Thursday, 15 December 2016

Munjoul Indigo Concern: a piece of colonial and industrial revolution history in a Bihari village I

This post has been in the making for a long time.

There is one place is my village that has fascinated me for long time. You cross the river and within 5 min there are some old buildings on the left, right in front of the village college. Grayish orange walls, bricks falling off and weeds taking over. The buildings are spread across an area the size of 2-3 football fields. Sometimes you see cows grazing there and sometimes goats. 

Monday, 29 August 2016

that wonderful sorcery

Have you seen nature?


Neither have I.

Its all around us but its impossible to see. We just can't see it. We can see parts of it.

Part, part here and a part, part there.

And all these parts are so fascinating, exciting, interesting. Pure sorcery.

Why sorcery? Because we can understand them, but never completely. They all come together and we know how, but never fully. The pieces of puzzle fit and we know how, but never smoothly.

Exhibit 1

The amazing light show created by a combination of lake, trees, sun and wind. The colours, green, yellow, brown, grey, blue. They all align in such a way that you could stare for hours. I personally would like to strap myself to one of the tree branches and have the amazing light show

A perfect place to spend an evening reading a book or just catching on some sleep.

Louis says it much better than I ever would.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

with a little help

I wasn't sure if I would be able to find my way to the centre. I was new in the city (and the country). I didn't speak or understand Polish. I did not have any cash. A well planned trip all in all.

I came out of the house and somehow managed to find the bus stop. But there were two bus stop, one on either side of the road. I had no idea which one would take me towards the city and which away. I sure did't want to go further away from the city.

A grandma (babunia) was waiting on a bench with her grandson.

A women was passing by. She had a child in a pram. I asked her (in English) if she knew English. She said, a little. I asked her if the bus to the centre left from there. She said this was the stop and went on to check the bus number for me. I told her, I knew the number (Google God) but wasn't sure about the direction. She confirmed that I was headed in the right direction.
Wonderful! Level 1 cleared!

5 minutes later a long two part bus with one of those flexible connector things arrived. Number 127. Middle doors opened and many people entered. Babunia followed them. I went up to the driver's door. What an unusual thing to do? The driver didn't know how to react. This had never happened before. After few seconds, he opened the doors. I asked him for a ticket. He didn't speak or understand English. I didn't speak or understand Polish. What an unusual situation to be in?

But I think ticket is a more or less universal word. You enter a bus clueless and say tickets 5-6 times with a question mark on your face. People know what you want. You enter a bus looking clueless, make vague square gestures with your hands. You think they look like a ticket or some sort of a slip. People generally understand.

The driver said something in Polish and made a gesture towards the back of the bus. I walked to the back of the bus. A young woman and another fellow traveller pointed towards a machine attached to one of the hand rails. There it was, the ticket machine.

Everything was in Polish, of course. I was thinking of asking the young woman for help. Suddenly I saw a little British flag in one corner of the screen. Thank god for those general knowledge lessons. I touched the flag and everything turned to English. God bless the Poles! Level 2 cleared!

I choose a day ticket, touched my bank card to the machine and just like magic, a ticket came out, 2 minutes later. Level 3 cleared!

I looked around for a seat to settle down for the journey. Thats when the babunia looked at me, said something in Polish and pointed to another machine opposite to the first one. I guessed I was supposed to validate my ticket. I put the ticket in a little slot in the machine. It made a creaking noise. The ticket was punched and I was set for the journey. Thanks babunia! Level 4 cleared!

Several stops and some co-passengers later I was in Plac Jana Pawła II. I could see the city centre in front of me. Minutes later I was sitting under a tree in the centre with some really cool Polish music played by some buskers. I found out what ticket was in Polish - Bilety.

Billet machine on the left (grey) and validation machine on the right (yellow) on another bus

For the next few days I kept travelling to Plac Jana Pawła II. It was a massive plaza. I kept wondering who this woman Jana Pawła was. She must be some queen or something to have a plaza named after her. How wonderful? I asked my friends. It was Pope John Paul II. We all had a good laugh!


Its amazing how we can communicate with each other. We speak but we don't understand. But we want to help each other. We find ways. We don't need to speak. People on bus 127 proved that. With a little help from random strangers and Google, I made my way across a strange city safely and successfully. On that note, its time to enjoy a song that is very close to me. The beautiful music of Joe.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Part of the froth, part of the painting

It was a lovely morning. Chilly but bright. The night had been cold but the crackling fire had kept him warm. The long trek and cold night had affected many members of the party. Back aches, leg pains and head aches were all around.

But the morning made everything better. The clear sky, thick green forest around them and the river water frothing when it hit the rocks. They created a perfect picture worthy of a water colour painting. Such are the Himalayas. Only if he could paint.

A thin fog hung over the river creating a tunnel through which you could cross to another universe. It called him. Their camp was on the river bank, deep in the forest. Last evening he had walked up to the river. It was very shallow. He was tall. Could he walk across it? This should not be difficult. But he had never crossed a river. But there's always a first time.

Everyone was busy having breakfast, gathering cloths, making a trip to the toilets. This was a good opportunity to attempt the crossing. No one was looking. Attention makes him conscious. Performance anxieties.

He pocketed his camera and phone and approached the river. The water was really shallow. He kept walking. The bed was flat, full of pebbles. He had to be careful, walk in small steps, try not to slip.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

There and back again: Visiting Auschwitz

Taking the road less travelled 

I visited Poland recently and took a trip to Auschwitz, the famous Nazi concentration camp. I though I share details on getting there and getting in with those interested.

