Friday, September 16, 2016

The Real Cattle Class

Just when I was beginning to feel happy about the Air India turnaround, their guy at the check-in counter told me something that totally pissed me off. “Sir, you need to pay extra for the front row seats.” I wanted to ask him if I could pay him in kind. Like return the complimentary sandwich which they give in flights of duration less than 90 minutes. But I was sure that it wouldn’t work. Even he knew it was not worth even fifty bucks. I just asked him for any aisle seat other than the ones at the last row.  Those are the most terrible ones where everyone who is waiting to use the loo , and that is almost everybody on board on an early morning flight, leans on. Often the derriere of the person standing and the temples of the person sitting are on the same horizontal axis usually separated by a few nanometres. It appears that Indians have a special fascination for aircraft loos. Everybody checks-in atleast an hour before the take-off. But no one uses the washroom at the departure gates. The moment the safety belt sign is off half the plane rushes to the loo.  It is like a trial room in a mall on a Sunday at the peak of season’s sale. I could never understand the mass hysteria to relieve oneself in the claustrophobic confines whose suction mechanism is so embarrassingly loud that everyone on the plane knows when you are done.

 I was, mercifully, spared of the ordeal that day. I was given a seat on the emergency exit row. The ones that cannot be pushed back and you sit straight through the entire flight as if you were an infant fastened to the baby seat in the car. These seats come with a complimentary sermon from the most disinterested member of the cabin crew who explains how the emergency door should be operated. I once asked at the end of the special briefing if I could try it once. Unfortunately, the lady was not amused. It was just like the Indian education system. Only theory; No practice.

As I fastened my seatbelt, I started thinking about the meanness of the low-cost airlines. They set out with the idea that the passengers would pay less and get minimal services. Today, their fares match their full service counterparts, or at times even more, but the services are bare minimum. Even a zen monastery would appear luxurious in comparison. If you ask for water, they would serve you in shot glasses. Unless you are buying some of their tasteless over priced stuff, you don’t exist for them. When they found that people were not buying their food, they started selling the seats. As soon as the plane is airborne, a lady would announce that she is glad to offer the front row seats for an additional charge. Offer for an additional charge? Why can’t you cut the crap and say that you are selling. Corporate communications, I guess. After all, there should be some pretence of b-school education.  Who is going to pay for the extra measly 4 inches of leg space? Thanks, lady. You can keep the four inches for yourself. Strictly no pun intended. Whom are you trying to sell space. We Indians can squeeze in anywhere. An entire joint family panning three generations will comfortably live in a room measuring 10 feet by 10 feet in Mumbai. I am just waiting for the day when the begin charging for even looking out of the window. “Sir, 100 bucks for the city view and 50 bucks for the wing view”.

The pain of low cost airlines begins right at the check-in counters. They weigh your luggage like cocaine. Every gram matters. If they find you have exceeded the limit, even by a trifle, they cant contain their excitement at the prospect of billing you. They adhere to their rule book more sincerely than Pope adheres to the Bible. What amazes me more is that some smart women manage to break even these hardcore believers. I have seen women carry in their hand baggage, a hand bag, a laptop case and two carry bags (one with shoes and other with groceries and condiments). Their totes begin a little below their shoulders and, in most cases, easily reach their knees. Thet would easily take in three duffel bags like mine. My check-in baggage for a 15 day trip would be half their hand baggage for a day’s trip. Apparently, their handbags would have a world of things. Energy bars, hand towels, scarves, umbrellas and even gas masks that can withstand a nuclear biological chemical (NBC) situation. They actually carry food, cloth and shelter along with them and can survive for 24 hours in the event of a nuclear holocaust. On a usual day, these ladies freak me out. But I like them when they beat the crap out of the Shylocks sitting at the check-in counters.

After you land, the trauma continues in their buses that are used to ferry the passengers from the aircraft to the terminal. The buses wouldn’t budge till every inch of the bus is occupied. The last guy who gets in has his face plastered to the glass doors after it is shut. I strongly suspect that the drivers get some productivity linked incentive in transporting a planeload of passengers in the least number of trips. May be they get promoted as pilots. When I finally reach the terminal, I direly want to swear that I will never travel by a low-cost airline again. But for obvious reasons, I know that I cannot. So I silently exit the airport and take up my next challenge - Identify my vehicle among the scores of cars.



