In the Ghats for a day

When you live in Pune and it rains and you want to get away, there is a beautiful getaway called Lonavala that beckons you. Problem is, it beckons majority of the population around. Net result is chaos.

Last week I got an invite to spend the weekend in a resort at the very top, somewhere in that city and I jumped at the offer. Already dreaming about the rain and clouds and waterfalls and cool breeze, I wondered how to go, since taking the car was not an option. Well, driving on winding broken single lane mountain roads is not something I do very often, but the excuse I have is better- my car was being used by family so…So. I decided to take a train. Not having ridden in a train for quite a few years now, my first thought was, how difficult can it be, it is just about an hour and a few minutes away, with trains almost every hour, all I need to do is reach the station and board the next one.

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A view from the train

But then wiser and saner thoughts prevailed, maybe I should get a reservation. A dialogue with the hubby resolved the situation and he booked a ticket for me. So far so good. Reached the station almost 45 minutes in advance, years of non-practice does that to you. Waited with stamping legs and straining ears at the entrance for about half hour till the platform was announced. Managed to board without any incidents, just observing that the platform was decidedly cleaner than what I was used to in the yesteryears. Provided you don’t look out when the platform ends.

The train was cleaned twice in that small journey- nice. It was decidedly hard to resist the constant chant of “sabudana vada, veg cutlet, sandwich”, but the most interesting was “water pani” which I realised meant plain water and not “chilled pani”. Now, not having travelled this route before, I wondered how I would know my station was arriving and how long would it stop for and will there be enough time to get down. Yeah, I know, I am a totally inexperienced traveler. But outwardly, I was cool, even though I was doing the math in the mind, so many minutes from Pune, shall I ask Siri, what was the last station that went by and so on.., I did manage to get down at the right station quite safely. It is a different matter that after that, I had to climb up and down the bridge multiple times to find the driver. I mean how was I supposed to know “towards the city” didn’t imply towards the platform no 1.

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It is gonna pour

Sitting in the cab, with cool breeze blowing my hair, and rain drops down my cheeks, well, I was smiling away, I had arrived, and the rest was going to be a cool breeze (literally). Till I found traffic jam and jam and crowd and hawkers and no one following traffic rules. Well, this feels just like Pune, I thought with a grimace. Small congested roads, directionless people and honking all around. A little more than an hour, a packet of chips and several bumps and potholes later, I reached the resort.

It was as beautiful and serene as expected. Ah the beauty of a hill top resort when it is raining is beyond compare. Gorging on good food, good company, love and laughter. Even in 45 acres of property, we could find hordes of people coming from the dry state and debating whether to be upgraded to purple from white and other such nonsense. No, this is not a gyan session on Club Mahindra.

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6 am from the balcony
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Ah the colours

A day of relaxation, chai in the balcony, long morning walk, lot of selfies and a huge breakfast spread. We hogged so much, needed to lie down awhile. But then finally it was time to leave. The lime water in the tummy kept bubbling up and down as we encountered the familiar potholes again, somehow kept it from overflowing.

We stopped at the tiger’s point, or was it lion, or jackal, not sure. Some animal, definitely. Any self-respecting hill station in India has to have a Lion or Tiger’s point, and a sunset and sunrise point. Amidst a mass of humanity and cars and a breathtaking view, we too decided to do what the tourists do, walk, eat and click pictures. All around us were couple with the girlfriend perched on the boyfriend’s back, posing away, and few I-am-a-cool-dude guys posing on the cliff edges. Thankfully nobody fell off during our watch. After about an hour of touristy thingy, we followed the bro, the leader, who kept going in weird directions till we realised he was looking for relief and so we hastily retreated and went back to the car, relieved.

