Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Picture Perfect...

Edelweiss is the national flower, the country has more lakes than can be counted, the cottages are quaint and the landscape like a story book. Switzerland has always been home of Heidi to me, A book that I loved and re read many many times. Once again yesterday took it out from my daughter's collection to read. We did pass the village of Dorfli on our way to Engelberg, the village where Peter lived.

Here are some landscape picture postcards taken on our way around...

Zurich Lake as seen from a suburban village..

Boats anchored in the calm waters of a lake...

One of the many lakes scattered around this country

A waterfall, a small hamlet and the railing of a bridge..

The sleeping Lion of Lucerne..built in memory of the brave soldiers who fought and died during the World warII..

The Rhien falls..

The city of Lucerne...

The chapel bridge..

A village somewhere in that country..
The Rotairs to Mount Titlis..

The city of Muren at the foothills of Schilthorn..

Pretty flowers everywhere...
The fountain in lake Zurich..a monument of love..showing that love is not static..
Picture perfect postcard from the Matterhorn trail...

Once again thanks to the official photographer.. the last shot is by another tourist who took the same trail with us..

Monday, July 27, 2009

Danke Schon Swiss Railways!!

To give credit where it is due... Swiss railways is synonymous with perfection. The days spent in Switzerland began with their website , we marked our journey plan and it gave us the options of trains available including the changes required if any, the platform number onto which one train would arrive and also the platform number from which the connecting train would leave a particular station. The time that was put on this website for each train and even for the inter city buses did not vary by even a second. With that plan in hand and a back pack we started our day and even ended it. "We don't wait for any body even if you are Barrack Obama..we will leave as per schedule..We keep the Swiss time" The pride was palpable as the guard spoke these lines to me.

The one flat ticket namely the Swiss pass, which is given out for tourists and can be bought at any of the railway counters or even the airport from where we bought ours is the ticket for any surface transport throughout this country.. be it rail, tram, road, or boats.

The trains that travel through the cities, the villages, the bridges, the snow and up the incline of mountains..the steepest cogwheel train that took us to Mount Pilatus is at an incline of 46degrees. Certainly for a person like me, for whom maintaining time is meditational.. Swiss Rails were Demi God.

A few pictures...

Zurich Haufbahnhoff or Zurich Rail Station
The Glacier Express on a Bridge

The World's steepest cogwheel to Mount Pilatus

Carrying us through the snow to Mount Jungfrau Hoch

Drizzling..but anything for a snap!!

With friends! Less people, cleaner trains..

All pictures courtesy Husband..who is always the official camera man! This is part of a short series on picture perfect postcards from the Alps!!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I am happy to be back!!

Ten days in Switzerland. Traveling the length and breadth of a country in the world's best rail service. The breath taking views of hills and lakes, valleys and chalets, the snow covered alps peeping at me from the corners of my vision. The highest point of Europe..Jungfrau hoch, Titlis, Pilatus, Schilthorn..all covered, all registered, the gushing streams, the beaming blooms, the green vineyards, the dot on time trains, the motor free zones, the battery operated cars and buses, the cycling people, the skating kids. cheese and bread, wine and chocolates, tap water that is pure and ice cool. I had a good time. And yet...

This country made me smile and it made me sad too. Why at the most beautiful moment in this place when my husband was praising the country and my kids were rolling in the greenery, was I lost in my thoughts from back home? Why did I miss India? The highest peak of Europe that lies in the Swiss alps, and that we felt proud to just half the height of the Everest.. India has it all and yet we travel abroad for vacations.. I felt guilty admiring Switzerland when I had not admired Kashmir.

The shops close at 6. People though friendly are distant and quiet. Its a land of beauty but its two dimensional...its picture perfect..and like all pictures its two dimesional! I am not discouraging anybody wanting to hit this alpine country.. just my perception!

It feels great to be back home!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

away from blogging for a while...

Hey friends,

I will be offline for the next 10 days or so. Leaving you all with a new look to my blog and one of my favourite posts that was keyed in the day I started blogging. Hope you like it. The post is called 'Roots'

Also came across a portugese proverb that I liked immensely, sharing it with you here :

" the mirror reflects perfectly because it does not think"

Will be back shortly to read all your posts. Have a good time and be safe!


