Just dormant

Not dead yet, just dormant. Visiting my birthplace, making new friends. Keeping busy. But all good things, actually all things must come to an end. Now it’s time to return in two days.

What is life if not a flowing river rushing to meet the ocean and merge. New banks, new course. Bone dry in summer heat, replenished and rejuvenated by the monsoon rains. What is carried in its bossom is for others to decipher. It just flows oblivious to the joy and pain it spreads. Not indifferent, it does not even know the meaning. Never returning to its source, it just explores.

photo of river Brahmaputra in Guwahati by author

Ubered in the City of Joy

Uber Experience in Kolkata: April 13, 2022

I am in Kolkata for the last few days as part of my travel to India during March – April of 2022 staying with my friend in New Town, a planned satellite town being developed for last so many years with wise streets, modern amenities, highrises and the town being near the airport makes it a desirable place to live. Infact residents of New Town do not have to go to old town Kolkata unless visiting friends and relatives. And that’s where the issue arise. I was here about four years back when the metro connection was being built. That metro is still not completed. So to visit family or friends in other parts of old Kolkata one has to depend on app based taxi services unless someone is brave enough to take the public bass services. I was not that brave to face an overcrowded bus in the oppressive humidity for which Kolkata is well known.

So come evening yesterday I and my friend found ourselves just outside the gates of the housing society waiting for the UBER driver who was supposed to be there in a few minutes. Well, after few cancelled reservations by UBER drivers and multiple calls going unanswered we were finally graced by the visit of an UBER driver. With a sigh of relief we sat down expecting the comfort of air conditioning to dry off the drenching sweat that had bathed us by that time. Well, we expected too much. Our merciful lord, the UBER driver, gave us all the excuses under an invisible moon hidden by the smog or cloud that had been hiding the sun for last few days in Kolkata why he would not allow us the privilege of an air conditioned ride to the City of Joy except agreeing that he was contractually obligated to turn on the air conditioning. To make a long story short, we had the pleasure of listening to his running commentary of how UBER was responsible for the devious ploy of depriving us of the pleasure of having what we have paid for and how and his fellow cohorts are going to ensure that we get our dues in some not too distant future because they were hard (or was it hardly) at work to serve their customers to the best of their abilities.

So one part of the ordeal was over. We had a good time with our friend and now it was time to come back. And then the fun started. If during coming it was couple of cancelled bookings now it was one cancellation after another. For every booking there would be about ten or fifteen minutes waith time. On your cell phone phone app you see the car moving a few blocks and then a permanent stall with calls being answered by a voice message saying that the caller was not reachable. We must have waited about an hour before an UBER driver picked up the phone and the app showed a constantly moving car.

Hallelujah! So we were finally on an UBER car about to be driven back home. But oh, wait! More surprises were waiting us. As we sat down on our seats the driver shut off the engine and asked my friend for the fare agreed upon by UBER. We were surprised. My friend asked whythe driver needs the fare. It’s between him and UBER. However the driver refused to budge and ultimately my friend gave in. We were simply too tired. More surprises waiting for us. Now my lord the driver wanted to see the cellphone of my friend and he really insisted. My friend asked the driver if he didn’t believe what my friend said but the driver just was insistent. Finally my friend gave his cell phone to the driver who took one look and gave the phone back to my friend. The driver said that he cancelled the booking and we could give him the agreed fare once we reach our destination. We were shocked but what to do. Get down and start the whole process again? What guarantee was there that we would get another one and if we get one how much time we may have to wait. We agreed and finally the car started moving. What a relief! We asked the driver to put the a/c on and lo and behold! another surprise. That would be an extra fifty rupees. This time my friend lost his patience and gave the driver a most profound sarcastic tongue lashing in perfectly chaste Hindi with due emphasis on the appropriate words to drive his point home. The result was that the sullen lord graced us with some cool air from the car a/c. The rest of the journey was made in dead silence.

When we reached home my friend asked me to take a photo of the license plate which I did. The driver was visibly upset and asked why we took a photo of the license plate. My friend responded that there was nothing further to talk and the driver would come to know the consequences soon. The look on the face of the driver as he drove away was enough to sooth some of our pains being ubered in the city of joy. Neither UBER nor it’s drivers care for the customers. They are there in this business to make money and customers conme last.

