Independence Day G2G

The Covid pandemic (second wave) and voluntary house arrest therefore has had some psychological effect on all of us. There have been mood swings to the extreme at times. What we needed was to come out of the shell. The infrequent visits to the mall or eating out wasn’t the kind that satiated our appetite for freedom as they were always laced with a doubt of getting the virus from unknown sources even if one is cautious. Then there was the ominous warning that a third wave hitting us in the end-July beining-August loomed over our head. Though, personally, I believed (and still believe) there won’t be any third (devastating) wave of Covid. The viral is here to stay with us but the effect will be milder unless there are any additional complications in the individual concern.

As I had mentioned earlier, we have a Whatsapp group Mastans of RBHS80, of school batchmates. We, on a regular basis chat on this throughout the day as per convenience of the members… and the members are scattered all over the world. Recently, we had the privilege of including Frank (Debashish Mazumdar) whom we hadn’t met after school and that’s 41 years!!! Therefore, it was earnestly felt that we must organize a get-together to meet our guest-of-honor, Frank. But it is easier said than done… to gather the lot residing in the NCR is a massive effort… everyone is busy in their own way and to come to a consensus venue and time usually takes 6-8 months of constant follow-up and cajoling unless some emergent situation crops up or someone gives a strong sting or bite to jolt us to action.

Three weeks back, the Kolkata Chapter of our group (Atish, Abhijit & Shiladitya) organized an impromptu get-together (G2G) when Indrajit visited the city on some personal work and had one afternoon free to meet the guys. They met at a Park Street restobar and enjoyed the company with beer and delicacies. The images sent by them stirred us to have our own G2G in Delhi. We discussed and almost finalized the date and venue. The usual venue for our G2G have been the DEN of Satya (a fully furnished basement) or the PENTHOUSE (top floor) accommodation of Ashish aka Hathi Bhai (though he has lost so much girth that he can no longer justify the nickname)… these are preferred because of 2 reasons… (1) We being Bongs tend to speak at a higher volume and when a group of 15-18 bongs does that simultaneously, the decibel reaches beyond the civic level. (2) Either of these places offers complete privacy for us to shed all inhibition (read maturity) and return to our childhood. However, we could not get the desired places to hold the G2G… Satya was getting some renovation done and Ashish had some personal issues to sort out… so it kept dilly dallying every time the subject was broached at the forum…

Then, Atish gave us a piece of his mind, a lecture that stirred us out of our slumber… his point was why can’t we have the gathering at a restaurant or hire a place to meet. Indro, as usual added fuel to the fire with his witty n spicy comments. It was valid point and we figured out two such places where we can meet… either Bijoli Grill at Banga Bhavan or Oh Calcutta at Masjid Moth GK-2. The former did not serve any liquor including beer and also don’t accept any reservation. We zeroed on Oh Calcutta who confirmed they will reserve the table if we confirm 48 hours before for the Weekend Buffet with Beer. Suranjan & I conferred and called out to others to confirm for the 14th August Saturday… few confirmed in affirmation but others did not respond… Satya had problem getting out of office on a Saturday for extended lunch but he told us to go ahead. Suranjan & I finalized for Oh Calcutta with approx 12 pax participation and was about to call the restaurant to book the desired table(s) when an elated Satya posted in the forum saying his basement will be available on Sunday 15th August as on that National Holiday, the workers won’t be coming and he will get the place tidied up for the occasion. It was settled.

The prep started with earnest… the first thing was to get confirmation of guys for the G2G followed by fixing of the all important Menu. We have about 20 members based in NCR out of which 18 confirmed their participation within couple of days (normally it takes anywhere between 6-12 months!!)… when it came to the main course, the choice was unanimous…Kosha Mangsho (sponsored by Roma & arranged by Ashish), Prawn Malaycurry (sponsored by Utpal & cooked by yours truly), Ghee-Bhaat Aloo Seddo (a Bengali delicacy)…completed with Mishti Doi and Rosogolla (sponsored by Alok & Gora). The Beer & Whiskey (sponsored by Suro & Alok)… the snacks was arranged by the host Satya.

The 15th August being on Sunday plus a National Holiday, it was difficult proposition to find parking space around pocket 40 CR Park but this was solved by Satya who arranged for our cars to be parked inside the colony park… all we had to do was to provide our vehicle number which was checked with the list before allowing entry.

In consultation with Utpal (UD) I had ordered 3Kg of Prawns (medium size as these are tastier compared to the large ones) and stored in the deep freezer. Then I faced the problem…my new LG668 ltr refrigerator malfunctioned… the freezer part declined to freeze but maintained the temperature just about zero degree. I was scared and kept checking on the status of the prawns every few hours. Then in the evening took them out and fried them…this actually helped the following morning in cooking the malaycurry faster than usual time. I tasted the curry, adjusted the salt and wallah habibi, it came out just perfect. I hoped the guys would like it…

Roma had some fascination for Kosha Mangsho (actually all of us have) and had promised to treat us for a long time…initially he thought of making it at his home and bringing but logistics issue cropped up and it was decided to get it cooked from a professional which Ashish managed through his contacts. Suro had arranged to send over the Beers to Satya so that we could enjoy absolutely chilled beer.

On the eve of the much awaited G2G, Supriyo, one of the first signatories to the Independence Day G2G had to back out as official commitment forced him to fly out to Mumbai thence to Nashik on Saturday. We missed him as also Pralay who was recuperating after a surgery.

This G2G was a bit extraordinary…defying the convention, most of the guys turned up well on time… I think it was because of the excitement of meeting Frank aka Debashish after over 4 decades.

Most of us reached almost simultaneously…I picked up Alok with his load of excessive Mishti Doi and Rosogollas. It was good to see Gora not only standing but walking without the support of a stick after being in bed for over 6 months with multiple fractures (8 to be precise) on his left leg and rib cage. He had a very bad road accident sometime in November end/ December last year. It was his sheer luck that his head and spine were not affected by the impact.

Debashish or Frank hasn’t changed much except putting on age appropriate meat but remaining as amiable as he was during our school days. He was the team Raisina Goalkeeper and excelled in that position. I was never a good athlete but covered it up being an excellent cheerleader. Unfortunately, he is undergoing a very difficult time but his positive attitude towards life is simply commendable and a lesson for each of us. I am not a prayer person but did speak to the One Supreme to heal him up fast.

Ashish was one of the last to reach but he was carrying 6Kg of Kosha Mangsho so he was excused for late coming!! But could not escape the barbs regarding his new found love for Basanti Chatterjee (totally fictional… imagined and created by yours truly). Ashish aka Hathi Bhai being such a sport absorbed all of it with his winning smiles… at one point it seemed everybody in the group were very well acquainted with Basanti Chatterjee and that stumped Runu Bouthan (Satya’s better half) because she knew us all for a long long time…she wondered how come she had missed such an important person in Ashish’s life!! I don’t know if Satya has told her the truth or charade continues… Talking about Ashish who was nicknamed HATHI (elephant) many moons ago in the corridors of Raisina because of his girth, is today a complete antithesis of that having lost not just the baby fats but even adult kilos becoming lean and trim gentleman with love for flowering shirts which he wore that day.

I had taken up the role of Barman and poured the chilled beer for everyone…Babua & Roma are teetotalers and opted for Limca…I poured a little beer in Roma’s Limca making it a Shandy… being a barman has the advantage for the self to drink as little as one desires… therefore I ensured the 16 large bottles (650ml) of beer plus 4 cans (500ml) besides approx 1 litre of whiskey were consumed by the gang before they had first grub of Ghee-Bhaat-Alooseddho… I, not being a Beer-Person, just about managed 2 cans of beer and it later affected my judgment… As I moved out of the parking, I realized I have forgotten my favorite baseball cap…Ashish sitting besides me called up Satya to bring it out and as we entered the narrow road (all CR Park/ GK roads are narrow), one auto following me started honking for pass, I tried to go to the kerb side but brushed a car, then after collecting the cap and reversing the car to move out I squarely hit the car behind which fortunately was driven by Roma otherwise a altercation was guaranteed.

I love the simplicity of food and Ghee-Bhaat-Alooseddho is just that… with which I started and by the time I went for a second helping it was over…the Bongs love their food and the good food doesn’t take much time to get over. The 6kg Kosha Mangsho and 3 Kg of Prawn Malaycurry were finger lickingly delicious and seeing the almost 3-score young adults relishing the feast was tremendously satisfying. I was much appreciated for the Prawn Malaycurry and the guys suggested that it should be a STANDARD MENU for all future G2Gs. The only thing that was in excess was the desserts with most guys going through age of diabetic, only “tasted” the Mishti Doi and Rosogolla… that left bulk of them still pristine in their packing.

