Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | January 11, 2018

Summer 17/18

It has been 9 years since we moved to New Zealand. Whilst we don’t always remain as awestruck as we used to be earlier for various reasons (largely due to missing our family back home), time and again we do manage to get opportunity to do things which we may not have done otherwise, back in India. This at times involve re-living childhood.

I am not sure if I have bragged about this before but since 2016, I have been cooking quite a bit at home. It is not fancy cooking at all but I made a start because I wanted to do some activity where people around me will have least expectation out of me. It is not easy you see to wake up every day for wanting to become a good professional, good son, good friend, good husband, good father, householder etc. I wanted to do something where I had the opportunity to fail and my family will say, “at least you tried”. In 2015, I took up advanced level swimming lessons for this particular reason. Since 2016 onwards, I started cooking at home.

I cook at least twice or thrice a week and that could be anything. So far it has not been bad experience for others and I have been tested by people in the family and people outside the family (even non-Indians who usually will not even eat Indian food!). Cooking so far has been therapeutic to me and manages to control my anxiety to a certain extent.

This summer break, I got a bicycle (or a bike as it is called here!) for myself. Now, last time I regularly rode a bike was in Durgapur (which was back during 1994-ish). 24 years back. In between, I rode a bike briefly around the sea in New Plymouth, but it was not really cycling. I am thankful to my wife that she insisted that I accompany my son on his bike rides. Therefore, I bought a mountain bike. Cycles in New Zealand are generally expensive in comparison to India and are really made to suit the conditions of roads here. Although, riding the big bike with gears gave me a bit of back-pain initially but I am thoroughly enjoying it. 24 years, you see since I last rode a bicycle like this. Re-living and getting nostalgic.

Coaxed by my son, I have also started playing tennis. It is not easy, especially when a 7-year old is hitting the ball wherever he feels like. It is good exercise for me but more than that it is entertaining. Just opposite where we live, there are two public tennis courts which hardly anyone use. Although, not many people use these courts but they are still well maintained. Accordingly, we use it and play tennis.

I love following sports, especially cricket, football and tennis. As far as tennis is concerned, I should say I followed it the most when Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Steffi Graf ruled the games. As a youngster, I used to hope that someday I will be able to watch a live tennis game. Surprisingly, this happened this year. We watched Caroline Wozniacki, who is current world number 2 and former number 1 play in this year’s Auckland Open. My son and I also caught up with Juan Martin Del Potro (former US open champion and current world number 11) at a brief signing ceremony. Continuing with tennis, we also went and supported India’s own Leander Paes. My perception was tennis watching is generally very expensive around the world and only keen followers of the game (and/or snobs) watch the games live. Auckland was a bit different though. Watching the ASB Classic (as it is called) was affordable and the event is pitched as a family event more than anything else. Therefore, there were loads of kids hanging around the event and also the players were really approachable. In New Zealand, one of the objectives of any sporting event is to encourage youngsters and the ASB Classic definitely lived up to the spirit.

The same spirit was seen in the domestic cricket game we went to watch recently. It was the New Zealand version of IPL, but much more toned down in comparison (thank god!). Yes, there was coloured clothing but no cheer leaders etc. Since, we go and watch an international cricket match every year and we have child, one fine day I got an email saying I have got complementary tickets to watch a domestic T20 cricket game of my choice in Auckland with my family (could be of 2 adults and 3 kids). It was free parking so we took our beach chairs in the boot and marched on.

Watching cricket in New Zealand is very different from that in India. Even the biggest of crowd is very small compared to India. Further, the kids normally play their own version of cricket in the embankments. The adults just relax, have donuts, beer, fries and watch cricket lazily. People don’t really dress up formally to watch cricket (not even tennis actually!). It is a very relaxed atmosphere – unbelievably relaxed. Best thing is, again it is a kid friendly event.

Through-out the event someone kept on announcing that after the game has concluded the players would like to thank the kids and families by hanging around with them. So, when the game concluded everyone entered the field and the kids freely interacted with the players of either sides, took photos etc. Kids loved taking photos/autographs with some of the international cricketers and they reciprocated the feeling of love. Kids’ were complaining to the losing captain about the loss (as the local team lost) and he was telling them about how in sports sometimes these things happen but we should keep trying. My son came back with a cap where he collected autographs of most of the cricketers who were on show. This to me, was quite unique.

What else then? I have again started playing chess and we are trying to writing a comic book too. We also went on a sail-boat.

Let’s see where does being away from friends and family takes us.

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.

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.

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