Tuesday, 20 December 2016

In Search of Light

A couple of years after we got married, Anjali went to Pune to pursue a post-graduation course. She was there for one complete year. I had to stay alone at home. I experienced this for the first time in life. Be it hostel or home, I never stayed all alone. It was boring. Not only boring, but to be honest it was scary as well. I couldn’t sleep properly at night. That particular year I visited Pune quite a few times. Initially I travelled by Volvo bus. It took 15 hours, but the journey was comfortable. Then with “Air Deccan” the game changed entirely. I was able to reach Pune in less than couple of hours, that too at matching Bangalore-Pune Volvo Bus price. 

I stayed alone in Bangalore for almost a month. I visited my buddies on weekends, sometimes during weekdays as well. One day I came in contact with my college hostel buddies, Ram and Mriganka. They both recently moved to Bangalore and were searching for a place of shelter. I offered them our rented house. They agreed. They also shared the rent. I was happy to stay with my old buddies once again. Ram had always been as good as his name. He slept early, woke up very early, cleaned the house, took shower, finished with his Puja, prepared breakfast and tea, tried to wake us up before he left for office. On the other hand I and Mriganka maintained the same old hostel life style. But we both were chefs in the house.

It was 11:15 pm.  Ram was already dead in bed. I and Mriganka were watching TV. Mriganka had a cigarette with him. He went to the Kitchen to look for a matchbox. 
“Oh shit,” We both realized we already used the last piece of the matchstick just couple of hours back to cook dinner. The gas lighter was not in working condition. We scanned the entire kitchen but couldn’t find a matchstick. We then looked at the place where Ram used to do his Puja, but no luck. 

"The nearby shop must be closed by now," said Mriganka. 

"We can find some light in the main road. There’s a wine shop there. If we’re going that far we can bring a quarter as well," I suggested, and Mriganka instantly liked the idea. 

It was 11:30 pm. We didn’t bother to wake up Ram. We locked the main door from outside. We started to walk. None of us had any vehicle that time. We reached our destination. The place was about half a km from our house. The cigarette shop was closed. The wine shop was also half closed. The shutter was down, not completely though. There was still some room for desperate buyers to place their order. We tried our part. We also made special request for a matchbox. Suddenly, a police jeep stopped in front of the shop with a screeching sound, applying brakes. Immediately the shutter was completely down. Few policemen approached us. Without saying anything they took us inside the vehicle. I and Mriganka kept pleading our innocence. But it seemed the policemen didn’t have ears. There was a handcuffed person sitting together with us at the back of the jeep. 

"Where are they taking us?" I asked the buddy.

He made a weird expression. We could make out that the guy was least bothered with our situation. I and Mriganka were terribly tensed. It had already been 15 minutes. We had no idea where the police were taking us to. I thought of calling some of my friends, but didn’t. 

"Are we going to stay in prison?"

"What about going to office tomorrow morning?"

Several disturbing thoughts were swimming around my head.  Suddenly the jeep slowed down. A signboard grabbed my attention. "JP Nagar 2nd phase Police Station". The jeep stopped. I was pretty relaxed. We were actually at a walking distance from our house. 

"But why it took so long? Must be police patrolling," my mind talked to me.

The policemen took us at the reception. They spoke something in Kannada which we couldn’t make out anything. The person at the reception seemed to be gentleman. He offered us seats. It was 12:30 in the night. The merciless policemen who picked us up already left. We had a chat with the gentleman in charge. Few constables also joined. One of them was very young. It seemed he joined the force recently. All were friendly to us. We got to know from them that we had violated some IPC section, but I couldn’t recall which one. I do remember the fine amount though. We were asked to pay Rs 250 each. We tried to argue, asked explanation.

"I’m living in Bangalore for the last three years. It’s such a nice and cool city. This is for the first time I’m having such a bad experience," I actually tried to reduce the fine amount.

"Bangalore has changed sir. It’s for your own safety. You have no idea what all late night crimes happen on the streets of Bangalore. People cut the ears and take away earrings. They hit on the head, take all the belongings," the good policeman explained.

We didn’t have 500 cash with us. They said we can pay the amount the next morning, and asked us to go home.

"But how could we walk home now. It’s so late. And you only mentioned about the ongoing criminal activities. Please escort us to home. We can pay the money now itself."

