Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Half Girlfriend

I am sharing a Half relationship story at BlogAdda in association with #HalfGirlfriend.

'Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again and fillest it ever with fresh life............. ages pass and still thou pourest and still there is room to fill.'------ the lines from Rabindranath Tagore's 'Omnibus' 1------ 'Gitanjali' echoed in her ears as the portentous harp of the  airport call reverberated along the corridor of the kolkata airport. April 2017--the late afternoon--warm and clammy; She---a forty three year old mother of a teenager, walked through the aisle of the allocated exit gate, a packet of Yoyo momos in one hand and balancing the sprite can with the book and a few ruffled notes in the other. She felt several eyes on her as she walked briskly in her newly clad jeans and burgundy coloured Marks and Spencer top which she fell in love with, at its very first sight. Used to such ogles and lure, she never let her desirability flounder. But this was different. A pair of eyes--rimless glasses, sharp eyes followed her persistently . Why did she feel she had seen those eyes before?Why was there a sure shot familiarity? Why was there the sudden fleeting emotion? The tempestuous flow of emotion; rather adrenaline as the man walked up, outstretched his hand to utter the typical----"If am not wrong or even slightly mistaken , years have passed and you look ravishingly beautiful ....rather more."  The eyes not fluttering, the heart having escaped the beat; memories like fireflies sparked the horizon of the mind's floodgate. She knew not words of expression as they both hugged--a hug warm and intense , after a period of twenty long years. He was ten years her senior, a family friend, one of the brightest students having qualified the IIT and MIT at a single go, an able guitarist, an outspoken debater and undeniably  discerning gentleman. She was in the eighth standard when he had proposed... an act not enviable and tolerable by the conservative girl's family then. Defying parental dictums and dictats, the relationship was like a puppy love , blossoming at every vacation. It looked like the sacred flame that would burn eternally. Love spoke its tender tones. There were no harsh demands, rules or binds which she deeply abhorred. It was the sip of eternity as years passed. Should I now say, it was unrequited love ? No, it was definitely not. Though profoundly in feel affection for and appreciative of each other, they parted. The question now is, Why did they when so much in intensity of the relationship? Probably destiny or the girl's innate cowed nature to the overpowering parents' force and prowess. The single line of reminiscences drew its garland in a whiff of few minutes rant. Spring came but the rose remained coiled in her long but lost cherished dream.

Friday, March 10, 2017

A Space Odyssey

I am blogging my #ColgateMagicalstories at <a href="">BlogAdda </a> in association with <a href="">Colgate </a>.

It was a quiet summer evening when my eight year old daughter was watching the oscar winning movie--"Martian" with me on our home theatre--eyes wide in childhood fantasy and trepidation, and she was filled with umpteen questions about space travel, and therefore it was a boon when i received the cut outs from Colgate and showed it to her as we settled down to explore space through the wonderful paper cut outs.
Her first query about how to go into space as she said as the space is a very lonesome place to be, she would like to take her  friends along with her and would like to swim in the air , and wear new suits before going into that weird airplane and get into the space with her friends. She said she would carry lots of chocolates and maggi so that she does not feel hungry during her space travel. I explained to her that her airplane would be controlled by a number of men sitting with lots of computers in a place called space center. and she would have to underggo training before she can dawn the suit , swim in the air and then graduate as an astronaut before she could board the plane .
As she was browsing the other cutouts of space travel, the international space station, the planets and the comets with the ET she passed into deep slumber and i could see a beatific smile playing on her lips as she went into a wonderful dream of space travel where she hurtled into a wonderful adventure into teh space with her friends as she narrated when she got up fresh as a mint in the morning     
Boom! Zoom! Doom! the sound ruffled through the window pane which by mother had so lightly latched. I was in deep slumber – the muffled warm blanket tucked closely around my neck, fear at first, engulfed me. I knew not what to do as I was scared of some wild animal trying quietly into the darkest of the Night. Instinct however prompted me to look out, lo behold; what was there? An enormous sized machine on wheels and wings. It was a flying saucer – my much awaited dream of such having come true. It lopped and hopped as I entered it. I was in awe. The entrance door clicked shut as I stepped in, buttons clicked at random. Blop! Blop! the buttons beeped. My friends were already in there with their head in bubble suits as i took the seat beside them in front of a blinking console and we hit the beeping buttons in gay abandon as we soared towards the sky. the earth looked a floating tiny speck of blue ball in distant horizon.  As we raced to the space station we passed the smiling sun, hissing comets , and a ball which had multiple rings around like my mother's fingers, which I explained to her was the planet Saturn.
As we reached the space station, we were in a hurry for walking into the space and visit the red ball of a planet which was near the space station, we had our maggies and chocolates , tied a life line and gingerly stepped out in the space-- it was real fun as if we were in a big swimming pool without the water as we gleefully tumbled and somersaulted and got tired. it was time to board the flying machine and explore the red planet near us. we took our rover and the land vehicle and gingerly landed on the red planet.
There were no roads, no traffic it was a huge sandy dessert dotted with gentle hillocks as I passed one i saw a quaint creature, like the one i had seen in "koi Mil Gaya". Huge egg shaped egg dotted with big eyes, a friendly smile on a spaghetti shaped body was ambling along. I was in awe. I got down from my land rover. Was if he? I looked straight into his eyes. It radiated  love and I was love struck. I hugged him, though the diameter of his body couldn’t be embraced  fully. We ultimately bade good bye to him to return to our space station. The stars loomed bright as we passed through. I wished I could touch a star, I wished I could sit on the crown of the shiny star within no time we reached of the fantasy would which I led dream of lay in front of eyes inside the space station. They welcomed us with candy floss. Chocolate dips adorned the fountains of warmth. I dug my teeth/canines into one big bar of temptation chocolate  when the alarm of the morning bell riag my  ears. Where was I ? Where am I ? I opened my eyes – Oh No ! I was in my bedroom. It was my morning alarm ringing. I was dreaming a beautiful dream to be remembered and cherished for a long time of the wonderful space odyssey.  

