25 February 2024

’13 Jul India

  1. Peanut processed where??? Jul 21, 2013

    I can understand how warnings are posted on food packets that it might have been produced in facilities that process peanuts. Peanut allergies are common and in the extreme, fatal.
    But when I asked for peanuts (this is on a Delta flight), trying to warn me that it is produced in a facility that processes peanuts – now that is taking it to an extreme, is it not? πŸ™‚


  2. ATLIADDOHCCU Jul 21, 2013

    Now begins a 34 hour (door to door) trek to see my parents. This time they are fully aware I am coming. Let’s see what funny episodes are in store for me this time!!
    The blog title is my flight route (airport codes that I will be touching)

  3. I need a passport!! Jul 21, 2013

    Speaking of funny episodes in India (see previous post), one started with my mom even before I got started for India.
    During my usual daily morning call to mom (one of the first things I do almost everyday is talk to her for a few minutes) the topic went to our trip to Canada for Niagara Falls. She was asking how beautiful it was and how big it was and what did the grand daughters do and so on. I could hear my dad – who last week got hearing aids put in his both ears and therefore overheard it – talking loudly that Niagara Falls is not the biggest waterfall – it is Victoria Falls.
    BTW, something about my dad here. He is somewhat of a geography buff. If you ever happen to meet him and ever the topic goes to geography, he will absolutely challenge you to name the capitals of various countries in the world. Fortunately for me, his knowledge of geography stalled after 1980. Every time he challenges me, I counter challenge him with “name the capital of Kazhakastan or Azerbaijan or Eritrea….” – basically any country that has been formed after 1980 or so. “Dekh ge jaa” is usually what he will say before he gives up and goes around doing his usual stuff πŸ™‚
    Getting back to the story, my mom heard about Victoria Falls and tried encouraging me to take the daughters to Victoria Falls. She said that they will absolutely love it. Then something struck her. “Jaabi ki? Ota to Africa-y. Passport laagbe to!!”. (“How are you going to go? It is in Africa. You will need a passport”) !!!!!
    I still wonder if she has any idea how we go to India. Or for that matter how we went to Canada to see the Niagara Falls.
    Of course, I sympathetically agreed with her “That is true. That is true. It will be very difficult”!! πŸ™‚

  4. Missing date night!! Jul 22, 2013

    Missing my Sunday date night with Sharmila and my weekly meeting with the folks at my favorite watering hole. Stuck at this watery DC airport for another 3 hours…


  5. Chef Niki! Jul 22, 2013

    I am chewing airline food (talk about a oxymoron). Evidently Niki is cooking up a Sunday delicacy at home…


  6. What size do I wear? Jul 22, 2013

    First time flying Qatar Airways. Need some getting used to the pleasantness of the airlines staff (very typical of most Asian airlines). But some of their attention is throwing me off.
    So, this young sweet lady takes me from the door to my seat and offers to put my suitcase up on the bin. Somewhat indignant, I thanked her and to make light of the situation said that I only look old. I am not that old and I can lift the suitcase.
    Not to be outdone, she asked if she can get me my pajamas !!!
    I am having a WTF moment if course! What does she mean if she can get me my pajamas? A few moments later, still more confused than thoughtful, I said “Sure”!
    Oh! Boy!! Did I ever get myself in trouble. For she continued with her onslaught – “What size sir? Small, Medium, Large, Xtra Large or Xtra Xtra Large”. Finally, I broke down. I sat down on my seat and explained “Ma’m, the only person who knows the right answer to that question is in Atlanta. My wife does all my shopping.”
    She was sympathetic. She said I should be Large but she will give me an Xtra Large so that I will be comfortable.
    A few minutes and a quick trip to the plane restroom later, here I am flopping around like a scarecrow in my oversized clothes getting ready to sink in my seat πŸ™‚

  7. Kolkata trumps Doha Jul 22, 2013

    Cannot believe I am saying this, but the new Calcutta airport is more impressive than the Doha airport. I was in this airport in March and reported how nice it is – but I came in as a domestic passenger. As an international passenger today, from stepping out from the aeroplane to getting out of the airport took all of three minutes (admittedly I had no checking luggage to wait for).
    But in the same situation, Doha took from aeroplane to transit lounge almost 30 minutes! Not sure why but Doha does not have aero bridges. Not only did we have to get into the buses in 105 degrees temp, the bus went and dropped first the non-transit passengers – which is on one end of the airport and then dropped the transit passengers – which is on another end. You would think with all the connecting flights, they would do it the other way round.
    Not impressed with Doha at all. I will get a second chance to make another impression a week from now. Will see how that works out. Meanwhile back to warm and muggy Kolkata.
    On my way to Kalyani now where my parents are….

