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.

10 days in Andaman – Facts Figures and Touchdown – 21st Dec’19 – 1st Jan’ 20

The Havelock Chapter || Port Blair || Jarwa Reserve || Baratang || Diglipur – North Andaman || Chidiya Tapu – South Andaman
by Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Return Airfare 3 Pax: 78732INR || Stay 3 Pax: 44789INR || Food 3 Pax: 17398INR ||

Local Transportation: 42320INR || Fees (Museum, watersports etc): 19140 ||

Total: 202379INR

Our Itinerary

21st Dec 2019  Bangalore (Karnataka, India) to Port Blair(Andaman and Nicobar, India)


From airport to Aberdeen Bazar Breakfast, Corbyn’s Beach, Cellular Jail, drop at the Jetty

Port Blair to Havelock Island (Swaraj Dweep)

Check into CrossBill Resorts, Havelock

22nd Dec 2019Elephanta Beach, Radhanagar Beach
23rd Dec 2019Govindnagar Beach, Vijaynagar Beach, Kala Pathar Beach


Havelock to Port Blair

Check into The Shelter Hotel, Port Blair

Light and Sound Show at 9.00PM at the Cellular Jail

24th Dec 2019 Port Blair  – Chatham saw mill (forest museum), Ross Island, North Bay Island – water sports, Anthropological Museum
25th Dec 2019Port Blair to Baratang Island(Jarwa Reserve is on the way)


Check in to Dew Dale Resort, Barantang

Parrot Island, near Baratang

26th Dec 2019Limestone caves, Mud Volcano, Baratang
27th Dec 2019Check in to Pristine Resort, Diglipur


Sit out at the beach waiting for Olive Ridley to come and nest

28th Dec 2019Checkout from pristine


Dhanninallah Mangrove Walkthrough to a beach

Check into Lakshmi Villa, Rangat

29th Dec 2019 Back in Port Blair check into Atlanta Point


Waterfront at night

30th Dec 2019Fisheries Museum, Samudrika Museum


Check into The Oceanus Resort

31st Dec 2019Wandoor Beach, Kalapani Museum, Chidiya Tapu
1st Jan 2020Port Blair to Bangalore

Tips for your trip

The beaches in Havelock and Neil are the best both for bathing and water sports. Bathing in the beaches of Port Blair is banned owing to fear of crocodiles. The water sports at North Bay / Corbyn’s beach are not so much fun as in Havelock.

The journey to Baratang can cater to most excursion enthusiasts. It passes through Jarwa (Andaman tribe) reserve, where they can be seen quite often.

If the duration of the trip is longer, Diglipur north of Andaman can be explored, it is a big town with Ross and Smith twin islands accessible from the Areal Bay. A new airport is coming up at Diglipur. It has beaches where the turtles come to nest from Dec to Feb.

If the trip is shorter then Havelock is a must (2 nights), Neil can be dropped, in Port Blair the Cellular jail, Samudrika Museum, and Chatham Forest Museum can be done in a day and another can be spent to visit Ross Island and North Bay and the city in general.

There are a few hiking and mountaineering opportunities but in Andaman, the blue is what predominates; the weather is ideal to be in the waters and the beaches are too alluring to forgo.

Recommended Itinerary for 10 days

Day 1Fly into Port Blair – Cellular Jail / Fisheries Museum – Both are near the waterfront


Head to Havelock(Swaraj Dweep) by Macruz around 3pm, check-in at Havelock

Day 2Spent the morning at Govindnagar Beach / Vijaynagar Beach  / Kala Pathar Beach to bathe in the shallow waters and build castles, water sports are available at Govindnagar/ Vijaynagar, have lunch at the Something Different Beach cafe, explore the market after sundown, retire to the hotel
Day 3Visit Neil Island  (Shaheed Dweep)
Day 4Explore Elephanta Beach – Hike /Water sports, be at the Radhanagar Beach to catch the beautiful  sunset
Day 5Enjoy the bath at the beach near you or just laze around looking at the azure waters and return to Port Blair by Macruz, enjoy the light and sound at the cellular jail
Day 6Port Blair – Chatham Forest Museum, Ross Island, Northbay, Anthropological Museum
Day 7Head north towards Baratang through Jarwa Reserve, visit Parrot Island, check-in at Baratang
Day 8Visit Limestone caves, Mud volcano at Baratang and return by the last gate
Day 9Reach Port Blair by sundown and enjoy the waterfront / Aberdeen Bazar is lively at night
Day 10Flyback

And now our travel story…

The brief Port Blair Stint

If I were Sanjay, no not the famous Dhritarashtra’s Charioteer from the Indian epic Mahabharata, but the guy who drove us around in Andaman, I would possibly start the blog thus:

It was another usual day at the airport. Tourists were not so abundant. I had no party to cater to. Usually, December is rush hour and I am overbooked. But here I was waiting at the arrival gate having queued for any stray passenger to be dropped at the hotel, generally, that is what they do, check-in first. Suddenly a trio in black jackets emerged; the grumpy one had a receipt in hand with my car number. As soon as the scanty luggage was fitted into the boot the chatty one started spilling out the beans regarding their travel plan. This was a family I gathered, with a 12-year-old son. They would be in Andamans for 10 days, definitely a good party to latch on to and that is what I did.

If I were Anoushrayan, our son about to be 13 with eyes only for kindle and is waiting for the day when we could teleport everywhere, I would have possibly started the blog thus:

The ordeal was not over yet. We had started late night on the 20th of December around 10pm after dinner, spent the night at the airport as the take-off was around 4am. The 1st-row seats were airy with a good leg space and since the door was open for long, I did not nauseate. My travel happy mom had not booked any hotel in Port Blair, the entry point of Andaman as we were supposed to be heading to Havelock around noon by a catamaran the same day. There we can finally hit the bed is what she has promised. The first thing we did in the port city was, have breakfast and good it was; both tasty and sumptuous, that made me very happy. I needed the energy as we were about to ride on a whirlwind for the next 10 days.

If I were Rajib, my hubby who loves to travel as much as me, has a keen eye for details and is fact-oriented, he also needs to get value for money from everything, I would possibly start the blog thus:

Andaman’s only operating airport for civilians is at Port Blair, it is called Veer Savarkar International Airport. It has a very small arrival and departure lounge. We collected the luggage which came quite fast and freshened up, the bathrooms were decent for Indian small city standards. A band was getting ready to play in one corner. We headed towards the inquiry counter and asked about the catamaran Sea Link. They suggested we better checkout at the Jetty, booked us a cab and gave us a receipt. The grey Suzuki Ciaz was comfortable and the driver Sanju though a serious kind of Bengali gentleman was quite efficient. He took us to a good breakfast joint understanding our requirement. We wanted to book the return journey from Havelock after 2 days, so he took us to a travel agent and we got it done.

If I were me, well which I am, a romantic storyteller who forgets names but remembers experiences, for whom the loss of money counts the least, I am going to write my blog thus:

As I stood behind the bars of the cellular jail I could feel the scream, the pain, the torment that this jail was supposed to have caused to the hundreds of innocent people who were not criminals but political prisoners entitled to humane conditions though in captivity. In Port Blair, the cellular jail and a ferry away the Ross island are the two major places where lies the dark history of Andamans, of the deported Indians, Burmese and the brief but devastating Japanese occupation. A must-visit for all who value their independence and want to know the level of human endurance.

The Great Andaman Tribes were worst affected while they were enslaved in their homeland, forced to give away their cultural identity and accept the so-called civilized way of life. Today as we know the ‘Sentinelese” remain the only tribe that did not let the outside world touch them. The Jarawa are at an interesting crossroad of modern and primitive lifestyle. The Nicobarese tribes though modernized keep to themselves. Tourists are not allowed in the Nicobar Islands, only the government officials and residents of Andaman can visit and stay there. Thus there is no chance of meeting the Nicobar Pigeon and other endemic life forms, in person, any time soon.

We went to Aberdeen Bazaar from the airport to have breakfast. It was early morning and most of the shops were closed. We immediately recognized the Clock tower at the crossroads, having read Deepak Dalal’s Andaman story more than once.

After the breakfast and return booking from Havelock, we went to Corbyn’s beach through the waterfront.

Port Blair’s waterfront which opens up to a harbor with lots of colourful motorboats parked in the blue pristine waters of the Andaman sea, steals away one’s heart from the first look. The capital is a small city, somewhat in layers, the city kind of spirals up the hill and slides down to the sea level.

Corbyn’s beach is the nearest beach from the airport/city center and it has a few water sport options. Though bathing is strictly prohibited due to possible attacks from crocodiles, a few have recently been spotted nearer than what could be called a safe distance.

We stayed at the beach for a while for the photoshoots and headed to The Cellular Jail. Even if I don’t make it as dramatic as calling it a life-changing experience, it is definitely going to create a mark. The seven spokes, of which only 3 survived with the surrounding grounds that house the hanging room, the oil churning equipment, the chair where David Barry sat and saw his cruel tortures being executed, create a heart-wrenching experience. The 3 wings are open to the public, one can go inside the cell to feel it more. I felt claustrophobic inside the cell, even with the iron door open. We went up the tower, which joins all the spokes/wings that house the cells. A sentry was enough to keep a watch on all the seven wings with 696 cells.

The terrace of the wings has some breathtaking views of the ocean around. A public hospital has been established where two of the wings used to be. At the entrance to the jail, there are two museums to the right and left of the gate, packed with photographs and write-ups about the horrible times this jail has witnessed, we could finish only one as the other one was being moped and we didn’t have time to wait so long; definitely, a reason to go back.

Our catamaran was to leave at 12.30 so we headed to the jetty.  Sanju readily exchanged numbers so that he could catch us when we are back from Havelock. The Jetty has two big lounges with chairs, restrooms, and a small canteen. Sealink, the catamaran was supposed to provide lunch so we didn’t plan for it. Unfortunately, it got canceled and we had to fill ourselves with snacks and beverages available at the small counter. We were accommodated on another catamaran called Makruzz, the best and the fastest. The wait was long, till about 2.30pm but the journey and the sitting quarters compensated for it.

As we sailed on the blue waters of the Andaman Sea, I could see, through the huge glass windows, the fading lines of the islands; I could see the waves but could not feel them, as the catamaran is a very stable vessel. We bought tea, 40INR per cup, but it felt good to have it in this smooth sailing vessel as we watched the horizon where the two blues met.


Derean and the attack on Fraglior

By Anoushrayan Deysarkar



10 billion years ago, in the galaxy ZMY3, a nebula condensed into a star. The rest of the dust and gases formed planets, and one of them was Fraglior.

Like all other planets, it was very hot at first, but then, after a few billion years, it cooled down. It was one of the few planets in the universe that had water. An alien civilization, the Manergitea, noticed this and sent out a ship carrying the basic seeds of life, along with all other components required for life. The ship was unmanned and dived right into one of the oceans on the planet and blew itself up.

The contents of the ship were protected in strong, airtight containers. The containers carrying life opened in the ocean, but the others opened in the air, or what was present like it at that time. The blast was necessary because it sent a shock wave which would eventually help in forming land. But, for the time being, life evolved in water. Several million years later, it emerged on land, and 300 million years later, the first intelligent life had formed. And that is where our story begins.

Fraglior: The planet of the Feredoctiles


Derean sluggishly walked, or rather, crawled towards his house on the cliff. He had just gone to the serambora to get his gerapod checked [1]. It had been looking sick for the past few days. The serambora told him it probably had feratitis[2]. Before that, he had gone to work at the demalor [3] mines.

Derean was a feredoctilis, a dragon-like intelligent creature that inhabited most of Fraglior. Feredoctiles can breathe fire and were resistant to fire.

art by@candraagustianx – pinterest


[1]A gerapod was a kind of living creature that looked like a giant rhinoceros with two large frills instead of the nose horn. They were also very colourful and lacked the several bony plates of a rhinoceros. Instead, they had a single piece of continuous body armour. The large frills usually lie flat, but if the gerapod wishes, it can inflate its frills. This is possibly a mating ritual. Feredoctiles use gerapods for transportation.

[2] Feratitis is a disease of gerapods in which their body armour starts flaking and finally falls off. A serambora is a kind of doctor

[3] Feredoctiles needed Demalor, a solid chemical at room temperature that melted at 50 degrees Celsius. They melt it and drink it. Demalor produced something like what we call Vitamin E in feredoctile bodies. They had lost the ability to produce it, just as we have lost the ability to produce Vitamin C.


The Letter

Derean’s house was on a kind of wide space near the bottom of Mount Pheleros, the tallest mountain in Fraglior. The wide space ended sharply in a steep cliff that ended in a wide gorge. At the bottom of the gorge was a swift river. The road on which Derean was travelling ended in the gorge. This strange geological rock formation is thought to have originated about 78 million years ago, when a huge earthquake cracked open the land, forming the gorge. The earthquake also caused a huge part of the mountain to fall off, causing the creation of the wide space. The part of the mountain that fell off was broken down by the aftershocks. Mt. Pheleros, though the tallest mountain on Fraglior, could be and had been climbed by many people. Of course, that was because most people didn’t start from the bottom of the gorge, which is the actual bottom of the mountain. (In fact, The Geological Survey of Mountains in Drugnein West {GSMDW} reports that Mt. Pheleros is only the tallest mountain on Fraglior if its height is calculated from the bottom of the gorge to the top. Otherwise, if calculated from the end of the wide space where Derean’s house was, it ranked only 11th.) Most people climb the mountain starting from the end of the wide space (Which is, actually, Derean’s courtyard) and thus have to pay some money to Derean.

Derean stopped a little way from the edge. He then broke into a run, and just as he reached the edge, he jumped and flapped his great wings hard. In a moment, he was flying. A few minutes later, he landed on a little patch of grass in his courtyard. He crawled up to the door, raised himself on his hind legs, fumbled around a natural pouch on his leg, and took out a little key. He unlocked the door, opened it and entered. He then turned around and closed the door. He opened the windows and spotted a little letter addressed to him, and a package. He opened the envelope, took out the letter, and read it. This is what was written: –

The Mealdrow, Denkor Cliff,

Red Setar area, Cambola,

Drugnein West


Dear Derean,

Are you still adventurous? If you are, then I have an adventure for you. Meet me at the top of Mt. Pheleros at 26:85 tomorrow. I am sending three bottles of Energiser for the broken portion. Hope you are well and good luck. You’ll need it.

