Honeymoon to hell

Another untold tale from the past.

For not many, Aizawl may sound a popular honeymoon destination. But those who haven’t been to this raw and quite North Eastern capital city, may not be the right judge.

I had many unusual travel experiences, but this one makes the top of the list for its sheer merit of occurring on my honeymoon. Though it was not enough to dampen the spirit of union ;o), however we still love to reflect back and have goose-bumps even 8 years and 2 kids later.

We flew into the notorious Lengpui airport on a direct flight from Kolkata. Already in a weather typically hazardous for the difficult airport terrain of Aizawl. While I kept my wife engaged with enthralling technicalities of how it was so easy to overshot the runway in such conditions. She clutched my arms harder than what the pilot must have done to the throttle.

And so after an anxious landing, we were finally relieved when the fasten your seatbelt sign was turned off. We made it unscathed. But only momentarily.

At the airport we were supposed to meet a Mr. Dutta, who was also the Airport Manager for Air India Ltd. and a family friend. We enquired about him with the local staff, but he was away at the grounds attending to the aircraft. We had his number but our phones were dead. Luck was simply so kind on us on that trip.

We enquired with an lady police guard for any public booth and she directed us to some room at the second level which had the only accessible telephone. Now what trouble could that possibly be? A room with a telephone, just walk in and dial – so simple. But not when the board outside reads – Office of the Superintendent of Police, Aizawl. So we decided to wait some more rather rousing the SP for making a phone call.

Nevertheless we met Mr. Dutta some forty minutes later. He was already been informed about our arrival and had already made arrangements for us to reach the city. The taxis charge anything upwards of 750 INR for a trip to the city, so it was Mr. Dutta’s genius idea of asking us to travel with the staff bus which would be leaving anyway in another hour’s time. For a couple on honeymoon, he must have assumed we were not in much hurry to reach the hotel anyway.

So we waited for another one hour watching as the staffs went through their daily routine of wrapping things up, so painfully slow. By 3 pm, the airport was shut for the general public. The last flight had already departed at 2, the airport will open again at 8 am next day for its daily operation window of 7 hours. Finally 30 minutes later, we all wrapped up and boarded the small mini van en-route to the city.

We were finally thrilled as the van hit the roads and we braced for some great hilly views. But fate had other plans. First we stopped at a nearby village market, where the rest of the staffs bought their daily supplies. Then after 45 minutes of further delay some bright guy realised he had forgotten stuff at the airport. And we had to turn back immediately.

Delays over delays, over delays, and then finally 3.5 hours since landing at Aizawl we finally got underway. Our honeymoon was finally underway as the van moved through the many twists and turns of the hilly road. The staffs, mostly locals started singing, chatting, and giggling. All those delays and sufferings started looking like so distant a memory.

But soon afterwards the van came to another halt. This time a bigger one as we could see lines of cars as far as the eyes permit. The roads were choc-a-blocked with vehicles heading towards the city. But no body was moving. I enquired to some of the locals who had went ahead to enquire into the matter.

There was a landslide ahead which had stalled all movements for a while. The army was working to get the roads cleared but it looked like another 2 hours before we can get moving. By then we had resigned to our fate. As soon as things looked bright, something or the other made it even worse. This time it was the landslide. And so we had no other choice but to wait quietly in the dark inside the van.

Soon the situation started getting even worse. Some of the staffs got bored of waiting and so started drinking in the van itself. My wife was getting really anxious and scared at that point. We started feeling insecure, stuck in a landslide and with a group of drinking strangers. Thank god for we had a line of army convoys just next to us which provided the much needed security. But thank god it didn’t came to anything worse. The blockade was cleared in another hour and we got moving again.

We reached Aizawl at around 7.30 in the evening. One of the staffs accompanied us to the taxi stand from where we were to take a ride to the hill resort at Berawtlang. Another 1-2 hrs journey which we hoped to cover with no further trouble. But it just wasn’t our lucky day.

We started in a Maruti 800, fingers crossed and hoping all our troubles were over. We were making good progress and hoped to reach our destination finally unscathed. The road was dark and there was no visibility outside the windows. The only part visible was where the headlights reached. Slowly we realised how easy it was to stop the car just anywhere and leave after looting us. My wife held on to me much tighter as we both prayed to reach our destination in one piece.

