Monday, 26 November 2007

I have had a very bad case of throat viral since last 4 days or so. Haven't had a moment to think about or do anything at all. As I promised Morinn, here are some pics from my Bangalore visit.



<- My room in the villa













More of my Room














<- The door to my private balcony. How many nights have I spent here, on the edge, a Classic mild tucked between my lips, a Foster's ready and waiting and my thoughts curling away from me in deep spirals of smoke.










<-- view from my balcony and just outside the villa.













<-- Way to the clubhouse and the Gym












Thats all I have right now, didnt get to click much since I was mostly either in the office or in the villa. I hope to publish some more from my Delhi trip!

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Well so the last time we met, I had collected my luggage from the conveyor belt (can’t remember now which one) and had made my way to the waiting cab and the guest house. The ride to the guest house was for most part uneventful and I can summarize my cab experience as that of riding a giant roller coaster ride. More often than not I felt I would be thrown off and killed while at other times I was worried sick for the lives of my fellow denizens (the poor people on the road). The driver drove with a vengeance against whomever and whatever dared cross his path and aimed with the intention to run over the poor souls.

But anyways I reached the guest house and rang the bell. The door was opened by a very sleepy and hassled caretaker who must be about 16 years of age. He welcomed me to the villa and showed me my room. Soon enough the realization of still being alive after the BA flight and the cab ride sank in and the mortal sensations of fulfilling my official duties and cravings of hunger and thirst started nagging at me. I asked the caretaker (Raju this point onwards) if there was anyway he could get me some toasts and if I could have internet in here. I was delighted to the point of being ecstatic when he replied in affirmative to both of my questions. While I was busy unpacking my stuff I heard some clitter clatter outside my room which was followed by a brusque knock followed by a walking hodge podge of entangled wires, a router, a cordless phone (titled Reliance), electrical adapters, extension cords, plugs and voltage converters and somewhere between all this a still sleepy and a little haggard – Raju.

The poor chap had brought the entire ensemble to my command! I was seriously in no mental state to deal with this. I just let him do his job and he deftly connected everything with a precision and expertise that suggested that he is quiet used to the entire exercise. Soon he was finished and invited me to connect my laptop to the “internet”.

At which point I realized that this was a wireless router and he didn’t have to “uproot” this entire assembly from wherever it was located in the villa and that all I had to do to connect to the “internet” was to simply power up my laptop and switch on the wireless adapter! I felt so sorry for Raju and was about to explain this whole thing to him as kindly as I could when suddenly the ground shook, walls rumbled, windows rattled and the air became thick. It was as if a volcano erupted somewhere in the vicinity creating this violent turbulence in the hitherto calm and peaceful ecosystem of Bangalore. I was frantically looking for something to hold onto, to steady the ground beneath my shaking feet when a voice originated from as if the very deep core of the earth carried itself on the suddenly hot thick air as if it owned the air as well as the entire atmosphere and along came a cry which reverberated in the very walls of the villa and the bowels of the earth and yelled – “RAJU”! Damn! The guy knew demons from the underworld or something man and they called his name and I had made him get all the router etc…damn damn and more damn!

On hearing his name, Raju turned on his heels promptly but his face didn’t betray his inner state whatsoever that might be. I seriously had no idea what to expect when the door to my room flew open and hair disheveled, feet thumping, voice booming, arms flaying strode in this American (special emphasis here) lady who was pretty pissed about something and made no efforts to hide it. She gave me a very amusingly contemptuous stare (re’r my all black attire?) and a menacingly quizzical look to Raju and then her eyes found the ensemble of wires, phones and routers. She turned to face me, her eyes punching burning holes through the fabrics of my clothes onto my skin and she asked me “What is going on, what have you done to the internet?” Note please that there wasn’t a slightest attempt at familiarizing oneself with a complete new person, no concern for unnecessary social protocols or salutations but a straight line of approach towards the most important thing in question – the internet!

PS: I was seriously intimidated here (remember the Jamaican? Id have taken him down like I made that kid see my shoe).

I gave her one of my most polite (read respecting) smiles and tried to introduce myself. I tried to explain that I have just moved in and I needed to get in touch with my office and Raju here was trying to help me achieve that. Well she wasn’t impressed but of course and instead said that this all has made her lose her connection with the HQ in US and that she is now would have to do so much again and again and blah blah blah blah…… The most curious of her accusations was that since I had plugged in a wire to the Ethernet port of the router straight to my laptop, this had made the wireless network ineffective and had thus disconnected her. Obviously the fact that the router had no power for about 20 minutes while all this was going on had little or no importance at all. What all mattered was that Ethernet wire going in from the router to my laptop.

