MOANRA is Moutushi / Anoushrayan / Rajib. All the content on this site from writeups to photographs has been created by us. We love to travel and document them in blogs through our writeups and photographs. Our son Anoushrayan and I also love to write stories.

Madam Koshy

  • story by Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

She looked weary and tired. I took a long look at her from the window of my wagonR. I do that every day and then for the next ten minutes keep brooding about the purpose of her sitting at the bus stop opposite to the entrance arch of my residential complex. I do not see her when I come back from work and thus never think of her till I see her again in the morning.

It was a winter day and I was in no mood to go to work but I had to as there was an important in-person meeting. I was trying to keep myself upbeat with a Punjabi beat on FM but my eyes went searching for the woman at the bus stop. She was not there.  I took the U-turn slowly and passed by the bus stop even slower – only to look for her. I spent the entire trip to the office thinking about her. At office I felt restless and packed after having the aforesaid meeting that mattered. It was about 3 in the afternoon when I reached the bus stop opposite to my residential complex. I parked the car at a convenient location and started making enquiries at the shops nearby.

After a good bit of toil I only got to know that she takes the bus every morning at around 8am and comes back by the same at around 8pm.

I was intrigued. Why? I couldn’t say. I tried to recall – the woman was very ordinarily dressed in a saree with a bag hanging from her shoulder. She sat at the bus stop with drooping shoulders and looked weary and tired but her eyes had a sort of glint in them that caught my fancy. Her face was not exactly attractive but it had the kind of charm that captivated my attention. She had a narrow frame and though I always saw her sitting I felt she was tall. Her hands were quite thin.

The next day I found myself all set to become a spy. I dressed inconspicuously and walked down to the bus-stand well before 8am. To my relief she came! I had really really wanted her to come cause I had taken a leave for the sole purpose of unraveling her story, little did I know that it would turn out to be an extraordinary one and I would find my ‘Hero!’

She came near me and smiled. “No office today?” She said in a mellifluous voice with such ease as if we had known each other for ever. My career as a spy got over even before I could get started, she had taken note of me too – eyeing her every morning as I drove past. “You didn’t come yesterday.” I said with childlike simplicity. The words just poured out of my mouth. “So you got worried? How blessed I am!” She caught my hand and gave a light squeeze.

The bus came and we boarded it. The hour long ride seemed to end quickly – I needed more time. To talk about me! I had not unraveled a single thing about her – cause she asked and I kept on blabbering and it felt good. We walked for some time, ten minutes may be – who cared, then got into another bus. This was definitely a very short ride – but the watch said a half hour.

By now I had only managed to get her name – Mrs Koshy. A cycle van resembling a vegetable vendor’s cart was waiting by the road side a little after the bus stand. The van driver flashed a huge set of teeth and Mrs Koshy nodded. She sat on one side and asked me to sit on the other. After about 15 or 20 mnts we reached a place that looked like a shack and a moment later a hoard of children came out of it and encircled us.

They were talking all at once and I could only catch Madam Koshy and one or two animated words as the dialect was quite different. Madam Koshy resonated with their exuberance. Then they all went inside the shack. I peeped through the window or rather a whole. Madam Koshy was teaching them geometry. After about an hour we departed from the place amidst fond goodbyes.

We perched up the cart and went to another shack and then another and then another – all three around 20 mnts apart from each other. Similar events followed. I was getting used to the pattern and my happiness quotient was on its all time high. So many children – laughing aloud in reality not the LOL onscreen. The quiet of a sleepy hamlet broken only by their cacophony was more refreshing than those breaks I had ever taken in my life.

Wrapping up madam Koshy announced that its lunch time – and man I was hungry! We had lunch at a small joint – simple rice lentils and a vegetable curry. I was skeptical about having carbs on a weekday but madam Koshy said, “Eat without guilt – it’s the guilt that gets converted into fat – and she gave me a wink.”

I ate without guilt, actually hogged – the simple food was so delicious that I could not control myself – it was as though I was storing it so that the taste remains with me forever. May be I will never get this food again. After lunch we visited 2 more shacks and finally the van-cart dropped us back at the bus – stand by 6pm. We reached the bus – stand opposite to my residential complex around 8pm and I was totally exhausted.

