I used to sit on the 21st floor. Now I am retired

Friday, December 29, 2006

Ever been put 'in the hold' by an airline?

One of the things which frequent flyers like me have to endure is the painful feeling of being put on hold, when trying to check-in, check flight timings or conduct any other regular activity on the phone. In this respect, almost all airlines are bad (except for the lovely lady Kingfisher, which is always prompt). This is regular matter, unless you call them at an unearthly hour, in which case they would not even pick the phone.

They airlines will make you listen to music or their background conversation (or both), till you get bored to death and keep the phone down. On the other hand, if you actually die, you'll be be put in the hold.

Incidentally, in case you don't want to be put in the hold by an airline, please follow the following rules:
  1. Don't climb onto a plane right after your scuba lessons
  2. No oral contraceptives, though, if you must indulge in them, take an Aspirin before the flight
  3. No smoking before a long haul flight, which incidentally is a good rule to follow even if you are not flying
This and much more in this wonderfully instructive TOI article.

Three Lives in Student Politics

I discovered that I am on a holiday today. I went through the entire newspaper. Not only today's edition but the last few days. One curious feature got my attention.

Called Three lives in Student Politics, it profiled 3 random student politicians. Why do I say random? Well, the subjects range from an "18-year old, bespectacled, first-year student of Sociology Honours at Janki Devi College" whose biggest achievements in politics were losing the Head Girl election at her school, to the Delhi state unit secretary of ABVP.

The topic was interesting, no doubt, but the treatment from the interns who did the piece was, as expected, bland. Except for the fact that the ABVP woman stating that 'she admires Congress President Sonia Gandhi as a “very strong woman”', there was not much that could not have been written without meeting the people concerned. At least in the first two pieces.

The third, however, is amazing. The web-edition itself is funny. It starts with 'Subhonil Chowdhury’s unkempt hostel room in JNU smells of unwashed clothes and wrinkle-free ideology.' The photograph of his room clearly show the unwashed clothes. The none-too-generous tone that Sutirtho Patranobis adopts shows up through rest of the article as well, and he just stops short of saying "Son, Leftist-Weftist bahut ho gaya, ab kaam kya karoge?". Or he doesn't... 'Subho is aware that there is a world outside the cosy comfort of a tree-lined walk to Ganga Hostel dhaba and the romance of hearing Karat speak of Cuba, Chavez and Left resurrection late at night, huddled with friends in the packed auditorium. But he does not know what he’ll do in that world yet.' (Italics mine)

The punch, though is missing in the web-edition. While the byline for the NSUI article is "The NSUI is the youth's springboard to the Congress Party. But why would anyone want to join it?" and the ABVP is "The ABVP is BJP's student wing. Check out its Delhi State Unit's secretary's worldview.", the "Lal Salaam Land" article has a wicked stance. Just look at what's written just below the photograph. Talk about newspapers trying to maintain an unbiased perspective.

Page 2 (HT Metro) in the Epapers has the 3 articles, in case you want to read them: NSUI, ABVP, SFI.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Not bad!

Top five food cliches that I get my goat

5) "The top-note's crysanthemum, the base note's amber"
There are those who start drinking in college. They consume mostly Old Monk Rum. At parties, they finish the Vodka. They prefer beer, but it's not VFM. Then, they start earning money and find their drink. Whisky for the real men and women. Vodka for the others. Beer for those who don't care about labels like real men and women.

Then, there are those who have nary a clue about alcohol. They start drinking wine. And start analysing the bouquets and the legs. You will find them in expensive restaurants and at their homes finding traces of rose-petals, bell-peppers, cut-grass and tobacco in their wines. Humbug. Gets my goat.

4) "Ketchup"
The Aga that we know exemplifies this affliction, but he's not the only one. Ketchup is the new chilli. Over the last year, I have seen everything from tempura to steak being smothered by kethup. Why, even pizzas are smothered by ketchup irrespective of the fact that Indian restaurants are already putting a lot of it on the base. However, the worst was when sushi... Ketchup comes at no. 4.

