Reluctant husband goes on a picnic with wife’s friends

Four nights back my wife turned towards me in bed and stared at me. Having been married to her for the last six years I knew this was a dangerous move. As a weapon, it ranked a little below Arnold Schwarzenegger’s AMT Hardballer Longslide (with laser sighting) in the movie Terminator but above Sylvester Stallone’s SVD Dragunov in Rambo III.

I immediately closed my eyes and lay still thinking playing dead might work. But through the dark room, Rekha’s piercing eyes noticed that I was still breathing and she started: “Rajan, you awake?”

I continued to play dead.

“Rajan, you just adjusted your pillow. You can’t be asleep so soon?”

The problem with my wife is that she can never make up her mind. She is always confused if her sentence should be a statement or a question – and that confuses me to bits.

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I continued to play dead. Better be dead than fight a battle weaponless and die a tragic death.

“Rajan, I am feeling romantic. Must be the fact that you came home early from office, after about two months.” Rekha sure was persistent.

But at the mention of romanticism, I lowered by guard just that little bit. If you are married you would know that wives never feel romantic, leave alone in bed. So when she does feel romantic you don’t want to let that chance pass.

I said: “Sorry, you were saying?”

“What is it with you men? You force me to play dirty. I am not romantic or any shit like that. I just wanted you to respond.”

“Rekha, I just liked the thought of it. You should have at least continued to play dirty for a while.”

But Rekha was determined to not let silly girly things called romanticism come in between her mission.

“My friends and I have planned a picnic this Saturday.” She was blunt.

“Picnic?” I shouted. And almost woke up our daughter Rhea whom Rekha conveniently places between the two of us every night. If I were the Prime Minister of India, I would have definitely suspected that ISI had a hand in placing Rhea in between to stress me out…but alas no.

“Yes picnic. In Leisure valley park. This Saturday.”

Rekha’s voice was commanding now. It felt as if she was coach Tony D’Amato (played by Al Pachino) in the movie Any Given Sunday and I was one of her players. She was playing me.

“This Saturday? But why? Can’t we just chill at home?”

“Nope. I have already agreed to bring you along.” Rekha insisted.

“Agreed to bring me along? Then there are others as well?”

“Yes, my friends in the apartment complex.”

“But Rekha, I barely know them.”

“Rajan, in case you haven’t noticed I barely know any of your colleagues but when they come home, don’t I behave?”

“Hmmm…behaving is such a subjective word. Anyway, that is for later. So, how many ladies are coming?”

“We are four – Sonal, Pallavi, Meetu and Smitha – and we are the gang in Uniworld.” Through the dark I could see that Rekha had a smile when she was reciting the names. She must really like them. How naive, I thought.

“Not fair right? Five ladies and just me? You know me, I would shiver in my shoes.”

“Don’t get your hopes up. They are all coming with their husbands.”

“No way Rekha. I can’t come. If it were just the women I would have managed. How do you expect me to have a picnic with strangers?”

“But Rajan, this isn’t fair. I always do it for you.”

So saying, she looked around for my hands in the dark and grabbed them. She always does this when she has to convince me and every time I fall for it. Anyway, to cut the long story short, after 30 minutes I was lying in the bed thinking, what a stupid idea it was to spend six hours with strangers on a picnic in exchange for ten minutes of sex. Wives sure know how to screw their husbands.

We were the first to reach Leisure Valley Park – I wanted to be done with it and move on with life. It was as if I was indebted to somebody and I just wanted to pay it back and be answerable to no one. Within an hour everybody had assembled. Rekha introduced me to all. Here is how it went:

“Rajan, here are Sonal and Rahul and their kids. Remember we have been to their house on their son’s birthday?”

Rajan: Did we?

“Forget about it. And this is Pallavi and her husband Anmol. We have met them before, remember?””

Rajan: Yeah? Hmm….I don’t remember.

“Anyway, this is Meetu and her husband Amit and their daughter Molly.”

Rajan: “Hi Molly!”

“Rajan, do you want to say a Hi to Meetu and Amit as well? I have told you so much about them…haven’t I? ”

Rajan: Have you?

“And this is Smitha. They are Konkani and have settled in Kerala, so I can speak to her in Malayalam.”

Rajan: She knows English, doesn’t she? Or should I speak in Malayalam as well?

“Rajan, she knows English and now is the time to say your greetings. I would really like it.”

Rajan: Hi Sunitha.

“Not Sunita….Smitha.”

To cut the long story short….the first one hour of the picnic was a disaster. The wives and husbands were telling their kids not to go near me. I did notice two of the parents pointing their index finger to the sides of their head while telling them to stay away from me. And five minutes later I did hear a few of the kids calling me crazy and throwing stones at me.


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In moments such as these the genes in the 24th chromosome of the Rajan clan gets activated. The right juices started flowing and soon, I was that suave, sophisticated conversationalist that the World has seldom hoped for but never seen.

