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The 100 Kilo Story

Talking about weight seems to be an unending fad. The internet is filled with detailed chronicles of people’s success stories, cheat sheets, tips and tricks, workout regimes, topped with intense emotions of initial rejections and low self-esteem, followed by never-give-up spirit and dedicated efforts for the coveted beach body (ironically for a nation where the majority don’t know how to swim!), the before-after pictures, the selfies, the compliments, the confidence, and at times the flatulence.

Now, don’t get me wrong here – I am definitely not belittling any of the hard work. With my laziness I don’t deserve to ridicule either. I can only admire, appreciate and yearn for such a story. I am just enthralled by how vivid they get; how just a small number plays a vital role in one’s life. Again, I don’t mean to say that we shouldn’t focus towards a healthy lifestyle. It is just about the other half of it – trimming down to impress. Same journey, different goals.

However, that’s off track. I too want to join the band wagon and speak about weight: how companies and organisations impose strict rules on us and make money out of it, and the tedious process of losing it. Trust me, accumulating is easy, eliminating isn’t. It took a good 1 week for me. The process broadly is divided into these categories:
Acceptance: Coming into terms with “Yes, I do have lot of extra weight.”
Identification: Finding and listing all the areas that need a shedding.
Implementation: The main step of working out to cut out all the excess weight.
Weighing: To keep track with the goal in sight and weighing regularly.
Motivation: Celebrating the achievement and motivating to push further.
Iteration: Repeating all over until the goal is reached.

And as the wise say, the effort is even more after pregnancy and child-birth. Both contribute towards some weight that either you can’t eliminate or won’t. But the end goal remains – it doesn’t consider these factors. The scale is tough and demanding.

I set mine at 45. A meagre 45. Underweight, isn’t it? But I couldn’t afford any more. 45 it was. And until I weighed, I never imagined in the wildest of my dreams that the scale would point to a whopping 72. Yes, that includes my pre and post described above. I had to make a choice. I had to move forward. I had to leave all that dragged me down behind.

I began the workout. Looped through it several times until after strenuous ups and downs I finally hit the magic number. I did it with a fair share of self-pity and the hardship of letting go. The biggest motivating factor was a new wardrobe – new clothes.

I wasn’t alone in this journey. My husband too was involved. I assigned him 55 kilos and made him iterate through the same trauma. And as cruel as it would sound, the child was also in it. 10 kgs was the cap. The poor thing obliged.

The day finally arrived when we had to present ourselves for scrutiny. Their scales were unforgiving. They wouldn’t allow even an ounce more than specified. We heaved and panted and waited for the red digits to roll. 100 it had to be and a 100 it was! Plus a 10 for the baby. Phew!

The airline check-in officer beamed at the thought of writing a hefty receipt for the extra 40 kilos that we checked in apart from the allowed 30 kilos per adult; I beamed for I was within the reimbursable amount for Excess Baggage by my company!

Well, did you think my body weight is just a 45?!

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Thai Break – The Return Flight Story

Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit – That’s the full ceremonial name, world’s longest place-name, of the city of Bangkok from where our return flight to Kuala Lumpur was at 7:30 p.m. local time. After a bone-cracking Thai Massage and an unwinding at the banks of Chao Phraya River, we took a tuk tuk to the Airport Link Station and sat down for the 40 minute ride to the Suvarnabhoomi Airport. The name in Thai has the same meaning as in Sanskrit – Land of Gold but pronounced as Su-var-na-ppum.

At 6 p.m. we disembarked at the Airport and strolled through the shops. Why did we reach only 1.5 hours prior to departure? Well, we generally travel light, don’t check-in bags. A backpack each is what we take on trips. An hour before departure is always enough; we were, in fact, in early that day! Mj was speculating on what to snack on, as always, and I was searching for the Flight Information on the display board. There were flights listed till 21:05 but our 19:30 one wasn’t there.

“Our flight isn’t in the list” said I while fiddling through boarding passes. “There, that’s’ the return pass”; I stopped mid-sentence and looked up with my mouth open. I passed on the piece of paper to him but he did not need to look at it to know what was wrong. He started running, shouting, “Find the taxi stand”. I sprinted behind him.

We ran to the concierge and asked her, “How long will the fastest taxi to Don Mueang International Airport take?” “At the least an hour, more if the traffic is bad”, she replied. The boarding closes 20 minutes before departure; we’ll have to clear immigration and security check as well. An hour and five minutes is the max that we had at hand. But there was no other way out, there were no Airport Link Trains to the second Airport, a Shuttle bus just left at 6 and the next was at 6:30. It was a packed evening on the roads; that’s precisely the reason why we opt for trains or metros if there is one. One among the 3 taxi drivers standing behind her came up to us and said, “Are willing to spend a little extra? I could try to take you there in about 50-55 minutes”. Did we need any further dialogue? We jumped straight into his cab.

We had no clue as to how much extra he wanted or how he would dodge the traffic? Take small lane shortcuts probably? Reading our minds he said, “I will take the highway. That is usually less crowded than the normal roads but there is a toll to be paid (150 Thai Baht – THB = 300 INR) and the final 30% of the route is a normal road. Can not help.”

The anxious us kept tapping the feet and tracking the distance to destination on Google Maps. Over-speeding on the long winding roads would have been a pleasant cruise under different circumstances. We exchanged smiles with the driver when he overtook the shuttle bus that had left before us. The highway’s empty lanes gave us hope. After what seemed like we already left acres and acres of tar behind us in just over 20 minutes, Mj broke the silence, “I did make a mental note that our flight leaves from the smaller airport in the city while booking the tickets, but totally forgot about it. Why dint you check while you planned the commute? You are the one who always does this Maps thingy”.
“Dude, you’re blaming me? It dint strike you that this wasn’t the airport’s name that you saw while booking – when you bought the train ticket, whilst in the train, after reading the sign boards, just nowhere and you blame me for jotting down the wrong route?” “Okay”, said he, “both at fault”.

Our cat fight dint last long, as we exited the motorway my anxiety and silence returned. Ahead of us lay hundreds of cars, thankfully moving but scores of them. Funnily, the station from where we took the train to the wrong airport was on our left and we’re going towards the hotel where we stayed! If only we had gone straight from the hotel! Would have been under 30 minutes of journey time, sigh.

The driver, did not even ask his name, took to the task as if his flight was due. He snaked through every little gap he found, adeptly changed lanes wherever he could. Were you previously an ambulance driver, Dear Sir? 40 minutes after we got into the cab I saw the Don Mueang International board. But there dint seem to be a straight forward entrance. We had to go around more flyovers, do more U-turns, and take more round-abouts for 10 more minutes. When he pulled up at the Departure gate he had a big grin of achievement on his face. Why won’t he when had covered about 47 kms in 50 minutes. If it was a lousy or a normal driver, the final 15 kilometers would have definitely taken us more time. He said “You won’t miss your flight, not today!”

