When the comp takes time to boot – what to do?

I am a man – sorry woman – of work – doesn’t mean I am very productive – I just have to keep doing something. My computer is old and takes a bit of a time to settle at boot up – almost every day – unless there is a phone call to be attended – I end up rushing myself to do something within that time period – not that it is very useful or has to be done at that point of time – but I do.

I prep myself afterward – almost every day – that it is better to do ‘closy eyes’ and focus on the work am about to start. But it has not happened for as long as I can remember and now am sure it won’t happen.

In effect what happens is – I either get delayed in starting my work or I get tired even before I start my day or both. I work from home.

So what is the remedy? I have found a sort of middle ground – one where I can start my work on time not having got strayed away and yet don’t get bored to death while waiting for the computer to boot.

I tried the elimination method.

Option 1 – Sneak peaking into FB/app – Emotional turmoil

Now looking at facebook/whastapp/Insta/twitter etc has a couple of issues – I could get carried away. One comment or news could make me emotionally unstable and I might start typing in a comment which would then fetch an answer and the rally of messages could engulf me. Even if I don’t answer the issue might invade my deep thoughts and keep bugging me so as to lose focus. So no FB/app.

Option 2 – A quick look around home – Fatigue from jumping around

This is the second most dangerous of them all. A bit of arrangement and management around the house can kick one off the schedule like it didn’t exist at all. Even if it is as little as – ‘let me just dust the sofa’ – it will be followed by arranging the cushion, oh dear who keeps all these things on a sofa, those unwarranted things would then need to be kept at their proper places, once they reach their proper place – that place would demand arranging and so on and so forth it goes on and on. So ignore the sofa. Ignore everything that seems out of place.

Option 3 – Play with pets/tending the plants – Engrossing distraction

These are breathtakingly enjoyable and are so addictive that it feels work can go to hell, even if the work is something interesting and satisfying. There is nothing more distracting than these apparently harmless lovely things. Ignore the lovely darlings.

Option 4 – Keep a book/Rubik’s cube handy

Yipeeeeeeeeeee!!! This worked for me. But the book must be such that it can be read a page at a time. The Rubik’s cube takes about 10 mnts to solve. I normally do 1 or 2 levels at a time while the bootup. Yes, finally something that does not tire me mentally or physically and also doesn’t let my hyperactive brain get bored.

Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Making of Anoushrayan – The 14th Year

The first Year || The Journey Till 12 || Entering the Teens

On the eve of being 15

There was no birthday bash, no momentous trip, in 2021 as Roddur turned 14 on the 7th of Feb, covid still prevailed. We just visited a local nursery, the day being a Sunday. He doesn’t show any natural inclination towards the potted or soiled lives but does help out when called for.

Grade 8 turned into grade 9 but Anoush remained in his high back chair at the same desk looking at the same desktop. A little solace – Nanda in the same section!

Raspy and his Chaua

Life didn’t change much for him; he had comfortably settled his life around his dabba (as I call his desktop) much to my discomfort.

Outwardly there was calm, but inside him turbulence was growing. The rebellion that had started at the advent of teens had now caught steam. Discussions were now more heated and difficult to take control of. The argumentative Indian had become more rooted in his beliefs backed by researched facts. His quote – “Everybody has the right to enjoy. Fun is what we live for.” After loads of counselling it changed to – “Everybody has the right to enjoy, not always but as and when possible.”

Posing as Maximilien Robespierre for a class event

Anoush took part in a new thing called MUN – Model United Nations. He was to pose as MLA Rajiv Ranjan from JDU. This gave him a simulated but first-hand idea about how the parliament works when in session. Almost overnight he learned about constituencies, laws, bylaws and what not. He enjoyed the exhilarated screams while discussing with his teams mates. Planning a strategy and convincing his mates taught him an art that he was hitherto unaware of – being our only child and having very little needs and most of them being fulfilled without him uttering much.

Posing as a MLA in MUN

Here at such a broad arena, across schools, he had the need and urge to put forth his idea and convince. It was a great learning experience for him and he derived much pleasure. He also understood this was not the arena where he wanted to play.

Amidst preparing for school studies, which he found mostly boring, CBSE had introduced something new to my utter annoyance, which he got immensely drawn to. Anoushrayan had started fiddling with computer programming since grade 8, Javascript being his most favourite followed by Python which he was picking up slowly. School introduced JAVA and the world of if-else and for loops roped him in. The other subjects that were already boring became even more boring. Soon alongside HTML, Javascript, Python, JAVA – Anoush passed into Aframe, blender, virtual reality – realms unknown to me, but fascinating nevertheless.

Studies are so boring – writing is horrible – can you see the notebook and pen?

Half yearly exams were scheduled in offline mode but I was not ready to expose him, so while Nanda and a few others wrote their papers in school, Anoush and a few wrote at home.

Roddur loves the beach and since I wanted a vacation particularly for him during the dusserah(October) hols, it had to be a beach, Rajib loves historical places and Goa had been on his radar for some time, so Goa it was! Anoush enjoyed the beach to his heart’s content while Rajib covered quite a bit of his aspired targets. I could not go around as much as I would have loved to but then I am just happy being on the move.

The only place Roddur loves to be in other than in front of his dabba

By November I saw quite a change in my little baby; though he would still put the rod of the water scraper in the bathroom’s exhaust fan while it was running and broke a blade, the explanation being that he wanted to see if the blade stopped when it came in contact with the rod, his next plan was to put in his finger; there was something different about him.

For one he was more confident than ever. I overheard him saying – “I can sing.” He actually can, has melody in him just not interested to manifest it to be a trained singer. Same with the guitar, if he wants he can do much better than just play what is taught – but simply not interested. Am happy that his Guitar sir Mahesh Babu is so patient with him, he is an extremely honourable person in his own rights.

This year too he bagged many accolades – the usual SOF Olympiads and a few more. He scored a 100 on BRICSMATHS – an online exam based on logic; he got overwhelmed with the congratulatory wishes he got from his classmates, teachers and even Principal madam, who called him personally.

The major change I am delighted about is the sense of achievement. I feel he has finally caught up with the idea that he is capable of achieving what he wants given the right amount of effort. And he is giving effort!

Be it an external project or school’s; be it exam preparation or group activity – I find him working with deadlines, going beyond the stipulated timetables, rescheduling them if necessary and driving other team mates along with him.

But what makes me the happiest is that he is still that humble non-judgmental beautiful boy at heart. A natural leader, he believes he can lead not because he is in any way better than the others but because he can instigate the others to put forth their best and collate.

Here I think his classmates have played a big roll, Aryan, Pranav, Ivana to name a few – they appreciate each other, are vocal about each other’s talents – that largely boosts confidence and makes each one realise their strengths. Anoushrayan had also had wonderful teachers Radhika(Maths ma’am and class teacher), Kavitha(SST ma’am), Roopa(English ma’am), Prajacta(Hindi ma’am), Shivshakti(computer ma’am) and Science ma’ams(Renu, Garima and Subarna) who shaped different facets of his personality. 

In December we went to an interesting place called Vaama Resort – a pet friendly place – so Domma, Zhauwu, Roddur, me and Rajib drove for around an hour and checked into a cosy cottage that the resort had allotted us. The resort is actually a camp for obstacles training for civilians run by a retired Colonel and his team.

We checked out the residential plots near Vaama retreat

My otherwise hunched, laggard non-sporty boy – did well! Not only was he able to do them all he did them well. Roddur always amazes me, sometimes at the zip line or at horse riding – he can be a good sport but physical endeavour simply doesn’t excite him.  This year the exams have come early, in February and as if both to tease and to appease – computer practicals are scheduled on his birthday!

15 years with our little bundle of Joy!

The first Year || The Journey Till 12 || Entering the Teens

Go Goa – anytime, everytime, manytimes!!!

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Colva Beach

People find paradise in Goa. Some like the beach. Some like the drinks. Some like both. And then there are slightly eccentric people like my husband who love to chase ghosts – well he loves to walk around ruins of forts and desolate temples, churches and mosques and calls it the study of heritage.

This was my third visit and am sure am at the far end of the list of ‘number of times visited Goa’ and yet I thought I’ll put together a few lines that might help some first timer or uninitiated like me.

The ones who are driving in don’t need to worry about transportation but the ones who fly in or use the railroads, be warned transport is expensive and one can get heavily duped.

The prepaid taxis are cheaper and reliable, available at the airport/railway station. There is no OLA/UBER service. Autos are rare. ‘Self drive’ is the best option for people who can drive, both – two and four wheelers are available.

A word of caution about the roads – except for the main roads on which one can see a lot of infrastructure development happening and thus creating traffic congestion, all other roads in Goa are narrow. Time distance equation has to be worked out keeping in mind that one can never drive faster than 60 – 80 kms/hr.

Airport to Colva beach
Panaji – Near the Latin quarters

Since we flew, as in a plane, we don’t have wings – I’ll talk about the commute to and from the airport. Goa International Airport is growing – development is on and visible. The prepaid taxi booth can be accessed from both inside and outside the terminal. A quick bite joint is right outside the exit and keeps a tasty spread.

We went straight to Colva Beach down south, that was supposed to cost us 800INR change but we lost our way, thanks to the obscure location of the resort we were booked in. Google maps suggested that we walk 200mts on the beach to reach the resort, which isn’t a bad proposition early in the morning or evening – but with two suitcases and backpacks in the afternoon sun, it did not seem plausible.

The resort has its own vehicle to transport the guests from the tourist spot ‘Colva Beach’ that is the beachfront. Our cabbie left us there demanding an extra 100 and soon we found our vehicle to the hidden paradise. Named as C’Roque Resort it is a lovely piece of land on practically the sand – the beach. We had booked two cottages as each had accommodation for only two.

While Roddur our son got salted and baked in the sea, I kept an eagle eye and Rajib took to heels to photograph the ancient temples of Ponda and beyond. He mentioned it was a picturesque journey being almost beside the western ghats. Cost him 3600INR for a day’s driving around.

After spending a delightful time at the beach side and packing ourselves up with calories from the delicious spread available at the restaurant, we moved to civilization – Panjim. It cost us the standard 1400INR.

