Sunday, November 15, 2009

Some thoughts on Bandhavgarh National Park

Chital Stag
Originally uploaded by Shubh M Singh

I have just returned from 3 days spent in the Bandhavgarh National Park as a part of a solitary backpacking trip across some destinations in Madhya Pradesh. I believe people look for info as I certainly did and maybe what I write now maybe of some use to others.
I reached Umaria railway station at about 4 am, it was dark and cold and there was certainly no way to get to Tala which is the town that is the main entry point to Bandhavgarh. I could wait for a couple of hours until about 6.30 am when the first bus to Tala starts from Umaria (right opposite the Railway station) or help myself and make it in time for the morning safari.
I decided on the latter and hired an auto to take me the 32 kms to Tala. It cost me 300rs after some bargaining and after driving through the darkness in the forest, passing a run over jackal and disturbing some feeding deer, I made it to Tala at about 5AM.
I had already called up someone at the Gitanjali lodge which is like the cheapest place in Tala. Others in the same category are KUMKUM lodge. The tariff charged from me was 250 rs per day which really is quite decent. So I reached Gitanjali and found the caretaker and he gave me a room with a rather stinky toilet. I decided not to worry about that for the moment. I then saw 5 boys who had hired a single room, bottles of whisky were lting around and I asked them if they would take me, they had some more bottles of whisky ready for the safari and were reluctant to do so, so I left them alone and rather thankfully at that.
I asked the care taker the best option, so he advised me to walk to the main gate into the forest which is about a kilometer away from the guest house. So I left my backpack and took my camera to the gate. It was a nice long walk, I was joined by a young boy who was probably as nervous as I was at walking through a forest with the possibility of a hungry tiger in the wait. I also passed a freezing stream flowing across the road. I made it to the gate just as dawn was breaking.
The price for solitary wildlife travellers is fairly steep in bandhavgarh. For instance, for an Indian, a safari would cost a minimum of Rs 1680/- per trip. This would include Rs 1000/- for the gypsy and Rs 680/- that includes the entry cost and the guide charges. The guide incidentally is a figure of some confusion. Some people tend to think that the guide is indispensable for a good sighting, and others tend to think that the guide is just a person on the safari. My own impression is that a guide is useful if he is good, but a guide in no way ensures that you will see a tiger. But you have to have a guide so I guess its not too good an idea to run after a guide with a reputation.

Anyway, reaching the gate, I saw all these gypsies lining up and soon it resembled Delhi rush hour. I am told it was worse earlier. Now, a maximum of 45 vehicles are allowed inside the Tala zone, they have definite routes allotted to them, and the tiger show or the elephant ride to the stationary tiger that made Bandhavgarh the most sought after par for tiger viewing has been stopped in the Tala zone. There are other zones where it still goes on but people do not visit those zones, apparently the sightings are not as good as in Tala and the cost for hiring the gypsy is Rs 1500/-.

So I decided to start asking people to take me along for a cut in the total cost. After some people refused, I finally met two guys from Bangalore who decided to take me along. Eventually I had most of my safaris including a trip to the fort (which is not to be missed) along with them. I paid them 1/3rd of whatever they were paying for the particular safari. I think it suited all of us as we had a fairly good time.

Coming to the safaris themselves, as i have said before, the guides do not matter as much as they should. The forest, well. I have been to Sariska, Corbett, Bandipur, Nagarhole, Sariska and some others. I had also partly gone to Bandhavgarh due to the reputation the place enjoys. And I must say that I was slightly disppointed. Maybe it was due to the weather, but it was quiet, there was no movement, a few alarm calls and most of the times, it did not feel like we were going to run into a tiger anytime soon. The vaunted density of tigers in Bandhavgarh is probably lower than it is claimed. I was told by some people that at least 4 tigers had been poached in the past couple of years, 2 had been trapped for sending to other places and hence the population was lower than stated. In fact during one of the safaris, I was surprised to realize that I was discussing milk production in Karnataka with one of my companions.

For the record, I did see a tigress and on another occassion, a cub of the same tigress but other than that nothing. Other people have seen a lot more, so maybe I just dont have the tiger luck.

In total, I took 7 safaris, and most of the times, that is just the way it was. A driver told me that a group had recently taken 20 safaris without spotting a tiger. So all those who say that Bandhavgarh is a place for definite tiger sightings is pulling a fast one or doesnt know better . The tiger sightings were mostly due to the elephant tiger shows and because the gypsies had a free run of the park which is no longer the case.

Soon it was time to be back, I hired a taxi to Katni railway station. The drop cost me Rs 1400/- and I boarded a train back to Lucknow.

Friday, October 16, 2009

2 states-Chetan Bhagat

A short review-
DDLJ meets national integration meets 5 point someone. But for 95 bucks, has to be total paisa vasool.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Dying Buddha-Kushinagar

" Now, O Brothers! I do remind you, all component things are subject to decay. Work for your salvation in the earnest.
Is it easy to take that advice, to break free and go forth into the world as a free man, unfettered and unbound. Or the idea of Grihasta Ashram, the responsibility of being a saint, soldier and a householder at the same time?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sid Woke Up in Bombay

