The Road to Phuentsholing

Day one: The route to Phuentsholing, Bhutan

My flight landed at the civil terminal of Bagdogra at an hour considered unearthly for someone travelling to Bhutan. It was 3:30 PM and all the buses for the day had left. So I had no choice but to pay through my nose and spend Rs. 1800 on a taxi to Bhutan. Little did I know it will be worth every penny of it. The road is a winding one from Bagdogra-Siliguri-Birpara-Jaigaon and finally on to Phuentsholing. With a detour in between due to a broken bridge, the journey got extended from 4 hours to 5 hours. I reached Bhutan at a time when no more vehicles were allowed inside, but the friendly guard let us in. I settled down in the hotel in Phuentsholing. The small town sleeps very early. By about 9:30 all the shops close down and the streets are deserted. It was time to hit the restaurant in my hotel and have a few drinks. The best whiskey available in Bhutan is called Coronation Silver Jubilee.

Day two: The dreamy mountains en-route to Thimpu

Day two started off with the work commitments I had. It was completely different interacting with the Bhutanese Government officials, when you are used to the Indian babus. Work got over by noon and it was time for a quick bite and cool beer to enjoy the afternoon. Had 4 hours off when I decided to go trekking up the highway that leads to Thimpu.

A trek of about 9-10 kms took me to a height of abt 400-500 metres above sea-level. I could see Phuentsholing as a speck of land from there.Sitting on the edge of the road with your legs dangling over a valley with a straight drop of 400 metres is the kind of moment that doesent come too often. I lit up a smoke and saw the clouds speed by in the distance. Weary birds headed home from their fleeting treetop houses. Every now and then a car would pass by with its passengers astonished to see a guy sitting in the middle of nowhere. To them it would look like I was contemplating suicide. But moments and places like these are the ones that give you hope. A lone tree stood in the valley as if waiting forever.

A dog gave me company as he walked up several kilometres with me, sitting in between at times to admire the magnificent work of art. I sat there for several minutes enjoying the beauty and the cool wind. Finally it was beginning to get dark when I decided to head back. There was one thing I always wanted to do. Hitch-hike! So I stood at the edge of the road and got a lift from a passing government official on his bike. He wore the traditional Buddhist robes like all other Bhutanese government officials.

At nightfall it was time to hit the most popular hangout in Phuentsholing and have some good whiskey and some Bhutanese food. There’s Thukpa which is basically soup noodles. And then there is Ema Dashi which is a preparation of Bhutanese Green Chillis in Cheese Gravy. Trust me its absolutely delicious when had with Butter Naans. Or else you would be standing under the faucet for atleast 20 minutes. I finally headed back to the hotel when everything closed down.

The next morning I woke up early to see the beauty of Phuentsholing when it rains. It had rained overnight and the clouds had come right down to greet us (me and the fellow Bhutanese). The last walk to the bus stand was as breath-taking as the rest of my journey. Plans are already in works for the next un-official trip to Bhutan.

More Photos here


The pentograph was cutting the full moon at bizarre angles as the train sped by on a Sunday night. The wind had been left damp and cold by the surprising November showers. I was returning from a friend’s place after a rejuvenating weekend and the local seemed unusually empty till I realized that it was a Sunday.

On weekdays while on our way to our offices we all fight for a place to sit or stand comfortably, but on a Sunday the equation changes. The whole compartment is empty but you don’t feel like sitting. I just walked over to the door as the train made its way past the crowded Dadar station. The cool breeze started hitting my face as it threatened to drown out my music player which was running at full volume. I realized the weird mix of sound that is created by the rushing wind and some amazing music in your ears. It sounds wonderful.

As I stood on the very edge of the door, a smile just crossed my face much to the amazement of the co-passengers. I realized that time sure flies. It wasn’t more than six years back that we would travel by the same locals; me, Uddhav, Narain and Sudarshan, four of us on our way to our junior college in town. Hanging out at the door everyday by choice rather than reason. The days we spent scanning the platforms, looking for ‘hot girls’ or as we would call it then – bird-watching.

I remembered the first time I tried boarding a running train when my bag got caught in the support rod and I got dragged all along the platform. We all laughed our asses off after that incident. But soon enough we got the hang of it, quite literally. I remembered those times when Uddhav used to run on a mid-station halt to a tea-stall for a glass of water and we screaming at him to get back.

