Monday, 23 December 2013

Alcha..

This is a long pending post. (I love this sentence; every time I use it, I get a feeling that the whole world was waiting for this post with nail-chewing breathlessness).

I have been to Alcha umpteen number of times. And, with every visit, the heart grows fonder. I mentally wished to write about them the same umpteen number of times, but a gentleman called Procrastination would wind my fingers with bright red ribbons and tie cute little bows (which I generally refuse to untangle).

A few days back, a friend went to Shantiniketan and posted photos of Alcha café. Let me add to this post, at the very outset that Alcha has two sections, a store and a café. I enquired if she visited the store as well. She fell from up-above-the-world-so-high and answered in negative.  I was determined that I would wash my hands of her. I mean, the store and the café are in the same compound and how could one miss either of the two?

Being the generous soul that I am, I dropped the idea of disowning the otherwise wonderful friend of mine and decided to write this post on my favourite store (I wonder how photo pe aisi baat mein dabake chali aayi for so long).

Alcha is a quaint little shop in Ratanpalli, Shantiniketan (5 minutes ricksaw-ride from the University campus; Phone : 0346-364-5272). The narrow dusty road is ornamented by Krishnochura (Gulmohar) trees on its sides. (In the picture however, you can hardly see flowers; you can spot two or three monkeys instead.)

Alcha is as beautiful as its name suggests. The whole compound is layered with shades of greens and pinks. Madhobilota (Rangoon creeper) and Bougainvillea grow here in abundance.


The moment you open your shoes and step onto its red cemented floor, you are transported to a different world. Weaves of various kinds greet you at the entrance. The weaver bird’s nest turned into a lamp and left-over kantha and khhesh fabrics mounted on the wall will instantly woo you with their simplicity. 


What awaits you is the Wonderland of Alice. At every nook and corner, you will find indigenous hand crafted items…. fabric ornaments, Dokra/ beaded jewelry, kantha bags and batuas, block printed and batik sarees, ready-made printed blouses, gamchha and khhesh curtains, cushion covers, wall hangings, fridge magnets from left over fabric, lamp shades, jewelry boxes, coconut shell candles, handmade soaps and the list is as long as “office-time-e-Metror-ticketer-line”. (Their in-house label is known “Abokaash” meaning ‘leisure’)


The first thing that invariably catches my attention every time I visit them, is their ornaments section. Their fabric-ornaments and Dokra pieces are innovations at their best. 


I saw this cute little butterfly and caught it with my camera lens. What a pretty sight it made!

The dupattas, stoles and blouses are stacked in big cane baskets. The readymade blouses are pocket friendly, priced mostly at a humble 350. You get halter-necks, boat-necks, t-shirt necks, knotted backs and many more….quirky, kitsch, stylish.

The Khhesh fabric has been put to use by Alcha in all its possible forms….sarees, curtains, cusion covers, bags, boxes and bedspreads. The same story holds good for Kantha.  


Alongside sarees, Alcha also has a wide range of apparels for men, women and kids. Their leather products are unusually beautiful.


Their home accessories section is on the first floor. They have beautiful hand painted mirrors, ceramic crockery sets, kantha lampshades, Patachitra-painted boxes, handmade paper wall hangings, cushion covers, quilts and curtains of various colours and textures. Mind-blowing collection and must-must-must-buy stuff.







Their collection of soft toys-turned-fridge-magnets-turned-tabletop-decorations is terribly cute and you would go mad at the profusion of choices. Their assortment of wrapping papers, mostly block-printed old newspapers, also stands out in the crowd.


Go. Visit Alcha. Just stroll in the store, bask in the beauty of their hand-crafted products, buy if you like and then head straight to their café. The café has a tiny bookstore which lends you books to read while you gorge yourself with a fat and fluffy omelet and take sips from the steaming cup of chaa.

Aaah! Abokaash, at its best…. : )      

Photographs: Author's own :D

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Importance Of Color Play In The Bedroom

If home is where the heart lies, bedroom is where the soul rests…(no, not in peace, but peacefully).

My bedroom walls had the same colour as those at my parents’ place. Mellow Yellow. (Nah, the idea wasn’t lifted from the latest home-paints TV commercial; the marriage happened years back). Happy walls teamed with happy curtains.

I love bright colours and JD likes earthy hues. Our bedroom is a blend of both. So, is the fourth wall that stands apart from the other three. It is painted bright orange on two sides while the portion in between is sanded. “The caramel-coloured granules shall remind us of the sea,” he said, while choosing the wall-texture. All the furniture in our bedroom is wooden…from wall cabinets to the book ends.











