Monday, August 13, 2001

De-ionising Pokhara

The one and only C. K. Lal, the inimitable 'calumnist' (as he makes 'pun' of himself) of the great newspaper NT, once wrote, Pokhara is enchanting anytime of the year (even when the Nepali Congress is holding its bi-ennial convention there - which was the subject of that particular article). The Ghoses couldn't agree with him more. They keep running off to this lake city at every conceivable excuse. In the last 3 years they must have made at least a dozen trips to Pokhara - roughly one a quarter. So, they have seen it in all seasons and loved it more each time. Even on this weekend S.. made a quick dash there - ostensibly to attend a Sales conference of his team.

The Shangri-La, of course, is their regular haunt. Though it's not quite a "village", as it is called, nestled amidst paddy fields, the architecture and understated ethnic decor blends naturally with the surroundings giving it a very " Come… touch me" feel, which the Fulbari loses in all its over-bearing grandeur. S.. says that, the Shangri-La is a place one likes to imagine - be it only in parts - of being close to something of one's own. Its row house cottages, with the little piece of lawn or balcony in front, could well have been a part of your weekend house out in the country or the hills. Even the deep-blue swimming pool has a homely character of a pond in the back yard. In contrast, The Fulbari seems so awe-inspiring and, therefore, almost by definition - totally out of reach, in every sense. But, their real favourite is Prem & Poornima's little treasure tucked away above the Begnas Lake - a good 13 kms from the city and another 30 minutes by boat. But, once you are there you are transported to a different world entirely. It's like going back 50 years in time.

Life stands still on the Begnas Taal. There is the sight of the occasional boat ferrying villagers across the lake. Inching its way through the placid green water evoking a feeling of timelessness. Or a little girl sitting still for hours in a tiny "dinghy" waiting for a few fishes to come up on her net to take to the nearby market or home for dinner. A few small houses dot the rain-washed green hill on the other side. That's where our old boatman lives - and at the end of day's work, he would row across all the way and trudge for 2 hours to his home up on the hilltop. "Don't earn enough to stay the weeknights in a hotel", he told us half in jest.

Even if it's not practical to stay at the Begnas their on every trip - due to sheer logistics constraints - the Ghoses try to make it a point to at least go their for a lunch or an afternoon outing. Like S… did with the boys this Saturday. On a clear day one would get a lateral section view of the Macchapuchare, Annapurnas and the Manaslu. But, the clouds threatening to break into a heavy downpour at any moment lent a different character to the scenery. The only regret was that, the guys at the resort can't make honest good Pakoras - which are just right for the weather. Perhaps, the German and Australian tourists have spoilt them. Point of complain for Buchu's Mom.

S… feels his stress level palpably drop the moment he lands in Pokhara. He is convinced that, this is due to the heavy charge of negative ions in the air. Someday, he hopes to write a thesis on this by conducting an emperical research on the 'conception' record of all honey-mooning couples visiting Pokhara. They did something similar at Niagra and it was established that, there is, indeed, a scientific correlation between negative ions, drop in stress-levels, rise of libido and ease of conception. ( It affects peacocks the same way). This led to the invention of the electronic "De-ioniser" that today graces so many American bed-rooms with good effect.

If Begnas eases his stress levels, Mumbai sends a rush of adrenaline up S..'s veins. Once travelling with him from Pune in the Deccan Queen, a colleague had commented that, he noticed a new spring in his otherwise languid gait, the moment he steps out of the train onto the VT station. But now, even he feels tired by the end of the day, especially if he has been to the Backbay. It's not the same place anymore. So, unfailingly each evening he'd return to Udyan Darshan for his mandatory quota of Varan-Bhath to uplift his sagging spirit.

While S.. was been busy pumping various fluids into and out of his system, the other members of the Ghose parivar have been honing their artistic talents. Junior Miss Ghose did a Ras-leela dance l - lipstick and 'blush-on' decked Radhika - for Janmastami at her school. On Sunday evening, her Mom joined the 'Anandalok' chorus for 'Baishe-Shravan' (the death anniversary of Tagore - or was it Barsha Mangal?) - to keep the flag of Bongi cultural chauvinism flying high atop the Himalayas. Grandparents and in-laws, who were present on both the occasions, were duly impressed.

Shyama Prasanna Bose (Sejo) was in school with S.. at Don Bosco, Park Circus (Cal). He was the rolly-polly, fun-loving son of an eminent labour lawyer of Calcutta - a scion of a typical "Bonedi" ('Bunyadi') family Padma-pukur, Bhowanipore. In class, he was notorious for polishing off the tiffin of all his friends and laughed at the imagined plight of their mothers - who would be wondering why their sons were not putting on weight, despite their nutrition packed lunch boxes. When Shyama didn't clear his ISC (Plus 2) - his friends were sadder than him. He put on a 'Bindaas' appearance and said something to the effect of - he had to fail to prove that the credibility of the exam system, which otherwise had an almost 100% pass record. Thereafter, we lost track of him for many years until one discovered him travelling the country-side with a Rural Sales Propaganda company. He seemed to thoroughly enjoy his freedom and the care-free, unconventional life-style. Then again, last week - thanks to Batchmates.Com one found him again, now styled as 'Sejo Bose' - this time working as Director Sales & Marketing of an NGO in Patna - called, specialising of all things in Women's Reproductive Health. He wrote back: "This was like changing gears. Setarer tarta fine tune korte korte tarta ache kina bhuleyi ghechlum….. Ekhon Shyama theke Shejo hoye gechi!!" Who says that Blogging doesn't have its use ?

