Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Assam Calling!

To the uninitiated, the very mention of Assam conjures an image of expansive greenery and seamless scenic splendor and relentless anxiety to explore the bounties of nature … an indeed rightly so… Assam is a splendiferous paradise on earth for all those urban stressed souls.

A dreamy journey takes off as one moves from the hustle and bustle of Kolkata. The contrast of the noisy melting into a silent rendezvous with nature highlights a magical trance to leave anyone spell-bound in ecstasy. On the hinges on North Bengal and spilling well into Assam, begins the majestic spread of rich tropical greenery with little hillocks regularly spurting up from the vast tracts of plains replete with a thick canopy of bottle green landscape. Complimenting the luscious mix of shades of green are swelling water bodies which would take one by surprise… a smoothly blended contrast of nature’s best shades of greens and blues to soothe the eyes of every onlooker. And well, this is just the beginning.

As one reaches the destination of this eventful journey, Assam, the grandeur, gets bigger and greener. Roads carefully maneuver through the deep vegetation and the never-compromising thickness of the vegetation engulfs you making you feel meek in a cacophony of emotions like excitement, curiosity, contentment and happiness. A look in any direction reveals only a lush expanse and a bounty of greenery with little hills poking out in regular intervals. And then there is the mighty Brahmaputra gushing along its way with an insatiate fervor and fury, completely unmindful of its surroundings. Its frightening to imagine the reckless fury it unleashes in the monsoons.

In a gist, it is the beautiful blend of vivid range of terrains with the terra firma and of course, how could one forget the ever smiling faces of the locals which gives Assam a distinct identity… an identity which at the end of the day restores a well needed sense of serenity on ones self. Of course, there is the question of man poaching on the territories of the Branhmaputra… which does seem contrasting to the all pervasive serenity and calmness…but that’s another story.

The variety in the Culture of Assam is rich too, with various forms of arts and music emanating from the traditional and tribal groups…this is indeed an art connoisseur’s paradise…

In the midst of all this beauty there are signs of an economy in its infancy, with real estate activity in the form of glass structured buildings and mini malls… and with 'Aid' money pouring in it has a long way to go until saturation..

Well, if I have left out anything, then it’s the Rhino’s at Kaziranga …(There’s an exclusive write up on that coming)

But I must conclude that at the end of the day, when one’s retired to bed, you do feel complete with nature… with the pristine surrounding lending a whole chunk of tranquility… and its ever-rejuvenating freshness soothing the worked up minds. In the mean while, do not think twice about planning your holiday to Assam. Or, if there is any work coming along in Assam, don’t think twice about volunteering for it! Like we did! (R, C, M - comments please !)

Be ready to experience and enjoy the oneness with nature, in store for you in one and only Assam!!

Hang on – have’nt you wondered why I’ve bothered to be so nice and formal in what I’ve written above? Well, it was written excitedly for my companies monthly journal and being early days then I ‘believed’ that they were gonna publish it. As you can guess by now, it did’nt happen :) But what the hell.. here I am anyway …

And btw, don’t take every thing I’ve written up there on face value. You can’t write bad things about places where you’re sent to work when you write stuff expecting it to be published right?!

Anyways, its not about the place.. its whom you are with. What say ?


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Dhaka – First impressions

Even as Taslima was scurrying for cover in a pretentiously secularist West Bengal, I was planning my first trip to East Bengal. Like most post ’47 first generations Bengali’s in India, my parents were born in erstwhile East Pakistan and spent a few years there before moving to India. Having witnessed the pain of partition first hand and the angst of having to leave every piece they owned they’ve always felt strongly emotional about this piece of land. Consequently, I grew up hearing a lot of stories about Bangladesh and knew many places by heart. I did the normal routine of reading up whatever lonely planet could dish and other travel blogs and surprisingly most of them had something good to tell about the place. Not that I believed a word of what I read. Am not sure why, but I strongly believe that a nation construed on religion can never be anything near ‘good’. So I set forth with my set of conservative prejudices.

20 minutes from NSCB International and the captain announces that we were ready to descend. I suspect it was a ploy to keep passengers quite and not pester the crew for stuff coz we kept circling a good 20 minutes before the actual descent begun. In the middle, the crew hurriedly scattered lunch boxes reminiscent of a toned down flood time food packet distribution ceremony.

As we touched down in Zia International, the first things that hit me was “Bismillah Airlines”. It hit me hard on how religion was deeply etched into every aspect of an Islamic nation. Anyway, it looked a World War II relic and I wasn’t going to fly that for free. A long walk down the arrival terminal led to the immigration counter the person there didn’t bother much about my tourist visa. But one of my managers who was on a tourist visa as well wasn’t so lucky. The immigration person quizzed him on what the places to visit were and after a barrage of other questions and suspicious retorted “On this fare you could have visited Bangkok, why come to Dhaka of all places?” Whatta reality check J

Anyway, as I stepped out and drove out into the city I was greeted with an array of palm trees. Have always wondered if palm trees have a symbolic connection to Islamic Countries. And the next thing that struck me was the barrage of gleaming Toyota’s all over the city! Apart from the rampant corruption I got thinking on what other sources of disposable income the nation was privy to .. it did’nt add up …and then it hit me – Aid Money! Doles from the ADB’s and WB’s and other loan peddlers.

Those were just the initial feelers … and im here for the long haul .. till later…


Monday, January 7, 2008

Monkey ?!

Of all words, imagine being docked for having called some one a monkey!

He a typical sardar and me thinks he muist have said something like " teri MAA KI etc etc" ... Symonds must have heard that as 'Manky' .. ahh.. come on.. thats not a racial slur.. its just Punjabi! We speak that all the time ! May be my frnds from Delhi can elucidiate better :)