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At the animal point

Next stop was Bhushi ghat. Now that is a place, I would absolutely not recommend unless you are drunk and rowdy and enjoy sitting in dirty slimy water and throwing it around on yourself and others. The walk is long and bad, uneven stones does wonders for your back, the place has some broken steps with no railing and a sure chance of falling on the rocks, stairs that lead nowhere and a lot of smelly people sitting in smellier water, on the steps and throwing it around. Just not worth the time. The river on the other side that overflows at times. Not for me.

Came back to downtown, tired and happy and in dire need of ginger chai. Unfortunately, my train mode of transport did not work this time, simply because I did not get a reservation. Too many people, too little time. How will you go back, maybe come to Mumbai with us and then go back Monday. No way, I want to be back tonight. So, a cab, me and a 60 km drive back to home. With memories. And an agreement to go back again, with kids.

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The memory

 

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The sarcasm shop

I was feeling sick. For multiple weeks inspiration had eluded me. I had done the world a great disservice by not writing. By not vomiting out my venomous spit of sarcasm. On thorough analysis, I realised the symptoms were not good. I was feeling quite all right with the world, I had not laughed at people for ages, I had not put down anyone for weeks. Something was wrong with me, was I turning over a bad loaf, I questioned myself. And shuddered at the idea. I can’t imagine myself oozing with goodness and other likewise characteristics and unless I did something quickly enough to recover into my usual mean, badass self, the infection might spread to my heart and then it would be all over.

So, I decided to indulge myself to some well-deserved dose of sarcasm, a perk-me-up. Such shops are pretty elusive and exclusive and unless you know the right brands and neighbourhoods, it is very easy to be duped with what has the appearance of sarcasm but is merely an endeavour to save self-esteem, and just plain mean, not the real real thing. This was a shop tucked away in a corner, with exclusive oozing from all corners. What the heck, I said to myself, let me see what brands this quaint witty shop has to offer to a world class cynic like me.

The aroma of well-cooked wit, cynicism and sarcasm was quite obnoxious, and I discovered a lot of interesting brands as I went from aisle to aisle. The first brand was a South Delhi brand, a quite down-market model which had the mis-assumption of being upmarket. As I opened the bottle, various anglicised accents littered out and started falling all over the place. It reeked of imported “maal” (stuff) and fake accents, of polluted minds and too many cars. Farmhouses and clubs and drugs bought out of “baap ka maal” (dad’s money). I think I will use that brand, especially after watching “the south Delhi girls” videos with their “baaaiiyyaa” (bro) intonation.

Further down, I found the Big C brand. This was formed of the smartasses on whose foreheads you can find “C” written in capital if you look closely enough. This is the brand whose only agenda in life is to talk about self and who cannot utter a sentence without “I”, “me” and “myself” and sometimes they use the royal “we”. They are the ones who appear bright till they open their big mouths. By ignoring everyone else in their lives, the narcissistic attitude often leads to headache for others and they live in the well-oiled isolation of self-praise. A lot of this Big C brand value get further accentuated when they travel to “phoren”(foreign) lands.

Now this one was interesting. The NRI model (a subclass of the Big C). This is the fellow who reeks of dollars and whose eyes are bright green with eyeballs the shape of $. The attitude is that of the people who have arrived and now only give “Gyan” to the relatives and friends who have nothing better to do than listen and nod their head at appropriate occasions. They go to all “desi” festivals and religious gatherings, which they avoided in their country, but it is the thing to do in the America, so how could they not follow the mass, literally. This NRI class has trouble breathing the desi air when they come back to God’s own land and tend to fall sick unless they drink bottled water.

Within the NRI, there was this exclusive Middle East Gold-man, dazzling with gold and diamonds. With foul tongue and no skills except that of earning tax free money and bringing jewellery back for their families, this is a self-proclaimed royal label who enjoy having devotes around them hanging on their every word and would follow them everywhere like the Vodafone bulldog and with almost the same expression. The ego is way up and the IQ way down. I mean, why isn’t stupidity a crime yet? Applies equally to the devotee and the deity.

