Thursday, April 2, 2009

The view from Walong the Easternmost place we could make to

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The eastern Journey

The reason that this blog comes so late is because this is one of the easternmost cybercafes in the country. Which makes it my first access to the net in more than a week. What all did happen in this week? We went to see Walong the easternmost point we could reach. It seems our passes were incorrect and the central government stopped us from going ahead. The journey had to end at the hot springs near Walong (google map it). Walong is really beautiful. It took us three days to reach there. On the way we stopped at Hayliung ('the place of my liqour' in the local Mishmi language) and Hawai the new District Headquarters of the Anjaw district. It was very tiring and we had some good stays in Government Inspection Bunglows. By the way Anuj got pissed on by a pig. We were travelling by a Sumo (jeep) from Tezu to Hawai. There was a live pig trussed up and tied to the roof of the car, after a few minutes of the crazy mountain roads it decided to relieve itself while the car was going at around 60km/h, the result was that the piss streamed into the car through the open window and splashed on Anuj and a lady who was sitting beside the window. In some way it was revenge for all the salami and bacon we had enjoyed over the years. The river lohit is very strong even in this dry season and the sound of flowing by was a constant companion on this trip.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Day 1 in guahati.

I am writing this from Guahati. Let me first tell you why I am in Guahati. Sometime in the last semester of my college I came up with a an idea. Why not go to the four corners of India literally. The four extreme inhabited parts of India. I ended up sharing this idea with my good friend Anuj. When I discuss something crazy like this with my other friends, they limit themselves to pointing out what a great idea it is. They realise that in India, the ultimate traveller's Challenge, this is insane and will involve huge amounts of energy and will probably turn out to be painful. Sadly, Anuj is not one of those. The guy pointed out that, instead of talking about it why not do it.
This is first day of that trip, I am in Guahati and running short of time, but I promise to write this one regularly.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Toilet Paper

there are two types of people in the india house.
A: who forget to take the toilet paper to the loo.
B: who forget the toilet paper in the loo.
Thankfully, I belong to the former [note to self: nobody from India house Paris reads this].
Well sometime ago after a nice meal I decided to go. And when you gotta go you gotta go, and though I did not forget to take a magazine the idea of a toilet paper totally escaped my mind.
I completed an interesting article on the recent trends in men's perfumes and that low prices meant one could get a decent Versache suit for $800 only [note to self:why did I read that?] and started looking for the charity of the type B people. Surely up on the divider between the two stalls was a healthy roll of paper.
I reached up and was helping myself to it [note to others: yeah? try putting it in a better way!] when I sensed movement in the other stall. Yes my friends sometimes even at 11:30 in the night there is life on the other side. I know we use the word too often but this is where the word 'shit' was born. The person on the other side was moving around and from voice I realized it was a firang! This guy is thinking aloud, "I am pretty sure I brought it, damn!!
I am frozen, the little voice is going Shubho - think, think.
Then i had one of the eureka moments. I realized, i had been so quiet the dude on the other side had not realized that there was someone beyond the great divide. Without flushing, I opened the door with a loud noise, and then said to myself as loudly as possible in this situation, "Why do people leave the toilet paper on the floor! This is disgusting!" and as predicted the voice from the other side goes "umm, sir I think my roll, fell on the other side, could you just pass it please." I go "shuure" and replace it on the wall, wait for some time to make it look I am pissing, flush and walk out.
[note to others: EEEVAAAL]