3) "And vegetarian for you, sir, right?"
Under the larger umbrella of 'Do Indians eat meat?'. I was in a Hong Kong restaurant, in the IFC mall, waiting to eat the eight course meal. There was seafood, there were fresh oysters, there was a steak made from Argentinian beef, there was the humble chicken as well - on the pre-set menu. Then, the waiter comes to me and says, "And vegetarian for you, sir, right?". Wrong. Even the thought is revolting.
"Okay, then, normal food, right?"
"Of course."

Just because the hordes of software engineers (largely South Indian, largely from cultured families) and Gujjus (largely tourists, largely eaters of dhoklas) and the intersection of those two sets, can't seem to eat any real food, doesn't mean that Indians don't eat meat. 70% of us do.

However, I can't blame the world. The aforementioned highly visible groups will invariably crunch up their noses and exclaim, "I can't eat anything here. It's a sea-food place", whenever they are in a decent restaurant. Or they will go one step ahead and ask for some curd and some rice to go along with their meal and then devour it with wild abandon. And give rise to such terrible myths.

2) "It's better to waste food in a dustbin rather than in your stomach"
While as a principle, I have a problem with the logic, since I believe that at the margin, food in one's tummy is not a waste while food in the dustbin surely is, this is not about the principle. This is instead about the implication of the principle. Time after time, those who can afford to waste food will over-order, or will serve themselves huge servings at the buffet, only to finish their meals with laden plates and smirks.

After all, "It's better to waste food in a dustbin rather than in your stomach".

1) Dhaba food's great. (If you don't like it, you're a 'pseud'.)
What do I say about this one? A shallow menu, deep garnish of coriander on every dish, huge slabs of tasteless butter put over everything... And that's talking about the positives.
...Unwashed vegetables, bones instead of meat, and that's only the keema I am talking about, two basic tastes - bland or burning hot, rotis with uncooked centres and burnt edges.

Plus, these days, even the prices aren't low. Shacks in the middle of the city, pretending to be dhabas, were always way too pricey for the unconventional fare in unclean plates that they were known for. Now, even the highway dhabas have caught up, charging prices according to the vehicle of the diner. But obviously I can't complain. Reverse snobbery and peer pressure is strong enough.

Incidentally, I went on a two-day trip to Mussourie and realised that there's no such thing as a weekend getaway to Mussourie. The damn journey takes eight hours by road, and you can add time if you decide to sample the local 'cuisine' and take pit-stops on the way.
Yet, among the highlights were the room with our own private terrace at a 60% discount, the 'Black Gold' that I found in the momo shop and the Thukpa I had in a Tibetan restaurant, opposite the SBI on Mall Road. The sweet and sour pork sucked though, as did most of the eggs that I had on the trip. I also took some photos, but they are in someone else's camera so please wait. The travelogue will follow with it.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

My turnips listen for the soft cry of your love...

... and more such examples of Cybersex Gone Wrong.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

So, I return

After three failed attempts, a few unkept promises, a few bloglinks and a dropping technorati ranking, I am back. Where I started.

It's almost a year since the blog really started. I was lying ill in my room in Bombay thinking about life and friends and others, when I thought I should start blogging. Attend to the whimper that had escaped in October and really give birth to what had been conceived.

Life turns full circle. I'm lying ill in my room again. And the mind foments. Here goes... Top 10 reasons why Dhoomk2 disappeared for two months and didn't even bother to write a little letter:
1) He was praying for Messiah's reappearance on the scene and had committed that there will be no more musings from 22nd floor till we are delivered to salvation. Incidentally, how does 9, 8, 1, 10, 9, 17, 65, 8, 18, 11 compared to 4, 18, 51, 2*, 26, 5, 20, 19, 2, 31?

2) Not much happened in India that needed clarity, yes, besides the Press giving itself the right to decide Ram Jethmalani's career moves and Abhishek Bachchan's marriage, further moves by Arjun Singh and Greg Chappel to destabilise the nation (especially when the Parliament spends as much time debating Chappel as education) and the idea that Deepak Parashar and Deepak Tijori can be captivating when put in a room with Roopali Ganguly and Ragini someone.

3) He was flighting a copyright violation case against the worst film of the year.

