Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A flashback...

Yah, so once again it happened...

It was the month of December and my posting as a Central Marketing Manager at HO, Bangalore was going to be responsible for my Golden Quadrilateral. For my next assignment, I was to travel to Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, in ten days. And it was really exciting.

Due to the time lines, my itinerary was made in such a manner that I had to catch the early morning flight every other day. It was a chilled Delhi morning when I had to catch a 6 o’clock flight. And I hated doing that. But what to do, no other options!! Never mind, I reached the airport and checked-in around 5 o’clock.

One hour was left and I had a wonderfully huge Delhi Airport to explore. I started checking it out. Very huge entrance, having two big elephant sculptures at a distant place, multiple counters for number of Airlines. Distinctive dress coded staff was in the service for the travelers. Round about 25 security check-ins to deal with at a rush time, and another huge waiting area. Food-court, cafe shops, lounge bars, shopping space and what not. After all it was all-awaited T3.

After getting tired of roaming here and there, my eyes got stuck on a relaxation chair, facing towards the glass wall of the airport building in such a manner that you can see the movements of aircrafts just while stretching your legs on the seat. And so did I. I was very amused, like a child. And that very moment my mind took me back to the days when I used travel with my father, my family. I, and might be everyone, used to walk besides him holding his hand. Looking at to every new thing I used to ask him about and every time with the same affectionate manner he used to explain those things to me. For my each and every 'childish question' he had a satisfactory answer. Even in my school, if I was unable to understand something, back to home he would have the time to answer.

It was only few minutes, but I could travel the years in the past. And suddenly I heard ‘Beeping’ voice coming from the nearby chair. The other person in the chair had set in the pre-fixed alarm to wake him up. But, to me, it was very much like an alarm to get me back to the present. It reminded me about the alarm I used to switch off to avoid going to the school. And on asking by my mother, the same excuse every time – “Ma, alarm didn’t ring only! L” I distinctively remember the efforts my mother used to make to wake me up for the school and similar effort from my side to avoid her giving numerous amount of excuses!!

Now, at this moment the incident was looking like the irony. Earlier my mother had all the worries that I would sleep long hours and miss the school next day and now I’m unable to sleep in the night worrying about missing the flight next morning!!

Friday, March 4, 2011

My experiences with the Flight of Good Times

Imagine, you are flying at the height of 20K ft above the sea level and suddenly you realise that pilot is not in his seat!! Or, you’re being held responsible for the delay in flight...

It was almost two months I’ve been to my home after I started my job. I was quite excited to be at home for a weekend before moving onto my next stint at a far more distance. I was in Delhi, and was to catch a flight to Ahmedabad at 9.40 p.m. It was a Friday.

The feelings had a mix of emotions. Going back to home for the first time after getting onto job, I was feeling joyous. My best friend, with whom I had a big fight some time back, was going to the US for three years on the same night and probably I was to miss the chance to see her and say a good bye for the last time. I was a bit tensed. I learned, the flight I was to board, a friend of mine was a Pilot in that flight. I was excited. And lastly, the flight got delayed! I got frustrated. And it got delayed again, and again, twice. I got pissed off.

Anyway, finally I was on the bus in the bus along with some 30 odd people who were similarly aggravated on the situation taking us to the aircraft. And then, I could see the real beauty. I could see the Airport building illuminated with white lights and the rest of the airport was tinkling orange bulbs in the symmetry with each others. The bus was driving to the aircraft making some one recognizable pattern. Who’s concerned!!

Getting down from the bus near by the aircraft I saw my friend, A Pilot, welcoming me. I had already started have a Good Time!! I noticed that there are two staircases attached to the craft on the left hand side at both the ends. I checked out my boarding card, seat number 28C. And so I decided to climb on from the rear staircase.

I was seeing my pilot friend after a long time. We met. We talked. We shared our present state of affairs in a very short while. And it was the time when we realise we’re the only two left to board the craft. So taking a promise from him to take me for a round in Cockpit, I rushed back to the rear staircase. I climbed on, found my seat and got settled.

Did you find anything missing? No? Neither did me.

It was almost 10 minutes past Estimated Departure Time. And, this airline is very much known for its time punctuality. Meanwhile, there was a request from my co-passenger to exchange the seat 28B with her. Respecting to the lady’s age, I immediately agreed.

Finally I saw a guy, wearing one of those florescent coloured shirt, rushing towards the rear rows looking for something in particular. 25, 26, 27, 28; 28C.

“Ma’am may I look at to your ticket?” The guy asked.

And I realised the whole plot. To have a check on, for the purpose of security, whether the passenger has boarded the aircraft after leaving airport building, the flight attendant has to collect the counter part of the boarding pass. And because I was the last person to get on board, from the rear staircase, I was missed to get it done. Therefore they were short of one counter, which they could finally found out locating me inside the aircraft!!

