09-Aug-2009

Matheran-Karla-Bhaja

Just when the monsoons have started retreating, I have discovered the pleasure of travel in this weather. Good Chennai kids don’t travel during the rains. You stay put at home, and complain about how it is pouring and amuse yourself with indoor games. Considering we get so little rain, rain needs to be treated with the respect due to it.

Not Mumbaikars.

Come rains, and everyone is out taking a walk under the clouds.

I learnt this early on, when I first moved to Mumbai. A friend’s colleague had organised a hike to Matheran. To my great surprise, we were not the only people out. Walking in the blinding rain and coping with slippery paths, were packs of brightly dressed people. We followed them. Though only upto a point. I am not sure at what stage we lost sight of them since I was busy concentrating on urging my foot to take the next step. We blundered on our own, and scrambled up the hillside, occasionally using nothing but tiny bits of grass as a grip to prevent us falling into wide abysses. When we eventually reached Matheran, I was relieved to just be alive.

Years later, one Himalayan trek under my belt, I had still not gone back to Matheran. But a couple of weekends ago, D decided to make plans. And we were on our way.

I discovered there are fairly conventional and pleasant ways to go to Matheran as well. One can take a private car or a train and shared taxi upto Dasturi Naka. From there you have the choice of taking a toy train (not operational in the monsoons), hiring a horse, taking hand driven carts or just walking up to the top.

We chose the last option and spent a lot of time lingering over the views. We had not realised till then that away from Mumbai the rains had still not had finished putting up a spectacular display. From the market to the Verandah in the Forest, where we were staying, it poured and poured. It continued to pour through the day and the next as well. Which was good fun, because I got to act like a good Chennai kid in the rains. We read books, watched the rain, played cards, ate huge amounts of food and griped occasionally about how it was pouring. When the rain let off a bit, we went for long walks and marvelled at the stunning views in the countryside, full of fresh looking vegetation punctuated by white waterfalls.

One trip had hooked me and Saturday, I was back traversing the area around Mumbai. This time the destination was Karla and Bhaja caves, a spot I had been eyeing for a while. Both of them are located close to Lonavala and a train to Pune gets one there in about 2.5 hours.

We got off at Lonavala and hired a car for the day (1000 rupees to show both spots and bring us back to the station). The driver was a teenager who told us later on that he had learnt driving a couple of months ago. We could have guessed the way he took the curves upto Karla. Perhaps the Ekvira temple at the top protects its tourists, since we got there alright.

Karla is more than 2000 years old and is built on the same lines as Ajanta- Ellora, though much smaller. There is one main cave, or the Chaitya and a lot of smaller caves which served as living rooms for visiting monks. The most interesting feature is the curved ceiling decorated with wooden beams, in an imitation of wooden architecture from that period.

As luck would have it, Karla and Bhaja also seemed to be a major picnic spot for school kids. Swamping us were about 1000 school kids, all intent on throwing coins on the Stupa to see if they could hit the top.

So much for calm Buddhist meditation.

We moved to Bhaja after an uninspired lunch at the nearby MTDC hotel. Bhaja was much calmer, largely because they were fewer kids. But also, because Karla has a living temple in its precincts, it tends to attract more people who linger longer.

Both places had lovely views. The weather was pleasant, with an occasional drizzle adding to the charm. It is the best time to visit both places, because I am fairly sure the uncovered stone steps leading upto the caves are likely to be very tiring to conquer in any other season.

Rounding off this weekend, I managed to watch Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. There have been millions of remakes of this movie, some of which I have watched. The shower scene has been endlessly analysed. What new stuff can this movie offer, was the major thought that was playing in my head before turning on the TV.

It was brilliant. The movie had a pace that set my pulse racing the way only books have done in the past. I can’t wait to watch the rest of the movies in the ten pack set lying in my house. And I would suggest anyone who can't resist good movies do the same.