If you have been reading this blog for long, you know that the Rajans are a clumsy and crude lot but when challenged, they rise up to the occasion. That is exactly what happened at this picnic. Within the next 3 hours this Rajan had become the most popular picnic-er in the party.

When the stray dog attempted to eat our food, I was chosen by all to chase the dog away till a distance of 2 kilometers and come back. When a child from another picnic party was lost, I was told to go and find his parents and that took a whole 45 minutes away. And when we ran out of water, I was the guy who was selected to take the car and buy some bottles of water. We had great fun at the picnic and my wife’s friends loved me!


Flirting with an air hostess with a baby in hand

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This is the story of me flirting with an air hostess with a baby in hand and my wife in tow. Here is how it happened –

My daughter Rhea, my wife Rekha and I left Gurgaon on Wednesday morning and reached Madurai in the evening – all for 3-4 days of Diwali celebration with friends & relatives.

These were the glory days of Air Deccan Airlines. Vijaya Mallaya was still rich and had just bought Air Deccan with his eyes closed. Needless to say Deepika Padukone had not ditched Sid Mallaya yet. All this is besides the point, but you get the drift.

As I was saying, our choice of flight was Air Deccan and interestingly they don’t want their patrons to buy tickets for kids below one year of age. Since the travel was free, we decided to take our 8-month-old baby girl along on the trip.

Traveling with a baby is a difficult ball game. When we left home, we had three hand baggages – my laptop, Rhea`s baby bag and Rhea herself. By the time we reached the airport, dressed in our woollens (because were out of the bed at an unearthly hour of 8 a.m.), we had decided to check in my laptop and carry just two hand baggages – baby Rhea and her baby bag.

By the time we had checked in, my daughter had given me enough indications about her career she was interested in – she was smiling at every Tom, Beep & Harry – like a true blue air hostess. For a moment, I did accept that as a career option for my 8-month-old daughter but when I realized that she would be exposed to 40-year-old, sex-starved men, shamelessly staring at her even with their wives were in tow I started having second thoughts. Even as I type this, I am thinking of a good career option for my daughter. The good old middle class dream – a District Collector maybe?

Carrying a baby isn`t all that bad, for an Air Deccan ground staff asked us to wait for a personal shuttle to drop us near the airplane. Unfortunately, it wasn`t as personal as one would have thought for when we boarded the shuttle, there were three women above 60 and one man above 65 waiting for us – and we aren`t talking of their weights in Kgs.

While boarding the plane, I caught one air hostess named ‘Deepti` eyeing my broad shoulders and healthy chest and perhaps wondering: “How good would it be to just rest my head on them and feel safe and secure?”

We wouldn`t proceed further on the issue because I caught this air-hostess eyeing another handsome man soon after. Note to self: Check if ‘misleading` is a synonym for ‘Beauty`.

As we settled down, two air hostesses and one lonely male cabin crew member gave away the emergency instructions. I wonder if these instructions are really useful. I remember listening to them patiently during my first few trips and now I don’t even bother to look up. When it comes to the post-boarding safety instructions I have two concerns:

If frequent fliers are like me don`t listen to instructions, are frequent fliers most likely to die in an emergency landing?

If 1 in every 1,100 trips has an emergency landing, why can`t these safety instructions be read out on those trips alone?

After sitting through the emergency instructions session which seemed longer than a Liciano Pavarotti opera, a pretty air hostess walked up to me. Even if I had my eyes closed, I would have told you that she was 36-28-36 by the micro seconds it took between two heel digs on the floor.

As I closed my eyes in prayer, this girl said: “Sir, is she your daughter?”

“I said yes.” It felt sad to be breaking her bubble, but I didn`t like the thought of she kissing me in front of my wife.

“Would you be carrying her while the flight takes off?”

“Yes,” I said. I wish, I could have said, “Hey, I am just kidding. She isn`t my daughter. I am just holding my co-passenger`s daughter” – and point towards my wife sitting next to me.

What I heard next, was a message from heaven. She said: “Sir, to avoid discomfort during flight takeoff and landing I suggest breastfeeding.”

I looked at Rekha, and she was busy thumbing through the shopping options in the in-flight magazine.

I turned towards the pretty air hostess, gave her my hundred dollar smile and said: “Great, so where do we meet as soon as the lights are switched off for take-off? Do you really want to do it at the time of landing as well?”

After 13 minutes:

I wonder why, when I asked for cotton for my baby`s ears when she started crying during the take off the same air hostess refused to acknowledge my existence.

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How Dawood Ibrahim almost got arrested from his hide out in Madurai

When miracles happen too often, they cease to be miracles. The opposite is also true. When you start traveling less and less, every travel starts seeming like a miracle. That is why when I kept aside work and decided to make a 3-day trip to Madurai it seemed nothing short of a miracle.

