Saturday, March 31, 2012

Paan Singh Tomar, the film

I watched this film last weekend, and I can say that it was one of the best movies that I have seen in recent times!

The protagonist, Irrfan, who played Paan Singh Tomar was absolutely brilliant, and so was Mahi Gill who played his wife's role. The depths in the characters were brought about very well because of the excellent direction by Tigmanshu Dhulia, and brilliant performances by the cast, especially, Irrfan.
Paan Singh Tomar's life in a village, his army life, his relationship with his coach, his loyalty towards the army, his sadness and pain in not being sent to fight in the war, Paan Singh's sweet and loving relationship with his wife, his children, devotion and respect for his mother; all this came through so well in the film!
I did not get bored for a minute. There were no item songs , there was no skin show, yet I think almost everyone who went to watch the film  got mesmerized in it. It said a true story, and said it so well. I hope "Paan Singh Tomar" gets selected for International film festivals. This film certainly deserves recognition.
I like the strong message that the film sent. How do we treat our champions?  Champions who won us medals, who made us proud...
Do we ever think about what happened to them?

Here is a link on Paan Singh Tomar the National steeplechase champion.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My first Rendezvous with the Tiger!

Bandhavgarh will always hold a special meaning for me, after all that's where I saw the tiger in the wild for the first time!
It was the March of 2006, having completed our MBA, with the results out; we were in the mood to celebrate. Bandhavgarh was actually a spontaneous decision, we needed a break desperately; we wanted to get out of Kolkata for a few days. Away from the concrete jungle into the wild was definitely a welcome change. None of us had been to Bhandhavgarh before so it was decided, Bandhavgarh it will be.

It was a very short trip around 5 days. Out of which two days were spent in the train. We stayed in the White tiger lodge at Bandhavgarh. Very well maintained, we loved it! The rooms were nice and big, surrounded by trees, flowers, and we could hear birds chirping all the time.

What we were not prepared for however was the early morning chill. We were prepared for summers really. In Kolkata summers had set in. None of us had carried anything warm. The first early morning venture into the Bandhavgarh National forest had my teeth cluttering, hands going numb etc...After the initial early morning chill, when the sun came out, everything became normal.By afternoon it reached another extreme, it was much too hot!

Bandhavgarh National Forest

Bandhavgarh Madhya Pradesh India

There is something about jungles... and I keep saying that, I just don’t get tired of it ever. The sylvan thick vegetation, the sudden appearance of or a deer or a Sambhar signaling the presence of a tiger, is all very overwhelming!

On day 1 we were kind of close to sighting a tiger but could not sight one! We heard the Smbar calls we waited patiently for the Tiger to emerge but no such luck. Even though the first day we did not sight the tiger, we did not regret it so mcuh because were were drinking in the beauty of the forest , birds, butterflies, deers, sambars, and the total experience was quite heady actually.

Just being there was a wonderful experience, the sense of well being was very eveident. We were just feeling good about everything. I remember in the evening we were always hungry, the food they served at the resort was yummy, I was surprised to note that my usually extremely non-vegetarian friends’ were also enjoying vegetarian meals like chapatis, dal, simple aloo sabji, raita etc ! The evenings were spent exploring the resort, chatting, playing table tennis, it was so good to unwind. Gazing at the starlit night was so intoxicating.

I think we were very lucky, we were there for two days only, and on the 2nd day's morning trip to the park, we saw the tiger(s) up close and personal! Our guide informed us that two tiger had been spotted but it was not on the motor able track and we would have to get on to an elephant so that we could go near the tigers.Bandhavgarh gets a lot of foreign visitors, especially the National Geography type. I caught myself ogling at handsome men with sophisticated cameras heading towards the park, the cameras had zooms extending till forever!

Four of us got onto one elephant. We covered some distance, off the beaten track, and there they were, both the tigers sitting. I could hear the cameras clicking away. Many of us were too taken in by the experience and were yet to start clicking. One of the visitors, on another elephant could not find the tigers after focusing through his zoom lens, the tigers were so close that after using zoom he could not see them! They were sitting barely 7-8 feet away from where we were...and the visitor kept saying where is the tiger...where is the tiger! That was very funny!

