Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sisney – The Small Himalayan Hamlet

As the car took the next turn, leaving the ranges behind us and I fixed my thirsty gaze to the front screen, hoping to reach the destination. But no!  Nudup had some other plans as he kept on steering and taking us to the… TOP TOP and TOP!!

Nudup, a local guy and our driver, happens to be one of the best things in our trip to Sikkim. Personally, I felt, stories of this small Mongoloid man with tiny eyes were much  more trustworthy than someone who is speaking bheto (typical) Bengali or praising the beauty of the Himalaya while spitting beetle nut pieces around.

We started from Kalimpong at 7:30 am and we reached Sisney around 10 am. This is a small hamlet surrounded by the mighty ranges and it is almost disconnected from the city. It would be wrong to call the topography rough because the mountain in this part is still green, yet with a tinge of aridity here and there.    

As we got down from the Scorpio (not the predator, of course!), a dog came running to me and tried its best to drill down his canines through my two layered pants. My friend laughed and said, "Here doggie, go for the leg pices!!" Fortunately, I saved my tender leg with a confused look, showing a knuckle to my friend. But  soon, the four-legged animal turned friendly and while patting it, I saw the dog has a broken paw. However, that didn’t seem to curb down the energy of the little one. It was still happy and ready to play.  

Well, the reason I called Sisney a hamlet disconnected from the city is because, once you are here, there is no way you can have telecommunication with the rest of the world. Yes, this is a smart place where your Smartphone looks stupid.

If you have to make a call, walk a few kilometers; sit on a tombstone and talk, while admiring the beauty of the Mother Nature. Or, you can also rest your phone on a glass window pane, roughly at 85 degrees and talk hands free. 

Now that is some engineering! I wonder how people carry out a private conversation over phone at Sisney. May be he asks people around to move away, or maybe he howls, “Hey guys, shut your ears, am trying to make a private call here on loud speaker!”       

So, tell me, do you want to go there? I say you must! The place is just half an hour from Rongli Bazaar towards Zuluk.

The sound of the small stream running over the rocks, the soft cold wind touching your skin, the jingling of temple bells will tell you just one thing, “Take a break.” 

The population of Sisney looked like 20 families only. Every colorful house has its own garden with flowers hanging down from the balcony. The locals sit at the corridors to chat and greet you with warmth. Nudup said, each of these local owns a mountain.  And we were like, “A mountain? Are you kidding?!” But then he explained, ‘Like you own land, we do not have plain lands here. So these mountains are our property, given to our ancestors by our kings.” But we were still like “A mountain?!” 

With houses on either side, the narrow lane takes a serpentine course, moving with a charm that tempts you to follow her. But as you go up, there is nothing to see except the alluring mountains, the sound of your own breath and the echo of your existence.

Sisney has only one school for the children of the locality. After completing the secondary education, the parents need to send them to another village for completing their higher studies.

The natives are mostly engaged in farming, cattle rearing, and other labor oriented jobs. We even got to know that the Sikkim government is helping the locals to build their houses. I really admired the way the houses were maintained. Financially, they may not be very well off, but they know how to live a beautiful life. There was only one small shop in the village with minimum things of daily use; and if they need anything more, travelling to the city is the only option left. 

In the winters, when the sun goes down and the chilly cold breeze rules the neighborhood, the locals gather around a bonfire to enjoy the weather with a cup of chai (tea) and loads of addas (chatting). They say that wild bears come at night to find food or for a prey. So they prefer to stay inside their sweet houses after 8 p.m.

Being a silent spectator of their life for a whole day, I realize that we can live without a mobile phone even today. We really do not need so many things to have a peaceful life. Yet again, I accept, the people of the mountains have a hard life with lack of medical facilities, no work opportunities and lack options for education. But don’t they still have a life?

   Well, the grass always seems greener on the other side!

If you really want to feel this life, there are a few homestays available at Sisney, but don’t go with an expectation of lavish living amidst the fauna. All you need is a shelter for a day and food; and these homestays assure that amidst the bliss of the Himalayas and care of the Mother Nature.

Isn’t it enough?        