Tucked away towards the fag end, I found the I-know-someone lineage who always knew someone who knew someone and claimed a mesh of connections like a spider’s web. Their solution to every problem and claim to fame is “I will talk to Mr. so and so and he will solve the problem”. They threw names around the way some of the others threw dollars and gold and reserved the rights to reach out to the “Bhai”. I mean, I understand, just because you are not related to Salmaan Khan doesn’t imply you are a nobody, right. When I say stuff like this, people think I don’t care, but I do. If you weren’t yourself, how would I find material to write?

By this time, having browsed through so many, I was feeling quite myself and raring to go but something was still missing. So, I went to the shopkeeper and told him you are missing a big make, the BS brand, which I could supply since I had in abundance. This brand is a pseudo intellectual weirdo who loves putting everyone down through their sharp tongue and ready wit and who does not mince words no matter who minded, (so someone who has a mind, would mind it, but then, never mind!). This brand believes they are the next biggest thing since Khushwant Singh and Shobha De and the only solution to the humankind’s misery. I told him I owned the exclusive rights to this and could license it to him, he could keep the money but had to give me the credits.

He threw his head back and laughed, a loud, full of mirth, crystal clear laughter. And then it struck me. This was Ah-I-don’t-give-a-shit model and actually didn’t give a (u know what I mean) to my BS. He was just doing his job without being impressed by anything in the sarcasm shop and was totally unaffected by the dollars and the gold and the accents and the imported cars. This is probably the most rare and exclusive of us but unfortunately not for sale.

The day I decide to work

I am a hard core lazy person. I am the kind of lazy that can put Association of Laziest to shame. The kind that asks you to remove the fly from my nose, the kind who is happy to stay thirsty if water is not within arm’s reach, the kind who can survive on dry snacks in the kitchen, when the maid is on a furlough. And who doesn’t answer the phone simply because- I am too lazy to move my mouth.

Most days I am happy if I am up by 9.00, maximum by 8.30. In case I need to be up at 7.00 (with a conference call scheduled at 8.00), I am already sleepy as soon as I am up since I slept for a couple of hours only- from 11.00 in the night to 7.00 in the morning, and wonder when will I meet my bed and pillow again. The whole day I keep missing the bed abandoned by me during the sleep infancy stage with a strong feeling of guilt.

But then there are those days which begins with the Sun in the west and ends with a blue moon. That is when I decide to exercise my muscles and limbs. Mostly such a sinister idea is materialised only when I am in a bad temper, after having fought with my husband for no reason whatsoever, and to top it, discovering he is not sorry (doesn’t matter he didn’t find a reason), but then husbands are supposed to say sorry, no matter what. That is when I decide to ignore him and focus on housework.

Invariably if I am dusting, I will end up breaking something. Mumbling over by breath with everyone around to hear “this maid is lazy”, I sweep ferociously with a clean cloth and marvel at how dirty it turned instantaneously, and then realise that the toy airplane from Turkey had crash landed and shattered irrepairably. With a big bang. The whole house rushes in to figure out what disaster I caused, yet again, and then shake their head in despair and go back to their respective chores – lazing on the bed or watching TV. A trifle mollified, I am now more careful and try my better, not to break some of the more expensive things. Breaking stuff does have a placebo effect.

If you haven’t sorted papers for a week, they pile up and crop up anywhere, vague random places, newspaper in the bathroom, dining table full of torn envelopes from which worthless paper bills had evolved. What is the light bill doing here? What offer is this, this is expired, let us throw it. What do I do with this year old bill? This share paper is worthless, or is it? Now where papers are concerned, I bow to the supreme belief that my husband is surely going to find an urgent need for it immediately after I have thrown it away. So invariably, I collate every piece of worthless paper that I find, which is not stuffed inside the cupboard, and dump it in front of my husband relaxing with his Sunday newspaper. Hands on my waist, I tell him- now that I am working, you better do your share too. Which he dare not ignore, for he has experienced I will forever remember and make his holidays hell for the rest of my life. Trust me, he doesn’t even like me removing the week old newspaper because there was some news he wanted to take an image of and add to the whatsapp clutter.