Our target was to walk the Fontainhas, do the river cruise, visit old Goa churches and have Tiramisu and Serradura. I have had had Tiramisu on an earlier trip and praised it such that Roddur had it on his hit list. But alas! From Colva to Panjim it evaded us – even the famous ‘fisherman’s wharf’ (restaurant) could not delight us with either of the desserts. Finally we found Serradura at a cafe’ near our guest house, and Tiramisu at Vithal Malaya road in Bangalore.

We chose to live in a guest house near the river and at a stone’s throw from Fontainhas – Goa’s Latin quarters. Unfortunately the guest house had only one triple bed room at the ground floor which has a low ceiling without a fan and its door opened onto a public road, though a quiet one with hardly any passerby. It was not to Rajib’s liking but with a powerful AC and a clean bathroom/room it did okie tokie. Location and value for money are the two biggest USP’s for Marquito’s Guest House at Rua 31 de Janeiro (31st January Road).

A mention about proliferation of casinos is adequate. The river Mandovi might be called the ‘casino river’. The river front is illuminated with the alluring party lights of the casino facades and the river comes ablaze with the big and medium sized casino ships anchored in the river. For the naïve like us all it gives is an opportunity for glittering photographs.

The river cruise that was ought to start at 7.30pm but was delayed by an hour and a half for the want of riders. It doesn’t start till a minimum number of passengers are attained. FYI, most cruises have a deck and an AC chamber below. An entertainment program of some sort goes on in that chamber, basically a lot of noise with people gyrating to it, not exactly in tandem. I visited the ‘cultural-chamber’ if I may call it that for about 5 mnts or so – for one it was cold, very cold and second it didn’t have the slightest feel of being on a boat.

The river cruise takes one through the casinos till almost the mouth of the river where it embraces the sea – now on the way back the boat moves slow, very slow as the water is turbulent and it is also dark being a bit distant from the glitters of the casinos. This is the part I like the most, though it is also the part where it rains – most of the time even if there is no rain anywhere else.

Restaurant are open till 11pm so we did get to eat that night – Delhi Darbar was the nearest from the jetty and we quick marched to it. The food was good. Food is good pan Goa, be it the local cuisine or the generic Indian mix or continental or south east asian – veg or nonveg – the cooks know how to cook.

We walked back to the hotel through the drizzle that turned into rain; the streets were quite but felt safe.

Old Goa was a heated affair – literally – it was hot, too hot! Most of the churches don’t allow photography inside them, so that one can’t take a selfie with Virgin Mary or infant Jesus. Unfortunately for people like Rajib who want to photograph every inch of the earth specially architecture and art, it is a big disappointment.

The convent of St. MONICA and Chapel houses the Museum of Christian Art (MoCA). We freshened ourselves up at their facility, took a tour of the beautiful items on display, had a wonderful lunch and bought a few Knick knacks.

The Chapel of our lady of the mount has become a wedding photography venue, with drone cameras rampant. There wasn’t a single tourist there other than the three of us.

The mound gives a beautiful bird’s eye view of the churches and around.

Panaji to Old Goa cost us 800INR in an auto, and then a taxi took us around the churches @ 800INR. We wanted to wrap up the day with sunset at fort Aquada, which cost us 1000INR, but we reached late just in time to enter and have a few quick clicks. The journey back to Panaji cost us another 1000INR.

We wanted to get a glimpse of the Salim Ali Bird Park across the river and made a dash for it right after breakfast on the day of our journey back to Bangalore. For breakfast there are a couple of joints like Kamat, Bombay Shiv Sagar and Udupi cafe – the last one being the tastiest. It would be good to mention that though our guest house was supposed to provide breakfast, inclusive in the price – breakfast was laid out from 10am – a bit too late for us while on a trip.

The ferry carries people and vehicles across the river to Salim Ali Bird Park / the island Charao island. Our auto to and fro from Panaji, cost us 600INR. It is a mangrove forest by the coast where a path has been laid for people to walk through. A boat tour is also available for bird watching.

Mangrove Forest

Fontainhas has a number of good food joints. We chose to have lunch at Panjim Inn.

Way back to the airport was jam packed due to some accident on the way and we made it just in time for everything to go smooth and had a bit of a reading time too! There is lot of traffic at the airport too and thus the takeoff takes time.

And ya! With all parties promising a wonderful future for Goa – you must Go Goa!

Click here to read about my all girls trip to Goa in 2017.

Click here to read in-depth about the churches and convents of Goa.

Champaner – Gujarat

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Champaner

Offbeat!!! That’s the first thing that comes to our mind as soon as we think travel. Champaner was one such UNESCO site tucked in an obscure location about an hour from Vadodara. We had planned a two day trip as little did we know about its vast offerings. One fine January morning in 2011 we de-boarded the train at Vadodara and advanced towards the nearby bus station. There are many buses that take one to Champaner and the frequency is good too.

Champaner is a quaint town at the base of Pavagadh hill. We got into a jeep that would take us up the hill to Machi about midway between Champaner and the top of Pavagadh where the famous Kali mata shrine is. We had our room booked at Machi, at the Gujrat Tourism Resort. A lovely property overlooking the hill complete with a dining hall. The food was spicy but delicious. We still remember!

At around 10ish in the morning after grabbing some food we went on to check out the Pavagadh ropeway service that would go up to the bazaar area where devotees buy offerings for the goddess and ascend the remaining 250 stairs. Some devotees go all the way up from Champaner to the shrine on foot – 2000 steps. Even adventure seekers make the climb that takes a little more than an hour for the able and fit and get rewarded; there are many Jain and hindu temples on the way, though in ruins just as the fort wall.

A natural lake makes the surrounding surreal.

The ropeway felt exciting and gave a bird’s eye view of the hillsides.

We were back at the hotel around 12ish and decided to stay indoors and grab some rest before the second phase. At around 4pm we started again, this time we descended. We took a jeep down to champaner then an auto to the most imposing structure of the archeological park site the Jami Mazjid to find it closed. The grounds were open though and we took a lot of snaps.

We then started our walking tour, the monuments are scattered all around but need to be asked for as the directions are not straight forward. It is best to carry a map for ease of navigation. We reached Kevda masjid around 5ish and Lela masjid around 6ish. The sun was preparing to leave our hemisphere so we quickened our pace and traced our footsteps back to the main road.

The small buses and jeeps keep plying up and down the Pavagadh hill till Machi. So we went back and retired on our balcony. Slowly the green fields down below darkened and the crimson sky turned into a shimmering black veil studded with silver embroidery.

We wanted to catch the sunrise as the balcony faced east and we caught it!

We were supposed to checkout later in the day but since a lot of monuments remained to be captured on our cameras, we extended our stay. Our room was not available but we got another.

So we spent the entire morning shooting the Jami Masjid which was then open, and Kevda masjid but we could not get our full yet. We went again in the evening starting with Saat Kaman this time that was on the way down from Machi to Champaner. This time we added Nagina masjid to our photo shoot and then decided to take a walk through the town; all this while we had been wandering about in the wilderness amidst the monuments.

The town of Champaner is old. It is dusty and dry with very few shops lining the singular road that passes through it. We stumbled upon a Jain Math – a serene place where people of any religion are welcome. We took a quick look around and went back to our abode up the hill.

A frog was waiting in the bathroom, since I already have my prince charming I didn’t kiss him but took some snaps and let him be perched on the shower unit as he had been.

Next morning we quickly checked out and went downhill to Champaner bus stand. There is a lovely monument called Saher masjid Bohrani near the bus stand. We took a good look at it through our lens and then boarded the bus to Vadodara.

Our train to Bangalore was to depart from Ahmedabad so we took another bus from Vadodara, the ride was one of the finest road journey.

A friend with whom we had planned to put up for a day but ditched in favour of shooting the monumental beauties came down with family to meet us at the station. There is us and there are such darlings.

Details about Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park

Photo Gallery – Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park

The different guy – HR issues

Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

It was my first day in a spacious office with a not so huge staff. One of my present colleague also happened to be my ex colleague, quite senior though. He took me around and after a quick round of introduction I settled with a kappa of coffee at what was supposed to be my work space. First day, so not really loaded, I had ample time to assume, presume, judge and misjudge the people around me.

We take minutes to form an opinion and kind of stick to them and sometimes pass on the opinion to others, misguiding their thoughts. I found one particular guy very different. He sat hunched over his computer looking at the screen intently through his thick glasses. I remembered he could not manage to smile when introduced. At lunch he ate alone at his desk. During the entire day he got up only twice. Once possibly to relieve himself and once he brought back a cup with him.

Subsequently I found myself observing this loner. Years later when we were choosing our discipline, one of my MBA prof told me I was a natural at human psychology and should definitely take up HR, but the greed of challenging opportunities got the better of me.

Back then, the more I observed the different guy the more I felt that it is not his natural disposition but a veil to mask a disgruntlement.

This gentleman as I found later was good at his work and had never voiced any discontent. But one fine day he left. The management was puzzled and the exit interview did not spring up any surprises. Clueless the management had to lose an asset not in lieu of a huge monetary benefit which was the common presumption going around, but as I later learned from spying after my subject, only for a befitting work.

Often a company loses its valuable employees owning to the lack of observation and understanding. One rule cannot govern all bodies. One treat cannot satisfy all. It is crucial for the management to understand that employees are the real assets of a company and periodic generalized efforts will not work for all of them. Monitoring and customizing efforts is called for, at least for the ones who are worthy.

Now this ‘different guy’ was in search of a specific kind of job, having worked in the industry for a while he now wished to work in a niche area and thus he had moved to this organization in the first place; but when he found that he had been wronged with false promises he felt betrayed and eventually left.

There are different needs. It depends on many factors like the age, gender, ethnicity, family background and majorly his/her personality – the man or woman he/she is. As we grow we discover ourselves, and interestingly we keep knowing the inner self more and more as we age. Our wants and desires change with time and situation. The situation could be as diverse a factor as ‘marital status’ or ‘growing kids’ to ‘have arrived in life’ or ‘spiritual transcendence’. Humans are assets if nurtured in a conducive environment or else they turn into liabilities. Our ‘different guy’ was fortunately ‘understood’ by his new employers and thus flourished, rose through ranks and in turn brought substantial benefits to the organization.

Choosing a lens to shoot a subject

Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

A photographer has to deal with three main characters so as to create a composition. The first character is the object of interest namely – “Subject”. The second character is the ‘lens’ in use and the third character is the material to record the composition that is the film or the ‘sensor’.