Monday, May 02, 2016

Before Sunrise

The existence and location of hell may vary according to one’s religious beliefs. But the closest secular and acceptable definition of it could be our Greenfield airports which are usually located in the neighbouring districts. There could be nothing crueler than catching an early morning flight. It is worse if it is from Bengaluru where the travel to the airport takes longer than the flight to your destination.  And sometimes it could be costlier too. Just another one in the long list of innumerable ironies of urban life.  If the bard was still alive, he would have reserved his grammatically incorrect phrase, the most unkindest cut, for this. People have already begun to report jet lag when they travel out of Benguluru early in the morning. It gets more arduous if you are travelling a few days before 15th August or 26th January. Baggage screening at the entry, strip searches at the security check,  menacing sniffer dogs looking hungrily at your calves, SMSs threatening early closure of check-in – you are sure that the trinity of Gods in the heaven above and thirty odd public and private service providers on earth are colluding to ensure that you miss your flight. The serpentine queues at entry gate, check-in counters, security check, washrooms and just about everywhere have grim-looking, sleep-deprived, despondent zombies moving at a pace slower than the Hindu growth rate. The sight is reminiscent of the job seekers’ queues during the Great Depression. If you manage to board the aircraft without getting into an argument with anyone, you could earn yourself a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

That Monday morning I too joined one of those queues. I chose to stay silent and keep my prayers going. Just the previous evening, I missed my train to Bengaluru. I almost never miss trains and flights. And absolutely never when I am sober. But there is always a first time for everything and it was the previous evening. Knowing that luck was not entirely with me, I fervently prayed that I should land in my seat before the menacing matron shuts the plane door.

Fortunately, I managed to check-in within time. Those who checked-in before me were busy doing the next most important check-in - Facebook check-in. It doesn't matter even if you are flying out from an obscure airport like Raja Bhoj International Airport. You have to notify on social media with the same pride as if you were undertaking space travel from the Houston Space Centre. And if you are a lady, an accompanying selfie with a pout is not just desirable but expected. Whenever, I see these pouted ladies, I remember the cute protagonist of the award-winning Australian movie, Babe. How prophetic was it to call the proud owner of the most prominent pout as Babe! Nevertheless, I marvelled at their dedication to land up early in the morning with copious amounts of cosmetics creatively spread across their faces. They deserved a Shram Ratna for their hardwork. Each and every one of them. So many layers and so many shades they had that I wondered if they were auditioning for the B-grade Bhojpuri remake of "Memoirs of a Geisha". I could understand the case of the cabin crew since gaudy make up is a professional hazard for them and a personal hazard for the passengers. But, why on earth would anybody wake up at wee hours in the night to paint their faces like they are going to a Halloween party? I wanted to go and ask the security personnel if it wasn't a security threat that these ladies are looking nowhere close to their photos in their photo IDs. Would they allow me to go if I painted my face like a Batman or Spiderman? But women have their privileges and it is considered impolite for men to question them.

However, it is not just the fairer sex. In the age of the metrosexual man, the obsession with looks has transcended the boundaries of gender. Not very far from these ladies, were two gentlemen into serious photoshoot. These new airports have such elegant wall panels that they serve as a wonderful backdrop for photographs. Any guy who can flex his biceps through his muscle fit t-shirt starts getting himself clicked. I could understand selfies, but what I witnessed was a serious photoshoot with a DSLR. The guy who was posing looked like those anchors who sell aphrodisiacs on teleshopping channels. He looked at the other end of the airport with a sigh as if it stretched into the horizon. He had that trademark John Abraham look which the famed actor uses to convey sadness, guilt, fear, pain, despair, diarrhea, constipation and 56 other emotions. You actually understand what he is trying to convey from the background score. So watching this guy pose was like watching a muted John Abraham movie.

