Sunday, August 2, 2009

Travel Aplenty

*Statutory Warning: Achtung! Long post! Please read it only if you are OK with lengthy nonsensical posts that add no value whatsoever. If long, ranting blog posts are not your cup of tea, then please refrain from reading this and go read a haiku or something. Don’t tell me later that I didn’t warn you :-)*

Hella yeverybaddy! Long time! It’s so nice to come back and breathe the air in blogosphere and flaunt my two-bit existence in this esteemed web space. I know I’ve been away for a while. I know I haven’t been blogging regularly. I know I haven’t been able to visit your blogs and leave you smiling or scowling with my unsolicited comments. My bad. Ok I admit that I’m not too happy about my irregularity and I kinda feel guilty about my prolonged absence from blogosphere (so please don’t rub it in by sneering at your computer screens and ask “Why the fuck have you come back?” ). I don’t get to show my cheery face (as cheery as the Joker in Dark Knight) on the cyberspace too much these days. My Orkut/Facebook pals think I’ve either vanished into thin air or ran away to the Himalayas. The entire legion of my loyal fans (mostly hot lingerie supermodels) is fretting about my unexplained disappearance. And my readers, oh, they’ve gone on a rampage, I tell you. There is widespread distress, concern and grief among the people due to my no-show on the blogosphere. Now don’t you roll your eyes, I am telling you the truth. Look at some of these distressed comments expressed by my loyal readers themselves, in verbatim.

“Ever since the Parikshith has blog writing stop, my the buffalo has milk giving stop”
-Ramu Pandey, the colony’s doodhwala

“It is so sad that Parikshith is not updating his blog on regular basis. His blog is an epitome of modesty and honesty and always makes very educative reading. He seems so busy these days that he doesn’t even visit my blog also”
- Muniamma, house-maid.

“Not a day passes without us wondering when Parikshith would come back and enthral us with his next post. Ever since he stopped posting, the light has gone off our lives.... as if the Lord has switched off a tube light in Heaven.”
- Dan Brown

“Forget the blog, Parikshith told me that he would visit me last night and promised me that we’d spend some cosy time together, but he didn’t turn up. He ditched me. I spent the whole night tossing and turning in the bed all alone and cried until my pillows were wet. Why o why o why, Parikshith?”
-Angelina Jolie

“Jolie, you bitch, Parikshith is mine!!!”
-Megan Fox

“My business has gone down ever since Mr. Kumar stopped uploading his blog. People would take printouts of his blog to use them as makeshift toilet papers, and I made great business selling printer-sheets. Now I am incurring losses. Please come back and write, Mr. Kumar”
- Mr.H.P Paperwalla, stationery shop owner.

“Parikshith, who?”
-Followers of Nonsense Aplenty.

Well Ladies and Gentlemen, these are only a few of the comments that I have received... there are plenty more, yeh toh sirf sample hai. My being away from cyberspace can be attributed to only one solitary reason yaar - the dreaded W word- Work! Yes, the past month or so has all been about work, more work and some more work for me, the poor old IT professional. I’ve been so busy working that I have to book my calendar to find time to scratch my back. I mean, forget visiting blogs, I don’t even have the time to visit the loo. Now let me not dwell into the details of my job partly because a) it is so boring that it would yawn an insomniac to sleep and b) nobody, not even Einstein’s father would understand the technical mumbo-jumbo involved. But if I were to honestly summarize my job, I can tell you that it is all about wearing crisp wrinkle-free formal wear and requires me to tap away at a few computer keys here, hoodwink a few gullible people there and convince everybody that I have the smartest dick in the corporate world. And mind you, all that takes some effort.

My work has brought me to Chennai this week, which is where I am put up and typing all this rubbish from. My work always brings me, the quintessential Bangalore boy, to Chennai- whether I like it or not. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve packed up for this city. My number of visits to this city so far, with no exaggeration, is probably equal to the number of ladder rungs it takes to climb up from the Earth to the Moon.

