Kurukshetra

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3152 BCE – Hastinapur (Kaurav) Rajsabha

Duhsashan, the second son of Dhritarashtra, holding the flowing hair of Draupadi, dragged her to the Kaurav Rajsabha where a game of dice has just concluded with Duryadhan-Shakuni combine having won her as wager. The Kauravs laughed out madly at the hapless woman, reverberating throughout the kingdom. The blind king Dhritarashtra was covertly happy at the winning of his eldest son but overtly showed his concern at the commotion in his Rajsabha. Duryadhan ordered Duhsashan to disrobe Draupadi as she has now become his slave. The lecherous eyes of Duhsashan never blinked as he moved towards her menacingly. The daughter of King Drupad ran from pillar to the post of the Rajsabha to save her honor.

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Draupadi pleaded to mighty Debabrata or the Pitamah Bhishma who was mightier than the Gods. Then she went to Guru Dronacharya who was capable of eliminating any army all by himself. She went to Kripacharya, the Rajguru followed by the most learned and wise Vidur, the Prime Minister of the Kauravs. She cried out loud for justice but none responded. It seemed that all these great souls had turned deaf to the wailing of a hapless woman. Duhsashan, reached for her saree and pulled it to disrobe her….

3138 BCE – Kurukshetra

After many years and failed peace initiative, the war happened at the vast expanse of Kurukshtra, the holy land. On the seventeenth day, all most all the warriors of Kauravs have been vanquished by the arrows of Arjun and his brothers. The great Pitamah Bhishma was lying on a bed of arrows. Shri Krishna Vasudev has come to visit him and pay respect. After initial pleasantries, Bhishma spoke….

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Bhishma: What did you do Vasudev? Why did you allow this bloody war?

Shri Krishna: Me? What did I do Gangaputra Bhishma? I did not even pick any weapon!

Bhishma: You could have avoided this unnecessary blood loss. You could have stopped the destruction of humanity. Couldn’t you, Vasudev?

Shri Krishna: You could have stopped this war too, Pitamah.

Bhishma: Me?

Shri Krishna: Yes, you Bhishma. You are responsible for all this destruction and deaths of the million souls.

Bhishma: This is not true.

Shri Krishna: No Pitamah, it is the truth. Recall the Kaurav Rajsabha, where some beasts tore apart the honor of Draupadi and by inference of whole womanhood, but you kept quite. Why?

Bhishma: But that was Duryadhan and Duhsashan. I was, by oath attached to the throne of Hastinapur and as such bound to obey the King’s command. And the fact is Duryadhan never listened to my advice. He was very powerful.

Shri Krishna: Ha ha ha… what are you saying Pitamah? Durayadhan was powerful? He was solely dependent on the combined strength of you, Guru Dronacharya, Kripacharya and Karna. Without your tacit support he would not have dared to do such misdeeds. Pitamah Bhishma, I am not responsible for all this bloodshed and destructions but you all, who became deaf, dumb and blind at the Kaurav Rajsabha, all those years ago, are responsible for this mayhem.

The mighty Debabrat, the Pitamah of Kaurav and Pandavas just sighed, resigned to the fate of humanity.

2002 CE – Gujarat

On 27th February 2002, the Sabarmati Express was torched at Godhra station, Gujarat. The culprit identified was an organization by the name of Harkat-ul-Jihaad, a Muslim outfit. The target of the arson was pilgrims returning from Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. The goons did not differentiate between men, women and children and attacked everyone with utmost venom. Those who tried to save themselves from the inferno were dragged back into it by the goons of Haji Bilal. The intelligentsia became deaf, dumb and blind to this ghastly act. Some quarters did raise a feeble voice but was promptly gagged by the so-called secularists. However, the patience of a section of Hindu’s ran out and the revenge was sought throughout the state of Gujarat. Aftermath of this few Leftists were heard asking why such a high price for mere 57 Hindus killed in Godhra. Perhaps, they were not accustomed to pay back or do not know the value of human lives.

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Anyways, years on Gujarat 2002 had remained the hot topic among the left-oriented intelligentsia and they leave no stone unturned shouting “Gujarat Riots” every now and then. However, none of them have the guts to introspect why it happened! Just like Pitamah Bhishma, they have conveniently forgotten the Godhra massacre…

2016 CE – Iraq

39 Indians, mainly Sikhs had gone to Iraq to earn money, hard earned money for their family back home. The ISIS – an organization of the most peaceful religion abducted them and later on killed every one of them. Their only fault was their names were not Rahim Ali or Mansur Khan but Harjeet Singh and Malkiyat Singh!

However, the Indian media and secular intelligentsia that were so perturbed and agitated for the Syrian refugees and had taken out candle light march, refused to even utter a single sentence of condolences for these hapless victims. It is baffling to understand which death is saddest for the Indian media and intelligentsia. Who and what decides the agitation and candle light vigil for what and which massacre?

In Mahabharata, the trio of Bhishma, Dronacharya and Karna had provided the much needed valor and power to Duryadhan and Duhsashan for all their misdeeds. Ironically, today, the so-called secularists (and always left leaning), intelligentsia and political parties are giving tacit support to the Islamic and other terror outfits by either keeping mum or extending support in the garb of humanity. They are building the Frankenstein that will destroy them only. It is time to rise and shake up the lethargy, raise your voice against the pacifiers.

Jai Hind. Vande Mataram.   

 

Puri Jatra

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The day was 16th November, birthday of my buddy Soni. I wanted to wish him, hear his voice, listen to his crackling jokes but he has been absconding, on a self imposed exile from me and other friends. I have tried to locate him on my two visits to Kolkata, cajoled, threatened and begged his bro to reveal his whereabouts but the answer had always been a stoic “He doesn’t want to meet you”. I have tried to figure out the reasons for him not wanting to keep any relations to me with whom he had grown up since class sixth right through our working life, but couldn’t figure out.

I was contemplating between calling up a friend whose family is quite influential in Kolkata and my cousin with similar influences to fix up a possible meeting with the police commissioner or some senior officials to trace him out when my phone rang. The number was unknown but I picked up the call and said “Hello”. The voice on the other side said, “Kire kemon achhish? (Hey how are you)” The person need not introduce himself for I could recognize the voice of Soni even after almost 14 years.