A Sojurn in Patience

The title may through you off. Please bear with me, have some patience. After all for last few months that’s what I had been assiduously cultivating.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not an impatient person. Born in a country with few thousands years of history and blessed or burdened with the weight of the past and growing up in a big family, patience becomes your second nature without even realizing.

They say patience is a virtue. May be. For practitioners of patience time moves slow. Trust me, practice it and see for yourself.

Ah, but I am digressing. It’s been slightly more than six years that I started my blog in WordPress. When I joined WordPress it had been forty plus years that I had not taken up the pen to write. Not that I was not writing anything. Hundreds of examinations, thousands of job applications, passport application, visa applications, green card application, naturalization applications, all these must count for something. What I was not writing was words that were buried deep inside me. My subdued passion was bubbling to come out. WordPress gave me an outlet.

And that’s when it hit me. I realized that somewhere in that journey called life I had lost my patience. The words were rushing out in torrents but I didn’t have the wherewithal to sit down at one place and write. The exuberance of writing something and posting it on the blog took over my psyche. No editing, no doing once over, just write and post. I am sure all my posts were crying out for editing but I just didn’t have the patience for that.

There was another revelation to me. I am realizing that while poetry comes naturally to me, I struggle when I have to write prose. One of the reason for that simply is my lack of patience to sit at one place and cohesively put my thoughts to paper.

Then about a year and nine months back something happened. Though the world had been opened to me through WordPress, I was not able to connect with readers of my posts written in my mother tongue Axomiya (Assamese). I am sure there must be wonderful bloggers in Axomiya in blogosphere using WordPress or some other platform. It was just that I was unsuccessful in finding out. Enter Facebook and a whole new world opened out to me. Suffice it to say that my writing in my mother tongue just took off and flourished.

For nearly two years I juggled my time between my blog on WordPress and my posts on Facebook. It was a struggle but I was able to balance my time well between the two worlds. Alas, there is only twenty four hours in the day. Then a few months back I started writing a story on Facebook. I intended to complete it withing two or three parts but somehow the story took wings and continued.

Now after forty four episodes, nearly forty six thousand words, the story is still continuing without an end in sight. So what that has got to do with this posts? Well, the balancing act between WordPress and Facebook is in tatters. I am finding that I am not being able to give as much time to my blog as I wish and I am suffering. I love the world of WordPress, friends that I have made, the beautiful words that I read and the learning. Yes, learning. I have learnt so much from my friends here in blogosphere. The thought that I am not being able to be an active participant here any more is killing me.

I am a pro- choice person by choice but in this particular issue of the story that I am currently posting in Facebook, I am pro-life in the sense that I will like to see my baby come to life. They say a full term for a baby is nine months. I am not there yet but not sure if the baby will be born pre-matured or the baby will be delivered overdue. Only thing I am sure about is that till it is delivered my visits to WordPress will be fe and far between. How I wish I can extend the day to forty eight hours or get and extra set of hands.

Well, as all of our wishes never become reality I only ask from you, my friends here in WordPress and my readers, that please bear with me in my sojurn in patience till I complete my story on Facebook and be back here again. Just have some patience.

As usual rest assured no editing had been done and it is straight from my heart to you.

Pranabendra Sarma, March 2, 2022
San Jose, California

Raindrops: Set of Three Haikus(photo by author)

Raindrops on leaves drip,
A transient impermanence,
Expectant earth waits.
**

Raindrops on leaves.


Tomorrow leaves fall,
Moist earth embraces the dead,
Rejuvenation.

Cherish the beauty,
Short life,lifelong memory,
In death, renewal.


I haven’t posted much on my blog for some time now. After a long forty day road trip of 9425 miles across USA, I was most probably getting lethargic. Few weeks back I started to write a long short story in my mother tongue Axomiya (Assamese) on my Facebook wall. Well, to make a long story short, after twenty eight episodes and nearly twenty seven thousand words, I haven’t yet seen the light at the end of the tunnel and falling very far behind. To be precise, still traveling hundred and eighty years in the past. I have still a long time to catch up to the present. I took the photograph of raindrops on rose leaves yesterday morning and as I was looking at the photo today, and it’s a gorgeous sunny day today, thoughts that came to my mind were transcribed by my fingers to a set of haikus. Obviously the rust shows.

