Sunday, February 29, 2004

Clothes horse

I love clothes, shoes and perfumes. I love to shop. I wish I was a professional shopper. The very act of checking out stuff, displays and the sales pitches sends me into paroxysms of delight. I've done a fair amount of shopping the past few days. I had promised myself that I wouldn't buy anymore clothes, but I broke my promise. I bought white tops for the summer season yesterday from one of my favourite boutiques Anokhi.

Key to sociability

Yesterday, we had an induction programme at work. I forced myself to move my lazy butt to work because:
(i) My home is 2 minutes away from work, so lame commuting excuses cannot be used
(ii) I had missed the picnic and I really wanted to know my team better
(iii) I needed to be seen as more approachable at work instead of being a higher, distant geeky being

I was dreading the occassion because I hate socialising. I'd rather be with a book than a person. I headed in a very melancholy state to the bar inwardly puking at the sight of the same faces. Noticed a comforting sight in the bar - champagne. Got myself a glass and then two. The world was seeming better. I actually made small talk with madame chiang kai-shek. Then I was introduced to the new people. I suddenly spied a familiar face - someone I knew who was staying in the same building as a PG (Paying Guest) as I was. I was happy and the rest of the evening passed in a pleasant haze of catching up, polishing off an entire bottle of champagne and getting to know a third someone who was pretty tolerable. I liked one thing, my team was punctual, well-behaved and were noticed. That is always a nice thing.

I now have a key to sociability: ethanol, alcohol, booze.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

The measure of success

I am a success, a raging success. Not in the way one usually is a success, but I’m a success at growing up. I’m a grown up, a true grown up. So, it’s taken me 27 long years, but it’s better late than never. Proof of success: I managed to spend an entire evening with a certain person without having one hissy fit, without one tantrum, without one jealous rage, without one full-scale tantrum and without once stalking off with bitter parting words. I’m genuinely surprised at my recently acquired zen-like calm and attitude, and now I can brag: I’m a grown up. How many of you can say that for yourselves, huh?


That came out cheesier than what I thought it would. Maybe I should think of a career as a 'Mills & Boon' authoress. Yesterday ended beautifully and with a very pleasant surprize and I'm so much in love with my cozy and compact apartment I hate to go out anywhere. All I need is a computer table and one or two comfy futons.

Lately I've been obssessed with work, and I feel I need to take on more. I also need to go out more often. I'm rejoining aerobics and will be jogging atleast 2 kms everyday. My target is losing 2 kgs every month. Svelte and Sexy - thats my aim. I had painted a poster for ponappa in college called 'S and S' and it was a standing joke with us that my life's aim was to be svelte and sexy. Everyone believed that I could never do it, but I did lose 12 kgs and kept it away for a year. Sadly I've put on 8 kgs again, but this time I'm going to sustain the weight loss. The coven (ponappa, poo and mata) is going white water rafting in March and I am not. I can't afford it because I have to go to Kerala and take mom. The sacrifices!

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

What if?

What if she had not bumped into S right after landing in an unknown city? What if S had not taken pity on her and not invited her to his annual Christmas dinner? What if he had not decided to go for dinner at S’s? What if, when they found each other standing next to each other, and when she started babbling how much she hated social dos he would have stalked off thinking, “silly kid” instead of being amused by her dramatic denouement of the smug marrieds? What if he had something to do in the city the next day and was not bored to the gills and had not thought of meeting the plump girl with a lovely smile for coffee? What if, she had declined coffee the next day and instead opted to go for a movie with her roommate? What if the girl, who pretended to be sure of herself but in reality was in a state of jilted shock, had decided that all men were evil and it wasn’t worth making friends with anyone? What if he hadn’t seen through her fake self-possession and drama to see the sad, lonely kid inside? What if she was not fascinated with his rags to riches stories or he with her eclectic taste in literature and her opinionated monologues? What if he had always not respected her independence and she his space? What if both of them had never learnt to say sorry and meant it? What if they had never learnt to move on? What if they had never become friends?

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Handbags and gladrags

Am very excited about latest developments at work. The work is as dull as ditch-water, but an extremely good source for generating revenue. I'm raring to go! For the first time in my professional career, I might actually need my father's expertise and counsel. Who would have ever thought it would come to this? Life is strange, you never know where it may take you.

