Tuesday, January 27, 2009



5:20 AM. A clear day ahead. Still dark. I sat in the car while Mahesh went to receive ParryAnka from the Ludhiana Railway Station. Our plan was to head straight to Dalhousie after picking them up. The train was late by about an hour. It was expected at 4:30 AM and it arrived at 5:40 AM. Just when I started to get bored waiting on the front passenger seat, and prepared to take a nap before they tapped on the window, I saw them coming. Hugs and hand shakes and Paulo Coelho’s Eleven Minutes later, we set for our journey. Mahesh on the driving seat-Parry with him, Pinku exactly behind Parry and I sitting behind Mahesh. Typical Pativrata women, you would say. But my idea of sitting behind Mahesh is that I want him to check on me every few minutes through the rear view mirror. Attention freak !!!

We started on an enthusiastic note but then I started to feel sleepy, having slept only minus 3 hours the night before. Roop can vouch for it. I was chatting with her till 1 A.M and I was up at 3: 30 AM the next morning. When I woke up many bumps later, we were in Pathankot, it was a beautiful dawn and Mahesh was on phone with someone arranging for our stopover at the town. I actually thought the Municipal Commissioner would come to welcome us and to express his/her gratefulness for having set foot in his/her city. But no one came. We had a sumptuous breakfast in a luxurious room in a beautiful hotel Venice , freshened ourselves up and set for the onward journey of about 80 kilometers to Dalhousie. Like a seasoned driver, Mahesh wound the car on the snake-like roads. And I kept getting excited about how it was 16-17 years back when I had come as a Youth Camper from my university. As soon as hills of a reasonable size started , we got down from the car and started to click pictures. My Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S700, which I was feeling ungrateful enough to change in favour of a high end one, came to my rescue. As if to prove its worth, it gave out brilliant pictures. Pinku had a genuine problem posing for pictures. I don’t know how, but she can manage to twist her face in such a way that the picture has to be reclicked. She was always in animation. My camera failed before her, but never gave up, and as a result we ended up having some really funny pictures of hers. But let me add that as it happens, she has gone home a reformed person. She now can tolerate being clicked rather gracefully.

As we started to get closer to Dalhousie, I started to get ecstatic. I have childhood memories associated with the town. Parents used to bring us here for our annual vacation. I can distinctly remember walking hand-in-hand with my sister and parents walking leisurely behind us.

We let the fresh-hilly air run through the car. We did not meet much traffic on the way. Early birds perhaps. We reached Dalhousie by 12:30 P.M. Reasonably enough, considering that it is about 2100 Mts above the sea level. And then nostalgia stuck! That same old bus stand, that same old Subhash chowk, and Gandhi chowk. We managed to find our hotel Geetanjali that Pinku had booked for all of us. Among the shiny new hotels, it looked like a poor cousin. But once we went in, it offered us that old world charm of high ceilings, really big rooms-you could actually play football if you wanted to, and a room sized drawing room in the front. Before checking out, Mahesh went and tried to ask the hotel people where did those mysterious doors from the room open? They told him that one opened from the room to a kitchen, and one from the washroom to the outer corridor. Purrfect exit doors for Sahib log. For it was an Officers Mess before it became Indian government’s money earning hotel/resort. Pinku later found out that it is 140 years old. That is quite impressive, considering that Dalhousie itself is a 150 year old settlement. Col. Napier found this place really great and converted it into a cantonment. I find Dalhousie a quiet retreat. Coming back to the hotel Geetanjali, it is an HPTDC venture. What venture? Its just perhaps a dying building. The government is actually planning to tear it down and erect a brand new hotel here. Phew ! God save the building and god save the guests.

Anyway, we checked in, rested a while and then moved out. Mahesh was tired after that tense driving. Leaving him sleeping, I got ready and came out with Pinku Parry to have a wonderful view of snow clad mountains in the distance. We stood munching peanuts and giggling and enjoying the clean-cold-chillingly cold air. Meantime, Mahesh came. Had our lunch at ‘a’ Lovely Dhaba. It was flanked by a ManMahesh Dhaba also. This was a surprise to me because I have often come across the name ‘ManiMahesh’, because of its obvious association with the Kailash yatra, but ManMahesh…?? I thought I had invented the name, obviously I was wrong. Or wait, perhaps they read this blog and thought of making use of the name. Yes, that is a happier interpretation. Anyway, Mahesh aka Shiv ji Zindabad. However, we didn’t patronize it because , because because....