Debashish was flying out to London following early morning and is expected back sometime in October…we agreed that the next G2G will happen then, may be as Bijoya Sammellon after the Durga Puja. Jaydeep, volunteered to offer his home as the next venue and in principle all agreed. He also reminded me to make Prawn Malaycurry which I am delighted to cook up once again. I have a feeling that some of our outstation guys will surprise us by participating in the Bijoya Sammellon.

Karol Bagh

I was born and raised in Karol Bagh, more specifically in an area called WEA (Western Extension Area). I have lived in 6 houses in the span of 24 years of life; though I don’t remember the house no. of 14A block where I was born (it belonged to a doctor named Dr.Bali) or the 3A block house where we stayed briefly but thereafter I remember each one of them starting with 5A/198, 6A/49, 5/20 and finally 12A/38. In 6A block and 5-block our stay was limited to 11 months and 22 months respectively as the landlady believed in rotating her tenants as frequently as possible.

I practically grew up in 5A/198 WEA from an infant to a 10 year old kiddo. This house was the smallest that I remember, had only 2 rooms and toilet, no separate kitchen but had storeroom adjacent to the staircase; it was also a bit haunted!! There have been instances that defy logic, for example, there was a window which would invariably open up as soon as the lights were switched off or during the winter nights there would be constant sound of people doing “Daandiya Dance” on the roof. My elder siblings vouch to have seen some old man gazing upon them as we used sleep on the roof during the summer months (Delhi used have cool breeze during the summer nights, hard to believe now). As far as I am concerned, I have seen a shadow of a bald man on the water tank of the bathroom once… I had a logical streak in me since childhood, so I had gone to the roof to investigate… believe me, there was nothing that possibly could create that shadow for I checked the angle of sun rays and waved to see if my shadow falls there and it did. At that moment, all by bravery vanished and I rushed to my mother’s lap in no time. Thereafter, I did not go to the roof alone for many days.

The 6A/49 ended my bathroom singing…I used sing Rabindrasangeet reasonably well (that’s what I believed) and on that particular day I was singing “Aakash bhora surjo tara…” full heartedly while taking bath when the old lady of the second floor was climbing up the stairs with her two dogs. The booming sound (not my voice but due to the closed boxy bathroom) made the dogs very excited/scared and they started pulling on the leash which almost toppled the old lady. Fortunately she let go of the leash and avoided a nasty fall down the stairs. My siblings made so much joke about it that I stopped singing from that very day.

Coming back to the haunted feeling, the 5/20 definitely had the presence of some unholy soul…like most (old) houses in Karol Bagh, it had 3 interconnected rooms, the first and the last room used to get sunlight but the middle room was always dark or at best get some twilight. Therefore, this particular room was ideal for the residence of the “one who could not be seen”. It remained just a feeling till my eldest sister, one morning, complained that someone shook her bed violently during the night. We all said she might have had a bad dream and did not give much thought to it. Very soon, she got married and moved to another part of the world (Germany) and I inherited her bed. Few months down, I was woken up in the middle of night with a jolt…some invisible being was shaking my bed violently. It stopped as soon as I jumped out of the bed and woke up my younger sister sleeping on the other bed. We switched on the light but there was no one; my parents were soundly sleeping in the middle room and my brother on the third room. My logical brain suggested earthquake and we awaited the morning newspaper for the confirmation, but there wasn’t any earthquake… not even minor tremors in the vicinity of Delhi that night. For the rest of our stay in that house, we rearranged the beds and not just joined them but tied the legs of the bed with each other just in case something or someone repeats the mischief.

5/20 WEA also provided my sister with her life partner, Abhay…they just celebrated 38 years of happy conjugal life… Almighty bless them.

At the end of that year (1977) or early next year we moved to 12A/38 WEA…this was perhaps the best with lots natural night and air. The old landlady was contended with peaceful tenants and we fulfilled that criterion pretty well. There were two other tenants who had been there for many years and continued even after we moved out.

Growing up in Karol Bagh was fun as a large chunk of my school buddies also resided there and would meet every evening to play or just for Adda. On week days we used to play “short pitch” cricket on the driveway of Babua’s house. Babua was “Sunil Gavaskar” in that format, very difficult to bowl out. Then there was Gora who would bowl leg spin googlies…those days I was a fan Prasanna and would try to emulate his bowling giving lot flight and in the process get hit for boundaries after boundaries…though sometimes I would get the prized wicket of Babua. In all probability, he used to get tired hitting the boundaries losing his wicket to one good ball of mine on that evening.

On rainy days we would huddle in Babua’s home, he had a spare room where would assemble to play carom or a game of TwentyNine (it’s a card game played between four players divided in two teams…details of the game are in 30 Years in aranyascope.com).

The game of TwentyNine is a very addictive game…one day during summer holidays, we decided to have lunch out and went to a restaurant (more of a dhaba really) in Gaffar Market to have Mutton Boti Tikka Masala and Naan. I remember the food to be finger licking delicious and absolutely pocket friendly in those days. Post lunch, we assembled at our makeshift club house (the spare room) to play TwentyNine. In the evening Mashima (Babua’s mother) served us some snacks along with tea. We got so engrossed in the game that we lost count of the hours till my brother came searching  for me around 11pm!!

That room served as our fireworks factory as well, Manas had the formula for making “Tubri” or “Anaar”. We purchased the clay pots and other ingredients and under his strict guidance made the harmless Anaars that sparkled on the Diwali evening…it was a proud moment for us.

During the summer holidays and on weekends, our favourite sport used to be football… there was (and still exists) a park that used to be a graveyard earlier adjacent to a cremation ground and next to an ice factory (don’t know if it still exists) where we would play football endless number of hours. I was never a great athlete but would participate in the game in full sportsman spirit. If we became thirsty, we would simply drink from the hose of ground water that used to water the grass and never ever fell sick… I guess those days even the ground water was eminently potable. On our way back, we used cleanse our system by having a “masala lemon soda” (kanchawala soda with masala).

Two of my very close friends (from school) Pronob and Atish would sometimes come over from school; my mother would immediately cook up Egg Curry and rice for all of us. They would stay till evening and join other friends for simple adda. Sometimes, while on way to drop them at the Aryasamaj Road bus stop we would drop in at the South Indian restaurant just off the Ajmal Khan Road Market for Dosa or Idli-Vada depending on the strength of our pockets.

Those days, pocket money used to be limited and mostly used to get over much before the month concluded and one would have to beg from the siblings. So, when our classmate and friend Pradipta Paul offered us contractual job for a week to make some extra money, Gora & I immediately accepted it…the job was to put up a makeshift stall in front of a medicine store on Ajmal Khan Market to sell Anchor Toothpaste. We did fairly well and the end of the week made some 2000+ bucks between two of us. The experience came handy later on in sales promotion when I was managing the Hajmola brand and also during my brief stint with Emami Foods…marketing WAH brand of snack foods across the country.

In the senior classes, we had tutorials after school and would therefore reach late and hungry. Most days we would take a bus that would drop us at Pusa Road (Sadhu Vaswani Marg)… we would walk down through the Ajmal Khan Market doing window shopping and stop at the Jainsons Westend shop where a “Matar-Kulchawala” and Kwality Ice-cream vendor awaited us. We would have a portion of spicy Matar (25paisa) and a orange bar (50paisa) every day…some days we would get into a bus for Aryasamaj Road and would miss out the delicious masala-matar. Some days if we reached late (4pm) then we could get Fruit Chaat or Aloo Chaat from the street vendor near the Punjab Stores (17A Block).

