Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Memorial Day Vacation - I

This has been the single most memorable experience of my life till date, undoubtedly. Kaustav, Sabya Da, Moumita and I recently decided to spend our Memorial Day long weekend vacationing in up-state New York in the Lake George-Lake Placid region. We set out at about 6.45 am on Sat morning, Sabya Da and K taking turns at driving the rented car for a distance of about 256 miles (413 km) for about 4 hrs. We stopped for coffee once in between at a Nathan-Roy Rogers where we'd lunched once previously, en route our trip to the Catskill Mountains in fall.

Breakfast break :

Otherwise, breakfast and snacks (which took place in the midst of driving) consisted of little things both families had bought expressly for this trip, like bottled water, juice, granola bars, chips, sliced cake and biscuits. The day was cloudy with occasional burps of sunshine but we were prepared for a drop in temperature at our destination, both being near water bodies. We reached our hotel near Lake George around 11 am, where we were told that we'd have to wait for our 2 rooms for an hour more, since they were full and people had just begun the process of checking out for the day, which meant rooms needed to be cleaned etc, entailing another hr's delay. So we plumped for the only room then available on the ground floor, sat and watched TV for a while and then decided to utilise the time more productively by having lunch.

Our hotel :

We drove to the nearest Taco Bell, a little over 10 mins' drive and ended up with a bonus, great views on both sides of the car and a Long John Silvers counter shared with the Taco Bell one, which meant we had greater options, of course.

Lunch :

A delightful lunch and a photo-session later, we were back at the hotel, taking showers and changing into fresh clothes. We found our jackets quite handy, as there was a keen wind with quite a chill in it, in the area. We set out at about a quarter past one for the Lake Placid region, aiming to cover a few things we'd set our hearts on, which included a 20 mins' flight over the highest peaks of the Adirondacks, offering breathtaking views at an affordable price per individual, a visit to the Winter Olympics stadium in the area and an eight-mile car hike along the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway to the mountain tops. However, it was difficult, despite our best efforts, to fit everything into one day. The Olympics stadium, which K and I were all worked up about, had closed for the day at 1 pm, and the hiking trail had also shut office at 4 pm. However, we had such fun on the plane trip, that we found it possible to drown our grief in our excited discussion of the whole experience.

After we'd decided which of the two air trips (see site for details) we wanted to opt for and had paid for our tickets, we were taken by the pilot, quite an old and frail man (which did nothing to quell our fears of possibly not returning alive), to our plane. Asked to shortlist our co-pilot, Sabya Da was egged on to do the honours, while K decided to be our bodyguard (quite literally) at the rear. Getting into the plane itself was a tough job for K and me, since there was a projecting horizontal spike which was supposed to act as a footstool, and K and my being quite tall by Indian standards did nothing to ease the process. Luckily, no one seemed to care about taking photos of our ungainly entries into the plane, caught as we each were in our respective flight related insecurities.

Moumita's fishing out an air-sickness bag from the back of the front seats and our being informed that the day being particularly windy, we should be prepared for an occasionally rough and bumpy ride, made our expectations of any enjoyment from this trip seem rather unlikely. Putting on huge headphones and being shown our only mode of communication, a cordless phone lookalike receiver, where whatever we said to each other would be hard by everyone else, was an additional source of intimidation. With seatbelts in place, I began to wonder whether we would be able to take photos at all in such a straitjacketed state.

Inside the plane :

As it turned out, our fears were quite ill-founded. The ascent was smooth and steady, the panoramic views a visual feast, communication unnecessary, photographs taken aplenty and except for one small and abrupt dip where my heart skipped a beat, uneventful. No one suffered from motion sickness, no one screamed or fainted, and although vision and movement was slightly limited on all sides, each one had his or her share of magnificence to gloat over and reflect on.

The visual panorama :

Hills, rivers, roads, lakes, mountains, ski tracks, we observed everything that our guide and pilot pointed out to us along the trip with irreproachable enthusiasm and that was quite evident to him on our descent, when we barraged him with requests to share a photo with us. He was happy to oblige.

