Am I worth it

Sometimes the inner voice asks me with each passing day

Am I worth it

I breath in the oxygen depriving someone

I consume food and water depriving someone

I do my daily work and services

Is it worth it

I plunder the earth pushing it closer to its natural death

I suck in the essentials depriving some people their natural rights

I live at the expense of our future generations

Am I worth it.

What can I do to leave this world as a better place to live

How can I repay the labours of the people who let me live

Who work in the agricultural fields to make my life so good

Am I worth it?

Prospects of missing the train

Everytime I plan to visit a new place, the excitement gets over me. Then there comes a feeling what if everything does not go well? There are hits and misses in everyone’s life. But some incidents trouble us more than the others. We learn from our mistakes, and our next planning improve from the past failures. Fear of missing trains must have troubled everyone who travels regularly.

The first time I missed a train was when I was travelling from Howrah to New Delhi by Poorva Express. It was 1st July 2006. The train was scheduled to leave at 9:25 am and I thought I had reached well in time when I checked my watch to see it was only 8:20 am. I enquired about the train to a TTE, who was standing in the platform. It is a common practice in Kolkata and Howrah to ask Samaritan Railway Staff about trains who willingly tells us every detail of the train, time of departure, platform number, etc. To my utter surprise the person replied oh no, you have missed the train. I showed him the ticket, it is supposed to leave at 9:25 am, I said. Don’t you watch TV, today is 1st July, time table has changed, the train left at 8:05 am.

A flashbulb memory is a highly detailed, exceptionally vivid ‘snapshot’ of the moment and circumstances in which a piece of surprising and consequential (or emotionally arousing) news was heard. That’s how Wikipedia defines it. But the sinking feeling in your stomach, the sudden rush of adrenalin, or amygdala response can never be described. After the initial shock, I felt happy. It meant in spite of the financial  loss, I can spend an extra few hours with my wife. So missing trains can make you happy!

Well, the last time I faced it, it did not felt so good. We planned a short trip to Darjelling. We planned to start on Wednesday night, reach Darjelling on Thursday afternoon, spent two days and return from Darjelling on Saturday afternoon, and reach home on Sunday. My junior colleague Sampurna made a detailed plan of the tour and my wife booked the hotels, and we were ready for the short tour. The weather forecast also seemed to improve. We had our early dinner and left for the station on OLA cab.

We had one hour time in hand. I went to railway enquiry to ask about the departure of the train. I was shocked to learn that the train was delayed by more than eight hours. Now we had to return home even if we plan to take the morning train the following day. So again a cab to take us back from Howrah station to Baguiati. My son started crying, and it was my shortsighted plan that has cancelled the tour. Even if we did take the morning train, we would reach Siliguri in the evening. That meant another night stay at Siliguri. So we would be left with two days and a night in Darjelling. That would be a very short tour, we thought and consequently we cancelled the tour.

We learn from mistakes and I promised that henceforth, I will not buy tickets for special trains  or trains which runs weekly, because you can never predict, how late they can be, especially while planning short tours. Ultimately we planned a tour to Mandarmani, on the same weekend which I will post in my next post.

In search of the Himalayan Salamander

The earliest salamanders were known from their fossil which existed on the face of earth in the Middle Jurassic age at present Kyrgyzstan[1]. Himalayan Salamanders are one of the rarest and oldest amphibian that exists  from the Jurassic age in the hills of Darjeeling. They were considered extinct from this planet before they were found living in 1964 at Jorepokhari, Darjeeling. When we went to visit Namthing Pokhri in 2013, the Jorepokhri had lost its oldest inhabitant due to tourism promotion initiative of some foolish people[2].

It was the intense summer heat that prompted us to go for a short vacation in North Bengal. We planned to stay three days at Mongpong a little hamlet close to the Coronation Bridge, also known as the Sevoke Bridge.  This was to be followed by a one day trip to Kalimpong. 

The WBFDC cottage at Mongpong is a nice little nook to stay for a day or two.  The cottage we stayed at Mongpong: P1020400  Our stay was made even more comfortable by three nice people who took care of our worldly needs, providing us with steaming food and drinks whenever we requested.

