Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Younhi Kat Jaayega Safar Saath Chalney Sey

The day begins with my still feeling so dead, it is only my incessant cough and the pain of the tooth extraction that reminds me that No, You Are Still Alive. However, my feeling of wretchedness is at a stage where I would rather be feeling wretched in Any Other Place but Home. The Toddler is reminded once again that his not eating breakfast is responsible for natural calamities all over the world, why there is no school today and for many days, and the fact that Pakistan's cricket team is still waiting for a captain. We load up and are out of the house by 830am which is a pretty good career record for us.

By 10 am Driverji has made us listen to Terey Bina Zindagi Sey Shikwa (standard driver fare, I am pretty sure they give you a cassette of Best of 70s along with your commercial driving licence) some 350 times, the Toddler has added to the mix by singing such classics as Row Row Your Boat and Incy Wincy Spider some 351 times, Gman and me have finished our sandwiches (sitting in a car is such hungry business I tell you) and we are looking for a place to have our first tea break.  Bangladesh has some interesting highway hotels, not just the tea shacks cum dhabhas that we are accustomed to, but you know serious business Highway Hotels. I suspect repatriated money and give them a nice place to have tea and pee has something to do with it. We stop at one where we can watch kites and crows fight it out over green fields and the Toddler decides he would rather sit with a family that is watching cricket on tele.

By the time its noon we are entering nice green fields and wide expanses territory. The man gets a call from Sylhet (and bear in mind we are now only 50km away) Aah so you ARE coming to Sylhet this afternoon, all that talk about booking a place the past three weeks was serious talk then hmm, well this means we should get around booking a place eh? I murmur an expletive, the man starts sputtering, the driver pipes in Sylhetis, mini-London, they are an international lot and the Toddler thinks hard whether his skipping breakfast is responsible for our current crisis. Khair, the local people quickly call back to say that they have booked us in Rose View (where all the good people stay) but I am pretty gung-ho on my nature get-away. We drive into town, the good office people are waiting bouquet in hand at Rose View (the hotel was stretching Shakespeare's "by any other name" a bit`too far, surely a view of British Immigration Services doesnt smell as sweet?), we slow down the car to tell them we are going to try our luck with Nazimgarh, one of the volunteers jumps in to "escort" us, another screams Dont Forget The Flowers. With the long weekend  it did seem pretty impossible to get a room, so I am very very grateful to whoever it was who canceled their booking so we could get to stay. The admin was very apologetic that it was one of the "awami class" rooms but it suited me fine as the main building was something that was more suited to well whatever they are doing with Murree. We were put up here, and it suited us In Love with all Things Colonial in the Desh types very well thankyou.

In the evening we set out to survey a training run by the man's colleagues (and which had brought us into town). Sylhet from what I could gauge from my three days there seems like quite a lovely place, but then there must be something in the water that drives so many of its citizens to make home elsewhere, eh? Our first evening we drove through a corridor of fruit and vegetable shops, pharmacies and miles and miles of strings of lights made up of energy saver bulbs. A sight that brings so much happiness to my eyes. I love my medicine; and my fruits and veggies more. In fact when I was a uni student in Islamabad I would spend mornings just roaming Covered Market      sighing over the fruits and vegetables for sale and was heartbroken when they closed shop. At the training venue (they were training students at a night school, these are boys who work during the day and attend school at night, how nice!) the Toddler and me were introduced with a bout of   enthusiastic clapping. See you too can grow up and get married and have a kid, now back to the books, study hard! study hard! The Toddler true to his genetic material sat in the first row and was the picture of enthu student number one.

On our way back to the hotel we made a stop at the shrine of the Sufi saint Shah Jalal. He of  turning  evil minions into cat fish and doing many a good deed fame. The shrine welcomes people from all castes, creed, colour, class but of course draws the line at people who are penis-impaired when it comes to praying at his grave. Well itna bhi enlightened moderation nahi ho sakti, even saints have standards. Gman did go with the spawn but didnt have anything other than It Was Nice to say about the saint's resting place so Im afraid I cannot report more on what you may find. I had to be content with wandering around the compound and looking at people lighting candles, washing their feet in one of the water tanks, and feeding the fish. Just behind the shrine one of the fish ponds was channeling the glass pyramid at the Louvre and there were these beautiful niches in the wall sheltering candles. The Toddler of course understood this as one big birthday party and we had to chase him before he went chuffff on all of them.

The next morning found us on the road to Jafflong. We stopped at one of the sights. Cant say much about it, basically it is a place where bus loads of picnickers stop to eat biryani, stare at men fish for river stones and stone cutters exhibit their wares when they are not chipping away at their craft.

