11 February 2024

’16 Mar India

  1. Once more… parentward ho! Mar 11, 2016

    Back on flights to go to India to check on the parents. Except that this time, the parents have completely upset my carefully laid out plans. I had booked a resort to take my parents to – together with my siblings. I was hoping to get the whole family together in a relaxed environment for a few days – you know my mom would not have to worry about what I was going to eat next and all that …

    At the last moment, my dad has decided that he does not want to make the trip. Worse, my mom’s condition has flared up. In a bitter irony, my trips to see her makes her happy but at the same time, the self induced stress (you know – what is my son going to eat next and all that πŸ™‚ ) flares her psychiatric condition up making it somewhat difficult for her and everybody around her. (Usually the stress wears off as the day progresses – evenings are the best time for her).

    In any case, now I am stuck with a couple of extra days in India. My usual 3 day trip is almost double this time.

    I am sure I will dig up a few more friends from my yesteryears but I think this time I am going to put extra priority to spend time with the parents of the friends I grew up with. I think I will be able to see my friends a few more times. I am less confident of their parents. I will take this opportunity to say Thanks for whatever way they might have influenced me when I was much younger.

    Once I am done Facetiming the family from the plane, it would be time to start making a list and make a few phone calls when on the ground…


  2. That is curious… Mar 11, 2016

    So there I am sitting in the front seats in the upper deck on the KLM plane getting bored that we are delayed because a few passengers did not show up and their luggage needs to be pulled out… When I noticed something. Look at the privacy screen between me and my neighbor. It is really not much of a privacy screen – it is about one and a half feet by a foot. But I can read over that all the magazine articles that my neighbor is reading and take clean shots of the outside world thru the window.

    Here is my question – why all those random holes in the metal screen?

    I asked my neighbor if I could take a picture – I pointed out that I was trying to take a picture of the small screen and wondering why all those holes. But since she might come in the picture, I wanted her to be ok with it. She said – “Not a problem at all” and then as you can see, kept staring at the screen wondering the same question as I had.

    Does anybody know??


  3. Attempt number three … and that is just to get out of the gate… Mar 11, 2016

    In our second attempt, we were even pushed out of the gate. And that is when one of the engines decided that it did not feel like waking up this particular morning. Deplane, bus journey, another long wait and we now finally got another plane to try and at least get us to the live runway. We will see what happens after that.
    As we deplaned from the previous plane to get into buses(remember, we had already been pushed from the gate), there was quite some commotion. First, nobody was dressed for the windy cold weather outside. Second, there were lots of moms traveling with really young kids and way way too many suitcases to be carried on as carry on with so many young kids around you to take care of. Anyways, after helping two such families into the bus, I looked behind to check if there was any other kid left behind – and it hit me … Just the enormity of these double decker planes.
    Even for a guy who sees way too many planes in a given week, looking up to a 747-400 from the ground level is awe inspiring. When I do some jumping to warm up before runs, I can barely count to “One Mississippi” while I am in the air. And here we are … This humongous metal tube with unbelievable tonnage will take me – and about another 300 of us way up there – somewhere around 37,000 feet. To put it in perspective, if up there, both the engines decide to quit, I can count till “fifty Mississippi” before I can get to the ground. (I am sure the fall would be fine but I dread to think of the sudden stop).
    And on top that, this tube would be screaming thru at nearly 600 miles per hour for hours and hours.
    I am amazed by the ingenuity of humankind. Which brings me back to my real question – with that much ingenuity, we cannot change planes in under five hours???


  4. Great start to the India trip Mar 12, 2016

    Flight landed in Delhi over four hours late. I had a couple of hours before I had to take another flight for the last leg of the journey. What could have been a boring and tiring passage of time instead became a few memorable moments.
    Jay Vikram Bakshi and I went to school together from sixth grade to tenth grade. He lives in Delhi and had woken up early to come and have a coffee with me at the airport (and give me a ride from one terminal to the other). Without that nice gesture and sacrifice from him, God knows when I would have seen him next.
    I do remember when I saw him last – August 1983 at Raja Bajar Science College. Both of us had shown up for our viva test for National Talent Search Scholarship tests. That was nearly 33 years back! I had forgotten about something – and as we chatted, I recollected that his sister and my sister both used to learn singing and would often meet each other at competitions.
    It was a short meeting but a very memorable one. It was absolutely delightful to see a classmate of mine has become such a successful entrepreneur in the digital marketing domain. We had a cup of coffee standing near the airport and chatted for about an hour catching up on our parents, families, old school friends and such.
    I could not have started my India trip in a better fashion…