After touching down at Ahmedabad airport, as per the promise, I was taken for a round to the Cockpit. The other pilot made me understand so many switches and gear s which I found too complicated to understand comparing it to my car. (I know, how dumb. But, we generally compare the things to the one which we own. What-eh-ver...)

While coming out I narrated the whole incidence to my pilot friend. And he suddenly burst into laughter. On asking him the reason he simply said, “There’s been a delay of 13 minutes logged in the register onto your name!!!”


The months passed and once again I was travelling with the same airline from Bangalore to Hyderabad. It was a smaller aircraft, an ATR. A pleasant morning and the flight was almost full. The flight took off. And the airhostess announced the pilot’s name. Guess what, he was one of my friends, once again. (You may say that this is the advantage of having only one friend as a pilot. And you would be known to many of them!!)

To say a Hi, I send my business to him with the help of an airhostess. She came back with a notification saying he’d meet me after a while.

It was almost twenty thousand feet above the sea level. I was enjoying the experience looking at to the clouds way beneath us. And there was my friend. Everyone was looking at him, and me, with a sceptical look. We chat for a while. And he left.

The rest of the flight was normal as usual, till the time I came out till conveyer belt looking for my luggage. He was in his fifties. Half of his hairs were gray. It looked like he would no longer be able to hold this question to himself. And finally he asked.

“Is it okay if A Pilot abandons his seat during the course of flight, at this height??” 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The city has its own way to teach the lessons of life.

This is Mumbai.
The city which does not sleep. The city with the determination to fight back. The city full of enthusiasm. The true metropolitan city, balancing the equation of religions and regions. It has its own colors. It has its own way to teach the lessons of life.
It was one of those busy evenings at VT railway station where everyone was in rush. Rush, for what? Rush to catch the local? Or have an appointment that can not be missed?? Or may be just because everyone was rushing. In fact, I was also one of them. I can not remember even one instance I’ve not rushed to reach railway station despite of having adequate time in hand. I simply don’t know why.
The station was filled with the people. It was 15 minutes to catch my local. I could luckily find an empty bench to seat on platform. I was listening to the radio and observing the movements of the people in co-ordination of the trains coming and going. Once the train is gone, you could find the platform empty, majorly. And within a minute of time, it’s again flooded with the passengers ready to board. I could see people waiting for the next train to come. It came. Everyone tried their best to get into the train, as if he or she was to get an award. Award - the place to seat or half a square feet to stand! The clock was doing its work with the utmost efficiency. Few seconds over 2 minutes were left for the train to leave. And suddenly my eyes got fixed on a movement. It was reflex to the sound made out of a run by a man in some weird manner. The man was running along side the train, I believe, to reach at a certain distant compartment. His run was haphazard with uneven steps, with a red and white stick in a hand and black glasses on eyes. Anyone could have easily said he was a Blind.
I couldn’t.
I didn’t take a time realize he was blind. I took time to digest the fact that a blind person is running on the platform to catch the train without anyone’s HELP. I was freeze. My thoughts just stopped where ever it was. Even before I could think to do anything, he was out of my sight, may be in his desired compartment. I took a time to come back to normal.  What should I call this? An immense act of courage with the highest level of self esteem? I don’t know. People say, It’s Mumbai, It has its own way to teach the lesson of life.
I travel two times a day in train. And I get enough time to converse with my mind and heart. I call them the biological mechanisms which never work in the harmonization with each other. Sometimes one wins, but majorly it ends up with a tie.
People gel with each others in no time. May be because they have enough time while travelling long? They smile, they talk; they share place to seat, they converse; they play cards and they fight. Everything happen everyday. These are the Mumbaikars. It’s become routine for them. Many of others don’t talk neither do the other things. They are frightened, frightened by the horrified stories seen on news channels, reading shocking articles in news papers and, most of all, hearing the so-called experiences heard from someone. They simply travel. And I’m one of them.
Recently, I visited very famous Kala Ghoda Art Festival, here in Mumbai. Everything was worth seeing. The sculptures, the paintings, the street performances and what not. Everything had one thing in common, Creativity. Everything was unseen before but one. The baggers and slum kids.
One of the stalls which had attracted everyone’s attention was Chocolate Fountain. Looking at to the hot chocolate running down from the top, my mouth started watering. Even while writing this!! I was attempting to buy one of the instant made products, and so the others, from the mass gathering. And at my notice, a few little faces were also trying to have glance of that never been seen before chocolate fountain, pushing the ‘Potential Buyers’ aside. There were five slum kids.
A good friend of mine has once said, “A YUVAiet will always be a YUVAiet”. I bought five Strawberry Chocolate Candies for them. Being a photographer, I wanted to capture the (happiest, for them) moment. I wanted to click that Hundred Billion smile on those five dirty faces with sparkles in their eyes. But, as expected, I couldn’t find even a single candy at the very next moment I bought it near to them. They were all well settled in their stomachs!!
Finally this is what I got on my lens!
The city has its own way to teach the lessons of life. Everyone finds their own ways out to the solution.
The blind man was not running to catch the train. He was running to get into the particular compartment so that he could travel with his ‘known’ co-travelers. The people in the train like to ‘Enjoy’ the time so that at-least for that time period they can enjoy their worries. They talk, they share, and they fight to balance their emotional imbalance. Five minutes after my ‘kindness activity’ to the children, when I looked back, I found another young kind heart doing something similar.
I’ve also learnt one lesson. Every one is capable enough to find a solution to the problem. It’s like finding the key to the lock. Just to wish for one thing, God won’t change the lock when you find the key!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mumbai Ma’am & Share-é-Taxi