We didnt partake of the biryani but had the most amazing carambola (starfruit, previously only known to me as one of the fruits in the toddler's picture book) cut up with lime juice, chillies and a green topping which Im praying was coriander.
Our next stop was Sharighat, where we took a leisurely boat ride --and I realize this travelogue is REALLY reading like a school essay now. Oh well. Some day I should get around to putting up a montage of all the boat rides, river cruises we have taken. Now the operating principle behind a boat ride is to think your thoughts and float  along a river being all contemplative about The Journey So Far. But considering the men in my life have very few thoughts they were all "Thinked" Out by the 45th minute. So we turn back mid-way. But not before I thought to myself that granted one should lament the lives we lost, bemoan the comradeship, the intellectuals, the loves we may have had, and the conversations we will never have when we "gave up" on Bangladesh. But sometimes we should also express grief for all the colours that will never be part of our palette because we could not respect diversity and the many other scripts and languages to write Pakistan's story. Though on our way back to Sylhet I saw many a billboard where the women's faces were blacked out or just neatly cut out which assured me that the colours of Swat have made it North East from North West.

Exhibit A

The Intrepid Traveller
Oh the pinks and the purples

So we will never for instance have a blue that can turn so mossy green in a minute
 We turned around a bend and see men washing buffaloes that had been bleached the brown of the country side. And as we approached the riverbank the sun did its thing and the water shimmered a thousand sunbeams. Or as my cousin put it very poetically when we were kids, Just like Hema Malini's dress in Naseeb, sigh!

Arhaan was happiest in the hotel or rather the trampoline on their premises and had full paisa vasool of his stay. I would have liked to take advantage of some of the facilities as well, the nice shower room- massage jets-mini spa fixture in the bathroom for one. But could not. Not enough hot water for one. And the other more demanding reason. Well let me explain. Once a long time ago when I was in school I read  about a little bird in an issue of the Reader's Digest that was supposedly pecking away at a giant 100,000 sq feet  boulder and that it will take her a billion years or more to be done chipping away at it, and when she is finished pecking away just ONE day in eternity has passed. Now dear reader, THAT is what my kid hears every time I say Mum will pop into the bath for a sec. Darn bird pecking away at boulder. I Can Never Take A Bath Till The Kid Turns 13 Ok! and by that time I fear I will be too busy stressing how he never takes baths to ever take one myself.

Anyways. After Sylhet it was the lovely tea town of Srimangal that hosted us. The drive once again was very picturesque. Rural idyll and all that. At one time I gazed at cows as the car slowed down,  and I watched as a mommy goat chewed all absent -minded at the grass as she watched one of them  feeding her calf. She shook her head just then as to say "Goodness me, is  that the time already" and scampered off where two baby goats scurried to her and latched on. If that doesnt get the cow and goat on a poster for Mother's Milk Is Best I dont know what will!

Anyways Srimangal. And Bangladesh Tea Research Institute guest house. Our driver who must have been Moses navigator as he wandered the desert, well for the initial 39 and a half years, must have passed the place some three times, the last time we ended up in the Lowacherra National Park. It was all very beautiful. The Woods Were Lovely Dark And Deep. But lets just say I Had Miles To Go Before I Could Pee.

So we returned. And finally found the guest house. A word (or two) about the guest house. It is nestled in between tea gardens, all very good. Nice bungalows and sprawling tennis courts and flowering bushes everywhere. But lets say its all Lord Dalhousie from outside and DilBahar Motel from inside.

 Lurid pinks and greens galore. They also have the surliest people working there ever. But I can understand as two of them were clearly behind on their ironing, clearly a task they had been set to by Lord Clive himself, for the duration of our stay we just saw them slaving away iron in hand bent over yards and yards of white sheets. The pillow and mattress had clearly mixed up the memo, the pillow was hard as nails, all ironing board of it while the mattress was clearly springs on wheels (which made the toddler very happy. Timpolines! he screamed and went bounce bounce bounce) But they made it up with the yummiest vegetable soup I have ever had outside of Tuscany and sourdough, yes sourdough bread that was ironically as soft as a pillow.
So if I am to ever return to the guesthouse I am going to hire a bungalow for a week, bring my own linen and preferably  provisions and buy their bread and soup (and tea).

And did I tell you about the swimming pool, our rooms opened up to it which was not so nice, but I am sure it must have made many happy to walk out of their rooms and be in nice, cold water. 

Well if you put it like this. And so ardently

 We did not have any "unusual clothes" so we stayed out of the pool 

We did return to the Lowacherra Natural Park eventually. The Toddler refused to sit in his pram and would rather push it. 