Please, instead of deciding who to feel sorry for in case they marry and cooking up survey figures, the Press should insist that Abhishek Bachchan should act (instead of scowling through the entire film) and that Aishwarya Rai shouldn't be given dialogues, especially lengthy opening ones. Ever since Hema Malini made a career out of highlighting every alternate syllable and thus, turning normal dialogues into songs in Iambic Pentameter, nobody had come close to destroying his or her credibility like the way Sunahri did with cricket commentary in Dhoom2.
Talking of Aishwarya, she does look fetching in corsets, but so does Tom Cruise.

4) He wasn't taking many flights, though he must mention that Kingfisher's the loveliest lady in town and he will not mind putting his coat over a puddle where the lady lands. Dhoomk2 actually turned up at the airport seven minutes before the Kingfisher flight took off and managed to find his way to the flight. For he had a personal emergency and they relented and provided him support. This, even when, he didn't mention that he was The Dhoomk2 himself. Now, if only they would play Friends instead of Hutch Great Indian Laughter Champions Challenge Dwitiya.*

5) He didn't have much to link to, besides an old favourite of Doordarshan, and a reason for a new interest in Maths. When'll IIT do something similar like the fine friends in the latter link and really uplift my mood, instead of holding Pan-IIT meets to save the nation? (Hat-tip: Helmet)

6) He didn't check the incoming links too often and failed to notice this gem. Apparently, planes in India have turned into trains. And no, this is not about being snooty and questioning the rights of the great unwashed to travel in planes (though Dhoomk2 does have some opinions about people with nary a clue about where the loos are trying to queue up next to the emergency doors to do their thing).

All he is saying is that the great Indian tradition of families coming to see off the kids has reached the planes. What would 'seeing off' be, without the obligatory tiffin carrier of aloo poori, luchi aloor dom, taiyyar saadam or thepla and the newspaper/ magazine bought at A.H. Wheelers? More importantly, what would 'seeing off' be, unless the whole family descends on a single seat, blocks the way for other passengers and makes small talk like, "Onno station-e naambina kintu. Train chere dile mushkil" (Don't get off on other stations. If the train starts moving, it'll be difficult) while waiting for the train to move, when millions of them will get off in hordes, thus miraculously leaving behind vacuum, palpable excitement and fresh air.

As you can see, Indian mothers and aunts are best at sermonising on trifles while living on the edge themselves. However, no mother or aunt has ever come close to her. The mother who came to see-off her boy.

“Seat belt mat kholna, samjhe (Don’t take off your set belt, understand)”, or some such thing the middle-aged lady said, finger lifted, to the boy, between five and eight years, in the plane. When the air-hostesses confronted her — as she had stood up while the plane was about to move — she told them she was there to say bye to her son. “I’m a parent, and you should know how to talk to a parent,” she told them in Hindi, little realising that she had achieved what any militant would be proud of.

7) He was waiting till the sitemeter touched 0 and decided to give up the moment the daily count touched single digits instead.

8) He was busy on Orkut, copying all his friends's details (social, professional and personal) to paper. Then he went to each of his friend's friend's list and copied all the names on to a few sheets of foolscap paper. Then he couldn't stop and copied all the friend's friend's details on to a few pieces of paper as well. In all, he ended up with 23,483 pieces of foolscap paper, but it was worth it.
Everybody on Orkut, two degrees removed from him is on those papers. The records are safe and Dhoomk2 feels safely interconnected. Now, if only someone puts an alert system which will enable users to know when this network increases. For otherwise, Dhoomk2 will need to traverse 300 friends and average 150 friends each for each of his friends to find new additions. This is clearly inefficient. And takes away time from blogging. However, Mr. Patil forces Dhoomk2 to do this.

9) He thought it will be cool to replicate last year which proves that life goes around in circles. It had been almost a year since the blog really started. He was lying ill in his room in Bombay in December 2005 thinking about life and friends and others, when he thought he should start blogging. Attend to the whimper that had escaped in October and really give birth to what had been conceived. Thus, in 2006, he stopped in October... with a whimper. The content and the size of the post pretty much similar to the one 53 weeks back. And now he starts again.

10) He was dying at work. What else? He'll still die for a few more days, but let this be a tribute to one of the best trailers he ever saw. The name is k2, Dhoomk2.

* On a related note, he hates Jet. They didn't even wait for two minutes past the half-hour prior to boarding the flight mark, before allocating the ticket to some heathen who was on the waitlist. Joey and Friends notwithstanding, you suck.

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