Thursday, August 10, 2006

Greetings London..

21st June 2006

All set?

This was a question to which I had no answer (and how was I supposed to?)..and yet answered in the affirmative about 253 times before I finally took that much awaited flight to London.
The only idea I had about the country was from what I had heard from people or what I had read or seen on TV…but well as far as knowing that I had packed in what most of my friends had advised me to,I guessed I was all set. As I bid farewell to my dearest pals at work I knew I was leaving behind something that I would miss in the days to come. All the people I was leaving behind would move on with their lives and the question that played on my mind was, when I come back would I still be able to connect to them the way I do now? Maybe, maybe not. But the dice had been rolled and the decisions taken…so there I was all set for that.
The trip to the airport was rather quiet with mom and dad not saying too much and I perfectly understand why…the skies were overcast and suvie told me it was raining back in Pune.
At the airport I had to bid a rather hurried goodbye to my folks as the immigration process had already begun.
The crinkling plastic on my new suitcases made sure that people noticed me as I ran back and forth between various counters clueless about what line to join and with what form in hand. It is a rather misconstrued notion that men don’t ask for directions. I think the truth lies in the fact that men don’t understand directions unless they are the ones giving them. So after numerous efforts to understand the system well, I finally found myself in the waiting lobby after the security check, trying to look like the ever confident traveler who had done the circuit thrice a day since his fourth birthday. Reality peeked through when a rather cute looking member of the ground staff (I wonder where she will be when I get back), found me out just before the plane took off to return the luggage check-in token that I had innocently given away with my boarding pass…well u learn your lessons..And so I was finally all set.

22nd June 2006

The flight was an interesting one. The air-hostesses were good, the take off was perfect, the air-hostesses were good, the food was palatable and before I forget, the air hostesses were good. The ultra-cold croissants served on the plane actually made me wonder whether the infamous British ‘stiff upper lip’ isn’t only a frozen one after all…
There was this lady sitting next to me who I made small talk with. Her name was Shahida Khan and she was of Pakistani origin living in Canada for 30 years, was visiting India after 25 years (she actually thought Pune was very similar to Karachi) and was headed to London to visit her brother. She pocketed almost all the small ketchup and sugar packets served to us in our dinner packets. I knew I had found a gem when she actually turned to me and pointing to the words ”Day-by-Day Deli” on the packet said ”I think they have ordered dinner from Deli Darbar (Delhi Darbar)….wow !!!

The flight landed about half an hour before time but the serpentine queues for immigration check ensured that I was at least an hour late in meeting my cab driver. The first thing that struck me about the airport was the very evident variety of cultural mixes.This was the first time I had seen so many clothed foreigners in one sweep of the eye…(the unclothed variety I’ve seen in Goa.)..and I was proud that I could actually tell the nationalities of the people around…the prim-and-propah local brits, the very good looking French and Italians, the ultra-cool jeans-slipping-off-the-bum Americans and the overdressed Indians..

Gary, my driver was my first introduction to the courteous and polite English.The drive from the airport to my hotel in East Croydon was stunningly beautiful. As the Mercs and Beemers interspersed generously with brands unheard of in India sped by I coudnt help noticing the driving and traffic sense that people maintained. A speeding vehicle would slow down and allow even the solitary pedestrian to cross with both the driver and the pedestrian exchanging pleasantries…What..!!...In India it would have resulted in a near death accident and a “Bh%$#^%, diktha nahi hai kya..marne ko meri hi gaadi mili thi kya??…JJ

The scenery we passed through was breath taking…all the houses were neatly arranged in rows with signboards that explained just about everything there was to explain. Pretty women (a whole lot of em)
walking around and flags supporting the England football team were flying from almost every possible pole and window.
I checked into the hotel and was told to pay cash upfront, so I went looking for a bank to get my Travelers Checks encashed.
I had to make a call to the Infy office informing them of my arrival so I went to a superstore to get some change for a twenty and the kind lady with the ubiquitous smile handed me half a kilo of strange metallic currency. I found a payphone and that’s when I had my first tryst with the monster. Theories of the rise of the machines and machines becoming more smarter than the human being raced through my mind as I struggled with the payphone, not comfortable with either the code, or the currency or the darn payphone which swallowed around 80 pence without letting me get a sqeak across. A brief struggle and a pound later human intelligence won and I had made my call.

I decided to do a dry run from my hotel to Canary Wharf, where my office would be and even for a first timer like me the travel was surprisingly convenient.
Of course I tried to battle another demonic version of the machine kind, the ticket vending machine(its an intimidatingly huge computerized thing with loads of screens and even more options)..duh….i took the old fashioned way out and waited in the queue…the black gentleman at the counter was really kind and spent a good five minutes explaining to me the various routes I could take and also marked them out on a map for me…almost forcing me to make comparisons between him and the guys behind the ticket windows at Churchgate station. But I must say, the travel isn’t half as exciting as the travel in the Mumbai locals..I almost had the in-built urge to jump onto the approaching train but instead had to wait till everyone got out and then entered in a queue…how boring…and I wondered how the people here got their buzz from besides Viagra.

If any body says that Christianity is the dominant religion in Britain, don’t believe them…Fashion is by far the most believed in religion here. This I guess is true for most of Europe. The sunshine and lovely climate has brought out the most interesting and gaze-stopping fashion into the streets of London…the women wear really unbelievable stuff and a few of them almost tripped over their necklines…hmm..

Canary Wharf, which has been in the news recently, depicts the true power that London has as a financial and business hub. The gigantic structures of metal, glass and concrete leave you gaping and so does the show of money. I saw my first couple of stretch limos and passed by people who exude power simply by their appearance.