 The gibbons and other such animals did not appear and we wondered whether like us they felt a bit under dressed considering standard fare to go trekking in the woods appeared to be safari suits and saris that scream bling. 

But as we were leaving, and here I must say their hearts might have melted a little bit at the valiant trooper who walked a whole hour and whispered monkey monkey, the usually recalcitrant characters did come out and jumped about a bit. Sadly, I have not as yet taken up the man's offer to buy a decent camera yet. Matters will be remedied and I promise when Im in the area next I will use something other than the humble digital to record such moments. Till now please look at these.

 And before we got into the car, a train passed by and the toddler's cup of happiness runneth over.
 Apologies once again for the quality of the ape sightings, however our camera was pretty good capturing all the spiders in the guest house!

 Well, so this was our trip to Bangladesh's North-East in short. All too soon we were home, and I realise I must be doing something right around the house to have the man sighing You Know Our Place Is Nicer Than The Resort.

Bye bye sweeties and I am hoping one day you too can see how beautiful this world can be.

Make sure you go before you leave the house though.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Jaati Hoon Main

Sylhet for the long weekend this time. Why? Well please dont judge us, but I have to escape this crazy city which has been bursting fireworks at 1 am for the past one week. I am pretty sure they are going to revoke our passports for doing something as un-SouthAsian , well Australian too, to abandon the city come World Cup time. But it says something for the sad sad times we live in that even Gman the resident cricket fan has been quite OK to pack up boriya bistar for the hills.

Since I last wrote the Toddler and I have come down with a horrible horrible throat infection or whatever evil that is that plagues our respiratory system. I pulled a major cheap stunt of asking the paed to check my throat while he was at it. Frankly, I have no energy to brave Dhaka traffic and queues at GP offices to see someone for mine. Funny na, I had a lovely aunt and uncle who would share their eye-glasses after a while, and we all know about elderly couples who have been together for so long that they share their sweaters and shawls. Well, the Toddler and me are sharing doctors apparently.

The lovely maid took a leisurely four day weekend off again last week. She waltzed in yesterday afternoon claiming she had  met with an accident. Chalo, we breathed a sigh of relief, at least no harm to local population, but no she was not done yet. There were deaths oh so many deaths in the road accident. I suspect now she is a bit of a thrill junkie. You know how it was when you were a kid, you watch something on the news, you see something on the way to school and you tell yourself Wow, that was close, that could be me. In her case It Is Me, umm Her.

So no maid, sick kid, inundated by mosquitoes and fireworks going off every minute, I practically jumped at the opportunity to get a tooth taken out. The dentist did remark How Brave. And also Kamaal Hai you didnt bring anyone along, usually my patients like someone with them. Ha! so that was one hour of just bliss, the drone of the drill or whatever contraptions they use dulling out all the craziness of this week and now Im sitting  here typing out this post just to avoid tugging at the stitches. Im pretty ikky this way.

Yesterday was a holiday, not for the kid though and the husband and me spent a lazy day at the kid's school just watching him play. www dot vela parents that is us. I wish we had a life. I also wish my mom was here. Yesterday evening I sent her a senti sms telling her how I wish she lived with us as she knows exactly what Ventolin syrup does without googling for it and checking out side effects. Moms are amazing this way. I have no idea when this "local knowledge" kicks in for me.

Apologies for the disjointed post all ye who still tune in. Clearly I have lost the Voice somewhere along the way.

So all in all lonely, bored, feeling very untalented in this city. Hope the trip to Sylhet jump starts some of the batteries and I return more energetic.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Yeh Hai Meri Kahani....

So I am more or less settled in the new place. More on that later.

For some time I was thinking aloud about a fresh blog name for golkamra. As in doing away with the Life Or Something Like That.

For those who have been visiting golkamra since the very beginning this blog went with the moniker Living Room, that was my "shoes off" stage with restricted comments. The blog was  (and here I am cut pasting what I wrote a while ago ) started
with the intention of having a 'forum' where I could moderate an exchange on public memory of non-violence in South Asia, the lived history of the Khudai Khitmatgar, it was a work thing....eventually it petered off to become a scrap book project at best. Enter Arhaan. Now I am as you all know an ardent devotee of all things Bolly, and my social training declared that I have the mandatory eight letters for eight years ala Rani in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (if I am to kick the bucket during the 'creation' process).. so I thought I should have a forum where the kid in question would know my 'stories' as in what makes Aneela tick..and perhaps since then this blog has more or less steered cleared of the 'larger questions of life'.. I did not want the kid to be struggling about the 'every day questions' about me. For I have when it comes to my father.

And at some stage I just clicked on the header and changed the title to My Life or Something Like That (later edited to Life Or...)

