Posts Tagged ‘kolkata’

Kolkata, Jorhat, Kaziranga, 07-130517

May 19, 2017

We visited Kolkata


had an evening admiring the Victoria Memorial,



enjoying puchka


jhaal mudi


and visited the family who brought me up.


We visited Pradeep and Sulakshana Barthakur at their home in Jorhat, where they run a centre for children. (Pokamura, 7km from Jorhat)


The location is


Their home is a veritable garden of Eden which they share with all kinds of beings:


Bronzeback Tree Snake


Blue-throated Barbet


We went to Kaziranga National Park, staying at Wild Grass resort.


Hog Deer


Red Jungle Fowl






Swamp Deer (bArAsinghA)


Here’s K1’s beautiful depiction of the elephant safari,



where we saw so much of wildlife.



The Flickr albums are:

Blr-Kol and visit

Kol, Science City and Gariahat Mod


Jorhat, 100517

Wild Grass, Kaziranga, 11,120517

Jorhat, 130517 morning

Jorhat-Guwahati-Bangalore, 130517

It was a memorable trip and I enjoyed it very much, through my own experience and that of my family.


August 4, 2014

I was looking at a Facebook post, made by Viju JB,of a very old photograph, of a couple, taken at their wedding. This suddenly put me in mind of an old English magazine that was very much a part of our lives…the

Illustrated Weekly of India.

The subject title is because we had a Marwari newspaper/magazine agent, who would come regularly to our home, bringing the latest magazines, and comics. (Something that just doesn’t happen any more.) I can still remember his face! He would arrive on his cycle, accept a cup of chai from my mother, and both of them would sit, and settle down for a nice session. Dell (and later, Gold Key) comics, Archie comics, Illustrated Classics comics, and Disney….my mother truly bought them by the dozen, and though the Reader’s Digest had started coming home by post, my mother (my father only provided; he was never home, all these were my mother’s interests!) would buy the magazines…I remember the starting of the “Junior Statesman” which was soon called “JS” and became the trendy youth magazine. (I also remember feeling out of touch with the very Westernized lifestyle it seemed to espouse.) Time, Life, National Geographic, Femina, Caravan, Filmfare…and of course, what our newsagent called the “Lusted Weekly”, and which most of us referred to as just the “Weekly”. It was a large-sized magazine (they all were!), and I went through each issue eagerly.

The wedding photos used to be a regular feature at the back of the issue, comprising many couples, looking deadpan into the camera in the wedding fashions of the day. (Almost no one had a smile on their faces.)

I also remember Nissim Ezekiel writing regularly, Kamala Das’ “My Life”, and Khushwant Singh’s editorial stamp on the magazine….I do remember that Pritish Nandy was the editor at a later stage…his daughter and mine were born on the same day, and the mothers shared a room at the Woodlands Nursing Home (Nov 2, 1978.)

I enjoyed Mario Miranda’s wonderful cartoons, and Raji Nimboopani and Moonswamy were good friends. I remember Raghu Rai’s excellent photographs….oh…the Lusted Weekly was certainly a wonderful part of our lives in those days. R K Laxman did a lot of work for the magazine, too; I never dreamed that years later (Dec 8, 1992) I would meet Laxman himself, in Bangalore, and have a long chat with him about his work and life.

I never did know why or how the closed down, but it did, and passed into history…the Wiki says it closed down in 1993….the Wiki says it started in 1880, so that’s more than a century of life!

My life was always full of excellent reading material, and I must say, the “Weekly” supplied a lot of it! Thank you, Viju, for making me look back….v

Blasts from the past…

July 10, 2013

KM’s cousin, Raju Srikumar, put up a lot of family photographs on FB, and I downloaded these….

Here’s KM and his family (I think the youngest brother wasn’t yet born!)..this must be circa 1960:

aapnk 1960 probably

Here I am, with AM (who’s definitely less than a year old, so this must be early 1979), in Santhome, in Chennai:

am dm santhome 1979

Here’s my father, holding AM, in Bompas Road, Kolkata, in September 1979:

ambu sntm 1977

The photo below is from October 1979; it was also taken in Santhome.

Here’s a pic where my brother seems to have joined all of us. As says, probably faking the “good boy” look before going out on the town! I was lucky to have a brother and brother in laws who were on excellent terms..and in my mind, there was no difference between them…my brothers in law, too, were extremely affectionate.

Memories suddenly surfaced today…they are both happy and painful. Life has always been a mixture of the good and the bad, but the good has always predominated, and I am fortunate, and grateful for that!