Now with a sense of accomplishment, a few broken artefacts and loose papers collected and piled in front of a bored husband, I relax with a cup of tea.

That blissful day I decide to find issues with everything my maids do. Why is this corner not clean, scrub well, at least do something without my standing on your head! They look at each other and sigh, maybe she has pms, one of those dreaded days when she turns into a fault finder, aka bitch. And then if they decide to ask me for money that day, they have had it. I remind them of every cup they have broken and every cloth which ran colour till they give up. There are days I have gone to an extreme and told them- trust me I am not dependent on you – the biggest lie ever told in the world of lies.

And then maybe I decide to cook too. Now for a person seldom entering the kitchen, who doesn’t like to cook standard meal, I have to plan for something exotic- which my family always eyes with suspicion and put in their mouths with trepidation. The fact that nothing turns out the way it is shown in the you tube video is a smaller problem than the fact that I always manage to cut or burn myself, merely small symbols of the hard work and suffering put in by womankind. I am almost feeling like Padmawat(i). Hopefully it is no longer a taboo to use that i.

With a brave look, I show my husband I have cut my finger and he suitably tch tch es while his eyes ask, why the hell do you enter the kitchen anyway? Stay out of trouble, or did he mean trouble to stay out of kitchen. Now the cut may be a mere scratch, you need to look with a magnifying glass, but ah, the feeling of sacrifice, toil, blood and sweat is what makes the day.

After all the hard work, have you ever observed how noble we feel, as if we have just saved the girl child, and in that Mother Teresa avatar, we always look down our noses upon mere mortals who spend the day reading the Times from one end to another and watching the forever T-20.  And finally end the day by keeping the aforementioned pile of  papers in a bundle and inside a cupboard, to be sorted some time in future. (which is never or till the cupboard overflows and then you throw it away anyway).

Satisfaction of a day well spent. Fight, breaking things, finding faults and migrating waste from one location to another. Now back to laziness till the next such upheaval.

Majuli – बीच मे

Literally meaning- in the middle of. Majuli is the largest river island in Brahmaputra in Assam, almost 50-by-25 kms across, largely populated by the Mising tribe, speaking Mising, weaving stuff and using bamboo.

Phew, Wikipedia can tell you much more by just one click.

When we decided to spend a couple of days in Majuli, I wasn’t sure what to expect, not having done my usual homework.

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somewhere at Kaziranga

The terrain from Guwahati to Majuli, via Kaziranga is interesting, with a mix of potholed roads under the guise of construction, ability to see elephants and Rhinos lazing around (try using binoculars, else they are just a speck). And a horde of two and four legged creatures crossing the highway including but not limited to

  • ducks- full family evening walk with two baby ducks and parents
  • pregnant goats (why was every goat I saw, expecting? I guess it is something to do with fertility)
  • chickens who were not too chicken to cross the road
  • cows
  • elephants
  • and of course, humans who know no better than to cross roads and drivers paying no heed to screeching tires and cursing drivers.

Having reached Jorhat by nightfall, with the accelerometer fooled into thinking we had walked all the way, we decided to spend the night in a dubious hotel where waiters did not understand the meaning of Jain food and that cooking is possible without onions too. And promptly refused to serve us. Sigh, somehow passed the night since our गुटखा eating drivers wanted to leave at 6 am sharp and with a family of 7 ranging from 17 to 70, trust me, it is near-impossible.

The route to Majuli took us through a ferry that takes humans, luggage and two and four wheelers. So 8.00 am saw our cars lined up door to door, while we were all on the ferry roof, holding on to dear life as we sailed across the river. An uneventful 45 minute but photographic journey later, we entered what looked like the Run of Kutch.

