25 February 2024

’13 Dec India

  1. And we commence our trip… Dec 22, 2013

    The girls have settled down. Off to India to check on the ailing parents. My fourth one this year. This time the family is coming too!
    I have a few more goals other than being with my parents for a couple of days. You will see them in my blogs…
    Btw, the lower picture is inside the International terminal in Atlanta.


  2. Haagen Dazs Dec 23, 2013

    What good is a vacation if you cannot have ice cream at 8 in the morning? πŸ™‚


  3. Finally, Mumbai!! Dec 23, 2013

    The girls at Mumbai airport waiting for our ride. Nearly thirty hours since we left home. We still have another flight to take and then a three hour car ride….
    I understand Atlanta is hitting the twenties tonight. It is a hot 77 and humid here…
    We checked into a hotel for a few hours to freshen up. Tasha checked in simply to get free WiFi. We can’t separate her from her phone now πŸ™‚


  4. Pushing the limit on service Dec 23, 2013

    Checking into an Indian hotel (or for that matter any Asian hotel) is always a reminder of what great service can look like. It is the same Marriott brand I sleep in some 120 nights a year – but even a Marriott Courtyard in Bombay gives me better service than some JWs elsewhere in the world.

    Very very helpful and taking care of the kids and us in every possible way. Even asked us to consume whatever we wanted from the minibar free since it is so late at night and I give Marriott so much business!!

    I guess that is the plus side of having a great supply of labor in a country.

    On another note, I do think offering to help lock the bathroom door might be a little too much πŸ™‚


  5. Boarding differently… Dec 24, 2013

    The girls were fascinated by the old style boarding. First, a bus took us in and then drove us about 50 yards – maybe less – to our plane. Then we stood in a queue waiting to climb up the boarding ladder. As we stood there, planes were taking off from the live runway a few hundred yards away. The kids were thrilled!!!


  6. Dhaba experience Dec 24, 2013

    Stopped on the road with my brother’s family to give Sharmila, Natasha and Nikita an experience of eating at “roadside dhaba”. We had papad and tea only. Can’t take too many chances of getting stomach virus….


  7. Charpoy! Dec 24, 2013

    Also known as “khatia”…
    Brother and self had a true rural moment having a tea sitting on a charpoy by the roadside!!! It is kind of a cot constructed with ropes and four wooden posts.


  8. The travails of an uncle Dec 24, 2013

    This is what happened to me at the hands of my nephews and niece within ten minutes of landing at my dad and sister’s place!!


  9. One of those cherished moments…. Dec 24, 2013

    Me and my siblings with our significant others. After a long time together. With a bottle of wine. And a lifetime of memories. And a whole evening full of laughter…


  10. Christmas Eve! Dec 24, 2013

    Growing up in West Bengal in the seventies and mid eighties, I remember how Christmas (“Borodin”) was a great day of celebration. A state with over 70% Hindus and over 28% Muslims cut across religious lines to come together to celebrate Christmas.

    There would be lights on streets, a festive mood, a lot of exchange of cards and most importantly a LOT of cake!!!

    Taking a walk with my siblings this evening, I was struck by how some things have not changed. This small shop selling cakes in this tiny town of Kalyani was glittering with lights all over and overflowing with shoppers!!!


  11. Morning run…. Dec 25, 2013

    5 mile (8K) run with my brother and then some more family members joined for a 3K walk…


  12. Cousin time!!! Dec 25, 2013

    Cousins having a gala time in the park adjoining my dad’s house…


  13. A very foggy morning in Kalyani Dec 26, 2013

    With apologies to all my Bengali friends (and hapless nonBengali friends who understand Bengali) for a terrible pun, this reminds me of an old song by Sandhya Mukherjee

    Ki “misty” dekho “misty”
    Ki “misty” e sokal


  14. Seeing us off! Dec 26, 2013

    He is more or less bereft of all locomotory capabilities. But he could not bear to sit in his house as we bade goodbye (leaving for Durgapur – inlaws house).

    So over a period of half an hour, he painstakingly took one step after another with the help of his stick and then the security guy and then plonked on a chair.

    And then waited patiently till we came down an hour later – all that just so that he could bid us goodbye!!

    Now if I can get him to agree to yet another surgery…..


