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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Olympic National Park

Lake Crescent and Marymere Falls

It was the middle of April, rain fell as we made our way to Marymere Falls. Fir, cedar and hemlock trees greeted us by the side of the dirt trail, a roundtrip of about 1.5 miles. Raindrops beaded on our foreheads and spray-painted a grin on my face.

First, we thought of taking shelter in the tunnel, but the winds gave us chills.  We decided to keep moving to stay warm. Puddles gathered on the path and we navigated those after performing a series of complex mathematical calculations. We were going to finish walking the trail even if it meant getting wet to the bone. But I also worried about the cameras. They might not have the constitution or the will.

Soon, the rain stopped but the sky was still cloudy. One might wonder if there is ever a sunny weekend in this place. I didn't mind really. I felt the need to experience the rainforests in their elements. 140-170 inches of precipitation annually, we were bound to chance upon a few inches. 

The last leg of the trail had a short, steep ascent before we were rewarded a full view of the falls. We kissed to congratulate ourselves. The little celebrations of life.

Mount Storm King

There is a Native American legend about the creation of Lake Crescent: Upset with the fights between the Klallam and the Quileute tribes, the mountain spirit hurled a gigantic boulder killing all the warriors. It was so huge that it dammed the river and the water backed up, forming the lake. Many geologists believe that there was a landslide that could account for the myth.

Domain Madeline

The host at our Bed and Breakfast in Port Angeles was gracious, and the suite exceeded all expectations. All our needs were anticipated and taken care of in advance; years of experience and thoughtfulness makes it possible. The blow dryer blew the bathroom fuse, but it was promptly attended to by the staff. In fact, we think we found ourselves a new haunt. The guest book had thank you notes from people who had been visiting for years. It was easy to understand why. A restful place where you can spend your days reading books from the private library or in the bedroom overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

We even caught a rainbow after a short shower on our first day. On a clear day, the coast of Canada was visible across the water. The proximity posed a new challenge - our cell phones caught signal from Canada and went on roaming mode. We soon discovered that we rather liked being inaccessible to the world. Just the two of us.

After the first day of hike, a hot shower, and some warm food later, we lit up the fireplace and fell asleep as soon as we slid under the comforter.

Hoh National Forest

On our second day of stay, we had the most delicious crab cakes for breakfast. The four-course breakfast was spoiling me. The new aquaponics greenhouse in the premises was opening for public the following weekend. The host talked passionately about micro-farming using a sustainable combination of fish cultivation and hydroponic gardening, the misuse of GMO and climate change.

We had planned to go to Hoh National Forest, a two hours drive from Port Angeles. We crossed Forks on our way. The town serves as a backdrop for the Twilight series and celebrates the birth week of Bella on the weekend closest to September 13 each year. There was no Edward or Jacob spotting, but I noticed a movie poster on a shop. 

There are the three trails near the visitor centre- Hall of Mosses, Spruce Nature Trail and the Hoh River Trail. Tapestries of moss drape the forest cathedrals. Lichens, sword ferns, shrubs and trees all grow in the primitive ocean forest in a cohesive community. The crickets and birds add to the symphony of the woods. If you listen hard enough, you can almost hear the trees talk. Everywhere you look, Mother Nature has carefully placed an artifact. You could lose yourself in the sights and sounds. Some primeval spirit took over my existence, and I walked through the forest led by it.

Hurricane Ridge was closed due to snow, and we lost track of time on our hikes, so we missed out on the beaches where starfish, sea urchins and anemones are plenty. But a beautiful place like this deserves more than a mere acquaintance. It deserves dedicated affection. We promised to be back soon.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

On Mother's Day

I am not a humbug. I can be easily read. And I have a hard time telling lies. My mom appreciates these the most in me. And though we have arguments because we both want to change the other, I can not bear the thought of one unhappy tear in her eyes. I love to make her laugh. Her laughter has a cleansing effect on my soul. It makes me think all is right with the world.