Your friend,


You might be a little shocked upon reading the date and time. There are 70 seconds in a minute, 100 minutes in an hour, 48 hours in a day, 90 days in a month and 20 months in a year on Fraglior. The current year is 4359. As for the broken part, it refers to a broken portion of the road up Mt. Pheleros. Feredoctiles can fly up it of course, but their energy level starts decreasing the higher they go. Energiser is a fluid which gives them energy. Thus, the mysterious letter-writer had sent three bottles of it.

The Meeting on Mount Pheleros

Derean read and reread the letter to make sure. He thought hard and decided to follow the instructions. He opened the package and found the three bottles. It was getting late, so he kept the bottles on his bedside table and went to sleep. The next morning, he woke up and did all his daily duties on a holiday, because if I have not mentioned it before, that day was a holiday. He whiled away his time till 26:00, and then packed the bottles and other necessary items into his natural pouches. Then, he started on his journey. He stopped a few times and drank a little of the first bottle of energiser. Now, to understand what happened next, you must understand that the road up Mt. Pheleros is made up of curves, like the thread of a screw.

Derean finished his first bottle and stopped one curve below the curve on which the broken portion was. He then drank, in one gulp, his second bottle, and started running. Just as he reached the end, he jumped and started flying. He landed one curve above the broken portion and stopped. There were only a few more curves left. He started crawling up the road. Derean had to stop only once to drink energiser. When he finally reached the top, he could see a feredoctile who turned his back to him. Derean said, “Um, Hello?” Instantly, the feredoctile turned around and Derean exclaimed, “Professor Gregory!” The feredoctile smiled and said, “Hello Derean. So, you received my letter.” Derean said, “So that was you. But about your sign, GFH?” The professor laughed and said,” Do you remember my full name?” “Of course, I do”, said Derean, “Gregory Feglin Herecor.”  “Wait a minute”, he said, “G for Gregory, F for Feglin, H for Herecor. GFH. Gregory Feglin Herecor. Oh!” Derean laughed. Then he said, “What about that adventure, eh?  The professor smiled and said, “Come, let me show you.” Then, he pressed a tiny button on the ground, and instantly a trapdoor opened.

Below it, a staircase went down. On the walls, there were glowing bulbs. The professor started going down the staircase. Derean followed. Soon, they came to the bottom of the staircase. They were in a large room, made of some sort of metal, and in the middle of the room there was a giant aeroplane that looked like a fighter plane, only it had far larger thrusters than a normal fighter plane, and it was made of the same strange metal. On its side was printed: Gerelon 2000. Its door was open.

The room seemed to be lit with a strange light given off by bulbs that were much brighter than any Derean could remember. “Welcome”, said the professor, smiling, “to the room of GFH. The plane you see here is my latest invention, the Gerelon 2000. It is a spaceship, and I want you to come with me on an adventure. An adventure to explore outer space!” Derean was surprised but was also a little curious. “Professor”, he asked, “how will it take off? Rockets usually use a huge amount of power, right? The professor laughed and said, “Ah, my dear boy. It’s a good question, and you are right. Rockets do use a lot of power. And my spaceship does the same. Do you want to know how? Well, do you see those thrusters? They channel all the power required.” Derean asked, “But how will it channel all of the power without melting the room? And how will it exit? I thought we were inside the mountain.” The professor laughed and said, “Well, you’re right again. We are inside the mountain. And any ordinary metal would melt under the heat. But rimonosterin, the material this room is made of, is not an ordinary metal. Come, I’ll show you.”

The professor walked across the room to a table at one end of the room. On it, a container was kept, that seemed to be holding some sort of metal. The professor asked, “Derean, I believe you are a mineral checker at the demalor mines?” Derean replied, “Um… well, yes.” The professor said, “Would you mind checking this metal for me?” Derean replied, “Of course! Um… do you have a magnifying glass?” The professor handed him a magnifying glass. Derean peered through it at the metal for a minute and exclaimed, “Amazing! This is Töp – Nötch steel! Where did you get it?” The professor replied, “I bought it from Zaxinom. Now, look. This is a flamethrower. I have set it at the lowest temperature. I am going to aim it at the steel and keep the trigger pressed for one minute. Let’s see what happens. Oh! I nearly forgot! Wear these protective glasses to protect your eyes.” He handed Derean a pair of glasses and put on one himself. After Derean had worn his glasses, the professor pressed the trigger. A minute later, he released the trigger.

Once the flames and smoke had floated away, Derean took off his glasses and was amazed to see that the Töp – Nötch steel was completely molten. Professor Gregory told Derean to follow him. He walked up to a wall, set the temperature to the highest option, and pressed the trigger for five minutes. Once the smoke had cleared away, Derean couldn’t believe his eyes. The wall was completely solid! Professor Gregory turned to face Derean and said, “Well, now you know the strength of rimonosterin. As for being inside the mountain”, he pressed a button and then spoke again, “you can see for yourself how we will get out.” As soon as he had pressed the button, the wall in front of the nose of the ship had started opening up. Derean was amazed and said, “How can you control the mountain?” The professor replied, “This wall is not a part of the mountain. It is just a rimonosterin wall which I have covered with rocks on the outside, to make it look like a part of the mountain. Anyway, let’s get into the ship.”

The Journey – to Outer Space!

Derean followed him into the ship. Inside, there were four seats divided in two rows and a large, complicated control panel. The professor sat down in the left-hand side seat of the first row. He told Derean to sit beside him. Derean was supposed to control the coordinate system. Professor Gregory closed the door with a button. He then pressed another button. Instantly, seatbelts strapped them to their seats. Professor Gregory told Derean, “In five seconds, the thrusters will activate. When I shout ‘Now!’ you must press the yellow button. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… Now!” Derean pressed the yellow button.

The metal straps holding the plane to the ground let go. The thrusters had activated, so the ship instantly shot forward. In a minute, they were speeding forward at 50,000 km/h (0.005 % the speed of light). A minute later, they had passed the atmosphere and were in space. They were not yet in orbital range but were expecting to be there in 8 seconds. The professor had already told him what to do when this happened. He pressed a red button and the ship changed direction. Nearly instantly, the primary thrusters stopped, and the secondary thrusters came into action. Derean hadn’t noticed these thrusters before. There were 4 primary thrusters. They were arranged in two rows, with a gap of a metre between the rows. The secondary thrusters were located in 2 rows of 3 in this gap. Till now, a white light, coming from the primary thrusters, could be seen near the back, as there was a window there. Now, the light became a softer, blue light. But Derean had hardly realised this, when he saw an amazing thing.

They were orbiting in a tilted way, and through the windshield, or rather, spaceshield, he could see Fraglior beside them. It looked glorious from that height. It was a mixture of reds, greens, yellows, and mostly, blues. They were orbiting above the dayside now. In a few minutes, they were orbiting over the last bit of the day side, now they were over the dusk side, and now… they were over the night side! As they orbited, Derean could see the lights of several major cities, shining like several tiny dots of light. Meanwhile the spaceship straightened up. Then, looking at the other side of the window, Derean saw Nenthutos and Gramitos, the twin moons of Fraglior, shining in the distance. Suddenly, the ship changed course.

He looked at the professor and saw that he was steering the ship using something that looked like a joystick. They were heading straight towards Nenthutos. Now they were getting attracted towards the moon. A moment later, with a tricky little movement, they were orbiting Nenthutos. In front of them, they could see the next 4 planets, Helmol, Egromil, Lamirma, and Frendiso in front of them. Suddenly, a dark shadow moved across Helmol. It covered the planet almost completely. The professor wrinkled his forehead. He said, “That’s strange. I don’t think it’s one of Helmol’s moons. They wouldn’t be so big.” They swerved out of orbit to get a better look. The shadow certainly wasn’t one of the moons, because it stayed there for more than a minute. That is, part of it stayed there for a minute. The shadow just became a little thinner. Then it became fat again, covering Helmol completely.

The professor directed the ship towards the shadow. He pressed a button, and six pairs of cameras and projectors activated. The camera on one side captured an image of what was in front of it, and the projector on the opposite side projected the captured image on that side. This made the ship kind of invisible. Then the professor slowly steered the ship round the front end of the shadow. He steered very far to the side and saw the beginning of the shadow. And then, they both let out a gasp, because the ‘shadow’ was actually a ship. A giant ship. And they were staring at its front.


The professor slowly directed the Gerelon 2000 towards the larger ship. They tried to get a better look, but it was at that moment that the made their fatal mistake. The did not realise, that the ship might have enemy sensors. They had steered right into the heat sensor’s sensing field. Thus, though they were invisible, they were caught, as the sensors sensed their thruster heat. Instantly, a bright red light started beeping. There must have been some signal as well, because, in a moment, a hundred smaller ships had come out of the giant ship. They quickly surrounded the Gerelon 2000 and immobilised it by using some sort of electric field. The ships moved towards the larger ship, moving the electric field along with them. At least, Derean and the professor thought so, because they, too, moved along with the ships. In a few minutes, they were inside the ship. The ships moved farther apart and made a strange beeping light. The door closed, and one of the ships took their fuel compartment out. This shut off the invisibility mode.

 The ships then directed their ship towards the bottom. Once they were on the ground, the ship carrying the fuel compartment put the fuel box on a sort of conveyer belt, which carried it out of sight. Then, it opened their door using an electric bolt. The ship landed and opened its own door. A two-legged creature walked out. It had a white jacket, made out of some flexible metal, a pair of white trousers made of the same metal, and a strong helmet that was – well, you guessed it. It was made of the same metal and was, well, white. It had a black gun-like thing. It could see them through the front of its helmet, which was made of glass. The creature must have spoken, but the helmet had converted the voice into a robotic voice. It said, “Come with me, unless you wish to be blown to bits.” The creature moved behind Derean and the professor and activated another electric field. This one made their arms and legs stiff, and they found that they couldn’t move by themselves. The creature seemed to have pressed a button, or something similar, because at that moment their hands and legs began to move. They were being forced to walk down a white metal corridor.

They were made to stop in front of a large room. Its door was open. They walked inside, or rather, were forced to walk inside. There, they were made to stand against two metal poles, and tied with two metal chains. The chains were too thick to break. The creature shut off the electric field, and they could move their hands and legs freely again. The creature left the room, and Derean and the professor were left alone. The professor said, “How will we escape from this place? These metal chains are so strong!” Derean replied, “I’m getting the feeling that I know this metal. Wait, let me examine it closely.” Derean examined the metal closely for a moment, and exclaimed, “Why, this is Ionium! Now I know how to escape from here!” “How?”, asked the professor. Derean impatiently replied, “Don’t you remember the properties of Ionium? It becomes extremely malleable when heated. And feredoctiles can breathe fire and are resistant to fire! All we need to do is breathe fire on the chains and then push on them, and we can create a space wide enough to jump out of!” They did what Derean had suggested.

As he had expected, the Ionium became so malleable that they could create a space wide enough to jump out of by pushing the chains. After jumping out, they quickly went to the doorway and looked down both sides of the corridor. There was no one around. They quickly ran out and turned left. They thought that it would be safer to go that way, because they had come from the right corridor. The corridor joined another corridor after some distance. They turned right along this new corridor and started discussing where to go. “Look”, said the professor, “we need a ship to escape from here. I would suggest going to the dockyard and stealing a ship.” Derean said, “But to steal a ship, we need a disguise. Where will we get one?” “Hmmm… Why don’t we knock one of those creatures out and steal its armour? You can wear the armour and pretend that you were ordered to take me somewhere”, said the professor. Derean said, “But… they can track the ship, can’t they?” Both thought for a while, and then the professor exclaimed, “I’ve got it! You can say that you received orders telling them not to track the ship! Then you can board a ship and we can escape!”

Suddenly, they heard footsteps coming down yet another corridor that was joined by this one. Derean quickly pulled the professor into a kind of small room whose doorway was open. The room was completely dark. Derean quietly peeped out to see what was going on outside. What he saw was amazing. One of the creatures had removed his helmet. Around his head, there were 7 tentacles that were pink coloured, just like his head. They were hanging down to his shoulders. There must have been another one of the creatures who was hidden by the corner, because they started talking at once. “Largis”, said the one he could see, “go to the prisoners’ room and see that they are secure. Report to me later.” “Yes, sir”, said the other.

He started walking down the corridor. The one who had given the order walked down the other corridor. Derean quickly pulled himself into the room and waited till the other creature, Largis, had come close enough. Then, he jumped on him, wrestled with him, and managed to knock him out. Then, he pulled the creature into the room and removed its armour. Along with the armour, there were a few ropes and gags. There was a hook on the ceiling of the room. They tied the creature up and tied it in such a way that it hung two feet from the ground. Then, they found the creature’s tablet, and discovered what their plan was.

Escape – and Foiling the Plan

They wanted to capture Fraglior!

They had assembled a larger fleet of the giant ships and were holding it ready beyond the solar system. This ship would gather all the information they needed and finally, when they were ready, they would send a message to the larger ships to attack and conquer Fraglior.

After they had got all the information they needed, the professor hacked the computer and made it appear as if their bosses had ordered them to bring Gregory to the main ship, which was beyond the solar system. Derean dressed up like a soldier and got all the weapons ready. Gregory also ‘ordered’ the ship not to track their ship they would escape on. The professor then made an escape plan. The plan was: –

Derean would go to the docks, along with an immobilised Gregory and show the guards his ID and orders. Then, he would get into a ship, close the doors, put the highest security option and shift seats with Gregory, who would be able to move by himself, because the electric field would have been deactivated by Derean. He would get the ship out of the dock, and then would try to escape to Fraglior. Then they would try to work out a plan to protect the feredoctiles.

Derean agreed. Soon, he had activated the electrical field to immobilize Gregory. They walked down the corridor to the docks. There were two guards at the entrance. As Derean tried to walk past them, they said, “ID”. Derean showed his ID. Then, “Orders.” Derean complied. Once they were satisfied, they said, “You may proceed. All hail Hymanra [4].”

Derean entered the docks. There were loads of the aliens loading, unloading, taking off and landing. Derean headed towards an empty spaceship. He did exactly as they had planned, and soon, they were flying off. That was when disaster struck. An alert dock regulator noticed Derean’s ship flying in the opposite direction. He raised an alarm, and soon the entire fleet was after them. Derean, who had given the controls to Gregory and was sitting in the gunner seat, said, “Oh brother. Now how do we survive?”. Gregory spoke through his headphones, “Derean, try to take out how many of the ships as you can before that message labelled ‘Not Enough Power’ comes up. Then, you must set that detachment option to ‘Timer’ and set the timer to 10 seconds.

