Sunday, March 23, 2008

A tale of a rose, a blackout and lots of tring trings (and a sms)...

I was looking forward to the trip of India for more than one reasons and one of that was to meet some bloggers. Blogging for me started as a way to share my reviews on books and led me to some wonderful friendships. Best thing about these friendships were that these were very different from my "real-life" friendships. I had made quite special friendships all over India during my growing years. My Dad's regular postings made sure that we moved every 2-3 years and I would have to start making those friendships all over again. Most of those friendships would start by scanning the new classroom and looking for kids who had a certain look, whether because they looked studious or helpful or sons/daughters of Army officers. As it turned out, blogging was different. I started visiting blogs based on thoughts/writings of people rather than a "certain" look. And, so I had made friends from all over the world, from every imaginable religious/social/economic/regional background. I made friends with people (mostly gals...ok I confess) that I wouldn't had made even if we were studying in the same school/classroom. This fact made my trip all the more exciting.

I started getting calls on my parents cellphone even before I landed in India (you know who you I got calls from almost all my friends during the trip and even if some of them missed to call me, I knew that they only had good wishes for me. I also received few very surprising and wonderful smses from across the border. All these gestures made bloggers all the more real to me. It also made my trip back home very welcoming.

I had made lots of plans before leaving for India and this trip taught me that not all plans come to fruition. My trip to Bangalore/Hyderabad was canceled after my Didi decided to come to Delhi instead and my parents didn't wanted me to go away as it was already a very short trip. I know some of the bloggers from those cities had made some plans and am really sorry for not making that happen. There is always next time but the next time there won't be any premature planning. And then there were some local plans in Delhi that led me to believe that there is always time and place for everything. Myself and one of my first blogger friend, Payal, made atleast 2-3 plans to meet after landing in Delhi but something or the other came up and so it was not meant to be on this trip. It would have been a pleasure to meet her and will be a pleasure when we meet someday later.

Now this trip was not only about disappointments. There were more than a couple of bloggers that I was able to meet during the trip. Surprisingly, I met some bloggers that I had never planned to meet or for that matter knew them through blogs. As I said before, there is a time and place for everything.

My first meet was with a smart, sexy and intelligent girl from North East part of our country, Marlee. I met Marlee through Mehak's blog and somehow found a certain innocence in her posts and comments. There was something refreshing about those everyday posts and we became friends pretty soon. It wasn't long before we started chatting and at one time were sending smses from our breaks at work almost everyday. Even though we have such different personalities, we actually had few little things in common, whether it was some yaadein about Shillong or our sense of humor (although mine is way better than hers).

Marlee had once told me about her favourite bookshop and so we decided to meet there itself as we both love reading. As we were deciding where to meet and all, I joked with her that you can recognize me because mere haath main ek laal gulab hoga. For some reason she found it hilarious and warned me not to meet her if that will be the case. Anyways, the place was decided and I was there few minutes early (its a better way to say that she was late by few minutes). So, I thought to go around CP and actually look for that one rose but to my disappointment there were no flower shops near that bookshop. I was able to find a really cheesy plastic rose from a street vendor but the guy selling won't sell me one piece but wanted me to take the whole damn guldasta. I knew that one rose will give me a kick in the rear but the whole guldasta will make Marlee one of the Charlie's Angel's and myself the innocent villian. So, I didn't buy it but this whole process had made me late by few minutes and had to rush to the bookshop. Now like an idiot I was waiting for her outside the shop while she was sitting inside, in the comfort of the place. It took us 2 cell calls to figure out where we were. And so I went inside the bookshop in anticipation of meeting my first blogger friend.

(to be contd.)

Monday, March 10, 2008

...the bad and the ugly

Every country has flaws but sometimes we become oblivious to them. Its when we go out of our environment that we notice those flaws more prominently but on the other hand we also notice flaws of the new environment when compared to the older one. The bad and the ugly side of India is not to put it down or glorify its flaws but its an observation from the outside by an NRI (Non Required Indian, ofcourse) ...

