Thursday, November 12, 2009

Journey to Vadodara

First time I was going out of the state for official work. First time I was travelling by AC 2-tier. First time I was carrying a laptop with me in train.

The train was supposed to leave by 11.40 PM. I left home by 8 for office as I had to collect the laptop and workbooks from there.

"How many workbooks are there?", I asked the program co-ordinator on my way to office.

"Only seventy five.", she replied.

"Seventy five! Yesterday you said sixty."

"We are providing some extra books, just in case."

"I hope the books aren’t very heavy."

"Not at all and one more thing I won’t be able to pick up your calls now, I have some work."

I should have taken the hint but I didn't.

I reached office building by 9 pm. Asked the auto driver if he is interested in taking me to Bandra Terminus. He replied in affirmative. I paid the fare and told that I will be back in ten minutes. I saw a man sitting in the office. He jumped with joy after seeing me. He gave me the laptop and a bundle weighing as much as him.

"These are the books." he said.

"Great, don’t look very heavy.", I said sarcastically.

He made me sign some papers and I went down to see the same auto waiting for me.He took me to Bandra Terminus. His meter was running as fast as Usain Bolt. When the auto reached Bandra the meter showed Rs.104/-. I wanted to argue with him. If I had time I would have threatened to take him to RTO to check his meter like I usually do. But I didn't want to pick up fight with some bearded auto driver while carrying someone else's laptop and more than half my weight of books in a dark alley.

I paid him and told, "Masha Allah, your meter runs very fast, what do you feed him?"

While going to the platform I wondered if my voucher of Rs. 104/- would be cleared or will my manager feel that I am one of the lakhs of people who overinflate their travel claims.

There was an hour for the train to come. I took out Chetan Bhagat's latest novel and started reading it. It was a pirated copy. I always believe I am a better writer than him. He doesn't deserve to be here. He just writes novels about losers who always manage to find a hot girl. That doesn’t happen, I am still single. What better way of revenge than reading his pirated book? The bugger won’t get any royalty on a pirated novel for sure. On second thought I felt that every writer chuckles when he sees his pirated books selling. As some one said, "Imitation is the best form of flattery." Chuckle and get flattered Mr. Bhagat, I have read all your books in pirated form.

I thought of buying a bottle of bottled water (Is that grammatically correct!) for my trip. I clutched the laptop close to my heart and paid for a bottle. In the next stall I saw "Cremica" biscuits. I had read an article a few days back mentioning that Cremica guys produce some one lakh buns every day for McDonalds. (http://businesstoday.intoday.in/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&issueid=67&id=12717§ionid=22&Itemid=1). I had never tried their biscuits so thought of giving them a chance.Excitedly I went to the other stall and bought a packet of Cremica strawberry cream biscuits. I kept it in my bag and resumed reading the novel. I felt thirsty. That was when I realised that even though I had paid for the bottle I didn't pick it up!

I went to the stall and told the vendor about it. He said, "Someone would have flicked. You want another, pay for it." I grumbled and paid for the new bottle. Twelve rupees wasted, I could have eaten two wada-pavs.

Whenever I travel by train I always fantasize about two things. One that my compartment would be very close to where I am waiting and two that I would have a beautiful girl for company. The former has never happened and the latter happens only when I am travelling with my family. This time too I saw my compartment going past me and it kept going away and away. I carried my bag, laptop and seventy five books to compartment A1 of Avadh Express. The compartment was on one end of the train, frankly speaking I had not seen the compartment number very clearly. What if when I reach the compartment I am told that it’s on the other end of the train! Luckily the compartment was on the same side. I saw my name written on the reservation chart pasted outside and marched in.

I had travelled by A/C 3 Tier many times but never by A/C 2 Tier. I found my berth, tucked my bag and books below the seats and kept the laptop with me. I saw three people from the same family as my co-passengers. Just then a policeman came inside. He stared at me and asked, “Are you with this family?”. Looks like from my face he judged that I dont look like a person who can travel in 2-Tier. I thought of having some fun. I felt like saying "Yes." and then cover it with "All Indians are my brothers and sisters, so every Indian is a part of my family."

But for some reason I didnt do it.I said, "No I am alone."

"What work do you do?"

I got pissed off. Do I look like a terrorist?I thought of saying, "I make bombs, you have a problem with it?"

But I said, "I am an engineer."