  8. When the two brothers get together, a cup of tea cannot be too far!!! Jul 22, 2013

    Got started with my brother from the airport at the dead of the night towards my parents’ place. (Couple of hours drive).
    The roads are very difficult to navigate – no median, no lanes, oncoming headlights straight into your face…Worse all tea stalls open only around 6 πŸ™‚
    Suddenly my brother swung off the road and pulled over under a streetlight. And out from his boot came out two cups and a thermos of tea!!


  9. One more tea stop Jul 23, 2013

    Stopped for one more tea. Basically killing time so we do not wake up our parents too early… My brother started playing with the street dogs…


  10. How we ignore each other πŸ™‚ Jul 23, 2013

    Back in US, we ignore each other by poring over our smartphones… Evidently, here we read newspapers.. πŸ˜‰ That is my dad, brother and brother in law!


  11. Nor’westers! Jul 23, 2013

    “Kalbaisakhi”!! Quick sharp thunderstorms in Kalyani in the late afternoon. Just like in Atlanta! Except I don’t have to worry about any flight delays today!!!


  12. My original family Jul 23, 2013

    Kids were in school, brother in law and sister in law had office. For the first time after years and years, it was just the three siblings and parents. We talked for a long long time. Even my dad ignored his high fever and joined us!!!


  13. Drinking wine in Kalyani – Problem 1 of 3. Jul 23, 2013

    The easy part for my brother, brother-in-law and myself was to decide to have a glass of wine (or two) without going to our usual smoke-filled restaurant.
    Problem #1 was How to secure a bottle of wine. My BIL who lives here was of no help whatsoever. So, we went around asking people. Some kept beer and scotch (by far the most popular drinks in India) but nobody had wine. Finally we managed to find out a guy who was reputed to have the most varied stock of alcohol.
    Once we reached there, his shop looked far less like a shop and far more than one of those prison grills that you get to talk to a prisoner through. There was exactly one small opening in the grill and a whole lot of Indians surrounding it without any sense of queue discipline. “Crowd sourcing” took a very different meaning in this context πŸ™‚
    Eventually my brother got sick and tired of my manners, ruthlessly elbowed a few folks around and literally burrowed his way to the front. The three of us heaved a collective sigh of relief when the rather rotund and profusely sweating shopkeeper behind the grill affirmed that he indeed had red wine.
    Then he went inside for a few minutes to retrieve something which has not evidently sold for years. By the way, while he was gone, none of the folks in the back of the crowd had any idea that he was gone. Nonetheless, they kept yelling their orders πŸ™‚ I have no idea to what good.
    Eventually, he brought out something that looked somewhat like a wine bottle duly covered with a layer of dust that would do any pollen-ridden car on a Atlanta spring day very proud. However, problem #1 was solved. And it was a 2011 Ruffino Chianti. Who was I to complain? πŸ™‚

  14. Drinking wine in Kalyani – Problem 2 of 3 Jul 23, 2013

    Okay, so we got ourselves a bottle of Chianti after much jostling. We come home to my sister’s place and realize the obvious. Nobody drinks wine here. So, nobody has the need for a wine opener. My sister, of course, proudly fished out the most rusted-out beer bottle opener I have ever seen from a long forgotten corner of her kitchen. Again, to my sister, there is very little difference between beer and wine. They are just bad things.
    Risking the ire of every oenophile of this world, I had to resort to a screwdriver, a tea strainer and some basic physics of pressure management. Again, where there is a will, there has to be a way – regardless of how inelegant it is πŸ™‚


  15. Drinking wine in Kalyani – Problem 3 of 3 Jul 23, 2013

    So, now we have a bottle of red wine in her hands – more importantly it was open (with rather generous definition of “open”). Next challenge was where were we going to drink it? My parents (who live right above my sister are dead against drinking any alcohol).
    So, we did what most self-respecting people would have done at a far younger age. Under the cover of darkness, we snuck up three plastic chairs and our wine to the roof terrace of the building and to be doubly sure, we scaled the sides of the water tank on the roof and got on its top. Completely safe now from any prying parental eyes and with an outstanding view of Kalyani and the numerous trees and cute houses under the moonlit sky, we partook of our preciously secured wine!! πŸ™‚


  16. One yellow Tshirt short of a traffic light Jul 24, 2013

    Hot (86 degrees) and humid (99%) 5K run with my brother. I was dripping in a fashion that befitted the current Indian monsoon season !!


