Temperatures are soaring, and the soft drinks and cold drinks makers are making mullah, wooing millennial with fancy ad campaigns. Be it Coke, Pepsi, Limca, Fanta, Thumbs Up, Tang or Paper Boat they come with the promise to quench your thirst, beat the heat, add style to your swag and so much more. Some of them can even transform us into superheroes by helping us achieve the impossible. And then there are fruit juices from Tropicana and Real which are supposed to be healthy as well, if the ads are to be believed. Kids crave for Cola’s and Tang and synthetic juices. Teenagers hang out with cans of aerated drinks; these are in vogue you see!
Whatever happened to good old nimbu paani or lemonade. When we were young that was our only treat on hot summer afternoons, sweet and slightly tangy nimbu paani or lebur shorbot (as we Bengalis’ like to call it). In Bengal, we get a different variety of nimbu (lemon), mildly fragrant gandharaj lebu that add aromatic flavour to the nimbu paani. We had gandharaj lebu plant in our courtyard then and nimbus were in abundance. In summer, mom used to keep sugar syrup in a glass bottle in the fridge. As soon as we were back from school, we were given a cool glass of lebur shorbot with a spoon of sugar syrup and a pinch of black salt. Sometimes she added roasted jeera powder for variety. It was both refreshing and healthy. But there was something amazing about the lebur shorbot that Didun (my naani) used to make, I am yet to taste a drink so delicious!
We were occasionally allowed to have
orange squash, orange concentrate that used to come in a 1-litre glass bottle.
One-tenth orange squash mixed in cold water was a real treat for us. A few
cubes of ice would make it even better. You would find a bottle of Kisan orange
squash in every house in summers. Roof Afza was available too, but we Bengalis
are not very fond of that drink.
Bel Pana – a drink from of the pulp of Bel
or wood apple, is yet another summer drink I so crave for. It involves
straining the pulp of Bel mixing it with curd or cold milk. My mother
would also add jaggery to it. The process is slightly complicated, but Bel
Pana is delicious and one of the most nutritious drinks that you can team
with your breakfast on a hot day. When I was a little girl, fruit sellers from nearby
villages would sometimes get Palm juice or Tal Ras in an earthen pot
early morning. The giddy sweetness of the palm juice was a rare treat that we
would look forward to on Sunday mornings. There was always homemade aam
panna and lassi and cold coffee and fresh coconut water. We had a
coconut tree in our courtyard with the sweetest tender coconut water.
No matter how much Paper Boat tries,
their aam panna or thandai will never match the homemade flavours
of my mom and Didun! Nimbus is nowhere close to lebur shorbot and
Homemade’s aam panna couldn’t be further away from it. The aerated soft
drinks don’t even quench my thirst, forget about adding to my style quotient.
Instead, I use my superpowers to recreate the magic of Didun’s lebur shorbot
and mom’s aam panna. Couldn’t find Bel in Gurgaon or would love
trying Bel Pana.
A story of friendship that began decades ago, in a small town and blossomed over the years.
When my parents moved back to Agartala I was just 5. As my
parents wanted to educate me in English medium I was admitted to Holy Cross, a
Catholic school and the best-known English medium school in Agartala in then.
New town, new school far away from home can be a little disconcerting for a
little girl. I remember the uncomfortable first few days when I would be headed
to the bus stop holding my mother’s hand, reluctance to let her go when the
school bus arrived. Of course, like other little girls, I made friends in no
time both at the bus stop and class and school seemed fun.
Our school buses had had fancy names, mine was Flavia. As I
boarded the bus and sat quietly on the first day, I noticed a girl with curly
hair and a friendly smile board a few stops later. She had an unusual name,
Swadhinata. She was in the 1st standard like me but in a different section.
Though I made her acquaintance, I was more friendly with kids of my section and
was quite happy hanging around with them. Things were going great till 3rd
standard when they decided to split up out section. My friends and I were in
different sections now. I was in the same section as the curly haired girl.