  15. An evening full of laughter… Dec 26, 2013

    Reignited one more “intersection point”. This time it was “Noton” – Debashish Chakraborty – my next door neighbor in our second house in Durgapur. Our houses were separated by a fence – part of it was concrete and part of it was wired.

    Having known Noton during an impressionable part of my childhood – grades seven thru tenth (and then I left home for a residential school), I have some of the best memories of times spent together. Today, we laughed non stop for over an hour remembering some of the old incidents…

    One of them was a project we did during a summer vacation. During a long day that summer, we hatched a plan – almost like Phineas and Ferb – on how to communicate with each other without meeting face to face. Not that in of itself, communication was an issue. I could yell out his name from my bedroom and he could hear me from his bedroom – the houses were barely 10 feet away. And in India, we always kept our doors and windows open. But it was about doing something nobody else had.

    Also, it is important to remember that modern amenities like landline phones had not yet penetrated our town yet and mobile phones were yet to be discovered. In the end, after great trials and tribulations, we came up with a rather simple – yet what we thought in those days to be very elegant – solution. We tied a long nylon rope (that I had to get my mom to give me 50 paisa for to buy from Jhilmil – but that was the entire capital expenditure we had πŸ™‚ ) around two closest windows – one theirs and one ours. And in between, we had tied an ordinary match box.

    The idea being, anytime we wanted to communicate, we would just keep pulling the rope on one side and the matchbox – with our missives put inside it – would gently make its way to the other house. Pretty much like how we pulled water from well – except we had a “closed loop” here.

    That is not to say that it did not have its own engineering difficulties. For one, the closest line between the windows went over that part of our fence that was concrete. And the height was higher than the window points. This vexed us no end – since we often broke the match box as we tried to cajole it to jump the fence. Eventually, we ran out of our cumulative engineering prowess and called in “Tutu” (Dipten Sarkar – by the way, whatever happened to him??) – who lived a few houses down, was two years my junior and a genius at mechanical problems. Of course, genius as decided by seventh graders and fifth graders.

    Tutu, true to his reputation, surveyed the situation and came up with a sophisticated solution. He put in an anchor point with a bent nail hanging upside down on a nearby tree branch and had one of the loops of the string run thru it. Brilliant!! Noton and I scratched our heads that whole afternoon why we could not solve it ourselves.

    Then our next problem was how to notify that the other person was ready to communicate. We had to come up with essentially our version of a “telephone ring”. The ingenuity of our solution was exceeded only by our pride in the ingenuity of our solution. We took two empty small aluminum tins (empty Shalimar coconut oil tins – if anybody remembers them) and then tied them to the two windows – one each. And we had a segment of a new piece of nylone rope tied to one of them and ran it to the other window with a free end. So, all I had to do was write a message, put it in the matchbox, pull it till it reached the other window and then keep tugging at the other rope. That would get the tin on his side to repeatedly hit the window grill and create a ruckus worthy of calling a Roman gathering at the marketplace! In any case, a return clanging back would signify “Over and out”! (more like.. “message received loud and clear. more loud than clear” πŸ™‚ )

    For all the breakthroughs in remote communication we achieved, our messages were particularly uninspiring and outright boring. “Ki korchhis” (“what are you doing”) would be the common message. We could have easily achieved that by take a couple of steps to our fence and yelling out each other’s names and asking that question. Or send some silly hand drawn pictures – an early harbinger of Instagram or Snapchat, perhaps. But it was not about the message ever!!

    Soon, that contraption’s news spread far and wide. And by that I mean about six houses down on either side. There were more ambitious projects that we thought about – for example: going across from one side of the street to the other – but we were very afraid of the live open electric wires that ran on the interfering poles.

    By now, you are probably wondering whatever happened to that invention of ours. Ah! well, we could not bask in our glory for too long. For every ingenious invention, there is an obvious blindspot that unwinds it.

    You see, by inventing the “telephone-ring-by-a-tin-can”, we also unwittingly invented “highly-unwanted-calls-announced-by-a-tin-can”. Or the equivalent of those modern irritating marketing calls.

    What I have been remiss in mentioning is that the window on Noton’s side was in his dad’s bedroom. That summer month, one afternoon, I sent a message (I forget the contents since the subsequent events overshadowed the message) in the afternoon at a very ill considered hour. Well, ill considered if you factor in that his dad was sleeping at that time πŸ™

    While all that tin clanging did not get the Romans to file into the marketplace, it certainly set in motion a set of events that had Noton filing into his irate and rudely awakened dad’s presence. Let me just say that that evening, after a sombre tete-e-tete, we both agreed that we had compelling reasons to believe that our inventions were way ahead of our times.