Few incidences or events that have remained etched in memory…

  1. Picnic: We decided to go for a picnic in the Jungles behind Majnu-ka-Tila…menu for the event was simple Mutton Curry and Roti…none of us had cooked before barring brewing tea and occasional omelet at home. Manas insisted on buying mutton that had lot of fat, logic being that the mutton would cook faster in its own fat and will be tastier. We made two makeshift oven using the available rocks and twigs. The whole energy of the group was spent in cooking the mutton and Roti and it took over 3 hours and at the end the rotis that came out was thick enough to qualify as “Pan Pizza base” and we literally fought to extract the mutton from the bones!!
  2. One of our classmate, Sonjoy Banerjee who used live just opposite of the school in Gole Market area, had bought a new bicycle and rode it Babua’s place to show off (none of owned a cycle and used to rent out for couple of hours in the evening). After some time, Babua decided to ride the bike and insisted that both Sonjoy and I also sit (sonjoy on the rod in the front and I on the carrier). He said, “Lets drop Sonjoy home and we will come by bus”.  We had not gone more than 500 metres when Babua hit a autorickshaw headon, fortunately, none of were hurt but Sonjoy’s bicycle got badly damaged. He started crying for it was a brand new cycle… we caught hold of the autorickshaw driver and forced him to carry the cycle as well as Sonjoy back home. We promised him that in case the cycle can’t be repaired we will buy him a similar branded cycle. I think he managed to get it repaired because we did not buy him a new cycle!!
  3. We used to hire bicycles and go for a ride in the evenings…on one such occasion, Subhro, a very close friend but brilliantly eccentric who had recently managed to cycle around the streets without banging on anything or persons decided to join us. We told him to remain in the group lest he get lost. To be on a safer route, we decided to explore the Pusa Institute Campus where one of our classmates, Sandeep Mukherjee resided…it used to be quite secluded and good for cycling. There, we met Sandeep and talked to him, he took us around to some hitherto unexplored areas of Pusa Complex. Till then all of were together including Subhro and we were enjoying the traffic free, pothole free well laid roads of the campus but it was getting late with sun going down on the horizon…we wanted to back in Karol Bagh before it got dark, so we bid goodbye to Sandeep and started our ride back home. When we had reached Prasad Nagar, we realized Subhro is not with us, someone suggested he had rode ahead of us, so we continued looking for him right till the shop from where we had taken the cycles on rent but he wasn’t there… we decided to go back the same route looking for him…our worst fear was that he might have banged someone or something. Nearing the park where we played football, in the twilight of dusk, we saw an erect figure coming towards us, cycling furiously, when the figure came close we could recognize Subhro and called him out, but he did not respond and kept cycling. We chased after him and after some distance could stop him on the side. Instead of being sorry to leave the group, he shouted at us for leaving him behind. Once he calmed down he said that his cycle chain had disengaged and as he needed a support of the footpath (like now) or some boulder to alight he continued to roll some distance on the Pusa complex till he could manage to stop it along a dump of stones, then with some difficulty put the chain back on track…by which time it was dark and he got lost inside the campus. With the help of a good Samaritan, he finally managed to come out of the campus and maneuvered through the busy streets of Patel Nagar and Pusa Road to reach inside Karol Bagh. We had no choice but to apologize to him.

It wasn’t that we were only interested in boys only games, we were definitely interested in girls but being in a Bengali govt. aided school, we had serious complexes talking to opposite sex. One reason was that we used think and compose our conversation in Bengali and tried to speak in English, the result was hilarious to the recipient and humiliating to us. So, we could only have crush on some the neighborhood girls…we did not even knew their names…we gave them names of our choice and fantasized… being civilized boys we never eve tease any of them…it was pure admiration.

Once, Babua’s parents had gone to Kolkata for couple of days on some urgent family related work providing us with an empty house and abundant ways of mischief. We were in college and till then had never seen any x-rated movie and now were the time to watch… Satya had a VCP and we hired a color television and couple of ‘sensational’ (as claimed on the cover) video cassettes. Had our dinner at our favourite dhaba at Gaffar Market and all set to watch. Our KB friends Atish and Pronob had joined us too…we had decided to spend the night at Babua’s place and informed our respective parents so… Anyways, the tech guys of the group tried very hard for over an hour to sync the VCP with the TV but they simply refused to coordinate with each other. Atish and I were looking out at the night time street view when our attention caught view of a bedroom just across the road… meanwhile Babua, Manas, Suranjan and Gora were planning to play TwentyNine and taken out the carom board as well to divide the group to play as one wished. Babua called me to join him but instead I hissed out to him to come over. The entire lot scramble to the window to have a look…the whole thing lasted for about ten minutes but to us it seemed eternity. To this day it remains etched in our memory.       

My sister and brother-in-law, Abhay used to live in the next block across the street…one day we friends along with Pronob who had come from the school with were standing below our house when Abhay was returning from office on his Yezdi motorcycle. I had recently learned two-wheeler driving and wanted to show-off to my friends. I requested him lend me his bike for a test drive which he obliged. The Yezdi/Jawa motorcycles were notorious for the back-kick and as luck would have it even after several kicks the bike wouldn’t start, instead it gave a solid back-kick that made my sleepers fly to a distance. I let it go as it was getting dark and Pronob wanted to get back to his home in Lodhi Colony. We walked with Pronob to drop him at Arayasamaj Road bus stop from where he took the route no. 89 which would drop him at the base of Safdarjung Flyover and he would walk to his quarters in Block-23 of Lodhi Colony. Later that night, I was woken up with extreme pain in my right foot accompanied by shivering and fever. I was unable to put my foot down let alone walk a step; I called my brother who helped me reach the toilet and later gave me a paracetamol tablet to subside the fever. In the morning our (the then) house physician Dr. Pradeep Baruah visited to check and said it was a ligament rapture and advised complete bed rest for three days. I never touched the Yezdi in my life!!

My brother had bought a Premier Padmini car (pre-owned) and I learnt driving the four wheeler from a trusted driver of USSR Cultural Centre (through my sister who worked there) and as promised by him. It was a blue color car and I loved driving it around Karol Bagh…those days petrol used cost around Rs.7/- per litre!! One evening, we (Mano, Roma, Abhay, my sister and I) were chatting standing below our house when we saw a Road Roller that had recently laid the road was slowly rolling down…initially we thought it was going back to the shed but as it closed in, to our horror, we realized it was without driver and rolling on its own, directionless… I shouted to my brother to drop the car keys so that I can move the car from its path but my brother was slow to react and the roller hit the first car on its path and continued to maul whatever came on its path. The car just before ours moved to the other side of the road on impact, climbed on the footpath and hit the wall of the house there. The road roller then was directly on our car and dragged it for some distance before the car got stuck on to a street lamp post. It was badly damaged from all around but became a hero for saving bigger calamity. The police investigation confirmed that some miscreant from the nearby slum had turned on the key to start the machine and then released the hand brake before jumping out of it… the insurance paid the bare minimum for the repairs…the front fenders, two doors where the roller had finally hit and the trunk lid had to be replaced…the blue car came out white after spending weeks in the garage.

We have always lived in a rented house and my brother decided to move to the posh south Delhi… and bought a floor in Greater Kailash Part One. It took almost 4-5 months to get it renovated and was ready to move sometime in April of 1987. It was around this time that I had joined Dabur in marketing and enjoying the easy commute from Karol Bagh to Connaught Place and back. However, to live in one’s own house was a dream and we decided to bid adieu to Karol Bagh in the first week of May 1987. Since, my brother had the new home furnished completely, most of our existing furniture were given out to needy people. I think, I was the trigger as soon enough, Gora, Roma, Babua and Satya too moved out from Karol Bagh to their own houses scattered over the NCR. But Karol Bagh remains fondly etched in our memory as this was the place where we grew up from infant to teenager to young man. Few years back after dropping my son at St. Michael’s school on Pusa Road for a competitive exam, I took Deepika to Karol Bagh to show the places where I was born (it hadn’t changed) and the last house where I lived before moving out…I couldn’t recognize the place, it has changed…the character of WEA Karol Bagh has changed completely…from a peaceful residential colony it has transformed into a fully commercial hub of the city…every house on the street where I lived has either turned into a hotel/hostel or a shopping complex. It was heartbreaking not only for me but all my friends who were once part of Karol Bagh. Unless it’s a must go, I don’t think I will ever go there again.       

Lost in Translation

The last week of June was not only hot but sultry humid as well. I guess, it was always like that but we did not feel it being in Hyderabad (in the past three years), where the monsoon comes mid-June or latest by the third week to ease the humidity and heat.

It was a Saturday morning, we were having tea when Deepika said, “It’s exceptionally hot this year.” I casually replied, “Then you should go to Tibbot (Tibet)” referring to the famous Bengali children’s book called HOJOBOLO authored by Sukumar Roy, father of Satyajit Ray. However, my joke fell flat on Deepika, being a non-Bengali has never heard of such a book let alone read it. In fact, I remember having bought the English translated version of HOJOBOROLO & ABOL TABOL, also by Sukumar Roy. Both though were good attempts at the translation, completely missed the essence of the original. The little nuances like Chondrobindur CH, Beraler Talbo SH aar Rumaler MA, hoye gelo CHOSHMA is perhaps untranslatable!! Coming to Abol Tabol, the English version is simply painful, the poems therein doesn’t even bring smile to your face… forget about a hearty laugh. How will one translate Ramgorurer Chhana or Tnash Goru or Kumropotash? In fact these words/names were non-existent in Bengali vocabulary before the book was published and has now become everyday use.

