There is always a light

There is always a light
Don't be afraid if you are alone or surrounded by darkness. In some part of the world, the day has just begun. There is a always a light waiting for you to find your way to touch its radiance.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Faithful Disregard

By Anima Dey
Bangkok, Thailand
I am Macy, “The Docile Dove” faithfully named by my dearest friends in the hostel, you remember me through the story “smile-my-smiles”? I was all in all a recklessly hopeless romantic and please don’t ask if I cared. Those were the days when my inane world carved a romantic dream under starry skies, with a clasp of the sturdy fingers and shoulder to lax my face, sounds of distant music whilst those toes tickled on feet. An ocean in the heart, flowing tides in the eyes, stolen dream in my palms, although it all seemed a huge question mark, yet I believed probably it was my only answer, Oh! Is this my solace or is it my passion, whatever it was must be lived. “As Shelly wrote “O lift me as a wave a leaf, I fall upon the thorns of life I bleed”! Ha! I so believed someday my prince would fly me away to ‘Ever-Happy’ land where happily ever after would glitter the morning rays of the sun, and shimmer the starry nights in crescent skies. That said of course the dream meant that I would marry the man who’d stand by me through blinking weathers believing in me and my core artistic accomplishments, working with me & on me to keep our magic alive. The man who’d live our love as a legend and shower me his undaunted support, beyond his pre-designed performance or my failed reasoning; & in return I’d weave him a home where we’d breed faith & regards. Life actually granted me this dream wish, so it looked to me then. Mom often tried to wake me up to the pragmatic truth, dad warned me not to steal moments from branches of time, lest my world would be lost to contrition. But I lived what I believed then as life had almost conceded my woven thoughts.

Daven, and me had chanced whilst studying in the same institute. Although a year senior to me, we had common friends who’d often yoke us. He was ravishing, chic, voguish and a nouveau riche with curly hair covering his brows, deep set lotus eyes and rosy red lips. His smile was distinguishing, and when it was for me, girls only raged in jealousy. His built was broad shouldered and model like, whereas I was tall and lean, He was secretive yet aggressive, I was open yet submissive, He was glamorously inclined, I was academically inclined, he demanded attention for his looks, I earned attention for my achievements, he was an out and out action man, I was a woman of thousand words. So Daven often found pleasing me a very stimulating challenge in his life. We were complete inverse in our indefensible polar positions and all our friends believed we could make the best life partners if we quelled our magnetism to induce attraction for diversified qualities in each other. He was a heart-throb and girls swooned over him, although he did enjoy all that attention yet when around me he’d remain grounded and it didn’t bother me much of what he did when he wasn’t with me. He was to some extent communicative about his love and that’s what mattered then. He belonged to a well to do family and was the only one for his parents. We were young and life had a long way to go.

During our initial courship days, my parents had often suggested our diversified approaches to life however complimenting would grow the roots of disregard for the two families. His parents were also not too keen for me as daughter in law initially, and had often expressed their discontent in more than many ways, yet Daven was so determined, that every argument, would summarize, with his dad and mom relenting to their only son’s wishful demands. If that meant our marriage they would relinquish that as well, but I would have to prove my worth to gain their respect and love. I worried my guts out at this but Daven would more than corroborate and synched in with my resentments by his “Faithful Regard”. His mom was very genitive of Daven, he was the only one they had and she held him near her as the man in her life, but Daven had very harmoniously proportioned every unethical circumstance. Despite a daunting opposition from his parents he had managed to convince them and me of our steadfast fidelity. He lived by his own credo that both of us complemented each other and that I am the calm he needed in his otherwise very ushering life, I could be his anchor and my trust and faith in his achievements made him so confident that he believed so he needed me at every step of his life. I thrived and lived on just the facts that what the world saw then was only outwardly but Daven filled up for all those outrageous allegations the world had mouthed.

The first few weeks after our much awaited marriage were a fragrant bloom. The love between us was purely rhythmic, aloneness yielded in the realms of togetherness and togetherness harnessed in the bower of aloneness. A few cold rainy nights, the hailing lights of the reclining flames, the paths never ending, sounds of the busy feet stepping, an ocean of tide, shady trees luring, hand to hold, few words of caring, a valley of intense love, rocky mountains firm and strong, the mile didn’t seem too long.

“By the light of the silvery moon,
Our kiss got its silver lining,

Could hear the heart croon,

As we saw our dreams shining!

Let the moments lark,

And the miles go on,

Let the night spark

And Kindle spirits of dawn!”

After a month of blissful togetherness, finally Daven got an ad offer that promised an uphill career abroad. That was such a perfect flight for the fancy dream I had nurtured since we were committed. Life flew us to a new place, new people, new responsibilities, new food, new culture, new friends & a whole new meaning of family. Reality hovered and our world began its own coveted journey where happily ever after became confined to a predetermined fate rather than posing to be our greatly desired destination, so did we realize. It took a toll on our emotional and physical existence. Our dependence on each other shadowed our ethics reshaping turpitudes of modern society. Our togetherness had begun to shrink down to merely few minutes per week. Daven faired wonderfully most of the times though, and I was failing more often than I had thought or expected. Separation anxiety massacred my soul, and I sat bemused watching Daven move away from me inch by inch. Purgatory moments, had slowly and steadily begun to kindle piques in proximity and my heart bled on this tired splendor as my existence near him faked our marital identity.

As couple of months lived in doubts, Daven’s behavior exuded pathetically erratic patterns. I would have to often remind him to rekindle our coveted faithful connection so I could weave our home closer where he could return when tired and toiled. I was so definitely missing some link but what could that have been? Amidst those changing tides a few more waves retched a lot of resentment; I would be summoned time and again to spend time with his mom and dad as they had not had the pleasure of my service. Although I had often squatted at the thought of living through my tests without Daven around me, to my dismay time was only bridging it closer. As I recollect my first or my last journey alone to live with his parents, living those series of verbal abuses and outbursts, my crying out to Daven to come and save me and my ever supportive Daven turning a blind eye and deaf ear to my clamant. My tears bled, and eyes numbed for this weathered Daven - who could no longer harmoniously proportion every unethical circumstance. Tides had risen to meet the Satan’s moon. Not much would change in him after I’d return from my in-laws summons & my failures at meeting their expectations. Was I really waking up to what my mom said ‘pragmatic truth of life’?