  5. As always, the reception committee is there at the Kolkata Airport Mar 12, 2016

    Through all these years, never ever have these two young gentlemen failed to show up at the airport to welcome me. Kolkata will never be Kolkata for me if as soon as I get out of the airport, I am not hit by the oppressive heat, humidity that you can knife thru and the smiling faces of these two kids…


  6. Finally, here!! Mar 12, 2016

    A full 39 hours after I started, I eventually reached my parents’ place! Apparently my dad has been sitting out for a couple of hours.


  7. First order of business… Mar 12, 2016

    Some make shift soccer with nephews, brother, brother in law, some kids I have never met before in my life…


  8. Second order of business … Mar 12, 2016

    Streetside Fuchka!!! (Also called golgappas or paanipuris)

    Apologize for the picture quality. I was too engrossed in the deliciousness of fuchkas to realize what the nephews were doing with my phone. Also, I can, at times profusely sweat from my scalp in reaction to the sharp spicy hot taste of fuchkas. Hence the cap worn backwards in my head πŸ™‚


  9. Third order of business… Mar 12, 2016

    After soccer game and fuchkas, time to get the whole family together… Today’s two hour session discussions extended from Rubik’s cube to whether Finland is part of Scandanavia or not. (I learnt that it is not. In my defense, unlike others, I was aware Denmark is part of it). The finale was trying to take a self timer photo on my iPhone set up on two books on a stool next to the window sill… which you can see here…


  10. Fourth and final order of business… Mar 12, 2016

    Arguably a great part for me… made a couple of cocktails with vodka, mango juice and some spices.

    Opted to drink in my sister’s house instead of climbing the terrace to avoid my parents walking in. It is pretty hot outside. We did lock my sister’s house from the inside.

    After an hour, my brother abruptly left us and went upstairs. Apparently to try to see if he could change my dad’s mind about not going for a quick getaway with all family members. He came back and declared “He just won’t go.”. Meanwhile the nephews and niece started making a case that the getaway was for them too – not just their grandparents.

    I am kind of easy on the semantics of these kind of things. I believe I have signed up to take my nephews and niece on a 2-day vacation – with or without the grandparents…


  11. Early morning time with dad… Mar 13, 2016

    Best time of the day – without any question. Sitting out with dad and having tea…

    Finally dad took his first picture (of me) with an iPhone. He was very pleased with the output.

    “Eta ki” (“What is this?”), he asked. I told him it is my phone. He still can’t believe that it is a phone.

    Of course mom coming and saying “Etai abar raasta dekhiye niye jay” (“this also will help you find the roads” – referring to google maps) has not done anything to reduce the confusion!!

    I am toying with showing off Siri now. Time for more tea!!! πŸ™‚


  12. See, this is why I foxtrot to India every three months… Mar 13, 2016

    Yes, the primary reason is to check on the parents. But I am not ready to give up on the “extras” either. How else would I have been part of history repeating itself nearly forty three years later?

    Most of us in the picture have one thing connecting us – we were in the same first grade together in a small school in Durgapur. Some left the school after one year, some, after a couple of years, and yet some others stayed for the long haul. Regardless, we knew we had made lifelong relationships in that early stage of our lives. How else do you explain Nishi flying in from Delhi just for a few hours to spend the time with her classmates that she had not seen in over four decades?

    And when you realize that it was a girl in the group who placed in her first order with the waiter, before anybody else could, enquiring what her options were in scotch, you knew that your interests have naturally progressed almost in synch with each other from those starting days of common interest in red and black Nataraj HB pencils and those white and green scented eraser with a picture on the top. Notwithstanding the fact that we had people from all far flung corners of the world and certainly separated by – as I mentioned, a little over four decades.

    What a wonderful afternoon! Mrinal’s quiz questions about the school (an example – what was the name of the guy who would sound the school gong at the end of every class? – apparently, the correct answer was “Shyamlal” ) kept us regaled in between the ribbing I took to be the first one to cross the five decades old age mark and the constant clicking of pictures being taken.

    Who realized in 1973 that while life was going to take us down very different paths for forty plus years, we were going to actually come from all walks and corners of the world to be together again for essentially one simple reason – because we were together in 1973? !!!!

