Monday, 19 November 2007

Yaa devi sarvabhuteshu...

Durga puja is the most important festival of the Bengalis. However, ask a Bengali about the religious significance of the puja & most will flounder. For the average Bengali it is less of a religious occasion & more of a festive one. This is the time when, if you are in Calcutta, you can enjoy a four day holiday (except for the hapless software guys almost everyone enjoys the long holiday) & catch up with friends & relatives. In Calcutta, every para (locality) worth its salt organizes a community puja, the “Sarbojanin Durgotsav”. The pandals are constructed with a lot of care & creativity… some in the shape of the White House in Washington D.C., some as the Taj Mahal at Agra … or as the latest craze demands … the Hogwarts Castle that we have grown so familiar with, thanks to Harry Potter & his creator, J.K. Rowling. All this is created using simple things like bamboo, cloth, paper, shola (don’t know what it’s called in English), thermocol & so on. “Lighting” is another important aspect of the puja. “Lighting” is the name given to the glittering signs put together using small bulbs depicting scenes / events of importance. These events could be as simple as depicting the everyday life of the common village folk, or as complex as the goal scored by Maradona in the World Cup match, in full motion. Last but not the least, come the images of the Goddess & her children, Laxmi, Saraswati, Kartik & Ganesh. The images are so exquisite that there’s a common phrase in Bengali … Kumartuli’r bou … meaning a bride of flawless beauty comparing them with the idols of the Goddesses created by the artisans from Kumartuli. The creativity of all the skilled artisans who put their heart & soul into making these is absolutely amazing.

Like most Bengalis, my knowledge of the significance of the Puja is a little fuzzy but I still make an attempt to explain it here. It goes like this … the Demon king, Mahishasura was becoming very powerful & was bent upon destroying all the Gods & the Heaven. The Gods were doing their best to keep him at bay but were not very successful. So they decided to pray to Goddess Durga, the embodiment of Shakti, to save them from Mahishasura. The Goddess took one piece of arms from each of the Gods, like the Sudarshan Chakra from Lord Krishna, the Trishul from Lord Shiva & so on. Holding each of these in each of her ten hands, the Goddess fought valiantly & ultimately was able to slay the Demon king. This happened on the day of Mahalaya & this is also the day when the artisans of Kumartuli draw the eyes on the idols of the Goddess (Chakshudaan) every year. After this very momentous achievement of slaying Mahishasura, the Goddess makes a trip to the house of her parents along with her four children leaving Lord Shiva, her consort, in Mt. Kailasa. However, Lord Shiva watches over them from afar & so it is usual to see a picture of Lord Shiva above the idols in all the puja pandals. The five days that are celebrated as Durga Puja from Shashthi to Dashami are the five days that Maa Durga & her children spend with those of her own. On Dashami she goes back to the home of her husband leaving all of us, her parental relatives, in tears.

Durga Puja is celebrated all over the world, wherever at least ten Bengalis live. In the USA it is celebrated during one of the weekends which either comprise the actual days of the puja or are just around it. It’s the thought that counts, we believe. :-) It is celebrated with all its fanfare all over Europe & in almost all cities in India. Although we miss the creativity of the pandals and lighting in the pujas outside West Bengal, the Bengalis make it up with the cultural events organized in the evenings, the community feasts (bhog) and the adda (chat sessions, an inseparable entity of the quintessential Bengali) with friends.

So, with the chants of bolo Durga Mai ki jay (salutations to the Divine Mother) and ashchhe bochhor abar hobe (will see you again next year), I bid my farewell to you.

Monday, 1 October 2007

The Falls Trilogy

The idea for the Falls Trilogy came to my mind as we started planning for a trip to the Jog Falls last month. And then I realized that with the Jog, I’d have visited (& enjoyed) 3 waterfalls in Karnataka. So the trilogy goes in the order in which I visited these places and it also, incidentally, matches my ranking of them.