Just spoke with my father. I've always shared a weird relationship with my father. He has very high expectations out of me and my siblings, though our smallest achievements please him immensely. He is also a very proud and principled man, an idealist and extremely stubborn. Sadly, I take after him and unfortunately most of our opinions clash. My father belongs to the old school of thought and I do not and my father thinks he is always right and so do I. So we have frequent arguments and sometimes i think that when I am proved right, my father feels proud and on two scant occassions has given in gracefully. Father is extremely curious as most scientists usually are and prone to rapid mood swings and absentmindedness. Now, my mother and I are close to each other, and my father gets offended and piqued to see that I confide in mom and not him. Today dad was sulking because he thought nobody cared enough for him. On further enquiries, it was found that dad wanted to be gifted CDs for Holi and not "the shirts or ties you always get for me". Talk of high-strung divas, let me introduce my father!

Monday, February 23, 2004

A little bit of this

Its happened again. I didnt sleep too much last night and when I got into work someone told me I was looking nice and fresh. Ha!

Finished reading the Murakami and like all his novels, this one too ended with hanging questions. It was a very nice read, so nice that I could not put it down and completed it (thus contributing to the few hours of sleep business) and absorbing till the end. Murakami always keeps a part of the plot hanging and unresolved in his stories and in this one too he abstained from clearing up the mystery and the mystique. It was a bit frustating, but it kept me conjecturing about the whys and the wherefores.

There's supposed to be a bandh, as if that ever gave me a holiday! The bandh looks seriouser than last times since the roads are almost completely deserted and no one's out on the streets.

I've got a rock-n-roll heart

I read in last Sunday's Hindustan Times' Sunday edition how thrilled a certain Mr. Sanghavi was about rock stars finally coming to India. My point is that sure, they've started playing in India but only when they are old, over-the-hill and chewed-up like the Stones or non-happening like Bryan Adams. Let a Green Day or a White Stripes play anywhere in India and then I shall be truly thrilled. The Stones are still my second favourite band, my favourite as we all know is He who shall not be named or linked on this blog to save my sorry ass from being 'discovered' once again by bloggers I have no wish to associate myself with. No band that is hip and happening ever plays in India when they are in their prime, sad.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

A Day in The Life

I wish all weekends begin and end as this one. Saturday saw me working late (I'm supposed to be working only for the half day on Saturdays), then returned home and set out for the weekend errands. See, how they pile up! Picked up books from my favourite book store in this small-town then walked across to the music store to pick up music. I had to buy stuff for people and the best part was that I could sample the stuff before delivering it. Since I am educating people about the wonder, the energy and the life in jazz, the CDs duly purchased were:
1. Mongo Santamaria: Our man in Havana
2. George Benson: The Best of George Benson
3. Louis Armstrong: Greatest Hits
4. John McLaughlin with the One Truth Band
5. Soundtrack of 'The Full Monty'

The rest of the Saturday (or rather Saturday night) was spent working happily on the new PC (as opposed to the laptop), burning said CDs barring the last one on the laptop, separating my CDs neatly into music CDs and movies and filing them neatly and arranging my books alphabetically according to the authors and listening to lovely, lovely music. I had read a review of Santamaria's music somewhere but had no idea it could be so uplifting and alive. I love latin jazz. Packed the CDs for dispatching and then fell asleep.

Sunday was a mish-mash of nothingness and pampering. I woke up late, cleaned my working area (that actually consists of a coffee tale with the new PC on it) and dusting my stuff and getting the apartment/ tiny flat thoroughly cleaned. Then went and pampered myself with a head massage, a shampoo and a facial. Sadly, the female at the salon used a scrub and scrubbed my face so thoroughly that I now have abrasions on my face and am looking even more hideous. I need to forego the scrub from now on. Maybe I'll just get my face cleaned and do away with facials totally. Headed back home to find an interesting project in the offing, (I hope it all works out) and a big package of cakes and cookies (bad, bad, but thats the fun of having friends who work in the food industry). Saw Full Frontal again and read somemore and before I knew it Sunday was gone.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary...

Yesterday night I slept for 10 hours. The night before that for 2 hours. Today when I came in to work, my colleagues asked me whether I was well and why I was looking so sleepy. Yesterday, I was rather unwell, and when a co-worker saw me popping in pills said, "You don't look well, what's up?" So I look like shit when I am actually rested and relaxed and perky and awake when I am sleep-deprived.