In contrast to the wooden furniture, everything else is bright and colourful. This particular bedcover was a gift and is my recent favourite. The cushion covers and the bedspreads are generally (read always) vibrant and multihued. I especially love those which are handcrafted from various provinces of India, like Kantha, Batik, Kalamkari, Bagru, Ajrak or Madhubani. (I have self-painted Madhubani cushion covers as well :D ) 






Self-made reminds me of “haar din D.I.Yali”. The plant holders on my window-sill are made of disposed-of beer bottles and left-over fabrics hijacked from my tailor. The bedside lamp is a remnant of a ‘high-spirited’ evening. I have made lampshades with spare fabrics (when I got bored, I used one for a flower vase). And no, those fancy Gerberas are rare guests. On good mood days, I put vermilion-red Ixora flowers from the garden.




My dressing-table is a palette with colours thrown all over….the bangles, the beaded neckpieces, the ‘pen-pencil-kohl-brushes-jurapin’ holder (made by a friend from a disposable coffee-cup) and the Kashmiri papier mache jewelry box.

The framed pictures are monochromes to balance the overdose of colours everywhere. JD and I believe, “when we are hungry, love and cinema will keep us alive.” Hence, a collage of favourite movie stills (yes, we are weird), a collage of the room-mates and a collage that looks like his first letter and reads his name. (my favourites: J – a pelican’s wide open beak, D – my coffee-mug’s handle, P – a monkey’s coiled tail)….Haan haan, woh jahan khhatam hoten hein, hum wohi se shuru hoten hein…. :D      
  
(PS: The most important colour in one’s bedroom is love. The rest can be managed.)



This post is a part of the Fab Blogger contest by FabFurnish.com, India's largest online home store. Get the best deals for bedroom furniture, wall clocks and bed sheets online.   [Word limit: 400 words]



Saturday, 23 November 2013

Hoogly and the Howrah Bridge...


There are times when Baba and I go to office together.  We cross Babughat. On the left, the river flows. If Hoogly was a woman, Howrah Bridge could easily be her crown.  

One day, I was checking my phone, as our car drove past Babughat. Baba snapped at me, “Sharadin phone niye ki khutur khutur korish? Jaanla diye baire-ta dyakh na!” (What are you doing with that silly phone? Just look out of the window and see.)
It was perhaps the nth time, I was crossing Babughat. “What is there to see, Baba? I see this everyday! The same river. The same Howrah Bridge.”
“So? Just because you see it every day, does that make it any less special?”
True.

Also, that answers a lot of other important questions of life.
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A month back, I went to a salon. One of those unisex ones. The woman who was attending me smirked and remarked, “That guy there, Ma’am, is constantly staring at you.”
I turned around and saw him. *maan mein laddoo futa? Haan haan*
I feigned displeasure. “You must go and tell him that I am married and my husband is here. So he better be careful.”
The woman:  You are married!!! (She Google-searched the vermilion at the middle parting of my head and failed).
“Yes. Of course, I AM married. And, to that man who is oggling at me!” I started giggling (I‘ll tell you how. Say Farhan Akhtar asks me out. It was that giggle).

6 seconds silence and then, the woman said, “That’s your husband! You must have got recently married. Let your marriage pass a few more years, you will see how men change. They don’t stare at their wives like this.”

I did not correct her. I, in fact, did not say a word. One can’t blush and talk at the same time, no?
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In all these seven years of being married and the double-of-seven years of being together, we have given each other almost every possible DIY gift that can be given to each other (Okay, leave the baby part out of the DIY list). I have run out of ideas and hence breakfast was the only thing I could come up with. Silly juvenile things. They don’t fill the stomach. They just manage to fill the heart, nevertheless.


(This also reminded me of a childhood song. Our bus-conductor kaku from the school bus used to sing this: “Dekha hein peheli baar, Saajan ki ankho mein pyar. Dim pauruti. Dim pauruti”.…the last two words in lieu of the music.)  
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Anniversaries are like the last line of the “tiffin-prayer” we used to say in school before eating lunch. ‘Thank you God for everything’.  
In my case, neither is JD God, nor has he given me everything. So I may say: Thank you for being my food, clothes and shelter. (Ugh, “my food” sounds raunchy.) Therefore correction: Thank you for being home. (Now, that sounds perfect.)  : )
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Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Farewell

Madhumita stared at her daughter. She stared ceaselessly…like there was no tomorrow.

She saw the preparations being made. She decided to sit still and watch her little girl get ready. Strangely, even at 28, daughters are little girls for their mothers.