After the first few days on discomfort in a new section, I remember making
friends with her. I don’t remember all the details now but very soon we were
best of friends. Be it in the class or in the recess we were always together.
We made other friends as well, especially two other girls from the class
Jayeeta and Nilanjana. Four of us would hang out together all the time, playing
Hide & Seek, Colour – Colour or having lunch under a tree. With our long
plaits dangling we would huddle together and whisper little secrets. Holy Cross
of our times had a huge campus with many trees. We would sit under a different
tree every afternoon and have lunch. I remember one afternoon it suddenly
started raining and by the time we ran back to the classroom we were all
drenched. Be it our lunch, discomfort of our first periods, our first crush,
our first love letter, we shared everything.
Though the four of us were usually together and we had many
more friends, there was a special bond between Swadhinata and me. We shared
everything, was privy to each other’s every little secret, hopes, dreams and
fears. Silly as it may seem now, a boy staring at you or your favourite teacher
not paying enough attention were matters of grave concern then. There were
other important things like occupying our favourite seat on the bus, having
lunch under our chosen tree, being selected to the school choir. In senior
classes we would go for tuitions together, save on rickshaw fare to have mutton
chops on our way back. Roadside mutton chops or chanachur (Bengali mixture) sold for five bucks were the only
things we indulged in then. I remember we
vouched to stay in the same city, close to each other once we grew up. Promises
that little girls make to each other!
Life had different plans for us though. After school, we
went to different colleges, then left Agartala and went to different cities for
higher studies. There were no mobile phones then, no Facebook, not even email,
but we stayed in touch, our friendship only grew stronger with years. We took
up jobs in different cities, she was in Kolkata while I was in Delhi. We would
meet only a couple of times a year, but nothing changed between us. We would
talk and laugh like two schoolgirls, pick up pieces from where we left as if
distance and time were no factors at all. Then one day she told me that she was
started seeing one of our former classmates Saptarishi. The news took me by
complete surprise, in all these years I had never imagined her to be even
remotely interested in him. But things happen when they happen, and they happen
for the best. They got married soon after and her husband, who I didn’t
particularly care for in the school, became a great friend as well.
We are in different corners of the world now,
hoping to meet sometime this year, but distance only seems to make our bonds
stronger. They say friends are the family you choose, but I would say
friendship chooses you stays with you for the rest of you
The other day I stumbled upon the super cool freckled teenager, Archie. Yes, the whole goofy gang – the lovable glutton Jughead, self-obsessed Reggie, magical Sabrina, musical Josie and the Pussycats, dumb Moose, talented Chuck, and of course, blonde Betty and brunette Veronica vying for Archie’s attention. They seemed slightly jaded at first, but one close look and I could feel the excitement and the fun, their eyes gleaming with silly mischiefs and their bright faces bristling with friendly rivalry. While Archie was showing off, Reggie was being a narcissist, snoring Jughead’s stomach was making funny sounds. Veronica was obsessing with her looks and a new boy in town, Betty on the other hand couldn’t keep her eyes off Archie and Josie was working on her next song for the party. Archie’s eyes moved from Betty to Veronica, to every pretty girl in town. Sleepy little town Riverdale with the school Riverdale High, abuzz with pranks of Archie Andrews and his pals! They were silly, goofy, stupid and self-obsessed. They were also caring and harmless. They were teenagers, high school kids, that’s how they are meant to be!
I fell in love with the gang all over again, when I chanced upon them at Pinto’s Café over Sunday Brunch. There they were, sitting on a small book shelf next to my table. As I jumped up from my chair to grab a copy of Archie’s Comics, the Café owner, Sonal gave me a knowing smile, “Kids don’t care about these comics anymore, adults go for them”. Archie’s Comics came into being in 1940s. One of the most popular and loved comics for over decades, Archie became the epitome of cool high school kids. I read every issue of Archie’s, collected them and am still a huge fan of Archie Andrews and his pals!