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As you enter Majuli

Yeah, you heard me right. It is an unending stretch of white sand, which my brother promptly declared to be quicksand. I was a trifle doubtful as cars and dogs seem to be running fine on the same. The banks rose sharply to about 8-10 feet into this stretch as our ferry eased its belly into a nook made for this purpose.

It is indescribably beautiful. Stretches of white sand, followed by stretches of blue water, wherever you see, warm sun, no human construction, save bamboo huts and boats close by.

We drank in the sights using our cameras and eyes, sipping #AssamRunsOnChai positivi-tea. After about an hour, post a refill and release, we decided to drive into the city.

Majuli no longer felt like an island, a couple of kilometres inland. It looked every inch a normal dirty Indian town, with its full share of Oppo and Coke and Kurkure hoardings. Seriously, these guys are everywhere, including no man’s land.

As we moved past the dirt roads, we could only see bamboo huts on stilts. Since water comes in easily during monsoon, a few kilometres inland, the tribes mostly live on first floor, ground floor being left for scavenger pigs who also contribute to the स्वच्छ भारत अभियान. Toilets have arrived at the village, you can actually see a lone one concealed by a crowd of huts. Shy girls weaving clothes, unruly children playing around, mind you- no men.

Moving on, we crossed the north India in the East, stretches of सरसों के खेत, where the kids had their DDLJ moment. A few brick houses, and lots of bamboo and banana trees later, we landed at our resort. Yeah, the place has a resort, and it was all bamboo. The huts, floor, lamps, tables, chairs, झूला, washroom shower panels, and the toothpick stand. (and we also ate boiled bamboo shoots).

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Our home for the next two days

Lovely place, awesome food, decent service. It was surreal to see nightfall at 4.30 pm, so we decided to light a bonfire, try some local beer (made from burnt husk) and play अंताक्षरी and dumb charades with the kids. All of us middle aged people trying to enact Bollywood movies was seriously hilarious and we had a riot. (The word came to mind as I am writing this, the news on TV is shrieking riots at Pune).

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The DDLJ view

Of course we had teething problems like no lights, no water, specially no hot water, plethora of mosquitoes and red ants.

The city does not have a sunset point (strange, all man defined tourist places ought to have a sunset or a sunrise point, basic qualifier), but a bamboo bridge (yeah, and you can also drive on it) from where you can see the sun set. Not really being subject to the sight of sun setting from the high rises we stay in normally, it was a pretty serene view.

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The bamboo bridge

Next day saw us take a long walk in the woods early morning. A dog with a curled tail discovered us, (couple of them actually) and escorted us through the walk and all the way back to our adobe. Funny fellow, maybe he didn’t want other dogs in his territory.

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walk with the dog

Post local breakfast of curd and jaggery with a fibrous poha kind of stuff, delicious, we decided to go traditional and visit temples. Learnt that the island and its people are mostly self-sufficient. They grow the rice and सरसों and vegetables locally, and just buy the spices.

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the Mising villagers (but they are not really missing)

We had just missed Raas Leela that is quite a well-known three-day fest.  The city has a few Satras which are places of Vishnu worship as well as art and culture. With one showing mask making, some featuring artefacts, and some famous for its dance forms. The only issue was we had to take the shoes and socks off at the gate while the actual places were about half a kilometre in. (why socks?)

One fellow these guys worship is Garuda, whose statues are found everywhere, protecting the gates. The island probably has more goats and cows than humans, you can always see dozens grazing in the fields. Mr Gadkari decided to visit the place a day after us, announcing a sanction of some 330 Cr INR for Majuli development. If only I knew my चरण धूलि would make such a difference, I would have blessed the place long back.

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The Garuda

 

The waiting room

Reminds you of the railway station, the crowd and cacophony, the chai and the stink. Train whistles, the incomprehensible announcements and the strain to listen for your own train. But this is a different waiting room.

Here only those people wait, whose trains have derailed, or are about to. They are trying to repair the tracks, push and pull to get the train back on track and somehow make it run, so they can leave for home. A few never do. 

