26 December 2007

My Mumbai/Goa Holiday - Part I

Day 01: 8th December

My holiday started today. Had an early morning, 11:40 AM flight to catch to Mumbai.

As luck would have it:

- I woke up only at 9:50 AM (couldn't, for some weird reason, sleep the previous night), and by the time I hauled ass out of apartment, it was 10:10 AM.
- I didn't get an auto for 15 minutes.
- No taxis in sight either.

I finally boarded a Volvo coming my way, stopping it by waving frantically and nearly blocking the road.

By the time I reached the airport, it was 10:45 AM, and by the time the huge queue at the entrance, where you put in your check-in baggage through the X-ray machine, cleared, it was 10:55 AM. 45 minutes to departure. I went to the baggage check-in counter, where, when I very optimistically asked them, with big smile on my face, to check-in my bag, they politely (with bigger smiles than mine) and very indirectly asked me to fuck off, telling me that I was very late and had to lug my huge bag for the duration of the flight as cabin baggage. I finally had to subject them through 5 minutes of irresistible charm and wit before they checked-in my bag.

After checking-in bag, found time at the airport to pick up Jed Rubenfield’s The Interpretation of Murder, a murder mystery featuring Sigmund Freud as protagonist. Had heard good things about the book, so thought I'd gift it to my sister.

The flight took off on time, and reached Mumbai 15 minutes before schedule.

Sis was at airport to receive me. The journey home in her car lasted 45 minutes, and for the entire journey, I was holding onto front seat for dear life while her driver kept shifting lanes at high speeds continuously and taking fast turns. My sister, who I thought was generally more jumpy than I was before she came to Mumbai, did not bat an eyelid (except when she had to blink, of course), and kept talking, unfazed. I gave her the book, telling her that someone had recommended the book as a good read, and that she should check it out. She took one look at it and told me that she had already read the book, and it was she who had recommended it to me in the first place. :|

After lunch at home, sis and I headed out to Jahangir Art Gallery, where, according to a colleague, you get posters of old classic movies in the pavement shops. We got down near Jahangir, and went to this bookstore called Magna. Like it happens to me in other bookstores, I just had to pick up something... anything. I ended up picked up Haruki Murakami’s Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. Urge satisfied, we went to Jahangir, where we found not a single movie poster, either on display or on sale anywhere in the vicinity. Gee, thanks a ton, Vivek. :|

Went back home, sacked out for a while, before I headed to Hard Rock Cafe to meet a friend. Sis and B-I-L told me it would take me 15-20 minutes by walk, so decided to walk it. We were to meet at 7:30 PM, and so I left home at around 7:10 PM. On the way, called my friend, telling her I might be 5-10 minutes late, and asked her to go ahead and get a table, but she asked me to go ahead of her and to give her a call 5 minutes before I reach, and when I asked her why, she gave me some logic about it not looking nice if a girl goes early and has to wait for a guy. Girls, I tell you... :|

Reached HRC at around 7:50 PM. They had some benefit concert, so the entrance passes were 500 bucks a head, out of which 300 went to charity. Friend came, and we went in.

This was the first time I was going to any HRC, and I loved the place. The place was high-roofed and spacious. Rock memorabilia everywhere. The music wafted all over the place like mist, flowing smoothly down the wall onto the floor and slowly but gradually enveloping everything. Them playing Pink Floyd's Shine on You Crazy Diamond I-V only heightened the effect.

Most HRC employees had on these black uniforms, and had fixed artificial white wings on their backs. Hanging around the waiters and the DJ was this one annoying girl, dressed in white, who also had wings attached, and who had just about as much make-up as a goddam geisha. She was wearing this tiny skirt which showed a lot of leg, and for some strange reason, raised her left leg bent at the knee, and rubbed it against her right leg forward and backward, like a dog which has oscillating 'yes/no' thoughts about peeing someplace because it doesn't resemble a lamp-post or car tyre.

We were trying to get a table, but because of the concert, most of the tables were booked in advance. Firangs occupied most of the other tables. After a while of waiting, we decided to go someplace for dinner, and left.

We went to Phoenix Mills, a mall near my sis's place, where we had dinner at this nice and quiet joint called Noodle Bar, where my friend gifted me these books: one of the Calvin & Hobbes comic books and Haruki Murakami's Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (yeah, the same book I bought a few hours back...). I had got her John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams/Mark Carwardine and a few Mani Ratnam movies.

Then came the tough "Writing stuff on a book" part. If there's anything I absolutely suck at, it's gotta be writing stuff on a book I'm about to gift someone. I always think of writing something witty, but whenever I take pen in hand, my mind's a complete blank (like a blackboard just cleanly rubbed, without the slightest trace of chalk, by some over-zealous class first-ranker who comes half an hour early to school especially for this purpose) and finally end up scribbling something dumb, something achievable only by someone as dumb as Big Moose or Moe, the class bully in Calvin & Hobbes. I took a good 10 minutes to think about something to write, and eventually wrote "Happy Reading", and "Hope you enjoy the book" or some crap on those lines. :|

We later went to the Worli Seaface. After a while, she left, since she had to go to Pune early the next day.

It was only 11:15 PM, and since I didn't have to go to Pune the next day, I finally went back to Phoenix Mills, to this place called Brew Bar. The place was more or less empty (only one other table apart from mine was occupied). After I had settled in and was drinking beer and reading the Calvin & Hobbes I'd just got as a gift, the waiter, a tall reed-thin guy, walked over to me, looked at me for a few seconds and then, tilting his head to one side and pointing a finger at me as if he was trying to correctly guess something, asked me,”Sir, you're from the South, aren't you?"