Before starting the timer, set the movement-after-detachment option to ‘Forward and Crash’. Then, start the timer and use the elevator to come up into the main ship. I’ll keep in touch.” Derean began firing. With one hand he held the gun joystick, used for moving the gun around. One of his fingers was on the fire button. To his amazement, the Heirabolan fleet did not seem to have their shields up. Every time his lasers hit the fleet ships, they blasted or half blasted. At the same time, their lasers were continuously missing Derean’s ship. Whenever a laser came too close, Gregory spun the ship around, dodging the lasers. But their luck didn’t hold for long. Suddenly, a laser came and hit the gunner area. It hit the bottom, so not much damage was done. Still, the gunner’s computer told Derean that target marking was not possible any more. Derean was busier shooting the enemy ships.

Suddenly, a laser came right towards him. But, instead of making him feredoctile toast, it was repelled by some mysterious field. Derean was taken aback for a moment, but then realised that the shield was up. He cried out, “Yoohoo! We’re saved.” But at that very moment, the message ‘Not Enough Power’ came up. He remembered what Gregory had told him and did exactly as he was told. Very soon, he was up in the main ship. He was going to greet Gregory, but instead of him, he found a white spacesuit-wearing figure. He stammered, “Wh..whh…whh…what are you?” The figure turned and spoke with a mechanical voice, “Derean, don’t you recognise me? I am Gregory. I put on this suit for a special purpose. Wear the other one, and I’ll tell you why.” Derean quickly put on the other suit.

Then Gregory said, “Derean, we have to think of a plan to save ourselves, and Fraglior, from these aliens.” Derean thoughtfully replied, “Well, if we could shut off their ‘Defence and Attack’ system, then we could shut off the entire ship’s guns.” Gregory exclaimed, “What a great idea Derean! Now, I know exactly what to do.” Derean thought to himself whether Gregory had gone mad when the professor turned the ship around and headed for the opposing spaceships. Suddenly the professor set the ship to automatic coordinate – based motion. The coordinates were set for – the Defence and Attack system area! Suddenly, Gregory spoke, “Derean, I am now going to set the steering to ‘Always-Above-Ship-Following’. We are now following an alien spaceship.

I am going to open the escape hatch on the floor. When I say ‘Now!’ we must jump onto the other ship. Then, using their top escape hatch, we can go in and take over that ship.” Derean agreed. The professor opened the escape hatch. Immediately, they were being sucked towards the hatch. Gregory shouted, “Now!” and both of them jumped. They were immediately sucked towards the end of the other ship but managed to hold on to something. It was the hatch. They managed to get the hatch open but were immediately pushed back again. Somehow, they managed to get inside and closed the hatch. Then, they repressurised the cabin and filled it with oxygen. Finally, the took off their helmets and prepared their guns. Then, after opening the door, they immediately shot the two Heirabolans sitting inside. As soon as they were dead, the two feredoctiles took over the ship.


[4] Hymanra was their great lord, the mastermind, the person who controlled everything from their home planet, Jugastanis 123. It was not actually their home planet, as they had already destroyed their home planet while mining. Since then, they had changed planets 123 times.

This was the last and most stable one. Now it is time to disclose some facts about their civilisation. They were called the “Heirabola”. This civilisation is notorious among other alien civilisations for destroying planets and turning their inhabitants into slaves. They are amazingly advanced. Now to start on their history.

A long time ago, 300 years ago to be precise, the most cunning chieftain they had ever known, Hymanra, arose. He took over the entire world over time. He managed to convince the people that they were destined for greater things and that if they united themselves, they could achieve things that they didn’t even dream of. The people accepted. Within the span of a century, the Heirabolans had conquered half the planets in their solar system. Meanwhile, Hymanra had employed his scientists to make an elixir of life. They finally succeeded in making the elixir and gave it to Hymanra. So that no other civilisation could make this elixir, he had all the scientists who made the elixir killed. He even destroyed all of their research papers.

Due to this elixir, he could live forever. 300 years later, they have a huge system of planets under their control. Hymanra controls this system with the help of his several commanders. His most prized possession is the Imperial Beam. All of the major Heirabolan warships had laser beams, which could destroy an area of about 17.1 million square kilometres with a single shot. The Imperial Beam was about 10,000 times more powerful than that. It could destroy the largest planet in the Fraglioran solar system, Lamirma, with a single shot.


 The Great Escape

After taking over the ship, they quickly switched off the tracking device so that their previously stolen ship did not continue to follow them. Then, they quickly steered the ship downwards so that they could go below the giant ship. Once they had gone below the giant ship, they quickly went across the giant ship and up the other side. Then, they went to the holding docks, where prisoner’s ships were kept. Meanwhile, another thing had happened.

While they were still below the ship, they heard a huge explosion and the entire ship shook from the vibration. At the same time, the fire option deactivated. This meant that the defence sector was destroyed. Once the ship reached the holding docks, they got out of the ship and entered the Gerelon 2000. They found that it had been adapted to run on the aliens’ fuel source. They also found that the ship had been re – fuelled. This made their escape easier. They quickly turned on the invisibility mode and started flying back to Fraglior.

Due to the defence sector being destroyed, the heat sensors were not active. Once they were away from the ship, they both breathed a sigh of relief. But at that very moment, a huge bit of destroyed ship parts collided with them. Both the Gerelon 2000 and the ship parts fell down thousands of miles, through the atmosphere of Fraglior, and crashed onto the surface. What happens next? Read on in the next book!

The Ghost of Neil Damiens

By Anoushrayan Deysarkar

Damiens Bunglow

Many years ago, there lived a man called Neil Damiens. He was a rich man, and he lived in the Damiens’ bungalow on Heather street. He lived with his wife and two children. He was the owner of a sugarcane plantation. One day, while he was working in the plantation, a fire broke out and many people died. Neil was one of them. The plantation was shut down. Thankfully, Neil had made his will already. Half his money went to his family and half to his sister. This was in the year 1751.

Many years later, in the year 1951, one of his descendants, Jacob Damiens found Neil’s diary. He read a few pages and finding it interesting, decided to read a page of it every day before going to bed. He read it till the end. Interestingly, it was on the same day he finished reading the diary –  17th of April, that Neil had died 200 years ago.

On the stroke of midnight, Jacob was woken up by a strange sound, like the whirring of pages. He woke up and saw that the diary was closed. This was strange, because Jacob had been so sleepy that he had forgotten to close the diary. Just as Jacob was about to go to sleep, he heard another sound, like that of a cloak brushing against the floor. Jacob was surprised, because nobody in the house wore a cloak.

He took a torch and went out of his bedroom. He followed the sound of the cloak and reached the living room. There, he saw a cloaked figure standing and looking at a picture of Neil Damiens on the wall. The figure turned to face Jacob. It whispered “Jacob.” Again, it whispered “Jacob.” Then it said “I am Neil Damiens.”

Jacob was trembling with fear. The ghost of Neil Damiens said “Listen to me, Jacob. You must save your cousin, Ben Atkinsons, from dying like me. He lives in Wembley. You must not let him go to his factory, the Cotton Mill Factory tomorrow. It will explode tomorrow. I do not want him to die in the same way as I died. You must save him.”

Jacob was very scared but agreed to do as the ghost said. The next day, he called Ben up and introduced himself as Jacob Damiens. He said that he needed 44 pounds of cotton. He also said that wanted to feel the texture of the cotton so he would go to Ben’s house. After he had felt the cotton’s texture, the two men chatted till 12 ‘o clock. Later, that same day, the news of an explosion at the Cotton Mill Factory, Ben’s factory, appeared in the newspaper. It was also written that this was the very spot at which a similar explosion had taken place, 200 years ago, in a sugarcane factory. The owner of that factory was a man called Neil Damiens.

Woodda’s Fruit-Land

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

A wood cutter used to go to a jungle near his village to fetch wood everyday in the afternoon. He would mostly be back home in the evening before sun down expect for some days when he would either get caught up with travellers who passed by the path through the jungle or would not be able to find sufficient wood within time. He loved to hear the traveller’s stories of faraway lands and strange places which he was sure actually didn’t exist. He in-turn would weave beautiful narratives and tell them to his mates at the bazaar where he went to sell his wood in the morning. They too didn’t believe a word he said but the stories were so intriguing that everyone would wait for him and be all ears when he started his story camp at lunch time.

“One day”, he started and sipped a little water, “I was unable to find the requisite amount of wood and lingered on longer than I usually do. It was only after sun down that I started for the journey back home. On the way I felt very hungry and could not go on further. I left the donkeys with the wood piles and went up a tree in search of fruits. There were none but I decided to rest for a while as I was feeling very tired. I just sat there staring into the branches and after a while I saw a very ripe and red round fruit which I guess had camouflaged itself in the red and orange leaves of the tree so well that I had missed it while searching. I pranced on it and ate it in a jiffy. I felt very sleepy and it must have happened then. Though I have no explanation for what I am going to tell you next.”

The wood cutter dug at his lunch while others were staring at him with a puzzled look on their face.

“As I woke up, I found myself in a completely different place. There was no jungle. I was not on the tree,” he stopped only take another gulp and continued, “Suddenly a man called me by my name.” “What is your name?” asked an innocent looking young boy hardly in his teens who had come to the market with his uncle. The woodcutter gave a sharp glance and continued, “Well I don’t know, everybody calls me ‘Woodda’; but this man was calling some name and I turned. He said I was summoned by the king. As I followed him I noticed the place was very beautiful, with gardens, springs and to my surprise I myself was dressed in a handsome robe and not my usual attire.”

“A king? Like Vikramaditya?” asked another little boy in shorts. Woodda thought for a while and said, ”Now that you mention his name, might be so. The king was sitting on a large throne and looked very kingly. He asked me who I was and what I was doing in his kingdom that was forbidden for strangers. I said I was myself wondering about the last part and told him the whole episode about the fruit that I had eaten. The king gave a hearty laugh and said, “Do you think you can make a fool out of me with this fruit story? How can anybody just drop into a place by eating a fruit and sleeping?” The King looked very angry but I had no answer to his legitimate question.”

Woodda finished his lunch, washed and sat with his hookah. His mates and their young associates were getting restless and asked, “Then what happened?” “Then a very funny thing happened. The king was very angry and said, ”This man must be a spy from another country and a very trained and learned one at that to have infiltrated our territory.” I had never felt so honoured and proud about myself in my entire life; only all that was being said was so not true that I also felt ashamed of being considered so great. The king continued, ”According to the peace pact we have with other nations no spy is supposed to enter the domain of another and the pact has been honoured for so many gazillion years that all punishments pertaining to such an offence have been forgotten.” I could not stop myself from laughing aloud at this but the king rather than getting further infuriated seemed pleased. He said, “We however do have a punishment for humiliating others and thus shall you be punished.” Later I came to know that more or less crime had been eliminated from that land and thus punishments were also a thing of a very distant past. My punishment for humiliating the court and the king was that I will not be allowed to stay at a place for more than six months. It was very funny for me but looking at the grave faces of the people at the court I thought it must be serious.”

Woodda looked at the mesmerised faces of his listeners and continued, “ I roamed the length and breadth of this strange land which I named fruit land as the real name was so difficult to pronounce that I gave up after the second try. I had finished touring only a part of it, so said the map, when one fine morning I was summoned again. The king looked very much at peace unlike our first meeting. He said, “We have decided that you are not a spy.” I giggled under my breath, they have decided. The king continued, “Since you are not a spy but have somehow entered our forbidden realm we present you with two choices. Either you can stay here forever and become one of us; for which you will be duly trained. The other option is to go back where you came from and though we cannot stop you from doing it, because we do not know how you did it, we will prefer if you don’t bring in more of your kind. It is rude to say do not come again but please come back alone only if you wish to stay here forever.”

“So what did you do?” Stayed back?” said an inquisitive mate. “But then how are you here?” he asked with a puzzled look.

“I had stayed in this strange land for what seemed like a decade but was never comfortable with the unanimity of the place,” said Woodda chuckling at the confused state of his mates. “To give you an example,” Woodda paused to look around and continued, “We see so many houses around the market, some small, some big, some freshly coloured, some in a dilapidated state but there, the houses were all so similar, they might look different from one another by design but the state was all the same. None was rich, none was poor. There was no money business. So you see there was no crime, no punishment, people just lived their lives and since I was not one of them I was kept out of the actual happenings of the place and was provided for everything. In a nutshell it was a boring and monotonous place although it might have been different after I became one of them.”

Woodda took a deep breath and said, “I decided to come back.” Everybody around gave out a loud sigh of disappointment. “Well! Look at the bright side, who would tell you the stories?” cried out an astonished Woodda. “But you could have stayed on and got their secrets and smuggled us in and think what a nice life we would all have” said an elderly fellow. “But they asked me not to do that,” Woodda said baffled. The elderly fellow zapped, “They have no punishments, what would they do if you didn’t listen to them.” The argument was getting heating when the little boy in shorts first mumbled and then screamed, “But how did you come back? If they could not find out how you went there in the first place then how did they send you back?”

“Ah! Now that is interesting and actually by chance I would say,” said Woodda, somewhat relieved to be out of the line of direct fire. He really didn’t think of the possibilities the elderly fellow was talking about. He just wanted to be back home in his familiar surroundings. Woodda continued, “I asked them how could they send me back if they didn’t know how I went there. The king said, “Our scientists have been studying you and have found the likely co-ordinates of your timeline. All we need to do is disintegrate you and send you across. However it is likely that a miniscule error might have happened in calculations and instead of your exact dwelling, as in your case, the tree and the time as stated by you when you fell asleep, it might be some other time and some other place where you find yourself again, like on one of the planets of your solar system, say Mars at a time when it was bustling with life. According to your perception we found there is no life on Mars.” I was too spellbound to say something and kept on looking at the king blankly just as all of you are looking at me now.”

Woodda looked satisfied with himself and also a little amused and said lightly, “It was just yesterday, that I came back and happy I am. I woke up on the forest path only to find that my donkeys have doubled and some boys were managing them. One of them was in fact quite surprised to see me and said, “Where did you come from Woodda? Were you not supposed to visit your relatives today?” It took me a while but then I said, I was coming back from the visit and thought would catch up with you guys. The boy smiled and went on with his work. I tactfully uncovered their names and all that had happened in my absence, which seemed like some 20 odd years. I seem to remember everything till that night and also all that happened in that ‘fruit land’ but can’t recall anything else.  I know I have lost so many years of my life, must be calculation error; but given the odds it is not much, I could well have found myself by the side of an erupting volcano on Venus or among some strange creatures in Mars. Also I find myself wealthier and though so many years have passed I do not feel old.”