Well Sid needs to wake up unless he wants a good thrashing and a free ride back to Bihar. But Sid is a Mehra, aren't those buggers from Punjab, no matter, we will send him to Bihar anyways. What the hell does he mean, calling our beloved Mumbai Bombay, and that too not once or twice but many times in the entire bloody movie. I mean its enough that senior Mehra who is a Kher comes to Amchi Mumbai, and makes a fortune making shower faucets, sells them all over the country, teaches Indians how to enjoy a shower alone and in company, that in comes this stupid Sid-wid fellow who does clubbing-shubing and finds his tequila sozzled tongue too stiff to curve around Mumbai?? Make it mandatory for all clubs to have bouncers who bounce out people who cant say Mumbai at the first go and walk in a straight line. get those swastika armbands and whips out, and get those dogs out too for Amchi Mumbai's sake!!!!
And what does this karan Johar fellow mean by getting a Bong babe who answers to a Muslim name to come in and take a job that should have been rightfully reserved for a son/daughter of the beaches on the Arabian sea soil. Disgraceful I say. And whats worse is that she even manages to get a flat on rent. Where is that fellow Imran hashmi who makes all those stupid accusations??
In fact the only person who spoke Marathi in the entire movie was some saucy, over-the-hill tart who was called Sonia. Imagine, not even a Gangu Bai. Disgraceful and as dad would say, hopeless!!!
The only Mumbai in the movie was some rag run out of a falling warehouse called Mumbai Beat. Yeah they need a beating, all of them. Starting from the Das female down to Anupam Kher with the bags under the eyes.
And all that Jazz-shazz and stuff, why not a magazine director with a stubble who has passionate raptures watching the tamasha while sipping his single malt.
Ban the movie I say and all will be fine. And while you are at it, lets drive all thos eNorth Indians, South Indians, East Indians and West Indians out of here. Of course, we love the West Indians from Barbados.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Booze Affair

The problem about Booze is:

1. Not knowing where the ideal balane between not puking and staying drunk is.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tips for Travelers in Bihar who know No better

Kesaria Stupa-Bihar
Originally uploaded by Shubh M Singh
Well, first things first. I really love Bihar. I mean I have been there once and I think its one of the most beautiful parts of the country. And I do believe that it deserves less of the bad press it has got recently. Well, I started off with a book that I downloaded off the net that dealt with a Chinese traveler by the name of Hiuen Tsang, all of us have read about him in long forgotten history books. The problem is that his travelogues make for fairly exciting reading and most of it is about India. Once I moved to Lucknow, I knew that I had a chance to travel around a bit. So I made up a bit of a project that I would see most of the Buddhist sites within striking distance. So I thought I would do a bit of Alexander Cunningham and a bit of Hiuen Tsang and a bit of Fa Xian as well for good measure. Well, Varanasi and Sarnath were easy, it was a trip paid for in course of a conference that I was invited to, Sravasti is within easy driving distance of Lucknow, I simply hopped on a taxi and made it back by the evening.
That left me with the tough cookies of Sankissa, an idea I have given up for the moment, Bodha Gaya and Kushinagar which I plan to do sometimes soon and the Kesaria, Vaishali, Nalanda and Rajgir.
I will not bore you with travelogue type entries here. Thats not the purpose, I simply wish to record certain facts that I took for granted and were disproved rapidly.
1. Trains have started to run on time in Bihar. They have not started to run on time. I believe things have improved but not quite. The problem is this that each train has to stop at every station and if it does not stop, there is every chance that it will be burnt down, so it stops. And because it stops at every small station, therefore it gets late. Not much, but a couple of hours is a safe estimate. And this is at day time. Thats when people have to travel, at night time this reduces to a large extent. That leads to many potential complications that I will come to later. I took the Sapt Kranti express which ran exemplary times until the time it passed Gorakhpur. Thereafter it got more and more late until I reached Chakia about 2 hours late which is really not too bad.
2. There is no problem regarding public transport in Bihar. I think the problem is one of lack of cheap and good public transport. Buses in Bihar are cheap but they are in awful shape and the biggest problem is that if you miss one, you are gone. I got down at Chakia and went on a bus to Kesaria, after a couple of kilometers I got down at the stupa, it was about half past twelve. I was told at the stupa by the caretaker while leaving that I had just missed the last bus at 1 in the afternoon and now was effectively stuck in Kesaria for the rest of the day unless I did something special. And being in the heart or rural Bihar, alone, obviously alien was something I did not relish. As a result, I had to pay through my nose to hire a ramshackle vehicle that took me to Vaishali. There the same story repeated itself. I missed a bus at 4.30 pm, and I waited at the bus stop for about 1.5 hours before i finally took some local transport and reached Patna after changing 3 buses and after 4 hours. All for a paltry distance of 55 kms. A taxi driver came up to me and offered to take me Patna for a thousand bucks. I told him to fuckoff. Advice: Arrange for transport unless you have a lot of time to kill or a lot of money to spend. In fact it is better to make Patna the base and then go wherever has to be gone, at least a taxi can be hired.
3. The question of Money. It starts getting tiresome after a while. Everyone gives the impression that he or she is out to fleece you, contrary to expectations, prices are high, prices are higher than in Lucknow for instance. And that includes most significantly, hiring a taxi. Then all the drivers I ran into seemed to be a whiny lot talking about and triyng to wheedle around some tip or baksheesh even above what had been promised already. Finally I got annoyed and gave a bit of tongue lashing to the driver that I hired to take me to Nalanda and Rajgir. I do not have a solution for this one, but try to fix up everything before hand, down to the last detail. That includes not just the cost but also how long the driver will remain with you. Nothing is more irritating than a driver who wants you to get over with it and says so that he can go back and get another customer.
All in all, its difficult to be a solo, unsupported obviously alien traveler in Bihar. Have a thick skin and you will be fine. Maybe Hiuen Tsang had a better time and more hospitable hosts.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Total Solar Eclipse-Varanasi

