Thursday, January 21, 2010

Back to the grind...

Just got back to Northern Virginia on Monday evening from a wonderful vacation back home in India, more specifically, in the beautiful state of Assam in India...this time around we also managed to squeeze in a short trip to the awe invoking Golden City of Jaisalmer, in Rajasthan...more about that in a bit...

The India trip didn’t start off on a very good note for me...I missed my connecting flight from Brussels to Delhi and subsequently from Delhi to Guwahati , resulting in a 24 hour delay in reaching home...did finally manage to reach Guwahati in one piece…D had flown in a day earlier and so he got to spend an extra day in Guwahati...grrrr...:-)

As I chit chatted with my parents in the car on my way home from the airport, at the first red traffic light we stopped, D pointed out one of the rolling advertisement hoardings by the side of the traffic crossing . An image of Lord Ganesha flashed on the screen and the following text rolled by:

‘Lord Ganesha says, “Save your head…not everyone is fortunate like me to get a replacement...wear a helmet, when on a two wheeler”...’

As D read out the rolling text on the hoarding aloud, both of us smiled and D said to me, “Welcome to India, babe!!”...In a weird kind of way, those rolling words on the hoarding by the side of the road, reflected the essence of the people and the current state of the country of my birth...it was a simple, intelligent, witty attempt to bring order into the chaos, that was and still defines a major part of India, by gently and subtly nudging the inherent spiritual sentiments and superstitious instinct of the common Indian man...as is always the case in such situations, apparently there had been a lot of objections initially to putting up such a message, considering it a denigration of Lord Ganesha...whatever...but I, for one, am sure Lord Ganesha would have absolutely no objection to having his image and name used to protect and save lives :-)

Anyways that’s that and I’ll come back to it later...

So what was the India trip like...short, hectic, fun-filled and beautiful...catching up with family, friends, loved ones, festivities ,getting royally pampered, fun, food, frolic, shopping, travel...great times essentially...

My dear mother and mom-in-law made sure they prepared all of D and my favorite dishes...Ma fed me with loads of ’Tenga jhool’(an assamese fish delicacy), ’Til pitha’ (an assamese sweet), ’Dahi wada’, ’Chocolate cake’, ’Narikolor barfi’ (Coconut sweet), ‘Bora saolor bake’(Another assamese delicacy with a specific kind of rice and jaggary that only my mom can make !!), ‘Prawn curry’, ’Dhania Aloo’ ,’Masor Jola’(Another fish dish)...Ahhh...she had got a special ‘razai’ (quilt) made for me because I love quilts and sleeping curled up in one, in the misty Guwahati winter, is my absolute favorite pass time :-)...we lazed around in the terrace garden at home, chit chatting and basking in the warmth and glory of the early afternoon sunshine...we drove around all our old favorite joints in the city and checked out all the new hot spots with friends and family...visited D’s high school...met up with a couple of our junior college professors...after a long, long time the whole family spent New Year’s eve together, partying in Guwahati...had ‘Uruka bhoj’ (a special dinner around a bonfire on the eve of the Assamese harvest festival of Bihu) at my aunt’s, and a grand Bihu lunch at Aita’s ( my grandmom)...watched ‘3 Idiots’ in a packed cinema hall with 12 other family members...caught up with some old school friends, most of whom I was meeting after more than a decade...thanks to a dear friend ,'P', for getting everyone together...had a lovely time...some are now married...others are not...some of them have kids...others don’t...some of them have changed...others haven’t...but everyone’s grown up to become such beautiful, amazing ladies in their own right...it was absolutely lovely meeting everyone after such a long, long time...then of course D and I hogged on street food...paani poories, bhel poories, allo tikkis, tandoori chicken, indo chinese food, momos, kebabs...you name it and we’ve had it, I am sure...

(By now you would have guessed that food constitutes a major part of all our travel plans and hence my blog posts...thank god both D and I are foodies:-) )

But one of the biggest highlights of the trip was a surprise visit to Guwahati by my dear brother, Ashish...Since D and my India trip was kind of a last minute plan(like it generally is for all our travel), Ash and I hadn’t been able to make our vacation days from work coincide...having had only recently got back from Guwahati to Bangalore after a 10 day break in early December, Ash had kept giving all of us the impression that he wouldn’t be able to make it to Guwahati while D and I were visiting...though I was upset, I had got reconciled to that fact...but on the afternoon of the 1st of January, while my parents and I were taking an afternoon nap, I felt a few gentle taps on my head...once, twice, thrice...and then as I opened my eyes and turned around to find the source of the irritant...lo and behold...there he was...yes my bratty, rock star brother :-)...he had flown into Guwahati to spend the weekend with us...and had absolutely made my day!!

