Friday, August 26, 2005

My travel diary - Part I

Machines, broadband everywhere, but not any time to blog. That’s my status over the last few days that I have spent here. Work has been hectic. Coordinating, trying hard to understand European multi-accented English, reviews, meetings, discussions, deadlines and so on and so forth. Only good thing thus far has been my weekend trip to London. Today, I sit here in the comforts of my corner cubicle at work, sipping earl grey Tea and deciding not to work too hard.

I camped at a cousin's place in London and got an amazingly royal treatment with sightseeing, yummy homemade food (I am so tired of living on Maggie and fries already), long drives and two adorable kids. No they were older than the brat I met on the flight and so I could gel better answering their countless questions and fooling around with them. They are so much better when they are 5-6 and older. Saturday was spent on the customary London darshan. Started with Madame Tussaud. There was an hour-long queue to get into the museum and most of my enthusiasm fizzled out in waiting on forever. The museum was too crowded like a movie hall during interval with people clicking away pictures with Brad Pitt (standing next to Angelina Jolie!), Pierce Brosnan, David Beckham, The Royal family, Princess Di, heads of other countries etc. There was a huge desi population clicking away pictures with Aishwarya Rai and Amitabh Bachchan. I think they were the worst of the lot. Aishwarya Rai, overly made up with glittering-blue eye-shadow on a magenta sari looked horrendous, like one of those yesteryear vamps of bollywood (Nope, I dont mean the Helen, Nadira varieties. I mean the insignificant ones with a bad wig, tight clothes and powdered faces and caked make-up). Amitabh Bachchan was equally sad. The wig just did not suit him. Imagine jet-black well-conditioned silky-haired wig that would put any of these "Heads and Shoulders" models to shame, on an icy white french beard. It looked totally fake. I mean I know they are all fake but this was nowhere close to the original. :-)

Lingered around for a while clicking pictures and then made way to Greenwich to see the observatory. Nothing much there except to realize that you are walking on Longitude 0 deg 0' 0". In fact, there was this shop near Greenwich Observatory called The first shop of the world 0 deg 0' 1". :)
Then did the customary Big Ben, London Bridge, the unassuming Buckingham Palace with loud golden gates, Piccadilly circus, Trafalgar square etc. And the next day went for a nice countryside drive to a beach in southern England in a picturesque village called Gorring. The beach shore was full of pebbles. No sand whatsoever and apparently all England seashores were like that. Was a hectic but satisfying weekend trip.

Weekdays are spent at work mostly and evenings on strolls to buy petty sundry things. It anyways remains bright and sunny until 10PM in the evening, which is kinda funny. Freaking out on lasagne, pies, quiches and stuff at work for food and settling for boring Maggie and other packaged food for the night. But so far it’s been good. The weather is perfect. Reminds me of the onset of Delhi winter except that it’s far less polluted and clean. Its pure bliss to sit by the window doing nothing but just smell hot brewing tea and feel the warmth building within you after the first sip and snuggling up into warm quilts. Planning to visit Lake District and Wales this weekend. Lets see how it all goes…:-)

Oh and thats the picture of the motorway right outside where I stay. Very picturesque, na?

To be continued....

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Baby blues

I am back connected, wired, booted back into the world wide web. Was an eventful flight to Manchester. I had lot of hopes of rubbing shoulders with the Shah Rukh Khans and Abhishek Bachchans of the world in the flight to London, which is undoubtedly the favourite haunt for the bollywood starlets to run behind trees with the opposite sex along with million other pelvic-gyrating dancers. I was also hoping to seek company of these studly looking hunks who seemed to hover around for the same flight. Alright alright, I know I am married. But mild flirtation doesn’t hurt anyone does it? :-)

I was one of the first to get to my seat in the flight. Much to my disappointment, I did not encounter any – let alone film stars, not even the saas bhi type soap opera extras. I looked at every studly guy expectantly who passed by. No one seemed to have a seat remotely close to mine. And suddenly I see this heavily pregnant lady making her way through the aisle with a rather impish looking kid. Now children and I have a long history of ‘mutual admiration’ and I was in no mood for any such stuff. I was muttering under my breath hoping the lady shifts the direction and heads elsewhere. And in the next moment, I see her settling down in the aisle seat on my row with the wailing kid tucked in safely in the middle seat next to me.

