Tuesday, February 21, 2006

City of Joy

Sorry guys for the delay in posting this. With my daily 4hrs commute and weekends with V, I hardly get time to do much.

Anyway, during the second week of my stay in India, I had to go to Calcutta for my Visa work. I went with my parents, my brother and a cousin. My brother, having studied there, loves the city. For me, I never had a great impression about the place. But this time, I have to admit, I loved it! I had fun shopping, enjoyed the crowd, the road conditions had improved considerably but of course the traffic experience was as harrowing as ever! While travelling around Sikkim, most of the times I had my heart in my mouth. I still shudder to think the way the drivers speed through narrow winding roads. Traffic in Calcutta was no less. I had been warned by many people who 'returned' to India on how they had reacted to the traffic there. However, in spite of being mentally prepared, the moment I was on the roads, I forgot everything and each time another car used to come close to our car, I had to take a sharp breath!

After the cold of Sikkim, the warm weather in Calcutta was a welcome break. I did loads of shopping from New Market to West Side to Shoppers Stop. I was delighted to see how the malls have evolved when I visited the City Centre Mall. But then again was disappointed with my once favorite Sriram Arcade. The ambience and quality of clothes had gegraded horribly! The Swabhumi Heritage Park, which demonstrates arts and crafts of various regions of India, was a treat. The way it had been setup is truly wonderful and I urge everyone in the city to visit it once. It reminded me of the American Native Indian's Cliff Dwellings that I had visited in Colarado. Another wonderful shop that I went to is Sasha. As they have aptly mentioned, it is a shop that offers craft for contemporary living. Though a bit steeply priced, the items they have are truly worth browsing as they have handicrafts from all over the world including India.

Foodwise too I had great time...from Bengali machli to tandoori chicken pizza at Pizza Hut...I had great food all the way with my brother acting as the guide to various authentic bengali food. We spent two days in Calcutta and from there we flew to Kathmandu.

Book read during this period...John Grisham's The Testament

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy V-Day!

Dear Friends,

Wish you all a very
HaPpY VaLeNtInE's DaY !!!

May all your days be filled with love of loved ones.

Colors :)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Home sweet, beautiful, peaceful Home

The initial week of my vacation went in a kinda daze. I suffered heavily from jetlag and used to wake up early and feel drowsy all day even though I slept quite late in the night.

I remember the 1st day at home, I woke up a bit after 3am. However much I tried, I couldn't get back to sleep. Finally about 4am or so I heard my Dad stirring. Soon he was in his office room fiddling with papers as usual. It was too cold to get out of the bed but too boring to lie down with eyes wide open. Finally I went to chitchat my Dad and when it was almost sunrise time, we went to the terrace to catch the early morning rays over the Kanchendzonga range.

Now, I must tell you, this must have been the first time that I ever watched the sunrise from my terrace. Normally I would have been fast asleep around this time. Maybe I did watch it once or so when a kid, but was too young to remember or to appreciate the beautiful experience.

The dark morning sky was clouded but luckily the mountain range was clear. Soon the sky turned brighter and we could see the orange haze touching the Kanchendzonga peak and gradually spreading downwards towards lower peaks until the entire range (i.e. whatever could be seen from my terrace) and the sky above it were flooded with bright golden orange color. It was breathtakingly beautiful. I felt ashamed to think that all these years I had never taken the effort to get up early and catch this splendid sight where as my dad does it almost every day.

The rest of the week was spent visiting relatives and doing a bit of shopping. I had forgotten how cold it gets in Sikkim. Even though the temperature was much higher than in New York, because the buildings are made of concrete with no central heating, I used to feel very cold. Most of the evenings when I was at home, I would be either in front of the heater and could not sleep without a hot water bag.

My brother had recently made a trip to West Sikkim on bike with his friends. He brought back with him memories of a place more beautiful than East Sikkim and had lots of amazing pictures to prove it. Me and my parents were enthused to make a 2-3 days trip to West Sikkim...but sadly due to lack of time we had to chuck the idea. One morning all of us went for a morning drive to the higher points in Gangtok...the 'view-points'. They are typical tourist spots providing beautiful view of Gangtok as well as the mountain range. I hadn't been there for quite a while and enjoyed doing the touristy thing, taking pictures with the lovely backdrop and all.

