An evening at Savannah Bar

I am traveling back to Baghdad early in the morning after spending more than a month in India with my family. My flight from Delhi airport is at 4:20 a.m. to Baghdad via Abu Dhabi by Etihad Airways. I reached Delhi today from Ranchi at around 6:00 p.m. by Air India flight.

My old school friend Aranjit messaged me to meet and so we contacted each other on reaching Delhi after checking in at Hotel Radission Blu Plaza. It’s just across the airport and very close by. It’s convenient to catch flight from this hotel as I could save the traveling time to airport from hotel.

I invited Aranjit to my hotel. He came to the hotel. We then went to Savannah Bar to have some drinks and chat. Savannah Bar is a nice bar with good quality stuff.

We decided in favor of Ballantine’s scotch whisky with some chicken tikkas and crispy fish chillies. Aranjit preferred with soda while I preferred on the rocks. We had a cool three rounds of whisky and nice chats about our lives and politics. It was an excellent evening spent with an old school time friend. It was damn relaxing talking to him. He left for his home after 10:30 p.m.

Thanks to Aranjit I had a wonderful evening.

Nalen Gurer ice cream

Well, I find it quite justified to dedicate an entire post on this innovative delicacy – ‘Nalen Gurer ice cream’, which we had during our last Kolkata trip at Oh! Calcutta, Silver Arcade, EM Bypass, Kolkata – a Bengali cuisine restaurant. We went to this restaurant for Bengali cuisine.  Towards the end of our lunch when the waiter asked for our choice of dessert, we found that they have ice cream made of ‘Nalen Gur’ on the menu. We could not but say ‘YES’ to it. I devoured the first spoon, mmm.. it was awesome! It’s not like the usual ice cream. It was light brownish in colour. It is really delicious and I am sure all sweet lovers would love it.

Nalen gur (or date molasses) is a specialty of Bengal – both West Bengal and Bangladesh – and is used extensively to prepare delicacies of winter. Nalen gur is a preparation from the sap of date trees that are collected and heated to obtain the final product that leaves one wonderstruck – the taste is heavenly. It is said that the heating is an art. The date palm sap is made into three types of gur: liquid, grainy and the solid chunks of patali. The sap is heated in huge woks over wood or coal stoves and it is only an expert who can gauge the different degrees of cooking to achieve the right textures.

Dark black after double black

It’s the last day of our two-day seminar in Erbil. In the evening, I was relaxing at the Arbelia Bar in the hotel. I was sipping my second round of Black Label scotch double on the rocks accompanied with some pistachio nuts and potato wafers.

CAM00261Then I received a call from my colleague Ouss asking me to go with him for some walk and food. He was waiting at the hotel lobby. I finished my drinks and joined him. Oday & Bilal also joined us there. We went to Dream City on the Airport Street.

We went in Barista Coffee shop. It’s a cool night. It’s around 10:30 pm.  I opted for hot dark black chocolate drink.

The café is quite nice with some sitting arrangements outside also. Interior is also quite good. We chatted over our drink there.

After an hour we left the café for burgers at Dal’s Burger. Ouss is a great fan of Dal’s Burger. It was past midnight when we reached there. We were the last customers of the day.

CAM00264After having chicken burgers, we returned to hotel. We walked almost half the distance in the chilly night and then took a cab as Oday was feeling too tired to walk anymore. We reached our hotel at 1:30 am.

Rain Holiday today in Baghdad

For the last few days, we were having some rains in Baghdad. The city witnessed torrential rains yesterday.

Torrential rains are quite uncommon in Baghdad. There were a few such occasions last year too.

The city is not equipped to handle torrential rains and there were water-logging in many areas. The water on the roads made street movement difficult.

Last night, it was declared a public holiday in Baghdad due to heavy rains in the city causing a lot of inconvenience to the general public. In India we are used to heavy rains during monsoons and cyclones. So, we don’t get any such public holiday because of rains. We have to manage through the flooded streets and traffic blockades there.

As the holiday is declared for Baghdad only, all our branches elsewhere are open. Therefore,  Ibrahim and Mustafa came to office today for providing support to non-Baghdad branches. I also walked down to office for some time during the day.

Sometimes I feel great to be in Iraq as I can have the luxury of enjoying rain holidays.

‘Taaza Ganne ka Ras’ in a hot summer afternoon

Babai and I went to bakery & confectionery shop near to the hospital for some sandwiches and patties for us and Jaya, Guttu and boudi. While on our return, we saw a fresh sugarcane juice vendor. In hot summer afternoon, a glass of fresh sugarcane juice is a cool refresher. So, we went for the fresh sugarcane juice – ‘taaza ganne ka ras’.

Sugarcane juice is the juice extracted from pressed sugarcane. Rollers are used to physically press the stalks to release the juice. This process helps retain more nutrients in the final juice compared with using high-speed juicing machines that cut the cane with blades.

A glass of fresh sugarcane juice has on average 11% to 13% total sugar content. This is less sugar than a glass of orange juice or apple juice and far less sugar than most soft drinks. Fresh sugar cane juice also contains a range of ‘living’ antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and fibre. The rest of the juice consists of water brimming with an abundance of vitamins and minerals.

A squeeze of lemon, lime or orange juice is traditionally added to fresh sugar cane juice to give it a pleasant taste and to slow down the oxidation process. Citrus fruit contains ascorbic acid (vitamin C), which helps stabilize cane juice and slow down the oxidation process.

So near to home, yet so far!

I am coming to home in Ranchi on holidays from Baghdad. It was just like any other previous journey up to Delhi. I avoid reaching Delhi from 15 December to 15 January, as Delhi remains under thick fog blankets, during this time. But such thick fogs are very rare during this time.