The main objective of the trip was to pay homage to my father on the shores of Trichendur temple, on his fifth death anniversary. There were side plots – meeting school friends in Chennai and also seeing progress of the house we had bought on the IT highway in Chennai.

So, on 31 Sept I was on a Jet Airways flight to Chennai. It was quite uneventful, except for the moment when the young Air Hostess walked up to me and said, “What would you have for breakfast, sir?”

I loved the way, “Sir” rolled off her tongue. There are only a few things that could have rolled off her tongue better. “Please call me Jammy,” I told her.

“What would you have for breakfast, Jammy?”

“I will have whatever you give me, even if it is poison.” I replied with my trademark smile writ large on my face.

“Sir, the rules that apply to you also apply to us. We can’t carry poison on the flight. The closest I have is this crimson colored lipstick, which is only for external use.”

At this point I noticed a tinge of disappointment in her voice maybe because she couldn’t test my love for her by offering me the poison.

To lift her spirits, I agreed to have the chicken sandwich she had and the chocolate brownie that came with it. It was not poison but came close to it. It sure helped, because once she had served me she got on with her job as if nothing had happened. If at all she was disappointed (of which I was sure) she didn’t show it.

While parting ways, I just got unlucky. My favorite air hostess’ supervisor was standing right next to her and saying “Thank you!” which meant even now my girl couldn’t express her love for me. She gave me a curt, “Thanks”

Once at the Chennai Airport, I bought a magazine and sat under a television to wile away two hours of waiting time. The beauty of waiting with a magazine in hand is that people mistake you for an educated gentleman and thus stop by to ask all sorts of questions:

– Sir, where are the washrooms?
– Sir, could you direct me to Gate No 6 please?
– Sir, I am to meet my girlfriend and in movies I have seen that when boyfriend-girlfriend meet at the airport, flowers are exchanged. Please advice me – who gives the flowers to whom?
– Sir, where did you buy this magazine? There are some pretty girls around and I also want to look educated.
– Sir, Mahindra Holidays gifted me a 2-nights vacation for filling up a form in a shopping mall. They said I had to buy my own Air Tickets to reach there, which I did…now I am wondering if I got cheated.

Anyway, it was time to board the flight to Madurai. Once in the van which was to take me to the airplane parked deep inside, on the tarmac, I noticed a 90+ years old, loud lady. Like me she was also headed to Madurai. But unlike me, she was accompanied by her teenager grand-grand son who was too embarrassed to even stand next to her. Looking at the speed at which this van was getting filled, I knew it was going to be a long embarrassing phase in the teenager’s life.

I moved towards the old lady and commented, “”First time on flight, is it?”

“Yes indeed,” she replied. Her smile was evident, so were the presence of out-of-work gums. With no teeth what were her gums supposed to work with?

“You excited?” I tried to humor her. Besides, I had also decided to teach the teenager a lesson – that traveling with an elderly person isn’t a source of embarrassment.

We indulged in small talk, and in a while the van started moving. After a five minute journey (maybe our driver was pissed with his wife for he drove very slow) the van came to a stop in front of the airplane we were to board to reach Madurai.

The moment the van stopped, the old lady exclaimed, “This was so fast! Who would have thought air travel would be so quick!”

At that moment, everybody looked at the lady. And gave me a dry smile suggesting they understood my pain. I so much wanted to shout out, “No no….I am not with her.” But held back.

At this the teenager neared the old lady and on his way whispered into my ears, “Now you know what I mean…don’t you?” Then he turned towards the lady and said, “No grandma, we haven’t reached Madurai yet – we have only reached the airplane which will take us to Madurai.”

At this the old lady got very miffed. The teenager then helped the old lady get up and walk to the airplane. Her displeasure was evident for all to see.

It is always nice to be inside flights travelling to small towns. You have all the wannabe alpha-males who have broken their bonds with small towns but haven’t yet arrived in the big towns. This is what I would call the transition phase. I myself was in this phase sometime back.

Once inside the airplane, I messaged my wife and my mother that I was on my way and put my iPhone in Airplane mode. The guy next to me messaged Dawood. Yes, you read it right. He sent this SMS to Dawood, “In the flight. Hope the car is waiting. All excited to see the small bomb. When is it due?”

I didn’t know what to do. Not just India, but the whole Interpol was looking for Dawood and here I was sitting next to the man who knew his mobile number and was also going to meet him. I had to do something. But had to be careful – what if this man was armed?

I couldn’t call 100. The moment I switched on my mobile, he would know that I knew more than I should and kill me. I couldn’t borrow somebody else’s number and call 100 – what if the mobile lender asked me (that too loudly) why I called the police when I was inside an airplane? It was a moment that we Rajans are made for – a moment that required fortitude and resilience (if you also want to use such high-sounding words Thesaurus is a good book to start with).