22nd of July was an interesting day. i will only with one part of it. I reached Varanasi by the Varuna express from Lucknow which unlike its name is not very express at all. In fact it is down right non-express. It stops, and it crawls most of the way. Whenever I could I got out to look skywards, and wishing strongly that the clouds keep away. Most of the way they, did, the stars twinkling brightly enough. But as the train neared Varanasi, it started becoming cooler, windier and there were definite clouds. I became superstitious and tried everything I could to keep the clouds away. Ultimately, I made my way out of the station with about ten thousand other people for company. I mean i was truly astounded at the mass of humanity that was sleeping, walking, talking, moving around on the railway station at 1 am in the morning. Why, even the monkeys were asleep. Anyway, I reached the hotel after some walking around, feeling hungry, ordered some food, formatted my memory cards, charged my camera battery, found that the focusing ring on my 135 mm nikkor had come loose and found out that I could still use it. I set the alarm for 3.45 AM, a small matter of one and a half hours of sleep. I woke up with a start, deep asleep I had been. But I got up, and peered out of the window, the glass was too thick and grimy to see anything outside. The suspense was killing me so I made a precis of all the normal morning bodily functions and got dressed, picked up my stuff and was ready to go. I reached the Assi ghat at about 4.30 Am and it was mostly deserted. There were a few clouds on the horizon but it was mostly ok and things looked good. I walked around and that's when the trouble really began. A huge bank of clouds started blowing across the eastern horizon obscuring most of the sky. It was like holy shit, no, go away. Collective gasps of disappointment from all photographers. The eclipse would have just started, a man in the background asking god to show himself again and again. And then the sun peeked out with a bite taken out of its top. And there were none of those pesky, big opaque clouds around, all those silly things I had done the night before seemed to be working after all. And soon enough it started getting duller, the light started to take on a very strange quality. As the eclipse progresses beyond about 50%, the light starts dropping dramatically, the birds become unhappy and the shadows become strange. Its like taking cannabis and looking at the world. And suddenly, the sun is completely obscured by the moon, thousands of people emit a collective gasp as there is this huge world wide natural power cut, the stars twinkle above, the sky is a blue that you can never see otherwise, the sun is surrounded by a bright halo, I was so excited that my hands trembled, and throat went dry, all my pictures got screwed due to the fact that my hands just would not stop shaking from the excitement. Just watch it, just watch it is all I can say or think, wow, holy shit, fuck, it all goes on, the biggest show on earth is not the world cup or the Indian general election, it is the Varanasi total solar eclipse. The crowd is crying out for the sun to reappear, the beggars and the priests are gathering alms furiously, the photographers are clicking away furiously, and I am watching furiously. And then it is alright all of a sudden, the 3 and a half minutes of pure celestial orgasm ebbs away in a flash with the diamond ring and thereafter, that light goes away pretty quickly. There is a spontaneous applause from the crowd, slogan shouting for the god has come back again and it is all bright and happy once more. The Ganges dipping resumes with even greater gusto. And I am feeling drained and tired. I go around taking some pictures. I run into an old lady who looks at me and decides that she likes me, she tells me with some strange premonition that when god could be in such a soup as to face an eclipse and get out of it, humans can too. I agree with her and move on. Later, I take a boat ride to the opposite bank of the Ganges where I have a dip in the river and find that my sins cling on to me stronger than before. Some things never ever change.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Luxury Kabab

the most luxurious kebab is Undoubtedly kakori Kabab. It makes chicken taste like a laborer covered in dust. Its subtle, its light, its wow, and its worth the wait.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

A strange reason

I have missed getting movie tickets for a lot of reasons. I have missed getting them because I have not wanted to watch the movie, or because I was short of money, or I got to the theater late, was not smart enough to take an opportunity when it presented itself and other such stuff. Today however, I missed watching movie for an entirely different reason. I wanted to watch the Star Trek movie and all the reviews seemed to suggest that it is a good picture. So I made my way to Saharaganj Mall in Lucknow that also houses the PVR cinema. Sure enough Star Trek was playing there. So I asked this guy at the counter for a ticket and he says that he needs at least five people before he can get me a ticket otherwise the show has to be scrapped. As a result I wait, I have a walk to the ShahNajaf Imambada nearby, gradually loll around, look longingly at the booze shop close by, see those ladies with lovely eyes in their naquabs and eventually make it back after some time, now I am in luck it seems. There have been 3 other people there interested in watching the movie. So I wait, just one more, there has to be someone. And as it turns out even those 3 who were interested fail to turn up. And so I miss a movie not because it was a 'house full', but because it was an 'empty house'. Meanwhile I overheard a somewhat lyrical exchange between two guys who had come over to watch a movie. The debate is on whether the money should be spent on the english or the hindi version of 'terminator salvation'.

First Guy: Lets watch the english version

Second guy: No way

First guy: Why not, we are not ignoramuses

Second guy: (this is where the lyrical stuff comes in, the meter is mine that was produced in course of translation)

O, you bug of the penis, (Latin name: Phallophilus lucknowi Linn.)

do not go searching around in pubic hair.

you may look high and low,

but u will end up with just that, pubic hair.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Story of a Bad Trip

Disclaimer: First things first, this is not autobiographical, not completely anyways. Rather, it is a mish-mash of patient's accounts, some of my own ramblings and lots of free time that really should not be free that has given birth to this short piece.