I thought I should sleep to shut myself from these visual atrocities and headed towards the sofas. There were barely any seats available. The slimmer ones slept in sitting position and the fatter ones stretched themselves across the sofas. I thought it was something to do with their centres of gravity. The brazenness of posture was directly proportional to the body mass. To add to the grossness of the mise en scène, some of these portly hibernators were clad in low waist jeans. I managed to squeeze myself between two middle aged potbellied men who slept with such indulgence as if they were on a poster bed. But I could not stay there for long. They were deafeningly snoring right under the signage that said that it was a silent airport.

Amidst this madness, I realised that I felt a little queasy in my stomach. The rush to catch the flight left both my sleep and ablutions incomplete. My delirious mental faculties were trying to ascertain the current digestive state of the previous night’s Ambur Biryani. While I fervently hoped that it would take its peaceful natural exit at an appropriate time, there was an undeniable probability that it would beat the gravity to rise up my esophagus and make a virulent exit from where it entered. I thought of visiting the restroom but I knew that the queues there would be longer than those before the government liquor shops in Kerala. May be coffee could be of some help.

I headed to the kiosk that was selling coffee. Before me was a man who was animatedly questioning the guy at the cash counter. His interrogation skills matched with those at Guantanamo. I never knew so many questions could be asked about idly, which is the simplest of all the foods. He wanted to know about the sambhar and chutney, their ingredients, colour, texture and the entire facts concerning the matter. He just stopped short of asking for a 3D simulation of their molecular structure. The length of the queue behind him exceeded those before the washrooms. Some muttered, some cursed, some prayed and some even left. But no one dared to request him to end his search for truth in Idly. Probably, they were scared that they could become his next subject for inquest.  Finally, he ordered for a plate of idly and two coffee. The cashier sensed the end of his ordeal. He looked like a man who got out of the gas chamber just when he thought that he would die.

He printed the bill and told him, "That would be Rs 290, sir".
He extended the money and said with an air of authority, "210".
The cashier, who still did not recover from his near-death experience, whimpered like a puppy in the rain, “Sir, 290.”
“210”
“290”
“210”
“290”
 “I am saying that you need to return 210”

The cashier's tired glance dropped slowly from the argumentative customer's face to his hand which was holding a 500 rupee note. For a split second, he would have considered to insert his head into the adjacent microwave oven. It is during such weak moments the ideologues of terrorism conduct their recruitment drive for suicide bombers. Suddenly, I understood what strategic thinkers mean when they say that those who fight terrorism are those who create it. I saw the conundrum manifesting itself before me.

I took my coffee, sat in a corner and silently began sipping it. In front of me there was a line of stores. I wonder if anyone ever buys anything from these stores. I haven’t seen anybody till date. These stores seem to exist purely for window shopping purpose. I could see a young salesman passionately explaining about a scarf to a lady. All three of us, the salesman, the lady and me, knew that she wasn’t going to buy anything. But the young man had to appear as excited as if she was going to purchase the entire stock and as an incentive he would be promoted as a Manager. I finished my coffee and headed towards my boarding gate. As I settled in my seat and turned off my mobile, the images of the men selling scarves and coffee flashed before me for a moment. I wouldn’t be catching an early morning flight everyday. But everyday, they would begin their day not very different from what I witnessed. May be I shouldn’t be complaining about catching flights before sunrise.    

