February 4th - 10:30 AM
Four cities. Four airlines. Two days. One laptop. One blogger with a net enabled mobile phone trying his hand at on-the-move mobile blogging!
This is a first for me on Indigo Airlines. They do not have an inflight magazine. Things, otherwise, are not so bad at all. The flight is spanking new. (And so is the cabin crew!) The flight is on time.
I am safely seat-belted in. Nice and snug. Have gained weight since marriage. Dammit!
Jaipur here I come.
p.s. Wife says do not snack between meals.
Reading Hesse's Siddhartha. Very profound. Not lost though. Yet.
Bought bag of cashewnuts and a Diet Pepsi. Big bag of nuts proves to be mostly nitrogen or whatever other inert gas they use. Nuts are tasty but hardly last me three pages. Drown disappointment in Aspartame.
Looks like, wonder of wonders, I am going to land a full twenty minutes ahead of time! Go Indigo Go!
Man sitting next to me suddenly turns to me and asks me if I know who owns Indigo. (Mentally make note not to look so intelligent in public. But what to do...) I think it is the Wadias before I quickly correct myself. He owns Go of course.
Suddenly thinking of Preity Zinta.
They push around a cart and ask people to throw up all the garbage they would otherwise stuff into the unbearably elasticated pouch in front. Smart way to turn around plane quickly. But will they last in this severe loss-making civil aviation environment, my MBA mind wonders. Stewardess walks by. Are those real, my engineer mind wonders.
Jaipur has one of those miniature 3BHK airports that dot the Indian map. Trichy, Coimbatore, Kozhikode... they are all the same. Ten steps from plane to airport. Ten steps from airport to large Bank of Baroda ball hanging outside. (Do they have them at all airports now?)
My liaison at Jaipur is late. I stand looking around. Usual mix of small-town airport crowd. Disproportional number of firangs though.
Athithi Devo Bhava.
In an Ambassador after ages. Ok, off to work now. Top secret. Hush hush. Talk to you during lunch.
Pssst. Awesome roads. Oh yes and a two bedroom apartment rents out for 5000 bucks a month here.
I hate Mumbai. For now.
The local economy revolves around tourism and day care centers. Nurseries are everywhere. Tiny Tots, Butterflies, Little Flowers, Pesky Pipsqueaks, Cute Champions, Miniature Marwaris. (I made two of them up.)
I hear good things about Mrs. Scindia. Things are booming under her they say, in a manner of speaking.
I catch a glimpse of the new Rajasthan secretariat. It looks like Work In Progress. Looks pretty good from here. Though I think large domes are passe Mrs. Scindia.
Nothing communicates Rajasthan like a nice Aloo Mutter Gobi (yes all three) swimming in a salty, gooey, pool of well-masala'd oil. Rip a piece of tandoori roti and leap on a baby potato bobbing by.
I order raitha to soothe belly that is beginning to throb in protest. Reminded of an old trekking trip to inner Maharashtra.
Host orders a Dal Makhani.
Assignment in Jaipur nears completion. At some point I am offered a platter of food to choose from. I politely pick up a potato chip. (Wife please note: ONE chip). Harangued into picking up a piece of moist orange mithai. On a cocktail toothpick. Rajasthani host calls it something, I hear 'horse hooves'.
Back at the airport and mentally unwinding after a hard day's work. My Kingfisher Fun Liner awaits. I have had little time to do any shopping or touristing. Must make up for it in the airport. Is that a local specialty sweetmeat shop I see in a corner of the lounge? Off I go!
Paneer Ghewar, Mawa Kachoris and some Khas Supari. The Gewar looks a little weird. The Mawa thingie looks absolutely death-giving. Supari jars jingle and rattle as I walk.
Flight delayed. I don't get it though. Why do they think that '... due to delay in arrival of incoming flight...' serve as adequate justification. The Kingfisher people keep announcing the delay for a full twenty minutes.