As we were about to part madam Koshy who by now knew all about my past and present and even my future aspiration, invited me home. “Tomorrow is Saturday; it is off for you and also for me, why don’t you come along with me, have dinner and then we girls have a sleepover.” She said very amicably. I was hesitant thinking would her home be any better than those shacks? Would I be able to manage – even a night? Then I thought – well it is just a night!

There is a lane right after the bus stand where I had parked my car the other day. We walked till the lane and I saw a huge car parked there. I am not a car enthusiast like some of my friends who would look at a curve and state what car it is – even from a distance! But it was a huuuuuuuuuuuuuge car. I recognized the Mercedes symbol when we go a little closer. It was dark in the alley.

Madam Koshy nudged me to the car as I stood there frozen. I did not speak in the car neither did she; maybe she was giving me time to get over my shock. My logical brain deduced this must be an offering from a generous person in lieu of the charitable work that she does, just as me, the person might have come to know about it and was trying to help by dropping her home.

My jaws dropped when the car entered the mansion. We got down at the portico and madam Koshy started entering through the huge main door whereas I expected us to go towards the back where I presumed the servant’s quarter would be. I stood there frozen again. She pulled me and we went inside. I had never seen a mansion like that from inside, it was no less than a palace. A couple of well dressed girls were standing to be instructed. Madam Koshy called one of them and asked her to show me one of the guest rooms. I followed her wide eyed taking in the entire splendor.

Never had I thought even in my wildest of dreams when I decided to follow the lady that she was so full of surprises. Her stature in life, her work – I was overblown by the magnitude of the difference and decided that I had to know the story behind it.

At dinner she said answering my pestering enquiry, “It is a very simple story. The places that we visited are all under my father in law’s estate. My husband passed away in an unfortunate accident merely within 2 years of our marriage. I had thought of going back to my parent’s house. But my father in law had a massive cerebral attack and got paralyzed. So I became the sole owner of these estates. I had to visit them from time to time along with an entourage though.

Slowly I got interested in their lives but found that as a landlady I cannot get close. So I started going there as an ordinary person and tired to understand their sorrows and joys, wants and desires. Finally I identified that apart from the help I can do financially I can also get involved in teaching the kids unconventionally, make them ready for conventional school or any walk of like they choose to pursue. After toiling for many years and trying out many ways I could get the folks out there and the kids to warm up to me. Those shacks are build by the kids and they keep improving them year on year. We do not allow any grown up or former kids to help either physically or financially. It is the pride of the kids – their own and I am their guide.”

I took time to digest all this and had more queries. She answered with her gentle smile and finally added. “Do not think that I do this only for them, I was lonely and without a purpose. I was left with so much money that even if I didn’t do anything I would be living a life of luxury. But what is a life without purpose. These people are my family. These kids are my life. Their wellbeing is the purpose of my life.”

We used to meet at the same bus-stand off and on and I would travel with her. One cold December day she didn’t arrive at the bus stand well after 9am, I called but she didn’t pick up so I decided to visit her home. By then I had become a frequent visitor to her mansion – I even had a room there with a closet – where I kept some of my cloths, in case I decided to stay over for the night – which was often.

I sensed the gloom as soon as I entered. Kruti, one of the hand maids hugged me – she had tears in her eyes. I ran to madam Koshi’s room. She was lying on her bed peaceful as ever. She had fulfilled her purpose on earth and gone away. Leaving me! I suddenly felt so lonely and started crying. Now I travel alone though not in the bus – I take my car, anyway it is a small one – till that van/cart puller. Then he takes me from shack to shack, amidst the lively kids I no longer feel lonely – along with everything else Madam Koshy bequeathed the purpose of her life to me!

Nobs finds Hops

by Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Bheti – the gentle turtle

“Hops! Where are you?” Nobs crawled on looking from left to right, two steps forward and turning back again. It has been a few months now, Nobs can see Hops – turning a corner while on land or beckoning him from the land whilst he is in his elevated water home – but when he arrives, he can’t find Hops.

Hops has always been faster and stronger since they were little babies – much smaller than the soft scoop that held them. Now both have outgrown the soft scoop that bring them out of the water home and place them on land and vice versa, Hops stouter than Nobs.

