Friday, January 26, 2007

One day at the Detroit Airport…

There are always some incidents in our life which remain etched in our memory. For me, a collection of such interesting incidents occurred in Detroit Airport on October 8th 2006. I just kept postponing writing about it till now.

To start with, I was slightly concerned as my itinerary involved a transit in Baltimore on my way back from Detroit to Boston with the transit time being less than an hour plus a different airline, which meant, I thought, me having to check in again at Baltimore. With butterflies afloat in the stomach, we (My family) left my brother’s house at 3.45 pm for the 5.25 pm departure.

En route, there was a deviation of almost 15-20 miles to airport, and it caused a slight delay in arrival at the airport. Quickly bidding adieu to the family, I went to one of those machines which provides the boarding passes if the e-ticket number is punched in. It displayed an error message, saying flight already departed.

Nonplussed, I went to the counter and gave her the printout of my e-ticket. She apparently was new to her job and had no idea what was going on. With less than 20 minutes for my flight departure, I was getting freaked out. She mumbled something about me being booked at a 12.30 pm flight and that she can give me a direct flight to Boston at 7 pm. I thought she just didn’t know what she was doing because there was no way I could have been booked at 12.30 pm flight (when my e-ticket clearly said 5.25 pm) and also there was no way the airline could give me the 7 pm direct flight at the same cost if indeed I had missed my flight. If I couldn’t afford a direct flight in the first place when I was booking the tickets in Orbitz, why would the airlines provide me the same just because I missed my flight? Not that I would mind, because, I did need a direct flight compared to all the circus I had to go in Baltimore!

The attendant called another senior attendant and both of them quickly punched in something in the monitor and gave me my boarding pass without any further talk. I assumed everything was resolved and I could still make the 5.25 pm flight. I rushed to the security counter. The security officer scrutinized my T-shirt (which had the caption This is the worst day of my life) and gave a smirk: “I can make it bad for you, if you want.” I just managed a mirthless laugh.

With the security check completed, I analyzed where I was and where I had to go. Detroit airport is like an H-shaped airport with the 2 layers in the first vertical of ‘H’. I was at the centre of the second vertical of ‘H’ and my gate was at the top of the second vertical. The best way was to take the inter-terminal train. I got onto the train and thought “Only a few minutes from now I would be on board.” It was then that I saw my boarding pass.

It was a boarding pass to Boston direct in the 7 pm flight and not the 5.25 pm flight! A surge of relief went through me. The flight attendant had been actually able to give me the direct flight without any extra cost! It even spared me the trouble of changing airlines at Baltimore amidst the rush of time! This was the best thing that could happen. [It was only later that I came to know that there was a disclaimer in the e-ticket which said ‘Itinerary is subject to change. Please check mail 24 hrs before the actual departure.’ The itinerary had indeed changed and I had been booked for the 12.30 pm flight instead of the 5.25 pm flight!]

But just to confirm, I went to the gate corresponding to Baltimore flight and confirmed that indeed I was booked onto the Boston flight direct at 7 pm. The gate to Boston flight was at the lower end of second vertical of ‘H’. I went all the way walking to the other end just to pass time and window-shopped. I still had about an hour and half to kill. So I thought I might as well see the airport in its entirety. All terminals and all gates. Plus I had to have dinner as it would be pretty late by the time I would reach home. With these tasks in mind, I set forth with my camera to walk around the terminals and click away at glory.

My pace was slow and measured. Like I had all the time in the world. I looked at everything and anything, appreciating beauty in all its hidden camouflage. Like watching two small kids play with the walking conveyor. A beautiful fountain which switched on and off at different places to create a steady and rhythmic albeit unpredictable swoosh of water keeping anyone walking by it in rapturous attention. A pure pleasure just to watch it. Its amazing how beautiful a simple stream of water can be. Its such a boon to have eyes to appreciate it.

Having walked hither and thither all through the airport and exhausting myself I placed myself comfortably in a posh leather cushion couch and relaxed. There was still almost an hour to go before my flight departure. I have been in such situations in my life many times. Waiting for a transportation in a busy industrious area, and more often than not, I derive enjoyment just by looking here and there, and watching different people, the young and the old, the rich and the not-so, the husbands and wives, the children and their siblings, the busy ones and the ones sleeping away to glory, the young love birds and the teenaged youthfulness. It is much more engrossing and so much filled with life and activity than hearing an iPod or even reading a novel. It resembles so many of those cinematic scenes in which the actor just stays put and everyone and anyone moves about him in a fast forward sequence. You are just a mere lifeless pawn in the whole gamut of life and its activities. Like a standing by-passer watching everything around with great interest and yet emotionally involved with nothing. It was a moment of simple yet inexplicable glory.

