Monday, March 28, 2011

Dekha Ek Khwab To Yeh Silsile Hue

It is the start of a new week and true to form I am standing in front of Arhaan's school; mumbling excuses about how The Toddler will not be attending school. Again. I hope there is some truth to children learning more from the School of Life . And there are signs that he is picking up good habits. Case in Point, Exhibit A. 
It is important to be hydrated and sun wise when travelling
So it is, 6am, and I am still in bed. And The Toddler is running around screaming how I will be left behind, what with the driver at the door already. His father has trained him well, I groan to myself. My dragging my feet aside, we do make it out of the house on time, and proceed towards Kurigram (the place does exist as I keep on telling people, with its own Wikipedia page and all).
We pass the traffic cesspool that is Tangail, cross the Bangbandhu Bridge across the Jamuna (ah, this is part of the world which is truly magical. Bangladeshi nationals go to sleep one night and wake up as Indian citizens with ration cards and all the other side of the river; the very he-man Brahamputra crosses the border,  there is a costume change and voila! is now the comely Jamuna) and make a stop at a small village where  The Toddler was amongst the first to walk over a newly constructed bamboo bridge.

Dear Ma'am, I cannot attend school today as I have to inaugurate a bridge

We met weavers at work, all men, as you know it involves wheels and is such mechanized work. 
But it did make for a  beautiful Photo Is Our Motto opportunity. With the Tana Bana
 and the colorful threads put out to dry.

and the Dont Look Now but I think we are being photographed moments.

In Kurigram we were put up in the Circuit House which meant that it involved putting in three requisition forms to exchange Waste Paper Basket A for Waste Paper Basket B and moving bed from point C to point D. One night when our hot water was on the blink, and there were three men tinkering with the pipes I did suggest giving Arhaan a bath in one of the unoccupied rooms, but the manager just threw up his hands in protest and started weeping about all the paperwork involved.

Mornings while the man worked, the Toddler and I would walk around the neighbourhood .  Memories of the time in What Katy Did Next when Elsie and Joanna go to the "country" and are bored to tears with the lack of country. We tried watching a group of kids play a cricket match and it says something about the quality of the cricket played that day that the toddler was pinching me , hissing Pliss Get Up after one over. We then spied on school kids preparing for the March 26th march past, and the toddler was itching to participate (considering Katrina has been replaced at meal times by my screaming Parade, About Turn, Pa-raade Open Mouth, Parade Peechey Murr). I wanted to push the PT Master out of the way and teach the kids to salute properly, (we are OCD this way) but then thought about the politics of a Pakistani butting her head in and the kids looking at me all"ab yeh bhi you have to teach us, thankyou for the memories and independence,now ok tata thanks bye".

At the end of two days we could conclude that the local economy involves filling out forms in triplicate, slowing down time, and sweeping leaves. Oh they were positively meerkats this way, one taking a break for three to step in. Kurigram will go down in history books as the time Arhaan made it to the bathroom two times in a row and I begged them to include it in their guidebook but it didnt happen and the Toddler went back to pampers in a huff.

To give the local populace a break from picking up and sweeping leaves, the administration did get the good citizens to dig a 22 acre lake, the toddler took one look and went back to sleep in the car which gave The Man and me an opportunity to take a walk unaccompanied for the first time in 25 months, and the picnickers an excuse to crowd around the car and watch the child sleep. Pretty place and I wish we had discovered it a bit earlier.

The local community summoned up a scrawny cow to amuse the kid, a couple of sheep too. But after an hour The Toddler concluded that not only is it futile to bajao the been in front of a bhains, nothing much happens when you sing Old McDonald to it too.
We returned to the Circuit House to see it all lit up, and I realised how long it has been for me since I have stepped out of the city, if I could mistake the fireflies out that night for the light of a dozen mobiles recieving a sms.Yeh baahir lawn may kaun phone par bethey hain?


The fairy lights  were on all night and the next  for the Independence Day celebrations. Minister sahebs and their hangers on were on the horizon so we took off for a day trip to Dinajpur. On the way we were accosted by this adorable kid who asked for candies in lieu for posing for us, and once the in house (read car) "Liberator and Occupation Forces from 1971" two (and the Australian who is quick to recognize newly independent countries) had paid up, we were free to go.