For a while now I toyed with Baithak, but there is already something called Open Baithak out there in the public domain. I did think of Qissa Khwani (the Story Teller Bazaar in Peshawar) which happens to be a beautiful nexus of all that I love (the bazaar is linked with Muhammad Wazir Khan who sang the popular De de Khuda ke naam pe in India’s very first talkie, Alam Ara, and of course the lives and loves of Shahrukh Khan, Dilip Kumar and the Kapoor Khandan! And lest we forget it is an important signpost in the history of the Khudai Khitmatgar) but that place is frequently bombed and I didnt want to think of my blog being attacked all the time !! I also thought of Shney Chai as in Green Tea...something along the lines of In the End We Will Have Green Tea in tribute to our love for the beverage. I remember interviewing Afghan refugees in Islamabad and they had brought out mugs of green tea with enough sugar to set my teeth on edge (and where the teaspoon can actually stand up in the bed of sugar). Even now there is no evil (culinary or what this mad world throws at me) that cant be "digested" by a nice cup of green tea.

While I was still deliberating I read an issue of Five Dials. And I came across these lines.

‘I fall into a place and I become of that place,’ replied Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak when asked, during a public conversation in Calcutta, whether she would describe herself as cosmopolitan. ‘I feel sometimes, when someone asks me the question, that I have roots in air. You know? I am at home everywhere and I am not at home anywhere. It seems to me when one is at home, the place where one is at home has no name.

It has been adapted from Dayanita Singh, a survey co-published by Penguin India and FundaciĆ³n Mapfre. Read more at

And well as anyone who knows me and mine, can recognize that The Shoe Fits.
So Roots in Air it is.
So just a heads up for those who access this blog 'googling' for golkamra. Or those who have Life Or Something Like That in their blog roll, reader, following list et al.
However for those who land on this blog searching for (True Story!) Ansar Abbasi Says Mastrubation Causes Blindness. theek hai bhai.
P.S: And I had just changed the header pic and was playing around with the template and voila there were birds in the background that fitted in so perfectly, kamaal hai so lets save the changes I say.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

mere saajan hain us paar main man maar hoon is paar

Not Saajan exactly but something far far bigger. It is the Toddler's school which is across the road from us and even though ' technically' it is ten minutes walking distance from where we are it merits moving house. This as

a) Time and tide wait for no man? Well Dhaka traffic -no wait- for mom crossing road with kid in pram, sweetheart. Thus we have the answer to the riddle Why did the Chicken (hearted mom) cross the road? Because Arhaan's school is there.

b) Dropping Arhaan off to school meant for a gas guzzling 4 wheel drive to pick pint-sized and XL-pant size from home, drop pint-size at school, return XL home, take XXL to work, XL will be picked up from home to do the school run in a couple of hours again, it is only noon and we have already killed 10 trees.

So we started looking for flats across the road and well encountered the Good, Bad and the Ugly of how Other People Live. Anyways the(ir) skeletons can remain in the closet, their cooking pots in the is not the day to pass judgement. We found something where I can hang my hat err dupatta on a hook, and realized the balcony kind of looks out into the Toddler's school, which makes me feel like Stalker Mom. Hai mera Laal, nazar kay saamney hi rehna, dont wander off honey Mommy's watching. So two minutes commuting distance--though my mom says she is betting we will be the last one to arrive, take your time with breakfast sweetie we still have time).

So the big house move starts this weekend--which is technically tomorrow for us. I have not been able to access blogspot for a while (I can access Dashboard but for some reason cannot view my blog or anything ending with and can only read them in 'reader'. Hence, I have not been able to 'read' my posts and do a quick grammar/spelling check or get back to all who do leave a comment). In the new house hopefully all this will be 'rectified'. We actually hope to 'rectify' a lot of things in the new house. Our meals, roster for household cleaning, TV routine, exercise regime, bath times, the elusive toilet training, the maid's penchant for bumping off change na hua its a regime change acoming.

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Hum aah bhi kartey hain to ho jatay hain badnam wo qatl bhi kartey hain to charcha nahin hota

" Seriously tell me", my husband asked me yesterday morning, "isnt it about time we set a 'threshold' for number of deaths in our maid's family? I am sure someone has come up with figures for an upper limit for number of deaths/ maid household?How many relatives have to die before I start suspecting the maid of homicide?".

The maid has been very consistent with details, death always come a-knockin' Saturday evening (which merits taking Sunday and Monday off), it is sudden, the dearly-soon-to be-departed goes to bed and never gets up. Just saying.

We have seen seven deaths in the last one year. One more and the Vishwal Bharadwaj school of thought suggests the gloves can finally come off.