We visited Shivanasamudram ( in July, 2004. There are two falls at Shivanasamudram – Gaganachukki & Barachukki. Shivanasamudram is about 100 kms from Bangalore. Although the roads leading to the place are quite bad but I would say that it’s definitely worth going there. In 2004, the monsoon in Karnataka was very good & so the falls were overflowing with water. Wow !!! what a sight that was. In fact, you can actually go till the bottom of one of the falls (can’t remember which) & we did go all the way there. Since there are no steps, it is kind of difficult to go, esp. if one is not very athletic. Altho’ I’m not an athletic person, I make that up with my enthusiasm & repent badly on the way up … and then feel elated that I did it once it’s done. :-D

In August 2004, we visited Coorg & went to the Abby falls (, which is about 8 kms from Madikeri (Coorg district). This was truly amazing !!! The path that leads to the falls is not very prominent & you have to enquire from the locals quite a few times before you can actually locate it. Once you’ve located it, you’ll find that there are steps leading down & after about 20 steps or so you can hear the roar of the waterfall but can’t see it still. Then suddenly after another 50 steps (or probably less), the Abby falls suddenly appear in all it’s majesty. Unfortunately, because of some recent accidents over there, it’s not anymore allowed to climb all the way down to where the water falls. Abby falls is not very high but still very majestic. The best thing about Abby falls is that it suddenly appears in front of the eyes, in all its magnificence, when you least expect it to.

August 2007 saw us making a trip to the Jog falls ( I must add that the planning started after much hype was created in all the newspapers about how the Jog had returned to its full glory after 12 long years. Both S and I were extremely excited & started planning for the trip with a lot of gusto least realizing that so was the rest of the world or at least, Karnataka. Jog falls is 110 kms from Shimoga, so we decided to travel by train to Shimoga and stay in some hotel there, of which there are many, is what S had told me. When we reached Shimoga we realized that ALL the hotels were booked & we actually had to sit an hour in the reception of one hotel since the kind manager there told us that some room would surely get empty in an hours’ time. Well, we did get the room finally & suffice it to say that the room was nothing to write home about. But at least, we had a place to stay. After some rest, we freshened up & started out on our journey to Jog. When we reached, there was a light drizzle & the mist from the falls was so high that the falls were almost invisible. Now, the Jog is actually a collection of four falls – the Raja, Rocket, Roarer and Rani. Although the water was not much, it still looked good & once again, I gave in to my enthusiasm (disregarding the warning signals being emanated from my brain) & started to climb down to the place where the water falls. I must add that, unlike at Shivanasamudram, this place looked like it had proper steps to go down. However, soon after we had taken about 20 steps, the promised stairs gave way to rocks, mud & slush!!! Now this waterfall is about 990 feet high but when you consider the circular route downwards, it must be at least 4 times that (at least it felt so)!!! While going down I kept reminding myself that I would have to climb all the way up too. About 10 feet from the bottom, the path became too narrow & I decided to stop there & treat myself to some soft drinks while S carried on. I chatted with the soft-drink vendor & was astonished to know that they climb up & down this steep path about 2 to 3 times everyday with all their load. The whole process of the trip down and back along with the stops in between for rest took us about 3 hours. I’ll leave you to imagine the cramps in my leg the next day!!! At Jog, you can also go (by car, thankfully) to the point where the falls start from, and only a couple of days prior to our visit a girl had slipped and fallen from the rocks there. So, one should be very cautious. Though I have no idea how the falls got their names of Raja, Rani, Rocket & Roarer, it seemed to me that the Rocket definitely looked like one because the water gets split by the rocks & makes it look like the shuttle attached to a rocket. Could be my imagination, but…

I would definitely suggest to anyone visiting Karnataka & all those who stay in Bangalore to definitely visit Shivanasamudram, especially during the monsoons. It is not too far from Bangalore & definitely the best of all the waterfalls that I have seen in Karnataka so far.

