I had been preparing for three lectures to be delivered at a local institute for a week now and I was as much tired as busy. Then a friend called me and nearly ordered me to prepare for a lecturing trip to Chalsa.I had never heard of this place and very spontaneously I enquired about its location. North Bengal came the answer. I decided three topics which were agreed upon by the contact person but later repented that I could have selected the same topics already prepared for the institute and the readymade lectures delivered. But I was hell bent on preparing afresh as the audience was essentially generalist practicing professionals and not postgraduate students.
Now I have realized a fundamental aspect of presentations and am sure that good or frequent presenters will agree with it. Readymade downloaded PowerPoint presentations do not pack as much punch as much if you prepare the topic yourselves having understood the concepts and the basics. With this at core and with a certain flow it becomes easy to convince the audience and make them see your point which essentially has to be consensus based with state of art beliefs it the subject .Texts state the sum and substance however to explain the same in vibrant managerial jargon requires to look at the matter from different viewpoints essentially connected and interdependent. It is an accepted fact that audiences already know much as practicing professionals but to put known ideas in perspective is a challenge with an objective to change practices towards scientific mainstream resulting in lasting satisfaction due to value addition .
With this clear objective I burnt the midnight oil to construct my presentations relentlessly and in spare time I would list down items to pack my baggage in three installments and to do necessary purchases without disturbing my routine .All this was a very demanding task. My flights to Bagdogra were booked via Kolkata as I expressed my desire to spend one full day with my friend at Jadavpur on way back. That morning while preparing to leave my mother suggested packing woolens which I failed and later repented. The company representative came on the dot with his vehicle and I set out for Kolkata as there was no morning flight directly to Bagdogra.
In the flight I picked up Jet Airlines passenger oriented journal ‘Jetwings’ and enjoyed every article in serial order .First one was about Rajasthan hamlet Kuldhara and Lodurva near Jaisalmer from where Paliwal Brahmin fled 2oo years back from atrocities of one of local king Salim singh leaving their granary at Khaba probably full of grains to save their honor .I am sure this personality would be depicted in Jaisalmer fort or Sanar Kila which I visited last year a haven for foreign tourists .There is lots to see around and ‘Beyond jaisalmer” as the balladeer sings from his ravanhatta but destiny decides what will be cast on your retinal screen and those who have the time and leisure should visit this place .I shall not refer to all the articles for they were engrossing and informing .But I will list here the others serially .”’ Acing in Antarctic’s’ in which Dr Lala lucidly writes about her Antarctica Expedition as a doctor and who pens down her experiences in this snow clad continent .She jumps into cold water at one point as they do on Epiphany day in Bulgaria to spruce their immunity..She smartly apprises of the hazards and some basics of Glaciology for the serious student..Margaret Doherty s article on Dickens revived my memories of school library and the heavy classics which I had only attempted to read except Dr Jekyll and Me Hyde which was prescribed as a selection in college. I felt that I could fall in love with Britain of Dickens, 200 years back .I felt that Dickens could surely be a subject for myriad PhD thesis topic for the initiated..Other articles on Civil Aviation in India and Aviation Museum around the globe was a treat and topical. Yet another was on Jantar Mantar in Delhi which I had seen nearly 30 years back with minimality.Now again this was constructed 200 years back and I found 200 as a magical figure in retrospect. As I looked down through the windows I saw a meandering river on the right which kept company at time in perfect circles of eight. Later I learned from the representative that it was the Mahananda river and not Mitha as told to me by the commander who got down with us.There were tiny glassy reflections allover which hit the eyes and kept me wondering and I challenged my wisdom and logic.Well ….. I thought as I looked intently.Then suddenly it struck me that these were small water bodies or ponds in the households of Bengali people who rear fishes in them.Tthey sparkled as tiny gems or diamond due to the inclination of the aircraft and the sun shining above.
At the Airport Dr Pankaj received me and we got chatting. This young handsome professional was a graduate and had worked at a CRO and intensive care units simultaneously. He could not get registration for PG studies and had no inclination to commercialize education so he joined the Industry, a very logical choice. I was reminded of my options and experience when I was of his age, yes they were stunningly similar. He proudly told me of the organizational restructuring that was going on in his company and fiscal matters .Then he cited two cases at the CRO one in which an sedative was selected on a subject who had failed to divulge his sleep disorder and who slipped into a parasomnia and another an antidepressant which had unmasked controlled epilepsy precipitating an episode.
The connecting flight was in time and we came down at Bagdogra at right time. The company rep was there with an immaculate innova and we got going towards Chalsa.As we drove through Siliguri I noticed houses with tinned roofs and was surprised.” They are costly due to galvanization and hence durable” the rep told me .Then as we left Siliguri I saw tea groves and gardens on all sides .It is preferred due to it being a cash crop and the climate is just right for its growth .The biggest tea companies are here.As I peeped outside I saw a radiant large blue green and emerald bird with exquisite plumage .It was some pheasant and I was very happy for this sighting.We drove skipping the road to Naxalbari the origin of the leftist militant movement and Darjeeling on the left and then at an opportune moment checked into a local dhaba for our food on banks of Teesta river which hardly flowed now the bed lined with white slate brought down for millennia from the higher mountains of its origin. We ordered Chicken and Roti and Daal and beer.It was Palone of UB breweries. The Rotis and Daal were good but Chicken was tough and non tender. We took a very good Paan and then set off. At one point we turned right on a 100 year old bridge the coronation bridge as the road straight goes to Bhutan and as we drove we saw huge riverbeds where sand mining was going wholesale. This road was wonderful and another hour’s drive and we got into Chalsa.