    What beautiful and gracious people I have had the privilege of meeting at such an early stage of my life!!

    I think I am ready to raise the toast with that scotch now!

    Here’s to your health and happiness – Malabika, Mausumi, Suparna, Nishi, Anshu, Arindam, Arindam, Mrinal, Subhasis and Subir!


  13. Meeting Suntu-di! After 32 years!!! Mar 14, 2016

    The biggest regret I had back in 1984 was that I did not get a chance to attend Suntu-di’s wedding. She was our next door neighbor and was senior to me by a few years. However, I was packed off to a residential school when I was sixteen and therefore missed the wedding.

    Finally managed to meet her and her husband – Debashish-da yesterday. Unlike others, I did skip the two daughters they have had in-between but I had a lot of fun last evening. We could not finish off all the stories.

    I need to come back – maybe Suntu-Di will perform some of her favorite songs for us. She was the first person who I knew personally whose voice I had heard on the radio. I remember distinctly that evening when quite a few of us from the neighborhood had gathered around our radio to hear her voice being broadcast!!! She was our local hero those days!!!


  14. In India, everybody is an aspiring cricketer… Mar 14, 2016

    This evening everybody tried their hand… My brother, sister, brother in law, sister in law, nephews, niece… Certainly unbridled enthusiasm more than made up for the total lack of talent…


  15. Brother holding court… Mar 15, 2016

    Long walk in the morning with brother, sister and sister in law. Listening to brother’s myriad of stories over a cup of tea. (We did give in to the kids’ demands and brought them for a two day vacation at a nearby resort – although my dad stuck to his decision to not join us).


  16. Word sequencing matters… Mar 15, 2016

    Got this marketing email from an Indian company. And my first reaction – in these days of having to pay airline fees for just about every facility – was – “Now I have to pay for zero convenience???”

  17. Reconnecting with Mr. and Mrs. Dutta Mar 15, 2016

    I had not seen Niladri’s parents – for that matter Niladri himself – since the early 80’s. There are too many lovely memories that come to mind thinking of them. Those days that I used to bike – and sometimes simply walk – to Niladri’s house during my middle school days. Often, together with my best friend Avijit.

    There was the lovely flower garden that his dad used to tend to. There was the old record player he had together with the collection of LP records. And his mom’s hospitality – never, ever would she let us leave without having sweets.

    More than three decades later, I again got a chance to see Mr. And Mrs. Dutta. And Niladri. And his wife and son!!

    Was amazed by how active and alert Mr. and Mrs. Dutta are. I was thrilled to find both of them in great health. What was totally mind blowing is that it is Mr. Dutta that helps out his grandson with all his studies. What a great influence!! And Mrs. Dutta’s sense of hospitality has remained exactly the same – we could not leave without some “luchi-mangsho-aloor torkari”.

    What lovely elders I got influenced by when I was a kid!!


  18. Crows have it so much easier these days… Mar 15, 2016

    No more of those traditional “pick-and-throw-pebbles-to-get-water-out-of-a-stinking-pitcher” days…. πŸ™‚


  19. Returning a favor… Mar 15, 2016

    A few months back, Mr. and Mrs. Biswas had visited us in our Atlanta house (they were in US for a few months with their daughter Mukta and son-in-law Supriyo and grandson Aarush). After my hosting duties – which mainly comprised of serving cocktails and wine to all the guests that had come over – was done, I took Mr. Biswas out for a walk.

    We went for a long walk on the dirt roads near my house. The very soft spoken gentleman was totally taken in by the hills, forests and horse farms near our property. As we turned around, he softly said “Tomar baari khub bhalo laaglo. Ebar amader baari eso.” (“Enjoyed your house. Your turn now to visit us”). That was the first time I had ever met him, but I did promise to return the favor.

    Which I did yesterday. Spent a beautiful morning hour with Mr. and Mrs. Biswas …


  20. The indomitable spirit of a nonagenarian Mar 15, 2016

    Next up after Mr. and Mrs. Biswas was to stop by and check on Mrs. Mukherjee. I had met her for the first time two years back and had heard from her son Amitesh that she is unable to move much these days. Last time, she had come out to the living area to meet me and talk to me. I was aware that she was not going to be able to do so this time.

