Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | January 12, 2017

Short travel diary

We realised the importance of occasional breaks last year when things got unusually busy for us, even challenging our health. As a consequence, we took two holidays in the year a first for us, sort of us.

In October 2016, we went to New Plymouth, a quaint sea-side town in New Zealand’s west coast that also has a famous volcanic mountain. New Plymouth is in the Taranaki district that is known for its dairy farming and is also home to the nations’ oil and natural gas production. I think the town has a population of around 50,000 people. Although, like many other towns in New Zealand, Aucklenders see New Plymouth as just another town in New Zealand that comes up while driving to Wellington from Auckland, we decided to explore it.

While in New Zealand, one can take the natural beauty for granted, so no point saying that New Plymouth is beautiful. However, there were some uniqueness to New Plymouth.

First, there were the “black-sand” beaches and the surf. In Auckland, we are used to unusually quiet city beaches. In New Plymouth though, the beaches were tailor made for surfing and were not easy to swim on. We have never seen black-sand before and it looked like “soot” but still it was very different.

The town also has a 10 km, coastal walkaway/bike-track. It was indeed a great feeling walking and biking on such a beautiful well laid out track by the sea-shore.

Then there was Mount Taranaki. Mount Taranaki is a dormant volcano and is spectacular. On a clear day (which is not always the case here!), you can see the mountain from almost anywhere in the town. The day we visited the mountain, we were lucky that it was indeed a clear day. We did not try and hike the mountain but a lot of people do that all the time.

Finally, there were the beautiful gardens, art gallery and library that comes with any New Zealand town.

The year-end Melbourne trip was on a bigger scale.

Occasionally, due to my work I visit Australia and Melbourne is one Australian city, which I liked. Hence, I thought it will be good to visit Melbourne with the family.

While in Melbourne, we watched thousands of Penguins walking the shore, spotted Koalas and Kangaroos in the wild, drove the Great Ocean Road and 12 Apostles, went to Yarra Valley to for the vineyards and tastings and even road the worlds’ oldest running steam train. In fact, we for the first time saw New Year ’s Eve fireworks in a big city. These were all places / things which we knew will be good to do. However, there were some of aspects of the Melbourne city itself, I liked and wished if Calcutta was like that!

Melbourne has trams and that is the primary mode of public transport within the city (other than trains to go to the suburbs). We rode the trams quite a few times and they were fast and despite a busy tourist schedules did not seem to create traffic problems. In fact, parking in the city seems costly so it appeared even on work-days people rely on public transport quite a bit. I know we shunned the trams in Calcutta but it appeared people in Melbourne love their trams.

The next best thing in the city to me were its alleys. The city is full off laneways and alley ways. Some of them have become popular for either restaurants or some for the art work on their walls. I know I come from a city of alleyways and how we dodged dog/cow/at times human excreta to reach my grandparents place. There were none to be found in Melbourne. There were no political messages as well.

I liked the old-fashioned European buildings as well. While perhaps not the best looking from outside, the city library was something to savour. I wished a few people I know who still worship knowledge could visit such places. I can just talk about them. We visited the Art Gallery and some of the gardens as well.

Melbourne city offered a huge variety of eateries catering to all tastes and budget. It indeed helped us. Although I will forever regret not having time to taste the Australian meat delicacies but perhaps that is for next time. We did however visit one Asian style street market known as Victorian market!

I don’t want to draw parallels between Calcutta and Melbourne but somehow for various reasons, I feel we could not retain the best of Calcutta. Cities like Melbourne and its people have not only retained them but enhanced them as well.

By the way, there were shopping malls too but we did not really have time for them.

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Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | March 4, 2016

Amit Kumar’s concert

Every year, Auckland hosts a few Indian performers (including SRK last year). As far as we are concerned, either we never come to know about them and even if we knew, we have always found the ticket prices excessive for us. However, when we chanced upon a poster of Amit Kumar’s (the legendary Kishore Kumar’s son) performance in Auckland, we did not hesitate to book ourselves tickets. Surprisingly, Amit Kumar’s show was not that excessively priced, which helped.