Friday, July 4, 2008


After a lot of delays in the blog, I have finally managed to get down to write this one, and promise to update it daily from now.
I will write about eating today, a subject very close to my stomach. Eating in France is pretty simple, a large chunk of meat, few leafy vegetables and bread. Bread is a major obsession in France with at least 28 varieties available in common stores. However, the two most common varieties are croissants and baguettes. A croissant as most of you know is a crescent shaped bread, in Paris it is soft and flaky het never dry, the thin layers seem to be buttered and usually make for a fine breakfast with a cup of coffee. Now we come to the ‘baguette’ the bread French love for lunch, snacks, sandwiches, etc. It has a soft core, which is very spongy yet not wet, very fluffy and sometimes flavoured. The outer layer, which would be the crust, is made from the same stuff that is used in modern tank armour. I am sure this is a very French way of doing it, where you go through this teeth loosening manoeuvre to reach to the good part of life.
Well since now that I have relocated to the India House in the City University campus; I have my own room and a small common kitchen. The prices of a cooked meal being high, I decided to do some shopping and use the facilities. The local supermarket provided me with a bewildering choice of foods, all of which I am a stranger to. However I did manage to buy some egg, bread some ketchup and mustard sauce and a little cheese. I did not find any fresh vegetables and so bought some canned beans and greens.
This brings me to my first cooking experience. Before I start: I would like to claim that I am an edible cook when it comes to an Indian kitchen [note to disbelievers: that certificate is from my mom]. I can toss up a simple sabzi a few chapattis and dal. However, here I did not have any of the basic ingredients found in a normal Indian kitchen. Hey, I am in France, how difficult would it be to make something simple. So I open a bottle of beer [note to self: bad idea] and get down to some cooking. My initial plan was to heat the beans and boil some eggs, but I already feel like Anthony Bourdain, rustling up something, I take out the pan add some beans and veggies, and set it on a boil. I am getting good at this, I decide to ‘balance’ the flavours with some ketchup and then get bolder and decide that the full ‘bouquet’ of the flavours can be ‘brought out’ with some mustard sauce [note to self: at least I can write like those shows]. With all these wonderful French words in my head I decide to ‘julienne’ a potato into the broth and then ‘top off’ the flavours with a beaten egg. The result I was sure would be a fine example of ‘haute cuisine’ that I would astonish guests later in my life. As they dug into my dish I would regale them about how I came up with the idea as a lonely law student in a Paris hostel many, many years ago.
Well: the results were not as expected, the goo that was the result of my flights of fancy was horrible. Eating humble pie was never this literal. I tried, and then left for the cafeteria where you get a student discount. The next morning I kept it simple. I boiled the eggs, heated the baked beans and toasted some bread and had a perfect breakfast [note to self and others: when you see mom or grand mom look into the refrigerator, take out a few random things and rustle up a meal, you are seriously underestimating the experience and skill that takes]. With my new found respect for all people who can cook, I am much wiser now. I will limit myself to a simple breakfast or a snack and leave the rest to Antony Bourdain.
This brings me to the cheese, the wonderful cheese. Well the salty shit that Ihave been eating at home, be it brittania or amul, is not actually cheese: the french term for it is 'salty shit'. Cheese in its myriad varieties is a creamy, flavoured, heavenly thing; which actually smells like the countryside, [note to others: this is an inexpensive variety bought at the supermarket]

The next blog will be about the court visit, wait, not about law but about the beauty of the courtrooms.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Paris Day 1

Amar Janla Diye (View from my window)

