Wednesday, August 07, 2013

A new address : The Other Bong

Just a quick update. Over the years I have realised I have outgrown this blog. I am found these days at The Other Bong focussing more on my current interests than a mundane rambling. Hope to see you there.

Once again the new address is The Other Bong.

This blog will be taken offline shortly!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


She has been wearing black for long!
The seasons have changed,
The hairs have grayed,
Dances denied,
Rules not defied,
Desires thwarted,
A trot, a hop, a skip,
Bring the colours out,
She has been wearing black too long!!

She wore colours once,
Ribbons and flowers adorned her,
Laughter ruled,
Carefree was existence,
Strong arms to break the fall,
Soft shoulders to rest on,
A tender touch to allay fears,
She was a daughter once,
She wore colours once!!

She graced the floor long ago,
With elegance she waltzed,
Hearts set racing,
Songs sung to serenade,
A shy smile,
A sly glance,
Holding hands, promises made,
Dazzling white and Vows exchanged,
She graced the floor long ago!!

Monday, January 31, 2011

In the alleys of London

"You can't photograph if you're not in love."

W. Eugene Smith

Apparently Eugene Smith told that to a student of his once. General notions aside, I kinda agree with the statement. One has to be in "Love with the Subject" when taking photos. The simple reason is, if you do not appreciate what you see, how will you translate your vision into a photo. A photo is not just an assimilation of aperture and shutter control, muddled with an understanding of balance, composition and other sundry stuff. Its about being soaked into the moment, into what you see, that which you wish to capture with that device in your hand. Just like you always like the object of your affection to be looking good, similarly with photos you want everything to be perfect. If that means waiting hours for the perfect moment, so be it. If that means going to odd lengths, hanging off a ledge and braving the cold, then that is the price one has to pay. It has to be an emotional investment.

I have had a similar love affair with the alleys of the City of London otherwise known as the Square Mile or simply the City. Soaked in history at every nook and cranny, a walk through these alleys will always lead you to a corner hitherto unknown to you. And sometimes even if you've been there before, you want to be there time and again. Its a photographer's paradise, a history buff's holy land (exaggerating, but please humour me over here). It was on such a walk on Saturday, along with a friend of mine I set about walking some of the alleys of London. During the course of the walk we came across the London Stone on 111 Cannon Street. Not much remains of this stone today. In fact, if you don't know where to look for it you may even miss it. Embedded in a cavity in the southside of St. Swithin's Church about 300 years ago (the church no longer stands), the folklore surrounding the stone makes some refer to it as Brutus' Stone (of Brutus of Troy, after whom Britain is named. Not to be confused with Marcus Brutus).

The Old Wine Shades
Old Wine and Shades

About 5 minutes away when walking towards Monument, a quick right leads one to Martin Lane, where at 6 Union House one would come across Old Wine and Shade, arguably one of the oldest (there are establishments older than that) pubs in the City. Turn left and across the road which leads to London bridge and one would be standing in front of Monument, a memorial for the 1666 Great Fire of London. Interesting bit about most pubs in the City are they date from around 1667/1668, owing to the fact that most of them were burned down during the Great Fire. Walking north along Gracechurch street, we went through Leadenhall Market, took a peek at Lloyds of London, through St. Peter's Alley onto Cornhill before going turning left into St. Michael's Alley.

Jamaica Wine House
Jamaica Wine House
It is in St. Michael's Alley, that one will come across Jamaica Wine House, which started out as London's oldest coffee houseback in 1652. Being a Saturday it wore a desolate look as does most of the financial district of London. Carrying on along Lombard street we reached Bank, carried on past Bank of England and Royal Exchange towards Guildhall and finally London Wall, before taking a break from the chill in a coffee shop near St Paul's.

A couple of hours break, accompanied by some coffee and conversations and we were off towards Chancery Lane to check two of the other old boys of pub lore, Ye Old Mitre Tavern (1542) and Cittie of York (1430) before heading on towards more busy parts of the city to wrap up the evening.

It is because of this love affair that I have been able to learn the little that I have learnt when looking through the viewfinder. It's a charming journey which only get hindered by the regular vagaries of life. But only for a while.


P.S. The shots included in this post may not seem high quality. Kindly follow the links on the right strip to the Flickr page.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

On a cold day I'm reminded of...