I fitted into my old jeans today. Now, I have actually gained weight (despite trying to lose it unsuccessfully) and my jeans were for a slimmer body than what I own now currently. I did not even need to suck in my breath and hold it to zip them up. My body has gone nuts and crazed. I guess the mind's in line next.

Hello, Good Bye!

I'm trying to cut back on the negatives this year. I have started with caffeine. I've managed to cut out colas completely, but coffee still remains. Now, the problem is that I am not an early morning person at all, and unless I don't have a steaming hot cup of coffee in the morning, I am half-asleep until lunchtime. The caffeine intake will be restricted to not more than 3 cups a week. Now, I have discovered a way of waking up in the mornings without coffee - a cold water shower. For some reason the normal water I get is absolutely cold at home. I am fast asleep when I stand under the shower. Then I turn it on, and the moment the water falls on my skin, I am jolted awake and I start a mad shower dance out of pain and extreme cold. It wakes me up even better than coffee. The problem is that I require another cold water shower at 10:30 in the morning. Heh!

Next time I want a huge, obscene gadzillion carat diamond ring

I am destined to die alone, but before I do that I shall have the time of my life. I wish I knew how to be a needy person in a relationship, atleast I would get huge, obscene gadzillion carat diamond jewellery for Valentine's day. Sadly, I get sick of the men in my life pretty soon and often break up right before the V day. Not that it would make any difference, I think it is the silliest marketing gimmick, ever. But, I confess to a deep admiration for women who are gifted jewellery and diamonds on V day. I've never got even a brass pin out of any of the boyfriends (is it because of my insistence on footing half the bill?) or any baubles or trinkets. One of my friends showed me a diamond pendant she got from her boyfriend and I normally dismiss her as a flake, but that set me thinking, wasnt I worth a tiny, tiny blob of diamond (am even willing to settle for emeralds and sapphires) or what? I feel like some spoiling and right now and very material. I don't wear jewellery, and in my grand scheme of things, I shall liquidate all such baubles and use it to buy books and CDs since the run is lean right now and I am cutting down on the book buying. But, I shall not reveal that ofcourse. Now, I have another deep, dark secret. I suppose I could ask for books and CDs as gifts, but the kind of woman who gets books is so different from the kind of woman who gets jewellery. Ofcourse i've never been any of those women because I haven't ever been gifted any of the two, and its hard to choose what kinds I want to be next.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Pssst... Have you heard the latest?

I am amused by gossip. I've heard outrageous stuff that results from gossip, but what I heard last night was so ridiculous that I wondered how it all started. I had to talk to one of my brother-in-law's friend and the first question she asks me was how the sis and the family were doing in London. London?! I was a bit blank and then she told me that somebody told her that my sister and her family had moved lock, stock and barrel to London and that the sis's husband had joined a major IT co. I told her that they were still very much in India and both of us had a laugh at how weird stories start doing the rounds.

Perfect Day

A perfect day goes like this:
1. In the morning you get scalded by the tea you make.
2. At work you get yelled at by your boss for the losses he made.
3. When you return home with a throbbing headache, you discover that your data cable does not work and you cannot connect to the Internet another f**king day.
4. You nick your fingers while chopping salad.
5. When you put on the soup, the gas cylinder suddenly finishes.
6. When you slip into sleep, the ex calls late at night and subjects you to a full scale rant.
7. When you go to sleep again wondering whether you slept through the call you were actually waiting for (you check the missed calls and realise that you did indeed sleep through it and it is too late to call up now) you have another attack.

I used to be insecure and then I ran out of patience

Something funny happened yesterday. If I was younger I would have been mighty upset and tried to resolve matters and misunderstandings. Now, I don't care enough to bother. The day before or the night before last night I had to stay up all night to work and the delivery was scheduled yesterday. Everything went as planned and the final checking was done late evening and as I waited for the final phonecall I must have dozed off. I was also unwell and was having mild bronchal asthma attacks that are normal for this time of the year. I woke up to hear the phone ringing and I didn't bother to check the number since I was so sleepy and I assumed it was for work and in my best contrived efficient yet still-groggy voice said, "Yes, X tell me." The voice at the other end belonged to the ex and in a strangled voice he yelled, "I am not X." I had not told the ex about the job (why should I have?) and putting two and two together, he assumed that I was awaiting someone else's call. Normally I would have blundered through and tried to explain, but now, I just do not care. I patiently and tiredly heard his rantings and then he said goodbye in a very theatrical manner and hung up. When people make assumptions I let them. It is often amusing to see how wild imaginations can get, especially if the relationship has been even vaguely romantic. I suppose I should care more, but I get pretty disgusted by the insecure.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Back to square one

Something very nice and unexpected happened today morning. I will post about it later.