Ever since Nobs can remember, it was Hops who braved towards the food that would magically appear in the water home at the same time every day. Nobs didn’t want to risk going near the food – ‘what if it looked small, it might suddenly unfold into a monster’ – thought Nobs. But seeing Hops not getting eaten, day after day – gave Nobs courage. Finally, one day, he emerged near the surface but by then the food was gone – he was about to fall back to the depths when some more emerged – Nobs gulped down a few and it felt good.

“Why don’t you come in here bro?” Nobs called Hops who was enticing him to go crawling with him on land – a game both loved. The land seemed endless for the little ones. More often than not Nobs would flip over on his hard shell, call for help but Hops would just ignore and move on. Nobs on the other hand tried to flip Hops back over if stuck but could not garner the strength. The two giants would come in handy, their incessant howling would bring the soft scoop, which would then flip us both or either the right side again.

The giants – Dogmatix and Zhauwu

Hops had never been a great talker but he would always have Nobs’ back or take him to unexplored territories where Nobs would never even think of venturing had it been not on Hops’ tow – only to be amazed and filled with gratitude towards Hops. Hops would be the one to nibble on something interesting and Nobs followed, Hops would totter over an obstacle even if it seemed formidable and Nobs followed. Sometimes it was difficult keeping pace with Hops and Nobs would patiently wait for Hops, and come back he would for sure, even if it was after what seemed eternity – but ever since the day when soft scoop took Hops out of the water home, Nobs had been awaiting his return – but he didn’t. Off late Hops beckons him from land but Nobs wonders ‘why doesn’t Hops come in their water home?’

Today Nobs has decided to get hold of Hops and have a ‘bold talk’. This can’t go on! He quickly turned a corner that he thought Hops would have gone by – but alas! no sign of Hops. ‘Did he go beyond the break line somehow?’ Nobs thought. The break line was always a stopper – there was no way forward, though one could see land beyond – just like the solid water that bordered their water home.

Neither Hops or Nobs have ever crossed the break line, Hops tried several times but Nobs took the cue and turned even before hitting it – ‘why break your head on something that only gives blurred visions or the uncomfortable flip?’ Nobs always thought and told Hops, who of course paid no head to Nobs’ wisdom. In the water home flips were fun, as they could flip back, do the twirl along the jet stream – everything was in control the moment they wanted it to be. But on land their movement were a bit cumbersome specially the land being so smooth and slippery.

The otherwise skeptical Nobs went ahead, today he was unstoppable – he went till the break line, and there he was – Hops was standing and smiling on a slightly elevated land. Nobs took a step and then another and one more and he had crossed the line! This was a miracle – for the first time ever and thanks to Hops he could cross the break line and come to this unexplored zone. ‘What a brilliant adventurer Hops is, may be that is why he never came back to our water home – he found a way to bypass the break line and now has a vast territory – may be even another water home, or plenty more’ Nobs thought, his heart racing.

“Hops! Hops!” Nobs could hardly move his limbs; Hops was nowhere in sight. The ecstasy was momentary as he flew – and then bang! he hit the land hard. The land was unfamiliar and Nobs could not move. He lay that way for a very long time. He kept on thinking about Hops through the excruciating pain.

Then there was the soft scoop again. It hurt terribly and Nobs flinched. The soft scoops changed many times, the pain was unbearable and as if to give Nobs some relief the heart started beating very slowly. Then at once a calm came over.

“Hops?” Nobs opened his eyes to a vast expanse of water and a little distance away on an embankment was Hops. His smiling ever confident self, beckoning – Nobs crawled and splashed into the water – waddling he reached Hops. Hops extended his claws and picked him up in a clean sweep.

They were together again, neither of them would ever go back to their water home ever, this was their new home – vast unexplored expanse – adventure!

Nobs could see the soft scoop waving, it was attached to a huge form too big to comprehend.

Our beloved Kheti and Bheti

PS: In memory of our Bheti, the gentle turtle whom we lost on the 30th of April 2023, a slight lapse on our guard and the little one went to the balcony and jumped from the 7th floor balcony, he breathed his last on the doctor’s table as he gave injections to make his passing quick. We had lost our Kheti, the daredevil turtle – on 3rd September 2022 – her passing was so sudden… her heart just stopped before we could do anything – her memory is in the form of a short story – ‘Rusty goes Swimming

10 days in Andaman – Chidiya Tapu and a sweet goodbye – 30th Dec’19 – 1st Jan’20

Facts Figures and Touchdown || The Havelock Chapter || Port Blair || Jarwa Reserve || Baratang || Diglipur – North Andaman

We had travelled the whole of Andaman Trunk Road (343 km), from North to South. Though we can still not say that we have seen it all but we can definitely claim that we have seen a lot of Andaman in the past few days.