I had read once “The only thing stable in life is – change”. It was time I thought for me to stabilize on that change so I worked on myself. He would return home to me, yet not for me, besides me yet not with me & would continue to abruptly staccato his presence as I lived emotionally forlorn. If I’d try to draw his attention to my fears, which I would do after careful thinking he would express saying it was the new roles & responsibilities in our lives and the situation that was weighing on his mind thus he was unable to show all of his feelings. Sometimes he’d relate to our situation quoting- “after marriage our relationship should open new avenues where it would be unrealistic to expect too much togetherness.” The expression of love could extant awhile. He’d often say he didn’t need to woo me as that challenge was already met with and that he had newer challenges awaiting his destined portal. My Dad had insisted before that I should not have stolen moments from branches of time, lest moments would wither, was this seasoning actually happening?

Every time Daven spoke of those derived fundamentals I would numb with a strange emptiness. His words had hollowed, his silence echoed, yet I would have to believe in every word he’d speak, at times so much so that I had practically stopped believing in myself. I’d plead more than often, allowed him to do all the he passionately desired, so he could think & fulfill all his aspirations keeping the connection between our souls alive. Despite our having busy schedules thriving on our new found aspirations, I pleaded to squeeze moments of togetherness in our days & nights, not to burden Daven but to relive him and his enthusiasm. I felt shocked he didn’t care so much for my touch that had calmed us both in rough storms. In his endeavor to touch the skies he flew on his wings of desires, leaving me to just watch his flight of fancy. I felt a sense of failure in my new acquired role. The buds of my faith began to wither slowly. Yet some magic in my heart compelled me to believe that high tides would subside again and that Daven would realize what he is missing in his life rather, our life together. I remained a bit confused – was that Daven the real one or was the one before marriage the real Daven? Did he just do all that to woo me and compel me into this marriage? Did he ever believe in soul mates? Did he just exude his love because winning me and my trust was the biggest challenge during our college days? Would he learn to live beyond challenges as well?

A part of me was dying inside and a part of me was breathing hope every second. I lived very confused and often fumbled in dealing with relationships, at work or at home & in my duties towards parents. The connection between us was mostly impeded by ambitions, was I the one letting it all fall apart by expecting too much out of Daven? I had always wanted to marry a successful man and see him do wonders in professional world but to be on top is to be away from the one you love the most, or is it to share that moment of being on top with the one you claim to love the most? I had read umpteen times before “Tell me ABOUT LOVE and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.” I’d often quirk my soul - is it wrong in pleading for that touch of love, kiss of passion, & the embrace of warmth in our days and nights, sharing an inch of earth of his success. Often I’d call my parents, but wasn’t sure if I could discuss this with them, & then I’d let go thinking it was just a passing phase of life and part of growing up.

Our first anniversary was the dilapidated day, the forgotten day, when he had returned from work in a trancelike ecstatic state, after the meeting with his colleagues & friends, he changed quickly and slept over, while I had waited intently. He hadn’t realized that while changing his shirt pockets had emptied on floor the picture of him with this girl. I froze, felt a warm gush of blood rise up from toes, quickly to my head. I had to grab the knob to hold on to my own weight, as I slowly picked up that picture and my eyes stared at the two of them, smiling a smile, I hadn’t seen him wear; when around with me lately. Pounding heart beats perched to skies, even skipped a few beats, my damp eyes chanced upon my revered Daven, who slept peacefully as ever. Could I impel, or could I shunt this impious truth. The night mixed with dew, and all my hopes bid adieu, as I saw myself alone, and my Daven no more nigh.

With extreme caution I confronted him next morning, but his words felled me, He had begun to see the women at work intelligent, smart and sexy and dutifully sentenced the emotional me as being dumb and useless failure. I gathered, my sacrifices, or my reasons to be his home maker had been irrational and dreamy, as he worded I was no longer of any use to him in his career and that I needed to spend time and be of need to his parents instead, so he could have his space and freedom. His verbal expressions shocked me and left me lost. His parent’s disapproval of my existence in Daven’s life, and his confession left me no clue of what was happening in my life. Where was all this heading and that too so soon? I resuscitated, I was never his kind but then wasn’t that, what had drawn Daven to me?

Next day after a forgotten first anniversary, Daven held my hand, said he wouldn’t mind if I wanted to start afresh with my kind of a man. He said I could take my time and decide, because I was a complete mismatch for him in his life. I stood there with a very lawfully faithful disregard, I don’t remember what happened after that. My senses narrowed to zero, The man whom I trusted would stand strong to guard me self respect, the man I showered my love & trust was in front of me to give me a silence of a thousand words with faithful disregard. I stood numb absolutely dumbfounded at what he had spoken with much ease. I had not informed my mom n dad and how would I really tell them and how would they really take this. Wouldn’t they just die at what Daven spoke, just as the thought had crossed my mind the phone rang, a strange voice spoke heavily, my mom and dad had met with a shocking accident & everything was over.

Crrrrrrrrrrrassssssshhhhhhhhhhh! A moment of spin and the world stood still before me. Daven helped me lie down, can’t recollect much of what I said but all I understood was my prayers were answered, yes they would not live to see me separate from Daven. I then remembered the days rolled beneath deep blue sky, when I didn’t have a care in the world as mom and dad would stand by. However, when the ‘happily ever after’ failed that day after being poisoned by all the fairy tales, it was left to the lawyers to dwell on our very small detail. There was no return to innocence that time. He booked us on the first available flight; it meant a life-long travel of empty hours, Oh! What an ordeal! I couldn’t imagine life without them, and nor could I imagine life with him. Should I just wait for time to break the silence?

My eyes chanced the mirror, it relieved me, at least someone who stood there knew me, silence echoed between us calling out to me, my breath pleaded “Daven turn to me please, hold me in your arms again, Give me one more night of you, let me feel life just one more night please!” Yet, unheard that was the soulful end of a journey of our faithful regard towards each other. The silence that manifested uncurled in it the awkwardness of his own words. I knew then that the one I had as my love would not be able to keep me in his prayers. Something in my soul died forever that night as I lay in bed besides Daven; as the silence was most faithful and life continued with his “Faithful Disregard.” - The Journey of life was his desire and the destination was his choice, I was also his desire, people around him were all his choice, living forever with me was his desire, and deciding otherwise was also his choice, marrying me was his desire, then forgetting me was also his choice, As I was alone I sat and wondered at times, when everything and everyone was his desire, then was my loneliness his or my God’s choice?

Faithful Disregard!!!!

In your eyes deep as ocean

I often drowned in the tide,
Moments thwarted my notion
My breaths clambered to decide.
With faith your love preached
And my soul healed the dent
Your gentle touch I beseeched
Every hope in heart you lent
And I felt so sure so near
Entangled to your emotions
You were that distant peer
Hiding behind my veiled devotion
Yet with time our love perished
And my heart abound by clouds
Reflects memories I cherish
And at times brim me with doubts
Should I name that bond?
Our souls shared so deeply
The twine that knit our souls
How could you rip so grimly?

