Around the world in 20 days

Why does that remind of the lost Raj Kapoor song “Around the world in 8 dollars”? It all started with my young boy persuading to take a vacation during Diwali. “See, Karnataka day and Diwali, so I get 10 days off if I take 5 days leave”, Not sure of the math, but his persuasion skills worked. We debated from South Korea (who in their right mind takes a vacation in Korea), Japan (hmmm, maybe another time), Australia (spending Diwali in Summer, no) and New Zealand. New Zealand won (not the world cup). A month of planning and discussions and bookings. You guys should drive in NZ, traffic is non-existent and gives you flexibility. Again, the persuasion skill worked and we (I mean I) decided to drive through the country.

Since we are a family spread across the West, East and Southern regions, decided to meet at the capital to embark on the actual journey. Our first stop was the windy city, Auckland. November is supposed to be technically summer in the southern hemisphere but looks like nobody informed Auckland. A blast of cold air greeted us as we landed. Watering eyes, jackets and hoodies in place, we found an Indian Uber driver to drive us to our apartment. After a sumptuous lunch of puri and sabji (vegetarian Indians never travel without their puris and theplas?), wandered to the harbor side to take some pics. All well, except that the hair was in a constant mess, and standing to pose for photos was tough as the wind seemed determined to blow us off (I am thinking Marilyn Monroe for no apparent reason). Auckland proved a very lively city with a young vibrant crowd, beautiful parks and harbors and a nightlife lasting till wee hours.

The famous Auckland Harbor

Couple of days later, we had to pick up our car. Now, I was a trifle apprehensive, not having driven in another country for long many years. Here we are. Ok, now how does it start, where do I insert the key? Not finding a keyhole after a thorough search, realization dawned, it is a button start. Now that engine is purring, why isn’t it moving? You need to release the brake, you silly cow! A few minutes later, Oh hell, slow down, this aint your country, dear. Where the hell is the clutch? It is called automatic gears, idiot. My legs were already stressed out. Fit the GPS, how the hell do you look at the GPS, rear view mirror, and windshield, I can’t rotate my head so many degrees. Where is the nasty fellow who persuaded me? I panic when I encounter drivers following rules and not honking, you can’t believe how stressful peaceful driving can be!

The gaseous volcanic region

 

Following traffic rules was not a big deal, I am one of the few morons who does that in India as well. Except that I was thoroughly confused at the roundabout.  Who has the right of way? (what is right of way, by the way, and by which way?) By Indian standards, there was plenty of room and I entered the roundabout, cutting off an angry lady, who decided to teach me a lesson. She stopped and gave me a stern lecture on “how-to drive in NZ” “do you even know the rules”. Sorry sorry ma’m. Ears burning, I decided to let everyone else in the country takes precedence and was subject to quite a few honks when I went full-stop at every roundabout from irate people behind me.

The gloomy deserted beaches

Drove through live volcanic regions and waterfalls, empty windy beaches and desert, curvy and straight roads, the length of north island all the way down to Wellington. The beauty of the country can’t be described in words or captured in photos. You have to see with your own eyes. The cleanest country I have ever seen, (so clean, dustbins are rare too) sparsely populated and ever-changing landscape. Felt like Britain of the South, strong European influence, with Westminster and Windsor, even a Stonehenge.

Mapping the location

Enjoyed staying on the beachfront at Wellington. Most people seemed very health conscious running the length of harbor in the middle of the day. Typical Airbnb apartments in the country are tiny, one bedroom and living area converted to three- four people living space and quite expensive in city centers. Some of them so crowded, you could hardly move without falling on the beanbags which seems to be a trend. Apartments, hotels, cafes, airports, you can find beanbags thrown around everywhere.

A view to kill

Flew to the heart of South Island- Queenstown. It was literally touch and go. The plane touched (almost) the runway thrice and went back twice. Landed in the third attempt. The gale was too strong and the runway too small. But man, what a view. Drastic change from North island, flying through southern Alps with snow peaked tops and glaciers was breathtaking. Queenstown is a tiny tourist town filled only with pubs and adventure sports.  With a breathless husband struggling to trot uphill and rains all the time (and snowing a few kilometers away), we ziplined with soaking shoes through the massive trees and waited for the weather to clear to fly to Milford Sound. A cool cruise through the fjord surrounded by snow-capped mountains and waterfalls, watching dolphins and seals, (and listening to gujus chirping on the deck); flying to the location in our very own private plane was the highlight of the whole tour, with a pilot who looked every inch the twin of Owen Wilson.