Returning home I grabbed a sandwich and crashed out early. It was weird to see the skies so brightly lit up even at 9.30 at night.



23rd June 2006
I reported in to work today. My office is in the towering Citigroup Centre. Touted as one of the architectural accomplishments of modern times in Europe, the grandeur of the building is surpassed only by the variety of cuisines offered in the sprawling canteen. My taste buds turned a gleeful somersault just looking at the options available…so I think whether I work or not, I am going to be eating a lot…J
I lost another 30 pence to the chewing gum vending machine…(I might have to budget a monthly allowance for machine losses..)
Came back tired ..picked up my first KFC helping and soaked in the bath till I drifted into sweet sleep.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Painted mugs and friendly hugs...Sat, 27th May 06

Long long ago….last Monday...to be more precise… when suvi and I stood rooted in front of the stack of colors at a stationery store, is when the idea of having a painting day took birth. After mulling over what we could paint ( we ran thru the entire option list of houses, dinner sets, spoons to t-shirts and even professional canvas painting) we finally decided to try out painting ceramics…I guess because breaking cups is the easiest way to destroy evidence of a lack of artistic inclination…so the paints came, the mugs from shoppers stop followed and so did the weekend…The plan was to have a ‘ beer, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. and coffee mug painting day”….

Saturday afternoon began rather late with Tripuri huffing and puffing her way up suvies staircase …when she arrived the beer was already sitting pretty in the freezer and the paints had come out to play….the skies were overcast and it was a beautiful day..i wish the same could be said about the warm-up paintings that suvi, trips and I made….i think I used up most of my creativity in my warm up painting titled” reservation”, the depth of which was lost upon the rest…to them it was just a blob of orange and yellow ochre….:)
And so began our mug painting activity….almost high on beer and very low on talent (apparent by then) we drew lots on who would get which mug…..suvie got the orange, trips the green and me the blue….i can safely say without much doubt that Tripuri used more soap and sink water on her mug than paint…:)….her first attempt at painting started out with looking like a lovely field of colorful poppies and ended up looking like the muddy mahim creek….so it had to go…..
Suvie's cup had colorful windows on it..a rather gypsy-like disposition…my obviously superior talents had decided to take a vacation…so my mug ended up looking like a rather scary version of Jaws-3…..
And slowly realization dawned that our talents at mug painting left a lot…and I mean a lot…to be desired…and just as our worst fears of the beer getting over started to take shape, it rained.

And it rained ,the first good rain of the season and we cudnt stop ourselves from wanting to get drenched….:)…so suvie changed before we could say yetryuwegfyggndhcsvf….not that we tried....(that woman has absolutely no resistance to change) …:)
We got wet in the lawns ..and trips and suvie took turns looking foolish swinging around on kiddy swings…and that was before suvie decided to slide down an ancient slide….and when the two women(???)….forced me to join them in playing ringa-ringa roses, is when I knew I had to get myself some more guy friends…J…I even suggested mud wrestling and catching cook but feminine majority ensured that the girlie games happened….i had new found respect for reservations for minorities....

Getting drenched in the rain can never be a complete experience unless followed by some garam garam bhajjias and chai….so we went back into the darkness of suvies home (the lights kept playing hookey with us throughout the evening)…and headed straight for the kitchen…it was a revelation of sorts for suvie to discover that she had a kitchen in her house ..and more revelations followed with the discovery of garam masala and besan….:)….tripuri slit the chillies and filled them with amchur while suvie hovered around wondering how many doors her kitchen had….

Raul made a late entry and smooched the beer bottles with fury..and antara who missed the dignified session in the rain made as vociferous an entry as she usually does..(I didn’t know she had come in the house for at least 10 good minutes..)..….garam chai,bhajjis and friends…how much better can an evening get….:)

We watched friends until we exhausted all our laptop batteries and once the lights came on, we went back to the mug painting…
Raul surprised us all with his idea of spray painting the mug, an idea that antsie caught like the disease..(she almost ended up spraying all of us in green and orange dots)..
Accused later of spoiling all our amateur artistic venture kind of fun, antara set about making us feel as little and shitty about our lack of talent as our painted mugs did. Her cup is the one with the cutie, girlie kind of wriggly and abstract thingies…:)…good job antsie..
If the community mug (one that all of us were supposed to paint on) was anything to go by,we would have a lot of aid coming our way for upliftment of our community.
The yellow mug with the largish apple and smallish birds and trees was a collective effort and would need another story- telling session by itself…as images of worms, coconut trees and confused men and birds appeared, depictions ranged from eve eating the forbidden apple to early worms eating the birds.

A few good laughs and photo-clicking sessions later, we had come to the end of another lovely day….who says one needs to have loads of things to do …a few good friends, beer ,bhajjis and a great collective sense of humor can transform a normal weekend into one that can be cherished for years to come….:)…

And for all the mugs that lie waiting to be used….hope we can use them this coming weekend guys….

Cheers as always.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Confrontation...

Dressed to do, I stood my ground,
Visions of forgotten wars flying around,
Words slanted to quell my foe,
Deep-rooted fears with courage deeper so.

Brandished swords and shiny shields,
Wasted blood on maiden fields,
Hatred and fear of being ruled upon,
Tired and weary I battled on.

Slashing the enemy,faces unknown,
And when those were done ,slashed some of my own,
My mother's warrior,my loved one's pride,
Stood lonely with a soul that was crimson dyed.

Aching arms and a guilt that pains,
The will to keep fighting still remains,
Worldly wars in vain I try to win,
When the only war to conquer is the one within.