Anyway, the curtain raising event for the circus show happened earlier this week. There I was, in my cubicle, bum to chair and eyes into the computer screen, and into my 25th hour of work, when the boss picks on me and says
“Parikshith, you’ll have to visit our Chennai office tomorrow. The objective of your visit would be to teach our highly qualified software engineers there to count on the abacus.”
“Oh no not again man, why me?” I whine.

“You are the only bakra I could lay my hands on” he says with pride. “... and besides, you are important. This assignment is important”

Important, yeah right my ass. He makes it sound as if he is sending a Mossad agent on a Palestine mission.

“Come on Boss, why don’t you send someone else?”

“Sssshhh... stop being a little sissy, Parikshith, and go show your face in the Chennai office will ya? Your hotel, flights and cabs would have probably been booked by now... I don’t know, check with the Travel Department. Now off you go, shoo away from my chamber and let me have my nap in peace. Bye, have a great trip. Good luck.

Now don’t let all this fool you. For a random onlooker, travelling to another city on business class flights, having AC cabs ferry you back and forth and staying in star hotels – all on company’s expenses- may seem to be a glitzy affair. But not to me, not when this is the one hundred and umptieth time I am embarking on similar business trips to Chennai. It’s the same shit routine every time. A cab picks you up from home and drops you at the Bangalore airport. A flight crash-lands you in Chennai. Another cab receives you at the airport and drops you off at the Chennai office- where you spend the remainder of the day training astounded idiots on some shit technology or breaking your head in getting some defunct, gibberish bug-filled code to behave properly. After wasting yourself for the entire day, you check in to the same stupid hotel, order the same loftily priced room-service food and watch TV until you doze off to sleep. As I said, for a rookie engineer, all this ‘business experience’ may seem oh-so-glamorous and may have him all nippy and excited. (Why, he may even send a post card to his mother that says “Look Ma! I flew in an aeroplane once again, today”). But not me sir, I am a travel-hardened 26-year old and no spring chicken... and I’ve been enduring this magaj-maari for years now. So when the Boss sends me packing on my one hundred and umpty first trip to the same Godforsaken city, I am as enthusiastic as a dead dodo.

Realizing that my fate is cast in cement, I let out a long sigh and call up the Travel Department (T.D) of my office to get a status of my bookings. With all the interactions that we’ve had, the T.D guys are surely sick of my face by now. And vice-versa. Here’s the telephonic convo that ensued:

Travel Dept. Guy (T.D.): “Good evening, Parikshith. How may I assist you today?”

Me: “Array yaar, same flight, same place. Book the damn ticket for tomorrow”

T.D: “You mean you want an early morning flight to Chennai, sir?”

Me: “No. I want a late night flight to Timbuktu. Don’t ask stupid questions and give me a status of my bookings”

T.D: “We’ll have you on the 6 A.M flight tomorrow, sir. The cab will be at your place at 4.15 AM sharp for pickup. Have a nice journey and...”

Me: “Whoa whoa whoa! Hold on. Why the hell are you putting me on a 6 A.M flight? What happened to the regular 8 A.M flight?”

T.D: “That flight is completely booked, sir”

Me: “What happened to the 7 A.M flight? That one got sucked into the Bermuda Triangle eh?”

T.D: “I am sorry sir, but even that one’s completely booked”

Me: “Tell me something dude. Wasn’t my travel request been lying on your stone-age system since early this morning?”

T.D: “Yes, sir”

Me: “Then why couldn’t you book my tickets earlier, sir?”

T.D: “I am sorry sir, but we were so busy picking lint out of our belly buttons that we couldn’t find time to attend to your request earlier”

Me: “Excellent. So you put me on a 6 AM flight. You pick me up at 4.15 AM. And to think I have to wake up by 3.30 in the morning. Hey, why don’t you do me a favor and send some owls over to my place as well to wish me good morning?”