The Eighth Wonder

 

Vacations don’t last forever. A day in Christchurch and its parks and it was time to fly back. Hold on. The story isn’t done yet.

I had to travel to San Diego in the US of A. Off-line to Off-site. Crossing the Pacific, and the date line. I was massively thrilled with the idea of living two complete Sundays, one while flying, and another in US, because I was going to land before I flew off. Crazy, isn’t it? I kept waiting for the time machine whrrr sound and the bump and motion that would indicate I had gone back in time. What I still have not figured out is whether getting two back to back Sundays made me a day older or stopped my ageing for a day.

The falls in the Fiord

Walking is the best way to absorb new places and take in its culture. Every day we walked almost 10-12 kilometers easily. But the airports felt I did not get enough exercise and made me run. Flight delays, fear of missing an international connection, run run, huffing and puffing, luggage and all. Happened towards US and from US. Lesson learnt, 2 hours transit time is never enough, not when I am on the flight.

San Diego, Del Coronado hotel, one of the oldest in the city, home to many celebrities across decades, supposedly haunted, with miles of beach and enough of Sun to recover from the cold damp weather of previous week. A week of Sun and beach (a little work) and visits to downtown was a perfect finale to the journey. Some minor hiccups when one night my air conditioning gave way (the nights were still cold) and I needed to wear my jacket and socks to sleep, and another day a belt mysteriously appeared in my room (maybe it was the ghost’s gift, or the housekeeping’s tryst).

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The Del Coronado beach

Finally flew back to India, amidst flight delays and traffic jams to land back at home 20 days hence. Since I got two Sundays, should that be 21 days? With tired knees, swollen shins, confused stomach, gigabytes of media and unforgettable memories.

The side effects of Mitu

When did it start? Where did it start? Why did it start? My few seconds of research leads me to believe I have found the answer to the question that nobody is asking. No, it was not a movement started by the woman whose face is circulating in all posts and when you look at her, the first thought is #couldntpossiblybemetoo (sorry dear, no pun, only fun intended). I believe it goes back to the ancient times. Long long ago there was a place called Rome. The place is still there, but not the witnesses to the inception. In the kingdom of Rome, lot of people did and still do as Romans did, they fought. There was in the beginning, bro-mance between the then emperor, Mr Caesar, (a green fit fellow who also invented a salad on the side, popularly known as Caesar’s Salad.) and his die-hard friend Mr Brutus. As buddies go, they went hand in hand, except that My Brutus’s hidden hand held a dagger and brutally (Oh, so that is the genesis of the word Brute-ally), assassinated Mr Julius. Just before Mr Caesar ceased to be, he exclaimed “Et tu, Brute”. And that my friends, as per my twisted theory, when he said #youtoo, the stars shifted, cosmos heard him and, it was sealed on that day in the Ides of March, that in the twenty first century, #metoo war cry would thus cause empires to topple.

The aura and coverage of #metoo has not only caused rifts in unsuspecting households either way, from “my husband is better than your husband because he got more metoos” to “Thank your stars, I married you, you didn’t get a single metoo”, there are a lot of side effects that #meandyou can feel for real. From the girl asking, “He checks me out, should I cry metoo?” Whether the tap on the shoulder or the “you have lost weight and are looking good” be me too or not to me too. I actually feel quite discriminated, why not he too?

The biggest single side effect is the typecasting. Now #metoo is mapped to #sexualharassment and these days there is no way to use it with a different connotation. Just a few days back some of us friends decided to get ice cream and my friend shouted across the street, who all want a particular flavour. Along with the rest of us, I shouted loud and strong, “Me too”. And the world stopped. Twenty people turned and looked suspiciously at me. I never knew this would turn into my 20 seconds of fame. I could almost feel, people were ready to take out their mobiles and start recording, and I was going to be viral across TV and the online world. I half expected the salt toothpaste lady to jump out and thrust her mike at me and ask “Kya aapke paas #metoo hain?”( are you also a victim of #metoo?) . Like everything that glitters cannot be gold, not every me too is #metoo.