I am in Lucknow, a place of a terrible summer, a summer that sucks my throat dry in no time. A place of decaying buildings, of a heritage that is too familiar to breed anything but contempt, of big magnificent statues and parks devoted to a single cause, a place with tiny red ants that bite like little knives, pan stains on all walls and a place with many, many people living together in places that are much to small to hold them all. And I live here now. I have been moving around in the streets, and sure it is interesting, more interesting than any other place I have seen or been to in a long time. Its interesting in the sense of a massive culture plate that's teeming with all manners of bugs, good and bad, toxins and antibiotics, a new sight and smell and sound around every corner, sure all other places i have been to seem sterile like a bottle of glutaraldehyde. I am constantly amazed by the smell of sweat and blood and meat, among which people stand and eat, dogs running around their ankles, and none of them have looked icteric to me so far. I for my part have not worried about stuff as tame as cleanliness so far, each glass of water I have had on the streets seems to be anything but clear, the taste faintly brackish, but I have drank it all. I have had lassi on the streets, chaat by the dozen, beef kebabs and mutton kebabs, biryanis of indefinite origin, sweets, and all else that is on sale and is edible. I have been to beef shops with the big bovine legs hanging from meat hooks, scores of decapitated heads of lambs, their eyes glassy and fixed lying together in companionable comfort waiting until they are sold, and I have never ever been able to buy a good dussheri mango so far. However, I am still fairly certain that they exist, I just need to find out where they are available and for how much. But I do not consider all this a bad trip, pleasant and unpleasant, maybe, but bad, no. It just the way it is. I will come to the bad trip and the story in a little while. Let me ventilate a little bit. I have triesd to try everything that is available, trying to be unafraid. I have walked more than I have in a long time. Every evening I get out of my room, and start walking in a direction I have not taken the previous day. And I walk until I am tired or have reached where I wanted to reach, then I roam about for some time, maybe have a lassi or a kulfi, and take a rickshaw back. I try not to sit on the richshaw when the goin is uphill ( all roads here are on some sort of a gradient), I do feel loike an exploitative fat man sitting on a rickshaw that is being pedalled with obvious difficulty by a man who is probably less than half my weight. But then I cant afford a vehicle just now and the guy who pedalling me around needs employement too.
So one of these evenings, I was on a rickshaw and I reached the chowk. I did not have to get down but I did. There was nothing better to do, thirst had me floored and there was no beer available nearby. So looking around, I saw this shop selling thandai. I have a vague idea what thandai, I should know better now but I still don't. In fact, if I went to the shop again, I still would not know what to do. Well, let me visualize this shop, its a fairly usual shop, a few benches and there was a sikh family sitting on one of those benches. A plastic chair bedecked with flowers, I never knew what that was for, though some of the customers at that shop bowed before the chair before they tokk their places. Behind the counter is this man who looks a bit like a rodent, I am sure he is a nice guy otherwise. So I sit down and make myself obviously wanting to be served. And ambles along a nice, pleasant looking boy who asks me what I want so I ask him for a glass of thandai and he asks me what kind and i tell him that i want him to get me the tip-top, super-duper absolute best there is.
So a super-duper, tip-top best there is I get. Its green, and about half of the green goes into a biggish glass, topped up by some other concoction and on tasting, it is slightly bitter. Hmm, so this is what bhang is all about. And its no fucking good because it does nothing, and that is absolutely nothing, to me.

Bloody hell, so I walk around listlessly. I eventually find the shop of someone who is supposed to make the best biryani in town (incidentally, I haven't tasted it yet) and generally felt annoyed. Anyway, I walked back and by the time I reached back I had forgotten all about the thandai and its constituents. Just a vague thought that i did not want to waste my money anymore on such frivolous and useless stuff. Better buy some more dusheri mangoes and hope for the best.