    Fortunately, I do not usually wait for such niceties in life like invitations. Not only did I barge into Mrs. Mukherjee’s house, I went straight to the inside room where she was resting in her sofa. As you can see, she is not able to sit up straight due to her backbone and most of her leg muscles weakening beyond a level to sustain her body weight. What you cannot see is the indomitable spirit behind the fragile bones of this soon to be nonagenarian.

    Gracefully dressed in a white saree, she was half-laying and filling her Form 15H. For the Indian tax-ly challenged, that is a form you fill up for taxes to be deducted at source at your banks. The interesting part is she lives with her son, daughter in law, and has access to many others who would be more than glad to fill up the forms. But she insists on reading up the whole thing and filling it herself!!

    I asked her how she was coping with her recent bout of illness. She showed me a bell and phone she carries with her whenever she has to move. Apparently, when she falls down, she just lays there ringing the bell or calls somebody on the phone to get some help to be picked up!! Not even once did she complain or feel pity for her condition! There was a walker in the corner of the room – but apparently, she does not even touch it.

    As you can see in the picture, we had a good long and intense chat. When this picture was taken (by her son), she was recollecting in a very soft voice – and I am not sure why she opened up to me – about her late husband’s last few days. She described in great detail how he had lost a lot of zest for life towards the end. There was a poignant moment where she described how he was taken to the hospital and she felt the way he said Bye to her, she had a premonition that he knew he was not going to come back…

    It was very very hard for me to hold my tears back…

    If I ever live to be a nonagenarian, that is the kind of nonagenarian I want to be. Bent, might be; but never broken!


  21. Tracking down Mr. and Mrs. Raychowdhury Mar 16, 2016

    On Oct 29 last year, I had written a post on how I finally traced “Tata” down. We were neighborhood friends from very early primary school days. Of course, thru her, I was able to talk to her parents too. You probably recollect from that post how auntie was once a life saver for me when I had messed up my new sweater while playing cricket…

    I have been waiting for a chance to meet them. Day before was that day. After battling thru a lot of roads under permanent construction around the airport, I managed to show up at their house.

    We talked and talked and talked about our good old times. I was able to give them updates on quite a few of the other neighborhood kids. And picked up leads on a few more… Mr. Raychowdhury was visibly taken in by the powerful nostalgia.

    After an hour and half of reminiscing those days, he concluded “Those were the best days of my life”. Certainly, I was glad to know that I was part of it…


  22. The gift of time… Mar 16, 2016

    “Kaku, amaakey aapni chinben na. Amar naam Rajib”. “Sir, you don’t know me. My name is Rajib”…. said nobody in this world to make an elderly gentleman completely comfortable with a stranger. And yet, that is how I found myself stumbling for words when I met this gentleman this morning for the first time in my life.

    The story goes back many months when Satyaki, Amitesh and I had gone out for a drink together in Atlanta and Satyaki had talked about having visited his dad recently in an old age home in India. Later, Amitesh and I had talked about visiting our friend’s dad sometime when we would be in India. Amitesh beat me to the punch and visited Satyaki’s dad completely unannounced a couple of months back when he was in India. I am sure he had a much better opening line than me when I pretty much repeated his act today.

    It was a great environment and Mr. Lodh talked about various things – his background, his upbringing, his stay in the old age home etc. I talked about his grandkids and how his granddaughter and my own daughter were once roommates in a summer course at Duke University. Really, the initial awkwardness was gone in about a minute.

    Before I knew anything, another gentleman had joined us and the three of us were discussing Bengali habits, local politics and Durgapuja in various parts of the world. And then one by one they started joining in. At one point, I realized I was surrounded by six more residents other than Mr. Lodh. By then, I was in full swing going thru my repertoire of much recycled jokes about my shaven head to the rapturous laughter of my captive audience.

    Eventually I ran out of jokes and somebody asked me where I was from. When I mentioned America – many of them lit up. There was the lady who mentioned that her son lives in Houston, there was a gentleman who mentioned about his daughter who is now married and settled in New Jersey and so on. I recognized that, at the end of the day, many of them were dealing with health issues when I realized that they were struggling to remember their own kids’ names and had to be prompted by their caretaker. In any case, I now have three or four more names to hunt down in the USA πŸ™‚

    An half an hour meet had already rolled into and hour and a half. It was getting to be shower and lunch time for them. They insisted I have lunch with them. I told them that my parents were waiting for me. Being parents themselves, they immediately encouraged me not to keep my parents waiting for too long.