The couch happened to be near a big glass window, as most couches are in US airports, overlooking the tarmac where airplanes waited for mounting or dismounting passengers at the numerous gates. The plane nearest to the window where I was placed, had just arrived and there were lot of activity going on like removal of baggage, of cargo, of food, of human wastage, etc. One small group of people that caught my attention was the team that was unloading the cargo.

If you have noticed this activity, you will be able to relate that there are 2 main things involved in removal of cargo from airplanes. One is the wide, flat machine which elevates itself to the level of the cargo door in the airplane so that cargo can be easily shifted from the airplane to the flat machine which then goes back to ground level to be transported to a waiting cargo vehicle. The cargo vehicle, again, if you have noticed, is like a small 1-bogeyed train with the bogey being small cargo-carrying flat, open, wide area and it being connected to the driver by links. The storage area in both the machine and the vehicle will have directional rolling rods controlled in its movement by a panel to place the cargo in the right position.

Now, the operator operating the first machine (the wide, flat machine which acts as the intermediary transport agent from airplane to the cargo vehicle) had his act done in a couple of minutes. He had the controls like an expert and got the machine elevated, the cargo onto the machine and the machine depressed back to ground level. Creativity spewing in him, he was even making the cargo dance at his fingers, although I am sure it was weighing tons. What a fascination it is to make tons of load dance by a simple set of levers and rotating floor-balls!

He was ready to offload it to the vehicle but the driver of the cargo vehicle apparently had tremendous difficulty in reversing the vehicle such that the bogey was perfectly aligned with the cargo bearing machine. Since the bogey is connected by links, even a slight change in the maneuver of wheels, puts the train-like vehicle in an awkward position and the cargo cannot be transported to the vehicle.

He spent almost twenty minutes in reversing the vehicle, this way and that, almost tried every possible option and tried to his level best but just could not get his act right. It seemed such a simple task to reverse the vehicle and position it properly but he just couldn’t do it however hard he could try. The machine operator, waiting to offload was getting frustrated. The next set of two cargo-vehicles was already waiting for the driver to get the cargo moving. But the driver was just unable to reverse appropriately. The other set of drivers came to offer him help but he waved them away. His prestige, apparently, was at stake. Finally, he gave up and one of the other drivers reversed expertly into the right slot within a minute. That set me thinking.

In any profession, there will always be non-performers. Or rather, putting it more diplomatically, in any profession, there are always experts and then there are those who need to put in just that little bit of extra effort by investing more time. Be it in analytical reasoning or be it manual labour.

I was so enraptured by the activity on the tarmac – and its telescopic significance in life – and was wondering how would it indeed be to lead a life in an airport (like how it is portrayed in the movie Terminal), that I suddenly realized it was almost 6.30 pm. In my planning what-to-do, I had missed the fact that boarding starts 30 minutes before the flight departure. And I was yet to have my dinner. I quickly went to a cafĂ© nearest to my gate, again in the inter-terminal train (en route being appreciated by a bunch of young teenagers for my T-shirt “I like that caption!” and within a minutes rebuffed by an old lady “Surely its not your worst day!”) and found to my dismay that there was a big queue to place the order.

Just when I placed my order (token number being 135), I heard over the PA that first class passengers for the flight to Boston can start boarding. And I was hoping that I can quickly have a bunch to bite when my token number was called at the counter. Just as I approached to take my order, a young lady gave her receipt and took the food.

Did I hear the number correctly? Or did she make a mistake? Or did the person giving the token numbers make a mistake? Or did the person providing food shouted the wrong token number? Just as I was contemplating which one of the above happened, I thought the best bet would be to approach the young lady to confirm if she got what she ordered. And as I scanned the crowd, I saw her on a table, talking on the mobile while at the same time biting into the burger. In all probability, she did get what she ordered. Or she just didn’t care. And I couldn’t care any more as the call for all passengers to board came on the PA.

Sighing, and hungry, I boarded the plane. Thankfully, the flight to Boston was sleepily uneventful and upon reaching the airport at 9 pm, all I wanted to do was to get home, which was another two hours away. With my hunger temporarily forgotten, I headed home and then again, upon reaching at 11 pm, with no mood to cook, nor to eat frozen food, went to bed directly. What an irony it was that I, who had all the time in the airport to roam around and laze on a leather couch, had to go to bed empty-stomach!

Overall, it was an interesting, blog-worthy evening!!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Saint Thyagaraja's Aradhana

Being at Thiruvayar for Thyagaraja’s Aradhana when Pancharatna songs are sung was one of my biggest dreams. This dream was fulfilled this year when I planned a month in advance, and positioned myself at the place of ceremony 30 minutes prior to the commencement to the program.