I am alright, fine, great. And i get back and have a lemonade, its dark, and very warm. I sit there, click a picture on my mobile phone and send and receive a few text messages. My mates for the evening arrive, and as I get up, in that split second as my butt is just off the chair, something is wrong and I know it instantly. I don't know what it is, but I kind of totter, light headed to the counter and pay for my lemonade. I am ok, I am fine, it will pass, I counted the money alright, didn't I? So I walk and I notice that I just swayed, now that I think of it, it was kinda strange, I swayed and I walked into the car. It was a nice, big car and the air conditioning was delicious. But that feeling of wrongness just would not quit. And in a minute, I knew I was fucked because I felt like I was going to pass out any second. I was like sure of it, certain. And then I suddenly woke up and in front of my eyes was this darkness and a spot of golden light that went away into the distance, and I woke up. Had I just passed out, man that was seriously freaky. I have had all these people in my family who decide to die within minutes for no particular reason, and I thought that maybe I was about to join their ranks. And considering my state in life, that was not something I was particularly keen on. Lets see, I am thinking, I remember this as the car is moving, I am young but not young enough, I have this strong family history, and I do not want to die right now, I have to see so many things, and do so many things, should I take a risk and not worry about it and hope it will pass or should I play it safe and go to the fucking emergency right away and get an ECG. Before I can decide, I suddenly notice that I dont remember anything that has happened in the past one minute. Sure, I am still making some small talk but, hey this is bloody freaky. And I think, memory is not getting consolidated. And all this while, its like I am passing out, passing out, passing out, I need to stay awake, I need to stay awake, and if I close my eyes, I am not opening them again. My heart is beating like crazy, I can feel it through the my chest, and my fabindia fucking freaky stupid stylish kurta. I ask one of my mates to check my pulse, tachycardia, I make some more small talk about getting an antacid. An antacid, for an MI. One part of my brain tells me, get your ass to the emergency, the other part is like ok, this will pass, and all the while yet another part is scared shitless, keep awake, keep awake, dont close your eyes, and you are going to die. Kind of tough making the right choice. I am thinking, is this how my folks felt just before they died. I think in some vague corner, I also thought about Buddha, impermanence and the need to suffer. I was kind of hoping at that moment that I might be able to live a common, stupid, vulgar, humdrum life. So much for big words, I dont want to die here, away from my family, in a strange place with no one around but some bored rickshaw pullers.
So by the time I got to a particularly busy traffic point I insisted that I needed a BP recording. I am driven back, I get out of the car, by now my condition has stabilized to a state of constant anxiety, palpitations, a feeling of going faint at any moment. Strangely enough, through all this, I am lucid even though I am for a moment terrified. I even look at my wrist watch and see that it is about half past eight in the evening. My pulse is way too high, my blood pressure is matching my tachycardia. I know something is worng now. I want to go to the proper doctors, and I insist. So off we went, and we reached this place where cardiologists were likely to be found, but for the first five minutes none can be found. I am on my feet, I am feeling worse now, certain that I am about to fall. Finally I locate one and since he is not moving I tell him that I think I am in a bad shape and I need his help. So he tells me to go to the other room, slimy bugger. So I do, i still dont fall though I am sure that I am close now. Finally I can lie down on a bed but the ECG machine cannot be wheeled in, I have taken off my fancy shoes, and my mates' plans of a biryani and booze evening are irrevocably down the drain. What a spoil sport I am. So this time round they know that I am an important person and get me a wheel chair. I am taken to a chamber where an ECG is done, I am looking at the face of the cardiologist, and he looks at me and tells me that all I have is sinus tachycardia, my heart is beating at about 130 beats per minutes and he has no ideas why. I am feeling awful and he insists on asking me all those questions like how long did it take for my relatives to die after their symptoms started. And so I look at my watch and see that even after about half an hour, I am still in the land of living. I ask a couple of guys to confirm and pinch my eyebrow hard just to confirm. The pain jerks me awake. And for the first time I consider the effect of a toxin, cannabis. And I look around and see a fan spin above me, I follow it, I am still not sure what it is, not wanting to get into the temptation of resting. My brain is moving and I come up with some differential diagnoses:
1. A myocardial infarction-ask for an aspirin, they look at me and take their time.
2. Hypoglycemia for some reason, I drink a couple of bottles of IV 5% dextrose and it makes no difference.
3. Epilepsy: complex partial type..I think of lorazepam but think the better of it, I dont want to feel more drowsy than I already am.
4. The onset of psychosis, or worse still schizophrenia: I think I am fucked and there is nothing I can do about that.
I look around, everything looks like I am seeing it through a sheet of thick glass with high refractive index, it looks far away and indistinct and unreal. What is it called, jamais vu. Somehow it makes me happy that I am thinking straight. I ask someone, 'am I talking sense?', and he assures me that I am. I get an ecg repeated and the pulse is still pretty fast, its now a couple of hours and slowly I start to think that I am going to be Ok, probably that is. I ask him if he knows the chemical analogue of cannabis in the brain and I tick him off for not knowing that. I want them to have a good story to tell people in case I do conk off for some reason. But gradually, I am getting better, the senior doctor asks me how I am, and I say I am fine. How are you feeling he asks, and I say that I am scared of falling asleep and he grins and walks away. Soon I am getting bored of feeling miserable. And after about 3 hours, I am sure that I am going to be fine and I just have to live through this muck. So I will myself to sleep, and I do, only to wake up and vomit twice after a couple of hours. By the next morning, I am very sleepy and tired, I still feel unreal, my heart rate is down to almost normal levels. I think I feel hungry, and I wonder if I can walk around. Someone has kept my shoes next to the bed, I am touched. I walk out of the ward and get to my room, the pain as the hair on my chest is pulled as the electrodes are peeled off is excruciatinig and knocks all the depersonalization out of me. I have a bath and am back at work.
I think I should have a super-duper, tip-top thandai again and soon.

Bearded men and loved ones

My wife, who is a microbiologist, married me out of love (i think!!). I would also like to think that my beard was a part of the package that she thought she might marry.
Apparently not, my wife sent me an article that makes for real interesting reading regarding beards, men with beards and the effects that these beards have on those close to them.
I would like to point out however, that the authors missed out on the antiseptic properties of turbans that may significantly skew results towards sexiness in the turban wearers.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ova and Oudh

Some last words as some last hours slip by. ....

Well, I would say that I reached here about 15 years back, started living here about 10 years back and well, did not particularly like the experience. I found a lot of stuff, made some money, met some interesting people, knew a few women, and got a degree. I also lost an important person and found that life could change overnight and not necessarily for the better. In addition, after a few false starts, I also managed to get married.
What have I learnt? Nothing. Except all the things i always knew.
Why am I leaving? I don't think I am leaving but it is time to move on.
Of course, a certain Ova and a not so uncertain Oudh helped me along the way.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sorry for Interruption

Rukavat ke liye khed hai. I almost was interrupted, and by a man peddling life insurance policies. But I refused to be interrupted and carried on.
Kind of unlike the poor soldier who stopped a bullet and gifted Robert Capa with immortality.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Misoprostol and the War Memorial