07-Jul-2009

Doing Nothing

This was a post I had written about six months ago

"By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work.” - Genesis 2:1-2

In most places, we pretty much rest on both the sixth and seventh days. Or atleast, theoretically we are supposed to. Not in the great urban milieu. Between going to the gym, attending my French classes and fitting in a social life, my weekends moved at supersonic speeds. That was till I spent a Saturday morning lolling around in the bed. I have promptly abandoned, if not the routine, atleast the guilt involved in not sticking to the routine occasionally. Life seems a little more relaxed.

It turns out it is not just me. Almost everyone in the urban landscape seems to be doing it. I spoke to an old colleague who chanted out her routine –gym, therapy, massage or parlour, family bonding time, children’s school shopping. She actually found going back to office on Mondays restful.

Another colleague spends most weekends driving down with her family to Pune to play golf, gets stuck in rush hour traffic both ways, helps her son with his homework between trips to the course and hurriedly squeezes in gym time before leaving.

There is a Calvin strip in which his dad justifies their lousy camping holidays on the grounds that their normal lives will seem so much better if they traumatized themselves on vacation. The new mantra of weekend busyness seems to be based pretty much on that. Kill yourself in the weekend trying to juggle multiple things, and the office politics, unbearable deadlines and target pressures on weekdays will look positively relaxing.

The option of course is to sit at home, with a good book or a nice movie, take a deep breath and then spend your time wondering if you are the only loser doing nothing.

Personally, I think Doing Nothing as a hobby has been grossly underestimated. When I have Doing Nothing time, I end up finishing niggling little things that tidy up life like clearing up my mailbox or filing away my papers. I end up talking to friends from out of town (the ones who are not busy rushing from point A to point B) or long lost relatives. I read the multiple magazines I subscribe to and the interesting stories on topics I would not have normally read about. I catch up on mindless TV. I gaze out at the lovely sea view my house provides.

And somewhere during the course of writing this entry and abandoning it, I seem to have given up on French, I go to the gym in the weekdays and spend weekends Doing Nothing.

Life is great.

09-Jun-2009

Water water everywhere….


“10 per cent water cut from today”

Page 4 of Hindustan Times screamed.

I sat up with a bolt

No longer was I the languid Mumbai morning person browsing the papers in bed. My mind had travelled back in time to when I was a kid in Chennai, filling buckets and drums with waters during those terrible years of terrible water shortages. Terrible, terrible.

I read through the entire article.

“The delay in Bombay’s monsoon was causing this shortage”

No surprise there

“Mumbai receives its daily supply of water from six lakes – Modak Sagar, Tansa, Vihar, Tulsi, Upper Vaitarna and Bhatsa”

Hmmm. More lakes than Chennai. That does not sound bad.

“While the water level of Vihar has reached its lowest – 152.52 m, Tansa has water that can be used to supply the city only for the next few days”

Gulp

“Alarmed by the dipping water levels, the civic officials…”

Ah. I knew the public authorities would swoop right in and come up with some engineering miracles

“….. have performed pujas at the Tansa and Vaitarna lakes”

Huh.

Really?

Time to get out those buckets and drums.

01-Jun-2009

How to prepare Mediterranean Grilled Fish


Save recipe sent by sis in the recess of computer.

Four months later, in a burst of enthusiasm order 500 gms of fish and invite friend over to help cook.

Read recipe and notice it calls for Mediterranean seasoning like parsley, basil and olives. Quickly consider switching to Kerala Meen curry. Quickly switch back upon evaluating level of skill required for Kerala Meen curry

Call up local grocery store and find out they stock everything (!)

Chop up 4 table spoons of basil, 1 table spoon of parsley, 1 table spoon of garlic and mix in bowl with 2 tablespoons of juice of lemon.

Use brush bought a few weeks ago to rub each piece of fish with olive oil. Feel super professional.

Arrange fish on grilling rack, douse with herb mixture and toss some freshly ground pepper on top.

Stuff into microwave cum grill.

Cook for 5 – 6 minutes, take out and begin process of turning fish over to the other side.

Notice grill is hot, drop the rack and watch the fish plop on the floor.

Sit by as friend picks up pieces and puts them back on the grilling rack and explains that the microwaves should kill any germs caught from the kitchen floor.

