Gas Toast – Part 1.


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It is a loaf of bread, take my word for it… and completely edible. I ate it and lived to tell the tale…

It has been a while since I wrote a recipe. Now, I know, I know, you still haven’t got over the fact that it took you 890 words to get to the actual chicken kebab recipe and it is 2 hours of your life you won’t get back. What? It doesn’t take you 2 hours to read 890 words of flowing, stream of consciousness prose? What’s that? Fifteen? Hours? oh, ok, minutes! So what are you complaining about??

Anyway, here we go, right away into the recipe. ( This has got to be the shortest preamble I’ve written for a post.. I mean, here we are at just about a 100 words and we’re talking about getting into the recipe… I must be losing my touch.)

So what is gas toast, then? To answer this we must go back in time. For this is a highly complex recipe. It uses techniques that have stood the test of time. By which I mean it’s a very old recipe. It must be at least 40 years old. That’s old to a millenial. For someone like me in their early 30s, it’s an aspirational goal. Oh alright… I know you know and I needn’t lie about my age. Got it. Shall we move on? To the recipe? We shall? Orlrighty then! Continue reading “Gas Toast – Part 1.”

The Second Annual Birthmonth Festival


As you may remember, most of you very carefully and diligently ignored the First Annual Birthmonth Festival. Now here is your chance to do so again. Yes, there is a difference. The last time around your indifference lasted a whole month. This time around, given that the world’s collective attention span is shorter than Trump’s fingers, I’ve decided that you get a week ( or 3 – well, maybe 4 ) to celebrate this August moment.

August, the month of hot summer days and cooling summer nights. August, the month of early leaves on the ground. August, the month of the last few school-free days. August, the month that should have been October ( don’t get it? Send me an email. See Contact Page for email form.) August, the month of Mother Teresa, who I met a couple of times. August, the month of days on the deck. August, the month of waiting for the advent of cool autumn. August, the start of the month of the Virgin. August, the end of the month of the Lion. August, the month in which I was born straddling The Lion and The Virgin. I’m told the earth itself shuddered the day after I was born. Possibly, the shock of it all was too much for Ma Earth.

I don't think it was my birthday... but what the hell, I thought
I don’t think it was my birthday… but what the hell, I thought

26th, next Friday is the day when a few decades earlier a child was born to a family meek and mild. Wait! No! I mean, yes a child was born, but not into a meek and mild family. We saw it in action during the recent wedding. Not mild. Not meek. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I suppose family is the friends we didn’t choose.

I must have chosen my mother wisely, for she was born the same day I was. This does not mean that she and I were born on the exact same day. I mean, we were born on the same annual day but were separated by 39 years. By which I mean she was born 39 years before I was. I was born on her birthday as a birthday present, I suppose. In fact, my first first words on appearing out into the world were “Happy birthday, mum!”. I remember, cake was served too, with a dollop of Haywards Gripe Water for me in addition.

It was many years ago, so my famed memory may be failing me. So maybe, it didn’t quite happen that way. In any case, the fact of the matter is, I was born. You knew that already, because you are reading this. I must have written this, so I am alive. To be alive now, I must have been born then. At least, that part is clear.

So here we are then. I’m here. You are there. I know I am here. Do I know you are there? Possibly, you are. You can prove it to me. Right in! I mean, write in! This is the part where the rite of writing can be performed even as you exercise your right of writing. Tell me about you, tell me stories, made up or real, about me. About me and you. About you.

Go ahead. Get ahead of the crowds. Apply early. Get your stories in. The first 500 stories will win spots number 1-500! Don’t wait! Do it now.

Contest open while blog lasts. See blog for details. There are no details. May cause nausea, fatigue, drowsiness. Especially, drowsiness. Also, headaches, bloating and excessive uncontrollable yawning. Do not forget to wish The SloMan, the PeevedPunjabi and LeggieLefty too. Unclejee too, though, we fear Unclejee is in a coma and not expected to recover.

Little Red Writer – 1


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A cute doggie to draw the readers in….

One day, Little Red Writer decided to write poetry. Now, poetry is very hard to do. Little Red Writer was little and unschooled. He had some words in his bag and he wanted to show his words to his granny, Facebook. Little Red Writer knew that poetry has rules. These are to be followed and sometimes broken. LRW, as he was called by his dog, knew just enough rules to think he could hack it.