Sunday, August 05, 2001

Diary of a Trivia Hunter

A web horoscope (strangely called, 'Swoon') which 'S…' subscribes to, has warned him not to get carried away with "trivial pursuits". Not being a member of any high-powered committee of FNCCI or NICCI (the favourite monsoon pastime of the Kats business gentry and corporate elite) he didn't understand the difference between trivial and trivia. Confused, as always, he turned to the wife for enlightenment. With a frown as deep as the gorges of Mustang, that cuts furrows on her supple forehead each time she engages in some heavy-duty thinking, N.. jabbed the buttons of the TV remote in her hand. Shuffling channels from HBO to Cinemax to AXN like a pack of tarots - she seemed to search for the divine intervention. Finally fixing her gaze on a studded navel of a lithely swaying mid-riff (that are 'made-to-order' only for MTV) - she delivered her verdict in a sombre under-tone: What else ? - but your disgusting dissertations on the Blog.

With politics and sex being taboo on a family-site (except for those occasional lateral innuendoes) and the more private passions or personal phobias not being the stuff for public portals either, there are very few subjects left for the Blog to discourse upon. And, ever since he has imposed the self-censorship on party gossip, he is at a loss for material, which is beginning to threaten the very existence of the 'Spot' itself. For, what is life in Kats without those parties? We spend most of our evenings either 'waiting' to welcome new friends or bidding adieu to old ones. But, the threat is in more ways than one - for a few hosts are genuinely peeved at not getting a mention of their dos in the Blog - making us feel that we didn't quite earn our dinners. No wonder the consumption of antacids has gone up in the Ghose household. But, if any of you are prematurely rejoicing at the impending demise of this page - please hold your breath. So, from gloating visages to bloating bellies - here we go.

Last night, at the Wanchoos, he was heard holding forth on the virtues of a mildly bulging avoirdupois in middle-aged males. Apparently it improves their marketability. A bulbous middle, apart from sending re-assuring signals of prosperity, also indicates a lack of self-consciousness and ability to give-in unabashedly to the pleasures of the senses, which prospective females find absolutely irresistible. Men with trim figures and tucked in bellies usually suffer from an obnoxious obsession about their own desirability, which is as insufferable as the synthetic fragility of the 'come-hither but touch-me-not' hour-glass bimbettes.

All in all it's been a busy week. The FNCCI elections over - the celebrations have started to roll. We are missing the big 'sarkari' bash at the Soaltee on Monday - but are looking forward to the "Cheroot' company's felicitation of 'Humro' Ravi (the other one) and not to mention that of the Insurance (among many other things) tycoon. And, the arrival of the high-level Indian government delegation last week has only added to the merry atmosphere. The newspapers have also shifted focus, from the monotonous accounts of rising insurgency or the 'already-lost-interst' stories of in-fighting within the ruling party (in less than 2 weeks of its selection of a new leader), to the country's best loved sport after Football and Teakwondo - bashing the 'high-handedness' of the southerly neighbour. Notwithstanding what our saffron-chaddi clad, thirsty-pie from Bishalnagar / Lainchaur may have to say - a lot of water will flow above (or through) the Raisuwal or Rassiyal (?) barrage before we meet at the next cocktails . We only hope yesterday's effigy burning does not take yet another Roshanic hue.

The syndrome of successors taking their own time to come is - perhaps - also symptomatic of the poor tourist turn-out. The hotels and restaurants continue to run empty. Though, last month one saw - a slight pick-up in the arrivals of western tour groups - the 'desis' are nowhere to be seen. Places like Pokhara - a haven of Indian tourists wear a forlorn desrerted look. One only hopes that, the situation will improve before Dassain. But, if the Home Minister's prognosis at the HMA's 2 days ago is anything to go by - then we are in for tough times ahead. With industry already in a bad shape, if tourism too comes a cropper, then what'll be left of the economy - barring Lord P's blessings ?

'S..' is suffering from a little touch of jealousy at discovering N's hitherto untapped media-savvy instincts. Her unique choice of swim-wear has attracted the maximum number of comments from vistors of the Ghosespot. To chill-out, he is taking off again for magical 'Mumbs' tomorrow (sadly, no chance of a dinner at Trishna on this trip). But, this time around he's made sure to leave only on a Sunday - just to keep the wagging tongues at bay.