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

|| আমার ছোটোকাকু ||

টেবিলের ঠিক পাশেই ফোনটা রাখা ছিল; বাজবার সঙ্গে সঙ্গে ছুটে গিয়ে ধরলাম, ওপাস থেকে আওয়াজ এলো, “কি রে, আবার তুই ফোন ধরেছিস?” এক গাল হেসে বললাম, “আরে ছোটো কাকু!! তুমি ফিরে এসেছো বাংলাদেশ থেকে?” কথাটা শেষ করতে না করতেই, আবার কাকু একটু competitive কন্ঠে বলে উঠলো , “তোদের বাঁশ পড়েছে? আমাদের কিন্তু প্যান্ডেল প্রায় শেষ!” আমিও ছাড়বার পাত্রী না, বললাম, “কি যে বল, লাস্টবার-এর Asian Paint শারোদ সম্মানটা কিন্তু আমরাই পেয়েছিলাম| আমাদের প্যান্ডেলের ফিনিশিং টাচ চলছে! ফাল্গুনী সংঘ তো আমাদের ধরে কাছে আসেনা|” কাদের পুজো কত ভালো, এই নিয়ে বেশ অনেকক্ষণ তর্ক হবার পর, বাবাকে ফোনটা ধরিয়ে চলে গেলাম| তবে এটা জানতাম, পরের বছরও এই তর্ক আবার হবে, আর সেই competitive স্পিরিট নিয়ে ফোনে আবার কার পুজো ভালো সে গল্প হবে|

রথের দিন যখন আমার সামনের পার্কে এবার বাঁশ পড়তে দেখলাম, মনে মনে নিজেকে বললাম, এখন থেকে আর সেই চিরপরিচিত কন্ঠে কেউ আর ফোন করে বলবে না, “তোদের বাঁশ পড়েছে?” 

এক বছর পেরিয়ে গেল, কিন্তু কাকু আমাদের মধ্যে এমন ভাবে মিশে আছে যে মনে হয়না আমাদের সাথে নেই| হ্যা, শারিরীক উপস্থিতি নেই আমাদের মাঝে, তাই যেকোনো অনুষ্ঠান বা আড্ডাতে ছোটো কাকুর অভাব বড্ড বোধ করি|

 মানুষটাকে নিয়ে এত কিছু মনে রাখার মুহূর্ত আছে যে লিখতে গিয়ে মনে হচ্ছে কোনটা ছেড়ে কোনটা লিখি| আড্ডাবাজ কাকু আমাদের ছিল বিশাল মজার| কানে কম শুনত বলে একটা stylish pose নিয়ে বসতো, কার কাকুর মতে ওই ভাবে বসলে নাকি কেউ বুঝবেনা যে কাকু কানে কম শোনে| বাঁ হাতটাকে মাথার পিছন দিক দিয়ে ঘুরিয়ে, ডান কানটাকে মুচকে ধরত কায়দা করে, সেই ভাবে বসলে নাকি লোকে ভাববে আরাম করে বসেছে| কি অদ্ভূত চিন্তাশক্তি!!

আর একটা ঘটনা মনে পরে গেল, তখন আমরা বরাট এ থাকতাম| পুজোর ঠিক কদিন আগে এসেছে দেখা করতে আমাদের বাড়িতে| কোনো কারনে বাবা দোকনে ছিল তাই আমি আর মা জমিয়ে বসেছিলাম খাবার টেবিল এ আড্ডা দিতে; হঠাৎ টেবিলে পরে থাকা দুটো আস্ত সুপারি সোজা মুখে পুরে দিল| দুটোকে গালের দুদিকে রেখে একটু হেমন্ত কন্ঠে গাইতে সুরু করে দিল, “জাগো তুমি জাগো..... জাগ দূর্গা, জাগো দশপ্রহরণধারিনী...”; আমি আর মা হেসে লুটোপাটি খাচ্ছি, আর কাকু চোখ বন্ধ করে একমনে গেয়ে চলেছে|