LRW knew that poetry often uses metre. A metre in poetry is not the same as a beam of light in some laboratory in Europe. Metre is a measure of sounds in a line. There are names given to the poetry that follows different metres. LRW did not know all these. LRW was uneducated. LRW had not read much poetry. Poetry also uses rhymes. Rhymes are words used to end a line to make similar sounds. For example, June and Moon are rhymes. LRW knew rhymes.

Most importantly, Little Red Writer knew that poetry expressed feelings. He had often written letters to Granny Facebook. He had felt things. He had told Granny F everything he felt. What he felt most often was a sense of wonder. Gran was a very social being. She always had people over, partying and yelling and taking pictures and posting cat videos and puppies and posters about the importance of gods and goddesses with big butts and lots of cleavage and ministers and tv hosts and communist propaganda and faith. Granny F also had salons where poets and poetesses of all strengths, convictions, skills and ideas met and denigrated each other’s poetry.

Poetry, Little Red Writer learned, was a big thing for Granny F. Poetry produced many likers, a type of wonderful insect that tickled every pore of the poet, thrilling him/her as they drilled deep into his/her very core. The Little Red Writer also wanted to feel these lovely creatures and so he resolved to write his own poetry and mail them to Granny Facebook.

Little did Little Red Writer know that he knew very little. He little knew that to attract those little insects, Likers, he had to write words that meant little but gave much. So he put on his thinking cap, the one with the yellow tassels, the colour clashing beautifully with the scarlet of the cap itself. His white hair, poking through under the brim of the cap, his glasses aligned on his well-manicured nose, he set to work.

Granny Facebook is still waiting for the poetry that Little Red Writer is trying to write. The word on the street is that Little Red W is not really trying. Rumours abound that he has been busy planning weddings instead of writing. There are those who are rejoicing at the thought of a blog less clogged with poetry. These people are known cat-fanciers, however, and cannot be trusted to understand the Power of Poetry. There are some, a rare breed of dog-lovers, okra-eaters, lotus-worshippers and yoga practitioners, who do expect a bit of verse at regular intervals.

For them, unfortunately, the wait continues. The Little Red Writer has no poetry to offer. Granny F has given up waiting, even stopped clicking her teeth in frustration.

Granny F is waiting for poetry no more.
Little Red Writer is back being a bore.
He has no poetry to offer.
But a few words from his coffer,
no gore or sweaty pore, just tales of yore.

Time away


I’ve been busy. Had a wedding to run. Wedding now over. Got some sleep today. Not enough. Need more. But have to go back to work tomorrow. Must sleep.

Still way too much food in the fridges. Have to eat it all. Lots of food. Giving it away takes effort and time. Shall freeze some of it. Must sleep.

The deck and backyard are cleared. The main floor is also habitable. Took 20 bags of garbage to the dump. Basement still needs to be cleaned up. Must sleep.

Evil Eyed Cherry


A pair of cherries from the same stalk. Prunus...
A pair of cherries from the same stalk. Prunus avium ‘Stella’. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other day I bought some cherries. Sunday, it was, yes, I remember well. I bought the cherries home and washed them and ate them and they were good. I also had occasion to visit a Bengali sweet shop and The Good Lady bought some kaancha chena. Literally translated it means “raw cottage cheese”. With some sugar added it is a traditional Bengali sweet.

Now, you know, I live in Canada, right? Right. So cherries in summer is not unusual. The other thing is. Unusual, I mean. I like cherries. I wish someone would pit them for me, but until they invent unpitted cherries, I’ll have to make do with these. Unpitted cherries will probably be GMO labelled, anyway, so I guess I’d better just enjoy these. Not that these cherries are completely blameless. I mean, not the cherries, but the cherry growers. How can an inanimate object have the attribute of blame associated with it?