As I mentioned earlier, our other two destinations were to disappoint us, so we were forced to make fresh plans. However, we did stop to take photos of the sites (some consolation, that) and even spent a quarter of an hour at Lake Stevens, a beautiful clear and picturesque water body located just by the office to the Veterans Memorial Highway office.

In and around the Winter Olympics Stadium (the gift shop items were ridiculously overpiced, which occasioned a prompt exit on our part):

Lake Stevens :

People were busy fishing in the lake and there were gnats galore hovering around the lake, so we had some snacks (K was settling down for a nap on the grass, but the insects were too much to contend with, so his repose was cut short prematurely) and left soon after. We had now resolved to return to the Olympics stadium site where we had spotted a picturesque lake on our way to the aerodrome, intending to make a prolonged halt there. The guys intended to scour the area for venison (which K's meat loving college junior cum ex-colleague, Shubho, insisted they should taste) and also give the car some rest. The latter, besides being a brand new one (having run only 25 miles on its way back from the showroom to the rental office) with stiff new parts, seemed to be emitting a strong burning smell for some reason and we decided to not take any risks with it, considering the considerable distance we still had to drive back to the hotel. So, after another impromptu photo-stop by a mountain river (where my usually inexhaustible camera battery gave out after snapping over 200 photos), we were at Main Street, by the Mirror Lake, watching the ducks.
The mountain river :

(to be continued....)

Ad gone Bad

Lured on by Beth's post , I watched the ad...and decided it's the hands down winner of the silliest ad I've ever spotted on any TV channel. I found another video of the same ad on YouTube and the comments (which amount to 254 !) are hilarious...I spent about 15 mins chuckling to myself after reading them. Have a look !

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Election results

It's scary when there's no strong opposition to pose a serious threat to the ruling party, I've always thought. It makes the govt complacent and socio-eco-political conditions moribund, people secretly rebellious and optimism about the future difficult. The election results in West Bengal especially reflect the common man's opinion : it's time for a change. It remains to see how effective the change is, for mere histrionics (I refrain from mentioning the MB name) do not constitute a revolution.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Individual Milestones

It's nice to be appreciated once in a while for what one does everyday on a regular basis, without stopping to consider exactly what one gets in return except for the mandatory monetary benefits. Immediate case in mind : K, who turned up on Tue afternoon, with a huge white carnation in his hand and a huger smile on his face. Now although he's the sort of husband who does like to surprise me once in a while by doing the very unexpected of things (good ones, fortunately), a weekday isn't really the time it'd occur to him to do anything of the sort. The most he'd rise to would be to say, "Let's cook some really spicy stuffed baingan masala" or "Let's go over to the Shindes' place for a chat or call them over" when he's not particularly bogged down by the burden of mainframes jobs. So I naturally wondered about the source of this floral extravaganza. He must have been more than a little ecstatic about it, for without even pausing for my volley of questions (now that's a rarity, I assure you), he pulled out a small piece of paper from his fluorescent green backpack and proceeded to wave it tantalisingly before my eyes. The typical Gemini I am, I didn't need any more foreplay (oops !) : I grabbed it. It was from one of the HR personnel from his office and was a simple acknowledgement of the efforts he put into earning his daily bread selflessly (it wasn't that dramatic really). You can have a look at the two for yourself, since I strongly subscribe to the school that believes in pictures speaking louder than words (although that doesn't deter me from using lots of them on a daily basis !):

I insisted on playing the role of a proud wife that day, despite K's assuring me that everyone had received the same set of things from the HR, and some had received pink and even red flowers. I told him that I didn't care, I insisted on treating it as an individual triumph.