The second side effect is for (do I mean against?) the government. And I am not talking about the toppling giants. See, the government has gone out of the way to make things simple for Indiankind. The elimination of #377 and adultery as a crime, is opening up a world of possibilities for the amorous genre, and while they were ecstatically figuring out how to use it to their advantage, suddenly dropped the #metoo ball. Now the same folks are scrambling to tunnel a way out, maybe a prior agreement between the screwee and the screwer (that post on the agreement was hilarious) is the way out, if the trolls are to be believed.  To screw or not to screw, is the question, bluntly put, that is trending. This movement is putting further locks on the closet, forget coming out. So, what I am trying to say, in a roundabout way, is #metoo is decidedly anti-government because it is hell bent on undoing what the government did. So, if you are part of the mass screwed by the government, can you shout “Me too”?

This Mr Mitoo is simultaneously kicking up a storm in Bollywood. All those who are not new and in news, all they have to do to become happening all over again is #metoo. So if your Na Na to Nana went unheeded, or you could not adjust your sanskaar as per the God of light, you need to find the fault in your own vault, so what if he did assault? Why didn’t you let Mr Anu be the master (Malik), or Jatin be the slave (Das), and how dare you refuse Mr Housefull (1,2 or 3 and 4). You can’t revolt, so you must withhold. BTW, what happened to the 300 (what was the number again?) encounters of the Munna? None of them is vocal so far…he went so far, yet..

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The blouse that saves

Tone change. Jokes apart. Unless I do that, I will be forever exiled from society of pious women and thrown into shameful drudgery.

Somebody recently asked me, what do you think about #metoo. I am a woman, what is there to think? I am one of the millions who has survived her own encounters and fought her demons. It took me 25 years to speak up, after encounters at the tender age of 15. It needs courage, a lot of it, it needs you to have the confidence that nobody can point fingers at you, and if they do, you can handle it. It makes me so happy that women feel empowered to speak up. Being able to look at people in the eyes and finally blurt it out, take the load off the chest.

Adultery is no longer a crime. But using power to abuse people, physically or mentally, those who don’t have a voice, be it a woman or a man, exploiting a weakness is despicable. Consent is the key that unlocks the door of the heaven that people desire. I just hope that this movement brings around a real change. It is not about being anti Romeo, but it is about upholding our dignity and being treated as an equal. And every romantic, mildly flirting glance is not a reason to start the war cry. Let us not trivialise it. There is a clear demarcation between good natured flirting and hard-core assault. Let the Romeos survive, else Juliets will have a tougher time. And remember to say No, if you don’t want it.

Nevertheless, #metoo has created #toomuch #funtoo.

Disclaimer: No woman was harmed during the writing of this blog. Any reference to anyone living or dead is purely intended for harmless fun.

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.

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

 

Fedup with Fedex

Deliver us from our sins, so said the delivery man. When life is moving along without a hitch, trust these guys to sprinkle an overdose of exasperation. There is something called business cards (the paper ones) still used, which my office finally decided to Fedex from the US of A. It is a different story why from US and why it took a couple of months to get around to it, maybe another day).

Now I was blissfully unaware of the catastrophe blooming ahead. One gloomy rainy afternoon, I get a call from a Noida number. Hello madam, your package has been received; is it for official or personal use? I really have no idea, I confessed. So, the guy rattled off a big number. Now numbers are numbers, that specific sequence did not, in my mind, create any spark of enlightenment. He carried on, unaware of my distress, you need to submit, your id proof and address proof and. Hold on, send me a mail, I pleaded and spelled out my email id to him slowly.

He didn’t, however, send an email. Couple of hours later, I get another call from the same number. Madam, your package, parroted the number, and before he could complete, I reminded him gently of my email id and please, can he send me details over email- and again gave him the spelling slowly just hoping he would get it right.

Of course, I get a call for the third time that day, and trust me, I managed to keep my patience and gave the same details all over again. I counted 100 backwards, did not lose my cool. End of day 1. Still no emails. Am I so obfuscated? Is it me or is it Fedex? I mean how difficult can it be to send an email.

Next morning, I got up with greens (as compared to the Monday blues) (yeah, bad joke, I know). And I got The Call. Since all paths to tranquility failed, I was so ready to be upset. Why can’t you get it into your heads that.. and the half-wit interrupted- madam, are we talking about the same package? That stumped me. Dutifully he repeated the numbers again. Yes, it is the SAME blasted package. Madam, see na, I am calling from a different department. What? Are you IRS?? I asked with trepidation. No madam, KYC department of Fedex. Really? So, I gave the details yesterday, use it and send me a bloody email. No madam, he was pretty calm, we don’t share information between departments, confidentiality you know!!! He said with a strong overbearing attitude. Seriously, given that you have my package, my phone number, my company details, what confidentiality is being violated by email id?? But then argument would have just resulted in a headache, so I gave him once again, my email id, to get some peace of mind.