After a bout of pleasantries (read abuses) for not keeping in touch for so many years, we started talking as if there have no gap in between. Soni informed that he has set up a hotel business in Puri, Odisha. There is nothing fancy about the hotel, but clean comfortable and affordable place, primarily catering to the middle class tourists from Bengal and other parts of the country. I asked him if I could add him to our WhatsApp group of school friends and he agreed.

A few days into the group, Soni invited us to join him at his hotel for a reunion which was cheered by all and most promised to look at the possibility. I told him over our phone conversation that only a handful will finally make it happen as I knew my friends inside out! Anyways, as the proposed day of 8th February 2018 neared, many walked out of the plan sighting various reasons which I will not delve into but the ones that bought their tickets were the lucky ones to experience real buddy bonding.  I had a concern area about Rolf, my 8.5 year old baby Chowchow, as to his twice a day walking. Having moved to Hyderabad just a month back I had no back up support but as luck would have it, a chance discussion at a community (NCC Urban) meet, a lady said she knew someone who could help me out. Thereafter, a series of messaging and phone conversation with the girl named Priyanka solved my dilemma and I was ready for the reunion.

Gora bought the flight tickets for himself and Ronju from Delhi while Jallu booked himself a train ticket to Kolkata from Malda to join Soni for onward journey to Puri together. For whatever reasons, the ticket bought by Gora was via Hyderabad and I decided to join them in the same flight so that we reach together. However, due to some confusion, my flight was scheduled one before theirs and we met at the airport lounge briefly. Soni had confirmed that he will pick us up from Bhubaneshwar Airport and was aware of the two different pick up time and made arrangements accordingly.

8th February 2018

To my great relief Priyanka came in the morning to walk Rolf and I followed them at distance but Rolf was at his best behavior throughout the 30-40 minute walk. While cleaning him up, I told him that I will be away for 3 days and that he should be a good boy. I don’t know if he understood but became very sad and sat at corner keeping an eye on my movements.

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Around 10 am Ronju posted their arrival at Hyderabad but the message was confusing. It said the plane had landed and is now on its way to Kochi. I called him up and he picked up the phone from the airport to clarify that the connecting flight to Bhubaneshwar is different and is scheduled at 2 pm. I told him to meet me at the lounge hoping to grab a beer with the buddies before boarding my flight. I left for the airport immediately and reached around 10:45 am and proceeded for the security check.

I was carrying only a cabin bag wherein I had packed Biriyani & mutton curry from Shah Ghouse, the famous eatery of Hyderabad, frozen rock solid. As I came out after the security check to retrieve my bag, I saw it was kept on the side. When I asked the reason, the lady at the counter said there is canister and food items which needs checking. I explained, opening the bag that the canister is my shaving gel and food item is the biriyani and mutton curry. She was adamant and demanded that I open the packs which I refused point blank and told her that she can keep the stuff herself but I cannot open them and spoil it in the process. I told her to call up her supervisor which she did reluctantly. The officer was more understanding and after recording my boarding card details allowed the package to carry forward.

It took some time to trace Ronju & Gora and went to the lounge but to our misfortune, the bar did not have chilled beer. We just sat there and chatted for some time then I proceeded to board my flight. The journey was uneventful, I put on my earphones as soon as I sat down listening to my favorite singer, Shreya Guhathakurata singing soulful Rabindrasangeet.

I messaged Soni as soon as the plane landed and he came along with Jallu as I came out of the terminal building. We proceeded to grab some grub before coming back in an hour time to pick up Gora and Ronju. We finished our lunch and were paying the bill when Ronju called up to inform that they have landed. We returned to the airport to pick them up at 4:45pm and straight away proceeded to Puri.

We picked up our stock of “Elixir of Life” before checking in at Dreamboat Hotel. After freshening up and changing into more comfortable clothes, we sat down for the first evening of reunion. There were lots to talk with Soni.

All of us have been through ups and downs in life but have managed to stand up tall once again. Soni narrated his side of the story briefly and my only regret is that he did not confide in me earlier about his hardship, I may have been able to help him in some way. We clicked our reunion pictures and immediately posted in the group to let the others know what they have missed out in life. The Biriyani was liked by all and we retired to bed well past the midnight. The following day was for sightseeing the Konarak Sun Temple.

9th February 2018

Ronju & Jallu had decided to go for a walk in the morning. Gora & I had politely declined as we wanted to sleep and relax as much as we can. However, my body clock woke me up at around 5:30 am and I could hear them sneaking out which tempted me to join but I suppressed the desire and turned on my tummy and slept blissfully for next one hour.

The breakfast was traditional Bong cuisine – Luchi and Aloo Kalojire Chocchori (Potato Bhaji with Onion Seed). Additionally there were boiled eggs for the likes of me whose breakfast is incomplete without eggs. I tasted this potato preparation after ages and relished it very much. It would have been great to have a traditional Sandesh with Luchi but Soni informed that sweets are not too good in Puri. The only sweets that people buy here are Gaja (a kind of sweet matthi) and Chhana Pora (fried paneer soaked in sugar syrup). We tried both later in the evening.

We had called the cab around 10:30 which as per eastern India norms landed only around 11 and we left for Konarak about 35km (one hour) from Puri. As is customary when you want to live the bachelor days once more, we picked up chilled beer and soon realized we do not have a bottle opener!! Soni had some work at the court so we stopped by and Jallu took the opportunity to hunt and buy the bottle opener from a roadside stall. We were all set for the road, I realized I have not lost the touch as I finished the beer much before Jallu and Gora had consumed half their bottles!!

Once we left the city limits, roads became quite decent in terms of traffic and surface smoothness. We passed through the wildlife sanctuary driving on the Puri-Konarak Marine Drive and reached Balukhand which we decided to check out while returning.