Ok, I think I hear the vegetarians clamouring that cherries are not inanimate objects. But then, if they’re not we can blame them, right? No? Hmm, well, anyway, moving on. I like blueberries too, and kiwi is ok, too. Strawberries, yes, bananas, too. Even raspberries are ok, but no blackberries for me. That gritty feeling is not very pleasant. A ripe papaya liberally sprinkled with salt, pepper and lime juice is pretty  good. Try not to judge! At least try it before you wrinkle your nose.. Of course, mangoes win hands down as the king of fruits. Unfortunately, I live in Canada, so the delicious mango varieties of my past life are but a fast receding memory.

What has all this to do with Evil Eyes, Cherries and an Angel’s Kiss in Spring? Nothing. First of all, it’s summer, full blown, not spring. Angels, winged or otherwise, I have never met, so they can’t possibly be handing out kisses to all and sundry. Ah, but you see, that sweet raw cottage cheese we talked about earlier? Yes, that thing, it enters the story at this point. We bought some and I reminded people that even though I lived where I did ( Canada, in case you missed it ), I still had access to kaancha chhena. Their reply was basically “pffttt!”. I reminded them also that I was eating lovely cherries. This, for some reason, gave rise to a cold and odd reception. Clearly, they must have had something on their mind, because their speech became odd and slurry. I prudently decided to leave them alone to get over their ailment.

You may further be aware that I work. Yes, I know, you find it hard to fathom, but apply your mind. Some people do have to earn a living. No, it does not matter what I actually do. Many people have asked me that and to explain what I do would not be very interesting to you, unless you had severe insomnia and wished to find a cure, dear God, give me a cure! Suffice it say that work consists of waking up at ungodly hours and donning a suit. Trains, commuter trains, are involved. Focus on the suit and tie. Yes, the tie. Next recall, that I did not tell you that on Monday mornings I have to attend a session at 8:15am. On a Monday. This Monday morning, I was running late, so I put on my jacket, forgot about the tie and left for work.

I was wearing a freshly laundered white shirt. I wear a freshly laundered shirt ever day. I’m quirky like that. So there we have it at long last, the scene is set.

Characters:

Me, dressed in pristine white dress shirt, no tie.

Cherries, in a ziplock bag.

Work. With a very important meeting in the afternoon, after lunch ( for which I had to walk in the glare of the hot sun for 15 minutes, one way. )

Sandwich dressed in aluminium foil.

As the sun blazes away outside, I am observed, chewing contentedly through the sandwich. I work at the laptop as I eat. Soon the sandwich is done and I pull the bag of cherries closer and with my left hand pick one cherrie and bite into it. Nibbling around the outside, I delicately put the pit in a bowl created by the aluminium foil. With two cherries left, the Evil Eye strikes.

Those people who had gone off surly at the thought of kaancha chhena and cherries, must have been busy lighting incense sticks and pushing red hot skewers into plastic models of cherries and I. For with one cherry left in the bag, I bit into the last but one and it exploded into a splatter of purple juice all over the front of my pristine white, freshly laundered white shirt. White, except for large splotches of purple covering an area of 5-6 inches in the middle of my chest.

I went for the meeting in the afternoon. I wore the purple splotches as a badge of honour.

I wonder what the people I met, for the first time in my life, thought about it.

We’ll never know.

I hope.

On the positive side…. I wasn’t wearing a tie.🙂

Practically Witty


Almost summer morning
Almost summer evening

I wrote this poem for no reason
For it’s really just the season.
This poem is quite small
and it’s very stupid and all.
Tubetops, when they put these on
you also get those bare knees on.

You know this is really quite silly
For I’m writing stuff willy nilly.
You may exclaim “Oh Lord!”
“He really is so odd!”
It’s not because of the terrain hilly
Or a preponderance of rose and lily.

In fact there is no Grace
Rose, Lily, or April in lace
So you can perish the thought
that my silliness is ill begot.
No, It’s the life and it’s pace
that makes me go red in the face.

It’s a wonder this poem got wrote.
For the 7:20am train has my vote
Now you’re here, come, say your piece
For comments here attract no fees.
Do it while sitting in your boat
or sipping wine with table d’hote.

You may think it is a real pity
believe this is practically witty
but don’t you from commenting shirk
on this blog, for you know it is a perk.
The poem such as it is is a little nitty,
a tad gritty, maybe witty, but mostly shitty.

My Artistic Career


I just explored a new career possibility as a painter. Which should surprise you, no?