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Trip to Nowhere

Sometimes, you go just to come back.  Absurdity of life cannot get more explicit. One such meaningless journey was taken by me couple of months ago. I was nominated for a training programme in Delhi and had to go in a day’s notice. There was no seat on Air India’s flight to Delhi. An Air India flight got fully booked when other private carriers on the same day had ample seats. I wondered what the world was coming to. Incredulity seems to be the flavour of the season. Bangladesh beat India. Twice. All we could manage was to beat a fragile kid jay walking on the pitch. But for his country’s flannels, he could have passed off as poster boy for sub-tropical poverty. It seems their Acche Din had arrived. I was happy because if fortunes of Air India and Bangladesh cricket can turn around, so can mine.
I went back to the aam aadmi’s carrier. Indian Railways. If Indian Railways had a frequent traveller programme, I would have had enough credits to get a return ticket to moon. I contribute to five percent of the million odd hits IRCTC website gets everyday. It too hits me back with equal verve with its perpetual rotating circular cursor that could potentially leave you hypnotised or disoriented or both. The cursor has been known to have induced sleep amongst insomniacs and suicidal tendencies amongst Zen monks. Periodic regular systematic exposure to the cursor has, however, strengthened my mental immunity. Among the trains displayed in response to my query, I zeroed on Bangalore Rajdhani. It left Nagpur at 15 35 hours and reached Delhi next day at 05 55 hours. It looked perfect for my training which was scheduled to commence at 10 00 hours. I have had the same luck with women and berth on trains. I never get the one I desire. Due to the constraints of my lifelong affiliation with misfortune, the best the portal could offer me was a ticket wait listed at 1. Thanks to friends in railways and my pleading skills, I managed to get it confirmed.  
I reached the station the next day. The scheduled halt of the train at Nagpur station was 15 minutes. And just one family took 14 minutes to alight. I could see the descent of an entire genealogical tree. An infant who incessantly fluttered his hands with such intensity that if he had wings, he could be Icarus. A teenage girl who was more interested in fishing for her sunglasses than getting out. And a couple whose favourite pastime was one-upmanship in assigning each other tasks. If the wife asked husband whether he informed the driver regarding the pick-up, the husband would reply asking her if she checked that none of the infants accessories were left behind. Amidst their rally of questions, their old man just forgot whether they were alighting or boarding. The rest of family exuded such leisure that made me wonder if the train terminated at Nagpur. If the alighting of family in itself was not a task ardous enough, what followed was even more amusing. The family travelled with luggage of every genre. Suitcases, duffel bags, backpacks, hand bags, cartons and even a gunny sack. Only if Kingfisher had one such family travelling on each of its planes, Mallya would have repaid his entire debt with fare collected from excess baggage. A swarm of lecherous porters suddenly descended looking at their potential high value customer who could catapult them into the Forbes list of porters.
As I was contemplating to use the emergency exit to board the train, the last baggage got off loaded and I managed to board the train. I was surprised to be greeted by a half-empty coach. So what was the waiting list all about? The ways of railway reservation system are like that of God. It is beyond the grasp of the ordinary human intellect. Whether you get confirmed ticket or not doesn’t depend upon the time you log into the IRCTC portal or the number of days in advance you try. It is purely a trigonometric function of the alignment of Jupiter’s largest moon with Saturn’s outer ring and your birthstar. Gemmologists have suggested stones which would improve your chances at the IRCTC portal. Rings with these stones have to be worn on a specific finger which alone must be used while keying the captcha characters. For the best results, the finger should abstain from any ablutionary activity for atleast three days prior to the date of booking.
I was shaken out my meditation on the mysteries of reservation system by a jolt. The train started moving and I began looking for the attendant for my bedroll. After a massive manhunt that spread across four coaches on either side of my coach, I found my bestower of comfort seriously engaged in an animated discussion with his counterparts from other coaches. They were in midst of their Annual Bangalore Rajdhani Attendants conference discussing what they should petition the Seventh Pay Commission. He looked at me disapprovingly for disturbing their conference and tossed me a packet. When I opened, I found that the hand towel was missing.
Like Oliver Twist, I went again and I stretched my thin trembling hands asking for a hand towel.  He looked at me as if I asked for one of his kidneys. He did give me a hand towel but not before muttering the choicest curses on the passengers who stole hand towels and how he was penalised for their theft. The colour of hand towel matched the sheets - pale yellow. They entire linen looked like those white cloths which appear in television commercials before the use of the advertised detergent. He removed the blanket used by the passengers who alighted at Nagpur and diligently folded it. While doing so, lower end of the blanket swept the entire floor clean. Despite the blatant nauseating act, upon folding, he handed over the blanket as if it was the robe of coronation. Regular use of such blankets is definitely going to do wonders for one’s immunity. In fact, travel by train must be seriously considered for inclusion in immunization schedule.
And not just microbes, the other ticketless travellers included lizards, cockroaches, rodents and every living organism which perfected the art of living with you yet invisible to you. There would be many equal opportunity employers, but Railways is equal opportunity service provider too. It does not discriminate between the species or their hierarchy in the evolution ladder.
It was soon dinner time. I was served something that was christened rasam. It tasted like the left over tomato soup from the previous journey that was organically fermented by the in-house microbes which were cultivated on the blankets. I got two pieces in my chicken curry. And both were necks. I always wondered why my chicken curries on trains had pieces with maximum bone and minimal flesh. The uncanny proximity of the bone-flesh ratio to my own body always appeared to be a cruel joke that the pantry staff played on me. The fleshier part, which I would not name here lest I offend feminists who could see lascivious intents in my gastronomic pursuits, never favoured my luck.
While I was grappling with miseries of food and bed, a greater misery was brewing elsewhere. Nine hours before I boarded the train at Nagpur, a fire broke out at the signalling system in Itarsi. The closer we got to Itarsi, the slower the train moved. There was a traffic jam of trains. We woke up at the same latitude and longitude coordinates where we went to sleep. I forgot about my training and started worrying about existential concerns like water at the toilets, charge in the electrical points etc. The journey that was to be completed in 14 hours stretched to 26 hours. When the train finally chugged into Hazrat Nizamuddin station, the training I was supposed to attend was over. I went to Delhi just to catch a flight back home. But what remained in my memory when I alighted the train was the way the pantry staff managed to cook two additional meals with a smile and without adequate supplies.

Hasta la vista, Indian Railways!!!! 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

X Files

Long years ago, when internet in India meant 56 kpbs dialup connection from BSNL with a screeching connecting tone, the most frustrating part of surfing was the ubiquitous screen displaying HTTP 404 error - File not found. As years went by, thanks to increased resilience and redundancy in servers and, in recent times, mindless caching by Google, that message has become a thing of past. It was after joining the Government, I started seeing this annoying message again. However, this time it was not on my computer but on the faces of my staff.  Two things that are always required and never found in an office are staff and files. I heard about crucial files going missing, but it is only after I started working I realized that missing of files is a very secular phenomenon that cuts across the barriers of age and importance of the file. Any file can go missing. Even that which was on your table 20 seconds ago can get Houdini-ed*. Such shocking disappearances that often you wonder if the sight of the file moments ago was due to hallucination or hypnotism or hangover. May be that explains why the most famous magician of the land was called Sorcar.
Upon observing the events that followed, I discovered that there was a symbiotic relationship between the disappearances of files and staff. First, the files disappear. Then, the staff disappears under the pretext of searching for them and you are left alone answering threatening calls from your boss about the file. During those hours of distress I deduced that the mathematical probability of a file to disappear is directly proportional to the urgency of its requirement raised to the power of importance assigned to it by the boss. I have also pondered over why these files disappear. While this could easily pass of a topic for JNU research scholars, the most common reason is careless handling. Files get passed around between offices, officers and staff as casually as dishes are passed around in a potluck dinner. A file could be in my office or my boss’ office or even his boss’ office. Everyone who wants to look into it takes it like a book from the shelf of a public library and then discards it on the nearest available table. The only hitch here is that there is no librarian. That is where the file surreptitiously sneaks away from the official glare and thereafter begins to hitchhike its way through the maze of cupboards, compactors, corridors and  sometimes even hops on to cars and goes away to another building altogether. In the meanwhile everybody, and their uncle, in the office of the file have comfortably forgotten about it and in due course most of them would have got transferred. And that is how many a file has attained nirvana from the confines of office.
Then there are cases of partial disappearances. These are what I call as doppelganger files. Since the original file is temporarily unavailable, an interim file gets created, which invariably never gets merged into the main file. So after sometime both files keep going around and keep receiving documents on first-come-first-serve basis. Just that different officers see different versions of the file. Though it might sound like cases of mistaken identity in Bollywood potboilers with hero performing twin roles, in office it is anything but amusing. Such ghost files are more dangerous than missing files since they have selective information on which you invariably end up taking wrong decisions.
For the staff, nothing could be more euphoric than to discover a file to be missing. You would be told that a file is missing only after a week since you first call for it. After that, another week would be spent searching for it. And another week would be spent reconstructing it. So for three whole weeks the no one is working on the file, out of which one week is spent officially outside office on the plea of searching for it. All this would be while you are having nightmares over the approaching deadlines.
It is not that we do not have a File Management System. We have a very sleek, rugged, eco-friendly, portable and cost-effective File Management System which runs even without power. It is called the File Movement Register, a hardbound book whose pages deliriously hang out and which would fly away under the impact of the mildest sneeze from the person holding it. It is supposed to record all inward and outward movement of files. But the ingenious staff ensures that only outward movement is recorded. So that at any given point of time when you call for a file, you will be promptly shown the register as proof of unavailability of the file.  While it would appear as if majority of the files are on a permanent sojourn, some even extending for years, in reality some of them could be acting as the fourth leg of the chair in which your clerk has his daily siesta. Strangely, in due course, the register takes its given name too seriously and self-propels itself to the vast area of nothingness where all the files disappeared. I have thought of having a Meta movement register but gave it up thinking it will also meet the same fate.
The menace of missing files was sought to be contained with the aid of computerized File Management System supported by a powerful search engine. Informed sources told me that the most ambitious project that is currently undertaken by Google is to build a search engine to search for files in a Government office. It was also learnt that the algorithm is structured around the one that is used to search for the largest prime number. It has also a module to predict the possible deviant paths a file might take before it is lost into vacuum for which algorithm was borrowed from those used to simulate the Big Bang Theory. Despite such brilliant cutting computation, when the beta version of the software was actually tested, it failed miserably. After a detailed analysis, it was learnt that tracing of files in a Government office required intuitive fuzzy logic algorithms of the order which could predict the mood swings of women.  That was when the developers concluded they were chasing a mirage in sub Saharan Africa without the aid of a GPS. So that put to rest quietly a project which in the history of computer science could have overshadowed 3D simulation of nuclear explosion and search for extra terrestrial life and we resigned to our fate of living with missing files and moving registers.