Repeat process of coating fish with herbs and cooking in grill.

Take out, garnish with lemon slices and green olives and eat.

Feel the fish get your intelligence levels up and realize that you don’t particularly care for fish, grilled or otherwise.

Delete recipe.

22-May-2009

Evolution of a facebook user

Sit out the Facebook revolution for several years.

Listen to friends indicate that you are a dinosaur and may be left off the ship earthlings will use to emigrate to the outer worlds when apocalypse hits.

One fine evening, sign up

Cautiously accept pending invites (and wonder how one can get invites even before one even has a Facebook account. This is so Big Brother)

Start responding to messages.

--------

Realise on one slow day that office gives you access to Facebook.

Start commenting on everyone’s pages.

Invite a few friends

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Notice number of friends all your friends have and realize you look like the class loser with a pathetically low score.

Get competitive

Start inviting half of your batch from college and B School

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Realise you are getting updates on Dinesh Daswani’s life frequently

Realise you have not exchanged more than two words with Dinesh in your entire 2 years at B-School

Realise you are not interested in Dinesh’s life at all.

Spend time contemplating between de-friending Dinesh, abandoning Facebook and turning to Yoga to remove competitive streak in self.

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Figure out tools for seeing updates only of ‘close friends’ and feel like an international diplomat bringing smooth solutions to conflict-torn areas.

Realise this is the kind of meaningless work you were worried Facebook would thrust on you.

Kick yourself for succumbing to peer pressure to get a Facebook account and make a mental note that you don’t want to be on the emigration ship. Esp if it has Dinesh Daswani.
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19-May-2009

It is always a pleasure to take in a good movie and a halfway decent play in one weekend.

Edge of heaven

Screened as a part of NDTV Lumiere’s Cannes Festival selection at PVR, the hall contained a handful of people. Luckily the quorum was sufficient for the movie to be screened (unlike the last time I went to Sterling with a friend and was told that Turtles Can Fly wont be screened since we were the only two people who had booked tickets)

The movie itself is a nicely wrapped slice of the lives of its six lead characters. The story switches between Turkey and Germany and traces the blip of passion, love, lust and beliefs that registers in each of these characters before the world settles back into rhythm.

The story telling tight, the crossing of paths of the characters, unknownest to themselves is nicely done and the symbolic beginnings and ends don’t feel too clich├ęd. The movie also encompasses in the periphery a larger vision of lives of Turks in both Turkey and Germany.

An interesting view of a different world.


Don’t Look Now

It is difficult to pull off spooky movies. It is even more so with spooky plays. But ‘Don’t Look Now’ manages fairly successfully with a well-written script, believable cast and wonderful settings. Aparna and Sanjay are a typical upper middle class urban couple who lose their daughter Nitya at the beginning of the play. Trying to find peace, they visit Shanti Niketan – a conscious effort to dwell on better times as the couple had met there. The duo bump into two sisters dressed in black and looking quite witch-like. One of the sisters is psychic and warns them to leave Shanti Niketan. Aparna is wont to believe them but Sanjay finds the whole set up ridiculously fraudulent and superstitious. Things begin to get weirder and weirder for Sanjay who battles between his veneer of logic and his instinct and gradually realizes that some forces are beyond normal reasoning.

The play handles the mystical elements well. The central point is the big banyan tree, imaginatively designed to give a great atmosphere. The lighting works beautifully, especially when Sanjay has nightmares. Add to that the excellent mannerisms of each individual character (except perhaps for the witch sisters who appear a bit one-dimensional) and the villagers entering and exiting the scene adding a naturalness seldom found in the sparsely populated plays one sees at NCPA. On the whole, the play is definitely worth a watch.

22-Apr-2009

Mount Abu – Fact sheet


Time to visit – Summer destination. Winters get very cold. Rains are not so heavy, so doable then as well.