Here they dont say ” train no so and so has arrived on platform number so and so.” Here it is ” Bed no 102″ and Kamble and Banerjee, the names and the numbers, and the call to feed or meet the doctor or sign something you have not read.

I am in the waiting room of an ICU. All around me is chaos. Sea of people, waiting to catch a glimpse of their loved ones, waiting for that ray of hope, that word from the doctor that can change despair to a smile or bring a frown and a tear. Noisy, crying, sharing, yet so distant from it all. Hearing it all, but not absorbing.

Hospitals are a part of life. And death. I am at the same place I was slightly more than two years ago. Same hospital, same ICU, same waiting room. I lost Baba here. He was already lost, but here I lost his physical being. All around me are faces, in despair, but still hopeful as they cross the nights of nightmares. 

When you think it cant get any worse, it does. And we get used to that and then there is a new low. How much the human mind can accept and get on with life, feels like a trial and error test.

Why does she have to suffer so much? In the past so many years, I have seen her lose her speech and her smile, her walk and her zest for life. A vegetable, that breathes and swallows, with a beating heart. That is about it. Just pain and more pain, which she doesn’t feel, or maybe feels and does not  express. Cancers, and then free from cancers. But not from this hell called dependence. Not from this journey that is a constant struggle for survival.

Who will I take home from here, a whole being or a part? A person who always smiled at me, now closes her eyes and shrinks away as I talk to her, or touch her.

Do your job, dont worry about the consequences. I was reminded today. Do your best, dont expect anything. Maybe that is the learning. And emotions? That are ready to flow, that have to be pushed back because there is so much to be done.

I try to work. In an effort to remain sane. Not break. I have to be strong and stronger, specially when I am powerless. Someone else pulls the strings and we dance. I do- the biggest fallacy. Who are we? Who am I? My face is expressionless, as I listen to the doctor’s verdict. Impassive but with a storm inside. 

Life sucks. Death sucks more. But maybe it is the end of suffering, pain and despair. But can’t it be painless? Among so much pain and pleasure, something goes on- that they call life, as it sits in the waiting room, for death. Somebody give respite from it all,  she needs to rest. In peace. 

What I don’t like about US of A

Travelling to US is always a matter of pleasure. I love being driven around in limos, friends making time to take you out in their shining cars and helping you shop (though they may never do that with their wives, but when you land in US, they consider it their sacred duty to show you all the local attractions), no need to clean and cook, and the flights with free booze.

But there are a few things I am totally pissed with. And someone with yellow hair and a grumpy face should listen and act upon it.

I can’t figure out why they must use tissues. I mean, wastage of paper, environment and all that shit apart, you hate the feel of it, butt. In fact, it feels shit hole hard! (pun intended) There is water everywhere, in the taps, shower, tub, bottles, fountains, but not a drop to jet wash the most vulnerable part of your anatomy. Being a जुगाड़ू Indian, water bottles come to the rescue, somehow reminding me of the times of toilet an old katha.

Why does everything have to be in dollars? In the world of Uber, Google maps and Amazon delivery, data is a basic necessity. But being the बनिया that you are, you don’t turn it on as every time you do, you can hear the meter turning nickels into quarters. and quickly turn it off again. And how do you shop? I mean everything gets totally multiplied by the cheap Indian mind-set and then you expostulate, 30$ (in disbelief), you mean 2000 Rs, soooo expensive, and refuse to buy it, (But then go to India and pay 5000 Rs for something worse). It is called misplaced patriotism.

Breakfast not included! Any self-respecting Indian always desires to chooses a hotel that provides free wifi and breakfast while paying no more than 120$ per night and if he finds one, Eureka! I mean, who on earth would pay 12$ (plus taxes plus gratuity) for toast and cornflakes and potatoes which is what a typical vegetarian ends up eating. Hence you skip breakfast (unless of course the company is paying for it).