    And the next morning, we decommissoned and deconstructed our project for that summer.

    Simple times. Simple pleasures.


  16. Intersection points. Times two. Dec 27, 2013

    Thanks to modern technologies like FB and GPS and not so modern technologies like stopping a pedestrian and asking for directions, my brother and I last evening traced down another friend of mine from the early eighties – Kaushik Chatterjee!! I was fortunate to meet his parents as well as his sister who was visiting him. (His sister was all of five or six years when I left town).

    Again, so many memorable moments of yesteryears were remembered in one evening that I cannot possibly jot them down.

    However, the most enjoyed one was not about all those soccer games, cricket games, “pochisey boisakh” street drama events but a really hapless, sick streetdog was called “Tilka”. Kind of half adopted by a few neighbors – and by that, I mean the neighbors would yell for Tilka from the streets to eat some leftover food from lunch and dinner – this mutt was a common feature on the field during our games. And every winter around this time, she would have a litter of puppies that we – at that age – used to find to be the cutest thing ever!! Kaushik’s mom used to be very supportive of those puppies – offering rags, milk etc etc.

    Speaking of playing cricket, uncle (Kaushik’s dad) had taken great sympathy towards us watching us play cricket with a bat that had outlived itself by a thousand years (those days parents buying us a bat was a rare luxury – there were way too many family priorities at every house before we could buy a bat) and unbelievably enough had actually carved a bat and three stumps out of a block of wood.
    That “segun gaachher kaather” bat outlasted us and the next generation of kids from my neighborhood.

    Thirty two years later, I am mature enough to understand his depths of empathy to prioritize our needs in the field over so many other things he had to do. Thirty two years later I got a chance to meet him face to face and thank him. I let him know I still think of that event as an example if why I should step back and create some enriching experience for kids!!!


  17. Technology is way overrated Dec 27, 2013

    Sometimes when all modern technologies like social media, Google maps and GPS fail, you resort to manual labor. Had a surprising outcome today trying to do that.

    Having failed to track down Anindya – my friend from my very early childhood days, today I went to the house that he used to live in the mid seventies (that I could best recollect).

    A middle aged person came out, rather amused by my look (clean shaven heads are not that common in North Avenue of Durgapur). “Kaakey chai”? (“Who are you looking for”?)

    I tried my best to explain the situation – “Dekhoon, prai chollis bochor aage, ei baaritey Babu boley ekta chhele thakto. Bhalo naam Anindya Sarkar. Kothay ekhon thakey jaanen? Ba ke boltey paarbey jaanen”?. (“You see, forty years back, there used to be a friend of mine called Babu who lived in this house. Also called Anindya Sarkar. Would you know where he is now? Or would you know who might know his whereabouts”?

    You can only imagine my reaction when the gentleman replied “Aarey Bachchu, amakey chintey paarli na? Babuda rey!!! (“Bachchu, can you not recognize me? I AM that Babuda”)

    He has lived in the same house for nearly fifty years. And I had been looking for him all over social media!!!!


  18. The highwaymen!!! Dec 28, 2013

    Yesterday, my brother was driving his family and myself down Durgapur Expressway (“hurtling down the highway” is a more appropriate way of describing his driving πŸ™‚ ) when we realized that my brother in law was driving his family on the same highway going the other way round about 80 kms down the road. (In his case, “plodding along” would describe the driving with reasonable accuracy).

    Under most circumstances, spotting each other would be no issue. But this highway is one of the rare bright spots of transportation around this region. It is Western-style four lane highway with a big median in the middle complete with bushes and such. Because it avoids all crowded places – and therefore pedestrians, stray dogs etc and the unidirectional movement of traffic, most vehicles hit 100 kmph. With a relative velocity doubled and the median blocking our view, chances were very little we would spot them.

    To increase our chances, we adopted a carpet bombing strategy. Every time we saw what looked remotely like a white car, my nephews and I would stick our heads and hands out and start gesticulating frantically. Eventually our efforts paid off. Sudden recognition, pulling over, driving in reverse gear on the shoulder half a km and then a few illegal moves later, we are able to meet by the highway!!!