    I suddenly remembered that I had become so engrossed in the impromptu party (the proper Bengali word would be “adda”), that I had forgotten to take pictures. I took some pictures of Mr. Lodh and then had one of the attendants take a picture of whatever party was left. Apologize for the picture quality – this was the first time the attendant had held a smart phone.

    On the drive back home, I was a confused mess. What just happened? It was supposed to be a semi-informal meeting of two strangers separated by about three decades. It was more like a true adda of seven or eight old friends. I did not know them. I had nothing to offer.

    Except my time.

    And that is when I again realized how time is the only truly finite resource that we have. Gifting time has to be the most rewarding experience ever. It was for me today, for sure.


  23. Checking in on Mr. and Mrs. Banerjee… Mar 16, 2016

    Towards the end of last year, when it was Sharmila’s turn to be in India, I had about ten open evenings (it was holiday time). For ten days, I took one set of Bengali couple out every evening for an hour or so for a couple of drinks just to have an annual catch up, so to speak. One of those couples was Rituparna (also known as Dola) and Debjyoti (also known as Raja).

    During the drinks, somehow our discussions drifted to our parents back in India and Rituparna talked about how her mom had fallen down in the streets of Bally near Kolkata and broken her right arm in three places. I had made a mental note of attempting to see her parents one of the times that I would be in India. I had seen her parents once – a few years back. They had come over to our place on a summer day and we chatted for a long time sitting by the pool.

    Yesterday, as the nephews and niece were taking a rest between long bouts of games, my brother and I quickly slipped out of the resort and made a dash for Bally. After about 45 minutes of easy highway driving and anything but easy navigating thru narrow streets with open drains in Bally, we managed to reach Rituparna’s house.

    My brother and I spent some quality time with Mr. and Mrs. Banerjee – pretty much continuing from where we had left at my house. (I absolutely remembered the last discussion Mr. Banerjee and I had at our place).

    The best part was the house – built by Rituparna’s grandfather – it was like an oasis in the middle of the city. With quite some property around, it is surrounded by a lot of fruit and flower trees that Mrs. Banerjee tends to, as I understand. Took the opportunity of time to learn about the life history of both Mr. and Mrs. Banerjee. Loved their stories…


  24. Old order doth not changeth… Mar 17, 2016

    Three years back almost to the day, I had written the following post. Today, I experienced it all over again. Coincidentally, it is 5:30 am today too!! Maybe – maybe sometimes we can bottle up the good times and relive it again…

    Here’s to the future!!!

    March 25, 2013:

    Best part of every day while in India. It is 5:30 in the morning – dad and I are sitting outside. Completely drowned in what seems like a million birds tweeting. Beautiful mellifluous sounds – especially the cuckoos. The rude noises of the world waking up – the train’s horn in the distance, the launch’s hoot from the Ganges and the clanking of cars in great need of maintenance are yet to set in.
    The pre-dawn light is barely glimmering thru what promises to be a foggy morning and the light wind from the river is gently wafting by.

    Dad and I have been sitting here for over an hour sipping multiple cups of tea. Hardly any words are being spoken – yet volumes are being communicated.

    If only these moments could be bottled up and replayed at will in life.

  25. New day. New adventure… Mar 17, 2016

    After a day with parents, back on the road. Off to Asansol and Durgapur now to search for and meet a few more parents of my friends…


  26. Meeting Mrs. Basak Mar 17, 2016

    Partha Basak was my class mate from 5th thru 10th grade. I do not think I have seen him after that at all. I was very close to his dad – who was my ophthalmologist. Every year, I used to visit Dr. Basak to get my eyes checked. He would spot me inside the waiting room and pull me in to jump the queue and sit me down for all the tests. In between, he would pepper me with all sorts of questions about our school, our studies and of course, if Partha was being too mischievous in class πŸ™‚ I had gotten to like him so much that if we ever went to the hospital for whatever reason, I used to often stroll over to his side of the building and say Hi to him.

    I had lost touch with Partha for many many years. And once I did get hold of him, the first sad news I heard was that my favorite Dr. Basak was no more. I really wanted to see him one more time – this time I would even truthfully answer all his questions about Partha’s mischievousness πŸ™‚ In any case, as I kept talking to Partha, I found out that his mom lived by herself in Durgapur. You can do the rest of the math. Yes, I did write down in my notebook that I needed to meet her next time I was around.

    As I rang the bell at the door of what I thought should be Dr. Basak’s house, I was wondering if Mrs. Basak would recognize me. She had seen me only once.

