Mein ‘Madraasi’ Chhokri

“Lol you are not a Madraasi? But you look so much..er..Madraasi!”

“Yeah..common mistake”, I grin back spontaneously in good humor, but secretly take a moment to acknowledge it all the same.

So I look what I am not? Judging solely by my skin tone? People tend to rush to conclusions, maybe it’s an unbleached (pun intended) human thing, but nearly seven out of ten humans I chance upon make this assumption, without fail. I bet other lifeforms don’t give a damn about my skin tone.

Here’s one epic moment:

Situation: Induction program at office, we are 12 new recruits and two seniors sitting around a table. A QnA session on what we learnt during the last week. I have a loud Tamil boy (let’s call him Tamil Boy 1) sitting on my right and he is speaking to his other Tamil friend (let’s call him Tamil Boy 2) sitting on my left, in their mother tongue, fast and furious. I can only make out lots of ‘bro’-s and ‘dude’-s in their conversation. So anyway, we are divided into teams of three, and I get to team up with these two self-proclaimed dudes. Granted.

Twenty minutes on, the score board  reads a fat 70 for our team, while the others cannot, yet, boast of a healthy figure. I get patted on, by my teammate in acknowledgement of my responses that helped fetch the 70.

The host beams at us, while pinching the other teams with his loud and clear “Why are the South Indians answering everything and the rest are not?” 

I am like, “What?? Tamil boy 1 has answered quite a few; me, the rest! Am I invisible or what?”(Meanwhile, Tamil boy 2 was busy with his iPhone and was in some parallel universe).

Session over and the host calls us over and asks us on our schooling and college. As I go, “Jadavpur University, Kolkata” , he makes a fishhook eyebrow out of surprise and confesses, “O, you are Bengali? I thought you were from Madras or someplace South!” I give him the polite customary grin, assure him that I am a ‘Bangaali mey’, and part on good terms, doubts cleared.

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Kishore Kumar and Padmini in Raagini (1958) as ‘Bengali Chhokra’ and ‘Madrasi Chhokri’

 

Epic Moment 2:

Situation: I have this new girl friend at office and she is an Assamese. Fortunately or unfortunately she is tall, dark and pretty. We had hit off really well from Day-1 and always went on lunch together. Now you are bound to notice two young and lovely maidens strutting in the cafeteria,together, everyday, and one young man, did.

So one fine day my friend decides to skip lunch and I, being alone, am looking around for a familiar face. As luck would have it, I find an empty seat near this young person and get invited to sit. I accept and we get talking.

“So you are from South? Madras? I have been to Madras.”

“Cool, and no.”

“No?”

“Kolkata”, I clarify.

“Ow. You look somewhat like a Madraasi, and you hang out a lot with that tall South Indian girl, right? So I  thought..maybe..”.

“What South Indian girl?”

He describes my friend with practiced clarity. Here’s an admirer, I chuckle to myself.

“She is an Assamese. How come you thought what you thought?”

“Well her looks say something else..”

……………………………………

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Looks. Everything boils down to looks. I am a Bengali woman, born and brought up in– no prizes for guessing– Calcutta, or Kolkata as we now fondly call it. I do not call myself a Bong, simply because I am not. I am Bangaali, and dear confused soul, some of us are dark toned too. Melanin did not judge us by caste. Why stereotype then? I personally know people from South, who would put Fair & Lovely to shame and I know dusky Punjabis too. Why let the naive pigment rule your judgement then? Though only a casual and harmless misidentity of the subject, but skin tone cannot be a giveaway. An individual can belong to any part of the world and choose to dress and doll up as she/he wishes, and it is pure folly to make an assumption just like that. Again, there is nothing wrong in some harmless guessing game, but no doubt, it is a moo point! Humans are no less than chameleons, (remember Mystique from X-Men?) and one plus one may not be always two, it may sometimes be yellow as well, maybe more often than you think!

Download the full song  here

 

Wing(less)

I am a no namby-pamby, no frills 25 year old. I do not wear stiletto heels (because I can’t walk on those) or put on make up (for an entirely different reason:I am too lazy to invest time for that perfect look– I’d rather mooch around in my room with both hands tucked into my pockets). Basically I have very few needs from life, and thereby I have been rendered incapable of taking shit. Keep it short, keep it simple, that is what I try to follow, but I don’t fail to fail myself every now and then.