On my way to India, I was sitting next to a South Korean girl and after the initial awkwardness we started talking. She was going to India for the first time with few of her friends who were sitting on the other aisle. She took out her guidebook and started asking me about places to visit. I like a home-sick NRI started glorifying India like its the only heaven on earth and angels will come to take these South Koreans on tour of their lifetime. That was until my plane landed at Indira Gandhi Airport and I entered the immigration area. The first words on coming out was WTF (not the words I had originally thought while listening to music of Swades on the way). I had never seen so much confusion in my lifetime. There was construction going on for the new airport and so the one that was operational was as bad as it could get. There was dust everywhere and no one to help the way out. I had to help an old couple fill up the immigration form as there was no help offered by the airport staff. There was so much confusion at the baggage area that my only hope was that my baggage will come out fine. But like everything in India, amidst all the confusion everything turns out just fine and so did my baggage. As I was leaving the airport to look for my parents my thoughts went for those simple South Koreans and what must have been there first thoughts of "Incredible India".

The new airport plan for Delhi - the faster it comes to fruition the better.

The other bad part was encountered as I left the airport and that was our Dilli ka traffic. Ok, I will agree that every NRI gets a road-shock with our traffic, no matter if the same person would have been zooming through the same traffic 7 years back like he owned those roads. For me it was crossing the roads which was an hassle in itself. I remember the first day we went to the Great India Mall and we had to cross the road to goto the Gurudwara on the opposite side. It took me and Mom close to half hour to cross a damn road while people were crossing the road like they were all on suicide watch. Despite the Metro, traffic is bad enough but its the traffic sense of Delhites that makes it worse. People cross the red-lights like they don't exist and horn is used more than steering wheels while driving. I dreaded going out only for one reason and that was the traffic. It takes ages to go from one place to another and the pollution can make any sane person insane within 10 kms range. I think roads can be improved, transportation can be improved, pollution can be checked but how can we improve the traffic sense of millions of people.

The traffic is everywhere except where it should be.

Among all this confusion the most funny part was that couple of fully-functional flyovers were closed because the authorities were unable to find a bloody neta to inaugurate it. I dread the day when Nano will hit the road because where are the roads? According to a report if all the cars on Delhi start running there will be only 450 meters of road left in Delhi. Atleast that will fit few Nanos.

Ok, I haven't come to the ugly part yet. I wouldn't say there were any "really" ugly parts to my trip but there were a couple of incidents that bordered on ugliness. The first incident does not reflect majority of Indians or for that matter Delhites but it was still an ugly incident to go through. We were waiting for our red light on the way to Faridabad and like almost every red-light there were poor kids begging for money. One of the kid went to couple of guys sitting on their bikes and asked "Bhaiya, kuch paise de do, mere behen ke shaadi hain". The guys starting laughing mockingly and replied back, "Abey tere behen ke shaadi bhi ho jayegi, chinta kyun karta hain" and then had a hearty laugh. For me it was the most disgusting incident to witness on the whole trip. I can imagine that it is not fiscally possible to give money to every person asking on the streets but who gives right to people to pass judgments on someone's poverty and that too in such a sarcastic cruel manner.

I had a pretty long conversation with my cousin who was visiting from US about something relating to above when we were passing through McDonald's and she bought couple of Mac burgers for some kids selling roses outside. I argued that its all good to buy stuff for these kids but most people living in India would say that NRIs come here once every blue moon, throw some pennies at the poor and then go away to their "good" life but we have to face them at every street corner everyday. I don't think we came to any conclusion but the fact that if that kid can eat good food one night then what's the harm.

The last ugly part of the trip was where it all started, the departure lounge of the airport. Its sad but there was more security in Malls than at the airport and there must be atleast million people leaving that day. It was so bad that I couldn't even properly say bye to my family. Inside the airport was craziness personified. Although, I was at airport 3 hours before my flight, I barely made it few minutes before. A British lady almost had a nervous breakdown with the kinda of rush and heat. The ugliest part was one American white guy paying bribe to get infront of the line and airport official allowing him with a certain casualness. The first thing I did after the security check-in was to call my parents and warn them not to go outside India till the new airport is built. I was huffing and puffing by the time I reached my flight and was considering it a miracle that was able to board the flight in one piece, which was thankfully 1/2 hour late because of a snow-storm in China.

Even after all this there is something about India that makes you miss it the moment your flight takes the wings. All the bad and ugliness seem very minuscule compared to all the love and affection you get from your own people. I am already missing it and looking forward to my next trip....errr...after the new airport is fully functional.

P.S: Hindustan Times article regarding more counters, entry gates at Delhi Int'l Airport soon...