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Sunday, 11 December 2011

Lunar Eclipse

Following are some of the pictures I shot today (Dec 10, 2011), during the awesome Lunar Eclipse. The view was phenomenal!

Half covered
Almost fully covered 
Clearing up

Friday, 25 November 2011

What's trending?

 
:)
In an ‘aha moment’, during my evening walk yesterday, I realized how we all have something trending in a particular period of our life. Yes, just like the trending feature of twitter. I know you are smiling after reading this first line. But think about it. It is so true! Just ask yourself, what’s trending in your life now? Unless you are laughing at my thought, I am sure you will come out with some trending topics/hash tags that can be termed as trending in your life at this point of time. It can be anything, absolutely anything; the only criteria being, it has to be something that is occupying your mind space for quite some time now.
Trending on twitter today
I asked the question to myself and guess what, I have figured out my current trending topics/hash tags in life. Those are — deadline, December magazine, the new cook, evening walk etc. I may be sounding crazy for some of you who have no idea about what’s trending on twitter or twitter itself. But I was amazed to find out my trends. Then I flash-backed to the time when we shifted to Mumbai and I realized and recalled that my trending topics were absolutely different at that time. Shifting, movers and packers, SristirRamdhenu, Bohagi Bidai were some of the trending topics of my life during that phase of life and I was completely engrossed in these. Whoa! Life!
So, what did I learn from it? To be honest, it relieved a huge weight off of my shoulder. Why? Because I have realized (again) that life moves on and everything, good or bad, is just a phase, a matter of time. Eventually everything moves on. People do too. It’s a good thing. Relieving because you don’t remain stuck in the same situation for life. It changes. Change is good.



Sunday, 13 November 2011

An evening at Orchard Road, Singapore



Mustafa


“This is the first and last time I am here and that is final,” I told myself. Everyone, whoever learnt that I was going to Singapore, asked me to visit Little India, as it is a must visit place in Singapore. Well, I noted the point and decided to visit Little India before I proceeded to Orchard Road. But, the moment I landed my feet on the streets of Little India, I was disappointed. I got down just in front of Mustafa, the so-called biggest shopping centre in Singapore. I never expected it to be so chaotic. Gawd! Little India is crowded, hot and humid with blaring loudspeakers selling almost everything on earth! To the right of Mustafa Mall, (Mall? Huh!) there was an alley filled with tired people sitting with their shopping bags. At a distance of two feet, garbage bins were overflowing with people walking alongside the garbage bins. I walked through the area a little and thought, since I was there already, I could as well check out the store/mall! I entered and suddenly realised that it was nothing but a few ‘Big Bazaars’ put together. I also realised how big a queue I would have to face to pay if I bought something. The thought was creepy and I came out immediately. 
Bangladeshi campaign
South Indian restaurants, saloons, temples and hardware stores were all in the same lane just opposite the Mustafa centre. The area felt like any other thickly crowded Indian market. Can we seriously do something about this population explosion in India? Why are there so many of us?! Well, the place also had a large number of Bangladeshis doing their business announcing rebates in Bangla on the now omnipresent loud speakers.
To catch a cab and run away from Little India proved to be an effort in itself. There was a huge queue for taxis, quite predictably, as I realised no taxi was willing to stop there. After waiting for about ten odd minutes in the queue, I realised that there was no point wasting further time in the queue. I walked towards the left of the road where there was a junction and waited there for any car with a "Taxi" sign on top. A taxi came towards me and the old driver asked me if I had called for a taxi. I denied, as I didn't call for any. He nodded, as if he said, “Yes, lets go”. I asked him if he would go to Orchard Road. He nodded again. Without uttering a single word I got into the cab and said ok let's go to Orchard Plaza. I saw him pressing some buttons on his monitor and saw the display saying, "Call fulfilled successfully". Well, I did feel a little guilty for not clearing his confusion, but I had to get out of that place then. I also consoled my guilt, thinking, may be these confusions are not uncommon and they would understand. :)
Orchard Road (available parking lots on display)
On both sides of the Orchard Road, there were several shopping malls and swanky branded outlets making it one of the hottest shopping areas in Singapore's map. The taxi dropped me at the dropping zone of Lucky Plaza.
Well, before I forget, let me share with you, one of the most important reasons of my going to Orchard Road. I had to look for a particular sun screen hat that I saw some girls wearing in the Hippo Bus. The hats were so cool, as they not only protected the entire face from the harsh rays of the sun, but also had UV Protector Film on the shades. I enquired those girls who were wearing those hats, regarding those hats and asked them where I could buy those. They told me to go to OG Departmental Store on Orchard Road.
So, I had to look for the OG DS. First I entered Lucky Plaza and enquired the security personnel if they knew where OG DS was! He told me to walk straight leaving Lucky Plaza on my left. I did just that. Suddenly there were more branded stores and no OG in sight. A few boys were withdrawing money from a cash machine.  I went to the ATM and asked the boys if they can guide me the way to OG DS. They told me it was at the end of Centre Point, another multi-storeyed mall. I thanked them and continued my OG DS search. I walk past four malls and finally found OG and said to myself, "There you are!"
(: OG :)