So far, as you know, I have displayed no artistic ability at all. I’ve taken the odd photograph, yes, with a couple of photo essays. One was about spring and the other was about fall. I have even showed you shaky video. There was also, an audio clip of me singing a Grateful Dead song, accompanied by me on my acoustic guitar. This last was personally hilarious. I have attempted glass blowing, which is quite hard actually, and I have on my display shelf a piece of glass flower sort of art that I created. Yes, I’ve written an essay or two, there is The Play…. ( which reminds me… I sent the publishers Act I more than a month ago and they’ve not responded yet. Either they are still convalescing from the shock or they are laughing their heads off. Probably, they read out excerpts at lunch meetings or at team events at the bar, as light entertainment, as examples of bad writing they have encountered. )

But now, ladies, gentlemen and others, I have made completed my first painting. Yes, a work of real ART on CANVAS. Get a drink of water, sip slowly. Or hold your breath. It does wonders for hiccups. Take a walk around the kitchen, calm down. I know exactly what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking, “Is there no end to this man’s talents?”

Well, maybe you’re not quite thinking that. It’s OK! I agree, I’m not very talented, I know. My modesty is legendary. Everyone knows I’m not that talented. But you have a follow up question.

“What on earth induced you to attempt putting paint on canvas?”

Well, this past week was Employee Appreciation Week at work. What? Yes, didn’t I tell you? I’m back at work! Three weeks now in a row, I’ve been catching a train by the skin of my teeth and heading into downtown TO. Let me not get sidetracked, by that. You are well aware that I can be very easily distracted. Did you know that the 7:20 train is the most interesting of the 7 am trains? What? Yes, well, it’s your fault! I told you, I’m easily distracted!

Well, back to the Employee Appreciation Week. So the entire team booked into a paint night. We picked a sample painting that we would copy and we headed down to this restaurant at the crossing of Yonge and Wellesley where all the staff are hearing impaired. The walls are decorated with posters showing you how to order wine, whisky, coolers, margaritas and other drinks. The evening was hosted by Matti, who took us step by step into the creation of the painting. Each table had a mini easel, with a canvas, a cup of water, a paper plate with red, yellow, blue, black and white paint and two brushes.

At the end of the session we all had a completed painting. Our team then decided to have a short contest. We each named our paintings, named the characters in the painting and told a short story about the characters in the story. Here is mine.

My painting, called “Pat and the Cat”, won the prize for best name. Here is my story about Pat and her cat Lizzy. Ready? Here we go then.

Pat had a cat
The cat was fat
Pat wasn’t busy
She and her cat, Lizzy
Sat at the end of the pier
Dangling their feet with no fear
Under the stars they sat,
A lonely Pat and Lizzy,her cat.

There were some really deep and lovely stories we heard. We all won something. I plan to put this painting up in my office. It’s the only painting I’ll probably ever do in my life.

And now, folks! Here is the painting itself.

Pat and the cat (c) Ajesh Sharma
Pat and the cat (c) Ajesh Sharma

Yes, the cat is there. Look closely, it’s dark. It’s a black cat! Whoever saw a black cat on a dark night?

Right Hand Man – Chapter 3


The heavy black car eased slowly down the street. Fatty craned his neck left and right to inspect the houses as he steered the car. Beside him, Goon sat impassively in the passenger seat.

“Not the most upscale neighborhood, Chief.”, remarked Fatty.

“Don’t call me chief.”, Goon stared straight ahead.

“Ok, Boss!”

“And don’t call me Boss.”

Fatty looked over at him. Goon stared ahead, his face expressionless. Fatty refused to turn away until Goon shifted and shot a quick glance at him.

“Ok, Chief. Where are we now? The building should be here somewhere.”

“Turn right, up ahead, not the next one, the one after that. It should be just around the corner.”

Fatty drove the car up to the corner and made a careful turn, coming to a stop just short of a set of steps leading up to a double door. Goon promptly undid his seat belt with a sigh. For a moment the two of them sat and peered at the entrance to the block of flats. The wood of the door had long ago lost its polish. Years of neglect and weather had stripped the veneer off the surface, with worn spots around the handle showing the lack of care. The glass on the left hand pane had a large long crack running from the top left to the bottom right where it ended in a splatter of shattered glass. Two small slivers were missing. The brass door handles hadn’t seen any polish for a while. The grime and dust of the ages had dulled the metal into a filthy finish.