Shadow Play….Calcutta…

December 5, 2011

For many of us, Calcutta cannot really be written as “Kolkata” though, of course, that’s the way we say it in Bengali….and our memories of the city are of several landmarks and important things….

Abhishek Mukherjee

whose blog I follow regularly, had posted this lovely shadow play video on Facebook:

Even if you are not a Calcutta lover…you can watch the creativity of the shadow play!

Does anyone know whose these talented hands are?

Story-telling in childhood…

August 2, 2011

I suddenly decided to read the Kenneth Anderson ombibus of stories again, and while reading “Tales of the Supernatural”, I paused while my mind went back to my childhood, and the days of being told horror stories.

I have always been a voracious reader, especially of fiction, but there is a certain something to having a story told to one. There are the regular folk tales and the mythological tales that are told over the meal. During the summer holidays, we would visit Madras, and a horde of cousins would be called in to sit in a circle, with one aunt having made two large bowls, one of sambar shAtham and one of thayir shAtham. We had banana-flower petals or little bits of plantain leaves set in front of us, and vegetables and pickled would be served on this. Each child had to extend his or her right hand (the left hand, being considered unclean, was never allowed) and in turn, the aunt would drop just enough of the rice into it, for the child to eat.What fun meal-times were, with the aunt also telling us a story! One day it would be Tenali Raman’s turn to stun us with his wit and humour and lateral thinking; one day it would be the tales of Rama and Seetha and their journey into the jungle, one day it would be a tale from the Panchatantra.. Certainly we were never told tales from other countries..just the Tamizh folklore was rich enough for my aunts. Ah, how the food would disappear, as we listened! Those who listened and grew intent and forgot to put drops of “vattha kuzhambu” on their curd rice got a scolding.

My mother, too, always had the habit of reading several Tamizh story books and serials from the many magazines she bought, while my brother and I ate our dinner (steel plates, and by now, we were old enough to mix the rice ourselves and eat it!)

But there were the story-telling sessions by our peers, too. These generally occurred in the afternoons when the heat drove even us children indoors, and we would lie under the tiles of the verandah, or cluster under the single creaking fan in the large front hall. While the adults had their siesta, our older cousins would tell us tales of movies they’d seen, and of novels that they had read (surrpetitiously…it was not an activity that was encouraged!)

But best of all was when all of us had spread out rush mats on the floor of the hall, and lay down; the lights were extinguished (in the villages where some of my aunts lived, it was just Petromax lanterns or oil lamps…electricity often failed, and was hardly missed!) In the hot darkness, the voice of one cousin would begin a ghost or horror story. Our imaginations would supply the gory details that the cousin left out, and probably each of us pictured a scenario very different from that of the others, depending on what informed our childish imaginations. I remember four of us lying in my aunt and uncle’s bedroom, with the moonlight flooding in at the window, being told the story of “Dracula”. It was years later that I actually read the story, but how I remember the fear I felt! None of us could sleep very well afterwards, and we needed to go and visit the toilet only in twosomes, never alone! All of us would not get up at the first call of the adults the next morning, and would go to the “kollai” (rear of the house) to brush our teeth with water from the backyard tap, feeling rather foolish at having been so scared the previous night.

Horror stories have, I think, a special place in every childhood…the latest theory-mongers would have us believe that it would probably warp a child’s personality..but I think such things helped us immensely. We could face our fears and tell ourselves that “it was a story, after all”….and we felt braver for having faced the fear, and that made us more courageous next time. But, of course, several of the younger children often broke into tears during the course of the night, after having heard some tale of horror and mystery!

We got to know the usual mythological stories and Jataka tales and stories from our rich culture. For some reason, the story of the crow, the fox and the vadai was the very first tale told to a child….I simply cannot understand why, and yet, that is the first tale I’ve told my grand-daughter, too!


is the song, from the Tamizh movie “ammA engE”, narrating this story.

Over the years, my mother kept reading us from childhood stories to more adult fiction…she would read out both good stories by noted authors like Rajaji, Kalki Krishnamurthy, or Kee Vaa Jagannathan, and playwrights such as “Marina”. How well I remember the wonderful scenes evoked by a serial called “Minnal, mazhai, mohini”!

It was our introduction to Tamizh literature, and to popular Tamizh magazines like “Ananda Vikatan”, “Kalki” and “Kumudam”. She also read some Hindi stories and novels, and some Bengali ones too….she actually learnt Bengali when she moved to Calcutta, and learnt it well enough to read novels like “Anando Matth” in the original!