The car suddenly came to a stop, and the driver got down without any notice. Our hearts almost stopped. I could follow the driver as far as the lights went, and then he disappeared into the dark. It was one of the most anxious few minutes of our life until the driver returned, and alone thankfully. But he waved for me to get out. I had to gather a lot of courage to do so and amidst strong protest from my wife. But I had to get out to check what he was pointing out.

In some broken English and Hindi, the driver pointed out to a distance where there used to be a road but it was gone now due to another land slide. It was the very road which was supposed to lead us to our destination in Berawtlang. I was dumbstruck. Now what? I wanted to curse the person who suggested us to have a honeymoon in Mizoram. But first I wanted to get back to the safety of a settlement.

The driver explained that there was one more way which was through a forest and not safe in the night. And my wife was absolutely certain that it was one route we were not going to take under any circumstances. The only other option was to get back to Aizawl, and spend the night there so that we could get back to Berawtlang in broad day light. It had also started drizzling by then, so without wasting anymore we turned around and started our journey back to Aizawl.

We drove back along that dark road with no visibility. The rain added more elements of fear as we hung close to each other. Praying to our gods constantly as the rains continued and the road never ended. There was nothing we could see from outside the window, it was completely pitch dark. It took an hour in such perilous conditions for our car to come to another halt. I could see some huts but still no sign of any human largely due to the rain.

I asked the driver if we had reached Aizawl, but no it was Berawtlang. The driver took a risk on his own and drove through that jungle without our knowledge. My wife was mad at him. And he had no clue why we were so angry. We cleared his payments and checked in to our cottage amidst the heavy downpour. Thank god the rooms were warm and lavish. They served hot food in the cottage itself as we crashed afterwards absolutely mad from and exhausted from a terrible experience since the morning.

Thank god we did not came across any other unfortunate experience in that trip. The dawn next day woke us up to a completely different experience. The window of our cottage gave in to a picturesque view of a fog covered Berawtlang slowly showing itself with the onset of sunlight. A hot pot of tea was served. The slowly revealing beauty of the place along with the refreshingly hot tea made us forget the ordeal of our journey as we also remember it as one of our most fond trips ever.

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Trouble at the paradise

An untold tale from the old.

The protagonists? – Havelock, a beautiful island off the Andaman, the sea, the people struggle, and a few stranded tourists. (guest appearance by a cyclone too)

When? – May 2004

Havelock islands – a beautiful, serene stretch of land or a collection of beaches situated to the east of the Andaman. Famous for its quite and serene beauty, and lavish white sand beaches. Havelock had been a favourite among the tourists visiting the island chains of the Andaman for long.

One usually takes a ferry from the capital town of Port Blair to reach Havelock by sea. It takes 2 – 2.5 hours of sailing before you could spread your legs at the famous Radhanagar beach.

It was May 2004, and we were on our annual trip to this quite island paradise. We reached Havelock early in the morning, after 2 days of stay at the Port Blair. Our itinerary showed the rest of the day booked to make the most of the sea, sun, and sand at the Radhanagar beach before heading back to the capital next day.

There weren’t many options for accommodation on those days, and the Dolphin resorts was the only available refuge. We spent an eventful day at the beach, and a great evening from the comfort of our sea facing cottages. And as we hoped to wrap up yet another memorable trip after dinner, lightning struck.

The TV reported a cyclone scare at the Indian ocean, along with typhoon like circumstances forcing the cancellation of all sea bound ferries for the next day. We had to ditch any hope of returning to the capital and had to extend our stay be one more day. While it upset our itinerary, it was also a welcome surprise in the form of one more day at the island paradise.

So while I enjoyed one more day of the sea, the sun, and the sand, my dad ran from pillar to post making sure we get a passage aboard the first ferry next day. It was done. Thankfully for the cooperation of the local Bengali guide we had at the island – Manik da.

Manik da arranged for 3 tickets aboard the first motor vessel which was scheduled to leave with the government officials and teachers heading back to mainland for holidays. An extra day in the serenity of Havelock, reservation with the special ferry, what could possibly go wrong.