The weekend was a flurry of activity, mostly of the PC installation kinds. The new PC was delivered and installed on Saturday, however the moment the fellow who installed it left, it got hung and did not get booted again. I called the workplace, got the numbers of the people who did the installations, registered my complaint and was told that the PC would be changed on Sunday. So finally at 6:00 pm on Sunday my new PC was up and running. I watched 'Hello Dolly!' and 'Citizen Kane' back to back. My new speakers are God's gift to mankind.

Friday, February 13, 2004

So, where are you tonight?

If anyone asks me that one more time I shall clobber them with a sledgehammer and flatten them under a roller-coaster. And for those who still haven't got the message, I shall be spending all day at work and then going back home to nurse my cold with chicken soup out of a packet and LOF (Left Over Food). I shall watch movies on my laptop and read and I think that my plans are excellent.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

What If?

Life is very strange and you never know what may happen next. Some valuable lessons that I have learnt are never to lose hope and to never make assumptions about people. One of the hugest reality checks I ever got in my life was in the first year of my postgraduation. I was in a new environment, suddenly exposed to the best education that India could offer and absorbing as much as I could. I made a million new "friends" but no one good enough to share and swap experiences with, and then I was stuck on the same floor in the hostel as Balti, the class nerd and lazy genius. Well, necessity made us swap class notes, books and assignments since we were sort of lumped together. We were both on the 4th floor and it was a drag to walk down to some other classmate's room. I normally do not form opinions about people, and despite Balti's rudeness I did not respond with rudeness as I usually do. I surprized myself but Balti did not being out my normal asocial tendencies. Gradually we started hanging out together and I discovered Balti had a sort of geeky and nerdy sense of humour. What! Balti laughs too? We became friends without realizing it. Normally female friends know "everything" about their other female friends, but it wasn't so with me and Balti. Both of us had our private places and we kept it that way. One thing that I noticed about Balti was that she never spoke about her family and I attributed it to her being a private person.

The semester was over before we could say "Witches of Agnesi" and I was at the bottom of my class and Balti was at the top. However, that did not make any difference to our friendship. By the end of the semester, everyone knew me and I was popular and Balti was not. Still, she was my closest friend on campus. Our second semester was a flurry of social activity for me and chilling for Balti who was lazier than a sloth. I was amazed about her natural ability with the subject of our study. Then as the months melded into one another, her birthday came up. I had planned a tiny party and on D day, I got a cake and eats and called some of our best friends and kept it secret from Balti. Balti walked into her room and when she saw the party and the cake and our friends, she froze. I thought that she'd be happy, but instead, she just turned blindly to the door and ran out. We waited for Balti and when she did not return for an hour, we started looking for her. She was nowhere to be found on campus, not in the usual places atleast. Everyone just drifted away and then I knew where I'd find her. I walked to the library and in the secret niche that we had discovered and appropriated as "our" space, I found her doubled over scribbling over a problem. When she heard my footsteps she looked up and her eyes were red and swollen and in a strangled voice that I shall remember to this day said, "Why can't you ever leave me alone? I'm sick of you and your interference in my life. You think you know me so well, but you don't and I like it that way." Well! I was a little angry (actually very angry, after all the pains I had taken, this is what I get!) but I also wanted to know why she did what she did. When her outburst abated, I started talking with her, but her tears would not stop. Finally after what seemed like hours, she stopped crying, got up and said, "lets get back to the hostel, its late." We trotted back in silence and once in her room, I asked her what was wrong but she refused to say a word. My curiosity was aroused and I persisted like an irritating gnat.

