Archive for September, 2010

took my breath away

this post is written for BLOGESHWAR 4 and ANUBHOOTI

Ravi had come on a weeklong tour to Meghalaya with his mom and dad.

“Driver ji! Where are you taking us now?”

“Elephant falls”

“I am sure it’s not a very tall or huge fall!”

“No, it’s neither tall nor huge but it’s quite popular. It’s just outside the city so a lot many flock in there. It’s shaped like an elephant. You will love it am sure.”

“Yeah! Fine! Let’s see. What after that? Where else?”

“Maybe the Duwan Sing Syiem viewpoint. It’s on the road to Cherrapunji.”

“Cherrapunji! I want to go there as well and cover it whole. Today why not somewhere else? We can stop at the viewpoint tomorrow while we go to Cherrapunji. Take us to Shillong peak instead after we see the falls.”

“Cherrapunji. There is nothing sir. You have just a couple of falls and a cave.”

“I don’t care and they are not just ordinary couple of falls. They are one amongst the tallest in India and Cherrapunji is world-famous.”

“Yes sir, it is but it doesn’t rain much there.”

“I am not going to see the rain. I just want to go there to get a feel of the place.”

By this time our Mahindra had reached Elephant falls. I was very curious. This would be the first fall I would see in my life. I was excited and a chill ran down my spine as I got down the car. It was very cold and why not it was Christmas today.

“Oh! This is amazing for sure but it doesn’t look like an elephant from any angle.”

“Son! Read the board. It’s written it used to look like an elephant not anymore. Let’s go down the stairs to see the entire fall.”

“Terribly beautiful. It’s a cascade fall and it must be no more than 30m tall. Hey mom! Don’t enter the pool. Now I guess you need to look at the sign board. It’s clearly written it’s dangerous. You can slip and fall.”

That was the first fall I saw in my life and it was surely amazing and it was like the first drop of human blood a tiger tastes. I wanted more.

“Ravi! Look at this hat. Should I buy it?”

“Dad! Come on. Let’s move out. We have to go to Shillong peak. I can’t wait”

On our way to the peak.

“Are you sure you want to go to Cherrapunji. I am sure the falls there wouldn’t be as amazing as you think. It’s not monsoon. One of them must be dry and the other having just a trail of water and can’t be viewed from near.”

“Driver ji. Yes, I will go there, even if it’s just a trickle.”

We reached Shillong peak. As we climbed the mountain I could see terraced farms growing potato and other vegetables. It looked lovely but my camera battery was dying out so I couldn’t afford to take pics there. Save the last for the best I said to myself. Finally we reached the peak.

“Oh fuck! What chilling cold. It must be sub-zero for sure”

We climbed an observation tower

“Mom! Look down. Oh lovely. This is the whole of Shillong you can see. This is my first bird’s eye view mom and also the highest I have been so far. It’s fantastic.”

“Hey Ravi! Did u feel something?”


“The tower is shaking.”

“Oh yes! It’s shaking. Hey it’s an earthquake. My first earthquake. Mom this is too much. So much in one day. ”

It was Christmas so we hurried to Shillong cathedral for evening prayers and not before long it was the next day.

“Ravi, where is the driver? Call him. He didn’t look too excited to take us to Cherrapunji. Such aversion he has.”

“Mom, I have called him. He is coming. He has to. We are paying him.”

Gulping down green tea and hot momos on a cold December morning and seeing the city of Shillong beautifully decorated for Christmas. What a sight it was. I was at the right place at the right time.

“Sir, this is the viewpoint I was talking about yesterday. But be quick sir, we have to go quite far away from here and return in time before its dark.”

“Mom! This is a canyon and yet another first for me. This is amazing dad. See the roads above from here and the entire valley. Oh! It’s amazing. I am falling short of breath. It’s taking my breath away.”

“Hey! Don’t say that.”

“Ok mom! It was just a metaphor.”

Moving ahead to Cherrapunji on the narrow road with brown rolling hills and deep forested valleys on one side and sun-burnt plains on the other we reached Cherrapunji but our driver told us first we will visit Mawsmai and then Cherrapunji.

“Hey dad! Look at those dry falls. It’s the Mawsmai falls.”

“You even get fun seeing dry falls?”

“Yeah! Why not? Imagine how much of water would flow in monsoon. It must be a beauty then.”

The caves were cool too but I was expecting spiders, bats and cockroaches there but sadly there were none inside and I came out disheartened and now was the time to see the final fall, a few miles away from Cherrapunji.