Getting there – By rail – Aravalli Express leaves Mumbai at 9 p.m. and reaches Abu Road station at a convenient 10 a.m. Cabs to Mount Abu are available outside the station on hire. Costs 300 rupees for the half hour winding drive. We used Ummed Singh (98289 22692) who turned out to be quite helpful for the rest of the trip. By air – Closest airport is Udaipur. The other option is to travel via Ahmedabad, which takes about 6 hours by road. I am told the roads are excellent, (which also probably explains why roughly 70% of the tourists are Gujarathis)

Stay – We stayed at Hotel Udaigarh. This is located atop a steep driveway and hence does not attract too many huffing and puffing middle aged people with children. (It is another thing that we were also huffing and puffing after multiple climbs). Backpackers usually stay at Hotel Ganesh, where rooms cost Rs. 150 – 180. Mt Abu was choc-a-bloc with hotels, so there is no dearth of choice. Unless you are here during the peak tourist season (all school holidays) in which case it is better to book ahead. The cabbie told us conspirationally that tourists have been found forced to stay in the footpath.

To do

The usual tourist round comprises Dilwara Temples, Nakki Lake, Achalgarh temple, Adhar Devi temple, Guru Shikar, sunset point and other places of increasingly lesser significance and attraction. A full day tour of these places by car would cost 800 rupees and a half day tour would cost 400 rupees (Ummed Singh is available for these). We chose to focus on a few

- Dilwara Temples – Definitely must see. Two of the five temples are so stunning that no amount of gaping at the intricately carved work on the marble is going to satiate your appetite for more. There is a free guided tour in Hindi frequently. You just hang around till you spot a large group being herded by a loud person and then join them. English speaking guides are apparently available outside the temple. The Hindi guided tour was useful in pointing out the statues which we were especially supposed to gape at. Otherwise they did not have anything further to add to what you would find on the net.

- Achalgarh Temple and fort – The temple has interesting myths around it but is not spectacular otherwise. The climb to the dilapidated fort is nice. There is a steep winding road, after which there are about 270 steps which takes half an hour to climb. You can get a great view of Mt Abu from here. Though I am told you can do even better in terms of view at the area’s highest point, Guru Shikar. Achalgarh’s peak has the merit of being practically deserted and free of tourists

- Trek – there are lots of tiny treks to choose from. Mr Champak (9414219013) from Hotel Ganesh took us on a 3.5 hour end to end trip based on our fitness levels and time availability. The top point of the trek had really stunning views of the entire countryside.

- Nakki Lake – This can equally morph into Kodaikanal Lake or Nainital Lake or ‘Lake in whichever commercialized hill station you can think of’. It had boating facilities, a lovely 3.5 km walking area around the perimeter and lots of crowds. It is pretty large and clean since drinking water supply to the town is from the lake.

- Sunset point – The point was jam packed when we got there almost an hour in advance of the sunset. It mostly had young men, dressed to the hilt in jeans and dark glasses and posing for ‘I am a cool dude’ snaps. The sun had almost set by the time we could peel our eyes of the antics of this crowd. Definitely not meant for a communing-with-nature experience but total paisa vasool if you want to have a good laugh at the vanity of youth.

To eat - Lots of places that serve yummy dal-batti and churma, the speciality of Rajasthan. I liked Jodhpur hotel near the Eiffel tower structure. Veena and Arbuda restaurants recommended by Lonely Planet were average.

To shop - Lots of Rajasthani print bed linen and joothis.

Others - This place is the global head quarters of the Brahma Kumari society. Expect to see a lot of people dressed in white wandering around. They run the Global Hospital which is spotlessly clean and very inexpensive.

28-Feb-2009

Hither and thither

The cool thing I discovered about Bombay last weekend was the number of resorts within a one to two hour driving distance. The obvious choices are of course Matheran and Alibaug. But even tiny beaches like Manori, Utan, Gorai have something to offer and in no time, I had picked out one, paid for the rooms and we were on our way to the place.