5 am, next day – we were already at the dock waiting to board our ferry back to the capital. The dock was also swarming with hundreds of locals even so early in the morning. Manik da informed us about the local agenda of laying a siege to all vessels scheduled to leave the island port.

Something to do with the ferry fares and daily availability had stirred up a protest from the locals who depended heavily on their connectivity with the mainland for survival. For months they had been quietly raising the issue with the shipping corporation, and the local administration but to no effect. Finally on the ill-fated day of our return, they had decided to hold all vessels hostage before their demands are heard of.

And so we were stuck, along with the many other stranded tourists, government officials, teachers, and doctors. We were confined to the decks of our ferry while the local ruled the roost. The 3 member police team looked helpless and largely at the mercy of the locals. 5 am, became 8, and 8 soon became 11. Yet there was no news of any relief or rescue.

In the meantime, MV Katchal, the scheduled daily ferry reached Havelock at 9. And it was immediately taken into hostage too. The locals were jubilant to have had 2 ferries in their control. A sure measure to make the shipping corporation lend them a ear. But yet for the most of the day, the director of shipping managed to evade any contact.

Manik da had been a great source of help amidst all this. Supplying us with fresh food, water, and latest news every now and then. While he supported the cause of the locals, he was equally embarrassed for us getting caught in between.

Someone said the protest was called off and the ships will be let off soon. Then someone said the other boat was planning to breakthrough its lines. But when nothing significant happened, we somehow resigned to our fate of being stuck without much hope. The director of shipping was still not contactable and as such no one could comment when likely the siege was to be lifted.

It was soon afternoon and myself and my father, along with few other co-hostages were casually lounging on the other side of the deck when someone pointed out at something towards the horizon. I looked hard, training my young eyes to spot a slowly moving object gradually entering the bay.

By this time, the news had reached the locals too as many rushed to the edge of the dock to salvage as much details as possible. It had to be a catamaran, but it was still good 1 hour away from us. And we waited impatiently. Often looking up at the direction of the incoming vessel, making sure it was still on its way towards the jetty. We all hoped to be rescued. The news was ripe that the director of shipping himself was aboard the slowly approaching catamaran.

by 5 pm, the new vessel reached close proximity to make enough details. It bored the flags and insignia of the Indian government. We were sure it was not another tourist boat coming to share the same fate. All feet were on the deck by then, watching anxiously as the vessel made progress at a painfully slow pace.

But as soon as the catamaran dropped anchor, to the much delight of the locals, the next 30 minutes seemed like a fast forward. We watched from the deck as a strong contingent of CRPF marched into the dock. The locals were immediately pushed back and our stranded vessels were secured. There were at least 2 CRPF jawan against each local as the tide slowly turned. We were supplied with food boxes and water bottles. But we were equally anxious to watch the proceedings at the dock.

Thankfully the authorities decided to resolve the situation with dialogue. The director of shipping headed to the circuit house along with other officials and the leaders of the local resistance. The stranded vessels left the jetty soon after. And by 7-ish we had already hit the high seas.

We rode on a rough sea and a tough luck to finally reach the capital by nightfall. Thankfully our agent in the city was thoughtful enough to send us a car. We got back to the hotel and crashed on the bed, leaving behind a day full of anxiety, turmoil, and simple misfortune.

Next day, we learned more about the siege and the outcomes. The talks were not successful and the director of shipping had cancelled all connectivity to this little paradise island with immediate effect. We immediately felt sorry for the locals as we knew how that was going to effect their struggle for survival. In our interactions with Manik da we had come to know how our ordeal was nothing compared to the struggle the locals do to survive on a daily basis.

Soon after we left Andaman and flew back to our city of joy. Leaving behind the people and the problems forever and bringing along memories – some happy, some ever lasting. Few months later, the entire belt was heavily battered by the Tsunami. Which must have added more woes to than there was. But life went on.

As of today, Havelock island is still one of the serene and beautiful places to visit in India. In fact its popularity rose to greater height after the Tsunami. Now it boasts more tourist attractions and accommodations than ever. The connectivity with the capital too has improved many fold. I had many friends who had visited the island paradise in the last 10 years, not a single of them found anything to complaint about.

But our trouble at the paradise will now live forever in my mind as a great tale to enthral one and all.

