Monday, 24 March, 2008

Down the memory lane

This was during the time I was in JNU. Some of my serious friends aspiring to crack the civil services used to subscribe to The Hindu newspaper. Now if you read The Hindu you know it is one of the most serious newspapers published in India. The Hindu has a knack of challenging its readers intellectually early in the morning or whichever time of the day you read it. Never a morning person and worse needing no intellectual stimulation I always steered clear of the newspaper. After all I was not one of the aspiring civil servants. Except on Mondays. On Mondays The Hindu comes with a supplement called the Metro Plus and there used to be this weekly article generally called “Down the Memory Lane” by this writer called R.V. Smith. His articles were on old forgotten Delhi, its history dipped in nostalgia. Lovely watercolours always accompanied his articles. His writing style reminds me of Ruskin Bond. For a history lover like me these articles were high points. Even after I moved to Canada I used to read his articles on the web. Sadly now The Hindu has stopped publishing R.V.Smith articles.
Today I found this biography of the writer on google.
R.V. Smith came to Delhi, as a young journalist in the fifties of the last century. His hobby for several years was to travel through the city, collecting stories about and histories of its many monuments, known and unknown. His columns, particularly 'Quaint Place', have delighted readers for several decades. His career as a journalist spans nearly four decades R.V. Smith is a man of diverse interest. He has written books of poetry, a romantic novel and travelogues. He continues to write for The Statesman, The Hindu and Mid-day on a wide range of subjects. Considered by many as an expert on Delhi, particularly its forgotten monuments, Smith belongs to the rare breed of amateur antiquarians.
‘The Delhi that No-one Knows’ brings together R.V. Smith’s writings, presenting them as an unconventional introduction to the city. The legends, myths, the folklore surrounding these monuments and how the author chanced upon these delightful tales together give the book its unique appeal.
I am looking forward to read this book.

Tuesday, 18 March, 2008

My little nephew




Some days I just get an idea and I write at breakneck speed, disregarding grammar and spelling, and some days like today I want to write but don’t know quiet what to.
Ok let me talk about my nephew. I have an assortment of three nephews and one niece from my closest cousins. Each is precious in his/her own way. But today let me talk about Subham. He is an extremely energetic and awfully cute, about to be two individual. He is the sweetest angel-faced, rather naughty imp. Since we both live in Delhi and I get to meet him quiet often we have become pretty close. Whenever I ring the bell to my cousin and sister-in-law’s house I can hear him shouting excitedly “Tinku pishi (Tinku is my pet name and pishi is aunt in Bangla) has come! Tinku pishi has come!”. The moment I enter he has to show me some of his new toy, if not then tell me something very important. He usually gets so excited that he keeps running round and round in circles. This last weekend I was in their house. Lately my nephew has started talking in full sentences. All of Saturday evening he told me stories about a certain tiger whom my brave nephew had scared away. Then on Sunday his parents had to briefly go out, in order to divert his attention I started to tell him a story. Soon Subham got so engrossed that I just could not stop. My story whose hero was Shubham and villain was a big, bad tiger kept going round and round. Super energetic Subham sat still listening with his full attention. At one point he got scared so he shifted base from the couch to my lap. But he kept listening and asking questions whenever he needed clarification especially for the part where he bravely scares the tiger! That set the mood for the day, even after his parents returned home the story continued. I think I told him the same story over and over again for about 30 times. I started with a long story but as time progressed I kept shortening the story. But my nephew kept laughing and having fun. Kids are so innocent. I pray he always remains this happy.
His phone conversation is also worth talking about. Before whenever my brother called, he would take the phone from me and say very solemnly “ Kaka ekta chotto chocolate dao na go please” (Uncle please give me one small chocolate, small because his mom scolds if he wants any chocolate so negotiation between mother and son is that Subham will settle for a small piece of chocolate.) But lately Subham would start telling his tiger story to my brother who is calling from Mumbai. he is fun to watch while talking on the phone.
Sunday evening when it was time for me to return my home, Subham was cranky and tired by then, so I promised to get him a bus the next time I come, provided he does not cry when I leave. Yesterday I got this call from my aunt that Subham was waiting for the bus I promised him. Today also my cousin said that Subham was asking about Tinku pishi and the bus that he has been promised.
Bus coming your way Subham. Love you baby. When you grow up and I grow old I can show you this post, specially when you wont believe all the stories about how naughty you were as a kid.