IPL: Lalit Modi Presents Eden Garden Nights

By Arindam Guptaray
Kolkata, India
A three way love story between two long legs and a slip.

When you are almost dying of suffocation in a crowded bus in Kolkata, on your daily commute to school you tend to ask yourself philosophical questions like “Why I am going to school?” and look for answers. A simple answer like “My Dad will beat the hell out of me if I miss school” is not satisfying enough. You wanted some dream answers that justified the torture and my answer was “One day I will be as rich as Rajesh’s dad”.

Rajesh was the rich kid in our block. His house had more marbles than Marble Palace. Every room, including the kitchen, had an AC. I used to think that the white cylindrical thing in his bathroom was also an AC (it was actually a water heater). His house had a lawn which was bigger than Vivekananda Park. In front of their house was parked a white Mercedes. Next to the car, stood a chauffeur in white uniform. He looked like he had come out of the latest Surf advertisement.

My friends and I took turns distributing our inheritance from Rajesh’s dad. His earthly possession became a line item in our list of dreams. Subir wanted a million dollar home like his. Partha wanted to own a Mercedes (he later upgraded his dream to a Ferrari when he realized that the top of the line Merc cost a paltry $ 100K). I was never into big houses or fast cars or fast women (I know it’s totally irrelevant but I threw that in as a freebie). When my turn came to select my inheritance, I opted for an experience instead of durables.

When we were growing up, Eden Gardens, unlike now, was an obvious choice for the extinct game of cricket called Test Match. While we watched the game on our black and white TV, Rajesh watched it from the Club House. After the game he would show off his collection of autographs: Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Brian Lara and even Chandi Charan Ganguly (extra credit if you know who he is). The only thing that he didn’t do was to say “Na na nana!!” That day, I decided my life would be incomplete until I got to see a cricket game from the club house.

When Pradeep, a business acquaintance from US, called me to check on the availability of IPL tickets I immediately went to the Ticketgenie site to check for club house tickets. They were Rs 4000 each (Sharukh Khan not included).

“They are Rs 8000 a piece. Are you interested?” I asked.

Before passing judgment on my action, here is a piece of information. Pradeep hires out my employees in the US at $50 per hour and pays me $10 an hour. By doing this he made it to the list of “Michigan Top 40 Entrepreneurs under 40”. So, I don’t deserve the title “Most likely to head Faud Abraham’s Petty theft division” for my action here!

“Sure.” He said. To an NRI, the fact that you have seen an IPL game live has more ego points than dating Angelina Jolie.

I bought 3 tickets for the KKR match. Why three? Well when you are married it is a criminal offence to have any kind of fun without your wife. If I have to commit such an offense it has to be with someone who is far better looking than Pradeep! I paid with my credit card and the transaction was very smooth. Within minutes I got a text message from my credit card company that I had been charged Rs. 12060.

You get a high when you know you are deceiving someone. You get ten times more depressed when you realize that you are the one who is getting duped. I kept waiting for my tickets but they never came. Four days, Five days… Ten days passed. I ended up knowing all the Blue Dart employees on first name basis. The reply I got from the one contact number of TicketGenie was “All routes to this number are busy”. However I have to admit the female voice was really sexy. I even tried calling the number at midnight hoping that this woman would be sleeping and I would reach someone who could give me some information on my tickets, but I failed to get through. I sent two thousand and nine emails to their help desk, but they, like other Desi companies, believed in the fact that emails were meant to be received and not to be replied back.

I resorted to my omniscient friend Google. He told me that the only way out was to go to the Mohd. Sporting ground to see whether I could get a ticket based on the print out of my order. Based on the glitz of the IPL, I was hoping that the ticket redemption counter would be like a Vodafone office with pretty girls wearing bow-ties manning the Booth. To my disappointment I found 200 people standing in front of a hole through which Jerry from Tom and Jerry wouldn’t have been able to pass. These were people like me who had thought that a painless way of buying an IPL ticket was through the internet. “If only Lalit Modi bought one less ugly tie and used that money for a better ticket delivery process we would not have to suffer like this,’” I thought. After spending two hours in the line and cursing the deodorant maker Axe for false advertising claims, my turn came.

“I need to see the ID you have used to purchase the ticket?” the guy said.

“But I was told to keep the ID at home for the Blue Dart delivery person,” I said.

“No tickets for you,” he said like the soup Nazi from the Seinfeld show.

I realized that the best way to cure one’s low pressure problem was to try to talk logically to morons. Unfortunately I did not suffer from low pressure, so I had no choice but to go home to get the ID.

When there is no hope you bank on miracles. No, the Hooghly River did not part and the tickets did not come out from the river! I did something that I haven’t done in years. I checked my snail mail box. (None of my high school girl friends went into a twenty year coma like Rip Van Winkle. The odds of receiving a love letter by mail were as high as India winning the World Cup Hockey championship). Inside the mailbox were three club house tickets for the IPL game!

I forgot all the trouble I had to go through once I reached Eden Gardens. I also have to accept that the seats that had been randomly assigned by TicketGenie were great. (Thanks to these seats SRK could recognize me. He even waved at me.)

The KKR team, accompanied by three burkha clad women, wiggling their waist, took the field amidst the cheering crowd. Apparently the moral police had suggested to SRK that he replaced these women with party cadets who were willing to show their hairy legs. The KKR management team compromised: by covering the cheer leaders instead of covering the pitch. (Otherwise they had to go undercover from the investors)

The game was going great for KKR till the first fifteen overs. Then ‘The Dhoni massacre’ happened and Kolkata true to its history produced eleven more martyrs. It’s a strange feeling to cheer for Owais Shah and Shane Bond and jeer for Dhoni and Raina. I guess I did not jeer enough for Dhoni and thanks to that I could at least see a couple of sixers. KKR could not play any worse. It appeared Dada and others were in charge of the class “A Beginners Guide to Catching” making sure that the ball fell within a foot of the fielder at an optimal height. The local paara champion, another KKR (Kanchrapara Kool Rockers) would have played better.

I left the ground with a heavy heart. Not because KKR got their ass kicked but it dawned on me that there was nothing to dream about anymore. The worse thing than not having one’s dreams fulfilled was to not have anything to dream about. No wonder Partha had upgraded his dream. I now need to have a new dream. It had to be achievable, not something that would remain unfulfilled until my death. Hmmm… what could it be?