  17. Sights from this morning’s run – 1 Jul 24, 2013

    In case you thought they were being serious with their exterior wall colors…. πŸ™‚


  18. Sights from this morning’s run -2 Jul 24, 2013

    Let me do the translation for you – in my mother tongue, it says “Do not throw any trash here”! Now look what is in front of it πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚


  19. The long view of the road… Jul 24, 2013

    Went to Tribeni ghat (by the river Ganges). Next to it is a “shmasan ghat” – this is a place where you cremate (burn) dead bodies of the Hindu persuasion. Talked to a family who had brought a dead family member there. Out of respect for them I am not posting any pictures here.
    But watching a dead body surrounded by family members always sets a perspective of life for me.
    Also it took me back to that day in 1981 when I lost my grandmom to cancer and my dad encouraged me to accompany him to the “shmasan ghat”. My first trip to a cremation ground…

  20. Dad’s sense of humor! Jul 24, 2013

    After fighting back some large health issues – with a new stent, new knee and new hearing aids, I was hoping to see dad in his best spirits. Unfortunately, he has been down with viral fever and drained of energy for the last few days. In between his bouts of fever, during those Paracetamol-induced lulls, he is certainly displaying some of his old spirits and coming up with memorable lines. An example:
    We came from our trip to the river bank and the adjoining crematorium grounds to find him up on his bed in great spirits. This is how the next couple of minutes of conversation went…

    (Bengali version)
    Dad: Kothay gechhili sob?
    Me: Shmasan ghat dekhe elam.
    Dad: Maaney? Shmasan ghat keno?
    Me: Ei je kobey theke bhoy dekhachho – morey jaabey naaki ebar. Taai hiseb potro gulo dekhe elam. πŸ™‚
    Dad (ektu chinta korey): Dekhbi na ebar – protidin phone-e jaalabe – ‘Koi apnader party elo na to ekhono’ πŸ™‚

    (English translation – best attempt)
    Dad: Where were you guys?
    Me: We went to check out the crematorium grounds.
    Dad (somewhat surprised): What? Why crematorium grounds of all places?
    Me (teasing): Oh! You have been threatening to die for quite some time. So we went to check out how the system works.. πŸ™‚
    Dad (not to be outdone): Good. Now they are going to pain the hell out of you everday over the phone – ‘What happened? Your candidate never showed up!’ πŸ™‚

  21. Indian mynah’s ablutions Jul 24, 2013

    Indian mynah (local name “shalik”) taking shower in a puddle created by the sharp showers this afternoon…


  22. Gone fishing Jul 24, 2013

    Going out into the river Ganges to earn his livelihood – catching prawns “chingri” …


  23. Sights from this morning’s run – 3 Jul 24, 2013

    I can see how they might want to reach out to both the US-spelling clientele as well as the British-spelling clientele. But what is the connection between paints and sanitation?


  24. The run. The tea. The stretches. Jul 25, 2013

    I was good with the run and the tea. I still think that the stretches were an unnecessary addition by my brother πŸ™‚


  25. Reaching out to all my friends in Kolkata Jul 25, 2013

    All my FB friends in Kolkata,
    I am in Kolkata tomorrow (Friday) for a few hours (arriving tonight). Since my dad has not recovered yet, I will have to come back to Kalyani in the afternoon.
    I know it is a workday and a schoolday, but if anyone of you is so inclined, I can join you early morning for a walk/run followed by a “chai/biscuit”. I can come most anywhere – Maidan, Rabindra Sarobar, Nicco Park etc as early as you want/can. For your efforts as well as the courage to endure me :-), I will buy the chai/biscuit. Let me know and we can fix the time and place.