It had been a hurricane trip from the word ‘go’, but that is how we usually travel. Ours is almost never leisure, we do that at home.

We sat by the sea at Oceanus Resort and enjoyed a beautiful sundown show at the horizon. We made plans for our next trip, which we thought would be big – Summer of 2020 in London / Scotland – instead what materialized was my first novella – E3PO talks love, as we could not step out, for a while even from home, due to ‘You know Who!’

We hired Sanju again for our last day trip around the south tip of Andamans. The southern-most beach – Wandoor Beach of the mainland was off-limits. I had plans of a leisurely bath on our last day but it so turned out that the crocodiles had got a sniff and taste of human flesh and were frequenting the spot, making prohibition of entering the pristine waters, mandatory.

The azure water was glistening in the mid day sun like a multitude of diamonds thrown around. We posed for a few shots, had coconuts as we longingly looked at the waters beckoning us.

A short drive away is the Marine Interpretation center Wandoor with a plethora of beautifully decorated marine life on display along with narratives, beside the gate of the Jetty where one can board a launch to go to Jolly-Buoy island. It needs prior booking and we had not done it. So that again has to wait for the next visit, I gather it is a must do.

We had nothing to do till lunch and we didn’t want to get back to the hotel. Sanju suggested another museum called Kalepani Museum – having figured out our interest in old and rusty things. This is a private collection but quite vast. It is a 3 storey building, all floors loaded up with artifacts and documents relating to Andaman and Nicobar Islands, its aboriginal people, its beginning as a British colonial prison, the suffering, the Japanese invasion, the agony and finally the freedom and settlement of mainland people from Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Chennai, Burma and few other places on this beautiful island.

The gentleman who owns the museum has an intriguing history. His ancestors were among the people freed from prisons and were offered assistance to start a new life on the island if they would marry someone among the other freed prisoner. Men and women who had been imprisoned in the cellular jail were almost certain of not being accepted into their old social lives. Many even if unwillingly chose to start anew.

We had a sumptuous lunch after the tiring but enlightening 3 floors of museum walk and headed to Chidiya Tapu beach. Yet another place that needs extensive discovery but since people are not allowed past sundown, we hardly had time for only a quick sweep. Birds were heard but not seen.

I let go of my desire to visit the last curio shop on the island on our last day as the road back to the resort was through Munda Pahar – hilly and without any street lights.

We had a morning flight back to Bangalore, so checkout early in the morning, yes with Sanju to the airport. The resort packed breakfast for us which we would have later after check-in at the airport lounge. We had tea at a stall on the way and I asked Sanju, who had now been with us for almost 10 days, who’s next? He said a party from Kolkata a large one has just confirmed their visit and he’ll be onto the bookings for hotel etc shortly. Generally people take all inclusive packages which work out much cheaper. Sanju – 9474257620

We stood there at the gate, unloaded. Goodbyes done. As we rolled our luggage trolley through the gate and stepped into the airport lounge, I looked back – Sanju was still standing there looking at us. I waived and he waived back, then walked off and got into his car. All through our travels, there have been numerous people who have touched our lives, who have made us wiser and made us realise the true meaning of “Vasudhaiva kutumbakam”.

That’s all for this time folks. Keep Happy!

Facts Figures and Touchdown || The Havelock Chapter || Port Blair || Jarwa Reserve || Baratang || Diglipur – North Andaman

10 days in Andaman – Diglipur,Rangat n back to Port Blair – 27th – 30th Dec’19

Facts Figures and Touchdown || The Havelock Chapter || Port Blair || Jarwa Reserve || Baratang || Chidiya Tapu – South Andaman

It was time to move on from Baratang and we started early. This day would be called an ‘inCar day’ in the history of our travels, as we literally drove all day to reach Diglipur after dusk.