Girls and new shoes have an inexplicable connection. On the ground floor of OG, I saw a variety of shoes apart from cosmetics. “I have already purchased two pairs of shoes at the Peninsula mall and I must not buy more,” I told myself. Focusing on why I was in OG at the first place, I enquired with the cashier about the sunscreen hats. She asked me to go to the second floor. I enquired there again. The second floor sent me to the third floor and I found those hats waiting there for me. I carefully picked-up four. While paying, the cashier asked me if I had membership of their shop! I said, I didn't, as I was a tourist. She suggested, in that case, I must go to the fourth floor to get a slip with which I can get eight per cent refund on my purchases in the airport as a tourist. I ended up visiting all the floors OG had and yes, it was a pleasant experience.
Evening was setting in and the almost deafening commotion of nest bound birds on the Orchard Road was making the atmosphere very appealing. I completed my purchases and wanted to be in the Orchard Road area a little longer. So, I entered a roadside cafeteria called the The Connoisseur Concerto a.k.a. tcc and ordered some iced lemon tea and a chocolate confession. While sitting there enjoying my drink and confection, I observed the happenings around me, on and across the street apart from the cafeteria itself.
tcc

Suddenly there was a big sound. Bang! I looked towards the direction of the sound and saw there was an accident. A biker was hit by a SUV. But, look at the beauty of this chaos. If it was in India, both the men would have shouted at each other trying to blame each other etc. But here, the gentleman in the SUV came out of his vehicle and helped the biker collect his things and helped him settle down by the roadside. Then the gentleman came back to his vehicle, rubbed the dent his car had got and went to the biker again who was taking care of his bike and helmet. The SUV man suggested the biker to squeeze and release his palm just to see if it hurts somewhere. Both waited, talked and cordially said good bye to each other and gone. There were no unnecessary crowd as well. Such civic behaviour!
My fav poison and sin

On the other side of the cafe, I saw people queuing up for taxis. Nobody was showing any restlessness or annoyance. Quietly and decently people were waiting for their turn. No ladies first policy, except a group of five blind old men, who were given the preference to board a taxi out of turn. That was humanity and good citizenship. I asked the waitress a thing about Lucky Plaza. She told me, I will have to take a bus or.... She misunderstood. I clarified to her, “No, I don't need a transport. I know where it is as I came walking from there to the OG behind.” She was surprised and shocked. She asked me, "You walked from lucky plaza to OG?! That's too far". I said, "No it’s not that far. It was an easy walking distance for me." She exclaimed, "That's too far for me!" I realised the reason. I just smiled in reply.
Singapore is a small city. The city can be covered from one end to the other in just 45 minutes by car. For me, it was very small, area-wise. I am used to bigger cities and longer walks. So, for me, walking from Lucky Plaza to OG was no big deal. But for the waitress, it was. Singapore has excellent public transportation facility making every inch easily accessible by the city dwellers. So, they prefer to just hop on and hop off from any of the air-conditioned public transport facility wherever and whenever they want to.
It was getting dark and I had shopping bags in my hand. So, I decided to go back to my hotel and asked for the check. Paid, took my things and headed towards the taxi stand where people were queuing up.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Dr Bhupen Hazarika lives on...


Dr Bhupen Hazarika

A life, led with the highest degree of simplicity — the pain, ups and downs of personal life, expressed in effortless melodies, the man, the legend who touched everyone's heart with his humane lyrics and melodies — can that great human being be dead and gone forever? No, for me, he is still alive in every one of us, whose heart he has touched with his soulful melodies and personal interaction. For me, only his body has expired, but his soul has moved on to live in each one of us, as our very own Bhupen mama, Bhupen da and Dr Bhupen Hazarika
The enormity of his funeral procession, the gathering of people of all ages, cast and religion to pay homage to the great legend are the proofs how a single element called soulful music is enough to unite everyone. Bhupen mama's music had that power. An excellent orator, director, brilliant student, a pioneer in making Assamese music global, Bhupen Hazarika lives on. My prayers to the almighty, may his soul rest in peace and guide us to remain united forever.
Companionship
My heartfelt condolences to Ms Kalpana Lajmithough I know, no word can be enough to condole her on her loss. The emptiness she is going to face is unimaginable. My sincere gratitude to her for her unconditional love for Bhupen Hazarika. I thank her for taking care of the legend in his time of need, for being there for him – always, for having the courage to face the ridicule she had to face for her nameless relationship with Dr Bhupen Hazarika. She is not great for these reasons alone, my respect for her has grown manifold for (also) establishing the fact that love doesn’t have to have a name or a relationship tag to it. Love is just love. Ms Lajmi has proved it loud and clear. My heartfelt gratitude to her – for everything.