Curtain rises on 2017, Archie and his friends walk into a world that has lost its innocent charm. Riverdale is now a dark creepy town ridden with murder, drugs, mafia wars, illicit affairs, it reeks evil. The once cool and carefree teenagers are now burdened with the grave task of setting things right in this crazy town. The adults seem to be not so responsible parents who couldn’t care less, costing Archie and his teenage friends their goofiness and happy-go-lucky attitude. It breaks my heart to see Archie, Ronnie, Betty, Jug and the gang behave all mature, step in where their parents failed. They drink openly, their relationships are complicated and very physical, rivalry is not innocent anymore. Teenage pranks have given way to the dangerous game of Griffins & Gargoyles. The gang is divided between the do-gooders and the not so good. They lie, cheat, betray and plot. Light-hearted fun that we associate with high school years is completely lost!
I am talking about the TV series Riverdale, a modern take on Archie’s comics. It’s been over 75 years since Archie and his friends saw the light of the day and times have changed. Teenagers love the new Riverdale, I am told. Have times changed so much that our teenagers are forgetting the simple pleasures of carefree high school years, I sometimes wonder! While looking up Archie I did come across reprints of yesteryear’s Archie’s Comics, maybe there still are a few takers for goofy fun!
The green train engine was sulking. The joker with the tin drum was completely ignoring him today, he has been chit chatting with the bald doll since morning. Sitting on the pelmet, the crying doll and the walkie talkie doll were watching the whole scene below with amusement. They are all Tiya’s toys, though she doesn’t play with them anymore she has kept them very carefully. Her dad had got her the bald doll when she was a little baby. The green train and the joker with the drum were birthday gifts from her uncle. Her Masi had got Tiya and her sisters the crying doll and the walkie talkie doll from abroad.
As a child, Tiya spent many afternoons playing with these toys. She would wind the train engine and it would go across the room with a shrill whistle. The joker would play the drum and nod its head. The bald doll would be put to sleep, while Tiya and her sisters would make tea in their toy tea-sets or prepare lunch in their toy kitchen and serve tea and snacks to the dolls and a few wooden toys. The crying doll and the walkie doll were their most coveted toys. They would show off these dolls proudly to their cousins and friends. The crying doll would start wailing the moment her soother was taken out. The walkie talkie doll would wish good day and walk a few steps at the press of a button in its belly. The girls would watch them with delight and clap their hands. The toys were numbered, but they were enough to keep Tiya and her sisters entertained, and they handled them with great care.
Even after they grew up, they cherished these toys. The train, the joker, the bald doll, the mini tea-sets and few wooden toys were kept in a showcase. The crying doll and the walkie doll were placed on the pelmet. The train didn’t whistle any more, the joker wouldn’t drum at all, the dolls have stopped crying and talking, but the girls loved them as much. These toys were part of their happy childhood. Tiya would occasionally take them out, dust them and put them back.
Around that time, Tiya was introduced to the whole range of Leo toys and Hot Wheels cars, courtesy of her cousin. Leo Toys and Hot Wheels were pretty new then, her uncle started getting these for his son. Tiya and her sisters were invited to play and share the toys. A train with an engine and bogeys moving on the tracks, a hen that would lay eggs, super-fast cars, Tiya had never seen such fancy toys. She would play with them for a while, but her heart went to out to her old toys.
Soon Tiya left home for studies and then took up a job. Her sister got married and had a son. When the child grew up a little, their dad, the loving grandfather, gave all their old toys to her little nephew. The joker and train were broken in no time, the dolls now have broken limbs. Tiya’s sister finally rescued the dolls from her son and put them aside, whatever was left of them. “He has so many toys, nothing holds his interest for more than two days. And then there are video games,” her sister often complains. “Don’t know why dad gave our toys to him”.
Times have changed, children are spoilt for choice now. What do they know about cherishing a few broken old toys?