First hurdle cleared. I got The Mail. I was ecstatic. I had managed to persuade Fedex to do what they didn’t by default. Wow, I was powerful.

Like expected, they asked for several documents, which I dutifully shared. I wondered, during moments of idle clarity, a deck of business cards, probably would have cost be 150 bucks to print and deliver in India, here I was spending my precious time giving 20 documents to retrieve that! And I am not even counting the cost of printing in Trumpraj and international shipment.

How would the stork know the delivery address? Musing, at least there would be a few storks that had to be bad at their job (babies delivered at wrong home kind). They asked for address proof and I provided the agreement with Regus Biz park, where my office currently is. They blatantly refused to accept it. Madam, we don’t accept “online” agreements, it has to be an agreement approved by the GoI. Digital India, where are thou? I don’t have it, my dear, I explained to the imbecile. I just have this. No madam. Can u give us Telephone bill, Internet bill, Light bill, some damn bill that proves you are a legitimate?  Yeah, company registration, Certificate of Incorporation and Pan Card did not prove that, I guess. No I can’t. Please get it into your head. Everything is in the name of Regus. The guy was staunchly stubborn. we cannot accept it. Notice that now they were sending mail after mail, all they did is just stopped listening. Bhai, please accept online agreement. That is the best I can do. Think about it. There are hundreds of offices that work in this co working space model.

A headache later, I sat down to talk, but they picked up the call fifteen minutes’ post ringing. Explained the whole story with growing impatience. The bell rang but did not ring a bell. Can I talk to your supervisor? Mam, he will tell you the same thing. !@#$, let me talk to him, maybe he isn’t as much a moron as you. After ten more minutes of persuasion, I got the esteemed supervisor on line. As expected, he echoed the same rote line written in his text book. Please understand, I tried negotiation skills now. I can give you in writing that my office is located here. He was puzzled, that clause is out of syllabus. I bribed him that I could write my address on the company letterhead and sign it. Okay. Let me see. I will come back to you. He didn’t know how to deal with this and neither did I!

Couple of hours later, another email, same statement, we don’t accept online agreement. By this time, I was ready to send the package back to US of A. Went home. Cup of tea and a Crocin later, I had a brainwave. I sent Fedex the Regus lease registration with the landlord. Lo and behold, they accepted it. Seriously, that document didn’t even have my company name on it. So much so for the process. All they needed was a registered deed, no matter between what parties.

And btw, the most interesting discovery of the episode. Out of curiosity, I opened the lease deed of Regus and saw the owner name “Hrithik Roshan”. Didn’t register. There can be multiple people by that name. Can’t be The Hrithik Roshan. Then I read further “son of Rakesh Roshan”. This can’t be a co-incidence. I scrolled down to the bottom of the page, and the well-known Greek God smiled back even in a photocopied passport size image.  Oh yeah, the building I work in is owned by The Bang Bang guy.

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PS: Even after this long blog, the package did not arrive till three days later and follow up twice because according to them “the business was closed” on a Monday which is not possible. And to think I had such high hopes ever since Castaway.

Gym-nasty

Like I always say, once you enter the fourth decade of mortal existence, life takes on a whole new meaning.  You stop worrying about wearing the most unsuitable clothes and show off creaky venous old knees; you color hair not to hide the white showing through, but to get a brunette look.  And among some of the other weird things I have no wish to expose just yet; I also enrolled myself into a gym.

Yeah, so I did. I can’t fathom what on earth prompted me, after successfully giving it a miss for all of my forty and five years and suddenly here I was, struggling into tights and t-shirt and trying to get rid of my belly fat and other protruding anatomical juxtapositions which don’t look right (yeah, the fat would have looked better a few inches above). I guess too much time on my hands and a desire not to feel totally lethargic and waste yet. So, lo and behold, I was ready to take a swing at things I had not attempted before.

The gym is pretty close to where I stay, so walked over. Went inside to ear blasting music and a plethora of machines all around. I with my weary eyes had to look where I walked else I would be the first to fall flat on a dumbbell thrown carelessly around, or the jutting leg of a legpress. I was given a tour of all the contraptions and re-learnt all the muscle names forgotten in class VIII, triceps and biceps and hamstrings and which one is smaller and larger. I also got an overloaded with names of machines and exercises which I didn’t remember five minutes beyond. I could see several trainers repeating basic math- one, two, three, buck up, back straight and I fondly remembered my PT instructor.