My high IQ paid off. I took out the banana inside my pocket and covered it with my kerchief and stuck it into the sides of Dawood-aide’s stomach.

Before he could react, I asked him in a stern voice. The sternness that you generally see teachers use in the classrooms of the world. “How are you connected to Dawood?

He was completely taken by surprise for he asked me, “What is that you are sticking to my sides?”

“That’s a loaded gun you dumbf*&ck!” I shouted at the top of my voice.

Being an Army man’s son, from the very beginning I had been taught that the louder you yell, the scarier you will seem. It is another thing that when Jawahar Lal Nehru & Krishna Menon’s Indian Army fought the Chinese in 1962, loud cries of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ or ‘Har Har Mahadev’ didn’t spell fear in the Chinese hearts. I will attribute it to lack of Hindi speaking & listening skills of the Chinese.

Anyway, my tone & tenor seemed to have the desired effect for the man bundled up and surrendered. “What do you want?” He asked.

I repeated. “How are you related to Dawood?”

The man was surprised at my question. By now a few scared co-passengers had already got up and were staring at us.

In order to not anger me further, the man lied to me: “He is my brother in law. He has married my sister.”

“Yeah right!”

“No, seriously. My sister is pregnant and due to deliver any moment. I am travelling to Madurai to meet her. My brother-in-law Dawood will be picking me up at the airport.”

“What is his second name?” I enquired.


That sealed it. So, Dawood Ibrahim was hiding in Madurai. How intelligent. When the whole world was looking for him in major cities like Mumbai, Lahore and Dubai, the man had been hiding in a small city like Madurai.

I started thinking. What would my father do in such a situation, I asked myself. Within seconds I got the answer – assist the country in arresting Dawood even if it meant dying in the process.

“We reach Madurai in 45 minutes and I don’t want you to move an inch. You move and I shoot.”

The man nodded. But continued: “But he is not the Dawood you are thinking he is.”

“Yeah right!”

I had to be careful. I didn’t have to succumb to his emotional drama that his sister was pregnant. Being somebody who cried in all Karan Johar movies this was going to be difficult but I held the banana stiff and continued to stare at him.

He, on his part didn’t move.

With one hand, I took out my iPhone and messaged Rekha that I was into something really big. The SMS read, “On the verge of arresting Dawood. Pls inform Madurai Airport that Dawood will be coming to pick up his guest. His guest is sitting in seat 23A of the Jet.”

He tried to argue with me for 15 minutes and then went silent. His last words to me were, “What an ass.”

After a tense 45 minutes we landed in Madurai. I made him walk in the front and at all times my banana was sticking him in the back.

I was amazed at the callous attitude of the Police. There was nobody at the Airport to welcome me and also to arrest Dawood. No extra security.

I decided to do it on my own. We both took our baggage and ventured out of the airport. That’s when I saw him. Dawood sure was a clever man – he had dieted and cut down his weight. He had also undergone plastic surgery and now looked like a typical south Indian – dark in complexion.

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The moment I neared him, he wished me good morning and asked his wife’s brother, “You never told me that you are coming with a friend.”

The man at the end of the banana didn’t utter a word.

At this Dawood turned towards me and said, “You should come home. We will treat you well.”

Not to be held back by emotions, I just said: “Dawood, you are under arrest.”

A commotion followed. There were at least 12 people surrounding us now and not one of them believed that this man was Dawood. I tried to explain that he had undergone plastic surgeries and complexion changing surgeries but nobody would listen to me. After an hour, in which even my mother who had come to pick me up turned impatient, I gave up.

If the Government wasn’t willing to catch him, why should I be bothered. A very disappointed Rajan got into his white Ambassador and sped towards his home.

On the way home, I called Rekha. “Rekha, can you believe it? The Madurai airport folks didn’t organize for the extra security at all. Such callous attitude.”

“Extra security for what?” Rekha asked, which surprised me.

“You saw my SMS, didn’t you? The one about Dawood?”

“Which SMS? I was cooking dinner and the mobile was in the TV room.”

I banged the phone. What is the use in blaming the Government, when your own aren’t inclined towards making the world a better place to live in.


My mother boards an airplane for the first time in her life

I have realized that I am not the only threat my family can offer to pretty air hostesses. My mother is far better at grounding the careers of air hostesses.

Not so long ago, my mother and I traveled from Delhi to Madurai – changing flights at Chennai – and I must tell you that traveling with my mother is a harrowing experience.

“Mommy, we are traveling by the 12 noon Indigo Airlines flight to Chennai and then taking the 2.30 p.m. Indigo Airlines to Madurai,” I remarked in the morning.

“What? Why?” My mom`s tone suggested that she had been betrayed.

“You sound betrayed.” I wasn’t sure if it was to be a question or a statement.

The tough mother that she was, she didn`t respond. She started sulking.