Sunday, March 29, 2015


The first time I read about the Holocaust, I was in school. An excerpt from 'The Diary of a Young Girl' by Anne Frank was prescribed for school text. By the time I was  15, I had read the book and was fascinated by how a girl about my age had been so hopeful in the hiding, even under the threat of obliteration. There are those who believe that the Holocaust did not happen; that it is a propaganda against the Nazis. Denial is killing them twice.

The more I read about the persecution of the Jews, the more I revere a race for having survived all odds. Their faith and their sense of community. When today becomes yesterday, and history is written, the survivors become the hero, and the persecutors are put to shame in a civilized world. Nothing can justify genocide- in Rwanda, in Bosnia or within the confines of the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Humanity should never have to witness those chains of events again.

The book by Elie Wiesel has a body of about 112 pages. Written in Yiddish as 'And the World Remained Silent', it was translated into French first, then into English. I read the version that was translated by his wife, Marion Wiesel.

He begins with his childhood in Sighet, Transylvania and his inclination for religious studies- Talmud in the day and Kabbalah by the night, until the Spring of 1944. German soldiers with their steel helmets and their death head emblem marched on to Sighet- to confine the Jews to a sixteen square blocks of ghetto, and then to transport them in cattle cars to labor camps and concentration camps. On the day of the 'transport':
'The street resembled fairgrounds deserted in haste. There was a little of everything: suitcases, briefcases, bags, knives, dishes, banknotes, papers, faded portraits. All the things one planned to take along and finally left behind. They had ceased to matter.'

They were greeted by the smell of burning flesh when they arrived in Birkenau. All illusions left behind in the wagons they arrived in. The world  'chimney' was not an abstraction there. It floated in the air, mingled with the smoke.

'Men to the left! Women to the right!'
Eight words, spoken without emotion by a Schutzstaffel (SS) man, and it was the last time he saw his mother and youngest sister. Another of those countless separations that happened on a single night. A night so long that the survivors had forgotten whether it was one night or several such nights.

Every day was a struggle between faith and agony. Overcome by fatigue and hunger, even his dreams were reduced to that of an extra ration of bread. He felt different. He ceased to be human and became A-7713.
' My soul had been invaded- and devoured- by a black flame.'
There are several passages that I wish to read to you, share what I felt as I read them, but there is one, in particular, towards the end that appealed to me:

'Pressed tightly against one another, in an effort to resist the cold, our heads empty and heavy, our brains a whirlwind of decaying memories. Our minds numb with indifference. Here or elsewhere, what did it matter? Die today or tomorrow, or later? The night was growing longer, never-ending.
When at last a grayish light appeared on the horizon, it revealed a tangle of human shapes, heads sunk deeply between the shoulders, crouching, piled one on top of the other, like a cemetery covered with snow. In the early dawn light, I tried to distinguish between the living and those who were no more. But there was barely a difference. My gaze remained fixed on someone who, eyes wide open, stared into space. His colorless face was covered with a layer of frost and snow.'

Imagine being so exhausted that you want death just to be able to rest. The author survived and chose to be the voice of those who had been quietened. His survival meant something. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Tulips in the snow

Sometimes, a picture is a thousand words. It gave me to great hope see the bright red and yellow flowers blossom from the frozen earth. Made me think- if you have the potential, you will fight even the most unlikely and harshest conditions to grow. 

Human interest stories inspire me. It needn't be the biography of a President or a Nobel prize winner, but stories of regular folks who rise above the occasion and emerge as heroes. A situational hero is as good as any other.

The archetypes usually have inherent goodness; I don't believe that you need even that. You are what you do- and if you go beyond your self-imposed limitations or the benchmarks set by your immediate environment, you are a hero.

(I am looking for such stories, if you have one email me at )

Sunday, March 15, 2015

An awkward age

My best friend from school shared some pictures she had from our school days, circa 2000, before our ICSE exams. It was an awkward age. I didn't know what to do with my eyebrows, tied my hair like a nun, and wore glasses that were most unflattering.

But I had good friends and hopes for a better tomorrow. I believed in myself.  I knew that life's battles are not always won by the prettiest or the smartest, but by those who never give up. NEVER GIVE UP.

