all direction… it reminded me of Hyderabad roads!!

Indro had booked the entire first floor of the hotel The Royal Retreat, a three star property…clean and very amiable staff. The arrangements were on twin sharing basis Topshe & Satya shared the room #108 while I got the #107 waiting for Ashish to join whenever he lands up. Indro asked us to freshen up and come to the driveway of his residential building which was on the other end of the road… a bare 2 minutes walk. While checking on the messages, I came to know that Atish had suddenly taken ill and not coming to Ranchi… he missed a great fun filled short vacation.

As we reached the gate of the Global Lavanya (where Indro lives), the aroma of the food suddenly made me famished and I followed my nose to the food counter… I savored two plates of mixed pakodas along with tea with great delight… the pakodas were delicious and I would have more but decided to keep space in the tummy for the dinner. Indro had a busy schedule of picking up more guests from Railway Station and Interstate Bus Stand and excused himself… confirming that we will meet for dinner around 10pm at the same place. We returned to the hotel to relax. I ordered a whiskey and chicken drumsticks, Satya made tea for himself while Topshe was good with a glass of water. We chatted and watched some news on television… Indro came with Judha to take us for dinner but before that he took us to room #110 to meet the bunch of young doctors, the friends of Dr. Judhajit. These youngsters were given the charge of innocent vices of liquor and a mild variety of locally grown Ganja which was quite aromatic and looked more like some kind of herb. Indro had told them that one of his friends liked to smoke the stuff and they were made to guess (unfortunately for them the cannabis lover Ashish was yet to land up)… they thought it was me probably because of my shaven head!! They were utterly disappointed to realize that I don’t smoke but were soon elated when I told them to serve the whiskey (Teacher’s) on the rocks. I have always enjoyed the company of youngsters; they are much smarter and knowledgeable than we were at that time of our life. And I speak to them as a friend rather than uncle so they tend to open up with me. After enjoying a few drinks with them, we went for the dinner. The food (Chicken Curry) was very tasty and we were hungry so we finished it quickly and walked back to the hotel. Indro had to pick up another set of guests from the Railway Station around 4:30 am and was planning stay awake… I told him not to because the following day (the engagement day) is going to be hectic with all the guests around. The day long activities, excitement coupled with the intake of more than few pegs of whiskey, I was feeling sleepy… Satya & Topshe too were tired (without the whiskey), so we retired for the day around midnight.

The breakfast, following morning, consisted of stuffed (Aloo) parantha with curd & pickles followed by tea (we asked for black tea and got it). After that we strolled the nearby streets and bought a pack of biscuits (remained largely uneaten) and some Bengali sweets (not worth it) and returned to the hotel. Indro remained busy looking after the guests from the bride’s side (politically correct). Topshe had his laptop and suggested we watch some old Hindi movies… after much deliberation, we settled for much watched but eminently repeatedly watchable comedy CHUPKE CHUPKE… Halfway through though all three of us were snoring to glory!!

Sometime later, Indro came to take us for lunch… he said something special is on the menu which we liked very much and indeed it was!! Besides the usual vegetable fair (not very keen on those), the attraction of the day was Rui Maachher Kalia & Chingri Malai Curry. I normally don’t take fish (can’t stand the fishy smell as well as the innumerous bones), but Ranada, the caterer insisted that I try at least one piece of the fish with some gravy… it was really nice without the smelliness and manageable bones…the curry was really tasty… this was followed by Chingri Malaicurry… the prawns were put on wooden skewers to keep it straight while cooking (innovative way)…

