Tuesday, 27 December 2011
Tuesday, 20 December 2011
Sunday, 4 December 2011
The past two weeks have been a learning experience to say the least. From picking up basic phrases in Arabic and learning concepts which govern occurrences sixteen-thousand feet down-hole to mastering the art of picking up pipes which are heavier than most dumb-bells I lifted in the Roorkee Gym, there has been a fair amount of inflow into the grey-cell area. It has been a great knowledge sharing experience for the people around me too! For example, the other day I had to explain to a fellow that Hind was not near Mexique but near Pakistan. He found the information hard to digest but he managed a smile at the end of it all. And then, there have been numerous occasions where I've had to inform fellow members of the human race that Islam and Christianity aren't the only two religions available to mankind. Another stunning fact, no?
As ignorant as they may seem, Egyptians are really friendly people. They make an effort to talk to you slowly and explain things again and again until finally you gather the essence of what they're saying. They're open and warm too. In fact, Egyptians impose their opinions upon strangers all the time. It's not something they consider rude. And they can barge into your room and then ask you if it's okay to come in. You can do the same to them, of course. They're a welcome change actually after all the stuck-up foreigners we get to see.
And then, there's the food! Salads and salads and a few salads more... There's olive oil, rice, bread and meat. These guys eat everything - from camels to pigeons. My 'bland' diet alarms them as much as a Vampire's would. I never thought I'd say this about salads, but they're quite delightful.
It's all a mix of the fun of discovery and the discomfort of change - something every travel is about, I suppose; the same bittersweet feeling that passes through you when the sun is about to set over a lonely oil rig in the desert. You know it's going a brilliant sight. But then again, it's going to get so cold!
Wednesday, 9 November 2011
Friday, 21 October 2011
Friday, 30 September 2011
Part Three: Great Gig In The Sky
Scheduled to land in Mumbai at 2030hrs, my plane reached ten minutes early as if by magic! Clearly there's a greater force dictating all this, I thought to myself, as I pulled my rucksack out of the overhead cabin. Sadly, in India, no one respects another person's urgency - everybody is in a hurry, you see - so I had to wait in line to deboard the plane. Running the length of the Mumbai Domestic Terminal, I reached the spot for International Transfers. Another baggage check and frisking later, I was on the bus to the international terminal. It was 8:45. The driver told me that he could reach the airport in twenty minutes if he drove fast. I reminded myself that the flight would take-off at 9:15. If I ran, I could perhaps make it.
At 9:00, we were at the international terminal and Jet Airways had the decency to send someone to pick me up from the bus. The lady in blue began helping me fill out my Emmigration Form, when her phone rang. She nodded twice and then looked at me in the eyes. "I'm sorry sir," she said. "You won't be able to make it."
There was a thunderous silence, which was only broken by the ringing of my cell-phone. Ismail was on the line. I didn't pick up. "We'll put you on tomorrow's flight," she said. I nodded meekly.
SLB HR has a weird way of hitting you when you're on the ground already. So, I should have expected their call next. "If you're not in Abu Dhabi by tomorrow morning, we might have to cancel your training," said the sing-song voice on the other side. Brilliant.
I begged and pleaded with Jet Airways once more until they finally gave in. "We got you a seat on a flight to Muscat, sir. Then you can take Oman Air to Abu Dhabi. The flight is in one hour; so hurry up with emmigrations..." Suits me, alright!
Part Four: Check Mate
The emmigration queue, like all queues in Mumbai, is really long. But it moves really fast, like everything else in Mumbai. So, I prayed to God that everything would go well when my chance came. As luck would have it, I was sent to Counter Six, manned by a rather strict, bald, old-looking man. When I gave him my passport, I noticed that he looked bit like ACP Pradhyuman.
Everything had been moving smoothly until now - until the man said the words, "Kya bakwas hai yeh? Visa dikhao..." I showed him a copy of my visa. Scrutinizing it for a while, he said, "Main tere ko nahin jaane dega," and ordered me to follow him to an inner room (which resembled Hollywood's representation of a KGB interrogation room) where we met a rather stout gentleman.
"Yeh dekhiye sa'ab," he told his boss. "Inka documents sahi nahin hai... Mujhe nahin lagta inko allow karna chahiye." The boss looked at the documents and then looked at me.
"Sir," I told him, "The Emmigration Check is to protect unskill..."
"Are you teaching me my job??" he demanded. "What is your visa validity?"
"Well, my company got it for me. It's a short-term visa... I'm only going for training, you see."
"I don't see," he said. "It must be printed here on the visa, but it's not here." He was right. There was nothing about validity on the visa copy. Great.