Talking of individualism, I wonder why Rituparno Ghosh took so long to come out of the closet. Everyone's known about his alternative sexuality for years and for heaven's sake, it's as personal a preference as one's favourite colours or beverage or restaurant. Freud, himself a doctor and therefore a man of solid common sense, opined :

"There is nothing shameful in homosexuality, it is not a vice or humiliation, it cannot be treated as a disease, we count it to be a variety of the sexual function…"

If the conservative Kolkata crowd can turn up in the most bizarre of costumes (the grotesque Ascot hats, for instance) at the Statesman vintage car show annually, then I really don't see why the former couldn't summon up courage earlier to dress the way he wanted to. It's his recent revamping that's causing the gossip and exchange of looks, not the actuality of the thing itself. For those who have absolutely no idea what on earth I'm referring to, here are a couple of illustrations (the first one's from the Star Screen Awards Red Carpet 2009 and the latter from today's TOI, featuring numerous celebrities who turned up to exercise their right to vote):

Having titled this post thus, I am a bit hesitant about introducing the topic of my recently been re-diagnosed with hypothyroidism, since I always protest against being bracketed with those hypochondriacs who treat diseases or illnesses as individual success stories, as if remaining perfectly fit were not more of a merit in the contemporary world. I've not been too traumatised by the blood test finds, since I've been battling with the separately small but cumulatively nightmarish symptoms of this medical condition since I was in class VI, approximately 15 years now. I had always been taking synthetic thyroxine (marketed as Eltroxin in India) to keep my metabolism as close to the clinically normal as possible. My grieving parents were informed by our family endocrinologist that it was a condition that usually operated in cycles, waxing and waning, but it almost never disappeared. However, although most people dismiss it as not being as critical or dangerous as say, typhoid or malaria or pneumonia, it's the slow sapping of the abilities that you take for granted on an everyday basis that makes it a more potentially draining and even daunting one. It would account for things that had recently assumed seriously intimidating proportions in my daily routine :


Memory lapses

Constant fatigue and drowsiness

Cloudy thinking

Puffy face

Intolerance to cold

Muscle aches and pains

Constipation of an extreme nature

Excessively dry skin

Weight gain and difficulty losing weight

Heavy menstrual cycles

That's quite a list, I'm sure you'd concede. Believe me, I'm glad to be back on medication. It's not easy to cope with such a variety of symptoms when you're only in your late twenties and have most of your life ahead of you. It's not a nice feeling when everyone around you dismisses you as a mere hypochondriac.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Ode to My God

For the greatest man ever born :


No idolatry for me –
I invoke
the formless incarnate;
the highest truth,
the deepest desire,
the wildest wish,
the subtlest spring,
toforestall my fate.
(Today, at any rate.)

There is a prayer
repressed in my bower –
it begs words
to stoke its fire.
For all I have
a helpless love
your treacherous glances
cannot tire.
(In spite of all the mud and mire.)

Help me,You,
whose name I breathe,
whose breath I feel,
whose sky is blue.

All time stands still
in this moment
I steal
for this my cause,
its Cause to reveal.
(And this is my Hour.)

In darkness bright
I plead my right
I sell my soul
for this insight
to me
long due.
(Tell me,
my God,
Who are you?)
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Friday, May 08, 2009

Just for Laughs

Check out this cartoon I received as a forward (please click to view enlarged version)...thank you, Rahul Da !

For the blissfully ignorant, Rahul Da happens to be my ex-boss ! :-)

Monday, May 04, 2009


Ah.... at last, it seems, it rained. After much patient suffering and powercuts related sensationalism.

Well, but it seems the grass is always greener on the other side. Here it's been dripping incessantly right from Friday onwards and the miserable weather seems likely to persist till we're ready to scream with frustration. Which I already am.