I pinched myself just to make sure this was really happening, my first sighting of a tiger and I get to see two together! I was overjoyed. These magnificently handsome creatures are really something! And seeing them in the wild is a treat.None of us spoke for a long time, we were hypnotized. I can still feel the goose bumps. That evening was celebration time of course, we were too excited to sleep, we ate more than we should have, we chatted and cahtted till our jaws ached, we were after all on a high!

Entrance to the park

The Tiger!

We started planning for the next day, we still had half a day before boarding our train. We thought we might be able to squeeze in some more traveling. We decided to set off early in the morning
for Jabalpur. If we coud reach Jabalpur in 3-4 hours it would give us enough time to check out the marble rocks, the Dhuandhar Waterfalls, and some very ancient temples. I could not sleep that night. At 3 am we were ready to move. However, the driver of the car that we had hired did not look so ready to move. He was about ready to fall asleep. It seems, he had drive non-stop for the last couple of days. He wanted to know if any of us could take over the driving so that he could get a few hours of sleep. My cousin volunteered. And I am happy one of us did, otherwise it may have been risky. My cousin recalls her experience of driving the SUV at 3 am in the morning with forests on either side, with  occasional sounds of  animals as an exhilarating experience. It was quite an experience for all of us.

We reached Jabalpur and completed almost everything we wanted to see. We had a nice long lunch at a hotel and then set off for Katni to board our train. One of my friends went inside the station to find out the platform number, while we were paying off the driver and unloading our luggage, he came back in a few minutes to inform us that the train had left 2 hours back!

With me and my cousin around, what can one expect! Our reputation of missing trains precedes us all the time. It seems strange that none of us ever checked the ticket even once to confirm the train timing. One of us said it is at 3pm and we went with that. We did get reservation in another train that would leave at 1am. So we stayed at the waiting room, and I must say after the initial shock and uncertaintly, I quite enjoyed this part too. This meant my vacation was getting extended for another day! Wow!

The train that we boarded (Shaktipung express) this time, took a longer route, it went through Chota Nagpur plateau. This region is so beautiful; I loved the journey, through small cute stations, vendors selling exciting food. The best part was when the train halted at a station called - Barkakhana, it brought back so many memories from my childhood.

My father was posted in a place called Ramgarh Cantt, in Bihar. We stayed there for almost 4 years. Barkakhana was the station where we would get down in order to reach Ramgarh. That was the closest railhead for Ramgarh. If you ever happen to stop at that station try out the samosa and chana that the vendors sell, it is out of the world!

Since that day, I have had the good fortune of sighting tigers twice, in Sunderbans and in Ranthambore. And each time I have been enamoured by this absolutely magnificent creature.

Next time, we plan to drive down to the closest national park and what could be better than a Mahindra XUV 500. That sure is another magnificent creation!

Some more information that might be useful if you are planning a trip to Bandhavgarh:

We boarded the Howarh Mumbai (via Allahabad) superfast mail for our journey yo Bandhavgarh.
We got down at Katni junction.

We booked the hotel from the Madhya Pradesh tourism office in Kolkata. It is in the  Chitrakoot building, Room No 7, 6th Floor in 230 AJC Bose road. Phone number - 033 30979000

We had booked a car in advance from The White Tiger Lodge.
We reached Katni at around 4.30 pm, and by the time we reached the lodge it was around 7 pm.
The double bed AC rooms cost 4,500/night, and rooms with coolers cost 3,500/night.
Single rooms cost around 3000/night.

Contact numbers of the White tiger lodge is : 07627-265366, 07627-265406

While coming back we took Shaktipunj express from Katni 'cause we missed the Mumbai mail.

Sunset at Bandhavgarh National forest

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What I have learnt from life so far....