In context to the translation and adaptation of stories, our film makers are both masters and damp squibs. Recently, Netflix advertised and promoted a composite cinema called Ray to pay tribute to the Maestro on his birth centenary. It is cinema of 4 independent stories based on the short stories of Satyajit Ray. Now, let me tell you that SR wrote those stories for the children (Feluda & Prof. Shonku) and young adults. In his story, there was no glamour, sex or explicit violence. Also, none of his stories were judgmental. He allowed his readers to draw own conclusion about the characters.

In the film RAY, the first two stories are directed by Shrijit Mukherjee, third one by Abhishek Chaubey and the last one by Vasan Bala. The first Story based on the short story named Bipin Babu’r Smritibhromi is called Forget Me Not… WHY? If you are paying tribute, why not stick to the original name and the story? Why include unnecessary glamour and sex-up the screenplay? I am sure, the rustic environs of the original story would have been equally, if not more, appealing to the audience. Also, the multiple revenge angle to story and ultimate fate of the character is a sure shot bollywood potboiler rather than a Satyajit Ray story. Creative freedom is welcome but not at the cost of losing the script. The same thing happened in the second story as well, Bohurupi, the original story adapted as Behrupiya. While, in the book, the central character of Nikunja Saha is engaging and keeps the reader engrossed, in the film Indrashish Saha is good in parts but fails to impress… there’s a unnecessary coitus scene added which does not exist in the original and frankly, it would have not made an iota of difference if it was edited out from the final version. Both the cinematic versions are eminently forgettable.

The third story, Hungama Hai Kyun Barpa based on Barin Bhowmik er Byaram perhaps is the best executed among the four. It sticks to the essence of the original story and Musafir Ali played by Manoj Bajpai is engrossing while portraying the emotions as he recognizes the person from whom he stole a traveling watch 10 years ago. The end is humorous as well giving a fitting tribute to the Maestro.

The last one Spotlight, the original also of same title, maintains the similar storyline but again goes over the top to glamorize and adding unnecessary footage. The dialogues are dragging and at times vulgar. You won’t miss much if you haven’t seen it yet.

On creative freedom, there’s limit to where you can take a story or song from the original version. For example, Rabindrasangeet has been in existence for almost a century now in its classical form, some love it while some (I know of people) loath it. You cannot sing a Rabindrasangeet in ROCK-n-Roll format or jazz it up with hard rock music. Recently, I saw an attempt at singing RS in hardrock format on YOUTUBE and I wanted to slap the singer then and there… he was not murdering but slaughtering the song. Similarly, there are stories which are best if followed in its true essence.

Lastly, if you really want to taste the brilliance and humour of ABOL TABOL and HOJOBOROLO, I sincerely suggest, learn the language (Bengali), it is one of the sweetest and easy to learn. If you do so, you will surely thank me.     

Home Coming

2020 saw us celebrating quietly the Durgotsav followed by the Kojagori Laxmi Puja at Hyderabad home for the first time in 3 years with the prospect of spending the Diwali as well in Hyderabad.

Also witnessed the fast aging of Rolf and the general apathy of the vets towards senior dogs… he needed medical attention and clearly it was not happening in Hyderabad…

So, when Deepika said she’s moving to another vertical within the same organization and it is based out of Delhi, it was a joyous moment for all of us… we are finally going back to home!!!

It was just after the Laxmi Puja, the confirmation of her movement to another vertical within the same organization came through. When we relocated to Hyderabad, Deepika & the maid, between them carried 7 suitcases and 3 handbags in their flight with AirIndia, paid extra for 20kg. The rest of the essentials were carried by me in Toyota Altis along with Rolf. We were squeezed and it was a difficult journey for not only us (me and the driver, Guddu) but Rolf as well. However, 3 years of running the second home has seen accumulation of stuff that now could not be fitted into the suitcases or in the car. So, we looked for a packer & mover using trusted Google. Many names showed up but most were specializing in movement within the city or in the southern part of the country. There were two that said pan India and reviews showed happy customers that had used their services to relocate up north. We checked with both and finally settled with Agarwal Packers & Movers. Since our load was not full container, it was clubbed with other Delhi bound materials…we were informed the distance would be covered in 4-5 days or max 7 days. We called them a day before the departure of Deepika & the maid so that there is no interruption in WFH. Ayush & I were to start our journey by road 2 days later.

Being a type 2 OCD (perfectionist) I preferred to pack certain items myself, and boy, I am good at it…just like a professional or more!! I had ordered for the cartons, bubble wrapping sheet and the adhesive tape from Amazon and those arrived on time for me to pack the fragile and delicate items besides the personal stuff like my collection of pens and stationery, decorative items made of brass and glassware. The total number of packed items including 7 suitcases turned out to be 40 in number filling out the minivan that the cargo company had brought with them. We were blessed that there was no hard furnishings like bed, sofa, cup-board and refrigerators were involved in the shifting as we had rented a fully furnished (including crockery-cutlery-utensils) apartment.

Once the cargo company was gone, as is natural, we realized there were some items which could easily have been sent through them but now had be carried in the car. I was clear that, I will not overload the car and compromise on the ease and comfort of Rolf and us…rather leave the items in Hyderabad. At the end, we had to leave behind the planters that were blooming besides few other insignificant things.

I dropped off Deepika & the maid at the RGIA on Friday 6th November and drove back on the ORR for the last time. Packed the last of the items and put them in the trunk of the Altis and fitted out the back seat for Rolf’s comfortable journey. The following morning (Saturday) Ayush & I finally locked up J-003 NCC Urban and handed over the keys to our neighbor as discussed with our landlady.  Initially, Ayush had said he would like to drive some part of the journey but once we hit the road, he comfortably settled in the passenger seat!!

The 1600km journey back home was generally incident free; Deepika had booked us at the Hotel Jalsa in Sagar, MP for our overnight break. The hotel was informed that we will be checking-in late and leave early morning and that a 4-legged guest will also be with us. Since, we had stayed with them in 2018 they knew about Rolf and welcomed him. The Jalsa hotel is a vegetarian place, so I carried rice and chicken (frozen overnight) for Rolf. We also had carried cheese sandwich and boiled eggs, some of which Ayush & I had in the car, deciding to limit our stoppages in the covid times.

We left NCC Urban around 5:45am and followed the route suggested by Google and reached a point which made me doubt about the route and I stopped to check and recalibrate it to our first stop instead of Delhi. It still showed the same route with a minor change and we continued… it was a new route bypassing the Medchal and taking the Pipeline road to connect with NH44. What seemed to be a longish route actually saved us 30 minutes; I had decided to stop at Doon Family Dhaba on Nagpur Bypass but missed it completely. Ayush suggested that we have the sandwich and eggs for breakfast and stop only for the lunch at Go Flamingo Resort, Pench, Maharashtra. Rolf doesn’t eat anything while on the journey so I had fed him before we started…one boiled egg and buttermilk.

We reached Go Flamingo Resort around 2pm covering 600+ km and had our lunch. Rolf drank a litre of water and release similar amount as well. The 30 minute break did us good and we continued our journey to the first point covering the distance of 350km and reached Hotel Jalsa around 8:30pm. I must say, Ayush is a good navigator as he directed to the hotel with complete accuracy. The road and surrounding of the place had changed completely since our last visit…earlier, the road was narrow and congested but now it has widened beyond recognition with ample parking space in front of the hotel. It showed that if the govt wants to develop the infra, then it can do so in the shortest time too. The same is the story of NH44 as well…the Pench Corridor used to be a nightmare till 2019 but most of it now is 6-lane concrete carriage way, only a small part of not more than 6km remains under (active) construction and I am confident that as I write this, probably that part also stands completed. I must also mention here that Telengana govt too utilized the lockdown period to develop the infra of Hyderabad and completed long pending Durgam Cheruvu suspension bridge as well as the flyover on Road no.45 Jubille Hills, reducing congestion on Road no.36 and reducing commute time between Mindspace/ Hitech to Jubilee Hills Checkpost Road connecting to Banjara Hills/ Begumpet area.

The following day we had breakfast of stuffed paratha and fed Rolf with the balance two boiled eggs and buttermilk and started around 7am for the final 600km stretch. Since, the final destination now was home, we were relaxed decided we will have only one or two short stops only to relieve ourselves and stretch our legs. I was bit apprehensive about the bovine menace that we had faced earlier in and around Sagar, MP and parts of UP but to my surprise all those scattered cows have magically vanished from the highway, only a few could be seen grazing on the sides. The road between Jhansi and Gwalior was notoriously bad in our last journey but pleasantly, it was surfaced now and we had a smooth run. We had stopped on Jhansi Bypass for about 10 minutes to relax a bit, feeding water to Rolf and us too.

