The Loss of my Face

‘The Loss of my Face’ 

My face twitched and spasmed,
twisted assertively to the left side,
also dropped as I looked on wide eyed -
but I strove to relax my mind
in an attempt to pacify the nerves,
that were inciting my facial muscles
as they contracted and screamed back,
resisting the distortion of my face,
which in illness was losing its unique mould.

I took a deep breath, bid my soul to relax -
why was I panicking on the loss of my face?
Have I not as yet an identity I can bank on
that’s unique from all the brands I worked at,
where my face has been my identifying part
rather than the ideas, worldviews I represent,
or the skills that I have honed repeatedly
to help me retain my identity to the world!

My self esteem burst through my facial mask,
giving me a unique strength and liberty of will,
imparting to my skills strong eagle like wings -
the power of my words would be the wind
breaking my childhood silence and reserve.

As I found my identity coming out strong,
from the well of experiences and wisdom
accumulated deep inside of my being -
That’s the moment of truth my life
leans on,
my self confidence firming up as its offspring.
— Shuvashree Chowdhury

“Whoever uses the spirit that is in him creatively is an artist.
To make living itself an art, that is the goal.”
Henry Miller

PS: this is a sequel to the previous post.

#poetry #poetrycommunity #poetrylovers #lifelessons #poetryislife #novelist #selfconfidence #lifecoach #authorlife
#selfempowerment #henrymiller

The Charade

‘The Charade’

Frivolity and self centeredness go hand in hand
as do vanity and a low self esteem –
All four jump around and dance, as do elves
around a person – in a fire of pride and envy,
the fumes of which stifle, and suffocate humanity.

A high emotional quotient, also self esteem –
dances with a vision of compassion, even sympathy
on tombs of such moral rot and spiritual decay,
bypassing human burning torches with an insight
of deep maturity – for inner peace and tranquility.

Just as those with money may sympathize with you
but they don’t consider you mock their poverty
of – thoughts, insight, spirituality and a vision,
that sees right through this facade of fake morality:
As imitation jewellery adorning smirking chimpanzees.

At times, as now, you choose to voice your opinions,
at others you look on at circuses with sheer pity
as you see exaggerated effort to hold on to charades,
even as you feel richer from these experiences
that in deep silence builds your resilience of frivolity.
— Shuvashree Chowdhury.

“A bird when it flaps its wings to fly, does not fret about being alienated by the universe, it looks towards an endless sky, assured that at some point it will be joined by some close friends and some new, then they will fly in patterns of ethereal beauty, for all they left behind to see, not concerned with those whose eyes hurt to look at them due to the glare of the sun.”
— Shuvashree, An excerpt from the novel, “Entwined Lives”

#poetry #poetrycommunity #intelligence #lifelessons #pity #charade #intelligence #lifecoaching #wisdom #lifelessons #poetslife #novelist #authorlife

My Childhood Home: Life as a Boarder at St. Joseph’s Convent, Chandannagar.

My Childhood Home: Life as a Boarder at St. Joseph’s Convent, Chandannagar, West Bengal.

In the year 1978, on a Sunday in early January – as a boarder in Standard 2 – I joined the branch of the institutions run by the Sisters of Cluny, on the bank of the river Hooghly in the erstwhile French colony of West Bengal India, that proudly makes me who I am today – this was after a year’s schooling in St. Joseph’s Convent Kalimpong.  

I distinctly remember my first day, our parents having bid us goodbye at the parlour flanking the boarders gate, by 5 pm, leaving my younger sister Joyshree and I to the care of Sister Pushpa.

The lush green field, beyond the pillars of the red floored Pandal, in view of the two swings by the chapel that we queued up at promptly, also sat on the two stone benches on either side of the Monkey Nut tree, took us promptly into its embrace – as a green blanket of supervision, holding us protectively along with the Sisters and Teachers, for the next nine to ten years. There were no classes 11 and 12 for a long time yet. Our lives as boarders, revolved around the precinct of this large field with a 100-metre sprint track that I have run on, either solo or in relay races for my Marian House – every year for sports and other events.

This welcome into its lush green hearth, by the Home in yellow and green that adopted me, was after an initial peep into the dressing room, where we found our toilet boxes neatly propped atop the freshly painted green wooden stands, the plastic wash basins and mugs in varied colours and mugs sitting gaily on the rung below – under which hung the bathing towels. Just behind our mostly steel toilet boxes on the wall were two metal pegs allocated to us, with our names pasted, where our night suits and kimonos hung when and as long as we lived in this Home, the shoes arranged under the stone seating below. The dressing rooms, and the dormitories with our personal wrought iron beds, two bedsheets, a blanket, a pillow, and counterpane, beside the wooden nightstands – however got upgraded, as we overgrew them, moving to the senior dorms.

Our parents had handed over all these personal items, each bearing cashiers marks of our names, along with our hold-all and black trunks – our names painted in white, ten days prior to the commencement of the school year, that comprised of everything we would need for the whole year ahead. These included six sets of daily school uniforms, yes six, also two Sunday uniforms in sky blue skirts and white shirts, and six sets of house-coloured games uniforms along with three pairs of black shoes, and a pair of Keds. You also had to hand over a dozen socks and handkerchiefs – all cashiers marked. If your trunk did not match the list handed over at the time of admission and each year at the close of school – your trunk was unceremoniously rejected, parents had to take it back home, to redo and return before you could be allowed back in school.

At the time that I was in school, we vocally criticised the fact that we boarders wore uniform day round and year around. Also, that every article, even food in our possession that was accounted for and our lives including the letters we wrote only on a Sunday only at a designated letter-writing hour on school letter head – or the letters we received that were always read by a Sister before handed over to us, were worse than it might be in prison or juvenile home. But today, almost 35 years later, I attribute all of this to my highly ingrained sense of duty, responsibility, discipline, resilience, and social equality, even feminism if I may add. As we were all equal, in every way – or so we grew up thinking, that only our talents and hard work stood us apart, making us unique and special in the world, not our appearance, beauty or dress sense, also not our parent’s success or social and financial standing.

After a few days of school and getting settled into our respective class sections, the first Saturday of the academic year in January was the Pilgrimage to Bandel Church, which always marked in our school calendars was a yearly ritual. All boarders were taken, several batches, in a public bus hired for the purpose, and the compulsory lunch of mutton curry and yellow pulao, also bread pudding came in later by the same bus. It was only after a Mass especially held for our school before we had lunch, then  high tea and our personal prayers and candle lighting also wish making at the grotto or on the terrace overlooking the river in which  Mary’s statue was found and retrieved, that the day was solemnly brought to a close and we returned to school and the academic year ahead that was thus blessed.   

In junior school, we were taken for weekend morning walks that culminated at the Dupleix House on the strand for at least an hour, while we played in their lawns all around the museum. Later in senior school we went only for evening walks in files of 2 or 3, around the town of Chandan Nagar, sometimes just to the Laxmi Ganj market, and often after a walk were allowed to sit around on the strand while we gorged on puchkas, churmur, jhal muri and ice creams. There were a few stores that we were often taken to for stationery and other requirements – there I remember the ice cream soda and the Joker mouri sweets we consumed, after our pick of cellophane-chart-brown paper and felt pens or poster paint.

The daily compulsory games hour for boarders was a serious rendezvous that ensured we participated and excelled in all sports like Baseball, Basketball, Volleyball, Hockey, Free ball and Throwball. We played one class versus another – class 9 versus 10 and 7 versus 8 and so on. And Badminton was rarely allowed, except on a rainy day along with indoor games like Ludo, Chess, Chinese Checkers, or Cards. This was after a strictly timed bath at the 13 curtained bathing cubicles inside the dressing room with a common water tub running through all – only sometimes heated for senior school, even in winter. And I recall it was just 7 minutes for a regular bath or 10 minutes for a head bath allowed on a Tuesday and with shampoo only on a Saturday – before the curtains were pulled away by the supervising Sister. So, in fear of being exposed, even if to an all-female audience waiting to take over our cubicle – we rushed out in a frenzy when the bell us rung or hand clapped. We did not have any free time, and every hour was assigned for an activity and separated by the ringing of the bell.

Then after High tea of bread-butter-jam and an accompaniment, often of hot gram, or masala mango or cucumber, an hour of games drenched in perspiration, we had the hour-long study in the hall which had a stage with a large statue of mother Mary overlooking us over and above the teacher on duty, who had to supervise us all through like an examination invigilator.  The other three meals were also minutely supervised events and you had to consume every morsel that was on your plate.