How about ‘Koffee with Kareena’?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Frames Frozen In Time....

By Shoumik Das
Kolkata, India

Between Life & Death

By Shubhomoy Banerjee
Anand, India

Good morning! It is 6 AM. A mechanised voice greeted Sourojit as he was rudely jolted out of his sleep. He was alone. And he was in Kolkata. Sweta was not there. Darjeeling? He was at home in his pyjamas which he would always wear to bed. So it was just a dream then? Lying awake he wished for a moment that the dream be true. But then dreams are just that. Dreams. Just then the reminder alarm on his mobile phone went off. Visit Dr. Bhattacharjee for biopsy report, it read. So the day of reckoning had finally come. He had been having some trouble with a boil on his chin for the past four months. Initially, he had thought that it was the result of just another careless shaving manoeuvre. But then it had been increasing in size. Some amount of prodding by his colleagues finally led him to consult Dr. Bhattacharjee. Dr. Bhattacharjee after hearing him out, too for a moment had ceased to be his usual jovial self. With a grim face, he prescribed a biopsy. “Biopsy? Is it cancerous, doc?” Sourojit was shattered. “I am not sure, but we need to confirm before we continue with our treatment”, said Dr. Bhattacharjee. “Get your report a week later”.

That was last Wednesday. The week had been hectic for Sourojit. Driving from his
Santoshpur Avenue flat to his Salt Lake office would suck out half of his energy everyday. He worked as the marketing manager in a reputed pharmaceutical company. The company had recently come out with a new drug and as had been happening in the previous couple of weeks, this week too had passed off in a jiffy, preparing and making presentations, attending doctors, formulating strategies and the like. So much so that the report had gone out of his mind. Dr. Bhattacharjee’s grim face was also forgotten. But his mobile phone had brought him back to the present. Is it cancer? What if it is? What will happen to me? My career? And Sweta? Will she miss me after I am gone? Will she cry over my dead body? Probably not. After all hadn’t she herself shouted on the phone the other day that she hated him? No, Sweta will never miss me. She might rather be happy. Sourojit had by now decided to give office a miss. So he will have to wait till 10 AM before he got the report. Two cups of strong coffee and three cigarettes later, he sat down with the newspaper. The “Sunday feeling” refused to leave him. India had won the one day series in Australia and Dhoni had become the new national hero. There wasn’t much else to catch the eye. It was 8.30 AM. Another one and a half hours of wait. Sourojit wondered what to do. Should I call Sweta? She wasn’t aware of his condition. Though Sweta had left him six months back, he would often call her up. Her response would mostly be cold and many a times she wouldn’t even take the call. He would also often take a detour through Gariahat so that he could drive past Sweta’s Dhakuria flat, hoping to catch a glimpse of her, even if that would take another forty five minutes to reach his office. Sweta had gone to live in Dhakuria six months back, two years into their marriage. Calling Sweta now would not serve any purpose. She would be on her way to office. He called his office and informed them that he won’t be coming that day. He arranged some files, made another cup of coffee, and smoked another cigarette but time just refused to pass. It was just 9.15. Dr. Bhattacharjee’s clinic was just a 15 minutes drive away. Sourojit was having butterflies in his stomach. He shaved, took his bath, had some buttered toast and another cup of coffee. 9.55 AM and he was off.

Dr. Bhattacharjee was intimated of his arrival. On entering his chamber, Sourojit had the first sting of doubt. Dr. Bhattacharjee was unusually grim. “Morning Doc. What does the report say?” , Sourojit found himself croak. His efforts at remaining carefree were failing him. Dr. Bhattacharjee got up from his chair handed him the report, and placed a hand on Sourojit’s shoulder. “You came here a bit too late”. Sourojit didn’t need to be told anything else. The doctor continued, “The stage of metastasis has set in a little time back. I am afraid there is very little which can be done now.” Dr. Bhattacharjee’s words did not reach Sourojit’s ears. He was not hearing anything. “How much time do I have,doc?” He heard himself asking. “Three months at five cigarettes a day”. Sourojit rushed out of the clinic. He was shattered. Why did this have to happen to him? Why him? What should he do now?  He drove through the bye pass to Karunamoyee and then came back home, all the time groping for an answer.  He had not found any answer on the way. He had always hated death. He loved life. He was a passionate singer and was a member of the college band at
Jadavpur University, from where he did his bachelors in pharmacy. He had taken his passion to Delhi where he went for his MBA and was also judged the best singer on many occasions in many competitions. Always flamboyant in his college days, and even now, he loved wearing new clothes, eating good food and partying. He would smoke the costliest of cigarettes and wear the costliest of brands. Sweta had often chided him for his spendthrift ness. But he was not the one to listen. “What the hell I earn 50000 bucks a month for?” He would ask.

He was still looking for an answer to his question. Why him of all on this earth?  He felt like crying. He was missing Sweta. He desperately wanted to hear her voice. He was looking for comfort. He wanted someone to say that this was a bad dream and would not last. He tried Sweta’s mobile phone. It was switched off. He did not feel like having his lunch. He tried to sleep but sleep eluded him. He lighted another cigarette. Should he hang himself? Three months later or now. He was dying anyway. At least if it is now he won’t have to count his final days. Then finally it dawned upon him. He had hurt Sweta a lot. God was now giving it back to him. He had got his answer. He was being punished for all the misery he had heaped upon Sweta. Sweta’s tears were the cause “why it was he of all on this earth”. He found himself unable to think rationally. He remembered the day when Sweta left for her Dhakuria flat. That was the Thirteenth of December. A Friday. “Friday the thirteenth is unlucky”, Sourojit would often say. Sourojit remembered Sweta’s teary eyes that misty December morning. And also the hatred behind those tears. The hatred in her eyes had haunted him for about three months and he had not dared to call her up all this time.