“I am telling you sir, you have wasted the day. I could have shown you parks and lakes in Shillong. More tourists go there.”

“I get irritated seeing landscaped parks and lakes driver ji. I am not an ordinary tourist.”

We came to Cherrapunji but the fall we had to see was some miles away. The rocks were rich with coal I could see. It’s a state rich with resources and unparalleled beauty. I knew the fall I was about to see was the Nohkalikai and had a tragic story behind its name. I had seen the fall on Google and read about it many a times. It was a dream to see it. I reached the place and rushed to the viewpoint and the moment I saw three strings of water thundering down the huge rock down into a blue pool I was stunned. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. I was feeling so much alive and full of breath.

“Ma! Look. What a beauty. How could I have missed it? The driver is such a bore. Imagine the fall in monsoon. It would be a monster I am sure.”

“And look at this poster. It’s falsely written it’s the fourth highest fall in the world when it’s just the fourth in India.”

“Who cares son? Just look at the fall. The water plunging down the water makes a faint roaring sound. I can hear it.”

“Yeah ma! I can hear it too. It’s taking my breath away. I will go down the stairs and get a closer look.”

“Hey no! It looks so dangerous. The canyon is do deep and the stairs near vertical. Don’t go!”

“No ma, I will be fine. Just a few steps down.”

I went down and down. I was feeling ecstatic. I was feeling drugged. My breaths became heavier. The stairs were of course dangerous. I lost my balance. I tried to recover. It was late. It was the last stair. It was a deep and thickly forested rocky canyon beyond and I slipped and down in the canyon some thousand feet deep. As I had been saying to my mom. It took my breath away.


the dark night

“Didi, I need to go and drink some water”

“Pratima! Why don’t you go alone? I am feeling sleepy. Don’t bother me.”

“No didi, please come with me. What if the lizard on the wall attacks me?”

“Don’t bother again. It’s just the verandah you have to go to. Go alone or wake up brother. You even need an escort till the refrigerator.”

“Didi! Didi! Wake up. Please come with me. I am very thirsty. Bhaiya! As if you don’t know. His record will break and he will beat me red and blue if I wake him up.”

“uff! Pratima, this is too much. I won’t sleep with you from tomorrow. Almost daily you spoil my sleep.”

Their elder cousin brother Amar was watching TV in the verandah.

“Oh! Amar bhaiya! You are still watching television. Wait! I will tell mom the first thing in morning.”

“For the sake of god Pratima, don’t behave like a kid.”

“Didi! Look behind. What is bhaiya doing with a knife? He was sound asleep when we came here.”

“Didi, move!”

Saying this Pratima moved her elder sister aside but her head banged on the corner of the verandah cot. Ravi had lashed at Poonam with a knife.

“Bhaiya! It’s you. How can you wake up? Are you mad or what? Where did you get the knife from? Wait, I will wake up mom. What kind of a joke is this?”

“Shut up you bitch or else this knife would go into your stomach and out of it.”

“Bhaiya! This is too much. Stop it! Go and sleep or I am waking up mom and dad. See didi is already hurt on her head because of your idiocy.”

“Arrey Ravi! Wait!”

Amar caught Ravi’s hand when he next tried to harm him with the knife and gave Ravi the tightest possible slap.

“You must seriously be crazy. Give me this knife and go to sleep. This is not the way to play fool with a knife in the middle of night. Be prepared to get a thrashing early morning from chacha.”

Ravi goes straight to his bed and falls asleep again

“Amar bhaiya, there is seriously some problem. I guess bhaiya must have been possessed by a ghost. He has never woken up before in the night. Not of an incidence that I know. This looks strange. We should wake up mom and dad and tell them everything.”

“Oh come on Pratima. Don’t act nuts like him! The sound of TV might have woken him up and not seeing you people around he must have played fool for which stay assured he will get a thrashing early morning.”

By this time Poonam had come from the washroom cleaning her wound and said, “Yes Amar bhaiya, she is mad for sure. She is after all watching a lot of nonsense these days. All that Aahat and Zee Horror Show. Absolute nonsense.”

Everyone retires to bed and it wasn’t long before the sun shone again on the eastern sky.

“Ravi! Get up.”

“Look at didi’s wound. What did you do last night? Is this the way to fool around? You even tried to hit Amar with a knife. Why? What’s the problem? Tell me. If this happens again you will get the thrashing of your lifetime am telling you.”