The yearly House Social for the entire school was more special for us boarders, as this was the only day in the whole year that we wore ‘Coloured Clothes.’ We planned weeks to months ahead, so that our parents brought this dress on the previous Visiting Sunday which was from 1-5 pm of the first Sunday of every month. It is a cherished memory for me of all those Sundays – that I have vividly illustrated in my debut novel Across Borders in the chapter titled ‘My Daughters.  

Guiding Camps held in school and outside like for the state Camporee or the National Jamboree, enhanced our stamina, resilience, and socialising skills, also the cooking and varied activities including pitching and living in tents, honing so many skills that I could indulge in lifelong.  Our school, by making all activities like sports, drama, music and a variety of the arts compulsory, also having House Competitions for each including essay writing, recitation and painting has given us opportunity to discover hidden or latent skills and talents.

The Jaggadhatri Puja was a very special time of year. On the days of the puja, we were taken for a long walk around town, to view the images that rose above the tallest trees. Then on the Dashami evening we were taken to the big Mela in front of the Church which culminated in our marathon glutting sessions. At the infirmary terrace, that I often sought refuge in from the onslaught of compulsive routine – facing the river and beside the middle school dormitory we called river-side dorm, we enthusiastically viewed the images and their accompanying lighting go by in a procession for the final immersion. All this was very liberally allowed by our otherwise strict catholic school which encouraged us to attend Mass in the chapel and the Sacred Heart Church but never imposed it on us, but rather we had a separate daily prayer meeting for all Hindus, Muslims and the rest called GCL – I think it stood for Gods Chosen Leaders.

The values, culture, and heritage of our dear school, also what I inculcated from my parents I tend to uphold in everything I write about today as an author, after applying them to the two decades of corporate services in some of the top companies of our country. This is in appreciating a lot of what I did not at the time that I lived here. But now in keeping me steady and on my track in life’s marathon race in which even as a child I focussed on the moment, much over the far goal, not looking at or competing with those in the race with me. Often in looking at far goal posts or the people running alongside, we tend to miss applying our best to each moment which propels us to the next and every next to what we make of our lives.

*****

“AcrossBorders”
by Shuvashree Chowdhury

Excerpts from the chapter ‘My Daughters’

The new school is over an hour’s drive from Calcutta, in the former French colony of Chandannagar, on the banks of the river Hooghly. The headmistress, an Irish nun named Sister Helena, suggests I admit Dipanjana as well, even though she is underage..
Page 174:

During the years that our daughters are at boarding school, it is the first Sunday of every month that Nayan and I love the most. These Visiting Sundays are the only day in the month when boarders are allowed to meet and spend quality time with us parents and family. These Sundays will play a significant part of the memory of my daughters growing years, in spite of the rest of the days spent engagingly in the company of friends, schoolmates and nuns. Life has a way of straining the good times through a sieve, preserving it to conscious memory. Just as it has a way of disallowing one to reach out to the unpleasant memories as easily and frequently. Visiting Sundays, like every other day, is time bound for the boarders. The visiting hours, between 1pm and 5pm, never seem long enough.

Unlike other Sundays, these mornings pass like a breeze for the girls. Their routine jobs of changing bed-linen, giving clothes for washing, keeping uniforms and clothes ready for the coming week over, it is time for lunch. Anticipation sets wings to their feet, making them expedite otherwise mundane tasks. But their appetite takes a beating in excitement. Though Sunday lunches are out of a special menu, most girls barely eat on the visiting ones. The reason being that we parents bring their favourite dishes when we come to visit them. For me, these mornings are spent cooking, then setting all the dishes into a multi-layered tiffin carrier. I also pack into a basket two portions each of tucks —
Page 175

biscuits, hot-grams, chips, powder-milk, marmalades and pickles for the month ahead, bought the day before.

The hot-case and basket, along with a mat for us all to sit on, I shove into the rear of our olive colour Ambassador car, before we set out. I never forget to take a water-carrier, plates, napkins and cutlery either. Every Visiting Sunday is for us, a picnic on the river strand, running alongside the school. We sit facing the quiet and majestic flow of the river that the girls see the sun rising over, from their dormitory on the first floor. As they step out of the formidable school gate, it is again this river that is first visible, through the large trees lining its banks. On reaching their school, Nayan and I wait in either of the two parlours flanking the school’s entrance after signing the visitor’s slip. The girls are waiting eagerly in the study hall for the ayahs they call Didi, to announce their names aloud from the visitor’s slips.

On hearing their names, the girls pick up their empty truck boxes, bringing them along for us parents to fill. When older, they fill the boxes themselves in the refectory, after we leave. Sanjana and Dipanjana usually walk into the parlour together. They briskly hug Nayan and me, after identifying us amongst other waiting and eager parents. Both girls, then pulling us by hand, urge us to step out of the gate immediately. The outside denotes freedom to them, even if only for a few hours. Now they can be themselves, away from the hourly bells and constant vigilance of the nuns that regulate their every waking minute. The girls skip alongside Nayan and me, rapidly trying to update us on their lives since our last meeting. Though they write letters to us every Sunday, they cannot be free, as the letters are read by the Sisters before dispatching. All letters they receive are also read by the Sisters.

Walking along the strand to the car, we pass groups of people sitting on either side of the road, in varied sized picnic groups The school’s Sunday uniform-aqua-blue pleated skirts and white shirts worn by one or more in each group, identify them as boarders. The children eat hungrily, as the parents look on, indulgently, listening to their simultaneous chatter.

“What have you brought for us, Ma?” the girls always ask en route to our car, to retrieve the basket in the rear, after greeting the driver.
Page 176

We find a shady, vacant spot, under one of the several trees lining the river. I spread the straw mat on the moist green grass, before we take off our shoes, to sit facing the river. Tiny fishing boats are bobbing about, and steam-launches packed with commuters are spurting water, leaving a brief trail as they cross the river noisily. I love watching the boatmen sway back and forth rowing. It reminds me of the river in Mihirpur, East Pakistan, and my boating escapades as a schoolgirl. The images seem pretty remote now, like from another lifetime. I have not returned there since leaving in 1964, and will not till a long time yet, that too only on a brief visit. It must be this childhood association and yearning for the river that brings me to its banks repeatedly, even though to a different one. Those the boatmen are ferrying now are expectantly looking ahead at the approaching bank, to their destination. They are overlooking the vast expanse of water and sky, impatient with their present situation, not relishing the moment like I am. Close to the shore, in the water, little and large fish play. At times we can spot a snake or two, shooting up from the water.

My girls are terrified of snakes, unlike me, who has grown up with them almost as pets in my childhood home in Assam. But the presence of their Ma and Baba make them feel safe and secure now. They know with us around, no harm can come upon them. This is so disparate from my own childhood — when it was my parents who brought upon me the most damage. Those, on whom God bestowed the responsibility of my upkeep, ironically pushed me unprepared into the hightide of an abandoned adolescence. By now Sanjana and Dipanjana are relishing the mutton-curry and fried rice I have served them. They have put the cutlery aside, bored of its constant and compulsory usage at the refectory, preferring to eat with their hands.

On the opposite bank of the river is the industrial belt. There the paper, rayon and other factories’ huge chimneys sporadically emanate clouds of thick black smoke up in the sky. But they fail to take away the beauty and serenity of the place. Like the soot from my early life’s burns fail to take away the loveliness of my current life, as I sit contentedly in this picturesque location, with my husband and children. The river is lined by huge banyan, mango, guava, and other unidentifiable trees, some bending low to allow
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their branches and leaves to kiss the water. Sitting under trees here, one has to be careful of bird-droppings. There are varied birds — parrots, mynahs, crows and pigeons in abundance. Their chirping merges harmoniously with the sound of the launches plying to and from the jetty. The well-built concrete strand, beyond which we are sitting close to the water glass edge, runs for quite a distance, maybe a mile or two.

Beside the school are other well-constructed buildings belonging to the French era – identifiable by the balustrades and French windows. After the girls have eaten their fill, finishing with sweetmeats Nayan brings them in abundance, as his share of treating his daughters, we go for boat or launch rides across the river. The girls enjoy these immensely, bending to touch and play with the clear water mid-stream. Nayan and I usually have a quick cup of tea each across the river, from a tea-stall. On our return, we all go to the local market on two cycle-rickshaws. The girls can supplement their month’s supplies we bring from Calcutta, with their personal choice of things.