Since I was not put off the place during my first visit, I decided to pay the fees and hoped that would prompt me to continue. Day 1. A baldy instructor confronted – why does everyone I encounter have to be bald?? Gods have something seriously against me. At least my gym instructor could have been a treat to the eyes. Sigh, he isn’t, doesn’t look a hunk from any direction (including upside down), looks more like a soft spoken teacher or a government servant. He started off rattling something in Marathi and I had to stop him mid way through his monologue, Hindi please, or English, I asked doubtfully. Yes madam. Then he started my routine. By the time he finished with me, I was almost dead, all limbs creaking and trembling, wondering whether I needed a stretcher to go home.

In my dotage, the way I exercise is my break time is almost equal to my exercise time. The fun during the breaks while I struggle to get my breath back is to look around and see the blatant display of chiseled torsos and muscular wealth. The day I joined, all the folks turned and glanced at the old woman gone crazy, took one look and disdainfully went back to their routines. So much so for my hotness! At least I can see a hot Dwayne smiling or a desi Hrithik looking at me sideways from the wall, and a surly looking uninspiring female body builder who gives a smirk.

Over a period of time, I learnt to use some of the machines, lift some weights, and perform some basic workout though it pains me to see guys lifting so much weight while I was struggling with the lightest dumbbell. Going overboard and trying extra would cause a “sweet and sour pain” in my glutes for the next two days as my instructor keeps repeating. He hurts my muscles more than my sentiments, and I walk out in a weird gait (resembling a three-legged-walk) since everything was sore, feeling distinctly old and in need for oiling.

Over a period of time, as I interestingly watched the steamy sweaty bodies and listened to Mika screaming “shake that booty” at the top of his voice, I realized there are basically five kinds of creatures infesting the gym.

  • The “hen-pecked-husband” whose wife doesn’t let him sit along with his pot belly in front of the idiot box, and packs him off to get a six pack. Poor harassed fellow, he finds it so tough to slide into most of the machines, which are really designed for human size. Huffing and puffing, his painstaking attempts at lifting weights and then taking half an hour of break with open mouth struggling to breathe in air right in front of the TV.
  • The “self-obsessed-and-proclaimed-hunk” wearing tight shorts who spends fifteen minutes lifting weights making alien guttural sounds and faces and then walks with a forced swagger and spends next fifteen in front of the wall length mirror looking at his jutting muscles from all possible angles and showing (off) to all the trainers around and measuring the micrometer change in his biceps. The mindless body and his gymfies on Instagram and Facebook lives. God save him!
  • The “I-have-time-and-clothes” girl who adorns yoga pants and sports bra (only thing everyone noticed) and something insignificant on top which is completely superfluous, with a ponytail and a mouth that can literally move mountains, and a magnetic personality, pulling all sweaty bodies towards it. With bobbing boobs and behind as she treads the mill, all trainers (including mine) fall all over themselves to train her and look at her with gaping mouths and rising heart rate.
  • The “exceptionally athletic Superman” who is actually focused on just building muscles and totally oblivious to the rest of the world around him. The guy who pushes every machine to its limits and cribs that they were not strong enough, and who spends daily 2-3 hours just exercising. And the walk, reeking of self confidence! But I wonder, he is already there, then why make the rest of us all look and feel nobodies.
  • The “aiming-to-impress-girlfriend” sweaty smelly thin fellow, the pea-brained nincompoop who wants to build brawns and not brains, with silky hair, big phone and glares and thin spidery legs, squatting away to glory, face straining hard to avoid the gaseous excretions towards his fellow folks.

Ideally I should qualify myself into a sixth category, who last squat was only during the last Indian style loo visit, but then being a unique specimen, I am not sure there are many like me around. In the past year, I have started enjoying the one hour stint at the gym every day (well, almost). And my top three reasons of visiting the same place regularly happen to be

  • After working out, I don’t feel guilty about not working out and the cake tastes so much better, especially with the icing (and I wonder why I am still putting on weight?)
  • That hot dapper who always comes in at the same time and is a temptation of magnificent proportions.
  • Enjoying my favorite mind exercise of judging and categorizing people.