They stepped out of the car, Goon heaving himself out with a whooshing grunt and inspected the building and the street in which they stood. The building was eight stories tall. The windows on the right hand side of the sixth floor were the only ones that were shut. They were also the only ones that were not in a state of abject neglect. On the 7th floor directly above the good windows, the window on the left was actually hanging by one hinge with the glass panes were missing.

Goon made a grunting noise. Fatty looked at him.

“You say something, Chief?”

Goon cleared his throat in a rasping, rumbling manner and spoke.

“Doesn’t look like anyone looks after the building. Are you sure this is the right address.?”

Fatty took out his notebook and flipped over the pages. He nodded.

“Yep, this is the place alright. I wonder why it hasn’t been condemned yet.”

Down the street, a group of children were sitting on the steps of another building, one that looked only marginally better maintained.

“What’s wrong with those kids? “, Goon muttered.

There was definitely something odd about the group. For one, they were not playing or talking. There was no movement from them. They just turned and stared at the two policemen with unflinching stares. The tallest of them was also the skinniest. He looked like an elongated ten year old. For a few moments both groups stared at each other. Then, casually and slowly, the skinny young man walked towards Goon and Fatty. Fatty sensed rather than saw Goon stiffen next to him. The rest of the group of children followed their leader, staying a step or two behind him.

The thin boy walked up to the car and slowly ran his hand over the bonnet. He peered into the car, ignoring both men with insolent and exaggerated deliberation. The rest of his gang stopped short of the car, watching warily as the gang leader sauntered up to Fatty, looked him up and down and stopped at Goon.

“What’s the matter, laddie?”, Goon was at his growliest best, “you never see a car before?”

The youth didn’t answer, but just stared at him. Goon stared right back.

“You’re cops.”

“Yes. And you better watch it. You don’t want to be arrested for vagrancy and loitering.”

“What you here for?”

“None of your business, laddie. You just clear orf now, see?”

“You here to see the old hag? She’s batty.”

“I’m going to give you 30 seconds to clear orf before I arrest the whole lot of you for impeding an officer in the conduct of his duty.”

The youth took a step back and looked from Goon to Fatty and back again.

“Which one of you is in charge?”

Fatty said, “Now, look here, kid..”

Goon cut him off. He stepped toward the boy and his thick finger stopped 3 inches from the gang leader’s chest.

“You! Step away! You want me to arrest you for obstructing the law?”

Goon’s voice was firm and loud. His neck was thrust forward in a pugnacious display of authority. For a moment the big Detective Sergeant and the young boy stood frozen. Goon, a big giant, towered over the skinny lad. Fatty stepped towards the gang, who scattered and hastily beat a retreat. Goon and the gang leader were still staring at each other. Finally, the boy turned slowly on his heel and walked back to his gang, who had taken up station again at the original spot. They watched sullenly as Goon stood watching them. Then he turned and stumped up the stairs. Fatty followed, with his head turned to watch the kids.

Goon stopped at the door and asked “What’s the name of the lady?”

“Mrs. Miller. Been in the same flat for 54 years, she says. Must be in her 80s I think.”

Goon opened the door and stepped into a dark foyer. One lonely electric bulb hung from a wire high up in the ceiling, giving off just enough light to show the old oak staircase. Worn and creaky, one or two spindles missing, a couple cracked.

Goon looked up and asked “Which floor?”

“Sixth, I’m afraid, Chief. You’ll do fine. Take your time.”

“Don’t patronize me, young man!”

“Sorry Chief! Shall we go up and meet the lovely Mrs Miller?

Goon sighed and started up the stairs, with Fatty behind.