  26. My creative nephew Jul 26, 2013

    My youngest nephew Neelesh (6 yrs) was jealous of my smartphone enough to make his own!! Proud of his creativity but somewhat disappointed that he went with a Samsung Galaxy instead of an iPhone πŸ™‚ Maybe next time when he upgrades once his contract runs out … πŸ™‚


  27. Long time no see… Jul 26, 2013

    In the few hours that I am in Kolkata, I was lucky enough to spend half an hour with my classmate from fifth grade – Debasish Chakraborty. The last time I saw him was in 1986 when I ran into him outside a movie hall!! (Most people who know me closely enough are probably wondering what was I doing outside a movie hall πŸ™‚ Fact is I have seen about six movies in some movie hall in my entire life. “Bhalobasa Bhalobasa” in Durgapur Cinema in 1986 was one of them!!
    Well, he is a much accomplished central government official now. To relive our old times, we just sat outside on the side streets outside his office and caught up on each others’ parents, family and old schoolmates over a couple of cups of tea!! Living thru these moments is what gets me really excited about life. Who knew 27 years later we will share a cup of tea again?
    Another interesting tidbit on him – I think he is the only person whose entire family – he, his wife and his twin kids (more on their talent in a later post) are my FB friends!!


  28. Driving around Kolkata Jul 26, 2013

    Vivekananda Setu


  29. Real life puzzle Jul 27, 2013

    Here is a real life puzzle… Look at my previous post. It is truly a beautiful snap. The sky color is unbelievably azure and you can see the sun trying to break out if the grey clouds in the horizon.
    Now, I do dabble in photography but my caliber is nowhere close to take such a beautiful shot. Also, it was an unsophisticated iPhone and I did not touch up the picture with any filters.
    Can you tell me then how did the sky come so beautiful?
    A hint – look carefully at my position on the road!
    It bothered me enough last night that I had to state at the picture long enough to finally get it….

  30. Ami ekhon boro hoey gechhi (“Now I have grown up”) Jul 27, 2013

    Broke every rule, convention and socially accepted behavior today and went out to run in heavy rains in Kalyani. And dragged my brother with me too!! In fact, we had dressed up for our run and then waited till the rains would start before getting out.
    All those years of childhood that our parents would not let us play in the rain…. today was the day we had been waiting for to take our revenge together…. Parents kept complaining (the usual “Thanda legey jaabey” – you will catch a cold) – but now we are grown ups. So we could afford to ignore them!!!
    It was just too liberating to be able to feel the heavy rain falling on our skin as we ran 8K in the empty roads. Everybody and sundry was staring at us from the shops, houses etc as we weaved thru every single street possible in the neighborhood. We also stopped at a tea stall where multiple people offered to give us a dry spot to sit in – but we just stayed in the rain and enjoyed our tea.
    Finally, came back home and simply sat down in the rain for half an hour. My ever concerned sister got us some steaming tea again!!
    Sitting in that rain together with my now grown up brother making idle chit chat we asked ourselves – What good is growing up if we cannot decide not to grow up? πŸ™‚
    “Ami tobu chhoto-i hobo, seta-i amar ambition” (“I just want to stay a kid and that is my ambition”)


  31. If only every afternoon was this way… Jul 27, 2013

    … also called “Fuchka bibhrat”.
    Not sure how to introduce the concept of “fuchka” to anybody uninitiated in this delicious snack. But if you have ever seen “Gol gappa” or “Pani Puri” in an Indian restaurant, you will know what I am talking about. It is sold on the roadside under highly suspect hygienic conditions. However, the taste trumps all and religiously my brother, sister, brother in law and myself go ever evening to a nearby roadside vendor here in Kalyani and partake of about 10 of those or so.
    This afternoon, everybody was sleeping except my brother, brother in law and myself – so, for over two hours we debated extensively around the whole business model of selling “fuchkas”.
    Essentially, we needed to estimate total revenue and margin levels. My brother and I were on two extremes and my brother in law was desperately trying to avoid taking any sides.
    The analysis was intense – we had to get a scale (ruler) to estimate the volume of a “fuchka”, estimate how many “fuchkas” a standard size potato would fill, the size of the full container the vendor brings. We even applied time and work estimates around statistical distribution of customer flow, average serving time per “fuchka”, overlap period of one customer eating and the next customer being served. Finally, we had to review the formulas for volume of a frustum of a cone (his container), a sphere (“fuchka”), packing factor and so on.
    After so much of precision, my brother and I came miles apart in our answers πŸ™‚ I have 75% gross margin on average sales of 600 “fuchkas” per day with a revenue of around Rupees 2,25,000 per year. My brother came at 50% gross margin on average sales of 1500 “fuchkas” per day with a revenue of around Rupees 6,00,000 per year. Both of us agreed that the full container has around 2000 “fuchkas” when totally filled.
    Finally we called truce over a cup of tea and agreed to ask the vendor this evening what his real numbers are. I am highly suspicious if he keeps any real accounts though!
    It was a great way to spend some stress free quality time with my brother and brother in law though πŸ™‚
    You want to take any guesses?