Then there were of course these other teeny, weeny moments and gestures of warmth and affection that absolutely touched my heart and that I’ll cherish forever...like our 85 year old grand moms (both D and mine) entering the cold kitchen and with shaky hands trying to help cook some of our favorite childhood dishes...an aunt who put in all the effort to hand knit a cap for me , not knowing what else to gift me...'M', a lady who has been with our family helping with household chores ever since my brother’s birth, deciding to forgo a scheduled trip to visit her family in the village during the two day Bihu holiday, and instead deciding to spend that time at home with our family, cooking, chit chatting and taking care of me because she felt she hadn’t been able to pamper me enough, owing to a full time job at a cottage industry ma had just gotten her into...yes, life’s little moments that tug your heart and leave indelible impressions!

Then of course, D and I squeezed in a three day trip to Jaisalmer, a small town on the westernmost part of the state of Rajasthan on the border with Pakistan...we travelled to Jaisalmer via train from Old Delhi station...and returned to Delhi on one of those teeny, weeny turboprop flights from Jodhpur...that, in itself, as you can imagine, was an experience:-)...Jaisalmer is famous for the Golden Fort , that proudly stands amidst the golden stretches of the great Thar Desert and is the only residential fort in the world...We had made arrangements to stay at a haveli in the fort that had been converted to a boutique hotel...beautiful,royal architecture and interiors, a terrace restaurant, awe inspiring views of Jaisalmer city, delicious Rajasthani thalis (constituting yummy dal baati, churma, gatte ki sabzi, kair sangria, sukhi pooris among other Rajasthani delicacies) and extremely hospitable staff were the highlights of this small boutique hotel with a rather non Rajasthani name “Vitoria” ;-)…We went out on a camel safari to the Khuri sand dunes of the Thar Desert and reveled in the marvelty of enriching Rajasthani folk dance and music in one of the desert camps, around a bon fire, under the star filled skies over the Thar…Some of D and my closest friends are from Rajasthan...hence we have been at the receiving end of some overwhelming Rajasthani hospitality many a time before and I am glad this trip was no exception ;-)

Spent a couple of days in Delhi as well...some of the the changes in Delhi and it’s suburbs were revelations in themselves...six lane roads, posh malls and restaurants, high rise techno savvy offices, chic residential complexes, fancy cars, rich kids swerving their 'Mercs' and 'Bimmers' to a halt in shady nooks outside Priya cinema hall (apparently in the lookout for pimps and dope, I was told)...this ,juxtaposed against the ‘thela walas’, ‘rickshaw walas’, ‘cycle walas’ ,’auto walas’,'taxi walas' trying to make a living, working 18 hours a day and 7 days a week... a family of four on a two wheeler trying to squeeze in a mall shopping experience on one of the foggiest and coldest of Delhi nights...yes, I mention this at the cost of sounding like a ‘phirang’ tourist...It’s just that Guwahati is a much smaller city compared to Delhi, has a more laid back life and is not a commercial hub or melting pot like Delhi is and hence, I guess, the economic changes and progress India has made in the last few years, though evident in Guwahati as well, they haven't really led to as wide socio economic gaps in my hometown as in the capital of India...but that's that...plus, of course there's the matter of where I observed issues from...I guess after spending a few years outside India and given the rate of economic changes in the country in the past few years, any form of socio economic gap just seems starker, darker and just a whole lot more unfair...

So what did we do in Delhi...yes, got our visas stamped at the American consulate, right next to the Canadian consulate outside which all that was visible was a sea of people and their colorful turbans:-)...shopping in Janpath (finally got a hookah ;-)...so everyone’s welcome to the next hookah party at our place...he he ) and Delhi Haat...checked out a couple of live music hangouts in Connaught Place and Gurgaon...they absolutely rocked...checked out some restaurants /lounges recommeded by Delhiite friends...“ Bukhaara”, “Punjabi by Nature” and ”Smoke House grill” to name a few...and yes, needless to say, hogged on Delhi street food, which was just as delicious, if not more:-)...

All in all, it was a whirlwind India trip that was a whole lot of fun...it always is when you visit India for just a few weeks...but then when I think about it more , putting aside the surreal nature of a short vacation and of getting into the habit of splurging in rupees while earning in dollars, I am not sure yet what it would be like to get into the regular Indian bandwagon of working and living there...will know for sure when we move back some day...but as of now, day-to-day life for the common man, in general, seems tough...definitely tougher than what is for us here...having said that though, a lot of the people I met and spoke to seem completely content and happy with the lives they are leading...and therefore my perspective is perhaps skewed by my personal definition of a ‘tough day-to-day life’...hence I’ll just refrain from commenting on this further...let’s just say this, after three weeks of vacation, while I was engulfed with sadness and choked in tears , at the thought of yet again leaving behind loved ones and my childhood home in Assam, subconsciously perhaps I was ready to be back to the grind...to office work, cooking, cleaning, driving, doing the grocery, fighting with D about household chores, paying the mortgage :-) and generally getting back to real life...yes, before it was too late...before getting spoilt beyond redemption in India and being forced to unequivocably judge where life is better :-)

So yes I am back to the grind...I just got back from 'home' to 'home', if that makes any sense at all...from Assam to Northern Virginia...paradoxical yet true...have at least one other blogger friend who seems to feel the same ;-)

On our way to the airport to catch my return flight to the US, ma sighted an elephant bang in the middle of the streets of Guwahati, and she told me that it’s her belief that sighting an elephant(a personification of Lord Ganesha) anywhere outside the animal’s natural abode is a sign of good luck...and though logic defied it, I involuntarily joined my hands in a namaskar and bowed my head down in respect of Lord Ganesha as I looked back at the elephant and prayed for love, luck, health and happiness for all my dear ones, in the year to come...yes you guessed right, it is my 'inherent Indian spiritual sentiment and superstitious instinct', that I mentioned earlier in the post, that makes me defy logic , time and again, many a time...