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Monday, 31 October 2011

Solo Singapore - Part 2



The three days of the rigorous ITB Asia Convention left me tired and exhausted. The massive exhibitions in the three large halls of the Suntec Convention Center concluded successfully and I came back to my hotel room with considerable feet pain. All thanks to the continuous meetings, visits to each and every booth,   multiple press conferences and the need for a lot of networking. But, at the end of the event I felt satisfied at a job good done. While I enjoyed the opportunity of interacting with  the top notch travel professionals around the world, the high point and undoubtedly the most enriching experience was my meeting  the Secretary General of UNWTO Mr Taleb Rifai. The Editor-in-Chief of the Travel and Leisure magazine Chris Kucway inspired me to aim higher in my profession. His poise, skills in anchoring an event, discussion and his thorough knowledge left me spellbound. I was thankful to my employers for giving me the opportunity to attend one of the major events of the world tourism industry.
Mr Taleb Rifai giving his speech in the press conference
At the end of the event, media delegates were given passes to visit Sentosa (Sentosa is an island nearby). With two days of the weekend to explore the city of Singapore, I booked my pass for Sunday. I wanted to see Singapore first and what better way than to take the Hippo Bus City Tour! The Hippo Bus City Tour is a tour of Singapore on a roofless double decker bus and it has four routes. You can pick the one you are most interested in. The main hub of bus tours was just by the side of the main lobby of Suntec Convention Center. I hopped into one of the many double decker roofless busses that waited there. The lady driver asked me if I needed a day pass or just that single tour. I opted for the single tour, as I had no intention of getting down and wasting time. I wanted to see it first and know the routes. 
The Hippo Bus I was in.
The moment the bus started the in-bus audio system started and a handsome voice welcomed all the boarders in the bus. One by one the audio system, now to be our virtual guide, began to explain the attractions appearing on our right and left, as we made our way. I was amazed by the seamless synchronisation it had with the stops, traffic signals and sites of tourist importance. Starting from Suntec, we went through the city roads, reached the Formula1 racing ground, the Singapore Flyer and the Skypark on Marina Bay Sands. The skypark has always fascinated me ever since I saw the programme on Discovery Channel. Oh what a feat! A man-made marvel!
Singapore Flyer
The bus, continuing its journey and the synchronised iTour, took us through the financial district of Singapore where I could see all the tall buildings and heritage houses restored and re-used as restaurants and market places. Many such tourist spots later, the bus reached the Singapore Botanical Garden. This is a bigger halt for the Hippo Bus and you are given 20 minutes to get down and have a look around and enjoy the freshness. The entire area was alive with the fragrance of flowers and I couldn’t help taking deep breaths. It was very refreshing and I suddenly discovered I didn’t want to leave anymore! But since the time was up, I had to. On our return from the garden, we passed through the ultimate posh area of Singapore and the houses there looked like dreams on earth! The bus then took us to the Orchard Road, one of the many tourist attractions I wanted to see in Singapore. Orchard road was in a simple word – alluring. After enjoying the fresh air and the beautiful sites, the bus returned to its original hub and I got down to go back to my hotel. However, many of my co-passengers hopped off in different locations of their choice. Now, my visit to Orchard Road remained.