It was kind of late evening, the match on the IPL was so boring that anything would be better than having to go through another hour of that muck and I was feeling kind of alone. So I decided to go out and have a bit of a walk and take in some fresh air. So I got into my car, and drove out trying to find a place where I could take a walk. I suppose the carbon footprint of the drive is bigger than the walk but that is another matter. As I drove past the War Memorial opposite the Secretariat, I thought I might as well take a look at the memorial. I had never been there before. As I parked the car and got out, something crunched under my foot. There was enough light to see that it was a carton of medicine. As I picked it up, I could read that it had once contained Misoprostol. I tried to remember what it is used for when I recollected that it is a drug used for inducing first trimester abortions. I threw the carton away and took a couple of rounds in the park and saw the war memorial. So many men have died, and I could feel that maybe some of them were out there visiting the place. There were a few people around, couples, and groups of boys with songs playing on their mobile phones.
I wondered why someone decided to take a misoprostol tablet at the war memorial rather than any other place. Maybe, it was a war too that led to the ingestion of the tablet. I walked on the soft track made up of cinders and it was kind of nice and soft under my feet. kind of springy.
I reached back home and took of my shoes and saw that the distal half of my left foot had turned black. I thought maybe I had developed an acute diabetic foot or something when I realized that it was the ash that had seeped through a hole in the sole of my shoe. And I love those shoes, I wonder where I will get a replacement.

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Bong Biography

I got this as an email forward from a Bong friend. It is quite interesting and funny at times. What is interesting is that it is written by a Bong and it is too long.

Enjoy this one too & share it with Bongs who have a sense of humor

This is for all the proud Bongs and those who can have a hearty laugh at
themselves.. .

There are two kinds of Bengalis that I know. Probashi or Expatriate
Bangalees, a fairly large and diverse group about which I can't write as I
am one of them. And Bengalees who are from Kolkata. This group is
incorrectly known as Bongs, as they are merely a subset. However, this is
the only group which matters. Gokhale told of them, long years back, "What
Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow." To which Rene Descartes
responded, "I think (today), therefore I am (Bengali)." Like all other
Nobel Prize Winners, Oscar Awardees and most successful Indian cricket
captains, Rene Descartes was also a Bong (this fact is not known outside of

Physical Description:
The Bong has a large head, glasses, glistening hair and dark skin. Older
Bongs develop an ample stomach to balance their large heads. This happens
by the age of 25. They smell of Keo Karpin or shorsher teil. The average
life expectancy is 65 years. What is even more impressive is what they do
in those years. Outside Kolkata, regardless of weather, sex or age, Bongs
can be seen in Monkey Caps. This is a must-have accessory as well as a sign
to recognize other Bongs. (please see second update for more). The Bongling
can often be recognised in either over-sized or under-sized school
uniforms. The Bong mother's second biggest fear (See diet for the biggest
one) is that the "porer bochor o lomba hoye gele abar notun skirt kinte
hobe!!" or "Next year, if you grow taller, we'll again have to buy a new
skirt!!" Thus, the school uniform is selected to last at least three years.
Thus the uniform sits as conspicuously on the Bongling as the plumage of a

Early Years :
While most Bongs are born with innate talents in singing, dancing,
painting, film-making, cooking or embroidery, their creative talents are
honed even before they can start speaking. Frequent meets are organised
between infants and their successful ancestors and other relatives. MA
degrees (preferably from Cambridge , at least from Presidency or Jadobpoor)
are displayed over the cots. The infant is exposed to the best of Bengali
thought - Marx, Bentham, Kalidas, Tolstoy, Chekov*. This increases the
sizes of their heads and the height of their ambitions. Similar examples,
though rare, can be found in European tradition as well, like in the case
of Mozart. In India , however, Bongs have the sole preserve on such
activity during infancy. Soon, when they grow up a little, their characters
are honed in the best of schools. Here, I am not referring to the South
Points, La Marts, Don Boscos and all. They are important in the nurture a
Bong child goes through. What is even more important are the schools the
Bong child passes through before school and after school. Many a Bong child
wakes up at five o'clock in the morning to attend swimming classes. After
one hour of swimming, he attends tennis coaching before rushing off to one
of the South Points, LaMarts etc. mentioned above. School finishes by two
or so, from where he scoots along to Singing/ Instrumental Music/ Dance
Classes, then tuition (for at least three of all five subjects). He rounds
off the day with coaching on either Debating or Quiz.
Many a Bong mother will carry the child along through this day, feeling
equally energized. This behavior is again not restricted to Bongs. It also
seen within kangaroos in Australia who rush along from one clump to another

Growing up:
Soon the Bong attains adolescence, doesn't find friends of his age (since
everyone is competing for the Nobel Prize or the Indian captaincy) and
finds intimacy in conversation in his/her parents and poems of T.S.Eliot
and Pablo Neruda. When school ends, they move on to the good colleges-
Presidency, Xavier's or IIT Kharagpur. The best of them, though, move
straight to Joo (Jadobpoor). However, in recent years, Dilli (Stephen's
obviously) is becoming the preferred destination for some escapists. In
colleges, they decorate their rooms with books or portraits of Robi Guru
(Tagore). On the opposite wall, men would have posters of Che/Maradona and
women would have Enrique Iglesias, thus expressing solidarity with Latin
American culture. All of them share equal interest in the Bong-Rock (Bhumi,
Chondrobindu, Cactus, Usha Uththup, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Deep

Later Years :
Bongs mature early. Critics have said that they grow old early, but that is
nothing but old hat. Years of toil and Eliot would obviously bestow wisdom.
The reason they look older is because the sole purpose of a Bong's life is
to win the Nobel Prize or the Oscars (and in recent years, captain the
Indian team). With great responsibility comes great age. Add to it the
chlorine in the swimming pools and you know why Bongs grey prematurely. As
far as their mission in life is concerned, they have been very successful
at it. Every Indian Nobel Prize winner has been Bong. So have the Oscar
Awardees. And most successful Cricket Captains. And Bipasha Basu. Once
Bongs have kids though, their mission on life changes. The only raision
de'etre for them is making sure that their progeny achieves the heights
that they could (or couldn't). Hence, they are mostly found outside of
schools, colleges and tuition classes, with mats (madoors), mugs (of chaaa)
and mouthfuls of goppo.

