Sunday, November 18, 2007

A different Picture

And then, i have been travelling. In the truest sense of packing bags and going to a place and coming back. Old places- but nevertheless, a different picture.

A couple of weeks back I was in Delhi on a suit booted official trip. We were taking a few people from the US to meet some companies. As usual, the long travel was an ice breaker topic - they got started on their harrowing flight experiences, new airport rules, security procedures... And then one of them said 'You know the 100ml rule for carrying liquids? So i had to finish with the security and then buy my 6 pack mineral water bottle - plus what a pain carrying it around'. And I was stunned! This person had actually bought mineral water all the way from United States in preparation of a 3 day stay in India. I mean- didn't they think we had mineral water? What was the deal?

From there on it only got worse. Here i was thinking that these people would go all rave about India ( an impression gained from eager travellers) - and all i got was the side effectc of malaria and other injections taken in prep for this trip. The best comments - "This place no longer looks like a third world country". And "This city looks like Shanghai 15 years ago". And this comment was about Delhi after having been put up in the Taj, having lunch in Intercontinental, and cruising around some of the best parts of the city. I dreaded to even wonder about what they would have to say about Mumbai.

Their comments actually got me seeing our country from their eyes (while some of it like the mineral water bottles of course extreme and ridiculous). Maybe when people do rave about this country, its more because its like an incredible freak show they see over here. I mean, who in their sane minds would want to travel in the over crowded Mumbai trains? But that is something that is commented on in almost every travel report in a 'U won't believe it' sort of narration.

And as for all of us, I feel as if we all so bought on the 'India Story' - bought too much into it. We do have a lot of good going for us - but we are so focused on shouting out loud about our new found glory, that we have failed to notice our shortcomings - which could eventually be our undoing. Either that or we have grown complacent. Take for example Mumbai - While every non-mumbaiite acknowledges the pathetic state of this city - not a single mumbaiite will - they have grown so used to the state of the city, that there only excuse is the unmanageable population. And that's their defence for everything that's wrong in this city.

One of the other comments that also caught my attention...
"This is the outcome of being the largest democracy - it is almost impossible to implement any reform. Look at China. People dont have much of a say against the government, but every strata of the economy has grown. Minimum quality of life is much higher. At the end of the day, I don't care for democracy, when I don't have a plate of food on my table for every meal and no place to sleep."

Very true. However I'd hate to think of a dictatorship in the hands of a wrong person in this country - which is what would happen most likely, if it ever were to! While I wonder where the solution lies, I hope it doesn't become too late for our country.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Secret thoughts of travellers revealed

This was an article from NY Times where the author talks about his project 'PostSecret'. After what he terms a serendipitous encounter with a writer sending post cards on the flight, he started this project where he collects post cards from travellers on their musings while on the move.

I found the concept of this book very interesting. I mean - if one were to count the drift of thoughts - weird, funny , sad , nostalgic, philosophical - that cross our head every time we are on a train, waiting for the bus or twiddling our thumbs in the airport. And more often than not they slip away, un-noted and un-shared. What better than scribbling it on a boarding pass or the back of ticket ( assuming u wont need it for re-imbursement of course!) for some one else to find? Then again, there is something surreal about connecting with a nameless, faceless person through comments left on a book on or a postcard.

Not to forget - some of these comments are downright hilarious and beat many one liners I've come across.

One postcard I received had a hilarious picture of two pilots jauntily walking through an airport in crisp suits. We all have seen these people. We have all been annoyed by these people. The secret on the card read, “Stop walking through the airport like you own the place!”

Another secret that arrived on a baggage claim ticket read: “You called me an idiot so I sent your bags to the wrong destination. WHOOPS! I guess you were right.”

And a note from the heart...
On a boarding pass, I read a secret of love lost, “I would have left home and flown 2430 miles with you if only you had asked.”

The author says, "It should be noted that I don’t actually write books; I compose them from the postcards that are mailed to me. I essentially invite strangers to anonymously send me untold secrets written on homemade postcards. So far, I have received more than 150,000 inspiring, remorseful, funny, hopeful and even sexual secrets from around the world on every topic imaginable."

His favorite, and my favorite too is a quote from a pilot:
”When passengers ignore the ‘stay in your seats’ sign, I create my own turbulence.”

So, if you wanted to share a thought, I wonder....... :)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

So close…. Could be so far?

Do you know how it feels to be “thissss” close to something that is like an unimaginable dream come true and yet have it all foiled. That’s how I feel, although my plans aren’t foiled as yet – there is this fatalistic feeling that the plan would certainly fall through. Plans for what I am sure would have been the trip of the year. The trip to Pilani.

It was a team party, a lazy afternoon with no hint of information which was to possess me for the next couple of months. My manager, an ex-Bitsian, tells me that this year we had decided to include BITS in the recruitment roster- and I was thrilled. And then he adds, ‘you should come along. We always take alumni with us when we go recruiting’. And I still remember that almost instantaneous spontaneous stupid smile that filled my face - the feeling of being lifted by a light hearted breeze – and a euphoria which suddenly filled my entire being.

I was being asked to go to BITS. I WAS BEING ASKED TO GO TO BITS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just like that! I mean, how many times had I run through this idea with friends, and for some silly reason or the other we never made it. We didn’t even come close to planning it. And out of the blue I was being asked to go to Bits. Yes! Yes! Yes a hundred times over.

I know this trip will be different from what I always envisioned a ‘Return to BITS’ – which would have of course been in the company of my bestest friends – friends with whom I made most of my Bitsian moments and memories. Still – I want to go back to see if the place still holds the same magic through my twenty five years old eyes as it did then.

Of course, following this day I’ve had thousands of nightmares. What if my manager forgot the conversation? Worse what if he forgot I was from BITS. What if I had work and couldn’t make it? What if they chose not to go? Thousand of what if’s. And the fatalistic feeling that it was too good to be true and it wouldn’t happen. Last week, things however picked up some momentum and we are looking to finalize dates – but even then looks like it might clash with a friends wedding I absolutely cannot miss.

Keeping my fingers crossed, and praying hard!