The Ringside View

My attempts at writing have always been stacked up in old diaries and scraps of yellowing paper.Time,neglect and phylum insecta however, always ensured that the gibberish i scrawled, never would see the prying gaze of an alien eye.Years later, i still scribble once in a while - this time in word documents stored in some obscure folder somewhere in the innards of my C drive.I am unearthing some of them and opening them up for the interested.To get what i call - The Ringside view.

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Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India

Sunday, October 22, 2006


I had unwittingly checked in far too early for my middle of the night- early morning flight. Beyond a million people and what seemed a zillion glassy walls my parents hardly realized I was three security checks deep into the airport lobby and had no way to come out and bid them that final formal goodbye. A few phone calls later, I at least ensured that they were well on their way back home and in the warm confines of their bed when dawn and my Airbus 320 finally arrived.

With a little over three hours to kill, I was juxtaposed precariously between the proverbial horns of a dilemma. Do I go ahead and attempt a quick power nap or stay awake, for the flight, frisking and all the formalities that accompanies overseas air travel. Three cappuchinos later, I pretty much realized it was the latter approach that I had adopted.

Italy was playing Czech Republic (if my memory serves me right) that night and the Azzuris were pumping goals into their bewildered opponents’ net like there was no tomorrow. A hundred people waiting to travel to a hundred different locations sat there staring into a grainy transmission of the match. I joined; feigning interest and support to the Italian cause. But when the grains got thicker and the match more one sided I resorted to fidgeting with my very basic, no Bluetooth, no embedded 3 mega pixel camera, make-a-call-if-you-want-to mobile. How I wish I had one of those all encompassing gadgets that slay boredom at trying times like these.


Time ticked by as the Italians presumably stuck more goals. Pretty strangers, who sat around fidgeting with their more accomplished mobiles, got up and boarded flights to Kualalampur, New York and where have you. I sat there brooding like one of those unfortunate boys for whom daddy does not turn up well after school time.

More minutes ticked by and finally a coarse voice on the PA bawls out a flight number etched out on my ticket. I stared hard for confirmation. Bangalore-Mumbai-London, she repeated in languages more than one. It obviously could not have been the effects of caffeine ebbing away at the hands of an overpowering bout of sleepiness. The wait was over. My flight was ready for boarding. 3:30 read my watch. I tugged at my shoulder bag and walked towards the sentry. A couple of customary security checks later, it should be scrambled egg, toasted bread, Orange juice and then Mumbai.


I looked out of my double layered glass window into the distance. An invisible as-of-yet sun was sending those first streaks of daylight. And like a potion of colour dropped into water, they permeated through the black of what was yesterday. Dark changed a hazy crimson and then something lighter in the spectrum and then the G force of take off; white clouds; scrambled egg; toasted bread; Orange juice and then Mumbai.


The wheels hit the tarmac and I peered out through my half open eyes. A blanket of drizzle enveloped all the Mumbai that I could see. And as the Airbus turned around at the far end of the runway like a ballerina, the tin shanties of Dharavi popped out like a handwork assignment of a fifth grader. In all motley colours – blue, red, grey. Little boys ‘pottied’ outside their tin homes staring at the snouts of huge aircrafts which seemed to them like amusements of another world. I did a mini stretch; almost knocking over the coffee into my neighbors lap. A few cold stares later we were walking single file, him and me; like Jews to the giant shower bath; like school boys to a boring drill class; like co-passengers to catch a connecting flight. The electronic clock on the wall read six. The milkman would have dropped the customary litre at my doorstep back home. The drizzle steadied and then stopped.


A bigger flight meant more people. More people to go past when you want to reach your window sill. More people who would grumble when you want to get out for a leak sometime. More older women. More crying devils. It also meant you’d be treated like a school boy in a classroom of a hundred. That’s economy class anyways, I ruminated as I slid past the woman in horn rimmed glasses to my designated corner of airspace (well, at least for the next eight hours.)

An hour or so passed in quasi wakefulness’. Staring at cloud formations slide past the steel bird like nothingness. How I wish I could slide past these row of people just like that, if I wanted to. ‘Orange Juice or (something I did not hear)’, ordered the headmistress-like-air hostess, breaking my reverie.

‘Eh…Orange juice’, I whimpered. (Damn should have asked her what else is available). Her barren face showed no signs that a smile had loomed in it for ages. “Can you pass this along’, she ordered again. “And what would you have for lunch – Veg or Non Veg”.

“I’ll have veg”, I answered. And immediately after uttering it, had this irresistible urge of making it Non Veg. I rolled over the question for a moment. The headmistress was long gone. I’ll have Veg I convinced myself. A few minutes later, I had my veg meal in a tray. God bless, it tasted good.


A large screen in the middle of the aircraft occasionally flashed the site trail of our journey. Like Alexander’s army we were crossing land and sea. The only difference being, we knew we were heading Heathrow. Alexander and his men meanwhile would have just wanted to keep going.

I tried sleeping and then I tried staying awake. I borrowed the New York Times from the lady in the horn rimmed glasses and tried doing the crossword. I tried reading James Frey; tried listening to Louis Armstrong. I even hopelessly tried concentrating on a movie where the protagonist’s best friend is a dolphin. I don’t remember when, but the movie ended abruptly sometime when both protagonist and dolphin swam away into the horizon. God bless the director.