“Thank You, Thank You”, I yelled as I rushed towards the document check counter. Our travelling light policy saved us time. By the time Mj stuffed all the money he had into the driver’s hands(a well-deserved tip!) and came in search of me, the passports were verified. More running towards the immigration counters.

“Why you come at 7 for a 7:10 boarding time, Miss”, asked the lady at the counter.
“We realised that we were at the wrong airport only after reaching Suvarnabhoomi”, I replied.
“Oh you go to the wrong airpoaa?” , read it in the South East Asian Slang – drag the Oh, compress the you-go-to-the-wrong as if it’s a single word and say it as fast as you can, make the r and t silent in airport and add aa to it – or even better, a aaaaaa. And don’t ask me why it’s a go and not a went.
“Yaaaaaa” said I and Mj in unison. She quickly stamped the passports and we rushed to the security check. A guy who was behind the immigration desk came to the security gates and was telling the officers in Thai why we were late. Or at least that’s what it looked like because he pointed at us and said suvarnaphum , suvarnaphum and the officers went Oooohh. 19:08 we were at the boarding gate with a cappuccino bought with the final 100 THB we had. And with enough time to pee before boarding.

But I wonder, why did the Taxi Driver add a “Not Today” afterthought ?? :O

A Thai Break – Part 1

Beach, Food, Outdoor Sports, Night Clubs and Culture? Thailand, it is. Phuket’s pristine sea and the adventurous islands are a great get-away from the routine of life. It has snorkeling, scuba diving, island hopping, para sailing, sky diving, jet ski and many more. You can get to try out all the different Thai dishes and immerse in the culture by mingling with people and visiting the Cultural Theme park, Fanta-Sea and learn the Thai story from the elephants. And how did I even miss out the blaring and glaring Bangla Walking Street?

You can get a bigger dose of culture and art in Bangkok, the Venice of the Orient. With its numerous Wats (temples), lively day / night markets, boat rides (The Long-Tail Boat is the counterpart of the Gondola of Venice) , floating markets, tuk-tuks, fish farms and night clubs, the list is endless. It has the world-renowned Reclining Buddha and the Emerald Buddha. The stunning of all, I think, is the Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn, standing tall and high on the banks of River Chao Praya and gets even more beautiful when it is bedecked with lights after sunset.

 

Phuket-Bangkok

L to R: Fanta-Sea Palace of the Elephants; Wat Arun on Chao Prayo River; Para-sailing; With Post-op Beauties; Reclining Buddha

 

The human element in the country, above these touristic things, Thai’s inclusive and tolerant attitude towards the LGBT community is what I liked and respect the most. Prostitution is legal and I guess, so are the sex and ping-pong shows. Transgenders are treated equal; they don’t have to resort to dancing on trains or to tapping your windows at traffic signals to earn a living. And there are these transsexuals, known as Lady Boys, a plenty of them, who undergo a voluntary sex change and make their living in the numerous night clubs and go-go bars. Many run shops in the markets, a famous one being the Patpong Night market. I heard that many such people who are shunned in their country seek shelter in Thailand. A very broad mindset for an Asian country, a good example that other countries need to follow.

The most important place that we did NOT visit was the Tiger Temple / Tiger Park where, I heard, they tranquilize the animals all day through so that we can fill their pockets for a picture next to the tamed wild animal. Tiger,my most favorite animal! I was tempted to strike poses with it, put my arm around the huge beast and feed a tiger cub (it was my childhood fantasy to raise a tiger cub as a pet!! 😛 ). The pamphlet had amazing pictures (Search for Tiger Kingdom, Phuket). But no, you don’t ill-treat something you love. No, Thanks.

So, there goes, a gist of a super awesome trip. The story of how we returned to KL will be lengthier than this! That’s for the next post!

The Asian Vegetarian Meal – A Six Sigma Case Study

A squint-eyed, disheveled haired species with a pukish look, dangling spectacles, wearing a baggy t-shirt looked at me from the mirror in the tiny loo of an aircraft. But I didn’t go there to look at it; I had far more important calls of nature to attend to.

The Asian Vegetarian Meal (AVM) is something I can vouch for, after having had the privilege to sample it in quite a few flight carriers. I really applaud the consistency, texture, quality, taste and smell that these boxes come packed with. You can never put in a rank on which airline serves better meal plates; they all compete fiercely with one another. It’s a matter of pride, I believe, and it rises above petty things such as carrier, destination, flying class etc.

Have you heard of the Saravana Bhavan chain of restaurants? This restaurant stands testimony to the factors I mentioned above. They say, a dosa or a coffee or a biriyani will taste exactly the same and as delicious no matter in which branch you devour it – be it Chennai, Paris, the USA or any part of the world.

The world’s premier and even the not-so-premier airlines have taken a page or two from this secret story for their AVM, only in the other extreme.

Consistency – Rock solid, pity can’t carry hammers in hand baggage to break the naan breads

Texture – Uncooked, breaking through the rice and chewing is a privileged teeth exercise

Quality – Benchmark. On par with all the flight kitchens.

Taste – Am a bland food lover and imagine me complaining about the taste

Smell – Hey my socks are fresh out of the laundry

High time Business Schools did a case study on this topic. High time it is given Six Sigma recognition. Maintaining the standard across destinations by just one flight carrier is by itself a tough and a meticulous task for an organization, enforcing strict Quality Inspections and processes, and here we are speaking about multiple airlines maintaining exactly the same standard! And of course, with similar results due to its intake.

I need to head back to the species in the mirror now, Mr. Neighbour, please excuse me.

P.S: I found this brilliant brilliant piece by Krish Ashok, hammered the AVM on its face (and in the process broke the hammer) – Asian Vegetarian Hell !

 

The Aussie Way

Update: Useless Trivia : You know what, Australia is double the size of India but has a population that is just about the same as Mumbai!

  1. The lesser the denomination, the bigger the size of the coin!
AU Coins

Left to Right: 50 Cents, 1 Dollar & 2 Dollars

 

2. Don’t want to face the passenger in front of you? Uncomfortable sitting in / facing the opposite direction of a train route? Switch the back rest!

http://youtu.be/Yj6wCIY59ow

How cool is that?! People who have experience with Maruti Omni vans will appreciate this!

  1. Constipated? Eat Chocolate!

 

Chocolate Board

Ad in a toilet cubicle

  1. Pay and Use Toilets? What do even mean by that?!

Answer nature’s call free of cost – All public restrooms in Train & Bus Stations, Beaches, Malls, Harbours, Shops, just about any toilet in the city is free. No loose change needed.

  1. Free Drinking Water.

Forgot to click a pic of this, but there are drinking water taps installed in all major locations. Even if the shops close down by 5 p.m., the taps will quench your thirst.

  1. What’s the next important thing in Life, after free toilets and water? Oh yeah, WI-FI, that’s free too!

Imagine Free WI-FI in a beach!