“You look old though,” chirped in the teenager. “Also we haven’t missed you for a day. You saw me on the day I was born and also named me, so says mother,” said the little boy in shorts. “Is it now?” said Woodda and smiled. “Lots to catch up with I guess,” he said almost to himself.

The story camp started dispersing with loads of thoughts in the air, was this another stunning stories of Woodda, heard from the travellers and rephrased? Or did he make this up on his own? Whatever the case may be this was indeed an extraordinary story.

Woodda got up slowly as an old man would but he could feel the good old strength in his knees. He has been wondering whether the ‘fruit land’ king had send his forty year old self back to his naturally aging body but things were too complicated for him to comprehend and he gave up. Walking towards home he started brooding over the idea of trying to find that tree and the fruit again and go to his fruit-land or some other place, exploration of new lands is an addiction few can refrain from.



By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

He just loved the little hamlet along the stream which came trickling down the hills that lined the skies. With little savings, Sharan had set out to find a place where he could spend some quality time. Peace he sought, and that is what he got, in this lonesome quite corner of the earth.

Walking around the little village he found a hut in a patch of land where the wind was caressing the plants. It was love at first sight. The hut was a little distance away from the hutment that seemed to house the dwellers of the beautiful place.

After some searching around Sharan met the owner of the hut he had chosen for himself and took it on rent for a month, with an assurance, that he would stay on if it suits his fancy.

Sharan had never felt better, everyday seemed like a dream, with only a little angst, that he was not able to get a domestic help of his choice. Many came from far and near villages but none made an impression on Sharan.

To begin with, he wanted a male servant and most of the aspirants were women. Then, he wanted someone who was both quick and efficient, but in such places where peace prevails, pace of life is relaxed and so are most people. Sharan was a very expeditious man.

Much ado about this trivial yet essential issue was created in the village but finally after 15 days Sharan and his village mates gave up the search and people were told that the position has been filled to avoid the frequent walk-ins.

Yet on the 16th day arrived an old man, from whence he came was not known, somewhere on the far side of the hills was his abode, he wished to serve and hence in front of Sharan he stood.

Sharan was sceptical about the capabilities of this old man but something made him agree to the employment.

A month went by and the old man proved to be very efficient. Sharan extended his stay, from another month to two more and more and more and soon he had lived in his hut with the old man for a year.

Sharan was surprised that the old man never took any leave, but he kept the wonder to himself, lest the old man starts getting ideas and was gone.

He planned to start a school and soon did. Slowly with his contacts in the so called civilized world, he started getting aids and the school was a success. Children and their parents were happy and Sharan would spend most of his time in the school.

The old man was not needed any more, yet Sharan liked him to be around and had no plans to let him go.

A young lady arrived at the school one day, she was very interested to work for the people and the children. She settled in soon and shouldered much of Sharan’s work.

One evening he invited her for tea and told her all about his old domestic help on the way. She listened intently and seemed very astounded. But at home, to Sharan’s surprise, the old man was not to be found.

The young lady offered to make tea but Sharan declined it. He came back with an aromatic tea in a jiffy. A friend from Darjeeling had sent him the second flush lately and this was exactly the occasion he had been saving it for.

Sharan was a little taken aback when the young lady expressed awe at his speed. He had noticed that from the very beginning she had been overtly polite and respectful, which was very agreeable considering his efforts for the school. Yet it felt a little over the top.

He wanted to walk the young lady home but she was more apprehensive about his safety and though embarrassing, her tone had so much warmth and concern that he could not carry on his insistence.

Late at night, the old man was back, he had just been to the market he told Sharan, and seemed a little annoyed at being questioned.

A year followed another and the hut had somehow become Sharan’s own. The owner had stopped collecting rent long back, as he and the whole village felt proud to have Sharan amongst them.

One afternoon the young lady who was had aged a bit since, yet not too much, came calling to Sharan’s hut. He was as punctual as the Sun and a no-show at the school was implausible.

She pushed hard on the door, having received no answer to her shout outs. Sharan was lying on his bed.

The lady rushed out to inform the villagers and all came running dropping whatever they were at. Sharan was lying peacefully as if deep in sleep. He looked so tranquil and heavenly in his white beard.

The doctor came after a while and confirmed the passing away.

After the cremation ceremony, people still lingered on and talked about him. He was a great man to them, who had come to their village one fine day like a boon.

Apart from that little bit of an eccentricity when Sharan solemnly declined any help offered by anybody, speaking of his domestic help, who was supposedly a very dexterous old man with a white beard and whom none had ever seen, the villagers never had anything to complain about him.

Ratified Murder

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Chandri was contemplating murder. Killing comes naturally to some but for the majority of the human species its either very strenuous or a sin. Chandri was born after a visit to the slice of paradise called Kashmir, so her parents chose a kashmiri name for her which means moonshine.

It was around 1:30 at night when a faint but consistent scratching like sound woke Chandri up. She sat up looked around and after a visit to the washroom returned to bed having found none to associate the sound with. The scenario repeated itself at 3.30am and around 5 too.

Chandri is not a light sleeper but off late her sleep tends to get disturbed often with trivial sounds. The phenomena had started after her baby boy was born almost 11 yrs back. The boy has still remained a baby when it comes to sleeping and Chandri has ever since been jumpy and prone to check her baby every now and then for misplaced blankets or mosquito bites.

It was an obvious indication and the course of action was also too obvious for any scope of consideration. Yet Chandri was anxious and stressed out. She like the millions could not plan a kill.

The scratching event happened the night after too, keeping Chandri awake almost all night. She turned the whole house topsy-turvy, to find out and alleviate the cause of this irritating midnight sortie; to no avail of her primary mission, but a whole lot of junk cleaning job sitting on the to-do list for months, got done.

Chandri and her son were at their shared table, each on their own comp in the evening; suddenly a shadow passed and Chandri was chary. She kept looking from the corner of her eye and there it was. Once again Chandri ransacked the house and along with her son felt a pseudo relief of riddance from the burden of having blood on her hands.

There are several people but for whom the earth would have lost its variety of species, yet in everyday life the people Chandri met except for her mother, did not feel so strongly against killing, especially if it was a lesser living thing; as proclaimed by most people, of any other species than their own. Once at a party Chandri felt like ripping a man apart, as he was boisterously mentioning that the only interest he had about tigers was if one was on his plate.

Roy was an animal lover. He loved plants too though he could barely make out a Tamarind tree from that of a Mango. The only living things he had an aversion for were insects. It had always been a big bone of contention for Chandri and her husband Roy. He enjoyed drowning ants, smashing cockroaches, squishing beetles and valued his family’s pain caused by a bee sting than the bee’s life.

Ridiculous as it might seem to Roy, Chandri could have well replaced the nat geo guy who was happily feeding the vampire bat with his own blood in order to closely study them. But that is in thoughts, in reality when approached aggressively by monkeys she screams for Roy whether or not he is around.

Roy is her strength, her shield; her entire existence revolves around Roy and of course the little life who is so much a shadow of her own persona and better still. Chandri had been suffering sleepless nights, bearing the physical strain of unsettling and resettling the house and yet was jolly. She just wanted Jerry to leave; it would kill her to see it dead.

Next morning Chandri have had another sleepless night, Roy was concerned and as they were leaving for school, Chandri suddenly figured out that Ghishu had not packed his bag for the day. Voices were raised, the air was taut with anxious alacrity and then Roy said it, “You stop jumping after your mouse.” He has been proposing poison.

Chandri snivelled all through the morning walk session and barely heeded to Roy’s effort of reconciliation. She was contemplating murder. She planned to buy rodent poison for the nightly visitor and have some herself too; the later just an outrageous thought.

For the past couple of years, Chandri the ever happy person feels extreme frustration at times. She was academically bright and was a possessor of multifaceted talent none of which she could focus on and manifest into a career. She is easily distracted and loses her way half or even quarter way through.

Roy was by far the best thing that happened to her whimsical carefree soul and yet deep down she knew that had she not given up on her profession and had she not been dependent on him, not just emotionally but also economically she would have most likely drifted away from him causing the biggest blunder of her life and the ultimate harm to herself.

Having thus passed a melancholy morning because Roy, her best buddy was proposing the killing of an innocent creature Chandri came home and started jumping after the mouse again. About an hour’s effort failed to elicit any response from the little fellow. He seemed like a magician, an expert in the vanishing act. With a heavy heart, Chandri went to the shop and the keeper delighted her. She had forgotten all about it, a dear friend had suggested it not so long ago, the glue pad, only setting the rat free from it would definitely be a task. She had opted for a rat trap earlier so as to bring about least harm to the mouse. She took the pad this time and came back home prancing.

Chandri placed a banana nibbled by the rat on the floor all day long to evade the glue pad; she was ready to undergo yet another sweaty chase out session if her Jerry showed up. He didn’t for the better part of the day. Nevertheless, Chandri was upbeat that she had been able to rescind the ratified murder of the rat.


By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Dingy went to a bonfire with his parents. They had loads of fun and they came back home late in the night. Everybody had to quickly sleep off as the next day was the festival of colours- Holi.

All fresh and happy the next morning Dingy heard his mother speaking over phone to his grandma that they had a gala time on the eve of the festival Holi. Dingy was about to ask but then Lia rushed in along with Digi and Random, it was time to play with colours! Dingy was amply tired by the end of the day having played and making merry. He slept off. His query got lost in the routine of life and in a couple of days he forgot all about it.

Then one day there was a buzz about Santa coming to town and giving gifts to children on Christmas eve. Everyone at home and around were very excited, Dingy’s mom gave him clean socks to hang on Christmas Eve. Now the query came back. He stopped his mom in the hallway and asked loudly why we are hanging the socks tonight if Santa comes on Christmas Eve.

Mom dad and seemed like the pets and even the furniture laughed aloud. But mom was apologetic and said she would explain right away. “The Eve”, she said, “means the night or evening before the d-day or the actual day of the festival or event. So the day before Christmas or the day before Holi are called eve of Christmas or eve of Holi respectively.”

His query answered, Dingy a relieved boy shot off to hang his socks and sleep tight awaiting the beautiful gifts from Santa.

Fly Birdies

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Dingy and his friends were stooped on a book when Lia rushed in with the big news, “Darling lost and found”, she screamed.

Everyone looked at him at once. Digi asked, “What happened? What are you screaming about?”

Lia took a deep breath and started, “You all know that I have two pet birds. One of them called Darling suddenly flew out of the balcony. Mom and dad searched high and low and had lost all hopes. Then a fine gentleman brought her back late in the night.”

Random said, “That’s great Lia, see we were just reading a book on how birds are able to fly?” Digi said excitedly,” Lia your bird could fly because she has strong and light bones.

This book says that the body temperature of a bird is constant at 40 degree centigrade. “Birds have wings covered with feathers, that help them take off, maintain balance and go in the direction they wish to”, added Dingy.

“Guys do you know that millions of years ago birds had front limbs, which turned into wings under a process called evolution”, chipped in Lia.

“Time to fly back home birdies”, called out Random. The group dispersed until next time.

How did Magnets get their name?

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Dingy rushed into the room and nearly bumped with the table. Nobody noticed him as everybody was busy playing with MAGNETS.

“Guys!”, screamed Dingy, Lia, Digi and Random looked up startled. “What are you fellows up to?” asked Dingy. “We are experimenting with magnets, come join us”, said all three in unison.

“Okay, but have you guys ever thought how magnet got its name?” asked Dingy, as he settled amongst them.

Lia the jumpy know all fellow, always first to answer said “I know magnets are made from MAGNETITE.”

“And magnets attract objects made of magnetic materials like IRON, COBALT, NICKLE etc,”, added a sober no-nonsense Digi. “But no idea about how this amazing thing got its name”, remarked the clever Random.

“There is a rather interesting story”, said Dingy. “Story time”, all three shouted.

Dingy cleared his throat and started, “Once upon a time in ancient Greece around 800BCE, there was a shepherd called MAGNES. He used to carry a stick whose tip was made of iron and wear boots that had iron nails. One day as he was passing by a rock his stick got stuck to it. He went to take a closer look and stepped on the rock. His boots got stuck to it too. He then left his boot and sticks on the rock and ran to a wise man who lived in the town nearby to narrate his extraordinary find. This wise man was called the Thales of Miletus, regarded as one of the first Greek philosophers and scientists. More about him another day.”

“Well then magnet got its name from the shepherd MAGNES?” burst out an impatient Lia. “That is one possibility Lia. Alternately the name could have been derived from the region that it was discovered from, namely MAGNESIA”, explained Dingy.

“And was that rock a whole big magnet?” asked Random inquisitively. “Yes kind of, the rock was a natural magnet called Lodestone.”

“Wow, that was really interesting, now come Dingy hold this magnet next to mine and lets find out which of their poles are alike?” said Digi.”Yes ! Like poles repel each other!” exclaimed Digi.

It was getting dark outside and Dingy insisted that they pack up for the day. So Random, Digi, Lia and Dingy all left for home with a lovely story and wanting for more, until next time!

The Gho-team

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

The Gho Team

Several years ago there lived a ghost. Well let us say there used to be a ghost as ghosts are not supposed to live. He didn’t have a name but he had a lot of friends, all of whom were living. To begin with there was Barly the kid, Meril the lamb, Su the infant, Kit the fawn and Rig the boy. These were his core group of friends and then there were many more.

One fine afternoon the ghost came whooshing on to Rig and asked him to accompany. Rig ran along, hardly able to keep up with the ghost’s floating speed. They came to a clearing where a lot of people had gathered and Barly was pinned to the ground forcibly. He was bleating as hard as he could.

Rig and the ghost heard that Barly was to be sacrificed to bring on rains on a certain day. He was chosen because he was healthy and of the correct age to appease the rain god.

The ghost gathered most of his friends and they animatedly discussed how the silly sacrifice could be stopped. Since they were all too young it was impossible to win by force.

Thus they thought hard with their little brains and finally came up with a plan.

Rig didn’t go home that day, as a result people started looking for him. After searching in and around the village the people decided that he must have got lost in the forest. They arranged for a huge search party complete with torches and drums beaters, to keep away the wild animals.

Now it had been decided that all the ghost’s friends would run towards the old temple in the forest, on the west bank of the river as soon as they see the people and create such an impression that something was going on there. The people will follow out of curiosity.

