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Kolkata Trip–Day 2

As every great day begins, mine too started with a visit to the neighbourhood market to buy the freshest vegetables at 7:30 in the morning with my uncle (mama). 7:30 was pretty late by Kolkata standards as people come by around 5:30ish to get a shot at the choicest and freshest vegetables.

However, by the time we reached, the fare was still pretty decent and we picked up whatever we wanted to. The especially funner part of this was the scooter ride through the neighbourhood area. The area that we rode the scooter through had the tiniest of roads (one lane, sometimes 1/2 a lane) – some parts were even dicey for small cars to go through without some skill – but the place had its own charm. Tall palm trees next to palatial three storey bungalows with the narrowest of lanes for company. The smell of fried fish wafted in  the air and it was not even 8 in the morning. It was truly extraordinary.

After a scrumptious breakfast of freshly prepared puri bhaji, we took off in the hired Innova to Dakshineshwar. Dakshineshwar is this pretty large temple complex for Goddess Kali. We reached there through traffic and some maniacal driving in less than an hour. After wading through the crowds and giving a handful of people business – including the flower vendors and the shoe keepers, we went and obediently stood in  one of the many lines inside – like any good, self respecting Indian would.

ride

Our awesome ride!

Cameras and cell phones were prohibited in the temple premises and big signs all over the place screamed at you – threatening you from taking any pictures. Fearing for the life of my precious camera, I kept it hidden in my backpack and as a result, was not able to take any pictures. However, knowing that you will be disappointed with this, I am putting below a stock image that I found on Google Images.

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Dakshineshwar temple and the long queues to get in (source: google image search)

Our lines were twice as long as depicted here though.

After waiting for what seemed an eon – we moved up the line to the temple and got our magnificent glimpse of the Goddess for exactly 2.3 seconds. During this, I saw the pandit pocket atleast 60 bucks from the three people in front of us. Our turn came, Pritika handed over her flowers and when the pandit put out his hand and said “dakshina dao” (give me money for donation), Pritika went “huh?” and that was the end of our temple visit. (This was the first time for us when the pandit was proactively asking for donations.)

We then loitered around a bit having spent so much time getting there in the first place and after giving some more business to the people selling idols, plastic stuff, etc., we took a twenty minute, very unsafe boat ride across the Hooghly river to a place called Belur Math.

swades

Our boat ride from Dakshineshwar to Belur Math

Again at Belur Math, photography was banned. It’s a pity because it was an awesome, well maintained place. Belur Math is actually a institute as well as a temple to Sri Sri Ramakrishna who was the teacher of Swami Vivekanand.

As there were many signs prohibiting photography inside the campus and due to my gifted ability to be able to read, I kept my expensive camera inside my bag for fear of some over enthusiastic security guy breaking it. Quite a few people were clicking photographs though and  a group were insulted by a watchmen who ran towards them shouting “Are you freaking illiterate? Can’t you read the signs? This is not a feakin’ garden. It is a temple!!!”

I then realised that photography was banned at such places not for anything else, but for the principle of it. Anyways, all I have to remember the place is the following:

belur_math_sign


which I happened to click “before” entering the premises. And boy I am glad that I did!

For those of you lazy enough to *not* click on the Wikipedia links I so painstakingly have put up (I know who you are!), here is an actual site photograph taken by a brave soul who then put it up on Wikipedia!

Ramakrishna_Belur_Math,_Howrah

Belur Math – main building (source: wikipedia)

After paying our respect to the statue inside the building and loitering on the well kept lawns for a good half hour, we were chased out of the premises at exactly 12 o’ clock by a person ringing a very loud bell.

Our car screeched to a halt near the gate and the doors swung open. We jumped into it and made a quick escape only to get stuck behind a  line of ochre’ colour Kolkata taxis. However, lucky for us the person with the bell had given up and had turned his attention to other cell phone photographers.

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A sea of yellow taxis surround us just next to Howrah bridge

We then made our way to College street which is the street on which the Presidency College is (and hence the name I guess). College street is also famous because you get nothing but books on either sides of the road. Something like ABC in Pune. My dad got a bargain deal when he managed to pick up a Rs. 95 book in Rs. 10 (though I must mention the book seemed old and very probably second hand).