Monday, 17 March, 2008

New blog friend

A very nice thing happened today. I was as usual feeling sleepy and extremely bored post lunch. Suddenly someone pinged me in Gtalk. It was my colleague Muthamma from Bangalore. I have meet Muthamma a couple of times in our organization’s annual meetings. But never had the chance to interact much or get to know her. All I knew about her is that she works on Disability Rights and has two very cute daughters. The other day I had to send her some presentation urgently, as usual our office server was slow, so we exchanged our gmail ids.
Muthamma pinged me today to say that she has read my blog and liked it. I feel really good when someone takes time out to actually read my postings. Right now it is the best compliment anyone can pay me! After I have felt smug enough, we moved from my blog to her daughters and how brave I think her to be. Being a fulltime professional she has two babies. She made light of her responsibilities but I am still awestruck. Finally our conversation turned to books. We both discovered that the other is an avid reader. We barely chatted for half an hour. But there are times like this when just half an hour does the magic-- our wavelengths match amazingly. I wish all my afternoons are this interesting.
Cheers to my new friend.

Friday, 14 March, 2008

Life in JNU: Buses, bus drivers and me

Another old JNU post, written on 22nd March 2005, rediscovered today, no frankly yesterday.
Here is goes...
Few days back something very funny happened. i was traveling by this DTC bus route number 620, apparently the driver was new and after Munirka he claimed he didn’t know the route to JNU. Now these special 620 buses do not go the usual route taken by bus number 615. They go through Ber Sarai. Very few JNU students get up in these buses since the service is so infrequent. There were some men till Ber Sarai, after that there was only a guy and me left, both JNU bound. The conductor was snoring away to glory in the back and the driver was too busy talking and was driving rather precariously for my comfort. This other guy was a stranger to JNU and he looked really nervous. When he discovered that I would get down at the first stop and he kept asking me how much more did he have to go inside the campus and all. The driver also seemed sad that I was getting down at the first stop, he even invited me to tea at the depot and looked really crestfallen when I declined. This was my first tea invitation from a bus driver. I didn’t know Indian men had become so smart to offhandedly ask women out for tea. These are the times when I wish I were a man. Then I could have accepted his invitation without any taboos.
People usually keep saying Delhi bus wallas (drivers and conductors) are pretty rude. So far (touch wood) they have been very nice to me. I remember after I had just joined JNU I missed my school’s bus stop. Soon after that the bus enters into a forestry road (whole of JNU is forestry but this is pretty isolated and to me then looked pretty scary and alien since it was the first time I have ventured that way). Thankfully the bus didn’t stop at the depot instead immediately set forth for the next round. All the while the conductor was assuring me that he would drop me at the right stop on the way back. After the right stop was discovered and I got down the driver waited to see if that was indeed the right stop.Another time I fell down from the bus steps. I mean right from the first down onto the ground. (Now I fall a lot, according to my brother this is because my center of gravity is displaced, everyone keeps me teasing about this, specially my father. My falling down is no big deal for my friends and family, no one pays any attention to it, rather teases me some and forgets all about it. Forget any consolation. I have a classic record fallen down from the steps of Presidency College to Tihar Jail!) Anyways at that time after recovering from my fall I went my way. On my return trip (JNU has this bus which plows all the time and is filled with students all the time) the conductor got hold of me and gave me a stern lecture on how I should wear proper shoes and not wear shades and be more careful while getting down from the bus. It was so very sweet of him, he need not have bothered.

