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, July 08, 2007

Homecoming

[Ok, readers of my blog, I now officially write for an online mag as well. So do visit - http://www.haftamag.com/ This one's from there. And I am adhering to the 'publish it in your blog only one week later rule'. Ofcourse, what you read below is the uncut version.]

You realize that the Ol’ Blighty has worked on you when you do twice the number of ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’ than the obsequious air hostesses on the London Mumbai flight. I pushed the bridge of my black framed pseudo intellectual glasses as I made my way through the doors of the A320. ‘Good morning sir’, the first hostess clad in yellow wished. Though I hated the ‘Sir’, ‘Good morning’, I wished in return. A tall, short haired, dusky hostess with a nose ring was next. Huge turn on. ‘26A please’, I enquired in a false Sinatra baritone. ‘Straight ahead darling’, she replied with a beaming smile. Darling for godamn sake. I cringed at the ring of those words. ‘I am no kid damn it. Call me sir at least’, every sinew in me wanted to shout back.

The smart boy image having shattered into a million pieces, I sat around twiddling with the entertainment console. Aishwarya Rai danced beautiful in an artificially simulated rain sequence. The orange juice tasted sour and the unseen occupants of my neighbouring seat probably fiddled with their luggage in some tube station near Covent Garden as we left Heathrow behind and cruised heaven-ward.

Miss Rai danced twice more in the next twenty minutes, once with rain and once without. And when the flight safety manual started seeming more interesting than the happenings onscreen, I knew I had reached the pinnacle of air travel boredom. I vainly, alternated between states of alpha sleep and quasi wakefulness as iterative interruptions of food, drink and more food happened. ‘Excuse me sir’, she’d wake me up from a state of deep REM sleep and ask ‘Paneer wrap or Chicken wrap, sir’. One of each please.

But they finally ran out of food I presume and I managed to sleep through a few decent countries. When Mumbai finally happened, I was pretty much like a giant salamander post hibernation (assuming salamanders do hibernate). But the last place salamanders want to be after a relaxed period of nothingness is the airport. Immigration control and the long stares at your passport like you were a KGB agent at the JFK; the filling in of arrival cards, where shamelessly my name would jut out with a ‘can I have more boxes please’ earnestness; where restless me waited around conveyer belts like a love torn Romeo wondering – ‘Is that my beloved red back pack or is it the burly man’s next to me’.

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The heat wave hit me like a welcome hug as I lugged my bags to the nearest pre-paid taxi stand. Three hundred rupees later, I was sitting in a black and yellow ramshackle Fiat with the only thing older than the taxi being the driver himself. A Rohinton Mistry protagonist look alike, the old man hardly uttered a word, maneuvering the road ahead (which had enough in it to seem like one of the higher levels in a brand new version of NFS) with concentration writ large on his furrowed brow. ‘Mumbai me garmi kaisa he’, I asked inanely. ‘Diktha nahi he kya’, he grumpily replied. I wiped the sweat of my brow and laughed sheepishly. I tried again a few minutes later, but a limited vocabulary and a lackluster choice of topic meant I was only going to get monosyllabic uninterested replies. Okay. No conversations for the taking here. I resigned and stared out at the giant billboards instead, advertising game shows on national television.

I checked in, showered and looked out of my hotel room window. There’s nothing like a room with a good view. Mine looked straight into the living room of some apartment on the other side of the road. The girl in the blue top was the only eye candy I got (if I were to not consider the shriveled petunias in her balcony). I walked west a minute and there stood the Gateway of India. Boats towed and bobbing in the simmering Bombay Sea. Boy scouts running around in shades of khaki. Peanut shells and pigeon feed strewn around today like carnations would have been when King George sailed in.

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I sat at Leopold Café later that evening, with all due reverence that a place running since 1871 should deserve. But I felt weirdly incongruous. Largely because I did not have a copy of the Lonely Planet and everybody else on every other table had it. My previous visits to Mumbai (at least from the gastronomic angle) always had that ‘Damn, I did not go to Leopold’ factor to it. And now that I come to think of it, I do not think I missed much. All its got is a dreamy Indian Coffee House kinda nonchalance (in the nature of the waiters that is), a ‘ShivSagar’ kinda menu (Chinese,Indian,Italian….) and an interesting way of serving draught which would make even Arts students feel like they are in a chemistry lab. And what’s more, the Leopold menu seemed to reflect the grand Indian economic uprising. As I paid my hundred rupees for the mango juice, I was indeed painfully proud.

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I walked the Leopold stretch this way and that; flooded with PYT’s shopping for little trinkets for the Monday morning flaunting back at college. And somewhere in between I felt the long lingering looks of an angel. And a whisper and giggle later, another. Must be my new Frank Lampard like frontal spike. God bless my Turkish hair dresser who speaks unintelligible but works like a craftsman. It all boils down to having a stylish hair style I say. I walked towards them with an air of conscious well being and then I heard them giggle and whisper ‘jumper’. Oh yes!!!, it was the freakin’ jumper. Stuck to me like an additional body layer all the way from Norwich. I was probably the only one other than the typhoid patients at Breach Candy wearing a black jumper in the hot Mumbai summer. And the girls sure did find it amusing. Strip went the jumper and I scurried into the nearest restaurant and downed the embarrassment with a Chicken biriyani washed down with fresh lime soda. Thank god for the fact that all things nasty have antidotes. Burp.

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Two sunrises later, as I stood in the immigration queue at Heathrow, I had the beaming satisfaction of having learned from Mumbai. I had bulldozed my way to the top of the queue sending a couple of Chinese folks flying (Gattuso would have been proud). And when the immigration officer, stamped my passport and gave it back to me, I matter of factly picked it up and nodded a quiet thank you. To hell with the exaggeration and the profuse pleasantries, for you’re doing your fuckin job and I am doing mine, thank you.

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1 Comments:

Blogger lakshmi said...

is there really a rule that restricts you from publishing your blog on the same day as it gets published in that official site? quite interesting..

as always, a well-written blog!!

July 10, 2007 11:45 PM  

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