I made enquiries about the existing tourist places. Yes, Panj Pula ( 5 Bridges) still stood about 2.5 kms away from the Gandhi chowk with a desolate Gandhi Statue. A narrow road, four excited people, and we reached Panj Pula. This place has a monument in the memory of Sardar Ajit Singh of the Pagri Sambhal Jatta movement. He was Sardar Bhagat Singh’s chacha and the force behind the mental make-up of Sardar Bhagat Singh. He died on the 15th of August 1947 in Dalhousie and his memorial / Samadhi has been erected here at Panj Pula. I kept running from one end to another trying to find this place where my parents had bathed us in the cold water to ensure we had shiny and healthy skins and then were cruel enough to click pictures of a freezing 6 year old Mampi and her younger sister. Can I ever forgive them? Yes I think I can, for that pool is now stagnant with a few paddle boats out to make some money. No children are bathed there anymore. The Samadhi is littered with torn balloons that come from a recreational stall behind it. We Indians don’t miss any opportunity to make any money, do we? Mahesh is seldom sarcastic but he happened to quote, “Shaheedo’n ki chitaao’n par lagenge har baras mele, watan pey mitney walo’n ka yahi baki nishaan hoga…” (The martyrs will be remembered through these memorials and people will congregate here every year to mark their anniversaries) Being the cynic that I am, I added a question mark at the end of the quote. He was joking that this is how the melas will take place, and that too, everyday instead of the yearly melas as the quote promises.

I was more interested in going right upto the origin of Sapt-dhara (seven streams). My mom had told me that it had water that contained medicinal values. Lord Dalhousie got this water in big quantities for his wife who had some sort of a skin ailment. While Parry and Pinku chose to stay behind, I and Mahesh ventured ahead to reach the visible falling stream. The water was pure, sparkling and untouched by civilization because thankfully, civilization needs to huff and puff to reach there. And civilization has gotten used to using what it gets right at its door-step. Civilisation loves to litter the waters-with plastic bags, disposable glasses, empty liquor bottles, empty chips bags and what not what. We stayed for a few minutes at the Sapt-Dhara and then came back. Hardly a trek you would say, but I loved it. There was a board displayed there that promised a 2 and a half hour trek to Chanmari dam. I wanted to do that one day. But the next day we had planned to go to Khajjiar. Now Khajjiar was higher up from Dalhousie and we had been advised by local shopkeepers, our hotel servants, and others against going there. There had been recent snow fall and rain. Both separate are perhaps not a danger, but can prove to be a deadly combo. We were wavering between going and not going. Over a cup of tea at the Panj-Pula, we finally decided against going there.

At Panj-Pula, we saw a group of guys who were busy drinking and smoking. If Mahesh had not been with me, I would surely have asked them what right did they have to pollute the sacred nature with smoke. Well, Mahesh doesn’t like me getting into the virago mode. His first preference is to keep peace, not to get into a tussle and certainly never to argue. It spoils one’s own peace of mind, he says. So, I had to ignore those stupid guys. We came back to Dalhousie and roamed about in the very very small market. Bought a shawl for mom. I usually refrain from shopping in these markets. They buy stuff from plains and sell it in hills and we, the stupid plain-wallahs buy it again and bring it back to plains. Well, if we didn’t do that, the economies wouldn’t mobilize. So, in buying that shawl, I helped mobilize the economy, yaay yaaye.

We sat in a small time fast food-general store kind of a joint and had some soup and gossiped. When we came out, Pinku located this shop that had a machine that told you of your love quotient. Obviously we had to experiment with it. First Pinku, dropped a 5 rupee coin in it and put her hand on the given space and it showed that she was ‘sensual’. SENSUAL !!! You rock girl ! We giggled and laughed. Then came Parry’s turn. Pinku insisted that it would show ‘dead fish’. No, it didn’t. It showed PASSIONATE (I think so, I have short term memory loss). Then came my turn, and lo, it showed the indicator to ‘hot stuff’, HOT STUFF !!! Finally someone knows my worth, hehehe !!! I shrieked, “Mahesh look at this, it thinks I am HOT STUFF!!!” We couldn’t stop laughing. When Mahesh put his hand on the machine, it said PASSIONATE. No comments!!! Could it have something to do with the hand temperatures? But the machine didn’t seem that intelligent.