If we place the three characters in a row, an inverted image of the subject is formed on the film/sensor. This inverted image is called the real image. As we vary the distance between the lens and the recording surface the real image becomes larger or shrinks. The real image becomes larger if we increase the distance and smaller if the lens is brought closer to the recording surface. The real image however can get blurred at some distances depending on the capacity and nature of the lens. So there is a particular distance between the lens and the real image which will give the desired composition. This is the required focal length.

The focal length of a lens defines the capacity of the lens to magnify the real image. A lens having a small focal length would be able to capture a subject at a smaller distance with a wider scene in view whereas a lens with a large focal length would be able to capture far away subjects but with a narrow scene in view.

The focal length to capture the exact size of the subject that is neither magnifying nor shrinking the real image is 55mm for a film camera and 35mm for a digital camera often called the normal focal length. Tele-lens is above 55mm for a film camera and above 35mm for a digital camera. Wide angle lens on the other hand is below 55mm for a film camera and above 35mm for a digital camera.

A camera can be fitted with lens having a “fixed focal length” or such which could create “variable focal lengths”. The one with a “fixed focal length” is called prime lens, and the one with a “variable focal length” capability is called zoom lens.

A zoom lens uses a combination of lens elements which can be moved back and forth to create variable real image sizes for a particular subject.

Mathematically zoom = maximum focal length / minimum focal length. Say the minimum focal length of a digital camera lens is 6mm and the maximum is 72mm then the optical zoom is 12x.

A macro lens is used for subjects which are very small or to capture a very tiny part of the subject magnified such that it fills the full frame of the film/sensor. The ratio of magnification could be 1:1 or higher. The professionals prefer prime macro lens over zoom macro lens.

Hence the selection of lens would depend on the choice of subject.

Fortified Living within 99 bastions – Jaisalmer Fort

Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

The living fort as it is called by many is a destination of a life time. That is not to say that one cannot or would not like to revisit this one of a kind place. One of the oldest forts in India it is a place where history lives. I have been there twice. Long back as a pure tourist with my parents and recently to feel the history. Living within the fortified walls of the fort is distinctly different from visiting it for a day or half a day tour.

Ludavra, 16kms north west of Jaisalmer, was the stronghold of the Bhati Rajputs who had captured it from the Ludarva Rajputs. This ancient city (Ludavra) was on the connector route to the maritime international trade route popularly known as the Silk Route, in the 1st to around 6th century and then other important trade routes till the time of the British raj, when the ports of Mumbai and Kolkata took over and these parts of the Thar desert lost its sheen. In its days of glory Ludavra was rampaged by foreign invaders many a times but later the Marathas didn’t even take the trouble to trouble the Bhati Rajputs.

Maharawal Jaisal Singh was banished from Ludavra (Lodhruva) by his younger brother who ascended the throne. He chose to built this unique fort resembling the giant ark of Noah in 1156 AD on a hillock called Trikuta Hill. Thus Jaisalmer became the new abode of the Rawal, named after him. It was a mud fort then.

Caravans passing by on the trade route found this new hill fort safer for stopover and warehousing. The prosperity of Jaisalmer Fort was phenomenal over the years. It was strengthened with Yellow Sandstone which is quarried in the neighbouring areas. At a time the whole population used to live inside the fort, now only 25% remain. It seems like 4000 people are living on a giant ship and few hundreds more boarding and de-boarding all through the day.

We too boarded this ship through a winding pathway one fine october morning. We chose to venture out early so as to avoid the onboarding tourist rush, at least for a while. The narrow lanes with ornate balconies hanging over them branch out in several directions and it is easy to lose one’s way, but then there is only one entrance gate to this fortified city and the royal quarters spill over it so one could always find the way back to this gate.

We went up and down the streets and met some residents who were gearing up for the day to showcase their ware. Amidst colourful garments mostly for the foreigners but made of very comfortable glass cotton fabric and junk jewellery and travel bags and bowls, cups, plates, etc made of yellow sandstone, there was a very interesting collection of paintings. The paintings were done on wall hangings, t-shirts, cloth and paper. The subjects were varied with vivid colours depicting scenes of the desert life, portraits of beautiful girls in traditional rajasthani attire, men with various musical instruments with their gigantic pagdi (head gear).

We met Kamal who was painting on a t-shirt in the front part of his shop. It is an amazing experience to see a live painting getting created. Leaving it to dry he showed us a few of his creations including miniature paintings on cloth and paper, depicting hunting scenes, the royal procession and a row of musicians. Photography is strictly prohibited in these shops even from outside and for good reason.

There is a little treat for Sonar Kella enthusiasts (the famous movie by Satyajit Ray) – Mukul’s shop.

The Jain temples were closed for public at the time and we went past it. At the end of the road is the sunset point. A lone tree stands there the wall is broken and a little deity awaits flowers and kumkum (a red pigment made from turmeric) from the residents. The vast stretch of land comprising of the expanded city of Jaisalmer and the Thar Desert beyond is a site to behold from this vantage point.

The houses on either sides of the lanes are made of the same yellow sandstone which changes colour from a tawny lion in the morning to a honey lemon at dusk as that of the fort walls.By character they are narrow and multi-storied and have common walls with the adjoining house. A lot of them have been converted to hotels and eateries. Some of the houses are being demolished and rebuilt to suit the needs of the tourists.

A major portion of the tourist crowd is from West Bengal and thus alongside European, Italian and Chinese, Bengali food is also available. We found a lovely rooftop joint where we had lunch later in the day with a view to kill for. Sitting atop a hill almost 100mts above the flat ground below and eyeing a boundless expanse with nothing to hinder the vision is one of a kind experience, add to it gulping down food from your own province. The usual homely daal (lentils) rice n finger chips felt like Turkish delight.

A walk around the second layer of the fort where the walls coils around it felt like one of those 3700 soldiers guarding the fort against the Sultan’s Army, who laid a siege for 8 years before he could finally breach its walls. The canons are still placed on the bastions and count as a place to see alongside the royal quarters, museums and temples.

Day inside the fort is all hustle bustles with tourists and hawkers and guides and ruminants. Night is hauntingly quite but all the stones seem to come alive as the bats commence their hunt. I closed my eyes and suddenly something trotted by, seemed like a horse with his rider, followed by a couple of foot-steps, these were chirpy men talking of money and goods and the refreshment they had in Patwon Ji ki Haveli. One fellow was quite close and his cloak brushed against my hand, it was smooth muslin.

Night at the rooftop restaurant at our temporary abode in the fort was nothing short of a scene from Arabian nights. The lights from the city glittered like jewels and looked like a choker around the neck of the fort, and then there was darkness all around of the cold Thar Desert. I have vertigo so I could not stand on the edge and feel the nothingness. My son was crawling on four and hubby was comfortable sitting at the table in the middle of the bastion that housed the restaurant. A more adventurous soul could have felt the air of triumph one feels standing on a high ground with an glittering city beneath.

Ready to sleep alone

Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

14 and growing steadily, Anoushrayan’s eyes lit up when I brought the old cot from the other flat and arranged it in his room. This has been his favourite bed, being a tad higher than usual and just the right size for him and his babyhood companions namely Balu, Sheru and Nalu – the soft toys – I wonder how long this fellowship will continue!

“Can I sleep here?” he said with that beautiful smile, tilting the neck to a side. “You want to sleep here? Alone?” I inquired. “Yes, you always wanted me to sleep alone in my room, isn’t it?” he said confidently.

I was supposed to feel happy and in-fact the whole idea of getting the cot was to instigate the urge in him to sleep alone and yet something in me stirred a sad undertone.

Imposition has been the norm for human beings; sometimes the pretext of tradition and culture, sometimes to establish authority and most of the times to ensure well being, especially if it concerns younglings.

But I do not believe in imposing unless it is the last resort in the harm’s way.

As an infant Anoushrayan cherished the cuddles and would protest fervently if kept off the lap. He refused to even lie down beside us, mom or dad would let him sleep on their chest, and there he basked in the warmth. People advised that the infant must be taught that he must lie in his cot and would not be picked up every time he creates a ruckus. I did not comply.

Days turned into months and he outgrew the lap, ready to explore the world with his toddling feet. I felt happy to not have complied, now I could not confine him in my lap even if I wanted to, but I didn’t want to, I have had my share of a warm lap, wet with drools and giggles making me the happiest person on earth.

Next was to teach him to sleep on his bed alone. My counterparts in the west, and even the in-country buddies along with quite a few books suggested that a child must be taught things early on. I did not comply.

So he slept latched on to us, initially between me and Rajib and later with me. After he became 12, I started insisting on sleeping in his room on his bed but he vehemently refused. Once his friends visited us and happened to say, ‘so this is your room’, Anoushrayan denied.

He didn’t want a room of his own complete with a bed and study. His categorization was – my study room, my sleep room (where I slept with him).

Thus a decade and more passed, all of us hurdling on the bed together, two humans, 3 soft toys and for the past one year, added to the list were two doggos. I had always complained how I could never get a sound sleep with this bunch. In his early childhood Anoushrayan used keep changing his position and would invariably end up taking up the bed diagonally leaving me hanging.

From a tiny little doll sized being whom I was scared of crushing by my weight, he has now grown to a size that can engulf me. And now he is ready to sleep alone. He wants to enjoy his being. This is the beginning of discovering his individuality and gaining confidence. Once again I am happy I did not comply and let him sleep with me as long as he wanted.

My mantra was and is to keep myself prepared to let go as and when he is ready but not push him into an unpleasant imposition. Although Anoushrayan is unable to sleep alone as of now; even though I did, albeit with a tug at the heart – looking at the big empty bed all to myself, the doggos won’t let go of their ‘dada’.

The Very Affordable West – Singapore

Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Singapore was once a small fishing village, then Singapura (Lion City), then an important settlement in the 14thcentury (evidence from archaeological excavations) and finally “great ruins” by the time the Portuguese came in the early 16th century. Sir Stamford Raffles identified Singapore as a natural harbour with not more than 150 people living at the mouth of the Singapore River and merely a 1000 in the whole island, as he landed in 1819.

The Dutch and Portuguese dominated the ports on the trade route between China and British India levying high tariff. As Opium trade was vital for the British, Sir Raffles planned to replace the dominance of other countries and establish a port in Singapore. He declared Singapore to be a free port and soon traders started flowing in. By 1824 Singapore was an important trading port surpassing the earlier established ones by trade volume and the population increased rapidly to 10000 from being 5000 in 1821 and a 100 thousand by 1871!