Classification of one of the most complex creature on the earth, normally known as Human, has been done on various grounds. In Mumbai, everyone’s life is attached with local train. People are classified on the basis of their level of attachment with the local trains. First Class: The ones who don’t travel in local trains. Second Class: The people who travel in local train. And Third Class: The fraternity who lives beside the local train Tracks!! People say the life is fast in this city, everyone runs. Indeed. Everyone runs for a different cause, especially in the morning. First Class people (as described above) run (read jog) to maintain their physical and mental health. Second class people run to catch the local train. And third class people run to find a place where no one has shat before!!

Wot-eh-ver!! It’s Mumbai. 

The life has started becoming repetitive. Everyday waking up at 6.45 am, snoozing the alarm thrice before getting up, getting ready in next 45 minutes (not required to mention, inclusive of breakfast) and heading to the station to catch 8.03 ki local. Then again 42 minutes of talk-less travel which is quiet enough to turn you off from your mood to kick-start your day.

As mentioned earlier, the city has its own characteristics. The other modes of transport in the city, apart from local train, are Buses, Auto-Rickshaws and Taxis. The southern part of Mumbai, after Bandra, does not allow the Auto-Rickshaws to ply. (Don’t know why!)  So over there, the options left out are Bus and Taxi. To be mentioned here, the bus transits system B.E.S.T. is one of finest networks in the world. It covers over 430 sq km of the city, efficiently. But I hate busses. 

It takes almost double the time than normal to reach at a particular destination, and it never takes the route which’s simple and straight. So for me, the only option left out is taxi. One of the very famous office areas, where my office is situated, is known as Ballard Peer. It’s one of the costliest commercial areas in the town. One Sqr Ft would approximately cost around 1.5 Lac INR. It’s a secondary question to ask that whether any property is on sale or not. There are hundreds of Second Class people who come to fulfill the desire of those so called First Class people, devastating their own aspirations. 

So, to make it convenient for those hundreds of ‘9 to 5.30’ creatures, there are taxis which ply on the share basis. Rs 5 per person per ride, and it’ll drop you nearby your office. It’s the only Indian city where Fiat Padmini is still in existence, in such huge mass. The queue of those Black and Yellow colored vehicles would wait for their Annadatas. Each taxi would take 4 passengers at a time without giving preference to gender, religion or age. But majorly seen figures are of Guys, Aunties, Bosses, Chachas and some times, Ma’am.

It was again one of the very fine mornings in the same hope to travel the distance of 2 mins and 37 seconds accompanied by a female. Needless to say, how she should be. I was the third person to get into the taxi and took the seat in rear beside a middle aged gentleman. (And as expected, he was under some unseen and unexpressed stress.) Every one was looking at the watch, 3 mins to 9. God sake, I don’t want to be late. And than..

“Balard Street??”

A sugar coated, honey dipped, chocomelo voice that took everyone’s attention. There was an unexpressed smile on everyone’s face.

“Harroz jaati he fir bhi puchhati he, huh.”  Said driver, in a subdue voice.

“Yeah please get in, hurry up.” None other than my fellow passenger replied trying to be (over)smart. (Now let me tell you why I proclaimed him an over smart. There’s an unwritten rule in we guys that if YOU reply to the question asked by a Good Looking lady, YOU are smart. And if other guy does it, he is over smart. Simple.)
Yes, She was sitting beside me, taking the right side window seat. The following ride was the shortest learning ride I’ve ever had: What a woman can do in two and a half minutes?? Getting adjusted in the seat – thrice, finding out a compact make-up utility box from a bulging bag, touching up her looks looking at the miniature mirror, fumbling for hair-brush and mobile phone at the same time and brushing hairs and making phone call, again at the same time. Hewf. Such a multi-tasking personality.