Friday, 28 September 2007


Well, that was my first reaction when I noticed that MM had tagged me to list down my quirks. Firstly, it’s mighty difficult to write down ones own quirks … now if she had tagged me for writing about S’s quirks, I’m sure I could have written about 50 in 5 mins. :-) But me quirky ??? Hey, not at all !!! And secondly, all the world & sundry will know about my quirks …mmm… which is not such a good idea. But anyway … here goes my list

1. I am extremely extremely fussy about keeping everything in it’s rightful place & in order. So, the center table should not be askew, the newspaper has to be on the lower shelf ONLY, the cushions have to be set at a particular angle … and the list goes on.

2. I hate it when people wash their hands & let the water drip onto the floor. There’s always a towel around … why can’t they just wipe their hands dry ???

3. I am verrrrry ticklish. Unfortunately for me, my friends found it out & some of the naughty ones used to suddenly poke a finger on my waist in the middle of a serious discussion with some Prof, making me squiggle for no apparent reason!!! And of course, S always “tortures” me by tickling.

4. The first thing I do while looking through a menu card at any restaurant is point out spelling mistakes & laugh at them. My friend, Sh & I used to do this so much that it used to irritate our other friends a lot … and that was kind of fun too. :-)

5. Oh yesss… like MM, I’m a hoarder too. MM same pinch to you on this one. I have never been able to throw any of the birthday / new year cards that I have received. Many are at home but the ones that I got later have been carried around from place to place as I’ve changed cities & homes within the same city.

Well, I guess that’s about it. I’m not very loony, am I ? And before anybody starts replying to that ... that was a rhetorical question … not looking for any answers here… of course, I’m not loony.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

A Tribute to my Teachers

I finally decided to start my very own blog on Teachers’ Day with a tribute to all my teachers who have taught me … some of whom I’m still in touch with & some with whom I’m not. I enjoyed my time in all the institutions that I’ve attended so far but topmost in my mind are the days that I spent in the school where I spent 12 years of my life, QMS. I loved & was loved in return by most of the teachers in QMS … some who bear special mention here are Mrs SB (taught us maths & physics), Mrs RD (English teacher), Miss RD (english teacher), Mrs. PM (geography teacher), Ms. MB and of course last but never the least Mr. AP (taught us physics). Mr. AP came into our lives like a drop of water on very parched earth … him being our first male teacher in an all-girls convent. :) (Others who’ve studied in all-girls convents would surely understand this sentiment.) But good things are never to be for a long time & he left our school after being there for a little more than a year. I still remember our rather tuneless though completely heartfelt rendition of “Sir, we love you” at his farewell. Of course our adulation of AP didn’t go down very well with Mrs.J, our chemistry teacher – a devout catholic & a strict disciplinarian. Oh, Mrs. RD was extremely cute … a petite lady with a fervor for teaching us “good” English. Strangely enough she used to mark our exam papers with a green pen instead of the usual red and oh my god… one could scarcely make out our writing in those papers given the amount of corrections she would make. Now that’s a very long sentence that I wrote & I’m sure that RD would have chided me saying “your tail doesn’t know what your head wants to say!!!” Oh she was a joy but alas I have no idea where she’s now. Ms. MB was & still is a fun loving person who used to take a leading role in all our excursions. She was also the one to sing & dance the hardest at the Children’s day function that the teachers used to put up for us. Mrs SB was always like a pal. I used to bunk my dance classes (which I absolutely hated) and go to the lab to chat with her provided, of course, Mrs. J & Mrs. N (biology teacher) were absent from the lab.

My favourite teacher during my +2 days in LH was undoubtedly our Bengali teacher, Mrs.SB. Chemistry classes used to be a laugh riot given all the faux pas that Dr. G used to make. And of course, Mrs K was a very cute, rotund little lady under whose tutelage I somehow learnt to like biology.
Once in college, teacher’s day ceased to be such an important function but the memories of the skits, songs and dances performed by the teachers in both QMS and LH still fondly linger in my memory. I have left out many names in this tribute but I salute all the teachers who have taught me and wish them all a very happy Teachers’ Day.