When I was wondering what had gone wrong, my wife Rekha came to my rescue. She told me that my mother had already experienced Jet Airways and Spicejet and had been looking forward to The Kingfisher Experience this time. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is the story of good times. Before Vijay Mallaya was grounded.

Let me be honest, we Rajans are not used to air travel. We are one of the many Indian families whose standard of living has been linked to the IT revolution in India – which means the first of us traveled by air for the first time only in 2005.

I remember when we were kids and moving from city to city (my father being a patriotic army man) traveling by a 2nd class train compartment was a luxury. It was so much a luxury that during summer vacations father planned train trips to nearby places, and after getting off at the destination we would change the platforms to catch our train back. While it was a means to a destination for all others, for us the train it self was the destination.

My mother and I were the first to enter the 12 noon Indigo flight to Chennai. After the other passengers had settled in, my mother took me by surprise by getting up and shouting at the nearest air hostess: “You there! Don`t you give wet towels like the Jet Airways?”

The air hostess was shocked but did well to let out a smile. To avoid embarrassment, I immediately got up and left for the washroom.

When I came back, I passed the air hostess who was helping my mother and I heard her say: “Is the passenger sitting next to you, your mother?”

I couldn`t say no, so without looking at my mother, I replied: “I am sorry, I don`t know which passenger you are referring to.”

“The lady that wants three wet towels for her granddaughter at home,” said the pretty damsel. I didn`t look at the air hostess but I was sure she was smiling at me.

The journey was pretty uneventful till my mother wanted to use the washroom. She went in, and came out within two minutes complaining that there was no water in the potty. “What kind of service does Indigo Airlines provide? There is no water in there.”

Before anybody could respond she dug deep into her traveling experience and said: “Way back in the late 70s the long distance, steam-engine driven trains used to have such water problems. But I definitely didn`t expect this from Indigo Airlines.”

By now, my mother had caught the attention of all the passengers. Two of them were even taking photographs (Instagramers, perhaps).

I walked up to my mother and explained that none of the airplane potties had water. And that it operated on vacuum and all one had to do was press the ‘Flush` button.

“Are you saying that when the ‘Flush` button is pressed, all the crap gets sucked and thrown out of the airplane?” Now my mom was being louder than before.

To end the conversation, I said: “Yes! Now will you please get into the washroom again?”

But my mom had other ideas. She turned towards the cabin crew and asked them in a Headmistress like tone: “What if some of the crap falls on somebody`s head? Wouldn`t the guy feel miserable?”

I gently reminded my mom that that`s exactly the way it happened in the trains – her favorite mode of travel. The crap fell out of the train and was always left behind on the gravel (in the case of kids, some stuck on to the bums).

My mom could be demanding in her requirements but she certainly saw reason when there was one for she shrugged her shoulders and went into the washroom a satisfied lady.

Just that when we landed in Madurai, she said: ‘One can`t be too careful when a plane passes by.”

I didn’t say a word.

Seeing her opportunity my mother continued, “I am sure Kingfisher Airlines handles its shit much better.”

I wish I knew back then how wrong my mother was going to be.


The six stages of an amazing Indian Railways train journey

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It isn`t without reason that Railways has a separate budget. No, it isn`t because Indian Railways Ministers have always wanted to have a wallet (or a purse when it was Mamta Banerjee) of their own. It is because Indian Railways is an integral part of the Indian psyche and needs a special treatment.

I have travelled in trains from 1976, when as a chubby one-year old we shifted from Jamshedpur to Jhallandar (father being in the Indian Army), to my recent trip to Kerala which happened like…yesterday.

In the earlier days, we used to travel for four days in steam engines, all the while covered in soot (steam engines used coal to heat the water and generate steam), to reach our destination. We would take bath mid-way through our journey – sometimes a quick bath in the second class waiting rooms & sometimes a shaky bath in the train`s washroom – but the pleasure lasted only a few hours for we would be covered in soot again.

Being a dark South Indian family, this did not affect us much but I shudder to think of the mental anguish the fair North Indian families had to undergo in such trains. Back in those days it was not hard to spot North Indian families with a bit of sense of humor, ask their kids racist questions like: “What? Now, you have become a South Indian?” More often than not, the kid would cry himself to sleep.

Having traveled by trains for 40 years, I am now what one would call an authority on train travel. Don`t believe me? Read on.

Here are the findings of my 40-year old research on train travel. A successful train journey consists of six stages. Let us take a look at each one of them:

Stage 1: Finding your train and getting on it

Finding a needle in a haystack is easier. Especially, since now-a-days hay stacks are smaller and needles bigger (esp if you happen to be my daughter`s doctor). But seriously, have you ever walked into a railway station knowing fully well which platform your train would be on? I have never managed that. You can listen to the announcement being made about your train – but that`s possible only if you have the hearing ability of a dog or Superman. In their attempt to hire an announcer who knows English, Hindi and the local language the Indian Railways ends up hiring bad speakers. To make the matters worse, the speakers (read loud speakers) that blare out the announcements croak like frogs. If you thought the board that displays the train name & platforms is good enough, try craning your neck at 65 degrees for five minutes for your train`s name to appear. The easiest way, I have found is to ask a porter, and that too politely for he can lead you to exactly the opposite platform. Mind you, all men wearing red shirts (or T-Shirts) aren`t porters.