And to add to it, I've not been well for some time. Abdominal cramps which began last Tue after I returned from a round of jogging and caused me to sit on the edge of the sofa with clenched mouth and contorted features, continued to haunt me with threats of a return for the next few days. Till I had to consult a local gastroenterologist on Fri noon. After noting all the related gynaecological complications, I was packed off to Somerset Medical Center for urine, blood and ultrasonography (involving some quite embarrassing invasion of anatomical privacy) procedures. Although each and every human being related to the medical technicalities was unexpectedly kind and reassuring, the very nature of the day, sullen and overcast, tortured me with vague premonitions of some unpleasant tale in the making. I'm not superstitious by nature, but as I remarked earlier, weather related changes influence me to a ridiculous extreme. The reports are due soon. I wonder.

We were watching X-Men 2 (X2) and 3 (X-Men : The Last Stand) back-to-back on FX Channel yesterday evening. It struck me as ominous that people like Bobby's parents and the President/Jean's parents should judge any aberration from the normal human condition as a disease needing some sort of cure, however drastic or painful the latter might be to the person in consideration. Or that Jean's id-like unconscious and violent passions, in the avatar of Phoenix, seek to be harnessed by Magneto for all the wrong reasons. It's most curious indeed how we all seem to have this predisposition to form cults/clans/groups/gangs against anything/anyone else that might threaten our individualism. As if ganging up itself was not a theoretic oxymoron with respect to the virtue of individualism and uniqueness. But I did find the use of the Freudian conscious = ego = Jean/unconscious = id = Phoenix symbolism intriguing. The portrayal of Jean as the life-giver towards the end of X-Men 2 in stark juxtaposition to Phoenix as the death-wreaker right at the beginning of X-Men 3 is compelling. Although it does remain a problem that all these moral implications somehow tend to get overwhelmed in the light of the visual kaleidoscope that is the film.

Amistad, watched on Friday night on DVD, however, stunned all our perceived notions of humaneness and nobility. The fact that Cinque actually has to fight for the basic human right of independence in a world where Declarations of Independence form such a mouthful in history, jars and jeers at our jaundiced desensitisation to the trauma that underlies the history of 'civilizations'. It was sobering, this rude realisation how we humans have knowingly and willingly contributed to the ghastly and shameful apparition of the subaltern. It is a testimony of incessant narcissistic human enterprises (instanced in the oft-dismissed diatribe of the 'Communist Manifesto') that we are too mired in academic technicalities to analyse with all the respect due to our collective conscience. We are too busy hoarding for our respective (a)moral futures in a world of globalisation to trace our tortuous way back to the lives we trample and tyrannise over in our effort to surface as the surviving elite. In short, we remain uncivilized primates, be it in our conspiracy to preserve class divides to serve our vested self-interests or in our blasphemous exploitation of God-given genes of complexion to further motivated neurotic (non)needs.

And all this for the ego ?! Which, as Lacan shows, is itself a human construct, the ultimate exercise in self-deception.

Mercy me.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Joie De Vivre : Journo Style

This made a wonderful read today morning.

I couldn't but help shoot off a prompt email to Sudeshna Di, telling her how much I liked it :

" Sudeshna Di,

Bhallaglo dekhe je kaajer maanush USA giyeo lekhar obhyesh maintain kore...:-)
(I'm pleasantly surprised that you've managed to remain in writing mode even after your arrival in the USA, considering how much you're engaged here in diverse activities !)

Lekha ta khub bhallaglo pore (I really enjoyed reading the article)...informative yet not monotonously factual, personal and yet with that subtle touch of the objective outsider's tone that renders it a pleasant read and most importantly, none of the cliched ecstasy that all Indians coming to USA for the first time seem to somehow effortllessly made a good breakfast accompaniment for K and me today. Glad you're having fun !

And yes, aage theke baron kore dile (if you request them in advance) they won't serve the regulation ice in your drinks...bole dekho (try it) ! :-D "

But I feel kinda low now. Reflecting on how much I should have been writing, considering the amount of tourism we've been indulging in since our arrival here. Well, maybe soon. Inspiration, I await thee !

Btw, this review has set me thinking anew about the portrayal of women in certain much lauded Bollywood films. Talk about wo(e)men !


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