After the British the Japanese held Singapore for 3 years (1942–45) renaming it Syonan-to. Failing to defend Singapore, the British lost credibility with the public and 1948 saw the first Singaporean elections. Thereafter the Singapore River witnessed a series of political ebb and flow, merger and separation and finally Singapore abruptly becoming an Independent nation in 1965.

Today for someone travelling out of India for the first time, the jaw drops at the Changi airport and closes only after reaching Little India, where one kind of feels at home, with a wee bit of garbage spilling on the road once in a while. Singapore is sparkling clean, meticulously planned and beautiful, to say the least.

As a budget traveller from India, Little India is the place to stay, with neighbourhood food joints open round the clock and tube stations at every nook and corner. We managed 8 days in less than 65k per person inclusive of all entry tickets, door to door.

India is naturally beautiful, Singapore is decked up. India has variety naturally, Singapore has created many variations. From huge malls stretching across a whole neighbourhood to artificial beaches, roof top pools on skyscrapers to one of the best zoological gardens in the world, every inch has been man-made and man maintained. Not chewing a gum is a little sacrifice to make to visit Singapore; it is a punishable act by law.

Lee Kuan Yew, considered as the father of Singapore, married human discipline to technical efficiency and though they were forced to stay together at first, the consequences of the travail are amazingly spectacular and worth being duplicated.

The roads are pothole less thus the bus ride is smooth and delightful though office times witness a lot of traffic congestion, the Island being populous. The buses have option for having physically challenged individuals on board, which definitely scores very high. Most people use pass and the system runs on trust. SMRT and SBS fleet of buses ply across most areas along with other companies like Go Ahead, Causeway Link etc, yet Singapore majorly runs on MRT (Mass Rapid Transport). An electrifying, exciting, and awe inspiring commute for the first timers.

To begin with the metro is spread through the island nation like a spider web, connecting most of it seamlessly. They are frequent, they are fun, and they are relaxing as one can evade the sun almost entirely cause the stations either delivers one to a mall or to a bus interchange or even to one’s office in some cases. Singapore is hot and it matters to be indoors in a regulated environment. Some MRT stations have multiple lines, say a commuter from the north need to go west, all that is to be done is change levels from the North South line to the East West line and hop on to the next MRT, and “mind the gap!” This seems to be the most used phrase as every door of every MRT has it written and the announcer keeps repeating it at every station before and after the door closes. The last but not the least the trains don’t have a driver!

The zoo, the bird park, the river safari and the night safari, where nocturnal animals are on display, are where an animal lover’s dreams come true. The Universal Studio at the man- made Sentosa Island is a movie buff’s paradise. The SEA aquarium feels like walking through gallons of water amidst a plethora of fishes from around the world. Sentosa is not a day’s job. It’s a destination in itself and definitely needs more than 2 days.

A trip to Singapore is not complete without a visit to The Cloud Forest in the Gardens by the Bay. At its entrance the world’s tallest artificial waterfall creates a mist so refreshing that it immediately transports one to a tropical rainforest. From insectivores to massive cacti it is like the conglomeration of all plant life on earth under a dome.

One of the oldest locations where a Chinese community settled outside China is Singapore. It is known from excavations that these Chinese lived in harmony with the Orang Laut (sea people), the natives of these islands far out in the sea.

After Singapore became a British settlement, people started flocking in from Malaya, China and India. They came to work in the rubber plantations and tin mines. The bulk of the Singaporean population was formed by their descendants, with half of it being of Chinese origin.

In the 1960’s an Independent Singapore was overwhelmed with development activities and work force influx and started facing crime and health issues due to lack of public services, housing, sanitation etc. But within a decade with strict and mandatory laws most of the population was housed under hygienic condition and squatter settlements were mostly abolished.

China town and Little India are the only two places where some of the buildings have a character of their own hailing from the Victorian era when the Island was under the British Colony, otherwise most housing societies look the same, most crossings with manicured lawns are identical, and most high rise offices by the bay have a similar demeanour. Unfortunately most of the commuters going to work also look the same, similar dressing style and eyes glued to the handheld screen, possibly the monotony doesn’t hit them as they are not looking!

Nevertheless to compensate for the induced monotony for maximum efficiency Singapore has numerous entertainment spots of all kinds, from nature lovers to pub hoppers; there is a joint for everyone. It is highly recommended for people on a tight budget who wish to have taste of the western world.

Chowmahalla Palace, Hyderabad

“A palace which gave the original a run for its money”
by Rajib Deysarkar

Often skipped by tourist in favour of its more popular cousin the Faluknama palace, the Chowmahalla palace which was built as a replica of the Shah’s palace in Tehran, Iran, was rumored to have surpassed the original in it’s grandeur.

Recipient of the prestigious UNESCO Asia Pacific Merit award for cultural heritage conservation in 2010, the Chowmahalla Palace whose restoration are still going on, is one of the must to visit tourist spot while you are in Hyderabad.

Though the older Southern part of the palace is still undergoing renovation but the Northern courtyard and “Khilwat Mubarak” which is open to public is enough to make you understand the splendor of the palace in it heydays with central fountain and pool and the adjoining greenery and buildings which were mirror image of each other.

The “Khilwat Mubarak” turned into a museum now, used to be the heart of the Palace where coronation of the Nizams used to happen and prestigious durbars of the Nizam used to be held here – the seat of the Asaf Jahi dynasty. The Durbar hall along with the aritificats of the museum – the arms and armaments section of th museum are one of the finest one can see in this part of the country. It brought me back the memories of arms I saw in the Rajput forts of Junagarh (Bikaner) and Mehrangarh (Jodhpur).

The Chandeliers of Belgian crystal in the durbar hall and the intrinsic stucco works on the ceiling and walls are another example of the grandeur of the palace.

I would love to be back to the Chowmahalla Palace when the Southern courtyard opens and I hope the palace administration can then go on to introduce a “Light and Sound” show to relive the days of the Nizams.

The palace has a small cafeteria just after the entrance serving tea, coffee, ice-creams, soft drinks and some basic snacks, however the eatery needs to have more chairs for guest and needs to kept more clean. There are toilets also which were quite clean when we went.

I visited Chowmahalla Palace with my family during December 2016.

Chowmahalla Palace
Khilwat, 20-4-236 | Motigalli, Hyderabad 500002, India

The socialist idea – Europe 1870 – 3 perspectives

Anoushrayan Deysarkar

The Windsor Castle – England – Europe

The socialist wanted to do away with private ownership of property and introduce the idea of collective community ownership. I have tried to create three brief speeches to show what I feel the people of Europe might have been thinking. Have fun!

Poor Labourer Working in Fields

Friends, today I want to talk about private property. Private property is one of the biggest problems of society today. In my village, there is this man, Kolshes. He is a big miser. He owns most of the land in the village, and he hires us to farm them! Because of him, the rest of us have very little land. This is the problem with private property. If one person owns it, nobody else gets anything. Instead, the land should belong to a collective! Everybody will farm it, and however much we get, we should divide among ourselves according to who did the most work. This way, all the property will not belong to a few people, and the money will be distributed fairly. This system will be just and equal. Thank you!

Medium level Landowner

Friends, I want to say that this idea of public property is very good. I have a small amount of land. Alone, I may be able to get some money from the crops. But if I combine my land with everybody’s land, we could get more profit. How much money we get will not depend on how much land we have. It will depend on how much work we do. The only problem I see, is what happens if someone wants to sell their land. If all the land belongs to the Collective, will the Collective buy the land from us? Or if we want to move away, will it give us some money? Other than this problem, this is a very good idea. Thank you!

House Owner

Friends, this idea of public property has many problems. I have a house in my village. If the Collective owns the land on which the house is built, does the house become theirs? If it doesn’t, then what is the use of owning that land? They cannot use it for farming, and I could sell the house together with the land to someone. Next, how do we know who did more work? If everybody is cultivating the same land, then how do we know how much work we did? Right now, Titolis is cultivating 10 bushels a month, and Litanes is cultivating 12 bushels a month. If they combine their land, and produce 22 bushels a month, how will they decide who has done more work? These are the main problems I see here. Thank you.


Europe was swept with high drama over the ages. But it is always interesting to return or reflect on how it all must have started!!!

Threesome Awesome in Goa – Aug 2017

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

I am Mota, a name coined in school; am Zen, a title earned by virtue of my ‘know it all attitude’ and am going to take you through a journal of three stupendous days of my life spent with two extraordinary individuals. 

An exemplary scene, if I may call it so, of this mémoire, wouldbe the one where am screaming, “Rums dare you fall asleep!” “Am not sleeping, it is just the eyes, you continue…” says Rums feebly, visibly half asleep completely tired from the day’s ordeal. I continue with the same zeal amidst my cough, finish the monologue about some very unimportant chapter of my life with few interceptions from our all remembering friend, the data bank and finally retire to bed. Rums is fast asleep by then and greets us all fresh and set to hit the beach in the morning.  We two meanwhile have had little rest, me by virtue of an incessant cough and Vidu for trying to tend to me so that I could get some relief. Rums is inspiration personified. After having an illustrious corporate career for 15 years she has taken another leap to distinguish herself in a vocation that has been her passion. Rums is a bundle of fun and vigour. She is a chatter box and exceptionally unassuming. Rums is incapable of presuming an ulterior motive in any deed. She is a cushion and a pillar at the same time, soft and strong and radiates a smile at all times that can melt any heart.

As the Innova sped on the metalled road, through the night, we were rolling in laughter, hardly noticing the occasional lights from either a house by the road or a dilapidated structure, which may have been occupied in a distant past. Laughing is contagious and when three schoolmates meet after more than 20 years and are out on a trip together there is every reason to be happy. Rums took the pains to stop her thundering guffawing and explain this to the lovely gentleman who has been driving us around all evening.

Vidu had flown in earlier in the day and was doing the formalities of checking us into a hotel which we had painstakingly chosen over the days and agreed upon after numerous WhatsApp messages and calls. Her husband had taken the initiative to book it online but there was some dissension over the charges for the extra person, as we were three. We walked in a little while later and were greeted with a refreshing kokum juice. Little did we care for the poor soul who was struggling to get her way through, not only for her but also us, as we waited in the beautifully decorated lobby, giggling our hearts out, also contemplating if they would offer us another drink.