He gave me a look and went away.

The man sitting next to me asked, "So you are an engineering student?" He had a very strong Gujarati accent.

"No I am working in XYZ company.", I replied.

"How much salary you are paid?"

The more I want to stay away from generalising people, the more it comes to me. Do Gujaratis only think of money. I mumbled my humble salary to him.

After that he told me his Bio-data. In which college he had studied, which year he passed out, which companies he worked for and how much was the salary in every company. He followed it up with the Bio-data of his sons which were as comprehensive as his. One was in Australia while other was in USA. I started feeling that now I know more about his family than mine. I dont really know when my father completed his graduation but I know this guy got his diploma in Electrical Engineering in the year 1969. Then all of a sudden he asked, "Are you married?"

His detailed introduction mentioned that he had only two sons and no daughters, so I thought this question would be safe to answer.

"No, I am still a bachelor", I replied

"Why dont you get married? How old are you? Twenty eight?"

"I will get married soon. And I am twenty six."

"Very good haan, very good. You see I am travelling with my family and there are four of us. Three seats are here and the fourth one is the side berth over there. Would you mind swapping your berth with our side berth so that our family can stay together."

"What the hell!", a voice inside me screamed, "Whats the point in travelling in 2-tier if you have to sleep on a side berth?"

"C'mon, you are getting a chance to get rid of this man and his irritating conversations", another voice said, "Plus its always better to help other people."

"Yea sure, why not?" I told that man. "I will be getting down at Vadodara, what time is it expected and where are you getting down at?"

"We will also get down at Vadodara. It should come by 4.30 am."

"Sir, I have a bad habit of oversleeping. Please wake me up by 4.00 am, incase I dont get up by myself."

"Arre Beta dont worry.We travel on this route frequently. Not only will we wake you up but will also push you out of Vadodara station if you want." He said and started laughing as if he had just cracked the joke of the century.

I smiled and said, "So I will leave now, feeling a bit sleepy."

"Arre, lets talk for some time, I am enjoying your company."

"Uncle, I am feeling very sleepy. Lets chat in the morning." I lied on both sentences. Neither I was feeling sleepy nor wanted to talk with him in morning. Luckily he didnt notice that I changed my statement from "bit sleepy" to "very sleepy" in just a second.

I went to my exhanged berth clutching the laptop, put an alarm of 4 am and tried to sleep. The train was vibrating and all those vibrations were coming in my stomach. Good, I will not need to exercise my abs for some time. Thinking about some relevant and irrelevant things I went to sleep.

I got up with the alarm of 4 O'Clock snoozed it and went to sleep again. Can anyone tell me how to get rid of this habit. Is there an organisation called as "Snoozers Anonymous."

Luckily I woke up when the phone buzzed at 4.10 am. Hurriedly I went to the washroom and brushed my teeth. After a few minutes the train halted at Vadodara station. I was about to board off, then suddenly remembered that Gujarati family. I went to their compartment and saw that all four of them were sleeping as one sleeps after giving his last exam paper.

"Dont wake them up." , a voice in me said, "Let the big mouth get his lesson. What fun it will be when they will get down somewhere in Rajasthan!"

"C'mon dude!" another voice said, "This is an old guy with his family. Would you really make him suffer? I know you wont."

I woke the old chap, "Uncle! Vadodara aavi gayo."

He woke up and with him the other three and all of them were repeating, "Vadodara aavi gayo." as if it was some spiritual chant.

I got off the train and before I had walked ten steps one policeman came to me and asked me to show him my bag.

"Do I look like a smuggler?" I thought and let him check my innocent belongings.

When I crossed the bridge and was about to move out of the station another policeman checked my luggage. This time I was a bit furious. I asked him, "Why the hell is every policeman on the station checking me?"

He said calmly, "Sir, Gujarat is a dry state and young boys like you are notorious for bringing alcoholic drinks. Its our duty please dont mind."

So not a terrorist, not a smuggler but I look like an alcoholic from face.

I went to the Auto Rickshaw stand and told one guy my destination.

He said, "Forty Rupees."

I abused him loud enough for everyone to hear and asked the next Rickshaw driver.

"Twenty Rupees," he said.

"Should I abuse him too so that the next rickshaw driver will take me there for Ten Rupees", I thought.

I went against that thought and boarded his rickshaw. What else will I get to see and experience in this new job now?"