Thousands of people had gathered to celebrate the 160th Aradhana and it was great to see that international press had a section blocked off for themselves. Considering the police staff and their infrastructure, it was a pretty well organized setting.

The program began sharply at 9 and it was beautiful music for the next full hour. Many in the audience had lyrics in their hand (yours truly included) and tried mumbling as best as one could along with the professional artists.

Although Jagadanandagaraka, Dudukugala, Sadhinchane and Kanakanaruchira are equally nice, there is always a change in the atmosphere, at least for me, when Endaro Mahanubhavulu is sung. There is this strange feeling of greatness that comes about whenever this song commences. Like, world coming to a stop for a second.

But, alas, everything good comes to an end. Much too soon, the program got done. This was followed by a quick visit to Thyagaraja’s samadhi amidst the rushing crowd as well as a short trip to the house where Thyagaraja used to stay. And then it was time to visit Thanjavur and see the World Famous Brihadeshwar temple.

Parting thought – it was worth it all!

Reference link.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Soap Opera

A family friend visited our house a couple of days back. She was known to be a sucker for the multitude of the soap opera on the idiot box. So when we teased her about some of her favourite serials, we were surprised to hear that she had stopped seeing them all. Thus she spoke, “The portrayal of the depths to which a human being can go to find happiness in others’ faults and making others fall for one’s own upliftment was too much for me.”

The statement had so much truth in it. We have to just stop and think about it for a second. Why is it that most family serials, irrespective of the language, tend towards the blackness and villainous aspects of the human society? All one has to do is just see a few scenes in any serial, and one can feel the negative vibes coming out of it. What kind of happiness can be derived by being a sadist or by showing sadistic actions amongst one’s own relatives?

A kid, oblivious yet to the good and bad in this world, watching such an episode can learn so many negative actions and behavior, and on top of it, shall also consider it to be the norms within a family. Shouldn’t we be highlighting the positive energy, celebrating happiness, portraying the goodness of family bonding and strive to popularize the making of better citizenry all around us?

I am reminded of wonderful serials like Small Wonder, The Full House, Darpan, Malgudi Days which invariably brings a smile to the lips at the end of each episode. Those serials, to me, were of great moral value, and each episode was like a gem of knowledge and understanding. Shouldn’t that be the goal of the serial-maker?

Instead the serial-makers create a plot that absorbs the middle-aged populace with such a grip that they cannot let go of the serials in the middle – somewhat akin to a smoking addiction – and at the same time, create this disharmonious ambience in which even the viewers themselves keep shouting at the actor, director and the whole crew of the serial, by way of trying to add some sense in a scene completely devoid of it, and even go to the extent of cursing the same episode which they are seeing, but are just unable to stop seeing it altogether…

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A child's play

The kid in front of our house is very cute. It has nice chubby cheeks and a rotund robustness! It mouths words of only two syllables; sometimes mumbling to itself and sometimes to elders, as if with great importance!

The moment it sees me in my balcony, an unhindered, spasmodic joy overcomes its body, and its face churns out a huge smile, the hands and legs suddenly starts bouncing about and if her mother is nearby, the kid runs out to her mother and buries her face deep inside the saree acting shy but inwardly being tremendously happy! And slowly, the face comes out again with that same smile.

Sometime then, the face comes out in the wrong angle, the sweep of the eyes suddenly sees a vegetable vendor on the road, and momentarily I am completely forgotten! The vegetable vendor notices the kid’s eyes on her and gives the kid a small carrot. The kid happily takes the carrot and starts munching.

During this munching, the face starts moving hither and thither, and suddenly I am in its radar again! Once more, as if it’s the first time she has seen me that day, an uncontrollable and unparalleled joy comes over her in a fit and she starts running and jumping again. It is all smiles, and hand-waves, and its as if she is at the pinnacle of all happiness! Looking at me is like turning a switch of abundant joy to her!

Such innocence, such joy, such forgetfulness, such happiness…
Why is it that we lose it all? Is losing it all a part of “growing-up philosophy”?

We stop laughing and playing because we became old. But…
We become old because we stop laughing and playing…

Reference link.


There is something magical about music.
It affects each one of us in some way or the other.
The tune or the lyrics or the rhythm or the frequency.
Classical or Hindustani or Hip-Hop or Instrumental.

Hearing to music suddenly makes the world look bright and happy!
People seem to be laughing and jovial everywhere.
One feels like dancing and jumping around.
Brings about a sprightly spring to the feet.

Soothes the mind and soul.
There is calm, smoothening effect.
Has the power to bring tears.
Speaks the language of Divine.

Well, what can I say, other than just -
"Thanks for the iPod!"