So, I telephoned SLB again. "What's my visa's validity?" I barked.
"I don't remember exactly," came the prompt response. "But it's short."
"How short?" I asked.
"Well, the validity is printed on the back-side of your visa... but we didn't scan that side of the document."
You're a bloody genius, aren't you? I hung up. There was still one way out - my degree!
I waved the Provisional degree on his face and said, "Sir, this is a BTech from IIT... Surely, this'll help us resolve matters."
"Degree kahan hai?"
"Yahi to hai..." I said.
"Yeh Provisional hai... I need original degree. Layega kya?" said the smart man.
"That's not possible... Please tell me what I must do... I need to go," I pleaded with the unreasonable fool.
"Visa validity chahiye. Ask the airline guys - they'll have it," he said, after some consideration. 30 minutes to take-off!
I went to Jet once more, this time to ask for my visa's validity. They said that they'd need a few hours to search their database using some highly advanced queries. Murphy, you freaking genius...
But even Murphy get's it worng sometimes. Another official came up to me and said, "I'll tell you what... Try going to another counter. Try your luck again... It might work." So, he made me enter another section of the line.
Fifteen minutes left and the final boarding call was announced. I was summoned to counter 31 this time. On the other side sat a dark, young-ish woman who looked far more affable than the idiot at Counter Six. She took my passport, turned the page and winced. "Visa?" she asked. I produced mine.
"Twenty days," I said. "Here's my return ticket!" I showed it to her, trying to look as pleasant as possible.
"I need proof, no?" she said, almost staring through me.
"Ma'am, my flight has almost left! Besides, I'm going to UAE to study, not for work!" I lied.
Thoroughly confused, she began saying something when my name was announced on the PA once more.
"Ma'am, that call is for me... It's all in your hands now. If you stop me, you'll damage my life forever," I said to her slowly. She looked at me once again and then reluctantly, she banged the stamp on my passport.
Muscat, here I come!
Part Five: Private Plane
I don't have fond memories of Seeb International, Muscat, as I associate it mostly with leaving the beautiful country in 1999. All that has been changed now.
At 0040 Oman Time, the friendly Omani at the boarding gate called me, not by announcement but by gesturing with his hands. Then he told me, "My friend, I have some news for you... You are the only passenger on the plane."
"Only passenger... You understand? One only! Warahada..."
I don't know if I was flabbergasted, elated or anxious, but the next one hour was one of those special hours in one's life. As I entered the flight, I was greeted by both the air-hostesses, an Arab and a Filipino, who said, "Welcome to Oman Air. Choose your seat... You can take any one!" And they giggled.
I got myself a wonderful window seat in front of the wings. With a scheduled departure at 0120, the main flight attendant, a middle-aged Arab, walked up to me at 0105 and said, "If you are ready, we can take-off... Air-space clear, you see?"
Here he was asking me if I was ready for take-off! "Oh, alright! As you wish!"
"But first, we shall instruct you," he said, and the air-hostess was by my beside once more giving me personal instructions. The flight attendant even showed me where exactly the life-jacket was under the seat. (I've never been able to find it until today) "In case of emergency, we have two exits in front, two at the back and four over the wings... Choose your exit as you please, sir!"
Soon, we were in the air, and Capt. Wilson made his announcement. "Hi Mr. Anirudh, this is your captain... Hope that you are enjoying your VVIP flight. I don't have the privilege of flying too many passengers alone like this; thank you for flying with Oman Air. In case you need anything, please feel free to contact Ahmed, your flight attendant or any of the air-hostesses. Hope you have a pleasant flight!"
A few delicious Arab bites later, my flight came to a halt at Abu Dhabi International. As I left the plane, I used one of the words I read in on the in-flight magazine. "Shukran!" I said, raising my palm to my forehead.
"Aafwen," they said together.
Sunday, 18 September 2011
Friday, 9 September 2011
Sunday, 4 September 2011
Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Friday, 22 July 2011
"Hasta La Vista, Baby" - Also Arnold Schwarzenegger (shortly thereafter)
It's not often that I read a blog-post which I think I could so easily have been the author of, but given the state of affairs over the last few months, it's not really that surprising: Any 'Goodbye' post I read seems to srike a chord.
I absolutely detest those lingering moments at the door, before you turn your back, knowing that you may never see a person ever again, but leaving prematurely is probably only worse. At least, this way, there is some closure.
It's really weird that in a world which we claim has grown so small, it is easier to lose touch with people than it was in the feudal age.Of course, people will argue that with the telephone and the internet, one can never be cut off from friends, but let me assure you that it is not the case. The aforementioned devices are but cheap virtual substitutes to something which is very real - much like the food-pills in SciFi world... Oh, one can only hope GoogleBelch doesn't become a reality!