Immigrant Tales – Arrival


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Ok – This was taken in Niagara about 8 months after Arrival, but it is still represented of my handsome self. My hairstyle has changed, as has my waistline since then…

This was my second ( or third, if you include the Nepal adventure ) foreign trip and I had much on my mind. This was my second trip to North America and the first hadn’t exactly been a carefree and joyous one, if you remember. I don’t think it is easy to describe the wealth of feeling and emotion an immigrant carries with him ( or her, if faux feminist). While the earlier trips were temporary excursions, this one had the element of finality about it. This was it. I was burning some of my bridges. I was forsaking the land of my birth, the friends I had made over the years, the memories of a thousand little events would fade, I thought. I was leaving my wife and two young kids behind me. I had no idea when I would see them again, if ever. I do remember, the chest clenching feeling of pain as the A310 opened up its engines and started its run down the runway on its way to Bombay. I hadn’t been expecting it. I hadn’t anticipated the lurch of emotion as we raced down.

And so The Great Immigration commenced. The A310 took me only to Mumbai, where, after some initial confusion, I boarded Air India Konarak to Delhi and on to London’s Heathrow airport. I sat in the aisle seat of three on the left hand side of the plane, or port side. Beside me sat an elderly Indian couple, a very polite and slightly sheepish looking couple. They seemed embarrassed by the whole business of flying to a foreign land. I got talking with them, polite conversation to satisfy my natural curiosity.

They were flying to Toronto to spend the summer with their son, an IT engineer, who had paid for his parents to visit him. They were painfully shy with the flight attendants, not knowing what to say, or how to respond to the queries about tea, coffee, lunch and dinner options. I helped where I could, but at one point during meal service all communication completely broke down. Most Indians believe that ice cold water is a terrible idea and seriously detrimental to good health. Most North American’s drink five drops of water with their ice to lie at the other end of the scale. During the previous meal service the attendant had done the usual scooping of ice cubes into the glass before pouring a few drops of water. This was in reply to the horrified response to the query about wine or pre-dinner drink. My poor neighbours knew not what to do with their glasses of ice cubes and thus drank no water after their first meal on the plane. The second meal service came around and the gentleman next me spoke up in his hesitant English.

“No cold water.”, he pleaded, accompanied by the Indian sideways head nod, “hot water. Hot water.”

The flight attendant nodded and continued with serving meals. She then disappeared back to her galley and came back a few minutes later with two steaming glasses of gently boiling water, which she handed out to the non-plussed travellers. It took a few minutes of confused conversation between the now very embarrassed gentleman, the irritated attendant and the immigrant interpreter in the aisle seat. Finally, the couple got what they really wanted; room temperature water with no ice.

I don’t recall the meals otherwise, but I think they were basic Indian meals, rice daal, some curry, maybe there was some chicken too… all those details I keep giving you are mostly useless bits of trivia that don’t do anything for this absolutely riveting story, other than enhance the flavour of boredom. I knew you’d see it my way! Soon, we were landing at Heathrow, where I had been before. We were all offloaded and herded out into a lounge, so crews could get in there and clean up the mess made by us. I also think, they must have refuelled and generally taken a look at the plane in preparation for the hop across the Atlantic. I’m guessing here, I’m not an aviation expert, even though I do know what ETOPS means and can tell a wing from an engine pod.

And then we were on the long boring Great Circle path south of Greenland and on to landfall over Newfoundland and Labrador before sweeping down on the north bank of the St Lawrence into the Greater Toronto Area. As we started our descent, a disembodied voice came over the PA system.

“As some of you may have noticed, we have started our descent into the Toronto area. The approach at this airport usually has some swirling winds, so expect a bit of a bumpy path in. Buckle in and thanks for flying with us.”

Around 2:30pm on the 2nd of June, 1997 I finally received service for the Right To Land Fee I had paid Her Majesty’s Canadian Government over a year ago as Air-India Konarak, VT-ESM Boeing 747-400 put its wheels gently on the runway at Lester B Pearson International Airport. The Immigrant was home, his New Home. I had traded in my old home for this new home. What would the new home bring? In future instalments we shall explore such topics as Jobs, Life, Food and other mundane details of the Immigrant Tales

Oh, yes, also we shall chat about the Great Canadian Okra Crisis! We don’t lightly forget!

Immigrant Tales – Departure


International Driving Permit photo. ( A waste of time getting that.. )
International Driving Permit photo. ( A waste of time getting that.. )

Actually, the notes are not early. They’re late. Late by about 19 years now, will be exactly 19 years late on the 2nd of June 2016. Yes, you are very correct in your maths. I arrived in the great country of Canada on the 2nd of June, 1997. ( Sorry. I wrote this when the post was titled “Early Notes”. I forgot to edit this. I saw it later and felt obliged to offer some explanation and not leave you mystified.. How nice of me, no?) 

Before I left Calcutta, I inquired about taking some foreign exchange with me. The Reserve Bank of India was stingy about people taking foreign exchange with them. I was directed to the American Express office, where the clerk looked at my requisition and asked “How much do you need?”

“How much can I get?”

“Show me your passport and visa.”

I did. He opened up the folded Immigration Visa. Folded it back.

“500 bucks in USD. That’s all you are entitled to take with you.”

“You kidding me? It’s my money! Why can’t I take my own money with me?”

“RBI rules. Sorry bud.”

“Oh! OK, give me what you can.”

Appropriate forms were filled out. Rubber stamps went on my passport and 30 minutes later I had USD 500 in my pocket. All the money I was allowed to take with me to start my new life in a strange, cold land. A rather cold start to my immigration story.

At the airport, I found out I was eligible for a further USD 50, so I changed my INR for USD 50, bringing the total amount of cash I was carrying to a whopping USD550. I was booked on an Air India flight to Toronto; a barnstorming flight, as we shall see. An Airbus A310 left Calcutta on the 1st of June, at 8:30 in the evening with me on board. It landed in Mumbai about 2.5 hours later. I was off loaded into a transit lounge in prep for the plane that would take me to London, UK and onwards to Toronto, ON. I took the time to visit the washroom, receive my boarding pass for the onward flight and headed down to the exit to the gates. This is where the uniformed, gun carrying dudes at the gate stopped me and asked me to show my boarding pass. I did so. They stiffened up and became alert.

“How did you get here?”, they asked.

“On a plane from Calcutta. I’m on my way…”, he cut me off.

“Answer my question! How did you reach this gate?”, he was inistent.

“I told you. I came on the flight from Calcutta and they offloaded me into this lounge.”

“Ok. So you came from Calcutta?”

“Yes.”

“But how did you get into this lounge?”

“I told you.”

“Who let you into this lounge?”

“The airline folks did. There was no other way to go except into this lounge.”

“Wait here. Do NOT wander off. I need to talk to my supervisor.”

He nodded at his companion, who took up a position of alertness. An intense conversation ensued over his walkie talkie and 2 minutes later, the supervisor showed up. My friend showed him my boarding pass. Supe looked at, flipped it over looked at the other side. Flipped it over. Held it up to the light. Peered at it again. Then he looked me in the eye and asked his first question.

“How did you get here?”

I took a deep breath; repeated my story.. flight from Calcutta.. on to London, Toronto..

He was unimpressed.

“You cannot have this boarding pass and claim that you came from Calcutta and are enroute to London and Toronto. It is impossible. So how did you get in here?”

I felt like a gold fish in a bowl. “Hey look! A security guard!”

He saw my bemused expression.

“Look,”, he said, “your boarding pass is not a normal boarding pass. If you were a genuine transit passenger it would have a big bold T printed here.”

I looked at it. He was right. The T was missing.

“Where did you get this boarding pass?”

“At the Air India counter. Over there. I pointed behind me.”

“Come with me.”

I walked over with him to the Air India counter, where the lovely lady in the Air India sari was reaching for the phone. She replaced it as we came up to her.

The supe showed her my boarding pass.

“Oh, good,” she said, “I was just going to page you, Mr Sharma! We gave you the wrong boarding pass.”

She took my pass, tore it up, reached under her desk and gave me a new one. This one had a nice bold T printed on it.

Just past midnight, I was on the plane, foreign bound.

Sort of. For the plane headed off to New Delhi, where we were not allowed to get off. Some more passengers entered. Finally, around 5:30am we took off for London on an Air India 747-400. Around 8am, about 12 hours after I had left Calcutta, I left Indian airspace for the first time as an immigrant.

Immigrant Tales will continue. Same batty blog, same batty writer. Come back and read as I recount every hour of the journey to London, the off and on trek through the lounge there and the landing in Toronto.