So anyway, it is one of those ‘bright’ mornings at office, my workstation being cheerfully lit by the artificiality of an electronic driver, and I am sipping on a cup of espresso-latte concoction (my weird taste buds dictate thus to be prepared each morning), wondering what to do. One might wonder why so? You are at office, there should not be dearth of work for you! True that. The Boss might saunter in anytime, and point out that you have a pile of unfinished chores and demand with high authority to show the cause of your ‘nonchalance’. I get terrified at the idea, and with quick agility gulp the hot liquid at one go, zip open my backpack and plug in my laptop.

Outlook opens…now I can relax for a few minutes, till my inbox is updated, while the ‘busy bee’ that is me, checks for updates on WhatsApp. 201 new messages (I gape at the enormity), all from my college group, a few scores from the girls’ group, a generic ‘hey, how are you’ from few out-of-contact close friends, and  sometimes, to spice it up, my estranged best(boy)friend comes up with a ‘I have been thinking about us’. It’s been three and a half minutes, yet Outlook is still updating, I make a mental note to raise a ticket with the laptop maintenance guys. I check a few messages on WhatsApp, choose to not reply, and vouch to call them up once I am back to my sordid 1 room apartment, while this tiny trail of thought nags my mind for a second: they are going to see the tiny blue ticks and maybe, I don’t know, feel ignored? I shrug a mental shrug and keep my cellphone away, while with a dry expression open the mail. It reminds me to release a signed document. Document it. Get it signed.Redo redo. A million times (ya, I know I am exaggerating, but it is worth it). I am bored. I want to go on treks. Need to buy a rucksack and good shoes, I muse…as I imagine myself walking in line with a Sherpa,  en-route to the snowy Himalayas.Meanwhile a jaunty ‘Good Morning, Priyanka’ from the cheerful senior across my desk brings me out of my stupor. I wish him back and as always I am at a loss as to what to answer to his “What’s up?” I wish he realized it is one of the toughest questions you can ask a person, still severely drowsy from rising late (read: 8:55 am, most days).

Shoot. Its 10: 15 already! I trundle to my workbench, turn on the instruments, moisten the sponge and clean the tip of the solder iron.I look around. Tweezers: Missing, Cutter: Missing, Screw Driver: Missing, (Hey, I found my earphones!). I collect what I can from around the Lab, and life goes on with occasional cracks from my workbench (that is when the transistor couple becomes too hot to handle). A couple of hours and it is lunchtime. I collect a 50 rupee note from my purse and follow others into the lift waiting to take us to Level O. Same old, same old. I am bored. I want to go on treks! Wonder how a Maggi-addict like me will get sick of it after consuming it straight for 15 days while camping on the snowy plains. Bonfire and snow. Sunrise and snow. Maggi and butter-tea. And snow. If only, I sigh as I load a ladle of daal into the plastic bowl. An hour passes by through chitchats, munches and gulps; and its time to go back to work. The team trifurcates, as I slouch upstairs for a quick nap..I shut my eyes and sink in…and it’s 2:30. I make a quick list as to what to complete before 6 pm and get set to work. I record  a couple of readings from the room next door, and copy them into my Excel file. Confident, that in two days time, I will forget where I have recorded my data, I nonetheless retain its default title “Book 1” and spare myself the couple-of-seconds-worth labor of renaming it. As I open a folder to save the sheet in, a pesky little sub folder, which I so lovingly named “Read Up” catches my eye. Open it and therein lies a plethora of PDFs that I have happily put off for ‘some other time’. I never completed it. No wonder I suck at electronics. I will read it after office, I promise myself.

Time flies. It’s 6.30. I pack up,and glad that another office day is over, I accompany my cab-mates out of the building. Have to study back home, have to complete the assignments I have boldly registered myself in, I keep reminding myself. Would it not be so much fun if I could go on treks? No studies, no routine. My camera and the soft snow.

As the cab halts outside my place, I push aside my dreams, realizing for the umpteenth time that I better ‘build my career’ first, and that treks are for luxury, not a regular thing. I need a steady source of income for which I need to go on with this mundaneness for a while at least, before I can fling this routine out of my life and lunge forward, my heart all set for hiking into the unknown.

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Source: Google

Bond-ing!

“Sir could I please have a photograph with you?”

“Sure, dear!”