T.D: “Heh, heh, good one, sir”

Me: “This is ridiculous. I am not gonna be part of this stupid schedule. What would you do if I simply refused to go on that 6 A.M flight? What would you do then, huh?”

T.D: “We would then book you on the next available bullock-cart to Chennai, sir”

Me: “*Gulp!* Hey ok, ok, send me the tickets”

Trrrrrrrrrriiiingggg. My alarm clock goes off like a fire-alarm, breaking all the decibel barriers. The day of my travel finally dawns. 3:30 AM. I look out the window. Pitch black darkness greets me. Never in my life had I woken up at 3.30 A.M before. And to think I had to wake up now for something as stupid as my business trip. Okie-dokie, ho-hum another trip. What’s the big deal Johnny, it’s just another visit to Chennai after all, just like a visit to the super-market or visiting your Granny... all routine, all the same. Yeah right. Bloody hell. I toss my blanket aside and get up from my bed muttering curse after curse. I curse my job, curse my boss, curse the travel agent, curse his mother, curse the pile of clothes and bottles lying on the floor and stumble noisily into the bathroom. All my wee-hour commotion wakes up Sunil, my roommate. Now Sunil’s very first words when he wakes up in the morning is usually a devout “Hey Prabhu” and he then follows it up with a quick chant of a religious mantra. Today he wakes up and utters a classic “Abey betichod. Saale kya subah subah awaaz kar raha hai...”. But he notices my sleep-deprived foul mood and thankfully shuts up quickly. I zombie out of the bathroom, still more than half asleep, and get myself dressed. I collect my bags, mutter a ‘Gmmphhh’ (Goodbye) to Sunil and groggily trudge out of the room. Sunil sees me off at the door. He thumps my shoulders and says “Chal chal wake up dude, and have a safe journey... And don’t fall asleep on the air-hostess’ boobies. Chal bye...” and shoves me out of the room. “Gmmmpph...” is all that I can mutter back.

I approach my waiting cab, toss my bags in, crash into the back seat and mutter another “Gmmmpph” (Good morning) at the driver. In case you’ve been wondering why I’m being picked up so early, here is a piece of trivia for you – the new Bangalore airport is about 50kms away from the heart of the city... and even though its early morning, it still takes an hour to get your ass up there. Why is the Bangalore airport that far away? I don’t know. Ask the Government. Maybe the Govt wanted to keep their chaste little airplanes faaaaar away from prying evil eyes. So what did they do about it? They built one airport faaar away.

“Saaar... oh saaar, we reached ayer-port saaar” screams the cab driver until I jolt awake. True enough, I open my eyes and shield them from the bright entry lights of the departure terminal. Letting out a deep sigh, I enter the terminal, sleepwalk thru all the formalities and soon find myself inside the familiar confines of a flying coffin. “A very good morning and welcome aboard sir.” says a gorgeous air-hostess, welcoming me with her oft-practised plastic million watt smile. Now here’s a thing that you get a lot when you travel business class with private airlines – fake courtesy. Make no mistake, these private airlines, with their cute-as-a-button airhostesses; do offer pretty decent in-flight cabin services. I’m sure a lot of people will be overwhelmed by courtesy that they receive and will be bloating with a false sense of pride even after getting off the aircrafts. Well, good luck to such people. I am a simple, straight-from-the-heart desi guy and for me personally, there is no bigger a turn-off than fake smiles, artificial sweetness and put-on politeness. I cringe every time these airline people are so overbearingly nice to me in a fake, facaded way.
Anyway, I find my seat by the window, and quietly slip into it, in an attempt to catch my forty winks. “Good morning, how are you doing today? I hope you are comfortable sir, is there anything that I can get you?” inquires another sexy, stunner of an air-hostess; her genuinely beautiful face marred by a ridiculously phony smile. “No, thank you” I reply. This may sound howlingly ridiculous, but in moments like these, I really miss the Auntyiji air-hostesses of Indian Airlines/Air India and their no-pretence, no-nonsense, in-your-face ways of offering service. For example:

Aboard private airlines:
Me: “Excuse me, can I have some water?”
Gorgeous air-hostess: “Oh yes, surely, certainly, sir . I will get you a bottle of mineral water right away sir In the meanwhile would you like anything else sir? Do you also want some fresh orange-juice sir? No? Just the water, sir? Would you be able to drink the water yourself sir or do you want a tube to be inserted into your nostrils and the water to be poured down that, sir?”