To look back and cherish - a place called home..a place that saw you grow from a precocious child to an adult and enjoyed all the phases in between.. a place full of friends, of laughter and tears, loss as well as victories.. of impulsive moves and secrets shared.. adventures and joyrides, rebuking and encouraging pats - a place we all leave behind..

We travel far and wide in search of our destinies and at times ridicule the peers who stay behind.. we are enamored by wealth, glamour, and the jet set world, and believe me, none of it is wrong.. and yet the best memories are always from back home.. Our minds and egos get satisfied (if ever they know the meaning of the word) as we reap the harvest of our hard work, but the soul's nourishment is from the fields we leave behind.

Does that mean we stand still? Not take a path of our desire and find a place under the sun that is rightfully ours? Definitely not..but the wings of our flight need to have the strength of our roots. Alex Haley, probably introduced us to this meaning of the word "Roots" and by now it has become quite a cliche.. we keep hearing of the European in search of his roots.. but this search is within all of us maybe in differing scales of priority.

As expatriates we all know that the best journey is always the journey home. The heart gets parched like the dessert sand over the year long wait and is only drenched in joy once the flight lands to the place of our origin..for a month we replenish stocks, get busy in buying things, refuelling our wardrobes and larders.. as we go about fulfilling our physical needs.. our inner eye is clicking away familiar landscapes now hurriedly passed by, but to be relived at leisure on the return flight.. Bitter sweet memories of Home is what we essentially carry back to see us through another year of deprivity.

Life goes on and we grow with it and follow paths that have been determined for us in an unknown script.. the strength always drawn from the reservoirs of purity and innocence of our roots. As we all know roots do not grow in a day or a year or even a few live in a place and get to know it and develop a bond that is healthy and fertile takes time..most of us were lucky enough that our parents gave us that time..gave us a place to look back upon and smile..Are we doing that for our kids? are we giving them roots? In our strife towards material gains and prosperity at the shortest possible time are we sparing a thought towards the next generation.. "to look back and cherish..." a blank for them.. or a series of everlasting, nomadic journeys.. lots of mere acquaintances formed.. but no childhood friend..houses of brick and cement..but never a home to build memories this our gift to our children? ..for just a few pennies more...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Arunabho - The glow of the Sun!

She had always liked the name 'Aditya'. It brought images of a warrior, of a chariot blazing with the gold of sun. It was an image of an invincible, uncompromising man who was powered by the courage of truth. Who stood tall without fear in the battle of life. It was also the closest image to her childhood sketch of Karna- her favourite mythical character.

A soft and shy girl, she got married with ease to a fairly good looking boy, from a decent family. There was no sparkling fireworks that she felt on seeing him, but that was ok, she had not expected any. The boy was educated, earning well, living not far from her city. All in all good husband material, somebody who would prove to be respectful and caring towards her parents and affectionate towards her younger siblings. A far cry from her warrior of the sun, his name was Soumya, meaning gentle, mild, a steady glow. She accepted the steadiness of a candlelight to that of the blinding blaze of the sun.

Life was smooth and easy. She liked his sense of humour, his soft spoken nature. She respected his meticulous habits, his penchant for cleanliness, his warmth was infectious and genuine, he was adored by her parents and her siblings, and she started falling in love with candle lights.

They planned their future amidst coffee and excel sheets. She offered a vision and he detailed it, He built the dream and she coloured it. They lived comfortably, enjoying small pleasures. An evening spent at the beach, a movie at a multiplex, a dinner out once a month, A rocking chair for a particular corner, a lamp shade for another. He bought home flowers every week. A few years passed and the stork came visiting.

Their joy was unbriddeled. They took all the guidance offered by the elders and bought Dr. Spock's book as well. They read the pages together and marveled at the miracle of life. The morning sickness, the pigmentations, the moods were accomodated happily in the larger picture of their baby coming to life. Monthly visits to the doctor, the sound of a heart beat for the first time, the first sonography were all milestones in this journey that brought them even closer together.

