A visit to Ladakh is on the cards this summer: Mitra Phukan



In our special summer series, celebrated individuals from India’s Northeast share their plans to beat the summer heat. Stay cool and look chic this summer with head-turning fashion trends.


Noted writer MITRA PHUKAN chalks out her plans this summer


Summer is, mostly, for me, a time to recover from the excesses of our Guwahati winter. Hip, happening, hectic. That’s winter in the city, in Assam in fact, for most of us. Yes, I can (and often do) go on about the joys of winter. But here I have to write of summer plans. mitra5


So, here goes. The recovery routes are multi pronged. Firstly, I have to get the guilt out of my system by actually buckling down to serious work again …work which was sadly neglected during the winter partying sprees. Several large projects look accusingly at me whenever I approach the laptop. Well, I’m going to advance them, hopefully, maybe even finish one or two. Hopefully.


Then there is the commissioned stuff. There is after all a limit to how much one can push back deadlines. Several are on dry topics such as translation and so forth, so those get to go to the end of the queue. However, one thing that I am really looking forward to writing is a short story, on the theme of murder. It’s to be a pacy thriller, the commissioning editor was firm about that. Never written a thriller before, pacy or otherwise. So I’m really looking forward to sitting down to that.


So that is the workplan, which will get done, as and when. Summer is also the time when I flee this place at the slightest opportunity, because of the horrendous weather. Thankfully, opportunity presents itself frequently enough these days. I often combine work with pleasure. Just a few days ago, I was at a Creative Writing Workshop in Shillong, where I was invited to conduct a workshop on Short Story Writing. That was enjoyable, and rewarding. But of course we all know that it’s the after parties that actually get us out of the house. And the walks down the roads, exclaiming over the changes, and listening to people talking on the pavements. This is my number one favourite pastime while travelling.


I will probably also go to Kerala in July, for a Litfest to which I have been invited. And from there, …yes, hold your breath …if everything works out, I’ll be visiting an artist friend in picturesque Wayanad, among the flowers and hills and clouds. My friend lives in an artistes’ commune. Since I have never been to such a place before, I am eagerly looking forward to it. There are hammocks, there is coffee, there are flowers there. What more does one need? Fingers crossed that the friend, a globe trotting type, doesn’t have to leave our shores at that time.


And then, perhaps, my mandatory summer trip to Bangalore. I was there in March for a month, and now perhaps another week there. For the weather, for the sibling, for the friends and the lovely ambience of the city in August.


Well, obviously the work will suffer. I am not the type to carry work around. Work tends to spoil a holiday, quite effectively. Hm. That’s a problem that will need to be worked out.


For quite some time now, I have been wanting to visit Ladakh. But other things, other trips, other “Must-Visits” always crop up. Besides, none of my friends seem eager to take the trip. Is it just me they don’t want to be with, or is it the harshness of the terrain? I really don’t know. Anyway, the window of opportunity for visiting the place is fast closing for me. Weakening lungs, painful knees will soon catch up. So if someone pops up, Ladakh will hopefully happen this year. I could go alone, but not to Ladakh, where breathing for ageing types like me might be a problem, I am told.


And now, the real reason I agreed to do this piece for Thumb Print now follows. I have been asked to write on clothes! This is a first for me. A fashionista, at last! (Or atleast a borderline one, thanks Thumb Print so much for this!)


But the reality does not match the excitement, alas. I wear saris, mekhela sadors, kurtas, trousers, jeans, the occasional skirt. But nothing Page 3 ish, obviously, given my weight issues. Now is the time to take out the cottons, the chiffons, the georgettes, the jamdanis.


The real excitement in the sartorial department for me comes from my friends. I am blessed with generous friends, all gifted in the taste department. Gen Next of this house are also great gifters. All these people are the ones who ply me with clothes. They know exactly the colours I love, and have gifted me some exquisite stuff over the years. I am having a really fun time wearing them. Others know of my passion for bags, and munificently contribute to my collection. There are still some new outfits left in my wardrobe to wear, and more continue to come in! This is the real thrill in the clothes department for me.


As for cuisine, well. What can I say. Food and I are fast friends, but only secretly. Doctors keep advising me to drop the pounds, but nothing much happens on that front. In any case, I am looking forward greatly to sampling the cuisine of all the places I am due to visit. I especially love South Indian cuisine, in all its variety. Appam and mutton stew are a favourite, and I hope to gorge on that, besides Chettinad food, the seafood biryani, and the cosmopolitan fare that Bangalore offers. Besides, there are the lovely new eateries in town. I am also trying out some new recipes from the hill areas of our region, especially Naga food, with bamboo shoots and all.


Well, there we are, then! Much to look forward to.


Have glorious summer holidays, all you amazing Thumb Print readers!


Mitra Phukan

Mitra Phukan

Mitra Phukan is a writer, translator, columnist and classical vocalist who lives and works in Guwahati, Assam. Her published literary works include four children's books, a biography, and a novel, "The Collector's Wife". Her most recent work is another novel, "A Monsoon of Music" published by Penguin-Zubaan in September 2011. Besides, her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. Her works have been translated into several languages. She is the Northeast correspondent of the Chennai-based journal of the performing arts, "Shruti" and a member of the North East Writers' Forum.