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My Son’s debut at the Eden Gardens

My son’s debut at the international cricket arena. And it couldn’t have come on a better day than this. The KKR vs KXIP first qualifiers at the Eden Gardens for the IPL 7. Just a week ago, when I had booked the tickets, I was blind to the fact that I would end up seeing the home side playing one of the best cricket of the tournament by far (though closely beaten by how they played in the finals, 4 days later). I was more hoping to see the likes of Maxwell and Sehwag locking it’s horns against MSD’s men. But then after a power-packed super Pathan performance, it was the home side who not only booked its place at the Eden Gardens, but also became favorites after 7 wins on the trot. It was going to be a contest between our bowlers and their batsmen. And given the home ground and home support, it was anybody’s guess which team was feeling the pressure.

The divine intervention –

Since it was a night match (starting at 8 pm), my son was not the first choice to use one of the four tickets I had. And it would have required divine intervention for him to make his debut (as a spectator). And divine intervention it was. The Kolkata skies opened up and poured like never before. The outfield was as wet as the paddy fields of Bengal. And by 6 pm, the match was postponed to the reserve day (next day). With the rains threatening to continue over the next day, and a possibility of KXIP winning without playing a single ball made our heart sink. And all prayers were focused to get a clear weather the next day.

The lucky breakthrough –

The next day had a promising start. The sun shone in its full glory. There was no trace of overnight rain. And the weather continued to hold. And being a reserve day, the match was rescheduled to start at 4 pm (rather than the 8 pm as of the original day). That along with the fact that one among our original party had to drop off due to some work, gave my son his first opportunity to see a live match at the largest stadium in India. Recently turned 5 year old, yet he was excited from the moment he came to know about it. And soon started announcing it to his friends that he was going to watch a cricket match in the afternoon.

The shock and the surprise –

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He was ready for the big occasion. With his face painted to show his support for the home side, he was ready for the big match. We walked from the parking to the stadium amid the thousands who too headed for the same cause. And he was surprised to see so many people, so much festivities, and such enthusiasm. People decked up in the colors of the home team, vendors selling flags and trumpets, and a wide cacophony of sounds. Five years old, yet he was taking everything in his stride and getting absolutely absorbed to the atmosphere. But the biggest shock was in store when the 80,000+ strong crowd erupted in unison. He had never seen or heard something like that. Hands covering his ears he first looked at me for reassurance, and then back at the crowd with eyes wide in surprise and shock. KKR started batting first.

The boring middle period –

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The match was poised nicely during the innings break. Needing 164 to win, it was still anybody’s game. Thanks largely to some mindless batting and throwing of wickets away. If not for the cameo of Piyush Chawla, the end was pretty boring with all the excitement dying away. And by the time when Vohra and Saha took the attack to the KKR camps, the noises had fairly subsided. So around 24 overs, 3 glasses of cold drinks, and 4 slices of pizzas later, my son too got so bored that he wanted to see cartoon instead. It was after I explained to him the difference between watching a match on TV and watching it live, that he agreed to continue watching the Vohra-Saha onslaught.

The turning point and the eruption –

Thanks to a brilliant Umesh Yadav for stopping the onslaught before it went out of hands. First it was Morkel though, who got rid of Vohra. But the real party began when Yadav sent back the in-form Maxwell cheaply. By that time, KXIP had lost the wind from its sail and it was a cruise from there on for KKR. The home crowd reacted in an emphatic manner – erupting to its former noisiest glory. And each falling wickets were cheered by a noise stronger than the one before. And it was no longer deafening to my son as he too picked up the mood of the thousands around him. He no longer placed his hands on his ears, but threw them at the air and shouted along with the crowd trying to out-match the loudest of the cheers.

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And by the time KKR won, and Shahrukh was having his victory lap, there was no stopping of him. He continued running up and down at the aisle in sheer joy. The infectious mood around, getting not only into him but in all of us. And finally after a long walk back to the car, and a chocolate ice-cream, he was safely tucked back at the front seat. Exhausted and sleeping soundly. Recollecting his memories from the day to share with his excited mom upon arrival at home. Such was the great day when my son visited the Eden Gardens for the first time. A story to tell forever and ever.