Well by this moment now I was to hassled, haggard, tired and dead beat to argue about anything with anyone. I invited her to kindly (notice my still sticking to the social protocols) feel free to do whatsoever she deemed best even if that meant her kicking my sorry butt (okay so not really decent anymore now am I?) out of the villa and on the road in addition to probably reporting my scavenging of “her” internet to the company HQ in the US and maybe write a formal letter of complaint to the president of India, the US, the queen of Britain while filming my uttermost cruelty of stealing “her” internet on a video camera and selling it off to all the news channels in the world and then calling up all my friends, families, associates, colleagues, managers and my entire social circle to tell me what a heartless, sad, mean, self centered pathetic excuse of a human being I am who didn’t pause to think the entire permutation combinations of his actions on the entire human race or who didn’t consider all the pain, suffering, torture and stress he would inflict on his fellow villa occupier (whose existence he didn’t know off mind) before he requested to be connected to his office to check his emails.

Jeez!

Raju disassembled the whole menagerie again and no sooner that they were out of room that I closed the door and crashed on the bed. The moment I got to my office I wrote this email to my manager which I am copying here. Have a laugh, everyone else did!

"

And so my stay in Bangalore hasn't really started with a bang of excitement, well not at least of the right kind! Some whigmaleerie fancies apart I wanted to get your approval on some basic Darwin defined survival of the fittest kind requirements.

The guest house is far away from the city. Errr....think like that remote corner of Horsell where you can only reach on foot. Now remove the foot option because there is no solid road, all that there is a puddle of some sorts wherein cabs the size of land rovers can float by Harry Potter style wizardry. Cool eh? Office has a cab to drop me back to the guest house in the evening but I am told that I would have to leave at 4:40 IST since the guest house is kinda aloof and all cabs are busy at the normal office leaving hours. My only option to stay in the office till normal working hours is to take a cab (private) back to the guest house in the evening which would cost around 3-5GBP per day.

For dinner I have to somehow make my way to the city which I did try last evening by taking a bus. I never thought I would enjoy so much the sensation of being kidnapped, handcuffed, gagged and taken to some hitherto undiscovered parts of this planet! To return back to the guest house I hitched a few rides. Managed to reach the guest house at about 12 in the night and woke everyone up. I now understand the exhilarations of near death experiences and possess a new respect for life. It was one of those clich├ęd Hollywood types "real learning experiences". Not to mention that people now go "Holy shit! You actually managed to travel in a bus in Bangalore" and look up to me as Paul Revere or someone. I am beginning to like this new attention to be honest.

So my options to food are

a) Do not eat : Great to lose weight but I'd rather exercise

b) Push my luck every night: Try picking the right bus and hope to Lord that I have enough left in me to hitch rides back.

c) Take a cab: Kchiiiinnggg!! costs about 8-10 GBP for a return trip.

d) Pay the keeper to cook food in the guest house: Great! But he is leaving for his village this weekend for about 2-3 months. There is someone else who would take his place but don't know about whether that bloke can cook or not. As it is the guest house (survival?) guide says that lunch and dinner will not be served in the guest house.

I am inclined to use option (c). Any thoughts?

And I trust you would have seen my email about using telephone in the guest house. Long story short, there is no cellular network and without some kind of a number I can only call within Bangalore. Pity I don’t have relatives here and our London office is not in Bangalore. Tsk tsk!

Good man Thomas that he stayed with Special K!

All this apart I am enjoying immensely. Would send a postcard soon!

Now a special word about “Billie” a.k.a. the monster internet lady. We became good friends within a couple of hours on the breakfast table that very morning and it seems that she was having a particularly difficult morning when I landed in the villa. We had real good fun for about 10 days that she was there with me which included gate crashing a hotel’s private bar, having strolls amongst probably very shady areas of Bangalore etc. She is a real nice lady and she has my complete respect and admirations (well okay intimidation too!). I would have had a real bad time in Bangalore had she not been there. And Billie if you are reading this, well I told you I would write about you! You can put in your comments(your side of the story) on this blog about this post by clicking the link which shows how many comments are on this post right now. Look immediately below this post. I have enabled anonymous comments so you dont have to reveal your email id or anything.