As months progressed, there came the issue of naming the child. At once she said ,"Aditya". The image she had stored away came in front of her eyes full throttle. The golden chariot, the fearless and strong warrior of the sun, the power of courage, all these images filled her to the brim and she said once again,"Aditya, thats what I will name my son." "And what if we have a daughter, what will you call her then?" asked Soumya, smiling gently. She had never considered a daughter, and after these images, she didnt even want to. So she feigned tiredness and turned on her side saying,"You think about that, I will sleep for a while."

A daughter, such soft and tender emotions the word can evoke. A smaller version of the only girl he had ever loved. The same eyes, the same dimple. Soumya stayed with this magical thought throughout the night, comparing his image to every name the internet sites offered, No name did justice, it seemed to his mind's image, but his practical and steady mind plundered on. His goal was to come up with a name by dawn.

'Abha' is the name he liked the most. It seemed to convey all the qualities he felt his daughter would possess. The warm and soft halo of light that softens all rough edges. His gentle nature evoked images of a shy and soulful girl and the name went with this image perfectly. Over tea the next morning he introduced his wife to 'Abha'. It was decided then and sealed with a loving kiss of the parents who were now counting days for their image to come to life! A boy would be named Aditya and a girl would be named Abha. They kept the names to themselves and did not encourage helpful relatives to come up with names for their baby.

Finally the day dawned and Soumya drove his wife to the hospital for the delivery. Things went as per his meticulous planning and he tried to make it as comfortable for his wife as possible. He stayed with her througout the long hours of labour, wiping her forehead everytime it filled with drops of sweat, encouraging her and calming her alternatively. As the final push came into play his ears were numbed by the cry of his cherished dream and also by the shrill ring of his mobile. Years of habit made him take the call as his eyes looked at the radiant boy that was born to them.

The news on the other end was shattering, His father in law had succumbed to a major heart attack. In the labour room the doctor was cleaning his son as his wife lay drained on the bed. His mind was reeling under both the emotions. The caller on the other end was saying a name.. he didn't get it first.. again after a few seconds the caller said, "Dad had thought of a name for didi's son. he was sure she would bear a son. He wanted the child to be called, 'Arunabha'(pronounced Arunabho meaning the glow of the sun)."

The call ended and he saw himself sitting beside his wife. The bundle in their joint arms. He held them both to him and said in a steady voice, "Our son will be called Arunabha. This was what your dad wished, and we will honour that." Nothing more was required to be spoken as the enormity of the moment where she had lost one and gained another dawned on her.

Arunabha grew up to be a warrior of the sun who fought to soften the rough edges of society with his courageous fight against the system and his compassion for his fellow countrymen. He shone like the glow of the sun!

A complete work of fiction, with shades of personality traits taken from people I have known. The story developed on an idea of naming kids given to me by my friend Amrit.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Did he really take her away??

There is something about being young and having a wedding in the family! The year was '92 and my cousin was getting married. The rest of us were at the threshold of ending our teens, feeling the excitement of planning our wardrobe for this wedding. Bengali weddings done in the traditional style have around four to five days of festivities. And each day requires at least two change of dresses, if not more .That in turn requires lots of sessions of ransacking various wardrobes, even the bride's!!

The older and already married cousins proved to be God's gift. They not only let us trample through their kanjeevarams, but even helped in resizing their blouses for us. There was a lot of preening in front of mirrors and taking in opinions, both wanted as well as unwanted, from various members of the family. Comments like,"Ohh!! That colour makes you look so dark!!" or some light hearted flirting from the older brother-in-laws saying," Uff!! had I seen you in that Saree before, I would have married you instead of your sister!" The week before the actual wedding day was filled with nervous tension for the bride and agonizing stress for us cousins who had yet to accessorize their sarees with jewellery!

Late nights saw the bride holding a 'Let- us- get- to- know- each- other' conversation with her husband to be, while we sat in the same room at our wit's end trying to organize our stuff. Often the groom to be, was left dangling at the other end of the std call as the bride helped us reach a decision. And it also happened that the most romantic sentence uttered by the groom went unheard and thus un-responded to, because the rest of us were squabbling about colour choices.

The excitement was palpable as the day approached. Informal sessions of songs and dances have always been a part of this family. The day before the wedding everybody gathered and sat around singing Rabindrasangeet, Bhatiali(Bangla folk songs), as well as popular Hindi numbers. The Hindi hits were supplied endlessly by the bride's best friend, who had herself been married just a month back.We danced to songs from 'shohag chaand bodoni dhoni naacho to dekhi' to 'main sasural nahin jaungi doli rakh do kaharo'. It was a family that was together, a family that loved songs and us sisters who were most uninhibited in this environment.