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10 years an ex-KVian…

Once again it is that time of the year when the city dailies are abuzz with success stories and stats from this year’s CBSE 10+2 results. Filled with stories and interviews of toppers, their reaction to their results, their studying habits, suggestions, and what not. And while reading through each of those articles one thing was clearly apparent. That nothing has changed. Nothing has changed from the day when we too were waiting anxiously for our CBSE 10+2 results exactly a decade ago.

A decade ago. It’s been 10 years since we had donned the famous white and blue uniform for the last time. And yet it feels as if it was yesterday. So vividly is the memory living within us. It was a very early morning of 26th May (2004) – my 19th birthday. I was roused from sleep by 2 close friends – Ankush and Sougata. It was 5 am and they were standing outside. I greeted them with a huge grin expecting my first birthday wish of the day. Instead, they said “Results are out, is your internet working?”. Thanks a lot guys for ruining my birthday.

But it wasn’t as bad. Though I was petrified to think about my Maths and Physics result. But when the full mark-sheet was on display, I was awash with a huge sense of relief. And the party started. Sougata and Ankush too did very well, and so did all of them whom we called to wake up to the harsh realities of a published final result! And from that day till today life has moved on so much. It had been 10 years. Over 3650 days since we had bunked the classes together, or pulled a prank on a hapless teacher.

In these 10 years life has changed so much so that people who had hardly shared the same bench in their entire school life are now getting married and sharing the same bed! Once a wasted drug-addict has suddenly decided to become a fine photographer. Those who had seldom had enough money in their pockets are now managing financial portfolios worth in billions. Ones who had been ever ready to cross the school boundary (during school hours) are crossing the seven seas and reaching the farthest corners of the world. And its an wonderful feeling to sit in front of that symbolic white and blue screen (Facebook) and remain connected to all of these people after all these time.

But somethings in life do not change even after so many years. And you slowly start realizing the meaning of true friendship. Like 10 years ago on that day I was woke up by Sougata and 10 years later to this day I am still waking up with Sougata. Not that we are gay, just sharing the same flat in Pune. The same can be felt by the likes of Aritra, Priyadarshini, Chandro, Devnaina but in a slightly different way. One way or the other life has taught us many valuable lessons during these last 10 years. Things which can never change – like Sagar’s complexion and Aritra’s love interest. Also things which changes so drastically – like Ajit Tiwari’s height and Arka’s lady luck.

But good or bad, life is about moving on. But life is also about the undying spirit of wanting to go back. So cheers to my fellow KVians who has kept my spirit of wanting to go back in time, alive in me. And cheers to them who has stood by each other for the decade gone by and will do so for many more decades to come. Cheers to true friendship and cheers to the true spirit of being a KVian. Life wouldn’t have been same without knowing all of you. Cheers to us!!!

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5 things you may not like about the movie “2 States”, If you had loved the book

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I always think movie adaptation of popular books are the toughest thing to do. Especially when it comes to match up to the expectation of the reader who had already played it in his mind for so many times. That is why I have never tried to read a single Harry Potter book. And so when it came to the movies I had nothing to complain about. And so when it came to the adaptation of 2 states, I couldn’t help. These are the top 5 reasons why 2 States the book and 2 states the movie will always be 2 state apart.

1. The book and the movie are 2 state apart

If you have read and loved the book, you ‘may’ end up disappointed. At least I was. The movie adaptation was no where near to how I had played it so many times in my mind, when I read the book. There are moments in the book which was so special that I had to read and re-read those. But when in the movie it didn’t came out as that special moment. May be it was cinematography or editing, but whatever the reason the book would always score much more than the movie. The fact that the entire story was being narrated to a psychiatrist was included but had no contribution to the script, and could have been avoided.

2. Arjun Kapoor as Chethan Bhagat

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And you know why Arjun Kapoor is the poorest possible choice to play the role which is claimed to be Chethan Bhagat himself. Chethan Bhagat is a gentle charmer in his own ways. And Arjun Kapoor failed convincingly to portray the actual character. Instead he would still remind you of the Arjun Kapoor of Gunday or Aurangzeb.