The flight from Delhi was ok. When the flight is long; you realise the value of first class leg room. The service on Swiss i must say was bad, they mixed up between tea and coffee, after they had taken back my cup, promising to correct it, they never returned.
Zurich Airport is out in the country and so I did not get to see the skyline at all. The airport is huge and very modern to me. There was a metro ride between the arrival and departure terminals. The walls of the tunnel were painted with pictures of a woman kissing the window and since the train passes through it creates the optical illusion of a motion picture; very clever but why did they make it I did not understand.
The trip to Paris was uneventful; again, I was unable to see the Paris view from air. It was a cloudy day and quite humid.
[right now: got hungry had to go the Indian grocery across the street to get a bar of chocolate]
Wandered around the airport for sometime till I found out the train Station and bought a 3 day Paris Pass. Found a wi-fi lounge and sent out a few emails.
I planned to go to Kellermann institute which had some room available 2 days ago. I could not book the room as I did not have a card. The metro route directly to the hostel was closed so I had to change the metro and then take the tram. This involved lot of questions and directions, all of which was very difficult to understand. However a gentleman was very helpful and walked me to the place. I reached Kellermann and found out that not only it but ‘all’ of the hostels in Paris were full. After a number of phone calls and useless reference to the ‘Lonely Planet’ [note to self and others Lonely Planet is not very helpful] I found out that Peace and Love Hostel had a room available. However I had to reach there before anyone else came and took the place.
The race to Peace and love hotel was not fun. I was not conversant with the metro system and apart from the station at the airport there are no signs in English [note to French authorities: people don’t learn French in one metro ride]. The ride was not helped by the fact that I had to make a change and the trains were full, due to the partial line closure, and that I was lugging around 25 kilos of baggage with me.
This brings me to the funny incident. I was being buffeted around in the metro and my rucksack which had been under the loving care of not two, not three but four baggage handling crews had come loose. On the top was a deodorant, a tie and a pair of boxer shorts [explanation to others: the boxer shorts were washed late and so were packed last, in fact they were not fully dry when I packed them in Kolkata] which were jacket. Due to the pushing and pulling the jacket slipped and the named contents fell out. The deodorant fell down and rolled under a seat, the tie was dangling from the side of the rucksack and (I know you have been waiting for this) black and white checked pair of boxers landed on the rucksack of a lady traveller. I had noticed the deodorant and managed to retrieve it (sans the cap) and was busy stuffing the handmade silk tie back in the bag when the lady realising that I had not noticed my humiliation decided to gently tap me and point at the ‘personal belonging' neatly lying on the rucksack. My reflexes were lightning fast, but I could see the smiles on the faces of my fellow travellers for quite some time.
After quite some travelling and asking directions I was finally able to reach Peace and Love Hostel, only to learn from the bartender at the bar (who also happened to be the manager) that the room had been already let out.
A beer was the only thing that kept my spirits up. It had been a thirteen hours of flying from Delhi, on a plane which had [note to the Sikh community: no disrespect meant; this could be anybody] four ‘surdlings’ who kept crying in turns to ensure no one in the flight could as much as wink, and almost four hours of running around Paris for a room, I was exhausted. While sipping beer and thinking about which of the numerous beautiful parks I had passed by would be the best for the night, I noticed a sign stating ‘this is a Wi-Fi zone’. After a few enquires to the bartender who spoke perfect English and was helpful, I learnt that it was free. Out came my Vaio [note to people in my college: who don’t know or believe that I own a beautiful Vaio; I do and it turns heads even in Paris] and the internet was much more helpful. I got a few numbers, put my luggage in the kitchen of Peace and Love Hotel and went looking for a phone booth. My numbers were just not clicking till finally a Hostel manager suggested that I try a Hotel du Paris, a bit on the steeper side, not to my comfort, but I finally had a room. This involved getting directions in French over the phone, writing them incorrectly and then finally making it after a couple of metro trips and half an hour of walking around with 150 kilos of baggage [note to everyone: I know the is some discrepancy with the numbers but it is true, cannot explain the phenomena].
The room is very small and very nice, tomorrow I will try uploading some pictures. A hot shower (I was able to achieve the optimum mix of hot and cold quite quickly, any traveller will know how important and difficult this is, to achieve this in a new place) and a meal [note to everyone: read meal as doner kebab unless the contrary is specifically mentioned] put me to bed and a deep and comfortable sleep.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

On Reservation in Educational Institutions in India

I was privileged to watch a nice debate few days ago on Positive Discrimination. The debate was quite interesting as the speakers were undergraduate students from some of the best colleges in India. A lot was said about how 'merit' is superior criteria for judging someone, as against caste.
I am in a 'premier law school' of India, and got there is because of merit. Then I started thinking about it a little more. How did I get this so called 'merit' which I seem to have acquired through sheer hard work.
In my case, I don't know much about you, it was because I went to a brilliant school which my parents were able to afford. I got access to all the books i ever wanted. I was never told that i could not have some book. I got access to cable television, encyclopedias, internet, and all similar sources of knowledge.
Why did I have access to such things? The answer is quite simple; my parents had access to them too. If i were to draw this train of thought i realized that this is because my forefathers (not very long ago) were the first to take advantage of the European system of education when it was introduced to India.
Though I may have not directly benefited from exploiting the lower castes in India, indirectly I am a big beneficiary. By keeping out a large portion of the society from access to education I as an upper caste today enjoy the lack of competition that would have existed if all Indians had access to good education (let us not talk about the government schools). Therefore to hold merit at high esteem seems to be quite ridiculous in my case. The day I was born it was preordained that I would have the 'merit'. This is because I was born in a specific caste which has had these advantages.
To deny the fact that a large majority of children in India will not have the training or access to resources to have even a slim chance at cracking the law school entrance tests seems to take out the air from my merit.
Therefore at an intensely personal level I have come to realize that there is not much in the merit argument as it can be inherited just like a lot of things. It does not look like a big personal achievement any more.
We, don't seem to mind when a NGO opens a little school for Dalit Children under a tin shed with three teachers and a black-board. When the government says that it will put more Dalits in the best colleges of India, and do so without reducing the number of seats for students who got there by 'merit', we act like a right has been deprived. I will probably need quite a few hajmolas to swallow and live with this contradiction. Are we saying 'that all these Dalits deserve are those crappy schools'?