    Soon Mrs. Basak came out and answered that question for me. She gave me the exact details of what had happened on that one day she had met me. Turns out myself and a couple of school friends had gone to Partha’s house to visit him since he was suffering from chicken pox. Now, I had already gone thru a bout of the same and I was told that you never get chicken pox twice. Apparently, I did not listen to Mrs. Basak’s warnings about getting infected and unlike my other friends (who had not had chicken pox yet), I went straight to Partha’s room and started chatting with him. We were separated by a mosquito net. Frankly, I was aware of the incident but I was blown away by her recollection of the details.

    Then came the downright hilarious part. She started inquiring after our school friends. But she kept calling them by their nicknames that we had for them. And I would be the one scratching my head trying to do the mapping of the nickname to the real name before I could give the updates. I was impressed that she could go thru “Professor”, “Ding”, “Masi”, “Seeshu” and so on without missing a beat !!

    The last part of our discussion was a little more serious about why there are so many cases of depression in India these days. Most of our analysis was structured around how the framework of family as a unit as we knew it is undergoing pretty large changes with sons and daughters getting great opportunities all over the world – with the unfortunate side effect that during the golden years, there is not much of support structure or the near and dear ones nearby for the parents to live with.

    Oh! how I wish Dr. Basak was around. Maybe he would have opened my eyes one more time πŸ™‚


  27. When you realize that wearing shorts can be your calling card… Mar 18, 2016

    Two months back, I got a text message from Joyjit sitting in a plane that his dad had passed away and he was headed back to Asansol. Barely a couple of weeks back, Joyjit, Baisakhi and myself were discussing the worrisome condition of both their dads.

    After offering him any help he might need, we agreed to touch base after he would reach Asansol. For the next couple of days, I was texting him regularly in terms of anything I might be helpful with and also enquiring after his mom. He let me know that she was being very strong. Somewhat relieved, I let him know that I would visit his mom during my next trip to India.

    Apparently this is how the discussion went between him and his mom later (as described to me by Joyjit himself).

    “Ma, ekdin Atlanta-r ekta chhele aasbey tomar saathey dekha kortey. Matha shave kora aar ektu paagla type-er”.
    (‘Mom, there is a friend of ours from Atlanta that will visit you sometime. He is a little of his rocker and is clean shaven in his head”)

    Before, he could help her with any more details (as if a clean shaven head “paagla type-er” guy in Asansol needs any more definition to be singled out πŸ™‚ ), I understand, his mom jumped in “Jaani Jaani – half pant porey ghurey beraay to?” (“I know, I know. He is the guy who goes around in shorts, right?”) πŸ™‚ Turns out, she had seen me once in Atlanta – I believe it was the house warming ceremony of Joyjit and Baisakhi’s house.

    As you can imagine, I needed no further introductions when I rang the bell at Mr. Mukherjee’s house after about a four hour car ride from my parents’ place.

    I overstayed my self-allotted time but it was totally worth it. It was very very interesting for me to understand the big change in her life she was going thru. She lives by herself in a big house that she has been living for a long time. And now, there are a lot of questions to be thought thru for the future.

    When I asked her “How are you doing?”, she went on to very analytically explain how she was trying to deal with changes. It was a pretty methodical analysis of how a sudden disruption to a 49 years marriage is something she had underestimated. She talked about so many things one takes for granted when you are wth somebody for that long and that you have to learn one step at a time on how to fly solo. There were some great moments of reflections – and certainly I learnt a lot.

    I did get to know a lot about her background, her upbringing and the common journey with Mr. Mukherjee. Of course, we also spent quite some time talking about our two Sunday morning running group participants – her two young and very cute granddaughters.

    I was not very keen to leave as the sun started setting in Asansol. I could have gone for a few more hours but there were miles to be driven and people to be met still…

    One great parting point – she is applying for a US visa to stay with her son and family for a few months to recuperate herself. Which means, I will have a lot of time to get to hear the rest of story.

    I will wait…


  28. The most difficult Bye Mar 18, 2016

    This was absolutely the most difficult Bye for me to say during this trip. Sundori-di lived in our neighborhood when I was in middle school. She was not exactly our playmate since she was about twenty years older to us. She was differently abled ever since birth. We did know that she kept to herself most of the times other than in the evening when she would go for a walk and say Hi to anybody who greeted her. But what we knew her most was for the beautiful way she used to play sitar. We used to often stand outside her house to hear her play.