Then, she started talking (after that she never stopped, or so it seemed to everybody) and she told me that she had not celebrated her birthday since she was 8. I asked her why and what she told me chilled me to the bone. Her father was due for a minor appendicitis operation and he delayed the date of his operation so that they could celebrate Balti's (his first born and thoroughly spoilt daughter) 8th birthday party. A day after her party her dad went in for the fatal operation and things changed forever for her. The doctor who operated did not check the oxygen cylinders which were empty and during the operation that took few hours the oxygen cylinders were empty and he slipped into a coma. He remained in a coma for 3 long years and died. The 3 years that he was in a coma were a nightmare for Balti and her mother and siblings. At the time of the operation, her mother was pregnant. For 3 long years B, her mother and sisters (she had 2 younger sisters) prayed her dad would slip back into consciousness but that did not happen. Meanwhile, the family struggled hard to make ends meet and B had a very tough time growing up. All her life, B keeps on thinking "What if" her dad had not rescheduled his operation? "What if" she had not wanted a party? To this day, my friend who is fairly successful has this guilt associated with her birthday and the "what if" hangs on her like a heavy cross. I've tried to get her to stop blaming herself and a lot of her wounds have healed up but I know when she is depressed that is what gets her down. "What if" indeed. There have been so many times in my life too when things could have gone on differently but did not and I think, "what if?" Then I think of B and I shake my head and look ahead and I know that mostly because of Balti the "what ifs" really do not matter and are a total waste of time.

What women want

On days like this I wish I was outside walking. It is a bright, sunny spring day, the sky is blue (even in Kolkata it seems blue, I can only imagine just how blue it would be back home) and the day is just right for walking around the city. Sigh!

My sister likes stereotypes and milks them until they are as dry as tissue. She wants me to watch "Ek hasina thi". Apart from the fact that I'm working and single, I can't draw any parallels and don't watch thrillers and most certainly do not like watching movies that are recommended to me because I lack the patience to watch a hindi movie and secondly haven't really liked any recommended movie. I like marching to my own drumbeat. What to do?

I was thinking of dream services and i know what I want. I want a service that will pay all my bills. All I need to do is write out my cheques and put them in the right envelope and the service does all the other running around. Yes thats what I really want.

A very common cold and mundane musings

I have all the symptoms of a gently germinating cold or hayfever. My nose is twitching, half-blocked and itchy, I'm feeling slightly woozy and my eyes are watering. On such occassions I normally feel very sorry for myself, but this time seems to be an exception and I'm feeling just a faint whiff of annoyance, of course I can hardly get a whiff of anything of all, but thats just the annoyance.

I used to be bugged about services in Calcutta, some are downright crappy but things have improved. IFB has opened launderettes and I've been using them for the past 2 months and am extremely kicked with their service. They pick up your washing, wash, dry and iron it for you and then deliver it at your doorstep within 2 days. I'm very happy with the washing and when you go to their launderette you can see washing machines happily whirring all over. The costs too are pretty reasonable. If your load of washing weighs more than 3 kgs, the cost is Rs. 27 per kg, if it is within 2-3 kgs, you pay Rs. 30 per kg and if it is 1-2 kgs you pay Rs. 35 per kg. To people not in India it would seem run-of-the-mill and mundane, but in India, where we have no laundromats, the service is very welcome, especially for anal people like me.

Today, I plan to make a hot thai curry for dinner to chase away the cold. A hot thai curry and a warm rum work wonders for me.

I read about the Mumbai marathon and I'm jealous. I wanted to run that one too. Maybe next year? Maybe once I am comfortably rich I can run marathons in other countries too. Not to win, but just as an alternate holiday option. As for this year, am planning to go white water rafting with ze gang sometime in March. It would be nice to see the old biddies again.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Travel East India

David and Martyn's site claimed that they are not like everybody else. That was what attracted my attention to their walking tours and other fun activities when I searched for fun things to do in Calcutta. I was also intrigued that it took two non-Indians to think up interesting walking tours in Calcutta and to know much more than an average Calcuttan. I promised Martyn many links to better their search results on Google. If any of my readers, though I know I have very few now, plan to visit the eastern or the northern parts of India, you can rely on David and Martyn to plan out an interesting tour for you!

Deeply dippy

This is what it looks like, only better!

The sister's going to Cornell. Lucky babe! I'm so happy for her.