Diet is as important as Robindro Shongeet. There's nothing that a Bong
can't eat. However, they prefer protein over other food groups. The largest
source of protein for them is fish, then meat, and then mishti (sweets)
made from milk. More than fish itself, it is the knowledge of fish which is
coveted and enjoyed. Carbohydrates are tolerated if they are fried in oil
or if it is accompaniment to fish. Luchis (somewhat like aPuri), Telebhajas
(pakoras) and Phuchkas (Paani Puri) are the favoured source of
carbohydrates. The young Bengali though invariably always has Farex,
Lactogen and Waterbury 's Compound. As far as they most important meal of
the day is concerned, please do note that what dieticians have been saying
in the last few years, Bongs have known for centuries. Breakphast/tiphphin
is an occasion where the entire family comes together, to watch the
office-going Bong male and school-bound Bonglings eat. The Bong woman's
biggest fear is that "Shokale bhaat dal mach bhaaja na kheye beriye gailo"
or "In the morning, He went out without eating rice, dal and fish fry." To
round off the calories, Dal is often accompanied by aaloo bhaate, aaloo
bhaja, potol bhaaja and various other heartily fried stuff. Not for the

Mating and procreation:
A few Bong end up being in relationships, which lead to love marriage. This
is sometimes shown in movies and song. However, most do not have any such
social malignancy and end up marrying the woman of their mother's dreams or
men of their father's choosing. This results in mixing the right genes for
the next cycle of Bongs.Love marriage, by its very nature, is random. It
sometimes results is tragedy, like marrying into another country (like
India ). Hence, it is avoided, wherever possible.

Social Life:
Adda, robindro shongeet and cha. Repeat. Do note that the young Bong
doesn't have a social life (at least not till he wins the Nobel or gets a
Government job). And phootball. the Bongs have had an illustrious history
of achievement in football. Every para (neighbourhood) has stories of when
they won the World Cup at the expense of the next one. The last time it
happened in my parent's para was in 1986, when Argentina won in Mexico .
Diego Maradona, who looks Bhodrolok enough, give or take a few lines of
coke, or a few sprigs of grass, scored famously using his hand, a skill
which he learnt in Kolkata.Over the last few years, Brazil has been
gladdening the hearts of the many Zicos being born in Kolkata after 1982.
The only team which is not Bong is Germany as they play with more
efficiency and no creativity, which thus not support adda. Do not ask of a
Bong ever doing anything of substance on the phootball field, as then the
Bong will keep you occupied about Jakarta ,1962. "Chuni Goswami je Ball
tule dilo PK ke. Match-er aagei bolechilo, "Ekta Ball debo. Daam kore
maarish. Gol hobe"." Chuni Goswami put a football up for PK (Banerjee). He
told him before the match itself, "I will give you one ball. Hit it with a
bang.Goal will happen." Obviously, it is also the crowning moment of Indian

While you may find a Bong in other places (like occasionally in offices),
the best time to observe a Bong is in his natural habitat - the best of
colleges, the best of schools, the best of coffee houses. It is here that
he will tell you about Balzac while she will recite poetry with gay
abandon. To mix in with the Bong, apply Keo Karpin to your hair and carry a
jhola......and dont forget the thick glasses. Hopefully, they won't notice
your small head. Do not worry about not knowing the language, as the Bong
likes being heard more than hearing.

Famous Bongs :
Many famous Bongs have been referred to in this extract. Hence, this
section is used to debunk that big myth about Big Bongs. People believe
that Bong men can't be hunky....... ...., or carelessly famous. If so, then
what about Abhishek Bachchan (via mother), Saif Ali Khan (via mother), John
Abraham (via girlfriend), Hritik Roshan (via grandmother) , or Sonia Gandhi
(via cat.... seriously, she's from Kolkata).

Bongs in Literature, Film, Art:
Everywhere you care to look.

Closing Word :
Being Bong, at the end of the day, is a state of mind. Or, a case of being
discovered by them.

The last Thing That Bush Saw

shoe gate
Originally uploaded by ravnos76

The Voter

Well, to my pleasant surprise I found that my name is included in the voter's list. So i went out on the afternoon of the 7th of May, 2009 and voted for the person I think should be the Prime Minister. I did not quite like the candidate but no matter.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Odd Man Out

the Odd Man Out
Originally uploaded by Shubh M Singh
Sometimes nature throws up surprises, sometimes good and sometimes bad. But it is precisely this randomness that is so much fun.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

An Accident a Day

I do not know how this guy managed to turn turtle, but maybe a mangled bike close by (not in the picture), had something to do with it.

Now this one is real interesting. He is turtle too, and there is no mangled bike or for that matter any other plausible reason nearby. What is however, significant is that he was carrying empty alcohol bottles (the whole width of the road was covered with shards of glass). Maybe the fumes got to him.
Sometimes there is more than one....