    Over the years, I had heard that some of her physically difficulties had become worse. In fact, I was given to understand that she had completely lost her eyesight.

    When I walked into her room, she was playing her sitar. She confirmed that she cannot even detect light if it is shone upon her eyes. Advanced glaucoma robbed her of her eyesight very fast. It was nerve wrackingly difficult for me to comprehend her condition (I am an early stage glaucoma patient myself).

    Being blind at birth is one thing. You do not know any different. You learn your way around differently from others, but like I said, you have nothing else to compare with. The concept of color means nothing. The beauty of a sunrise, the shape of a face are just vague descriptions that you probably make up your own imaginations about in your mind.

    But if you go blind, that has to be a very very different situation. Above everything, you know what you are missing. There is a helplessness and frustration you have to feel for something being taken away from you. And this is just when you are sitting by yourself and reminiscing on what a sunrise used to look like. Never mind the times when you stumble your feet into the table simply because the world is freshly dark to you and you have not grown the natural instinct and intuition of a person born blind.

    I quietly sat beside her and decided instead of talking to her about her life ever since I saw her last, I would take a different route. Softly, I asked her to play the sitar for me. Which is what she did. I let her know that I will be taking a few pictures of her playing and share with my friends. She continued to play intently for quite sometime time.

    I realized that her sitar and music must have become her most trusted refuge. I did not disturb her any more to talk to her. After my time was up. I told her that I would be taking leave.

    I could sense that she wanted me to stay but was reconciled to me leaving. It was almost like her eyesight. She had reconnected with an old friend only to realize that it would be taken away from her.

    Certainly, that is the way I personally felt about seeing Sundori-do after three decades… It was very very hard to fight back my tears as I walked back to my waiting car…


  29. Nephew’s birthday!! Mar 18, 2016

    You can see the surprise in the nephew’s face as he realized that his uncle (that would be yours truly) had pulled a prank on him and removed the cake.

    Given the cake smearing he got on his face from the uncle, I am not too sure that he was less happier when the cake was lost πŸ™‚


  30. All that happened is that the sky became overcast… Mar 19, 2016

    and predictably, the monkey cap is out!!! πŸ™‚


  31. I take that back… Mar 19, 2016

    This is the most difficult “Bye” of the trip…


  32. One more promise kept… Mar 19, 2016

    Less than two months back, as in every year, I called up my friend from middle school – Bhaskar to wish him a very happy birthday. Like every year, he did not pick up the phone (he works in a steel plant and it is not convenient to make calls from there). Unfortunately, in India, somehow the concept of voicemails is still not very prevalent.

    Usually I would have just followed up with an email – but this time, for whatever reason, I thought I would call him at home. (My first call was to his mobile). He was not at home either. But his mom, Mrs. Bhattacharya picked up the phone. What was supposed to be a “please pass on my birthday wishes” call became a much longer call about how things have been for her after uncle passed away a few years back.

    She was my next person to visit last Friday morning when I was in Durgapur. Bhaskar was not home on Friday (no surprises there πŸ™‚ ) but I was able to chat with his mom for quite some time. Most of the time was spent discussing the conditions under which uncle had passed away and Bhaskar’s and her own health.

    What was even more interesting was when she started telling her life history – about how she and a couple of siblings had made the trek to India during the riots and violence in post-independent Bangladesh. Her parents stayed back in Bangladesh. It was a great story of how one of her brothers was the anchor and helped the entire family get a foothold in Kharagpur!

    I had been to her house so many times when I was young but I had no idea about her lifestory. These kind of stories often ground me on how blessed and lucky I have been in life…


  33. Mrs. Sarkar Mar 19, 2016

    One of the challenges of visiting the parents of my friends during this trip was that more often than not – one of the parent is no more. In some ways I am glad that I, at least, got a chance to meet the other one. Who knows if I would get such opportunities again?

    One such person was Mrs. Sarkar during this trip. I got an opportunity to visit her on Thursday. She was a neighbor of ours near the house where my parents lived for about twelve years. I spent only three years there – after which I was packed off to a residential school.

    Mrs. Sarkar is the mother of two of the boys in the neighborhood – Dipten and Soumen who were constant companions for all my playtime.

    She was rather overwhelmed upon seeing me. Remember, this was all a surprise. I frankly, I was a little overwhelmed by her rather generous show of affection. I was not quite prepared for her tears but I was hoping against hopes that those were tears of joy!!