*Courtesy Wicked Witch of Worcester

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Five Point Nothing

It is wonderful to be back at the Academy. I have had wonderful memories of this place and consider it to be the best among all the other Academies. As I checked into the room of the guest house allotted to me, the first thing that stuck me was the bedroom. Not that I have not seen these rooms before, but every time I did, I was confounded with the same thought – the shape of the room. The bedrooms of the guesthouse are pentagon in shape.  I have seen square and rectangular rooms. Or even ‘L’ shaped rooms, but pentagon? A room with five corners and five walls where every wall appears running diagonally when seen from the opposite wall. Due to the unusual angles of the wall, the furniture appears to be strewn around. The entire room has a feel of post modernist abstract sculpture. Thankfully, the bed is rectangular. Else I would have spent another lifetime figuring out where to rest my head. The old faithfuls of my blog will know how totally immersed I was into the training during my probation days. Therefore, I could not spare much thought to this mysterious design. However, this time, I decided to find out why was there the extra wall.

Probably they were inspired by the American Defense Headquarters. After all, Defence and Taxation are the two most defining signs of sovereignty.  But that seemed too far stretched. It was constructed at a time when our friendship with the Soviet Union was next only to that of Jai and Veeru. Or maybe it was driven by Vaastu considerations. No matter how secular and scientific we claim ourselves to be, it is a fact that we do allow ourselves such indulgences in an unabashed manner. So I sent a copy of the room plan to an eminent vaastu expert for his expert opinion. His marketing tagline screamed that his structures bought peace and prosperity in life and afterlife. I thought he plagiarised the ad campaign of the leading insurance behemoth. Later, I learnt that more than buildings, he designed tombstones, graveyards and even crematoriums. Of course, those alive cannot certify and those dead could not confirm. After numerous follow-ups, all I got for an opinion was a terse two-worded phrase that we hear every day on the news channels, “No Comments”.

Not the one to be disheartened, I decided to independently examine the possibility of some veiled astronomical significance in the design. I guess, it was a hangover of reading too much of Dan Brown.  I remember seeing such strange structures in Jantar Mantar too. I got the Sky Watchers Handbook from the library and stared through the window wondering if any particular planet, star or constellation would be visible from that angle. All I could see was the flickering sodium vapour street Iamp peeping through the branches of a wilted Gulmohar tree. I waited till the dawn to check where the first rays of sun fell. It fell on that corner of the room where the dustbin was placed.