The policemen smiled, but they dropped us home. We went upstairs, unlocked the main door. Ram was still totally dead, snoring. We looked for the money. All total we had 450. 

"You guys are staying in such a big house and you don’t have even 500 Rs to pay the Karnataka Government," one of the constable commented.

"Sir, the house only looks big from outside, inside it is very small. And then it’s just a rented house," we clarified.

They were about to go. 

"Sir, one small help. If you don’t mind could you please give us a matchstick?"

"Sorry we don’t smoke," was the answer.

"Hopeless policemen," I wondered.

I and Mriganka went inside. We both had a good laugh. We didn’t give up so easily yet. We again searched for one precious matchstick. It was 1:30 am. Finally we went to sleep. Lucky cigarette. It actually survived the entire night.

Grab a copy of my debut book Story of Tublu from Amazon or Flipkart. It is a Contemporary Fiction novel, published by LiFi Publications Pvt Ltd. The book has its share of drama, that entertains; humor, that makes one reminisce; love, friendship and emotions that defines the amazing journey that is, life.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Tum Bin

Watching movies during our Engineering hostel days was fun. Those were the days when laptops we made only for the CEO kind of people, and mobile phone users felt proud to carry one. Quite rarely though, but when any handset started to ring in any public place, owners didn’t accept the call immediately. They would take the phone in hand, had a closer look at the B&W screen, still ringing. Only after nearby people got to know that the particular person is having a mobile phone, the call was answered.

Our college was located at the outskirts of Guwahati city, and our hostel was at the extreme end of the campus, surrounded by hills. There was a time when only a single computer was there in the entire hostel, and unfortunately it was in my room. Initially, we used to bring movie CD's on rent from some of the video parlors in the city. They charged heavily for 24 hours, and any delay in returning was again a pain in the ass. Almost everyone loved to watch movies, but there were only a few who usually took initiative to bring the CD's, counted how many guys watched the movie, calculated the share accordingly, collected the money from everyone, and returned the stuffs.

The following semester many more desktops arrived in the hostel, similarly in all the other hostels of our college. Soon, latest Bollywood/Hollywood movies, along with the other category of movies which were on high demand, were available in the campus itself. Watching movies became easier and cheaper. But there were also issues with those pirated CD's. Apart from the low picture quality, there was also a much bigger problem. While watching, all of a sudden the computer got hung. We tried many options, but most of the time a restart was the only solution. Sometimes in a single movie session we had to restart multiple times. Guys usually avoided CD's with scratches on it, but sometimes even handsome looking CD/DVD was also capable enough in hanging the computer. 

'Would you like to watch “Tum Bin” movie?  My friend Rajat asked.

'Tum Bin? Is it a new movie? Never heard of it,' I answered.

'It’s a latest one. I’ve heard it’s a very good movie. If you want I can bring it, we can watch on your computer,' Rajat suggested.

I was a bit confused. Even though Rajat watched many movies with us, but it was for the first time he was taking an initiative. I said, ‘okay, let’s inform our buddies, we will watch together.'

Unlike him, he was a bit reluctant to watch it together with other friends. 'Too much crowd also spoils the fun. Everyone keep talking, we cannot concentrate properly.'

'But then our individual contribution would be pretty high in that case.'

Rajat smiled, 'That’s okay. You need not pay. Anyway, we will watch on your PC only.'

My confusion started to create ripples of suspicion in my mind. "How come Rajat is so much interested in the movie. He’s willing to bring the CD and also want to pay for it, alone."

So, in the same afternoon Rajat brought the CD. We watched "Tum Bin" together, only two of us. Even my room-mate, Nair, wasn’t present, he was not in room that afternoon. 

'It’s an okay kind of movie, not that great. What’s so special about it that you were so much interested?' I asked out of suspicion. 

Rajat smiled. 'I don’t know, but some of my friends said it’s a very good movie.'

Later in the night, I shared the experience with Nair. Both Rajat and Nair were from Mechanical branch. After listening to my words, Nair couldn’t stop laughing. He then told me the real reason behind Rajat’s interest in "Tum Bin".