The wedding day arrived and saw us all trooping in to a parlour to dress our hair. It was a daunting task for the poor lady as there were 7 of us and all with highly unmanageable hair. She was still at her task when somebody hollered from outside," what are you girls up to? You've been gone since ages, and now the borjatri (baraati)has arrived and you are still dressing up??get on with it right now" looks of dismay were passed as we identified the voice to be that of our most stern brother in law, who we knew would not think twice before literally dragging us from the parlour in our various stages of undress. We finally just thanked the lady, brushed our hair and made a quick exit looking sheepish and silly.

That was '92 we were just stepping out of our teens and one amongst us was getting married. Today 17 years have passed. The rest of us have also got married. We have grown from borrowed sarees to self bought ones, from worrying about accessories to worrying about getting leave to attend weddings. The next generation has started taking their vows. Yet it seems like yesterday that she got married and we spent a teary night in our nightgowns discussing how awful it would feel to sign her name differently, to have to ask for permission to visit her own parents. It seems like yesterday that DG took her away in a white decorated car amidst a deluge of tears and the sounds of conch shell.

And today ... I am not sure where she ends and DG starts. To me they are one today and always!

This is part of my chat with her today when we accidentally discovered that both of us were writing on the same subject

suggest a heading for my post

i was about to ask you to suggest a heading for mine

yours I haven't read
you were saying 17 and still not dead
or murdered

mine is how i met my future husband and said yes

think of a song

you think of a song
i am thinking of murder

the song from murder
bheege hont tere

pyaasa dil mera

more like aa dekhe zara kisme kitna hain dum

Here's wishing both of you a very happy anniversary and many many joyous years together!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Being happy and passing it on..

A few days back I was going through a book by Deepak Chopra. There was a particular line by him that just drilled its way right into my brain. I am sharing it here. He was talking about relationships and how we cling on to people as well as objects at times consciously and at times unconsciously. This behaviour is obviously very irritating for the person we are clinging too..but we dont realise its doubly unhealthy and harmful to us than to whom we are clinging. The only option to live happy and fulfilled is to let go. Let go of the past, of failed relationships, of sorrows and pains, of joys that were taken away, of injustice, of love..

To remind us whenever required of how suffocating it is to cling and what a relief it is to let go, he asks us to to do this..

Take in a deep breath, filling your lungs with oxygen
Hold on to it
Don't breathe out for as long as possible
Just keep on holding on to it, it's oxygen, it's yours, it's good, why let it go..keep holding on to it

Sense what you are feeling
Now slowly exhale
let go, even if it is good, even if it is yours, let go slowly
Now sense your feelings!!

I was bowled by this simple exercise, knowing is one thing, and doing it is totally another! Do it will realise the joy of letting go!!

On that note am passing on the two awards that were given to me.

The first one was International blogger's community award from Sucharita Sarkar. Thanks Sucharita it made me feel special.

1. The person who tagged me: Sucharita Sarkar 2. Her site URL: 3. Date of Tag: 28th June 2009 4. Persons I have tagged are:
I am passing on my happiness to

Kishore, SumanDebRay, Shaye of Miller Memories, Anil, JD, and Roshni Mitra Chintalapati

The Rules for this tag are:

1. Link the person who tagged you.
2. Copy the image above, the rules and the questionnaire in this post.
3. Post this in one or all of your blogs.
4. Answer the four questions following these Rules.
5. Recruit at least seven (7) friends on your Blog Roll by sharing this with them.
6. Come back to BLoGGiSTa iNFo CoRNeR (PLEASE DO NOT CHANGE THIS LINK) at and leave the URL of your Post in order for you/your Blog to be added to the Master List.
7. Have Fun!

Questions & Your Answers:
1. The person who tagged you:
2. His/her site's title and url:
3. Date when you were tagged:
4. Persons you tagged:

The second award was The honest scrap award from NR. Wow!! am really happy!

