Sunday, May 18, 2008

Visiting Nana's old place - II

Nana has never been a conformist. He was a member of the RSS during the partition. He once mentioned in the passing that he inducted Atal Bihari Vajpayee into the RSS when the two were students, and room-mates, in DAV college, Kanpur. Following the Mahatma's assassination, nana was put behind the bars, as were a substantial number of other RSS members. In the prison, the story goes, he actively pursued two things : eating bananas, and reading Marx.

He read at least two books on Marx and Marxism, one of which was Das Kapital. So influenced was he by these books that when we was free again, he became a Marxist, and joined the CPI. He fought elections for the CPI from Jaipur, a place that has little clue of what communism is. He never won.

I always remembered the "saal", a dark and huge room on the ground floor of nana's place. It was separate from the apartment where the family lived, but was owned by nana. It made a perfect place for playing "dark room" -- hide-n-seek in the dark. I remember one day discovering posters of nana's election campaign there, with a much younger nana's photograph on them. The posters were then being used by my mama, a student of medicine, for his rough calculations. I wish some of them were retained.

Getting back to my theme, nana did not find a taxi that day. Time was of importance. I was to leave India in four more days. That everyone involved would find time the next day was highly unlikely. My cousin brother, who was the designated driver (with tight time constraints), was hardly willing to wait. It was decided that nana would not join us.

Chikki, my cousin, made secret calls to nani to allow nana to come. Nani stuck to her stand. However, she acceded to the demand that nana could leave home to catch a taxi at a nearby stand. If no taxi were to be found, he would have to come back. When she finished talking, Chikki had a mischievous shine in her eyes. I now think it was not because of any premonition, but only because doing anything secretly gets her excited.

So nana left. I was having some snacks when he arrived at my cousin's place. He did not succeed in finding a taxi. So he took a bus! For any 85 year old taking a Rajasthan roadways bus can be quite an experience. Then again, nana is not just any 85 year old.

We had snacks together, as he detailed some parts of my history which were quite unknown to me. Yes, they were interesting. At that time, though, all I could think of was that yes, we were going to be there!

Saturday, May 17, 2008


This article on BBC captures most of what I thought, but did not manage to put down.

Indeed, the question totally eclipsing all my other thoughts for these last few days is "Why Jaipur?"

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Visiting Nana's old place - I

It started in January 2007, I had this urge to go to nana's old place.

I always thought the place was quite interesting. Apart from all the (rather adventurous) stories of how my mom and her siblings grew up, the place has this mysterious feel to it. Its in Jaipur's old town, the walled "Pink City". The immediate neighbors are muslim families whom nana always had strong ties with. He is a lawyer, and he used to fight cases for them, apparently for free.

Having spent a good chunk of my childhood there, I have quite vivid memories of the pranks, the scoldings, the victories, the embarrassments, and the excitement of discovering new things. The historical interest in the place raises its charm. Every nook and corner is offers a chance to discover a part of history. I discovered things ranging from 1 paisa coins, nana's election posters (he fought for the CPI for a while), and small natural bonsai in the crevices of the "chauk" (the quad).

Nana's house in the whole complex is somewhat small, and thus they decided to move out in the mid-90's. I had never visited the house ever since. I put the proposition to my mom. For some reason she did not seem very interested, and the visit got postponed. I brought it up again October'07, when I was home for a fortnight. But everyone was too busy, and I wanted nana to be there most of all. So I decided to wait.

Even though the Hindu-Muslim amity in the city is not what it used to be, the families there do maintain an affection towards our family that I am immensely proud of. Thus every passing discussion on the deteriorating communal harmony in India increased my desire to go there. Finally, this January, I managed to convince mom. Even though she could not join us, nana agreed, and so did one of my aunts and her children. Nevertheless, there was one non-trivial issue. Nana is in his mid-80's. For him to make such a trip without someone driving him there would have been quite hard. The ever-determined nani decided that nana gets to go only if someone drives him to the place. There was just one potential driver, my cousin, who had quite stringent time constraints. So nana decided to get a taxi to my cousin's place where we would all collect and go together.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Monday, November 19, 2007

Dreams of the kingdom far-far away

Amid the preparation for my qual exam next month, I day-dream about the places to visit for a vacation. Home is up there on the list, as always. But I am also planning a solo trip to some other place on the way to/from home.

I read a bit about Bhutan tourism, and the idea is so appealing that I can not get it out of my mind. Finally, today I managed to search a bit about the country. Luckily, Indian citizens do not need a visa (nor a passport!) to go to Bhutan. Yay!

Two totally random, somewhat funny, fascinating and revealing facts about the country that Wikipedia describes as ``the happiest least developed country on earth" :

* Druk air, the Royal Bhutan airlines, is the only airlines that is allowed to land in Bhutan. It has a ``fleet" of four airplanes (!), and connects to five cities around the world (the farthest being Dubai, followed by Delhi!). It is owned by the Bhutan government, Ministry of Finance. Because of the monopoly it enjoys, it is exorbitantly priced, with return fare from Delhi being about $800! Seasonal flights are to/from Bodh Gaya. Evidently due to the majority Buddhist population.

* In Dec 2003, the then King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, himself led an offensive against (anti-Indian) militants in Bhutan! With his prince (who's now the king). I totally imagine someone on a horse leading through a foggy, mountainous terrain, and the militants scurrying away dropping all their weapons. Hail the king!

waaaah! I want to be there NOW!!