I had decided that while I am there, I would do my dental check-up. One fine day I took an appointment, but didn't go. Finally after New Year's day I went grudgingly. The dentist, as soon as she did my check-up started scolding me for taking so long to visit her. It seems three of my wisdom teeth were gonna trouble me and one had to be taken care urgently. I was called back the next day and off came my wisdom tooth. Wish it was a easy as it sounds here, but just to take out that single piece, it took her almost 4 hours. My entire day was spent there and in the end not only me but even she had to take some pain-killers before going to bed! After that I had to visit her almost everyday to have root canal treatment done to another tooth. I often joke that I spent more time with her than with my family.

Book read during this period... Memoirs of a Geisha
Next....The City of Joy

Friday, February 03, 2006

Homewards Bound

My trip back home was fun and eventful to say the least. Excited as I was to be going back home, my flight to India did manage to dampen my spirit a bit.

Me and V started for the airport with a good 4hrs buffer. But, proving Murphy's Law to be true, we got stuck in an awful jam. Thankfully with the help of friends we managed to find an alternate route but still managed to miss my flight. I was put in a later flight and I was worried I might miss the connecting flight from Paris. Of course the flight got further delayed and when I landed in Paris I was whisked off to another terminal only to be made standing in the queue for more than 1.5hrs. Luckily(?) my connecting flight was also delayed and I managed to catch it just in time. All my dreams of shopping for liquor chocolates in Paris airport duty free shops were smashed to pieces.

I heaved a sigh of relief when I landed in Delhi, but that too was cut short when I saw my name displayed asking if I could kindly see the Air France officials. No surprise, my baggage didn't make it to the connecting flight from Paris even if I did. They said my baggage would arrive the next evening. But I was leaving for Sikkim early morning next day so I had to arrange for them to send them directly to the Bagdogra airport. In a way I was relieved of not having to deal with customs any more. So off I went with my small carry-on luggage. As soon as I saw my parents all the woes and tiredness was forgotten. It was a happy Kodak moment. My parents were surprised to see me empty handed. Then another interesting incident happened. We went out to the parking looking for the taxi my parents had hired that day. As luck would have it, we couldn't find the car or the driver. We went around the parking lot for a good 1hr or so. Finally my dad found him waiting for us in the arrivals. Poor guy, cant blame him. There he was looking for 3 people loaded with huge bags and baggage and we passed by him with just a small suitcase! He couldn't recognize us!

The next day morning we were back at the airport for our flight to Bagdogra (West Bengal, closest airport to Sikkim) . The flight went uneventful and I got to enjoy the flight food complete with a little packet of pickle. When we landed we came to know the whole of West Bengal was on strike. As is normal, in such a situation Sikkim is completely cut off from the rest of the world. This posed a problem as my dad had to go to his office that day. He then booked us on a helicopter ride to Gangtok. Yippee! 3.5hrs of drive through twisting and turning mountain roads would be covered in just 20mins of flight time!

It was a small coptor with a capacity of 6+1 passengers. My parents made the 5th and 6th passenger and I happily sat besides the pilot to occupy the 7th seat. Wheee! I was the copilot!!! The pilot was a friendly Sardarji and I immediately started remembering Ricky :P

If I have been raving about the beauty of the nature of Sikkim, the view from the top tops it all! This was the first time I had viewed the area from that angle and I was awe-struck! The view was breathtaking! The pilot took us along the course of Teesta river. While near the Siliguri area, we got a glimpse of the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary. I craned my neck in hopes of seeing some wildlife but I guess they were all taking a nap.

Soon we approached the hilly regions. I was filled with sensation of wonder as I looked on towards the marvelous view. Sadly the Kanchendzonga range was covered with clouds, else the view would have been more spectacular. We were flying over the green Teesta river with Darjeeling hill on one side and Kalimpong on the other. The Teesta-Rangeet meet below us looked distinct with their characteristic difference in color, one being shades darker than the other.

We then entered Sikkim as we flew over the border town on Rangpo which is unique in itself as it lies half in Sikkim and half in West Bengal. It was delighting to fly over well known towns. I was surprised to know that Pakyong is so close by to Gangtok. I must have passed through Pakyong n no. of times during our trips to my grandparents. I remember it takes us almost 1.5hrs to reach from Gangtok but looking from above, it was just on the other side of Gangtok!

As we approached Gangtok, the first thing I saw was the prominent 'TV Tower' and below it my school. It wasn't difficult to locate my home as it is directly below my school.With glee I spotted other major landmarks in the town. We landed on the helipad and I thanked the pilot for the memorable trip. We made our way through the narrow winding roads towards our home where I was welcomed by a colorful poster with a huge sign saying "Welcome Home!"