They showed the movie Black. I like the first half of the movie with young Rani Mukherji learning to cope with her handicap. I think the young girl did a commendable job. In fact, I thought she was better than Rani in the second half. I watched the movie until the first half and then decided to pull the blanket over and go to sleep. I had just about drifted when suddenly my thighs felt heavy and I woke up to see this pesky kid trying to get to the window. I kinda have him nasty glares so that he realized I am not all that goodie. It did have some effect on him for a while. Pleased with myself, I turned over and curled back to sleep yet again. After a while, I felt a leg on my back. This time, the kid was trying to climb over my seat and jump into the back seat. I pushed him back into his seat and tied the seat belt tightly around him. After a few minutes of wriggling and twisting, he finally managed to free himself and continued his tormenting acts on me yet again. This time, I blew the top. I gave the child a tight pinch and sent him howling away to his mother for the next 10 min. The poor mother was too overwhelmed with her ‘burden’ to say anything to her kid or me and I instantly felt sorry for her to be bringing another of the pesky brat into the world and felt immense admiration for her infinite patience with this menace. But the pinching trick did make him sit in one place and finally drift off to sleep for about an hour. That’s about the only time I got some shut-eye in the 12 hour journey.

I had a transit from London to Manchester. And all I remember of my brief stay in Heathrow airport was walking, walking and more walking. Must have walked nearly 2-3 km that day trying to claim just my baggage. And some more to get to the domestic terminal.

Manchester is really beautiful. Excellent weather, good food, cute red-bricked DDLJ-type rowhouses, nice well-equipped apartment with French and Argentine roommates, nice work environment and little jetlag, life is a lot of fun and it’s a beautiful sunny day. I am transforming into a Brit already.:-)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Of rude people and overseas journey

Been a very hectic last few days with work and a lot of running around, getting my visa done and meeting some grumpy people through the way. The other day I got stuck badly at work and it was 9PM by the time I remembered I had to get my visa papers in order with signatures from various hierarchies in the organization. Now typically these signatory characters are born on earth to play tough and pain the hell out of you. At 9PM, I panicked and went to my boss and told him about the miss. He happened to catch this woman at her telephone extension. He told me to run and get her signatures before she runs away. Because, typically, this lady from the said department is not quite the late-bird varieties like the unfortunate us. Her job is to go through list of people who want a transfer and arrange it by tormenting the hell out of them, to try finding work for people who are on bench and so forth. Why I needed signature for a visa form from this lady is beyond my simple brain to understand. But still, I quickly sprinted to my desk and called her to be sure she doesn’t escape through the stairs while I take the elevator.

Me: Hello. (At this stage, I did not know her name) Can I talk to anyone from ABCD department?
She: Yes. Speaking. *Never heard a more toneless voice before in my life*
Me: Hi, my name is RT. I actually had to get my EIF form signed so that I can submit the same along with my Visa papers at the Andheri Office tomorrow morning. Can I come to your desk for the same?
She: *in her toneless best* Come tomorrow. I am busy today.
Me: *Level 2 strategy. Bringing in a sycophantic tone*. Sorry it’s late in the evening. But I live in Andheri and I have to come all the way to Borivali tomorrow just for your signature and go back to the Andheri office to submit my papers. I have to be flying this weekend and I am short of time. It will take you only 2 minutes to sign this form.
She: *Tone level slightly higher* I am busy with something else and its late. Please come tomorrow. I cannot sign it without verifying.
Me: (rather disappointed) *cursing her dreary voice under my breath* Ok! What can I say? Thank you.

I trotted back to my boss’s desk again and narrated her curt demeanor. He called her and gave her some gyaan about how everybody works late and is pressured in life with some deadline or other and urged her to sign.

Then, I went to her desk. She was busy on the phone. I kept waiting. 5 min passed, 10 min passed. Then she snatched the form from my hands without looking up at me. She put her signature and wrote some gibberish stuff that I did not require any other approval from the other higher authority. But I decided to ask her nonetheless since I did not want to take chances. She just stared at her machine and it was for me to understand that no approval was required. What a rude woman I muttered while tracing back the way to my boss’s desk for his signature. And I was stunned by what he told me as the reason why she did not want to sign my paper today. It was, apparently, because she thought I was very rude on the phone. *I ask ya??? *
I am certain now that some people are born with kidneys in their cranium!!