When you are traveling in Bombay, half of your time is spent on the locals everyday. We never regretted even a minute of it. Because when you are with your friends time sure flies! Important discussions took place at the door while screaming at each other to be heard over the roar of the train. We figured out the signaling patterns, knew exactly the bends where the train lurched outwards. I still remember, Uddhav trying to figure out the name of the long distance trains by timing and we teasing him to no end.

Things have changed now. I still travel by the local everyday, but alone. Consultancy sure takes the joy out of your life. The other three are in the US, trying to make something out of their lives too. The struggle continues, in a different way. But this Sunday evening while I stood at the edge of the door, I could hear our voices echoing in the very same compartment. In many of these locals, our voices would be hidden somewhere, waiting to come out and greet us the day we all travel the same way. If at all. But the echoes will never die, every time I’ll hold that door handle, the smile will cross my face. Don’t worry Mr. Passenger, all is fine in the locals.

One of these days..

“It was just another day till it trudged into a gloomy evening. The worries at the back of my mind were like natural allies which have supported me through the daily works. I just knew that this time it was different, but didn’t expect it to be so soon. I had been walking around like a zombie for as long as I knew and ever since I had heard about her. The train back home seemed to take much lesser time that evening. Or maybe it was just my thoughts that had travelled the world.

The confines of my home could not depress me further that evening. Nothing could. The zillion thoughts never stopped as I furiously wrote on my scratchpad. I used to do that in those days just to get my thoughts out and to scream out aloud. Maybe paper was the next best alternative to a person. They are the same words which get spoken. It was just a matter of what came first. I didn’t know if I would ever see her again. Or would I ever see anyone again for that matter. And I thought:

“”Heaven’s a lie and we all lie at some point of time. Truth lies in the darkness that never betrays you. It makes you realise that you really cannot see. What you have been looking at is an illusion. You hallucinate everyday. Its a natural thing. The mirror lies, the birds pretend. The sun never does shine and its always too dark see the moon. Nothing lasts beyond the time you want it to. Not even people.””

“”Cut!!””, shouted the director dramatically, as I heedlessly flicked the channel, smiling at the stupid but well-timed intervention. The Gods must be crazy. During all the tensed moments in my life, I have been blessed with remembering movies and lyrics that depress me further. I always liked it. Life with her now seemed like a winter night’s sky. So clear, so dark, yet never unravelling the ultimate truth. What lies beyond? Maybe no one knows. No one ever will. My mind plays tricks with me again. I was told, I am the Devil. And a voice played on:

“”The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was to convince the world, he didn’t exist. And like that *poof* he’s gone.””

One of these days….”

Through good times again

“The match had just ended and so had our two hours of furious drinking. Portugal had lost. A little sad at the defeat and anxious about the ensuing adventure we set out. Three out of five. The other two were already in seventh heaven. We were pretty sobered up by the time we reached the car in the parking lot. Darkness enveloped the dead of the night as the parking lights jumped off the car in myriads of directions as the silver body gleamed. Wearily I lit up a cigarette as the realisation of having cut 120 kms just a few hours back dawned upon me. My body almost ached, but the desire for an adventure is always overpowering.

A quick glance at the watch revealed that it was already 2:30 am. The Johnny Walker simmered in my head as the engine of my Zen sputtered to life. I made sure everyone who was supposed to be seated was seated. Doors were secured. The speakers lazily spurred when i inserted the Pink Floyd CD. Put down the hand brake. Slide the gear into the first. The alcohol wasn’t too much, but when the weather inebriates and best friends are there for company, theres just no defending.

Hill stations are like owls. They would never seem their original selves in the light of the day. Given a choice, I would always visit a hill station at night. Its like making love when the lights are out. The same roads that were teeming with life and traffic, which they couldnt handle, seemed happier accomodating us at night. I swerved to the right off the highway to the road that leads to Bushy dam and then onto Ambi Valley. There was not a soul in sight for miles and miles. The moon had retired for the night. Soon we drove past the first settlement at the foot of the hill arousing no one but the dogs who indignantly barked at us. As we sped past they went back to sleep satisfied with their work.