Phone runs out of battery. Dejectedly shuffle over to a charging point on the wall conveniently placed in a narrow space behind some waiting benches.
Finally boarded. Captain apologizes adequately. The 'Flying Models' as Mr. Mallya calls them look understandably uncomfortable in their tight skirts.
Kingfisher does not have an in-flight magazine either. That is not like the liquor baron at all. To scrimp on such minor niceties. But let us hope the catering is good today as it is always with Kingfisher.
One humus & chickpea sandwich. One. Sandwich. WTF!
Delhi! Good roads! Nice weather! The efficient Metro! Rampant Corruption! Unsafe for women after dark!
Sarson da Saag! Rotis! Paneer Ghewar! (That Gewar is yet another item that tastes oh so much better than it looks. It tastes crumbly and ghee-y and comforting. It looks, on the other hand, like oversized welding residue.)
Tried to get in-laws to appreciate Return of the King. They like the 'lighting of beacons' bit. But they think the entire green ghost army thing is a little fraud.
I do too.
February 5th - 5:15 AM
The guard at the airport door warns me to always carry ID WITH PHOTO henceforth.
Delhi Airport is up and buzzing already. I quickly pocket my boarding pass, check in a package for the missus and walk over to grab a cup of coffee. I am weirdly awake for this time of the day.
Delhi Airport is familiar and un-surprising. Like Jet Airways.
Up, up and away. I collapse into my seat and pull out the ever-dependable Jet In-flight magazine. The usual mix of large colourful photographs bordered with bare minimum text. But, as always, this too is a collector's item. Aren't all Jet mags?
I give up on Hesse and Siddhartha. It wasn't them, it was me. The guy was beginning to get a little whiny. I need something as philosophical but something happier. More... gung-ho...
Pulled out that old Dave Barry I carry in my first-aid pouch. Aah!
Whatay brilliant sunrise.
Step off the stairs and onto the tarmac. Ahmedabad, my friend, it has been too long.
New terminal can be seen adjacent to the old one. Standard issue modern airport building, all straight corners and hideous aluminium cladding.
Ahmedabad disgorges luggage quickly. The joy!
The Jet luggage emerges on the IC belt. And vice-versa. Some raised eyebrows. One miffed frequent flyer.
A bunch of quiet, sombre looking men in suits stand in a corner. Ties in their pockets. All of them look at their cell-phones and thumb away relentlessly. They look bored/pained/indifferent.
Quick look-see at the Institute before I run off on work. The city is getting an attitude. Development. Lots of malls and billboards. But still, essentially, a nice sleepy little place.
Notice billboard for a luxury building with its own Jain Temple built in.
My morning is brilliant. Why you ask? Why this sudden shot of glee? Someone else's misfortune of course. I could not take any snaps, my phone had no space left. But I saw a billboard that blew my mind away. They don't have a website. But I was able to get their address on the net. Click here and understand the source of my mirth.
Few things are as depressing in life as going to a place you have hajaar memories of but where no-one remembers you any longer. Campus was not exactly a Cheers pub.
My liaison in Ahmedabad will be late. I will roam around further.
After a brief conversation with some old friends in the Administrative department I walk out to the new campus to have a look.
Too much bare concrete. Brutalist. But still impressive.
When you come to think about it how DO you apply for a job at that Yuranus place? 'I was wondering if you have any openings here in Yur...'
On the road.
Disturbing (semantic?) trend I notice in Amdavad that was prevalent in Jaipur as well. People seem to think, and by people I mean owners of restaurants, cafes, banquets halls and such like, that the easiest way to indicate that you are a quality joint it by liberal use of the article 'the'. For instance: 'Crunchy Munchy - THE Restaurant', or 'Ghanesham - THE hangout', and even, 'Miniature Marwaris - THE Creche.'
Weddings all over the place! One wedding car passes by covered in a woven Gujarati-type shroud. Innovative che!