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Protect Her Heart

“I am joining the Saffolalife #ProtectHerHeart initiative and pledging my support to better heart health in Association with BlogAdda.
Before marriage a lady’s heart is where her parent home is,  as I saw my wife transform  herself into a new role of a wife , mother, homemaker, breadearner after marriage she became a multitasking wizard, her whole being migrated to the home hearth to maintain the family heart while missing her own heartbeats and at the cost of “me” time.
                As a result I could see irregular, unbalanced diets , lack of structured physical activity with mental  stress was taking a toll ultimately on the organ which is the fountain of life—her heart. And as we had learned that all wealth comes to a nought if your health is lost, I decided to take the matter into my hands and cajole her back to healthy life before the catastrophic changes become irreversible and life becomes a long moribund saga of survival on coronary stents, pills and bypasses. It would be an added bonus for me so that I could maximize my quality time on this earth as there is only one life and there is only one soul and so why not make it healthy. I realized that healthy living is not a knee jerk reaction but a state of mind, a habit which when imbibed always repays you back in principal and with interest.
                Obesity has attained pandemic proportion in India with its attendant morbidity. The first thing I tried to ingrain into her that we eat to live and not vice versa. Our genes inherited from our forefather are not attuned to the corpulent Western diets of plenty which are hurtling us down the vortex of metabolic syndrome.It took a  while to sit with her and plan a heart healthy diet , a diet which could be whipped up without much fuss and at the same time be palatable and enjoyable. So she got rid with anything that was ‘processed and white’ from our daily diet like –maida, sugar, salt and flour and switched over to everything that was ‘unprocessed,brown and raw’. Salt is the new cholesterol and the table salt vanished from the table. The food habits changed to green veggies, sprouts , whole grains, healthy nuts, fibrous oats  anything that had a low glycemic index. She changed the oil to zeo transfat and plenty of MUFA and PUFA so that the arteries to and from the heart remain pliable and we got our proteins from omega-3 fatty acid rich sea water fishes. The journey initially was very difficult for both of us, punctuated by binge eating on weekends but  over a period of time healthy diet became a habit , the belching the fullness all went way and in fact there was sprite in her steps back as the wardrobe size showed  a transformation from ‘XL’ to ‘L’.
Inertia of rest when it comes to physical exercise for a lady is the greatest hurdle I had to face to overcome.  Thousands of thinkable and unthinkable excuses out of thin air was there to resist the notion of exercise. For household work there was no dearth of inertia and it took lot of sermons, cajoling to convince that while health is genetic but healthy living is acquired. Initially we started with a 15 min after dinner walks and now have graduated together with 30 min of static cycling along with swimming , which has now become an enjoyable evening habit, and its now creates a void in our daily routine if its missed due to unavoidable engagements.
Health is holistic. I realize that no amount of physical activity, balanced diet is of any benefit if one does not have a peaceful, stressfree mental health.Joining her to few min of meditation, yoga or  even listening to our favorite band together would crease down the tattered nerves and tense moments of the day and the beneficial effect on the heart was compounded.

But I must admit that I was bewildered by her courage of conviction once the rewards of the holistic approach was visually palpable, the steely resolve to which she still sticks to the regimen is heart warming . But I am ready to be with her in this happy healthy journey at any cost as it’s a priceless reward that I am ready to attain  in order to spend a few more precious moment of togetherness on this earth with my better half.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


As the plane comfortably skims down the clouds into Port Blair, the sight of soft fluffy cottony clouds hugging , drifting and dotting the emerald green island on a green and dazzling blue sea greets you from the plane windows and you know if there is a second heaven on earth after Kashmir it is here in Andaman and Nicobar.
In Andamans there is no “G Huzoori” . There is no 2G or 3G , but a place of "G" deaddiction, a life beyond screens.

The netted 3G life suddenly gives way to an idyllic sun kissed beaches, emerald green sea, green swaying coconut palms and every shades of green except that of envy. Here God wants you to come and enjoy his largesse minus the virtual world, the Power point presentation he makes with various combinations of land, sky and sea with his paint brush and infinite varied colours on his palette.  A time comes when you sit back and ruminate as to how life passed you buy while the virtual world took over the real world.

The best season to visit the island is from Dec to March. The other months are punctuated by pouring rain like fighting dogs and cats and the mood changes frequently than that of a toddler.

Things to carry: Umbrella, sunscreens, insect repellant, swim wear,  hats, binoculars, beach slippers, Bermudas.