Ayush said, he would like to drive once we hit the Yamuna Expressway but once we reached there around 3pm, the skyline was getting dim with polluted air and he said it would be better if I only drive through and reach home at the earliest. We stopped only to fill up petrol on the Expressway and reached home around 6pm, breaking my previous record of 12 hours for the distance. Here, I must say that throughout the journey all the Toll points had FasTag system and we sailed through those smoothly but both Taj Expressway (Outer Ring Road of Agra) and Yamuna Expressway surprisingly are out of the ambit of FasTag and only accepts cash. And their Tolls are highest in the entire 1600km journey!!!

As a safety protocol, we observed self quarantine at home getting the daily requirements delivered from the local grocery and vegetable shop. We had reached exactly a week before the Diwali and the home needed to be lighted up for it so allowed the electrician to come and fix the lights. In that week long quarantine, I broke the rule only once to get Rolf checked up by the vet and giving him a bath all along maintaining physical distancing with people as much as was possible.

On Diwali night, we went to my in-laws place to play cards and for the first time I won handsome amount. It was a great feeling meeting them all after a year plus but for next few days we were little apprehensive about covid and stayed home, especially for Ayush as he was going back to Bengaluru the following Saturday morning.

It’s been four months since we have come back to Delhi and though it is a great relief to be home, we do miss certain aspect of Hyderabad… the openness and greenery of the NCC Urban, our abode there and the departmental stores across the city whether it was Spars, Reliance, Big Bazar, Vijetha or Q-Mart…all of them were big spacious and well stocked up compared to what we have in Delhi (around our home). Coming to Delhi, my driving has also come to a halt with Guddu rejoining the services immediately on our arrival. In fact he was there to help unload the car when we reached…he assumed his job is secured and we also felt supporting him at this critical juncture would be humane gesture. Since, there’s not much driving around with WFH in place, he helps around with other requirements including walking Rolf in the evening and sometimes in the morning as well.

In these four months, we have attended two weddings and went for a 3-day short vacation to Naukuchiataal, Uttarakhand. Both the weddings were eminently avoidable but for the relation of the sources…one was Deepika’s cousin and the other her childhood friend. In the coming days, there are more invites but frankly we are a bit skeptical about our participation in view of the rising cases of infection across Delhi and rest of the country.

On Deepika’s insistence, I got my first jab of Covishield under the co-morbidity (diabetic) clause on 15th March and was expected to have fever as per the collective wisdom of those who already got it… nothing of the sort happened except that the following afternoon, exactly 24 hours later, I suddenly felt dizziness and profuse sweating as if I am about to collapse. I steadied myself and had half a bar of dark chocolate and a bottle of cold water…in about 15-20 minutes I was absolutely fine. Thereafter, I had lunch with Deepika & Ayush but they never realized what I went through in the previous half hour… I too kept mum about the incident, no point in alarming..

One of the reasons for coming back to Delhi was the health of Rolf and I am happy to say that he is in much better health thanks to his vet who understands him very well having treated him since he was a puppy. He still limps a bit sometimes but overall in a much better space considering his age. In April, he will be 12 (human) years and in one corner of my heart I am saddened that with every birthday he is inching towards the rainbow bridge. But now, it is celebration of life with my sweetheart Rolfie…

Forgotten Heroes of India

Remembered in Japan, forgotten in India……..

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

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

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

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

Suddenly, one thundered, “Not Guilty!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming back again to the International Court of Tokyo…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rishi … the other one

The Operation Theatre of the swanky hospital in Gurgaon was reverberating with the cries of just born infant. Outside the OT, the anxious father, Sudhir Roy paced the short corridor, clearly stressed out for this was his first baby. The nurses came out with bundle from which the cries still emanated. Sudhir rushed to the nurses and looked at them enquiringly. The nurses looked at each other and the senior matron announced, “Sorry, Mr. Roy, your wife has delivered a transgender.”

Sudhir looked at the infant and face crinkled with hatred. The parents of Sudhir and Swapna were all present but none ventured to have a look at the baby. In fact both sets of parents excused themselves and left the hospital immediately. The little life was discarded within minutes of its birth.

Swapna has been moved to a single bed room. Sudhir quietly entered and stood by the bed. Swapna was looking at the sky through the room but could sense Sudhir’s presence. She turned towards him and said, “The kid must be feeling hungry, why aren’t they bringing him to me?” Sudhir pressed Swapna’s hand and said, “You will have to forget him. We can’t give the kid our name and that’s final.”

“But what’s his fault? He is still our child.” Swapna persisted.

“May be but we don’t want the child anywhere near us. We shall wait and by God’s grace we will be proud parents to a healthy child.” Sudhir replied with straight face and left to meet Dr. Anjali Bhatnagar, the head of Gynecology in her chamber.

“You are unnecessarily accusing us Mr. Roy. This is a genetic disorder” said Dr. Anjali Bhatnagar as Sudhir sat down.

“So many Ultra Sounds were done and none of the technicians or the doctors could make out?” Sudhir blurted out in frustration.

“I am sorry but it really did not show up.” Dr. Bhatnagar defended.

“Do you realize doctor how humiliated the whole family is feeling? How will we say that we are blessed with a eunuch, sorry transgender?” asked an aggrieved Sudhir.

 “I can understand your discomfort Mr. Roy but we are helpless in the matter.” Dr. Bhatnagar replied.

“No, doctor, you don’t understand. Please don’t get the child anywhere near my wife and as soon as possible send child to its community.” Sudhir stormed out the chamber.

The infant did not realize that it’s birth has created such a discord and confusion but the nurse could sense and in the short duration her motherly instinct had developed a special bond with the baby. She knew what needs to be done. She called up her husband Aabir Chatterjee, professor at prestigious business school in the city.

“Hi, are you free to talk now? I have something important to ask you.” Ankita spoke on the phone.

“I was just getting into the class but tell me what it is” Aabir said from the other end.

“Okay, tell me, do you hate transgender kids?”

“No, why should I hate them? In fact I love all children irrespective of their color, race, and religion.”

“Well, if one such kid calls you Dad, how will you feel?

“Can you elaborate please, Ankita?”

Nurse Ankita Chatterjee briefly explained to her husband. Prof. Aabir Chatterjee said “This is a very bold step, Ankita. I am very much with you. Let’s figure out the legal formalities quickly.”

Prof. Aabir Chatterjee was known as a liberal and forward looking teacher and his students simply adored him. Ankita and Aabir had been trying for long time to have a baby on their own but the tests have proved conclusively that they cannot. Ankita’s love for her husband just went up by few notches as she became the proud mother of the little infant. Within days the legal formalities were completed and little Rishi came home to make Ankita and Aabir’s family complete.

Aabir’s mom from Siliguri called up agitatingly “Babu, what have you guys done? You didn’t think of our status even for once?”

“Ma, I don’t think we have done anything wrong.” Aabir had replied calmly.

Ankita’s parents had come down from Kolkata to put sense in their daughter and son-in-law but the proud parents of Rishi had been adamant. “You could have adopted a healthy child from any of the orphanages. What will you do with it?” exasperated mother of Ankita had reasoned with them.

“Will nurture him and make him a good human being. And who told you that Rishi is not a healthy baby?” retorted an irritated Ankita.

Naturally, both set of parents decided to keep their distance to maintain their dignity in society.

The maid working at their house was excited to take care of the infant but the moment she tried to change the nappy she couldn’t help yelling out “Oh my god, what is this?” And that was enough for Ankita to sack her then and there.

Ankita had seen few transgender at the traffic signal begging, she decided to approach the friendly one. She explained the situation and requested her to find one among them to take care of Rishi. She warned that if other transgender(s) get to know, they will take away Rishi as per the prevailing custom. She promised to look around and within days brought another middle aged transgender named Shanti to Anika who appointed her immediately to look after Rishi. Shanti not only took extreme good care of Rishi while the parents were away at work but protected him from all possible threat from the transgender community.

With time Rishi grew up to be a cute boy with curly hair and bright eyes and spoke in a melodious voice. Ankita took him to the local kindergarten school for admission and was surprised to note that there is no “other” option under the Sex column. After much hassle and threat of legal action, the school admitted Rishi. Thus began the journey of Rishi. In time, he joined the regular school, it wasn’t easy but Ankita was adamant and ensured that the authorities are convinced with her logical arguments. Many a times in her struggle to provide Rishi a loving and secured life, Aabir could not be with her because of academic commitments but Ankita had been relentless in her endeavor. She would never back out from her responsibility towards her son, Rishi. With passage of time Rishi had shown his brilliance in both studies and sports. He is now in the seventh grade.