At this point, I must confess that this was not only baffling room I came across. A stranger room was occupied by my erstwhile boss in Hyderabad. The building is probably one of the best governement offices in the country but rooms of the range heads are puzzling to say the least. They are so acutely trapezoidal that they almost border an isosceles triangle. The occupants have found planning the orientation of their office table more challenging than cracking hardcore money laundering. Such assymetry that whichever way you park you table, the opposite walls appear diagonally. The same room makes you feel claustrophobic at one end and agoraphobic at the other. Constant staring at diagonally running walls causes such severe disorientation that you just look into the files and never lift your head. May be that was the intent too. No one should aimless stare at walls. Not even for a second. Not even to look at the calendar or the clock.

I just keep wondering about the brains behind such fantastic designs which have a potential for a doctoral dissertation among the classes and political polarization among the masses. They can pass off as a new age architectural fusion of Pythagoras' Trigonometry with Picasso’s Cubism - an offspring of the holy union between art and science. Just that they fell short of utility and function failed to follow the form. They are no different from the first house allotted to me by the government. By now, I realised that even pondering over the subject was adversely affecting my abilities to judge distances and dimensions. I also began to fear that I am on the threshold of becoming an astigmatic. Since I needed to protect my limited cerebral and sensory abilities, I decided to call off this quest for truth with immediate effect. As I could not find any special reason behind these grotesque geometrics, I concluded, like many other assets of the state, they must be the result of sarkari planning and budgeting. Only in this case, in their zeal to cut corners, they cut a few too dramatically.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cocktail - Foreign Made Indian Liquor


Long before the days of Imraan Hashmi and Mallika Sherawat, the only source of titillation for the urban adolescent was the late night show on MTV called Grind. A bunch of scantily clad crowd swayed to some music which, I am sure, no one has ever heard because everyone watched it mute to avoid waking up their parents. But, as Paulo Coelho proclaimed, the entire universe conspired and I finally got to hear that elusive music when I watched Cocktail. The first hour of the movie appeared like a marathon MTV Grind. Seeing DP jumping from one table to another dancing in dimly lit night clubs and prodding men to palm her derriere, I thought she was a bar dancer. Just when I expecting that she would graduate from the table to a pole, she appeared with a camera announcing that she was a photographer. So she belonged to the tribe that goes pub hopping on ladies night when drinks are on the house for the fairer sex.

To give her company we have our very own old retard who wants us to think that he could forever floor females with his facial contortions. They were once funny, but repeated overuse has set in motion law of diminishing returns. The only thing new about his face is the wrinkles. If that wasn’t boring enough, you had a third lady - the new DP. She would consistently keep her gaze to the floor, speak in whispers and trot the streets of London in attires tailored in alleys of Chandini Chowk. While older DP tortured you with her endless prattle, the newer one stimulated the experience with her silence. With a permanent apology plastered all over face, she was just as lost as the remaining two. And so were we, with absolutely no clue where the movie was heading.

While people on screen was desperately trying to entertain, those in the theater showed the same interest reserved for an air hostess demonstrating safety instructions aboard a delayed late night flight. The quick repartees were lost into eerie silence. The funny antics were greeted with sneers and snorts. Even when DP callously striped down to her itsy-bitsy bikini, we just look at our watches wondering how far the interval is.  May be DP forgot that only after we had enough of her as a bikini pinup she got clothed for her bollywood debut which, ironically, had peace in its title but left the audience restless in the theaters.

After what seemed like an eternity, the interval arrived. As I tried to make my way to the aisle, a guy in the adjacent seat lunged towards the knees of his date and pulled them closer to prevent any accidental brush with my calves. In his reflexive concern for the knees, he has, quite literally, scaled new heights of foot fetish. Argh, I had to contend with morons not just on the screen but even before it. I pitied the lady for dating a guy whose knowledge of erogenous zones is entirely erroneous.