We return from the market by 5pm, to wait outside the boarder’s side school-gate. If the girls miss going in on time, the gates will close. One has to then draw the attention of the nun on duty, and spoil a perfect afternoon with the ensuing reprimands for indiscipline. Since I am a stickler for discipline from my own school days, I do not make the slightest compromise when it comes to my daughters. The nuns at this school too have become fond of me. Perhaps it is due to my being a lecturer at a teacher’s training college now, and being on the same wavelength as them on discipline. I make it a point to follow all the rules unlike some parents, constantly urging my daughters to do the same. I always bring them back from home on the designated day and well before the due time, with all requisite supplies as per the lists.

A brass handbell will be rung outside the gate, to announce the end of our time with our children on Visiting Sunday. Till then, the girls gorge on street-fare including ice-creams along with their friends, from hawkers crowding the strand by now. It seems like they will never eat again.
Their stomachs are rather elastic considering they have already eaten two lunches. It will be a month before they experience the outside without a nun monitoring them.

#childhoodhome #childhoodmemories #boardingschool #chandannagar #conventschool #growingup #novel #historicalfiction #literaryfiction #authorlife #Bengal #Frenchtown #home

St. Joseph’s Convent, Chandannagar, West Bengal.

Where History has been preserved to blend well with the Present: Andamans.

Where History has been preserved to blend well with the Present…
In continuing my post on the Andamans after a break.

Amrito picked us up at the Port Blair Jetty, on our arrival back from Neil Island, after three days at Havelock. It had been raining all through the ferry ride, since before it commenced from the Neil jetty. The overcast sky with large unsure orbs of grey cloud-yarn floating like boats of various shapes on an ocean of soft blue sky over blue-green sea, as a dance-floor over which the bopping, twirling, dancing white waves, captivated me.
That afternoon, we visited Corbyn’s Cove Beach, after some deliberation on our part over where we might visit. That the Cellular Jail light and sound show – one of the things we thought we might see on return to Port Blair, even though we had visited the jail, was not in operation, due to maintenance. The Ross Island show we had seen, was much better than the one we had missed we were told.
The next day, by now knowing our interest in the history, heritage, and culture of the islands, over water sports that attract tourists by the plentiful, on Amito’s persistent recommendation we could not overlook – he took us to Chatham Saw Mills.

The Chatham Island was established as the head quarter of First British Colony of Andaman and Nicobar Islands between 1789-1795.
A batch of 200 people convicted by the then British regime from across the country were brought by the ship Semiramis and landed at Chatham Island on 10th March 1858.

The Mill constructed in 1883 by the British, was equipped with second hand machinery to cut wood that would aid the construction needs of the region. The wood that was processed in this mill was used for the construction of the Cellular jail in Port Blair and several buildings in Ross Island. During the British rule, the wood processed here would be exported to several countries. It is a proud moment for various local artisans when they tell you that the wood from this mill was also used in few walls of the Buckingham Palace in London.
The mill also has a museum in its premises. And in addition to the regular information about the history, flora, fauna, of Anadman Islands – this museum also talks about the various types of wood available here, and the process involved in cutting the wood into desired shapes. The museum also has several wooden handicrafts on display, which demonstrates the skills of the workmen.
Chatham mill was closed for four years after the Japanese bombarded this island during World War II. Apart from the loss of machinery and destruction of the factory, several hundreds of workers also lost their lives in the bombing. It resumed its operations in 1946, after the Japanese left, and the control was taken over by the British.
Located in Chatham Island of Andaman, it is tucked away at the far end of the city of Port Blair. It is owned by the state government now, and its upkeep and maintenance, are the responsibility of the forest department here. Connected to Port Blair by a 100-meter-long bridge, this mill is the largest and the oldest in Asia. Varied related activities are on display here that convert raw wood into final wooden planks. Starting with the journey of wood being brought in, sorted, cut, and stored, to being transformed into the final products and sent to different places.
Along with this, the mill also tells another not-so industrious story of the darker days that it has witnessed. The saw mill fell victim to the British bombs during the World War II in 1942. There is a bomb pit that was created at that time and now, it is filled with water. The machines initially installed in the Chatham Saw Mill were second-hand and unskilled labor used to operate them at that time. It was destroyed during the Second World War by the direct hit of bombs. The mill’s working was totally stopped. The forest department maintains the Forest Museum now and provides guidance here. Wood carvings made of padauk wood, wooden furniture, and wooden showpieces such as salt-water crocodiles, balancing dolls, etc. are on display there.
After this, we visited the Anthropological Museum, an ethnographic museum, that depicts the indigenous tribal communities – the four Negrito Tribes of the Andaman. You get to know about the lives and cultures of different tribes that have lived here – Jarawas, the Onges, the Sentinelese, the Shompens, and the Nicobarese. You also see here several different artifacts from different eras of the tribes of this region. Several tools, clothes, boats, leaf baskets, and weapons are showcased inside. A skull originating from the Sentinelese region, an ancient Jarawa chest guard, and the shamanic sculptures created by the Nicobarese are among the highlights of the museum. The collection at the museum is rare and incredible. You can see several portraits, models, and photographs of tribal communities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
For a complete tour of the museum, you would need about one to two hours. You can indulge in these activities when you are there: know about the life of Paleolithic Islanders; watch the various exhibits including shamanic sculptures, Jarawa chest guard, etc. Also, observe some of the most interesting items such as handicrafts, arts and crafts, tools, photographs, weapons, clothing, and many more dating back to older times. Moreover, if you want to still learn more, you may visit the well-stocked library of the museum that details the lifestyle of these cultures.
We had visited Barathang before leaving for Havelock and gone right through and into the Jarawa stretch to visit a natural limestone cave. But it was at this museum that a lot of my curiosities were answered as well as stirred – that inspired marathon chats with Amrito on our second visit to Chiria Tapu beach later that afternoon, for the second time on this trip. Then with his brother the next morning he drove us to the Port Blair airport for our flight to Kolkata. I have just about summed up these experiences in the last few blogs – on my Andamans visit, but a lot more that I have saved to research, narrate, and add to my next novel.

#travelwriter #travelwriting #travelblogger #andamans #magicalandamans #indianhistory #exploreandamans #portblairdiaries #literaryfiction #novelist #worldtourismday #worldtourismday2022 #worldtourismforum

The photo album is in the link: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=pfbid0GyLpFyfARBRVLF2HHockKBpPsTChGPgrzBRYrSJKYTNUfsJLW2HECzUZQXchqyiHl&id=614624973

At the end there’s a video of the proceedings at the saw mill and an interesting interview in the frame before that of a man – of the history I talk about.

This blog is a continuation of the two below in the links:

https://shuvashreechowdhury.com/2022/09/02/6892/

https://shuvashreechowdhury.com/2022/09/17/a-chance-spiritual-meeting-with-my-origins-in-andamans/

A chance, spiritual meeting with my origins in Andamans

I wake up in the cottage at Neil Island, with a sense of peace and wellbeing. It is a little past 6am, but already well past sunrise. I had wanted to go to the famed Sitapur beach, just a kilometer or more away, to watch the sun rise majestically as it does over the sea, knowing it would be an experience that would surely nourish my soul and creativity.

Yet knowing by now, after a week’s stay in Andamans, that the sun rose in these parts by 5.15am – I had set my alarm for 6 am. As I need a minimum of 6 hours of sleep a night to upkeep the physical and mental dynamism and optimism I am naturally bestowed with and have been able to retain past midlife. You must identify and balance your physical, emotional, and creative nutritional needs, for optimal results in life.

 We had had a long hectic day the day before, waking early in Havelock Island to check out of the hotel, and drive to the Ferry point after a rushed breakfast of Chola Batura. Then after an hour’s mandatory wait for boarding to commence at the Jetty point, after the incoming Ferry was anchored, passengers offloaded and then cleaned and ready, an hour’s ride to Neil Island.

We had barely checked in at the hotel in Neil and after a change of driver and car through the same owner, had left for Bharatpur beach at 1pm, skipping lunch we did not care for yet. After a couple of hours, without taking any of the water rides this beach abounds in, but soaking in the essence of the place, after a last-minute change of car tyer – the need detected just when we were to get into the car, we drove to the natural coral bridge reaching just before 3pm and the sun on its downward climb. This experience of going out far into sea was soulfully fulfilling, while savored leaning and clutching on to the hand of the very young male guide, my husband following, in spite of slipping on rented waterproof sandals from the shore tea stall as is the practice – over coral and rock, and feeling relieved to have not smashed my ribs, bones and face, leave alone it was with the thought that my flesh would have been an awesome feast for the variety of fish – including those that are used for pedicures worldwide as they nibble away dead skin.