The Marina Bay Sands Sky Park

Friday, 28 October 2011

Solo Singapore

On October 18, this year, I had to go to Singapore to attend the ITB Asia travel conference representing our travel magazine. ITB Asia is the biggest travel trade show in Asia and a must visit for everyone in the travel industry. This is an ideal platform to network, make contacts and do business. I was glad to get this opportunity as I had never been to Singapore and really wanted to attend ITB Asia myself.
The concerned colleagues started to speed up the process of ticketing, hotel booking and visa procedures, as I needed to travel in three days. By evening I gathered all the information on ITB and my tickets were sent to my inbox by our official travel agent. The next three days, media and press meet invitations and conference RSVPs from ITB Asia participants kept flooding my inbox. My list of “to dos” was getting longer. 
Indian Passport
My flight was at 11.05 pm on Monday. I cooked, wound up, packed, locked the house and started for Mumbai International Airport. Whisking through all the checks and formalities I sat in the plane. After making myself comfortable, I suddenly started to get a panic attack. I felt a little scared, thinking, in five hours, I will be in a totally unknown place with absolute unknown people and all by myself. God! Butterflies started to flutter inside my stomach. But, yes, I do like this feeling of uncertainty and the thrill of going to an unknown place. Bring it on, I said to myself.
I usually don’t get sleep anywhere other than my bed. An exception is a first class train compartment. Since there was no sign of my getting sleep, I read a bit, watched some TV in the kingfisher in-flight entertainment system and nibbled on the snacks given. When the lights were dimmed, I made another attempt to sleep. But I couldn't. The air hostess gave me an arrival slip which was to be filled in and submitted at the immigration counter on arrival. I filled it up immediately, thinking it would be a good time pass. Well, people around me started to snore. So I switched off my reading light and seriously tried to make myself sleep. 
The islands below while I fly the good times
I must have slept for an hour in total, on and off. It was around 5 am (Singapore time) and I could see clouds outside. I was told that you can expect rain anytime of the day in Singapore. I tried to see beyond the clouds and down below. The view of some islands and ships with lights on made me feel good. I am hydrophobic and really get scared if I see a lot of water around. But I was in a place now where there is water everywhere and I was feeling okay. I thanked God for being kind to me.
Lights in the flight were put on. The hostess announced the descend and everyone woke up. A commotion of getting ready, straightening the chair backs and putting the window shades up filled the craft. I was getting ready with my passport and arrival slip on hand. The airhostess announced that transporting drugs is a punishable offence in Singapore and the punishment is death. Dude! I thought what if the paracetamols I was carrying for migraine headaches are called drugs here! 
Yes, the lovelies
Everybody deplaned and went through the  immigration process. To collect baggage the passengers had to take a sky train to the next level of the airport and I did exactly that. After the baggage collection, I came out of the exit, bought a local SIM card, withdrew some Singapore dollars from an ATM and I was good to go to my hotel at Carpenter Street. There were plenty of candy coloured taxis waiting outside the exit gate. I hired one and I was ready for Singapore!
Now, on my way to the city of Singapore, the first thing I wanted to write home about was — “if you want to know how many colours bougainvillea can have, visit Singapore”. The sinfully neat and perfect to the tee roads; swanky foreign cars, the ships on my left and the possibilities in the horizon; the manicured sidewalks and lush greenery, all these made me feel good instantly. 

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Climb



Today, I suddenly realised how true it is when the wise one said, “Life is a journey”. Yes, I totally agree with that. More so when I realised how we have to move on in the journey, regardless of whether or not you have the same companion you started your journey with or met on the way. 
For me, life is an uphill climb. Uphill, not because it is difficult, but because, we are supposed to live up to our full potential. We have to complete the task of being born as human beings; we have to reach our ultimate possibilities. In this climb, we meet many people, some of them boost our morale, some discourage us from looking up ahead, some make us weak and some just waste our time. In my climb in life, I have met all sorts of people and most of them continued to stay on. Some I had to let go, because they were just not worth it. Some came back and stayed even more committed to the journey and we became co-hikers or co-travellers for life. I know most of them will stay on till I reach the peak. I am at that age, where I can see things rationally now. I know what is doable and what is not worth sticking to. 
In an “aha-moment” I found out a perfect example to cite here: Say, I am on a mountain hike. Everything around me is beautiful, lush greenery, heart-warming meadows, musical springs and I am hiking with two kinds of drinks on my back pack. One is plain water and the other one is my favourite lemon iced tea. The bottle with lemon iced tea suddenly falls in the gorge below. What do I do? Shall I go down and find it or should I continue my hike with the bottle of water in my hand? I would choose to continue with the bottle of water in my hand. I would definitely continue my hike. :) 

See, I told you before; writing makes me think straight and feel good. Thank you for reading!
This is a wallpaper pic from live-positive.blogspot.com :) Nice noh?

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

PMS

This post is for my female friends and readers who read my blog. This is about the hormonal havoc that we go through every month with exceptions of a few who are lucky not to have it. During my college days, I didn’t realize the influence of the hormonal changes on me every month. But as I grew and became more and more aware of my being, I realized how things change during those days. It is an amazing discovery and I am sure many readers will agree to this.

The first month when I noticed the change in my attitude towards things, happenings and people, it got me thinking. It was a revelation in itself, how I change as a person! How can I change in just a matter of one week! But it did happen. However, I waited to see if that happens in the following month too. Guess what? It did. OMG!

Even though I realized and found out the reason of my cravings for certain things, tsunami sized mood swings and the sudden rush of depressing and negative thoughts; it kind of made me very sad. I realized I will have to live with this phase during that period of every month, for the rest of my life or until I hit menopause.

Well, I have been living with it for quite some time now and it is getting worse. Yes, this month in particular, has been the worst ever. I have been feeling endlessly hopeless and depressed, more so because the weight gain annoys me to no end during this time of the month. Everything has been affecting me emotionally and mentally. I even fought with a friend of mine. Well, I am happy that my friends do not take it to heart and they know I will be normal soon. But that is not the point.