Corbyn Sea Beach
Tucked within 5 km from the airport and at the centre of the city lies the beach with swaying coconut fronds, immaculately maintained beach dotted with beach chairs( Rs.10/hr), coconut vendors, and gently lapping waves it’s an ideal destination to destress yourself as you gaze into the sparkling blue horizon, dotted by snake island and seafaring cruise liners which transport you into a surreal world.

Anthropological  Museum
Entry Tickets: 10/-, Camera—20/-

A three storied structure, which has a wonderful collection of photographs, memorabilia , and life like caricatures depicting life style, daily habitat, clothing, eating habits, hunting weapons and practices of all the tribes dotting the islands. An authentic, well researched, well presented and exhaustive Museum which is a cynosure for all historians. The entrance has a well stocked shop of the island handicrafts and seashells by local craftsmen at govt approved rates.

Cellular Jail.
(lunchtime 1245—1330hrs)
No one would remember the martyrs or the sufferings, deaths, tortures and the pathetic pointlessness of cruelty of such magnitude being perpetuated by humanity against each other. The unfulfilled dreams, the poignant sighs, and the muffled unheard cries to which this majestic building bears a silent testimony.

Horror and heartlessness assumed a new meaning inside these walls. For these 'Kalapani destitutes' only two forms of humanity existed, one inside and the other outside.some survived and some died and those are the ones that suffered and died became fully human.
A jail built by the natives, for the natives , the torture carried out also by the natives and manned by a handful of Britishers. It has no dormitory and only cells giving it its name of cellular jail.

The jail stands on a small hillock at the centre of the city. At the entrance which use to house the administrative building has been converted into a museum showcasing a gallery of our gallant freedom fighters who martyred their life, meticulously catalogued with their name, deeds, legal battles and snippets of their horror at the prison. Looking at those men you realize that they were men from a different genre with their ideals and morals incomprehensible by the present generation.They embraced death with equal zeal as life and strode the pathway to martyrdom with a song on their lips and their head held high to singularly achieve only one aim—freedom from the tyrannic British rule.One tale of perpetuated horror was really heartrending where the prisoners were forcefed to break their fast and the feeding tube erroneously was forcibly introduced into their lungs and milk was poured down leading to their untimely demise. Horror has no form only meaning and while it prevails nothing exists. The preserved pieces of the door locks, the prison Spartan cotton dresses, the iron chains and locks all fill you up with a sense of suppressed rage.
The main building has a central pillar with radiating seven rows of three storied buildings like spokes in a wheel with cells. Even the facing walls of adjacent buildings were sealed and plastered to complete the sense of abject desolation.All the floors can be accessed only from the central pillar which had a huge bell at the top which used to be tolled with every execution to the sadistic glee of the colonial rule.
A normal mind fails to register as to why it was built, how it was built but what seeps in your conscience is that it is a marvel in architectural horror where every brick which was planned and layered down was with the sole intention of inflicting sheer terror both physical and mental to the doomed occupants.
The most inhuman part of the construction was the last three cells where the prisoners condemned to death row spent their last few days of their life till their death sentences were ratified and from where they had a clear look at the gallows which till today is preserved.
One has to be a barbarous inhuman truculent human being to perpetuate such heinous acts against humanity which cannot be condemned.  

In the evening the jail lights with a resplendent “Light and sound show”:: Multiple shows starting at 05:30 pm of about an hour as a fitting tribute to the martyrs.. Wonderfully choreographed with stalwarts from Bollywood lending their vocal chords, eerily recollecting the horrific tales, the cruelty of the bygone era spoken from the eyes of a century old banyan tree which actually stood a mute spectator to the horrendous is a harrowing horrific tale of depraved humanity and the show transports you into that era, where by the time the show ends--leave aside goosebumps you thank God that you were born in an era where you have the most important gift of humanity--freedom.

Baratang limestone caves.
The journey entails three exhilarating breathtaking sojourns- first a convoy ride through the Jarawa inhabited protected tribal forest, a speedboat ride through the mangrove forests  and finally a trek to reach finally the sublime lime caves of Baratang.
It is preferable to leave Port Blair by 06:30Am and carry a packed breakfast for a two hour drive to Zirgatang from where vehicles leave in convoy at 09:00 AM( with a periodicity of every three hours). Be sure to carry your identity papers which is required at every step of the journey from making passes at the convoy till you hire a boat to Baratang.
The long convoys of vehicles are flagged off  exactly at 09:00 hrs for almost a 02 hour journey to Baratang through the tropical rain forests of Jarowa land. The vegetation is lush green of every hue except the green hue of envy and temptation. The wonderful flora of ferns and the trepidation of seeing a tribal in their natural habitat keeps you on the edge of your seats.Do not try to stop your vehicle, or even click a photograph even you come across one which is totally banned and at your own peril.
A three hour drive takes you to a place called Middle strait from where you disembark to catch a govt ferry ride across to  Baratang at the rate of Rs 6/- per person to catch the speed boats to Baratang limestone caves.The charges per person is Rs.450/- and be sure to carry your identity cards and it’s a scenic splendor as the boats with their outboard motors zips through the pristine mangrove forests for half an hour ride to the limestone jetty. A narrow unkempt jungle trail of about two km takes you to the 30 m long and narrow limestone caves.( Elders and people with joint and back problems—better avoid the trek because it’s not worth the pilgrimage at the cost of your health). The limestone cave is a natural invagination in the mountain face with white pristine limestone pillars of stalactite and stalagmite, narrow, dark hardly 30m in length where the schizophrenic imaginations of the torch yielding guides assume hallucinatory proportions where every artifact on the walls is compared to a Hindu deity.
Try to reach back to Baratang by 1300hrs so that you can relish a sumptuous road side fresh hot lunch-clean and hygienic at Rs.25/- per late with loads of affection for free and catch the last convoy back from Middle strait to PortBlair at 1500hrs still clinging to edge of your site with popping eyeballs if you could say ‘hi” to the endangered tribe of the Jarowas.        