While in Poland I was staying with some friends in Wroclaw, the largest city in west Poland and fifth largest in all of Poland. Most people who visit Auschwitz go from Krakow. Its only about 65Km from Krakow and buses go up to the Museum. It take only about an hour. There are also train services from Krakow to Oświęcim. Auschwitz camp is located on the outskirts of Oświęcim (Auschwitz is actually the German name of Oświęcim). There are also several organised tours which run mostly from Krakow and some from Wroclaw. Here's a useful link for more information: 

I was travelling from Wroclaw and didn't want to take one of those expensive (90-100 euros) bus tours. The tourist centre in Wroclaw suggested I take a train to Krakow and then a bus to Auschwitz. That would have been a long and tiring journey. Thank god I have friends smarter than the tourist centre. They suggested I take a morning bus from Wroclaw to Katowice (a city in between), followed by a local train to Oświęcim. This meant getting up at 4am, taking the bus at 5am and reaching Auschwitz around 10am. That's what I did. All in all the travel cost me 48zl (12 euros).

Reaching the bus station before 5am was easy. Trams in Wroclaw start running very early and go up to the bus station. I was a bit confused at the bus station because the bus arrived at a different terminal than advertised. The crowd of people in front of the bus and the board saying Budapest didn't help. No queue. Felt like home.

5am Polski bus from Wroclaw to Katowice. Clearly, like Indians, Polish also don't have any thing called a queue.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

In the heart of the death star: Visiting Auschwitz

Some time ago, I visited Auschwitz, one of the most famous memories and memorials of World War II. About 1.1 million people died here.

I went through an emotional whirlwind and came back mentally exhausted and heartbroken. I was guided through various barracks in which inmates were kept in overcrowded conditions with minimal facilities for sanitation hygiene. I saw various exhibits of piles of bags in which people brought their belongings to the camp, thousands of shoes, purses, pieces of utensils and corridors full of photos of men and women who died at Auschwitz. A quarter of one of the rooms was filled with blond hair taken from people who died in gas chambers.

As I walked through these rooms hearing stories of atrocities and inhuman behaviour, I was slowly getting overwhelmed. The tipping point came when I entered a room dedicated to children. One one side behind the glass was a heap of toys and the room was filled with photos and stories of children who died or had medical experiments conducted on them at the camp. This is when my eyes filled with water and a single drop rolled out. I am not trying to be poetic here. Most people who visit Auschwitz do get overwhelmed by the experience. At the end of the our guide said, "I hope now you will tell others about Auschwitz and help them understand what happened here better" (paraphrased). I thought I would take a shot at it.

As I write this post I am also reading a book I bought there. Its 'This way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen'. Its written by a Polish literary genius, Tadeusz Borowski who spent 2 years in the concentration camps from 1943 to 1945. He was not a Jew and survived the concentration camp. He killed himself at the age of 28, ironically by breathing gas from a gas stove. I will quote paragraphs from his book at places to illustrate what happened in Auschwitz.

Civilisation is a farce
Human to inhuman is a thin line
Auschwitz was the biggest concentration and extermination camp run by Nazis during World War II. Auschwitz I used to be a Polish army camp before that. The concentration camp stated in 1940 and exterminations in 1941, initially for Polish prisoners. From 1942 onwards the camp became a site where Jews from across Europe were brought to put into forced labour and extermination.

Auschwitz I 

When the camp was first set up by the Nazis local residents were forced to move out of the area and bricks from homes were used to build camp buildings. By the end of 1941, the camp was overwhelmed with prisoners and construction was started on Auschwitz II.

Work brings freedom

Monday, 18 January 2016

हम लोग लिफाफी हें

हम लोग लिफाफी हें। 

गांव घर में कोई काज, मने ओकेजन जैसे कि श्राद्ध या शादी-ब्याह हुआ तो ऐटेंड करने वाले रिलेटिव लोग के लिए अलग अलग नियम होता है।

कल इ-रिकशा पे हर हर महादेव चैक से धर आ रहे थे तो बगल में बैठे हुए महतो जी से गप होने लगा। पब्लिक ट्रांसपोर्ट पे अगल बगल के लोग से गप सराका आम बात है बिहार में। कौन कहाँ जा रहा है, क्या कर रहा है पब्लिक नॉलेज होना चाहिए पब्लिक ट्रांसपोर्ट पर।

खैर, महतो जी 2 बच्चा, 1 बोरा, 1 झोला और 1 डेकची साथ में ले जा रहे थे। पता चला कि बुतरू लोग के नानी का देहांत हो गया या आ सब लोग ऊसके काज के लिए जा रहे थे। 
महतो जी कहे लिफाफी बने से काम नै चलतो। 

महतो जी के हिसाब से नियम है:

मृत्यु: 2 किलो चावल, 2 किलो दाल, 2 किलो अल्लू आ 5 किलो दही। यही सब बोरा, झोला आ डेकची में ले के चले थे महतो जी ससुराल।

लड़की का शादी: कपड़ा लत्ता आ पैसा।

लड़का का शादी: हाथ डोलाते डोलाते चले जाइए आ कुछ कपड़ा लत्ता लैये के आइए।

आ हम लोग जो सहरी हो गए हैं न सो सब चीज में ऐगो लिफाफा में पैसा लेके पहुंच जाते हैं। नो थाट, नो इफोर्ट।

हम लोग लिफाफी हैं।

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Oxymoron का मतलब

अंग्रेजी में एक शब्द होता है Oxymoron। कुछ साल पहले तक इसका मतलब समझ नहीं आता था। पर जब सलमान भाई का बॉडीगार्ड सिनेमा देखे तब समझ आया।

Oxymoron का मतलब विरोधाभास होता है।


"मुझपर एक एहसान करना कि मुझपर कोई एहसान न करना"
सलमान खान (२०११), बॉडीगार्ड