Gordhan Thaal. THE gujju thaali place. No seriously.
An avalanche of aam ras, dahi vada, gulab jamuns, rotis, puris, aloo shak, kadhi, dal, papdi chaat, nimbu pani, chaas, moong dal sabji, besan something, pickles, chilis... Awww... aww... must... not... pass out... burp...
Outstanding customer service as well. If you are in Amdavad do drop in for a lunch. Great decor, silver crockery and cutlery. All at a hundred bucks a head.
Pin drop silence during lunch. Not one word. More aam ras? YES PLEASE.
Where DO they get mangoes from this time of the year!
Have a flight to catch in two hours. My assignment in Ahmedabad looking shaky. Dammit.
Lots of CAT coaching places all over the place. Between nurseries in Jaipur and CAT coaching in Ahmedabad there is a burgeoning business.
Spotted a FIITJEE recruiting poster on campus. Those FIITJEE guys are looking at a 2000-crore topline by 2011. Good God!
Success. Mission accomplished! Now rushing to the airport. No time to talk. All I can say is that another cricket blog is beginning to brew up.
Rush to campus and pick up luggage. Finally a couple of people who identify their honorable alumnus. I feel nice.
Alas, cannot shop for bumper stickers, if they have any, at the gift shop.
Just in the nick of time. Managed to get my fave seat as well. The row over the wing next to the emergency exit doors. Unmatched leg room. Where is the gift shop? I need to pick up something for the missus.
At the airport Le Meridien they sell water bottles at MRP.
Cute babies are a sure crowd puller. And there is one right in front of me as I sit on a chair in the waiting area. A foreigner couple find much mirth in toddling with the cute little thing. And then he pukes all over them and their Lonely Planet and a nice suit jacket.
That conclusively proves that India leaves an indelible mark on all tourists. And an odour.
In my bag nestles a beautiful cell-phone pouch for the missus. Typical gujju work. Mirrors and embroidery and all. She will like it.
Go Airlines. Clean, uncomplicated. Not bad at all. Corny name though. How do they motivate each other at company meetings? Go, GO, Go! ?
They stick a fragile sticker on my bag without asking. I nod in pleasure.
The legroom made me overlook the lack of magazines and the 'No sir we do not carry any magazines or newspapers at all' response to a fellow passenger.
One of the crew members was clearly on her first few flights and was terribly nervous. But she did ok though.
And yes I promised to rip off the door and throw it away when the captain said 'Evacuate Evacuate Evacuate'
I just had a croissant filled with the potato stuffing you normally see in samosas or bad masala dosas. But tasted ok.
Who does the ridiculous drawings on those laminated flight safety flyer in the pouch? Why would people smile serenely as the oxygen levels dropped and the masks fell down? (Perhaps Siddhartha would have...)
(The Indigo flyer actually had a turbanned rajasthani looking man with handlebar moustaches on the flyer instead of the standard woman with shoulder length hair and knee length skirt and high heels. Nice touch!)
I try to read Barry but fall asleep like a baby. I drool just a little bit.
Looking out of the window over Mumbai at night is awesome. As lights go on and off its like a throbbing organism. Plane rolls this way and then that as it lines up to land. Mumbai, correspondingly, dissappears and reappears in the window.
Nice neat landing.
Passenger in adjacent seat gers phone call. He speaks very loudly. Soon everyone in the plane understands completely that he is from Rajkot, and he runs a trading company, and he is upset that his order will be delayed and that the guy on the other end was the type who gets a little too close with his own mom.
Luggage came jerking around on the belt in a few minutes and I was out in a flash.
Cabbie jumped two red light and then got caught. And, having paid his due, he then almost smashed into a Santro side on. Abuse hurtled at him, and a little bit at me.
Crushing traffic on Wadala Bridge. Smoke and pollution everywhere.
It is good to be back!
p.s. Wife loved the pouch!