These long flights are so cramped. Normally everything long is good, long legs, long.. oops, change the topic. but flights – when in cattle class, isn’t the best for your back and your legs, specially in your late forties. You can’t catch a wink; it is smelly all around with people releasing odours and socks which have no means to get out of the aircraft pores, and it is cold, the thin blanket is mostly useless. Your neck keeps rolling off, literally, and the foot starts swelling. So, though you intended to work, you end up watching worthless movies fiddling with earphones that don’t work very well and a screen that needs you to tap thrice to achieve any result (much like are you sure, are you very sure of the Microsoft fame). The only saving grace are when she asks you “and what would you like to drink, madam”.

This is followed by the lag of the jet. Sleepy in Seattle at 3 in the afternoon bang in the middle of a meeting doesn’t send the right message though everyone is looking at you in amazement, you survived 10+10 hours of flight, you are a hero. Interestingly you will find, for most folks here, Hawaii is the biggest adventure of their life. You drink some water, doesn’t work, and you hardly listen to the discussion around, focussing on fighting the deadly sleep, which finally you get rid of as soon as the meeting is over. Phew! By that time sleep is so upset with you, she refuses to come back when you need her. So, you are wide awake watching whatever it is ABC is telecasting at midnight. After a lot of cajoling, you manage to land into a slumber only to feel roaring awake at 3 am.

Who imagined getting a nice warm cuppa tea can be such a pain in the same body part discussed above. One would tend to believe that chai latte is the easiest thing to make other than Maggi. But you know, these guys have no bloody idea. They think dipping a porous bag in warm water and pointing you towards sugar sachet is the definition of making tea. And they charge you bloody 3$ (and some cents) for something which is barely lukewarm. So, in mutiny, I carry my own tea bags from desh. But my hotel refuses to provide milk powder (or creamer as they call it here, Americans are probably the ones who would call Rose by the name of crimson and get away with it). Since I have not developed the taste for black tea so far. I called and asked for it, and the girl refused to understand me, maybe it is my hinglish, i was tempted to resort to साली, दूध माँगा था, but resisted. So, black tea it is. Next time I resolved to carry my own Nestle dairy whitener.

And the food. I love the cuisines, trying various veggies and fruits and breads and chutneys and salads. But why do we say only Gujjus make food that is sweet, everything here is either cheesy or sweet, sometimes both. After a week, I am so missing, दाल चावल, curries and the spices. I almost salivate when I check out the Indian food available online, but I take one look at the price and realise that delivery charge is more than the cost of the dish, so swallow my saliva and pride and survive on my cold storage पूरीs. Yeah, पूरी and भुजिया is heaven when in the Americas.

The next time you travel to this part of the world, all fellow desi travellers are advised to add as a necessary part of their survival kit

  • A mug (or spare water bottles)
  • Tea bags and creamer
  • पूरी and भुजिया

And definitely leave behind your mental calculator.

But what happens only in America is having an ex-marine, future SeattlePD, muscular, tanned, girl in shorts driving your cab.

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The girl with the groot tattoo

tattoo

#Bizarre1

She was sitting diagonally across me in the flight.  Adorning a low back gown, quite an unsuitable garment for a flight, of course with a looong slit exposing most of her limb. The gown elegantly showed off a groot-like barren tree tattoo covering the exposed back (hence the backless). She seemed to have a great affinity towards being inked and pierced. I could see another tattoo around her neck extending all the way up to her ears and looking quite like a two headed snake but could not be sure as I could not stare too hard. Couple of more stars were visible on her right wrist. (of what I could see). She had four observable rings, one through her nose, two through her eyebrows and one on her lip. (Maybe more)

Her hair was confusing. Rooted as Brunette, a few centimeters later, became blonde and at the edges turned into a rainbow of greens and pinks. She had several wrist bands, I counted 7. Then she felt cold, and did something pretty funny, took out her jacket and put her arms through it and left the back open, well, (maybe only her arms felt cold, I am just a silent observer). She looked so cult like, I wouldn’t have been surprised if she brought out a dagger and started killing people around. But then this was a United flight and you get dragged out for far less reasons than this. After settling down on her seat, she took out her phone, adjusted her hair, said oats and took a selfie, (seems she had a phone full of selfies as I could see her later watching them narcisstically (the auto-correct insists that I must spell it as sarcastically- which is fine too).