Things to remember about family resorts

1. People love listening to music on a holiday. If it involves playing your car stereo loud enough for people in neighbouring rooms to hear, so be it.
2. When the pool says ‘only lycra swinwear’ what it actually means is that men can wear Bermudas displaying their ample paunches and women can wear swim wear on top of tights/track pants and t-shirts.
3. Children in a swimming pool love to scream whether they are having fun or are scared.
4. The best way to communicate with your family visiting the pool at one end of the resort is to scream from your room at the other end of the resort

These are however generic features of all family resorts and should not be held against U-Tan which was very reasonably priced, had well maintained premises, small but warm rooms and a friendly staff. Infact, after the day trippers had left, it was absolutely beautiful to sit by the swimming pool and watch the sun set into the sea.

To balance out all the fun from saving on travel time during this holiday, work travel reared its ugly head this week, complete with early morning flights and late night returns. Which became not so ugly once I realized that I would have a couple of hours to spare for a quick sightseeing trip close by.

The advantages of visiting a fairly large company located in a semi-urban town are several. The company sends a nice car to pick you up. You are taken to their guest house where you can have another go at breakfast despite hogging on airline food. Then you can nap a bit. Eventually you land up for the eleven thirty meeting and spend the rest of the day cooped up in office. Which ranks higher than traveling two hours from town to the suburbs in Bombay for an eleven thirty meeting and spending the rest of the day cooped up in office.

Or atleast this was the plan. Turns out the driver meant to pick us up had no clue where the guesthouse was. He spent quite some time asking vendors for ‘O.S.S. Colony’. The piece of paper he carried gave clear enough directions ‘near petrol pump. Opposite Reliance Fresh’ including the road name and so on. But mysteriously enough for a small town, no one had heard of the place. The driver gave up after five minutes and seemed quite content to spend the whole day searching for El Dorado. After a good forty five minutes of circling around the same place like a devout pilgrim, we were overhead by a stranger at the petrol pump. He kindly led the way and there we were at our destination

In big bright letters it said ‘The Oasis’

No time for breakfast or nap. But colleague and I had a good long (and I suspect hysterical) laugh.

13-Feb-2009

The grass is greener on my side

I spoke to a friend who had gone to the Ranthambore sanctuary over the Republic Day weekend. We both started on how we had to contend with a miserable set of co-visitors in our respective sanctuaries. It turned out that despite all my whining about Gujjus in Gir, I lost the cribbing competition fair and square. Here is what the friend said

The sanctuary is a popular stop in the North Indian tour circuit and was consequently filled with North Indian tourists (who are apparently even louder than Gujjus)

The rooms cost twice as much as what we had paid since accommodation is in Havelis and the thumb rule in Rajasthan is that if the owners can boast of royal lineage, they double the prices. (Though I suspect my friend chose the Haveli route when he could have very well stayed in normal hotels like us commoners)

A bunch of spoilt brat Delhi kids decided that Ranthombore had more potential as a party place than a sanctuary. Consequently on day one they jumped into a pool and made a ruckus at twelve in the night and on day two began to blast loud music at three in the morning. The fact that some of the guests gave the kids the firing of their lives was a very thin silver lining

But most of all, after doing four safaris, he did not spot any tigers. Instead had to bear jokes like this on each of the safaris -

Guide (pointing to a deer) – That is a Sambar

Loud Sardar tourist – Arey if this is the Sambar, where is the idli?

Everyone in Loud Sardar's group - chortle chortle chortle

Atleast I saw a lionness

02-Feb-2009

Gir Sanctuary – Fact sheet


The Gir National Park and Sanctuary is accessed from Sasan-Gir, a sleepy, one-street village without any character whatsoever.

Best time to go – Summers if you can put up with the 40+ temperature then. Apparently lions move about a lot more freely and can be spotted a lot more easily. We went in the winter when temperatures are more bearable (daytime 20 - 25 degrees) and can come down to 8 degrees in the night.

Getting there: Flights go to Rajkot – 3.5 hours by road and Diu – 3 hours by road. Trains go to Veraval (1 hour by road) and Rajkot.