 The search party did follow the animals and reached the temple. It was an old dilapidated structure with a deity that looked fierce and unforgiving. She was the forest goddess. People used to come to her once a year on a particular day with offerings so as to keep her happy. It was believed that she will protect the people of the village from the wild animals of the forest.

That day in the dark the goddess looked more fearsome than ever. The people were scared to their bones when they heard the booming voice of a lady which they were sure was of the deity.

This was actually Rig’s teacher who was speaking through a portion of a water pipe which had been altered a little to turn it into a mike that would make the voice loud and have the special effect of sounding divine.

The voice said, “I have taken one of yours as you were trying to take one of mine.  Though humans are my children too, they behave as if they are above all the living things and can decide upon inflicting cruelty on them as and when they deem suitable.”

The people gasped and looked at each other.

The voice continued, “You fools don’t understand that animals are a part of nature and since the Gods have created them just as they have created you, the sacrifice of a life can’t appease the Gods. The Gods would be happy if you live in harmony. Would you want your children to kill one another?”

Some of the people found a little courage and said, “But the rains have been evading us for months so we thought a sacrifice like the elder days might help.”

“You are supposed to learn as you progress in years. Knowledge is supposed to be passed from one generation to the other so that the quality of life improves. Instead you pass superstitions. May be by coincidence it so happened that by sacrifice some end was met by an elder generation of yours, but did you try to find out if it was conclusive?” said the angry voice.

“We should not question everything that the elders have said, that will lead to questioning the existence of God himself,” said a very scared individual that was Rig’s father.

The voice now a little mellowed said, “Well you should. Only by questioning and by being curious can a society prosper and cut out unnecessary conflicts. Humans have always tried to attribute everything to God and wash their hands off. Would you like to know how rain happens?”

The teacher didn’t want go into deeper discussion about God, as she was posing as one and if caught the whole plan would fail.

“I know,” chirped one of the younger fellows, “The water bodies like ocean, rivers and lakes get heated up due to the sun. The heat causes the water to form water vapour which rises up in the air. That is evaporation”

Another young adult said confidently, “Since the other gases in the air is heavier than the vapour it keeps rising up and then the air pressure decreases temperature drops. The water vapour turns into tiny liquid water droplets. That is condensation.”

“And then?” asked the teacher excited about her students being able to remember and explain the water cycle.

The young fellow who had started answering said, “The clouds we see are a large concentration of these droplets. Then since the droplets are heavier than the air they fall back on earth. That is precipitation.”

“Stupendous children! You can ask for any boon related to your school,” the teacher in the guise of the goddess said, quickly adding, “Since you are young school going children.” The teacher was scared at every point of being discovered.

“Can we have this Saturday off please mother goddess?” said one of the boys remembering the ‘kabaddi’ match they had planned after school.

“Okay I’ll try to put these thoughts across to the principal,” said the teacher gingerly.

“Thus dear humans as you can see rain is a result of evaporation, condensation and precipitation and has nothing to do with sacrificing innocent animals,” said the teacher’s booming voice. She continued, “Stop cutting trees, rather plant more of them. That is the only thing that can bring back the rains”.

The teacher gave the people some time to consider all that had been discussed and then said in conclusion, “You will get back your son tomorrow morning. No harm has been done to him. But remember the earth belongs to all its inhabitants. You are not superior in any way.”

The mass started to disburse slowly talking in hushed tones.

Rig was home next morning, his parents called their neighbours and everybody rejoiced. The people called off the sacrifice not only for then but forever.

Meanwhile the teacher convinced the principal to declare a holiday on Saturday and the kids played ‘kabaddi’ to their heart’s content thanking the forest mother goddess profusely.

Eventually people stopped cutting trees recklessly and tried to plant more as often as possible. Consequently and also because of suitable climatic conditions the rains came.

All this while Rig had been thinking, since everybody had a name, the ghost should also have a name and decided to give him one. He spoke to the others and they unanimously decided to call him Gho. They also named their team as the Gho-team.

The Gho-team became the guardians of nature, they made it their mission to stop any unnecessary killing or cutting or anything that would bring harm to nature.

Kashmir, its Mughal gardens and temples

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Kashmir || Pahalgam || Gulmarg

From the sweltering heat of Delhi we reached the wet and cold capital of Kashmir. It was nothing like the Meluhan Srinagar but a city just like any other in India. Cars and traffic jams and flyovers and ongoing construction work, all the same. But then came the mighty Jhelam in sight and the mightier mountains to frame its calm and serene nature which she portrays once on these flat lands.

The Kashmir valley is about 100 kms wide and is at an average elevation of approximately 6000 feet. The Pir Panjal range (inner Himalayas with average elevation 16000 feet) surrounds it in the south and west (where we have the LOC with Pakistan). 

Gulmarg is on one of the shoulder’s of one of the peaks (Apharwat) on these ranges.

The north eastern sides of the valley are flanked by the mighty Himalays. The Amarnath peak, Mount Kolahoi and a lot of other peaks pop up from this side when the skies are clear.

Pahalgam is a little valley tucked in between the lower ranges of the Himalays, 16kms from the base of Amarnath peak.

The centre of attraction in Srinagar is undoubtedly the Dal Lake. Funny though it is like saying the ‘lake lake‘ as ‘Dal’ in Kashmiri means lake. According to local legend, Kashmir is a land desiccated from water.

Our hotel was a stone’s through from the Boulevard that runs beside the Dal. Walisons is a mid range hotel which gives heavy discounts on online bookings with complimentary breakfast and other goodies. We had booked their family room for 2 nights before and a night after the Pahalgam trip. It was more than a pleasant stay with exquisitely decorated clean rooms and bathrooms, loads of good restaurants nearby, one being at the hotel itself. The Stream and Shamiyana are two renowned but tad expensive food joints on the boulevard. We enjoyed various Kashmiri Wazwan’s, the best being Mutton Yakhni.

Our Kasheer (Kashmir in Kashmiri) trip began with rains and as long as we stayed in Srinagar 90% of the time it rained. The “burkha clad” Autos, as I called them were a great relief. Though they hamper visibility, the chill winds accompanied by the showers are kept out by the covers on both sides of the auto which also has a door.

It takes only an evening to see the beautifully decorated ancient mughal gardens of Pari Mahal and Chashme Shahi along with the new Tulip Garden (only from 3rd week of Mar to mid Apr); but to the initiated heart, they are worth spending a life time in, specially Pari Mahal, which gives a panorama of the city being situated in the Zawarban ranges. The garden with 7 terraces was Dara Shikoh’s Library and place for meditation. We visited them amidst light showers, slipping in the mud trying hard to capture the beauties.

The Zabarwan ranges (sub mountain ranges of the Himalays) also houses the other two famous mughal Gardens, Nishat Bagh and Shalimar Bagh. They are rectangular gardens sloping uphill. The spring water from the hills is channelized downhill and ornate stone structures adorn the garden in the true Persian style of the Mughals.

The Tulip Garden in the lap of the Zabarwan ranges; the largest in Asia will remind any hindi film buff of the famous Amitabh – Rekha starrer song, “Dekha ek khwab to ye silsile huye”. There are almost 50 varieties of tulips.

On the second day in Kasheer, we paid a visit to the Nishat Bagh. Beautiful as it is, but would be further enjoyable on a sunny day in full bloom around June.

After Nishat we then drove past Shalimar Bagh, again in a burkha auto to Burza Hamma or Burzahom. It is about 4.5kms from Shalimar Bagh. Our driver bhaijan had a faint idea about the place but had never been there. He had to put some effort into finding it and finally he did!

Burzahom was the home of our species around 3300BCE, when we lived in pits. We continued to live there even after stone-age but this time on the ground in mud houses. Loads of excavated artefacts are on display in the Museum in Srinagar. They date till 800BCE, thus Neolithic age. But as usual we believe more in folk lore than archaeological finds, so the locals believe that a sufi saint lived here 10000 years ago and thus the area was populated.

Amish, in his fictional story book assumes that Kashmir was part of Lord Ram’s domain centuries before Shiva was brought down from the mountains by Nandi to save the Meluhans. The recorded history can only take us back to the times of Emperor Askoka. There after the Indo-Greeks, Kushans, Sakas and Huns occupied Kashmir. The first true king of kasheer is considered to be Praversena II (580 CE). Karkota Empire established themselves as the rulers of Kashmir in the 8th Century. Lalitaditya Muktapida the third ruler of this dynasty extended his kingdom significantly. He is also credited with the construction of one the only three sun temples in India (the others two being Konarak-Odisha and Modhera-Gujrat); Martand Sun Temple near Anantnag. We visited it from Pahalgam, hardly an hour’s distance.

Suhail, our driver was unaware of the sun temple, so he took us to ‘Martand Mattan’ in the town of Mattan which is nearby. It is a Shiva temple cum Gurudwara.

Eventually, some army officers were able to help us find our destination. The locals know the Sun temple as ‘Pandav leni’, the place where the Pandavs from Mahabharata stayed for a while. Again folk lore beats history and archaeology!

The other magnanimous creation of Lalitaditya was Parihaspora, about 20kms from Srinagar, which we visited on the way to Gulmarg.

In the times of Ashoka the great, Buddhism crept into Kashmir and many places of worships were established, none of them are in existence today or may have been converted to Hindu temples.

Talking of temples, the famous Shankaracharya temple atop one of the edges of the Zabarwan range is attainable by any vehicle or even a jog by the enthusiasts. Bags and cameras are not allowed from the base of the stairs. There are about 250 of them to reach the top. Not only the top but even the way to the temple gives very scenic, far and wide views of the Srinagar town below.

Srinagar has many mosques in the old town, which is best visited in a hired car or auto. Some of them might be closed for tourists from time to time. The architecture of these mosques is of great interest to the enthusiasts.

The Hazaratbal mosque in particular, gives a very pleasant feeling. The imposing structure in white with its dome against the backdrop of the Zabarwan ranges makes it very appealing. The grounds as we went were flooded with the beautiful people of Kashmir, children playing around, men and women sitting in circles, chatting up happily made a very happy scene.

Two of the most unique attractions of Kashmir are the Houseboats and shikaras rides. We stayed in a House Boat called Martin’s House Boat in the ‘jewel in the ring’ – Nageena or Nigeen Lake as the locals call it, to the south-west of Hazratbal nearby. This is part of the Dal, but secluded, away from the hustle bustle connected to it only by a small strait.

We lost an entire day which we had preserved for shikara ride to the torrential rains but we managed an hour’s ride on the day of our departure and the experience of having breakfast in a shikara is the “must do before I die” kind.

The day we arrived from Gulmarg back in Srinagar was also a wet one but it wasn’t really pouring so we didn’t take a chance and rushed to Shalimar Bagh – ‘the most famed mughal garden’. The Chinars, one of them 400yrs old are a delight along with many other beautiful and strange flowers.

We met three Kashmiri boys in the bagh, who approached us to shoot them. They were mere kids studying in 11th grade and as a testimonial that the school was indeed closed that day and they were not bunking, they showed us the sms sent by the school.

We agreed to click and later send their photos through whatsapp, which we did; but what we didn’t apprehend was that they would give 75 shots!

There are many amazing things that one encounters on a trip, one such was the ‘kashimiri Dosa’ available right outside the bagh.

Of all the Mughal Gardens, I liked the one in Achabal the most; its in Anantnag and we went there from Pahalgam. It is smaller than Nishat or Shalimar but is none the less ornate.

In the land of natural springs and gardens, Kokernag is another beauty tucked amidst the mountains a little further away from Achabal.

Anantnag also has another gem, the Verinag spring which is considered to be the major source of the river Jhelum. The Mughal Arcade surrounding the spring is declared as a monument of special importance by the ASI.

We missed it.

We met two more wonderful Kushir (kashmiri people) at the temples of Awantipora in Anantnag. Both temples are in ruins and yet are a testimony of the days of glory they had once witnessed.

At Awantiswami dedicated to Shiva, we met a local guide who approached Rajib as he becomes very approachable when the camera hangs from his neck. A fine friendly neighbourhood man, a muslim, well versed in history, he poured out his own ruinous condition and that of the valley as he narrated the story of the ruins.

Less than a kilometre away is Avantishwara, a temple dedicated to Vishnu. We met a Sikh caretaker here, who was sweeping the floor of this bundle of ornate stones that once stood arranged in an array of well-structured walls and roofs. He was more than happy to see a visitor and was overwhelmed when he was tipped.

All said about the breathtaking beauty of Kashmir, if I have to pick only one from a dozen days experience, it would undoubtedly be its beautiful people.

Kashmir || Pahalgam || Gulmarg

Gulmarg – Meadow of Flowers

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Gulmarg and back || Pahalgam || Kashmir

We the people of the plains, living near the sea level have a remarkable attraction towards the mountains and specially the white ones. The mountain people can hardly live away from them if not forced. Either ways mountains are revered by one and all, possibly because it is close to the perceived heavens. Whatever the ethos, man has always found the beauty of a snow capped mountain supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Well I wanted to use that word because it kind of suits the grandeur of those high peaks. It simply means wonderful. Pardon my idiocy.

Gulmarg is just an hour and a half, tops two from Srinagar. It is a steady ascend from Srinagar at 5200 ft to 7021 ft till Tanmarg that is the base of the mountain atop which the ‘meadow of flowers’ lies. We started from Srinagar with a slight drizzle and took a detour to Parihaspora, the ancient seat of glory built on a plateau by Lalitaditya Muktapida, the ruler of Kashmir, around 700CE.

Parihaspora or Paraspor as it is called now; 20kms from Srinagar, is known to the locals more for the SSM College of Engineering and Technology that stands atop the plateau sharing grounds with the ruins of an ancient temple that was magnanimous and housed idols which reached the skies according to Kalhana, the 12th century Kashmiri author famous for ‘Rajtarangini’.

By the time we reached Tanmarg, the drizzle had turned into a steady rain, though not a heavy shower. Our driver convinced us that it would be best to hire the snow boots and jackets from Tanmarg, and he knows exactly the place. We also ended up hiring a guide @ 700 a day, who would supposedly get the tickets for the Gondola next morning and wait for us at the Gondola gate.

From Tanmarg the mountain slopes up. ‘Peril in Paradise’, a detective thriller by Satyajit Ray written in 1987 states that ‘Feluda’ (The sleuth) and party had to go up these slopes in Horses. Roddur was looking forward to it after the extraordinary experience we had in Pahalgam.

