Thursday, June 21, 2007

Lonely Traveller

While writing my previous blog it struck me, how enjoyable it is actually to travel alone. I am the sort who hates getting into a conversation while I am travelling. Be it my daily travel from home to office and back on the office bus or a train journey or a flight. And the very idea of me managing everything is quite cool, though the idea trust me is scary especially with my penchant towards goofing up. But even with all the goof ups, I guess travelling alone has a charm of its own.

Many of my acquaintances have guessed that I like travelling alone because I like to sleep off on the way. On the contrary I hardly sleep while travelling, the repercussions of which is felt later.

My first travel all alone was when after my graduation I was returning home for good. Having packed up everything including heavy books gathered during my studies, my luggage wasn’t exactly travel friendly. Moreover it was a flight journey with a weight limit. I being a novice did not care to get my luggage weighed before hand. Nor did I care to take the usual precaution of carrying an extra bag for transferring extra stuff into the hand baggage. During check in I was told that my luggage is 13 kgs overweight. I had no clue about the extra luggage charges, so very confidently told the airlines personnel that I will pay for the extra luggage. He looked at me apprehensively and I am sure guessed that I was a student and that I certainly did not look like the type who would be paying a lump some for extra luggage. None the less I was directed towards their office where I was handed a receipt for the money by an equally sceptical elderly gentleman. I looked at the receipt and handed over a 100 rupee note to him. He gave me a resigned look and told me “There is another zero”. I thought- “Oh my gawwddd 1000 rupees for 13 kgs!! This is obscene.” Well those who have studied away from home would understand that at the end of semester a person with 500 rupees was considered rich. In fact once, I and my sister had travelled 48 hours by train on 183 rupees! Though, we always made sure that the tickets were sponsored by Papa. For the current situation I made a meek face and excused myself and called up my friend who dropped me at the airport. Thank god it was the end of my college, the very reason why my room mate came to see me off with tearful eyes and moreover thankfully she had not left by this time. I gave her one of my suitcases to back, leaving it to my parents to figure out how to retrieve it from Pune to Kolkata.

Another journey I undertook was when I travelled to Mumbai on a Volvo bus, on the Mumbai – Pune expressway. Those who have taken this journey would agree with me that this is one of the most scenic and beautiful roads in the country. And when everything seemed perfect, they played the movie “Baghban” on the bus video system. Arrrrrrgh!. My parents would have been pretty glad though. They feel that movie deserved nothing less than the Oscar. A prospective wonderful journey dampened by the tears of Hema Malini and Amitabh Bacchan. Thankfully on the return journey the video system “played up a bit”, much to the embarrassment of the driver and his assistant. Sometimes it’s nice to see some things not working. :)

Another one to Delhi had a funny end, just how they show in the movies. My friend came to pick me up at the airport. On my way out there was quite a crowd. I just could not figure out where she was, when I was told that this one is not the only arrival gate. God bless the person who discovered mobile phones. I called her up and she was equally perturbed for not finding me. We wondered whether we are at the same place and so described our surroundings. We realized later that we were actually standing at a distance of a couple of meters with our backs to each other. For close to 10 minutes we described what we could see within our sight range but neither of us had the sense to turn around. After much talking, she asked me keep standing where I was and that she would ask a few people how to get there. As a landmark, I told her about a big blue balloon hanging from the ceiling, when she shouted “What! I am standing just below the blue balloon”. That’s when we turned around and found each other.

An unknown place. A new house. A new workplace and the lonely me.

Well don’t be scared, this is not some weepy story of a helpless girl left alone in the world. But when I landed here, it seemed quite so……. to me at least.

I have been sent on deputation to UK and though this is the second time I am visiting the country, the experience is certainly very different from the previous one. To elaborate, on my previous visit I was sent on an assignment for a project where I had worked previously for close to 2 years. Apart from the shift in location everything else was familiar. A familiar group of friends and it was a known turf. I hardly felt away from home.
This time, everything is new. The place….the people….. and the work.

During my first visit here, I had been advised by a close friend to pen down my first impressions. “Its nice to read them later.” , he said.

My impressions during my first visit:-

· It was cold. [brrrrrr…..even recollecting it gives me the shivers]

· Women wear awesome shoes. While waiting at the coach station at Heathrow, I spent the entire two hours watching the shoes that the ladies around me had put on.They actually manage to run around comfortably in 4 inches stilletoes !...wooaahhh

· The journey from London to Bristol was …well black and invisible, because I was travelling at night. I really wished then, that I was travelling at day time, so that I could see the famous English landscapes, I had so often heard of.

· This is a place to apply all that you have learnt at school about saying “sorry” and “thank you”. Courtesies are very much appreciated and I quite admire this. I noticed that I started sounding much more polite than what I did earlier.

· I loved the very popular “fish and chips”.[It’s a different story that the needle on the weighing machine went an inch ahead on the right side, because of this and the one below.]

· Awwwwwwsssssssuummmm cakes. Sllllluuurrrrrpppp!

· The Sahara dessert has more crowd than a discotheque here. :(

My impressions this time:

· Travelling alone to an unknown land was not that bad. :)

· Broad daylight at 9:30 in the night!!!.

· The place is much sleepier than the one I stayed before.

· Tonnes of colours all around

· The office looks like a scene lifted from a sci-fi film, where they show campuses similar to NASA.

· And of course a very new experience of staying with a British family. Am getting to know their way of living from close quarters. Not very different ….trust me. More on this later.

· The shopping centres [more popularly called as the town centres], in every town in UK looks the same…..the same shops and the same layout. On second thoughts, all towns here look the same!

· All shops and markets close at 5 in the evening :(.

· This place actually has a jungle on the way to office :D. They call it a sanctuary. Haven’t seen any animals though.

· The cakes still are as yummy as before. He he.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Photographic memories...

During one of my visits to my dida’s[Bengali for grand ma i.e mother’s mother] place, I happened to find an old album lying at a corner. Many of you must have felt similarly, I remember to my young mind it was unfathomable to see my mother and uncles so young. Well my mother had the same face just a little childish and dwarfed. The photographs simply fascinated me. My mother in a polka dotted frock and pigtails, a passport photograph of her in school dress. A photograph of her and her cousin, which looked like a scene, lifted from a nineteen-seventy’s Sharmila Tagore movie minus the hairdo -- two ladies standing in a short-sleeved blouse and bold floral printed saris, demurely smiling at the camera. A photograph of one of my uncles as a baby, and a photograph of him grown up and looking cool in bell-bottoms. Another photograph of my mother sitting pretty on a chair,which I came to know later was sent to papa for a look before wedding .Dida has preserved the early photographs of my father, of my parent’s wedding and one much later. I found some of my photographs and my sister’s, which I had never seen myself. It was almost like finding a treasure.

I ran to dida, seeking ownership of the album. She simply replied – “You have my daughter…let me have her photographs”. Her words almost made me guilty. Since then I have never laid claim to the album again, but till date browsing through that album seems to be a favorite activity whenever I visit her.