The Konarak Sun Temple is under restoration and one could get the glimpse of the magnificent structure through the scaffolding. One of the revelations was that people only point out Khajuraho Temple for its explicit sculpting but such carvings can be found in other temples of that period. Even here we saw some very explicit carvings on the temple wall all around. Ronju informed that since this is a Sun temple, it denotes energy and therefore such sculptures have been carved on the temple walls. There are no deities inside the temple; in fact, the entrance to the temple has been blocked years ago.  A brief note on the Konarak Sun Temple gathered from the internet is given at the end for those who are interested in it.

We had noticed the roadside stalls that lined up the lane leading to the Konarak temple and decided to check them out for souvenirs for back home. While going to the temple we had seen a few shop selling cashews and had decided to pick up some stock for our evening snacking as well as for home. However, on our return path, all the cashew shops had downed their shutter for afternoon siesta. We found a shop selling pickles and decided to check it out. It had over 25 different kinds of pickle ranging from sweet to sour to hot chili. Jallu, Gora & I packed few of them for back home before leaving for Balukhand on way to Dreamboat, Puri.

We spent some time at the beach called Balukhand and enjoyed the sea breeze. A small fish had soared up at the beach and was gasping; I picked it up and threw back to the sea hoping it would live for another day.

The menu for the lunch was simple Bengali cuisine of fried bitter gourd with kasundi, dal-chawal with fried fish and fish curry. It was a satisfying meal especially with the remaining beer, chilled and refreshing. After the late lunch, we were chatting about old times in school trying to figure out where our friends have ended up now when the Panda of Puri Jagannath Temple showed up at the behest of Soni. He agreed to come in the morning the following day to take us to the temple for the darshan of the deities – Jagannath, Balarama and Subhadra. I am not religious at all but was inquisitive of the place, so had decided to join the other three.

In the evening, we decided to go for a walk in the Swargadar area and try some street food. I am a foodie and wherever I go, I try to taste the local street foods which are generally much tastier than what you get in a restaurant. Jallu & I were keen to try the fried crab but a closer look at the stuff was not too inviting at the first stall that we checked. We tried the fried prawns instead which was just okay nothing great. Soni had declined to even touch it citing hygiene issues and Ronju reluctantly had one piece so it was up to Jallu, Gora and I to polish off the rest. We moved on to another stall that was selling different kinds of pakodas – chili, potato and urad dal besides samosa. We picked up few pieces of each variety for chakhna with drinks later in the evening.

I have heard that Swargadar is a Hindu crematorium and it is believed that getting cremated here guarantees Moksha for the soul. I had imagined it to be if not grand but at least a memorable place in terms of some good architecture but it turned out to be a normal cremation ground. Soni informed that attempts to convert the place to eco-friendly electric crematoria have failed for last so many years in the face of blind superstitions that block all modernization. Soni jokingly said that the opposition to turning electric is that they fear the dead body might be jolted to life because of electric shock!!

Before returning to the hotel we tried the famed Gaja & picked up Chhanapora for post-dinner dessert. Jallu’s room was the biggest and we used it for our evening Adda as well as storing the liquor and other dry snacks. By some unwritten instructions, Mukherjee, the cook-cum-man Friday would serve boiled eggs to go with our drinks along with other chatpata snacks. Since I have stopped eating dinner, this was most welcome for me. We decided to keep the Adda short as we have get up early for the Shri Jagannath darshan but still ended up well past the midnight.

Jallu, loves to take photographs including videos and many a times it is unknown to the subject and often results in candid moment. He took a video of Soni explaining some issues at the dining table and posted it on our whatsapp forum. When Soni saw it, he was infuriated beyond control and it took some time to calm him down. Thanks to the poor audio quality, it had gone practically unnoticed and there were no comments on it.

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10th February 2018

Ronju is a (very) early riser, he usually gets up around 4:30 am (midnight for most of us) and he took it upon himself to wake us up all by 6 am to be ready for Jagannath Ji Darshan. The Panda had confirmed that he will come and take us around 7:30 am. I normally get up between 5:30 – 6 am so, when Ronju rang the room bell at 6 am sharp, I was already up and shaving. We were ready and sipping on our morning tea when the Panda showed up and we left with him. He was riding a bike so we hired an autorikshaw and followed him to the temple.

All leather items, camera and phone are prohibited inside the temple. We knew it and therefore did not carry any of these with us. After depositing our sandals at the designated spot, we entered the temple. The premises gets washed everyday in the early morning so the surface was still wet and some of the stones were a bit slippery as well. Being city dweller we were not accustomed to bare feet walking so the initially it hurt the feet but we got adjusted. As is the norm with most Hindu Temples, there are many smaller temples dedicated to different deities which has to be seen (you’re supposed to donate as well) before one can go to the main temple. We first went to the admin office to ‘buy prasad’ or pay for the puja. There were different price groups for the puja right from Rs.111/- to Rs.25 Lacs. We settled for Rs.211/- as this was dry Prasad, easy to carry back home. There was a Rs.10/- admin charge over this amount!!

The Panda did his best to wriggle out donations at various smaller temples but we are seasoned traveler and know how to get out of the situation. He finally took us inside the main temple which was crowded with people but he managed to find the way through and took us straight to the front. The temple is under renovation and therefore the viewing spot has been moved back resulting in a glimpse of the deities for a few seconds only before the crowd pushes you out. It reminded me of the similar situation at Vaishno Devi temple!

We came out and explored the temple premises for its architectural beauty. Not getting into the details of the history of the temple but providing the link to Wikipedia for those who are interested – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jagannath_Temple,_Puri.

However, Ronju shared a very interesting story that the idol of the trio – Jagannath, Balarama & Subhadra are made from the Neem wood every 9/ 12/ 15/ 18/ 21/ 25 years depending on the command from the Lord himself through dream to the Head Priest of the temple. The Head Priest is told of the specific region within the state to get the Neem-wood for each idol and they are from different part of the state. The wood is sourced from the tree on which no bird has ever sat let alone made its nest. The idols are made in exactly 14 days. The navel of the Lord Jagannath is taken from the old idol and inserted in the new one called Pranpratistha. The Priest who does that invariably dies on the 30th day after the act and is believed to achieve Moksha.