However this is 2018 and the Innova went on uphill; the rain and the mist restricted our view. It was chilling outside. After a couple of enquiries we found the building called ‘club’ where our hut would be allocated. I had booked the JKTDC hut online.

Vicinity was almost nil but we shortly found our hut and its care taker. The most interesting thing in the hut was a ‘Bukhari’. We sat around it as Fayaz bhai (care taker) got the fire going. Later I and Roddur tried a hand at it, and boy its fun!

It was too foggy and chilly to step out and then it started raining, which cleared the fog a bit but lowered the temperature further. It was hovering between 2 to 5 degrees. We kept indoors hoping for a better tomorrow.

The next morning didn’t get any better. The weather had been thus for the past 6 days and was likely to continue. Our guide Tarik bhai came with the bad news that the Gondola was not operating and offered to take us around the other places instead. The rain and the chill or the fog which were alternating did not create a welcoming outdoor, so we decided to be at home near our Bukhari.

Tarik bhai demanded his 700 bucks as he had come and supposedly his day was wasted. We gave him the money out of sympathy as tourists are the only means for earning for these people. But we felt cheated.

Fayaz bhai told us that the boots and jackets were being charged at double the rate in Tanmarg. I read in ‘tripadvisor’ that these are available at a cheaper rate in Gulmarg and should not be hired from Tanmarg. Yet the weather and the trust in the driver Iqbal bhai which was the residual effect of Suhail (the driver for Pahalgam) being such a wonderful lad, led me to hire them and the guide from Tanmarg. Bad mistake.

It is not the money that made a big difference; we were paying out large sums as tips absolutely out of empathy; but the feeling of being cheated in paradise made our hearts heavy. Till then we had been experiencing hospitality at its best, in India.

We decided to brave the rains and went out around 11 am. We took a car till the slopes of Khilanmarg, a place to learn skiing in winter, when the snow is deep and steady. The horses were asking 1200 per head. The car asked for 1500. It was raining and we didn’t think the pony ride would be worth so we took the cheaper option.

The snowline was a little way up the slope from where the car dropped us. We walked up alongside horses and men, over streams and rocks and muck and reached. Here also there is a shack for refreshments.

The day tourists looked miserable. Though Gulmarg is a small place, its weather is unpredictable, and since its all about the amazing view from different points, the rain and the mist could render the whole day a waste. I would definitely recommend a stay over.

We had lunch at Grand Mumtaz Hotel. They had a dish called ‘Fried Ice cream’ in their menu but none, from the waiter to the manager could describe it, leave alone producing one.

The food was good, as in all through Kashmir we found people didn’t know how to ruin a dish, whatever we ate, wherever we ate, it was delicious. But if I have to rate it amongst Kashmiri food joints, it was not the best we had. We played Monopoly, cards and lighting the ‘Bukhari’ for the rest of the evening and night in our cosy room. It poured like cats and dogs all through the night making the prospect of the Gondola ride very bleak.

To our hearts delight, we woke up to a sunny morning. Fayaz bhai fed us a quick breakfast and almost shooed us to the Gondola, which was a short walk from our hut.

Rajib went a couple of minutes before us to get the tickets and got them with ease till the first phase (740 INR each – credit card facility is available). The second phase tickets (900 INR each) they said would be made available at the base of the first phase.

Dressed in snow jackets and boots and loaded with our cameras we boarded the little yellow cable car. It has a sitting capacity of 6, 3 facing either side, front and back.

The car goes up and down on the cable at a very comfortable speed, way up to about 10000 ft (Kundoori Mountain). Gulmarg is at a little more than 8600 ft, the second phase takes one up to 12293 ft on the shoulder of the Apharwat peak which is at 14000 ft.

Roddur was not very comfortable, he is scared of heights and has extreme motion sickness too, but he managed. We decided to check out the first phase and then buy the tickets to the second phase.

As soon as we emerged from the base station, a horde of horse men, sledge men, ski men and snow bike men surrounded us. We wanted to walk up to the snowline of the first phase but the whole place was shrouded with mist and the direction unknown so we gave in to the touts and hired three horses for 500 bucks each to and fro.

The ride was not very enjoyable; the horses were also feeling the chill and slipping on the wet rocks and mud. But it wasn’t afar and I was thrilled to see so much snow.

I made Roddur try some skiing which he didn’t like at all.

We also rode on sledges only because they said if we don’t then they won’t get food. It is agonizing to be pulled by another human, when you are sitting on a plank, up a steep slope. I even felt sad for the horses. But this is their only livelihood. We went on for a while and then when the slope got even steeper we walked beside them.

I walked with a Chachaji, who was holding my hand and preventing me from falling in the snow that was knee deep. It was fresh snow from the day before. Talking about Kashmir and its state of affairs, he said ‘hamara (our) India’ in a very pensive tone. Standing in Kashmir, looking at the people, talking to them, it is absolutely impossible to take sides. Our army is very vigilant, we saw convoy after convoy as we went from place to place, we also saw personnel posted at every nook and corner. Yet the hopelessness in the eyes of the people creates an air of melancholy and confusion. All does not seem well.

From where we stood, not so far away I could see the waterfall that is a stream flowing under a large rock which is fed by the glacier above. There were paper trees on one arm of the Kongdoori. Snow bikes were blazing past up and down the slopes. Then all of a sudden the crowd thinned out and the snow fall started. One of the sledge man who was still with us said he’ll go call the others who had gone for some tea.

The three of us stood there, in the country of the white witch, amidst a snow blizzard. It was both scary and thrilling.

After which seemed not like a while but a considerable amount of time, the sledge men came back and took us downhill in a manner which is a ‘must experience’ once in a life time. The sledge puller sat in front of the sledge, I sat at the back putting the legs around his midriff and he held it tight with his hands, the man controlled the speed of the sledge with his legs as we slid downhill.

The blizzard was still on and our horses or their keepers were nowhere in sight. There is a shack for refreshments where we huddled along with others of our species.

A little later we were on our way down, the horses were cold and uncomfortable due to the freezing air, and so was Roddur. He shivered by the mention of a climb to the second phase, would have possibly bitten me if he had the strength to. The red cars on the cable, moving above the white snow were too alluring to be left out.

Yet we did. One the child was not at all interested and two the weather was bad and vicinity minimal, so the great views expected from the car atop were not going to happen.

After the Gondola ride and the snow experience, I and Rajib were beaming with happiness like little kids and the actual kid in our group declared he never wants to see snow in his life.

Thanks to the day being a bit dry, I walked around, gathered some pine cones and tried to befriend the ponies who were happily munching away after a hard day’s work.

The next and the last morning in Gulmarg was another delight. There was fresh snow on the grounds of the huts, the ponies were grazing and the whole vista was sunlit. Swift clouds came over pretty soon as we prepared to go back to Kashmir.

Iqbal bhai was supposed to pick us up but we cancelled him, as it was he on whose insistence we had to go through the distasteful incident. There were reparations. The guide gave back the 700 bucks as we met him while returning the boots and jackets, he realised it was iniquitous to receive payment for the services we never took.

On the way back we visited a place called Baba Reshi. It is nearer to Tanmarg, half way or more down the hill from Gulmarg. The Sufi saint Baba Payam ud din Reshi (15th century) used to live and meditate in this region and then it became the site of his tomb and a shrine for his disciples. The ornate structure was built in Mughal and Persian styles.

The vehicle we hired from Gulmarg for Srinagar cost us only 1700 INR and 300 INR extra for the little detour as opposed to 3300 INR that Iqbal bhai charged.

There are many other places nearby that can be explored by foot or pony or car, but one needs more time, as days may have to be spent indoors due to the erratic weather. En route Srinagar, beyond Tanmarg the weather was pleasantly cool sans the chill. We passed many towns and also got caught in a traffic jam. This time we went to a different part of the town and not the usual boulevard beside the Dal lake where we have been residing at the Walisons Hotel ever since we stepped into Kashmir. We were to check in to a house boat in the Nigeen Lake but that story goes into the another blog, which will cover the Mughal gardens and the ancient temples.

Gulmarg and back || Pahalgam || Kashmir

Vacation – how to make the most of it

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Summer vacation is by far the longest in India, and they become a pain for many a parent who run out of ideas to keep the little devils and the darling princesses occupied. Vacations of any duration for that matter are worrisome. Disclaimer: for many parents but not all.

Show me the world

An Outing is definitely the best option; it helps expand a child’s imagination by the exposure, not on a shopping trip though. Outings could be far or near, in town or out of it. The venue doesn’t have to be exotic in monetary terms; it is not luxury that the children need to be subjected to. Their young bodies are tough enough to take on the adversities of nature and will adapt with ease.

Very young children will like nature, wild and abundant. Slightly educated ones can be subjected to historical monuments, culture and tradition, the ones native to them first and then of their neighbours and stretching out further by and by.

Though outing could be a part of the vacation, it can’t be stretched out for the entire duration for obvious practical reasons. Sometimes it is completely out of bounds owing to varies factors like, no availability of leave or even other monetary obligations on the part of the parents, after all travel does cost time and money.

Not Another Routine

With the advent of summer camps parents are happy to enroll the kids big or small for the whole day 9am to 5pm. Well, it might seem like a respite from trouble, I feel it is unfair. The kid is again bound by routine, which he or she has not set; whether or not the drawing gene pops up into one’s head at 11am, one needs to draw. 12 to 1pm art and craft, candle making, 3 to 4pm cooking on an induction stove.

Innovative, imaginative, constructive, productive and very well suited to bring out all those creative pursuits for a child of a particular age, these summer camps are. Or are they?

Every child is different, says every psychologist in the world. Then how can we have a summer camp for 7-11 yr olds and expect all of them to like all the activities every day? Since a camp also doesn’t come cheap, one will generally be hooked onto it for the duration of the camp that is around 20 days to a month.

Having said this, ‘am not all averse summer or winter or any other season camps, but the duration.

Do As You Like

My 11 yr old had never had a dull moment at home even from the age he learned to say ‘am bored. Here is a firsthand recipe for a happy vacation time that is not only trouble free but also productive without being expensive or routine. Disclaimer: each child is different and should be handled thus.

At the advent of the holiday season or whenever it looks suitable, make the child sit and tabulate a list of things that she or he would like to do at free will. From one such tabulation, I learned that our son would love to learn to play chess.

Before or during the exam preparations, is another time when ideas about ‘what I want to do when ‘am free’, pours in like hails in a storm. The best thing is to write them down as they come. Keep a paper or copy handy for jotting down these ideas which will work as a ready reference when the free time finally comes.

Yes! vacation is free time. It is time for doing things that one can’t do when they are bound by timings; this goes true for school goers as well as grownups. All of us need free time to unwind, to keep ourselves productive and healthy, both mentally and physically.

Amongst the couple of ideas that get thrown the child then needs to pick up a few and make his own schedule on day to day basis or weekly basis, whatever suits her or his fancy and carry them out. They might even show interest in one or two camps which are focused towards a particular faculty, like hip-hop dancing, aqua Zumba or 3D modeling or anything that is on offer.

Parents will find it is way easier to make them follow their schedule than the one made by anybody else. It is also a different way of saying “go do what you like” only it is quantifiable because both you and the kid know what she or he is going to do.

Amidst all this fun one subject should be ushered in as a breather, that is mathematics, whatever the grade and whichever the school it is, one should never go out of practice.

Some kids are not so imaginative or their horizon is not so wide as to come up with a plethora of ideas, parents could help them out initially or why not let them be with the one that they wish to pursue except for if it is watching TV/tab/mobile/internet.

Passive engagement of the brain that happens when children or adults watch TV/tabs/mobile/internet kills productivity and also the urge to be productive. Otherwise, man is born a pioneer.

In a nutshell:

# Don’t just drop them to a camp for the day.

# Don’t just force some activity on them.

# Let the kids come up with their own ideas.

# Restrict digital time.

# Take them far or near.

# Take time out to play or chit-chat with them.

A typical holiday day schedule from a child’s note (grade 6):

Day 1

Wake up to breakfast – Freehand exercise and story writing

Breakfast to Lunch –electrical/mechanics kit

After lunch – Reading

Evening –

Computer Games 1 hour

Swimming camp 1 hour

Mathematics 1 hour

Watching video on Youtube till Dinner

Day 2

Wake up to breakfast – Freehand exercise and Mathematics

Breakfast to Lunch –Drawing and craft work

After lunch – Reading

Evening –

Computer Games 1 hour

Swimming camp 1 hour

Chess online or with mom

Skateboard practice till Dinner

Children who have the option of playing with other kids would definitely add that to the list.Visiting or being visited by relatives and friends is an added pleasant holiday ritual.

Bottom Line(Literally):

Making a schedule only makes it easier to gauge/ measure, whether its fun or work; so that “You know what you did last summer!

Sparrows in a box in a balcony

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

GM Palya near the old airport in Bangalore to Kadugodi in Whitefield is only 15 km tops by the longest route, yet it seems like eons away. The landscape is entirely different, with high rise towers scattered everywhere and considerable amounts of plantations tucked in.

As we were checking out the apartments, the first thing we got love locked onto was a quarrel of sparrows. Soon we found sunbirds and drongos, the cranes and many other unknown species. With the small pockets of lakes and streams still untouched and vast areas of undeveloped land as they are called, the birds are thriving, as of now.

After settling the household and the pots on the small balcony in May 2017, we put a bowl each for food and water to get acquainted with the birds. Many came and our mornings turned into a cacophony of bird calls, loud yet soothing.

One fine day the idea of turning a shoe box into a nest popped up and we set to work. First, we covered it with cellotape completely, more on top and bottom. Then cut a small door enough for a small bird to enter and exit. We also cut a couple of tiny windows for air and light. We then painted it with oil colours and let it dry for days.

Once ready we hung it up on our balcony grill and secured it as much as we could. Thence started a long wait. For weeks none would go in. They would dance and hop atop the box but that was all. Then some of the males ventured in but failed to elicit interest in any females. Months went by.

In November to our delight a pair started frequenting the box and one day as I looked inside, it was filled with cotton and twigs!

Yet time passed and the pair just kept coming and going. I and Rajib agreed that they had accepted the box as their farm house which they visited only for pleasure.

In Feb this year I saw the lady spending more time inside the box and suspected something. I ushered my hand in and yes! There were three eggs!

By the beginning of March the racket of hungry kids started rising and I found three fledglings! Now they are almost grown up and will probably fly off in a week or two. We have been instrumental in the addition of three more sparrows to the otherwise dwindling population, and hope to add more.