References:

  1. Marjanovic, D.; Laurin, M. (2014). “An updated paleontological timetree of lissamphibians, with comments on the anatomy of Jurassic crown-group salamanders (Urodela)”. Historical Biology. doi:10.1080/08912963.2013.797972
  2. http://darjeelingtimes.com/archive/magazine-edition/eco-darjeeling/272-himalayan-salamander-facing-extinction-in-darjeeling-hills.html

Enchanting Bengal – The Beautiful Sundarbans

The people we see around us mostly belong to the privileged class of the society. I myself belong to this class also. We have food when we are hungry, clean water when we are thirsty, clothes to suit to our taste, access to hygienic environment and a roof above our head while going to sleep. We have quick access to the medical help to take care of our ailments. We secure the future by investing our wealth. We send our children to have the best education. And then we do not see (or pretend not to see) those people who survive without the basic amenities of life.

A few months back I had the opportunity to visit the Sundarbans – the largest mangrove forest in the world and home to the famous Bengal Tiger. It was a two day one night safari, organised by the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation. The forest and its bio-diversity, the suspense and wild beauty of the place is definitely worth a visit. Yet in spite of the awe inspiring romance, the misery of the poor inhabitants of the place would definitely touch upon your soul.

The last week of May in 2009 saw a huge tropical cyclone called Aila hit the Sundarban. The samaritans had come and gone with their share of publicity. But the damage that was caused is still visible in the region in 2014. The catastrophic disaster left one million people homeless. The misery of the destitute people affected by such a calamity was insurmountable. The broken embankments, the desolated agricultural fields are a tell tale picture of natural devastation. Yet the local people, braving the tigers and snakes, still go to the forest to collect honey; the fishermen go out to net the fishes.

While traveling through the estuary, one can see pieces of red cloths tied to the trees in the forest. We thought it probably signified dangerous areas. However, our guide explained that wherever the tiger kills a human being, the local people tie a fabric to the tree as a danger signal to future visitors. The number of people killed by tigers each year is astonishing. But people still go to these areas in search of their daily livelihood.

One feels pity even for these tigers. The tigers swim across rivers in search of food. They go hungry for days together. Once a tiger was killed from the venom of a snake; it had killed and consumed a poisonous snake. One can make out the extreme dearth of food for the tigers from this incident. Some photos in the end for you dear reader for taking trouble of going through with this mundane blog.

Bonbibi, Dhakhkhinray, Kalu Khan and Gazi Shahib idols in temple.
Bonbibi, Dhakhkhinray, Kalu Khan and Gazi Shahib idols in temple.
Wild Bore at a distance.
Wild Bore at a distance
Spotted deers grazing from Sudhanyakhali watch tower
Spotted deers grazing from Sudhanyakhali watch tower
A fine boat M.V.Chitrarekha, our home for 24 hours
A fine boat M.V.Chitrarekha, our home for 24 hours
The forbidden land of the tiger reserve
The forbidden land of the tiger reserve
Capturing a coconut from the river...
Capturing a coconut from the river…
...and enjoying it in the afternoon sun
…and enjoying it in the afternoon sun
The setting sun at Sajnekhali
The setting sun at Sajnekhali
Waiting for breakfast
Waiting for breakfast
The colours of life
The colours of life
The mysterious mangrove forest
The mysterious mangrove forest
Fishing in the wilderness
Fishing in the wilderness

In the lands of Terracotta

Most of us like traveling. In spite of the problems that we may encounter, we like going places. Memories of the cosy warmth, the comfort, the laziness of our homes, vanishes the moment we pick our bags and move out to explore the world around us. The hustle bustle of the railway station, the crowded trains vanishes from our mind once the smell of morning freshness, the sight of passing villages and trees, the feel of the cold winds caressing our cheeks is felt. The excitement is all out there. No matter whatever difficulties come our ways the peregrinator’s delight is an wonderful experience. Our recent weekend visit to a small village in Bankura, West Bangal was such a memorable experience.

We heard the name SAMUDRA BANDH (embankment creating a large lake) when we went to Bankura and Bishnupur about four years ago. The name caught our imagination, and we thought some day we will go to this place. I came across the name of Joypur village while reading a blog post of Amitabha Gupta, and I was fascinated by the blog :Brick Temple Towns of Bankura – Part IV : Joypur & Gokulnagar. After making inquiry and bookings at Banalata Lodge, we ventured out one morning and boarded the Aranyak Express from Shalimar Station. The overcast condition and a depression over Bay of Bengal had robbed Kolkata of whatever tiny winter we experience in December-January and the chilly bite of the gushing wind was missing. The train route from Shalimar to Bishnupur is presently via Kharagpur and takes three hours to complete. However a new route via Tarakeshwar and Arambagh is presently under construction and once completed will make travel in this route much faster.