I know there are so many girls who suffer the same things and go through the same emotional upheaval every month. But I also know that there is hardly anyone in the family who understands this phase in a woman’s life. I just wish they read this post and understand and be patient with their girls during this particular “period” of time every month. I thank my family for being understanding and kind.

To furnish some facts that I am not being verbose and I did my readings, here is a piece of reading material I found during my research that says a lot (note the highlighted area, it is OH SO TRUE!):

PMS Facts and Statistics

As many as 90% of all women will have to deal with the aches, pains and emotional stress of Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS at some time during their reproductive years while 30% to 40% of all women will have symptoms distressing enough to interfere with their everyday lives. Some of the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome include abdominal bloating, acne, anxiety, backache, breast swelling and tenderness, cramps, depression, food cravings, fainting spells, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, altered sex drive, swelling of the fingers and ankles, and personality changes such as drastic mood swings, outbursts of anger, violence and even thoughts of suicide.

The menstrual cycle is regulated by changes in the endometrium or the membrane lining of the uterus and is divided into the follicular and the ovulation and secretory phases.
  • Follicular (Proliferative) Phase: This phase begins at the end of the menstrual flow and lasts for ten to fourteen days. During this phase the uterine lining grows and thickens, the ovaries produce estrogen, and some of the ovarian follicles are stimulated until their eggs have nearly tripled in size. At the end of this phase ovulation occurs.
  • Ovulatory Phase: This phase only lasts for 36 hours and involves the release of the egg into one of the fallopian tubes.
  • Luteal (Secretory) Phase: Once ovulation has occurred this phase begins. During the average fourteen days of the secretory phase progesterone and estrogen stimulate the uterine lining in preparation for implantation by a fertilized egg. If fertilization doesn't occur, the tissue that has been prepared degenerates and estrogen and progesterone levels drop as the tissue sloughs off and is shed during menses.

Premenstrual Syndrome is a reoccurring condition that affects women during the one to two weeks before menstruation begins (the luteal phase) and disappears at the end of a full flow of menses. During the entire menstrual cycle female hormone levels (estrogen, progesterone, prolactin, etc.) are constantly in flux as the body prepares the uterus and the other female organs for a fertilized egg. Abnormalities in any of these areas or in any of the areas that regulate the release of these hormones can cause PMS and/or other menstrual problems.

PMS can also be caused or aggravated by stress, genetics (PMS is more likely in a woman whose mother had PMS), age (women in their thirties and forties are more likely to experience PMS than younger women), the number of children a woman has had (women with more children are more likely to suffer from PMS than women with fewer children), alcohol, sugar and caffeine intake, and hypothyroidism and depression. And, as with most things, PMS can be affected by the amount of exercise you get and by diet. Studies have shown that women who exercise regularly are less susceptible to negative moods and experience fewer and less severe physical PMS symptoms than women who do not exercise or who exercise infrequently.

Proper nutrition also plays a vital part in combating and eliminating premenstrual syndrome. According to Doctor Guy Abraham, "nutrition is the single most important factor in whether or not a woman will have PMS. This is why we see so much PMS among women in their thirties. Most of them have been pregnant, which has depleted their bodies of nutrients, so they're more likely to be deficient in the B vitamins and magnesium." [From: Healing with Vitamins, By the editors of Prevention Health Books, Rodale Press, Inc., Emmaus, Pennsylvania, 1996, "Premenstrual Syndrome," p. 460]

Calcium is also very important for the woman who suffers from PMS. One study in which women took 1200 mg of calcium daily showed a 50% reduction in PMS symptoms after three months. Another study showed that women who are most likely to suffer from PMS consumed 62% more refined carbohydrates, 275% more refined sugar, 79% more dairy products, 78% more sodium, 53% less iron, 77% less manganese, and 53% less zinc than those who practiced the "Standard American Diet," which in and of itself is far from the ideal diet.

PMS Diseases

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of PMS that affects 3% to 8% of all women. To diagnosis this disease a woman must suffer from at least five symptoms of depression listed below:
  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness,
  • Possible suicidal thoughts,
  • Tension or anxiety,
  • Mood swings marked by periods of crying,
  • Persistent irritability or anger that affects other people,
  • Disinterest in daily activities and relationships,
  • Trouble concentrating,
  • Fatigue or low energy,
  • Food cravings or bingeing,
  • Sleep disturbances,
  • Feeling out of control, and
  • Unordinary physical symptoms during the majority of her periods and must become worse a week or so before the period begins and disappear shortly after the period ends.

To diagnosis Premenstrual Syndrome and to rule out the possibility of a mood disorder or another disease with similar symptoms there must be at least a week during the first part of the menstrual cycle that is symptom free. To determine this, your doctor will probably ask you to keep track of when your symptoms occur.