Havelock Island

Port Blair to Havelock Island
The only way of transportation between these two island is through ferry –either Govt or a private catamaran. The Govt ferry leaves early in the morning at 06:30AM while the private ferry (Mak Cruise) leaves at a comfortable time of 08:15 am with charges ranging from Deluxe—850/ and Premium—975/ and takes about one and half hour to reach Havelock while the Govt ferry makes a detour to Neil island first before docking at Havelock.
The catamaran was a sturdy seafaring vessel and ticketing, check in and baggage handling is akin to any airport with comfortable deck chairs in sun shaded air conditioned cabins with all the basic amenities including a cafeteria with a friendly crew and a captain to make your voyage a memorable experience as it proudly glides through the green translucent water and dark green islands to discharge you at the Havelock Island precisely at the arrival time.

Havelock Island
We saw the sea here in its infinite glory, ethereal glow of moonlight and surreal rays of the rising and the setting sun.
Try to book a hotel on Vijaynagar beach. The sea is gentle, clean and with swaying palm fronds, dark green islands dotting the horizon and the Gods playing with infinite colours at the horizon during dusk and dawn gives an out of the world experience.
The main attraction of Havelock island is the Radhanagar beach. It’s about half an hour drive from the town centre and do not forget to carry your swimming costume. As you are about to enter the beach there are rows of fisherman eating shacks serving hot vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods especially exotic local fresh sea food made with homely touch, taste and love. These shacks also double as cloak room in case you have checked out of your hotel to catch the evening ferry. Order your choice of dishes before you head for the ocean because after 2-3 hrs of splashing around you would be famished to the core to wait for even a minute for the hot sumptuous meal. Another great attraction for the foodies are the rows of fruit chat venders who mix and match the seasonal fruits with chutneys to tingle your food buds to orgasmic frenzy.
The beach has decent changing rooms and decent waves breaking down on its neat silvery sand beach where every person despite his age and sex threw themselves in gay abandon at the tireless rolling swells, surfacing with the taste of salt water, blinking at the clear blue sky, and for a moment when you look around the world seems in perfect balance till the next mighty wave comes crashing down.
Hungry and exhilarated you trample back to the gastronomic delight of warm fresh fare awaiting you at the fisherman shacks vowing to do an encore every year but not before you had the largest and the sweetest tender coconut to finish your meal.      
The Kalapathar beach so named because the area is inundated with black stones is not as popular despite being a scenic one and is amust visit if you have time to spare. If you are an adventurous and extrafunloving couple scooty is the way to travel around this island.
Next when the time came to rid the ferry back to Port Blair- I promised that I will be back soon because “The cure for anything is salt water-sweat, tears or the sea.”

Neil Island
A place idyllic for people who requires –‘2G and 3G” deaddiction, a life beyond the screens with only BSNL and its dreary static filled voice calls is the available lifeline to the outside world. Here God wants you to come and enjoy his largesse minus the virtual world, the power point presentation he makes with various combination of land, sky and the sea with his paintbrush and infinite varied colours he uses from his palette makes you sit back and ruminate as to how life has pass├ęd you by, while the virtual world took a vice like grip on your real world.  
As soon as you land on the sun kissed landing pier you are awestruck by the sheer virgin blue colour of the sea lapping the pure white sun kissed beaches lined by swaying palm fronds. The sea water is crystal clear giving an aquarium like view of the underlying corals with its scenic flora and fauna.
The island is dotted with multitude of sea facing hotels and has basically three points of sightseeing within a short 5-7 km stretch. Neil Island can be reached either by the private ferry from Havelock or Govt ferry from Port Balir.
The natural bridge is an overhanging coral like outcrop amidst the ocean and be sure to carry proper footwear as the approach road is through corals, boulders and sharp rocks. But the view is unparalleled in exuberance except only by photo shopped celluloid.
The sunset point is mesmerizing although the approach road is equally sordid but you would willingly give your right thumb to witness the view of the coral green sea lapping up the orange ball of a sun as the sky becomes a huge palette of scintillating colors as God engraves the earth in a magical cartouche weaving his magical paintbrush in a colourful sweep and keeps you wanting for more.
The third beach is where the sports activities are primarily carried out and the main attraction are the glass bottomed boats (do not try it with a full belly unless you want to spill your breakfast out by constant bending) which you can hire at the rate of 400/- per person to venture out into the sea to have a look at the corals and he beautiful fishes in their natural habitats along with snorkeling and speed boating at an average cost of 300-400/- per person.
Neil to Havelock
Only Govt ferry runs between this two islands which leaves at  1245hrs and 1445 hrs. Sound your travel agent to book the 1245hrs  ferry as the check out time of the hotels are at 0900 hrs. The tickets are at first come, first serve basis with the 1245hrs ferry having a smaller capacity of 40 passengers and the 1445hrs having a capacity of 200 passengers with a fee of Rs.300/- per person. Another alternative is to check out of the hotel, enjoy the water sports and catch the 1445 hrs ferry for a half an hour to the scenic island of Havelock.  