Another thing that this lane is very famous for is the Indian Coffee House – which is a quaint little place in an old building and has great food (YMMW) along with a good cuppa. It is famous because you will find all the highly intellectual types (read: people like us) hanging around here discussing all conceivable topics under the sun – from Mamta Banerjee’s politics to how channels like UTV Bindaas are spoiling today’s youth by airing shows like Emotional Atyachaar.

We had quite a bit of food from vegetable cutlets to bread butter to hakka noodles to veg pakodas. As you can imagine, it was quite a fare and was mighty reasonable as well. This was topped up with a nice cup of filter coffee – something that this place is famous for. We soaked in the ambiance, the coffee and tried to fit in to the intellectual crowd but found that it was just too much effort. So we skipped out of the place within 45 minutes and went out to soak the sun.

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The crowd and ambiance at Indian Coffee House

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Us, trying to fit in with the other intellectuals at the Café

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View from the top. The place has seating on top as well.

Our car came back soon and we made our way to City Center I and then later City Center II. There is nothing much to write about them except that these were malls and that City Center II was much better than I (one) and that both the malls were so much better than the pseudo malls that we have back in Pune. Though a little confusing in design, they had quite a bit of space and hand plenty of place for people to just sit and hang out.

Rest of the day was uneventful except that we were stuck in an hour long traffic jam and our driver tried playing tag with the oncoming vehicles on the road and fortunately. lost.

Gandhigiri actually works!

Before I actually start this post, I must disclaim that I am not very fond of the word “Gandhigiri” – but it has come so much into the everyday parlance, that I cannot find any other alternative.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the word finds itself in the Oxford dictionary pretty soon.
For those unfamiliar with the term, “Gandhigiri” means doing as (Mahatma) Gandhi would. The word comes from a very popular (and extremely hilarious) Hindi film – “Lage Raho Munnabhai” in which the protagonist follows on the steps prescribed by Mahatma Gandhi to bring about revolutionary changes.
This involves using the path of non violence and satyagraha.
Though, I found the movie to be extremely hilarious and enjoyable, I didn’t actually think working on these philosophies would produce results in our modern, day to day life.
However, the cynic in me was silenced when I actually happened to try the technique at home for a very interesting (though trivial problem) and it produced astonishing results.
Let me enunciate as follows:
At the onset of summer, the chore that becomes the biggest pain in our house – is filling up bottles of water to store in the refrigerator.
Though the cold water is consumed by everyone, it is usually my mother and me who end up filling the water. This is actually frustrating, because we have a “Fill up water when you consume it” policy which no one seems to follow.
You will empathize with me when I tell you how homicidal I feel when I open the refrigerator to find that – not only is all the cold water over, but bottles are missing entirely – the ones which my brother conveniently bootlegs to the confines of his room.
This naturally infuriates me because not only do I NOT get the cold water which I so painstakingly filled up, but I know that after I fill up the bottles again – the same scenario will take place and I might actually end up strangling my brother.
None of the tactics to make my brother start filling up after he drank worked. No amount of tantrums, abuses, nagging ever got him to fill a single bottle.
Then, while re-filling the bottles that evening, the concept of Gandhigiri hit me.
One of the biggest and most pro-active emotions that human beings experience – something that more often than not makes someone get up and do something is that of guilt. And this is what the principle is based on. (I think)
So, I decided, to somehow make my brother feel guilty for what he was doing. (He’s human – so he has to eventually – right?)
That evening, once I had done filling up the bottles, I poured in a glass of ice cold water and took it up to his room and put in on his desk.
After looking suspiciously at the utensil on his desk, smelling it and finally taking a sip, he asked what was wrong with me.
To which I replied: “I am now embarking on the path of Gandhigiri and everytime I fill up bottles of water which YOU drink, I’ll get you a glass of water.
He was on the floor laughing and told me that there was no way in hell he was going to fall for this, and I could go and keep filling bottles till kingdom-com for all he cared.
I knew this was coming and had mentally prepared myself to go through this ritual for a couple of months atleast!
I couldn’t be more wrong.
The next day, I get back home after work to find the refrigerator completely stocked – every empty nook and corner of it – with bottled water.
My mom was as shocked as me – and told me that my brother had come to the kitchen, dug up hundreds of empty bottles, filled them up and stocked them – all without her telling him anything.
I couldn’t believe it!
It worked!!! Gandhigiri worked!
Results within 1 day (though your mileage may vary).
So, if you have similar problems, I suggest you give this a shot. The trick is finding the right angle to make the person feel guilty as soon as possible (you don’t want to keep doing this forever and look like an idiot) – like in this case offering a glass of water did the trick.
If this does not work, threatening the concerned person that you are going to blog about this usually does the trick. 🙂
[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 85.]