BondiWifi

  1. Scan and Pay Machines at stores.

I have seen such machines where you can scan your purchased items yourself and pay using Cards. Here I found many machines that accept cash as well. Good for tourists. (Maybe it’s there elsewhere too, I must have missed to notice)

Scan n Pay Machine

8. Kangaroo Meat, anyone? 

 

Kangaroo Meat Burger

Or Octopus, maybe? 
DSC_1264

9. Cut it Short

Don’t waste your energy, use short forms. Kangaroo is Roo, Mushroom is Mushy, Avocado is Avo, University is Uni, Barbeque is Barbe, Mosquito is Mozzy, Regulatory Board is Regs Board, Breakfast is Breakie, Toaster is Toasty, Presents are Pressis, Journalists are Journos, after all, we know that Australia is Oz..

Ciao, am off to my preggy colleague’s baby shower with pressis.

First Night in Amsterdam

Did you, by any chance, click for the title? Then spoiler alert: the post is just about my first visit to Amsterdam, which, by chance, happened to be a night landing, 2 years ago. Nothing more! 😉

See Journée à Paris (A Day in Paris) for the account of the day! Evening and Night account follows –

The talented pilot touched down at Schipol Airport, Amsterdam braving the bad weather. It was way past 8 p.m. and the Hotel Address and the metro stop names were my only bet in this foreign land – all alone.

I waited forever for my bag to come on to the carousel and don’t think I am exaggerating but mine was the last one to come on, after a full 20 minutes. It was becoming dark fast, unlike the usual summer day in June that has sunlight till about 10-11 p.m., thanks to the rain and thunderstorm. My prolonged wait at the carousel eyeing each and every bag sparked a suspicion on me at the customs counter. As I collected my bag and walked past the desk towards the exit, a tall lady (Dutch are on an average the tallest people on the planet!) in uniform blocked me. She said she wanted to check my bag. Patiently and meticulously she unpacked everything. Clothes, shoes, toiletry kit and food! I had taken a couple of MTR ready to eat packs (Jeera Rice,Pongal and Upma) and she was keen to know what they were and why had I brought them along. I told her that it was my first time there and these food packets are a backup in case I don’t find anything vegetarian around. Her next question was why only 3 packs for a stay of 20 days? I told her that I thought I would find a veggie serving place in 2 days. She was again curious, and asked if my veg list included Fish. I said No. Then she asked if it included Cheese (She thought maybe I was a vegan, which I intend to become someday soon!) and I said yes. And my yes brought a big grin on her face and she bid me a goodbye saying “Ah good, you will enjoy the dutch cheese”.

The best thing about the Schipol Airport is that it has an integrated public transport system – right outside the arrivals, there are the Train and Bus Stations.

My hotel was 1 train stop and 2 metro stops away. Had I come during the day or had I known that Amsterdam is one of the safest places in the world, I would have hailed a taxi but unfortunately neither was the case. I was apprehensive and the night was falling dark and wet. So I trotted down to the train station and asked a fellow passenger if my pre-bought travel card (Known as OV-Chipkart) would work on the trains. He nodded affirmatively and I swiped it across the small machine on the platform and got onto the train.

In came the Ticket Checker and I showed him my card. He looked at me, then at my trolley then back at me.

“New to Amsterdam?”

“Yes”

“No Ticket?”

“I swiped this card at the platform.”

“My dear, this works only on Metros, Trams and Buses, not on Trains”

I gasped.

“But I understand that mistakes happen and you are new here. In the future, don’t travel without buying a ticket. For now I will let you go without a fine.”

“Thanks a lot Sir and I am sorry, I didn’t know”

“Hope you like Holland, Fijn Avond (Nice Evening)!”

And Yes, I liked Holland from that instant.

Another integrated station. I hopped off the train and went to the Metro Station. Now, I had a problem. I knew which Metro to take and where to get off but I did not realise that it was necessary to find out which direction too.

Metro 50 towards Station Gein or Metro 50 towards Station Sloterdijk?

I couldn’t find a metro route map immediately. So I asked a person next to me. He said take the platform on your right and he dashed off. I am seriously dyslexic when it comes to left and right. I can assure you that I always get it wrong, at all times, in all cases. But I was determined that this time I won’t get it wrong. I looked down at my hands and was perfectly sure which was the right platform, on the right.

Ten minutes later I was onboard. Mine was the 2nd stop from there. As the metro came to a halt at the next stop I was horrified. Of all the people in the world, I chose to ask a Right-Left dyslexic guy or did I mix-up yet again? Whatever was the case, I was going in the wrong direction. The route map inside the metro confirmed my fear.  By the time I could react to the revelation, the metro chugged off from that station. I got off at the next stop, heaved my 20 kg bag down the stairs and up the stairs to the opposite platform. It was quarter past nine and was getting darker. I had 4 stops to cover now. Plus, I just have a mental picture of the route from the Metro stop to the hotel. Darn, why did I not print out the google maps image. If it was in India, I could easily spot people on the roads to ask for directions when in doubt but here I don’t see anyone at all, the stop is deserted and I had growing doubts if the metro will ever come… There it is.

Again, my destination was also deserted. I got off and started walking very briskly towards the hotel. I could spot absolutely no visible living organism what-so-ever. I just hoped against all odds of my right-left problem that I’d make it without getting lost.

My pace quickened with each step. And an inherent fear of the implication of my recklessness stood before me. Why did I have to opt for a 6 p.m. flight and not an earlier one? Why did I not check for the weather forecast? Why did I even take a detour to Paris in the first place? No person on the Earth knew where I was right now. My phone’s dead and I was last seen with known faces over 20 hours back. Folks back home must have thought that I must have flunked on the bed by now, all exhausted. Because, you see, I don’t have this habit of calling up home once I go somewhere/ reach a destination. I have seen many people do so. They would have gone only a few blocks from their home and as the first thing would call up mom/ spouse/ boyfriend/ girlfriend saying, “Hey, I reached”. I never do that be it when within the city or when I go to Bangalore from Chennai.

So people back home will find it perfectly normal of not receiving a call and they themselves will conjure up all the usual (but practical 😉 ) excuses that I give them – I was tired, Battery drained, No local Sim, No Wi-Fi, above all – Why do you want me to call at unearthly hours? (I usually take the train to Bangalore that reaches at 4:30 a.m. – a perfect excuse for not calling. But basically I forget and that’s the only reason but that is not accepted by people and so I have to give other excuses.)

So, finding the Hotel in one piece was my only option. Walk straight, take the left at the Round-about Junction and then the first right. I did just that but all I could see on this road were apartments and a few shops (closed, of course. Shops in Amsterdam close down by 6 p.m. except on Thursdays when they are open till 9). And I could see a small horizontal stretch of darkness across the road caused by an overhead bridge’s shadow. My heart thumped in my mouth. I am shit-scared of the dark. I walked ahead and stopped just before the bridge. Looked around. No one around or beneath it. Coast is clear. But if I don’t find the hotel on this road then I don’t know if I can summon up the courage again and dare to walk through this stretch for a second time.