Post lunch, we chatted for a while with the guests… getting to know them especially Indro’s Jamaibabu Shri Abhay K Mitra, a very amiable person and friendly… Also interacted with Suvojit, Indro’s cousin from Barackpur, WB… he reminded me of my late cousin through his way of talking and mannerism. There was the bride’s (Taniya) cousin with her husband and daughter from Hyderabad… the little one was firebomb both in action and speech…we adored her every moment. We could have continued the ADDA, but had to rush to the airport to receive Ashish Banerjee who was making a courtesy call… apparently, while he had checked-in at IGIA, he came to know that he had to be in Rishikesh the following morning to represent his company to Namami Gange Team, especially because the Prime Minister might be there as well. We tried to persuade him to stay back for the main function but failed to convince him. However, in the short time that he was there (1.5 hours precisely), he enthralled his audience (the young friends of Judha) with his doctoral knowledge about cannabis and its medicinal properties, besides giving historical snippets since ancient times. The hospitable friends of Judha helped us down few pegs of Teacher’s as a precursor to the evening event.

We were the first one to reach the venue (the Banquette Hall of the hotel) as being single we could get ready in jiffy after Indro & Judha (fully dressed for the occasion) came and reminded us why we were there in the first place!! However, except for Abhayda (Jamaibabu), Bikram, Manish & Ankur (Judha’s friend) we had no inkling of who’s who… a little later one gentleman made his appearance with about 6 fully armed bodyguards…later we came to know that he was the Speaker of Jharkhand Assembly and a guest of the bride’s father. The gentleman stayed for a while and blessed Judha & Taniya before leaving. The ceremony started with the Bengali tradition of Aashirbaad of the bride and groom…it’s a long process with so many family members from both side besides friends. The Ring Ceremony was short and sweet… Judha was made to go down on his knees to seek the hand of Taniya who without much ado agreed to the proposal. This was followed by cake cutting (not a Bong tradition)… in this case a three tiered huge cake courtesy the friends of the groom, Judha.

Initially, the drinking party was supposed to be at Room #110 but the hotel later agreed to provide the facility at the lawn adjacent to the banquette hall.  There were two Chhatri’s (umbrella shaped sitting space) where tables were set for about 12 people in each…immediately one was occupied by the youngsters while sat on the other… first time in my life I spilt whiskey and that too not being drunk!! It was the very first peg and wanted to put some more ice to reduce the stiffness… as I was picking up the ice bucket I hit the glass and the whole content spilled on the table and on lap. Luckily, I was carrying a spare trouser which I changed into and thereafter no such untoward incidence happened as we enjoyed the evening. I snacked on too many fish cutlets (more of a ball) and chicken tikkas with my elixir of life, therefore avoided the non-vegetarian dishes during dinner. The food variety and taste were excellent… the only dampener was that the hotel did not serve my favourite Vanilla Ice-Cream and I had to settle for the strawberry flavor along with “engagement” cake.

The celebrations continued thereafter but we excused ourselves and came back to our room(s)… I crashed out within minutes of hitting the pillow and only got up in the morning on Satya’s insistent calling on my phone (I forgot to keep it on silent mode!!). He said that Indro has been calling up for breakfast… there’s some local Jharkhandi dish for the breakfast… I looked at the time… it was close to 9am!! I couldn’t remember last when I had slept this long. Satya said he was all ready and Topshe was taking bath at that moment. I told him that I should be ready by 9:30 am but if he is hungry, he should go ahead but he insisted that we all go together.

The Jharkhandi special dish was Dhuska, a mix of rice and lentils and fried… it comes out like a fluffy puri (luchi) and is served with a Aloo-sabji.

Ingredients

  • Rice – 1cup (200 gms) (soaked)
  • Chana Dal – ½ cup (100 gms)
  • Urad Dal – ¼ cup (50 gms)
  • Green Chilli – 4
  • Ginger Julienne – ¾ inch
  • Green Coriander Leaves – 2 tbsp
  • Cumin Seeds – 1 tsp
  • Asafoetida – ½ pinch
  • Turmeric Powder – ¼ tsp
  • Salt – 1 tsp
  • Eno Salt – ¼ tsp
  • Oil – for frying

Process

Take a ½ cup of Chana Dal, a ¼ cup of Urad Dal and a cup of rice. Soak them in the water for 4-5 hours or for overnight. After soaking them, remove the extra water from them. Add them in the grinder jar along with some water, 4 medium sized green chillies, 3/4 inch ginger julienne and grind them for the paste.