And the result was this:

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Ruskin Bond, at Cambridge Book Depot, Mussourie

I met him. Yes, I met Rusty, with the same glint of boyish mischief in his eyes, I had imagined Mr.Bond has, while reading his work. I am not a voracious reader, but once I get hold of a Ruskin Bond, I cannot let go, even after I have read it for the umpteenth time. I imagine, he was one of the earliest authors of childrens’ books, to whose world I was introduced as a kid. On a lazy Saturday afternoon, post a sumptuous lunch, I would curl into a cozy corner beside the window in my room with his book of short stories and devour it. The simple stories of the simple life of an individual based on a humble background and his down-to-earth way of life would pull me to his world of his Uncle Ken, his grandma, his Rani. I wonder if Rani was indeed real. Should have asked him when I met him, but shoot! My tongue decides to get tied the moment I meet him, and I come back without asking about Rani.

Let me take you to the beginning of the story. Christmas was around the corner. And I had an office errand to run, which landed me in Selaqui, a quaint town in Dehradun. It was my first solo trip and it turned out to be way more fun than I had anticipated it to be. My work was done by Saturday morning and had one extra day to spare before I had to trundle back to office.I decided to visit Mussourie and Dhanaulti, and made a (utopian) mental note to meet Ruskin Bond, who I knew lived somewhere in Mussourie. I took a uphill bus ride (it is a 2.5 hr ride) and although a bit dizzy from the it, and though I had a handful of luggage with me, I trudged up the stone stairway with a representative from a nearby hotel and booked a room. I freshened up, emptied my backpack, took a bottle of water, some chocolates, my purse, my camera and I was on the road in ten minutes–there was no time  to lose!

I walked. I walked. And I walked some more, till I stumbled upon this sign:

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..and I was like, “Omygawd..so this is it! ” I stepped into this warm little bookshop named “Cambridge Book Depot” and after a few words with the owner, I got to know that Mr.Bond will be visiting late that afternoon and his fans could get their books autographed, and themselves photgraphed, over a cup of chai and biscuits. Ok, so I have to make slight change in plans, I will roam around the town, come back here, and then roam around some more, but I will have to drop the Dhanaulti plan, which was fine by me.

I walked along the Mall Road, tried roadside munchies, took selfies, stopped here and there to take a few snaps, as the warm December sun blushed upon this little hill town. IMG_20151226_120225296IMG_20151226_164231811_HDRIMG_20151226_141818371_HDR

So, anyway I made my way to an “aquarium” and was sorely disappointed to see that clay models was all they had on display! Then I realized it was a fancy hotel, which boasted of a rooftop “aquarium”! Fine. A good woman out there advised me on places, which are a must see, but was quick to add that it was not a good idea for a solo woman tourist. I hated to agree, but agreed all the same. She suggested cheerily that I should take the Ropeway, that would take me all the way atop Gun Hill, from where the whole town could be seen. Somewhat satiated by her  words, I headed to buy a ticket for the Ropeway. Another disappointment. The famous Ropeway with its infamous fan following ( at least 50 people in queue!) forced me again to change my plans. No worries, I will walk the way up.

A few deep breaths in, and armed with a cup of “boiled-n-salted corns” in my one hand, and a BIG  fluffy candyfloss in the other, I started. I googled up to see it was a 400m walk, but honest to god, it seemed way longer! I walked, ran, jumped, rested, had leg cramps at one point, and finally reached atop and collapsed out of fatigue. It was a beautiful market up there and I got up to explore. It was colorful and cheerful. A few yards up from the market grounds, there was this “Telescope Point”, where you pay 50 rupees, and they show you the pride points of this simple hill town. I took my turn and was mesmerized to see The Himalayas, all snowy-peaked. I was instantly reminded of the diagrams in my Geography text book, with fir trees an snow capped peaks! It was enchanting, surreal!

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All my 5MP cellphone camera was capable of !

IMG_20151226_134515598The telescope-man pointed out to me the Kedarnath Peak, the Garhwal Border, the Ranipur Gaon, the Gangotri glacier, and the Nag Tibba (he mentioned that Ruskin Bond lives somewhere around that place). Realizing that I was not satisfied with one view, the kind person offered me another round of this delightful visual tour. Happy at heart, I went trotting off to the market downstairs and splurged on merchandise for back home.IMG_20151226_135618140

I still had enough time till the meet with the author, so I casually strolled down the hilly way and into Mall Road. It was a pretty arrangement in preparation of the Christmas Carnival. I settled on a roadside bench and slurped on a softy , soaking in the local merriment.