The ghats of lonavala are not too steep to climb except in a few places where the road suddenly curves upwards in a ‘U’, almost absent mindedly. As we started ascending up the slopes we passed the INS and AirForce offices, where a few weary guards sat around a small fire which threatened to die down at any point. After that it was nothing but us, the road, Pink Floyd and the wind howling at us prohibitively, mocking our late night escapade. But determined as we were, we drove up the slopes at furious speeds wherever the road allowed us to, careful at other bends. Soon it became a game of one upmanship with the winds bringing in an ally. The fog tried to change our mind, but we were not to be deterred. We continued with the headlights shining bright as ever cutting through the fog. But we had taken a hit in the game. We had to drop our speeds until we were cruising lazily at 30 kmph. We would fight till the end. We braved our way up a few kilometres when Pink Floyd started off with the chimes and one of my all time favourite, High Hopes. It seemed like the wind was conspiring with Pink Floyd.

The fog soon became way too dense to see. The visibility dropped to about 1.5 feet from the bonnet of my Zen. Consequently we dropped our speed to 10 kmph and drove on for a few more kilometres where the slopes heaved a sigh and came to a level ridge with the valley on both the sides, felt only by the sound of the wind-it was not to be seen. We turned on the parking lights and stepped out to be greeted by an ecstatic wind as if hugging us to celebrate its victory. And we stood there as Ashish echoed my thoughts when he said, “”Just what are we doing back there in our offices everyday?”” I suddenly felt claustrophobic while standing in the middle of nowhere. A feeling of helplessness engulfed me when the flash of Manish’s camera brought me back to reality. I realised that we were really standing in the middle of nowhere. We couldnt see anything but our car and that too because of the headlights.

We stood there and enjoyed the true beauty of Lonavala, as the hills braced themselves to be swarmed by people oblivious of what they were missing. Half and hour must have elapsed when we smoked the day’s last cigarette and slithered slowly down the slopes as the fog gave us company till the AirForce office as if afraid of the civilization and bid us adieu. I sighed under my breath, “”So long my friend….””

Its funny how you can always find a reason to drink. There can be different excuses for drinking. I’m feeling happy, so I’m gonna celebrate with some booze. I’m feeling sad, I’ll drown myself in alcohol. The weather’s awesome, lets drink. Well then, I say if you wanna drink you drink. There’s no two ways about it. More about this on some other day.”

Heaven’s A Lie

It’s another tequila sunrise
Starin’ slowly ‘cross the sky, said goobye
He was just a hired hand
Workin’ on the dreams he planned to try
The days go by
Ev’ry night when the sun goes down
Just another lonely boy in town
And she’s out runnin’ ’round

She wasn’t just another woman
And I couldn’t keep from comin’ on
It’s been so long
Oh, and it’s a hollow feelin’ when
It comes down to dealin’ friends
It never ends

Take another shot of courage
Wonder why the right words never come
You just get numb
It’s another tequila sunrise,this old world
still looks the same,
Another frame, mm…

— Tequila Sunrise (The Eagles)

The Day Merit Died


The entire Alumni Community of IITs and IIMs

Is the new generation responsible for the atrocites laid upon a certain section of the society, on the basis of caste, several decades ago? Should the generations to come suffer from the same fate that the section of society called OBCs suffered then? If this is not “”Divide and Rule””, then I do not know what is.

I write this letter today because I feel deeply grieved that the country’s future is being held to ransom by corrupt politicians who can even kill to get their votes. CNN-IBN asked a very apt question yesterday. Can any politician in India afford to be anti-reservation? The Opposition in the Parliament, as an unwritten rule, is supposed to oppose anything and everything that is proposed by the party in power. And they do so religiously. But this time around, when it has come to reservations, they know that doing so will jeopardize their vote-banks. Not a single squeak has come from the Oposition.

I write this letter today not to elaborate more on the sorry state of affairs in the Indian Politics, but as an appeal to all the giants in the industry, to look at what is happening to their alma mater. IITs, IIMs and all the other major institutions in India are being held by the scruff of their neck and forced to go down the path that will surely lead to degradation of their value as an institution. When merit is killed, there is absolutely nothing that can save an IIT or an IIM or any other institute for that matter. And what has the government done? It has been succesful is making every Indian conscious of who they are working with. Today everyone who is not in a reserved category looks at the person sitting next to him and has only one question. Is he an OBC?

For several weeks now students have been on a hunger strike. Several students have been injured in the merciless police lathi charges. All the students have screamed their throats dry to make their voices heard. But what did we get in the end? The government has stabbed every student in the back by its decision to implement quotas by 2007 even after appealing to the protesting students to have faith in the government.