 Later, after an awesome platter of fruit salad, each piece washed and chopped in front of us, also a glass of homemade aam-pora(burnt-mango) sharbat each, that amounted to a   nourishing late lunch, without the heaviness that leads to lethargy, we left for the Laxmanpur beach. Where with a fresh surge of energy, we walked the one kilometer stretch over pristine white sand, munching a paper cone of jhal(masala)-muri, past the white waves crashing over blue-green sea, now draped in a tangerine veil of sunlight, in the direction of the big round ball of orange, slowly dipping into the sea. This beach, displays a charming, heartwarming soul melting, theatrical Sunset.

Over a homemade style dinner of rui(sea) macher jhol, the typical Bengali fish in plentiful gravied curry, with two large slices, along with an assorted veg platter and dal(lentils) with rice, I had a long chat with the owner of the hotel, homestay, or resort – whatever you might like to call it. My north India born and brough up, but Bengali husband, preferred a no-fish meal, neither participated in my animatedly excited discussion about the history of the two Bengals I had been brought up in – east Bengal by virtue of my heritage and west Bengal my domicile since birth.

Then today, I would have another long day ahead, that would include an hour and half’s Ferry ride back to Port Blair, then a rushed check in at the hotel in the heart of town, where we had left our suitcases four days back, before which we would have large ice cream sundaes at the parlor below, then rush off to some more sightseeing past the famed Flag point where it was first unfurled by Netaji in 1943. So, skipping the sunrise at Sitapur beach, in order to get my much-needed sleep seemed the wisest thing to do.

Yet, I knew well, I was not going to leave Neil without a look at Sitapur beach, especially that we were so close to it – although our hired car’s driver of yesterday, the one who picked us up from the hotel for the city-tour refused to include it in the package or to show us a peek of the place we missed this morning, before dropping us at the Jetty on our way out of Neil Island. He was a very polite young Hindi speaking local man who during our drives, could not give any awareness of his identity of his roots, despite my questioning him on his perhaps Tamilian ancestors if not Bengali. He belonged to that 5% of other ethnicities that Neil Island comprises of who simply say they are locals, of which there are no Muslims.

My husband still asleep, I came out of our wooden cottage overlooking a lovely garden, past a small wood shed balcony, all ready to walk down to Sitapur. Just then, noticing a young lady in the adjacent balcony and to my pleasure recognizing her as the woman who had put up a selfie stand very close to the sea at Laxmanpur beach, with the back drop of the sunset and was orchestrating and enacting a photoshoot all by herself, in a long red dress, her long hair flying all around, that she would flirtatiously rein in around her face. I had been amused and charmed enough, even as a woman – to take several photos without going too close and encroaching on her spiritual space and privacy even in a public space.  

I found one of the waiters now gardening and told him I was going for a walk and would come back well in time for breakfast by 9.30am, then check out by 10.30am.

“What would you like for breakfast?” he asked, “whatever you like we can prepare!”

“What is today’s specialty?” I bantered.

“Alu paratha – we make it very well. With curd and pickles.”

“That would be perfect” I replied, knowing the north Indian husband would love it, though I would have preferred a typically Bengali breakfast myself, what with living in a yesteryears East Bengali household – of luchi alu-bhaja or alu-dom and cholar dal, or maybe hing and koraishutoir(peas) kochuri.  All of which he loves just as well, from his own West- Bengal roots.

“How far is the Sitapur beach” I asked, “how long would it take me to go and come.”

“It would be about 3 kilometers for the return walk – it would take you a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes on either way – up or down.”

I was turning around to walk up, when the young lady balancing on a scooty who had been wrapping a long scarf around her head which I had found to be a common practice in the heat when we lived in Chennai, blurted, “I’m going that way. Would you like to come?”

I looked at her, feeling a rush of pleasure riding upon the one I had woken up with already, as I replied, “Yes, yes, surely. It would allow me more time at the beach!”

When you will something, the world conspires to bring it to you easily, I though with so much gratitude, as I wore on her friend’s helmet – incidentally the selfie maiden of last evening, who was originally from Bihar as I was to learn. With whom she was sharing the room adjacent to ours as well as a life in Bangalore, after they passed out from the same engineering institute and remained friends and travel mates, though now working with different companies. My feet dangling on either side, balanced pillion behind her, I feasted my eyes from below my helmet, on the greenery that included a lot of  Joba trees in deep red and every other colour that also thrives on my rooftop in Kolkata, the small and large cottages with the backdrop of the almost translucent blue sky at about 8 am, three hours after sunrise, reminding me also of a typical village of Bengal, like in Murshidabad maybe.

The lady and I got off the scotty at Sitapur and were mesmerized by the alcove view of the sea, like entering a wide cave opening out into the sea – the waves lashing the shore lined by palm trees in a musical serenade to our east Bengali rooted sensibilities. The lady’s family was also originally from East Bengal, but was now settled in Siliguri, the base town on your way to Darjeeling and Gangtok also many others, from where she had come to study and later work in Bangalore.  She is a marine engineer, on a project in the Andamans but having joined a new job and still on an induction of sorts, is still not so caught up in work so can take this long vacation with her friend. They have been in Neil Island to soak up the solitude and beauty, already over a fortnight and intend to be here longer.

At 9.15, though I just did not want to leave this abode of utmost peace and joy at Sitapur, with a puppy basking in it warmly along with us, rolling around at our feet, I had to bid the lady good bye, in leaving her alone in the company of precious heavenly solitude. I had had a very long enlightening chat with her on a variety of topics, before exchanging our Instagram handles. She was in no hurry to get on with life, so why expect her to come back to the hotel with me? What I had loved much about her was she had been very respectful, quite unlike what I notice with the youth of today, who at less than half your age think they know double what you do just by the sheer strength of internet usage since their birth unlike us. Real experiences from living and aging, cannot beat hard core reading – which we of our times and before additionally indulged in, from the lack of internet and television, also real travel which was not so easy and common, leave alone half-baked awareness just from the internet.

Back at the hotel room after a 15-minute slow relishing walk through rural yet well maintained roads, I gave my husband a raving update of my spiritual tryst through this beautiful experience. Also, verbally I introduced him to the two ladies from Bangalore. He and I had a lovely cup of chai brought in by a waiter, sitting in our wood framed open on all sides balcony, that was my first for the day in not having wanted to waste time to get to the beach. Then we had breakfast served under the same shed turned dining place, of last night and cleared up our room and food bills.

The same driver, otherwise a charmingly polite fellow who would not go outside his assigned service, not even out of sheer pride at showing off his small island at an extra cost – with or without asking his car’s owner, and who prided himself of not having any other roots but this island – then arrived shortly, to drive us to the ferry jetty stand, where again it was mandatory to wait an hour in advance like you do for flights, to board the ferry.

*****

We had arrived at Neil Island by noon on the Makruzz ferry from Havelock Island. This ride had not been as picturesque as the one from Port Blair to Havelock. Our driver for the last three days, Nirmal Seal, having met us on arrival at Havelock after I had chosen him from several pushers of taxi services trying to grab our attention – due to his gentlemanly demeanor that stood out, had referred us to his friend here at Neil. Both the friends, or perhaps just business collaborators, had 4 cars plying on either island, that they also let out to young drivers who were just starting on their own journey of an earning life. 

The Havelock driver, Nirmal, as I had chatted up each of the several, I had met in Andamans so far, turned out to be an ex general manager, of a resort, having moved there from Diglipur a town near the Jarawa bastion around Barathang, 8 years back – where he was born, raised, married, also had children and had worked. Then had decided four years back, in Havelock, it was high time to liberate himself from the employment of others, even if it had apparently furnished him more esteem than waiving out to or hawking for prospective passengers for his cabs seemed now. He was, as I was to figure out during my long chats with him, a respectful, but firstly self-respecting man, who was a stickler for discipline and timing. He did not take well to being assigned a driving stint and then kept waiting for you to get onto the back seat of his car. Also, his managerial skills found a way to plan your trips with him – helping you choose and shortlist, from his experience of living there as well as understanding people, picking up cues.

“So, you’re ready” he had remarked ironically to me the first day, after we had kept him waiting an hour over the assigned time, parked at the hotel.

We had been late in settling into the room of the resort we had just checked into, not having estimated some procedural delay and requesting a change of room – for him to take us to the Kala Pathar, and Radhanagar beaches, which we then visited on two consecutive days.

The drive to Elephant beach would be a waste of time and money if we did not wish to indulge in what he thought was frivolous watersports and such activity. But initially he had encouraged us like all drivers’ trend to, because they surely earn a commission on such patronage by their patrons. Like in the case of hotels – their concierge desks give taxi drivers a commission for bringing in walk-in guests. But Nirmal Seal did a quick summersault, realizing we were not interested in typical touristy behavior, and henceforth maintained a wish to show us the more profound truths of Havelock.  What was common among all these drivers as I may sum it up is – they were warm, friendly, disciplined, but above all intelligent.