Stay – A handful of resorts and very few recommended both by Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor or even Holiday IQ. We chose Anil Farmhouse which was neat and clean and had nice rooms. But it was also the most popular choice for Gujju families, who as it turned out, are really loud (defying all rules of civilisation where one would expect noisy young ones to grow into soft spoken adults. Just the opposite happens here). The other resort in this price range (3000 per night on twin sharing, including 3 meals a day) was Maneland but it had bad online reviews

Eat – At the resort. Unless you are a Gujju family in which case you would have remembered to carry loads of theplas and farsan and eaten it loudly at the dining table.

To Do

Lion Safari – Happens at 6 a.m., 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and lasts three hours per session. We went for the 3 p.m. round and spotted a lioness. Apparently it is fairly easy to spot a lion if you manage to do a couple of safaris atleast. Even if you do spot a lion in your first try, doing another safari could be interesting.
Gir Conservation Centre – An enclosed area where there are lots of animals, including lions. Can see animals much closer than in the non-enclosed forest area.

There are tons of birds in Gir. Carry binocs if you are an avid watcher.

The leopard is also a popular animal in these parts, though now pretty much a side-show on account of the lion

Around Gir

Somnath (1 hour from Gir towards the south) – Claim to fame is the number of devasting attacks it endured from raiders. Ghazni managed to destroy the ancient temple and now a new, stereotyped temple stands courtesy Sardar Vallabhai Patel. Looks quite nice though and there is an awesome view of the sea. If you have really keen eyesight (like, say, Sarah Palin), you can keep an eye on Antarctica as apparently there is no landmass in between. There is also a sound and lights show in the evenings though we did not stay to see it.

Diu (3 hours from Gir towards the south if you go via Somnath. Shorter route should take an hour lesser. Road is a little bad in some parts) – Diu has a lovely Portuguese Fort. We skipped the Church and the museum. Guides are available to give you a tour of all these places. The most popular beach is Nagwa, 5 kms away. It was crowded with families. The shacks, sadly, were filled with shady looking men tanking up on daru before returning to the dry state of Gujarat. The water sports are a con job with lifejackets that had thermocol oozing out. The beach had a pleasant breeze and you can walk about a bit. From the Diu Fort, we could see some lovely, secluded beaches though. Could be worth a try.

Junagadh (1 hour, towards the north) – lots of stuff on the net about the fort, Ashokan edicts, Mausoleum etc. We did not have much time but from the quick stop we made at Maqbhara Khan's mausoleum it seemed well worth a visit

Rajkot (3.5 hours, towards the north, past Junagadh) – Nothing on the net seemed impressive and since we got there primarily for the train, did not see much either. Supposed to be good for shopping (which I managed to at Jetpur, about 50 kms away). Time will tell if the colours of the bandini stuff I picked up runs.

12-Jan-2009

Elephanta Caves

The problem with Elephanta Caves is that it is too close to Mumbai. Despite being on the World Heritage list, not too many seemed to have visited it or remembered anything beyond the dirt and monkeys they had encountered during school picnics. Travel guides admitted that most of the sculptures were damaged. So when I decided to visit with a few friends, we decided to make it an easy relaxed trip, as much about the caves themselves as about the ferry and the company.

Boats go from the Gateway of India to Elephanta, starting from 9.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. The ride lasts for an hour, through relatively calm waters and at the disembarkation point, there is a cute toy train. In anticipation of the 200 steps we had to climb next, all of us decided to board the toy train which reached the steps in no time. From there, the climb turned out to be quite easy, wandering past the usual touristy shops. We picked up a guide book called ‘Guide to Elephanta’ by Pramod Chandra. Surprisingly, the one guide who offered his services was willing to charge us just 200 rupees. In the end, the guide book turned out to be pretty good investment since it turned out to be perfect guide to each panel, pointing us the details and telling the stories behind each.

Elephanta has one main cave in which are carved wondrous figures of Shiva in various settings – his wedding, slaying demons, in dance postures, yogic postures et al. I was taken aback by the expressions on each of Shiva’s faces. A lot of the figures were damaged, but enough had survived for us to admire. The most beautiful of the carvings, of Shiva as Tatpurush had three faces – one powerful, one of the destroyer and one of his feminine side. Each of them looked exactly the part.