The acid test …

If you have seen the movie “Finding Nemo”, there is a scene in the aquarium (at the dentists) in which the aquarium fish put Nemo through a test of courage – at the great Volcano (or something) before they induct him into their group …

Maybe what I am talking about here is not exactly the same thing, but the above example is the closest reference I could find.
I again don’t know whether this happens between different cultures, age groups, genders (with respect to groups of friends) or maybe we are just a plain weird bunch of people, but here is something I have noticed that happens in my group of friends …
I shall hence call it the acid test and this phenomenon is very peculiar because it performs a function completely different to what it would seem to many (in fact most) of the people witnessing the events …
I must admit, I realized the significance of it just sometime ago, and so have decided to put it in writing …
Here goes …
When we are with our own groups of friends, we put on a show for everybody.
We don’t behave in the same way when we are all alone, or are with our families (or a different group of friends) …
Everybody, has a persona which he or she tries to maintain – something which gives the person substance and more importantly, (probably) a reason why the person was admitted to the group in the first place.
We start relating to each person in our friends circle by their default behaviour.
For example, one of my good friends plays the part of a completely indifferent, ‘couldn’t care less’, ‘don’t give a rat’s ass about anything’ non conformist very well.
To someone meeting him for the first few times, he will come across as a person who couldn’t care less about anything or anybody – and you could not for the life of you extract any sympathy or help from the individual no matter what you try …
Over a period of years that we have gotten to know him well, we have learnt what a nice guy he is and no matter how much he will abuse you and make fun of you and act all haughty when somebody asks for help, he will eventually help the person – sometimes even going way out of his way to help them.
So, here is the acid test then.
When someone from a group, actually tries to do something good for a change – basically try to change an age old bad habit into something radically different, he is made fun off – by his good friends.
They will go to the extent of bugging you for days about it –
For e.g: “What happened to the I don’t care, I will not wake up before 11:00 am attitude?”
Or
“Weren’t you the one who said, reading is for nerds?”
Anyways, basically what happens is that when you are trying to do something good to yourself for your own sake (or possibly someone else’s), its your friends who come in your way and try to dissuade you from it – making fun of you and basically embarrassing you till you’ve had enough.
Now, if you are thinking that this is a really sorry thing to happen, and that the person with such friends has something wrong with his taste … you won’t be very wrong …
But then again, if you look closer, you will realize, that even though it is happening sub consciously, what your friends are achieving here is that they are making sure that whatever you are really doing, is something that you really want to do.
Going ahead and changing your character (or habits) is a difficult thing to do – not to mention majorly huge.
With all the nagging and laughing, you tend to think about the situation a bit more – and then you make up your mind.
Once you realize that this is exactly what you want to do, your friends automatically seem to shut up and nobody else’s opinion matters much anyways – so you go ahead and do it. And more often than not, you are successful.
If on the other hand, you succumb to your friends’ taunts and fun insults, you were not going to do the thing anyways (cause you were not enough mentally prepared) – and in the process save a lot of time by not going ahead with this …
So there !
However, the downside of this is that if you have a really bad group of friends, and either they always get the better of you or vice versa, the probability of you succeeding in changing a habit or yourself reduces drastically …

