Friday, May 11, 2012

In Pursuit of Better Times

Most people attribute drinking to their problems. I am no different from others. I have got so many problems to ponder upon that I find seven nights a week absolutely insufficient to give each problem its due contemplation. Some problems are so complex that I have a problem in understanding the problem. Nevertheless, I try to strike a healthy balance between the sensibilities of my heart and the capabilities of my liver.
One such problem that has been troubling me for quite sometime is the fate of a dying airline. I have never understood why the King of Good Times got into aviation. The only thing that is common between liquor and aviation is that both promise you to get a high. But the similarity ends there. Liquor is an easy business. Just like Cigarette, Pan Masala, Beedi, Ghutka etc. They are all built on weakness of men. You don’t need to try too hard to convince them buy your product. Just make someone feel that he is jobless, worthless or useless, he would pick one or all of the above. And we have one billion people in this country in the guise of parents, teachers, bosses, leaders, friends, neighbours, journalists, TV anchors etc to make every other person feel guilty about his biological existence. No wonder you find half the population at a pan shop, wine shop or at a bar and the other half searching for one. Therefore, every person from the manufacturer to the retailer invariably makes profit on intoxicants.
But aviation is a serious business, where history tells us that loss making is the norm and profit is an exception. It is a serious business where the likes of self-anointed kings and me shouldn’t be getting into. He was better off making beer and I was better off buying it. He did not stop there. He changed what we saw and redefined what one could show. He made calendars where one looked for everything other than the date. He launched satellite channel that made FTV look like channel for the grannies and taught that Bikini was the new blouse. He made dropping cloths not just fashionable but a way of life.  In fact, at times, some of the brand ambassadors started to even forget wearing them. He empowered thousands of women by giving them a career which provided them with mindboggling salaries with negligible expenses since they lived on minimal food and cloth and often slept on beaches. They were singularly responsible for increasing the savings rate and the healthy CASA ratios boasted by our banks.
After the success of such a revolutionary business model which generated wealth by selling wine and women, the obvious way to grow would be on the same lines. An astute move in this direction would be to go for a forward integration by starting a chain of premium dance bars. With both liquor and ladies already in place, all that would have been needed was the real estate, which is definitely much cheaper than those Airbuses that are as helplessly grounded as the passengers they ought to been carrying. Unfortunately, instead of a gradual progression into a related sector, there was a tectonic shift whose tremors are yet to subside. I feel really sad at the thought that the beer which gave me, and an entire generation, its first sip of forbidden pleasure would no longer be available. Life wouldn’t be same if we allow the group to collapse. We will be forced to go back to the grey hues of FTV and stay contended with the sepulchral marches of anorexic women with deadpan expressions. Calendars would be back as sheets of paper that record your missed deadlines and miserable appointments. Bikini will be a chapter in South Pacific Handbook and Bagpiper will be a member of the ceremonial music bands. A socio-economic revolutionary who redefined Roti, Kapda aur Makan as Beer, Bikini and Beach would be a martyr on the altar of stupidity.
With recession and inflation already looming large, tragedy of such epic propositions would be too cruel for a generation which is as clueless as the Deccan Chargers team. However, I still think that all is not lost. The forward integration can still be pursued. All those planes which stranded in the hangars could be converted into Flamenco Lounges. Well, “dance bars” sound so Udipi restaurant-ish, which our King of Good Times wouldn’t like even in his not-so-good times. The svelte flight attendants, who are wasting time reading morose letters explaining why their salary cannot be credited, could be gainfully reemployed as bartenders. For these poor ladies, whose sizes have gone from zero to sub-zero ever since the in-flight meals got reduced to water and fermented sandwich, this would be the best poverty alleviation scheme they could dream of. Further, for an efficient and competitive service, just announce that the whole thing is actually a part of the reality show, Model Hunt. Considering the scarcity of real estate in metros, having ready 200-seater place is a bonanza. The no-frills Red planes could be parked at non-metros and even district headquarters. Occasionally, if their turbines are still not rusted and the pilots not poached by other airlines, they could take off and you have new product – Sky Bar. Trust me, the airports would be raking in more moolah from parking and valet charges of customers than the UDF.
Please don’t dismiss this as a compulsive rambling of a mind woefully entangled in the affinities of ale. If the same thing was put across by a MNC consulting firm, whose consultants charge millions to state the obvious, it would be treated as a recipe for redemption. The stock values would soar and venture capitalists would appear like the ants after rains. Sadly, it is the natural order that anything that comes unsolicited and without a price tag is never valued. However, it is difficult to rein in your prattles when you find your earliest enchantress slipping away into the mists of oblivion.