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Live Life in its Moments

If life is a present than the gift of life is wrapped in pearls of moments. The journey of life is marked and stamped by these beautiful simple savoury moments which makes the life journey a wonderful travelogue on your way to final destination.
“Petrichor”—the smell of first drops of rain when it strikes the parched earth. Have you ever tried to stop and smell it ? I do not know how heaven smells but the moment is heavenly as the smell of a virgin wet earth strikes your senses.
Talking of rain—that  moment when the heaven opens up and you are on your daily laps on the swimming pool, the moment is heavenly as the cold fresh rain drops strikes you and the warm pool water cuddles you from below, or the patter of raindrops on your windowsill when you are in that twilight zone of slipping into deep slumber. Precious savoury moments which makes life living for.
Life is made up of these moments like multicolored chequered pieces of cloth sewn together giving it its own myriad hue and color. Have you cherished that simple moment when the sea water recedes when you are standing on a beach and your foot sinks down on the soft sand-priceless. The first turn of your car key on a Monday morning and the car FM spews out your favorite tune and drives away your Monday blues.Or the moment when your long lost friend suddenly sends you a friend request on your Facebook Account, or your FB posts crosses a century mark, or your Tweet gets retweeted a hundred times.
The simple moment when you come back home and slip into a pair of comfortable slipper into a squeaky clean dry bathroom, or feel the warmth of a sun warmed blanket in a cold wintry afternoon. Or the simple act of sweeping a dew filled garden grass with your bare foot. A simple moment to stop and savour the smell of roasting corncobs on charcoal ,or smell the frehly roasted coffee beans when you enter a coffee joint, or the moment when the smell of the freshly minted pages of your beloved book wafts up to your nostrils as you open the first page . Have you ever seen the diamond ring as an aftermath of a solar eclipse? Not even the beauty of Kohinnor can surpass the surreal beauty of the moment.
One of my best moments of the morning is when you wake up and find the morning alarm is one hour away and you snuggle back into your bedcovers into a  dreamless slumber. A nice massage after a haircut or hammocking away in your garden on a lovely springy day, or seeing your child taking his first step, or getting a surprise voucher from a successful blog . One can go on and on as these small innocuous moments may seem inconsequential, later on one realizes that they were really big things which gave life a meaning to live for.

#CelebrateLifeAtIvy by owning a dream home atIvy estate, an 85 acre estate with 34 acres of greenery and open spaces. Join the 1600 happy families already living here. Check out this walkthrough video and decide for yourself.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014



We have all grown up hearing the famous quote from William Blake “Tiger! Tiger! Burning bright/In the forests of the night/what immortal hand or eye ! could frame the fearful symmetry.” The mere thought of seeing these majestic creatures in their natural habitat instills a feeling of awe and grandeur unparalled by any other wondrous sight of nature. With these mixed feelings we decided to visit the grandiose Ranthambore National Park about 130Km from Jaipur because I believe that the world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page

Jaipur to Ranthambore by road( October to june)
We set off by car (leave by breakfast to catch the afternoon safari) taking the more hospitable road via the MI road (the central road of Jaipur which separates the old city from the new) straight to Dausa. The road from Jaipur to Dausa is a world class sixlane highway where you can whiz past the 65 km in about an hour in a comfortable pace, the stretch has lots of watering holes, petrol pumps and a colorful Rajasthan countryside. The type of clothing you are going to carry is determined according to the time of the year you are planning to visit- while a thin T-shirt would suffice during the hot summer months, it gets really  chilly during the winter months when you have to carry real warm clothing, carry your sunscreens, a wide straw hat, binoculars and camera with a zoom lens because animals give me more pleasure through the viewfinder of a camera than they ever did in the crosshairs of a gunsight,and after I've finished "shooting," my unharmed victims are still around for others to enjoy . It is best to visit the park as soon as it opens in October because soon after the rains the park is teeming with wildlife and plenty of water holes and therefore the chances of sighting a tiger increases fourfold.
 Just before you enter Dausa a small road on the right side leads you thru the town to a place called Lalsot-ask directions inside Dausa , because it’s a little confusing. The road to Lalsot is a normal single lane freeway well maintained , the country side is a mix of lovely bucolic wilderness of typical Rajashan countryside and it would take about two hours to traverse the remaining 70km. This road will take you straight to the town of Sawai Madhopur and Ranthambore which are twin cities. 