So basically, the moral of the story here is that it is always good to have good friends.
And no matter how much your friends taunt you, make fun of you or use your self consciousness to their advantage, its always a good thing to have friends who do all this 🙂

—————–
As an end note would like to mention that this is just something that I thought about …
Don’t know how much of it is psychologically correct, but would love to hear other opinions on the issue…

That 'resulty' feeling …

Do you remember that feeling ?
When you go up to collect your result ?
The anxiety … butterflies crawling in the stomach …
Suicidal tendencies ???
Today were the SSC ( Std X ) results for the Pune Univ … and were of importance coz by bro was due to get his results today …
From morning onwards … he was tensed, harrassed by people calling to ask the results which he hadn’t got ( results come out at 3 pm )
Anyways … basically, he was pissed … it was his first big examination results … and it was showing …
All his crying and self loathing eventually rubbed off on me … and I was taken back to my time, when I got my 10th standard report …
For all those of you who don’t know, std X is the first exam we people give at the University level …
At that age, it is the ‘grand poo-ba’ of all exams … the very feared class to be in …
Anyways, my results were pathetic … considering how much I had expected and how much I had gotten …
I had come home, miserable … and locked myself in … hating myself … for a couple of days, without any social contact …
Now that I think of it … it was pretty stupid …
I had gotten some 81% … and I was feeling miserable because I had expected marks in the upper echelons … 88%
Anyways, the feeling stays …
Just before you are handed your results … you study the faces and expressions of people who have got their results …
Trying to gauge how badly you are going to get slaughtered …
There are only two feelings that one experiences when one peeks at the result at hand …
One of utter disappointment … the lowest you have felt of late … or the sheer exuberance .. knowing that you didn’t flunk out on that extremely dubious paper … or maybe got the grade that had eluded you for the majority of your lifetime …
Anyways … the crux of this blog … is ‘the feeling before knowing
Something, everyone should experience atleast once in their lifetime …
( which we guys do twice every year now … )
And after seeing so many summers, have wisely realised … that in the end, marks don’t mean a thing …
They’re just a crappy way of expanding the boundaries between people … victims of a crappier education system …
One of my favourite lines, which I sincerely trust in such situations …
Everything will be alright in the End …
If it’s not … it’s not the end …
And oh, by the way … my bro got almost the same marks as me … 80.66% … ( I beat him by 2 marks … hehehe 🙂 )
That, after crying the entire day about getting 68% … and he’s not the scholarly type … so we kinda believed him …. :p
Idiot !

Ambush at 32 Vidyanagar …

Trickery, treachery, back stabbing even …
I was ambushed today …
Today, was supposed to be the festival of colours – Holi …
A perfect day to get drenched, drench people … be the very hated practical joker …
I hadn’t played holi for many years …
Actually, I hate the dry colours … the pain in removing them .. and the very chemical wet colours .. when, once your clothes are drenched with, you can use them as mops from the next day onwards …
So, I hadn’t played holi since many years …
The joy that one derives from the festival has taken a quantum shift from drenching people to the good food that accompanies the special day ….
So, today, like the so many years before … I went to my granny’s place for the customary holi greetings and also to devour all the goodies …
However, my uncle ( my mom’s second brother ) is visting … who is also a member of the Indian Army … and is notorious from his childhood days for all the pranks he played …
So, after all the greetings are done with … I settle with a plate of food watching Sehwag clobber the Pakistanis …
All the cousins were at my granny’s place …
So, my uncle comes in … catches hold of my other cousin ( who is just 2 years younger to me ) and drags him outside … with a lot of effort and pulling and resistance .. he finally ejects him out of the house …
My cousin held on to dear life … clinging onto 3 door frames on his way out … before my uncle … finally pulled him out after 5 minutes of resistance …
Finally outside .. all my younger cousins pounced on him … and gave him his worth …
He finally came in sometime later … drenched … and his tail between his legs … cursing me as I had my hearty share of fun … at his expense …
I was high and dry at this point of time … though not for long … read on …
I had just finished with the food .. when another aunt of mine came to me and asked me to come out for a photograph …
I smelt a rat … ( my family members are pretty bad actors .. can’t help smiling … )
Anyways … I thought what the heck … she had a camera in her hand …
Took off my watch and kept it on the table … just in case …
Peeped out and to my surprise, no one was in the vicinity …
I couldn’t believe that she actually wanted to only take a picture …
No sooner I stepped out of the door … I got it …
It was an ambush … I was trapped …
All the kids who had been conveniently hiding in all the possible corners … came rushing out with water guns, balloons, buckets of water … all led by my uncle …
In 20 seconds, I was drenched head to toe … dripping with colour and with a face that would not have been recognized had I been on a coroner’s table …
I just stood there … let the kids have their share of fun …
Then, when the time was right, charged on my other two cousins who were in the range of my age group … and had my share of fun …
After getting one with a bucket of ‘hard-to-remove’ coloured water … I got the other ‘running’ one with a carefully executed balloon lauch …
Good times 🙂
Feels good to be back 🙂