    There was nothing to sit down on. In fact, save all the speeding cars and trucks and one solitary cow, that was not much of a meeting spot. However, we could not care less. We thoroughly enjoyed a first time experience – a “standing room only” “adda” by the highway about ten feet away from getting crushed to a pulp. The adda was thirty minutes of pure joy. Did I mention that this was a Bengali adda in Bengal? Sure enough, somebody fished out a big packet of “kalakaand”!!! (a very tasty Bengali sweet).

    Btw, you will notice my animal-loving brother making friends with that otherwise lonesome cow in the pictures!!


  19. My birthplace again… Dec 28, 2013

    Last year I visited the hut was born in after over three decades. (http://www.rajibroy.com/?p=788). Today I visited it again. This time I brought my brother and sister!!! There are some unbelievable memories if the three of us together with our grandmother here.


  20. My great aunt!! Dec 28, 2013

    The nonagenarian matriarch for whom we made the trip to my birthplace…


  21. One more reason why I run… Dec 28, 2013

    This is what my relatives offered AFTER we got them to agree that we should not be eating too much food – we have too much driving left and we do not want to get sick. It was great tasty food though. And I certainly need to continue running…


  22. We are still young!! Dec 28, 2013

    After visiting my birthplace and my great aunt, we were exhausted having had to deal with three hours of potholes πŸ™ Brother and I had shower and lunch and lay down to take some rest once we reached home.

    Within five minutes of laying down, we agreed that forties is too young to be cowed down by three hours of potholes. So we decided to take my mom to a sister of hers that she has seen only twice in the last thirty years. Got her and sister to get ready hurriedly and then hit the road again!!

    Back to google map, gps and potholes again!!!

  23. Mom’s second youngest sister!! Dec 28, 2013

    We finally found out her place. Couple of hours of really terrible roads. My mom is visiting her sister at her house after 33 years!!!!


  24. Prized find!! Dec 28, 2013

    As I posted in my last blog, my brother and I dragged my mom and my sister to visit my mom’s second youngest sister (“masi”) and her husband (“meso”). The village that they live in – Kakgachhi – is barely 26 miles away. It took us two hours one way to drive there!!! We surely encountered more square feet of potholes than that of road surface!!

    But it was great to see my mom so happy to see her sister after decades. And I scored an invaluable prize too!

    On a hunch, I asked “meso” if he still had his wedding pictures. Not knowing my ultimate interest, he was overjoyed by my interest in seeing his wedding pictures. This goes back to 1980. He brought in an old dusty album!

    Ultimately, my Machiavellian scheme worked out!! After painstakingly going thru pages and pages of photos, I found one that I was hoping to find!!

    That is me in the row behind with the glasses on. The girl next to me is my sister. The lady in front of her left hand is my mom! And the lady on her left is the “masi” who we visited today!!!!

    That is me in 1980!!!!


  25. Foggy! Dec 29, 2013

    For a town next to a river, this sure looks more like a hill station!!


  26. Operation Khokon! Dec 29, 2013

    Remember my old friend that I finally traced down after nearly forty years? http://www.rajibroy.com/?p=4329

    Today is the day I get to see him !! My brother and I started early at 7 am so we can zip thru the roads thru different villages before the villagers wake up. Instead, we are crawling with a fog visibility of less than 30 feet πŸ™


  27. Couple of more minutes… Dec 29, 2013

    Waiting at the agreed upon spot. Khokon will be here any moment now….


  28. “I will see you again, my friend!” Circa ~ May 1977 Dec 29, 2013

    For friends may come and friends may go
    But you are my first friend for ever…

    (Me and Khokon – then and now)


  29. How does this thing work? Dec 29, 2013

    During our return trip from Durgapur to Kalyani, we took a tea stop off the Durgapur Expressway. Nikita found this curious little thing (a hand water pump) and eventually figured out how to work it.


  30. Albatross school? Dec 30, 2013

    Albatross School? ALBATROSS SCHOOL???


  31. Chalu-pa run across the continents Dec 30, 2013

    The Sunday morning Bengali running group was on vacation. However, everybody ran at 8 am on Sunday in a virtual Chalupa run. The first five pictures are from a few members running on the beaches of Florida, the next two are Sudakshina and Manas doing the authentic run in Atlanta and the last one is myself and my brother running in India. Apparently distance cannot separate our running together spirit….