Scheherazade Lost

Wrote this poem a few days back in English and then translated to my mother tongue Axomiya(Assamese). Posting both versions below as written.

Scheherazade Lost

I drank from the
goblet of your youth,
and enslaved for eternity
by your passion;
My soul, thirsty,
roams the streets of
Damascus of yore,
Sightless eyes explore
the meandering streets of
a Baghdad lost
to hubris of war;
Ears yarn for
endless stories of the
thousand nights
under a desert moon;
Alas, all I see
dancing on the skull of
a beheaded victim
of an undeclared war,
Silhouette of an
emaciated Scheherazade
lamenting for her freedom
and forgotten nights.

হেৰাই যোৱা শ্বেহেৰজাদী

পান কৰি তোমাৰ
যৌৱনৰ পিয়লাৰ পৰা,
অনন্ত কাললৈ হ’লো মই
তোমাৰ কামনাৰ ক্ৰীতদাস;
তৃষ্ণাতুৰ মোৰ আত্মাই
ফুৰে ঘূৰি
অতীতৰ দামাস্কাছৰ আলিবাটত
তোমাৰ সন্ধানত,
দৃষ্টিহীন চকুদুটিয়ে
যুদ্ধত হেৰাই যোৱা
বাগদাদৰ অলিয়ে গলিয়ে ফুৰে
তোমাকেই বিচাৰি,
কাণ দুখনে শুনিব বিচাৰে
মৰুভূমিৰ জোনাকৰ ছত্ৰছায়াত,
তোমাৰ মুখত
হেজাৰ নিশাৰ কাহিনী;
হায়, দেখো মাথোঁ মই,
অঘোষিত যুদ্ধৰ বলি
কোনো মৃতকৰ
ছিন্ন মস্তকৰ লাওখোলাত
নাচি থকা
শ্বেহেৰজাদীৰ ক্ষীণকায় ছায়াৰ

কৰুণ আৰ্তনাদ,
হেৰোৱা স্বাধীনতা আৰু
হেৰাই যোৱা হেজাৰ নিশাৰ
স্মৃতি সুৱঁৰি।


Featured image from Google

My dog one-upped me

It was a lazy summer day yesterday. After lunch I was sitting languidly on the sofa, dozing off from time to time, trying to decide if I should take a nap on the sofa or do something else like going to bed. In one of those blissfully sub-conscious moment my concentration was broken by the notification sound from my cell phone. Though I had made a promise to myself that I would not keep my phone anywhere near me while sleeping, I didn’t realize that the cell phone would find a loophole on that promise. Afterall  a nap is not sleep, so the phone attached itself to my hand as I was dozing on and off.

That notification was a message in our family WhatsApp group from my daughter who was sitting on another sofa near mine and was doing what girls normally do, scrolling through social media, texting, watching TV and more social media while engaging in her obsession during her stay at home. She takes photos of our dog Skooby constantly and then shares it wherever she can. Yesterday was no exception.

The summer heat must have contributed to my fuzzy logic, otherwise I can’t think of any reason why I succumbed to my temptation. That notification from my cell phone was of a message in Whatsapp with a photo my daughter had taken of our dog Skooby as he slept blissfully next to us. He didn’t have a cellphone to disturb his beauty sleep, a process in which I had enormous contributions from taking him out every morning and evening on his long walk and cooking his delicious dinner every evening. Well, to make a long story short, I uploaded that photo to my Facebook story with an one word comment and then forgot about it. So far so good, no issues. I went back to my dozing and Skooby kept on sleeping.

Come morning and my eyes were wide open. That photo of Skooby overnight garnered 10x more views that any of my Facebook posts ever got in a day. So unfair. I spend hours on writing a post and all Skooby did was just sleep. He didn’t even bother to take his selfie nor post his photo.