There are some interesting stories – the flag atop the temple flies in the opposite direction of the wind; the Bhog-Prasad is cooked using earthen pots which are placed on top of another right up to the ceiling but the food gets cooked first on the pot that is at the top. The ingredients used to make this bhog are indigenous that is items that are naturally grown in the region and not imported from other countries (potato, tomato, chili etc. are not used as these came from foreign land). No bird flies over the temple (but I saw a tom cat roaming inside the temple premises fearlessly).

Before we left, the Panda said that he bring in the Prasad to the hotel in the evening.

We had decided to take the rest of the day easy and just relax, so after breakfast Ronju and Gora decided to take a power nap while Jallu & I along with Soni went for shopping. I picked up a Saree for Deepika while Jallu picked up Salwar-Suit for Roopa. We also picked up chilled bottles of beer for the afternoon and whiskey for the evening.

The lunch consisted of dal-aloo bhaja and mutton curry with rice. The mutton curry was delicious and I ended up over eating. The only thing on my mind was to take a nap and be ready for the evening as this was the last evening together after so many years.

We were all set for the evening session to begin but Jallu had vanished with his room key. He had suddenly realized that he had forgotten to buy the Chhanapora for back home. His train to Kolkata was early in the morning around 5:45 am so he had to pick it up today only.

Our session started quite late after Jallu came in having lost his way from Swargadar area. Initially he was reluctant to join in as he would have to get up very early but Ronju convinced him that he will wake him up at 4 am and then there was no holding back the 18 year olds in their mid-fifties.

Soni left Delhi in March 2004 and my last conversation with him over phone was sometime in late May of same year. His daughter was born on 15th November 2003 but I had not seen her till today save few photographs he shared recently of a beautiful smart young teenager. Soni narrated his untold story of past 14 years and we all became quite emotional at his struggle and eventual success. And I felt proud for my buddy.

11th February 2018

The morning started really early, Ronju, as promised, woke up Jallu around 4 am and us around 4:30 am. Jallu left for the station in the pre-booked autorikshaw around 4:50 am. He was going to Kolkata first before taking another overnight train ride later for Malda where he works with a bank.

I had booked a taxi for Bhubneshwar Airport drop at 9 am which showed up 15 minutes late. I was supposed to go alone but Soni decided that he along with Gora and Ronju will come along as they have nothing else to do and a long drive is always welcome.

At the airport, we hugged and promised to meet up again for a re-reunion perhaps with a larger group at a more suitable time later this year. I took off exactly at 12:07 pm carrying with me loads of memories of a fantastic weekend.


 

THE KONARAK SUN TEMPLE

The Konark Sun Temple was built from stone in the form of a giant ornamented chariot dedicated to the Sun god, Surya. In Hindu Vedic iconography Surya is represented as rising in the east and traveling rapidly across the sky in a chariot drawn by seven horses. He is described typically as a resplendent standing person holding a lotus flower in both his hands, riding the chariot marshaled by the charioteer Aruna. The seven horses are named after the seven meters of Sanskrit prosody: Gayatri, Brihati, Ushnih, Jagati, Trishtubha, Anushtubha, and Pankti. Typically seen flanking Surya are two females who represent the dawn goddesses, Usha and Pratyusha. The goddesses are shown to be shooting arrows, a symbol of their initiative in challenging darkness. The architecture is also symbolic, with the chariot’s twelve pairs of wheels corresponding to the 12 months of the Hindu calendar, each month paired into two cycles (Shukla and Krishna).

The Konark temple presents this iconography on a grand scale. It has 24 elaborately carved stone wheels which are nearly 12 feet (3.7 m) in diameter and are pulled by a set of seven horses. When viewed from inland during the dawn and sunrise, the chariot-shaped temple appears to emerge from the depths of the blue sea carrying the sun.

The temple plan includes all the traditional elements of a Hindu temple set on a square plan. According to Kapila Vatsyayan, the ground plan, as well the layout of sculptures and reliefs, follow the square and circle geometry, forms found in Odisha temple design texts such as the Silpasarini. This mandala structure informs the plans of other Hindu temples in Odisha and elsewhere.

The main temple at Konark, locally called the deul, no longer exists. It was surrounded by subsidiary shrines containing niches depicting Hindu deities, particularly Surya in many of his aspects. The deulwas built on a high terrace. The temple was originally a complex consisting of the main sanctuary, called the rekha deul, or bada deul (lit. big sanctum). In front of it was the bhadra deul (lit. small sanctum), or jagamohana (lit. assembly hall of the people) (called a mandapa in other parts of India. The attached platform was called the pida deul, which consisted of a square mandapa with a pyramidal roof. All of these structures were square at their core, and each was overlain with the pancharatha plan containing a variegated exterior. The central projection, called the raha, is more pronounced than the side projections, called kanika-paga, a style that aims for an interplay of sunlight and shade and adds to the visual appeal of the structure throughout the day. The design manual for this style is found in the Silpa Sastra of ancient Odisha.

Twice as wide as they were high, the walls of the jagamohana are 100 feet (30 m) tall. The surviving structure has three tiers of six pidas each. These diminish incrementally and repeat the lower patterns. The pidas are divided into terraces. On each of these terraces stand statues of musician figures. The main temple and the jagamohana porch consist of four main zones: the platform, the wall, the trunk, and the crowning head called a mastaka. The first three are square while the mastaka is circular. The main temple and the jagamohana differed in size, decorative themes, and design. It was the main temple’s trunk, called the gandhi in medieval Hindu architecture texts, that was ruined long ago. The sanctum of the main temple is now without a roof and most of the original parts.

On the east side of the main temple is the Nata mandira (lit. dance temple). It stands on a high, intricately carved platform. The relief on the platform is similar in style to that found on the surviving walls of the temple. According to historical texts, there was an Aruna stambha (lit. Aruna’s pillar) between the main temple and the Nata mandira, but it is no longer there because it was moved to the Jagannatha at Puri sometime during the troubled history of this temple. According to Harle, the texts suggest that originally the complex was enclosed within a wall 865 feet (264 m) by 540 feet (160 m), with gateways on three sides.