Aboard Indian airlines/ Air India:
Me: “Excuse me, Aunty. Can I have some water?”
Auntyji air-hostess ( A.A) : “Aunty hogi teri maa”
Me: “Oops, sorry. Can I have a water bottle?”
A.A: “OK. Let me see”

Disagree if you want to, but I rest my case. But as an afterthought, I must say that we really need to appreciate the airline crew for the work that they do, especially when they work into such odd, ungodly hours. I mean, jeez, 5 AM in the morning- when an average sleepyhead like you and me can at max utter a grumpy ‘Gmmmph’, these men and hot women have to put on smiles on their faces and say nice English sentences to you. And when your early morning grooming procedure is limited to a pee, shave or a bath, these women actually have to spare time to apply layers and layers of make -up and look as fresh as a daisy. I’m sure it may not be easy for those poor souls.

Anyway, we taxi for take-off, the cute air-hostesses finish their customary little Bharatnatyam gig about the safety features. And then the Captain’s customary announcement spurts out from the loudspeakers. “Good morning, this is Captain Haddock and welcome aboard Kaput airlines...” the pilot announces. “...the weather outside in Bangalore is a pleasant 21 degree Celsius, although when you reach Chennai, it may be as pleasant as an oven. We will be flying at an altitude of 15,000 feet above sea level and darn, why does the proverb “The higher you fly, the harder you fall” keep hounding in my ears every time I say that. We hope you’ve paid attention to all the security features demonstrated to you by the crew. Just in case we crash into the sea, please be informed that the water is warm and the sharks are friendly. Thank you for flying with us, have a pleasant flight and we look forward to serve you again.” Errr... well, ok he may not have said all of that, but I was asleep by then and I am only guessing that’s what he may have announced.

Well, we finally land in Chennai (no wheel comes out of the landing gear, so I assume it was a safe touchdown) and I bid goodbyes to fake Colgate smiles. I know I am in Chennai- the hot winds blowing across the tarmac instantly make me feel as if I am inside an oven, indeed. I trudge to the arrival lounge, and search for the sign of cab that was supposed to pick me up. “If there is no cab sent to pick me, then I am heading back to Bangalore...” I silently promise myself. But I realize that it wouldn’t be necessary because soon enough I see a gentleman holding a large placard that says “Welcome to Chennai, Mr. Pratiksh Kumar”. I look at the placard and take a wild guess that it could possibly be for me. And as always, it turns out that I’m never wrong and I quickly follow the driver out of the lounge to my pickup cab.

So, that’s that folks. That’s where I am right now- cooped up in a hotel room in Chennai and that’s where I will be put up - for at least another fortnight or so. So until then, there is no guarantee that I can find any free time to visit the blogosphere (I’m sure you’ve had enough of me for now, if you read the whole post). I will even keep carrying work from the office to the hotel, like a doting mama Kangaroo. But I promise, I’ll try to smuggle in some free time here and there and intermittently visit the blogosphere. So before I say tata and birla for the time being, here is

My message to my dear male readers:
“Hi-five dudes!!! I will be away for sometime but we’ll catch up soon. Keep blogging, keep rocking and stay out of trouble you crazy bastards :-) . Chao! and catch’ ya later buddies”

And, my message to my dear female readers:
“Mmmuuuuuuuaaah, my sweethearts. I’ll be gone for a bit, OK? Awww, now don’t be sad, don’t pine for me. I will be back before you can say ‘Chocolate Cookie’”