It was raining by the time we were done, and it was windy. The eternal question of ‘where to have dinner’ remained. Not that it was hard to decide. Because we hardly had a choice. There were practically no eating joints open. The locals told us that the joints open only in March. For now, we would have to make do with the available eating places. Because we wouldn’t be able to wait till March. Geetanjali did offer dinner and breakfast. But we didn’t want to go back to have dinner to only to come back again for our mutter-gashti. So, in the icy rain, we went inside the only decent eating place that chowk had, and it was the same old Lovely restaurant.

The funny thing about this joint was that it offered elaborate meal – but only on menu sheets. Parry wanted a dosa, they didn’t have it. I wanted a pizza (I knew it would be a tadka-pizza), they didn’t have it. I offered to change my order to a sandwich (yes, I was crazy to want it at dinner time) with a chai. You guessed it right, they didn’t have it. I am not taking chicken etc these days, so I had to order different than these three paapi’s I was travelling with. But it was a big disappointment. The guy serving us was a sweet fellow though. Despite a crazy rush for dinner (because all the famished people of the entire town had come here) he gave us a priority and a service with a wide smile.

Post dinner, we braved the rain again and reached our hotel. Now came the next big issue of parking on the hills. There was an open parking, but I didn’t trust it. We would be parking at an insecure space on a curve of the hill. My paranoid mind was imagining a drunk driver coming fast at 1 A.M. and going tangentially at the curve, and hitting our car. So, all four of us decided to park our car at a nearby hotel parking which was at least in an enclosure. It was tricky. Mahesh did not agree with it, but he gave up 3 to 1. Of course, if we had told them that we were not putting up at their hotel, they would never have agreed to keep our car there. So we just risked it and kept it there for the night. And came back to our hotel. We were cold and we were tired. The old fashioned heaters were a great help though. But I wished the defunct fireplaces were working too. The rooms were big and it took a great while to warm them. But we finally fell asleep.

More Later...

Friday, January 23, 2009


Once, a mouse fell in love with a Lioness. It was obviously not easy wooing the lady. Look at what all he did.

One day, he met her on the way in the Indian ishtyle. And as becomes a hero of Indian films, he eve-teased her to proclaim his love. Said, “ I love you Sh-Sh-Sh-Sherni.”
She said, “Abey, Apna size toe dekh. Jaan Pyari hai ke nahi?”
The mouse said, “Tujh mein rab dikhta hai, Yaara main kya karoon.”

…and ran away.
But he could not forget her. One day he deliberately landed in her path and said, "I love you, Sh-Sh-Sherni.”
Sherni was angry, “ Abey, apni aukaat bhool gaya kya?”
The mouse smiled and said, “ Aree pagli, aukaat pey mat jaa, confidence dekh confidence.”

… and ran away.

…and has been running since.

The Lioness wants to catch him.
Nah, she is not offended. She has never had such an expressive lover ever.
But the mouse doesn’t know that.
He has been running for his life ever since.

Disclaimer: All characters are imaginary. Any resemblance to anyone real, wild or tamed , is purely co-incidental. In case you find a character similar to yours, you presume that at your own risk. It is NOT a parable, nor a fable. Kindly do not try to find meanings or relevance here. If at all you do, you again do it at your own risk.

Monday, January 19, 2009

SMS, My God

I love to receive and I love to send text messages. It is such a magical feeling to know you are in touch with buddies, isn’t it? But I received a couple of text messages recently that put me in a fix. I reproduce their text here.

· 27-4-2009 is Sai Baba Ji’s birthday. Don’t delete this message or you will be unlucky for 12 years. Send this message to 15 people except me. You will get a good news tonight.

· SAI BABA: SABKA MALIK EK. Send this message to 9 people. Please don’t say no. you will get a good news till Thursday. It is a real experience.

· This message has come from Kailash Mountain. Do not delete it. Otherwise you will face bad luck for 20 years. Send this to 20 people and you will receive good news within a week.

· This message was created at the Vaishno Mata Shrine. Do not break the chain otherwise you will have a lifelong bad luck.

I initially thought some god-goddess was sending this message. I, in fact, thought of namscaaring my cell-phone. After all, we in India love to find gods-goddesses in objects inanimate. And nothing bad in asking people to comply with some things like sending text messages. It gives the cell-phone companies some business too. I find nothing wrong in mild threats too. Because, I too, usually send threatening messages to friends when I start to miss their text messages. My favorite is a message that shows a picture of a headless person with a warning at the bottom of the message saying, “Acha bhala tha, message nahi karta tha, tapka dala. You are wise enough. Soch lo !!!” and promptly I start to get that spate of messages from friends far and wide.