Vidu, the data bank is an intricate character; sensitive, delicate and yet eloquent, exceedingly sober but sombre. She has a great sense of humour and can be really fun if she chooses to be so. Vidu is into serious aspects of humanity and has passionately turned it into her metier. She is a softball the type they give at offices these days as stress busters; people can dump their woes with her and she’ll happily absorb it all and suffer silently. We were checked in, three schoolgirls, out of their regime, and free to do anything they wished to; now that doesn’t happen every day. An outline of “things to be done” was already in place, girls are oh! So organised. Vidu was starving and we promised her food on the way as we discussed our evening plans, which included tourist spots, beaches, water sports, river cruise and fine dining. Rums gave us apples. We took just a little over an hour to decide what to wear and after about 3 changes, matching the accessories each time, the first leg of our “do as you like” began.

Just in time for the last cruise, we reached the jetty, accompanied by a mild drizzle, and anybody would have bet any amount on our being high on alcohol, but we had not had a drop. I’ll never forget the faces of the hapless chaps at the ticket counter who had to keep a straight face as we asked stupid questions and made outrageous comments. We asked if they served food on the deck, very well aware of the fact that they never do. We inquired about the programme on board and when they said regional culture, we actually said the bad word for crap!

The glittering lights from the boats were dancing on the waves and so were Vidu and Rums on the deck, as we talked and talked and talked more. The poor starving girl had been fed earlier that evening, though not on the way but at Dona Paula where we lingered on till nightfall. We tried to offer her sandwiches, paw bhaji and biscuits, as the shops came along, but each time she would say no and then once we had passed the shops, she would want to have them. Finally, the gentle driver offered coconuts that were being sold by the roadside, this time Vidu readily agreed but Rums forestalled us and we drove on, for obvious reasons which had slipped out of our minds.

A little undecided about where to dine, finally we gave in to Rums suggestion and the ambience of the restaurant was just what we needed to rejuvenate us after a long day. There was live music and very lively decor. Rums enjoyed the fish, which was too herbaceous of a certain kind for my taste and I spend the next day regurgitating it. Vidu seemed a little deranged but she played along. She doesn’t drink but did sip in from ours only to confirm her distaste for the heavenly liquor. The day concluded with the exemplary scene aforesaid.

Mornings are always beautiful, they bring hope, and a morning spent on a beach racing with the waves and dodging them is a perfect morning. The perfect morning gave way to a sumptuous breakfast accompanied by hearty laughs and long tales, never tall though, we had opened our hearts to each other and had no intentions of any fabrications. The clocks struggled to make time for the ladies, as they groomed their already handsome selves into exquisite beauties.

Fort Aguada up the hill overlooking the Arabian Sea was where the beauties de-boarded, me running off to throw off first. As I felt better we hovered on the hats at a stall nearby, I had forgotten to carry one along so was vaguely interested but then decided against them. Coincidently Vidu had a hat on, which was very similar to a pile on display. The keeper of the stall, a lady, thought that Vidu was walking away with one from the pile. Evidently, Vidu’s hat was a little different and not an exact copy, so we got away with only a little embarrassment.

Before lunch we made our presence felt at Vagator beach, me again rushing off to disgorge some more of that stupendous fish which my husband would have died for. Vidu let her hair loose to get it beaded with colourful threads and Rums and I sang our lungs out to the vast expanse of the ocean. I wondered if some faraway boatman looked up to find the source of a faint melody.

Lunch was at Fisherman’s Wharf; the ambience was overwhelming with the old world charm recreated through remarkable decor. The menu was a foodie’s delight and Rums enjoyed. Vidu also seemed to be more at ease and happily enjoyed the Goan curry and rice as opposed to last night. My poor ailing stomach agreed to only a trifle, but delicious it was. We sat there long enough for the other guests to clear off and the furniture being reorganised so as to indicate shop closed. Nobody drove us out though and we took our own sweet time to help ourselves out of the chairs.

Young is what we call ourselves, nevertheless matured we are, thus having paid a great deal to the hotel; the idea was to enjoy its facilities to the fullest. Thus we made it back to the hotel after we picked up a little something, customary, from the market. We stretched ourselves on the bed, making the most of our payment, had loads of tea, provided by the hotel, took long showers, used the toiletries, the only thing we did not use our money’s worth was the idiot box, we are too smart for it.

The swimming pool was closed by the time we managed to change and disembark from our room. Vidu poor thing got caught up with something urgent and had to devote some time to her work- dabba. I and Rums sat by the poolside. It was the first time I was sitting alone with another woman, mom excluded, under the wide open sky, with the rumbling of the waves as background music. We were talking of pleasant things, one of them being Reiki; we were talking of enriching experiences, one such we were presently in at the time; we were talking of things that had come to pass and of things that might do so. It was another magical moment of the many that I had lived in the past couple of hours.

We took special care to get ready for dining on the eve of our departure. We chose to dine at the hotel and by the time we settled at a table, the other guests had left and the kitchen was on the verge of closing. Little did we care, as our gorgeous selves are always drowned in self-appreciation, we are indubitably self-obsessed individuals. Most people think women dress to impress, only a true woman knows that we dress in celebration of our own being.

Dinner was satisfactory under the able supervision of a very cute boy; most likely from the northeast, nevertheless to our discomfort he just couldn’t leave us alone. We also had cats for company which none other than me was excited about. The high point was Vidu trying to taste a spoonful of our drinks as if it were faluda or firni. I had ordered a neat tequila shot but on rums insistence, the fair guy got us a lemon, which Vidu promptly squeezed into the shot glass, so instead of having to bite into the lemon after gulping down the shot we had nice good lemony tequila, which I sipped and Vidu took a spoonful or two.

Deep into the night the three of us chatted up, that was our last night of togetherness, at-least for then. The day of the departure was to be a hurried one as we had flights to catch to get back to our dominions. Yet I and Vidu hit the beach again, she playing alone in the waves this time, as Rums had a sleepover and rather wanted to take a plunge into the pool a little later. I watched Vidu happy and contemplating; I watched the sunrise bringing joy to the world, the rays breaking in through the mist; I watched the scurried movements of the tiny crabs and I felt happy and alive as always.

We shot Rums at the pool; she looked like a blue mermaid in her costume. After a couple of graceful laps the diva and her companions went off to gorge on food. Breakfast was complimentary throughout our stay and the spread was good and wide. We had every intention to check out well in time but even after so many hours we still had so much to talk! Finally, we packed and picked all the remaining sachets of beverages, settled the bill, got a cab and reached the airport.

I spilled out the remnant of the fish as we dislodged ourselves from the cab. A week before the trip some corona-viruses decided to explore my body so I can’t really blame my stomach completely for rejecting anything sumptuous.

Thus we were at the terminal, Vidu ran as her flight was to take off earlier than ours. I and Rums got through the security eventually, our time together was a wee bit longer; one we stay in the same city and two we had taken a train to reach Goa, which gave us an evening and an extra night to talk and laugh. The train being late we had occupied a bench, piled up our luggage and shared stories and food that Rums had packed from home, oblivious to the crowd and inquisitive eyes. Rums had a hat on most of the time and appeared quite a character; I pulled out a t-shirt and put it on above my top as the gentle breeze slowly got chilled, as the night darkened.  Vidu was wirelessly with us on phone from time to time. It was a long time since I had laughed so loud in public.

By some untypical logic after the airport security check, we sat facing the restrooms, where there were no monitors showing the details of the flights. Vidu came around to bid us goodbye and our first reaction was of annoyance, we were scared she would miss her flight.

As a desperate attempt to bestow these cuties with a gift I offered to pick something from the airport lounge but they declined. The heartless creatures with no regards for my feelings had picked up the choicest gifts and affectionately presented it to me as we had met. I having researched a lot could not finally manage to grab any for them owing to my untimely infection.

As the time for our departure approached, I and Rums walked around the little airport lobby to get a place near the gates and then I spotted him! A dashing young man in his late twenties maybe, tall, fair, handsome and with a poise of an ultimate gentleman. By the time I told Rums, he had seated himself, so she had to take a small walk to have a look, and she was not disappointed at all.

Goa is all about Bikini, Booze and Boys. We had an almost private beach where we played like kids, bikini we left out for the benefit of humanity at large; we had two drinks at the two dinners, with a teetotaller trying spoonfuls from them and we saw this gorgeous boy at departure. We had it all then!

It was raining as we emerged from the airport and with a hurried goodbye we rushed to get a transport, though we live in the same city, the localities are wide apart. I took a Volvo and was drowned in the reminiscence of the past couple of hours that undoubtedly were one of the best. I am a traveller, my team which comprises of my hubby and son take frequent trips which are focused around photography and exploring a destination, so outings are common for me, but this was a trip where I explored humans and am unquestionably happy to have taken it.

Puppets of destiny

By Moutushi Ghshdeysarkar

Indian men and women have traditionally been puppets of destiny governed by tradition and culture. The moment a child is born to an Indian family the process of turning him or her into an ideal Indian man or woman begins; from the food we eat to the clothes we wear it is all about imbibing the culture into the heart and soul. The sole purpose of the whole family that surrounds the child and helps in its upbringing is to carry on the heritage.

The baby boy is pampered with love and luxury with the single expectation that he would reproduce and carry on the family name and do something in order to earn a living, the baby girl is showered with good sermons, as on her rests the honour of the family. In the process, the boy grows up to be a carefree man getting away with almost anything as long as he happily agrees to marry the girl that the family chooses for him and does a decent amount of studies to bag a degree and a job.

Please note the most important thing is to “marry according to the wishes of the family”. On the other hand, the girl has to grow up into a typical “sanskari” that is a cultured girl with all the good virtues to get married to a guy who may or may not give her any love respect or even basic amenities. In some cases, the girl has to even provide for this pati parameshwar (husband the ultimate God) and his family and yet be taunted and tortured for having the privilege of going out.

This full proof arrangement has been going on for ages as its very scientific that a docile creature would perform the duties well and never stand for its rights. In effect, the girl was completely dominated to be most docile and the reins of the boy were slackened a bit to give him the pseudo feeling of a king and were given at-least one slave – his wife. That was the general story until even a decade back.  