Sweta’s flat in Dhakuria was very near to the Dakshinapan shopping complex, where he had met her for the first time. That was in 1998. Sweta was a student of  computer engineering in Sonarpur, not far from Jadavpur and stayed in a PG accommodation near
Jadavpur University. Sourojit stayed in the university hostel. Sourojit would visit Dakshinapan almost every evening for his daily rounds of adda with his friends. Sweta was introduced to him during one such adda session by a classmate of his, who shared her accommodation with Sweta. They seemed to hit it off instantly. They had many common interests, music being one of them. Sourojit was not a trained singer but sang beautifully. Sweta had learnt classical music in Durgapur, where her parents stayed. They would chat for long hours and would continue it at night on phone. They joined coaching classes for MBA in Jodhpur Park and got calls from reputed institutes. Sourojit joined an institute in Delhi and Sweta went to Hyderabad for her MBA. Their courtship continued for the next two years and Sourojit put the question to her on the day of his placement. It was also the thirteenth of December. But not a Friday. Sweta said yes. Both of them chose Kolkata as the city of their postings. They married in 2004, bought a flat in Santoshpur Avenue and moved ahead with their careers. Sourojit had everything going for him. A successful career, a house, a car and a happy married life, everything he had hoped of as a dreamy eyed youngster in the steel city of Jamshedpur. But then it happened. Soma was newly recruited in Sourojit’s company as a marketing executive. It was 2005. She was to report directly to Sourojit. Teaching her the nuances of marketing in the “highly competitive” pharmaceutical industry, and making business plans together, Sourojit had become quite close to Soma. Suddenly he had started finding faults with Sweta, started shouting at her and once even slapped her. Soma seemed to be perfect in all she did. Sourojit found himself being attracted towards Soma. He started going out for lunches and dinners with her. Sweta, though she was surprised at Sourojit’s sudden change in behaviour had not suspected anything, till Sourojit told it all himself. Sweta was shocked, but hoped that he would come over this fling. But things did not improve and Sweta found a flat in Dhakuria and started living there. Two months later Soma introduced Sourojit to Abhro, her “good friend” from college. Sourojit was stunned. He had never imagined his life to be in such a mess, especially when he had thought that he had everything going for him. But then that is life.

He was jolted back into the present by the sound of his mobile phone. It was a message from customer care. Get a top up of 50 Rs. and get unlimited free local calls to any customer of the same network. Sourojit remembered his college days. He would wait for schemes such as these, so that his late night chats with Sweta could be longer at lesser costs. He smiled in despair. At his helplessness. How much his life had changed in the past six months! Sweta had left him. Soma had ditched him. And now the death knell by Dr. Bhattacharjee a few hours back.

It was 5 PM. He was feeling hungry. He made a cup of coffee and some toasts. After having his full, he lighted another cigarette. His tenth for the day. Dr. Bhattacharjee had said “three months at five cigarettes a day”. At this rate he would live for an even shorter time. He decided to try Sweta’s number once again. This time the call went through.

“Yeah Sourojit, what is it?”, Sweta asked. “Sweta could we meet?”, he gathered courage to ask. “Why? what else do you want to come out with?”, Sweta was cold. “That can’t be told on the phone”. “Please, Sweta”, he pleaded, “please”. He trailed off. Sweta sensed that something was wrong. In the eight years she had known him she did not remember Sourojit’s voice ever breaking. He had always been cool about everything. Absolutely no tension about anything. Sweta would infact silently admire Sourojit for this facet of his personality. Okay 7.30 in the evening. Where do we meet? “Dakshinapan? On the stairs in front of Nazrul Mancha?” “Where we had met for the first time?”, Sourojit suggested. “Okay but by 7.30, I mean 7.30.” Sweta said and hung up. Sweta hated waiting and was very particular about punctuality.

She was surprised. She had been staying away from Sourojit for the past six months. But was some part of her still clinging to the past? Sweta’s thoughts went back to the day when Sourojit had first asked her out. He had turned up a full one hour late. From then on Sweta had always made it a point to remind Sourojit that he should be on time. “When I say 5.30, by that I mean 5.30.” She had often remarked to Sourojit. That was when they would plan to meet after college. Not that it had made much effect on Sourojit who would almost always be late but disarm Sweta with the 100 watt charming smile of his. Sweta’s chain of thoughts was broken by the cuckoo clock. It was 7’o clock. They were to meet at 7.30. For some reasons she did not want to be late today. She reached Dakshinapan at 7.25. Surprisingly Sourojit was already there. Probably for the first time or was it the second time in the eight years she had known him, Sourojit had out timed her. Sourojit looked strikingly thin. Sweta knew that Sourojit would often pass by her flat. She could not have made any mistake here. The deep blue colour of the car, Sweta’s favourite colour and the number, WB-02 R, 1312. The 1312 stood for the 13th of December, the day she had said yes. Perhaps it was an unfortunate co incidence that she had left her
Santoshpur Avenue home on the same date. They had to pay an extra 500 bucks to the transport office at Alipore for the customised number. Sweta also had had some conversations with Sourojit on the phone but had never met him in person in the past six months.

