- A day before the trip, maps of the route are emailed out, assisted by detailed road directions. All well, till we open the attachment and realize all instructions are in Thai. All of us are illiterate expatriates, so we print out the paper carefully, fold it meticulously and keep it in a crevice in the car…to wipe the windshields later!
- The time to meet is fixed for 10 am sharp, or else we will be left behind, we are warned! My family and I jolt up to an angry alarm clock before the sun can yawn, fire the maid for waking up ten minutes late, rush to finish the last minute packing, shower, get dressed, stuff in mundane cheese sandwiches for the journey (much as we would have liked ‘luchi- alu dom,’ meet our friends, and jointly zoom off at well over 100 mph, trying desperately to not fall behind. A little faster and I’m sure we would have taken off into the skies, Jet Airways style!
- We reach at two minutes past 10, catch our breath and call the organizers with shaky fingers. We are told that one is shaving and the other, showering. “Please wait in the Big C Mall…we will be there soon’. Soon turns out to be two hours later. We twiddle our fingers, buy sun-glasses and nibble on everything KFC has to offer desperately trying not to nod off to sleep.
- At 12, the whole bunch of 18 Bong families have arrived panting and puffing, along with an enthusiast carrying marinated mutton, mustard oil, spices and everything else needed to make the staple Bengali delicacy ‘Mangsho bhaat’, far in the interiors of Thailand.
- We count the 12 cars, decide who will follow whom and set off for destination Chaam. Half an hour later, we see five cars behind us missing. One had taken a wrong turn…the others had followed suit, and ended up in another corner of Thailand. Frantic calls and rapid instructions later we are bonded once again and reach Chaam without losing one another.
- We are allotted rooms randomly. Most of us are delighted with the scenic beauty. Others are delighted with what will follow soon – the mangsho bhaat.
- The day begins with cricket, football, badminton, dodge ball and ‘dog and the bone’ happening all at once in different corners of the open green field before us. In the race to win, a lady ends up with a black eye. All vigorous sports are called off at once and indoor activities take center stage.
- While beer and adda follow, the president of the Bengali organization hastens off to supervise the high point of the trip – the manghso. A sumptuous lunch and Bengali style siesta later, we gather in the evening to play Antakshari and a rather noisy Dumb Charades, ending the night with Bhangra under flashing 70s style disco lights.
- Dinner follows…there is a lot of Thai food and a bit of the leftover mangsho bhaat.
- We retire late night to our rooms. The rain beats down on us fiercely, prompting some to stay on for ghastly ghost stories that could scare away the most ferocious ghosts lurking in there.
- Next morning we meet up for breakfast and Tambola (bingo). Some fill up their wallets, others wish they had never played. Lunch is served soon after before we set off home. The table has an array of delicacies and a small tray of stale, leftover ‘mangsho bhaat’ from the previous night. There are broken pieces of potato and bones floating in there now. That does not stop the culture conscious Bongs. The delicacies stay intact. They dive for mangsho that is finger licked off till the last drop.
- We click snaps to show off our togetherness to the world. In one day we had done it all – drinking, dining, wining, whining, shining, pining, black eye, stiff shoulders, hoarse voices, backaches, empty wallets and filled our bellies with mangsho bhaat.
Mission accomplished. We pat ourselves on our backs. We had gloriously passed on a whole lot of important Bengali culture to the next generation. Indeed, Rabi Thakur and Vidyasagar would have been proud of such valiant attempts. The convoy of cars proceeds to set off home singing ‘Ashchey bochor abaar hobey’!