And then a big bout struck me. And when I woke up we had downed the altitude for sure. Green hedges, tiled box like houses and a general sense of orderliness - evidently visible. The roads criss-crossed in perfect geometrical symmetry; cricket fields and swimming pools appeared every few minutes. In a bar round some corner, two young men are sure to be discussing knighthood for Wayne Rooney over large pints of Kronenberg.
Old Blighty.


Heathrow was like an Olympics village. Airplanes from a hundred countries -big and small; known and unknown. Parked there with their snouts together, oblivious of the fact that the lands that they come from are at loggerheads; fighting for soil, oil and what have you. We must have traveled considerable distance on land by now, like a car searching for parking in a busy urban shopping mall. People were restlessly folding their newspapers and picking up luggage from the overhead cabinets. The lady in the horn rimmed glasses got up as well, freeing me from my captive corner. I felt like a free man as I stepped down the stairs. The sun was up and shining and a distant blue board proudly proclaimed – Welcome to Heathrow.


The queue at the immigration was long and winding. But geography it seemed had dissolved into that one line. Old Chinese couples, whole Indian families, big bosomed women from the African hinterlands – all of them just stood there as though in a global communion. A bevy of very loud but very pretty young girls with hair colours ranging from auburn to blonde stood there speaking in some exotic European language. If angels were conceived on earth, it’s probably them, I ruminated poetically.

‘Next please’, announced the lady at the immigration counter.

Break in reverie again. I shuffle for my papers. Passport, check-in form, work permit, medical reports, what else…. Am I forgetting something?

‘Nice handwriting’, she smiled at me. A few basic questions later I was lugging my 30kgs worth of luggage in the search for that one familiar face in the crowd.

There he was. “Hey dude”, I waved.

“Where the fuck were you. Your flight arrived almost an hour back”, he complained, relieving me all the same of one of my monster bags. I smiled, looking around in amazement. Welcome to Heathrow, proclaimed a familiar blue board.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Monday - a sequel

This is the sequel to an earlier post titled - Sunday

I labored out of bed like a prisoner of war to the gallows. The alarm on my mobile had buzzed like the harbinger of doom. Peering out of the window, I could see the scene set for the day. The sun peeked out momentarily like in a game of hide and seek and then promptly hid behind the veil of large vicious clouds. The roads had been washed down by the sheets of overnight rain and the wind was relentlessly beating down on me when I braved it all and walked out of home. A blond girl walking ahead of me had her golden locks flying around like a towering inferno. Thank good for small mercies and simple visual delights. And thank god not for Monday mornings.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


For whom the bell tolled, it must have struck seven. The cathedral spire glistening in whatever little the sun had to offer. The dark vicious bulbs of cumulo-nimbus clouds would be there as usual; standing sentry to another chilly dull morning. Sheets of overnight rain would have swept the roads clean like a newly swept floor. And the wind. Like a prankster let loose in a candy store, like a lone tusker gone astray, the winds would be lashing at every sign and post. Leaves stretched to hold onto their twigs dear. Every muscle and sinew pierced as though by a thousand needles. Am I not glad I am not in the midst of it. This may be a figment of my imagination or may very well be true. But snuggling into my 10.5 tog duvet, there’s no way I am looking out of the window for confirmation. It’s Sunday.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Donut factory.

4 donuts for one pound twenty proclaimed the board. I stopped in my stride and worked out the logistics. Breakfast had more or less become a non entity and it was far too early for lunch. The artist had done a fair job in luring the waiting to be tempted and I decided it was very well worth a go. I walked up to the counter and mumbled – ‘Hi there, 4 donuts please’. The lady at the counter did a mere nod and walked up to what seemed like a pretty complicated apparatus stretching half the length of the counter. (Reminded me of physics apparatus back at school where my values always indicated that the refractive index of glass was the same as that of water)

I looked around to see if the actual donuts rose up to the image created by the part timer who had painted, what to the starved and hungry was nothing short of a Michelangelo. But they were nowhere in sight, and the lady still seemed obsessed with this weird looking apparatus of hers. Whatever happened to customer value, I wondered, as she turned on a switch and shuffled with a piston.

Below, this piston was a large cylindrical drum which extended into a long tubular waterway with lanes resembling a swimming pool. And the entire stretch was submerged in what seemed and looked like oil. At the far end of the tubular pathway rose a ramp at a 45 degree incline. The apparatus stopped there like in the middle of nowhere with a mound of icing sugar below.

I was by now figuring out what was happening before me. And as though to confirm my nascent ideas, a circular blob of dough fell into the black calm of the oil. There was a simmer and a few moments later a puffing of the dough. I could now very well see the circle expanding with that all too familiar orifice in the middle. A second blob soon fell and then two more. I gaped like a kid at the circus as the first donut (now they deserved to be called that) swam the great channel of oil towards its climax at the head of the ramp. The others followed suit like in a boat race, the only difference being the ones behind showed no signs of overtaking the leaders. A few moments later, they were climbing the hill like in a procession, waiting to fall into that mound of sugar below.

I waited with bated breath for the donuts to consummate their journey but it was not to be. The vamp got to them before they dived to their sugary end by picking them off the ramp and smearing them with the sugar. It somehow was not that classic end that I envisioned but before i could even reflect, I was thrust the four donuts in a bag and mumbled a quick ‘Thank you’. It was just another day in the donut factory.