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

A soliloquy: “to be or not to be”.

A soliloquy: “to be or not to be”

Solitude and Harmony are best friends,
white and pink going hand in hand —
it’s rare to find one without the other
yet they give each other scope and space:
Without the other they’re quite incomplete
yet outshine each other in their soliloquies.

If you want progress along with harmony
you’ve to seek a pink-white duo ‘Tranquility’
to get to know yourself from deep inside
without letting others affect your self pride:
to build a formidable castle of resilience —
on it a customized nameplate, ‘Credence’.

PS: this is in continuation of the thoughts in the previous post…and no filters have been used on the photos of the sunset, of the last three days since last Sunday.

The rest of the photos are here: https://www.facebook.com/614624973/posts/10160600713169974/?mibextid=gLrg5J&fs=e&s=cl

#harmony #solitude #sunset #sunsetphotography #sunsetlovers #kolkata #kolkatadiaries #kolkataphotography #kolkatablogger #visualpoetry #poetrylovers #flowers #soliloquy #poetess #poetsocietyofinstagram #poetsvision

On Solitude: my poetry and other books.

“Solitude”

Stark white is the colour of Solitude,
from her confidence emanates —
she has a well defined radiant face
with luminous eyes that skyward gaze,
at the sunset through clouds
like elephants – that raise their trunks
to shower Sunset that has Solitude swathed
in amber, tangerine, fuchsia, vermillion —
hues that have spiritual representations
of creativity, vitality, harmony, resilience:
draped in integrity, in sky’s azure sari’s haze
that not all the grey of life can undress —
she stands her own, reflects hues well!

The rest of the photos are here: https://www.facebook.com/100063868293918/posts/436359775169629/?mibextid=gLrg5J&fs=e&s=cl

Walt Whitman // “The secret of it all, is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood, of the moment…to put things down without deliberation…without worrying about their style…without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote, wrote, wrote… By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught.”
… and the above quote applies accurately for me too! 😀
Sharing the sales link of all 5 books on Amazon.in – https://www.amazon.in/s?me=ASKCO5IK051YA&ref=sf_seller_app_share_new

Please read about each book, including two books of poetry, in the link above.
The books are also available – both on kindle and in print globally, so please click on your respective country’s Amazon or other books selling site and locate by author and book title.

#books #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookshelf #indianauthorbooks #bookstore #booksbooksbooks #novels #shortstories #poetry #authorlife #waltwhitman # solitude #colours #poetrylovers #sunset #poetrycommunity #poetryofinstagram #visualpoetry #paintersvision #kolkata #kolkatadiaries #rain #photography #poetsvision #poetrybooks

A Marmalade, called ‘Harmony’: McLeodganj, Dharamshala

A Marmalade, called ‘Harmony’  


I woke up early this morning,
to a soft light on my face -
it wrapped me smugly
in a warmth - my blanket didn’t have.
I turned to my right, and looked up outside -
the light was coming from the forests
of pine across the road from my window,
on the highway to the village of Dharamkot
over a steep climb from McLeodganj.

I pushed back the cashmere blanket,
then on my bed I sat up, upright -
to trace the source of light outside.
It was the big soft sun struggling to rise
from the valley of red and green roofs -
shining past freshly painted walls
that told you this was a thriving town,
of hardworking meticulous souls.

The sun emerged past hills, deodar woods
that were teasing it with their perfume -
diffusing its light in their crevices
and swathing its warmth on their leaves -
still shivering, dripping with the nights rain
that makes mountains cold and stiff
even in the peak of summer - mid June,
but pleasantly warm and cosy the day round.

I sat for a while, opened up the net screen -
so, I may reach out to light unrestrained,
and feel the cool fragrant hill air touch my skin,
carrying with it the warmth of the sun
no longer timid – swathing me in bed.

The round teakwood coffee table, both chairs,
in my view by the windows, were moist -
from which a shimmering sunlight bounced off
as I got up, turned the electric kettle on.
A teabag, creamer, sugar, went into a cup
on the mantelpiece with a brass Buddha atop -
in front of a red brick-shaped, cemented wall.