A while before the plane landed, she spent half an hour making up, using a large convex mirror to observe and hide the blemishes better, face, eyes, lips, till she got it done to her satisfaction and certified by a pouting selfie again.

#Bizarre2

On the way to Los Angeles, I had plenty of time to observe the folks around. Wondered who next to choose for #weird

  • The tattooed guy at the metro station, with all four limbs fully tattooed in color.
  • The two guys who walked like one, step in step, one fair and other dark, the white fellow staring at the other in complete adoration, without blinking and without taking eyes away for a second. Unfortunately the duo ran away from the train (in unison) as soon as the guy in uniform came in to check the tickets, so the story ended there, without more ado, or was it duo.
  • The girl driving the sports car on Rodeo drive, wearing nothing save a half open shirt with one leg perched up on the seat, a gymnastic miracle of driving with one foot. Look pretty adventurous, sport.
  • And the award goes to

The big-bad-momma who pulled her child to her knees and gave him four hard spanks, which could be heard several meters away. The howling child, who suddenly stopped howling as he was too scared, and the bad momma held his face hard and shouted at him, scaring him to do her bid and listen to her, whatever the hell she was upset about. My hands itched to give her a similar slap. Nobody at the station objected, the guards around looked away. The platform full of people appeared stunned, everyone looked at her for a bit and then forced themselves to look away, knowing better than to intervene. The train came, they went away, but the resounding echo still lingered and while the child’s bottom may bear the marks for a few hours, his heart will bear the scars forever.

#Bizarre3

This time it was a whole breed. A bunch of people loitering at the airport, with an aura not unlike an Indian railway station. It was the noisiest gate in entire Frankfurt airport. It was a complete cacophony of humanity who insisted on speaking in loud volume at the silent airport and who had to play their whatsapp videos out loud for the world to hear with blasting Bollywood music. And then there was this guy who snored through all this, his torso occupying four chairs, while lot of others were standing, his T shirt well above his swollen torso. We Indians give too hoots about others’ discomfort.

As we boarded the aircraft, I realized, on just how dirty this noisy crowd could be just as I visited the loo. Eieeks, is that how they use it at their homes, tissues thrown all around, basin blocked, loo not flushed, I mean, come on, it is all well documented, well labeled, all you need to do is follow instructions beyond nature’s call as well. But no, Lufthansa is more Indian than India, but still not a part of Swacha Bharat looks like (Microsoft has yet to add the word Swacha in its dictionary, Mr Gates, are you listening?).

By the time the flight landed in India, I deduced that this noisy, dirty crowd was also unruly. The air hostess kept on repeating, please sit down, the plane hasn’t reached its destination yet, please sit down as her voice raised a few decibels, and people just ignored her plea and shouts and displayed their bus-mindset by getting up, and blocking the aisle while the plane was still taxiing in an urgency to get out. I guess we are an overzealous lot, in a hurry to load ourselves and in an equal hurry to unload.

A bunch of 12th standard kids were on the flight and the most laudable and noteworthy joke they cracked was about stuffing a nipple into the mouth of one of the boys as they laughed heartily and loudly at the vision. I just mentally raised my eyebrows, let me forgive them, they know not what they are saying.

The last straw being the Gujju bhai at Delhi immigration just before me, who while waiting suddenly found his voice and shouted to someone standing far away “अरे jignesh bhai, passport तो देते जाओ”.  About 200 people turned and looked at him, while he remained unfazed as he waited for Jignesh Bhai. It is just after I have gone through turbulent and emotional experiences like this when I feel so proud of my fellow countrymen. What a loud covfefe aggressive bunch we are!