“What is the matter with you? You seem to have lost a lot of weight. Everything okay?”. Sourojit was moved by Sweta’s concern. He felt belittled. Even after what he had done to her, Sweta was still so caring. Or was it a show she was putting up? No Sweta had always been like that. He hated himself for thinking that way. He lost all control over his emotions. He broke down. “No Sweta, nothing is okay”, he sobbed between his tears. A couple seemed to stop, but then moved on. Sweta did not know what to do. A part of her wanted to embrace him and move her fingers through his curly hair, something which she had done the day Sourojit lost his grandfather, a person he was very close to. But the other part seemed to tell her that everything between them was over and they were just two people bound by a tumultuous past. In the end the other part won. Sweta stood there like a statue. Sourojit wiped his tears and looked at her. “Sweta, I am dying.” At first Sweta did not seem to understand. But she didn’t have to probe further. “I have cancer and have got only three months”, Sourojit blurted out and started crying again. As if the burden he had been carrying for the past nine hours had suddenly left him. It was a cry of relief. Sweta could not stop herself this time. She hugged him and ran her fingers through his curly hair. But she didn’t say anything. Perhaps, she was too stunned to react. She still applied sindoor and wore the shankha and the pola, the signs that she was married and that her husband was still alive. They had not formally filed for a divorce yet. Finally after he had stopped crying, he detailed Sweta about all that had happened. Sweta, the good listener that she always had been, heard him out with compassion. She could feel tears stinging her eyes but she controlled herself. Sourojit seemed so vulnerable. She could not afford to break down in front of him. She steeled herself. Sourojit suggested that they eat something. They went to their favourite south Indian eatery and ate their masala dosas in silence. They took leave of each other at nine. Time, it seemed had flown by. Sweta could not control herself after she reached her flat. She broke down. Sourojit, her Sourojit was dying. She still could not come to terms with this fact. It was a fact that she had hated him for all that he had done to her. It also was a fact that they had not been staying together for the past six months. But at the same time it was a fact that somewhere deep down she still cared for Sourojit. Sourojit had told her about Abhro, Soma’s “good friend from college”. She had then in fact felt sorry for him. It was her empathy for Sourojit, for she herself had gone through her share of heartbreak not very long back. She had also wished that they start their life afresh and forget all that had happened as if it were a nightmare. But she never told Sourojit about what she wished. Somewhere her ego had pulled her back. Every time Sourojit called, she would wish that he would make that elusive offer. But her conversations with Sourojit would never extend beyond the formal pleasantries. Slowly, hope had given way to despair and she had brought herself to believe that Sourojit no longer missed her and had learnt to live without her. That was till today evening. Sourojit’s way of talking had somehow given an impression that he was ready for reconciliation. But what happened at Dakhsinapan, was something which she hadn’t thought of even in her wildest dreams.
She was in no mood to eat. She tried watching a movie. But her thoughts wandered elsewhere. She thought of the mess Sourojit had put himself in. She still remembered the night when Sourojit had told her about his affair with Soma. He had in fact blurted it out in a fit of rage. They had a small argument about the food which Sweta had prepared. “What the hell is this?”, Sourojit had shouted. “Why don’t you tell Soma to prepare your food?”, Sweta had retorted. “Ha! Soma, You know what, Sweta, you could never ever even think of preparing food like she does”. “Oh so you have tasted her food? And pray when are you going to sleep with her?” “I wish it were today.” , Sourojit had shouted. “Are you guys having an affair?”. “I don’t know what an affair is but I love her”. Sweta came back to the present. Her phone was ringing. It was Sourojit. He had probably left his ATM card with her. That was a usual practise. Sourojit would never keep his ATM card in his wallet. “If my pocket is picked, the ATM card will be gone”, he would say. He loved wearing jeans and T-shirts and to do away with the discomfiture of the ATM card pricking his thighs through the trouser pockets, he would hand it over to Sweta, when they met. Even after their marriage it was Sweta who would carry it with her, whenever they went out together. Sweta remembered that Sourojit had actually gone to the ATM just opposite Dakshinapan that evening. The past was coming back to them quite naturally. Everything was moving as if nothing had happened. Can’t it be true? Sweta told him that she would hand it over to him the next day on her way back from office. Sweta could not sleep the whole night. At the office too she was preoccupied with thoughts about Sourojit. Sourojit was not bad. He had just lost his way. She was sure he missed her as much as she missed him. Sweta reached
Santoshpur Avenue at 7. It was after six long months that she was travelling on S-9. Everything seemed so familiar. Even the conductor for once had seemed to recognise her. Earlier she would come to Karunamoyee from her Sector V office and take the 6.15, S-9 from there. The watch man at the apartment complex looked surprised but gave her a salaam, nevertheless. “Kemon Achcho, Basuda”( How are you Basuda), she asked. “Chole jachche didi” (Life is moving on didi). Sourojit was waiting for her. He told her that he had taken a week’s off from his office and would join only next Monday. Sweta sat in the drawing room. The interiors had not changed much after she had left. A new table clock now occupied the place on the rack, where Sweta’s convocation photograph stood earlier. Sourojit’s convocation photograph was still there. The TV screen had a thick layer of dust. So Sourojit still hates cleanliness, she thought. Sourojit looked weak. He seemed to be having some problem with his breathing. “How many today?” she asked. “15 and still counting”. Both of them were surprised at the natural manner of the question and the answer. They smiled to themselves. Sourojit had always been a heavy smoker. That was probably the only thing about him that Sweta found disgusting. “Why don’t you quit it?”, she would ask. “It keeps me awake”. “And I am not quitting till the doctor says, another puff and you are gone.” “But why reach such a situation?”. “Oh! Come on Sweta, Everyone of us has come here with a fixed span. Smoking or no smoking you are going to die at the time you are supposed to. Not a second earlier, not a second late”. “But if you say I might consider reducing my intake”. Then onwards it had become a practise. Whenever they would meet, Sweta would ask “how many today?”

Their past was slowly but surely making its way into their present. And probably both of them wished, nothing had happened and life would have been moving as usual. There was an eerie silence in the room. Sourojit spoke first. “Coffee?”, he asked. “Okay”. Sourojit was an expert coffee maker. Somehow he always seemed to get the combination of the coffee powder, the milk and the sugar right. Sweta would in fact envy him for this skill of his. The coffee mugs were the same. Sourojit had taken special care to get her the coffee in her favourite “Dennis the Menace mug”. They had bought the set from Gariahat, just after their marriage, when they lived in a rented accommodation in Mukundapur, just off the EM bye pass. They did not talk much. And whatever they talked was just a formality. Probably an effort to keep the conversation going. Sweta left at 8.30. The C-5 which she took was surprisingly not very crowded. She reached her flat at 9:30. The long route which C-5 would take had always irritated Sweta. She was feeling hungry. She had some subzi from the morning. She prepared some chapattis had her dinner and went to sleep. Last night’s sleeplessness was making its presence felt.

Sourojit would call her up more frequently now. She would also call him up occasionally and would also sometimes drop in at his flat on her way back from office. The discomfort between them however was still there. Sourojit would look tired and would often gasp for breath. He had also been losing weight. Sweta would not spend much time in his flat and would often cry after coming back. Her Sourojit was going away from her. “Why us of all on the earth?” she would ask the photograph of Goddess Kali which hung just above her bed.

About one and a half months after she came to know about Sourojit’s condition, she received a call from the AMRI hospital in Dhakuria. “Mrs. Chatterjee”, the voice said, “Your husband has taken ill and has been admitted to AMRI, Dhakuria. He gave us your number and told that we intimate you about it. The visiting hours are between 5 and 6 in the evening.” Sweta hung up and ran to the washroom. She put the tap on and cried. So her Sourojit was finally leaving her forever. She will have to start circling the dates on the calendar once again. Exactly as she did during her MBA in
Hyderabad. Earlier it would give her an idea of the number of days left before she could meet Sourojit. Only this time it would be to get an idea of the number of days before Sourojit left her forever. She visited him in the evening. He looked weak but was breathing properly. He was discharged the next day. She had already applied for a week’s casual leave so that she could be by his side all the time. Well almost all the time. Because despite their being husband and wife, she somehow felt uncomfortable in sharing the bed with him. She would go back to her flat every night and would be at his flat by 7. He was still able to do everything himself. Only his gasps had increased. The doctors at the hospital had refused to specify the number of days he had. “It could be tomorrow, it could even be another two months.” Sourojit suggested that she move in his flat. “Temporarily”. “So that I could have you beside me if I were to die suddenly”, he gave a weak smile. “You can use the other bedroom if you please”. He understood her discomfiture. Sweta agreed.

They were now a little more comfortable in each other’s company and would chat for hours. Sourojit’s speech had become slower and he would gasp for breath more frequently. She would play his favourite records on the CD player and would sing “Tere Liye Palkon Ki jhalar bunoon” for him. This was the song she had sung when Sourojit had once jocularly told her to prove her love for him. And almost every night she would cry till she slept.