  34. Tidbits from today’s morning walk… Mar 19, 2016

    The three siblings – we got up early this morning and went for a long walk. In fact, we covered over 5K. There are always some interesting moments when the three of us go for a walk in Kalyani.

    For starters, there are always those intriguing posters. Look at the couple on the right bottom corner of the picture. The first one literally says “Reduce your fat and beer belly. Without any medicine or machinery” (yes, it says machinery). But the best is the last line which says “If required, we can help you put on weight too” πŸ™‚ I was getting flashbacks from my Thermodynamics chapter on mass transfer πŸ˜‰

    The second one basically promised to get you flight tickets, rail tickets and even passport RIGHT THERE. Never mind that was stuck to a lamp post with nary a building in sight!!

    My brother and I were intrigued by quite a few plastic bottles seemingly filled with a bluish purple liquid in front of many houses. Our sister educated us that it was done to dissuade dogs from relieving themselves in front of those houses. I found that logic extremely unscientific. To begin with dogs do not have that high capability to decipher colors like humans. Second, it was colored water (which we confirmed later) with no other chemical in it. I just did not see the connection. My sister, however, insisted that it was even featured in local newspapers and indeed there is no explanation why this happens. In the middle of the picture, on the left side, you can see my brother engaged in a discussion with a house owner. If you carefully notice, there is such a bottle on the ground. The house owner told us the same story as my sister. Purple colored water in a plastic bottles keeps dogs away from relieving themselves? I still do not believe this.

    In any case, as my brother was having this discussion and I was overhearing, we suddenly realized that my sister was not near us. Sure enough, she had picked up a cute kid from the street and was playing with the toddler. The rather amused dad and brother of the kid was just watching her playing with the kid.

    That is the one thing about the Roy family. A small kid or a dog – that is all that it takes us to get distracted and be totally absorbed for hours together. And yes, my brother and sister managed to befriend a dog during that walk too!


  35. One final tryst… Mar 19, 2016

    It was getting close to lunchtime on Friday which meant that I needed to get going back to Kalyani. However, there was still time for one more set of parents – the thirteenth one this trip, if you are keeping count.

    One call to Chandigarh where my friend Sandeep lives now and I had the local Durgapur address of his parents. Armed with that and about an hour at hand, I headed towards Mr.and Mrs. Banerjee. Who used to be literally our next door neighbor. As in, our houses shared walls.

    It was great to see both of them but unfortunately, age has extracted its toll from both of them. There were occasional glimpses of the jovial nature and the smile of Mrs. Banerjee. It was at least heartening to see that both of them are able to move around by themselves and seemed to be happy with their lot.

    I still remember when we moved into that neighborhood, on the very first day, I had gathered the local kids around (I was elder to most of them), drawn three straight lines on the outer wall of the Banerjees’ house with a small brick piece and that is how the local cricket game that day got started. Even Mr. Banerjee got into the game – he volunteered to be our umpire!! All that was fine, but I remember him not declaring my brother out on what I thought was a clean catch I had myself caught. He told me that younger kids deserved a couple of more chances.

    I bitterly reminded him of that incident yesterday. Unlike that day, on this day, all of us laughed. Including me πŸ™‚


  36. Very strong were those shoulders… Mar 19, 2016

    … that my friends and I have climbed upon to get to wherever it is that we have gotten to…


  37. Seen in the road… Mar 20, 2016

    I am fairly sure that the center of gravity is somewhere outside the vehicle πŸ™‚


  38. Sunrise in Kalyani Mar 20, 2016

    This was on Thursday at 6 AM. This was taken on DSLR – not my iPhone. I am amazed at the different colors of the sun. I have never seen anything like this. I assume this is due to the differential fog level and different heights – especially humidity right around the trees?


  39. The spotted dove Mar 21, 2016

    I think this is called “ghughu” in local BEngali language.


  40. What bird is this? Mar 21, 2016

    Found this near a village called Raghudebpur (in Howrah district). This bird walks with a distinct style where the tail keeps bobbing up and down.
    Does anybody know the name of this bird?

    [Edited later: This is a white wagtail – “khonjona”]


  41. Flights of fancy Mar 21, 2016

    My brother Chiradeep and the younger nephew thought nothing of jumping into the water. The elder nephew, on the other hand, was not so sure about it πŸ™‚