What do we call this? A picture worth a thousand words? Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder? Brief attention span of purveyors of the internet? I am having hard time to accept that photo of a sleeping Skooby beat my thoughtful compositions. Unless of course the world has gone to the dogs, a possibility I can’t ignore.

Meanwhile I am trying to explore ways how to train Skooby to write my blog to attract more traffic. Any suggestions?

Got first dose of COVID vaccine today.

End of a long wait? Light at the end of the tunnel finally or just the first hurdle crossed? Not sure how I feel. Not that I was waiting with baited breath to be vaccinated. I don’t have any plan of traveling in the near future and was kind of getting accustomed to the constraints of stay at home. Our HMO was falling woefully behind in vaccinating the different tiers ahead of us. Also the fact that my betterhalf won’t get vaccinated at the same time as me was another factor in my lack of enthusiasm to be vaccinated early with my age group.

However when we got an email from the CEO of our HMO that not even fifty percent of the age group ahead of us had been vaccinated and no dates could be estimated about our age groups and we may check other options to be vaccinated, my betterhalf started pushing me to register with the state and the county. Reluctantly I agreed but definitely did procrastinate as much as I could. The state site did not show any prospect but the county health services site did had an opening ten days after registration. All locations and dates prior to that were full.

Ultimately the date arrived today. The location was about ten miles from our house, a twenty minutes drive. As the place was unknown to me, I decided to be little early. The online registration asked to be there fifteen minutes before appointment time but I was forty five minutes before time. Boy, am I glad I did that. When I arrived at the facility and as I was entering the parking lot, I saw two long lines at ninety degrees to each other. From the car it was difficult to figure out which line was for what. After I parked my car, instinctively I moved towards the shorter line. It was also the line nearest to where I parked my car.

The sign near the end of the short line proclaimed “COVID vaccination by appointment only”. I felt good that I am in the right line. Then the elderly gentleman infront of me asked me when was my appointment. I said 11:45 AM. He said his was at 11:15 AM but he was in line for last fifteen minutes or so. Nothing that I could do. A volunteer came and told us to keep our IDs and appointment information ready for verification. A sign near by said Moderna vaccination only. However the volunteer informed us that the Pfizer vaccine was received the day before at the facility and therefore we would get the Pfizer vaccine. Till today, at that facility everyone had got Moderna vaccine. She also told that no fabric masks would be allowed inside the facility and to replace fabric masks with surgical masks that she provided if needed.

At the end of the line, ID and appointment information was verified and a clipboard and pen along with three pages of forms were provided to be filled up and on completion to go and stand in the long line to be ushered inside the facility. Here was the dilemma. There was no table and chair to sit down and fill the forms. People were sitting wherever they could and trying to fill up the forms. I decided to stand in the line and keep filling the form as the line moved. Thank God for the California sun. Though it was warm but better than be at the mercy of the weather gods like much of the US at present. The second line did maintain social distancing but to be honest, the first line fell woefully short in maintaining any semblance of social distancing. Once the forms were completed, staffs and volunteers checked them in the line itself and put a green sticker on top of the form. To the credit of the staffs and the volunteers, they were helpful and jovial and I must say, under the circumstances, they did and excellent job.

At one time only five people were allowed inside the facility. Once I entered through the main door, I thought the wait was over. Hah, it was not so. I think everyone had learnt well from Disney parks to hide the long lines inside from the people lining outside. One more station where the forms were checked and ascertained if people were there for the first or the second dose, those who were there for the first dose were made to stand in another line for registration. Those that were there for their second dose were sent in for vaccination directly from there.

There were six registration booths where the forms were taken, information entered into computers and a sticker with all necessary information was given to be pasted to the front of the shirt and then sent along to be vaccinated.

From that point onward, things moved fast. Health care professional who administered the vaccine to me was a really nice, young lady who answered all my questions thoroughly and before I knew it, it was over. She handed me a small card with the vaccination information and sent me to the appointment station for the second dose.

Following the well laid out yellow brick path, sorry the yellow arrowed path, I arrived at the appointment station, got my appointment date for the next dose, reminded to bring my card with me and I was done.