At Ranthambore
 As soon as you enter the town of Swaimadhosingh you cross a huge flyover transecting the city ,take the first left turn as soon as you cross the flyover ,suddenly you are into tiger country of Ranthambore. The RTDC tourist centre is on the right side and a host of hotels of different hues, budget and shapes line the left side of the road.
The main aim as soon as you enter Ranthambore is to make a beeline for the evening safari (starts at 1400hours) ticket at the RTDC centre as only government approved vehicles can enter the park
The tourist centre was in its characteristic turmoil with tourist vying over each other to get a safari ticket, the omnipresent middleman and touts hovering around you ,and by the time you come out victorious your patience starts running thin( I hope the government makes the booking online to mitigate the sufferings of common man and especially the foreign tourists who are innocent victims of the touts fleecing them away ruthlessly )-the safari can be enjoyed on either open maruti jeeps of six seater capacity or canters of twenty seater capacity (Rs375-420/-per head)  and the best part was they call you to the canter/jeeps as “char Indian/teen foreigner’ as if carrying a choice of fodder for the tigers at the park. Apparently the park is divided into four zones with each supposed to have 10 tigers and it is up to your luck and lottery as to which zone you would be allotted. It is also preferable to book a canter as it gives an elevated and wide angle view of the safari. Secondly the safari takes place twice a day , one during early morning hours(5:30-6:00AM) and second during the afternoon from 02:30-3:00PM) for an average duration of four hours.

The Hotels
 As soon as we got our evening safari tickets we walked into a budget hotel just opposite the RTDC. Do not book online as you get much better deals by on ground bargaining. The rent for the decent hotels range from Rs800/ (roadside single rooms) to Rs 2000/ (individual cottages) complete with a small swimming pool, bar, AC,broadband connection and breakfast thrown in for free.Try to stay as near to RTDC centre as possible to facilitate pickup by the safari vehicles. Initially the vehicles used to pick one up from the hotels but now it is mandatory to board at the RTDC centre where you bought your ticket.  

Safari   (Oct to Jul)
The canter with the guide set out exactly at 1400 hours and we were a mixture of motley crowd of twenty on the trip ranging from an elderly American couple, NRI Indians and young students from a Jaipur college.
As you enter the park the towering Ranthambore fort seats at the entrance as a mute spectator (a visit to the Lord Ganesha temple is a must), a sense of mystique, trepidation and apprehension albeit a little chill which was more because of the cool environs embraces you. The park is built alongside a mountain range which looks like a huge savannah dotted with large water bodies, old dilapidated hunting lodges bearing a testimony of the carnage carried out on the humans and the wild life by the so called royalty. The four hour drive was an experience in itself. It was rejuvenating, exhilarating out of the world experience where we came about hordes of wildlife in their natural habitat roaming around fearlessly and included langurs, Jackals, Black bucks,Chinkara, Civets and Common mongoose. The park also has a large number of marsh crocodiles bathing about lazily in the sun besides the tiny rivulets which crisscross the park.Not only that it also has a veritable collection of flora and fauna, a botanist’s delight but a huge collection of the winged variety the Graylag Goose, Woodpeckers, Indian Gray Hornbills, Common Kingfishers,Flamingos, Ibis, Pelicans, Storks, Pittas, Shrikes, Treepies to name a few making the park a birdwatchers delight. As our canter crisscrossed the landscape driving deep into the belly of the park,the sight which awaited us would be etched in memory till we meet our maker. As our canter was passing a small rivulet the guide suddenly beckoned us to keep our trap shut and the canter stopped to a halt-it was as if the whole world had come to a sandstill, the gazelles stopped on their tracks paralysed with fever and reverence, the langurs quietly scuttled away and for a moment even the birds stopped chattering-two tiger cubs slowly moved down the hillside along with their mother to have a bathe and an evening drink from the waterhole,after having feasted on a gazelle, for a moment time stood still we even forgot to lift our cameras   as the two tiger cubs made their way to the waterhole looking around in disdain with the attitude of true royal blood on their evening walk. The long golden rays of the setting sun reflected off their beautiful chequered skin giving a golden hue and they sat down inside the water hole in true royal style when a silent prayer sprang to my lips –‘May your world ever stay beautiful, your actions majestic, your nature merciful and your kingdom bountiful” . As the darkness begin to creep in the sudden revving of the canter engine broke our reverie and despite our yearning to stay back we had to make our way out of the park to our hotel room.
Before we left Rantambore we collected a memorabilia of tiger engraved T-shirts and caps to keep the moments alive because just as we do not remember days, we remember moments.

We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation, and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form.  ~William Ralph Inge, Outspoken Essays, 1922