Shweta would always make it a point to steel herself in front of Sourojit. But one day she could not contain herself. She hugged Sourojit and asked “Sourojit why did this have to happen to us?”, she sobbed. “What harm have we done to someone that God has singled us out? Can’t we get back with our lives? As if nothing has happened? Can’t we get a time machine , go back in time and change everything?” “I love you Sourojit. I have always loved you. More than I would ever love myself. I won’t be able to live without you.” “Please Sourojit don’t leave me alone.” Sourojit’s eyes fell on the desk calendar. It was Friday, the 13th of July. “So Friday the thirteenth is not always unlucky”, he thought. He closed his eyes. He could feel tears streaming down his cheeks. His face wore a contented look. He did not hate death anymore. Life had taken Sweta away from him. It was death which had brought her back. How could he hate death then?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Beyond The Blue Door

By Ananya Mukherjee & Prodipto Roy
My Little Magazine

In a rain swept afternoon, when nature’s at a tempestuous rage and the world is holding its spears against me…I am looking at a blue door, the superfluous ethereality of a divine dream that transcends the limitations of reality, fear and offers a flexibility of choice beyond the natural or the ordinary. The non-synthetic unreal trance manifests in the reality of its origin. The origin that translates into two words…second chance!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Orchid Woman

By Sanghamitra Das
Santiniketan, India
My bridal trousseau is ready, woven with cobwebs stretched on a loom of mango branches .
The spring has shaken me from the shackles of hibernation. Lustral April shower sprinkled  dust on me. I woke up inflamed, breaking into blooms of white, mauve, yellow, etched with macula of sienna, the threaded motifs of the eternal seamstress to adorn my virginity.
The feeble vela , my hair extensions, reach out to sip the moisture potions from the air cooling me from within. The strumming cord of the gentle breeze quavers in celebration. My lack of oration compensated with the fragrance of the ornate blossoms.
 In my futile attempt to resist this perilous and stormy romance with the nature, the tree holds me firm in offering. I am an Orchid woman soon to be wedded with the eternal He man-- nature.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Am a Woman

By Rituparna Chakraborty
New Delhi, India
Earth is a Woman. So is our country India. And here we are struggling and debating over the Women’s Reservation Bill on whether entitlement IS the road to empowerment.

As I represent the woman of Urban India now guess my perspective would also be completely different. Important to share, though, that I was born in the small town of Durgapur in West Bengal. My father is a doctor and my mother was a housewife till my younger sister grew up and now a school teacher. Durgapur isn’t exactly a land of opportunities but definitely a land of good education. My education and my parents were the reasons behind me never thinking of myself even a shade less capable in any task than my guy friends. Maybe, the fact, that I didn’t have a brother was responsible in many ways my never differentiating between a man and woman either in ability or capability. Always had more guy friends than girl friends and I dared them all the time and not because I wanted to prove that as a woman I could do better but because I thought of myself as an equal contender in all our rendezvous.

Now that I live in a land of far better opportunities and that I have a great job in hand I ask myself whether I could have done better with women reservations or better still being a man – my answer would be a definite “no”. My own lack of aspiration or mediocre standards could be a reason but not my gender.

What the woman of this country needs is their right to education and ofcourse the right to live. The day women of India are liberated from these two constraints we shall earn our place in society, workplace and in democracy.

And yes, am not wishing anyone a “Happy Woman’s day” today. Well imagine a single day without a woman!

Pancham Unmixed: An Unending Journey

By Abhishek Chatterjee
An intimate take on the man and his music, Brahamanand Singh’s ‘Pancham Unmixed’ is a documentary long overdue. RD Burman, or Pancham, as he was christened, might not have been quite in the same league as his father, SD Burman, or even other greats of the golden era of Indian cinema, such as Shanker-Jaikishen and OP Nayyar, but for a whole generation growing up in the 70s and 80s, film music started and ended with Pancham. And for good reason – no other composer of the time (with the possible exception of his one-time assistants Laxmikant-Pyarelal) transcended genres as effortlessly as he did, moving from western influences to Indian classical with incredulous ease. And then, almost all of a sudden, in the late 80s and early 90s, the great man was nearly out of work, miserable and lonely, and craving that one commercial success. The success came soon afterwards and how…but sadly, ‘RD’ never lived to pop the bubbly.

Singh’s documentary takes a look at the rise, fall, redemption and legacy of RD Burman through the eyes of his colleagues and contemporaries, and cheerfully, he gets access to film luminaries like Shammi Kapoor, Asha Bhosle, Gulshan Bawra, Laxmikant, Rishi Kapoor, Javed Akhtar, Shailendra Singh, Bhupinder, Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Vinod Chopra, Manna Dey and many more. Most of the interviewees share their personal memories of Pancham and many lesser known anecdotes come to light, such as the time in the 60s when he used to pass off his own tunes as his father’s, just to get producers to give him a serious listen (as narrated by Asha Bhosle) and his personal trauma when ‘Saagar’ failed at the box-office in 1985. Viewers are also introduced to devoted ‘RD’ accompanists, the likes of Manohari Singh, Kesri Lord and Louis Banks, with whom he made some of his most lilting soundtracks. These gifted musicians take us through Pancham’s music making process and describe his predilection for new sounds, new technologies and innovative recording techniques. For 1982’s ‘Satte Pe Satta’, when a suitably eerie background score was required to introduce the hero’s evil look alike, ‘RD’ asked singer Annette Pinto to gargle a tune to create the score! It’s a memorable piece of music and it is indeed difficult to think of any other composer who could have pulled this off with any degree of credibility. The film, fittingly, takes a look at some of RD’s background scores, which are in no way inferior to his more popular film songs; films like ‘Sholay’, ‘Satte Pe Satta’ and ‘Kitaab’ being cases in point.

And what of legacy? RD Burman’s ageless body of work speaks for itself and therefore, it is no coincidence that he remains one of the most remixed composers today. We also have some of today’s leading music composers talking about the effect that Pancham’s music has had on them. In the often brash and irreverent world of Bollywood, it is refreshing to see a bit of ready admiration, especially where it’s overdue. Shankar-Ehsan-Loy, Vishal Bhardwaj and Shantanu Moitra, all enumerate instances of Pancham’s influence in their compositions. RD’s universal appeal is nowhere more aptly demonstrated than in this segment of the film.

