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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Year-end diary

This time I won’t write the usual travelogue, because I did not travel far, and did not visit any place remote and exciting – merely Puri, along with literally tens of thousands of other Bengalis – and lazed a great deal for a few heavenly work-and worry-free days in Kolkata. Let me instead just jot down a few random impressions.

I arrived in Puri by train for the second time in my life after a gap of exactly forty years. Same train, same snail's pace in the last single-track stretch as it was back in 1969! At the beach, the sand was warm but the water cold, except briefly at midday. The sea and the beach, alas, are getting visibly more polluted every year. The hotel we stayed in, upmarket but not posh, served pretty good food. I wish, though, that boarders would stop shouting all the time and at all hours of day and night in hotel corridors – about absolutely private matters, too. If only this country learnt a few good manners… And the sight of an open and busy crematorium right in the heart of a throbbing marketplace was something to remember for the sheer disturbing incongruity of it. The drive to Chillika lake and the three-hour boat ride was pleasant, and we saw dolphins frolicking and people selling pearls which they were taking out of live oysters (though I do suspect some sleight of hand there), but hardly anything of the fabled flocks of migratory birds, hard luck. The locals are gentle souls, though they sound like they are fighting when they are chatting heartily among themselves. Cars are still definitely much cheaper to hire than in tourist spots in western and northern India. I noticed that the gentleman from whom we rented the car, and who apparently owns seven or eight of them, is basically a private tutor just like myself – I fleetingly wished Durgapur were a tourist hotspot! We were granted darshan by the lord of the world without suffering a stampede, crowded though the temple precincts were (and much more heavily guarded than before).

One big bonus was meeting an old boy, Anirvan Choudhury – ICSE 1991 batch – who works in Bhuvaneshwar and came over all the way with his mother in tow to see us. We spent a very happy Christmas afternoon chatting in the sun, re-living olden times. Nothing gratifies me more than meeting ex-students who have such obviously rich and grateful memories, and who have grown up to be such decent and cultured human beings. I wish his whole family long lives, health and happiness, and hope to meet them again and again, especially the delightful little daughter of his, whom we missed this time round because she was too ill to travel.

On the trip back to Kolkata, I wished, for once, that the train had been late. I hate to get up and going at daybreak, and that too in cold weather: Kolkata had become unusually chilly in the few days we had been away. I spent a large part of my time eating heartily, sleeping, dozing in the sun and watching TV, a routine I cannot afford for 340 days a year. Also, meeting some people I had badly wanted to meet, and having very nice experiences, except for one … but then, you win some and you lose some, and I hadn’t expected much better anyway, knowing the sort of person I was trying one last time to build bridges with. Then there were all sorts of chores, like collecting a prize for something my daughter had written for a newspaper, and getting tooth cavities filled, and airing the new house, the sort of stuff nobody wants to read about, I’m sure.

We spent New Year’s Day lunching out with a family of very good friends. The next morning we came back to Durgapur. I fear for my daughter's future, because the moment we were back she said ‘There’s no place like home’. And it is wonderfully cold here, so though I am back to the old grind already, I am enjoying myself still, especially while the sun is bright and warm and when it’s time to snuggle inside the blankets, and I hope to God that this absolutely lovely spell lasts a while yet. If only there hadn’t been so much coal dust in the air, I could have been living in heaven.


Subhanjan said...

As a student it feels good to know that his/her teacher had a wonderful holiday. Puri is a nice place, though it is becoming exceedingly populated and polluted. You could have paid a visit to Gopalpur-on-sea. I find that place very beautiful.

This holidays I went back home. It felt good to meet all, specially my grand-parents. While my relatives, brothers, and sisters were running about in malls (an act that I particularly dislike to conduct), I was giving company to my old grand mother who can hardly walk a few meters properly. There was a special satisfaction in being with her. Sometimes it pains me to see her suffer. From this year onwards may all grand parents of the world be in as much joy as possible and get love from their children and grand children.

aranibanerjee said...

It was a great read! If only people whom we publish could write with this much poise in their prose and such charming lilt. Reading this little piece of yours reminded me of Kipling and Ruskin Bond and Orwell. Many thanks and happy new year.


Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thanks Arani, but you are too kind!

Rajdeep said...

Thank you for sharing.

subhasis said...

Thank you sir, for a wonderfully written blog post.It warmed my heart and the last sentence reminded me of durgapur all over again......

Subhasis Graham Mukherjee said...

seeing 'Avataar' wasn't in the list of holiday ToDos?

Remember '77. Suvro disappeared from School for a whole week. He went to Kolkata to see Star Wars.

His absence note on return had something like, 'had to go to see a movie which I knew I couldn't miss...'

Father Gilson liked it. Impressed by the honesty as well as the passion to catch a path breaking movie.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Maybe I've changed a bit: thirty years is a long time. Maybe I've had my fill of special effects on screen. Maybe it's because I rely these days on some old boys whose tastes are both good and generally agree with mine, and they have told me I haven't missed anything! Instead I watched Paa and 3 Idiots and liked them both...

A gentle correction: we were in Father Gilson's class (10) in 1979, not 77. And come on, I 'vanished from school' only for a day or two! But it's good to see that some people remember all those oddball things I did when I was young. Thanks very much indeed, Subhasis. A very Happy New Year to you and yours.

Tanmoy said...

Dear Suvroda

It is good hear that you had a good holiday. I always enjoyed my trips to Puri. My parents visit their very often too.

We are back to the grind too. Our trip to Kolkata was good but I would forever regret falling ill and not meeting you. I even was buying tickets to Durgapur for a surprise trip but more than anything else the cold did not allow us. May be next time, I would be able to plan my trip to India in a much better way to make it more fulfilling.



Subhasis Graham Mukherjee said...

welcome. Best of all for the New Year to you'll too.

I didn't remember the year, just Googled and put down the year of Star Wars release. Remember now, those were the days when foreign films arrived later in India - much later.

around that time, Father Gilson would indeed be the class teacher and our guide for the final leg of the journey at SXS - and that would be 10.

Have been hearing a lot about Paa and 3 Idiots. Everyone who's seen and knows about movies, is saying they are must sees. We do get them from the internet almost real time - but for good DVD (and even better media like Blue Ray these days) quality prints we have to wait a bit. Watching pirated and hall prints before that, in desperation, sometimes spoils the mood forever - a shame for movies of this kind.