I am Rishi…

I am now in class ten of a all boys school. I understand that I am different from my classmates, even from other students in the school as well. My father is the Dean of a prestigious business school and my mother is the Chief of Nursing Staff in a big multi specialty hospital. I am very sincere in my studies because I have realized that that’s my only option. Still, I do not have any friends in the class or in the school. In every exam I am always second with difference of just 1 or 2 numbers from the first boy. I don’t understand where and how I lost those numbers. My mother always tell me that it doesn’t matter if you are first or second but one should learn the core of the subject with complete sincereity.

I love playing football. MY performance as a striker in the school team is very impressive but still I am not the captain of the team. I don’t know why but I have been consistently scoring goals to win matches and championship for school.

There is a girl’s school across the road and many of my classmates regularly ‘date’ some of the girls. I too liked one of the girl and told my mother so. My parents looked at each other then my mom said, “Rishi, this is not the time for such frivolous things. You must concentrate on your studies and grow up to be man loved and respected by all, not just one girl.”

I was moved by mom’s words and felt the urge to make her happy… make her proud. In the high school board exams, I did very well. My result was fantastic… I ranked first in the school and third in the NCR region. The first boy of the school was much behind me for a change. Mom was thrilled and so was Dad.

One day, when I was in 12th, while returning from the tuition class, alone, as I never had any friends for company, I suddenly saw the girl I had a crush. She waived at me and I stood still. She came over and said “Aren’t you Rishi? I am Neera.”

“Yes. Do you know me?” I blurted out.

“Yes, how can I not know the brilliant boy that you are?”

“What do you know about me?”

Neera was stumped. She stammered “I don’t know much but have heard few rumors.”

I crossed my hand across my chest and said “All those rumors are actually true. Are you doing the right thing by talking to me in public space?”

“Why are you saying that?” Neera asked in all innocence.

“Neera, in the last 12 years, I have not made a single friend in the school. Every year, I miss out the first position by 1 or 2 numbers. I score goals consistently for my school football team but still I am not the captain. There must be something wrong with me. Isn’t it so?”

“But you are brilliant. And that’s the truth.” Neera persisted.

“May be, but the bigger truth is incomprehensible and unacceptable to the masses. My mom and dad had adopted me. My biological parents had rejected me within minutes of my birth and I don’t know them and have no desire to know as well. I don’t know my grandparents from either side. They have never bothered to see their only grandchild. In fact my parents have been disowned by their parents for the crime of adopting me. Now tell me.. is there any bigger truth that you know of me?”

“But look wise you are no different from other boys.”

“Goodbye Neera. I know the truth. And this truth is irreversible. No one can change it. Yes, I like you but I am not inclined to pursue the matter which is not possible. Still, you talked to me… I will always remember this evening. Take care.”

I had hastily come back home and locked myself in my room. I was choking with emotions. My teenaged heart was aching. I had to strangle my love for Neera forever.

Every day on my way to the hospital, I see couple of transgender at the traffic signal. They are just like with the difference that they were not lucky enough to find Ankita-Aabir in their life. I took out a hundred rupees currency note and gave it the one and she blessed me saying “God bless you son.” Just like my mom.

Today, I have a surgery to perform. I am neither a man nor a woman but I help give birth to children of man and woman. I am a gynecologist of repute now but today’s surgery is different. The patient is middle-aged woman with a tumor in her uterus. It has been there for some time and now when it has become unbearable, she has come for the surgery. The uterus has to be removed. She doesn’t have any children.

I entered the OT… anesthesia has been administered… I asked for the forceps.

Surgery has been successful. The patient will move to the room for recuperation. The husband of the patient came to my chamber to discuss and understand the post-surgery precautions. As he was leaving, he suddenly stopped and said “You know doctor, when Swapna and I became parent for the first time, I could not accept the little one and forced Swapna to accept my decision. I had thought we will again become parents but look at the nature’s justice… we are childless now.”

“Why couldn’t you accept your first born?”

“I thought the next one will be a healthy baby.”

“What was the problem with your first born?”

“Actually… I mean… he… it was a transgender child. It was born in this hospital only. I don’t know if it is now in some shelter home or may be one of the beggar at the traffic signals.”

“Or perhaps, he has conquered the life’s struggle and reached the pinnacle of his career. That too is possible, isn’t it?”

“How’s that possible?”

“How can I say, Mr.Roy? I am just talking about the possibility. Anyways, it is time for my visiting the patient wards. You can visit your wife once she is shifted to the room but please do not talk much, she needs to take rest. Take care.”

Walking down the corridor of the hospital wearing the doctor’s white apron and stethoscope hanging from my neck… I am Dr. Rishi Chatterjee, the only son of my proud parents – Ankita and Aabir Chatterjee. My life could have been just like what Mr. Sudhir Roy expected but no, I have or rather the life did not allow me to succumb but conquer the adversity and be successful…

Note: I don’t know the author of the Bengali version that I received in WhatsApp Group but it touched a chord in my heart. I hope I have been able to do justice to the nuances of the original story telling.

ডিভোর্স

বিয়ের চার বছর হয়েছে এখনো মা হতে পারিনি।
পারিবারিক ভাবে বিয়ে হয়েছিলো আমাদের।প্রথম প্রথম আমি আর তুষার খুব সুখের সময় কাটিয়েছি। শশুড় শাশুড়ীও খুব আদর করতো আমাকে নিজের মেয়ের মতই ভালবাসে। দুই ননদের তো আমার সাথে খুব ভাব।

কিন্তু গত ছয় মাস ধরে শশুড় শাশুড়ী ননদেরা উঠে পরে লেগেছে কেন আমার বাচ্চা হয়না।তুষারও এতোদিন বাচ্চা না হওয়ায় তেমন কিছুই বলতো না, কিন্তু আজকাল তুষারও ওদের সাথে পাল্লা দিয়ে বলে চার বছর কেটে গেলো এখনো কেন বাচ্চা হয় না, ওর মা বাবা নাতির মুখ দেখতে চায়।

গতকাল রাতে শাশুড়ী এসে বললো আর কত দিন অপেক্ষা করবো, বাড়িতে একটা বাচ্চাও নেই, বাচ্চা টাচ্ছা ছাড়া কি বাড়ি ভাল লাগে, নাকি শান্তি লাগে, পাশের বাড়ির শেফালির ছেলেকে তুষারের এক বছর পরে বিয়ে দিয়েছে, ছয় মাস হয়েছে বাচ্চা হয়েছে আর আমার ছেলের বৌয়ের ঘরে এখনো কোন বাচ্চা হলো না, আমরা কি ঠাকুমা দাদু হবো না…?

আরো অনেক গুলো কথা শুনিয়ে গেলো, বাচ্চা না হলে আমি কি করবো, আমি ও তো চাই আমার একটা সন্তান হোক, যে আমাকে মা মা বলে ডাকবে।

ননদ রিমি এসে বলল, বৌদি এক কাজ করলে কেমন হয় তোমরা বরং ডাক্তারের কাছে যাও, গিয়ে দেখো কারো কোন সমস্যা আছে কিনা।

রাতে তুষারকে রিমি কথাটা বলতেই তুষার বলল ও কোন ডাক্তারের কাছে যাবে না, পারবে না যেতে, অফিসে কাজের অনেক চাপ। অনেক জোরাজুরি করে তুষারকে ডাক্তারের কাছে নিয়ে গেলাম, দুজনেই পরীক্ষা করালাম। যত রকমের টেষ্ট আছে সব গুলোই টেষ্টই করলাম। ডাক্তার বললেন রিপোর্ট আসতে দেরি হবে, দুজনেই অপেক্ষা করছি আর মনে মনে ঈশ্বরকে ডাকছি, যেনো কোন দুর্সংবাদ না শুনতে হয়। আধ ঘন্টা পরেই তুষারের মোবাইলে ফোন আসলো তাড়াতাড়ি অফিসে যাওয়া জন্য, আর্জেন্ট মিটিং আছে। তুষার আমাকে বলল, খুশি তুমি রিপোর্ট দেখে ডাক্তারের সাথে কথা বলে বাড়ি চলে যেও, আমাকে এক্ষুনি অফিসে যেতে হবে, বস ডাকছেন। আমি বাড়িতে এসে রিপোর্ট দেখবো, বলেই হনহন করে হসপিটাল থেকে বেড়িয়ে গেলো।

আমার হাতে ডাক্তারের দেওয়া রিপোর্ট আর সেই রিপোর্টে কিছু কঠিন সত্যি কথা লেখা আছে, যা মেনে নিতে বুকটা ফেটে যাচ্ছে। বাড়িতে আসবার পর থেকে শ্বশুর শাশুড়ী ননদেরা বার বার জিজ্ঞেস করছে রিপোর্টে কি আসছে ডাক্তার কি বলেছে। চোখের জলের জন্য কথা বলতে পারছি না, ওদেরকে কি উত্তর দেবো। শাশুড়ী কঠিন সুরে বলল কি ব্যাপার বলছো না কেন কি হয়েছে।

