Thursday, March 30, 2006

Chal Chaiya Chaiya

Last weekend, me and my friends had made plans to get together in Pittsburgh. 8 of them were driving over from Columbus and I would be going there from NY. We had many reasons to get together and celebrate, one friend got a great new job, one's getting married next month, two of them got new cars and one's birthday falls tomorrow. So, come Friday and I went to work with my overnight bag, all set to go. Unfortunately their plan got cancelled as two of them had some office work to be done during the weekend. So I set off after work, feeling bad that my friends won’t be coming, but all the same looking forward to be with V ;-)

Saw The Inside Man on Saturday. It’s a nice movie, worth seeing once. The highlight of the movie was... nope, not the incredible bank robbery scheme, neither was it the power broker role played by Judy Foster nor was it the handsome Clive Owen and no, it wasn't Denzel Washington's performance. It was our very own Bollywood song Chaiya Chaiya!!!! Yes! As the titles started rolling in at the start of the movie, we were taken aback by the song playing in full blast. They played almost the entire song and even during the credits roll in the end. But I really missed Shah Rukh Khan!

I colored my hair. I had it highlighted with red color. I have done this before, once in India and once after I came here. And both the times I had thought I would never do it again since it spoils the hair so! I had to wait almost a year before by bad/faded hair grew out...and after having 'normal' hair for a few months I got bored! Plus, spring is in the air and I wanted some change! The color looked lovely for a few days. I was supposed to wash it less as possible...but I wash my hair every alternate day....cant leave it for one day more else I look like I have poured a bottle of oil on my head! So now, my hair is back to looking normal. Just three days and the color's almost gone!! *sob sob* To think that I even bought salon special shampoo and conditioner for colored hair! Only one person in my office noticed it! How tragic is that!!!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

India Trip pics

I was finally able to upload some of the pics from my India trip. Click on the two pics below to view the entire sets (India Trip January 2006 and Nepal Trip January 2006). I hope you enjoy them....dont forget to leave your comments!

Sikkim Pics

Nepal Pics

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The last week

My last week in Gangtok is now a blur. The week was crammed with shopping, visits to the tailor, meeting relatives and friends and of course the dentist.

My trip to Calcutta and Kathmandu was so much fun that I had actually forgotten all about my dentist and the impending tasks. So the very next day of my return, I was back at her clinic with a heavy heart. I had to visit her almost everyday for the final touches to my RCT and capping. During the little time that I could squeeze in between the visits, I would go for shopping either with my friend or with my mom. Once we hosted a dinner party and for all close relatives. The next day the same group of people met at one of the relatives house for dinner. The third day the third relative invited the same group for dinner. It was funny coz the only difference between these parties were the venue and the menu.

During this time, I came to know from one of my cousin that she has befriended an old friend of mine. Incidentally, this friend's name also starts with V. We used to be friends since KGs or maybe even before that. We used to stay in the same building and were in the same class till 12th. In fact when we were kids, we used to be best of friends. I still remember that he used to say he'll marry me when we grow up! LOL... After we left school, we had lost contact until now. Through my cousin, I called and spoke to him. It was really good talking to him after all these years. The next day one of my uncle gave me, my brother and cousins a lunch treat. This guy called up at that time and he said he would like to meet I invited him over to the restaurant. When we met, we both were surprised seeing each other. After all it had been 8 yrs since we met. He was so shocked seeing me that he just couldn't get over it. All the time he was constantly telling me how much I have changed and all that....hehe it was fun but embarrassing in front of my uncle and brother.

Soon it was my last day in Sikkim. I went for lunch with two of my closest friends. My poor mom was more busy that me, packing edibles, doing last minute stitches and alterations and packing my bags along with theirs as they too were coming with me to Delhi. The next day with a very heavy heart I bid my brother goodbye. My brother along with a few of his friends had just come up with a magazine and that evening was the launch of the same. I was sorry to miss the function by just a day. He had tried hard to get it pre-poned so that I could also attend, but it didn't work out.

My flight to Delhi was uneventful. After reaching Sikkim House early afternoon, I contacted a friend located in Noida hoping to meet her. Unfortunately both our schedule was such that we couldn't meet. Two of my cousins studying in Delhi came by to meet us. I was meeting one of them after probably 6-7 years. My kid cousin had grown up to be dashing young man and it was fun spending time with them. That evening we went to Sarojini Market, which was pretty close, for some more shopping :)

The next day we went towards Noida for my dad's check-up. I tried once again to meet up with my friend, but again was disappointed. After that we went to Karol Bagh where we did some shopping. In the evening we went back to Sarojini Market for some last minute shopping *grin*. Soon it was time for us to leave for the airport. I hated the airport for not allowing visitors inside. I had to bid my parents goodbye right at the gates. Parting is the most difficult thing ever. I felt wretched for leaving my parents like that...wondering was this all worth? My poor parents were still standing outside in the cold while I was checking in, which took a long time. Finally my check-in was over and I went back to the gate to wave them good bye.

The flight was a bit delayed but I was least bothered as my thoughts were constantly with my parents. We must have flew for and hour or so when they announced that we have to turn back to Delhi as one of the passengers was not feeling well. Once we landed in Delhi, we were stranded in the airport for a good 4hrs waiting for a takeoff slot. I was feeling so wretched that time since I was so close to my parents and yet could not contact them. I was cursing the damn T-Mobile service people for not activating my international roaming in spite of me requesting them. By the time I reached Paris, I had missed my connecting flight. After another long and tiring wait, I was booked in another flight to New York. By the time I reached NY, I was dazed and tired. On landing I came to know that my hand-luggage, which they had asked me to check-in had not yet arrived. I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. On my onward journey, I had my hand luggage with me but got my two suitcases only after 4 days. On my return journey, I had my two suitcase, but my cabin luggage was missing!!! Thankfully, it arrived home the very next morning without further delay. My dear landlord and landlady came to the airport to pick me up and I reached home safe and sound.

So that was my entire trip. Writing about this trip took me longer than the trip itself! LOL! I was once again plagued by jet-lag which took me a whole week to get over

Books read during this period...Journey to the Self by Luna Shrestha Thakur and City of Glass by Paul Auster

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


The flight to Ktm was uneventful. It was fun sitting with my brother making fun of how people in Nepal/Sikkim were more "American" then people in US ;-) Weather in Ktm was pleasant and as soon as we landed, I had this nice and warm feeling of being home. We hired a taxi - looking at which made me think, does this even have an engine? How does a box of tin more around by itself? We were soon "cruising" through the gallis terrifyingly close to other vehicles and pedestrians. Thankfully we made it safely to my mama's house. We received a warm welcome from my nani, mama, mami and cousins and other relatives. I'd met them after about 5yrs and it felt great.

How the week in Ktm went by, is still like a dream. As always, whenever we arrive in Ktm, we were overwhelmed by the no. of visitors and invites for dinners and lunches. Sometimes our schedule is so tight, we have to accommodate and accept invitations for even breakfasts and evening snacks! I had a great time visiting relatives and eating yummy nepali/newari cuisine. Initially, I was apprehensive about the relatives being nosy and asking about when I would get married and all that. Luckily for me, my poor brother was the brunt of all the questions and I was safe behind his misery :)

On the 2nd day of our arrival, we went to a nearby town of Patan. Patan is the oldest and probably the most beautiful cities of Nepal with roads laid with bricks and the town dotted with numerous temples and statues. One of my aunts had an exhibition going on in the famous Patan Museum to showcase her methods/adaptations of the traditional custom of Newari baby massage to the modern European life style. She is a resident of Switzerland and has opened classes there to teach pregnant parents the wonders of baby massage to keep them fit and healthy. Though we all knew about her works and how her methods have become famous there, the exhibition made us realize how our own custom is gradually disappearing in Nepali homes.

Durbar Square in Patan

While we were not visiting relatives, me and my parents were out shopping. My nani is mostly bedridden
and complained a lot of us not staying home. So this time we avoided dinner invitations and made a point to spend atleast evenings at home. I always thought Kathmandu is a heaven for shopping clothes and shoes as most of the stuffs are from Hong Kong. We get similar stuffs in Gangtok too but the choices are limited and prices are high. However, this time I was in for a big disappointment. For one, Ktm has become overtly populated. There were too many people and cars. The choices in clothes too seem to have degraded. I must have scourged so many shops and mall, even went to the brand new Kathmandu Mall during the opening, but had difficulty finding stuffs of my liking. I ended up buying more traditional stuffs like Pashmina shawls and semi-precious stone jewelries/curios. However, I loved shopping in Thamel. Thamel has stuffs which appeal more to "foreign" tourists, but I loved some of the stuffs they had. I went to one shop called "Wild Fibre". They made clothes out of sishnu or nettle. I am not sure if you are aware of Nettle. It is a wild grass found in the Himalayan region. It has its own defense mechanism and is covered with prickly thorns. If you accidentally happen to touch it, it stings like a bee sting. In old times, teachers used to whack naughty kids with sishnu to straighten them up. Some people also cook and eat sishnu like any other saag. So anyway, I was amazed to see clothes made out of it and happily bought a shirt.

While I was there, we got to celebrate Maghe Sankranti. This was the first time I was in Ktm during this festival. Normally on this day we cook (mostly boil) different types of tarul (roots - 9 or more varieties) and eat them. Due to the death of a relative, my mama and family were not celebrating it. So, we were invited to an aunts house to eat tarul. Another custom we follow is the lady of the house puts oil on the head of the other family members - just a drop of mustard oil as aashirwad. I was unaware of this custom as we don't follow it in Sikkim.

Another interesting thing we got to see this time was a procession of a different kind. It seems, on this day, the jyapu people get together and forms procession and goes around visiting temples in Kathmandu. Early in the morning at around 3am, I heard people from our tol or locality playing dholak/maadal waking and calling people. Soon groups of men and women, all wearing their traditional clothes gathered around. When everyone had gathered, they started moving on to the nearest temple which is right there at the chowk. They then move on to the next tol to visit the temple there and so on. They do this the entire day covering more than 300 temples in Kathmandu. And that's not all, they have to visit each temple 3 times.

Makar Sankranti processions

One day before I left for Ktm, me and my parents went to visit Pashupatinath temple. Now, we always make it a point to visit the temple within a few days of our visit, if not the very first day. But this time we just managed to make it on the last day. I love visiting the temple and this time I was pleasantly surprised by the changes in it. The area outside the temple was minus those thali vendors and biggest of all minus the beggars. The place looked so much spacious and clean and even the monkeys seemed much tamed! And we were not allowed to wear slippers! Until the last time I visited, people normally kept their shoes with the thali vendors and they instead gave you plastic slippers which you could wear and go inside the temple compound. This was no longer allowed which, in my opinion was just fine! One funny incident happened there. After the darshan, we approached the man distributing the holi water and when we moved away from him, he asked my dad in hindi bhaisaab kuch di jiye or something of that sort. Now, in many people's opinion, both my parents don't have the typical Nepali look and many think my dad looks like a North Indian. So my dad turned to this guy and asked in newari "and how much do you want?" You should have seen the man's face. Me and my mom were laughing so much. Poor guy was shocked to hear a madisey talk in newari leave alone nepali!

All these days, I had been trying to escape from my parents for a while and go visit Silky Moon. As you all know by now I had gone to visit her. Well, she had given me her phone no. long time ago and it was in my email. I had planned to pen it down from home in Sikkim before I left for Ktm. Unfortunately, my internet was not working and I was unable to visit any internet cafe. Same thing happened in Ktm too. Luckily I knew her workplace and my brother often does business with them so he knew where the place was. So I was hoping that someday I will just be able to get away with my brother and have him drop me there. Twice we managed to "escape" but unluckily were called back home for some or the other reason. My parents knew I wanted to visit this friend of mine, so having no option left, that day on the way back from the temple, I went to visit SM, taking along my parents. Yeah yeah Ricky, I can hear you snickering, but it wasn't so bad :P

I approached her workplace and asked the guard if I can meet Ms...... He asked me who I was, I was tempted to give my name as Colors, but then he looked serious kinds, so I told him I am .... from Sikkim. He called up SM ma'am and asked us to wait in the lounge. As we were browsing around the place, I was excited as ever....will she be surprised to see me, how will we react to each other, will she scold me for not contacting her earlier...all these thoughts were running in my mind, when I suddenly felt someone rush up to me and give me a huge hug. I was taken aback with surprise at such a warm welcome! How the next hour or so went by, is kinda hazy. I was so excited to meet her...this being my first time meeting a blog friend. It was also awkward coz we could only speak generally due to my parents presence. I had so much to ask and tell. I was feeling bad that it had to be like this but at the same time excited abt the whole aspect of meeting her. She remembered my love for momos and fed me with yummy paneer momos. I could feel that she wanted to offer me with her hospitality, had planned loads of stuff to do when we met, but due to my lack of time, I had to disappoint her. So many times she called me badmaash for not having met her earlier or atleast called her :P She truly is as genuine as reflected by her blog and posts. Warm and caring, that's the first thing you will notice about her. Even though we met for a very short time, I could feel very comfortable with if this was not our first meeting, that we have known each other for a long time. Soon it was time for us to leave. She rushed off to somewhere and came back with a gift for me - a book, Journey to the Self by a Nepali author Luna Shrestha Thakur. I was touched by this gesture and we parted with a huge hug once again. As I left the place, I had a smile on my face and a warmth in my heart. Thats the way SM makes you feel by her sincerity and affection.

During the last days of my stay in Ktm, the Maoists had lifted the cease fire and a curfew was declared in the city on my last day from 11pm onwards. That evening, we went to the famous Nanglo restaurant for dinner. As we were walking in front of the restaurant, I saw a well dressed stylish young man and felt he looked familiar. Suddenly it struck me, it was Nima Rumba, Nepal's famous pop sensation! He was walking along with his friend and some young kids were calling his name and teasing him. Funny thing was that I hardly recognize any of the Nepali celebs. The only reason I recognized him was that one of my friend in Gangtok had shown me her picture with him when he had come to Gangtok recently. Due to the curfew, we were carrying just our wallets and had left our camera and cell phones at home. I wonder even if we did have a camera, would we have done anything, since we just looked at him and walked pass him without giving him any bhav. My brush with Nepali celebrity.

The next day we reached the airport well ahead of time. Like many flights that day, our flight to Bhadrapur (nearest Nepali airport from Sikkim) was delayed, but luckily it wasn't cancelled like many other domestic flights. Had that happened, we would have been left in the lurch with the all day curfew starting next day onwards. The aircraft was so tiny, it wasn't even funny. One seat on either side of the aisle and just a flimsy curtain separating the cockpit. The flight was not that scary or maybe I was so engrossed in the view outside that I didn't notice. The view was amazing as you can see Mt Everest and surrounding mountains.

From Bhadrapur, we took a taxi till Kakarbhitta which is the bordering town between Nepal and India. There our driver was waiting for us with the car. After some grocery shopping in Siliguri, we moved on and reached Gangtok in the evening.

Book read during this period...The Reading Group by Elizabeth Noble last week in India

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Update time!

I know this is too late a post..considering that its been over a month since I came back from my trip back home. I know you are waiting for my Kathmandu trip post, but before I continue with my travelogue, let me update you with whats been happening at my end.

- Out of the five weekends since I came back, for two weekends, V came to meet me.

- For the first weekend, we saw Rang De Basanti and I loved the movie. Wanna see it again, but haven't yet got a chance.

- The next weekend he was here, we went to see Fight Club. The movie was pathetic. Since me and V are both fans of the Hollywood Fight Club, so we were expecting something nice (ya ya, even though it is a Bollywood remake). However, the highlight of the event was that the same evening, the theatre had premier show of the movie. We were completely unaware of the event and were wondering why they had displayed huge posters of the movie all over the theatre. We were standing on one of the posters stuck on the floor and I was commenting to V on how I don't like any of the men acting in the movie. Suddenly we heard some commotion near the entrance and I saw Sohail Khan and Ritesh Dekhmukh in person! They had come to attend the premier show! I was excited considering that it was my first Bollywood celebrity sighting! Since there was a some more time for our show to start, we decided to hang around and catch them when they come out. There were many more desis who apparently had the same thought. Me and V didn't wanna appear to be too obvious so we hung close by with a "don't care" attitude. However, I had asked V to be prepared to take out his cell phone and take pictures as soon as they exit (my hands were full with coke and nacho chips). After quite a long wait, the movie got over and the audience started pouring out....but there was no signs of the stars. There were people from local desi TV show interviewing people's reaction to the movie....and still no Sohail Khan! Soon a huge hefty bodyguard approached a group of excited teenage desi girls and told them no use waiting for them as they left long time ago through the back door! Poor girls were so disappointed. Whereas me and V went to our theatre, since the show was about to start. Now because of those actors coming here all the way and since we overheard few of the interviews, we were looking forward to a good movie...but unfortunately, like I said before, the movie turned out to be pathetic.

- One of the weekends I went to Washington DC to visit my aunt taking along all the "koseyli" (gift items) for her from my family back home. I was stuck there during the heavy snowstorm we had. DC saw about a foot of snow fall while some parts of NYC had more than 18". Anyway, since all the trains back to NYC were cancelled in the morning, I missed my work that Monday. I, however had a great time with my aunt and kid cousin snow tubing. We realised that with all three of us sitting in the tube together, makes it go much faster and hence much much more fun!

- The fourth weekend, I stayed back in NJ since my consulting firm was giving a party on their anniversary. It was a chance for me to wear one of my Indian dresses which I had shopped back home. The party was not as bad as I had expected plus the food was from my fav restaurant, so I had a good time.

- Last weekend, I decided to go to Pittsburgh to visit V. The same weekend, one of my friends wife and daughter were returning after having spent 4 months in India. So me and V decided to go to good old Columbus to meet them and the gang. I left early from work and took Greyhound bus to Pittsburgh. The journey must be less than 7hrs if you drive, but the bus schedule says it takes 8hrs but in reality it takes more than 9hrs. I reached Pitts at around 1am in the night. From there, we left for Columbus at around 2.30am in V's car. We reached Columbus at 8am Saturday morning. I was tired to death but had slept almost throughout the drive to Columbus. Now, in Columbus we know a lot of people since they are mostly colleagues from our old workplace. Strange thing is that in the last 2-3 months, the desi population grew considerably with more that 15 babies born and all of them being girls except maybe 2 or 3. So Saturday was spent on house calls to see some of the newborn babies. Saturday night my friends wife and daughter arrived and we spent a long time playing with her. She is not yet 2yrs old and the favourite among us all. Me and V were delighted to find out that she hadn't forgotten us and amazed to hear her talking. Having been in India for so long, she seemed to have picked up a lot of words..and even an aarti and a lori !! Come Sunday and after a late lunch me and V left for Pitts. We reached at around 9pm and my bus back to NY was at 11pm. I reached NY at 8am the next morning and came straight to work

Well, that was the weekends. Weekdays are as usual. Wake up in the morning, catch the bus, work whole day, catch the return bus, get home, have dinner, go to sleep. The only change was that last week I was on training the whole week. The only change was that I had to wake up still earlier to catch the earlier bus so that I reach work on time.....sigh!

Well guys....I hope this will be my last "late" post and that I shall improve in a few weeks :D Next post will be on my trip to Ktm. Sorry to disappoint you all, but I just couldn't write. So thought, maybe if I write something else, I'll get over the "don't feel like writing" feeling. I think its working ;-)