I said "Yeah... u guessed from the moustache?"

He said, grinning widely, "Yes, sir. Where in the South are you from?"

"Kerala", I lied.

He then went on to tell me that he had worked with a lot of South Indians and had liked them, and that they were hard workers, smart and good at heart. After a minute or two of this and related topics about moustaches, etc., the conversation fizzed out and he went back to what he was doing, and I went back to reading Calvin & Hobbes.

When I got the bill, I noticed that it was much lesser than the amount I had mentally calculated after looking at the menu. I looked at the waiter, and he grinned at me. The guy had just given me a 30% discount on the bill, only because I was a South Indian!

I walked home, read awhile and slept.

Day 02: 9th December

I was woken up really early, at 8:30 AM, by sis, with whom I was to go to Dombivli to visit my uncle, aunt and cousins (2 sisters and a brother) I haven't seen in ages. Sis asked me to take a book along, just in case I got bored on the train, so I took Koji Suzuki’s The Ring (yeah, the one that got made into a movie).

We took a taxi to Byculla Station, and after figuring out which platform to go to, we boarded a semi-fast train to Dombivli. We luckily got seats (my sister got the window :-( ). My sister started reading a book she had got, while I generally looked all around me.

The train was getting crowded, and on the far side of the same row, near the window on the opposite side, sat a Muslim family: an old guy wearing a prayer cap, and 3 old women in burkhas with veils lifted.

Ahead of me, by the entrance to the compartment stood 3 college kids who were joking around and laughing, and whenever the train started from a station, they found some girl standing on the platform and loudly shouted out: "I Love You"; one hand holding the railing, the other stretched out towards the girl, their faces full of fake pain and longing. They obviously got some kick out of this, for they did this at every station the train stopped at and started from, and afterwards, would laugh, not lecherously but good-naturedly, for a whole minute or two.

A Hindu couple with two sweet-looking kids got on board a station and stood on our side. The husband, a little plump, wearing a teeka, looked like a slightly heavier version of Govinda. He had a very nice, honest smile. The wife, apart from the trademark Hindu bindi on her forehead, had a very neat assortment of teekas (very unlike the completely random teeka-like things movie heroines have on their forehead after a rape scene), and in her hand, held a basket of flowers/coconuts. The kids, being kids, were restless after a minute or two, and squirmed in their parents' laps. One kid said something to the father, pointing to the window where the Muslim family was sitting. The father then requested the Muslim gentleman to let his kids stand near the window. The Muslim gentlemen and the women nodded in total agreement, as if saying "Of course, if they're kids, they have to stand by the window", and took the kids by hand, patted their heads, pulled their cheeks, kissed them and let them stand by the window. One of the two women by the window had made one kid sit on her lap, and the other woman was pointing somewhere outside and telling the kid something. The parents, in the meanwhile, took no notice of the kids, and were talking to each other and joking/laughing.

My heart warmed at these sights. In a sudden rush of emotion, I sent my friend an SMS, saying "I'm on the Mumbai local train. I've brought a book to read, but I find myself looking at the people around me, who seem very nice, and have such honest smiles :-)".

Only later that evening was I to realise I had spoken too soon…


17 December 2007

Cookies, by Douglas Adams

This actually did happen to a real person, and the real person is me. I had gone to catch a train. This was April 1976, in Cambridge, UK. I was a bit early for the train. I'd gotten the time of the train wrong. I went to get myself a newspaper to do the crossword, and a cup of coffee and a packets of cookies. I went and sat at a table, newspaper, coffee cup, packets of cookies. There's a guy sitting opposite me, perfectly ordinary-looking guy wearing a business suit, carrying a briefcase. It didn't look like he would do anything weird. What he did was this: he suddenly leaned across, picked up the packet of cookies, tore it open, took one out, and ate it.

Now this, I have to say, is the sort of thing the British are very bad at dealing with. There's nothing in our background, upbringing, or education that teaches you how to deal with someone who in broad daylight has just stolen your cookies. You know what would happen if this had been South Central Los Angeles. There would have very quickly been gunfire, helicopters coming in, CNN, you know. But in the end, I did what any red-blooded Englishman would do: I ignored it. And I stared at the newspaper, took a sip of coffee, tried to do a clue in the newspaper, couldn't do anything, and thought, What am I going to do?

In the end I thought, Nothing for it, I'll just have to go for it, and I tried very hard not to notice the fact that the packet was already mysteriously opened. I took out a cookie for myself. I thought, that settled him. But it hadn't because a moment or two later he did it again. He took another cookie. Having not mentioned it the first time, it was somehow even harder to raise the subject the second time around. "Excuse me, I couldnt help but notice..." I mean, it doesnt really work.

We went through the whole packet like this. When I say the whole packet, I mean there were only about eight cookies, but it felt like a lifetime. He took one, I took one, he took one, I took one. Finally, when we got to the end, he stood up and walked away, and I breathed a sigh of relief and sat back.

A moment or two later the train was coming in, so I tossed back the rest of my coffee, stood up, picked up the newspaper, and underneath the newspaper were my cookies. The thing I particularly like about this story is the sensation that somewhere in England there has been wandering around for the last quarter-century a perfectly ordinary guy who's had the same exact story, only he doesn't have the punch line.

16 December 2007

Music Band Wallpaper Site

Just found this good music band wallpaper site. Do give it a dekko: