Les règles du voyage

I thought I had taken care of everything. But I was in for a rude shock.

“…and what is your ETA”, the check-in staff enquired innocuously.

What does my Estimated time of Arrival have anything to do with my flight check-in? As I momentarily grappled with this incredulity, I understood, from her response, that ETA here stood for “E Travel Authorization”, a form of transit visa now required for citizens of some countries traveling through Canada. And I needed one as I carried an Indian passport. As disbelief led to the quick realization that I had not taken care of everything, that I might need to re-book my flight if I did not manage to procure an ETA before my departure, a spurt of rationality prompted me to fish out my cell phone, while the lady behind the counter called for help from her supervisor to figure out any alternatives I might have to applying for an immediate ETA from Canadian Immigration.

“It usually takes around 20 minutes”, she said as I Googled my way to the Canadian Immigration online application form for ETA, and started filling out my details. In the next few minutes, as she and her supervisor investigated my situation, I nearly completed the form, mentally thanking the internet and mobile connectivity improvements over the last decade. As we walked away from the check-in counter with the knowledge that I must have an approved ETA in the next hour or so, my son, wife and I were still hopeful that my application would be approved in time for my flight, a belief that would be severely tested.

A few minutes and seven Canadian dollars later, we had nothing else to do but remain on tenterhooks. The receipt notice arrived promptly. But that was not enough. An approval was required, something that the Canadian Immigration website said could take up to 72 hours, though it usually took only a few minutes. I counted minutes, praying feverishly behind my external composure. Ten, twenty, a half hour. My son started getting worried about being late for school. At the end of forty minutes, cracks showed in my conviction, as my mind began to work out alternative plans in the face of the ominous possibility of not having an approved ETA in time. What seemed reasonable in the situation was to change my itinerary. The airline website allowed me to change the departure date to the next day. But by now, I had lost my cool. I vented my ire on my son and wife for asking me to change the itinerary from home instead of doing it from the airport. Hope still lurked somewhere at the back of my mind, though now almost entirely overshadowed by the grimness of present reality. If this was live TV unfolding breaking news, I would be a tragic victim, but with great viewership ratings.

More drama unfolded. As pessimism gained, I lead my family back towards the parking lot, while continuing to submit a revised itinerary on the airline website. Mobile internet in true sense of the word – as we took the escalator down from the departure level, all the while keeping an eye on my submitted request, which was still processing. And then the itinerary change failed. Darkness! I lost my wits as I raged at my family, not knowing what was next. We’d head back home. I’d re-book my flight with a hitherto unknown itinerary. Quite the end of the world for someone used to meticulous planning for the mundane.


At the edge of the cliff, I decided to check my email one last time. The approval notice had arrived. Relief and elation simultaneously short through me like electric current, as I let my family into the delightful news. Now we had to rush back to the check-in counter, this time in anxiety of missing my flight despite my wife’s assurances regarding there being enough time.

I was finally through with checking in. In time. We were relieved and thankful that my travel plans were unaltered. I held my wife and son in close embrace before walking through security check, ready to depart, leave them for two weeks to see my aging parents in India. The woes of a first generation immigrant with ties to two continents vastly separated in time and space. ETA – two days.


Dangal by Aamir Khan

To do things differently requires guts. There’s the risk of becoming an outcast, among friends, family, neighbors, strangers. But the greatest enrichments are open only to those who muster the courage to do things differently. Those, despite risk of failure and ostracism, who willingly tread the road less traveled open themselves up also to the possibility of unprecedented rewards. In Dangal, Aamir Khan portrays such a risk taker.


                Sports biopics, of late, have stuck a chord in Bollywood, with the singular successes of gifted athletes who overcome tremendous obstacles – both systemic and infrastructural – to achieve international fame and success, in a country indifferent to its sporting heroes (barring cricket). After athletics and boxing, wresting’s emergence into limelight is natural. The choice of theme as such is not extraordinary.  Aamir Khan’s ability to package it as a blockbuster without severely limiting the story’s honesty is. Director Nitesh Tiwari achieves that by taking some of the edge off, through humor, catchy music, high emotional content, never losing sight however of its actual intent – to narrate the tale of a father’s sincerity and passion to pursue a dream, and his daughter’s toil in response, and their eventual success to unprecedented rewards, which shine through in the nearly three hours of storytelling. This, despite some preachy moments and one enforced nationalistic gesture thrown in.

Subduing his star appeal, Khan turns in a performance apt to play the aged protagonist. His co-actors deliver in cohesion to ultimately create an inspiring cinematic experience. It should please those who want a bit more out of big budget Bollywood fare, but has enough spice in the pot for the masala crowd as well. It certainly is a happy mix for the producers, if initial box office response is any indicator.


I AM THAT by Nisargadatta Maharaj

“I am That”, as its apt subtitle says, is a collection of talks with the great Indian mystic, and has gems of wisdom strewn across almost all its chapters.  Here’s one I discovered in Chapter 5, on a renewed journey along it’s profound pages, that expounds the value of avoiding contradictions in thought and action –

  “…life and light must not quarrel; behavior must not betray belief. Call it honesty, integrity, wholeness; you must not go back, undo, uproot, abandon the conquered ground. Tenacity of purpose and honesty in pursuit will bring you to your goal.”









True life wisdom, really. And not as easy to follow at all times.



বল মা কি আচারে, রামপ্রসাদ সেন

Following my previous post on the translation, here is the original Bengali poem by  Sri Ramprasad Sen.

বল মা কি আচারে
  রামপ্রসাদ সেন

বল মা কি আচারে

কি মন্ত্র বিচারে
কোন উপচারে পূজিব মা
কি নামে ডাকিব
কি মন্ত্র পাঠিব
কি দিয়ে গঠিব
তোমার প্রতিমা
শুনেছি পুরানে বেদাগামতন্ত্রে
জীত্শক্তি  মা তুমি জীব দেহযন্ত্রে
মা তুমি জাগিবে কোন উদ্বোধন মন্ত্রে
কে দেবে সে মন্ত্র বল হরবামা
আবাহন মন্ত্র ডাকিব কোন ঘটে
যে ঘটে যা ঘটাও সে ঘটে তাই ঘটে
জগতমাঝে তব পটিয়সী মায়া
ঘটে পটে রটাও তোমার মহিমা
ফল পূজা করে লভিব কি ফল
কি ফলে পূজিলে পাব ইষ্টফল
চরণেতে যার চতুর্বর্গফল *
মোক্ষফলের বৃক্ষ হর মনোরমা 
* ধর্ম, অর্থ, কাম, মোক্ষ

How to call you, Mother? A translation of a song by Ramprasad Sen

Bengal, despite its current state of dilapidation, has produced some towering saints in its rich history. Ramprasad Sen can surely be counted among them. A great eighteenth century mystic and Kali devotee, he was also a gifted poet and singer. His songs are popular to this day. Paramahansa Yogananda was a great admirer of Sri Ramprasad, his song Will that day O’ come to me Ma an English rendition of a Ramprasad song.

Sometime back, I came across this gem (from the Bengali film “Sadhak Ramprasad”) by contemporary thumri maestro Ramkumar Chatterjee, and was compelled to its translation. Audio track is available here (for native Bengali speakers and people who know the language), and here is my attempt to convey it’s essence in English:

How to call you, Mother?

Tell me Mother –

With what rite expression

by what incantation,

with which concoction to worship you Ma?


What chants should I narrate,

with what mantras supplicate,

what should I equate your form with O Ma?


Vedas and Puranas, I have heard in their hymns

that you are the force of victory in beings.

Arise you will Mother on which mantra’s wings?

Who will dispense that mantra to me Ma?


A mantra of ascension should I use on which urn?

It is by your will that events take their turn.

Your seductive maya pervades humanity,

as you manifest your grace in reality.


By the worship of fruits, O what should I gain?

With which fruit of prayer should you I obtain?

Fruits of the world at your feet you contain –

The tree of ultimate expression you are Ma.


© Mystic Wanderer, 2012


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How to call you, Mother by Mystic Wanderer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.