I reasoned out to myself that my lefts and rights were right (Fingers Crossed!) and I am on the right track. I can’t stop, I need to proceed. I obviously can’t spend the night on the road. I don’t have a choice. Fear only weakens. Face it and destroy it. Even if this is the wrong road, I at least can be sure that I tried. Trying and failing is better than not trying. Worse- not trying because of a small, insignificant fear. Even worse – fear of the mind ,not of any physical hazard. Shame on me!

In a fleeting reflex I ran straight ahead. In less than 10 seconds my bag and I were out of the shadow of the bridge and on my immediate left, nestled between the branches and trees stood a lonely, old board, “Hem Hotel, Amsterdam”.

I pushed my heart back to my chest.

11 Culture Shocks You Get Outside India

A few from my experiences!

  1. Pedestrians have the right of the way.

You don’t have to look (first to the left then to the right on a one-way street :P) while crossing the road. Even a Heavy Vehicle will wait for the pedestrian to cross the road. If you wait at the curb for the vehicle to pass by, the driver would stop in front of you and motion you to cross! Abiding the Signal and Lane rules go without saying.

Peak Hour Trafic

A glimpse of the peak hour traffic in Kuala Lumpur :O

  1. Slashed Sale prices are genuine.

When you see a 70% off on an apparel store window you can be rest assured that it is genuine, unlike our place where the sale price is same as the normal price! (My 10 Euro Zara dress stands testimony!)

SalePrice!

  1. Smile at the stranger!

You don’t have to know a person to pass on a smile or ‘Good Day’ or a ‘Happy Weekend’. You just realize how cheerful the outside world is. Men hold the door open for women. The public bus driver greets you as you board.

  1. Vegetarianism

Indians (Some groups) are probably the only people who don’t eat meat because of religion / sacred texts. Elsewhere vegetarianism/vegan-ism is by choice and not by birth.

  1. Vegans

Most people (like shopkeepers, waiters) don’t know the difference between Vegetarians and Vegans. As per them, both are the same – No Milk, No Cheese, No Ice-cream :O

  1. Force feeding meat / Respect for others

As with Indians, a non-vegetarian will usually try to feed meat to a vegetarian. They would come up with variety of reasons, black-mails and dares to make a non-eater eat. But this will never happen in when you step out of the country. People respect your choice of food and never will try to force their opinion/ food on you.

Here’s a good compilation of this: http://www.scoopwhoop.com/entertainment/what-happens-with-vegans/

  1. Queue-ing Up

When you stand in a queue you don’t stick onto the person in front of you. There is at least one arm’s distance between 2 consecutive persons. Yeah, I know, for such a populous country as ours, this isn’t possible.

  1. Tea is without milk, coffee is in huge mugs.

Beer is the national drink! And in Amsterdam, dope is legal. Whatte place to be 🙂

 coffeemug

And that’s not even a large serving, that’s regular

  1. Infants are quiet!

Infants and toddlers in their prams stay quiet and cute. They don’t cry, shriek, yell, shout. How, just how?

10. You aren’t an Indian if you don’t eat spicy food!

People give me strange looks (and question my ethnicity!) when I avoid spicy food and when I say I can’t take the spice and burn, just like them!

11. Cities are Wheel-Chair Friendly.

Almost all buildings and footpaths have small ramps and are Wheel-Chair and Baby Pram / Stroller friendly. There runs a yellow protruding line, known as tactile tiles,  alongside curbs, bridges, metro stations to help the visually challenged find their way and not accidentally get on to the road. Really appreciate the thought behind these very essential yet simple ideas.

VisuallyChallenged Friendly

Visually Challenged Friendly

Wheel-Chair Friendly

Wheel-Chair Friendly

Day of Delays

The airline which I prefer to call as A2 has set expectations with its passengers for its inevitable delay across all flights. Be it domestic or international, peak season or off-season, delay is always on the cards. Having faced it many a times I booked my connecting domestic flight with a gap of 3 hours after the A2 international one lands. People were teasing me saying that it was unnecessary caution and this time the airline was going to be on time. I just laughed it off but secretly was planning what to do for the 3 hours – Novel? Magazine? Candy Crush? Sleep? Window-shop? Or sit and wonder what to do for 3 hours?

Honestly, I did not know if I was to feel happy that my precaution paid off or to feel unhappy when the airline announced the late departure of my flight by an hour. To be just with both emotions, I felt happy for half hour and sad for the next half hour. Whatever was the emotion, the 1 hour was up which was the main goal. Timepass with the Mind!

I still have 2 hours for transit was the last thing the mind thought of when there was the next announcement – No free runway. A holiday season busy airport. You come late to the lecture hall in High School and still expect to find a seat in a session on Sex Education? (And those who did sit through the session will tell you that it didn’t have anything you expected though. )

15 minutes ticked, found a runway but no place to park the aircraft – or whatever you call the process of disembarking the passengers.

25 minutes later, I was on board. I still have about 1 hour 20 minutes interval between the next flight. Am just waiting to boast to my friends about my cool foresight. Or did I speak too soon?

Slept; well fed; landed.

Immigration Queue – Have you heard about the Law of Queues?

Law of Queue: If you change queues, the one you have left will start to move faster than the one you are in now.”

Add this to it – “And all dumb heads will get into the same line you are in.” (Because you are one too – Let’s get to it later.)

Maybe stupidity is in the air in that queue and all the like-minded fools get attracted to that one like bees to a nectar rich flower and the geniuses get repelled into different queues like coming across a guy with an overdose of an obnoxious perfume. I seriously think I can stand the stench of the Coovum River better than these pungent perfumes.

My only pass time now is to observe my fellow queue-mates – One guy doesn’t know why he has come to this country; one doesn’t know flight number that he just took to fill in the immigration form; one refuses to remove the face scarf so that the immigration officer can see the person’s face before stamping the passport; one apparently has some visa issues and one huge family crowd the counter together as if a group entry entitles a discount. You ask what my stupidity is to match these folks? Isn’t queuing up in this line a good enough testimony?

One hour to rush to the domestic departure.

Queue up again at the baggage screening counter near the exit. Seriously, what do people carry in so many bags and how do they manage to? The huge family, from my line earlier, of 6 adults and 2 kids had 11 check-in bags and 10 cabin/hand bags. What in the world do you transport between countries? Import Export business? My meek small cabin bag had to wait until all their giants went through.

50 minutes, rush, rush.

Hopped onto the shuttle to the domestic airport and right after me walks in an elderly lady with 2 huge bags on her trolley. Why, just Why? Why do you want to carry so much around? The courteous driver loaded the bags onto the vehicle and helped her get in. Thankfully without waiting any further he vroomed and zoomed.