Thursday, 13 March, 2008

Life in JNU: Experience of Viva Voce at JNU

I found this is the sent box of my old email written on 3 of August 2002.

Entrance examinations for M.Phil/ Phd Programmes of Study in the Jawaharlal Nehru University is held in two stages--- the written examination and the next, if the students qualify in the written examination the viva voce. The written examination is held all over India in forty-nine centers and also in Dhaka and Katmandu. The viva is held in JNU itself. So students who have been short-listed have to go over to Delhi. Coming from Calcutta, the first shock is the campus of JNU. It is simply huge. Those of us who are used to Presidency and JU campus, JNU campus looks something like a reserved forest. After entering through the main gate the roads go winding, with trees on both the sides, with a slight undulation, which makes you feel like you are in a hill station. You almost expect some wild animal to come dashing out on to the road, blocking your way. My viva was in the School of International Studies (SIS) Building, which after some misdirection was found in due time. Adjacent to the SIS Building is the School Of Languages (SL) Building, which I went into by mistake. Then when I asked around for the department of South East Asian Studies in my Benglish Hindi, some helpful students directed me to the department of Chinese Language. My heart stopped for a moment because for one second I thought that maybe I was expected to appear for my viva in South East Asian Area Studies in Chinese. While I was feeling thus doomed, one kind lady saved me, telling me I was in the wrong building. With minutes to spare for my viva I entered the right building and battled my way (because mostly people had a hard time understanding my Hindi) into the right department. The viva was held in a congenial atmosphere, where I was mainly asked questions from the write up I had prepared specifically for this purpose. There were fifteen students called for the viva, with only two of us from International Relations Department of Jadavpur University, rest were all students of JNU. My write up was on Myanmar, so were of twelve other students. My viva went on for barely fifteen to twenty minutes. After the viva the next step was taking the reimbursement of the train fare, which the University pays to students coming over and above a distance of 300 km. Again that was some experience. Thank God I had a friend with me, otherwise it would not have been possible to collect the money. After getting the form from the department and getting it signed by the chairperson, we had to take it to the Administration Building. There after running around from this floor to that, finally we told to go to the cash department. In the cash department there were many outstation students who had come for viva. The place looked and sounded truly cosmopolitan. By the time we were handed our money, we had gathered an idea of what JNU really was.

Canada Chronicles: Walking in Toronto

Today is a great day in Delhi weather wise. It is a cloudy day with a slight breeze. It reminds me of a typical June day in Toronto. I spent summer of 2006 lazing around in Toronto. School was over but not my scholarship. So I could spend lazy days, reading as much as I want to (Canadian public library is just awesome), watching all the movies on my ‘to-see’ list and going for long walks. Every afternoon I used to go walking for an hour or two.
My favourite walk was to go all the way from Bathurst and College (where I used to stay) to Spadina Quay. The Quay is beautiful and I will put up some of the pictures I have. After walking I used to go and sit on the wooden benches and watch the boats passing by or the ducks playing. There used to be some amazing yatches parked. The quay used to be empty during the weekday afternoons. An occasional couple or some Japanese or Korean tourist taking photographs. I used to sit there with a book or just sit and stare at the blue green water of Lake Ontario. Just next to the quay was the musical garden but oddly enough I never ventured in there.
Another of my favourite walk in Toronto was all the way down Queen Street. While the walk to the Spadina Quay was full of greenery, walk down Queen Street was getting a taste of the city of Toronto. It was an eclectic mix of various kinds of shops, tattoo and body piercing boutiques, bookstalls, restaurants and hamburger stalls to name some. There were some Nigerian guys selling junk jewelry. Once I crossed these the cosmetic shops used to start in a line like the Body Shop etc. And then my favourite restaurants used to start. There were about 8 to 9 Indian restaurants like Little India in a row who used to serve great buffet lunch.
Remembering Toronto is making me feel nostalgic and I wish I could go back to meet my friends and explore the city once more.