Sinclairs Retreat at Chalsa must have surely been a British settlement . I was ushered into a fine room which was classy and opened into a backyard with fragrant mango orchard. I quickly changed and then reported at the foyer. There was the traditional lamp lighting ceremony and a montage on the company and its profile. Then two speakers talked on contemporary topics and then we were invited for cocktails. The starters were ok .There was a band from Kolkata and the male crooner was young and talented. There was Teachers and after bonhomie with mimicry and dance and Bengalese Rabindra sangeet, I settled for Rohu and chicken and Bengali sweets for desert. I called it a day and retired for next day the wakeup call was at 4.30 am.
Next day we reported at the reception at the appointed time. It was about sunrise but extremely cold around 5 degree centigrade .and I cursed myself for I was just wearing .I hopped into one of the vehicle with a tall Bangali practitioner who had spent some time in Pune and a trekker as well we talked of our experiences and he told one which he encountered a grizzly Bear in the Himalayan trek and managed to hide till the other party arrived .It was a gruesome experience when cold sweat ran down his nape. I could understand his predicament as I remembered that we were warned during Kadarkantha trek about these beasts in the vicinity. This man had a very good sense of humor and a fine disposition as he was born in Lucknow and behaved like a Nawab with no inhibitions. He later confessed that he was totally oblivious of the fact that I was a major speaker next day .We went into the cold shivering and my earls nearly froze .As the jeep headed with speed the cold breeze send waves of discomfort and apprehension fearing frostbite but I stood the trial with courage .As we entered the Gorumora sanctuary,I was a few peacocks flying and a herd of peahens. The sun had come up and it was a bit warmer .There was a convoy of twelve jeeps and those in the front did see a wild elephant. At one point we came across a culvert over which a bridge was being constructed and we had to get down as the jeeps were accelerated through the ankle deep water .I was inside when the jeep frantically skidded and retreated only to be driven across by another very determined driver. I had hopped out by then and treaded carefully over stones just managing to keep my socks from getting wet. This was a bit scary .While returning we took a different route and got drenched in jungle dust. This was surprising as even at Kaziranga we were spared of this adversity.
Now we were headed back to sinclairs.I had the wish to take a dip into the azure pool but it was too cold. I took a wash and headed for the breakfast .There were eggs and Idlis and a very bitter adhathoda leaves green herbal juice which I just managed to swallow after which I had sumptuous helping of fruit juice then I headed for Samsing with Pankaj a scenic spot near border of Sikkim.We took snaps and suddenly it rained .We got into a shack like hotel and sipped hot tea later I travelled with unknown Bengalese who jabbered all the way .I was reluctant to talk as I was preoccupied with my presentations. Back to the room Pankaj helped me review the slides. One of the talks was a standby and to be delivered if time permitted. I polished the other two and getting it ratified .Later I learned that in the first presentation some abbreviations should have been elaborated and explained in details .Also there were repetitions which we both failed to weed out. With this done I decided to rest and report to the venue when I was called in.
My first presentation went fine. There were lots of questions and answers and I fielded them with finesse .Then there was a presentation sandwiched between on a viral infectious disease Rabies and there was a plethora of unending questions which were answered with authority as the subspecialty was the speakers monopoly .Then came my next presentations .I had extensively quoted from lay press on economics and anecdotes to illustrate points and the entire talk was well received as it was followed with very fiery enquiries and matching responses. The sessions were then closed and we walked into the cool night into the party room where the band swung into action. I chilled with antiquity killing fatigue and weariness. One from the audience surprised us with an English number with fantastic accompaniment from the instrumentalists. A rep broke into break-dance spontaneously and it added flavor to the action. The young crooner was in his elements when he gave us a latest hit with Sufi fusion and I nearly embraced him as it was a sign off. .For dinner there was fish fingers and Hilsa and tender meat followed by Gulab Jamun for desert. The day had been won.
Next day after a group photo session and breakfast we were gifted with Gopaldhara Tea packets a delicacy due to this tea being grown at a height of 7000 feet. I was delighted and happy for it. Then we packed and got going.Pankaj had left for Delhi flight. I was now travelling with Drs Ahmeds and we discussed about travels and travails.At Bagdogra Airport we had kheema and Chappatis with Pepsi .The bearer informed me about Baichung Bhutia being in the restaurant. Quamar persuaded me to have my picture clicked with him. I obliged but that dammed snap was out of focus. Then we bade goodbye at Kolkata airport especially to Gautam and Ahmeds as I headed for Jayantas home at Jadavpur.Next day Jayanta showed me lots of antiques including one that his grandfather received from USIS a sermon by Abraham Lincoln after the Battle for Gettysberg .We went to a restaurant at a busy place in jadavpur where stands a half statue of Lenin. the place was quiet and classy we had the famous Calcutta Biryani then the famous Paan we returned as the car waited outside his home.I bade goodbye and was left at Kolkata Domestic Airport.At the Airport which is still very simple I went inside the bookstore and collected ‘Inheritance of Loss’ By Kiran Desai I read it incessantly in the journey as incessantly that a child on the adjascent row cried disturbing others. Significant co-incidence emerged as the location of the novel is around Darjeeling and North Bengal.
Jayanta had just returned from Sunderbans and we chalked out a plan to trek to Sandakfu but that’s another story!