Thursday, November 24, 2005


Is it cul de sac for the legendary richshawwallahs of Kolkata?. Buddhababu's decision to ban them appears at least now to be irreversible. Says he,"People carrying other people is barbaric.The sight of a human pulling other humans on his shoulders for a pittance does not also enhance Kolkata's image in the eyes of influential visitors .Phase by phase,we will not renew their licenses". According to some in the Marxist party, the slowmoving sedanchairs give the wrong signal to foreign investors when the state is urgently chasing foreign capital. These unskilled charioteers of the "jin rik sha" are therefore doomed. Buddhababu, pragmatic as he is, is prepared to dump the rickshawwallahs for foreign money in whatever colour it comes as long as it is not black.

Designed by the Japanese in the late nineteenth century(hence the japanese name),three men have been credited for inventing the "jin riki sha".That is the name in Japanese for this man-powered vehicle. Jonathan Gable-an American missionary,Yusuke Tzumi and Ahika Daisuki. Blessed be their souls who designed and made this wooden cart with large diameter wooden wheels with shafts on either side in front with space for a man in between to pull this wonderful carrier.

It was first seen in Kolkata in 1900 and 105 years later it's obituary is about to be written. There are about 20,000 rickshawwallahs in Kolkata today.And soon,once the ban of pulling the "jin rik sha" off the Kolkata roads come into effect,they all will be jobless. And with that will disappear a mode of transport which was as useful to the Kolkattans as the bus or tram or taxi. At times even more useful. When roads were flooded after heavy rains or manouevering through the narrow lanes and bylanes of Shyambazar or Baghbazar where no other form of transport could reach. Hopefully,some alternative employment will be provided by the West Bengal Government to these unfortunate people who find their only source of earning snatched away during their twilight years.

Recently when I was in New York, my daughter took me for a sightseeing visit to the Central Park.A huge lungspace in the midst of the city and you certainly cannot do without transport to take you around.I was thrilled to see cycle-rickshaws and horse-pulled rickshaws waiting to take tourists within the park.Surely,the West Bengal government babus can learn a few lessons from New York City and gainfully employ the rickshawwallahs to do a similar job in the Maidan and other tourist spots in the city.That would be a fitting tribute to this community for the cheer,convenience and happiness they brought to their customers for a little more than 100 years.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Chetana-A Terrific Place for Rajasthani Food

Last Tuesday,I had a customer visiting me from Delhi and I was taking him out for lunch. He is a vegetarian and that made things a bit simpler for me.My requirements were:-a) good ambience,b) courteous waiters,c) quick service ,d) tasty food,e) short distance from my office at Ballard Pier and finally f) not too heavy on the purse.I could think of only two restaurants which could fill the bill.One is Chetana at Kala Ghoda near Regal Cinema and the other near Bombay Hospital- Panchavati Vaibhav.

The whole process was over in about 45 minutes.5 minutes drive,30 minutes at the airconditioned comfort of Chetana,5 minutes with the paanwallah and another 5 minutes for getting back to the office.

What did we get to eat and drink? Jal Jeera/lassi,bhaakri,gehoon ki roti, jawar roti,kachoris,tikka,dal,kadi,gata,bhendi subzi,gawar ki subzi,khicdi,rice and gulabjamun and basundi followed by icecream.The taste of the food was par excellence and my guest was overtaken by the enormity of the delicious and authentic Rajasthani food.

Chetana is one of our preferred eatout places.We live within 5 minutes of driving distance which is a big advantage.S doesn't like to have garlic in the food and one can exercise that option.It cost us Rs 250/head.Certainly not a princely sum.
The finale of course had to be the beeline to the omnipresent paanwallah.He made delectable Kolkata meetha paans which we enjoyed.Rs 6 per paan wasn't expensive.

I took some pictures which I will share with you all.

Monday, November 07, 2005

All Good Things Must Come To An End

How true the above adage is! It was a dream run. From the time,I decided to change my plan and go to New York to spend four days with H and L. I had to redo my ticketing and the more difficult part I decided to do first.i.e.London-Mumbai. It had to be Lufthansa as I had already paid for my return. Eventually I got the confirmation for London-Ffurt-Chennai-Mumbai .And what I thought was the easier part,London-NY turned out to be very very tough.It was sheer luck that I met a good samaritan on the Munich-London flight who helped to get me a ticket on London-NY and NY-London return.

I got 4 full days to spend in NY,2 of them falling on the weekend. I had a fantastic time and the last day was the best of all. L decided to take a day off and to help me finish the last minute shopping.We went to Barnes and Noble bookshop and I spent more than one hour soaking myself in the latest books that were on display.I picked up 'Healthy Aging' by Dr. Andrew Weil, post 9/11 by Naom Chomsky,Kevin Trudeau's 'Natural cures they don't want you to know about'and 'Critical Condition' by Barlette and Steele. We then went to 'Bath and Beyond' and bought some exotic items for our bathrooms.We were by then feeling a little hungry and L suggested that we go to 'Chennai Garden' for lunch. We had a south indian thali for 5.95 $.Unbelievable price.Incredible food.Cooks from Coimbatore,Madurai and Chennai.We tasted the real stuff.

And then it was time to get back to 777 and rest for a while before making it to Broadway to watch the show 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' at the Imperial Theater'.We walked through Broadway before reaching the Imperial Theatre.The flashing neon lights and the impressive buildings made a heady scene.There were tourists all over and pictures were being taken galore. L managed to get three tickets for 76$ a piece and the seats were superb.The play was hilarious and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.The settings were eyepopping.The background music was live and the whole band was right in front of the stage.It was an unforgettable experiencce.We took the subway and returned home.

I had just 4 hours of sleep after enjoying a delicious dinner prepared by L .It was time to get up and go.Say goodbye to H and L who made my stay so very comfortable and enjoyable.It was hard to leave them and come away but then knowing that L will be back in India a month hence gave me the courage to face the parting stoically .It was a wise decision to take this short holiday in New York. H and L will be relocating to London sometime in end December.