  • Negatives attract negatives and positives attract positives.
  • Parents are the only people who love you unconditionally.
  • We all need appreciation to grow.         
  • A beautiful person is beautiful inside.
  • Assertion and not aggression in handling people.
  • The more you run away from fear the more it chases you.
  • Kind gestures can keep a relationship alive.
  • Conscience may stop us from moving forward but wins us good friends for a lifetime! (A good night's sleep above all)
  • A 'thank you' not said timely loses its value.
  • Hope is the connecting word between today and tomorrow.
  • Perfection has different meanings for different people.
  • No matter how much you avoid getting involved in other people's lives they will drag you into their lives anyway.
  • It is a good idea to scream out loud now'n'then.
  • Faith makes all the difference.
  • Life is and so are we.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Summer-ised memories

With the March sun getting brighter every day, there is no running away from summer. Summer is here to stay.

Come to think of it, on the bright side of this bright Saturday morning, summer actually brings wonderful memories from my childhood days. Oh how I used to wait for the summer vacations! That was the longest break, and the best part of summer vacations was, I did not have to study course books. I could indulge in story books! Summer vacations were sheer enjoyment; books, movies, music galore! I don't think the summer heat ever bothered me or any of us. Our focus was to have some real fun, and fun we had.

The only thing that bothered me about summer vacations were the afternoons, as a child I was never fond of afternoons, that's because I had to have an elaborate meal that included rice and fish. I remember never ever liking rice or fish. My parents felt that rice once a day is a must but to me having to eat rice was a punishment. I waited for evenings because snacks were always more exciting; Bread and jam, cakes, chips were my all time favourites. Why could I not have it all the time! I would dream of a day when my mom would say, “I do not feel like cooking today; would you mind having bread, jam, some cake and cookies today”. Alas! That would never be. We always ended up having elaborate meals. As a grownup I don't mind it at all now, in fact I have all those recipes from my mom, imagine that!

But those days, I wished that by magic afternoons and rice would vanish from my life forever!

I used to love the weekends. Weekends were movie days. We would complete our home work, my mom would pack up some snacks for us (cakes, biscuits, sandwiches with jam of course...) and off we went for the movies. In the army, we got used to watching movies in open air theatres.  It was good fun actually, I don't remember what we did if it rained though. At the movies, I would invariably bump into my school friends and sit with them and watch the film. Even though my parents ensured that we never run out of snacks...occasionally we were allowed to buy hot samosas, cold drink, and salted peanuts as well. I wish I could go back to that era again. Just thinking about it is de-stressing.

I especially enjoyed the long summer vacations after appearing for the class X board exams. Those were two long months of pure bliss.  Almost every evening we would go cycling to the army club. The swimming pool and the library were my favourite stops. An hour of swimming followed by browsing and borrowing books from the library was how the most of my evenings were spent. When we came back home; tired thirsty, and happy, my mom would serve delicious Aam panna (made of un-ripened mango pulp)  I would gulp 2-3 glass full of this delicious refreshing drink.

The ultimate indulgence was snuggling in bed and getting completely lost in books till my mom called us for dinner.

We used to spend at least a month of our summer vacations in our ancestral village in West Bengal. I loved it. It used to be one big get-together. All my cousins would visit as well, and we had one hell of a time. I remember walking to the banks of Ganges (Ganges flows very close to our village), keeping awake till late at night for midnight feasts, listening to ghost stories and getting scared, fighting and making up, walking through the mango orchards and plucking ripe mangoes and devouring those on the way back, rides on bullock carts, getting spoilt by grandparents, and polishing off those yummy dishes prepared by my grandmother…Just recollecting these is making me want to rewind and relive those days.

My cousin brothers used to love teasing us. They were much older than us. One day I was watching my cousin brother shaving. He put some of the shaving cream on my chin, and he said "Look, you will get a beard like me soon". I rushed and washed it and every day I would watch my chin for any signs of a beard. I was very scared, and to this day I remember how petrified I was at that thought.

Memories…they can be so therapeutic.

Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are here to stay and I am going to try and not let the heat get to me. I am going to make the most of summer. I plan to take a much needed break and spend a lot of time just lazing. What about you?