Stage 2: Finding your place in the train

Indian Railways is impartial. You may have a reserved ticket or an unreserved ticket – to find your place in the train will be equally difficult. The search for your seat starts with the need to find your coach, which can be right behind the soot-spewing engine or be the last compartment of the train – depending on if you have been good that year.

Your first objective is drag your bag which besides the 3 Kgs of sweets for your mom, neighbor’s house and sister`s family, also has your dumb bells because you don`t want to miss the workout, to the right compartment. Your second objective is to get inside the compartment. But can you? Can you walk in without confirming your name on the list pasted outside the door? And that`s not possible because either the list has not been pasted yet or if pasted it has been washed out in the rain. If you find the list, rest assured there will be a pan stain exactly where you think your name is. Defying all this, even if you make it inside your coach, you still have to find that seat number 45 (I am talking of second class here).

You will always find somebody else sitting or their luggage on your seat. After a bit of hesitation, you blurt out “Excuse me, thats my seat. Number 45.”

“Is it? Please be seated. I will keep my luggage below.” The innocent looking old man is most likely to say.

Stage 3: Finding a place for your luggage in the train

Now that you have found your seat, you look around for a place to keep your luggage – one Samsung Television set you have bought for your grandma, one bag full of clothes that you need and another suitcase which has your wife`s clothes which she has forced on you. You look under your berth, and you spot an opportunity. There is space enough to squeeze your stuff in. Unfortunately, this is the furthest slot from your seat. You have second thoughts – will I be able to keep an eye on my bags from where I will be sleeping? Does any of the co-passengers looks like he could unzip and pick up some of my old jeans in the middle of the night? You push your bag under the seat, and relax a bit. You keep the Samsung Television set on your seat, for you can`t stuff it below the seat. Now comes the difficult part – you have to spread a newspaper before pushing in your wife`s suitcase. She had specifically instructed you to do so, to keep the suitcase clean. You follow the orders to the Tee but plan to NOT tell your wife that you could only get ‘The Times of India’ and NOT ‘The Hindu’ as she had suggested. Now is the time to chain your bag & your wife`s suitcase to the security hook provided by the Indian Railways. This will ensure you have a peaceful sleep. Well, almost…for you will be sleeping with your legs on the Television set you bought for your grandma.

Stage 4: Getting confident about yourself & your stuff in the train

With your baggage all stuffed away safely, it is time to take out that India Today you bought for the purpose. But before you take it out you look around at what your co-passengers are readying around you. Will India Today make an impression or do you have to take out Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand which you have reserved for train journeys with young girl co-passengers. You do have Chetan Bhagat’s Two States but you don’t want to be judged by people around you so you push it deeper inside your bag. Since everybody is reading vernacular magazines, India Today makes an instant impact. You instantly become the upper middle class who made it to the second class compartment only because the 2-Tier AC & 3-Tier AC tickets were already sold out.

Having become the alpha male (or female) in your bay, you decide to take a second look at your luggage – it is all safe. Now you need a safe place for your wallet, your mobile and that Wrigleys chewing gum you have for that one-in-a-million chance that a pretty girl will sit next to you. You find a safe place for it in the side pouch the Indian Railways started around the early 2000s.

Stage 5: Knowing your fellow passengers

There is no better tool than a spread-out India Today in the front to start gauging your fellow passengers. You lift your eye lids a little above the magazine to measure up the rest of the gang – there is a old couple, there is a young software engineer displaying his provided-by-office IBM, there is that 11-year-old girl slumped over the latest issue of Tinkle and there is the 40-year-old-just-getting-to-know-spirituality guy with a copy of Vivekananda`s speeches bought at the Ramakrishna Math book store at the Railway station.

Quite a motley crowd – in your heart of hearts you chuckle, for this crowd could have passed off as the cast of Good, Bad & Ugly if the movie was re-made in Hindi. The non-availability of a perfect girl of your age dampens your interest in your co-passengers. It does not matter that even if there was a girl, she would have buried herself in her mobile rather than exchange glances with a wannabe with an India Today in hand. After a few hours of I-won`t-talk-first attitude one of you breaks the ice and all others fall in. Soon, everybody is telling impressive lies. Lies they don`t need to remember or justify the next day. The evening goes well. During dinner time, the thought of railway robbers with sedative laced biscuits forces you to say an emphatic “NO” to the family that`s willing to share their poori and aalo subzi with you. You eventually end up buying an egg briyani from the vendor for Rs 75, and eat with your hand. Soon it is sleeping time – which you do indulge in but after re-checking our bags. Just to be sure that nobody steals your wrist watch when you are sleeping you tie your hand kerchief around your wrist.