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Child at Footpath Near Metro Site

We Mumbaikars will get our own Metro Rail very soon. Versova to Ghatkoper which takes nearly two hours will be achievable in 22 minutes. So the distance between them would be reduced. You might think I am talking nonsense but its a fact that in Mumbai we measure distance in minutes and hours not in kilometres and metres. Still if you dont believe me ask any guy from Mumbai how far is Dadar from Andheri? He will say in all probability, "Twenty five minutes by train." You ask again, "No, tell me how many kilometres it is.?" He will scratch his head and realise that he doesnt have an answer forsuch a simple question. 

Myself being a true Mumbaikar face lots of problems when I go to some other city. "How far is Qutub Minar from Malviya nagar?" I ask someone in Delhi. The pedestrian replies, "Seven kilometers." and walks away. Now I scratch my head. It would have been better if Mumbai would have used distance as a unit of distance and not time as a unit of distance.

Coming back to Mumbai Metro. The construction of Metro has shortened the width of already narrow roads of Mumbai by half. Everywhere we see signboards saying, "Please bear with us for a better tomorrow". I have been reading such signs since childhood. That tomorrow has never come. I feel myself lucky that Bandra-Worli sealink got completed before i turned seventy. 

The traffic was already bad on the roads on which Metro is planned. Now you cut the width to less than half and you have a nightmare. This is what roads in hell would be like I feel. 

I was on my bike with my brother passing through such a road. It was a Sunday afternoon, still there was bumper to bumper traffic. After waiting on a red light for some time I saw a few people on the footpath. Beggars, hawkers, flower sellers and a few street children. I have seen one thing about street children. They all have brown hair. Staying in such strong sunlight for so long has changed their hair colour. The Metro will provide them some shade atleast.

I also saw a small child sitting on the footpath. He was no more than a year old. Even he had brown hair. He was eating a fruit, probably a guava. He was relishing it. There was so much innocence on his face. I have seen many one year old kids. No one would have eaten a guava on their own. Probably it was the first and only meal of his day. The fruit fell off his hands and got mixed with mud. The child picked that up and was eating the mud mixed fruit with same relish. He probably doesnt know what taste is. The option he has is not of whether there is tasty food or bland food, but whether there is food or not.

I was thinking what will he become when he grows up? This innocent child didnt know what life has in store for him. He will be forced to beg. If he is lucky he will sell balloons or flowers. People will abuse him, big street children will beat him and take his hard earned money.

Who knows he is already earning. Maybe his mother starves him  and begs when he cries to get more alms.

The signal turned green, I kickstarted my bike and moved towards home . I was not able to stop my eyes from looking at that child. I realised that if I wont look in front, I might meet an accident. I focussed my vision on the road and drove away.

How shameless and helpless I felt at the same time!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

TATA NANO : FIRST LOOK!

One of my colleagues told me today that NANO is on display in the mall opposite to the office building. He couldn't even finish his sentence and already five of us were on our way to the mall. Everyone wanted to see what exactly is TATA NANO.

I have seen the reaction of people when they see a new born baby of a freind or a relative. That reaction cannot be explained in words. The reaction of people around NANO was starkingly similiar to that. Yes, it is true NANO is India's baby. Just like relatives of a new born baby try to match its feature within the kin, people were doing the same with our baby NANO. "It looks like Zen Estilo from a distance", "The back is just like Indica", "The centre console is like Spark"

An autorickshaw comes for a price of around one and a half lakh. Pulling out a real car in that amount is really a miracle that TATAs have performed.

You will fall instantly in love with this machine the moment you will see it. It is definitely the most cutest car available in the market. The cute headlights. The baby bonnet. The aerodynamic wedges in the rear doors. The tall height. The space ship style front seats. Oh my God! I have fallen in love it seems! This car would have sold for 3 lakhs only for its looks, but giving it away for half that price is charity it seems.

This is a rear-engined car. So the bonnet doesnt have the engine. Something we are used to seeing since we remember cars. The bonnet holds the stepny tyre which is another innovation. One more difference from conventional cars is that there is no petrol filler caps on either side. The petrol is filled in a pipe inside the bonnet. It will be quite a nice scene to see petrol being filled in the bonnet of a car in our petrol pumps.