The stone temple was made from three types of stone. Chlorite was used for the door lintel and frames as well as some sculptures. Laterite was used for the core of the platform and staircases near the foundation. Khondalite was used for other parts of the temple. The Khondalite stone weathers faster over time and this may have contributed to erosion and accelerated the damage when parts of the temples were destroyed. None of these stones occur naturally nearby, and the architects and artisans must have procured and moved the stones from distant sources, probably using the rivers and water channels near the site. The masons then created ashlar, wherein the stones were polished and finished so as to make joints hardly visible.

The original temple had a main sanctum sanctorum (vimana), which is estimated to have been 229 feet (70 m) tall. The main vimana fell in 1837. The main mandapa audience hall (jagamohana), which is about 128 feet (39 m) tall, still stands and is the principal structure in the surviving ruins. Among the structures that have survived to the current day are the dance hall (Nata mandira) and the dining hall (Bhoga mandapa).

The Relocation

Two weeks before the Durga Puja (2017), on a Friday evening, Deepika announced that her company is closing down the training vertical, that she has been managing as senior leader. She has to choose a different role within the organization or look outside. We decided to take it in stride and take a call based on options within the organization. On the following Monday she called up from office and said that there exist two options, one is in Jaipur and the other in Hyderabad in Business Operations vertical. It was paradigm shift for her from training to operation and a difficult call. The Hyderabad option was more suited to her profile, so she took up the offer without any delay.

Once decided, we started the process of getting mentally ready for the move. It was not easy being born, brought up and work life spent in Delhi. The next step was to hunt for a place in Hyderabad. I had never been to the city and had absolutely no idea about the demography/ geography except some names like Banjara Hills, Jubillee Hills etc. So, I started my research on the internet and came up with names like Kondapur, Madhapur and Gachibowli. Having theoretically acquainted myself with Hyderabad landscape, we decided to go to the ground zero and look for a house. Deepika being there already, I booked myself on a Vistara flight for 28th morning for two day house hunting mission.

I landed around 9:35 am and after collecting my bag reached the Lemontree Hotel at Nanakramguda, Financial District within 45 minutes, courtesy the beautiful ORR (Nehru Outer Ring Road). After breakfast, accompanied by Mr. Jain, the property consultant, we went for the hunt. We started with an apartment block in Madhapur; it was right on the main road but very quiet and peaceful once you are inside the complex. This was followed by few houses in the neighborhood of Banjara Hills. After having seen a dozen places in the surroundings of Hitex, we moved towards Gachibowli. The Ramkey Towers – apartment block, right next to the Deloitte building. The apartment was on the 6th floor overlooking the swimming pool and clubhouse. The security arrangements and the sincerity of the staff were impressionable. We liked the apartment which was kind of semi-furnished ensuring we have to move very minimal household items from Delhi. The owners were Punjabis staying in another apartment in the same complex and were keen to lease it out to us.

In the evening, we met my friends Swathi & Sanjay Reddy at their house in Financial District, just a kilometer away from the Lemontree Hotel. It was a beautiful abode for the beautiful couple. We had couple of drinks before coming back to our hotel.

Next day again after breakfast, we started our house hunt, this time with another property agent that a friend had recommended. He showed us some really decent and nice apartments but all unfurnished and needed either shifting complete household things from Delhi or purchasing new at Hyderabad.

In the morning, Deepika had messaged three of her local colleagues about the Ramkey apartment. All of them warned us of water shortages in the peak summer months which can double our maintenance charges. One of her colleague suggested that we look at NCC Urban where he too is located, just behind Ramkey, a few blocks away. We asked the property agent as well as Mr. Jain (of the previous day), if they have any property in NCC Urban listed with them. Both said they will look in their data base and revert. Meanwhile, Deepika got a call from a lady from NCC who was interested in leasing out her apartment. This call was courtesy Deepika’s colleague who had posted a query for availability of apartments for leasing in the NCC Urban Society App called ADDA, and we fixed up an appointment with lady for that evening.

The first look of the apartment was so pleasing that we almost unanimously decided to take it up immediately. The lady, Ms. Jayasree Gujja had got transferred to Philadelphia, USA and was leaving in a fortnight’s time. She offered us the fully furnished house where we needed just to get our clothes from Delhi. The rental cost was slightly above our limit but since it was a ready to move in place, we decided it was worth it. The following day I came back to Delhi having accomplished the mission. Deepika signed up the Lease Agreement the following Thursday before leaving for Delhi.

The final relocation date was dependent on my sister’s impending visit to Delhi (India) after almost 10 years. So, once she confirmed her schedule, we too finalized the dates – Deepika along with our housekeeper, Savita will leave on 28th Dec and I will start my road journey on 29th Dec with my 4-legged son, Rolf and Guddu, the trusted driver.

Deepika carried 7 suitcases and 3 handbags on the flight (paying for extra baggage) and left a lot more for me to carry in Toyota Altis. Our driver, Guddu was itching for this long drive of almost 1600km. Google Maps showed the fastest route through Taj Expressway but my friend Robin insisted that we take the Mathura Road even if it means an extra hour. I am glad that I heeded to his advice as it was practically fog-free at a time when there was news everyday of mishaps due to fog on Taj Expressway.

Guddu & I loaded up the car in the evening itself and realized, there were too many stuff to take along, but these were all essential items that has to go. Rolf, used to having the entire back seat to him whenever he travelled in the car got really squeezed to less than half the space. We planned for 4am departure to avoid traffic as much as possible. My niece and her fiancé dropped in for a drink and to bid me goodbye and by the time they left, it was almost 11pm. It was time to shut down all systems and lock-up all entry points barring the main exit and cover up the sofas and other stuff that would remain in Delhi. All these activities took up considerable time and I could finally hit the bed around 1 am after confirmation of Deepika’s safe landing in Hyderabad. I got up with the alarm at 3 am and got ready within the hour but there was no sign of Guddu till 4:30 am!! When I called him, the usual reply came that he is reaching in 10 minutes which actually worked out to 30 minutes. We finally started around 5:15 am for our 1600 km journey to Hyderabad after getting the petrol filled to full tank capacity.