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Eight years ago, when I joined Engineering, I used to leave home early in the morning to catch the college bus. On my way to the bus-stop, I used to see with pride and respect, a blue bus bearing the name InfoSys going by. I always used to consider people sitting inside the bus to be highly intelligent and most respected. They belonged to the cream of the society. They were the ones who uplifted the nation, the economy and brought forth world-wide recognition.

Four years later, I least expected myself to be leaving home early in the morning, with tie and formal shoes, to catch that same blue bus. It was (and still is) the period when InfoSys was on a hiring spree, as was most IT companies, and hence, it rubbed off some of the prestige that I once held about InfoSys and its employees, but yet, it was a great honour. Just as how any cricketer treasures wearing the Indian cap when he is out on the field, so was the InfoSys badge to me.

People looked up at me. They recognized the brand name. Even without the connotation to the pay packet, InfoSys was a world famous company, known even in remote villages thanks to the company’s IT-training projects in rural areas. Layman started looking at me in awe, as if I had climbed the Mount Everest!

Two years later, came the period when anyone I meet was bound to say, after exchanging the customary greetings, ‘My nephew also is in InfoSys. His name is xxx. Do you know him?’ Every family had at least one person within InfoSys. In fact, I know a family, where all brothers and even one of the brother’s wife – all are in InfoSys. True, InfoSys considers all its employees as one big family. But, we now have ‘actual-blood-related’ families within the ‘Big Family’!

Then came the time when I started getting forwards degrading companies like InfoSys and its likes. People then started blaming InfoSys for giving lack of respect to Kannadigas, and exploiting Bangalore. Sometime then, ‘awe’ got replaced by ‘disdain’. Articles started coming in the newspapers about how IT professionals were being murdered just for the mobile phone, laptop, credit card and the iPod that they are carrying. Terrorists with AK-47s started coming from across the border and from small villages to gun down InfoSys employees, amongst others!

And today, due to work, I came back from office late in the last bus and reached my stop at 10 pm. It’s a 5 minute walk from the bus-stop to my home, and the thought never leaves me that there might be someone there lurking who can kill me for the worldly items that I possess. So, I removed my InfoSys badge, hid it in my pockets, and stealthily walked, looking carefully hither and thither and safely reached home.

Technically, there was not much difference between me and an Al-Qaida terrorist.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Dear Enginjo...

Enginjo. That’s how she used to call herself. Engineering Jyothi, it stood for. She has always been a dear friend of mine. The respect for each other has been mutual. Whenever we spoke of each other, it was always in the order of highest esteem.

We were classmates in engineering and over the period of four years, we came to know more about one another. We used to compete over one another for our literary excellence. And although she used to make me equal to her, personally, I always felt she was way way above me. Her command over English was awesome. She had a clear-cut thought process which enabled her with a fluent dialect. Needless to say, she belonged to the cream of the class.

I got to know more of her in our college trip in the final year. We grew fond of one another, and found that we shared a lot of mutual interests and desires. We had lengthy and intellectual conversations, accompanied by even lengthier and magnificent emails, studded with high-end Anglicism!

We joined InfoSys on the same day and belonged to the same batch in Mysore. Upon completion of training, we went our ways and got geographically separated. Over the period of next four years, we had our share of fights, laughs, ups, downs, and suddenly somehow, got totally isolated. All forms of communication stopped. My only last remembrance of her was our long rendezvous in Mangalore when I chanced to visit her.

And then I got her wedding invite! Marriage was with the same person about whom she used to talk for hours together. There was only one issue. He was of a different religion. And I was most glad when I came to know about her wedding: she had overcome everything, inclusive of her most orthodox family. She had convinced one and all about what is good for her. The wedding in itself was most memorable. Happy faces all around!

And there I was in the wedding hall, just like others, looking at her, feeling insignificant, when she suddenly saw me. And recognition led to smile. And the smile covered up all the years of isolations. It was as if there was no isolation in the first place. It was a smile of relief, of success, of happiness. And it was a smile which said “Thanks for making it to the wedding!” And that made me extremely happy…

Here’s wishing Enginjo a happy married life and very best wishes…

Saturday, January 06, 2007


The salesman at the counter in a shopping complex bends his head down, blows his nose, the snot hangs till he removes it by hand and brushes it off.

There is a constant buzz in the background – of vehicles moving, honking, of kids shouting, of neighbours talking, of everyone’s mobile phones ringing.

There is this cramped up feeling in the city, and everyone is trying to grab some space.

Felt damn funny to see a board ‘Do not drink and drive’. Its tough to drive even in sobriety. ‘Do not drive’ would have been much better!

And then, there is ‘Mom du mommom’!