The Andhakasura Vadh was my next favourite. Shiva as the raged god killing the demon Andhaka practically leapt out of the stone at us.

The Gangadhar – Shiva statue was also charming in its subtle depiction of human (and clearly divine) relationships. Everyone knows the famous story of how when the river, Ganges fell to earth, Shiva captured her in his matted locks and then gently released her to the earth as earth would not withstand the force of the river otherwise. The stone portrait captures Ganges falling on Shiva’s locks but the main story told is of Shiva assuring a rather miffed Parvati by a pat on her arm, that despite the presence of another woman, she was still the love of his life

After the main cave, we were pretty much done with the Island. The Buddha Stupa and a couple of caves were in forbidden forest territory. The other caves were empty or small and had nothing much to offer except for the excitement of going into a cave. ASI has a small museum that tells the story of the panels and has some information on other cave temples in Maharashtra. We did not venture into Cannon Hill, which lies atop Elephanta and has a cannon on display. We were quite tired by then and having reached the Island only in the afternoon, had just about enough time before the last ferry at 5.30 p.m. to lounge around in the MTDC restaurant. It was already winding up time, and the friendly MTDC waiters informed us that they had run out of all food but some stale sandwiches and excellent masala tea. We ordered both and watched the beautiful view of the sea.

On the way back, gulls flew all around us, picking at the food tossed by passengers. Nearer, Mumbai we could see the dull outline of the Taj and the dark silhouette of the Gateway of India.

Elephanta is a wonderful day trip for the winter and definitely worth a visit. Be sure to buy the guide book though.

03-Jan-2009

Simplifly

They say that management is everything.

I had avoided flying Air Deccan in its more parsimonious days when it had developed a healthy reputation for scrimping by going so far as to cut off one engine during a flight (I kid you not. A friend’s friend definitely had had the experience)

However, now with Mallya in charge, and having experienced the glories of flying in Kingfisher I figured things must have improved. They certainly had. The stewardesses were all in tight red skirts. The in-flight reading material was a Cine Blitz. Infact, it was a bikini special. I was waiting for one of the little Tam kids to loudly ask her mom ‘Amma, why is this aunty wearing only her underwear?’

We were seated well in advance of departure time and kept looking around to wonder which moron (there is always one) was holding up the flight.

It turned out to be the pilot.

In his place rushed in two engineers looking fairly flustered. All of us in the aisle seats in the front few rows nearly broke our necks trying to scan and see what the problem was. Noticing the increasing curiosity and hoping to distract, the crew began to recite the safety instructions. That clearly agitated everyone because the possibility of having to actually use the instructions seemed fairly high at this point. Torn between listening to the air hostess and watching what was happening, eventually most of chose to gape at the wondrous lights flashing in the cockpit like they were the distant light at the end of the tunnel.

Time passed. Or rather stood still.

After a while the first officer introduced himself and announced ‘Sorry for the delay. It has been caused by traffic at the Mumbai terminal. We are in line for take off’

At this point I could almost hear the little Tam kid ask ‘Amma why is this uncle saying we are going to take off when the door is still open? Will the maintenance engineers jump off the flight with parachutes then?’

Finally, the maintenance guys looked happier and left the pilot to his own devices. The take off was fairly smooth and we were cruising along nicely. I spent a considerable amount of time wondering if I should take the veg or non-veg food. There was the chicken of course in favour of the latter. But there was qabooli channa biriyani in the former. When the food came, we were handed out simple dabbas. The menu card turned out to have been mistakenly slipped in from a Kingfisher flight. Nevertheless, I was tucking in nicely till the flight officer chose to announce that we were flying at a lower altitude than planned. Luckily the difference was a mere 2000 feet not what my imagination had leapt into. Yet, a lot of the passengers chose to stand up and take a Darshan of Tirupathi when the first officer announced we would be able to see it soon to our left. No harm taking some celestial insurance in these flighty (ha ha. What a pun) times

I breathed easy when we finally reached. Or atleast till the time a barrage of non-deoderized armpits reached out to take baggage from the overhead luggage bins. But that is another story...