  32. Sharmila has nothing on me now πŸ™‚ Dec 30, 2013

    You guys are aware how I love finding out my old friends, connections, people I knew etc, right? Well, Sharmila is certainly no fan of that. She thinks I overdo it. (Not that I am claiming causality – just pointing out the correlation that if the old connection is of opposite gender, she thinks I am totally crazy πŸ™‚ )

    However, her dad – my father in law – was very impressed how I tracked down Khokon after 37 years. He was also impressed by how Facebook, GPS etc has helped me. Sensing his excitement, I suggested that he should try the same thing.

    Yesterday, when I was bringing my family back to Kalyani to my parents’ place, the in-laws (dad and mom) also joined us. My father-in-law mentioned that he has heard that one of his college friends (he passed in 1957) lives in Kalyani.

    This was a reasonably easy search – his friend’s son went to college with my brother in law. A couple of phone calls later, we had my father-in-law’s friend’s address.

    This morning I walked him to that address and asked him to have a good time and call me if he needed to be picked back. He came back with his friend three hours later – evidently after having a whale of a time. They met after 56 years!!! That beats my 37 year record with Khokon hands down!!

    I requested a picture of them that I could put on Facebook. They gladly obliged.

    I asked Sharmila what she thought about all this. I got some cold water thrown on my face πŸ™

    Whatever, dudette, your dad thinks I am cool!!!


  33. Why the street dogs chase me… Dec 30, 2013

    On our way to my birthplace, we stopped at a tea stall for some tea. The first thing my animal loving siblings did was to find out the nearest street dog and fed it cookies bought from the tea stall owner. And then played with it. No wonder they chase me every time I run. I am sure they recognize me as my siblings’ brother and expect cookies…


  34. Till we meet again… Dec 31, 2013

    One by one, everybody left. First, my father in law and mother in law left. (Dad had a great time since he finally got a chance to talk to somebody from Durgapur for a couple of days). Then my sister and her family left for vacation. Now my brother and I am leaving with our families. Two days of 15 people together quickly got reduced to 2. I can only imagine how they were feeling as they trudged back to their flat all by themselves. With only each other to support thru the pangs of departure…

    Btw, dad had again come down and stationed himself on a chair outside the building gate so that he could say Goodbye.


  35. “What do they eat?” Dec 31, 2013

    There is always that one or two uncles that leave a lasting impression on you from your very early childhood days. For me one such uncle was “Bhattacharya-kaku” (Kaku in my language means uncle). He took great interest in the well being of all the kids in the neighborhood.

    He would drag all of us out from our houses in the late afternoon and organize cricket or soccer games for all of us to play. He was our coach, manager, referee – all wrapped in one. Anytime we had tiffs within us friends, we invariably would go to Bhattacharya-kaku instead of our parents for a resolution.

    He also used to organize local functions for the neighborhood where we would put up skits, drama, songs, dance etc. (BTW, every such function would somehow have at least one girl dancing to “Kothao amar haariye jabaar nei manaa, monay, monay” πŸ™‚ ). He used to even write skits himself for us to act in.

    I had no idea what happened to him after 1976 – when we moved from that neighborhood.

    Last week, when I met Anindya Sarkar (remember the guy I was looking for all over social media and turned out he has lived in the same house now for fifty years? πŸ™‚ ), I asked him if he had any idea of Bhattacharya-kaku. We got a faint glimmer of hope since he mentioned that he had heard that Bhattacharya-kaku’s younger daughter got married and lived on 4th street on Ranapratap road.

    My brother and I were running short of time – we had to drive back to Kalyani that day – but decided to give it a shot. Turns out nobody on 4th street knew of Bhattacharya-kaku’s daughter. Out of desperation, we tried the next street too. After getting two “Sorry, don’t know”, one gentleman seemed to think he knew who were talking about and asked us to try two streets later. He, in fact, gave us the house number too.

    We reached there, full of hope. One knock at the door, and a gentleman came out – initially bewildered (again, shaved heads are very uncommon in Durgapur) and then a little apprehensive. I put him at ease and mentioned, we do not have any bad news. While shaved heads are very uncommon in Durgapur, it is customary to shave off your head if your dad or mom dies in this part of the country πŸ™‚

    Turns out, we did hit the jackpot. The gentleman was Bhattacharya-kaku’s son-in-law. We explained our situation and he proved to be very helpful. He gave us Kaku’s mobile number.