The route was NH2/ NH19 (Mathura Road) – NH33(Agra By-pass) – NH43/44, pretty straight forward and simple route which Google said would take 26 hours non-stop, crossing 7 states – Delhi-Haryana-Uttar Pradesh-Rajasthan-Uttar Pradesh(again)-Madhya Pradesh- Maharashtra-Telengana State. We decided to take the night halt at a resort in Pench which was right on the highway and begin fresh the next day for rest of the journey.

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The Mathura Road is currently being upgraded and there were sections which were closed and diversions marked, so the smooth cruising kept interrupting periodically. In a way it was good as I realized, Guddu Kumar was getting over enthusiastic about driving and in the process was applying some real hard breaking which was neither good the vehicle nor for Rolf, sitting at the back. By the time we hit the Agra By-pass (NH33), dawn started breaking on the horizon. It was good two hours of driving and Rolf as well as we needed to stretch our legs. I walked Rolf for 500 meters up the highway hoping he would do his job but the chap is so selective that he refused to do anything other than leaking his tank.

We started again moving towards Dholpur (Rajasthan) and then to Morena – Gwalior (MP) and then getting into UP again at Jhansi. We were actually bypassing all these cities as the highway was mostly away or on the outskirts of these cities. This also meant that unlike the other NH that pass through the city this was always skirting away from the city and therefore very few eating options existed on the entire stretch. There were no mid-way food courts like in NH8 or NH24/NH9, only few Dhabas where the trucks would lay by during the afternoon. We stopped at one such Highway Dhaba for breakfast. It was 100% vegetarian outlet and served different kinds of stuffed Paranthas. We ordered for Aloo-Parantha and tea. The food quality was nothing to talk about except it being very hot & spicy.

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As you approach each city, there were signs to take the bypass or go to the city. We diligently took the bypasses but just before Jhansi, we stopped at Petrol Pump to tank-up again. After filling up and getting Rolf to stretch his legs a little, we started again but missed out the Jhansi by-pass and entered the city. Luckily for us it was still early winter morning so the town was yet to come alive fully. We hastened our departure from the city using the Google Map and soon rejoined the NH44. Guddu has been driving since morning and I felt he needed some rest, so I took over the steering from him and asked him to take a nap. The road ahead was absolutely straight and very little traffic, I let the speedometer touch 140kmph and we soon crossed over to Madhya Pradesh once again. Guddu had taken a 15 minute nap and had been very restless. I asked him if would like to stop for toilet or tea but his response was “Sir, let me drive, I am feeling sleepy sitting on the passenger side”.  The effect of air-conditioning inside the car and the sunny warmth from outside was making me sleepy too, so once more I let Guddu take the wheel but told him to stop at the Pathway Retreat for lunch. Google showed it was some 2 hours away from our location.

I had dozed off for good an hour and half as we sped through the NH44. I enquired of Guddu if we had crossed Sagar and the Pathway Retreat and he said “Yes, about 30 minutes back.” I said, “Why didn’t you stop there?” He replied, “Sir, you were sleeping and so was Rolf, so didn’t want to disturb either of you. And moreover after the morning Aloo Parantha, I am not hungry at all, will stop for tea after some time.” I agreed with him and moreover, we were at least 3 hours ahead of Google’s predictions and stood a good chance of reaching our night halt station at Pench well before 9pm. We drove for next 2 hours without any incident except that there were huge line-up of trucks and tractor-trailers with sugarcane, practically closing one side of the highway. We negotiated the default single carriageway for about 3-5km and then moved back to the main carriageway. We stopped at Mowgli Street Food, just before Seoni for tea and let out Rolf for much needed break. He drank almost one litre of water but refused to eat anything. After a 15 minute stoppage, we rolled on towards our first destination – Go Flamingo Resort, Pench National Park. As we started, Google showed the destination to be 4:30 hour’s away meaning we will reach around 9:30pm. I had been to Pench National Park around 4 years back and knew the roads to be bad and narrow, typical forest roads. As we moved closer to our destination, the Google started re-estimating our arrival and confirmed that we will reach by 8:30pm, saving a clear one hour. The sun was setting over the horizon when we were still on the 4-lane highway and as the dusk gave way to darkness we encountered our first bad road, courtesy the frenzied expansion and construction of highways happening, which continued for about 6-8 km but seemed much more, eventually opening up to 2-lane jungle road. This was the hilly track or Ghat section that takes you to Pench. After a grueling one hour drive through the under-construction highway, which seemed like more than 2 hours, we finally made it to Go Flamingo Resort, Pench National Park.

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Go Flamingo Resort is the regular kind of Jungle Retreat, nothing fancy or luxury around this place. The rooms were extremely spacious and well-lit; the hotel staff extremely courteous and efficient. The room allocated to us had one double-bed, large enough for two people to sleep comfortably but Guddu refused to share it so I requested the hotel guys to provide an extra bed for him. I ordered food for us and laid out Rolf’s (dog) food and water. He ate half of it and the full bowl of water. I had forgotten that I was carrying boiled eggs from Delhi; there were 4 of them, so I gave 2 to Rolf and rest shared with Guddu along with the Elixir of Life which Guddu simply gulped down. The dinner was simple – dal, egg curry, salad and chapatti, which we devoured in double quick time, we were starving!! After dinner, Guddu went out, probably to have a cigarette because when he came in, I could smell the tobacco. We, including Rolf had a sound sleep and I woke up around 5:30 am (my body clock has got tuned to this hour of wake-up). After the morning rituals, I took Rolf for a walk and to my relief and his satisfaction Rolf pooped on the jungle path of Pench Tiger Reserve and marked his territory at various spots!!

We had a quick breakfast – Rolf: 2 boiled eggs & plain lassi, Guddu: 2 aloo parantha & tea and I had bread-omelet & coffee. I settled the hotel outstanding and started for the last leg of approx. 550km to Hyderabad. We got the car tank refilled at a petrol pump on the highway about 20km from the resort. I opened the Google Map and fed the destination and kept waiting for it to respond but what can GM do if it can’t get the fodder (network) from Vodafone!! Meanwhile, Guddu Kumar had stepped on the accelerator to reach Hyderabad on time for lunch. There were road signage’s directing us to our destination so I was not worried about the map. We crossed Gurmeet Dhaba but it was too early for tea-break and came to a fork where the right side road looked more lucrative and before I could respond, Guddu had taken the elevated newly constructed road and I could fleetingly see a signage on the left abandoned road saying “Towards Hyderabad”. This wrong turn not only cost us almost 170km but we lost crucial 3/3.5 hours.