The joy of belonging …

It was almost ten years ago … I was in the fourth grade when I got picked for our school basketball team … not so much for my skill as for the extra half foot that I was taller by, compared to other people my age …
I didn’t do much … As I got an early start, I found myself in a team of sixth graders … guys two years senior to me …
I could hardly catch the ball … leave alone pass or even make an attempt to score …
My job was basically to last out the first quarter, and get fouled out by the third quarter, so that a better guy got to play an extra quarter …
I know … the rules were stupid then, and all the teams did it …
However, we won that tournament … the first ever I played in…
I did my part, getting fouled out throughout the tournament and helping our cause 🙂
I distinctively remember that night … it was a night game … about 9’ish … floodlights … a big crowd … our seniors cheering for us … the adrenaline pumping … the cold sweat breaking down, and the high tension atmosphere …
Our team captain fell in the fourth quarter … very badly too … he was bleeding all over … but he continued …
That was all what was needed – to boost our morale sky high, and get the adrenaline going again …
When the final whistle blew … we had won … The match had been pretty close … how a finals game should be, and that made us happier …
I even remember crying after the match … Half the reason, I think, was us winning, and the other half was, I think, due to my inability to get fouled out that game 😉 …
No matter how hard I tried, the referee looked the other way … I was on 4 fouls when the final whistle blew …
From the next year onwards, I found myself in a more stable position in the team … with the “Kamikaze” tag being finally removed …
Since then, I stuck on … and our team ( no brag intended ) was one of the best in Pune …
We won every single Zilla Parishad ( equivalent to University tournaments in colleges ) tournaments we played in and got to represent Pune everytime …
It is amazing how being in a team, playing basketball … so dramatically … changed my life around …
I was this quiet … really introvert kinda guy before this happened to me …
I haven’t changed drastically, but have done quite a bit …
We played … the same team throughout … 5 years of our school lives and 2 of our junior college days … behind the Gulati Hall … every lunch break and every PT period …
Another match which comes to mind and makes it really nostalgic was one final, played on a cloudy, gloomy Sunday morning on our own courts …
The match started late and in a light drizzle …
All the catholic guys had come to school to attend some Sunday mass … they waited on the courts … past their mass time … rooting for us …
Even our principal was there …
We started miserably …
We were fourteen points down by half time …
Our principal left …
But the guys stayed back …
After half time, we shot the first basket …
That was all that was needed …
Everybody was possessed … it was entirely a different team …
Everybody outside the courts was shouting … I couldn’t hear my own thinking …
On the sidelines, I could see my coach jumping ( literally ) up and down …
The final whistle blew …
We had won by seven points …
We had not let them score even once in the entire second half …
We hugged … everyone in sight …
No one cared how sweaty the other guy was …
We were drenched … partly due to the rain, and partly from our own sweat …
We were stinking … tired … broken … and dirty … and that was the best I had ever felt in my life …
Days went by … we kept winning …
School was over … then the junior college … We are all in different colleges now …
But we have stuck as a team …
We don’t play so many matches nowadays … nor do we practice so often …
But we do meet every once in a while … to play … behind that Gulati Hall … where we have played all our lives … and you know what ?
Its the best feeling … ever … the joy of belonging …