“Dad! What are you talking about? I didn’t even wake up. Everyone knows how sound I sleep. You tell me one instance in the last many years when I have woken up at night. I swear.  I don’t remember a thing. And why will I hit didi and Amar bhaiya. Am I that crazy?”

And true to his words, last night was the first night Ravi had woken up in the last many years. Everyone assumed he was lying and that the record has been broken but Ravi knew, deep down, that his record is still intact. He hadn’t woken up that night.

bakwaas band karo

It was not a usual Saturday in many ways. The previous night was my last at Doloi Chuba (a small village in Morigaon district of Assam) and also the last night of 2009. I woke up early in the morning to bathe in the biting cold water of January and with a cluttering teeth took my baggage and out of the room bidding a bye to my parents. I had to take the 11 am flight from Guwahati for Kolkata and here I was some 100 miles away from the airport shivering in the barren cold.

Knocking the half-open door of Tiwari sir (who taught Physics at the institute my dad taught Mathematics) who lived across the road of the teacher’s colony I said, “Am ready. We can move out, else we will be late.” He was supposed to accompany me till the airport and then continue his journey to visit the Kamakhya temple at Guwahati, perhaps the most important Shaktipeetha amongst all.

“Am almost done” came the reply as I saw him doing his final round of prayers and getting hold of his bag where he kept a diary, a few papers and some shabby clothes.”

The morning was biting cold and by the time we got out on the street it was around six and foggy. It was a remote village so we had to walk for a mile to get an auto that would take us to Morigaon, the nearest town where from we had to take a train to Guwahati. The wheels of my luggage bag made an eerie noise and disturbed the ducks in their slumber and woke the water lilies up but I had to hurry. Whenever I turned back I saw Tiwari ji miles behind me and I had to say, “Please, hurry up or we will miss the train” to which he just returned a smile and paced with his usual speed saying, “You young men worry for no reason. We have enough time.”

We reached the auto station only to find it empty. I looked around with my eagle eyes but saw nothing around and got impatient. Tiwari ji quipped back in time, “Don’t worry. You will reach in time. So tell me why UPSC and not MBA?”

I was definitely in no mood to answer him that but nonetheless I replied, “Everyone does MBA Tiwari ji. There must be someone who does UPSC. Moreover, I have immense knack for acquiring knowledge and that gives me the push to become a civil servant.”

The wait for the auto was getting a little longer and I started showing signs of nerve. I couldn’t miss my flight for the riches of the world. I had to take a day’s rest and attend office from Monday. Suddenly from nowhere, out of the thick blanket of white fog came an auto, devoured us and sped off to Morigaon. I heaved a sigh of relief but Tiwari ji, so ever cool, continued, “Even I had appeared for the exams. Not once but twice but couldn’t pull through. I was good enough but you know not all are equally lucky.” While I was wondering if the auto would reach the station in time Tiwari ji was all about how good he was. I smiled back and said, “That’s so cool.”

I got down the auto and rushed towards the station only to find the engines rolling. Tiwari ji walked laggardly towards the ticket counter and told me, “You get up. I will be in the train with the tickets.” Knowing very well that if I missed the train I would miss the flight too I got up with the assurance that I had enough money to pay as a fine to the TTE just in case Tiwari ji couldn’t get aboard with the tickets but he saved me of that embarrassment.

It was already 8 in the morning and I knew it well that the train will take another hour to reach Guwahati. So even if I consider one and a half hours, I reach Guwahati by 9.30 am and then a taxi should take me to the airport within another 30 minutes, so I should be at the airport by 10 am. I very well knew that I had to reach at least half an hour before the scheduled departure of my flight. I was panic ridden considering the half an hour margin between my calculation and the time by which I should be at the airport and every time the train delayed its stay at the station a million abuses came out of my mouth. Amidst the tension and the calculation Tiwari ji poked in, “You never asked where I am from!”

“I would have but you were sleeping like a log so I thought to ask only after you wake up.”

“Ok! Never mind. I am from Kanpur. It’s an amazing city. Have you been there? I did my preparation for UPSC from a different city though. I have lived in Allahabad, Lucknow, Jaipur, Rewa…”

I gave a glance to the time shown on my phone and it was already 9.15 am and the train had already halted for the last 20 minutes or so. My heart beat was abnormally high but Tiwari ji was in no mood to stop. Sensing the nerve on my face he said, “You worry a lot. You will reach in time.” I just felt like punching his face flat but wasn’t I supposed to be respectful of seniors so I kept quiet and blasted the train with every possible expletive I knew.