To Reach Banalata from Bishnupur station, one has to hire a car. We preferred a  auto rickshaw instead. It took us about 40 minutes, and after the initial hiccups through busy narrow lanes of Bishnupur, the journey was quite enjoyable through the road cutting through the forest. The driver narrated real life tales of elephants who lived in the forests. We reached Banalata at 12 noon, within six hours of leaving our home.

Banalata is a nice homely warm farm house cum lodge for tourists. As soon as we entered its campus we felt relaxed. I had requested a room on the top floor and was granted the same. The room offered nice views of Joypur forest on one side and the open farm fields on the other. However the best attraction for my seven year old son was the garden swing.

Enjoying Garden Swing with Grandpa
Malhar enjoying Garden Swing with Dadu

I was happy shooting the flowers. The extended breakfast we had on the train delayed our sense of hunger consequently delaying our lunch. After a sumptuous lunch we strolled around in the farmlands with the emus, the turkeys, the cows and rabbits.

Morning rose at Banalata
Morning rose at Banalata
Farm Broccoli
Farm Broccoli
Nice place to stay
Nice place to stay

With the sun on our back, we discovered a wonderful winter afternoon in the Joypur village. First we went in search of SamudraBandh. The reservoir occupies an area of 25,000 square meters but is mostly dried up now. After a short recess we continued our walk into the Joypur village to visit two old temples with some interesting terracotta motifs.

P1050384 copy
Stucco work depicting British Soldier on the walls of house of Dutta family

Joypur is an old village in Bankura. There are quite a few old temples on the way to the Dutta babu’s and Dey babu’s temples. But the first feel of the ancient art work is the Old House of the Dutta’s. A few steps later we entered the Navaratna Temple of the Dutta family. The temple had intricate terracotta designs on its walls.

Navaratna Temple of Dutta family
Navaratna Temple of Dutta family
Another intricate piece of art
Another intricate piece of art

The temple has three entrance with terracotta adorning top of all three.

Ten headed Ravana fighting Rama
Ten headed Ravana fighting Rama

The history of Chandi Temple of Dutta family was told by Mrs. Annapurna Dey. She had come to visit her ancestral home from in laws house. The Dutta’s were Subarna Banik of this ancient village. She showed us the terracotta sculpture on the temple walls Bhishma lying over Bed of arrows and other sculptures based on stories of Puranas, Ramayana and Mahabharata.

The Temple of Dutta Family
The Temple of Dutta Family

After visiting the temple of Ma Chandi of Dutta family we visited the Lord Damodar’s Temple of Dey Family.

Lord Damodar's Navaratna Temple of Dey Family, Joypur
Lord Damodar’s Navaratna Temple of Dey Family, Joypur

After a long walk from Banalata we were tired and took rested for a while at the temple premises.

Malhar and Didu listening to Dadu's song
Malhar and Didu listening to Dadu’s song

There were similarities and differences between the two temples, but the artwork of terracotta were excellent.

Mother and Child and Date of temple completion
Mother and Child and Date of temple completion
Terracotta over arched gateway
Terracotta over arched gateway

After this it was time to go back to our lodge. We tried to make a short cut back but ended up walking an even longer way back. By the time we reached back it was dark. The only remarkable incident in the evening was that I ate seven vegetable pakoras. It was a nice weekend visit in the land of the Terracottas.

Sonar Kella

The fort built with the yellow limestone is one of the wonderful delights in Rajasthan. Jaisalmer fort is more beautiful than these pictures portray. Yet I am only uploading the pictures of this wonderful place, as pictures convey more than the most eloquent words.

P1030980

P1030988
The Royal Palace of Bhati Rajputs

P1040046

P1040002P1040041

One of the Jain Temple in the golden fort
One of the Jain Temple in the golden fort
P1040070
The famous Mukul’s house in Sonar kella

P1040060

The View from the Top

P1040625
Front view of Sajjangarh Palace

Maharana Sajjan Singh was a visionary ruler of Mewar and is credited with improving the infrastructure of his kingdom to a great extent. He had build roads, water lines but most of all he wanted to build an observatory on the top of a hill west of the city of Udaipur to forecast the monsoon. And so begun the construction of the building that is popularly called Sajjangarh or Monsoon Palace. But the nine storied observatory was never finished, due to the untimely death of the 72nd Maharana of Mewar. However, it was converted into a hunting lodge. Today it offers breathtaking views of the Aravalli range, Sajjangarh Wildlife Sanctuary and Udaipur City.

Maharana Sajjan Singh ji
P1040644
Sajjangarh Wildlife Sanctuary
Untitled-1
A room with a view – two windows facing each other offering a fantastic view
P1040704
Udaipur City Palace and Lake Pichola