From the start of the process, that is standing in the first line till being done it took about fifty five minutes. Could the process be improved? Sure, everything can be improved. But without an iota of doubt, from the first encounter with the staff at the beginning of the line till the last person scheduling the second appointment, everyone did their job sincerely and in a jovial manner. My hats off to the health care professionals in the vaccination facility. Well done.

And thus completed my first dose of COVID vaccination. Five hours and still no signs of any discomfort. Soreness of the arm till now is non-existent. So far so good.

A Valentine’s Day Hike – Mount Umunhum beckons

Mount Umunhum, the highest peak in the Santa Cruz mountains at 3488 feet is an ubiquitous presence in our life. The cube, an abandoned air force radar station and a relic of the cold war, on top of Mount Umunhum is clearly visible from our backyard. Our family had attended the grand opening of the designer trail, a 3.7 miles trail, from Bald Mountain to the summit in September of 2017. I was fortunate to get a guided trip down from the summit to Bald Mountain parking lot on that day. After that day, I had done the 7.4 mile round trip hike several times in different seasons.


However, the sixteen mile or so round trip hike from the Hicks Road parking lot up to the summit is a different matter altogether. I think the hike is moderately challenging, the nearly twenty two hundred feet elevation from the Hicks Road parking lot to the summit in about eight miles is OK except in few patches where the grade is steep and taxing. The hike, I should say, is more a test of endurance than being really challenging. Constantly changing microclimate of the mountain can be a challenge for unprepared hikers. For us, the day started cool but sunny at 40F. As we went up, we faced drizzle, light rain, warm sun forcing us to take off our jackets and howling winds at the summit. After about twenty five hundred feet, it was misty all through.


Sometimes in 2018, I along with my wife tried to hike up from Hicks Road but after about three and half miles and after hiking up a steep grade, she did not feel well and we returned back. Then sometime during the summer of 2019, I did that hike alone. But such a long hike in summer, unless, done really early in the morning, is not pleasant.


I was planning do this hike up to the summit from Hicks Road this winter. However my wife won’t allow me to do this alone and she planned to join. Something or other came up during few of the previous days we planned and ultimately everything fell in place on Valentine’s Day.
Thus we ended up on the trail on this Valentine’s Day and we did it our way, slow and steady. Started our hike up at about 8:45AM and at 6:30 PM, when we returned to the parking lot, ours was the only car there and the gates on Mount Umunhum Road were closed. Thank God that the exit gate opened automatically.

Cube on Mt Um as seen from the trail
Guadalupe River, just a stream here
What secret she holds down at the bottom of the gorge
At the summit. Cube was not tilted, my camera was.
Tree Arches
City lights seen from the trail during return trio

Valentine’s Day ended on a high note.
The body was sore but the spirits were high. To be on the trails with your valentine on Valentine’s Day is a reward itself.


Featured image is of Mount Umunhum from Hicks Road parking lot. Taken by author on February 14, 2021.

Five Years Old Today

I can assure you that when I got up today morning, I had no intention of writing this post. Forget the morning, even ten minutes back I had no inclination that this post was brewing. I was happily preparing my lunch, boiling lentils for the ubiquitous daal, staple of many Indian households for lunch and dinner, when suddenly popped up this announcement on my cell phone. Thank whoever is up there that my betterhalf did not see the announcement first. She would not have had the patience to scroll down and would have shot first. No, not with a gun, we don’t own one, but I dread more the treatment that would have been meted out more than the gun shot that I  am sure she would have missed.

To cut to the chase, I am five years old today. No, not in physical age, I don’t even remember being thtyat old any more. I am five years old by WordPress calender and that’s the anniversary note that popped up on my phone just few minutes back.

And what a wonderful five years it had been. Brought to social media kicking and screaming, I now relish the wonderful friends I have met across all the continents of the world except Antarctica. I have not met any of them physically yet but many of those friendships I cherish. They make life worthwhile through their writings and comments.

So without much ado, and before my dall boils over(and to spare myself from a tongue lashing), here is to friendship and a long, fruitful journey together in the world of writing in WordPress.

सिफ़र.

Everything and Nothing. And then some words.

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