I thanked my stars when the train finally started but the radio by the name of Tiwari ji was on “..I did my schooling from Nainital. It’s an amazing place. My first job was in the Ordnance factory in Barrackpore. So you see, I have been to Kolkata also and over there..”

Finally the train reached Guwahati at 9.45 pm and I hurried out to catch the taxi but Tiwari ji said, “No, it will charge too much. We will take a bus instead.” I felt like stabbing him to death and reasoned with him, “Tiwari ji. I have to reach airport within the next forty five minutes at the most and if I don’t I will miss the flight.”

“You have enough time. The airport isn’t far away. It should hardly take fifteen minutes and we will save money in the process” and saying so he marched ahead. I had to follow him with my bag still making the creepy noise from its wheel.

A few steps gone we asked a lady, “Where do we get the bus for the airport.”

“Oh! Airport! Which flight and what time? My younger brother has also left right now. He has to go to Mumbai and it’s already late but ..”

Why was only I supposed to get the most idiotic of people around me? I took a rickshaw and told him, “Take me to the bus stop where the bus for the airport leaves.” Tiwari ji was all smiles.

“So, where have you done your schooling from? Which are your favorite subjects? This is my number. Feel free to call whenever you need any solution of any kind.”

All this while my heart was skipping many a beats and he was his usual idiotic self. I surely felt like pushing him off from the rickshaw but just didn’t. The rickshaw approached a flyover saying, “The bus stop is right after we cross it” but he was stopped by a traffic sergeant who said, “Today no rickshaws on the flyover. Some minister will pass right now.”

We surely had no plan to cross the flyover on foot. I was mighty pissed off and got down and despite repeated pleas to let the rickshaw go the sergeant turned a deaf ear. Tiwari ji said again, “Where are you planning to do your preparation for your exams. Certainly not in Kolkata I assume.” This was height, here I was stranded in the middle of a road not knowing what to do and he was his usual crazy self and quipped again, “Don’t worry. We will take a bus to cross the flyover.”

We ran behind a passing bus approaching the flyover and no sooner we got into it, it changed its direction for some other route. We hurried to get down and looked for an alternative. I looked at my phone. It was already 10 am and seeing the matter gone all wrong I said, “Tiwari ji, I don’t know. I will pay for the taxi but I am now going to hire one.”

“You waste so much money. Wait for a while. You will get a bus for the airport very soon.”

“I will miss the plane Tiwari ji” I said holding my anger and dragging my luggage bag walked towards a taxi.

“How far is the airport from here?”

“Some 20 km.”

“How long will it take?”

“Some 45 minutes, assuming there would be no traffic jam.”

I was numb for a while but collecting my sense I told him, “You can take 50 bucks extra but run your car as fast as possible but I need to reach the airport in 30 minutes sharp.”

“No problem sir. You just sit down and pray.”

Tiwari ji was the first to get in the taxi. The roads were thankfully empty but at every signal my heart beat stopped. What If there is a traffic jam? What if the tire punctures? A million questions hit my head hard but I continued praying. Opening his diary Tiwari ji said, “See, these are some of the most important notes I had made. I have still kept them preserved. You should have this kind of dedication. UPSC is not for the..” I swore to the gods if he spoke a minute more I would break his skull and drink all the blood he has. How could he be so mad and lifeless?

“History is one fascinating subject but I liked Geography better. I just love studying about..”

It was 10.25 am and when I saw the arrow signs of the airport I got some relief. The car got me down at the airport gates exactly at 10.30 am as promised and I was just short of kissing the driver’s head. I gave him 450 bucks and continued on my way. Tiwari ji said, “You go inside, finish off with the formalities and come out. There is still something to say. I will give you tips on how to choose your subject judiciously.”

I was happy for sure and I said, “Yes Tiwari ji. I will go and will be back in a jiffy after I get my boarding pass.”

I entered and in the excitement of having reached the airport just on time I had all this while forgotten that this would be my first plane travel and I had to made exquisite plans on how to impress the air-hostess and the receptionists but the constant smile on my face did win me the war. The receptionist was impressed and asked me, “Anything fragile in the bag sir?”

“Yeah! My heart” I said to myself.

“No, nothing” I said out loud and went ahead for the security check-up.

I remembered Tiwari ji must be waiting outside but I said to myself, “Let the goblin rot in the sun for all the bakwaas he did and for all the brain he ate” and I continued towards the boarding gate.