At Neil Island, as soon as we disembarked, then took the long walk from the Ferry after it was anchored, as promised by Nirmal – we found another Amito. He was casually dressed, much shorter and even more adolescent looking than the Amito who picked us up at Port Blair airport, then drove us around for 3 days in tandem with his elder cousin Pramod Sirdar who took us to Barathang. This rather naïve looking Amito had been bearing a placard with my husband’s name on it. As soon as we indicated that it was us, he was here to pick up, he briskly took our baggage and marched us to his car in the adjacent parking area. It was when  he had swerved out and was well on his way – flanked by picturesque greenery freshly washed by the intermittent rains of the receding rainy season at the end of August , from a call he received from the owner of the car, I was figured out, that he was on hire himself and was not Nirmal’s friend we had been referred to.

All these Bengali men, as 95% of the population on Neil Island, and 75 % on the rest of Andamans are Bengali, who were rather pleased that we were Bengali as well and from Kolkata at that, were enthusiastic conversationalists. They would easily divulge personal details, like we were all long lost cousins. Their grandparents had come to Andamans in the early 1960’s at the onset of the turmoil back home, in what was at the time East Pakistan, liberated in 1971 into Bangladesh. This was what my debut novel Across Borders was all about, in the voice of a 75-year-old Maya. Their stories were akin to that of my parents – as I willingly disclosed to each of the people I had a chat with including the hotel staff, on learning of their roots and this perhaps led to our easy bonding. There were several people I met from Bihar too, particularly Jharkhand, with several families brought in to Barathang over the past over fifty years from there.

The conversation I have had were multifarious. My husband, at best usually mute on these trips, unless he is working on a journalistic story or a book and is then persistently conversationalist, usually tried to diffuse my enthusiastic exchanges with complete strangers. As he thought they were mindless chatter. But would eventually take an interest in the stories, after I had reached some intriguing twist in the plot, especially when I narrated them back in the hotel. I tend to chat, apparently mindlessly – to someone overhearing me, as I strongly believe that the interview style of conversation does not draw out the truths of any life, as I seek for my literary fiction. It works well for non-fiction work, as you must validate your statements, which in my view gives you only half-baked truths of life.

At times Bishwanath would wake up from his naps, after I had well shoved the interesting or mysteriously thrilling experiences as in the case of the first-hand Jarawa stories these drivers would share with me, into my mental drawstring purse, to shut in tight, that would now open on the novel I would work on.  An example of such a conversation, being one with Amito our driver in Port Blair, after he picked us up again after the Havelock and Neil visit. This was after I had listened to a prolonged narration on what a typical day for him is like.

‘The tourists from which part of India are the best in your view?”

“Pune” was the spontaneous reply. 

“Why would you say that?”

“People from Pune are respectful and well behaved. They listen to us – on the rules of the island and are disciplined on timings. They treat us with respect knowing we know.”

“From which place are they the worst?”

“Delhi.”

“In what way?”

“They just do not listen to anything from anyone. They know it all and know best, be it young or old. When we tell them that photography is not allowed in the Jarawa belt for example, they will not comply. Or if we ask them to report at a particular time or not to litter. They just will not listen to a driver. So also, over worked and often exasperated drivers, get into altercations – then it’s all our fault! But we know this place best, isn’t it? And island rules are strict. We can get fined or have our licenses confiscated retrievably!”

“How would you rate the Bengali tourists you meet from Calcutta?”

“Ah! They just want to take it easy. To relax in the hotel a lot and leave late, come back to the hotel late. Do not want to leave early to go to places of interest, to see and learn. We have come on vacation so what’s the need for rules! But maám you can always go back home and relax is it not!”

I thought he was making a wheeled inference to me, as I was resisting to getting out at 6 am daily, though it wasn’t for myself that I was doing so. So I laughed, rather than tell him the truth and have the north India born and raised Bengali man next to me, threaten me.

In Havelock I had asked the ex-hotelier driver, Nirmal, in a cheerful tone, “how is it that you all are so pleased to meet and chat with other Bengalis like us? As I have seen this with every stall or shop owner and driver here in Andamans. All become so pleased when I speak a few words of Bangla, which I proudly tend to do. Whereas if you go to other places in India – a Bengali usually does not take to, let alone help another Bengali. In fact, he would rather not acknowledge he is one himself than embrace another. And Bengalis tend to like any other clan but their own kind. The more alien the better to embrace!”

          “We islanders are simple people,” he replied after a pause. “We work very hard just to survive, as life is very expensive and thus difficult as compared to elsewhere. And we do not envy other people or succumb to our egos and jealousies, as we understand that only our hard work and personal destinies stand by us.”

The original piece of the 30 bighas of land along with the tin house that was given by the government to every Hindu Bengali refugee from East Pakistan, brave and willing to be rehabilitated to this island in lieu of constructing this island bit by bit, also starting life out anew – in what were desolate god forsaken jungles when they arrived. And working tirelessly to regain an identity to develop these islands into a habitat that today in less than 60 years is a tourist destination.  That indeed needs a self-respecting, respectful, spiritual attitude.

I now recognized the basis of these attitudes imbibed in me by my parents lifelong – after they came empty handed and single themselves from East Pakistan. There is just no time to envy others, indulge in negativity, when all your life goes into reclaiming your own identity. I would need to come full-circle in my deriving the source of this attitude I recognized in Andamans – and write a sequel to my debut book Across Borders.

PS: the photo album is in this link: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=pfbid02kYiZsXu1CnRzjrbb4AQt2CdnVTfBWBCVU7g9izHtyooj2jF1HGwicV9ekCh5Cwenl&id=614624973

The morning after I posted this blog, I happened to read this excerpt on Page 14, of the above book! Helps me sum up my blog so to speak… 😀

“She herself was opposite. She had a curious, receptive mind, which found much pleasure and amusement in listening to other folk. She was clever in leading folk on to talk. She loved ideas, and was considered very intellectual. What she liked most of all was an argument on religion or philosophy or politics with some educated man. This she did not often enjoy. So she always had people tell her about themselves, finding her pleasure so”.

This post is a continuation from – https://shuvashreechowdhury.com/2022/09/02/6892/

#magicalandamans #Andamans #exploreandamans #Portblair #HavelockIsland #Neilisland #partition #liberation #literaryfiction #historicalfiction #journalism #respectful #selfrespecting #Indianwriting #author

Ma’s birthday: On Trying to Move On After A Big Loss

Happy Birthday Ma: I started the day, preparing her favourite traditional Bangali breakfast of luchi, alu in kalonji, cholar dal with narkel(coconut) and nolen gurer, badam-payesh. I sent a tray of it to our neighbours – her best friends till the end.

Not before I had realigned and changed the greenhouse shed that was one of her favourite structures of the house – she had installed as soon as she had built the house personally supervising every detail.
I have allowed most things in the house to remain her signature stamp on my life.
And on every birthday I revamp something or other to ensure her presence gets stronger in the house even in her absence. Last year on her birthday, I named her house after her and installed a name card at the gate, then had it lit up this year so her essence lights my path.
Coming absolutely alone and empty handed from across borders – she has left an indelible mark. I’ve vividly describe it in my book Across Borders.
She always said to me – “no one has ever celebrated my birthday ever since I was a child” – so I decided to do it lifelong!
Now after she passed away on 20/04/21 – I even have her book of poems posthumously published in Bangla that introduces the woman she was before I came into her life – available in the reputed Kumudini stores https://ekumudini.com/ Dacca, for those there.