Kill me the next time ok? :D

Saturday, 3 November 2007

And what a comedy of errors this has been! Wow, voila, whoops and darn! Lol!

So then this one would be much like a “Dear diary” post but then what the heck, after all that I have been through on this trip I seriously don’t give a damn!

Let us begin from the beginning then shall we? So here I am on the morning of 24th all packed and ready to roll and the cab shows up before time (surprise!) and my luggage is all under weight and I roll it down the stairs and open the door of the cab and slip in and almost faint.

No not with anything pleasant.

The cab was reeking of cigarette smoke and all forms of human (and possibly animal) abuse. Seats were as dirty as they could be and I had to really sit in a huddle to prevent any part of my body touching any extremity of the cab which was not essential to my commute. The driver was a very impolite gentleman who on my suggestion of turning down the blazing gale of volcanic steam issuing from the car’s ventilation system gave me such a freezing look in the rear view mirror that my soul got max chilled out instantly. Well I wasn’t hot anymore so let’s mark it as a “tick” i.e. done, fair enough!?

I manage to reach Heathrow, so far so good. Well yes I would admit that my stride had lost that leap which it had prior to my opening the door of the cab and I wasn’t really walking anymore like a bad impression of Will Smith (which I think is kinda good, eh?) but still I was looking forward to my 9.5 hour journey in the World Travel Plus (Premium Economy) class of BA to Bangalore. I had never flown BA before and so I literally had no idea what to expect. What’s more I had never even stepped foot on the terminal 4 of Heathrow (LHR this point onwards). I had my seat booked in as a prior arrangement (courtesy web check in) and I was delighted since I had managed to nab the window seat in the first row of premium economy! Yes that’s right, I was the king of the world and nothing could stand in my way.

Well other than the baggage drop of BA where there was a single line for economy and premium economy and where (with all due respect and possible tinge of very slight almost miniscule intimidation) was this extra large group of extra large and extra stout Jamaicans who made it a point to take as much time checking in their luggage as was probably allowed by the integral and differential equations of quantum mechanic factoring in Einstein’s theory of relativity. I had almost drifted through the quantum foam and reached the other dimensions of one of the many parallel other universe when suddenly a rough hand gushed me forward and the waiting gentleman ushered me to the next free counter.

Confident of the weight of my luggage I dropped it on the conveyor belt with the flourish of Houdini himself and beamed my most radiant smile at the lady sitting at the desk. She did me the courtesy of simply looking up, purse her lips and uttered the most magical words “Passport please.” I handed her my passport she looked through it, gave me the boarding pass and I was all set.

What? You were expecting something to go wrong here as well? How evil, how utterly vile.

But then of course it did happen.

When she told me to stuff my laptop bag in my handbag. I looked at her with all the dignity of a wounded monkey who fell from the branch in mid flight during one of his best possible Tarzan imitation ululating the feared cry that shakes the entire jungle and made my protests claiming that their site says that since I am in premium economy I am allowed two 23 Kgs checked in baggage and one handbag and a laptop case. Why should I then take my laptop out, deform this magnificent leather beauty of the carrying case into a crumpled heap and stuff it in my handbag? Ahh that loving beauty, her words still resonate with such a precision of Beethoven’s symphony, I could perhaps devote an Apocrypha to her. She parted her luscious lips and out flew the mellifluous elixir of literary verbiage – “Well sir we as airline do exactly allow what we claim, but BAA as an airport authority doesn’t. So once you are past security you can take your laptop case out”.

Duh! What do I say to this now. Well but of course I said “Thank you very much. But would you be kind enough to write this on your website as well please?” A just remark you would agree with me, yes? Well she didn’t and said that if I had any complaints she can refer me to the Customer Grievances Process (which sounded like another process to make their customers grieve) to which I gave another of my Houdini hand flourishes and moved on, partly because I was beginning to feel the waves of heat coming out of the nostrils of the other big Jamaican fellow who was behind me in the line. Not that I was afraid (I go to gym you see) but why invite trouble for someone else.

So then I took out my laptop crushed the beauty of its carrying case (little did I know I had my iPod, webcam and headphones in it, ouch!) and stuffed it in my handbag. I reached the line for security and with complete dignity of a guy in black pajamas, black sweatshirt and black shoes (hey I look good in black all right!) I took my place in the line. So here I am standing in the line ho humming during this eternal wait to reach the pearly gates when suddenly I feel that I have just been made a legend.

Sorry, a typo, I meant to write “leg end”.