The road henceforth was extremely rough for a sedan to handle and that slowed us down immensely. The path was lined with tall trees, many of them the famous ‘Padouk’ indigenous to Andamans. The journey is fascinating for the romantic and dusty for the pragmatic. We drove for about an hour and reached another channel. Here there was another jetty for crossing over along with the car.

A bridge is under construction and will soon be usable. It will decrease the time taken for the cross over and save a lot of diesel that these ferries use, and thus facilitate the reduction in pollution too.

Once on the otherside we thought we’ll wiz past the villages and towns but it was not to be. The road was all dug up, heavy machinery was being used and we experienced work in progress for a better ATR in days to come.

We stopped at Rangat for a short break.

By the time it was 1pm we our stomachs was grumbling but there was nothing that looked good to eat as we passed occasional small villages. Finally Sanju stopped at a road side eatery that served hot meals. Whether it was the hunger or the taste of my native food (it was typically Bengal food) the meal felt soul satisfying.

The Village with road side eatery

Sanju did not pay head to my demands for tea until we reached Diglipur, which was wise, as even without stopping much we had lost the sun even before we made it to the resort through a lightless narrow street.

The resort was a happening place, the delightful lighting and a bountiful restaurant cheered us after the long drive. The driver’s quarters were full as the resort was bustling with guests. Thankfully Sanju had a friend whom he could call upon and he had a gala time too.

The major attraction for me was the turtle nesting shores; that Diglipur is famous for, and this resort called ‘Pristine’ is almost at a stone’s throw from such a shore.

Thus after dinner, that by the way was sumptuous, we walked towards the shore with a whole lot of other guests. It was dark. It was cool. The pathway was through the trees shrouding the moonlight. The only light came from mobiles or torches. We just walked on almost blindly and then we heard her, a gentle continuous splash – the sea. We could also smell the sea and then finally through an opening we emerged onto the beach. Dark it was and mysterious; we were all standing or sitting awaiting an arrival. It felt miraculous. But the miracle didn’t happen; mommy turtle did a no show.

Next morning we visited the beach again after breakfast and having packed up – we were to start our return journey – all the way till Rangat.

We stopped over to see the twin islands of Ross and Smith, the visit will have to wait until next time. Further down we stopped momentarily at the aerial bay which is a picture perfect vista and then again at the main market area of Diglipur to buy some refreshments for the road.

We had lunch at the same eatery where we had stopped for lunch while going to Diglipur. The food was once again lickalicious. Am not much of a meal person but in Andaman I just loved them.

Dhanninala was our next stop where we reached just in time for a good stroll before dusk. It is a mangrove nature walk, but on a much bigger scale than that we walked in Baratang. The different varieties of mangroves where categorically named for easy identification.

The walk or the bridge on which one has to walk, goes all the way over to the beach. But there is a catch; though the mangrove swamp ends and the sands start, the waters are still way ahead. Tall trees with acrobatic branches and bushy leaves great us. It is nothing short of a jungle, only bereft of any wild animals and made into a picnic spot. Once out of the maze of the trees one finally reaches out in the open and the sea beckons with open arms.

We didn’t have much time to hit the waters as the sun was about to set.

Rangat, we reached after sun down. The hotel was on the ATR but a little further down from the main town. The grounds were promising but the bathroom was a setback. We had plans of staying here for two nights but I immediately cancelled the second night and rescheduled our onward journey for the next morning. The owner of the place was prompt in settling the account, a very generous move, I would say.

We had to go to the town for dinner. This time Sanju thought he had got my pulse and took us to a Bengali dinner joint, but I didn’t like it at all. However it was edible and cheap. We got some buns and refreshments packed for the next morning.

Rangat and its beaches will also have to wait for the next trip. We drove off quite early as we had to cross both the channels one to reach Baratang and the other to move out of it and go past through the Jarawa territory before the last gate closed at 3pm and have lunch at Baratang before that if possible. Happy that we managed all.

When we had lunch at the dhaba at Baratang the first day we reached there, it felt good. I spoke to the lady of the house and dhaba and liked her instantly. The second day felt even better, very much at home. The third and the last day, felt sad. The dabha seemed to me like a rock on a beach, wave after wave of tourists and commuters splash on it and move on. The lady had come afloat from afar, the main lands of Punjab and had got rooted to this little island she calls home. She seemed so content and happy but I would be too scared to get stuck up to a place.

