Tuesday, October 16, 2007


There is a part in the movie The Namesake, where Ashoke's family come to "see" Ashima. And her dad proudly tells them "Our daughter's best subject is English", urging her to recite a poem. She starts - "I wander'd lonely as a cloud.." . Her father-in-law-to-be completes the lines with fervour "A host of golden daffodils", thereby putting his signature of approval. (I don't remember reading this part in the book. And I didn't last the entire movie, just so you know)

Anyway, I don't know if it was intended to be that way, but the importance of that little part is accentuated to me because of my upbringing. Wordsworth's Daffodils was a big part of the education in Bengali (and Oriya) middle class families of those years, the ones who consider themselves culturally superior. How do I put it? It was a sign that you appreciated poetry, you were a step ahead of the standard coursework fare.

My grandmother was one of those culturally elite people: well read, well aware. She knew her Shelley and Wordsworth and Keats and Pope, and refused to drink tea if it wasn't served in a cup with a saucer with a spoon on the side to stir the sugar. And one had to stir it gently. She firmly rejected the use of words such as "fridge" calling them colloquial. But I digress. Why she liked the poem is still a mystery to me, but she recited the poem to me when I was quite young and urged me to memorize it. It is strange, because not only was I was alien to how Daffodils look, I was completely oblivious to the vacant or pensive mood described in the last para.

Anyway, now that I have seen the flowers I can tell you that they are indeed very delightful. They grow in hordes and yet by themselves. Like nobody planted them there. As we drove around, I saw them everywhere. Stretching in never-ending lines. A host of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze. In a place where the landscape changed like a video game, they lent a vague sense of sense of continuity.

And they shone, they really did. Like stars that shine, and twinkle on the milky way. Jumping and joyous in their dance - how else do you describe them? In certain places, where it was still too cold, they were the only reassurance that spring was on its way. They stood there, braving the chilly southerlies, with their silly pouts. Swaying sideways, frantically at times. Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

Self absorbed. Vain. Narcissistic.

And my thoughts, if they spill towards the grey skies, the memories of this trip will blot them out. At least for a while.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Been there done that

Taking the plunge.

Yes, that's me taking what seemed like the leap of faith. Feet tied, strapped in a harness, I went through a round of obligatory chickening-out, "I don't want to do this". And Timmy said "Believe me, you do". He was cute, and I didn't want to look uncool. So, I stared at the bridge straight ahead on that chilly spring morning, and jumped. Into Euphoria.

I know Bungy jumping is not fashionable anymore, but hell, I did it, I took that giant leap, so let me show off for a bit.

First, a bit of history, as I have learnt from the little pamphlet I got along with my photos: The people of Vanuatu have been throwing themselves off huge towers with nothing but vines tied to their legs. Some coming-of-age ritual that. In the late 70s, some crazy folks in Oxford university Dangerous Sports club got inspired by this, and they tried out a few test jumps. AJ Hackett saw one of those videos, and teamed up with Henry van Asch, to develop the Bungy into the modern ritual it is today. In June 1987, Hackett jumped off the Eiffel Tower straight into international spotlight.

The Kawarau bridge Bungy, in Queenstown, New Zealand, though not high by any standards (43 m), is still the unique for being the world's first, and is hence styled as "Home of Bungy". The other choices in Queenstown are the Nevis highwire (134 m) and the Ledge where you go up a hill and jump looking at the city below you. I don't have the guts to attempt either of those two.

The feeling of free fall, might not be new to many of you, but for me, a first time jumper, it was like: No no no no no. WTF. Eeeeee. Ah the cord. Stretch stretch strech Touch touch touch. Wooohooooo. In civilized English and in Hackett's words "You will go from nervous to completely elated in five seconds"

Oh yeah, I tried, I really tried to touch the water, but was short by a few feet.

PS: Speaking of childhood dreams, this was one: to do the Bungy jump at the original site. Yay.