Oh, and the visa is for a 3 week trip to Manchester. Traveling to Britland in the weekend if all goes well. :-)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


She was this happy-go-lucky, sweet, ‘ambiverted’, friends to many, enemy-to-none, levelheaded, intelligent, pragmatic girl next door. He was enigmatic, a closed book, hard to get, friendly, straight-forward, good friends with handpicked few, intelligent, sweet and moody. In spite having known each other since childhood, every meeting made them unleash new mysteries about each other. They enjoyed each other's company immensely, irrespective of whether they were across continents or a matter of meters apart. They talked about school, college, happiness’s, sorrows, gossips, music, movies, how difficult was her first attempt to wear the sari, how funny was the booze-party in his hostel, how her best friend’s marriage alliance experience had been, how his mobile phone fell into water, how she had a mad fight with her mum, how he lost his temper over his boss, how the music festival was getting along in her school, what books he's been reading, who her latest crush at work was, how hot his Salma-Hayek-lookalike colleague was, how she felt on top of the world when wind kissed her cheeks and clouds caressed her feet during her trek trips, how elated he was when he bought his first car...

They talked about everything and they talked more about nothing at all. They would lose touch for months and when back together, they'd hit it off from where they left. Neither missed each other during the hiatuses nor had a pulse-racing exhilaration on hearing from the other. Both parents took pride at their fond friendship.

One fine day, she announced that she was getting married to one NRI dude her parents chose for her. He was most happy for her. And they continued their banter as always. But when they met a month before her wedding, an unexplained tension overwhelmed them. Neither of them spoke much but the uneasy silence said it all.

Today she is married and he, we hear, is engaged. And their tête-à-tête continues unabated.

Monday, August 01, 2005

What next?

"Rain rain go away
Come again another day
Little Johnny wants to play
Rain rain go to Spain!"

But alas...! Rain wanted to come today, yesterday, the day before yesterday and, in all probability, wants to be here for what seems forever... :-(

Whew..! Been a crazy week. Started with a 9-10 km trek last Tuesday wading through knee deep water to accomplish the journey from workplace to home. And a 4 hour ordeal to complete it. Bearing through bad traffic jams, torrential downpour and floods with strong undercurrent.

Though it was raining badly the whole day, I did not anticipate anything different from the regular standstill that Mumbai goes through every monsoons, when local trains stop in the middle of the tracks, when people are stranded in the middle of nowhere, when schools and colleges shut down, when rains continue relentlessly for a day or two throwing life out of gear. Small time floods do happen during those days but in select low-lying areas of the city. It did not occur to me even when S called at about 4PM asking me to leave for home ASAP and that he was already on his way home since the 'situation was not too good'. It did not occur to me even when I saw some of my colleagues leaving work as early as 4-5 in the evening. Of course, it was with a reason that I was neck deep (not in water) into some important work with stringent deadlines and had to finish as much of it before calling it a day.

But going with the inertia, I left work at 8. And little did I know then that I would get home only well past midnight. I had no choice but to start walking towards home and hope the traffic jam cleared up as I walked ahead a bit. After a 4 km trek, the road did clear up and that was because there was water enough to drown the cars and auto rickshaws. Water was almost until my waist and pitch darkness and gutters/manholes made it even scarier to cruise past the distance. I kept to the beaten track at most places except one section of the route where water was deep and there was no soul ready to wade through. I was greeted by downpour getting heavier by the minute and what seemed like dead rats floating in the current. Ewww..!!! Decided to take the route nonetheless and stayed in the middle of the road which was actually a national highway. Thankfully some people took to the same route seeing me brave through alone. Then I was not as scared. Was actually a little pleased with myself for setting an example of sorts... :-)

Anyway, trying hard to ignore the floating objects which got entangled with my legs making me jump with fright and trying to steady myself through the strong water currents, I managed to get home at about 1AM. Was never more pleased and relieved in life to see the gate of the apartment building.

Life has been unsettled ever since with continued spell of showers of canine and feline magnitude. With no telephone - landline and other varieties, transportation, electricity (for a brief while thankfully!) and loads of work through weekend, I wait wistfully for sun to peep out of the clouds for a few minutes.

People say I went to Andaman and caused Tsunami, went to Gujarat last month and floods followed and now Mumbai. "What next??" they ask... :-)