Sharing all the photos here: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=pfbid07ScuSdbMnn9krzMzwQSEgtQAvFjne9iiMaxoSP5dxrtUZbmGZRbRggJXD1JCKgX3l&id=614624973

Also sharing with you her last birthday that she shares with Bhupen Hazarika and Asha Bhosle – a little over 4 months after she passed on the same day Shankha Ghosh the reputed Bangla poet did – with a poetry reading from her upcoming book along with music over dinner —
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10159980803729974&type=3

Then the evening, yesterday:

The photos of the evening: Including the French film I watched and mention in the narrative below:
https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=pfbid022oJmQsA4qezAjDjxYNcGgQCKVELKz7EYaKbGPcmkpfou92ERYqKtQMAzvFyy5k2fl&id=614624973

Ma’s birthday celebrations, didn’t end with just the above: 😊I have to go all the way on anything I do! I have tried to illustrate it in the previous post.
Ma loved to watch films and plays at the theatre, preferably multiplexes for the wholesome entertainment. Till the covid lockdown, starting March 2020, by when she was past 80years, I would take her for atleast one movie or play a week, whether in Chennai when she was with us or in Calcutta, if not more.
She had this passion for the movies, since her college days and watched any film she could catch in Dacca with her friends. Since my childhood, till the end she knew Bollywood or even Hollywood far better than I did. Though she only showed us English or Bengali films when on vacations, till school and college. After that we could choose our own films to watch.
So it was only imperative that she be taken for films as she aged – for as you grow old, you become more and more childlike.
Also Ma loved good perfumes, which she invariably got one or more of the very best every year – from my sister who shares her passion on this as also with films.
Chinese cuisine was another of Ma’s favourites, she still spoke of the ones she’d had in Dacca. So every year, we always celebrated her birthday with good Chinese meals, whether at restaurants or parties at home – which were often in Bangalore, where my sister also insisted on her joining the dancing along with their friends.
Ma had been an excellent dancer since her youth, as you can see from older photos of this album I’m adding these photos to, so was also enthusiastic on shaking a leg at house parties with my sister and her husband’s friends. My sister would even dress her up nice and youthful, in her own clothes and take her to the latest pubs of Bangalore. My younger(a year and half) sister Jayshree, also her husband Ajay Nair, did give Ma a taste of all the latest trends in every sphere, even risking the lectures they received nonstop for it. Ma would go along out of curiosity and then her teacher’s instinct would make per point out what was not right – she had a great aversion to the revealing skimpy short dresses women wear, but she loved smart western clothes as much as the salwar and sari she only wore lifelong.
So in memory of my dynamic, always bigger than life Ma, also the fun loving one irrespective of the serious image most people know her by, I saw an excellent French film last evening, details of which are on the comments on the photo in the album link above. Watching it, seemed like an uncanny way of Ma consoling, inspiring and motivating me for the immense, unthinkable struggles I’ve had as an author for the past decade.

And also had a lovely Chinese dinner ordering the kind of food she would have liked. During which we learned of the passing away of Queen Elizabeth ll, at Balmoral, aged 96.
I consciously wore a good perfume Ma would have liked – remembering, if and ever we asked her what she wanted as a gift she would blush and say, “perfume or pen” – both of which she had collected(hoarded) aplenty in life!

It’s not like a lot of the times I’m not sad, very sad indeed, especially yesterday – that Ma left us so suddenly, in just moments after 4 months of our being in Chennai without her, for medical exigencies.
But I try to relive and retain the happy moments I’ve shared with both my parents, and that emotionally anchored attitude, is the root of my confidence in spite of all the challenges life throws at me – knowing I’m only going to get stronger like Ma, not break!
I’m spiritual not religious, so…
Happy Birthday Ma – I’ve let you go, since your last birthday – so you may be free of past life baggage and all the pain you’ve been through and have a lovely new life wherever it is, or end the cycle of life and death – I don’t know which chooses you!

#spirituality #lifeanddeath #birthdays #wisdom #motherspassing #mothersbirthday #lessonsoflife #livinginthemoment #handlingloss #moralstrength #emotionalstrength

Some more ideas, on how to move on from a big loss: https://www.bustle.com/articles/137775-7-tips-for-moving-on-after-a-major-loss-in-life

My Author Profile

Looking back at my life: will give you an insight into my blogs and social media posts. Also as author of my five literary fiction books.
My first job, at the age of 23, was with SITA World Travels, the leading operator of its times – as corporate, international sales executive. In 1993, the travelling class was very different, from what it is today.

I joined Jet Airways in 1995 and after two-yearly experiences, with the major departments of this airline, I was with the service quality department for ground and inflight – the first service quality department that was set up in India, way before Standard Chartered bank where my colleague in Mumbai was head-hunted for, let alone all the other companies that followed suit.

In between this Jet Airways stint, I also worked for a while with Bank of America, in their customer services department. Starting as a teller in a wholesale bank, with only current accounts – I’ve seen and counted a lot of money in life. 😛😀
Then, I was in charge of reservations before and when ITC Sheraton hotels set up shop in Calcutta. Followed by a much longer stint with Tanishq, just when it was in the phase of corporate change – from niche westernised boutiques to being the preferred local jeweller in every market of the country.

A stint with Kaya skin clinics in Mumbai and Chennai, was preceded by that with Shoppersstop – in their speciality retail division that included the premium brands – Mac, Crossword bookstores, Mothercare(1st standalone store in India) and the Brio Cafe. For all of which Shopperstop was the master franchisee pan-India.
The last assignment, was with Randstad India as senior executive search consultant in the consumer, retail and services vertical.

All this would give you an inkling into why I write, share photos, post, and above all author the kind of books I have.
You are defined by all your experiences in life…and I carry all of mine in a mental backpack wherever I am.

Since 2010, I’ve written five literary fiction books, illustrated in the link below, that I’ve shared earlier, not to mention I have been the publicist for 6 of my journalist husband’s travel books since 2009, having accompanied him for a lot of the ground work towards writing them.

The media coverage and mentions of Across Borders and the later books:
https://shuvashreechowdhury.com/2019/05/01/across-borders-media-reviews-and-coverage-of-my-debut-novel-across-borders/

About my books, in the link here:
https://shuvashreechowdhury.com/2020/01/06/where-my-books-go-william-butler-yeats/

Sharing the sales links in India. For other countries you have to just go to the Amazon website of your country. And search by my name and book title.

All the books are available globally on several online platforms as well as on Amazon. Also directly from the publisher at: https://cinnamonteal.in/product-tag/shuvashree-chowdhury/

The media mentions, coverages and reviews of the later books:

In Financial Express on Women’s Day…
https://www.financialexpress.com/lifestyle/womens-day-celebrating-women-authors-and-their-work/2454466/

The New Indian Express…
https://www.newindianexpress.com/lifestyle/2022/mar/26/a-few-books-from-renowned-authors-to-swear-by-in-2022-2434390.html

Business World: https://www.businessworld.in/article/8-Authors-Share-Their-Inspiring-Journeys-/14-06-2022-432577/

The Midday: https://www.mid-day.com/brand-media/article/10-authors-and-books-you-shouldnt-miss-to-read-this-monsoon-23237884

#authorpage #authorlife #LifeExperinces #lifecoach #womensempowermentcoach #poet #novelist #shortfictionwriter #IndianWriting #books #historicalfiction #workingwoman #corporatelife #indianculture

My Author Profile

Looking back at my life: will give you an insight into my blogs and social media posts. Also as author of my five literary fiction books.
My first job, at the age of 23, was with SITA World Travels, the leading operator of its times – as corporate, international sales executive. In 1993, the travelling class was very different, from what it is today.

I joined Jet Airways in 1995 and after two-yearly experiences, with the major departments of this airline, I was with the service quality department for ground and inflight – the first service quality department that was set up in India, way before Standard Chartered bank where my colleague in Mumbai was head-hunted for, let alone all the other companies that followed suit.

In between this Jet Airways stint, I also worked for a while with Bank of America, in their customer services department. Starting as a teller in a wholesale bank, with only current accounts – I’ve seen and counted a lot of money in life. 😛😀
Then, I was in charge of reservations before and when ITC Sheraton hotels set up shop in Calcutta. Followed by a much longer stint with Tanishq, just when it was in the phase of corporate change – from niche westernised boutiques to being the preferred local jeweller in every market of the country.

A stint with Kaya skin clinics in Mumbai and Chennai, was preceded by that with Shoppersstop – in their speciality retail division that included the premium brands – Mac, Crossword bookstores, Mothercare(1st standalone store in India) and the Brio Cafe. For all of which Shopperstop was the master franchisee pan-India.
The last assignment, was with Randstad India as senior executive search consultant in the consumer, retail and services vertical.

All this would give you an inkling into why I write, share photos, post, and above all author the kind of books I have.
You are defined by all your experiences in life…and I carry all of mine in a mental backpack wherever I am.

Since 2010, I’ve written five literary fiction books, illustrated in the link below, that I’ve shared earlier, not to mention I have been the publicist for 6 of my journalist husband’s travel books since 2009, having accompanied him for a lot of the ground work towards writing them.

The media coverage and mentions of Across Borders and the later books:
https://shuvashreechowdhury.com/2019/05/01/across-borders-media-reviews-and-coverage-of-my-debut-novel-across-borders/

About my books, in the link here:
https://shuvashreechowdhury.com/2020/01/06/where-my-books-go-william-butler-yeats/

Sharing the sales links in India. For other countries you have to just go to the Amazon website of your country. And search by my name and book title.