Within the next three hours my plane safely landed in Kolkata and the first thing I did was to call my dad, “I will kill that Tiwari ji if I see him again.”

rolling green and the gun

The Mahindra Scorpio zoomed past the freshly pitched highway and the speed indicator barely touched 60kph. It was unusual for Ramu kaka to drive at such speed but then the place wasn’t usual either. The boys sitting at the back had their eyes glued out of the window but kaka couldn’t afford a side glance. He was driving through the famous Kodarma ghati of Jharkhand notorious for its hair-pin bends. It was a heavenly place with the roads lined by beautiful deciduous trees and mighty forested hills seen at the horizon. Every minute the road took a sharp turn and the huge rock outcrops full of mica sheets could be seen shining in the afternoon sun. Large rivers flowing voluminously from the monsoon rains lazed its way across the green and red landscape whose beauty was unparalleled.

Ravi, one amongst the boys in the rear was numb seeing so much beauty in a state that was always in news for all the wrong reasons including poverty, poor governance, and naxalism. His heart skipped a beat every time the car took a bend, not for the fear of accident, that, in any case, he had been part of quite a few but because every entwine brought in another splendor from the place. Beautiful lakes, sleepy villages, quaint little towns kept on passing in a whisker. Praveen was sitting in the middle and hardly gave a second look to the beauty unfolding every single second. Ramesh, sitting on the other window seat was amazed at the marvel of the place for sure but didn’t look excited.

Ravi was the one who took notice of things and never failed to analyze places, people and events. He always carried a map wherever he went. He very well knew that the huge reservoir that just passed by was the Tilaiya lake and the town that they had stopped at for tea was Jhumri Tilaiya. It was the site for the first dam to be constructed for Damodar Valley Corporation. It was late in the afternoon and kaka definitely needed a tea break and the guys a puff. They were returning to Kolkata via National Highway 31 after having spent their summer holidays in Uttar Pradesh’s Purbanchal region.

“Yaar, you are such a bore” quipped Ramesh and continued, “Why do you even come with us when the only companion you ever need is your map and your silly notebook?” Ravi returned a smile and after he was done with his puff and tea continued towards the car. Suddenly he heard a loud scream and before he could turn his gaze saw a huge crowd gather near an apartment. The boys rushed and moving in the front saw a beautiful girl dressed in a bright red sari frozen to death and lying in a pool of blood. A lady beating her chest cried out loud to a middle-aged man having a stoic appearance on his face, “Why did you sell off your own daughter to marriage to a goon? It would have been better had we all died together.”

Ravi fixedly looked at the girl’s corpse. A zillion questions filled his head and made him go mad. He pushed ahead of the crowd, went near the cold beauty, covered her face with a portion of her sari, all the more reddened by her blood, and asked the frail man, “Kaka, why did you do this to your daughter?” The man, who till now was sitting remorseless, burst into tears and fell on his knees. He got hold of the still body and held it close to his chest and gave a cry so loud that it shook the nearby hills.

Ravi looked around and saw a constant fear in everyone’s eyes. Every soul seemingly had stories to tell but none came out forth. How could such a beautiful place have such grieving people?

He went to another man and asked, “Kaka, what’s all this happening?”

“This is Jharkhand bhaiya.  The only thing that rules here is the gun. You seem to be from the city. Why do you want to get into this?” He didn’t want to continue but the pain in his heart didn’t allow and he continued, “There is rampant abuse of resources here and a pervasive nexus between the gangsters and the government. The rich control the resources and become richer leaving precious little for the poor. There is corruption, misery, poverty and crime everywhere. A father taking petty loans and then selling off his daughter is common. The son of a poor farmer becomes a naxalite and the young daughter is raped by the landlord. Nothing is fine here and what’s worse? Everyone knows about it but prefers to keep quiet.”

Even before the man could finish his tale of agony a bunch of men clad in khadi came and got Ravi by his collar and cautioned him, “Boy! This should be none of your business so get going or else you too would be thrown behind the bars on charges you haven’t even heard of.”

Sensing the matter going ugly Praveen pulled Ravi by his wrist and took him inside the car and told kaka to drive as fast as possible.

The lakes, the rivers, the forests, the hills and the rocks continued to pass but Ravi had his eyes fixed outside the window and kept looking at the endless expanse of beauty still unfolding at the usual pace.

This is my first ever entry for BLOGESHWAR 3.0 and the event and set-up is purely fictional