The paste of Dal is ready after griding them. Pour the paste in a bowl, add 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, 1/2 pinch of asafoetida, 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder, less than 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of green coriander and mix all the ingredients well. If the batter is thick then add some water to it . The running consistency of the batter is required for the Dhuska. Preheat the oil to fry Dhuska and beat the batter for 2 minutes. Add the batter using a spatula in the rightly heated oil. Flip and fry till golden brown from both sides. Drain out the excess oil using a tissue paper. Fry rest of the batter. Serve with Aloo Sabji. Serves 4 persons.   

Dhuska, looked like a fluffy luchi specially as it was served with Aloo sabji. However, when I dug into it, the misgivings were soon gone… it was more like a multi-grain fried idli… I finished two and there was still one more on the plate… the taste was so compelling that I attacked that one as well and finished off quickly. This was followed by the sweet dish of my favorite Jalebi… slim, crisp and juicy.

We went back to the hotel to pack up for check-out… Indro told us to vacate one room… Satya & Topshe moved into my room. Topshe switched to “Movie Mode” and we watched another old favorite Angoor starring Sanjeev Kumar, Deven Verma, Moushumi Chatterjee & Deepti Naval. This time we did not doze off and saw the entire movie.

The lunch comprised of Bengali style Masoor Dal, Beguni (Aubergine fried in coat of Besan) with rice…followed by Kosha Maangsho without which no Bong gathering is complete. Indro had indeed chosen his caterer quite well because the food, on all days were exceptionally well prepared. The only thing that Rana da, the caterer needs to improve is the quality of the “server” the guys were completely clueless about serving and on occasion came to serve the last course (sweets) even before the first course was finished. Clearly, they needed training and rehearsals before the event.

Indro said he will drop us (Satya & I) at the airport and Topshe at the Bus Stand from where he would take the bus to Jamshedpur (3+ hours)… to meet a friend. We told him it was a crazy idea because he would reach not before 9pm and would have to leave immediately after breakfast or brunch to catch his train the following evening.

I felt, Indro was a bit out of touch with driving specially a car which was not his own. It was the same car that he drove to pick us up from the airport. As I said earlier, Ranchi traffic reminded me of my Hyderabad days, it is simply crazy with all kinds of vehicles coming from all corners with scant respect to the “right of way”. And soon enough one two wheeler fellow jumped the red light and landed in front of our car. Luckily for him, the car had just started rolling and Indro applied brake but a little too late to nudge the scooter. The guy fell down in animated posture. The passerby’s including the Beat Police had witnessed the entire scene and lifted up the guy. He was adamant to stop us for a prolonged confrontation. I would have really thrashed the guy but we were in a hurry to reach the airport. In the process of clearing out from the chaos Indro tried to reverse the vehicle not realizing that a Scorpio had sneaked into the gap and nudged it as well… It was a hilarious situation like a Comic Strip. Topshe had got down to check the damage while Indro started off and stopped after about hundred meters, Topshe came running and we immediately took off… the Scorpio driver was upset but as it was a Govt Vehicle, did not persue us further.

We reached the airport well in time without any further incidence. Checked in and flew back on time to Delhi. While at the airport lounge, Indro called up to inform that good sense has prevailed upon Topshe and he wasn’t going to Jamshedpur but staying back in Ranchi only. He moved up a floor to a new room at the same hotel. Topshe told us that following day Jagrata packed food for the train journey which was more than enough for all three of us… in fact it would have been good even if Ashish had joined too!!

We now look forward to the wedding, some time next year when a greater number of Langtoos (childhood friends) will join the merriment. Almighty willing, I plan to drive down then… a long adventurous drive…