3. Aliya Bhat was fabulous but yet she failed to portray a convincing “madrasan”

No doubt Aliya Bhat was fabulous and did a great job (unlike Arjun Kapoor who was the weak link). But still to some extent she was not the convincing madrasi girl you would want to see. Aliya Bhat is an extremely beautiful and a bubbly character. But she lacked that extra charm of a beautiful south Indian girl. Imagine Sridevi, Hema Malini, or Asin, and you would know exactly what I am talking about. Aliya on the other hand has the features of a very pretty west/north Indian girl, and somehow she was not a very convincing tamil brahmin girl. Amrita Singh and Revathi on the other hand gave life to their characters from the book.

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4. Lack of attention to details when it came to characterization

Arjun kapoor, not only he was a poor choice to play the central character. But also his looks didn’t do much justice to an IIT-IIM-ian. I mean, spiked hairs, stubble, and a muscular body? That is so IIM unlikely. Not that IIT and IIM ians are boring but they normally do not have time thinking about trendy hair styles or six packs. It had a lot of glamour which is so unlikely of any serious educational institute like the IIMs. In comparison, the 3 Idiots were much researched when it came to looks.

Also the lack of detailing was evident in the 2 scenes where –

A. Aliya asks Arjun – So what after graduation? – They are already doing what they wanted to do after graduation – MBA.

B. Ronit Roy when he comes to know about Arjun’s love with his professor’s daughter, asks him to concentrate on MBA – But wasn’t he doing engineering at that time? Or did he meant the CAT entrance exams 😛

5. Vicky Donor did better in showing the contrast between the 2 cultures

Honestly Vicky Donor brought the difference between the Punjabi culture and any other in a much better way than 2 States. And 2 States was supposed to be all about that. Yet it some how remained very subtle when it came to the contrasting difference between the two culture. It could have done much better in this area, as it was the core idea of the book. Instead it ended up like any love story with disapproving parents.

But having said that, I wont disagree that I did enjoyed the movie. And won’t discourage anybody from doing so. It’s a fabulous story, Aliya Bhat is incredible, Arjun Kapoor was a little on the weaker side, but overall a great entertainer. But in case if you have liked the book, you may not be over the moon. But just entertained.

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the LazyTraveller : Nothing like stealing a quick refreshing break @ Mandarmani

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Imagine how it would be to be able to leave the hustle and bustle of a busy week and reach the horizon within just a few hours. Well if you are in Kolkata, you could do exactly that by driving to this 13 kms long spectacular beach at Mandarmani.

Mandarmani, situated at the northern end of the Bay of Bengal, is only 180 kms from Kolkata. Which makes it easier to reach in a few hours drive just. And a host of beach resorts await to welcome you with warm hearts and open arms. And if that is not enough how about a pleasant meal of steaming basmati rice, with a freshly cooked pomfret or crab curry to go with it. And you already got a killer of a holiday.

Two best ways of spending your time in this beautiful little paradise are –

1. Stretch your legs on one of the many arm chairs by the beach, and watch the setting sun. And rely on the resorts to keep you supplied with enough pints of beer to go along.

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2. Have a quite stroll or a frenzy drive along the beach filled swarming with tiny red crabs. Run behind them and see how quickly they disappear beneath the thick cover of the sand.

A couple of days at Mandarmani is a perfect excuse to indulge into some laziness. Spend the morning sea bathing in the perfectly calm water of the bay. Follow it with a sumptuous bengali meal accompanied with some wide varieties of local catch – the prawn, or the pomfret, or the crab are one of the popular choices. Chase away some red crabs in the afternoon and then have a quite evening by the beach with pints of beers to keep company. Nothing could describe a quick refreshing break in a better way.

So if you are going through a demanding work schedule, and need a short break desperately, Why not Mandarmani?

If you are wondering where to stay, there are scores of medium ranged beach resorts. You can even try the Neel Nirjaney beach resort. It is pocket friendly and suitable to all your needs.

The best way to reach Mandarmani is by hiring a personal car (every resort provide complementary parking) and take the Kolkata-Digha road. Or you can get A/C buses from Esplanade and change at Chaul khola.

Some memoirs from our trip :-

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(clockwise from top left) the beautiful flowers in the Neel Nirjaney resort; me and my wife enjoying amidst a lazy stroll; a solitary fishing boat in the calm sea; we all posing for a group photo at the end of the holiday;

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an Any Body Can Cook fish recipe…

But before I begin, let me warn, cooking is not at all for the faint hearted. It can often result into gruesome accidents like excessive salt, burnt spices etc. etc. Like the numerous times I have encountered during my previous cooking experiences. But hey, as they always say – one who tries, never dies (at least from hunger, though he may die of other silly reasons like cancer, accident, etc.).