    By this time, we were terribly out of time. But I had what I needed – a sure way of contacting Bhattacharya kaku. We headed back to Kalyani. That evening, after reaching Kalyani, I called up that number. Unsurprisingly, he recognized me immediately (the son-in-law must have tipped him off!!).

    He kept on advising me to take care of my health, stay physically active and be in touch with my musical or artistic side as long as I can. He even reminded me of something I had forgotten. In the very first drama, he had written for us, I had the lead role of a demon and I was decked up to look suitably ugly and scary for a demon. Evidently, I lived up to the reputation of a demon πŸ™‚

    He made me promise him that I will see him next time I came to India. I wrote it down in my small diary of “People I need to visit” his name and address and closed the chapter there. April is what I was targeting.

    Couple of days later, I had to make some changes in my plans. After visiting Khokon, I decided to go all the way to Durgapur and get my family back myself since Sharmila had become sick the previous night. It was an arduous three and a half hours of drive on Indian roads, pick them up, and come back again.

    On a whim, my brother and I decided, at the risk of getting terribly delayed in picking up my family, we would give it a shot to see Bhattacharya Kaku.

    And we did. And we got horribly delayed. It was a very emotional get together. You could see that he really cared for us even now and was absolutely trying to reassure himself that we have become what he always wanted all of us to become. He was most proud of me since I am the only one in America from that neighborhood. And to him that is the ultimate achievement.

    He had so many questions about America – “What do they eat?”, “Are they very kind people?”, “Are they all very fair?”, “Are they smarter than us?”, “Do you get fish to eat there?”, “Is it true that there even maids come in cars?”, “Do you eat beef?” and so on and so forth. I was determined to answer each and every question he had patiently. After an hour or so, he said “Okay. I will not hold you back today anymore. But come back and visit me. I want to learn more about America”.

    As I said, I was terribly delayed. Sharmila was none too happy about it either. I am usually a stickler about time. It was too difficult for me to brush off Kaku’s childlike curiosity and deprive myself of a chance to give him back what he had given me a long time back – some quality time and attention.

    This is a picture of my Bhattacharya-kaku.


  36. Juhu beach! Jan 1, 2014

    Niki and Sharmila taking a stroll in Juhu beach


  37. The morning after Jan 1, 2014

    All that yelling and jumping and dancing on New Year’s Eve has made everybody very hungry this morning at JW Marriott, Mumbai. Check out the queue for breakfast at the top of the picture…


  38. Lina!!! Jan 1, 2014

    Sharmila meets her friend from college days…


  39. The fine print gets me every time!!! Jan 1, 2014

    The idea was to shop for a couple of fake jewelleries and bindi. Who knew that we will need to accessorize them with three new sarees? πŸ™‚
    Those subtle fine prints get me every single time πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚


  40. The world gets smaller… Jan 2, 2014

    Last day in India. As I finished up my breakfast meeting with Shridhar (more on this 100 country backpacker later) and started saying goodbye in the Executive Lounge of JW, guess who walks in with that characteristic unforgettable smile of his?

    Deep Bhattacharya from Shanghai!!

    I met him in Atlanta thru a common friend more than a year back and ran together in Fowler Park. And then I run into him in Bombay!! Apparently he has checked into this hotel too!!

    Unfortunately, both of us had to run… but these are the fleeting moments of interaction points that make our lives so enriched!!!!


  41. … and smaller… Jan 2, 2014

    After breakfast with Shridhar and a chance meeting with Deep, I came down to my room and was enjoying the view of the Arabian Sea and Juhu beach right in front of us, when I received a FB message from a friend of mine from yesteryears.

    Carol Krishnamohan was visiting Mumbai from Hong Kong! In fact, she had brought her kids to play in the beach!! In Juhu beach!!! Right in front of our room!!!

    A quick phone call, hurriedly getting the Marriott security guy to open the back gate to the beach and a brisk walk later, I met Carol – after over twelve years. We used to work together in the late 90s – very early 00s – in i2!! Found out that her husband – Mohan is an avid runner too!!!