PMS and PMDD can increase a woman's risk of major and minor depression and other mental problems. Women with migraines will often get them during PMS while women who suffer from asthma have a higher risk of an asthma attack during PMS. The fluctuating estrogen and progesterone levels during PMS can also affect insulin levels which can affect women with diabetes.

I hope this reading will make the family of the girl a little considerate for her and be patient with her and blame it all on the PMS not the person suffering from it. My request to you, please make your family read it and understand what you go through...




Saturday, 16 July 2011

Monsoon

"The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain." 
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Monsoon is an odd time to travel, especially when you have to travel bag and baggage. In my case, I have to literally shift my base for work almost every three years and the timing invariably coincides with monsoon.
 
We got transferred to Kolkata in June 2008 when it was peak monsoon time. I had a tough time getting used to the erratic behavior of the rain-fall in Kolkata. When indoors one would not realize when it rained and when it stopped. Happened to me many times! I also suffered because many times as clothes that were hung for drying outside got wet and I had to re-wash the same. Sometimes I was surprised to see that the front balcony, where I was standing taking in the view of the lake, was absolutely dry, while the balcony in the backside of the house was getting drenched by rain. . No, I am NOT exaggerating. Once it so happened that a mad windy storm lashed the trees and houses in the place we stayed, Kalikapur to be precise. At the same time a friend of mine who was on his way to visit me from about 10 kms from my place wished it would rain as it was so hot that day! I thought he was joking and when I told him about the stormy rain that was going on at my place. He couldn’t believe it and assumed I was joking. Only when he reached my place fighting the storm, he agreed that it was a crazy experience.

This monsoon, we have got transferred to Mumbai. Mumbai is a different experience altogether, since the day I came (May 29, 2011 to be more precise). The first few days it was terribly hot, in fact hotter than Kolkata. Yes, I had a concept that Kolkata is the hottest city in India after Chennai. But, I felt there is a city in-between, it’s Mumbai. Thankfully the house we have settled in has air-conditioning in every room. On June 2, monsoon set in, five days earlier than the expected time. I never understood how people can clock these natural phenomenons and most of all, seasons! Anyway, there was respite from the heat. Few heavy showers felt good. Though I was not venturing out much initially, apart from unavoidable work, after a couple of weeks, it got boring. I wanted to go out and find some friends. 

The monsoon was getting crazier as it developed momentum. It would rain even when it is absolutely sunny outside. Sometimes, I didn’t realize when dawn broke. It would be so dark, as if there were several hours for dawn to break. The rains are like the waves of the Arabian Sea here. It comes and it goes. Everyone carries an umbrella regardless of what the weather is. You never know when it will start pouring. Learning from others, I carry an umbrella too, all the time, whenever I go out these days. 