All the books are available globally on several online platforms as well as on Amazon. Also directly from the publisher at: https://cinnamonteal.in/product-tag/shuvashree-chowdhury/

The media mentions, coverages and reviews of the later books:

In Financial Express on Women’s Day…
https://www.financialexpress.com/lifestyle/womens-day-celebrating-women-authors-and-their-work/2454466/

The New Indian Express…
https://www.newindianexpress.com/lifestyle/2022/mar/26/a-few-books-from-renowned-authors-to-swear-by-in-2022-2434390.html

Business World: https://www.businessworld.in/article/8-Authors-Share-Their-Inspiring-Journeys-/14-06-2022-432577/

The Midday: https://www.mid-day.com/brand-media/article/10-authors-and-books-you-shouldnt-miss-to-read-this-monsoon-23237884

#authorpage #authorlife #LifeExperinces #lifecoach #womensempowermentcoach #poet #novelist #shortfictionwriter #IndianWriting #books #historicalfiction #workingwoman #corporatelife #indianculture

Magical Andamans

Ross Island – An Abandoned Penal Colony in the Indian Ocean.


We reached Port Blair quite early on a Saturday morning, landing at 7.50am, but in spite of it, our hotel in the heart of the city, settled us into a second room with a better view, on my request. They had initially suggested this room, but as it was early, I had had a choice of rooms. With the presumption that one closer up the hillside would have a better, prettier view, I had asked to be shifted.
After settling into the room I chose, and served an awesome south Indian breakfast, with an array of fruits and fresh juice, I realized I had been wrong – the room they suggested, further out, would have a better view of the hill, the sky and the sea.
So with the confidence, after two decades in several service industries, I made a polite request and the always smiling, enthusiastic Bengali housekeeping staff aptly named Saraswati, cheerfully agreed to ready the unmade room we were originally assigned to. She single handedly shifted all our luggage – which I was to learn later, as the day we returned from Havelock and Neil islands she blurted, when I was refusing to allow her to carry our baggage upstairs – “the day you came I carried all your luggage up myself”.
I now looked at her apologetically for not having taken it up ourselves but also with a new found respect at the strong feminist streak she projected, in not waiting for a male staff as is usual in our country.
This was one tough resilient woman, I thought to myself – and wasn’t I proud she was a Bengali as I am! She’s also the one who recommended the Wandoor beach, 25 kms away – it is a predominantly Bengali locality she added and the Jolly Buoy ferry commenced from a jetty just before it.

After we took a nap for a couple of hours, having taken a flight that was airborne at 5.52am from Calcutta, we decided to visit the cellular jail first. On learning that one had to buy the tickets for the light and sound show online, Bishwanath looked up the same – luckily the hotel had a robust internet connectivity which was a huge challenge outside of it – he bought two tickets for Rs. 300 each.
The young taxi driver, via the pre paid services counter, who had dropped us to the hotel by 8.30 am, after an enthusiastic exchange on the drive, learning we were also Bengali like him, agreed to pick us up by 1.30 pm and take us around town a bit and then to the cellular jail.
When we got into his cab, and mentioned the show ticket times, he asked us to show him the tickets on the phone – “its for the Ross Island show”he blurted.

Bishwanath promptly decided, the ticket was to be chucked off, the Rs. 600 wasted, as we would not be going to Ross Island that day, after the driver informed us that the last boats would have left by 1pm to return by 3pm. He now pointed to the flagpoint in the remote distance over the sea, informing us that the boats commenced from there.
But I wasn’t convinced to give up so easily – as there had to be a reason we got the wrong ticktes, I thought. Also, I didn’t like the idea of wasting the money and I said to the driver, “ I wish someone could have used the tickets on our behalf – Someone who would not spend on this but like to see it.”
Then I insisited on going up to the boats to see if we could still be taken and return by 3pm. So the driver abruptly informed us that we should take a quick look around the cellular jail and go down to the Ferry point as the last one leaves there at 4pm. And that’s what we did – we went around the cellular jail briskly, deciding to come back for a more prolonged visit to read the placards diligently, and watch the show.

At the jail, I saw an old photo of the market place at Ross Island – so I boarded the Ferry at 4pm with the vivid imagination of first buying ourselves something to eat there as we had skipped lunch. After a long wait at the port office, for at least 15 people to join us to ensure the ferry ride was cost effective – we set sail enthusiastically.

Our young driver was also on the ferry – we learned that, only on seeing him at Ross Island, that too after the show. And he admitted he’s never been here let alone see the show. So in effect I had inspired him to bring more guests here – it pleases me to note that!


It was an hour’s scenic and very comfortable large-ferry ride to Ross Island which came into view from afar like a red brick fortress. As we came up close, I vividly saw NSCB written large on it past the trees lining it, flanking the llll path leading to it.
We got off the Ferry at 5.10pm – ushered in by one of the most gorgeous sunsets I have seen. The visible facade of the island past the bridge over the sea shone gold in the setting suns sheen as the glowing ball of fire, struggled to stay out of dipping right into the sea – just like a child who is well past his bedtime, just when the guests arrive for his parent’s cocktail party. We had arrived at his house for the light and sound show party after all!
It was suggested that battery operated carts at Rs. 80 per person would take us around. And since the cafeteria had shut at 5 pm, not even drinking water was available anywhere on the island, let alone food.
However, my vivid imagination of a thriving market, from the old photo, inspite of acute thirst and hunger that I made do with elaichi mouth fresher, was more than sufficiently replenished by the sight of several deer, even rabbits lining the narrow road we took to the ghosts of the once self-sufficient town of one time British ruled India.
After a brisk ride around the island, at the opposite edge’s scenic view point, before we turned around, Bishwanath was rammed in the shins, by the horns of a baby deer who was defensive when he tried to pet it. I was so alarmed, but BG acted like it was one of his cats. After the island ride, which was so mysterious as you can see in my video in the last frame, we sat down to the light and sound show – aptly described in Bishwanath’s poem written(shared here), just after we reached the hotel at the end of the ride on an airconditioned ferry – with a capacity of about 25 persons. It had wide glass windows – to be able to get a beautiful view, had there been sunlight as on the previous ride – now in the pitch dark and rain drenched sea, with a vivid imagination of what this now ghostly island must have once looked like.
Ross Island, or Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island as it is now officially called, was once a British penal colony but today it lies abandoned. Located in the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean, the island is now part of India and it is protected by the Indian Navy.
We visitedQ on 20th August 2022.

You may listen to the sounds of the show here in this link below, and imagine it along with all the photos I’ve shared:
https://www.google.co.in/search?q=light+and+sound+at+ross+island&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-in&clientele=safari#fpstate=ive&vld=cid:86cd806b,vid:H5Ljut2Awfk,st:0

Please read more about Ross Island here: https://www.worldabandoned.com/ross-island?fbclid=IwAR2zWICiIBB_SIVFYVZa233ODxUSMeiDZd5B9aAxyIjeAOtRntAyEKVuf_4

Please view the rest of my album on Ross Island on this Facebook link: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=pfbid0zpJcy72NsLDzZ7dW5wnyGz68zJeUxZv3tLNPc9ajA24zrWY96xuFHhBjbGusi4GVlqq&id=614624973

Visited on 20/08/2022

#magicalmoments #andamans #andamantourism #andamandiaries #naturelovers #rossisland #portblair #photography #travelphotography #travelblogger #Andamans

This poem is by Bishwanath Ghosh lolllllll
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bishwanath_Ghosh

This, below, we visited on 26/08/2022. But I had written and posted before the above…

On our return from Havelock and Neil Islands, Barathang we had visited before that – I insisted on going to Corbyn’s Cove beach in Port Blair, inspite of BG’s reluctance – from having visited several beaches over a week. Its not like the water sports this beach is famous for beckoned to me.
But somehow I believe I’m usually divinely guided, and thus my instincts tend to lead me and I willingly follow. I never pre plan my steps but just go with the flow.
I will tell you very shortly – how we reached the historic Ross Island quite by fluke, the very day we landed in Andamans.
On the way to Corbyn’s Cove, on this day, much to my surprise we saw this flag point, which we had seen distinctly from across the sea near the cellular jail, the day we arrived and also visited the place. If not for a drive to Corbyn’s we would have missed this point surely. The driver later replied that he had missed to mention, we could see it so close up.
Then on the way back from the beach at dusk I decided to get off once again and stroll the promenade – I don’t know if it was the essence of Netaji that led me. But after a longish stroll, it started raining heavily. I had been carrying an umbrella the entire day – but now had left it in the car parked at a distance. We had no option, but to take shelter under the nearby temple gate’s archway.

