Tuesday, January 27, 2004


Whoooooooooooooosh and its over: Our trip to India. 1 month and 2 days. Just a little over 4 weeks. Not bad, but not enough after one and a half years.

After a long and tiring flight, full of delays, transit lounges and complementary meals, we reached Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata, more than 24 hours after we left for Orly airport, France.

After one and a half years, bien sûr, things would have changed a bit. They sure had. But so had perhaps our perceptions! Calcutta suddenly looked so BIG. Cars, people, buses, roads, giant hoardings, new shopping malls, multiplexes, smart apartment blocks, hospitals, hotels, flyovers everywhere. It all seemed too much to us after our quiet, orderly little French town (big by French standards with a population of 50,000)! I found myself squirming in my seat when a car whizzed too close, despite our expert chauffeur Dinesh being at the wheels of our trusty but rusty ambassador car. How we used to laugh at baba who used to squirm on his annual trips to Calcutta!

Our apartment looked so big, so spacious despite so much furniture. Baba, Ma looked so old and tiny and frail, with the two of us looming gigantically over them.

Delhi too had changed. A got lost several times on the newly constructed roads, flyovers, his familiar landmarks having had disappeared.

It was a rush of grabbing the maximum in the little time we had. Family and friends – his and mine, cities - Delhi (for A) and Kolkata, for me; a short trip to Rajasthan, some sporadic shopping (fear of excess baggage).

The two main topics of conversation were - Weather and Food.

Okhaney thanda kemon? Must be used to it. India tey oto thanda lagchey naa right? Wrong. I had to wear thermal underwear, fleece jacket, sweater, shawl and socks to keep warm at my in-laws large airy bungalow in Delhi. The house, hemmed in three sides by tall houses was simply arctic. My brother in law spent most of his time indoors, under a thick razai, kitted in gloves and monkey tupi. Made us yearn for warm, heated European winters! Atleast we can pile on as much as we like when we go outdoors here. But a sweater and shawl is all that is worn by women in India!! (Admittedly, gloves and cap and boots would look silly with a sari or salwar kameez). Hot water which turns cold as it runs out of the tap. Grey skies, thick fog. Read in the papers that it was responsible for an increase in the rate of suicide in northern India. Something I remember a Swedish friend of mine telling me about Stockholm!

- Sabji nischoi pao naa?
- Phulcopi, bandhakopi, motor, sheem, begun, spinach, gajar, beet, shalgam, shojney danta, bhindi, kumro…
- O! Sobi to pao taholey.
- Mach?
- Tao pai.
- Taholey ki pao naa…
- Panthar mangsho
. And home cooking. Even though I cook at home, mine doesn’t count. For me it is anything cooked by Ma, R and ofcourse by our temperamental but excellent K.
After some seriously heavy eating in Rajasthan, I suffered from indigestion for the remainder of my stay and couldn’t do justice to ‘home cooking’ served by Ma, R and K.

It was in a way a very full trip. Mid December to Mid January, France – Calcutta – Delhi – Rajasthan – Delhi – Calcutta – France.

Onek dekha holo, onek ghora holo, kora holo. But at the end of the trip, what remains is a long list of “Holo Na’s”.

Cinema. I had a huge list of hindi and Bengali movies that I wanted to see. Managed only one - the latest feluda and enjoyed it very very much.
Plays at the Academy – anyone would have done. But couldn’t manage even a single one.
Friends - Met a few of my close friends and relatives. Managed to fit most of them in. But Miffed loads of those whom I couldn’t. “Paris-er Madam kay to Paris giye ebaar dekha kortey hobey, dekchi”. That jomiye adda ta holo na.

Books – Ma and R had faithfully collected some interesting Bengali books for me. Managed to bring 4 of them back. Left several behind.
Flyovers – Didn’t try a single one. All my destinations where in between the giant legs supporting the flyovers and now darker, grimer because of them. No one except those who have lived in Calcutta for an extended period of time will understand this. What fun to cover in a few minutes the stretch that you have once spent hours on, in full blown summer and in a bursting at the seams bus (the conductor of which, was still pushing people inside insisting that bhetorey gorer maath)!!

Then suddenly we were on our way back to France. More delays, transit lounges, complementary meals, swollen feet (from sitting for too long), bleary eyes etc. But flights such as these serve an important purpose. Never have we felt gladder to reach our destination. And if we were glad beforehand, then it was surely multiplied mani-fold after it.

Its 2 am, we land at Charles de Gaulle instead of Orly. Thankgod. CDG is just half an hour from home. Our luggage arrives quite early. And hey presto, here is a guy offering us to take us home for only 50E. (Cheap). “Aap ko Urdu aata hai”? He asks!! He, as it turns out, is a tech guy who is currently unemployed and is therefore supplementing his income as an un licensed taxi-driver. ‘Pas facile’ he tell me. He informs me that it snowed the day after Christmas. Tous le monde était content. Mois aussi, I too am contente, having been to India and more so to finally reached our home (thanks to the seemingly never ending flight).

Glossary French Words
Bien sûr – Of course
Moi Aussi – Me too
Tous le monde etait content – Everyone was happy

Glossary Bengali Words
Okhaney thanda kemon? How cold is it, over there (France)?
India tey oto thanda lagchey naa – You must not be feeling the cold here in India.
Razai – Thick quilt
Tupi – cap
Sabji nischoi naa? Not surely vegetables ?
Phulcopi, bandhakopi, motor, sheem, begun, spinach, gajar, beet, shalgam, shojney danta, bhindi, kumro…Cauliflowers, cabbage, peas, broad beans, aubergine, carrot, turnip, okra, pumpkin
O! Sobi to pao taholey – Oh, so you get everything then?
Mach - Fish
Tao pai. – We get that as well
Taholey ki pao naa – Then what is it that you don’t get?
Panthar mangsho – Goat Meat
Onek dekha holo, onek ghora holo, kora holo – Saw a lot, roamed a lot, did a lot
Holo Na – didn’t happen / couldn’t happen
Feluda – Possibly the most popular of Bengali detective characters, if not one of the most.
Paris-er Madam kay to Paris giye ebaar dekha kortey hobey, dekchi– looks like we’ll have to go to Paris to meet with Madam (meaning me)
jomiye adda – Favourite Bengali pastime of conversing with close friends.
bhetorey gorer math – Literally, like the Calcutta Maidan ( a huge park) meaning Loads of space inside (the bus).
“Aap ko Urdu aata hai” – Can you speak Urdu ?

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