I am no God, I think I can afford to threaten like this. But what kind of a God is it that believes in SMS forwarding business? What kind of a God is this that tries to coerce you into smsing? I am confused, perplexed, upset, scared…

I cannot help it. I am scared for the life of my family members and am concerned about the ' bad news' that awaits me if I delete the message or if I do not forward it. Oh please, I have to forward it or something like it.
So, with shaking hands, I duly forward the following message.

Om Namah Shivay
Om Sai Ram
Jai Shri Krishna
Allah hoo Akbar

Dar mat,
Kisi ko forward nahi karna hai….
Khud hi jap ley..... PAAPI !!!!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Friends are For Ever

She came, she stayed, she conquered. And she messed up all my plans of the vacations to be used for some technical reading, some exam-paper marking, some stay-at-home new year bash (if ever there is one) and some time for myself. She toppled my apple cart and I was left counting my apples on the floor. The night Roop and Pavan came, we sat till 3 a.m. I was not sure how Mahesh would like my blogger-pals, but he was so friendly with Pavan that all my doubts about my decision of asking Roop over vanished in a second. We had a late dinner. Mom was around. I tucked the kids into bed by 11 pm - way too late than their 9 pm curfew. The reason was that my daughter was absolutely crazy about her school mate who she has a weird similarity to in many things. They have the same school house, same tastes, same teachers, and even the same poem that they prepared. Once the initial niceties were exchanged, me and Roop became our nasty selves that we are on chat. Oh I forgot to add, we have christened ourselves as the two Mrs Chat-ter-jees (she junior, I senior) with due apologies to all my Bangla pals. Many friends think we are cousins, or long lost friends. We believe we are some strangely connected pair of buddies born about 8 years apart. Mahesh and Pavan said we resemble closely too. Told you, it is weird.

Me and Roop did a flash fight with our cameras, her pro Canon and my ghareeb Sony Cybershot, I even listened to Pavan talk about why he thinks there is no God. Mahesh was totally impressed at the way P was making up his case of no God. I and Mahesh are Phools who believe in God, if you remember, so it was kinda different for us. To cut it short, that night, till 3 am, we kept sitting in the biting cold in the dining room exchanging rare gyan about religion, society, curd, villages etc. Only the next day, unfortunately, the newspapers didn’t carry this news.

Next day, a late start, not much shopping. Again a 3 am good night, but that day she slept till 2 pm while Pavan went to some area near by, just for a cold stroll. I kept pestering him with a grandmotherly advice, “Give me a buzz once you feel you cant find your way back home.” Kept the phone handy in my pocket and kept cleaning up the house while Her Majesty slept. I went, pulled up the razai and told her, "Oye, You are not here to sleep." She said, "Mampi, please please, please." "Oww baby," and then I just tucked the razai neatly and moved out quietly. Why am I taken in so easily?

Then she wanted to go shopping again. Hell, what's with her dollars! And she wanted to go meet her relatives (29th December) and they came back on the 31st. A foggy day, and we were going 60 km away for the new year celebration. Kids, mom, Roopavan, Manmahesh, all had great fun. Crazy new year eve. And I and Mahesh are the kinds who would rather sit at home and have fun rather than go out and suffer the falling fog. But we went, danced while the Haveli people said they don’t want anyone to dance. How stupid can they get? But I guess that is the only way they can control the booze-crazy Punjabis on the night when they see beautiful dancers on stage and get drunk anyway without the booze. However, the people just lost patience once they saw Roop dancing at the end of the standing crowd and falling in the process. Ogling her, many others tried to match her zeal and fell too, and we laughed. Kassam sey, I saw people falling . The best part was Pavan's Jatt Punjabi act. Wished each other happy new year with unusual glee. We went there as domestic animals, we came back as party animals. The party got over by oo:30 hrs and we were seen off rudely by the Haveli people. Okay, not as rudely as the lurkers behind might have been. But we came when the others were still around. Mahesh loves to say, "Mela bharya chaddi’da hai." ( Leave the gathering when it is full) Drove back in blinding fog, all the while chattering away to glory at the back seat while Pavan’s words from the front seat got lost somewhere in his worry about the fog.