Through the gate we went into the Jarawa territory one more time and saw a lot of the tribe’s people. Photography is prohibited but there is indeed nothing to photograph a Jarwa person per say, as much has been documented about them through photos and videos, also city girls now cover lesser body parts than they do – though the territory has lots of plants and birds that are gorgeous photo material.

We refreshed ourselves at Jirkatang where the Jarawa reserve officially ends.

Since we cut our stay short in Rangat by a day, we had no booking for this night and requested Sanju to take us somewhere decent. He took us to hotel Atlanta which was slightly up the hill on the road towards the cellular jail. It had just started operating a few days back and was not completely equipped with a kitchen but since it is a stone’s throw from the waterfront and Aberdeen Bazar area, food was not an issue at all.

We checked in freshened up and went out. We, as in I and Rajib, Anoushrayan doused himself in his kindle and we let him be. We took a stride into the ‘waterfront’ as it is called. It has a nicely decorated park facing the waters where the residents and tourists of Port Blair can catch a breeze with refreshments. We took a stroll on the wide road beside the park which was closed to traffic and open to children for skating and cycling.

Anoushrayan came out for dinner, food as I have mentioned earlier is his second love. We went to a slightly upmarket place at the waterfront and saw huge lobsters on offer, but having satiated our desire earlier on the trip in Havelock we settled for something more common place. Though not the best of the seats or arrangements were in place at the semi open air joint, it was crowded to the brim and people had queued up. Apparently the place is a big favourite.

The next morning, 30th of dec 2019 we checked out of hotel Atlanta, had breakfast in the same restaurant where we had had our first breakfast in Port Blair on the 21st of dec 2019 after touchdown, and went off to see the fisheries museum. Sanju was with us again as the deal with him was for 6 days – 25th to 30th dec 2019.

The fisheries museum has a huge collection of specimen from around the islands and is an interesting place to enhance one’s knowledge of the marine life, we spent a great deal of time exploring the marine life and learning many unknown facts.

Thereafter we went to the Samudrika museum, the last on our list of museums to visit in Port Blair. This one is more of a conglomeration of marine and culture and history of Andaman. A delightful little place complete with rest rooms, a souvenir shop and a selfie point!

At the selfie point!

Our next destination was Oceaneas Resort at the fag end of Port Blair near a place called Chidiya Tapu. We bid farewell to the town center of Port Blair, went past the airport driving on the ATR, the same that took us to the north of Andamans – Diglipur; but this time we went south.

By lunch we had checked in to our final destination. The resort is a blissful place atop a small hillock overlooking the sea. It is a huge piece of land with cottages sprinkled in amidst coconut and loads of other trees. The sprawling grounds are a delight and the sit-out by the sea side is pure ecstasy. It is a place where a tired soul could check in to rejuvenate.

The only spoiler being the food, though not bad it was the only place in whole of Andaman which was not to our taste, of all the places we visited and dined at, whether roadside or upmarket.

Stay tuned for a little note on our last day on the island…

Facts Figures and Touchdown || The Havelock Chapter || Port Blair || Jarwa Reserve || Baratang || Chidiya Tapu – South Andaman

Istanbul Prelude – flying to Dubai and beyond

Dubai airport

In the beginning there was chaos – and then there was more chaos! Well that’s what makes trips enchanting. That feeling of something must have been left out – it was there all along as the cab scurried along the ever repair-in-progress Bangalore roads. It was not the dead of night but being around 11 pm the road was congestion free.

I am a budding writer so I see plots everywhere – the corn fields in the dark became the marshes of Dartmoor and the dimly lit distant houses became haunted; however before long I realized I had forgotten to keep my toothpicks handy – btw they are my life line. Also I had forgotten to pack the ginger cough drops which I so painstakingly bought after comparing prices and going for the cheapest ones obviously.

From then on we, and on our insistence the driver, kept all eyes open for a medicine shop – but liquor yes, grocery yes, pan shop, water cans even clothes yes – but not a single medicine shop was open.

We were on our way to Kempegowda International Airport (KIA), Bangalore, India via Budigere which is the shortest road to KIA for people like us who stay in Whitefield. Being out of the city limits development is catching up but has not throttled the landscape as yet.