Once upon a time, long before social media had taken over our lives, long before Snapchat and Tinder, there lived a girl Tirna, in a sleepy little town Duru tucked in between three hills and a river. She lived in a small bungalow with her parents and sisters. Her father was quite an important man in Duru, and Tirna and her sisters went to the best school in the town. She was already in senior school and would be going off to college in Delhi or abroad in a year or so.
Tirna was a young girl with lot of dreams. While she was eager to explore the world outside Duru and was studying hard for it, she loved every bit of her little town – the slow flowing river that would get wild during the monsoons, the green and gentle mountains, white and grey clouds playing hide and seek with the peaks, starlit nights when she would lie on her back and gaze at the stars for hours, chirruping birds waking her every morning, beautiful flowers that blossomed everywhere in Duru. But most of all she loved the moonlit nights. Moon light created a magic for her, and she would sit on the terrace for hours losing herself in the magical moonlit world.
Tirna loved to read. She would spend hours in the small library on the hill top devouring on Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Leo Tolstoy or Anton Chekhov. She liked to write as well, she would pen down her thoughts in her journal, try her hands in poems and sometimes short stories. Her writing was still very private to her, her journal was carefully locked away in her study table drawer, away from the prying eyes of the world. Tirna’s letters to her cousins and relatives living in faraway places were the only writings her friends and family were privy to. She wrote long and beautiful letters to them regularly, sharing little things and happenings around her.
One day, as she was going through a magazine in the library, she came across a small announcement in the letters section – ‘Make new friends through letters,’ and listed in the announcement were a few names and addresses of people who would like to make pen friends. Tirna found this very interesting, she picked up a name randomly – Ankur Roy, an engineering student in BITS, Pilani. She took out her pen and pad and started writing a letter to Ankur, telling him about herself and her life in Duru. She wrote the address and posted the letter on her way back.
Weeks passed, she had almost forgotten about Ankur and the letter. One day as she got back from school her mother said, “There’s a letter for you Tirna. I have put it on your table.” The letter was from Ankur Roy of BITS Pilani. Ankur was having his 1st semester exams, hence the delay in responding to Tirna. He hailed from Delhi, was a topper from DPS RK Puram now pursuing engineering in BITS. Ankur never had pen friend before and thanked Tirna for writing to him.
Tirna’s excitement knew no bounds – her first pen friend, getting to know somebody outside her little circle, it was all very exhilarating. She immediately wrote back. Her schooling was coming to close and her parents wanted her to take up engineering, but she wasn’t very sure, she wrote. Her grades were good, and she could probably get into any engineering college, and that seemed to be the sensible thing to do. After writing those lines to Ankur, Tirna realized she has never shared this with anybody before, not even her best friend Payal. In fact, she has been scared to admit this even to herself, afraid of disappointing her parents.
In his next letter, Ankur urged Tirna to go for what she wanted, not be pushed by others. Being an engineer was his dream, he wrote, and he will probably go abroad after graduation. Ankur and Tirna wrote to each other regularly, about their dreams and aspirations, about their little romances. When the girl Ankur liked started seeing someone else he was shattered, as if his world has fallen apart. Tirna’s letters urging him to focus on his studies and telling him that he will find someone else helped him move on. Tirna started sharing her writings with Ankur, little poems, short stories. He was her first critic and appreciative reader. Unwittingly over the months, Tirna and Ankur became best of friends and confidante. They shared their wildest dreams and silliest fears with each other, in their letters they would bare their hearts out without the fear of being judged. They were patient with each other, encouraged and advised it each other. Maybe it was the distance that was between them, maybe it was the medium of letters that created veil of security and intimacy.
When the time came, Tirna plucked up courage to tell her parents that she wanted to pursue English literature. She has already applied to few colleges in Delhi and Kolkata for the same. Though her parents were upset with her for a while, they ultimately gave in. Tirna got selected in a college in Delhi and left home and the little town Duru to pursue her dreams. She let Ankur know of course, and he was indeed happy for her. Meanwhile Ankur was now in 2nd year, getting busier with his studies, but he continued to write to Tirna regularly.