"Tum Bin movie starred Priyanshu Chatterjee. He’s the main hero in the movie. Priyanshu made his Bollywood debut with Tum Bin in 2001. Some guys from the Mechanical batch already watched the movie. They said the new actor looked very similar to Rajat. The entire classroom started to tease him, called him Priyanshu. Rajat was very happy, particularly when few girls also joined the party."

We then went to Rajat's room with few more guys, pulled his legs for the next two-three hours.

Grab a copy of my debut book Story of Tublu from Amazon or Flipkart. It is a Contemporary Fiction novel, published by LiFi Publications Pvt Ltd. The book has its share of drama, that entertains; humor, that makes one reminisce; love, friendship and emotions that defines the amazing journey that is, life.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Asia's Cleanest Village

No, it’s not in China or Japan. Neither it’s in the Middle East nor in Indonesia or Philippines. It is in India. Asia's Cleanest Village is "Mawlynnong", located amidst of lush green forest of East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya, a state in the North East part of India. It is a tiny village, 600-odd person, 100 percent literacy, well-known for its cleanliness and natural attraction. Mawlynnong was awarded the prestigious tag of 'Cleanest Village in Asia' in 2003 by Discover India Magazine.

Meghalaya in itself is very beautiful. All the villages in Meghalaya are quite clean as compared to other parts of India. But Mawlynnong is a completely different story altogether. This is for the first time I visited such a village, so well maintained, such clean road. I was very curious how the villagers manage such cleanliness. Because of this curiosity Mawlynnong attracts so many tourists. I was simply mesmerized with the surrounding, colorful tress, hanging fruits and vegetables. I had the sweetest pineapples there that are grown abundantly in this region. 

I observed that the cleanliness is deep-rooted in their culture. I noticed many villagers with brooms in hand, the children cleaning the streets, sweeping up dead leaves and garbage. The locals are so humble and well-mannered. Whenever a visitor dropped something on the ground, they wouldn’t say anything to the visitor directly. But they would pick it up and throw it in the rubbish bins. Well, the garbage bins are also so beautiful, hand-made with bamboo, cone-shaped baskets. The traditional bamboo waste baskets are scattered all over the village, on the streets, outside each and every house.

The houses are mostly traditional thatched hut. The villagers plan to keep it that way, they simply want to keep their traditions alive. I had a talk with few of the locals. There were many tourists, both Indian and foreigners. I got to know from the villagers that cleanliness has been a practice from the time of their forefathers. Right from the beginning the kids are taught in schools about the importance of cleanliness in living a good life. As soon as the kids reach Grade 1 or Grade 2 they are given the task of keeping the area around the house clean. I was highly impressed with the system.

Another satisfying thing in Mawlynnong was the food. We enjoyed such a delightful lunch out there. The chicken curry, rice, vegetables, everything was delicious. And yes, the chutneys were so refreshing. The little eatery place was also magnificently clean. My tummy was full, but not my heart. After lunch, we just lazed there for a while. There were smoking areas. I was over cautious to flick the ash out of my hand. We had tea in a small stall. I looked at the kettle while the tea boiled. It was actually shining, so clean. I had a chat with some tourists, a group who were on a road trip all the way from Maharashtra. They liked the village so much that they stayed there for 10 days. Even though there’s a guest house at Mawlynnong, but some families also offer home-stay facilities to the visitors who want to stay long. Such decisions are not taken individually though, but the entire village collectively decide on that.

It was time to experience the Living Root Bridges. We enjoyed a wonderful trek, about 1 or 2 km to a neighboring village, Riwai. We reached the spectacular natural bridge that makes a pathway across a stream, making it easy for villagers to commute. 

Living root bridges are unique to Meghalaya. There are many such bridges all around Cherrapunji. This is an age old method used by villagers to cross the numerous streams in the area. According to Wikipedia the local Khasi people do not know when or how the tradition of living root bridges started. The earliest written record of Cherrapunji's living root bridges is by Lieutenant H Yule, who expressed astonishment about them in the 1844 Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.

Mawlynnong is a lovely experience, something to cherish forever.

Grab a copy of my debut book Story of Tublu from Amazon or Flipkart. It is a Contemporary Fiction novel, published by LiFi Publications Pvt Ltd. The book has its share of drama, that entertains; humor, that makes one reminisce; love, friendship and emotions that defines the amazing journey that is, life.

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