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Anyways, the lucrative good road lasted only about 10-12km and soon became completely potholed pathetic road. We were doing 100-120kmph earlier but the road ensured we keep it down to less than 30kmph. In the absence of the map navigation, we were completely unaware where we were heading towards. We kept going and reached a T-junction where it said Amravati on the left and Kolkata on the right. The obvious choice was Amravati but I was having a nagging doubt, in my numerous checks about the route map, I have never come across Amravati anywhere near my route. I rebooted my phone in the hope for getting the connectivity but it wasn’t to be and the most frustrating was that all other apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, etc were working with regularity. Using MyVodafone App, I upgraded my plan to the latest one but still no luck. Then I realized Guddu was carrying a smartphone, I asked him if it was Airtel connection but it was Vodaphone too. Guddu unlocked the phone and tried the Google Map and Wallah Habibi, it was working. The Google Map commanded us to take the U-turn in next 2.5km and proceed straight for next 67km before turning right. We have lost the early morning advantage as the road became crowded with vehicular traffic. It took us almost 2 hours to cover the estimated 70km and we turned right as directed by the map. As we kept moving, we realized we are going back to the point from where we took the wrong road and frankly did not want to go through that terrible patch of almost 20-25km again. We reached a crossing where few trucks were parked and I decided to check with their drivers for alternate road to reach NH44. One of the drivers speaking Maharashtrian Hindi directed us to a road and said we should take the right turn under the flyover at Buti-Bori. The road wasn’t showing up in the Google Map and it kept commanding us to take its suggested road which we finally took and reached the Nagpur Outer Ring Road and travelled another 34km before we could meet NH44. We had lost over 3 precious hours. I called up Deepika and told her that we are terribly behind schedule and would now reach only around 8/8:30pm as per Google Map.

The NH44 that lies in Maharashtra needs urgent relaying, most of the surface having gone from bad to worse. Our average speed came down to a mere 40-45kmph as every 5km of good double carriageway was complimented with 10km of potholed single carriageway. This continued till we crossed over to Telengana around 3pm. The car had consumed lot of gas and we were again down to 25% limit. We haven’t come across any gas station in the last 50 odd km which was really odd.

As agreed, once we hit the Telengana State, Guddu handed over the steering to me and we cruised on at a sedate speed, keeping an eye for a gas station. It would have been a nightmare to get stranded on the highway without petrol. We were cruising around 90-100kmph when Guddu shouted that a Gas Station is just ahead of us in less than 250mtr. I immediately slowed down and the car behind us narrowly missed hitting us, this was my first and only blemish in the entire journey. We tanked up at Sri Ambica Filling Station (HP) between Dollara (behind us) and Sekapur (ahead of us) and clock said 3:45pm, the Google Map still estimating 8:30 as ETA Hyderabad. I had decided to hand over steering to Guddu once it gets dark as he is more tuned to negotiating the traffic through the dark as seen the previous evening. But before that I wanted to enjoy the drive through the beautiful highway and reach my new home as early as possible not only for us but Rolf too as he was getting restless in the cramped rear seat.

We zoomed past Adilabad on our left and Nirmal on the right and the signage said Kamareddy some 92km ahead. I gunned the engine and the speedometer touched 140kmph and stayed there till we crossed the exit to Kamareddy and headed towards Ramyapet, 27km ahead.  The sun was setting in the distant horizon, I decided to look for a dhaba or tea stall and found one about 5km before Ramyapet exit. The tea was nothing but sugar and milk syrup but it provided much needed energy. Rolf also was able to stretch his legs, peed and drank a liter of water.

Guddu took over from me for the last stretch of our journey as I recalibrated the destination to NCC Urban, Gachibowli, Hyderabad.  The clock said 5:35pm and Google estimated ETA at 8:09pm. Being a Saturday, the traffic was low on the highway and soon we were cruising at 120kmph and reached the outskirts of Hyderabad around 6:15pm. There were some traffic as we approached Nehru Outer Ring Road (ORR) but once we were on it, the traffic became smooth and Guddu stepped on to take the needle to touch 140kmph and I had to restrain him and slowed down to 100-110kmph. Guided by the Google Map we finally reached NCC, Urban precisely at 7:13pm, beating Google ETA by almost one hour.

Deepika was at the gate to receive us and guide us to the underground parking bay. I let out Rolf to relieving himself before getting into our new home for some years to come.

July 22 G2G

It is said that the bond of friendship formed in the childhood remains strong till the very end. I can vouch this for all my childhood friends. We may not meet often or even speak over phone but in our heart we know that one call from anyone of us and all will come together. The reason could be that there is no give-n-take in that friendship; it is simple fun n frolic among the Langotias. And what could be better if that camaraderie can be relived once again, even if briefly for just one evening.

My friend Indrajit aka Indro aka Panto was due to come to India on Holiday from Baghdad where he works and his transit stop was Delhi, so we decided to have a get together, but he was not certain about his plans with regard to his stay in Delhi. By the time his confirmation came, it was too late to gather all the classmates but we did try to rope in as many as possible. Those who could not make it felt upset and some of them squarely blamed me and another friend, Satyabrat as we are the ones that usually take up the responsibility of such gatherings. Anyways, we decided to have another shot at arranging a G2G (short for get together) when Indro returns to Delhi on way back to Baghdad. The day was Saturday 22 July 2017.

Information of the proposed G2G were decimated to all friends well in advance through WhatsApp broadcast and all were requested to keep that evening free to meet up friends. We mentioned about Indro being our chief guest but kept a surprise for many in the group. Our friend Debabrata aka Jallu, was coming too from Siliguri just meet Indro and the rest of the gang. It was a gesture on his part that has touched our hearts in way that cannot be expressed in words.