  32. Music with sister Jul 27, 2013

    If the morning started with a couple of hours being in the rain with my brother (with parents disapproving), the evening ended with a couple of hours of music with my sister (I am sure the parents would approve)


  33. Question for my friends in India Jul 28, 2013

    Can you help me with this?
    Since the crack of dawn, my brother, dad and I have been sitting outside and enjoying the world slowly waking up. As we watched the rain soaked trees, buildings, birds and so on, we noticed something in the next building that we could not explain.
    See the black, grill like overhang structure just outside the AC unit in the picture? It seems to be bolted onto the sill above. What on God’s green earth is that? What is the purpose?
    My brother and I cannot seem to crack it.
    Do you know? That is a AC unit, is it not?


  34. Zoomed pic for previous post Jul 28, 2013

    Here it is Shridhar…


  35. Cloud computing – it works like magic!! Sorta kinda πŸ™‚ Jul 28, 2013

    Impressed the heck out of my nephews and niece by showing them a magic. All they had to do is type a word in my iPhone (in the Notes app) without showing me – in fact I would hide in the next room so that I could not see it. Of course, I was sitting there with my iPad watching the Notes app synch and show me the word on the iPad immediately !! πŸ™‚ A few dramatic moves and abracadabra later, I had their jaws falling in awe as I “telepathically” blurted out their word !! πŸ™‚
    I betcha Steve Jobs never thought of this application of his products!!!
    My smarty-pants 9-year old nephew thinks he has cracked it. He believes I am Googling “What is Rishu typing?”. He is going to be very disappointed when he grows up and truly realizes what the Internet can or cannot do πŸ™‚

  36. My tiffin box!! Jul 28, 2013

    Found this while rummaging thru my mom’s kitchen!! This was my “tiffin box” (my daughters call these “lunch box”es) – in fact my only tiffin box in my entire life. My dad bought me this in 1972 when I was kindergarten. I used it till 1983 (tenth grade)!!!
    The original bright blue color is all but faded off. Amazingly, the “Ranjit” sticker is still there – well, some part of it is.
    This was my best friend from 10:35 to 11:00 am every school day. Lunch was invariably a boiled egg, bread and a banana. And on special days, a sweet.
    Atish, if you are reading this post, you probably remember how often we used to exchange my boiled egg for your “lobongolatika” !!!
    On some days, during after school hours, this tiffin box also doubled up as a cricket bat !!! A tree for a wicket, tiffin box for a bat and a “cambis” ball… and we would keep ourselves endlessly occupied till our pickup bus would come. The tiffin box still has pockmarks from some of those wicked shots!!!
    That one really pulled me a few decades back… and I am amazed at our parents value system of not considering anything to be too old to be used!!!


  37. “Cha Singara” (Tea and Samosa) Jul 28, 2013

    Done visiting parents. Now on my way to visit the other two senior citizens in our life – my in-laws. Added adventure – my brother driving dangerously from Kalyani to Durgapur πŸ™‚ Stopped at Panagarh to catch a breath and some “cha-singara”


  38. Fixing brother’s car.. Jul 29, 2013

    Latest casualty of my brother’s driving – the silencer in his car!!!


  39. Evolution Jul 29, 2013

    Evolution of modes of personal conveyance. Apparently it happened anti-clockwise!! πŸ™‚
    Scene near where my brother – ironically – is getting his car fixed!!! πŸ™‚


  40. Audacity of hope Jul 29, 2013

    Weighed down by the load of life…
    Yet he never ceases to look up….

    (This picture was taken today right outside the house that I grew up in from five years old till thirteen years old)


  41. Nonstop nonsense Jul 29, 2013

    That was a couple of hours of laughing over silly things – just like we did thirty years back in elementary school. We certainly missed the king of silliness- Avijit.


  42. Durgapur Station! Jul 30, 2013

    Many an aspiring journey in my life started from this point…


  43. Necessity is the mother of innovation! Jul 30, 2013

    Note the big black plug. It obviously did not fit either in the upper two holes in the socket or in the lower two holes. Somebody had the presence of mind to think out of the box and come up with a third solution – a diagonal fit!!!!!