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Stage 6: Bidding farewell when your destination arrives

Sleep isn`t peaceful because of the TV. Who says TVs have to be switched on to cause sleeplessness. But this has been a blessing in disguise, for you have been able to check your luggage six times in the night. Four times out of six you switched on the lights because you could not see your bags in the dark. As the night ends, you are more cautious because your parents have told you that the best of Railway thieves strike around 4 a.m.. when everybody is in deep slumber. But you are happy to see that it is 5 a.m. and your bags are still there. The train will reach your destination at 5.30 a.m. sharp and people start getting up at 5 a.m. for freshening up. If you are a girl, you have already freshened up at 4 a.m. (when the washroom was dry, and nobody is knocking on the doors) but if you are a man, you definitely will get up at 5.28 a.m. to rinse your face. And if there is time, gargle. Half of your co-passengers are sleeping for their station arrives only at 8 a.m.. “Lucky bastards,” you utter under your breath and walk out of the coach.

As you get out of the railway station, another adventure awaits – bargaining with the autorickshaw driver.


My trip to South Africa – Part 2

If you haven’t read My trip to South Africa – Part 1, I request you to read that first. This post is second in the series.

– – – Part Two Begins – – –

While unpacking, I switched on the TV and the first thing I noticed was four channels dedicated to adult movies. I was asked to enter my room number via my remote if I wanted to view the movies…and in return, they would add 140 Rands to my hotel bill for a 3 hour movie. Mental calculation & sheer logic told me that Rs 700 for a 3 hour adult movie wasn`t so great…especially if one had access to internet.

After putting on our best clothes (Thank God, I didn`t take my suit!), we went to the V&A WaterFront mall. Just in case you didn`t know…it has 80 places to eat (that`s the number of restaurants we have in the town I come from – Madurai!) and around 400 shops to spend your Rands.

You should plan a family trip to Cape Town, as long as the family doesn`t include your girlfriend or wife. I was happy my wife Rekha wasn`t beside me while I ogled at the gorgeous girls who came shopping. Every pretty girl in Cape Town had a boy friend, so it was easy to ogle at them. In India, every pretty girl has two boy friends, and two desperate wannabe boy friends trailing, which makes ogling difficult.

Robert Browning in his poem ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin` had described the rats that came out once the Pied Piper starting playing his pipe. (For full version of Robert Browning`s ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin` Click Here.

When I was at the WaterFront mall in Cape Town, I was reminded of this paragraph from the poem:

And out of the houses the rats came tumbling.
Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats,
Brown rats, black rats, grey rats, tawny rats,
Grave old plodders, gay young friskers,
Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins,
Cocking tails and pricking whiskers,
Families by tens and dozens,
Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives —
Followed the Piper for their lives.

How much I wished, the gorgeous girls – of all types & kinds – followed me for their lives!

We had our dinner at WaterFront, overlooking many parking slots – just that in these parking slots, the rich people parked their Yachts. Trust me when I say liquor & food is cheap in Cape Town. In India, you pay Rs 200 for a beer, and Rs 3000 for the chairs & tables you destroy after you get drunk. In Cape Town, the meat-built bodies of others in the pub is so huge and well-toned, that you never get a high…leave alone destroying chairs & tables.

I came back to the hotel, a dejected lot. Dejection is a dangerous thing…sometimes, it can make you spend 140 Rands for nothing. Thankfully, I held back my horses & didn`t enter my room number via the remote.

The next day morning, we went to Camps Bay, a beach here in Cape Town. Pity, we went a little early. Since I have lived seven years in Chennai, which hosts Asia`s biggest beach (Not sure if L&T has constructed a bigger one in some other Asian city), I thought I will be disappointed. But I was wrong. When thirsty, I walked into a departmental store…I think called ‘Pick Up` (to a casual Indian, this would have sounded like a Night Club) and realized that they have two kinds of water – Still Water & Sparkling Water.

“Shucks, back in India we only have one type….plain water.” I told the lady at the counter..

“Ohh you Indian? We have lots of them in Durban.”

My grandma, who is my travel guru for she traveled in bullock carts from village to village when she was young (mostly chasing handsome young men!), had advised me to learn as much as possible when in a foreign land. So, I insisted.

I repeated my question:
“Coming back to my watery question. What is Still Water, and what is Sparkling Water?”

After a lot of discussion, I came to know that Still Water was plain water and Sparkling Water is what we Indians call carbonated water (or soda).

We were back in our rooms by noon, for at 3 p.m. we were to assemble in the lobby for an introductory party at Oudekraal, Cape Town. The place was breathtaking – 99% for the ambience and 1% because of all the smoking all of us indulged in.