40 minutes, get to the counter for a boarding pass, quick.

And, why didn’t I check-in online and print the pass myself? No, not my stupidity this time; the airline did not have online check-in facility for people with one-way tickets. But no worries, the display board says there are 4 counters to cater to the passenger; I can glide through quickly.

There are 1,2,3….6,7 , seven people in the queue. Will all 8 of us make it on time? Yes, we could if all the mentioned 4 counters were open but alas, 3 were closed. (Staff out for a fag break I suppose, and in a group for a discount at the chai-wala?)

Panic wants to enter me  – I can’t contact my friends waiting at the destination airport if I miss the flight, I don’t have a local number, and there aren’t any pay phones around – I need to drop this piece of suggestion in the Airport’s Feedback Box – To install payphones. Oh I deviated. Dear Mind, stop your random thoughts, for now I need to panic. But somehow the calmness of the people ahead of me in the line intrigued me. The elderly lady from the shuttle joined after me in the line. I gave her a weak smile and she said, “Yeah I know, delays, can’t help”.

What? How does she know I am running late? I don’t remember speaking to her. And she herself is late. I can at least run to the gate, she definitely can’t. I need to note this in my head – Retirement Plans should include gymming. I need to be physically fit when I am a granny to run to the gates. Gosh, I never can understand why my thoughts are so random and unconnected all the time. Where was I?

Seeing the expressions of my thoughts on my peeved face she asked, “Didn’t you get the sms from the airline?”

The airline? Sms? More puzzling expressions on my face.

“Our flight is delayed by an hour”, she said.

“Oooooh” I said or rather kept dragging the word till the message go to my head, which took about a full minute. “I didn’t know, Thanks”.

You wanted a reason as to why I stood in the Moron’s Queue while immigration, didn’t you? Here’s the proof – I looked ahead, next to the counter, a large display board(at least 37 inches big) said, in bright red – Delayed.

Majhya Maitrinichi Mumbai! (My Friend’s Bombay)

If you ask Mumbaikars about Amchi Mumbai, you would get different views. A youngster would tell you about Hanging out at Marine Drive, Shopping at Colaba and Bandra, Sharukh Khan’s house at Bandstand, the Gorai Creek, the newly built Bandra-Worli Sea Link, numerous malls and would also boast of the 1st Starbucks Outlet in India!

A middle-aged or a senior person would talk about Siddhi Vinayak, Mahalaxmi, Haji Ali, the new Buddhist Pagoda or Mumbai being the Financial Capital of India, NSE, Nifty etc.

But when I told my friend that I want to visit Bombay, her version took me by surprise! She said, “There are so many places to eat, do come over!”

Vada Pav at Borivali , Pav Bhaji at Tardeo Sardar Hotel, Roadside Chat – Paani Puri & Sev Puri, Bhel Puri at Sonawala Building, Mongolian Pot Rice, Tapan Yakee sizzler & Chicken Wings at 5 Spice, Almost all dishes at Mainland China, Mom’s special – Kanda Poha, Prawns Masala, Fish Fry, Shrikhand Puri, and the list goes on!

Did I miss out the desserts? Joshi Budhakaka’s Halwa and Kaju Katli, Mom’s Carrot Halwa and the amazing Til ka Laddu, Chikku and Tender Coconut ice creams from Tender Fresh; phew I need a heavy dose of Digene after all these!

Turns out that each one of the items she recommended were utterly delicious; I can vouch for the ghaas-phoos(vegetarian, in her terms) and she would for the all the meat.

The entire trip turned out to be a walk through Dream Land –
With people coming to the airport at 4 a.m. for a flight that’s gonna land at 6.a.m, for you;
Spending an entire day in search of an out-of-market cheap phone’s battery,for you;
Making sure they mention ‘non-spicy’ to the waiter even when you forget, for you;
Taking the best efforts to make the stay comfortable, for you;
Parceling a box of yummy home-made Laddus, for you;
Keep you entertained in family functions so that you don’t get bored;
Each member of the family giving you a separate farewell gift (Apart from the Laddus!)!

One of the most memorable vacations ever, how I wish it’d been for longer; Oh, ye lovely folks, Thanks a bunch!

Journée à Paris (A Day in Paris)

Well, Parisssss! Famous for art, architecture, the language, fashion and pick pockets. Yes you read that right, everywhere people and boards warned me of keeping things safe, the city has some of the world’s best flickers! With a map photographed in the flight, a couple of places to visit marked I embarked on the Paris airport and muttered a silent prayer that I should get back home safe and sound.

I asked a lot of people around for directions to the Eiffel tower but each one had a different route or maybe I got them wrong because none of them spoke Anglais. Mostly people told me to take an RER and a few thought bus was better. You have variety of options – Metro, RER which is also a train, tram and bus. I first went to the bus stop but there wasn’t any bus for 15 min. So I walked back and opted for RER. The lady at the ticketing desk was rude and dint tell me to which station to get the tickets for as Eiffel doesn’t have direct connectivity from the airport. Then another lady told me to take the Paris ticket. 9.25 Euros. But no platform mentioned. I went into one and there was no one in the platform. So I exited (mind u it is all automated so I swiped in once and swiped out too). As I exited I saw the station master and he told me to go to platform 11. Now, my ticket was not allowing me to get in because I have completed my journey by entering and exiting a station! What do I do? I tried it again in the next gate, no luck.

Thennnn, there was a girl who was getting in with an extra-large bag. She swiped and as she was entering the bag got stuck. This gave me a brain wave. I popped in my ticket and I thought of entering along with her because the gate’s stuck. Tail gating, as we techies call it! The gate was closing already and the bag almost thro. I tagged along close by and I got thro. Voila! But, my bag pack got stuck midway. Oh dear. The guy behind me forced the gate open a bit and the bag came thru, Merci Monsieur! The train came immediately. I asked 2 girls standing near the door of it will go to the Eiffel and they said “hop in”. They took out a suburb map which had the route of all transportation in Paris. They told me it’ll take up to 45 min to reach and I’ll have to change the train mid way. They told me where to get off and which one to take next. So I looked thru the window anxiously as the train got crowded with each stop. I had taken out a few currency notes, the credit card and the camera and placed them safely in my jeans pockets. The passport and the wallet were wrapped in my sweater and placed in the bag. Changed train in Notre Dame. The tour Eiffel stop came and I alighted.