Madhumita’s sister draped the saree. The blood red silk with its thick golden border dazzled. (Every time Madhumita would help her daughter wear a saree, she would complain, “Ma, I am looking so fat! Look at the pleats, Ma! You don’t know anything. Mashi does it so much better”. ) This time, Madhumita obliged and let her sister do it.

Once the saree was draped, one of her cousins brought a bowl of sandalwood paste. Little dots of chandan were put on the two sides of the red bindi, around the curves of the eyebrows. The sight of her daughter’s forehead transported Madhumita to days when the daughter was five or six. She would take her mother’s dupatta, drape it like a saree, make a paste with talcum powder and water and with the butt of a match stick, she would put white dots on her forehead. Decking up like a bride was her favourite game which gave way to “teacher-teacher” once she grew up a little. (Madhumita also remembered how her daughter drooled over her lipsticks. Since she was not allowed to use them, the naughty little girl would ask her mother to kiss her on the lips so that a tinge of colour could pass onto her baby lips too. She wanted to consume paan for the very same reason. Her daughter loved red lips.)

Once the chandan was done, one of the relatives got alta and started putting the red liquid on the circumference of her daughter’s feet. On normal occasions, her daughter would jump and shriek at the tickle, but today, she was a quiet, well behaved ‘lokkhi meye’.

Her daughter was all decked up and ready to leave. A big Rajanigandha garland was put around her neck, adding to the finishing touch.

Madhumita could hear someone asking, “Has everyone arrived? It’s getting late. We must start now.” Her brother pointed out that the packet of khhoi (popped rice) was missing. One of the relatives arranged for it quickly.

It was all set.

The big white vehicle was waiting outside their gate.

The daughter was escorted by flocks of relatives.

The engine ignited and the car started moving. Her daughter was finally leaving.

Madhumita stared at her daughter. She stared ceaselessly…like there was no tomorrow.

Her son-in-law pulled Madhumita close and she plunged into an unfathomable tornado of tears and tremours. Her vision blurred. All she could hear was the sound “Bolo hori hori bol” as the white vehicle carrying her daughter headed towards the crematorium.  


Saturday, 2 November 2013

Happy D.I.Yali

I have been going through a long stretch of ‘no-time-for–myself’ mode. And it just refused to stop. Like Arnab Goswami’s insightful observations, like this year’s Kolkata-monsoon. The maid made a Mr. India act for the past one month, the laptop went into coma and I had one ‘as-long-as-the-Kharagpur-Railway-Platform’ list of things that made me upset. One of them was the gold price. With the brother-in-law’s wedding round the corner, visiting the gold shop introduced me to a new reality yesterday. Each one of them lining up Gariahat Road seemed like Goddess Kali with invisible Khargas (bent sword), slashing our heads ruthlessly. The long queues infront of gold shops were like garlands of human heads hanging around her neck. : (

But then, bad moods, thankfully, are like fruit-flavoured lip glosses. I lick them off whenever I want to and they don’t get to last too long.

Every year, pre-Diwali, I make candles for home. Yesterday at 11 o’ clock at night, it dawned on me that I have made none this year. And, then, I did. (Thankfully, my crafts-drawer had chunks of paraffin wax stored in it). Impromptu ideas do not turn out to be perfect. But they give you happiness….sawwliid happiness, I tell you.

I shall share the easiest Diwali decoration ideas I have pulled off in the past 2-3 years, including this year’s add-ons. (Since I can only make only easy ones, I guess, all of them are easy).
1.      An apple a day:
The Father-in-law is a staunch believer of the above and stacks the refrigerator with the round red fruit to keep doctors away. No, there aren’t any young, handsome doctors in the locality. Yet, I keep forgetting the fruit and they turn brownish, swollen and ugly. Instead of throwing them into the trash bin and inviting ‘kaan-mawla’ from the FIL, I decided to use them as a part of the Diwali décor. (Not an original idea. A home-décor magazine lent its helping hand.) The fruit shaped candles got added….for obvious reasons.

Instruction manual: Scoop out the middle (the seed-portion) and put candles in the apple-tunnel.  : )
  


2.      Dim-light: All you have to do is to save the egg-shells after your omelets. The idea was to make candles in the shells itself. Somehow, I was not too confident and placed small, round candles in the oval chambers instead. 

      Try them. And team them up with your own colourful ideas or with floating birds, like I did.

3.     1-2-cha cha cha: Nothing can be easier than this. These chai-glasses are available with the roadside tea sellers. Three rupees each. Buy them, melt transparent gel wax and pour them in. Your ‘tea-lights’ are ready. 