Satya and I got into the act of coordinating with all the langotias and received confirmation from almost all who were in Delhi. It was decided to have the G2G at Satya’s basement den that is spacious enough to accommodate 25-30 people easily. I must make a special mention of few who managed their schedules such a way to ensure their presence – Pulak, came from J&K, Alok, came back from Gujarat and Ashish (aka Hathi but he longer resembles like one) postponed his travel to Bhutan.  The whole preparation to this G2G was akin to the prep that Bongs do every year for Durga Puja, lot of excitement and discussions at every point to make the program flawless. Formed small teams to take care of certain events or arrangement, complete teamwork to ensure the clock doesn’t stop.

The guys who made it that day are – Ramashish (Roma or Chhoton), Amitava (Babua), Suranjan (SuroKhuro), Pranab (Lasoda), Gautam (Gotte), Pulak (Pulki), Taposh (Topshe), Utpal (UD), Pronob (Ponga), Manojit (Gora), Pralay (Pelu), Ashish (Hati), Alok (Aloo), Indrajit (Panto), Debabrata (Jallu), Satyabrata (Satya) and myself (Aro).

We decided to make it contributory so that it does not pinch any one in particular. So a detailed list of food and drinks were decided and each one was asked to bring something or the other. The menu at the end became quite exhaustive – the snacks included Fish Orly, Mutton Chop, Chicken Cutlet, Chicken Cheese Balls, Egg Devil, Boiled Egg, Mochar Chop (Banana Flower Cutlet); Mutton Biriyani and Chicken Korma for main course with Russian Salad, followed by Mishti Doi and Rosogolla as dessert. There was a surprise sweet from Jallu which was swallowed up the moment it was opened. There were enough to drink from soft beverages to beer to whiskey with no holds bar as long as one can stand on his own leg!!!

It was decided that I will pick up Indro from his hotel and then we both will pick up Jallu from the airport. There was some anxious moment when we received message from Jallu that his flight might be delayed by almost 30 minutes as the flight from Delhi hasn’t taken off on schedule. However, this turned out to be a false alarm as his flight did took off on time for Delhi. On the contrary, Indro’s flight hovered over Delhi due to congestion at IGI and he landed almost 45 minutes behind schedule.  Anyways, we had spoken in the morning and fixed 5:30 to 5:45 pm as rendezvous time at IBIS Hotel in Aerocity. I picked him up exactly at 5:45 pm and we proceeded towards Terminal 1 of IGIA where Jallu is expected. We were talking about his holidays and what all he did back home in Ranchi and in the process took a wrong turn that took us 2km further before we could manage a U-turn for T-1. When we were approaching the terminal, Jallu called up to inform that he has just landed and I gave him instructions where to meet us so that we do not waste time in unnecessary parking. As I had predicted, we picked up Jallu at 6:40 pm and proceeded straight to Satya’s home in C R Park.  Although, I used inside roads to avoid traffic as much as possible still it took almost an hour to reach C R Park and then another 15-20 minutes to find a parking spot.

Most of the guys had reached by then, so with the arrival of the CHIEF GUESTS – Indro & Jallu, the party started. Jallu met the others (Indro & I have met him in the previous years at Siliguri and Kolkata) after a gap of 37 years & 4 months to be precise. For a good decade or two we had lost touch and only with advent of Facebook, we were able get connected once again. Pralay or Pelu was missing as he got stuck in heavy downpour and reached by 9 pm. He got his audio equipment for karaoke singing and we realized we never knew his talent in this sphere. Indro had to catch his flight at 3:45 am so left with Lasoda around midnight but the rest carried on till around 1 am. The pictures narrate the evening more accurately than any words that I spin here, so let’s explore….

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Lasoda, Satya, Alok and Babua in rapt attention listening to some stories…
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Jallu telling his story while Indro, Ponga & UD look on…
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Group discussions on random subject…
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When Jallu speaks, everyone listens in rapt attention forgetting the snacks n drinks…
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Gora, Hati, Indro and Jallu (L to R)…
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A relaxing moment…
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SuroKhuro, Topshe, Hati, UD & Satya (L to R)….
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One for the memory….

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Someone clicked me while I was taking a video of the moment.
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Everyone wearing a basket (cap) brought in by Jallu….
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Isn’t the food little more than required? SuroKhuro asking…
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Jallu & Hati bonding, though they never met each other during school…
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A relaxing moment…
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That’s me reciting few lines of one of my favorite poem…
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The Langotia dance…
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The Langotia Dance…
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The Langotia Dance…
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The gang with beautiful wife of Satya, Runu…
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Jallu ne sabko Topi pahana diya!!!
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Pelu after a superb karaoke performance…
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Gotte & Runu clapping for Pelu…
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Indro & SuroKhuro
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Somebody had cracked an adult joke…
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Wassup guys???
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Jallu & Ponga in serious discussions…

Incidentally, Deepika and I were delighted to host Jallu at our home for his overnight stay. Next morning Deepika gave him options of Masala Dosa, Aloo Parantha or Puri Aloo for breakfast and he decided on Aloo Parantha (which I knew would his choice and had told Deepika well before). After a leisurely breakfast around 11 am we decided to leave for the airport to be on time for his 1:10 pm flight back to Siliguri. As we were nearing the airport, suddenly Jallu started patting his pockets and I instantly knew he had forgotten something at home, may be his wallet or mobile phone. It turned out to be his mobile phone. The time on the car clock said 11:23 am and I started calculating how much time will it take to go back home and make the return to airport and realized it would be cutting to short for him to catch the flight. I called up Deepika and asked her to bring the mobile at IIT campus gate where we will meet her. We picked up the phone from her at 11:45 am and then I used my Delhiwala driving skill to drop Jallu at T1 Departure 12:05 pm a flat 20 minutes. I must tell you here that Jallu had forgotten his reading glass at Siliguri while coming and realized only when he was onboard the aircraft!!

The Sunday evening felt like the day-after the Dashami (of Durga Puja), when all celebration ends and one had to wait for a year to start again. The only difference is we do not know we will organize the next G2G and in what scale?