Over the next year the duo produced 4 more clutches. There after we were to shift home, so we took down their nest after the last of the fledglings flew away.

Karnataka Hoysala Temple Trail Day Trip

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Destination :  

Govindanahalli, Kikkeri & Hoshaholalu; Karnataka, India, Hoysala Temples.

Distance Travelled: A day round trip – 352km.

Time taken :  15hrs.

A quick shower & we hopped into our little WagonR around 6:20AM. Heading towards the Tumkur road (NH4) via Yeswanthpur we reached the end of the “under construction” toll bridge. 5 km ahead New Agarwal Bhavan is a decent joint for la nourriture. It was around 7:23AM & the parking was full already. The prices are competitive & the choices galore. On the way to Nelamangala crossing a little further down, a huge Anjaneya statue on the left is an eyecatcher. Hassan road NH48 is to the left of the crossing, while NH4 continues straight down to Tumkur. The Hassan main road was being broadened & with lots of heavy machinery at work & freshly tarred widespread roads laid; it felt good at the very onset.

We reached Hirisave at around 10:00Am, caught a glance of the distant Sravanabelegola as we rode a few km further to Channarayapatna, where we stopped for tea. Thereafter we abandoned Hassan road at the main town crossing to take SH7 towards Mysore.

The sites say 16, people said 10,12,14, so we kept a vigil from 10km onwards & enquired from a pedestrian at about 12km & just before a petrol bunk reached a signboard in kanada directed towards Govindanahalli on the right at around 15km from the Channarayapatna crossing.

Just before reaching Govindanahalli village through a winding lone road, we took a left to the Panchalingeshwar temple, the only Hoysala temple with panchakutas(5 pinnacles). It is a neat structure amidst lush green fields, attended to by a priest from the nearby village. Tourists are rare & mostly locals.

The temple is home to number of chameleons coloured very brightly in a red & yellow combo. The sky is so clear blue that the smog accustomed city eyes hurt but the heart sings. The temple has a rectangular mowed lawn around it & a high wired fencing with a gate to keep cows, buffaloes & goats away.

Just half a km behind it across a field is the Venugopal Temple, which is in utter ruins. Venugopalaswami as the temple deity is fondly called has to guard building material like rods, cement etc which is dumped inside the remaining single chamber of the temple & is being used in the house that is coming up very next to it.

kikkeri is 4km further down on the SH7 towards Mysore.

 A little enquiry led us through a village settlement till the banks of a big lake, beside which we located the “Brahmeshwara” temple. The gate was locked but there is a small walled courtyard around the ekkuta(1 pinnacle) temple & we managed to jump in.

The temple walls have a good collection of hoysala art, many small & big statues of entangled snakes are standing in a row in front of a well which has lots of fishes & a big Nandi is siting facing the temple door. Yet we couldn’t find what we had come looking for, outside, so Raji went looking for the priest & I stood waiting outside the gate shooting the surroundings. Buffalos & cycles were being bathed in the water-body. Children were happily playing in the water while women were going about the chores.

The priest came & this time we entered decently through the gate after he unlocked it. He also opened the temple door, lit up the dark chamber & there they were “The Madanikas” or “The dancing girls”. Beautiful ladies, ornately decorated & perched on the pillars. The priest quickly did some puja, gave us prasad & let us take some snaps. He had a story for why the main deity was a Shiv linga when the temple is named Brahmeshwara, but that was so bizarre am sorry I forgot it instantly.

Back on the SH7 again, 15km down is Krishnaraj Pet. It was 2 ‘o’ clock & Jairam got a suitable joint for lunch, we had our aalu parathas that we had packed from home in the car itself. They were actually fresh & tasty so we have decided to carry them on all our future trips. At the junction we turned right & moved along SH85 for about 3.5km before taking another right into a narrow lane following a sign board on SH85, that says “Lashminarayan Temple, Hosahulalu” in kannada.

This temple structure is exactly at the middle of a semi urban settlement. It has a well kept lawn & a fence around it but is surrounded by houses all around which puts a photographer’s skills to test. The front portion of the single pinnacle temple seems to have collapsed & has been build up with bare stone blocks, in contrast the rear still boasts of intricate carvings.

A couple seemed to be discussing serious issues, little girls & boys were chirping around, two of them even took a liking in me so much so that I had to take their snaps & finally get inside the car to shake them off my back. It seemed more like a garden where locals could breathe a little open air.

None of the three temples have any entry or camera fees. Chapals if left outside would make the locals feel good.

It was just 3 in the evening so we decided to have an idea about Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary off Srirangapatana on the Mysore road. We spend a good 2 hrs there with birds & crocodiles & were back to Bangalore city limits by 8 ‘o’ clock.

Karnataka Hoysala Temple Trail Weekend Trip

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

Destination : 

Arsikere, Belavadi, Halebiddu; Hoysala Temples, karnataka, India, .

Distance Travelled: 515 km. Weekend trip.

Jayram is always on time but we can never start before 6:25. This time we had a set of extra cloths in addition to the cameras & tripods & ofcourse loads of water & some aalu paraths.

We took the ring road to Tumkur from Old madras Road & reached New Agarwal Bhavan, the good food joint with washrooms, at around 7:20AM. We went straight down on NH4 till the by-pass road just before entering Tumkur city, a distance of 41km from the food joint. The by-pass road meets NH206 at the rightmost outskirts of the town, which runs through Gubbi(19km) to Tiptur(82km) & reaches Arsikere (107km).

The Ishvara temple(devasthana) at Arsikere is accessible through a number of streets on the right of NH206. The most convenient way we found is to get into the lane opposite to the town bus stand. The lane goes through a market area straight down to the temple. This hoysala temple is unique in terms of structural design & carvings. The walls are decorated with carvings from the base to the pinnacle but they are not intricate.

There are several rows of geometrical patterns & just a single row of neatly carved medium sized figurines of various deities. The temple has a single pinnacle(ekkuta), the extension(mandapa) in front of the main door is circular as opposed to being rectangular in most of the other hoysala temples. A hall with many pillars stands as an individual structure to the left of the main temple at about one hand distance from it.

ASI has been taking care of the temple for the past 20 years & the premise actually stands out as a breather in an otherwise densely populated not so hygienic locality. We spend about an hour, took some 100 snaps, got back on the main road, had coffee & checked out the washroom facility(quite okay) at the bus-stand, which was now to our right. Straight up the main road & into the lane on the right we went, just before NH206 tries to leave Arsikere.

In a short while, we arrived at a junction where a road went off towards Mysore & the other, SH102, towards Haranhalli 11km away. At Haranhalli we left SH102 & took another lane on the right namely SH74 & reached Javagallu 22km away enjoying the exuberating beauty of nature. windmills perched on distant hill tops & the valley glowing with colors of sunflower, mariegold & lush green crops.

We turned left to take SH58 leading to Halebiddu at the Javagallu junction. A number of state & private buses along with Sumos & autos were boarding & unboarding a lot of people. Jayram found a good mess for lunch & we had our aalu parathas. 5km down the road there is a diversion towards Belavadi, another 5kms & we reached Belavadi.

The Veernarayana Temple built around 1200CE is huge. It has three pinnacles(trikuta) housing the three deities “Veernarayana” at the center “Venugopal” on his right & “Yoginarasimha” on the left. The deities are an example of fine craftsmanship & are completely unscathed. The built-up area is probably the largest among all hoysala temples with the hall having 132 pillars. The pillars are very interesting, some of them have unfinished carvings, some bereft of any work & some have carvings which are completely out of place. The architectural grandeur is surrounded by a very poor local population but ASI is doing all it takes to preserve such an heritage.

5km back to the diversion & 6km more to Halebidu. It was around 4ish & had started raining when we reached the Hoyesaleshwara temple. Two years ago we had visited this temple & it was raining heavily, that was March.

Across the road is Hotel Mayura Velapuri KSTDC which can be either booked from Belur or Bangalore ( Corporation Circle) in person. Rajib wanted to take a chance & walked down to the office. Two double bedded rooms were available @ INR350/-. We grabbed the offer, canceled the booking at Hassan & stayed back. The room is big with a TV, dressing table, two chairs & a small wooden table. The floor is clean, sheets are not so inviting & the bathroom is big, old & messy. The garden is refreshing & the huge premise is shared by PWD guesthouses.

Amidst the drizzle, we ventured into the Jain Basadi about 200mts from the hotel & to the Kedareshwara temple another 200mts down. Either the vandals were too tired or didn’t have the heart to destroy such lovely creations of beauty for most of the sculptures are unharmed. The Jain basadi has wonderfully polished pillars & a 14ft tall Lord Parshwanatha Swamy.

Bellur is way too famous to be missed and can be visited easily on the way back to Bangalore.

If you are looking for a day trip… read here.

Chasing Temples in the Capital of Mallabhum (Bishnupur) – 4

Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

4 day trip including journey dates – 20/12/2017 – 23/12/2017

Day 1 || Day 2 || Day 3 || Day4

Morning temple target was accomplished with ease; we went to the farthest first in a rickshaw(the three-wheeled two-seater vehicle that the puller pedals) to save time.  

Set amidst the garden maintained by the Horticulture society which also houses many trees are the two ancient temples. The last one on the grounds lining the boundary is Kalachand temple. Some 20 people had gathered both men and women when we reached there and more were pouring in; not for worship but some meeting which involved distribution of money.   Adorning the entrance is the Radhamadhob temple. Its walls are sculpted with the story of Ramayana.  

Walking back towards the town within a 100 mts is the Radha Gobinda temple. Distinguished I would say for the little structure beside it which creates a magical frame for portraits.  

Further down is Nandalal temple and here is where we met a guard who has a rifle. He was there to protect the temples from vandals and petty gamblers.  

Right opposite to Nandalal temple is the Jor Mandir, which is a conglomeration of 3 temples neatly tucked in a compound and this too has an armed guard. This compound is hardly 300 mts from the famous Chinnamasta temple.    

We walked back to the tourist lodge, taking one last glance at the terracotta market, checked out, and drove off to Panchmura, this time in an Indica to my utter disappointment. The 22kms drive though is so delightful that I could make it in a tin van from our school days if required. The metalled road goes through a series of ‘Akashmoni’ plantation, commonly known as earleaf acacia, that is native to Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. It is used as fuel and for making furniture, paper and tools. It has medicinal uses too.  

The plantations were interrupted by fields and ponds and small tribal villages. A tourism savvy state could have turned this drive into a money churner. There are no restrooms or eateries on the way.  

A sudden congregation of people and cars almost midway in an otherwise deserted road elicited inquiry and revealed a curious info. It was an ashram, a little off the road, where people came from afar and near to find a cure for cancer. There was a basic eatery on the roadside and to our expectant glances driven by the stomach’s calls, our driver shook his head so fervently to convey a ‘no’ as if, even to look at the food would mean instant doom.      Panchmura is a usual village but for the housing of the unusual artists whose livelihood is to build these wonders with mud. Horse, elephant, bison, rhino, birds, masks, motifs on tiles, vase and so many small, medium, large and giant items. It is overwhelming.  

Here again our request for a stopover at a sweet shop was met with the same vehement shaking of head by our driver Malay. Yet having next to nothing for lunch was a small price to pay for the extraordinary experience that we bagged from the trip to Panchmura.

We reached the station well before time for the train. Bishnupur station is a neat affair; decorated with flowering plants and terracotta tiles, it has two platforms and a couple of tracks. The train got delayed and we got ample time to explore the small town beauty. It has 86 benches placed uniformly, first class and second class waiting rooms and retiring rooms too. The stalls were all closed.

The original plan was to drop in to a relatives place at Kharagpur, sort of midway, the station that boasts of the longest platform in Asia, and stay over for the night; instead we changed it to just paying them a visit and de-boarded at the station.

To secure a train back home we went to counter to enquire about the last passenger train to Howrah and to our utter dismay found that it was due in a couple of minutes.

We rushed back to the platform got a somewhat empty passenger train where we could stand with our luggage and I started watching the co-passengers with great interest. These were people we call the mass. These were people we hardly interact with, in lieu of being able to do almost everything online. These were people who make the backbone of our country and yet are the most ignored except for the few days before elections.

There were hawkers selling almost every item that a household might need and savouries of all tastes. It is like a mini super market on the move only a class apart. Is it not so intriguing, how we humans have divided and subdivided into classes and sub classes depending on practically virtual notions?

The train was to terminate at a stop before Howrah, our destination. The first thing I did as we got down was to use the public washroom. The train had a toilet but it was unusable – for us.

Shortly we got another train and reached Howrah. We were famished and food was our top priority. I called dad to pick us up from 26 kms afar and he did; a dad is someone you could always rely on. I Remember calling my parents from Gulbarga while on a college trip and man! They did go to get me.

My little son was already asleep as we stepped in home a little after 12. And that was how the beautiful 4 day Bishnupur trip came to an end.

Day 1 || Day 2 || Day 3 || Day4

Chasing Temples in the Capital of Mallabhum (Bishnupur) – 3

Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

4 day trip including journey dates – 20/12/2017 – 23/12/2017

Day 1 || Day 2 || Day 3 || Day4

Terracotta or baked earth art is extensively in use in West Bengal, from temples to jewellery, decorative sculptures to tiles and everything in between. The rest of India and abroad also adores terracotta, for its pliability which helps give form to a plethora of ideas that is bound only by one’s imagination.   The sun was shining bright negating the weather forecast and we set out to shoot all that we could at will. 24 temples was a bit too over the top sort of a target but one must try.   This time we started from the nearest one. Rasmanch. You got to buy a ticket, Rs.15 per head, it also pays for two other temples maintained by ASI, Pancha Ratna and Jor Bangla.   Rasmanch is a raised platform for displaying the idols of Radha and Krishna from temples around on a particular occasion. It has the essence of a step pyramid to it. There are loads of Drongos for the bird lovers.  

A 10 min walk along the canal took us to the Gumgarh, which is a very ancient structure and is yet to reveal its purpose to the archaeologists.   The famed Pancha Ratna temple is another 5 min walk. We found it being renovated and thus could not capture this one of a kind beauty with 5 pinnacles; the images we took are like that of a bandaged heroine.  

Further up the road, we found a twin temple which now has the privilege to witness martial arts training.

The Mrinmoyee temple comes up next as we keep going along the road. Built in 997 AD, this temple houses goddess Durga and is alive with the sacred rituals being performed till date.

Bang opposite to the Mrinmoyee temple on the main road is the Radheshyam temple. Across the grounds beside it, where children were happily playing is another hottie the Laljiu temple.