I'm getting a new PC! Yes! Yes! Yes! Its a pentium IV with a 17" monitor and a host of other multimedia features that I shall rave about later on. The best part is I have to pay only Rs. 5000 for it. I'm getting it as a performance benefit from the workplace. I shall have fun tinkering with it. I love my laptop, but sometimes doing design work on it is a problem. I wish it was a mac, but when I buy a machine for myself I shall get myself a mac. I know that now I shall have to work from home, but I'm still deeply dippy about my new PC. I can't wait to see movies on my new 17" monitor. Mamma's good luck charm seriously seems to be working.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Little red book

I am an avid cook and I love food. I also am unorganized. This year I had sworn to be more pro-active and organized (hehehe!) so I've started forcing myself to stop spiraling into a state of total chaos. I like experimenting in the kitchen with different recipes and ingredients, but I never kept a track. So, I made up my mind to compile all the recipes that were successes as well as record the old favourites so that I never forget them. Last week, I bought a notebook which is divided into 5 sections and I mean to diligently record my recipes. So far my recipe book contains recipes for grilled fish (flavored with honey, coriander and lime), beans/ haricot verts in lemon brown butter, salsa, rissotto and sardine pickle goan style. I can't wait to fill up the pages with interesting recipes. Anyone and everyone can mail me any interesting recipe!

Confessions of a shopaholic

I am a shopaholic and very unashamed of it, but unlike Rebecca (confessions of a shopaholic: Sophie Kinsella) I do not have mounting credit card bills. The thing is that I love clothes, no i adore them and even more than that I adore sales. I can't help feeling that I am getting away with a bargain when I face a signboard outside my favourite shops saying, "Sale!" or "Clearance Sale!" or "50% Off!" and I have to take a look at the stuff inside. The problem is that there are so many nice clothes awaiting to be owned by me. Yesterday, while walking down a certain road (for reasons that are very irritating, I shall not be uber specific as I used to be) I saw a certain shop with a 50% off sign in its windows. I trotted inside and I felt gratified. A white cotton blouse and a salmon pink pair of jeans are mine now and I can't wait for summer to parade my new togs.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Little Nothings

I hate February. I hate it because it is the month for getting involved in horrific taxation procedures that I hate from the bottom of my heart. Anyhow what has to be done has to be done.

In the recent past, I finished 2 books, one the Murakami and the other, Sue Townsend's 'The public confessions of a middle aged woman'. The latter made for delightful reading and the former was about the Sarin gas attacks by the Aum cult in the Tokyo subways. Horrifying and creepy. Right now I am reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the rich teach their kids about money that the poor and middle class do not. It is very interesting if a trifle disconcerting.

The weekend was spent in doing the idiotic taxes and paperwork, figuring out whether or not I could actually afford to take a vacation this year like last year and cleaning up and prettying the home. The apartment looks really cute and cozy now and my favourite place to hang out has now become home. I'm planning to do up the central area that doubles as the dining cum living room as a den and get a futon for the area. I've already hooked up a chinese lamp and cleaned up the crates that were stacked on the highest shelf of the bookshelf and now the space looks lovely, atleast to me. I was debating getting plants, but I'm scared of the bugs and creepy-crawlies that always materialise out of potted plants. I've also hung up the lucky charm ze progenitors got for me from Portugal. Maybe it is just coincidence but ever since I've hooked it up, things have become somewhat more positive.

Is it just me or do I suddenly sound very domesticated?

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Bangla Bandh - I don't think so

So much for Trinamool Congress's 12 hour bandh. It was a total flop. Most offices and organisations carried on with business and public transport plied on as usual. However, most newspapers only focussed on the work culture in IT companies, though a lot of government organisations and other businesses were open and had a normal working day. It is time political parties in India realise that bandhs are totally idiotic forms of protest. They do not solve any problem other than hampering work and inconveniencing the general public. Didi are you listening?

Monday, February 02, 2004

Bangla Ranna

Bangla Ranna means Bengali cuisine. I can't have enough of it. Yesterday, I finally made my way to 'Bhojohari Manna', Gautam Ghose's place. The call it a pice hotel, meaning the food is cheap. When I reached, after my walk, there was a huge crowd all waiting to get in. So, I went in, placed an order for takeaway and took the easy way out. I got aloo-jheenge posto (potato -zucchini bhaji with poppy seeds), shorshe begun (brinjal/ aubergine cooked with mustard sauce), Bhape ilish (hilsa fish steamed in mustard and yoghurt), bhape prawns (prawns steamed with coconut sauce), pabda jhal (pabda fish curry - pabda is a long, single bone fish) and tel koi (koi fish in gravy) - all this for a princely sum of Rs. 250. The food was very tasty too, if a tad oily. I plan to patronise Bhojohari Manna for all it is worth.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Walking on a Sunday Morning

A very nice Sunday after ages. Went for the walking tour. My walking tour host/guide, Martyn an Australian knew Calcutta better than me, but then he's been in Calcutta for 25 years now. The tour was supposed to cover Churches and cemeteries in Calcutta.