  44. Bengal – described succinctly Jul 30, 2013
  45. Twelve years of labor! Jul 30, 2013

    And I finally managed to meet the guy who was one of my earliest friends in life – Arghya Sengupta!! We went to nursery (pre-kg) school together. In 1971. I was not five years yet!!! His son in the picture here is one year older than when Arghya and I started our friendship!!
    His late dad used to give me company after school if my dad was late in picking me up! His dad passed away a few years later. That was my first real life understanding that if someone dies, I am not going to see him/her again ever! His mom was my sister’s as well as my wife’s teacher in primary school!!
    After years and years of trying thru technology, social media and even running to his old neighborhood and then going door to door to see if anybody knew where he was – I had a couple of lucky breaks last year (including running into his late dad’s elder brother’s daughter’s husband !!!). Finally, today on my way from Durgapur to Kalyani, I was able to go to his home and see him (and his family and mom).
    It was a very emotional 45 minutes. We meant a lot to each other early in our childhood. We caught up on so many of our old friends. It was simply surreal to be with somebody with whom a relationship started 42 years back!!!


  46. “Bidaay rong-er sondhyabela” Jul 30, 2013

    It is almost time to take leave…


  47. Bengal – described succinctly Jul 30, 2013
  48. What to do sir? We are like that only!! Jul 30, 2013

    Got this email today (the sender obviously mistyped the gmail address and I received it). But this is “Bangreji” (Bengali English) at its best…

    Rajib Da, as per our telephonic discussion, I am giving you the details of accident….

    When we were moving towards siliguri from Guwahati, near about 8.35 pm we were crossing Nalbari, at that time we headed a divider bolder to take diversion to other road. Then I called to maruti customer care help line, they given me the local maruti authorised dealer phone no. after that I called to the respective person ( Mr. Bikash), he told me to take the Car to their point, then we hire a car (Paid By Me Rs. 1500/-) for pulling our car and reached the dealer point. After that they told accident insurance claim facility is not available at their Dealer point. If I have to do the claim then I have to take my car to Guwahati dealer point. And they arrange a car ( for pulling our car) which took my car to Guwahati Bimal Showroom. ( Paid by Me Rs. 2000/-)

    After That all story you know very well…


    Dipak Mukherjee.


  49. AC grill problem solved! Jul 30, 2013

    The curiosity of that grill outside the AC unit (see post from a couple of days back) eventually got the better of me and I decided to walk into a stranger’s house to get the story straight from the horse’s mouth.
    Against my brother-in-law’s advice (who is anything but adventurous), a couple of days back I walked into the house and rang the bell. An elderly gentleman (slightly younger than my dad, perhaps) opened the door. All I told him is that my dad lives in the building behind and without any further questions, he invited me in. I was a little uncomfortable accepting so much hospitality, so I suggested that we sit in the balcony – since I had a simple question for him.
    He opened by asking after my dad’s health. One thing led to the other and I was struck by his kindness, hospitality and intellectual curiosity. Before I knew it, we were talking about his time spent in Kashmir during two wars (he is an ex-Air Force pilot), about his dad who was posted in Assam in tea estates and how his dad built the house 52 years back. Found out his two sons and daughter are all spread out far and wide (including abroad); his brother lives upstairs and he lives with his wife downstairs.
    Our deep discussion on why war is simply a matter of political policy was going great guns (in between, his wife had already given us a cup of tea) when I was rudely awakened by a call from my sister saying it was lunch time and I need to come home soon.
    I thanked him and walked back home marveling at his career and experience. I had almost entered our building when I realized something. So, I ran back (it was only thirty seconds) and again rang the bell. This time I told him that I completely forgot to ask him the question for which I had come the first time to begin with!!
    He seemed to believe that his brother put in the grill (the AC is on second floor) to protect the AC from sunlight. He thought that direct sunlight would harm the compressor. When I pointed out that why not go for a solid structure instead of a grill with holes, he answered the grill diffuses the light enough. I thanked him again and came back.
    I now think Kuntal was right. Some overzealous sales guy made some quick bucks from an ignorant customer.

