16 January 2022

Pighalta Aasman

I had just entered my Engineering college in 1985. One of the first things I had bought for myself was a small radio. Mostly to listen to songs. It was probably early 1986 when a song caught my ear – “Teri Meri Prem Kahani“. Not only did I find the tune catchy, I also liked the rhyming of the words “kitab-on“, “sharab-on“, “gulab-on“, “nawab-on” and how they were used in the lyrics. It probably mattered that those were some of the few Hindi words I actually understood at that time!

Later I discovered another song from the same movie – Pighalta Aasman – “Mujhe Aisa Milaa Moti” – that stuck on to me for a long time. Very different kind of tune but memorable, all the same!

Tonight, that was the vinyl record I brought out from the collection I bought in Kolkata this time, cleaned it up and put it on… and in a small way, relived those days from four decades back!

16 January 2022

Longstanding project completed

Original plan was to use the downtime during year end to get all the handwritten letters that I still have neatly organized by person and in chronological fashion. Of course, Covid took my year end away. However, with the long weekend here, I finally got it done.

Some of the letters are from 1984! The “inland letters” of India are ready to just crumble up. Had to use a lot of caution to restore them. You can see some of the olden days “postcards” too.

The earliest letter is from my dad in 1984 followed by my best friend Avijit Bose’s. The latest one is from Madhuri Agrawal from Singapore from a few weeks back.

Some of the letters from my parents were too difficult for me to hold my tears back.

I told Sharmila about my project.

“I have organized the letters that I still have and some of the ones that I wrote”
“How do you have letters that you wrote?”
“Well, for international letters, I take a photocopy. Just in case they get lost, I email the photocopy to the recipient later.”

“How come you do not write any letters to me anymore?” was her next question.
“What?”
“You used to write to me before marriage. How come you write to others still but not to me?”
“Why would I write to you? We live under the same roof. Moreover, we are on talking terms.”

Apparently, that did not convince her.

Maybe that Covid-time realization on silence might be not too futile after all.

I can foresee a day when she would ask me “How was dinner?”
Vowed to silence, I would furtively pen a letter and mail it. (BTW, our new house is bang opposite the post office.)
She can open up the wax sealed envelope a few days later and read out loudly “Needed a little more salt!” Or something like that!!!

14 January 2022

From the bartender’s corner – it is like magic!

From an earlier post, you might remember how I had run into an old bartender friend – Tathagata – in Westin hotel in Kolkata last month. If you carefully notice the picture in that post, you will see a small jar of some black stuff on the right bottom corner.

That is one of the tricks I learnt from Tathagata that day. Those are butterfly pea flowers. He infuses them into gins which renders the gin a dark blue color. Here is the cool thing… as you pour tonic water into the gin, it changes its color to pink!!

Instead of getting butterfly pea flowers, I found a gin – Empress 1908 – made in Canada that actually uses these flowers in the latter stages of the distillation process. The result is a dark blue gin. Since gins usually do not have color, you might mistakenly think that the bottle is blue in color.

I was making the usual gin and tonic for Sharmila last evening when I decided to try out the trick. You can see how the bright blue gin slowly becomes lavender in color and then becomes bright pink. Pretty awesome!

Incidentally, it is a great gin too!!

BTW, I should have used white background for these pictures and not black.

9 January 2022

Superuna

After the 1981 Disco Deewane, brought out another vinyl record this evening that was actually released just the next year (1982). I was preparing for my Board exams when this album by Runa Laila (from Bangladesh) hit the streets. I remember finding the tunes very catchy those days.

My favorites were – “Suno suno meri yeh kahani suno” and “De De Pyar De”. The tune of the last one is actually completely taken from a popular folk song in Bengal where the farmer sings to the Rain God for rains to come so he can till the land.

The composer – Bappi Lahiri – had a bit of a reputation for plagiarizing tunes from other places.

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9 January 2022

New Year Resolution #1 – Check!

Lost 10 pounds quickly during the few days of Covid. Which is fairly exceptional for me. Most of the last 15 years, I have stayed within a narrow band of a few pounds – even that variation coming mostly from water weight (salt consumption the previous day or not drinking enough water after long runs).

On the brighter side, I think I am going to consider myself having overachieved my New Year Resolution! And now that I can check that box off, I am going to totally take it easy for the rest of the year 🙂 In fact my goal now is to put so much weight on that next year it will take me much more than one week to meet my annual goal 🙂

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7 January 2022

My unique experience from Covid isolation

Just came out of Omicron isolation yesterday. Fortunately, it happened after I reached the US and not while in India. Also, isolation was relatively painless since I had the whole new house to isolate from! The only hassle was there was no bed – so it was more of camp night experiences with a couple of camp blankets used as mattress on hardwood floor. But, otherwise, I had the place all to myself.

Because of coughing and the bed situation, I could never sleep more than 15-20 minutes at a stretch the first five or six days. And I could not talk to anybody over the phone because of the coughing.

That actually opened up to me an experience I had never had before. For about 10 days, I was in near 24 hour silence. With no talking whatsoever. Any of you who know me can be excused for not believing it.

I sat endless hours in that picnic chair you see looking outside the door. I could not go out into the patio – it was too cold for me. And that step stool was my handy tea-cup stand and place to keep my phone and ipad.

This has gotten me intellectually curious in the topic of Silence itself. What does silence do to us? Is it desired or have we evolved out of it? Does being a social being still jive with silence?

Reached out to my friend Neal Rajdev for some pointers on books that I can read. Have you ever read a good book on Silence or the Practice of Silence? If so, could you share with me?

One of the things I veered into during those long nights of Covid isolation was poetry on silence. Most of them had some kind of an inner self / spiritual kind of bend. The best ones for me were from the Persian poet Rumi. This particular one became my favorite:

“Silence is the language of God
All others are just bad translations”

Loved it!

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