Several bright students are being denied admissions to prestigious institutions only to fill the votebanks of the politicians. Undeserving students who are fortunate enough to have troubled forefathers in the form of OBC/SC/ST laugh their way through these colleges. And what happens in the end? Either they drop out or they manage to scrape through, thus reducing the quality of the output from these colleges.

I am not against quota if it makes sense. I am not against any reservation carried out on the basis of some logic or some figures. But why should we all take the decisions meted out by the government as they come? Why shouldnt we all oppose illogical decisions which are politically motivated? Mr. Arjun Singh in an interview with Karan Thapar from CNN-IBN was clueless when he was asked basic questions on which the decision should have depended. Our honorable minister was not able to answer a single question.

Its an earnest appeal to the complete alumi community to come out in the front and help the students. You are ultimately helping save the future of the country and of your companies that recruit these bright minds. Let the government know that their decision has major repercussions and that they have hit the wrong chord. I am not appealing to you to take decisions based on emotions, but on the basis of facts and figures available in the public domain. The government is not helping the lower classes by giving them reservations, but on the contrary pushing them deeper into the abyss.

An ex-IIT KGP student.

Update #1: The quota row is reaching the doors of Rashtrapati Bhawan.

A 22-member delegation of striking medicos met President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam and appealed to him to not sign the Bill proposing to bring 27 percent reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC) in elite educational institutions.

“”We have said that if this law is enacted we will commit suicide after seeking permission from the president,”” a student, Kapil Mishra said. (Source:

Technorati Tags: IIT :: IIM :: Alumni :: OBC :: Reservations :: Arjun Singh

Down with Arjun!

These are the old days,The bad days,
The all or nothing days. They’re back.
There’s no choice left…

…. Its blood for blood and by the gallon.

And thus goes Marv from Sin City. If only the same would apply to the situation here. Maybe it would if all were to wake up. The people of India have waited long enough and hard enough to withstand these corrupt politicians who won’t even think twice about selling their own mother for two pennies if they are getting a hundred votes. The talks of which party is good and which party is not are over. Everyone’s been there, done that and ruined India along the way.

Lets take the case of the recent controversy of reservation which is blowing hot and is threatening to engulf the whole nation. It all started when one petty politician, who wasnt in the news enough before and wasn’t in the good books of our firangi leader Sonia Gandhi (seems like we have finally outsourced politics also) wanted desperately to ‘change’ things wherein he hit upon a jackpot of an idea to divide India on casteist lines.

Little did he have a clue about how it will backfire (Read all about the background here). It has backfired and quite badly. Look at the unrest everywhere. Students from all fields, medical, engineering and every other branch have revolted against this. And how?!!!!

Corrupt police officers have been caught all around accepting bribes and the levels of their frustration are increasing. It all shows in the merciless thrashing and caning of the doctors/engineers of tomorrow. These students who will be the future of our country are being whacked for no crime of theirs. Evil breeds evil. I won’t be surprised if some of these get involved in organized crime at some point in their life. Grudges like these can never be alleviated.

India is poised for a civil war. Winds of change are blowing and its perfect weather to launch a counter-strike against the government. India needs a dictator. Maybe not someone as fanatic as Hitler, but someone who can control the whole country and hit these politicians where it hurts the most. Their livelihood. But first we need a civil war. A war that will destabilize the entire administration. Its bound to happen sooner or later.

I remember a quote in Outlook Magazine many years back which was something as follows and which is very apt for the occasion:

In this world order,
Sovereignity has no border,
Yankee Doodle has his way,
No one else can have a say

Technorati Tags: Reservations Arjun Singh OBC

End of Days

A solemn cloud floats in the distance as if orphaned from the rest of the clan. The branches chatter away in unspoken words as the wind blows south. I stare out from the third floor of my hostel as the last evening trudges its way past the dusk. And I want to live through it all once again. Do everything I did in these two years in this one night before I leave.

Friends part only to meet again, but at this moment I wonder if the person who wrote that was a lunatic. On second thoughts, probably he was too optimistic in the moment of departure. The two years seemed like an overture to the life as a student.

The two years here have given something that my hometown could never give me. The freedom to live and the zest for travelling. An undying desire to satiate my appetite for seeing new places. Living life on my own. It was a two year long hiatus from the hustle of the city and the travails of luxury. But this place exudes a charm that no city can give you. You crib about this place but eventually fall in love with it.