... a warm duvet
... a mug of hot chocolate
... Home Alone (the movie)
... Serendipity (the movie)
... snuggling in with a book
... Hot toast with melting butter and an omellete
... Poha/Upma at Buddha's Paradise (a cafe in Koregaon Park, Pune, Maharashtra)
... Buttered toast and Anda Bhurji at Vohuman's Cafe (a cafe near Pune Station, Maharashtra)
... a hot bowl of Maggi
... Luchi-aloo'r dom (A standard Bengali breakfast delicacy)
... a big English breakfast
... Aloo paratha (Indian fried flat bread stuffed with mashed potato - spicy or otherwise) at Shashi's (a small eatery in Majitar, Sikkim)
... roaming about dressed like Feluda (a detective created by Satyajit Ray) in a Kurta-pyjama with a shawl draped over and the sleeves rolled up
... watching a Ray classic
It's uncharacteristically cold today in London, not the sort which would chill you the bones but the sort which would make you vote for a lie-in than a walk to work. Sadly, that is an option not many can exercise. So here I am reminiscing the days the when I could enjoy a leisurely cold day.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Its been 2 years...

After 2 years in a cold, wet country (for the better part of the year), I was sceptical of myself in dealing with the Calcutta heat and humidity as the plane cruised above the Deccan plateau. A few more hours and it would be an end to an excruciatingly long journey not so much in terms of the flight hours but it was the wait for a connecting flight that made me age and tire at a rate I thought could never exist. But that’s different. I was humming “Country Roads” almost all the way from London to Calcutta. Yes, I was excited. But I was also worried about the heat. I was never a fan of heat and humidity, which I why I loved my years in Pune and Sikkim. The weather accompanied with great company compensated for anything that I might have missed out on for not living in a Calcutta or Mumbai. The weather in London was simply perfect for my taste.
At Calcutta airport, after having gone through customs I stepped out and for a moment felt I had stepped into a sauna. Out came the hand towel, and for a moment I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the crowd. I remembered noisy, but my ears had forgotten how noisy. The drive back from the airport was nice and quick. At which point I realized not much had noticeably changed in birthtown. Calcutta greeted me with mild weather and rains for the next couple of days. And then it showed its true colours and the temperature went straight to the 30s and I was left gasping for breath. But there were things to be done, friends & relatives to meet. I soldiered on through it all with a trusted hand towel. Reminded me of the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy”. Hehe…

A couple of days and then the ‘lazy’ city transformed into a throbbing and pulsating living thing which would dance, sing and pray for Goddess Durga. Unbelievable but true. The average man in the city turns into a bundle of energy as they traverse the length and breadth of the city to have a look at as many as possible of the 3000+ idols in place across the city. There of course are a few major ones, which will always find a place on the ardent pandal-hopper’s list. And then there were folks like me, who knew the city when it was Calcutta and not ‘Kolkata’, of the times when pandals were crowded but not so much that it would sap the energy out of you, of times when even weather seemed to cool down to allow the revelers respite from the heat and even treat them with a cool breeze. Such folks, laze about at home, visit a few handful of the nearby pandals and generally go about their pandal hopping on the telly. And of course a personal deterrent was the weather.

Despite that, I went about a fair bit and did dig into what I saw. A little bit of the street food (which is honestly to die for), a little bit of the lighting, the glamour, the glitz, the unshakeable enthusiasm of people from all backgrounds. Before I knew it I was in the groove, I could go on and on. Till I returned home! It was on one such trip that I took a walk through a section on North Calcutta, while giving a visiting friend a short tour of the ancient bylanes of Baghbazar, Shyambazar, Shovabazar (including the palace) and Kumartuli. I had always wanted to do that, yet it took me all these years to finally manage it. Kumartuli in particular where the artisans give shape to the deities and are then transported across the world. Situated almost on the banks of river Ganges, the sculpture area is a narrow street. A walk through allows one to peek into the various stages of idol construction. 

Idols at Kumartuli

 Meanwhile, certain things did hit me straight in the eye, primary being the cost of living. It seems it has sky rocketed. Maybe it was always increasing at the same pace, but being part of the system I adapted as things progressed. A gap of 2 years certainly does have a jarring effect on the senses and sort of made me withdraw into a shell. I end up questioning the validity of the pricing strategies used. My mind questions, why certain products which used to be cheaper in India are no longer so, and the ones which are apparently cheaper are not worth the money. I’ve been told its all about the inflation. I do not understand that well enough. All that I know is I’m left wondering why should I be paying more for something which has not improved in the 2 years I have been away. Funny bit is I see more people spending in Calcutta. Is it the plastic money or is it for real? I don’t know, but I wonder. I was also left wondering as to why the authorities are keen on laying new tube line without taking care of the other infrastructures which need urgent repair. They said Bengal was improving. I agree. I see developments which are wonderful, but I also see things which required attention but didn’t get what it deserved. Some have been tended to but it resembles hogwash, some have been well taken care of. In a single stroke, Calcutta has progressed yet managed to stay where it was. It is so contradictory.