So Istanbul, Turkey! – A long time romantic affair, mostly for my husband Rajib who is an historian in his own rights – not formally trained but passionately dedicated to it. Me? I am just happy to be outdoors. Our Son on the other hand agreed to accompany us for the meat, though he also consumed a lot of corn and bagel and deserts and ice creams!

I have never flown international from Bangalore – the only two times I went abroad per say that is if you consider Nepal as abroad and Singapore – was from Calcutta. We went up the escalator and landed in front of a medicine shop – but no cough drops – only anti-tussive tablets – a hundred rupees for just 10 of them! – sob sob.

Then we queued up for the booths where they check your passports and visa and ask questions which you are not prepared for and some of them make a face as though conveying the message – ‘I know what you did last summer’.

My current passport was being used for the first time to fly international so I am supposed to carry the previous one too which has the record of my previous outings outside my country – thus advised the counter professional who challenged my memory by asking when I had visited Singapore. “I don’t remember!” I said in a tone as though ‘you expect me to remember dates? How outrageous!’

Rajib the good man was at the next counter – he must have overheard so prompted: 2016 – and I said, “Ah 2016” with an air that the elderly gentle man at the counter nodded and smiled and said ‘husband’ – and in that smile I could see the pain and understanding of a brethren for another as if to say – ‘I too am one’.

After a very long wait at the lounge we boarded the Boeing 777-300ER (twin-jet) that flew us to Dubai.

The first 45 years of my life I have always had to load myself up with all kinds of anti nauseating tablets to deal with my extreme motion sickness and as a result have slept through all kinds of vehicles except trains where I am absolutely at home. But then my hormones started playing some tricks and slowly and steadily I no longer felt that extreme discomfort unless on hairpin bends ofcourse, and last summer I felt nothing while flying to and fro to Calcutta – it might not sound much but for me it opened a whole new world – I for the first time in my life saw the eastern coastline of India, the numerous rivers and the mesmerizing landscapes and the mighty Sunderbans from the skies!

But old habits die hard and I popped in an Avomin tablet before boarding – and that spelled my doom! As such we were awake the entire night so the normal sleep added to the Avomin induced sleep made me very sleepy. I tried watching a film to keep awake but soon breakfast was served.

Though growing older has delighted me with enhanced travel experience by allowing me to keep awake without discomfort it has taken away my capability to read close range without spectacles. What a glint of joy there was in the eyes of the ophthalmologist when he pronounced – You need reading glasses – you have aged!

So I quickly stashed my reading glasses into the seat pocket in front of me and lowered the table for food to be served. Now food induced more sleep and I slept off. It was not until I freshened up at the Dubai airport and settled to check for connectivity and turned on the mobile did I realise that my reading glasses did not de-board with me!

Last time my glasses photographed at Bangalore airport

We did all that was possible for me to get reunited with my quintessential glasses without which I am practically blind as a bat when it comes to letters and numbers at close range – but to no avail – we did not enjoy the huge shopping paradise and left it anxious and agonized at the inefficiency of Emirates staff to clean an aircraft in 3 hours and not find my beautiful blue glasses even though we mentioned the seat number. Did I mention the glasses were brand new?

Now I was wide awake and was thrilled to see the double decked aircraft – the Airbus 388-800(quad-jet). Rajib suggested Hitchcock and I thoroughly enjoyed, the food was delicious, the ride was smooth, and thus we landed in Istanbul International airport leaving our woes behind – happy and curious.

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar      

Rusty goes swimming…

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

In memory of our beloved Kheti who left us on the 3rd of September…

Little Rusty was anxious. She had not seen Tommy since yesterday evening. Initially they thought Tommy must have gone swimming across the ridge which he loved to do often but it had been too long he should have returned.

Rusty and Silu were just wandering along the ridge. This huge water body was their home but the elders had told them not to go past the ridge. But as is usual they never mentioned the quintessential ‘why’.

The ridge was a wonderful place – there was a thicket of vegetation where the little ones could play hide and seek or just laze around, sometimes feel a stream of water current rushing through as they held on to a branch and just let their body wobble in it.

Suddenly Silu lost her grip and a strong current took her beyond the ridge – Rusty followed. The stream’s force took Silu a long way, Rusty was finding it difficult to keep up but finally she grabbed Silu by her small tail and pulled her out of the flow. They quickly started swimming back towards the safety of their home on the other side of the ridge but before they could get a breather they found themselves in mid air high above the water caught in a net.