  50. Chance meeting Jul 30, 2013

    Here I am sitting in the Business Lounge in the new beautiful Kolkata airport. Flight leaves at 4:10 AM (ugh πŸ™ ) and the Lounge is pretty deserted. In fact two more passengers other than me.
    One of them is an old gentleman (I figured a little younger than my dad) sitting not too far from me. He suddenly walked up to me and asked me “I know you are very busy but can I ask you for a help? Can you keep an eye on my luggage – I need to go to the toilet”. I, of course did not tell him that I am not really busy – just blogging.
    When he came back, just so that I remain confident that I have not lost the art of irritating my wife and kids by making friends with complete strangers, I decided to take some interest in his story. Boy, am I glad I did.
    He asked me if I have come on business – I told him about my parents and their health and why I travel to India for personal reasons not business. He seemed concerned and asked me about my dad’s age. I said 75. He asked me if I could guess his age. I figured a little less than my dad – he is traveling internationally by himself – so I pegged it around 65-68. He said 87 !!! I was like WHAT? a 87 year old Indian, by definition should be in a wheelchair in any airport. Or that is the impression I have gathered watching elderly Indians traveling at various airports.
    Evidently, he has four daughters – in SFO, Houston, Philly and London. He visits them one by one once a year. So, I asked him what does he do when he is not visiting his daughters. He fished out his business card and said “I practice”. From the business card, looks like he is a tax lawyer. I was just floored by this.
    So, I asked him – “Help me understand this. You do not need money. You are 87. Why are you working???”. He said his wife left him many moons back. And when his daughters left the country, he just was too lost to know what to do. So, he went back to the one thing he knew – practicing law!!
    I wonder if forty years from now, even if I wanted to, can I possibly work in my domain? Also, will I be strong enough to travel internationally all by myself?
    There is something to be learnt from Mr. Mahapatra from Bankura – you are only as old as you think you are!!!

  51. Unique experience – “Chor dhora” Jul 30, 2013

    I had an unique experience in Kalyani a few days back that I have to tell my FB friends especially if you are not from Bengal.
    And it is about catching a burglar.
    Evidently, there was a burglar that was slinking from boundary wall to boundary wall near my dad’s apartment building. And the security guy in his building (coincidentally he is also called Rajib – but certainly with a lot more courage than me) spotted him, kept yelling that there is a thief nearby and then chased him down and caught him.
    Now comes the best part. “Chor dhara” has a few salient points to it regardless of where in Bengal it happens.
    First, once a thief is caught, it becomes a spectator show. If you yell that there is a thief in the neighborhood – other than young males, everybody locks themselves up. But if somebody yells that the thief has been caught, people of all ages and gender pour out from their houses like ants spotting a sugar hill.
    Second, there is total “instant justice”. There is scant respect for the police and the judicial system. Everybody just keeps beating up the burglar. As an example, my brother went there and joined the melee. No sooner had he spotted the guy who was obviously the target of attention, he just walked up and slapped him twice!! I asked him if we were sure he was actually stealing or had stolen before. I got a long lecture back from my brother!!!
    Third, the stories of what the accused has done and how he was caught gets bloated and embellished with every minute. If you join the show thirty minutes later with the usual “Ki hoyeche dada/didi”?, the impression you will gather is that there was a gang involved, most escaped however three guys (it will surely include at least one of the sons of the narrator) managed to fight back bare handed the gangs’ weapons and caught the head guy!! πŸ™‚
    Fourth, all the bravado escapes moment they have to take any responsibility. As an example, the cops eventually came. They heard everything and then picked a couple of folks who were yelling the most about what the accused has done and then asked them to come to the police station to make a formal complaint. Suddenly all those “dadas” were nowhere to be found!! Some crap about “night shift duty aachhe” or something like that!!!! πŸ™‚

  52. Getting my father in law drunk πŸ™‚ Jul 30, 2013

    By now, you know that my parents – or for that matter my sister – do not exactly look up to alcohol consumption of any kind. My mother in law is the same way. However, my father in law is willing to try out new things and has far fewer preconceived notions.
    Last night, I took them out for dinner in Durgapur – along with my brother and brother in law. First thing I did of course is ordered wine. Then I asked my father in law what would he like to have. He promptly said “margarita” (he remembered the only other occasion he had tried out margarita – with me, in Memphis, TN in 1997).
    Of course, my mother in law was having fits πŸ™‚ She asked me “Angur gulo pochabar ki dorkar? Tatka khelei to hoto” (What is the bid idea letting the grapes rot (ferment); why can you not just eat them fresh) πŸ™‚
    And my father in law was getting the “third degree”. “Buro boyese bhimroti dhorechhe” and so on πŸ™‚ He was however enjoying the drink. Which was not making things any the easier for my mother in law πŸ™‚ Regardless, he was not going to be cowed down – not last evening at least.
    My mother in law then tried some different tack – “E sob gulo kheley mota hoye jaabey” (you will become fat from the sugar in these drinks). I think she believes the tactics to scare her daughter works equally effectively on her husband and son in law πŸ™‚
    Anyways, eventually we stopped at two drinks, ordered food and normalcy returned over dinner.
    The height of it all was – much later at night, when my brother and I were dropping them at their home in my brother’s car, I saw my mother in law quietly noting down the phone number from one of those seemingly ubiquitous “Mod chharan, nesha chharan, drug chharan” posters off the walls. (I think this is mostly hacks trying to sell off fraud stuff to affected parents, spouses promising to get their kids, husbands etc off any addiction – those posters are there all over in Bengal).
    I could barely hold down my laughter till they left the car and went inside their house!!
    It was very very funny πŸ™‚ I know of only one Facebook friend of mine who might not find this funny at all πŸ™‚