Okay, please don’t miss the coasters. They are tea-themed too. :D


4.     Phool’s paradise: This one is a phool-on DIY thing. Let me take a deep Ramdev Baba-breath and explain it to you. My mother gifted me a set of scented candles. I kept the molds. (Yes, always always always keep the used candle-molds. They save you when you want to make candles at 1 at night. They saved me last night.)
Making these is easy. So no unsolicited gyaan. Only a few tips: Before the wax dries completely, put the dried flower and leaf on each of them. They get stuck evenly, neatly. (The dried flowers are also homemade. If you have loads of time, use fat books, if not use iron and press them).

Narcissism alert: The parents in law had their bathrooms and kitchen renovated. Pieces of broken tiles have been made into coasters. I have loads of them and don’t get surprised if some reach your place as anniversary or birthday presents. :D


5.    Soupto bashona: The soup bowl was a gift. With a spoon. (how I love these little free nothings) Yesterday, I decided to give it a “chhilo-beral-hoye-gelo-rumal” make-over. The dyes for making coloured candles could not be found. I used my Bindi-powder.   (I thanked my stars for buying a box of these! There was a time when my MIL’s Robin Blue powder adorned my forehead as blue kumkum. :P)


And, here is the soup-cup candle on my table. What also caught my attention today is that 87.5% of my tableware has been gifted by the best friend. But then, why does one keep best friends? Aren’t they meant for these?


(Since this is yesterday’s addition, I shall shamelessly put one photograph extra).



Have a great Diwali and a very happy Kali Pujo, everyone.

Poster Courtesy: My brother-in-law.



Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Monochrome


Dear You,

See what I found today! This old black and white photograph!

Remember that first time you had brought me to this house? This photograph drowns me in a sea of memories from that day….and days thereafter, spent with you, spent in this house. This was the house you called home. This was the house that became my home eventually. Forever.

“It is a huge joint family with everyone living under the same roof. Will you be able to cope?”, you had asked. Every couple in the house had one room to themselves. You asked me if I could manage. “It was you who taught me the difference between plenty and perfection, no?”, I muttered. There would be no separate living room or kitchen and not even a separate bathroom for our exclusive use, you reminded me. There would be no privacy.

I smiled. Homes are not made of kitchens and bathrooms, silly. They are made of love, memories and dreams.  

This was home. Home where you belonged. Home where I belonged to you.

As I lay my eyes on this photograph, I see the huge open space beyond our main gate. A rectangular patch of soft green grass where you and I would spend several sunny afternoons, breezy evenings and rainy nights sitting or standing next to each other, doing nothing. We would not hold hands or kiss, remember? We would let our eyes make love to each other. We would melt into each other’s existence, drenched in the sunlight, soaked in the rain. Yes, this space meant so much. This was our space. This was a hushed interval in between the clatter and clamour of this huge building and the huge family it homed. We would stop here and breathe.

The green patch merged into the building. It was a sturdy, colourless structure straight from the yellowish pages of old novels. I used to believe, you know, that houses like this were living beings. The wink of green peeping from the crevasses of the old building reaffirmed my belief. Have you ever wondered, how could plants grow from those discoloured, old bricks plastered in cement? I figured out the reason. The house breathed. It breathed life into those green little creatures growing from its walls. Yes, this house was like a human being for me (more precisely, a close relative). Every time I placed my cheek against its cold walls or the colder floors, I could feel mother’s warmth.

I flip the pages of my memory’s album. The picture of that first time I stepped into the house gushes into my eyes. The house caught me in an eternal reverie. 

The main door to the house opened itself slightly as we entered, making a V-shaped gesture which looked like someone ushering us in with folded hands. Two small steps led us to a long corridor. Black and white chessboard floor fascinated me to no ends. “We would play chess here”, was my first reaction. “Or may be, play scrabble, cross and nots or cross word puzzles?”, I laughed.  (This was the first signal of falling in love with this house). The corridor led to the thakurdalan which resembled the shape of one half of an ’eight’, cut longitudinally. A huge triangular chandelier dangled from the ceiling which seemed like a handful of stars gathered from up above the world so high. The house rested itself on huge pillars which guarded the courtyard from all its sides. I held a pillar and swayed my body in a semi-circular motion (like heroines would do in Hindi movies!) I was so excited! As you led me towards the staircase, I saw that the chess-board pattern of the floor has changed into a crisscross design. There was a little white cross each on little black squares. And then there was the stairway! Stairway to heaven, I joked. Such huge steps they were!