I turned around promptly to see this approx 3 year old boy in his pram busy aiming another one of his kicks towards my posterior (that’s “butts” for you). Confused and utterly bewildered I looked at his mother who gave me a very apologetic smile, shrugged her shoulders and carried on her chitter chatter with her next line neighbor. I looked down at the kid again, he gave me one of his “bad boys bad boys whatcha gonna do whatcha gonna do when I come for you” smile and started aiming his kick again. I made a show of inspecting my shoe and made the boy realize that I wear a size ten shoe and if I were to innocently step back I would probably do a reasonable amount of harm to his little feet than what he could do to me even if he hurled his little body as fast as he could towards my ahem “sensitive areas”. As soon as the gesture was over the smile on the boy’s face faded and out came a resonating wail which started at his larynx and echoed in every possible hidden corner of the airport making my insides squirm and quiver. Yes he started crying in all possible frequencies on the human audio spectrum and drew the attention of all of the air port towards me by pointing one of his fingers straight at my innocent heart.

How I wished that Jamaican had taken me down while I was in the checking in line. Oh! Just how much did I wish.

So amidst a barrage of sobs, wails, accusatory finger pointing and looks of pure loathing, contempt and disgust by my fellow passengers I made my way to the security gate where thankfully no alarms sounded, buzzers screamed or security sensors flashed red lights. I was ushered through the terminal, collected my handbag, laptop and jacket and then and there opened my handbag to take the laptop case out. And at precisely this point I realized that I had opened someone else’s handbag and my hands were toying with something soft and squeezey and cuddly and white a.k.a diapers.

Oh how I wish that Jamaican had taken me down. How!

I apologized to no one in particular picked my bag again (correctly this time) and took out the carrying case for my laptop. I unfolded (resurrected should be the right word here) the case and tried to force my laptop in when I realized that my webcam is no more and my iPod was breathing its last breaths as well. Since there was nothing much I could do I simply took the remnants of my cam and stowed them in the nearest bin with a minute’s silence to pay my respect to the fallen warrior and carefully put the iPod in my jacket.

I would skip the tales of my wanderings at terminal 4 especially the incident at the World duty free shop simply to still give an impression that I am after all a learned, cultured, educated and decent human being.

So I managed to find the boarding gate, made my way there and boarded the flight. I had my good seat after all and to my great relief my neighbor didn’t show up. I had two seats to myself for the entire 9.5 hours. Yay!

The flight took of on time and when it did I had the strange feeling that the rumbling rattling plane would at any moment simply fall apart like in one of those C grade Hollywood movies and this would be the end of me. But of course that didn’t happen and with great expectations I pulled out the TV screen for the in flight programs.

You know the British are very cultured. Very rooted to their past and very proud of their history. They are fiercely protective of their heritage and dislike any change whatsoever. So protective are they of the “good old times” that the BA hadn’t bothered to change/upgrade their in flight program technology since probably the first time it was invented and installed in their air crafts. The screens were smeared with the finger prints of all occupants of the seat (what memoirs!) and I could count the squares on the electronic circuits of the touch screen (which is really saying something now). The programs start at the same time for everyone and you can not stop/pause/play as per your whims. I am all up for team building exercises usually but this one I think was a step too far to be honest.

The flight was uneventful for most part. The crew was very helpful when they showed up. The catch word in the earlier sentence was “when”. I remember lighting the signal on and then waiting for 20 minutes before a passing air hostess happened to see the light and asked me what earthly comfort I desired at 37000 meters above the sea level. But of course I only wanted some water and hey a 20 minute wait for a glass of water in a premium economy section which is only 10% occupied isn’t that bad on a BA flight now come on.

So the flight landed at the airport, I did the immigration bit and made my way to collect my luggage. There were a total of two conveyor belts in the airport which were positioned at right angles to each other with their trajectories diverting more than 180 degrees. The staff at Bangalore airport probably didn’t want us any longer here than what we did and decided it would really speed up the process if they off load the luggage simultaneously on both the belts. Obviously it would mean that we now have to shuttle between the belts trying to see which belt has our luggage rolling on it but then this is our problem, right? Right!

Took me one and a half hour to retrieve the one checked in baggage that I had. I stepped out of the airport boarded the waiting cab and made way to the guest house.

Things get really interesting from this point onwards, but that comes in the next post and possibly some pictures too! Don’t expect to see any cows or stray dogs for I have made a firm resolution that I am not going to click those kind of pictures!

 

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