Now will the ticket which didn’t allow me to get in allow me to get out? I never thought of the implications of my actions, did I? How do I get out? What’ll I tell the non-English speaking station guy? I decided that I’ll try once and if unsuccessful go get another lowest value ticket for getting out or find the station master and ask him to let me out by telling my story of swiping out by mistake. But come on, I wasn’t cheating and I was just ignorant. So when I tried getting out, no Luck dint open the gates – technology works correctly, it sent a guy again! The one behind me swiped and asked me to get out with him quickly before it closed.  🙂

There I was straining my neck upwards to get the full view of the towering Eiffel. Looked close by but was a good half a km away. They girls on the train had already told me that if I wait for the lift to the top, it would take at least 2 hours as most people opt for it. The line was very long. On the right the queue for taking the stairs to the top had hardly a dozen people. I joined them as instructed by the girls before. They were saying that it might have 1000 steps. And I braved it and went ahead. 1 full ticket adult -10.5 Euros. Full ticket by itself means adult right, redundancy I thought. I did not count the number of steps and I was heaving when I reached the first level. Maybe there were 300 to level 1. The view was awesome. A guide was explaining the various buildings to a group of people and I was happy that I got to see most of the famous ones from there. I couldn’t see the Louvre though. After a few photographs I started climbing to level two. Another 300 perhaps. The view was again good. I regretted for not buying a bottle of water before entering the tower. I was panting. After a few min of rest I walked around the level and there was a restaurant. Great. Grabbed a large glass of coke and I was ready for the next and the final level. The tower top. As I showed the ticket for the next level the security told me that since I have got the full ticket I can take the elevator to the last level. The last level is not allowed by foot and people who don’t want to go to the last level get a half ticket. So, it wasn’t redundant, ara (Tamil word) ticket does not mean a child’s ticket after all 😉  Good.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

The view from the top was breathtaking. The river beside, chill air blowing thru your face and pictures being clicked all around. I spent some time and enjoyed the feeling and then descended, in the lift till the level 2 and stairs from then on. I need to Google the number of steps I took now 😉

View from the top

View from the top

The next most important place was Arc de Triomphe. The security at the tower gave me the directions and told me it would take 12 minutes to reach by walk and asked me not to take the bus if I wanted to look around Paris. I followed the route and saw some awe-inspiring buildings, picturesque locations and a variety of people. Japanese, Indians, Muslims with burqa (this gets a special mention because there was agitation a while ago about the ban on burqa in France), smokers at the road corners watching people go by, a caricature artist, boat cruisers, cyclists, skaters, many men in blazers, hot girls, souvenir shoppers, and road rules abiding drivers and pedestrians. I also saw many three-wheeled scooters which could attain good speed in a jiffy. I thought I covered more than 15 min and asked a police guy for directions again. He told me to proceed further. Another two min and still the arc was not in sight. I asked a lady again and she told me that it is pretty far still and asked me to take the metro and reach. I was a little skeptical, so far the route given by the Eiffel guy was right and so I felt it wouldn’t be so far from there. So I continued walking and in about 4 -5 min I saw the arc.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

It was like our India gate with sculptures of Greek gods. Was huge. And again you could climb to the top. I wasn’t very keen as the view from the top would mostly have only the roads around. 12 roads connecting and was one of the biggest in the world.

Got a picture clicked by a Tamil guy in front of it and looked around for the bus stop.  I knew that there was bus to the airport as this was the way to reach Eiffel if I had taken the bus. It was about 1 p.m. and I thought it was better to get back instead of wandering more. I asked for the bus stop. 10 min walk they told. As I was crossing the road, a Hindi speaking family came along. I asked them again for the way to the bus stop. They said that bus would take very long and it is better to take the train. On my suburb map they told me to first take a metro for 3 stops, a RER for the next 1 stop and again another RER for the airport. Even with all the changing I would reach in less than an hour they told. Also the station was right there. So I went down the stairs and reached the ticketing kiosk. It did not have an option to change the language to English as the one in the airport. I asked a gentleman in the next machine if he could help. He readily obliged but my credit card dint work. Again, this same card worked at the airport. The gentleman said he has extra tickets and he gave me one and he told me a different route which involved changing only one other RER. The ticket was valid till the airport. He refused to accept money from me for the ticket. He was like, just 2 Euros, forget it. Just! 140 rupees for me! He said he is from Belgium and runs a company in Paris. I swiped in and went along with him to the platform. We got down in the second station. He guided me to the next platform and left. I got my train to the airport in 4 min, timetable followed on dot. I recognized the next station as I had passed thru it earlier in the day. At that stop an announcement was made that from then on it will be a nonstop one to the last stop which is the airport. So I reached a little quicker and now again the way out was blocked. This time I dint know what the problem was; it worked right at Arc de Triomphe, dint it! But the impatient guy behind me swiped out and said tag along! Tail gating everywhere, thanks to people in a hurry to get out, worked to my advantage thrice!

It was 2 p.m. I had 3.45 hours left. I grabbed a sandwich and roamed around the duty-free shops. Went thru the security check and sat near the boarding gate at 3. Even though I was in early I dint regret it; maybe I would have been stuck at the station with the card not working and no one to help. It happens for good.

That’s another reason why this one’s so lengthy; I had nothing but time to write it out. The day had a bit more excitement than usual because the Paris tour was a planned detour. I was flying to Amsterdam for work for 2 weeks. There isn’t a direct flight from Bangalore and got to connect in Paris. Thursday 2 a.m. Bangalore, 8.35 a.m. Paris, 10.30 a.m. connecting flight to Amsterdam and landing at 12 noon. This is how my other colleagues went and I would too. But wait a minute, I am anyway not reporting to work on Thursday, then why reach early? Why not spend time in Paris? So I requested the office travel ticketing guy to book the connecting flight in the evening. Who knows, this might be my only chance in life, you never know. He obliged and that’s how I got to spend some time here. All alone though, without Ashok, in the city of romance. A solitary wanderer.

So far so good, I can pat myself on my back. But will my decision still be right in the end? From 4 it started raining heavily here and a flight got delayed. Now, will I reach Amsterdam on time? Will I reach the hotel correctly if it is late? I should have booked the 4 pm flight, goddamn at least here it was iconic structures that I visited and everyone knew the route but there no one would know the hotel and it’s going to be tough alone. Like an idiot I left the hotel’s number in my office pc. And no one’s at office. I was banking on only 1 thing, it doesn’t get dark in Amsterdam till 10 p.m. Please let that be true today. At 5 the rain stopped, the skies cleared. I was overjoyed but only to find that the storm has moved northward and that’s where I am headed. My flight, after boarding, got delayed by 45 min. So that means I’ll reach only at 7.45 and what if there aren’t many people at the station? I fear taking a cab at unknown places because we don’t know the route, all alone in an unknown place and the cabbie can take you anywhere. So it is safer to stick with public transports.

Another 15 min went searching for a free runway making the delay an hour. I got reassurance from a fellow passenger that it would be bright till 11 p.m. But the rain was bound north, the flight’s having a lot of turbulence and was shaking badly; even the stewards weren’t able to stand still. And if it’s raining in Amsterdam it’s bound to get dark. Again a silent prayer, I should reach safe and sound.

There ends the one-day story, length of maybe a week’s story! Signing off from Paris, see ya with the next update in Amsterdam. God save me! 🙂

Streaky Skidy Scooty !!