Notwithstanding the fact that Amit Kumar is Kishore Kumar’s son, I like quite a few of Amit Kumar’s songs. He was at his peak during early 80’s to mid- 90’s and lent his voice to a number of good songs composed by R.D. Burman and Laxmikanth- Pyarelal. I prefer listening to Hindi film music from the period 1950s to 1970’s and Amit Kumar for me represents the last link that is left of that era. I was very excited to have bought those tickets. As we listen to music quite often at our place even our little son is familiar with a few songs that Amit Kumar had sung. Hence, I was not the only one who was excited. Last time I heard Amit Kumar perform was back in 1995, when I was in college and I think that was the time when I last watched any live concert worth mentioning.

As we were expected, we had a great time at the show. Amit Kumar’s singing of a few timeless classics brought back the sheer joy of listening to good music. He sung a few classics which made him famous; he shared stories behind each and every song’s creation, entertained the audience by involving them in his performance and paid tribute to Kishore Kumar by singing some of his ageless classics. The crowd was generally middle-aged (and above), hence he could sing without any disturbance. We enjoyed the concert and not sure when will we watch such a concert again. It was an evening well spent for us.

While coming out, we saw a poster of a new-age music director referred as “maestro” gracing Auckland shortly. The ticket prices were 4 times that of Amit Kumar shows. Sigh! As I recently heard in a beautiful film that we watched, “he is just young”.

As far as we are concerned, we are happy to be old and Amit Kumar gave a performance which we will remember forever.

Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | February 12, 2016

Ma and Music

I have inherited my love for music from my mother – Ma. She sings all the time. She sang much more when she was younger and I was younger too, but having said that she still sings when she is walking inside the house, cooking, sitting on the bed, in shower – most times. Singing rejuvenates Ma and she encourages everyone (especially kids) to sing. Ma was never trained in music but many have acknowledged over time that she is a beautiful and mostly correct singer. Never shy of singing in public, over the years Ma has performed on stage on various occasions. She has led young kids and adults to participate in dance dramas, quite common in “old fashioned” Bengal. Surprisingly, despite her not being a trained singer, I have seen many trained singers relying on her judgments and acknowledge her talent in leading those events. As I write, I understand she is still rehearsing to perform on the auspicious occasion of Saraswati Pujo. This is a special talent and I wonder how Ma could gather so much confidence in singing in public. I am sure more than anything else, she feels most confident in singing. I am aware, Ma’s interest in singing have been inherited from her grandmother, her uncles and her elder brother, but still nobody was ever as confident as Ma in this aspect. Brilliant!

As a child I spent a lot of time with Ma. Being a homemaker, she was the one who entertained me during the day. Now that I am a parent of a 5-year old, I realise how big a deal that was. When I was a toddler, my father was away overseas on work for nearly a year. Given those days we did not have skype, internet etc. it literally meant I just knew one parent during that time. I am sure Ma was singing most of the time to me that time and over time I developed a keen bond with music. Nothing could soothe me more than songs could.

Baba returned from US and brought us a Panasonic tape recorder. We already had a Bush radio! For Ma and me, these became our most favourite toys. Mind you, we did not have television and we did not mind that. As I returned from my kindergarten in the afternoon, Ma and I spent time with the tape recorder – not really listening to songs, but singing songs to record. We did not buy lot of tapes, but Baba brought a few blank tapes. We used to record songs on those blank tapes and listen afterwards. We recorded a lot of songs and it was a part of our lives, our biggest sport. We were singing, Tagore songs, Bengali modern songs and Hindi movie songs.

I am not a confident singer as Ma is, so I hardly ever sung in front of anyone outside our family. Occasionally, due to Ma’s encouragement I did participate in school functions as part of a choir but that is about it. Despite Ma’s encouragement I could not muster the courage to perform in front of an audience. That is what perhaps is so special about Ma’s confidence in this area. However, Ma did gift me the love for music. Every time I have felt happy or even low I still resort to music. I listen to my favourite songs over and over again, I study them, read about them, think about them, analyse them, want everyone to listen to them and look for people who will discuss them. We “untrained” lovers of musical duo of mother and son, do not understand the classical aspects of music but we love music as it is, in its purest form. In todays’ technologically advanced world, I hear there are a lot of easier ways to access music. I am not sure whether they are inexpensive or not but that age-old radio and tape recorder helped us immensely to build our legacy, which I will try to continue.

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