The popcorn at the kiosk could have been the best part of the movie. However, I wisely avoided because it was always better to watch a nauseating movie on an empty stomach. I dragged myself back to my seat and got ready for the remaining serving of the drivel. It proved to be worse than the first half. The best props in the movie were alcohol and sex with no strings attached. That gave way to more melodramatic elements like love, relationship, marriage etc. Sudden absence of alcohol started showing withdrawal symptoms in the older DP.  She made a quick crossover from a new age multiplex heroine to a single screen heroine whose dreams were woven around fidelity, family and vermillioned forehead. A lady who invited unknown females to her home and unknown males to her bedroom was suddenly mouthing constitutional rights like right to dignity, right to marry, right to family life etc. The rest of cast was talking about mutual consent, exploitation, social service etc. I never knew that such complicated politics existed in one night stands. The conversations became progressively unbearable. The characters, who wallowed in confusion when the movie began, were now steadily slipping into severe existential identity crisis. Finally, when both the decibels and rationales became unbearable, the younger DP walked out of the house. I too thought of leaving the theater but my masochism came in my way. I was determined to test my limits of endurance.

On screen, our eternally young real life nawab was also was getting his endurance levels tested. The older DP got hit by a speeding car when she staggered on the road and proved that drunken walking could be more dangerous than drunken driving. With one lady untraceably lost and other on crutches, the philanderer who, supposedly, left no skirt, saree and sarong unwrapped, had his libido left in lurch. Even when the lady finally got back on her legs, she declared that she wasn’t going to spread them for him. The mutual consent was withdrawn with immediate effect and until further orders. However, taking pity on his receding hairline and increasing facial lines, she decided to patch him up with the other DP.

Of course, that did not happen before some schmaltzy acts and agonizing songs. But we were spared of the other clichéd ordeals like stopping planes and popping pills. When I came out of the theater, I realized that this Cocktail was actually foreign made Indian Liquor a.k.a Daaru Desi. It left me stirred, shaken and brutally shattered.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Flights of Fantasy


Ever since they stopped in-flight service of meals, air travel has really become boring. Not that the food was great, but you had a great time guessing which was the starter, entrée and the dessert. After the meal, if the lady who served you was pretty, you could always have an engaging debate with her on whether the hot liquid in your cup was tea or coffee. However, the low-cost airlines changed the rules of the game. These days you have neither meals nor pretty ladies serving them. On an outbound flight last week, I found that the entire cabin crew was male. I was wondering if they were trying to celebrate International Men’s Day or something. All of them appeared supremely irritable. I imagined that it was because they were asked to report for an early morning flight after late night romp over beer and Euro 2012 matches. I did not dare to even ask them water. 


The return flight was equally uneventful. Same aircraft. Same crew. Same irritability. And again I decided to not even ask them water. The extreme depressive state ushered in my mind a list of acts that could make my travel livelier. However, I did not indulge in any of them since my mother was accompanying me. Not that she believes in my genteelness, but she is tired of being embarrassed by my antics. If anyone of you has managed to free himself from the shackles of societal propriety, here are a few tips to make your travel eternally etched in memories of your fellow travelers and cabin crew.

  • If you are seated near the emergency exit, after listening to the additional safety instructions, hold the lever of the door and ask if you can have a dry run.
  • Ask for drinking water and pour it into the air sicknesses bag to check if it would leak. Promptly hand over the bag and empty bottle to purser who brought you the water.
  • Ask the flight attendant to repeat safety instructions in the local language. Wave her a copy of the official gazette notification of three language formula if she refuses.
  • After takeoff, pull out the life vest under the seat. Walk up to the cabin crew and ask where the trial room is.
  • If you are passing through turbulent weather, offer to read tarot cards free for all the passengers to know who will land alive.
  • Collect boarding cards of all passengers and then invite them for a game of rummy.
  • Go to the cockpit and pester the pilot to help you identify cloud number nine.
  • When the cabin crew asks if you would like to buy anything onboard, ask how much the trolley would cost. Don't try on Kingfisher. They might actually sell you.
  • If you buy any stuff onboard, pay in one rupee coins.
  • When they come to collect trash, throw in the in-flight magazine. Tell them this is your way of writing letters to the editor.
  • And finally, before landing, request the captain to talk to the ATC and find out what offers are available on car rentals.