Of people you miss, you miss their smiles the most. And the way they made you laugh...

Friday, March 13, 2015

আমার নি:সঙ্গ নীল রুকস্যাক

This is one of my favorite poems by my father. It is about a blue rucksack that travels the world. But then there is more- in the end it says how humans are crueler than animals.

I traveled the world with those words, I imagined the red, blue, yellow, green prayer flags of Tawang monastery. I saw the eyes of a mother zebra, caught by a predator, imploring its child with silent screams to run away to safety. I see the room transform into a Sun temple of Peru with the narrative. It shall remain one of my favorite poems ever. Apologies to those who do not understand Bengali.

আমার নি:সঙ্গ নীল বাউন্ডুলে রুকস্যাক 
ভ্রমনে নিবেদিত প্রাণ। এই বুঝি লাফাবে পিঠে, 
মনে হয়, ঠেলা দিয়ে বাসাড়ে আমাকে
নিয়ে যাবে ভূপযর্টনে। বস্তুত প্রায়শই হাওয়া 
হয় সে, ইচ্ছেমত, ফিরেও আসে
অদ্ভুত সফর শেষে, ধূলোবালি মেখে। 
রুকস্যাককে ঝেড়েপুঁছে সাফসুতরো বানালে,
শোনায় সে শীঘ্রগামী বিবাগী কাহিনী
ভালোবাসে সে যেতে এমন মুলুকে
যেখানে যায় শুধু স্থিরমতি যাযাবর অপ্রচুর। 
কখনো সে চলে যায় মাছুপিছু , ইনকা সভ্যতার
হারানো শহর, ধ্বংস করেছিল যাকে লুটেরা
স্প্যানিশ। নীল রুকস্যাক কখনো যায় নাতিদূরে
তাওয়াং গূম্ফায় বা দেখে কঙ্গোর রক্তাত নদীতে,
কুমিরের গ্রাসে, মা জেব্রা পালাতে বলে স্তম্ভিত 
শিশুকে, চোখের ইশারায়, বোবা আর্তনাদে। 
মেকং নদীতে মাছেরা কেন পরিযায়ী হয়,
হরিণেরা নিশ্চিন্তে বেড়ায় তৃপ্ত সিংহিনীর পাশে,
প্রণয়াধিকার নিয়ে পশুর লড়াই - সবই দেখে
আমার নীল রুকস্যাক। তার কাহিনীর সাথে 
আমার ঘর বদলে যায় সবুজ বৃক্ষময় চাতালে,
ঝিঁঝিঁ ডাকে, বৃষ্টির মত বজ্র  ঝরে অবিরাম;
কখনো প্রাচীন মমি বা দিব্যমূর্তি নেমে আসে
প্রখর উজ্বল পাহাড়ী আলোতে, এই দীনহীন ঘরে। 
গভীর সবুজ উপত্যকা, পাহাড়, গ্লেসিয়ার ও নদী
জেগে উঠে ঘরে, কোকো পাতা ও পেরুর ডুমুরে
সূর্য মন্দিরে পরিবর্তিত  এ ঘর যায় ভরে। 
কখনো হাওয়ায় দোলে লাল, নীল, সবুজ, হলুদ
শান্তিকেতন; সোনালী, লাল ও সাদা গুম্ফার পথে
বুদ্ধ অভয় মুদ্রায় তাপিতকে বিলান শান্তিবারি। 
রুকস্যাকের গল্প শেষ হলে ঘর ফেরে স্বস্থানে। 
অলৌকিক নীল রুকস্যাক বলে, 'পশুরা প্রায়শই
মানুষ তবে নরপুঙ্গবের চেয়ে নিয়তই ভালো;
হত্যা অকারণে বা ধষর্ণ নেই তাদের শব্দকোষে,
মাদি ঝিঁঝিঁ বা সিংহিনী প্রণয়াধিকার ঠিক করে, 
সুভোজ্যেও খায় না ভরপেট শিকারী শ্বাপদ।'