“Are we climbing up the Eifel tower? Infinite”, I complained teasingly. Believe me, I had never seen such a stairway before. Steep, sudden and serpentine towards the end. At the end of the flight of stairs, we stepped onto a crescent-shaped verandah. On one side of the balcony, stood rows of rooms. These were the bedrooms and they were the only rooms that were allotted on a per couple basis. You started introducing me to each and every family member, one by one. I could make a mental grouping, a grouping where I was somehow the odd one out. I could not figure out why I was different. But I was. Like, if you club M, N, P, Q, R together, O will be left out. They were like consonants amidst whom ‘I’ was the only vowel. Much needed, yet somewhat different from all of them. (Did I take pride in that? I cannot remember now). As my eyes meandered into the nooks and corners of the long corridor, I started wondering which room would belong to me. Six rooms stood one after the other. All of them had occupants. Where would we stay once we got married? You pointed your finger to the terrace.

We climbed another flight of stairs to reach the topmost floor of the house. “Disadvantages of being the youngest bachelor! I am allotted the chilekothhar ghor”, you told me. “Advantages of getting married to the youngest bachelor. I am allotted the chilekothhar ghor!”, I excitedly told myself.  (This was the second and the last signal of my falling in love with this house). I had always longed for a room that looks at the sky straight into its eyes. I always longed for a room which would be the first one to hear the pitter-patter of the rain. I always longed for a room which the rays of the morning sun chose to kiss first. You gifted me one.

There was this huge terrace at one corner of which, I spotted our room. I looked away shyly and gazed here and there. I saw a big round-bellied cat (with a terribly tiny tail) observing us with keen green eyes. Two potted plants sat next to the cat, with a full bloomed flower each. I wondered if the flowers had a fight. They just refused to look at each other, with their heads tilted towards opposite directions. The TV antenna stood helpless and half broken. The easy chair sat lazily in the warm sun with a pillow rested on its shoulder, basking itself in the morning glory.  The clothesline stood there empty. And then, there was our room! Did you notice that from the very first day, I had referred it as “ours”? As I look back at the days spent in that 8’ by 10’ cloud 9, I see the world of our own. “Just the two of us” was all that we needed (yes that is why I insisted on not having kids to which, of course, you gladly agreed). And there it was….the ‘I’ stirred and blended in the ‘You’. Like cubes of sugar in your morning coffee. YUIO was a name I coined for the two of us. All our books, diaries, suitcases, boxes and common belongings were marked with that word. YUIO…a password for our joint savings account, called life! YUIO was how we would make love, soaked in the rain or soaked in the moonlight or may be, soaked in the dust from violent Norwesters. Remember, we would never pull curtains? On clear nights, we two would lie lazily on the bed and count the stars….1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and then there would be that big round silver moon ogling at us wide-eyed. 

We were one single soul in two different bodies. At times talking to you was like talking to myself. Likewise, when you would talk to me, it would seem like reading my own diary. YUIO!! Entwined, engrossed and engulfed by each other.

“I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.”

P.S: You always wondered why during fights, I would try to tickle myself and then make you tickle me right after that. They say, biologically it is impossible to get tickled by one’s own self. It was the only way I could take the ‘I’ out of ‘YOU’ and scare you. :)

P.P.S: Can we frame this photograph?

P.P.P.S: I love you. But, more than that, I love YUIO.   

Love,
P.



(This was my entry for the Rupa Romance Contest. And, no, I did not make it to the top entries. I had taken it off the blog in terms of the rules of the contest. Now that the results are out, I am re-posting it).

Monday, 7 October 2013

পুজোর গয়না


A few years back, Ma had given me a wooden comb from Shonibarer Haat in Shantiniketan. It was tucked carefully in my jewellery box and remained unused. It was too beautiful for combing hair. I would often hold it in my palm, look and put it back where it belonged.   
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For the past few years, I have always tried to make (on my own) at least one piece of jewellery for myself for Pujo. This year, I had an unusually busy schedule and all these high hopes disappeared in oblivion. (Even yesterday morning, I was revising and adding to my Grumble-List and this was one of the primary items).
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Yesterday, while buying something from a local grocery store, I discovered a quaint little sewing shop in my para. Instantly an idea made a Jack-in-the-box act. I bought six Anchor embroidery threads. Pocket pinch: 30 rupees only!!! (the lips spread ear-to-ear, curving a reverse-rainbow across my face).


I came back home and in fifteen flat minutes, my jewellery was ready (including clicking these photos).




The only thing that is left now: “Eta pore manja dewa!” *mentally singing this* :D