We had a late afternoon picnic at Ram Sagar. Archaeological survey records might tell their own tale, but local legend tells us about a drought and a princess who has a dream that there will be a big lake. The king orders one, the people dig for weeks to no end, but  not a drop of water to be found. And here they are with a big, fat hole in the ground. Then the king receives another vision that the lake COULD happen, all he has to do is sacrifice his son Prince Ram, who may or may not at that juncture muttered "Abba ji aap kahey tau Bisleri na mangwa doo" But alas, alack! Nestle has not started a drinking water plant yet and the Prince has to die. Voila! there is water, and now it is a lovely place for people to have a picnic. And the Toddler asked Driverji to check whether he could walk on water.
He cannot.

And ta da we are at our destination, the beautiful beautiful Kantanagar temple. Terracotta. With the Ramayan and the Mahabharata retold on it's walls, and friendly appearances by local Gods, Demons and as R K Narayan would put it the Others in the panels and pillars.

When I downloaded the pictures this morning I realised most of them were taken in 8MB format and somehow when I insert them in the post they overshoot the margin, so if anyone wants to see some closeups of the pillar please drop me a line and I can email them to you. The temple was  one more of the mannat projects particular to South Asia. A king without -hee hee-issue. A vision of a temple. True to the area, it meant sending a requisition form in triplicate, covering letter, permission certificate, and estimated budget to the court of Emperor Akbar, who responded with two requests.
1)Build a mosque as well, (and a hundred PWD contractors rubbed their hands in glee. Smart guy this Akbar, I am guessing that is one reason why they didnt do a Babri to the temple in recent times) and 
2)include me in the story ! (which is an occupational hazard with the Great Emperor as he continues to pop his head and crowns three in all stories hence.Film scripts too). 
And what serendipity I was reading The Enchantress of Florence on the roadtrip, so Akbar hi Akbar all around.

The king complied and Akbar features in the terracotta panels. Here he is doing two of his fav things, going to a rave and smoking his happy pipe.

The Ramayan on one side of the temple walls, the Mahabahart retold on another.

The bit in the Ramayan where the princes are asked to do some skills training on trees.

Some more capacity building exercises

another closeup of the panels. Hopefully, next month I might have a better camera. Suggestions for one that goes well with our other arm candy, the Toddler, will be welcome. 

We could only walk around the temple, entry to the inner sanctum is restricted to the annual Krishna festival  only. The guide did say there is a big well inside teeming with snakes but I suspect it is to keep the enthu public away. 

On the way back and even two days later when I continued to rave about the temple and the details and how it would take us a week if not more to go through them all, The Man did turn around and ask me 
So you think its up there with the Taj Mahal (a place I always refer to as taking you by surprise on first jhalak even though you have seen a thousand replicas in real and reel life. Kitschy postcards not being counted here). 

And I thought some and replied Yes, perhaps. Because the Taj is the Touch-Me-Not kind of beauty, She Walks in Beauty Byron ki Lady types. And it celebrates death, let us not forget that, the Kantanagar came about with a wish , a yearning on its lips for a new life on this earth. And it does so with so much joy,  in such a cheerful, unsophisticated manner, so for all this and more it is a winner in my books. 

You dear Reader will have to go visit and decide for yourself.


  1. small suggestion - for the really heavy, high res photos - click on save as, and in the options make it a low res photo -around 250 kb - will upload fast and perfect for online viewing.

    and thank you for the post. as always, enchanted!

  2. Sur said it:)
    Your travels with the intrepid and peripatetic toddler are such fun to read! The Kantanagar temple is exquisite. Really lovely.

  3. Lovely read as usual, Aneela. Are you looking for a SLR or a point and shoot camera?

  4. The temple is amazing! My eyes came popping out while taking in the intricacy of the panels. I do not think that Akbar is depicted in this manner in any temple sculpture so this must be one of its kind!

  5. another great travel post. thanks aneela.

  6. Lovely - I have seen the Taj so many times now...find it boring! Hope to visit this place some day!


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