Am sure in all of this, my confusion is apparent...it's meant to be :-) !!

Happy New Year folks!! Will share some pics of the trip soon...

18 comments:

SBora said...

welcome back..am glad u had a fun trip. hope to catch up with youll soon...and yes, i want to come to a hookah party!

Neetu said...

Very nice post.. Glad you had so much fun in India.. we missed you and looking forward to more Hookah parties!!! yeh!!

Priyanka Rajkhowa said...

@Rimjhim ba : Thanks so much...it's good to be back...yes will catch up soon...will have to plan the promised indo chinese dinner and hookah party sometime soon :-)

@Neetu: Thanks so much girl! Yes...more hookah parties for sure;-)

Ravi said...

Loved reading this :)

Silvia Martin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Priyanka Rajkhowa said...

@R2 : Thanks yaar...

@Silvia: Thanks for dropping by...I was actually vacationing in India and am now back to Northern Virginia :-)

NetworkedBlogs said...

Xuan Huynh:

I know what you mean. The grind!

Yesterday at 2:58pm
===================================
Neelapriya Loganathan:

very well written priyanka...loved the article!

Yesterday at 4:07pm
===================================
Payal Kochar:

Another great article Priyanka! Loved the 'home to home' line.

Yesterday at 4:16pm
===================================
Tripta Singh:

Welcome back girl...how was the trip???

Yesterday at 4:41pm
===================================
Arun Gambhir:

welcome back..join us for a dinner sometime this weekend

Yesterday at 5:02pm
===================================
Mukti Soni Gambhir:

Loved every part of your blog.. You are true write not sure still why you don't work for a magazine or newspapaper company.. I loved all your prespecitves and yes Rajasthan is sure a beautiful state..Next time go to Jaipur you will love it,,,

Yesterday at 5:24pm:
===================================
Kumud Juneja Trikha:

very well said!! welcome back!

Yesterday at 5:42pm
===================================

Priyanka Rajkhowa:

Thanks so much folks...

===================================

Anonymous said...

Great Writing, girl...Welcome back !

Neha...

GNSD said...

Welcome back... was definitely missing your posts.. THe trip seems yumm.. mnostalgic and extremely relaxing..t hough sound like you guys could squeeze in a bit of everything!
Hookaaaah....whenever we do visit next.. start the round for us!
Its funny... when we are here.. we talk about Back home.. and when we return.. we feel like we are home.. even if for a bit! This confusion is bound to stay with ut!

Priya said...

Great writeup!!u rock babez ! And the ganesha ad is hilarious.10 years from now, when you read this again ,am sure it will bring a smile to your face and you will be glad, having penned down the details of the trip.Keep the posts coming!

Priyanka Rajkhowa said...

@Neha: Thanks so much

@Garima: Thanks yaar...any near time plans of visiting DC? Do let us know...It definitely is confusing...extremely difficult to resolve the eternal debate of life here Vs life there...interesting nevertheless :-)

@Priya: Thanks girl...yep am really glad I managed to pen done some minute details of the trip that could have easily got lost over the years!

Chandrika Shubham said...

Enjoyed reading about ur trip to India. :)
Ur style of writing is quite interesting! :)

Priyanka Rajkhowa said...

@Chandrika: Thanks so much for dropping by my blog, reading and leaving a note...am glad you liked the post... there are always so many things to write about an India trip...am glad that I managed to pen down a few things from our recent one...thanks again...

Naina Sethi said...

Absolutely love your blog ! You have great talent!
I write for a fashion blog and think that you should follow me- enrapturenow.blogspot.com

Priyanka Rajkhowa said...

@Naina : Thanks so much for dropping by and reading...am glad you liked the blog ...I just read a couple of posts in your blog...very interesting indeed...you seem to have a very keen eye for subtle fashion details and provide a fresh perspective of the fashion world
:-)...will have to dig into your archives in the next few weeks...till then keep blogging...

namit said...

hey Priyanka nice blogs..bit long but quite expresive...enjoyed readin em...

Priyanka Rajkhowa said...

Thanks for dropping by and reading Namit !

NetworkedBlogsViaFacebook said...

Shamala Chandran, Nipika Borah, Kumud Juneja Trikha and Arun Gambhir like this