Thursday, December 28, 2006

Point to Ponder

"If you are a good person, if you have a good heart, you don't have to be nothing but yourself."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Stop 'bug'ging me

I know I am posting trivial stuff, but S! is responsible for this one. You bongs...

His latest post reminded me of my much-coveted car, which I am not going to get in the near future for sure, a Volkswagen beetle (bug).
Here's its pic; oh the pain!

Bye bye Warnie...

Check out this article on the BBC, Shane Warne is retiring. And I am feeling funny! How wierd is that?? And how wierd is my stupid feeling of glee that he regarded Sachin Tendya (and Brian Lara) as his most worthy competitors.

Guess I DO like cricket.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mishti and Macchi

Shuv says to write about Bengali food, so I do.

It all started one muggy morning in Kolkata, when we were asked whether we wanted breakfast. And what was for breakfast, we asked, innocent as lambs. Samosa and jalebi, came the reply.

We were shocked, to say the least. Coming from the land of hot sambar and idly, or parantha, or simply bread and butter, we couldn't fathom how one could have fried potatoes and a syrupy, albeit scrumptious, sweet early in the morning.

We turned it down. Our server, wringing his hands, didn't like it that we were so lukewarm about the famous Bengali breakfast (I wish I could tell him now that finally we DID sample it and, although pure sin, it was delicious). So we were brought some "mishti", or sweets.

Roshogulla and shondesh from the neighboring sweet shop.

I gotta tell ya, I have never had such an amazing roshogulla in my entire life. I mean, it was mindblowing. I think it was not made with sugar, but with jaggery, and even in the rest of our stay we were unable to find a comparable roshogulla. It was the best Bengali sweet I have ever had in my life. Even today I reminisce with R n' B about the wonder that was that sweet. Of course, we followed this introduction with an extended bout of trying out different kinds of sweets, which left me with a bellyache.

And the fish.. I am not a big fish eater, but it was delectable. Soft and juicy, cooked in the typical Bengali style... I couldn't get enough of it. Rice and fish have never tasted better. Our Sundarbans guide made it a point of stuffing us with food, and I gobbled down the fish like there was no tomorrow.

The post would be incomplete without a mention of the famous Calcutta rolls. I had an egg roll in the Lake Market and it was without doubt the best I have ever had in my life, in the history of my eating rolls. You bongs sure know what you are talking about when it comes to food.

We also made the obligatory trip to Flury's: it was a bit la-dhi-dha, with the sax and the retro songs and so forth. But my peach Danish with scrambled eggs and bacon, and the amazing hot chocolate, was enough to dispel my condescension.

Bengal was a culinary delight; there's tons more I can write about Bengali food. But for now let us just cap it off with a Calcutta mitha paan!

Monday, December 11, 2006

"Oiled" boars

I was in a photo-snapping frenzy on the way to the Sundarbans (Shundorbons?), as if I didn't get enough of snapping at office. R n' B were befuddled at this, so let me put this in print: I deleted the damn snaps! Only the unmemorable ones of course.

It was awesome. I can safely say that that was the best leg of the trip. The immensity of the waters and the density of the mangroves (pun intended) was astounding. Add to that the luxury of having a whole boat (the tour operator called it a "launch") to yourself, and you get pure bliss and oblivion.

On the first day we roamed about our island (ours as we were going to stay there in a lodge) - Sajnekhali or something similar - saw a baby croc, TONS of monkeys, deer and (ooh this is exciting) birds. No sign of the bloody tiger, except in the shop we went to later on which had him on the pic. To be honest, the first day yours scaredyly was quite petrified at the thought of coming face to face with a tiger, but by the next day something changed in me that made me want to really really see one.

Anyhow, after a tour of "our" island, we went for an evening boat ride to the other side - the beginning of civilization.

It was fabulous to see the sun set in the largest delta in the entire world. "Is this the Ganga?" I asked. No, said our trusty tour guide, naming some local river. "But surely it is the Ganga and the Bhramaputra mixed together right?" Vigorous nod of the head. Also amazing was the night sky: not a building in sight and virtually no artificial light... Half the time I was walking with my head tilted 180 degrees backwards.

On the other side of the Sundarbans - of the world it seemed - we proved how firmly consumerish we are. We fell for the pitches and bought some stuff.

The next day we tried hard to catch a glimpse of a tiger, but it sure didn't burn bright for us. I was actually over my fear and looking forward to the meeting face to face. There ain't room for the both of us in the 'bans. (Now before Menaka Gandhi decides to sue me I want to say I am kidding). We saw spotted deer, a water monitor lizard and in a frenzied moment, some "oiled" boars that we mistook for tigers. Actually we still aren't sure about what we saw swimming in the water that day.

An extended tour of the mangroves, almost to the mouth of the Bay of Bengal, wrapped up an absolutely humbling and enthralling experience. I left all my thoughts behind and it was a great feeling.

Oh about the "oiled" boars... it's not that they rub on lotion to go laze in the sun. Like many Bengalis, our guide was having trouble pronouncing the "W" in wild... and it took us a little time to figure it out. :)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Park Street Blues

We wanted to go see the cemetery at Park Street, the same one that was written about in A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth's book that I loved. R and B (heh) were getting late for their respective destinations, so I was left alone for the visit. I told myself there was no way I would go inside by myself if it was too spooky, and would content myself with a picture.

I reached the cemetery at just over four in the afternoon. It was amazing. I didn't feel a single ounce of fear, and the atmosphere was simply breathtaking. Maybe it was all in my head, but the cemetery somehow seemed far far away from any hustle-bustle; it did not seem like it was right next to the honking cars on Park Street. I took a quiet walk there, along the myriad criss-crossing paths in the cemetery. Britishers, who died in the 1900s, 1800s and even 1700s were buried there, in tombs unlike any others I had ever seen in my life. Huge cement structures under which entire families could shelter in the rain, sword-like tombs, pillars, and the smaller, poorer ones. Doctor of the insane hospital was interred with his wife; mothers, judges were among the ashes and the dust.

I could feel Lata and Amit walking in the lane, in that most surreal of surroundings.

A for Orange

It's the last day in Kolkata. I could cry. Yes, I am calling it Kolkata and not Calcutta as I had obstinately been doing before. I feel the bong-bond now. A is O. It's not Gariahat, its Goriahat. Its not Sandesh, it's Shondesh.

I feel unable to write about my experiences in Bengal. I covered quite a bit: from Shantiniketan to the Sundarbans, very close to Bangladesh. And of course Cal, with the big yellow taxis plying the streets like manic buzzing bees.

Let me start with my first in the bong series, called Park Street Blues.