I would say she was good looking, say 8 on 10. She was smart, 7 on 10. And she had attitude, 100 on 10.

On the route to the office, there’s one crossroad, where the taxi drivers invariably try to accelerate to break-through the signals and than break hard to find someone else doing the same, better than him!! So it was the time when my Shoes touched her Sandals. Note my words. It was not-at-all my fault and those were only shoes that touched her (Sandals). That’s it. The remaining time was the hardest one to kill.

Finally, by the mercy of the driver we could reach 25 seconds earlier than usual, and I took the breath, aloud!!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

“The city has it’s own style to make you run..”

First Day of my official posting in Mumbai, 8.40 am. Andheri Station.

“The city has it’s own style to make you run..”

As described by a lot of authors and picturized in dozens of the Bollywood movies, I could feel the enthusiasm and unexplainable form of energy running through my body. The mind was engrossed in receiving the rapid fire of instruction by my uncle about the Do’s and the Don’ts. I could see the local train in front of me that I would be soon riding into. I was excited, and nervous. And a dramatic thought of me missing the train, chasing and climbing it got choreographed in my mind. And as anticipated, the train started moving forward. WTF!! I could literally see myself being late in the office on the first day. And the thought of happening the same thing again and again everyday just traumatized me.

But hey, it’s Mumbai. As people say, “Yahanh pe teen cheezo ke piche kabhi nahi bhagna chahiye.. Bus, Train aur Ladki. Ek jaati he, Dusri aati he!!” And I heard the arrival of the next Local within couple of minutes. I felt the sigh of relief. And the day started.

Being tagged (Read ‘Officially Posted’) as Manager – Business Analytics (believe it or not, the so called Manager tag does give you some kind of (over)confidence!!) in Mumbai, pursued my mind very clear about traveling (only) in First Class. The city has some of the unique characteristics in its own. For example, if you’re a First Class traveler, you don’t require standing in a queue to purchase the ticket. You can just walk over to the window ignoring the looooong queue (!!!). That’s pretty cool, I thought. So I just walked over to the window, and my first encounter with the Mumbaiya Gal.

“Helow mister.. What are you doing??? Can’t you see the queue?? How can you just walk over ignoring the queue?? We are standing for so long to get the ticket. ’Have to catch the train.” It was like bombarding.

“But ‘have to buy a First Class ticket, for which there’s no line.” I said.

“What do you mean no line for First Class? You have money that doesn’t mean we stand for so long in queue and you just don care about” And so on and on. Woha!! I was literally set aback. My mind just stopped sending the reaction commands. Thank to the other First Class Mumbaiya traveler who rescued me from the situation, and finally I had a First Class ticket.

The office where I work is in southern Mumabi, the placed called VT – Victoria Terminus. Like the name only, it gives the glimpse of the British era. The buildings are Old and Marvelous. The roads are just wide enough to keep the dense green trees on both the sides apart from other, allowing the warm sunrays to light the earth surface. The area has been preferred by the legendary companies to establish their HQs. It also incorporates some of the govt. departments within its boundary. My office is situated on one side of a particular road which has a dock on its other side. It gives an excellent view from the top floor of the building to glance at the Ships movements, in the Dock as well as in the deep sea.

The first day at office passed in the curiosity to know about the work, work culture and the culture (in and around the office!!) The day ended in quiet a peaceful manner with an end note, making the coming days miserable, saying: “Punch in before 9 am, from Tomorrow.”

If I tell you about the geography of Mumbai, Andheri – the place I stay is 25 kms from VT. If someone takes the option of riding his car, his 16.67% of his day is gone on the road itself. And if Local Train is to be chosen, it comes to only 3 hrs in total. No wonder why Mumbai people chose to travel in the local trains even hanging outside the door or sitting on the roof. So my meaning of saying all these things was to make you realize that for reaching office at 9 in the morning, I’ve to wake up at 6.30 every morning. S**t!

With some kind of never-felt-before stress in mind, I started my journey to end the 1st day. While going back, just for the sake experience I bought the Second Class ticket. Yes, by standing in the looong queue. (Just to make comparison, 2nd class ticket is somewhere close to one tenth of the 1st class fare! I made some calculations in my mind. No way, my travelling expanse is going to grow by 975%. Wot??? This is one of the drawbacks of being an Analyst.)

I was waiting for the 6.06 pm train. The moment the train arrived (not completely) people started climbing on and getting off at the same time. Some how I could manage to get in the mass and surprisingly, I could get a place to seat. The ride started with the inquisitiveness to encounter the experience of traveling in second class. Time passed by and train started accommodating people like the never ending hunger of a politician. A time came when it was very difficult for anyone, who was standing, to raise the hand to scratch his head.
The tragic trip ended exactly after 42 mins of first class experience of travelling in second class. And so does the day.