  53. Slow Dance Jul 31, 2013

    My friend Guruprasad Bala had a very intriguing question yesterday on one of my posts – why is it that all these funny things happen only to me? Going thru my blogsite and glancing thru past posts, it appears that these funny things also seem to happen a lot while I am in India. Now that got me thinking.

    Eventually, I realized a couple of things. First, when I travel to India – especially by myself, I seem to be in a very different state of mind. I feel a far less sense of stress and responsibility. Second, that leads me to observe things more and very differently. Elsewhere, my mind would be racing to worries of the future but here, my mind seems to be in an “idling” mode. Hence the eyes don’t gloss over a silly grill in front of AC but stops there and tries to observe. Or reads an obvious junk mail and instead of deleting it somewhat irritatedly, actually finds some humor in it. Or just sits by the highway with my brother and has tea and endlessly watches the traffic instead of the usual “Chol, deri hoye jaabey” (“Let’s go! We will get delayed”)

    It would appear that I come much closer to “living in the now” while in India. I actually “slow down” And that releases a very different level of energy for me. That is often as strong a driver for me to come to India as it is to see my parents. (I agree with you – maybe, I can cut down on the blogging/Facebook part πŸ™‚ ).

    And then I came to the third realization. Truthfully speaking, if I wanted to, I had plenty to worry about while in India. In which case, maybe those stress and responsibility factors are simply ruses. If I try harder, I can get myself to slow down even in US. I have to figure out how. If not for anything else, the ticket prices to India are increasing by leaps and bounds πŸ™‚ And I do not know if I can fly so much when I am 87 πŸ™‚

    But to slow down is an incredibly exhilarating feeling. Does this happen to you?

    I am reminded of a poem “Slow Dance” by David Weatherford that rings very true for me right now. Unfortunately, I am guilty of each and every question he asks.

    Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round,
    or listened to rain slapping the ground?

    Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight,
    or gazed at the sun fading into the night?

    You better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
    time is short, the music won’t last.

    Do you run through each day on the fly,
    when you ask “How are you?”, do you hear the reply?

    When the day is done, do you lie in your bed,
    with the next hundred chores running through your head?

    You better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
    time is short, the music won’t last.

    Ever told your child, we’ll do it tomorrow,
    and in your haste, not see his sorrow?

    Ever lost touch, let a friendship die,
    ’cause you never had time to call and say hi?

    You better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
    time is short, the music won’t last.

    When you run so fast to get somewhere,
    you miss half the fun of getting there.

    When you worry and hurry through your day,
    it’s like an unopened gift thrown away.

    Life isn’t a race, so take it slower,
    hear the music before your song is over.

    So, now I have a new goal in life – how to slow down regardless of where I am!!!

  54. And the love affair of pajamas and Qatar Airways continues.. Jul 31, 2013

    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…


  55. Indian farmer Jul 31, 2013

    Shot on Pandooa-Polaba road on Tuesday. This is how I remember my early days of childhood watching all my relatives till the land. I also now remember that we had five bulls – I can remember the names of four of them. Now that I have studied mathematics and all that, I have no idea why we had a odd number of bulls!!!

    I particularly like the bird that got into the frame in the right bottom corner.



  56. The arc of my life last week… Jul 31, 2013

    … Took me from roadside “cha” in earthen “bhnar” to Starbucks coffee in paper glass. 7 cents for 1 ounce to 3 dollars for 12 ounces!!!
    Nothing says I am back in the US like that first sip of Starbucks coffee. When the lady asked for my name, I asked her to write “Cha” in remembrance of all the tea I had in India πŸ™‚ And she did!!! I am sure she thought I looked suspiciously unChinese for such a name!! πŸ™‚
    One more flight segment and then I am home!!!