We started off from Lenin Sarani and Chowringhee crossing and walked towards the first church on our itinerary, St. John's church. St. John's church is the oldest church in Calcutta. It was constructed sometime around 1780s and was designed by Lt. James Agg. It was built beside Job Charnock's (the purpoted founder of Calcutta, though now some old zamindar families and Hindu historians beg to differ) mausoleum and the compound also has a memorial for the Britishers who perished in the black hole of Calcutta. The inside of the church was peaceful (I find most churches peaceful and they seem like sanctuaries of calm to me) and had a nice stained glass window and an interesting painting of the last supper. I do not know the artist, but I mean to find out. The church is still in use and has a Sunday service every week at 8:00 am. I was somewhat dismayed to see the neglect and the indifference, especially around the memorials and Job Charnock's mausoleum. Three sides of the church consist of government offices and it seemed to me that people in the offices used the church as a giant dustbin. I could see shreds and whole plastic carrybags, paper and piles of rubbish.

From St. John's church we proceeded to walk to St. Andrew's church, also called the Scottish church here in Calcutta, bang in the middle of BBD bag and next to Writer's building. We passed through the Raj Bhavan where we peered through the gates at the magnificent building and gardens until the security personnel (well, ok, only one of them) came up and asked us if he could help us. Martyn asked him whether he could take us on a guided tour of the Raj bhavan and if he could not, then he could not help us at all. Then, we walked through the High Court and Martyn showed us some government buildings that were originally stables for the inhabitants of the Raj Bhavan. I am so amazed by old buildings and architects. They took care and meticulously planned even unimportant spaces like stables and servants' quarters. Sundays are the best days to walk about in BBD Bag/ Dalhousie. The streets are virtually deserted and you can actually see buildings, mighty fine ones at that, and not just people everywhere. Walking by the Lal Dighi which is a pond or lake or tank (depending on your perspective) bang in the middle of BBD Bagh, we came to St. Andrew's church which is right next to writer's building. Writer's building is the seat of the West Bengal government's secretariat. St. Andrew's church was built by the Scots who were protestants and who apparently wanted a different church of their own. To irk the Catholics, they built the spire of St. Andrew's taller than that of St. John's. The church is still very well maintained and has a huge organ. It is almost austere, like most protestant churches and still very much in use.

From St. Andrew's church we walked to old Mission row road to the old mission church. I have passed it millions of times but never noticed it, mostly because it was so old and crumbling. When we reached it, the service had just got over and the congregation was dispersing. I did not get too much history about the mission church mostly because I was lagging behind and wondering why we Indians are so careless about our monuments.

From there we had a choice to either see St. Paul's cathedral or to proceed to the Park Street cemetery. I can see St. Paul's anytime, so we elected for the cemetery. We walked from Rafi Ahmed Kidwai road to A.J.C. Bose road to Park street and reached the cemetery. On the way, Martyn showed me examples of the Art deco styles of architecture. The orient cinema theatre is a prime example. I've never bothered to actually pay attention to buildings, but now I will. Every curve, every balustrade, every column tells a story, only if you care to find out about it.

We finally reached the Park Street cemetery that is relatively well maintained. It is the oldest cemetery in Calcutta and is filled with mausoleums and tombs mostly in the shape of houses and spires and surrounded with crotons and other evergreen shrubs and plants. One look at the epitaphs and you know who payed for it! The most celebrated tomb is probably Rose Aylmer's whose tomb was inscribed with Walter Savage Landor's famous lament. I bet most Indians have read it at some point or the other in some English text in school. Like most English cemeteries of the time, the majority of the tombs belong to women and children, who probably found tropical conditions too much to bear. The cemetery was cool, peaceful and decaying. There were feathers lying around that belonged to pigeons, crows and sparrows. Some of the tombstones had fallen off and some were crumbling. Despite the obvious decay, it was peaceful, as a final resting place should be.

The last stop was the Scottish cemetery on A.J.C. Bose road. It was huge and rambling and much in use. The most famous tomb I found belonged to the founder of the Bethune school for girls. Curiously, I found many open tombstones. After walking around and observing that life really returns to dust, we walked out and disbanded. Tired, thirsty and very happy with the walk.

I will post the pictures sometime soon. I got some interesting shots of the churches.