(P.S – [Pre.Script :P]  – I actually don’t remember when I wrote this out; fished it from my old pc and posted it! )

Scooty, First Love – This is how the vehicle was (is) advertised. And rightly so. It fascinates its owners but with no solid reason though! My White colour (yeah my MS Office default language is English UK)  10-year-old Scooty was one among them. Not great mileage, No great speed but yeah lots of fad and craze! Zooming off in the flyovers and Bend-Poduradhu in the street turnings/windings are my favourites (UK again!!)! My mother screams for the former and my sister for the latter! Nevertheless, one aspect of it is very bad – the vehicle skids, read it as always skids!

I would like to recount one adventure with my vehicle. I never have enough of this incident – Jee Nehi bhara!! I have included it in a 3rd person account (Autobiography of Spectacles) about it and have written a generic one (In Search of Humanity) too. Time for a first person account.

One fine day, morning 8 a.m. I went to drop my sister in college in Nungambakkam. The roads were void of traffic and I was over-speeding – the maximum a scooty can sustain! So was a guy ahead of me in a brand new Honda Activa. Aaah, overtaking is thrilling; I went on to overtake him. His ego hurt, in a couple of minutes he overtook me. It was my ego now. But due to the recent rains in Chennai, the road was pot-holed from there on and he applied the brakes all of a sudden. I had to follow suit else I would have hit his vehicle. The only difference in the outcome was that his vehicle slowed down and came out of the pot-holed road; mine skid along with me. I covered quite a distance, with the vehicle in a 90 degree position and my right side of the face rubbing against the road. The mistake was absolutely not on the vehicle but on me for throttling the vehicle to its maximum.

After that my memory fails me. I remember the details very vaguely. I guess I was crying for help for some time, then I was in a white ambassador, a lady was beside me – weeping, I reached home. Blurred images are what I can recollect.

My mother was alarmed to see me – Broken tooth, bloody face, dangling spectacles and a dazed look! The lady explained – I had fallen off near Gemini flyover with the vehicle on me and the helmet off my head. I was crying for help. But no one bothered. She then came and lifted me and cried for help. No response again. Then a person stopped his car, parked my scooty in the Income Tax Office nearby and brought me home. My house is at 5-8 minutes driving from the spot and I had told them the directions! But I don’t remember at all, strange! What more, sitting in the car I first called up my sister Suchi. This was the conversation (my sister recounted this)

“Such, any idea where I am?”

“Hey, what happened? Did you lose your way? Where are you?”

“That’s what even I want to know – where am I. Where are you?”

“Akka, you dropped me off in the college and you were on your way back home.”

“Oh is it? Ok I actually fell off my scooty and now someone is taking me home. Nugambakkam to Mylapore – I know the way. Thanks such”

“Hey wait wait, are you fine? Are you hurt?”

“I am absolutely fine, but I am worried about the vehicle, I don’t know where it is. There is a lady sitting beside me and weeping. I will reach home and call you, bye”

Suchi told me that I was speaking dazedly and the entire conversation was in Tulu. The next phone call was to Ashok. (I don’t remember this either)

“Ashok, are you free this morning?”

“Yeah, tell me”

“I met with an accident and am bleeding. I am on my way home. My mother will be shocked and sad so will you come with me to the hospital?”

“Hey, what are you saying? Are you serious? How are you coming? Where are you?”

“Don’t panic, I am alright. I am coming. You be there in my house, we will start immediately, bye”

Ashok then recounted that I was speaking very clearly as if I am planning an outing, not a hospital visit! He thought that I had sustained only minor scratches with the way I spoke! And that too, I spoke in English! Professionally!! Not in Tamil, the usual communication language between us!!!

I had fun listening to these 2 conversations being repeated to everyone by them!!

So back on track – After giving money to these 2 good-hearted people, my mother, Ashok and I rushed to the Royapettah Hospital. First I got the suturing done – a big one in the upper lip and a wee one in the chin. There was also a cut near the corner of the right eye but it dint need stitches. The doctor was worried about my memory loss for a short period of time. So I was sent to the neurologist. CT SCAN was prescribed and the report said that my memory was intact and so were my nerves, it was just the shock which caused this memory loss!

It was beyond lunch time and we sent my mother home as my sister dint have the house keys and my mother hadn’t eaten anything since morning. Entrusting me with Ashok she left.

We then consulted the dentist as the tooth was missing and the ENT Specialist as the right eye was completely red. Both confirmed that there are no internal injuries whatsoever! I had sustained only external facial injuries and a few scratches in the right leg and they would heel in a couple of weeks.

I came back home that evening fit as a fiddle but I was unable to speak because of the stitches. So what did I do immediately after coming home??? Wrote the entire episode in a piece of paper (that is just a form of a sentence, it wasn’t a piece of paper literally ;)) and for almost the next 7-10 days, I just thrust that paper to anyone who came to visit me. I wasn’t able to open my mouth. Food was converted into a liquid and sent in through a straw! But excitement tempted me to explain about the incident to the visitors in a way I could but was always cut short – “Heaven’s sake, can’t you keep your mouth shut at all?” everyone used to yell, including the visitors; I used to acknowledge with a lopsided smile, if one could call it a smile – a swollen face with white bandages and a broken tooth!! But Gosh, it is wonderful to annoy people!!

But at the end of the day, as my Team Lead, Kishore, always tells me, Lessons Learnt is what that counts:

  1. Speed Thrills but Kills!
  2. Helmet saved my head; if not for it the injuries would have been severe. Always wear a full helmet; mine was a head cum visor one. Had I put on a full one, I might have escaped unhurt.
  3. Belief in the Universe – Even the doctors were amazed and bewildered to know that I dint suffer any internal injury. They said – God Saved You! Also, my sister dint have a mobile then. She took my mother’s mobile with her that day as she had to co-ordinate the college culturals. And when I go to drop her, I don’t take the mobile either. That day, I took the mobile for ‘Just in Case’. The lady and the driver too were sent to help. The jigsaw was completed, the most astonishing way!  🙂

The Chettinad Adventures

Food, Ritual, Food, Sleep, Food, Outing, Food, Sleep – this was our routine for the past 2 days in Kulipirai, Karaikudi District where we went to attend our college professor’s Authentic Chettinad Marriage!!

Chettinad is famous for Delicious Cuisine and so are the Chettiars for their huge bellies and bigger hearts. We got to know the reason why! The cuisine is so rich and varied that it is really hard to resist eating the food and your protests of not able to eat more would go in vain in front of their love and affection. They keep you serving and always comment on how less you eat (You would have eaten 3 times more than your regular meal when this comment comes along and you would go on to eat 2 more servings!). During functions such as marriages those take place in their palace like homes (yes most of them cover up to 8 grounds in size, that is enormous indeed!) preparing for the culinary fest is a tedious task. You would get something or the other to eat round the clock. You would not pity the cooks at all as the taste, flavour and variety of food that you get to eat will override your senses and you would get lost in it. Every two hours the dining hall would be bustling with activity, a new À la carte would be in store! Kandharppam, Masala Paniyaaram, Vellai Paniyaaram, Pal Paniyaaram, Idly, Vada, Idiyaappam, Thengai Pal Aappam, Podi Bhajji, Adai, Athirasam plus a Non-Veg Platter too on which my knowledge is negligible! Phew – Tired of reading?? Imagine how tired you would be of eating????