Friday, July 25, 2014

Sundarban trip-A pleasant diversion

Sundarban trip-A pleasant diversion
”We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we can seek them with our eyes open.”
Picnic, excursion, trip, expedition, jaunt-whatever you name it, are pleasant diversions. They break the monotony of life and bring into one’s daily life a touch of variety, for they carry us away from our everyday mundane world of daily existence into a world that is exotic, rejuvenating and exhilarating. Such short and  sweet jaunts give a touch of prose to the boring chapters of  life as they release the springs of joy chained down by the burden of duties and responsibilities.
            My trip to Sundarbans exactly gave me the same fresh lease of new exhilarating life and boundless energy as the muddy eddies of estuarine Ganges and the brilliant green of the sundari trees swept away the dreary cobwebs of city life.
            We decided to spend the nights amidst the natural environs of the mangrove forest to experience the nature at its best. An online research left us spoilt for choices from Government tourist lodges to a multitude of private resorts and there was varied accommodation to choose from AC cottages, huts , tents to executive rooms with prices ranging from 4000 to 7000/ per head(2days and one night) which included pick up from Kolkata in an AC bus to Godkhali from where you ride a luxury boat, to the resort just opposite the revered Sajnekhali Tiger Resort Camp . The package included cost of accommodation,transport, guides, entry fees to the tiger watch towers, food minus the beverages, boat rides and the deal if you look at it retrospectively it was a steal.
            As soon as the reservations was confirmed online, we started to pack our bags with little essentials, mosquito repellants, antivomiting, antidiarrhoeal tablets ,extra pair of shoes-lest we decided to tread thru the mangroves, light woolen jackets, sunscreens, binoculars, cameras just to name a few.
            Following the sermons of the tour operators we were in front of the Priya Cinema,Rashbehari Avenue  at 07:45AM, as Kolkata was stirring itself up from sleep and getting ready for the daily grind.At exactly 08:00 AM we were picked up by a luxury AC bus complete with a guide , fresh refreshments and  juices onboard (be sure to evacuate your bladder on the paid toilet opposite the Priya Cinema before you board the bus as first stop for refreshments is almost 2 hours away).  The morning hour traffic being light , the bus soon snaked its way in front of Ruby hospital and then towards Science City, taking a U turn in front of Paroma island its weaved its way to Basanti Highway finally for a 65Km journey to our boarding point at Godkhali .
            As we enter the Basanti Highway (under the bridge) all the way through striking countryside and bucolic bazaar with a brief stopover for tea and refreshments at Ghatakpukur, it is a sight to behold and consider by the environmentalists. The first view is the farming land on the right side which is called Dhapa where vegetables are grown on recycled land. This is followed by a local market which supplies a variety of local fish to Kolkata and the adjoining areas. Further down the road one notices the fisheries which are one of the main feeding centers for the range of an array of fish (prawn, Telapia, Tangra, Big Puti,and Catfish) to the fish loving Kolkatan appetite. On the left side throughout the journey you will find a sweet rain water canal running which supplies water to the farm lands on the left. As the bus glides its way, one notices the pyramid structure which forms the entry to the Calcutta Leather Complex which also happens to be the biggest in Eastern India. The later part of the drive includes a peek of the brick kilns and fisheries where prawn farming and local fish such as Telapia and Cat fish are cultured. The specialty of these brick kilns is that handmade mud cakes are baked and converted into bricks---these brick kilns are movable and are initially constructed on highlands which eventually become fisheries. As we pass through Malancha which is the biggest fishing village, it is a treat to the eye as local fish from the farms is auctioned in baskets with the highest bidder getting the basket. The paddy fields, the rural ethnic thatched mud houses along with few made of handmade bamboo sheets are a clear indication of life getting simpler and full of hardships as we move from the madding crowd of the city. The boat pickup point-Gadhkali arrives---a well equipped Help Tourism motor fitted country boat named Sundari after the mangrove which has also given the delta its name with packed food and fruits is what you need to be able to swan around in this barren land run through by rivers and rivulets and a skilled tour operator to fall back on, who is a multitasker and can guide you through the splendor of the Sundarbans. (It is impossible to travel in this dense, wild forest without organized assistance.)The eerie still of the forest shattered often by the chirping birds, deer and monkeys or the roaring Royal Bengal Tiger can only be found in this part of the world close somewhat to civilization.
            The cruise boat at Godkhali boarding point with a double deck, fitted with comfortable chairs at the upper deck, with a yawning in place, a neat and clean toilet at the back, an onboard guide, food and drinks to order completely relaxes the tired sinews of the bus journey as the silent propeller driven engine effortlessly guides your boat into the muddy estuarine waters past the last inhabitant island of Gosaba into the bowels of Sundarbans. Forget about remembering the myriad of islands dotting the myriad of estuarine tributaries(Google and Wikepedia is there to take care of it), just sit back relax and enjoy the panorama which the eternal being so effortlessly paints it in front of you. Doubtlessly the whole lot you will happen to see or come across in the feral mangrove forests of the Sundarbans will beguilingly draw you towards them. The astounding expanse of green, the blue heaven above your head congregating into the horizon, the eddying muddy waters of  waterways holding a promise of rich marine life, and the sinuous creeks lined by the sundari trees with resplendent fauna and flora-----all have a propensity to titillate your senses.