When we were left with a friend’s family while our parents went to parties for the evening, it was Alamelu Mami who told us the most delightful tales. Scenes from royal courts, tales of wit, talking animals…they all came alive before our eyes. What a treasure those long evenings were! Very often, my brother would refuse to go home with my parents at night, and would bargain, before being dropped off, to stay there overnight and come back only the next morning!

The rich variety of stories that I heard (not just read) has enriched my life and my imagination, and I give thanks for a childhood that was filled with story-telling.

Unexpected Scrap, from the distant past….

April 20, 2011

This morning, KM suddenly took out a disintegrating scrap of paper from his wallet and said, “Write this down for me on a stronger piece of paper.”

I looked at it…and was surprised to see my mother’s handwriting, in Hindi, with the Tamizh translation of the song (dukhiyArE nainA), on the tattered scrap. “Why do you want this written down, I don’t even know the song!” I told him. “Song?” he said. “I gave you a paper on which you had written Hanuman Chalisa.”

“This is NOT my handwriting, it’s my mother’s.” “No, it’s yours.” “No, it’s NOT.”

It took me a while before he would actually look at the scrap of paper and realize that words such as “rAtEin” and “bArAtEin” (meaning “nights”, and “wedding processions”) would not occur in Hanuman Chalisa, and that it was, indeed, my mother’s handwriting.

Here it is:

dukhiya re naina 200411

How did this scrap come to be in KM’s wallet (a recent acquisition) ? I have no clue. But I do remember my mother, in my childhood, sending by post to many relatives, the lyrics of hit Hindi movie songs, with their translations…she was indefatigable in this effort. Took me back to the days in Lansdowne Road (or 200, Sarat Bose Road, as it is called now)…the large building, owned by a lawyer called Burman then…. still stands…I saw it in December 2009.

So…I photographed it, as the best way to preserve it….here it is… a sudden quirky event that brought back the past to me!

You can hear the song here:

Wonderful that this scrap of paper came into my hands when I have the technology to instantly bring up the song for both myself and for others….

The video shows various film heroines in sad scenes… Madhubala, Nargis, Vyjanthimala, Nargis again, and I *think* the last one is Waheeda Rehman.

Demons and Reproduction

October 19, 2006


What a weird title…but sunson asked:

While I was describing about Deepavali to a ABCD at work, he asked “Don’t demons mate and have children? I know that Krishna is like one Love God and that Rama had a Sita. But what about this Narakasura?”. After reading up on wikipedia about this in his comment on my post yesterday, I’m still confused whether these demons reproduce sexually. Any ideas? 😉

Here’s my reply:

Of course, demons, in Hindu mythology at least, reproduce sexually. Ravana +Mandodari =so many children, including the valourous Indrajit (conqueror of Indra) ; asuras have children like anyone else, in mythology. Read the descriptions of Hanuman looking for Sita in the palace of Ravana; he looks at a very beautiful lady sleeping peacefully in Ravana’s anthapuram (harem) and wonders if this could be Sita, and decides, it can’t be, as Sita the devoted wife of Rama would not sleep peacefully in another man’s harem.

Also, there are instances of asuras being attracted to gods/humans– Hidimbi + Bheema = Ghatotkacha. Also, Soorpanakha being attracted to Rama and Lakshmana…why, Ravana’s being attracted to Sita forms the backbone of the epic!

“Demons” are not necessarily always evil; Mandodari, the wife of Ravana, is revered as a model of wifely virtue; and Ravana himself is depicted an an erudite scholar and a wise ruler, only blinded by his passion for Sita. There is a school of thought, indeed, that says that the invading Aryans, fair and tall, depicted themselves as Suras, and the Dravidians, stocky and short, as the Asuras (the not-Suras.)

But of course, since it is mythology, demons reproduce magically, too. Deepavali is day after tomorrow, and it is celebrated as
Kali Puja (kALi poojA) in Bengal. So it is apt to remember the story of Rakthabeeja the demon. Whenever he shed a drop of blood in a fight or war, and that drop hit the earth,  several more Rakthabeejas would spring up from the drop. Hence Parvati/Durga had to take the form of Kali, the Dark and Fearsome One, with her tongue outstretched, to catch every drop of blood before it touched the earth.
Kolkata has the most famous Kali temple .The tongue and eyes  are the most striking parts of the image.

Well…Sunson…hope you found that interesting!