He flew the next day to Chennai and she went off and on to see her relatives, keeping me on toes. Mampi I am going, Mampi I am coming, Mampi my boutique wali will give my suit that day, Mampi this, Mampi that. Then I tempted her to come attend a wedding. I will spare you the torture of other details. But will love to mention that she straigtened my hair out for a more hep look and I put kajal in my eyes and Mahesh commented, "Tu fer la leya kala kala?" ( did u put that black stuff in your eyes again?) I frowned and scowled and then went to wedding.While I went to the jago with my friend whose brother was getting married, Roop and Avneet (Mahesh’s cousin who is crazy about dancing) made themselves comfortable by starting the dance and already setting the dance floor on fire by the time we came back after yelling and dancing in the streets as a huge spoilt group. And I too danced like there was no Rakhi Sawant. Even found a boyfriend there (so what if he is 5 yr old, he actually loved to see me dance). Again slept at 3 am. I really wonder why the night was day when this crazy girl was around. Talked about some serious stuff, some funny stuff, some teasing, some parenting etc etc etc. And then she went away on 5th noon. That’s why Mampi couldn’t blog saala.

I wanted to write about meeting NM in Delhi. Came to delhi on the 20th December and absolutely didn’t know how to reach her house. Was on phone for a considerable time to seek her blessings, errrrr guidance and reached easily. She was ready with her betu who is an amazing chap. I asked him, "How do you open that door outside, it is so tight. " He said “aise” and gave it a rough shove with his bum. Now I could surely do better than him and he was visibly pleased at this student who was a fast learner with better endowed push stuff. I cannot help but mention that NM is an amazing cook. She loves to feed you and that too in no time. she had her stuff ready and fed us a typical rajasthani lunch, which I absolutely adored. How Do We Know ( I know this doesn’t sound like a person; but I wont want to reveal her name in case she doesn’t want to) drove all the way from Gurgaon in the bad weather to meet me, and brought her little one with her who is such a cute hunk that he kept checking me out now and then, but then lost interest (guess he saw Mahesh with me) and gave up pursuit. Then his mommy and NM allotted him and Anirudh another room and he lost me, poor chap. HDWK, her son Ishaan, and Anirudh stood together, posing with a bicycle. And all looked age-mates. She is such a cute presence. I must mention the zeal with which she came. She doesn’t normally travel with her son in Delhi smog but she threw all caution to wind and came to see me. I am flattered, honored and really grateful that she could do that. Both the bloggers have given great accounts of our meeting. I am late, but blame that on Roop please.

Jasdeep came to visit me at my home while Roopavan were still here. So it was kind of a bonus for us all. He writes beautiful poems and also introduces us to new and old poetry in Punjabi. A simple soul he is. He told me that he had expected a fashionista welcoming him and here I was, a complete desi. But he was kind to mention he was not disappointed. Still I had my revenge at his modest comments. Wicked wicked me, I kept him hungry for 2 hours before I served the breakfast at 11 which was to be served at 9. Why? Simply because the host and the rest of the guests were not ready to face, umm, meet him yet. On that cold morning, the paranthas and chai never went cold, because there was this heated discussion on I don’t know what. Seriously, Pavan and Jasdeep got into argument on something communistic. I tried to quieten them by buttering them and by persuading them to take a lot of dahi. That proves that I am the quintessential granny?

2008 has been a great year in terms of blog–mates coming together. I met Pinku, Parry in Summer, rather met them twice, and look forward to meeting them again soon. Then there is Sumanto who is really a reluctant blogger, but blogger he sure is now. It’s different that I know him for 13 years more as a buddy than as a blogger. Mithe is very much around all the time, meeting me in the corridors of my college, but I acknowledge her talent as blogger first and foremost. I met Amarjit Uncle who writes brilliant Haikus in Punjabi. Then the year wound up with meeting Jasdeep, the great Roop Rai swayam and with pati. With so much of inspiration flowing around, I suspect Mahesh will soon come up with a blog of his own.

Coming back to where I had started from, I just about finished my deadlines of lecture preparation, marking exam papers (why are the kids made to sit for exams at all, I fail to understand; and then why does the cruel University want those papers marked at all??) clearing the backlog of reading of blogs, and catching up with sleep.

Phew, the junior Mrs Chatterjee flies out tomorrow.

(I loved being missed while I was away. Every single message left a grin on my face. Hell, I was more popular on Roop's blog than on my own. Thanks Roop, see this is why I wuv you.)