They tried to get free but it was nigh impossible. The next thing they found themselves was in a place with high walls and hardly any space to swim. Days went by – Rusty and Silu were transferred from box to box – tumbler to tumbler – until one day when they were put in a relatively big tank and there they met Tommy!

“What is all this Tommy? Why are we here?” Rusty asked. Tommy said, “I have been here for a couple of days now. Those big giant tentacles come and pick up one or two of us – sometimes they return sometimes they don’t.”

It was almost food time – food came from the giant pinkish coloured tentacles from above the surface of the water – it was mostly green pellets, sometimes yellow. Instead Silu and Rusty were picked up and kept on a soft pinkish floor with thick tentacles extending from it.

baby turtles on a pinkish soft floor with tentacles extending from it – the human hands

Soon they were placed in water but in a much smaller place through which they could see what is outside. A couple of tentacles held the mouth of the container they were in and started moving then put the container slowly on a flat surface. The tentacles went away and a large green body was placed beside the container. Then there was lot of shaking and tumbling for a while. Finally the tentacles picked the container again and started moving.

Rusty and Silu were placed in a tank similar to the one where they had found Tommy but it had lot of plants and sand and gravel and stones – a bit of home – it was big enough to get a good swim. There was a water jet too where they would try to swim against the flow, and mostly tumble off balance – it was fun!

Months went by – food kept coming from the tentacles from above – Rusty and Silu ate up all the plants and tore up everything in their reach. One fine morning two tiny fishes came to the tank. Rusty and Silu chased them around but could not catch them – it was good play though.

Catching the fishes – good play

Rusty and Silu kept growing bigger – the tank was no longer enough for a good swim. The tentacles would bring them out of it and place them on hard floor – where they could walk on four – there was a lot of floor space to walk around – they would sometimes get tired of exploring and fall asleep. The tentacles would put them back after some time. It was a good life Rusty and Silu discussed – not the best – with a restricted area to swim – but good enough.

outgrew the tank

One day the water jet and bubbles that were omnipresent stopped. It was dark and normally the tentacles would not arrive until it was bright. Rusty and Silu chased the fish and this time after some effort Rusty caught one and gobbled it up. The tentacles came in time to pick up the other one. However, it never came back to the tank.

Many months later, one day Rusty and Silu were picked up and placed in a not-so-high walled but circular water body. It was not very big but fun to go round and round in. There was an island in the middle too. After a few days they were put into another tank – this was bigger than the previous one.

A bigger tank

Some plants were put which Rusty and Silu devoured in a day. Now the tank had only a few stones, a water jet – which could no longer throw them off balance, bubbles, and a platform above the water where Rusty and Silu would bask occasionally under the bright warm light.

Days turned into months and months turned into years – Now Rusty and Silu were 3 years old – on the verge of becoming mature. Suddenly one day Rusty started feeling sick. She could not swim as much and sat basking for a long time. The tentacles put her out of the tank and placed her on the floor. Silu started her expedition, there was so much space that she would get tired every now and then and nap for a while before going further, but she loved these explorations.


Rusty could not move. She lay across the floor – hardly able to move her limbs. The tentacles picked her up and nudged at the neck and limbs then put her back on the platform.

It was late into the darkness when Rusty called Silu and said, “Hey sis I think it is time for me to cross the rainbow bridge. Remember how grandpa Crany did?” “But he was very old,” Silu said puzzled. “Well looks like they call the lucky ones early! I’ll be swimming across vast waters – even bigger than our home – it will be fun am sure. See you there when it is your time then” Rusty slowly closed her eyes. The tentacles picked her lifeless body up and caressed her as they used to from time to time, but this time Rusty didn’t feel anything. Rusty had crossed the rainbow bridge and gone swimming in the vast expanse of water – leaving all of the tank for Silu to swim.

original photo given photo filter credit – https://www.instagram.com/scottnewnature/

PS: We lost both our turtles within a span of 7 months – Kheti on 3rd Sep 2022 and Bheti on 4th Apr 2023 – the short story in Bheti’s memory goes – ‘Nobs finds Hops

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


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. It was difficult being at big empty bed all to myself, a couple of sleepless nights followed but then a day will come when the little birdie will fly out of the nest all-together.

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