Now in the modern cities exceptions are becoming a rule and the children unruly. The Indian men and women are going through a series of transitions owing to the influence of the western world. They are forming an opinion of their own, which was unheard of in such a large scale, occasional rebels have been known but they were easy to silence, given the well-knit social structure where the rebels could not survive for long without either giving in or losing their lives.

Some city boys and girls are now not only forming an opinion but also voicing them strongly and if not supported by the family are choosing to sever the family ties. The small town girl can now come to a big city and pursue her dreams, maybe at the cost of her family’s honour, but she now prefers to be honourable herself rather than being a slave. Small town goes to big town, big town goes abroad as today with a shrinking world it’s plausible, with a little courage and determination.

Interestingly the metrosexual man is also more sensitive and sensible. He has slowly learned to look beyond heritage and culture. Today lot of children see both parents earning, both parents washing vessels and most amazingly both being treated equally. But all this is happening in just a small percentage of the vast Indian population. Child marriage, dowry, abortion of girl child, wife beating and cruelty against women is far from being abolished. Unfortunately , even within the educated section of the people, it is a regular practice.

Yet there is hope as the world around Indian men and women are changing, in a small way, though. The voice within is rising, very slowly, very silently but very strongly.

Pahalgam – The unforgettable pony ride in paradise

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Pahalgam || Gulmarg || Kashmir

It would be a cliché to say the view was picturesque, Kashmir is too beautiful to express in words. We were on our way to Pahalgam. As we left the city of Srinagar behind and hit the highway, my window was splashed with colours, the yellow mustard fields, the green lining of the willow trees, the greenish-grey hills, the shimmering white snow cap and then the pristine blue sky; one making a backdrop for the other. It is like a layered painting conceived by the greatest of artists.

It was a little after 6 am, and the roads were almost deserted.

A bandh (shut down) was called on that day demanding justice for Asifa, the hapless little girl. Procuring transportation was difficult but our hotel manager (Walisons Hotel) Sajad bhai went the extra mile to extend his cooperation. He insisted that we move on early, a village en route to Pahalgam in Anantnag district was supposedly in an enraged temperament and could pose a threat. Thus the journey at the appointed hour.

Suhail the kashmiri boy, all of 21, drove at a slow but steady pace, showing us the Kesar fields, the walnut trees, the willow trees, the bat market and the kesar market lining the highway with countless shops, ofcourse all closed at that wee hour, interestingly most of the kesar shops had ‘Zamindar’ on their Signboard pre or post fixed with something or the other.

Soon we were driving past sleepy little villages, the apple orchards and then we met the Liddar. Rajib asked Suhail to stop and urged us to get down. I had no idea that the air outside would be so chilled.

Srinagar was at 5200ft and we were now approaching 8989ft, much closer to those snow caps. Pahalgam boasts of being the gateway to Amarnath pilgrimage. The famous Amarnath yatra starts from ‘Chandanwadi’, 16kms uphill from the main town of Pahalgam.

Srinagar looks like any other town, bustling with activity, big and small buildings, flyovers and congestion. Jhelum and the flood channels are fairly clean and looking at the ornate bridges on them, with a glimpse of the snow-capped mountains at the horizon, one does get reminded of being close to paradise. But Pahalgam is paradise.

The river that is called Liddar, fed by numerous streams trickling or babbling down the snow-capped mountains, gives a distinct character to Pahalgam. It is at the heart of this tiny picture-perfect town.

There is only one way to enter Pahalgam, through a small check post on the road. After the welcome banner, the road goes upstream beside the Liddar. On one side the hill slopes up and the other limits the gully that the river creates. A few hotels are scattered on either side of the road, each kindling a desire to frame it or better be a part of that frame.

The road leads to the centre of the town which is at the river level.  The town centre is a stretch of about 2 km on the same road; it has two big parking lots (to hire cars) at each end, curio shops, eateries and hotels, a mosque, an ancient temple and a gurdwara. It also has two ATMs and branches of J&K Bank and HDFC. SBI atm counter had been closed since long. A public utility stands a little way up the slope from the road, opposite to the Gurudwara, Swachcha Bharat!

The road then bifurcates, one leading towards ‘Chandanwadi’ and the other towards Aru Valley and further.

The town has another level accessible by two roads, one a steeply inclined road which goes straight up the slope from the town centre to the main gates of the JKTDC (Jammu Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation) tourist lodges where we were housed for the 3 unforgettable days of my life.

Another, which we took on the day we arrived, a little round-about but less steep, is an offshoot of the main road at the onset of the town centre. This level is on the slope of a hill that goes up, up and up; mostly has JKTDC lodgings, some government offices and residences of the forest and other departments.

There is a village at the fag end of the road on this level. This road is called the circuit road.

In Pahalgam, riding is the thing to do, if one is not angling or rafting or trekking! It had been raining and snowing for the last couple of days and it was only for us to ride that snow white gleamed on the mountain tops, and ride we did.

We checked in to a pre-booked (online) two bedroom cottage, had tea and breakfast sitting at the garden table. Gulam was just a phone call away to take care of all our needs. Villagers from the nearby mountains came with their wares to sell, we mostly declined, taking just one dress material as a gesture of empathy. All winter they weave and wait for the tourist season that begins in April.

Tourism is the only livelihood of the people of Pahalgam, in fact of Kashmir as a whole. The hotels, the shops, the weavers, the artisans who do paper mache or woodcraft to the drivers, horse tenders and the horses and even the masseuse, all depend on us, the tourists.

The masseuse, another Gulam bhai was persistent about rendering his services and finally, we promised to avail them in the evening. He came around 7 pm and massaged Rajib and Roddur. It was good and reasonable at only Rs 300.

We took the horses from the guy, whom the manager of JKTDC recommended, the rates are written on the board for all to see as though fixed, yet negotiations go underway if the hours are lengthier and the numbers are more. We took three ponies for a 4 to 5 hrs trip (12kms) for Rs 4800.

Little did we know about the adventures that awaited us! Roddur had been very eager since he rode a horse in Darjeeling and a camel in Jaisalmer. I was very sceptical since in Darjeeling, I mounted one and got down immediately screaming hypnotically and in Jaisalmer was almost hanging for my dear life at the camel’s butt. Rajib was only worried about being able to sustain the long ride.

As soon as I got up, my head reeled but I hung on, for one if I backed out the fun would get spoiled, two there was no other way to go to Baisaran valley also called ‘mini Switzerland’, except for on ponies or foot and I could not have trekked alone.

After a while I got comfortable, this was a classic case of defeating fear with mental powers, I did it! The metalled road soon ended as we started the climb to the next level up the slope through a winding road that was full of muck and water from the incessant rains that had hit the valley till the day before.

The ponies want to walk through the mud, as the stones laid on the mud road hurt their legs, thus they move over to the edge often. We went on for a while stopping at times to see the Pahalgam valley peeping through the pine trees as if to take a look at the new bride. And beautiful she is.

At a point we stopped to pose with rabbits which the local boys catch from the forest and are happy to get any dime that one cares to give them. Then came a turn where we left the path which came close to be called a ‘road’, though muddy and clearly made only out of regular use.

We started climbing up the slope, no tracks, no marks, just a straight climb up. All my fear had vaporized by then and I was amazed to find that the horseman was able to find a footing on the slope where I could see none and the beast followed.

We went over the logs, through gentle streams, adjusting our bodies, bend back when going down, bend forward when going up and in the midst of all this I give a sidewise glance and find Roddur riding all by himself at a little distance giving instructions to his horse. Under normal circumstances, I would have been petrified but there atop my pony in that vista, I assumed myself to be Ibn Battuta going on a long journey and thought of him as a fellow traveller used to ridding naturally, which he proved to be all through when we hit even harder descends down the slope.

Finally we reached Baisaran valley. Rolling meadows, surrounded by pine forest with a backdrop of the snow capped mountains. It seemed like a gateway to heaven. Baisaran is the camp site for trekkers who go up to Tulian Lake at 12000ft. Baisaran is 5kms from Pahalgam.

We sat for a while, drank kahwa and ate maggi which is readily available. Roddur did some Zorbing and Rajib clicked, clicked and clicked.

The onward journey, again through the off-beat, no track path took us to a village which had 3 houses. The Gurjar lady happily let us photograph her ware and we gave her a few bucks.

There was a nice stretch of land after the village and then came the most horrific descend. We were to ride down a slope which had an inclination of almost 45 deg down to a waterfall. I was trying to focus on the awesome scene.

Suddenly Roddur’s pony was sick of following mine, which was being led by a horseman and went astray. It had been doing that all the while but this descend was not to be fooled around on, so my horseman took its reins too. It would have made quite an intense scene in a movie. One horseman trying to lead two horses down a very steep slope with riders on them, one of which, me, was quite a rounded bundle prone to lose balance any instance.

Rajib had a horseman to himself but that didn’t make it any bit easier.

The waterfall was another prattling stream cutting through the rocks, coming from somewhere uphill. One could wade through it in April and the drier months, but after July it swells up and makes quite a sight rumbling down over the rocks, rendering the crossing over impossible.

There is a small shack for refreshments.

The descend further is not so steep but a difficult terrain for the horses. Its all rocks and slippery too! The ponies tripped a couple of times. I reasoned that since they had four legs, a little trip won’t make it fall and if we could just cling on to it, then we won’t crash land either.

Soon we hit the metalled road that was the other end of the circuit road that we had started our journey from. There is a small village and settlement at this end. Children were waving and running along.

Roddur seemed to be in his element all through; he mostly rode on his own, up the hill, down the hill and was having a roll.

The next day, to Roddur’s dismay and discomfort, we travelled on the four legs of a car that we are more used to. We visited the famous Betaab valley, where Roddur tried Zip Lining to my surprise. He is scared of heights and is a very non sporty person.

We went till the snow line at Chandanwadi and had jhaal muri, in the Aru valley where we found possibly the costliest public utility in India at Rs 10/- per head.

Back in Pahalgam after the sightseeing, we tried trout fish. It was too expensive but delicious. Food all through the Kashmir valley needs a special mention. Just as the valley is a paradise, the food is that of the Gods; from 5 star rated restaurant to road-side dhaba, everybody knows how to cook up the most mouth-watering savoury.

Kashmir is also famous for its Papier-mâché art in addition to their signature motifs on textile and wood carvings. Walnut wood is widely used for decor. Pine is used for the base of the Shikaras. The saying goes that its only after some 10-15 years that the pine realises it is in the water, the decay might start then.