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Funny SIgns and Symptoms

Sometimes I see some very signs on the roads and on shops and stuff. And they set me thinking too.
Seeing this one, I started to think. I had been sent to the market to buy half a kg of pakoras but seeing this I stopped in my tracks and looked around to see if I could be seen by anyone I know. The coast was clear, the pakoras could wait, and making myself as unobtrusive as possible, I tiptoed to this shop for a quick look.
There was no pornographic material available.
I walked out disappointed, the pakoras were still available, and I went back to watch the cricket match on TV.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Folly et al

I prescribed folic acid to some lady and when she came back to show me the medicine, I was somewhat amused to see the trade name. I could not help smiling and I am sure that the lady must have noticed too. The name of the medicine was 'FOLLY".
I wonder which people the pharma companies keep to dream up those names.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On the go

When I drive back from Banur to Chandigarh or Dera Bassi, I see a lot of interesting stuff.
I think I will post a few over the next few days to entertain a certain someone who is scoring consistently high on the 'Sour-puss:Wet blanket' scale.
The other day when I was stuck at the Banur traffic lights (which I nearly always am), I saw this guy taking some idols to a temple somewhere. it was the Navratra season, and people are generally full of piety at such times.
I whipped out my phone and took this picture. What is interesting about this picture other than the fact that the gods need a protector and that they are covered is the fact that the tiger (the goddesses' vehicle) has a removable tail. Apparently, the tail is the weak part of the sculpture as well as the fact that it probably takes up too much space. Therefore, someone had the bright idea of putting a pin at the proximal end of the tail and just kinda plugging it into place when needed which I think is a fairly cool way of doing things.
By the way, the man on the truck is not shooing some dogs on towards me, rather he was humming some song to himself and he was moving his fingers in time to the music.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Problem

At the cost of sounding whiny, the problem regarding life is that nothing happens when you want it to. And the things that do happen, you can never be sure if you really ever wanted them.
Its, the clean.... obviousness of it all that kills you in the fucking end.
Man I hate this sucky connection.
I am in this moment of brilliant clarity..(must have talked about it before)...and this connection sucks to high heavens.
By the time it came up, I am done....something like just after having had it. Like all over....the bank is bloody funds.
I think I should have another drink soon.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Glass Palace

I read the Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh.
A vast novel, big, weighty and with a lot of people and time packed into 500 pages of text. Though I read it in 2 days flat which says a lot about the flow and ease of writing, I did come away with a bit of queasiness in the stomach. Like a promise that was not quite kept.
I think I have now read about all of Amitav Ghosh's fiction and nothing has excited me as much as the Calcutta Chromosome. The second best would undoubtedly be the Sea of poppies.
I wish he would hurry up and get through with his sequel.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

2 stripes

yesterday was the day when the one probable stripe became 2 definite stripes. Does that mean something?
Of course it does. It means that i am ok and it was money well spent all these years.

Friday, March 20, 2009

So Much Anger

I am the only brother in 7 siblings. I am unique, the only one. I have had good times and bad times, more bad than good. And I have so much anger within me. Anger at so many people who have done me wrong. My relatives, for instance. My uncles who have been worse than enemies might be. I am angry at them and I never want to see them. And that is my only condition for happiness and peace. My sister is getting engaged, she is happy, everyone is happy. But I dont want my uncles to be there. The elders in my family decide to call them for the sake of appearances, social niceties. I am not told of it, or if I am, I hope I wont have to see them. I really dont remember and as I said, I just have too much anger and there was a buzzing in my ears as I heard their names being mentioned.
At the party, I see one of my uncles, he too has apparently come there for the sake of appearances, social niceties. And I get really angry. I mean how dare he be there when I was sure I never wanted to see them. But here they are, and I need to take revenge. I have so much anger. I need to make them sorry, all of them. The uncle who decided to come, the elders in my family who thought it might not be such a bad idea, and everyone else who does not think the way I do. I have to do something to make them remember for all times, and finally cement the antagonism with anger, sorrow and guilt. I tell one of my relatives that I cant bear this anymore and I have to go. I dont think he notices very much, he is having a good time.
I go home and take this medicine, shortly afterwards, through a haze I am taken somewhere and suddenly, in a matter of minutes, the discomfort is over.
My sister is in a hospital, she has not eaten in a couple of days and she wont speak. She is being looked at by a big, disinterested doctor who has probably seen this before. Nothing much to worry about, he opines, and I agree.She will be fine soon.
My anger is a little less now.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


Originally uploaded by cicadas17 the rose garden

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Truer words were never spoken

fart one time.jpg
Originally uploaded by brcspd
................or written. With or without the dog for help.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Google in the future

Google in the future
Originally uploaded by souravdas
something interesting I found on the net

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Burnt Bus

The Burnt Bus
Originally uploaded by Shubh M Singh
Yesterday I saw the bus burn as I was stuck in the Traffic Jam after being torched by some people at Mubarikpur for having run over a man. Today morning it was cold and foggy, and people were standing there waiting for their transports to arrive and take them to their work. A few loitered around trying to have a bit of disaster tourism. Life goes on, it is only those who lose who feel the loss. The people who burn buses do not.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Ear

I wish I could have said that to Vincent Van Gogh.
But Anyways, happy New Ear, and If you have a problem, you may contact Sushruta, the father of Indian surgery who fashioned new ears for everyone who did and did not need one.
I rang in my new ear in bed, under a quilt, with a steel tumbler with approx 60 ml of Johnnie Walker in one hand and Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies in the other. Right enough, I was fast asleep before I could feel the warmth of the booze fade away.
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