I sat with my teacup, viewing the landscape -
in it, stylish local men, women strolled uphill
carrying jackets, stoles, satchels on upright hips;
as furry dogs strutted up behind or downhill
after maroon-robed, shaven-headed monks
stopping to climb only to cajole their moody child -
so what if like them he’s also a monk already
who of innocent curiosity hasn’t yet had his fill,
as he wilfully peers at the steep valley below,
discerning if life is worth denouncing already.

‘What time you’d like breakfast?’ I get a call -
the young man runs the bed and breakfast
along with his parents - he wants to know
of the pancakes and honey, I’ve ordered,
as potato or egg parathas they serve I’ll forgo.

I rush out for a brief stroll up the hill road
to get the local essence of man and the winds,
as I’m not a tourist who relies on trails
or Guides who take you from point to point
that you can tick off on your to-do-list -
with photos of all the famed spots you’re in.

Climbing higher and higher, short of breath -
on roads overlooking valleys past tall pines,
I reach the intersection with a few local cafés,
also, a signboard that reads, Dharamkot.
I gaze around, stroll up each narrow road
but not to the end of Hyatt resort’s door
even if I’ve roomed at few, got married at one -
my sister and I had Kolkata’s Hyatt as venue
for our weddings - as it’s so near our home.

I’m not curious of luxurious spaces anymore,
even if old friends swear by their comfort -
as on the creative, spiritual path I’ve chosen,
I seek intimacy to God in nature that’s raw —
searching for it behind the visible front.

On my way downhill I almost break into a run,
as it’s faster and easier to balance, than catwalk -
so, in an hour, by ten I’m at our stay’s garden cafe
amidst a nursery of local plants, varied flowers,
all of it presided by a blue Shiva in Lotus pose -
who directs his blessings with a palm, held up -
that projects his destiny lines etched on it
out to passers-by, tourists or Buddhist monks,
who abound this stretch solo or in groups
from the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts.

Old, pleasant Hindi songs on Akashvani radio
float into my joyfully heightened hearing now -
as I recall the tour yesterday of Dharamshala,
including Chinmayananda ji’s Tapovan;
also Dalai Lama’s temple, Norbulinka monastery;
with Shiva temples at Baijnath and Bhagsunath;
after series of visits to the St. John’s church.

I think of last night’s dinner - momos, thukpa,
in tiny Kalimpong Restaurant at Central Square,
after cappuccinos, croissants at chic Juniper Café -
missing a planned visit to Jimmy’s Café in front.

Over my bites of pancake dribbled with honey -
the swigs of a cup of strong homemade coffee:
uplifts my exercised heart – as mind is refreshed
from a week’s drenching in cross-cultural gales -
I’ll take home today - a marmalade, named ‘Harmony’.

PS: in continuation of the previous post…The photo album of a weeks’s travel is here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10160547812904974&type=3

# mcleodganj #mcleodganjdiaries

#crosscultural #crossculturalcommunication #spirituality #dharamshala #himachaltourism #poetry #poetryislife #poetrycommunityofig #poetryporn #travelogue #visualpoetry #naturephotography #poetsociety

7th July, 22

“My wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature.”
— Claude Monet

Adding to my previous posts on Dharamshala/Mc Leodganj…
The thoughts that inspired this painting from my visit to the Baijnath Shiva temple…the older I get, the smaller I feel in the presence of the power that defines my identity, but makes me more curious of its source.
I no longer find the need to establish my presence at his door or ring bells to awaken him to take notice of me. I seek god in everything I do, and in my creativity I feel closest to seeking his purpose for my life.
Yet, religious disrespect, or anything that hurts others sentiments is not creativity, but rather the complete lack of it.

#painting #paintingoftheday #palampurvalley #visualpoetry #himachalpradesh #inspiration #creativity #creativeindependence #creativeliberty #religiousrespect

“A film’s Dream Sequence: McLeodganj”

“A film’s Dream Sequence: McLeodganj”

This church sprang up on me 
charming and still, on a quaint slope downhill,
nestled in a crevice at Forsyth Gunj,
shrouded in the waves of a heavy smog
that floated up atop the steep hill road -
heralding the town of McLeodganj,
clouded now with threats of a downpour:
the current Dalai Lama’s Indian home.

It’s stone slopewalk, runs beside a cemetery -
whose iron gate closes where tall grass ends, 
growing around it's cold marble graves, 
with crucifixes embalmed in the fragrance 
of pines and a variety of the church's foliage.