One day when Tirna got back to the hostel after her classes, she suddenly heard her name being called out loudly, she had a visitor. Tirna she wasn’t expecting anybody that afternoon, in fact she was soon to meet her friends in the café outside. She went to the visitor’s room and looked around but couldn’t see a familiar face. As she was about to leave the room thinking that she must have been called by mistake, someone called out her name a little hesitantly. When she turned and saw a tall, thin boy looking at her. “Do I know you,” she asked curtly. “I am Ankur, Ankur Roy.’ Tirna couldn’t believe herself, Ankur visiting him of all people. He was on a short break, visiting his parents in Delhi. “Thought I would surprise you,” he said.
Tirna somehow had never imagined meeting Ankur in person, and surprised she was indeed. She did envisage what Ankur would like at times, and there he was before her, a tall boy with an intelligent and friendly face. Tirna took Ankur to the canteen outside the hostel, and there they sat talking for hours, giving physical shape to the friendly intimacy of the letters. They talked easily like old friends who have met after years. They realised only when the canteen manager came up to them and said that he had to shut the place, it was almost 10 and they have been talking continuously for the last 4 hours. Tirna had to get back to hostel as she had a 10 pm curfew. Ankur visited her again the next day, before catching his train back to Pilani.
Tirna and Ankur continued writing, they would often talk to each other on the phone and meet whenever possible. Their first meeting or may be the first letter, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that grew stronger with years!
I am the dude super cool, I walk around the campus humming tunes in the ears of cool guys & gals. Be it soft romantic melodies, rap or hip-hop, I play you songs that make your hearts flutter, your feet tap joyfully, and your lips whistle. Be it walking around the campus, hanging out in the canteen, sitting under a tree, studying in the library or just sitting quietly in your hostel room, I am your hip companion who sings you your favourite song. From my huge collection of music cassettes, I choose one that suits your mood.Walkman, the dude super cool I am, the most aspired gadget of all the cool guys & gals. No matter what, they never part with me, they are unwilling to share me with their friends and peers. I am forever stuck to their belts or waistband, with my stylish friend Headphone stuck to their ears or hanging around their neck. Together, we make a deadly pair! The cassettes change hands, they are passed around, but Walkman & Headphone, no way, get your own pair!
Then one day I wasn’t so cool anymore. I lay ignored on the study table or bookshelves while cool gals & guys rushed in and out of their rooms. “Didn’t you hear the rumour,” whispered a hip-hop cassette in my ear, “kids are moving to CDs now and the much cooler Disc-man.” I raised my eyebrows in disbelief, “Don’t pay too much heed to such rumours.” But soon the shelves were flooded with CDs and the haughty Disc-man adorned the waistbands of my cool friends. I sat there sulking with my friend cassettes, to be drowned under the jazzy CDs.
To my surprise, the haughty Disc-man came and sat next to me one fine afternoon. I turned my face in disdain, “Oh chill! I am just taking a break. I will be soon gone.” “Haven’t you heard,” said a CD sounding alarmed, “the cool kids are moving to iPods now, CDs and Disc-mans will be soon forgotten.” “Stop spreading such malicious gossips,” snapped the Disc-man angrily, “Kids are busy with their mid-term exams, they will come back to us soon.” Exams got over, kids went home, leaving the sulking Disc-man and the CDs behind and came back with smart and digital iPods!
“What’s happening?”, the Disc-man yelled, “Who’s that? Why aren’t they looking at us?” “Oh, stop whining,” chided a CD, “Music has gone digital, can’t you see? We are too bulky and outdated, they don’t want us anymore.” The Disc-man looked around in disbelief, as he sat listlessly next to me.
Yes, music has gone digital indeed! There was a whole line of cool iPods that the boys & gals proudly owned. Then one day they dumped the iPods for even cooler iPads and mobile phones! Chic kids today download music & music apps, create their albums and listen to music on their super cool and hi-tech mobile phones, paired with sleek and stylish ear plugs. Walkman, Disc-man, cassettes and CDs are relics of a time gone by!