This award is being passed on to

Ishita, Bluebird, Shivi, and Gymnast

I hope all of you enjoy the moment as much as I did and then promptly let it go..
Thanks for visiting. All the encouragement is truly and sincerely appreciated!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Of careless whispers and silent calls...

The "making naughty eyes" remark in Aparna's post and our subsequent chat about those rocking days took me back in time. The days of winks, whistles and crank calls. We have all been through that phase, haven't we?

Dressed in midis and pumps, shampooed hair and a neat ribbon at times, saw me walk with such a spring in my steps across the road to my friend's house. Those were usually happy and carefree days full of enthusiasm and spirit, mirth and bouyancy. Just at the point where my house would be out of sight and my friend's house yet not in sight, would the most dampening encounter happen.

A persistent and irritating sound.. something like chch chch chch, which was best ignored and yet the head turned. To witness yet again a gutless romeo on a cheap bike giving the broadest wink ever...eeeeeeoww!! Not only was it a wink, there was a distinct head tilt with it, which transformed into,"chalti hai kya?" if put in words. Now this might not be very clear an image to the young generation of today. What with unlimited access to chat rooms and text messages.. but ask anyone from my generation and they will smile! Wonder what finally happened to these losers who stood patiently at the bends of the road doing their monotonous drill. A few responded to them with anger, a few even probably smiled back, and the ones like me perfected the art of acting dumb!!

The days of black telephones without caller ids. The silent calls, the random number dialling and the give away giggles, the fat directories,and the aftermath. A guessing as well as a blaming game promptly started once the silent calls came.

Phone conversation part1

Ringing phone, dad picking up, nobody speaks. After a few hellos he puts down the reciever and forgets about it. Again the phone rings, Mom picks up, again no one speaks...

Mom(with narrowed eyes):
"All this shampooing is the cause, from tommorow oil your hair and wear them in plaits!! And you will discard all those T-shirts you have, They are way to tight."

Dad with a sympathetic look towards me:
"Its just a call, maybe somebody is not getting the line, it could be anybody, leave the poor kid alone."
Mom: "You just dont get the point.. shes no longer a kid, today there are calls, tommorow those Romeos will come knocking on the door."
Me: "How is it my fault if somebody calls up and doesnt speak."

Dad:" exactly!"

again the silent call, this time mom picks up..

Mom on the phone:
"Listen whoever you are, next time you call this number I will report you. What are you doing wasting your father's money on this stupid calls? Dont you have any sense, any decency?Anything better to do with your life?"
This was just an edited version of what she said on the phone, the guy was such a loser, he actually heard the entire thing before disconnecting, dad went back to his newspaper, and I was red behind my ears trying to think which guy could it be? and what if he was the good looking bloke from my class, whom I quite fancied! shoot how will I face him again, mom is such a disaster!!

Then there were those calls from the slightly more adventurous. The guys who spoke when you picked up the call.

Phone conversation part 2

me: "hello"

caller: "Hi can we be friends?" (btw they were more courageous than the orkut stalkers mind you!!)

me ( again getting red and hot out of sheer fright): "I dont know you"
caller: "That's the whole point, I have seen you cycling to school."
me: putting the reciever down with a sinking feeling and a tipsy head.

Mom as usual standing hawk eyed behind me, waiting for the darned thing to ring again. And what have you!! It does ring again and mom plunges to pick it up.

Mom: "HELLO!!"

caller ( in a loserish makey girl's voice): "May I speak with Sujata?"

Mom(getting it instantly!): "Dont call this number again, she has no time for boys like you." replaces the reciever firmly.

Mom with narrowed eyes starts the shampoo and tshirt lecture again, with an added point about my new fangled interest in hollywood flicks. A forecast of a doomed future if I continued like this follows ..

Me looking stricken and dumb and thinking Dear god give me the guts and the sense of framing proper answers to Mom.

Hind sight makes it all funny, it was not bad even then. the days of careless whispers, whistles and black telephones. I am a bit more diplomatic than my mom was, but my eyes do tend to become hawk like when my daughter chooses a dress or insists on a particular hairstyle!

It was a phase of evolving, of judging right from wrong, of having some fun in the process, of ego boosts and shy looks, of creepy whistles and lewd gestures, of being conscious of the legs, teeth, pimples, parents, and everything in between. It was the the 1980s and it rocked!