    At this point of time, I will no longer protest if you think I am making up all these stories. I am myself stunned by serendipity and fortunate coincidences!!!


  42. To each his (or her) own… Jan 2, 2014

    I got my three things – sunlight, drink and a lounge chair. They got theirs – lounge chair, iPad and wi-fi πŸ™‚


  43. Looking for a good caption Jan 2, 2014

    Praying that the crow does not poop?

    Eating crow?

    Any funny suggestions from you?


  44. An exercise in learning or grossing out? πŸ™‚ Jan 2, 2014

    All my friends from India undoubtedly know about this. Not sure that the concept is very well known among my US friends though. I also have a question for my friends from other South Asian countries or African countries – do you have anything similar in your rural societies?

    While in my birthplace, I took these pictures to explain to my daughters what those near circular black ridged cakes were all about. I barely got to the part where I explained that villagers pick up cow dung by hand and mix it by hand when the girls got grossed out and put their fingers on their ears and started yelling “la la la la”. πŸ™‚

    We call them “cow dung cakes” or “ghNute” in our language. Made entirely from cow dung, it is essentially formed by village women collecting cow dung and then making small balls of them and then smacking them on to a wall or tree. The ridges are basically the impact of the fingers when it is smacked down. It stays on the wall or tree for a few days to dry up and then they are plucked out.

    They are then used as fuel for fires that are lit up to cook food – pretty much like we use wood logs. I guess this is a great form of biodegradable fuel πŸ™‚


  45. Personal wish fulfilled Jan 2, 2014

    Some of you who are close to me are aware that one of the bucketlist items I have is to work in a bar. I am fascinated by the art of mixing drinks. I have even figured out couple of courses to take in Atlanta during my next sabbatical.

    This is one of the reasons I make friends with the bar persons everywhere in the world. One of my absolute favorite mixologist is Bensan at Arola bar at JW Marriott Mumbai. He makes some of the best martinis I have ever had. He is a master at his art.

    I had this goal of getting Sharmila to his bar and get him to show off his trade. Last night, Sharmila and I went to Arola. Bensan did not disappoint me. Made some memorable cocktails with great flair!!

    Here are a few snaps of the master at his game!!


  46. Penalty!! Jan 2, 2014

    The penalty for posting the fact that she bought three sarees last night is that she bought three (more) Indian dresses today.
    By the way, I am aware of the phenomenon of chain reaction; however, we are scheduled to leave India in a few hours πŸ™‚


  47. Random shot Jan 2, 2014

    Of the hotel – actually Lotus Cafe – at night…


  48. Maybe these things DO happen only to me Jan 2, 2014

    I already told you that I will not blame you if you think I make up these stories after my meeting with Carol this morning.

    But check this out .

    We arrived at the airport early (Nikita has a sick tummy), got all the boarding, immigration, security done and settled down at the Lufthansa Business lounge. I was wondering what to do with Nikita when thru the corner of my eyes saw this gentleman wrapping up whatever he was doing on his MacBook and started packing up his carry on bags.

    Something about him stirred a memory cell somewhere in my head. I told Sharmila that he might be someone I know.

    Took a chance and walked up to him and asked “Sorry if you find this weird, but are you Jagan?”. “Yes”, he said but kept staring at me. Obviously he could not recognize me. “Rajib Roy”, I said. He yelled out loud enough that everybody in the lounge stared at us!!!

    His flight was leaving – I accompanied him to the gate, grabbed his business card and asked the person at the gate if he would mind taking a picture of us. I told him (having seen how empty the gate was) that I realize he might be the last passenger they have been waiting for but I just met him after 1989. The gentleman gladly obliged.

    I came back to Nikita and the family thinking about our days together in the same wing (hallway) in our hostel (dorm) during my undergraduate days – so many soccer games, volleyball games, cricket games together – so many trips to the Taramani tea stall – so many hours of sitting and debating over completely irrelevant things…

    That was 25 years back!!


  49. And the long trip back starts …. Jan 2, 2014
  50. Nice experience Jan 3, 2014

    As we were deplaning in Frankfurt, I noticed an elderly lady struggling to get her suitcase down from the bin. A gentleman – probably in his fifties, quickly stepped up to help, pulled the suitcase with one hand and swung it down.

    It is then I realized that he did not have a second arm!!!