The break-up with Roorkee is still fresh in my mind, and although it doesn't hurt now, it alarms me... When something stops hurting you, complacency sets in. And this is the beginning of The Drift. Soon, the person just becomes a red/green name on your GTalk friend-list, and you can never ping them again. But you won't delete them either. It's rather irritating, and I'm sure you've faced it too.
The only way out is never to say goodbye. There must be no permanence in absence, and one must endeavour to make this real: As Murty keeps saying, 'au revoir' is the way out.
In Tamil, it amazes me that there is really no word for 'Goodbye'. We simply say 'poitu varen' or the shorter, more colloquial 'varen' - which means 'I'll be back'. It simplifies things.
For nine long years, Bessi has played home to a bunch of people who had nowhere else to go and absolutely nothing else to do. This is not goodbye. There will be so much more 'nothingness', I assure you!
Tuesday, 12 July 2011
Monday, 4 July 2011
Saturday, 28 May 2011
Saturday, 14 May 2011
Saturday, 7 May 2011
Sunday, 1 May 2011
The decibel is upped, swallowing the still
In the burning lamps, red turns green
One thousand people palisade him, til’
He’s aware of none but the Lavender girl.
Standing her side, he watches her long
Until in her eyes, he finds his own…
A maudlin sigh, then with a smile so strong
She gazes at him through the cast-iron bars.
He has grown to love the way she laughs
And wishes she wouldn't do any of it now;
For when your world is being torn in halfs,
You cannot bear to listen to that voice.
As a monochrome man on grey cement earth,
Clumsily, he clutches the cold window grille
Black and white and colours without mirth
She reaches out but cannot touch his hand.
He opens his mouth so he can speak
But words don’t flow from a gated heart
Words for the brave, tears for the meek
He fights them back as the Lavender girl leaves.
Bow out with dignity, to himself he says
Kill all passion and restore peace:
He begins to erase their together-days
And erases a part of himself too.
The moment has passed, the train pulls away
Along the platform, he keeps up pace
Knocking over many an invisible man
As he wipes a tear off her face.
A million greys pile upon him
As he gasps and falters; seizes to run
He watches the train disappear dim
That Lavender shade is his no more.
Monday, 4 April 2011
The blogger in me was still unborn when I first undertook the rigorous time-trial of a mid-semester examination. Those were days when my Branch-change dreams were still in their infancy; when I saw everything through rose-tinted lenses. The new Central Library had just been opened (and wasn’t the hostile MGCL of today) and India was yet to win the T20 World Cup.
Today, I see tinges of grey even as I re-read my post, though I know that the rose-tinted lenses have just sauntered back on for their second-innings. TSs have always been a time when I’m at my element – at least on my blog (my Glory, Glory Ghissing days are a distant memory). I once made a promise and I've endeavoured to fulfil it over the past few years: Write a blog-post on the eve of every TS. 2011 hasn't exactly been the konfessions’ golden age, and I must be forgiven for last time.
But I won’t fail twice. The days prior to a TS are days when the mind is at its creative best. Make all Indians write TSs and I swear to you that we’ll be a superpower before Armageddon – 2012.
It feels strange and rather disturbing that there was once a time I could write seven exams in two days in relative comfort. Today, three in as many days feels like an ordeal. But it’s probably a lot when you think of the fact that we have only five contact hours in a week. Nevertheless, I must turn away from my blog so I can ensure that this TS is, indeed, my last.
Goodbye TS. I shall miss you.
Friday, 25 March 2011
Monday, 14 March 2011
Some of my fondest moments in Watch Out News Agency, and thus on campus, involve staring at the old tree which the wise old dog speaks about so highly. I’m sure most people who have stared in wonderment at the old tree’s majestic upper-branches will empathize with me when I say that the profoundest of thoughts jump out of its withering bark.
I’m quite certain campus Wi-Fi jumped out of it while it was a few rings younger and maybe co-ed hostels will emerge one fine day, as most of us fancifully dream. But usually, staring results in – The E&C Tower. What to do with the E&C tower? How to blow it up? How to throw oneself to the Gaon using the mighty concrete tower as a giant trebuchet? And so on…
While the greatest ‘Rank’ I’ve written would involve ways of getting oneself into SB and staying there undetected, all other spots in my top ten list would have something to do with the mysterious phallic structure. Fucchas, year after year, are bedazzled by the brilliant Main Building and baffled by the weird tower mastering the slope. And seniors leaving the institute inevitably harbour one unfulfilled dream – “Damn, I never scaled it!” Well, I did. (Albeit with a few score others)