On Sunday, I visited the Bawali Rajbaari here in West Bengal. Roughly 30 kms from home, located just on the outskirts of Calcutta, this is an ancestral home which is being remodelled as a weekend getaway. The work is still under progress but the opulence for there for all to see.
I originally posted this review on my Goodreads page here: The book is set in that window of Indian history which sees the Mughal influence wane and the British colonial culture rise. The action is set in Hyderabad and briefly shifts to Calcutta before moving south again. The dramatis personae include a soldier and diplomat of the East India Company who falls in love not only with the culture and tradition of 'Hindoostan' but also with a beautiful begum. The affair, and later the marriage, gives rise to a scandal which shakes the foundations of the British diplomatic relations with Hyderabad. But behind the court intrigue and the scandal lies the world of love, romance, beautiful architecture and the happy meeting ground of the East and the West.
William Dalrymple is a master storyteller, and one can only wish he narrates more such tales about India's history. The drab history textbooks of school are an utterly poor comparison to the books that he writes, simply because of his ability to transport us back to the world of kings and queens, sahibs and begums, of tehzeeb, and a world where letters were written to loved ones. The sights and sounds of Deccani culture come alive in front of the reader, and that in itself is as great a compliment as I can give this author.
So, here's the deal. I'm already past 30. But I firmly believe that these '50 places to visit in India before you're 30' are worth experiencing at any age. Hence, here's a mini-bucket list, if you will. I plan to finish visiting these 50 places by the time I'm 40. As it turns out, I've already finished a few: 1. Kolkata (Well, I live here. So...) 2. Vaishno Devi temple (Been there as a kid. Although, wouldn't mind the trek again) 3. Orissa Konark Temple & Surfing Lessons (Did the former when I was a kid, so maybe another trip beckons. Did the latter just a couple of months ago) 4. Go to Gokarna and do nothing. (Oh how I miss the tranquility!) 5. Experience local trains in Mumbai. (Oh how I miss the mad rush!) 6. Bombay to Goa road trips (Did many of those. ;) ) 7. Chandni Chowk Food trip (This was done in 2007 when I went to Delhi as a Management Trainee)
How many of these places have you visited and experienced?
"Talespin" is a wonderful book of short stories by author Sanjay Chopra. Most stories aren't of the twist-in-the-tale variety but they rather engage well with the reader on the basis of narration. This in no way takes away from the fact that the stories are a compelling read. Take "Turache?", the first story in the book, for instance. Describing a fictional account of the meeting between a young Alexander and King Darius III in 331 B.C., the story nicely sets up the kind of good narration one can expect from the rest of the book. It's the story of a powerful personality and the words are able to convey the force of the mighty Greek emperor. The war-stories are never too far away, case in point being "Men of the Horse" and "Awake", but the one which impressed me the most was "Bata shoes" (as unlikely a title as any for a war story). I loved how the author was able to capture the emotions of pride and nostalgia a son felt to a place which he was only connected to by memories of his father. More than a 'war' story, I'd like to label this one a 'father-son' story, although the theme of patriotism too does come in. Right towards the end come three relatively dark, but extremely interesting stories. I loved the compactness of "The Contractor" and "Betrayal" was eerie. But my most favourite of this trio has to be "A Sound Idea". It kept me guessing as to what the outcome of the story would be. I loved the macabre ending. Spine-chilling, is the word. The most heart-tugging story, however, has been kept for the last. For an extremely short story, "The Day Tina Was Born" will at least bring a lump to your throat, if not a tear to your eye. This story is pure emotion. It was great fun reading "Talespin" and I must thank 'The Sunday Book Club' (#TSBC) and the author for the book give-away. I wish Sanjay all the best for his future endeavours and look forward to reading his next book.
I woke up today morning to the mother of all nightmares.
I was back in school attending the economics class! I have always had this love-hate relationship with economics as a subject: I loved to read and understand the concepts but for some odd reason, I could never express these ideas on paper in the exams. Still trying to guess where the hate part came from?
But was this the end of the nightmare? Oh no, sir. Not yet. We are just one-third down the road.
Next, while the class was in session, who do I see standing outside the classroom requesting the teacher that M/s. Shekhar be allowed out for a chat? My boss from the previous organization under whom I learnt the ropes of sales in a market as awesome ("Sheldon, here is where I hold up the sarcasm card") as Calcutta. Sales was one of the things I dreaded most when I stepped out of B-school and it made me change myself to someone who I wasn't then (an experience which, by the way, I eventually am thankful for.)
However, moving on with the dream. Now, since we had no place to sit and discuss the monthly sales numbers, my boss and I went to another class room
which was being used by guess who? Well, horror of horrors, no less than a finance professor from my MBA college, who was at that very moment checking exam papers! Finance was one thing which I till date don't know why I opted for as my minors in MBA. Let's be honest: I sucked at it. Although I enjoyed logical stuff, and remember preparing balance sheets and profit and loss statements with proficiency, some of the stuff on markets just seemed to whizz right past my ears. No surprise then at the fear of the subject.
Thankfully, I managed to realise somewhere around here that I was dreaming and that I should wake up.
Even after all this, I don’t know how I managed to wake up with a grin and go, “Well,
how’s that for a start to the new year?”
Since then, Motee and Mishtha have both tried to
assure me that this dream basically means my worst fears are behind me now. (Love you, ladies!) Here's wishing a Happy New Year to myself and to you, dear reader. Have a smashing 2013. Cheers!