The church-graveyard’s compelling charm, 
blanketed in the cool, light summer breeze -
veils me in joyous spiritual upliftment,
as we await the traffic to clear, to climb uphill:
ensuring I return to this haven of peace. 

We pass the Main Square - at six crossroads,
where well-dressed tourists aimlessly stroll,
peering in and out of shops of Tibetan stocks -
of it brass Buddhas in every form uppermost.
As if ripe plums in an orchard of handicrafts, 
that makes this township a self-sustaining hub
of local produce, excelling in varied art forms:
domestic or international brands not at all.

                 ***

Two days after we return to ‘St John’s’ church, 
aptly suffixed with, ‘in the Wilderness’,
that withstood the Kangra floods of 1905 -
it’s churchyard being the final resting place,
of Lord Elgin the Governor-General & Viceroy
 of India in 1861, during the British Raj: 
He died here, on 20th November, 1863.

I stroll down the steep stone pathway
inhaling the sights - perhaps smells of Thyme,
past the large stone carved holy-water stoup
to first pay reverence at the altar of Christ  
and mumble a quick prayer sitting on a pew -
making a sign of the cross, as back in school.
I then notice the caretaker, looking around 
from the side vestry as he tidied himself,
in ending work at 4pm - with two hours left. 

Suddenly thunder roared, as lightning struck, 
rain thrashed Belgian stained-glass panes -
donated by Lady Elgin(Mary Louisa Lambton):
It’s sounds made the quaint chapel ethereal,
as lightning refracted off coloured windows -
bouncing on the hillside’s pregnant clouds, 
giving me a sense of harmonious tranquility,
as I’d come straight to the altar of Christ - 
the beauty and charm around, was his shrine. 

A group of tourists barged into the vestibule,
from around the darkened raining compound -
they sought shelter from the deluge, 
like seeking god - only in need as we tend to: 
As he shelters us from life’s thundershowers, 
but not before teaching us a lesson or a few.  

The caretaker sprung into his true element, 
“Please leave - I’m closing now”, he declared:
As marching to the gate he bolted it inside, 
gesticulating we leave he shut the inner door -
then in the foyer, ‘leave, leave’ he chanted. 

                 ***

Twenty of us caught inside a stone church -
atop a quaint hill by a cemetery, in heavy rain,
two windows providing panoramic views
of a smoggy downpour on the Deodar forests: 
An experience I felt uniquely blessed with, 
as I was fortunate to be granted a benediction
whereas others still begged for a peek inside. 

A little man, but literally the keeper of Christ, 
swathed mentally as if a priest in a vestment: 
for a moment’s view of the church’s insides -
he granted all a cursory glance at the shrine. 
Promptly locking the door again, he grumbled,
“Please, you all leave, please leave, I insist.”
Though the clouds were even thicker now
and the rain was much more threatening. 

The bunch of us tourists, all in a joyous mood
from the intoxication to most of our senses -
none minded the caretaker's grouchy attitude, 
as jokingly avoiding his repeated threats, 
making it clear we weren't going anywhere. 

The man’s selfish stance, peeved me out 
as he still had two hours of duty left till 6pm -
then this rain was clearly an exigency at hand 
but all he could think about - was himself. 

My Catholic, then Protestant boarding schools
called to me in protest - from their learnings,
also my mother’s on the sense of Duty -
that always leads me to stand for what’s fair.

I looked at him squarely - challenged crisply,
“You’ll throw us out of the Church's shelter?
Isn’t sheltering humanity morally, emotionally, 
also physically - what they’re meant for!”

He looked at me meekly, also defensively, 
“I have to walk twenty miles home” he blurted, 
“You all have a car to go back in - but I don’t,
I have to walk uphill in the rain, all the way”:

I looked at him squarely, unconvinced -
“that's no reason to neglect one’s duty” I said:
“A church refusing shelter to people” I added,
“shutting them out in the rain - how’s that fair!” 

The rain came to an abrupt halt soon,
clouded sky lighting up with a golden glow;
I unfolded my umbrella to the drizzle - 
as we rushed to our respective paths of life:
to the next scene of a dream sequence
I carry faith with confidence, in God’s shelter -
along with this story I’m compelled to retell.



                The END



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