The Sundarban Forest- the largest mangrove forest in the world is situated in the south-west corner of Bangladesh. There are three wildlife sanctuary areas-‘KOTKA KACHIKHALI’, ‘HIRON  POINT’ and ‘MANDERBARIA’, number of unexplored natural beaches, innumerable rivers canals and creeks in the forest which are punctuated by tiger watching towers at places like Sajnekhali or Sudhanyakhali, one-third of which is water body making the waterways as the only means to go through the forest. It is famous as the habitat of its semi-aquatic tigers popularly known as the Royal Bengal Tiger-the biggest of the cat family which plays a very imperative role in the forest ecology as well as in the country’s rich mythology and legend. The forest treasures a reasonable quantity of spotted deer, wild boar, rhesus monkey, salt water crocodile, water monitor lizard, pythons etc amidst a mammoth sum of plant species- the Sal tree whose leaves are still used as plates and called ‘patal’ in Hindi, the Sundari mangrove with its aerial roots being the focal one for both the botanist as well as the photography enthusiast sharing the photos with friends or posting it on face book.(This forest plays an imperative role in the economy of the south-west region of Bangladesh as well as in the national economy for being the single largest source of forest produce in the country. It has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999.
            After an impressive ride down the creek as human habitat gave away to swampy dense mangrove forests, we could see these waterways were much less polluted and congested, were the lifeline for the people who dotted the embankments, still to recover from the devastating effects of Aila and you become a bit saddened by the Janus face of tourism.
            The one and half hour drive on the waterways went like a jiffy where we saw a multitude of boats from cruise liners, merchant vessels to small fishing vessels dotting the estuarine tributaries as we turned towards the Sajnekhali Tiger Reserve whose embankment had been firmly cordoned off by steel mesh to keep out the ever elusive Royal Bengal Tiger to swim across the human habitats on either side.
            The tourist lodge is ensconced in island of Dayapur just opposite the Sajnekhali Tiger camp in tiny island of green-neatly laid down AC cottages, huts, tents with grass embossed  cobblestone paths and a garden containing flora and fauna that could rival any Mughal garden.A neatly laid down dining room under a thatched shelter and a well stocked bar, a pool table and the lodge was an ideal retreat to soak in the real essence of the isolation and wilderness and also an ideal panacea to the jungle weary limbs and body after a daylong jaunt at the Sunderbans. After a lazy sumptuous lunch we set out again on a boat cruise towards the Sajnekhali tiger reserve-which has animal enclosures for deers, crocodiles and even  monitor lizards. The reserve has a well stocked museum depicting the history of rich biodiversity of the jungles including life size figurines and rare snapshots of the elusive Royal Bengal Tiger. The fourstory watch tower was a dampner as shoddy constructional design had rendered the supporting pillars unsafe and as a result we were deprived of a bird’s eye view of the reserve forest.Be careful of the monkeys around the reserves,as the tourists feed them on the leftovers- these guys have an uncanny habit of snapping at your heels or snatch away any bags you are carrying with impunity.
            The cruise again takes down the river and is a titanic moment of splendor as you silently plough down into the setting sun and as the sun sets the boat brings you back towards the resort, for a funfilled campfired evening of adivasi dance and sumptuous food.  To de-stress the weary mind and body of the tourists, the lodge offers an indulgence to a dance programme by the native adivasis of the region where they feel too thrilled to teach you some dance steps towards the end of the show. The group dances as girls jointly take part like a segment of a garland in perfect rhythm with the beating of the drums locally known as madal and sing along with some folk saga-you will notice that the dance sequences are energetic and dynamic depicting a range of a feature of life in their simplest form and full of human emotional outburst and dreams on life in general. Sumptuous food with drink of your preference is palatable, thus soothing and calming every sense for a goodnight rest.
            You are awakened from your deep siesta early next morning with the energetic chirping of the birds, cackle of geese and  with the aroma of tea (again of your choice-herbal/green/black/milk) and freshly baked biscuits hitting your nostril. Dab on your sunscreen, put on your wide brimmed hut, arm yourself with your binoculars and camera and you are ready to take on the wilderness. It’s a full day river cruise with packed food and fruits and the boat maneuvering its way down the broader and narrower creaks with the early morning sun rays resplendent on the face and the cold breeze wafting. The river banks were full of variety of flora and fauna especially I was fascinated by the wide variety of kingfishers,deers, gazelles and river crocodiles.Although we missed sighting of the elusive Royal Bengal Tiger- the trepidation of sighting one, the darkgreen sundari trees, the haplophytic roots, the fresh cool breeze wafting at your face leaves you wanting for more, more and more.
             A brief halt at Sudhanyakhali Watch Tower which again was a great spirit dampener, courtesy the inferior construction material used by the contractors- the supporting pillars were unsafe to climb and we had to really tough time fending off the monkey menace. These forest dwellers have slowly but surely developed a culture of their own, having an isolated life from the main stream, which has expressed itself in many ways, markedly suited to the local forest ecosystem. Survival, in a place like this where there is no electricity in most of the inhabited islands, where the rivers abound with fish as well as preying crocodiles and sharks, where the man-eating tiger prowls on land and water too, where poisonous snakes too slide along  land and water; makes a person a combatant against inclement forces under the watchful eyes of Banabibi whose temples along with Dakshin Ray dots the length and breadth of the mangrove forest(the folklore is an interesting read on Google e-books).
            The scheduled programme was coming to the closing stages-we had to go back to the lodge for a sumptuous Bengali lunch of hot basmati rice,prawn cum bhetki curry, shukto,cholar dal, begun bhaja, papaya cum tomato chutney(to name a few) and chilled canned beer (drink of your choice). As we left, a feeling of nostalgia and reminiscence filled every individual and with a promise to come back again to this beautiful, rich heritage cum abode of Bengal, it was once again time to get back to the grind of one’s daily life.
Here I endeth this travelogue with a poem I had recently read on today’s much acclaimed issue—‘Conserving the Ecology’---
He stood beside the tiger
Holding the tail of a tiger
He tried to hold it fast
But it bit him on the ass
And said, Make LOVE not WAR!!!!!!!!