বললাম ডাক্তার বলেছে সমস্যা টা আমার আমি কোনদিন মা হতে পারবো না, সেই ক্ষমতা নাকি আমার নেই।

কথা টা বলার সাথে সবাই কেমন করে জেনো আমার দিকে তাকাচ্ছিলো। শাশুড়ীতো রীতিমতো কান্নাকাটি শুরু করে দিলো, আমার ছেলে এই জন্মে কি আর সন্তানের মুখ দেখবে না, আমাদের বংশ কি এখানে শেষ হয়ে যাবে, কি কুলাঙ্গার অপয়া মেয়ে এনে সংসারে ঢুকিয়েছে মা হতে পারবে না, শাশুড়ীর সাথে শ্বশুরও সুর মিলিয়ে বকে যাচ্ছে। ননদেরাও যা তা বলছে একটা বন্ধ্যা মেয়ে আমার ভাইয়ের কপালে জুটেছে।
রাতে তুষার বাড়িতে এলে সবাই মিলে ওকে বোঝালো যাতে আমাকে ডিভোর্স দিয়ে দেয়।আমাকে দিয়ে আর সংসার করা হবেনা।

ফল বিহীন গাছ রেখে লাভ কি, উপরে ফেলে দিয়ে সেখানে নতুন গাছ লাগাতে চাই, আরো অনেক কথাই বলে যাচ্ছে। আমি শুধু দেখছি তুষার কি বলে, কিছুক্ষণ পর নীরবতা ভেঙ্গে তুষার বলল তোমরা যা ইচ্ছে তাই করো আমার আর এইসব ভাল লাগে না।

রাতে তুষার আমার সাথে একটা কথাও বলেনি, সারাটা রাত কেঁদে বুক ভাসিয়েছি আর ভাবছি চেনা মানুষগুলো এতো তাড়াতাড়িই অচেনা হয়ে গেলো, আমি এখন ওদের কাছে হয়ে গেলাম অপয়া বন্ধ্যা।

সকালে আমাকে ডাকা হলো শ্বশুরের ঘরে, ডেকে নিয়ে বলল তুষারকে যেন ছেড়ে দি, ওরা তুষারকে আবার বিয়ে দিবে, ওদের বংশের প্রদীপ চাই , আর সেটা দেওয়া আমার পক্ষে সম্ভব না, তাই আমি যেনো ডিভোর্সের ব্যপারটা মেনে নিয়ে তুষারকে চিরদিনের জন্য মুক্ত করে দিই।তুষারের ও নাকি তাইই মত।

তুষারের দিকে তাকাতেই ও বলল মা বাবা যা বলবে তাই হবে, তুমি এটা নিয়ে আর বাড়াবাড়ি কোরো না খুশি প্লিজ, আর কোন টেনশন আমি আর নিতে পারছি না

ভাবতেই কষ্টে বুকটা ফেটে যাচ্ছে কি করে মানুষ এতোটা বদলে যায়। আজ আমি সন্তান দিতে পারবো না বলে আমাকে ওরা তাড়িয়ে দিচ্ছে, কতোটা স্বার্থপর মানুষ।

দুই দিন হয়ে গেলো কেউ আমার সাথে তেমন একটা কথা বলে না, সবাই এড়িয়ে এড়িয়ে চলে।খাবারের সময়ও কেউ ডাকে না। সন্ধ্যার পর শ্বশুর শাশুড়ী এসে বলল তুমি কবে আমার ছেলেকে মুক্তি দিচ্ছো বলো, আমি তুষারের জন্য অন্য মেয়ে পছন্দ করেছি।

মেয়ে পছন্দ করেছেন মানে?

হ্যা করেছি তো আমার ছোট বোনের মেয়ে রেশমির সাথে আমি তুষারের বিয়ে দেবো। এখন তুমি বলো তুমি কখন চলে যাচ্ছো। আর আমি তুষারের সাথে এ ব্যাপারে কথা বলেছি ওর কোন আপত্তি নেই, তোমার কাছে আমি আমার ছেলের একটা সুন্দর স্বাভাবিক জীবন চাইছি, আশা করি তুমি এটা নিয়ে কোন রকম ঝামেলা করবে না।তুষারের দিকে তাকায়ে দেখি ও ওর মায়ের কথায় সায় দিচ্ছে, আমার সাথে সংসার করতে চাইছে না।

সবার দিকে কিছুক্ষণ তাকিয়ে থেকে বললাম ঠিক আছে, তাড়িয়ে দিতে চাইছেন চলে যাব, তবে এখন নয় যেদিন তুষারের বিয়ে হবে সেদিনই সবাইকে মুক্ত করে চলে যাব, আর ফিরবো না, কখনো জ্বালাতে আসবো না। তুষার আমার দিকে তাকিয়ে বলল সত্যি তো? হ্যা সত্যি চলে যাব।

আজ তুষারের বিয়ে, মহা ধুমধামে না হলেও বেশ আয়োজনই করেছে, একটু আগে তুষারকে দেখলাম শেরোয়ানি পড়ছে, আমিও বেশ সেজেছি, আমার স্বামীর বিয়ে বলে কথা সেই সাথে আজ যে ওর মুক্তির দিন আর নতুন খুশির দিন। তুষার বরযাত্রীসহ বের হবে আমিও ব্যাগ এ কাপড় গুছিয়ে চলে যাচ্ছি এমন সময় দেখি তুষার বর বেশে সেজেগুজে রেডি হয়ে আছে, খুব হাসিখুশি লাগছে, ওকে ছেড়ে যেতে মন টা মানছিলো না, তবুও যে যেতে হবে। যাবার আগে একবার দুচোখ ভরে তুষারকে দেখে নিলাম, তুষার আমার থেকে মুখটা ফিরিয়ে নিলো।তুষারের কাছে গিয়ে বললাম, তোমার নতুন জীবন অনেক সুখের হোক, বিয়েতে তোমাকে দেবার মত আমার কাছে কিছুই নেই, তবে এই ছোট্ট একটা উপহার তোমার জন্য, নাও। কাগজ টা তুষারের হাতে দিয়ে সবার সামনে দিয়ে বেড়িয়ে পড়লাম, কেউ আটকালো না। চোখ দুটো বাধ মানছে না অশ্রু অঝরে পড়েই যাচ্ছে।

খুশি চলে যাওয়ার পর তুষার ওর দেওয়া উপহারের কাগজটা খুলে যা দেখলো তাতে ওর সারা শরীর কাঁপছে, চোখ দিয়ে জল পড়ছে। ঘরের সবাই উৎসুক হয়ে তাকিয়ে আছে তুষারের মুখের দিকে, কি হয়েছে জানার জন্য। কাগজটা পড়ার পর তুষার দাঁড়ানো থেকে বসে পড়লো, শরীরটা যেনো অবশ নিথর দেহের মত লাগছে।কাগজটা অার কিছু নয়, এটা সেই রিপোর্ট যেটাতে লেখা আছে বন্ধ্যা খুশি নয় বন্ধ্যা তুষার, ওই দিন ডাক্তারের রিপোর্টে রেজাল্ট এসেছিলো তুষার কোন দিন বাবা হতে পারবে না, সেই ক্ষমতা তার নেই, আর খুশি সম্পূর্ণ সুস্থ ওর কোন শারীরিক অক্ষমতা নেই।

রিপোর্টের ভিতরে খুশির একটা চিঠি আছে তাতে লেখা আছেঃ

তুষার,
আমি চাইলেই প্রথম দিনই সত্যিটা বলতে পারতাম, আমি শুধু দেখতে চেয়েছিলাম রিপোর্টে আমার দোষ আছে জানলে তুমি কি বলো, তুমি যদি একবার আমাকে বুকে টেনে নিয়ে বলতে তুমি আমাকে ভালবাসো সন্তান না হওয়ায় তোমার কোন আক্ষেপ নেই, আমার কপাল ছুয়ে একটু শান্তনা দিতে তাহলে আমি সারা জীবন তোমার মুখের দিকে তাকিয়ে জীবনটা পার করে দিতাম, সন্তান সুখ বিসর্জন দিতাম, কিন্তু তুমি তা করো নি, তুমি আমাকে ত্যাগ করেছো, তোমার থেকে আলাদা করেছো, ছিঁড়ে ফেলেছো ভালবাসার বন্ধন। রিপোর্টের ব্যাপারে মিথ্যা কথা বলে তোমাকে পরীক্ষা করতে চাইনি শুধু দেখতে চেয়েছিলাম তুমি আমাকে কতটা ভালাবাসো।তুমি হেরে গেছো।
চলে যাচ্ছি পৃথিবীর যেখানেই থাকি প্রার্থনা করি তুমি ভাল থেকো, সুখী হও।

সংগৃহীত।

কিছু রয়ে গেল…

কিছু রয়ে গেলো ?