Let me share an interesting incident that happened with me some days back. That day, I was home alone and I ran out of hard cash. So, I had to go and withdraw some cash from a nearby ATM. The climate was pleasant and I went out on foot. Tried three ATMs, all were either out of service or had some link failure. First I went to the nearby ICICI Bank ATM of Bandra branch. It was out of service. There was another local bank ATM nearby and I went there. A girl was already punching the keys and I waited for her to leave. It was taking way too long than expected and I noticed that the girl was getting restless too. I enquired as she looked worried. I asked, if there was any problem with the machine! Before she replied, I saw the screen and it was showing “Your transaction is being processed”. I said, “Oh, it’s taking too long ha?” She said, “Yes” with a sad smile. I wondered, “What if the money comes out once you leave the machine?” She said, “Exactly! I don’t know what to do now!” While we were talking, the machine screen displayed “Transaction failed”. She thanked God and hinted me if I wanted to try. I said, “No, I don’t want to risk it.” By then, it started drizzling and I went out in search of another ATM nearby. I took out the umbrella and started walking on the pavement. Meanwhile, the girl entered a shop. Instead of walking cluelessly, I decided to ask a security guard sitting by a shop door, if there is any other ATM nearby. Thankfully he knew and guided me the way.  reached the Standard Chartered Bank ATM where a girl was already inside while two boys were waiting outside. The rain had meanwhile evolved from a drizzle to a downpour. I joined the queue. The girl inside took longer than required and to everybody’s disappointment, the ATM guard hung a board on the door where it was written “Out of service”. Dang, now what?! I asked the guard if there is any other ATM nearby. He pointed out to the SBI ATM on the opposite side of the road. When I was about to cross the road to go to the SBI ATM, that girl I met in the second ATM said “Hi!” I responded and smiled. She asked, “This one’s not working too?” I sad, “Sadly, yes.” She asked, what are you gonna do?” I pointed out the ATM across the road and said I am going there. She asked, “Can I please borrow your umbrella? I forgot mine in a shop yesterday.” I agreed to share. We both crossed the road and saw a lot of people waiting outside the ATM. Since it was impossible to stand outside with so little space and such heavy rain, we both entered the empty space inside the ATM, where one girl was already trying her luck with the machine. (I wondered why I was seeing girls in every single ATM struggling to withdraw money!) We were wondering if this one’s working. Thankfully, it was. One South Indian guy made some “hu” kind of noise and I realized he was trying to say something to me. I asked, “Is it your turn after her?” He nodded. I said, “No problem, you go, do your thing”. I waited. He called for his friend and both entered the ATM room and kept withdrawing. The door to the room from another side opened. Later we realized it was the bank’s side of the entrance. Two men, seemingly employees of the bank, entered the ATM room and said, “Money is over in the ATM and we need to refill it”. They started closing the road side door of the ATM. We were both inside the ATM already. The girl looked worried. I asked the banker if we can withdraw some money at least, as all the ATMs in the area were out of order. He asked her how much she wanted to withdraw. She said thousand. He asked me, I said I need at least two thousand. Meanwhile, the south Indian men were done with their withdrawal and I saw them taking handful of five hundred rupee notes in their hands. I doubted my luck! Still wanted to try, I asked the girl to withdraw. She could withdraw her thousand. The bankers said, "You won’t get thousand rupee notes and hundred rupee notes". I just needed some money in hand, so I said it wouldn’t matter. While I was withdrawing money, the girl was not leaving even after she was done withdrawing the money. The bankers told her to leave from the other door which was through the bank premises. She was adamant. Her argument was that she didn’t know that exit and she wouldn’t go that way. She wanted to use the door she came in from. The men said one of them will accompany her to the other exit door. She refused. I realized she was scared. So, I said, “I am done, wait. You can go with me.” She readily agreed. We both came out of the ATM through the bank premises and through a dark pathway we reached the main road. The rain stopped by then and she asked me which way I was going. After knowing her destination, we realized we had to go in two opposite directions. So we said bye to each other and left. The strange thing is, I didn’t even ask her name, neither did she! 

I found out that there are also a few positive things about monsoon in Mumbai. Apart from many tiny things, the major thrill is a drive in the Bandra Worli Sea Link when it is pouring. Oh what a wonderful experience! It is taking time for me to get used to the place and people. I know it will take some time and monsoon is the best time for me to take time out to contemplate and let the experience sink in. I am still in my buffering time.


Monday, 6 June 2011

Break ke baad (After the break)


Time flies when you throw clocks ;)

I cannot believe that I let a full month pass by without posting a blog on my site! I feel sad. However, I have my justifications for being absent from here. During my absence, a lot of things happened. 

Me and few of my hard working friends organised an event called Bohagi Bidai. This is a festival that denotes the end of spring and beginning of summer in Assam. Our efforts did make the event a grand success. You will be able to read about it here soon.

One major developments was our transfer to Mumbai. Everything happened almost simultaneously, ...and before I realise how all these major changes happened, I am already in Mumbai, writing about it from my study in the new house here.

Well, the household things are still in transit and I am slowly getting back on track, though my work as the Associate Editor continues in the travel magazine I was working for when I was in Kolkata.

Apparently, I have a lot of things to tell you – including a northeast India website, a book on “My friend Maggie”, whom I met in a trip to Shanghai, the umbrella story at Hotel Parkyard, Marathi – the language, monsoon in Mumbai and many more. So, sit back, relax and read on…..

Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Kunming connection

…all the passengers took their respective seats and made themselves comfortable. Since I was asked if I have any seat preference and I did ask for a window seat, I got 6A. Soon after take off, we (passengers) were served meals. The serving started from the front row and when they reached my row, I was asked my preference of food. Fish rice or chicken fried rice? Lo, what do I pick? I am a vegetarian! I asked if they have anything vegetarian. The Chinese air hostess seemed confused. I reframed my question and asked if they have anything with vegetables. She forwarded a box towards me and asked, “How about these ma’am?” I didn’t want to take more of her time in one single row, so I took the box. I opened it while my next seat passenger started digging his fish rice. In the box, I saw a small bowl of some lettuce leaves with two small tomatoes, another bowl of small yellow berry kind of fruits and a bun. This bowl of yellow tiny fruits caught my attention and I opened that bowl first. By that time, my neighbour has also started to open the fruit bowl. We both looked at each other and smiled. He murmured, “Don’t know what it is!” I said, “It smells like mango and the inside of it looks like orange. But it is too small to be orange.” I bit one and thought not to spoil my stomach by eating something unknown. So, that was my meal. Literally nothing eat-worthy for me. 
Giving the trash away, I tried to catch some sleep before landing at Kunming, where I’ll have to change my flight to go to Shanghai.
"Holy mother of God!" This was my first reaction when I landed in Kunming. It felt as if nobody speaks English! Kunming is the capital and largest city of Yunnan Province in Southwestern China. Anyway, I got myself security and immigration checked after arrival. Then it was time to catch the connecting flight to shanghai. So, I proceeded after enquiring a security officer, who fortunately was talking in English. After collecting my bag, I was told to go to the 1st floor. I took the lift to the first floor and asked the liftman to take me to the 1st floor and he presses the no 2 button! I told him to take me to the 1st floor and wanted to press the button 1 myself as I was not sure he understood what I was trying to say to him. The lift stopped on the 1st floor but the lift was showing the number 2. I got out and was absolutely confused on what’s happening and which floor I was in. I did not see a floor pass by when the lift started and landed in this floor. The Two Chinese gentlemen were also in the lift and they told me that this is 1st floor. I said, “But the lift is showing it’s 2nd floor!” The men said it's Chinese! I had no idea what on earth it meant. Since I had some time to catch my next flight, I decided to explore and check this floor first. To my surprise, I really did see that the check in counter for my next flight is in fact in this floor itself! Oh lord!
Well, the check in counter was absolutely crowded. Every counter had group check in written on it. Hence, I decided to enquire with the ticket girl in the counter. She said I’ll get my boarding pass here. Fair enough, I landed at the right place. After waiting in the line for sometimes, I got my boarding pass and given my cabin bag. When asked she showed me the way to gate no 10. I went towards the direction shown. I saw till 9, then, there was check in counters again. I saw the board 10-27>, I followed. But.....every other counter/shop/chamber/signboard looked like Feng Shui symbols!
After walking for around 10 minutes in one direction, I had to take a complete hairpin curve turn to go to the gate number 10. It was a level down from where I was toiling to find it in.
I was the first one to reach the gate. I had my doubt. Asked the second person who came and sat near the gate. I pointed towards my flight no and the gate no on my boarding card, he nodded and signalled that yes I have reached the right gate. After sometimes, the signage displayed my flight no and time. I was relieved. Settling in a chair, I started looking here and there and saw one guy on a corner chair working on his laptop. I assumed that he must be accessing airport's free wi-fi. To kill my idle time I took out the iPad and started searching for free airport wi-fi. There was none. Played solitaire instead. Then all the passengers came in and we were asked to board the flight.
Things I noticed:
  1. They did not give hand bag tag
  2. It was extremely cold at 7 degree
  3. Though it was 7.30 am when I boarded the flight, it was not as sunny as it usually is in our land around that time in the morning
  4. Chinese people are taller than I thought.
  5. Chinese do not count the ground floor as ground floor, their ground floor is 1st floor.

Solo Shanghai

Looking through the window - China Eastern Airline
It is mandatory for the editors to attend the international fairs that get covered in our magazine. This time it was my turn to visit one such exhibition to be held in Shanghai, China. I had been abroad many times before. But this was to be my first time alone. So, I was having a mixed feeling – a little fear and more of excitement and thrill. 
The day, as it approached, my  concerned colleagues arranged everything for me. Visa, air tickets and the logistics, everything was ready for me to carry along. The day arrived. It was time for me to leave for Shanghai alone on a midnight flight. I started from home to the airport at around 9.45 pm, taking enough time for me to solve any unforeseen mess-up.
Ummmm....okay.... o_O
Immediately after reaching the Netaji Subhash International Airport in Kolkata, I went through the formalities of departure and immigration check. Everything happened smoothly making me feel good. Before the security check, I had to wait for about 15 minutes as it was yet to start. The moment it started, I completed my check and went to the lobby. I saw many Chinese passengers and as usual, I assumed them to be the local Kolkatan Chinese going to their native place or grandma’s place for the vacations. I also thought of them to be tourists who are on their way back home. I saw many Indians who looked like businessmen on transit. While observing, face-reading and imagining endless things, something irritated my nose. Eew!
The lovely young lady in front of my seat
The male washroom was a few metres away and it smelt really bad! I was once again disgusted, as I was when leaving for Hong Kong late last year. I felt embarrassed too in front of all these people from our neighbouring country. Thought, what they would think of us, the Indians! I wondered why we cannot have as swanky an airport as Hong Kong! What’s lacking in our country?! I found the answer in no time. Resources are not a problem in India, people are. The proof of how ill-mannered majority of the Indians are is available in every government office buildings, on the corners of the staircases and on the corners of the footpaths and pavements. I got disgusted and tried to divert my mind by thinking something pleasant. Thankfully I didn’t have to suffer much here.
Finally the wait was over. The flight MU 556 has announced its boarding. I joined the queue to board…
Click here to continue... 

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