As we were approaching Delhi while descend, the captain of the Etihad flight informed us of the fog/mist over Delhi sky and also said that the visibility was around 300m. When I came out of the airport at around 3.40am, the fog was quite thick. The cabbie also told me that it’s so foggy after more than 10 days and all these days were quite clear and sunny. May be these fogs came down to greet me!

But, the situation deteriorated as the dawn approached and the visibility worsen to less than 50m in the morning compelling the delay/cancellation of departures from Delhi airport and many international flights were diverted to Mumbai.

When I woke up after my nap, I found an email from Air India. They sent a new revised e-ticket with revised timing for the delayed departure. The new timing is 3.50pm! This thick fog and flight delays/cancellation/diversions are also headlines on the national news on TV channels.

It’s now reported in the news that flights have resumed at Delhi and I sincerely hope that there is no further delay. This last moment of unscheduled delay is killing. After an almost whole day-night journey, I am feeling too tired and sleepy. I just can’t wait to reach my home. It will be almost 33 hours from the time I left for airport in Baghdad and I would reach home in Ranchi. Ufff!

I am so near to my home, yet so far!

The first weekend of 2013 ~ 4-day long

Due to declaration of national holiday in Iraq for Arba’een on Thursday, 3 January 2013 the weekend holiday is extended to four days. It was already three days before due to Iraq’s annual Army Day falling on Sunday, 6 January 2013.

Arba’een is a Shia Muslim religious observation that occurs 40 days after the Day of Ashura. It commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Imam Hussein and 71 supporters martyred in the Battle of Karbala in the year 61 AH (680 CE), killed by Yazid I’s army. Forty day is the usual length of the time of mourning in many Islamic cultures. Arba’een is one of the largest pilgrimage gatherings on Earth, in which over 15 million people go to the city of Karbala in Iraq, according to Wikipedia.

This long weekend holiday is very boring in Baghdad with no activity except for sleeping, eating, television and web browsing. The last week was already a three-day week, with Tuesday, 1 January 2013 as the New Year day.

So, we had lots of holidays in Iraq in the first days of 2013. I miss such holidays when I am with my family. Then the time flies past so fast that 2 weeks seem to be just a few days, whereas it seems here that these holidays are wasted lazily.

Babai left for Gangtok

We had our initial plans for visiting Barrackpur, Basirhat & Kolkata together with Babai and we would go to our destinations from Kolkata airport. But later, Babai told us that he had to attend his classes from 29th and so he could not stay with us in Barrackpur, Basirhat and Kolkata.

As scheduled before, we reached Kolkata/Barrackpur yesterday. My dada, cousin at Basirhat, his wife (Boudi) and his daughter (Tota) came to Barrackpur to pay Shubho Bijoya pronaam to our Kakima along with his sister-in-law and her daughter. They were waiting for us to reach Barrackpur from airport so as to see us before they leave.

We reached Kolkata airport and then had some coffee with Soumya, who had come to see is at the airport at the Café Coffee Day at the airport. He arranged for a car for us for 4 days of our travel in and around Kolkata.

Then we went to Baguiati for buying some sweets for Babai to carry with him to Gangtok and also for Kakima’s house at Barrackpur.

After that we went straight to Barrackpur. It was nice to see everybody there waiting for us. We had some photographs and then Dada and his family left for their house at Basirhat. Jaya and I will be going to Basirhat day after tomorrow after the Lakshmi Puja.

Ladies of three generations!

Three brothers – with dada and Laltu

Teen Choudhurani – Joyita, Boudi and Jaya

Bhai-bone: Babai & Tota

We had some chats. Jaya gave the gifts that we brought for kakima, maasi, Laltu and Joyita. She also took gifts for Charu and Sandhya.

In the morning after breakfast, Jaya, Babai & I left for airport to see Babai off. We asked Laltu several times to come with us with his family. But he did not come as he said that he was not feeling well and wanted to sleep.

Babai & Mama

We reached airport around an hour before the flight. Baikunth Nath, a friend of Soumya is now working with Spicejet with which Babai is going to Bagdogra. He was there at the airport and arranged his check-in. Babai then came to us and then went for security checking. We decided to wait for the departure of his flight. So, I took Jaya to Top Deck restaurant on the first floor of the airport. We sat there and ordered for a glass of fresh lime soda for each of us.

After Babai boarded his fight and his flight took off, we left for meeting our relatives at Kolkata. We went to the house of Mama. From there we went to see my Baro Maasi and then to see my Chhoto Maasi. They three are the only surviving siblings of my mother. They’re very happy to see us. We then returned to Barrackpur feeing the absence of Babai. We’re missing him very much!

Babai has come home

Day before yesterday, suddenly Babai informed me that his institute was getting closed for classes for cultural programme and then after a week he was coming home for puja. So, he and his friend Nilanjan were coming to their home. Also now, Monday is Babai’s birthday. As Jit is coming home on Friday, he wanted to celebrate his birthday at home with us.

Jit hurriedly bought the bus tickets for Babai and his friend from Siliguri to Kolkata as there was no ticket available in any of the dozen trains between Siliguri and Kolkata. It was a Volvo A/C bus. But, we were worried as 13 hour journey by bus on roads after rains will be nightmarish. Jit also bought tickets from Howrah to Ranchi for them in the afternoon train. Nilanjan would get down at Bokaro.

As we expected, the bus journey was quite uncomfortable as the road was in despair. They went to my friend Rina’s house in Kolkata in the morning to get freshen up and for meals. I was very tense as my driver met with accident in the morning and could not come. Thank God, it was a minor accident. Then I arranged for an alternate driver for picking up Babai from the station in the night. His train was expected to reach Ranchi at 10:15pm.

I went to the station with the new driver to receive Babai. The train was almost on schedule. We had dinner together at home. Babai was damn tired and he slept immediately.