We picked up most of the home decor from Pahalgam.

The day before our departure we explored the 1300 years old Sun temple, the mughal garden at Achbal and Kokernag; that is another delightful story which needs to be told separately.

Closing the Pahalgam chapter, we headed for Srinagar. Liddar kept company for a good time and then we parted, once and for all? May be not, who knows. Loaded with souvenirs and kesar and cranberry and blue berry and kehwa and saffron cream, and many more things and enchanting memories we came back to a sweltering Srinagar.

Srinagar we found is chilling when it rains and sizzling when it doesn’t, that is in April.

Pahalgam || Gulmarg || Kashmir

Out of containment

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

from an era without coronavirus

I have been familiar with the term cantonment since childhood well into my forties. But ‘containment’ had never been so up close and personal. We contain harmful chemicals, angry bulls, rising water levels so on and so forth but humans en masse, unbelievable!

Equally unbelievable is the fact that I am the potential danger, and all humans around me are death personified. Creepy as it feels, an indiscernible tiny spec has become the governing body of our oh! so superior human bodies. One touch, one sneeze, one spit and I could be infected in 60 seconds.

My son tells me that our bodies are weak, our abilities are inferior, and without advanced tech, left alone, even a dog can shred us into pieces. But look what we have become – a weapon of destruction without any tech.

We have heard of bees whose behaviour gets altered after being bitten by Apocephalus borealis. The infected bees fly at night towards bright light aimlessly displaying ‘Zombie’ like behaviour where one is not in control but is being controlled by someone or something else and dying eventually.

Thus subjugated by the Corona virus, we the humans, are also behaving like zombies – venturing out purposelessly towards procuring stuff we don’t have an immediate requirement for, be it food or medicines or gadgets as if being forced by a will that is no longer ours but manipulated by evil, and dying eventually.

In that sense we have become harmful and thus need to be contained. Our housing society had to be made a containment zone for a couple of weeks as the number of Covid positive cases were rising at greater rate than fuel prices. Frequent advisory notices, awareness talks or even people getting affected could not make people to adhere to norms that would benefit themselves.

Can we then say that we are superior intelligent beings capable of making democratic choices or should we hand over our reins to the AI that cannot be manipulated so easily? But then who knows, viruses don’t spare anybody! Does it not seem like they are at the apex after all, naturally occurring or manmade? However we are free again, out of containment and once again given the opportunity to prove that we are sentient beings with a rational mind. Feels good, hope we prove worthy.

The Benefits of Organic Farming

By Anoushrayan Deysarkar

Beautiful fields near Hampi

Chemical fertilizers are one of the cornerstones of the Green Revolution in India. They drastically increase the yield of crops grown in the fields. However, they have their own drawbacks.

Chemical fertilizers dissolve in water and are absorbed by the plants as mineral nutrients. However, they also enter the groundwater and form poisonous substances. Sometimes, rain washes them into rivers and streams, thus polluting them.

When animals or humans drink or use such water, they fall ill, due to the poisonous nature of some of these substances.

The bigger problem, however, is that chemical fertilizers do not enrich the soil, unlike organic fertilizers such as manure and animal dung. This is because chemical fertilizers deplete the nutrients in the soil. For example, excess nitrogen in the soil feeds the growth of nitrogen-eating microbes, which produce CO2. In this way, carbon is pulled out of the soil and into the atmosphere. However, it is essential to have sufficient quantity of carbon in the soil. In this way, chemical fertilizers reduce the amount of essential nutrients in the soil. They also prevent the regeneration of soil nutrients.

Chemical pesticides are also a major problem. They kill off the bacteria and fungi in the soil. The reduction of organic matter has drastic consequences for the soil. The soil does not regenerate essential nutrients. This is because the bacteria break down compounds into nitrogen and phosphates, which are important for the health of the plant.

In this way, chemical fertilizers and pesticides severely harm the soil. Alternatively, organic manures and organic pesticides made from natural substances can help to keep the soil healthy. The yield will be reduced, but the soil will last for a longer period of time. Thus, it is wise to choose organic pesticides and fertilizers over chemical ones.

Go organic and save the soil!

The G’lander kids

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Earth – many centuries hence

Lost

Giti Gitu and Gito had come to that part of the prairie where they were not supposed to be. It was a restricted area. They weren’t there because they were naughty, but because they were lost. The only relief was that there was light. Ample light, to find our way back home, thought Giti, the eldest of them. They were not siblings but in their biome G’land, everybody’s name started with G.

10 yrs old Giti was a smart chap. It so happened that after school, Gitu (8) and Gito (7), who lived in the same housing complex as that of Giti requested him to take them home by a detour he had quite often spoken off.

The detour was a small one, hardly a couple of fathoms more than the usual way home. It was bordered by a line of very tall bushes.

So it was first two lefts then a right and a slight right and a left again to reach home by this detour. Giti knew it as good as the table of 5. And yet it happened. He got lost and with him Gitu and Gito too.

“Must have taken a turn we should not have.” Gitu said aloud. True it is, but which one? thought Giti.

Beyond the tall bushes, Gito spotted a lamb and showed it to the others. Giti gestured to keep quiet. The lamb was happily jumping around unaware of their presence, suddenly it turned to face them and with a start jumped back and ran as fast as possible. The children ran after it but soon lost it.

The mystery

Gito was exhausted and sat on a pile of dry grass with a thud. Giti and Gitu were about to join when they saw Gito rolling down into a pit as the dry grass started caving in. He had accidentally touched a lever that opened up a sort of thatch. Gito started screaming and the other two ran towards the opening. Gito was standing on firm ground, not very deep, hardly about their height into the earth in a squarish enclosure. Giti and Gitu jumped in.

The three walked towards the interior of the enclosure and found a door. A little push opened the door ajar and they walked into a room that was walled with glass. Giti placed his palm on the wall and started walking around the room, the other two followed. Suddenly Giti could feel a portion of the wall moving outward. It was a door. The trio pushed and entered another room, much smaller and filled with many narrow chambers like phone booths that they had seen photographs of in their books.

They got inside one and found that it had a lot of buttons. Gito started pushing them but nothing happened. The kids rushed out and started checking the other equipment. There was a big box that looked like a washing machine or dish washer. that they had seen at home. Gitu and Gito started pushing all the buttons and before Giti could warn them one of the booths started glowing. The children ran towards it and went inside. The door shut almost immediately. A voice started saying, “Initiating protocol for descend. Please take your seat” The kids sat down on the bench and a belt came around their waist. A sweet smell filled the chamber and the kids felt sleepy and before long were snoring aloud..

Giti woke up first. The booth door was ajar. The belts were no longer holding them. He shook Gito and Gitu out of their slumber. The trio moved out of the booth and came into the room. Giti said, “Guys I think we slept off and it must be quite late, lets head home, our parents must be very worried.” The other two agreed and they ran out of the room pushing the doors. They came into the enclosure where the hatch had opened, but the hatch was closed now. The kids started looking around and shortly found a lever sort of thing. On pressing it the hatch started to cave in.

Giti put Gito on his shoulder and stood up. Gito climbed out easily. Next out was Gitu and then Giti climbed out. They stood there dumbfounded. Where was the priory? There was sand all around.There was ample light so they could see afar. But with sand all around and no known landscape, they didn’t know which way to go.

Giti said, “I am completely out of my wits, what do we do guys?” Gitu and Gito looked at each other. Finally Gitu said, “Lets start walking.” The three started walking. After a very long walk the kids saw a white tent and a few people moving about it. One of the men spotted the kids and came towards them.

The kids were very exhausted by now and passed out. The man called out for a few others. They picked up the kids and took them into the tents. Made them lie down. After quite some time Giti woke up. One man was sitting by his side. He slowly spoke to him but Giti could not understand. He then punched some buttons on his watch and gestured to Giti to speak. Giti said, “I am Giti.”

The man looked at the watch and a wrinkle formed on his forehead. He again punched some keys and this time the watch repeated after he had spoken, “Are you lost? You seem to be from G’land. How did you reach D’land?”

Giti gave the complete account of their escapade after school. He then inquired about Gitu and Gito. The watch translator said that they were in the other tent. Soon after the trio were given refreshments and they felt revived. Now they wanted to go home. The men from the tent told them that they were far out from the city. Giti asked inquisitively, “What is happening here?”. “We are replacing the water pipes. It has to be done every 20 – 25 yrs to keep any contamination at bay,”

Apparently, the kids came through an elevator but according to the men there wasn’t supposed to be any elevator nearby. This was a remote location meant only to facilitate water circulation throughout the different biomes. Children coming from Grass(G)land to D(Desert)land meant a lot of trouble on a global scale. It meant unauthorized entry to a different biome, through an unauthorized shaft dug without official knowledge and definitely with a malicious intent.

Found

Next morning the kids were taken to the nearest habitation – a beautiful township complete with hi-tech facilities just like the one where Giti, Gitu and Gito live. One of the official routes to traverse between the Lands which the tourists, officials and scientists used was nearby.

Giti Gitu and Gito were taken to a building with beautiful gardens around it, it was a striking feature in a otherwise sandy landscape. They were thoroughly examined, decontaminated and then taken to a room which had a couple of vertical cylindrical metallic elevators just like the ones that the kids had seen and traversed by but much more sophisticated and comfortable.

Urbanization and extreme technological development had seen the surface of the earth made into a city planet – The Ecumenupolis, It had nothing natural about it any more. It had turned into a typical business center – only huge, humongous. Trade happened on an interplanetary scale(Read the account of K’ Rell Suga – a business traveler from L’Orgrehi, a very distant planet).

However the apex living beings of Earth, the humans felt the need to preserve the beautiful biomes(habitats) that the planet had once been adorned with. They wanted their children to know the beautiful and bountiful nature. But they wanted to create a layered Earth where each habitat or biome will be preserved and their unique biotic and the abiotic factors will not interfere with the other biomes.

So they dug into the Earth and created a unique biome for a couple of thousand kms supporting it with pillars and complete with artificial sun and all other natural elements as required with the help of advanced nano bots tech.

The ecumenupolis was followed by the grass-land, the desert-land, the forest-land and the ocean-land.Beyond that was the mantle and core of the Earth, which kept it going – no messing up there!