    I further realized that he is the same guy that I helped put his own suitcase up in Munich when we were boarding. I did it very mechanically when I saw him trying to put his suitcase up with one hand. I did not give a second thought to ask myself why would he possibly be Using one hand only. I don’t think I even made eye contact when I acknowledged his thanks.

    At that moment, among the flurry of emotions I was going thru – seeing a man extending a helping hand – in fact, his only hand – to an elderly lady and that I was too casual in acknowledging his gratitude previously, all I could blurt out to him was “Hey, I was coming to help”. He put me at ease by smiling and saying with a heavy German accent “It’s ok. Gravity helps!”

    I wish I had the guts to take a picture with him. It would have been too weird.

    But, what spirit!! In the lounge, I tried for a few minutes to see what life would be with one arm by using only my right arm. Miserably failed. Could not even type out this message!!!

    The world still has great guys – regardless of what the TV channels and newspapers focus on…

  51. Niki quips Jan 4, 2014

    Lufthansa (from Frankfurt to Atlanta) had to change their airplane equipment because of oversold situation. The upshot is that they upgraded two of our tickets to First Class. Tasha and I volunteered Niki and Sharmila to take those seats. As I got them settled in their seats, as a parting shot, I told Niki – “Don’t get too used to these luxuries. Once you are on your own, you will have to start from basics like all of us did”. She immediately retorted “Dad, I have flown coach in Delta. I can do anything”. Even the air hostess burst out laughing πŸ™‚

  52. One more Nikispeak Jan 4, 2014

    It has been two hours already that Niki and I have been playing. (up since 2 am or so). Tasha is also suffering from jet lag.

    Niki finally came out with a gem after watching Sharmila sound asleep – “You know dad, mama does not have any jet lag. She sleeps thru the day and thru the night” πŸ™‚

  53. Solo lily Jan 4, 2014

    Found one small water lily in the big fish pond in our hotel in Bombay.


  54. Cousins shooting for the sky… Jan 4, 2014
  55. Evening routine Jan 5, 2014

    Every evening last week, my brother, brother in law and myself would go to this one particular store in Kalyani and buy a bottle of red wine. Then around this time, the three siblings and their spouses would sit down and enjoy the wine like in the picture in my sister’s house.
    Of course, my brother in law would have one parts wine and ten parts Frooti (a very sweet fruit juice) and my sister would have Frooti with one drop of wine (and then claim she was feeling dizzy).
    It was absolute fun every evening to get together – just the six of us – as a routine and chat…
    Missing it today…


  56. Spirit of Bombay Jan 5, 2014

    Cricket in Juhu beach on Jan 1st. Taken from the hotel room…


  57. Truckload of words!! Jan 5, 2014

    Saw this on Durgapur Expressway near Palsit. Somebody must have decided to paint out all the English words he knew on this truck. I get “Quick Service Best Service”. But what is “Go Luck”? Note how under “Fast”, it says “Slow Drive” πŸ™‚
    “Only Export” – that has to be a stretch!! The ultimate is the last line “Don’t Sorry Fast” πŸ™‚
    Finally, note the Hindi scribbling where the license plate ought to be. I think the license number is painted above “Please”!!!


  58. Sunset in Juhu beach Jan 6, 2014

    Captured from the hotel room


  59. Bottoms up!! Jan 6, 2014

    The bird was drinking chlorinated water straight from the pool at our hotel!


  60. And the love affair of pajamas and Qatar Airways continues.. Jan 7, 2014

    Here is a selfie for a few people – notably my wife and kids – who wanted to see how silly I looked in those Qatar Airways pajamas…


  61. Life in village – 1 Jan 7, 2014

    This is a scene from the village that I was born in which I visited a few weeks back. It was a cold and foggy morning. But this lady was out and about cleaning utensils from previous night’s meals..


  62. To drink or not to drink… Jan 8, 2014

    … That is the question…


  63. Uneasy lies the head… Jan 8, 2014

    … That has to fairly distribute wine to siblings and spouses…. from a water jar… into tea cups… No less!
    This was a typical 8:00 pm activity at my sister’s place when we were in Infia last week.


  64. Life in village – 2 Jan 8, 2014

    This shot is from right outside the hut that I was born in. The ladies are manually separating the grain (rice) from the chaff using – what we call in Bengali, “kulo”. Does anybody happen to know what is the English word for it?