ছোট্ট শিশু কে রেখে আয়ার জিম্মায়
অফিসে যাবার জন্য মা পা বাড়ায়
আয়া প্রশ্ন করে , ” দিদি , নিয়েছেন তো সব ?
চাবি , চশমা , মোবাইল আর ল্যাপটপ ?
থমকে যায় মা , ভাবে যাকে সুখী দেখতে,
এত ছোটা , উপার্জন , ছেড়ে যাচ্ছে তাকে !


গোধূলির ম্লান আলো – বিষন্ন বিকাল
মেয়েটির চোখে জল – ওর বিয়ে কাল
অন্য পুরুষের সাথে, এসেছে প্রিয়ের
কাছ থেকে ফিরে নিতে চিঠি অতীতের
প্রেমিক শুধোয়- দেখ, সব ঠিক আছে ?
কোন কিছু রইলো না তো আমার কাছে ?


বর কনে চলে গেছে – কনের পিসিমা
বলে , ” ভাই দেখ – কিছু রয়ে গেলো কি না
একবুক দুঃখ আর অশ্রূকে লুকিয়ে
বাবা দেখে ফুলগুলি গিয়েছে শুকিয়ে
সস্নেহে যে নাম ধরে এত ডাকাডাকি
নামশেষে যে পদবী – রয়ে গেল তা কি ?


দীর্ঘ কর্ম জীবনের আজ শেষ দিন
পিওন বাবুকে বলে , ” সব দেখে নিন
অফিসে নেই তো পড়ে কিছু আপনার ?”
বাবু ভাবে – চলে যাওয়া দিনগুলি কার ?
জীবনের সিংহভাগ কেটেছে কোথায় ?
আদৌ কি সব কিছু নিয়ে যাওয়া যায় ?


মানুষ করেছে ছেলে অনেক আশায়
সুপ্রতিষ্ঠিত আজ সে আমেরিকায়
অতি প্রিয় পৌত্রীর মুখেভাত শেষে
দাদু আর ঠাকুরমা ফিরে যাবে দেশে
ছেলে প্রশ্ন করে, ” কিছু গেল নাতো রয়ে?”
সবটাই — বাবা ভাবে নিরুত্তর হয়ে


শেষকৃত্য সারা প্রায় – বহ্নিমান চিতা
“রয়ে গেল নাতো কিছু ?” প্রশ্ন করে মিতা
পিছু ফিরে দেখে ছেলে -আকুল চেষ্টায়
শেষবার পিতৃমুখ যদি দেখা যায় !
মুখ থাকে বাক্যহীন , জানে শুধু মন
যা রইলো তা সঙ্গে তার ই রবে আজীবন


একেবারে কিছু যদি না ই রয়ে থাকে
যাবার সময় কেন এত পিছু ডাকে?
সবাইকে যেতে হবে – তাও খালি হাতে
অধিকার বোধ কেন তবু সবটাতে ?
এইটুকু মনে রেখো, যাবার সময়
পিছু থেকে ডাকবার কিছু যেন রয় !

Poet unknown but it is a brilliant work…

Friends

The septuagenarian gentleman sitting across me on the lower berth of 2-AC in the Kolkata-Bhubneshwar Express train has been engrossed in his smart mobile phone right from the beginning. In fact he had taken out the phone as soon as the train rolled out of the Howrah station. He was frantically typing out in between light laughter, smile and muffled guffaw. His dress of kurta-pyjama and a sleeveless jacket with the blanket loosely spread over his legs suggested that he is the quintessential Bong Bhodrolok. I guessed, by his demeanor that he must have been a teacher in a college or university. I also thought he must be going on a vacation unlike me who has to attend a boring seminar in the morning as soon as I reach Bhubneshwar.

The gentleman kept glancing at me intermittently as if trying to figure out if a conversation could be struck. The train for some unknown reason has been relatively less crowded and that made the air conditioning work with double efficiency and I was feeling little chilly. I spread the blanket over myself and made myself comfortable in a half lying up position before taking out my phone to check mails and messages.

Finally, the gentleman asked me, “Are you feeling cold, my son?” Now, hearing “my son” I was convinced that the person on the opposite berth surely have been a professor. I said, “Yes, a little bit.” He continued, “The last coffee vendor will come in few minutes, have a hot cup, it will comfy you up.”  Soon the coffee vendor appeared and we took two cups and then the chit-chat started with usual question-answer that any Bong on first acquaintance would like “Where do you live? What do you do? Are you married and how many kids? What are they doing etc?” He also revealed, as I had guessed, that he was the professor of Bengali Literature in Calcutta University. Thereafter there was silence and I wondered what to say! But the professor broke the silence and asked, “How is life treating you? Are you able to spend time with your loved ones?” As I was figuring out what to say, he again said, “I mean are you finding the life sweet or bitter?” I smiled and said, “It is sweet, sour and spicy, all at the same time.” I reflected upon the everyday scene… leaving for office at 9am only to return around 8pm, completely exhausted not just with office chores but driving through ever increasing traffic on the road. Then, having crossed the honeymoon period long ago, there would be some sort of losing argument with my wife or she would be having a fight with Piyali, our daughter on issues like “Why do you get up so late in the morning? Have you done your homework? Why haven’t you finished your food? Have you packed your school bag? Why haven’t you made your bed? Why are these books scattered all over the place? Why are you watching television instead of studying?” The list is endless… sometimes I would lose my cool and scold both.

Professor, took a deep breath and said, “My son, this is the best period in the life… don’t ignore and let it pass by, enjoy this lovely sweet-sour-spicy time with full enthusiasm, give it all your attention and love. There will come a time when only the silence will greet as you reach home, the bed is perfectly made, by some ominous magic the arguments of mother-daughter has been resolved forever. You will have the urge to undo the bed, scatter the books all over just to break the deafening silence with their arguments. The urge to sit with your little one as she attempts to solve that mathematical problem will be immense. You will realize that everything is in its place but the solitude will engulf you, overwhelm you, perhaps, you will search the familiar sweet smell of your little one, your ears would yearn for her constant chatter. No one to say bye as you leave and no one to snatch the TV remote, no one to take the egg yolk from your plate, it will simply dry up on your plate. The daily shrill voice on the other side of your mobile will become weekly then monthly to finally occasionally. She will come for two days and will take back the sweet dreams that you have painstakingly building now. The power of your eyeglass will increase; there will be more medicine to consume than food. The sleep will elude you as well.”

Every word, the professor said, hit me hard as I started visualizing the future… I asked, “So, what and how do you suggest the life should be lived?”

Professor thought for a while and then said, “No one will look back at you if fall like the winter leaves, you will be gone looking at the greenery at the top of the tree. You will have to reinvent, renew yourself like the new leaf on the tree. Locate your old friends wherever they may be, renew that warmth of the friendship. The warmth of the bonfire on a chilly wintery night can only come from the friends through uninhibited laughter, stupid jokes and all that bonhomie. That is why, I keep fiddling with my mobile phone… the old childhood friends keep sending jokes and tidbits that light up my world, keep me alive. Keep up the friendship that you developed long ago in your childhood; do not lose the camaraderie in today’s rat race. I am going to a gathering of my friends which we have every three months… we call it G2G, acronym for Get Together!! We have music, jokes and uninhibited laughter; we relive our youth for two days… take in the pure oxygen of friendship, extend our live every three months through this G2G.”

Next day, early morning, when I got down, there were around 15 young septuagenarians talking animatedly with the Professor and laughing like teenagers at some of their jokes, perhaps. The professor turned around and shouted, “My son, these are my little green leaves, my oxygen.”

I do not know what will happen 20 years hence? Will I have the strength in my fingers to type on the mobile? Will the eyesight be gone completely? I know for sure the cacophony of the G2G will go on but perhaps I may not hear a single word, I may not even remember any of them as my memory gets consumed by the dreaded Alzheimer’s. But the show must go on… the camaraderie of the friendship must continue…

 

Note: Received the Bong story without any reference to the original author. I decided to repost this beautiful realistic piece in English and dedicate it my own group of friends… the friendship developed many moons ago in the classroom, in the football field of Raisina Bengali School; we fondly call it Mastans of RBHS 80.

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.

del-hyd route

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.

IMG_20171230_122407

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.

fiasco-at-nagpur

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.