So if you are ready to brave all the odds, here is a simple, logical, and an any body can cook recipe of the bengali’s 3rd all time favourite element – the fish. The top 2 being Saurav Ganguly and Politics, which incidentally are impossible to put in a pot full of boiling oil so we will start with the third. The fish. And today I am going to share a detailed and artistic post-mortem of the art of cooking a fish kalia.

Stage 1 – The first thing one has to do for cooking a fish is buying a fish. Pay attention here, there is absolutely no alternative to this stage. However one could have the liberty of choosing what fish one wants. Though Rohu (Rui) is the most popular choice for a kalia one can go for other steak based variants as well. Especially those like me, who do not have access to fresh water fishes may need to make their choices carefully. For my demonstration here, I have chosen a frozen variant of the Emperor fish – goes well with the majestic nature of the bongs.

Some other items you will need to keep handy are (in order of their appearance) – 1) Turmeric powder (disclaimer – not to be confused with Vicco turmeric, which  is an antiseptic only seen in movie theaters); 2) Red chilli powder; 3) Salt; 4) Mustard Oil (disclaimer – the choice of oil is not influenced by the rising cost of petroleum) or you could also use some vegetable oil; 5) Cumin Seeds; 6) Cloves; 7) Bay leaves; 8) Cardamom (disclaimer – no cardamom and asking mom for help is not the same thing though I confess it is the safest thing) – and if you are by any chance not familiar with how these looks you may take help of http://www.google.com; 9) Ginger Garlic Paste; 10) Onions – chopped (disclaimer – no you do not get chopped onions in the market, you will have to buy and chop it yourself. It is advisable to keep a pair of sunglasses and band-aids handy) 11) Garam Masala; 12) and a nice bouquet of coriander leaves.

Stage 2 – The first real stage of cooking the fish is marination. It is a very important custom in bengali culture. Even during auspicious events like marriages, we love to marinate the bride and the groom with turmeric and later the groom applies red vermilion on the bride. In this case we will use red chilli with turmeric, which needs to be applied to the steaks. Add some salt too, and keep mixing until it looks something like this –

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Once the fish is properly marinated, heat some oil in a pan. Thoroughly fry both sides of the fish and then set aside for later use (disclaimer – make sure you do not finish the fried fish while you are preparing the gravy. For obvious reasons). The fried steaks should look like this –

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Once the fish is fried and kept aside, put some cloves, cardamom, cumin seeds, and bay leaves in the oil to temper. Remember a fish with a great temperament can beat the mutton on any given day. Once the mixture has started showing some temper immediately add 2 tsp of ginger garlic paste. Cook until the rawness is gone. Once done add the chopped onions and keep stirring until nicely fried. A good sample should like this –

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At this stage add some tomato puree (oops forgot to mention before kindly manage) and keep stirring for 2-3 minutes. Then add a little turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin, a pinch of sugar, and some salt. If you are cooking Kalia, it is advisable to use Gabbar Singh brand salt. Kalias has a tendency to soak more salt if its Gabbar Singh salt so you must be careful about the quantity of the salt.

And once all of those are added, keep cooking the mixture until it gets to a stage of tel ka tel and pani ka pani. I.e. until the masala and the oil can be distinctly distinguished. You may add a little water to get the desired effect, we all love short cuts! Main objective is, the mixture should now look like this –

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Once the gravy looks consistent add 2 cups of warm water and allow it to boil. At this point add the fried steaks and some garam masala and leave it covered on simmer for 10-15 minutes. (I wanted to put a picture of a pan with a lid, but then how would you know its not a fake and has the mixture in it?). You have 10-15 minutes which you can use by indulging into some facebook or whatsapp or whatnot. But once the 15 minute is done and the gravy has reached a thick consistency add some chopped coriander leaves. And it should look like this –

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And voila! you have done it… Your majestic fish kalia is ready for savouring. All that is left to do is – let out a roar of a laughter and say, looking at the fish – “Ab tera kya hoga re Kalia?

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