When I turned back, we were directly in view of the hoisted flag, flying majestically in the dusk darkened, also clouded and rain drenched sky. This would be our view at least for half an hour more, as we waited for the rain to clear and walk back to the car.

I cannot help wondering if Netaji’s essence – wished for us to stay there awhile, take plenty of photos to share and remind people of his story – unlike most who just walk or drive past, forgetting the struggles that led to the Independence we enjoy and take for granted today after 75 years. This incident was of 25th August, exactly ten days after Independence Day.

Sankalp Smarak: Andaman and Nicobar Islands – please view in the twitter link below –
https://twitter.com/PBNS_India/status/1476443365289857026?s=20&t=sW-9dL-XAFvMpA517-ha9w

“This place is not just another location in the country but it witnessed an extremely important event in the Indian freedom struggle, as exactly 79 years ago, on December 30, 1943, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose hoisted the national flag for the first time on Indian soil, at Port Blair & announced the islands, as the first Indian territory to be freed from British Rule.
The Smarak is a tribute not only to the valor of the soldiers of the Indian National Army and their innumerable sacrifices but also reminds us of the values enshrined by Netaji himself, “Nishtha, Kartavya aur Balidan” or “Commitment, Duty and Sacrifice” that continue to underscore the ethos of the Indian Defence Forces and the resolve of the Indian Soldier.

Uncovering the events that happened exactly 79 years ago:
It was on this day, 30 December 1943, that a national flag was hoisted for the first time on Indian soil, at Port Blair, registering the event in golden letters in the saga of the nation’s freedom struggle.

It is important to note that, Netaji escaped British surveillance from Kolkata on 16 January 1941 and stepped back on Indian soil after nearly three years, at Port Blair Aerodrome on 29 December 1943 at 11:30 am and unfurled a National flag the next day.

He reached the islands as the Head of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind and Supreme Commander of the Indian National Army marked a symbolic fulfillment of his promise that the Indian National Army would stand on Indian soil by the end of 1943.

This historic visit also marked a declaration of Andaman and Nicobar Islands as the “first liberated territory of India”.

Please listen in on the video clip here – https://twitter.com/PBNS_India/status/1476434059437826051?s=20&t=xJjO3wMwvwuUBduCdbQhfA

I’m all sharing this song to recreate the mood…
https://youtu.be/Sw4WmTUk_Lw
And the all time favourite: https://youtu.be/5ahXODbIPxc

More of the history behind the photos of this place – which is bang opposite Ross Island across the sea, of which I will share in detail in the next post is here.
https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/netaji-and-hoisting-tricolour-andamans-what-really-happened-1943-94277

“THE REASON PEOPLE FIND IT SO HARD TO BE HAPPY IS THAT THEY ALWAYS SEE THE PAST BETTER THAN IT WAS, THE PRESENT WORSE THAN IT IS, AND THE FUTURE LESS RESOLVED THAN IT WILL BE”
Wishing you all a very Happy Vinayak/Ganesh Chaturthi with these thoughts, especially with the last photo after the two videos of this place at the end: Bishwanath Ghosh found this Ganesh ji in stone, ten days back, on 21st August, at the Wandoor beach, 25kms from Port Blair. Today also happens to be his mother’s birthday – who passed on in 2009.
What to make of all these coincidences I don’t know – but that the universe speaks to us – we just have to listen and decipher.

PS: this post is continued here: https://shuvashreechowdhury.com/2022/09/17/a-chance-spiritual-meeting-with-my-origins-in-andamans/

Please view the rest of this photo album on the link: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=pfbid0KCxgHnRKghK2v8wx5p7J2MwPqM9aAn3teaW7qNZcfmKFd2Mz4K9C6cXWtfEnXB6pl&id=614624973

#indianhistory #britishindia #andamans #rossisland

Education Matters: Life Lessons.

So happy and inspired to receive these photos just now, with the messages below, from a man I now feel proud to have known for a while, Paneer Selvam:
“My daughter received gold medal from Tamil Nadu Governor Mr.R.N.ravi” then after I congratulate him profusely, feeling rather elated, I ask and he replies, “for BSC IT INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, 1ST RANK”

Now let me proceed to tell you about Paneer. He was the caretaker of the Andhra power company’s plush guest house in T Nagar, BG and I have stayed in so many times, for months at a time, usually for medical exigencies.
This was after we moved out of Chennai in 2018 but always went back for so many situations. And this stay was organised by BG’s reader and friend who is a top official of the company. It was their Director’s Chennai home and one of their other Dir, who was particularly hospitable and friendly, would come and go while we were there occupying other rooms.
During this time, Paneer in addition to all the help one would require at a guest house, for long stay, including organising our meals from a nearby canteen, had got me food from his home whenever I was eating hotel food months on end and couldn’t take it anymore.
Paneer saw me buying my own Hawkins pan-pressure cooker and an assortment of utensils, and bringing back my groceries and stuff after morning walks and offered to get me home cooked food, both veg and non veg, that turned out to be nutritiously fabulous Sappad, I looked forward to twice a day, as he set it out on the table that he’d set up to perfection, along with glasses of warm drinking water – for gut health.

Several times my friends from Calcutta, Bangalore or Chennai have dropped in and stayed a few days. He would ask me what they would like and bring a restaurant like several-course non-veg meal including prawns, a variety of fish cooked in varied ways, and chicken and lamb. There was always rasam, sambar and appalam.
To my utter surprise, he would even bring me food in the hospital, as we might not like the food at Apollo he thought, after spoiling us with his home food. Other than for large groups he would never take the money, and we only compensated every time with whatever we deemed fit.
The last meal he brought us at the guest house just last year on the 9th of April 21, along with for two of our friends was 6 types of ‘variety rice’, including I think – coconut, tomato, lemon, curd, finally a sweet payasam.
The day before we left I not only gave away my almost new pressure cooker and utensils and groceries, but also bought a large Milton Hotcase for his home. So he could carry food in a glossy new hotcase.
And this caring nature, is what I can never get over – he brought it back to me a few hours later, the large carton beautifully gift wrapped with a tag on it. He requested me to write on it – a thank you note to his wife!
I was so touched, I was speechless as I wrote out the note. This quite, shy, unassuming man had taught me such a big lesson in love, nurturing, caring and pride in his wife’s work. He wanted me to award his wife personally and thank her for all her efforts in making the meals she did.
This way, he has also inspired his children with the lesson of being awarded for hard work – you are divinely rewarded!
Today, god has gifted him and his wife the abilty to see his daughter being awarded thus with such a prestigious award.
I just cannot get over how happy and proud he must be. As I’m over the moon myself, remembering all the little things he did for me at my worst times.

I’m tagging Chennai friends who I think would be happy to know this…

Chennai has taught me so many life lessons, above all both Bishwanath Ghosh and I am and will always be Chennai writers primarily, wherever we may live, as the city inspired both of us in so many amazing ways. We became writers in Chennai as it appreciates skill, talent and hard work over just money and all it can buy.

Sharing my short story on my life in Chennai, in the reputed Himal Southasian literary magazine, that’s like many such in my book Existences, which resonates with the one above —
https://www.himalmag.com/a-doctor-story-shuvashree-chowdhury/

#chennai #chennaidiaries #inspirational #motivational #awardsforexcellence #studentsuccess #educationmatters #educationforall #lifelessons #parenting #coaching #hardwork

Paneer, with his daughter, wife and son.

I’m adding to this post…later in the day.

Celebrating Chennai in Kolkata: 😍this large Dosa I had especially for Paneer and his wife, with reference to my previous post, and for their lovely children, especially his brilliant daughter. May she grow to be a beacon of hope for all the hardworking parents out there who value education, skills, talents and above all hard work and guide their children towards it.
Incidentally, this Dosa was last evening’s dinner, before I received the photos and mssg in the previous post – just after BG and I watched this brilliant ‘thinking man’s’ movie “The Holy Conspiracy” starring Naseeruddin Shah and Soumitra Chattopadhyay, that I loved. All through I had a debate running in my mind as well.
The official trailer is here: https://youtu.be/s6evLRvLru8

Perhaps we were reminded of our Chennai years so much, seeing this film and so we went to this cafe’s Saltlake branch right away. As you can see I’ve still got my thinking cap on – from my expressions. 😊
This morning I woke up to Paneer’s message of the last post (please make an attempt to read it) from Chennai.
It has to be telepathy – whether science or divinity, with reference to the film link, you go and argue! 😀

#chennai #chennaidiaries #inspirational #dosacoffee #SaturdayMotivation #saturdaynight #theholyconspiracy #englishfilm #banglafilm #kolkata