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Finally it was 3.30 when I headed for the bookshop, I talked about earlier. I had an old Ruskin Bond book in my bag already, but I chose to purchase a new one for the autograph. It was a 15-20 min wait , and I was half-way through the first chapter, when the man-of-the-moment drove in. I wowed at the first glimpse and mentally revised all that I wanted to talk about, with him. I was second in the queue and a few moments later, I was ushered inside. I fumbled with my pen, then noticed he had a pen in hand all ready, and presented the book in front of him.

IMG-20151226-WA0008With surprising agility, for an 81 year old, he steadily printed “Priyanka~ Stay happy!” and swooshed a crisp autograph. I posed for a photograph with him, but sadly forgot all about chatting with this jewel of a man. By the time I was getting ready to start my chat, I was politely asked to leave by the shopkeeper, giving the acceptable excuse of the eager(and long) queue  of fans.

My watch told me that I still had time for a short trip to Camel’s Back Road, so I rented a ricksha till that spot and back. The route left me wanting for more, with its deep undergrowth on the roadside, and the mighty HImalayas visible with all its grandeur.

We stopped on the way for the visual treat of the setting sun on the mountains and a few quick snaps.

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..and then finally reached the spot:

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Camel’s Back Road, Source: Google

It indeed looked like a camel hunching on its limbs.It is the result of natural rock formation, that has led to such an unambiguous structure.

It was getting dark by that time and and so we rode off back to my hotel. Early next morning, I took a return ticket to Delhi and after a 7.5 hr long ride, I was back where all of it began, but a contented soul this time.

PS– These cuties I met that day agreed to pose with me!:

cartoons

My Sketches

Paint1

 

shivaji
Shivaji

 

Catwoman
Catwoman

 

joker
Joker
batman
Batman
flash
Flash
spider-man
Spiderman
super-man
Superman
CaptSparrow
Captain Sparrow
BobMarley
Bob Marley
EdSheeran
Ed Sheeran
Madhobi
Madhobi Mukherjee
Prof.Moriarty
Prof. Moriarty
sherlock
Sherlock
Snape
Prof. Snape
Leo
I am a Leo Baby!

**Disclaimer: Ideas for sketches have been obtained from Google. There will be assured resemblance with the original photos, from which the sketches are influenced. 😛

https://priyokobita.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/ful-futuk-na-futuk/

ফুল ফুটুক না ফুটুক – সুভাষ মুখোপাধ্যায়

ফুল ফুটুক না ফুটুক
আজ বসন্ত।

শান-বাঁধানো ফুটপাথে
পাথরে পা ডুবিয়ে এক কাঠখোট্টা গাছ
কচি কচি পাতায় পাঁজর ফাটিয়ে
হাসছে।

ফুল ফুটুক না ফুটুক
আজ বসন্ত।

আলোর চোখে কালো ঠুলি পরিয়ে
তারপর খুলে –
মৃত্যুর কোলে মানুষকে শুইয়ে দিয়ে
তারপর তুলে –
যে দিনগুলো রাস্তা দিয়ে চলে গেছে
যেন না ফেরে।

গায়ে হলুদ দেওয়া বিকেলে
একটা দুটো পয়সা পেলে
যে হরবোলা ছেলেটা
কোকিল ডাকতে ডাকতে যেত
– তাকে ডেকে নিয়ে গেছে দিনগুলো।

লাল কালিতে ছাপা হলদে চিঠির মত
আকাশটাকে মাথায় নিয়ে
এ-গলির এক কালোকুচ্ছিত আইবুড়ো মেয়ে
রেলিঙে বুক চেপে ধ’রে
এই সব সাত-পাঁচ ভাবছিল –

ঠিক সেই সময়
চোখের মাথা খেয়ে গায়ে উড়ে এসে বসল
আ মরণ ! পোড়ারমুখ লক্ষ্মীছাড়া প্রজাপতি !

তারপর দড়াম করে দরজা বন্ধ হবার শব্দ।
অন্ধকারে মুখ চাপা দিয়ে
দড়িপাকানো সেই গাছ
তখন ও হাসছে।