যখন এ ছোটো ছোটো মুহূর্ত গুলো মনে পরে, ঠোঁটের কনে ঠিক একটা হাসি চলে আসে – ছোটো কাকু সেরকমই একজন মানুষ| জীবনের শেষ বছরটাতেও একটা অদ্ভূত positive aura ছিল| টাটা ক্যান্সার মেডিকেলে যাবার সময় বাস গুলো আমার অফিসের পাস দিয়ে যেত আর ঠিক সেই সময় আমার Whatsapp বেজে উঠতো – “তোর অফিসের পাস দিয়ে যাচ্ছি|” আমিও হেসে বলতাম, “নেমে পরো মুড়ি খেয়ে যাও|” কাকু উত্তর আসতো, “ফেরার সময় গেটে থাকিস মুড়ি হাতে, কন্ডাক্টারকে বলে তুলে নেব|” ..........এই ছিল আমার ছোটো কাকু|

এক গাল হাসি আর অনেক সুন্দর মুহুর্ত ...এইভাবেই তুমি আছো আমার কাছে|

Monday, June 27, 2016


If you find me ever again, don’t hold onto those leaves,
It’s nothing but dust that just crumbles in your grip

If you find me ever again, don’t cry over the memories
It’s nothing but illusion that fades with birth of new twigs

Can you listen to those roars again, as the sky cracks and pours?
It stays only for some time because it knows… there is nothing more

The smell of leaves, the touch of wind – it’s just a passers-by
Now brace yourself to struggle with waves,
          cause leftovers give nothing but despair…

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Celebrating Chinese New Year in Kolkata

Kolkata has also synced in with rest of the world to celebrate the Chinese New Year of 2016 on 8th of February. This is the year of Monkey, which is the 9th animal in the Chinese zodiac cycle. Though it is considered as one of the most unlucky years in the Tianxian (Ancient Chinese believed that their land was right under the heaven) calendar, but those who are born with this symbol are characterized by lively, humorous, innovative and mischievous natures.

The date for Chinese New Year keeps on changing because of the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar. It is also known as the Spring Festival which lasts for 15 days from the 1st to 15th day of the first lunar month. China Town, the major Chinese hub of Kolkata, has been celebrating the New Year bash for quite some time and I longed to experience the carnival for last 3 years.

So, when I was informed that the prime event for the 1st day of Monkey Year was scheduled at Tiretti Market, I asked a friend to join. Both of us were mistaken about the exact location of this place and we thought the Market must be located in Tangra because that’s the usual residency for Kolkatan Chinese.

Being new to the place, I was thoroughly enjoying China Town. The Chinese Kali Mandir was a surprise for me; though the idol bears no Mongoloid features (I was expecting one). The buildings of this part of the city were different from architectural appearances and the streets were filled with the typical Chinese cuisines smell.

The town was still sleeping after the mid night celebration; there were empty beer bottles, burnt crackers and yawning faces.  All these made us apprehensive and we asked our Indian GPS system (local panwala) about the dragon dance event. He looked at us, as if we committed a juvenile crime and with a smirk on his face he said that Tiretti Market is near Lal Bazar and not at China Town, Tangra. I had only one question in mind, why didn’t we check it earlier!!  

It was already show-time, so we hired a cab and tried to reach the market fast through the crowded streets of Monday. On reaching Tiretti Market, we walked down a street following a distant sound of drums coming from a lane around the corner. The gate was full of spectators raising their cameras to take shots. But God knows what shot because there were more cameras than the Chinese residents. I found it very disgusting, but I had to take pictures. So, I said to myself, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” and took my camera out for taking some snaps. 

Amidst the elbows, heads, shoulders and lens, I could get the view of 2 dragons – Red and White. There were a few people who tied a bunch of lettuce leaves at one end of a string and tried to feed the dragons from 2nd floor of a balcony. The dragons tried to get a hold of the bunch but the leaves were pulled up immediately. Tradition I guess!! This continued for some time; finally the dragons could snatch the leaves and everyone rejoiced beating Chinese percussion instruments.

While returning, we came across two more dragons and this part of the street-show was conducted by a gang of girls (the first one was performed by young boys). They called themselves Fa Mulan, who was actually a legendary woman warrior of China. Just as the previous one, the same event was showcased but in a less crowded manner. The over- enthusiastic photographers were not aware of this bait, leaving us an opportunity to experience the Chinese delight without any disturbances.    

Though I was irritated with the horde of photographer but there was a different feeling altogether. I could associate to the Chinese community of the city, celebrating their New Year with dragons jumping and dancing gracefully, on the streets of My Kolkata.