The Food Fest was scheduled for the 22nd and 23rd of May. College group, I guess around 20 odd people, reached the serene, pious village of Kulipirai in the early hours of 22nd May. I call it pious because the villagers are all God-Fearing and simple. It is sure that you will find at least one temple with huge, clean pond for every mile you travel. I call it serene because the houses are huge and far apart. Less noise, less clutter. Only a handful of them are left in the vast houses; the younger generations have migrated to bigger cities and countries.

Visit to Pillaiyarpatti and Kunnakudi temples was the agenda for the day. Seeing the main deity of Pillaiyarpatti– Lord Ganesha was totally an enriching and fulfilling experience. He was simply magnificent! I was in ecstasy!! Kunnakudi had a temple on the hills dedicated to the younger brother of Ganesha, Lord Subramanya. It was called the Shanmuganathan Temple and that temple was equally good too. The day was hot and humid and our hunger was allayed by a Coke, Maaza, Mineral Water, Nannari Juice, etc. We reached home for lunch and had our afternoon nap. Then it was time for snacks and a small ritual in the evening. We pulled each others’ legs and chit-chatted until night after which we had sumptuous dinner. And who said you shouldn’t eat more at night??? Sleep follows food and we lay in a line in the extra long hallway under an intrinsically painted high roof. We were under a colourful Sky!

23rd May had an early morning muhurat for the marriage. We were all up by 4 a.m and were all dressed up (beautifully ;)) by 5:30 a.m. The bride’s house was similar in structure and design as that of the groom, in fact all houses were symmetrically, structurally, aesthetically, geometrically (All had Geometric designs, they weren’t modern art I say!) same. It was a quiet and a simple wedding in terms of rituals and a loud one in terms of jewels and accessories and of course food! We couldn’t spot a single lady without Diamonds! Bevy of Beautiful Ladies!

It was soon time for us to leave and we headed for dinner and packing the bags. Our bus to Chennai was scheduled at 9:30 p.m from Pudukottai (Town). So, the hurry-burry and last-minute rush to the Bus Stop to catch the Bus to the town was normal. Now where’s the fun? Adventure? A boring anecdote with an ultra-boring climax??? Naah.. That’s where I pop into picture!

As we reached the bus stop my friend, Srikanth, gave me my mobile phone. He said, “You dropped it in the Marriage Hall”. I exclaimed, “Oh my! Thanks a lot; I never knew I missed it!” He said, “Oh man, I shouldn’t have given it to you, I should have made you go berserk!” Uneventful closure of Hungama 1. [Notes: Srikanth wanted me to add this piece – Srikanth, my friend pledged his life took great efforts and greater risks to get my mobile back. He was very quick dynamic and acted swiftly to retrieve my mobile back. It was a timely help lest I would have lost my very dear mobile. He is a great person yet is very simple after doing such a big help to me. I m thankful to such a great and a modest person. If I were the President I would nominate him for bravery award or Bharat Ratna (cha no smilies here in lotus notes!!!)…]

Getting water and medicines for Ashok who was down with fever, in a shop near the bus stop started Hungama 2! Bus came and we were still in the shop getting the change. In the excitement of getting into the bus before it starts, we rushed ahead and boarded the bus with vigour! We got window seats and settled comfortably for the next 45 min ride. Ashok was sitting next to me and pointing out how irresponsible I am to lose the mobile and not even know that I have lost it. He was on and on and on (One of the few occasions where he gets to speak more than I do) and I was gazing out of the window enjoying the cool breeze and the still night in our over speeding bus. I couldn’t retort as fault was on my side so I just said bluntly, “Hey, I haven’t lost anything big right? Mistakes happen, people tend to forget and there is always a first time. I am not foolish enough to lose big things and will be careful in future ok.” I returned my gaze to the pitch dark view when something dawned onto me and I suddenly screamed, “Guys, Did I take my suitcase from the Shop?” Ashok gave me a filthy look! Everyone searched frantically underneath their seats to see if I have kept the suitcase somewhere. No luck. I had left it behind. People of the bus were staring at us curious to know who missed what. I was wondering, “Now what do I do? If I get down, go back and pick it up I would definitely miss my bus back to Chennai as there are no Auto Rickshaws in that place I would have to wait for the next bus to and fro.” My friends were scolding me – Irresponsible Goose. Senseless Idiot. @#$%^!@#$$

Asha recovered immediately from this haze and she called up couple of other friends of ours, Karthi and Ganesh, who were to leave almost half hour after us and asked them to pick up the luggage. Karthi reached the stop immediately and the bag was intact. He took it back to the marriage hall as he was leaving by car late at night. But Ganesh thought that he could pass the bag onto me in Pudukottai itself as our busses were scheduled to depart in an interval of half hour. But by the time he reached the bus stop Karthi had taken the bag. Learning this he went in search of Karthi and got the bag from him and in the process he missed his bus to the town. After 10 minutes the next bus came. By that time we were almost in the town. Nevertheless we were all happy and relaxed that the bag was found is en route to our place. I was kidding (and trying to justify) saying that since Ashok was unwell, I was sad and depressed, I was praying that he gets well soon, I was unable to see him suffer so much (all this hype for a simple fever); with all these things running in my mind I forgot about my luggage. Filthy looks from everyone. By now it was time for the next enlightenment. Ashok blurted out, “Madam, where are the tickets?” I stopped mid-sentence, open-mouthed, eyes widened. Feebly I said, “In the suitcase” Filthier looks from everyone. It was Anil who reacted on reflex this time. No no, he dint give me a slap, he immediately rushed to the nearest Internet Café, struggled with an ancient, mouse-not-working, keys-faded, dust-settled system and got a print out. My mouth closed with relief!

Our bus driver started on dot, on time. I asked him to wait for 5 minutes for Ganesh but he said that would create a traffic jam and he wouldn’t be able to wait. We had no other go. Ganesh told us to proceed as the bag was light and a small one and he would transport it to Chennai. So I came free-handed to Chennai amidst everyone’s scolding and got more from my mother the next day. I rushed to office immediately after coming home in the morning shift as I had to collect the luggage from him in the evening. Friends in need are Friends indeed!!! All of them came to my rescue!

Eventful 2 days and a very tiring Monday! But Robert Frost said – Miles to Go Before I Sleep! I don’t have miles only Inches – I need to measure my waistline!!! After consuming cart loads of food I bet on a 2 inch increase, alarming isn’t it?!

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