Actually, I should not be unjust. In a way me period of low work began sometime almost exactly a month ago, when my Mom came to meet me, for her annual trip out. A stay of 10 days punctuated by a trip to the vineyards in Nasik. OK, so it was one vineyard. Nevertheless, wine drinking it was, followed by excessive wine purchasing (bottles of which are residing still in my cupboard).
A few days in the company of mother, in my own small house, followed by a weekend with my brothers and back. Punctuated by less than a week alone here and lots of partying, followed by excessive partying with brothers and a trip to Calcutta. Whoa. Am i tired or what?!
So this time round, so to speak, the trip back home was pretty docile - from my front. Extraneous factors not considered. For one, I stayed pretty much at home and with family. Not too many frnds remain back there, so no frnd visitng happened either. Extraneous factors, however, made is entertaining - in retrospect.
A day before the visit I fell into an evil trap of wanting to get virus removed and effectually get rid of all my contacts, and corrupting my phone memory card so unable to retrieve any and yahoo go not helping a tad bit. So, from a 300+ contacts phone, im down to 3-5 contacts and constantly adding. Please people, remember me. Then I will remember your number. ;)
Thus, going to Calcutta on the auspicious day of Diwali doubly guaranteed that no one got my cheerful (?) Happy Diwali message, however little meant, and I did not recognise a single soul who sent me some flowery texts without signing their names at the bottom. So, who really cares.
What happened after that was the really interesting bit. West Bengal, as all Indians know, is Communist 'country' if I can use that phrase. Hence, a rebellion regarding SEZ creation can result in uprising, even if by an insignificant party lead by a highly motivated and misguided woman. Hence, on the Monday succeeding the Friday I arrived, there was, in true-blue Calcutta style, a Bandh . As you will see, West Bengal is the state with a maximum number of Bandhs. It was to be a 2-day bandh, on the Monday that all offices and schools and colleges would restart after the Holiday Season. So, the first day was observed, with irritation and relief (both as postponement of the inevitable) and incredulity (on 2 days' declaration). However, come evening and everyone was tired of being cooped up indoors and though shops remained closed (apart from the small cigarette stores open with half shutters down), the roads became lively.
The big, wide roads of Calcutta were seen in all their splendour; wide, and populated by only pedestrians, out for a harmless stroll in the evening.
As I went out first with my mom and aunt to stroll and partake of some Phuchka's - the way only a Calcutta phuchka walla can make them spicy and tangy and extremely mouthwatering - and then with my brothers and sister, we observed a Bhashan (Visarjan/ Immersion) or two of Goddess Kali, worshipped on Diwali in Calcutta. And quite a sight it was. With the full road open to them to spread out, the Band consisting of a drummers league and a separate Bagpipers league (a common band in Cal, though I have not seen it that commonly in other parts of Indian - lingering Colonial effect? Same thing with the Mounted Police force I think) followed by the usual band, then a truck with speakers and devotional songs to Kali, and of course, people and exotically lit up bamboo-based thingys (decoration peices held in hand or aloft a small vehicle) filling in the way in-between (enough to let the music of the previous band diminish), made its way. This particular Pujo, it seems, had planned the Visarjan keeping in mind the luxury of space and time on a Bandh day. Many small deities finally made way to the idol of Kali. And then we crossed the road to continue our evening walk.
The next day work resumed after the extremely extended weekend. However, soon after, a MahaMichhil was declared. Whats that you say?! That, my dear people, means, literally, Mega Rally. In protest of the bandh, the main roads of Calcutta in certain areas would be blocked by a certain rally at a designated time - leaving enough time for people to go to office, and come back, but extremely impeding for ppl like me, out on a holiday, who would want to venture out at more Godly hours like 1130 am and 2 pm. Anyway, so Wednesday was restricted thanks to the Michhil.
Soon after, Thursday night came, windy and cool, with tiny droplets and a forecast of a Mega Cyclone heading straight to Cal. Yup. Cyclone. Dont go too far away. The wind was strong and the wait till Friday long. Only to know that the Cyclone veered off the course set by Geologists, and went killed a few hundred ppl in Bangladesh.
Saturday I was supposed to leave Calcutta. So I packed. Only to realise 4 hours before departing, my ticket was still wait listed. A mad rush to get another ticket ensued. But it seems like the whole of Calcutta wanted to come to Bombay. Flight tickets for the day were above 20K, and train tickets not available in Tatkal service either (Waiting List 40 for the latest date). Flight tickets remained inordinately expensive for the rest of the week - reaching upto 11,000 for an IndiGo flight! Excuse me? Isnt that a low cost airline? Well, anyway, finally I got a ticket for Tuesday night, and faced the inevitable extension of Holiday.
Now let me tell you extended holidays are not all ther are made out to be. For one, you have usually finished all you wanted to do. Now, its like waiting for the cleaver to fall with nothing better to do about it.
Finally the time came that i resumed packing and planning my leaving Kolkata. An hour before I would depart for the airport, a call from my grandad. Apparently, Riots had started.
Yup. Tasleema Nasreen was housed in Cal, and that did not go well with certain (predictable) minority sections of this country so close to Bangladesh. Hence, protests, a few empty bus burnings, rallies and finally, closed roads and Army brought in. It was at this stage that I left home with Mom taking a much longer, long winded but undisturbed way to the airport. There, thankfully we met someone known with whom Mom could return partway. The subway was the safest bet, so she returned by that from there. Thanks to it being underground, its not affected much by protests overground - apart from the rush. (Its being extended, and that too overground. I sincerely hope it's safety does not get effected by that!) So at least she reached home.
My flight was another story. The airport was a worse mess than usual. And the people behind me bumped their trolleys so many times on my ankles that I still have bruises on both legs - right above my ankle actually. Then the Q seemed to be full of people moving bag and baggage out - minimum 35Kg per head! And the person checking us in was moronically slow. So much for Jet! Finally, I was checked in, and then because the counter was not able to check in enough ppl on time, the flight was late.
On arriving in Bombay, the baggage was unloaded, coupled with another flight, on the wrong conveyor belt. And then mid way through the unloading (just when people realised the mistake and went to the correct conveyor), they shifted back. So, there were 4 flights by allied airlines which came in from 4 different parts of the country - Calcutta, Jammu, Ahmedabad and Bangalore. There were 2 conveyor belts, and luggage of any 2 were coupled. After a 30 minute delay in getting any luggage at all, the above confusion followed.
Sigh. So finally an hour after landing, I could say, I was reconciled with my luggage, and definitely back in Mumbai - without any broken bones.
PS - that I found there was no washing water at home when I reached was another matter altogether. At least there was drinking water.
PPS - The kitchen was filled with mini-cockroaches, so the next day went in abolishing them.
PPPS - I got a new water purifying system! Yay! No more canned water for me!! :D
PPPPS - The trip itself was fun. :) As being with family for short whiles can be.