The kids were given a small drink and asked to sit for a while. While the adults could handle the travel between the habitats, it had never been tried on kids, they were not even made aware of the existence of the other biomes till 16 years of age, after which they could travel freely between the biomes. The light music and ambiance made them feel sleepy and they slept off.

Gito was thrilled to see his mom as he woke up. “Mamma, I went to another earth, it had a lot of sand and no grass. I didn’t want to go there. We were just taking a detour and then…” Mom gave him a patient hearing although she knew everything, the officials had briefed the parents earlier while the kids were still under the effect of the sleep inducer. The three little G’lander kids were very excited about their adventure. But there was a lot more to find out !!!

A Tour of Earth from L’Orgrehi

By Anoushrayan Deysarkar

Earth – many centuries later

“Entering Realspace in 5 minutes.”

The automated voice greeted K’Rell Suga as he exited cryostasis. He quickly got into his anti-inertial luxury couch and strapped in. The deactivation of the warp field and the sudden stop caused by the ship entering Realspace was nauseating, but the couch should help.

K’Rell was going to Earth(as in The G’lander kids), for a business deal. He was travelling in his one-person frigate, upgraded with state-of-the-art security and a powerful FTL engine. He had heard many stories about Earth, and how beautiful it was, both its urban side, and the Biomes. K’Rell was not impressed. Surely it could not be more beautiful than the great cities and vast natural parks of his home planet, L’Orgrehi?

“Entering Realspace in 1 minute. Please strap up your belongings.”

K’Rell didn’t have to worry about that – his belongings were safely stowed away. He simply waited impatiently for the moment when the warp bubble would collapse and he would enter, ‘Lagrange Point 2, Earth-Luna System, Sol System’, as he had been informed.

“Entering Realspace. Warp bubble collapsing in 3, 2, 1… Warp Bubble Deactivated. Enjoy your trip!”

K’Rell deactivated his harness and stepped out to the window. Earth’s moon, Luna, obscured the view of the planet itself, but his ship was moving and soon he’d be able to see –

K’Rell gasped. He had just had his first view of Earth. The entire planet was covered in a single city. He knew the term for this – he had learnt it in school. It was a – Ecumenopolis? Yes, that was the term. A city planet. Beautiful.

But where were the Biomes? Most people who visited Earth refused to tell anybody else about it, saying that they needed to visit it themselves. As a result, K’Rell had heard about the Biomes, but he had never got any real details about them. Either way, he’d get to know, soon.

His ship took an hour to land on Earth’s surface, courtesy of their space elevator, and another hour to check in out of the spaceport. Once he had all his baggage ready, he chartered one of the local automated ‘flying taxis’ – why not use pods, he didn’t know, but the locals just laughed when he asked them, murmuring something about a ‘fifth element’ – and then checked into his hotel. He was on the 56th floor, one of the lower ones.

The next morning, after breakfast, he got to Juk-Rai Market Nexus, and attended his appointment with the CEO of Verision Industries. The deal was successful, and now a lot richer, K’Rell decided to explore this planet.

He chartered an automated gyro-pod – at least they had those – for the entire day. Then, he started his tour.

He went to entertainment parks. He went to shopping malls, holo-cinema halls, and to restaurants. He rode roller coasters, bought souvenirs, and tasted dishes from all over the universe.

When he heard that there were interesting and unique heritage sites, preserved for more than a thousand years, he decided to visit them. He chartered a supersonic bus to carry his gyro-pod to the heritage site of Burj Khalifa. The tower, constructed in 2009, had been the tallest tower on Earth for a long time. Now, of course, it looked tiny, compared to the 5-kilometre-tall skyscrapers rising around it, and the even larger luxury condominiums.

He visited the ancient mega-cities of Tokyo, Beijing, Singapore, New York and London, now absorbed into the Ecumenopolis. He visited museums and exhibition centres.

At the end of the day, he returned to his hotel, tired but happy, having explored the entire planet. However, he still hadn’t found the Biomes, though he had seen several advertisements for them. He had originally planned to stay for only a day on Earth, but now he decided to extend his visit by another day.

The next day, he went to the hotel management, and asked them to charter a trip for him to the Biomes. 1 hour later, he was on a personal supersonic carrier, travelling to the nearest ‘elevator’.

K’Rell wondered what that meant. Was he going to a space elevator? Were the Biomes in space? Well, he would find out, soon enough.

K’Rell arrived at what looked like a reverse space elevator, leading downwards instead of upwards. His carrier docked onto one of the Hubs, labelled Outer Earth, which didn’t make any sense to him. He then followed the instructions on his holo-ticket to a door labelled ‘Murmila Biome Tours’. K’Rell flashed his ticket at the reader, and the door opened. One quick DNA scan later, he was led down a corridor by a human guide.

K’Rell was taken to an elevator, and told to strap in. The couch was comfortable, and clearly inertially damped. The guide checked to make sure he was comfortable, and then gave a signal.

The elevator started moving down, speeding up until it was moving downwards, through solid rock, at breakneck speed. K’Rell, was getting nervous, when suddenly, the rock fell away, and the sight under his feet – because only now did he realise that the floor was made of a transparent material – struck him speechless.

Below him, was a vast grassland, spreading out in every direction.

It took them half-an-hour to reach the hub at the bottom. The guide led him to a gyro-pod for 2, and then proceeded to take him on a tour of the Grassland Biome, colloquially known as G-Land.

They toured the G-Land for the next 2 hours, and finally returned to the Hub.

K’Rell smiled, and told the guide, “Thank you, young man, that was a wonderful tour. I’ll be sure to write a good review.” The guide looked at him strangely and asked, “What are you talking about, sir? This is only the beginning!”

And then, he took K’Rell down another layer, to the Desert Biome. And then to the Forest Biome, and then the Ocean Biome. Each layer seemed more beautiful than the last.

K’Rell spent the entire day exploring the Biomes. At the end of the day, he returned to Outer Earth – that name finally made sense – and got his baggage out of the hotel. 7 hours later, as K’Rell prepared to go into cryostasis for the journey home, he knew he would be leaving Earth with not just a successful business deal, but with extraordinary memories of the planet and its beauty.

# Biomes – a large naturally occurring community of flora and fauna occupying a major habitat, e.g. forest or desert.

# Cryostasis – process of freezing a person, in this case – while on a long planetary travel.

On Amazon – E3PO talks love – Novella

Crogy, Neel’s housekeeping Cyborg, is programmed to efficiently handle human emotions, well only the straight forward ones; so when Neel is struck by cupid’s arrow, Crogy tries to find a rationale and fails. He is the author of this narrative which spans years and generations from one pandemic to another and tells the story of heart aches in times of global crisis and how it created predicament in the personal lives of his master Neel and his grandfather Mohit. Crogy switches between the past and present chapter by chapter bringing in hordes of characters that influence the lives of his protagonists in a small or big way, he also gives a sneak peek of his times – the futuristic world that 2090 could be. The gripping novella ends on a sweet note having taken the reader through two vivid and eventful journeys, full of twists and turns.

The Periodic Table

Anoushrayan Deysarkar

The periodic table is a common sight in nearly every chemistry classroom in the world today. But how did it come to be?

In 1789, Antoine Lavoisier published a list of 33 chemical elements, grouping them into gases, metals, nonmetals, and earths.

 In 1829, Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner observed that many elements could be grouped into triads based on their chemical properties. For example, Lithium, Sodium and Potassium were grouped together in a triad, as soft, reactive metals. German chemist Leopold Gmelin worked with this system, and by 1843 he had identified 10 triads, three groups of 4 and 1 group of 5. However, although various chemists were able to identify relationships between small groups of elements, they had yet to build one scheme that encompassed them all.

In 1862, the French geologist Alexandre-Émile Béguyer de Chancourtois published an early form of the periodic table, which he called the telluric helix or screw. His paper used geological rather than chemical terms and did not include a diagram. As a result, it received little attention until the work of Dmitri Mendeleev.

In 1864, Julius Lothar Meyer, a German chemist, published a table with 28 elements. Realizing that an arrangement according to atomic weight did not exactly fit the observed periodicity in chemical properties he gave valency priority over minor differences in atomic weight.

Concurrently, English chemist William Odling published an arrangement of 57 elements, ordered on the basis of their atomic weights. Odling alluded to the idea of a periodic law but did not pursue it. He subsequently proposed (in 1870) a valence-based classification of the elements.

English chemist John Newlands produced a series of papers from 1863 to 1866 noting that when the elements were listed in order of increasing atomic weight, similar physical and chemical properties recurred at intervals of eight. He likened such periodicity to the octaves of music. This so termed Law of Octaves was ridiculed by Newlands’ contemporaries, and the Chemical Society refused to publish his work. The Chemical Society only acknowledged the significance of his discoveries five years after they credited Mendeleev.

Russian chemistry professor Dmitri Mendeleev and German chemist Julius Lothar Meyer independently published their periodic tables in 1869 and 1870, respectively. The recognition and acceptance afforded to Mendeleev’s table came from two decisions he made. The first was to leave gaps in the table when it seemed that the corresponding element had not yet been discovered. Mendeleev was not the first chemist to do so, but he was the first to be recognized as using the trends in his periodic table to predict the properties of those missing elements, such as gallium and germanium. The second decision was to occasionally ignore the order suggested by the atomic weights and switch adjacent elements, such as tellurium and iodine, to better classify them into chemical families.

In 1871, Mendeleev published his periodic table in a new form, with groups of similar elements arranged in columns rather than in rows, and those columns numbered I to VIII corresponding with the element’s oxidation state. He also gave detailed predictions for the properties of elements he had earlier noted were missing but should exist. These gaps were subsequently filled as chemists discovered additional naturally occurring elements.

The popular periodic table layout, also known as the common or standard form is attributable to Horace Groves Deming (1923).

In 1945, Glenn Seaborg, an American scientist, made the suggestion that the actinide elements, like the lanthanides, were filling an f sub-level. Before this time, the actinides were thought to be forming a fourth d-block row. Seaborg’s suggestion was found to be correct, and he subsequently went on to win the 1951 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work in synthesizing actinide elements. As we know, the periodic table has undergone many changes throughout its history, until it has reached the modern form we see today. Many elements were found in nature, and some have been synthesized in labs. Scientists are working, even now, to find more elements and improve the periodic table. Let us hope that we continue to find out more about the periodic table, and that our chemical knowledge improves in the process.