Last thing I remember
I was running for the door
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
Relax said the nightman
We are programed to recieve
You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave

Only I wish it was that way. Nights out drinking with friends, no care for any day but this. We all dread the day we have to leave. The final walk into the department we studied for two years. That last bend on the road that led to our hostel. The 2.2 kilometres of track I spent endless nights walking with the girl I loved. The late night snacks at Chhedis and the arguments we used to have over sutta and chai. All the gossip sessions and the mail-wars added some spice to an otherwise mundane place. The laughs we had at the cost of the people who taught us. The 40 winks session in the class while the professor droned on and on. Sneaking out of the class when bored and the rush for the attendance.

And half and hour later we packed up our things
We said we’d send letters and all those little things
And they knew we were lying but they smiled just the same
It seemed they’d already forgotten we’d came

Now we’re back at the homestead
Where the air makes you choke
And people don’t know you
And trust is a joke
We don’t even have pictures
Just memories to hold
That grow sweeter each season
As we slowly grow old

But I take with me memories that will last me a lifetime. Habits that I love to hate, but still keep them. Voices of the same old friends shouting out from their balconies. Late night sessions when we could talk about anything under the sun. Those wrestling bouts we had for fun and the aftermath of those. The drunken nights handling a few drunk people and sometimes getting drunk yourself (in my case, I used to get drunk mostly and was the master entertainer). Seasons will come and go and we’ll grow old. But these names and the memories that they gave me will always remain. So long my friends. I’ll see you all again.

Same dances in the same old shoes
Some habits that you just can’t lose
There’s no telling what a man might lose,
After the thrill is gone

The flame rises but it soon descends
Empty pages and a frozen pen
You’re not quite lovers and you’re not quite friends
After the thrill is gone, oh,
After the thrill is gone

The Boob Tube

“I think there must be hundreds of people who rant about the sad state of Indian television. All it does is subject you to abject and mindless family politics and melodrama which can make you choke over and over again. Stereotype would be a highly understated adjective for these TV serials.

There might another school of thought here that says that the creators of these shows give the audiences what they want and what they like. I would say thats not the case. Its a complete loop. Unless and until they know what they are missing out on, there is no way for the audiences to raise their bar of judgement. You make something different something intelligent. Gone are the days when oafs and blondes ruled the world.

Quite recently I started watching this TV Series called Hustle which is aired in the UK on BBC. Its not available in India but, then piracy is the name of the game. But thats a different story for some other day. Its a series about con-artists. A crew of five who are involved with long-cons. They swindle people of their money. But the people they swindle are the people who have made this money by unfair means. They have their own code of ethics. People would say that we have a moral obligation not to show deceit and theft, et cetera on the television so as to not corrupt the minds of the young viewers and to discourage potential thefts. I assume this would be the reasoning to not create such a series. But, the vital point here is that it titillates your brain. It doesen’t just fill your brain with stupid and mindless family politics (I for one dont give a rats ass for it). It makes you want more, think more. Here‘s the website for more dope.

If there is something that corrupts the young minds and screws their life’s peace, then its these family dramas full of deceit and treachery. They should be banned from the boob tube. I think its high time, Indian television takes a cue from its western counterparts and cooks up something sensible. Till that time, for me, its piracy ahoy!!

Technorati Tags: Television Hustle BBC

On a day like today..

“A perfect weather is the one that makes you think about all those good times gone by. About times hidden deep within the recesses of your mind, afraid to come out. A bicycle trip down the autumn road, with leaves left wet by the passing drizzle. The wind blowing into your face, pleasantly cold and damp with the evening dew.

All you can do is think about the great times you spent with your friends, a lifetime ago. Its funny how it always makes you think about the past. Those parting moments of laughter with your friends the last time you saw them, unsure of when you’ll meet them again.

It makes you think of the girl who loved you not so long ago. But strangely the thought doesent depress you anymore. All you do is think of the good times you had and smile at the evening sky splashed with an orange haze. And remember how she loved to crumple those dry autumn leaves while walking down those familiar streets. The way she loved the drizzle more than the rains.

The voices they come back to you as you cycle your winding way past the same old football field where you spent endless nights gazing at the sky and enjoying the silence. The daily ordeals of slipping past the night guards bring the smile back on your face. Those fog-filled nights when the electricity frequently blew off.

The times they have gone away. But left memories to think about on a day when the weather is perfect. Sometime I wonder if the present makes any difference. Its the memories that make you feel good or bad…

… But when the weather’s perfect, you make love to those good times again.

Technorati Tags: Kharagpur Weather Perfect Day