Marching backward through the grounds onto a mud lane on the other side of Radheshyam temple we found Jor Banglo, the most famous of them all. It had a small contingent of makeshift shops in front of the entrance selling souvenir and also some local specialties like the cotton towels the size of almost a bedspread for peanuts.

We had refreshments at an open-air spread out shop which had benches to sit, tea, biscuits of all sorts, sour, sweet, sweet and sour, chocolate flavoured, adorned with nuts and many more. It also had a dish favoured by most Bengalis, the ‘ghugni’ which was on offer with or without bun. ‘ghugni’ is black gram or dried yellow peas or dried white peas cooked with gravy, in the traditional eastern Indian style.

A mud lane from the gate leads up to the Mrinmoyee temple, we went past the temple looking for a place to relieve ourselves and found one behind it. It is a ‘Sulabh’ sort of a place, not so unclean and usable. The keeper, however, was very confused about what to charge. He wanted to ask something big but was suddenly mobbed as a bigger group came around. This group had ‘English speaking Bengalis’ who loved to throw their weight around and the poor fellow was completely mellowed. We paid him the dues and went off.

We walked and walked and walked, through the big and small gate of the fort walls that once stood there, down into the densely populated part of the town through winding roads, left and right, asking local guides and finally hiring a rickshaw to reach Madanmohan Temple.

A man very humbly dressed offered me ‘prasad’(anything edible that has been offered to the god), it was some variance of the ‘khichri’(rice and pulses cooked together) and it was nice. The man said he had made it himself at home.   From this temple which was deep into the heart of a maze of lanes, we tried reaching out to other temples but that seemed impossible on foot. After a good amount of trekking when we were about to give up we got a ‘toto’(a battery operated three-wheeler which does not need a license to be driven; this is restricted only to West Bengal).  

A couple of more temples could be covered thanks to the ‘toto’, but most were in a dilapidated state, being family owned who were unable to bear the cost of a proper maintenance. In some, the deity is actively worshipped and is expected to take care of the structure with its divine grace.   Back in the tourist lodge, we had a late lunch and soon after went out shopping for curios. I bought terracotta neckpieces for reselling; Rajib bought a ‘dokra’ artifact modeled on the famed canon that is called ‘Dal Madol’ which can be seen on display in a small courtyard near Chinnamasta temple. It was made around 1600 AD, was lost after the Malla dynasty declined only to be found by the British.  

Legend has it that Lord Krishna himself used the canon to ward off the enemies.   We bought a few more souvenirs for ourselves and as gifts including the famous ‘dashavatar cards’ which is handmade on cloth and depicts the 10 avatars of Vishnu. Its a Mallabhum specialty, collectible item.

The day was well spent culminating with a flavoursome dinner at the lodge and speculations about our next and final day at Bishnupur.   Time management was crucial on the last day, as we still had a few important temples to visit, travel 44kms to and fro to visit a village called Panchmura where they make the famous terracotta horses and other artifacts and catch a train back home at 3 pm.

Day 1 || Day 2 || Day 3 || Day4

Temple List::Bishnupur – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_temples_in_Bishnupur

JOY to HOPE in 13yrs

By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

There are many things in a girl’s life that she holds dear to her; dolls, frocks, earrings, shoes, watches; that’s going to be a very long list, let’s skip.  A scooter was one such for me. Daddy’s scooter was way too heavy for me to handle. As a child, I loved to ride a bicycle. The freedom of being in charge of my movements gave me a high. I had an inherent dislike for buses, cars and utmost distaste for aeroplanes. Train was and still is the storybook prince who will always remain a fantastic dream and romantic endeavour. Ships however, are aliens to me, still waiting to board one and find out my feelings for it.

It was not until 2005 that I got my own scooter; TVS Scooty Pep. The brand new shiny black ride felt nothing less than a grand stallion. I loved it. No, I adored it. It was freedom personified for me. I had driven automatic scooters earlier; but this was mine. I could go out at anytime, anywhere. Just pour in some petrol, push a button, roll your hand and accelerate!

It gave me ludicrous joy so I named it JOY.

Joy has seen the happiest days of my life. It was bought for going to college in the second year of my MBA. As Rajib moved to Bangalore I moved in with him into our little one bedroom home. It was the first time we were living together all by ourselves. His office was far away where he had to change 2 buses and my college was also not a walk away.

With Joy around, managing home and college was a tad easier.

Rajib had never driven a scooter and believed that he never could.

I was quite scared and had to be coerced to bring it on road at first. One evening soon after Joy came home, courtesy my friends, an aunty who lived at the ground floor of the two-storey house where we had taken rent was in great pain but in great need to go to a nearby store.

She approached me to give her a ride and I was scared stiff. Yet I wanted to help and possibly deep down somewhere wanted this urgency which could force me to try a hand on my cherished vehicle.

The first ride wasn’t easy, but I managed, and then there was no stopping. Soon I could ride with Rajib to far-away places amidst traffic and my happiness knew no bounds.

Joy has carried me to college, to the office, to ad hoc jobs, to markets and for joyrides. It was only when I was carrying the little life within me; the rides were restricted and then suspended for a couple of months.  

After I went off to Kolkata with my lil baby, Joy had to lie idle day after day with Rajib just giving it some ignition from time to time. One day it didn’t wake up and Rajib consulted a mechanic. The mechanic fixed Joy but warned that he needs to be driven every day.

I came back to Bangalore to be greeted with a very pleasant surprise; Rajib could ride Joy and within a short time he could drive with me.

After giving me joy, Joy succeeded in delighting a one-and-a-half-year-old Raspy. He loved the breeze, as he rode on, sandwiched between Rajib and me, and embraced it with an open mouth. These rides were never long for safety’s sake.

When it was time for Raspy to go to school we brought in Wago, our first car, a golden WagonR. Joy was now more of Rajib’s companion to office and back but weekends Joy kept for me.

As Raspy grew older and Rajib’s office got further away we switched vehicles. Joy started carrying Raspy and me to school (which was just a km from home now), library, small get-togethers and to acquire essentials.

Joy was brought home to JP Nagar, a year later we shifted to Thippasandra that was near my office then. After what seemed like ages, in 2017 May, we shifted to a new locality, Whitefield.

Joy continued its services as before, though it was in need of frequent services itself and finally as the new year crawled in, it could hardly manage a steady ride for a couple of consecutive days.

It was given a new battery on the 31st of January but that too failed within a week. All through my years with Joy I could never put it on the main stand and now Joy could not be started without being pulled on it. Raspy has grown almost as tall as me and my back isn’t as strong as it used to be. Driving remains my passion but now I need a backrest. So I no longer go for joyrides, its only on purpose.

I need a scooter as it is very useful for swift trips. I am hoping for my own shop in the near future near home and that will require fleeting rides. I am also hoping to give Raspy a hands-on-training before he goes for a formal one and gets his own vehicle to drive.

On the 10th of Feb, I took out Joy for the last time with more anxiety than joy due to the trepidation that it might stop on-road and never start again. 12th Feb 2018 the Yamaha Ray ZR rode into our lives with new hopes and I christened it HOPE. Joy went off as majestically as it had come in, never stopping in our vicinity as our gaze followed it until the gate where the road takes a bend and a silent tear fell.

13 years of togetherness through thick and thin from house to house it had become one of us and now it was gone, on a new journey, with new people. I wish it all the best.

Making of Anoushrayan – The first year

Mémoire – the beautiful life that was once inside me

The journey till 12 || Entering teens || The 14th Year

This is a narrative of the first six months of the tiny life form out in the world from the comforting dark and warm womb. A distress and agony overpowered me when the life inside me became an individual. I felt lonely. It was traumatic to survive without the usual movements inside me that had grown over the months.

But I survived and once and for all I accepted the fact. This part of me, that is the most beautiful one, is an independent entity now, and the onus to make him truly so, lies upon me.

All things start small, so did Raspy. At 8 weeks he was hardly the size of a raspberry so we named him “Raspy”. I was at home, relaxed and happy thus my pregnancy was smooth except for the sleepless nights due to Raspy’s vehement movements. I read many a good book, one extremely enchanting was “Gem in the Lotus”.

The D-day was tensed. Raji arrived in Bangalore early morning on the 6th of Feb 2007 from Kolkata and I had to be admitted to the hospital that very night. Raspy’s position suggested that he was due to eject normally by early morning next day. But all the drips and meds could not bring raspy out on his own so the doc had to operate and push and then I heard her say – cried instantly at birth, 3kgs, boy baby.

So 7th Feb 2007, 2:44pm our lives changed. Three days later we brought the little darling to our Bangalore home. The wait that started on the 16th of Jun 2006, the day we came to know of the little soul breathing inside me and the anxiety and tension accompanied with such news for 8 months was finally over.

Mom and Raji were the only two soldiers I had to fight the battle and they both did a tremendous job rising to the occasion beyond their physical capabilities. Mom at more than 50yrs of age took care of the household and the baby and me laughing all the way and beaming with joy, Raji too was most supportive and ever caring amidst his office that was quite hectic and leaves were not to be taken at will.

Raji always made sure that he could accompany me for the check-ups. He never let me out of home alone and took pains to bring home all the grocery required as and when even after a hectic day at office. We didn’t have Bigbasket back in those days. He had trouble picking up raspy as he had never handled a baby before but soon he learned and carried the little devil in his arms as we walked to the pediatrician’s chamber.

Mom had a terrible time motivating me to feed raspy, he was fed on only mother’s milk for 4 complete months. No water too as instructed by the doctor and the internet. If ever I had to go out for more than an hour I would keep my milk in a bottle as prescribed by the doctor.

Raspy used to get hungry almost every hour even though he would drink a huge amount at a go. I felt like a Holstein-Friesian Cattle with a huge production capacity. If it wasn’t for mom I would have switched him to formula milk within a month. She used to be awake almost 24hrs, on duty all day all night.

Raspy wanted to be on board a human always, preferably maa or me, he could not make out the difference except for when he was hungry, as he was guided more by smell. The general advice was to let him be and not to give in to his undue demands but both mom and I felt that its only for a short while that we would be capable of carrying him so why not indulge in our soft toy. I can’t carry him now even if I want to at times.

Many of my friends came to say chao to Raspy and showered him with love and gifts. One set gave him a gift that is his companion till date. Rakesh gave a book which I and mom read almost line by line and found ourselves in cognition of most of it although we could not follow it entirely. I would recommend it to every new parent – The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care by Dr. Benjamin Spoke. A few of my dearies can be seen here. 

Well, the present companion is not exactly the one they gave but its sort of a clone that mom made. Simba as the soft toy is called was dragged along wherever Raspy’s little steps would take him and in 3 yrs it had been washed so many times that it turned into a course rag. The current one is called Nala. She became 5 last nov (2017).

The rented house at Bangalore had a lamp post beside the low wall of our compound and at night when all lights were out, Raspy who never slept at night for 3 months, would keep on staring at it. In the later months he developed a love for lighted places and was scared of the dark, he still is.

At about 3 and half months on the 26th of May 2007, we boarded a flight to Kolkata. The journey was smooth as raspy had no issues with flying and domstal worked well for me. Kolkata was hot and humid as ever but raspy was cool. He seemed happy with lots of fresh air and faces around. Mom too seemed at ease with helping hands that were lacking in Bangalore. I missed Raji and felt sad for him as he missed both me and Raspy.

Raji soon came to Kolkata for a week in June and again for two weeks in July. It would be long before he could drop in again so we celebrated raspy’s mukhebhaat (starting of solid food) on 23rd Jul 2007.

According to rituals my brother should feed the first solid food but since I have none of my own and lots of cousins on the contrary, dad did the honours.

From the 4th month onwards Raspy was given formula milk twice and mother’s milk 5-6 times. He was then switched to solids after his mukhebhaat and was mostly fed on formula milk, wheat cereal, rice, dal, potato, banana, apple and biscuit. This was accompanied by vitamin and iron drops. Raspy disliked the drops and would scream with the utmost opposition and turn purple in rage. He loved to eat and in bulk. We fed him according to schedule and also as he demanded. Mother’s milk continued till he was a year old but it slowly came down to twice a day. Interestingly the lesser I fed him the production also reduced.

In the August of 2007, Raspy was no more a newborn. At 6 months, he could smile or make a face according to his wish, recognize and hold his bowl, spoon, tumbler and bottles. He could grip objects firmly and place them into his mouth, though he did it without any discretion, the object could be a garment, a leaf, one’s face or even an ant.

He could attain and sustain a crawling position for a few seconds and jump like a frog on all four, he could not crawl. He could bring himself to a 120° obtuse angle position that’s nearly a sitting posture.

Raspy was born with lots of hair on the skull and his entire body. It took some time for his complexion to stabilize, initially, he was pretty fair then darkened a bit again turned fairer, then he got my complexion which is fair enough for a boy at least to my liking. His physique was slender and well proportioned, with strong arms and legs. Most of the hair on his body has disappeared and he looked rather handsome with that heart-warming smile.

Characteristically Raspy was full of fun and vigour. He used to cycle his legs and throw his arms since birth and once he could roll, one moment he was at my side and next somewhere else. It was difficult to leave him on his own for even a few minutes and I used to tie him up if such a situation would arise.

He laughed aloud and screamed at high decibels when happy and excited which he was most of the time. He expressed annoyance at the top of his voice too.

He was not attached to a particular toy or thing and got bored soon but seemed to have a good memory as he showed recognition and pleasure when an old toy was presented to him after a while. He didn’t seem attached to a particular person too though he showed excitement and happiness when he acquainted a known face after a long or short interval.

Raspy liked company and didn’t mind a lot of them till he was personally disturbed. When in trouble of being mobbed or irritated otherwise he would enact as though hungry or sleepy so that we can rescue him and if there was no way out he just fell asleep. This particular act of falling asleep in adverse situation he had been doing ever since he was 3 and half months. He loved to play on his own for a considerable amount of time.

Raspy loved to stay immersed in a tub. Mom had been bathing him ever since he was three days old and never wanted to come out of his little tub filled with lukewarm water. He liked the water that way not cold even when the climate was hot, a liking he holds on to, to this day. He liked his food hot too whether liquid fluid or solid.

He will be 11 yrs old tomorrow, and I’ll slowly fill you in with details and events and the extraordinary moments that have gone by in the subsequent blogs. This is for those who love Anoushrayan and want to know about him. Cheers.

Join me as I reminisce Anoushrayan’s growing up years – next up – the journey till 12…

The journey till 12 || Entering teens || The 14th Year