Monday, June 19, 2006

Some snapshots of my week-long vacation

I went on leave for a week, primarily to attend my cousin sister’s wedding. The wedding was a nice occasion to meet my relatives after a long time, but there were some other incidents that were memorable on this trip. Here are a few of them.

Snapshot 1: Saturday night at around 2230 hrs. We alight at Hooghly station by the night train. I and my cousin Ananda who was at the Howrah station to receive me. We catch a rickshaw and proceed towards our house. En route we pass an area which is totally dark and full of large trees and bushes. That reminds me, it's been a long time since I have seen such darkness out of doors. I suddenly realize it is very soothing for the eyes. As we near our house, I realize something else: I am hearing crickets chirping and frogs croaking after a long long time.

Snapshot 2: Thursday evening at around 2000 hrs. I am traveling by a local train from Kolkata to Hooghly in the evening. I had gone to meet my grandma and my college friends in Salt Lake. The train is incredibly crowded, but I have found a seat. It has been terribly hot and oppressive for the last few days. Suddenly, a cool breeze comes in through the window. Then the rain starts, which soon turns into a thunderstorm and heavy downpour, flooding the compartment through the open doors and windows. I have to get down at Naihati to change the train, and am instantly drenched from head to toe even after trying in vain to take shelter under the polythene canopy of a cucumber seller. And in that ridiculous situation, the cucumber seller recognizes me and smiles and starts a conversation... almost forcing me to buy and eat a rain-washed cucumber. But it is a welcome relief from the heat.

Snapshot 3: Saturday morning at around 0900 hrs. My parents sitting on a porters’ wheelbarrow in the dirtiest of places imaginable: the lane between the Howrah Eastern Rail and South-Eastern Rail stations, where they handle all the cargo. I and my sister are standing behind them. I missed the Falaknuma Express which leaves Howrah at 0700, because our train from Hooghly which was supposed to reach Howrah sometime around 0540 reached at 0730. Now my father is trying all his contacts to get a ticket in the next train to Hyderabad, the East Coast Express, which leaves at 1100. We have asked one of the influential porters to find out if there is a seat available, and we are now waiting for him. I wish I could take a photo of this scene… it looked extremely funny despite the state of mind we were in. I had the camera handy, but did not have the guts to take a photo then and there. I am still a bit scared of my father. :(
We were unable to get a single seat on the East Coast Express, even after running to and fro between the two station buildings umpteen times with three heavy bags to speak to various people. It would never be possible if my sister wasn’t carrying one of the bags all the time. We then head towards the airport, as I must reach
Hyderabad before Monday.

Snapshot 4: Security check at the Dum Dum Airport at around 1600 hrs. I’m getting ready for the first flying experience of my life, but the lady at the security check won’t let me go. She has seen something while X-raying my kit bag but she won’t tell me straight what it is. After a lot of fumbling around, I fish out an iron khunti from my bag (I don’t know what a khunti is called in English, the closest thing is called a spatula or turner). My mother had given her spare one to me when she heard that I needed to buy one. I had forgotten about its existence in my bag. I grin sheepishly as the officer tells me that I can’t carry it. If I wished, I could check it in as a separate luggage. The air-hostesses and the lady officers present start looking at the object, and gesticulating and giggling among themselves. I hurriedly say that they could keep it if they wished, I don’t want it. Then they let me go.

Snapshot 5: The balcony outside the door of my flat at around 2130 hrs. Through a complex series of events (too complex to explain here) obeying Murphy’s Laws, there’s a new lock hanging on the door of my flat, and I don’t have the key to it. I call up my flat mate, but he is far away. He starts for home. In the meantime, it starts raining… first a few drops with a gust of wind, then a tropical thunderstorm. My flat mate is stuck somewhere in the rain. I enjoy myself thoroughly for some time as the weather turns cool. Then the rain water starts coming in through the open spaces and I realize that my luggage is in danger. Slowly the water surrounds me and starts closing in. I am forced to lift the heavy bags off the floor on to my shoulder. And the irony of the situation is, I'm dying of thirst while trying to avoid the water. After some time my flat mate arrives with the key, looking like a drenched crow. What an end to my vacation!

By the way, I do have some real snapshots too. You can check out here for the snapshots of the usual nonsense that I capture in my camera all the time.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Pyramid Builders

[I am visiting my hometown for a week and so have very limited access to the Internet. I'm posting this blog here in Hooghly. Naturally, I had to be content with a small piece of writing. And also naturally, just like I often write about Hooghly when I post from Hyderabad, this post is about Hyderabad since I'm writing from Hooghly.]
I watched a documentary called The Pyramid Builders on National Geographic Channel sometime ago. It showed the workers' huts that had been found near the Great Pyramids of Giza. These were the people who built the timeless Pyramids, and were very proud of their work. Their skill is, of course, evident from their work which still survives today.
This is the only analogy that came to my mind as I looked out from my terrace the other day. Here, in Hi-Tech City, Hyderabad, construction work never stops. Something or the other is being built all the time, be it a high capacity office building or a big block of flats. And just below the modern high rises, what do you see? Yes, slums. Those are the living quarters of the people who build some of the most luxurious apartments and offices in the country.
Most of them are outsiders. I have heard them speak, and was surprised to find that an overwhelmingly large number of them come from West Bengal and Orissa. Ironically, the IT industry in Hyderabad also has a very large number of professionals from these states.
As I walk down the road in front of those slums every day, I watch their lifestyle quite closely. They keep pet fowl, and have facilities like under-tree hair-cutting salons and STD phone booths in the slum. The children swing on swings made of cloth and old rubber tyres hung from the tree branches and play in the dirt.
The Egypt simile may seem far fetched. The buildings these people make won't last four thousand years. And their own dwellings? Those will be gone as soon as their work here is done. Then they will dismantle their huts and go to build houses at some other part of the city. Houses where they can't even dream of living. Just as the pyramid builders could never think of pyramids for themselves and were buried in ordinary cemetaries. Has the situation really changed much in the last four millenia?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Country roads, take me home!

Country roads, take me home
To the place, I belong
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads.
I hear her voice, in the mornin' hours she calls me
The radio reminds me of my home far away
And drivin' down the road I get a feeling
That I should have been home yesterday, yesterday.

That John Denver song is doing the rounds in my head for the last couple of days. Finally, I'm leaving tonight. I've managed to get a week off from my testing work to visit my hometown Hooghly. I'll probably be off the Internet throughout the next week. Keep visiting and commenting. I'll respond after I return.
In case you are wondering, that house in the picture is not my house. Rather, it is the view from from the south balcony of my house. It is an old dilapidated palace, once grand, but now deserted and waiting to be demolished. That palace, that balcony, that pond... some of the things that constantly beckon me to my home. But more on this after I return. Till then, goodbye!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Feeling homesick...

Autumn is my favourite time of the year. It heralds the coming of winter, and here in India, most people wait for winter as they wait for summer in the colder countries. But I love autumn for another reason: it is the time of Durga Puja, a time when the goddess Durga comes home to us for five days. And as Durga Puja in Hooghly is always special, this season invariably makes me homesick, whenever I'm away from home.
Autumn is still far away. However, after a week of rainy weather, Hyderabad today turned semi-autumn-ish, with a clear blue sky and large white clouds. The temperature dipped into the twenties, giving a feeling that Durga Puja is nearby.
I'm feeling homesick, more so because I'm going home next weekend. I left my hometown last July, and can't wait to get back there, even if for a few days.
I feel like the king of Halla in Satyajit Ray's Goopy Gayen Bagha Bayen... I want to shout "Chhuti! Chhuti!" and run away from here. Five more days to go before I can do that!