But the film’s most engaging interviewees are easily Vinod Chopra, who stuck by the composer in the days he was out of work, and for whom he delivered the peerless ‘1942- A Love Story’ score in a fitting ‘coup-de-grace’ to the naysayers, and Gulzar, with whom ‘RD’ made some of his finest music. The lyricist and film-maker sparkles in the film, and with almost childlike enthusiasm, enumerates anecdote after anecdote from their legendary association, like a particularly stressful time during the recording of the song ‘Mera kuch samaan’ from ‘Ijazat’, when a harried ‘RD’, confused with the unusual structure of the song, had remarked to him, ‘What do you want me to compose next? The headlines of the Times of India?’ The Oscar winner is clearly emotional as he remembers ‘RD’ and his music and it is perhaps this shared emotional thread that combined to give us such breathtaking soundtracks like, ‘Libaas’, ‘Aandhi’, ‘Kinara’, ‘Parichay’ and ‘Ijazat’.

For all its virtues, however, ‘Pancham Unmixed’ is not a perfect product. In some respects, it just about whets the appetite. There is only a passing reference to his association with Lata Mangeshkar, who sang some of his best tunes (Perhaps Asha Bhosle had something to say about that?). There is also practically no reference to RD’s other great association, the one with the mercurial Kishore Kumar. While Amit Kumar is extensively interviewed, no questions about his father’s partnership with ‘RD’ are posed and a priceless opportunity goes a begging. While much is made known of his first marriage to Rita Patel and their subsequent divorce, and the ultimately melancholic effect it had on the soundtrack of 1971’s ‘Amar Prem’, we learn almost nothing new about his second marriage to Asha Bhosle. She chooses to remain tightlipped about their personal life, and provides refurbished standard-issue, instead of anything original or insightful about their relationship, which gives the film a certain run-of-the-mill eulogistic quality. But in the end, it is perhaps, as Pancham fans, our impatience to find that complete depository of all things Pancham, that we demand sun and the moon.

For RD Burman fans, the fact that this film never got a wider release is indeed a great disservice. But with the DVD release, this becomes a collectible. Even for those who aren’t ‘RD’-bhakts, this serves as an interesting primer to the man, his world, his music and his legacy. The linear, conversational narrative of the film manages to be engaging enough throughout and avoids flippancy and repetition. Its sharp editing does not necessarily compliment the film, as even the healthy running time of an hour and fifty minutes seems ever so brief. This one deserved to ‘Chalte Jaana’ some more.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Imperial Retreat

By Bidisha Bagchi
St Joseph, Michigan, USA
Bidisha Bagchi

SHAANXI has been at the forefront of Chinese history since time immemorial, as has the River Wei, a tributary of the Huang Ho, better known as the Yellow River. The river meanders through fertile central Shaanxi paralleling the biggest mountain range in the province, the Qingling Mountains.

Li Shan or Mount Li is on the northern side of the Qingling Mountains, near Lintong Town in Xi'an City. At almost 1300 m above sea level, its highest peak is Jiulongding or Black Horse Mountain, so named because it resembles a galloping horse and looks quite dramatic from a distance. The mountain was a retreat during the Tang Dynasty when Emperors enjoyed the hot springs at its foothills and the surrounding landscape views.

One morning, we set off for Mount Li, admiring from a distance the pine and cypress trees that looked as if they were closely hugging each other on the slopes. We alighted at the street from where a narrow yet gentle slope led us to the base of the cable car.

The journey on the ropeway was 10 minutes as the gondolas glided over the Huaqing hot springs and later over the lush green forests and hiking trails. The car stopped at a beautiful terrace, done in typical Tang Dynasty architecture. The panorama from the terrace, with the mountain as its centre point, was fascinating. Admiring nature’s casual stroke of the paint brush, we decided to go further.

At one end of the terrace, a narrow path led up to the mountain and on the way to the top were the Banhu Stone and the Forced Remonstration Pavilion, constructed to commemorate the Xi'an Incident. There, a large part of a rock is engraved with figures and writings describing the event that happened in 1936 when the nationalist leader Chiang Kai-Shek was captured by one of his own generals in order to force him to postpone the war on the Chinese until the invading Japanese had been driven out of the country.

On our way back we once again halted at the Huaqing Hot Springs. Since this was our second visit to this place, this time we decided to concentrate on everything else other than the hot springs. Here, we even got a glimpse of the room where the Generalissimo was actually captured. It was a very nicely set up room. Interestingly, photography isn’t allowed inside the premises but picture postcards are openly sold outside. So we did our bit of shopping to remember the incident.

Apart from the usual ‘hot springs’ of various shapes and sizes used by the royals as well as subordinates, the premises has a few lovely structures and statues too. Notable among all is the statue of Yang-Guifei, one of the four most beautiful women of ancient China and the concubine of Emperor Xuanzhong. The beautifully carved white marble statue is placed by a pool and is the top photo stop for all visitors.

Huan Garden within the premises was the former garden of the Huaqing Palace and the Flying Glow Hall, popularly called the Feixia Ge, was another artistic structure to look out for. In popular legend, the Flying Glow Hall was once the place from where Yang Guifei would enjoy the view and dry her long wet hair… What a luxury, given the modern alternative is a noisy if electric speedy hairdryer!

The most artistic display in the Huan Garden was undoubtedly a long white marble mural describing a royal feast in which the concubine Yang was sent for by the Emperor. The figures are intricately carved and painted and the elaborate spread shown in the carving spoke eloquently of the royal repasts of that time.

On our way back to the city, we halted at the Shaanxi History Museum, one of the best in China. It is divided into three distinct sections and built in the classical Tang style. Thousands of objects are displayed chronologically, many of which have never been put on display earlier.

The ground floor displays artifacts relating to China’s pre historic as well as early dynastic days. Impressive displays include objects from Shang, Western Zhou and Qin dynasties ranging from bronze artifacts, burial objects and even four of the original Terracotta Warrior statues brought in from the tomb of Qin Shi Huang. Items and relics from Han, Western Wei and Northern Zhou dynasties adorn the second section while the third section is full of intricately crafted statues, pale green glazed misi pottery and fascinating murals from the Tang dynasty.

First published in ET Travel, Economic Times (New Delhi)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Tale of Addiction

By AnujShailGupt
Jaipur, India
The charm and the persona,

the eyes and the flicker of hairs,

The fluorescence so magnificent,

mesmerizing the onlooker.

The fragrances of the skin,

unseen in all the known worlds.

The voice so sweet

Beethoven to ears.

The words spoken

filled with exotic juices

from heaven.

Your walk

like the stroll of a fairy.

Your presence is a grace of the gathering.

Your speech, an essence of life.

You are a tale of endless addiction…