The car is surprisingy spacious. Two adults can comfortably sit in the rear seats. Even three people were able to sit quite comfortably inside. Autorickshaws are supposed to seat three people and NANO definitely has more space than them. Not only there is ample space inside the car considering its size, but its amazingly comfortable.  

The front seats have a very futuristic shape even though they are very thin compared to other cars. But they looked sturdy and definitely helped in saving space in the car. The view of the road looked very clear from the driver side. The large pockets provided on the dashboard on the driver and passenger side to keep everyday luggage like grocery bags, school back-packs etc. were really admirable. The cluster meter is in the centre so that every one seated in the car can see the speed on which car is going. This will be a pain to husbands, as their wives will keep on nagging them "Oh God! Why are you racing so much? Slow down. You are driving a NANO not a Ferrari."  

I had seen the bonnet, so wanted to check the boot of the car too. I kept on looking for the boot lever but couldnt find it anywhere. I thought that the boot must be opening with a key, so got down off the car confirm it. But there was no keyhole in the boot. I checked the front seats thoroughly again. I saw that the battery was fitted below the driver seat. (Jumpstarting NANO in case of battery discharge would be a pain). The tool kit was fixed below the front passenger seat. These space saving innovations deserve a salute to the TATA engineers. But still I couldnt locate the boot lever.

I sat on the rear seats for some inspiration. I saw a small plastic loop on the far top right side of the seats. I saw a similiar loop on the left side. I told one of the observer to pull the loop on the left side while I pulled the right side. VOILA, the seats folded and we saw a small boot below the parcel tray. I dont think there are many cars in the world with such a procedure to open the boot.

This kind of boot is definitely cost saving but has some serious disadvantages. In case of an accident, the denting of the dicky panel will be very difficult as there are no dicky lifters which open it an enable working on it. The dicky panel would be needed to cut out and then repaired. For fitting it back welding would be required. This will make the finishing pathetic and every NANO with even a slight rear damage will have to lose the original company seals which is a big let down. 

Now for some more negatives:

1. The quality of plastic used is very cheap. "Made in China" toys use better plastic. The head light lever and wiper lever looked as if they will break with slightest of forces. 

2. There is no glovebox. Where will the owners keep their car papers?

3. Tyres are too small. Slighty bigger tyres were desired.

4. The speakers looked odd and seriously out of place on the dashboard.

5. My left knee touched the dashboard while pressing the clutch. This problem will be faced by tall people who have the habit of reclining the seat ahead.

I have still not driven this car so cannot comment on the pickup, clutching, braking, suspension, A/C etc. Will try to test drive it soon.

All said and done. Nano is definitely the most amazing car to be launched in our times. Making something like this at such a cheap price is a big achievement for the TATA Motors and for our nation as well. This car will revolutionalise the Indian automobile market (Two wheeler and Used Car included) and to some extent the International market as well.

Thanks, Mr. Ratan Tata for keeping your promise. Shame on you Ms. Mamta Bannerjee for depriving people from experiencing this engineering marvel for so long!

Before finishing, two Nano jokes.

1. A Sardar's Nano was not starting. He opened the bonnet to check the engine. Definitely he couldnt see any engine in the bonnet. He remarked, "Oye teri. Now I know why Nano is so cheap. The bloody car doesn't have an engine!"

2. Two high maintainence Gujrati girls discussing:

"Why did you dump your boyfreind?"

"Oh Him! Uske pass Nano chhe." (Take help of a Gujrati friend if you havent understood the joke!)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Three Sentence Stories!!

Here I am going to post some short stories of mine. Some really very short stories! All the stories will have only three sentences. Watch this space for more!


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1.

I boarded a local train after watching the night show of horror movie at CINEMAX.

I went to the only man sitting in the compartment and asked him, "Sir, do you believe in ghosts?"

He looked at me, smiled, said, "No I don't, do you?" and disappeared!

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2.

I prepared the lecture on "Punctuality and Professionalism" till late night.

I was really pleased with my rehearsals and could imagine the applause I would get after finishing the presentation the next morning

When I woke up it was already afternoon and my mobile phone on silent mode showed "26 Missed Calls".

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3.

Even though I was quite friendly with my party freak neighbours, I didn't like their habit of playing music loudly in the night.

It was my birthday today and I wanted to sleep peacefully, so thought of requesting them to co-operate.

As soon as I entered their house I heard my whole housing society singing , "Happy birthday to you.!"