After getting to know each other (which was easy after a few drinks) I was literally put in the bus back to the hotel. The next day I was told that I created quite a commotion, NOT wanting to go back to the hotel…and when I couldn`t achieve that….I insisted on sitting next a particular ‘firang` girl, who had no idea about me.

I tried to get familiar. “Have you read”


“Have you heard of it, at least?”


“Are you saying that I am not popular in South Africa?”

“Who are you anyway?”

Suddenly, I felt giddy & wanted to puke. Before I could find out if it was the alcohol or the girl`s replies, we reached the hotel.

Note: Professors Bharat Anand and Felix Oberholzer-Gee kept me busy on the other 4 days, and like all good things in life…the trip came to an end pretty soon.

Other Funny Reads

# Thank you God for helping us survive winter
# Learning from my baby girl
# Mobiles – still an enigma for most


My trip to South Africa – Part 1

As always, everything written below this line is exaggerated to make you laugh. If you aren`t able to laugh after reading this…try a smile instead. If you find smiling difficult, try out Invisalign Orthodontics.

If you haven`t yet read my post about me making a trip to South Africa, I suggest you read it here, before proceeding any further.

On March 23, at 9.30 p.m. (IST) I was to take an Emirates flight to Dubai. The well heeled and well traveled advised me to reach the airport by 6.30 p.m.. I checked in to my cab at 4 p.m. and reached the airport at 5 p.m. itself.

The guard at the airport refused to allow me in.

“Sir, you are way too early. I presume it is your first international travel.”

“Well, in a way yes. The last time I traveled was in 1997. But why wouldn`t you allow me inside?” I accepted & inquired.

“Sir, many like you enter the airport early and leer at the airhostess. Standing outside the airport I don`t get to leer at them…if I don`t get to…why should I allow you?”

The guard had a point. I didn`t pursue and instead stood outside the airport with my laptop and baggage. I did cheat though – I stole at least three glances at the thin-legged air hostesses while they were entering the airport.

My colleagues, Gagan Bhatia, Vikas Sobti, Vijay Aggarwal and Surendra Sahu landed at 8 p.m. – a full three hours after I had reached. We then proceeded to the check in.

Being non-professional flirts, my colleagues asked for adjacent seats but I advised them to go for a seating arrangement like this:

Thankfully, my colleagues agreed to take the risk considering the huge benefits. The lady at the check in counter did give us a sheepish look while handing over our boarding passes, but we didn`t mind as long as we got to sit with pretty girls during the four hour long journey to Dubai.

While we were getting thro` the security, we spent time listing out the questions one shouldn`t ask the pretty girls who might end up sitting next to us. Here is list of questions:

• Do they serve liquor as often as you ask?
• Do you think two people can fit into this airplane`s washroom?
• Can I remove the arm rest between our two seats?
• Would you want to get under a single seat belt?
• What trade are you planning to get into once in Dubai?

Pretty soon, we were in our seats waiting for the pretty girls to come and sit next to us…basically, occupy the ‘girl traps` we had set for them.

As luck would have it, here is who came and sat next to us:

Me: A 60 year old grand mom, who was visiting Dubai to see her fourth grandson
Vikas Sobti: A 40 year old Army Officer
Surendra Sahu: A 35 year old lady who had applied to be a housemaid with a family in Dubai and had got selected
Gagan Bhatia: A 50 year old Iraqi businessman who bathed the person conversing with him with his spit
Vijay Aggarwal: Empty Seat

If we were to find solace in beautiful air hostesses serving us liquor & food, we were hugely disappointed.

Around 12 midnight on 23rd March, 2009 we landed in Dubai. Beautiful airport. If only it started looking more like an airport and less like a shopping mall, it would be even better.

Our flight to Cape Town was scheduled eight hours later. After spending time in the shopping area where for every Riyal Dirham spent on things for my wife, I ended up spending two Riyals Dirhams for my girlfriends…we retired to the one of the 25 restaurants & bars that one would find at Dubai International. Yes! There are 25 of them.

In just one hour, we moved from ‘we will remain awake & take in every inch of the Dubai airport` to ‘give me a place on the wooden bench so I can sleep`.

Thankfully, we didn`t lay ‘Girl Traps` for our nine hour journey from Dubai to Cape Town and enjoyed each other`s company (that`s when we weren`t glued to the in-flight entertainment system or flirting with the air hostesses with statements like: “Can I have one more beer pls?,” “I will need one more pillow pls.”).

We reached Cape Town in one piece and considering the amount of free liquor we had consumed…I was glad we didn`t have a hangover. A pretty Indian-like girl welcomed us at the airport and we were driven to Le Vendome, a five star hotel at Sea Point, Cape Town. Trust me, when it comes to five star hotels…India is the best.

My room number was 508. Don`t believe me? Just remove the mattress from the bed in Room number 508 of Le Vendome, and you will notice a huge ‘Jammy was here` carved out from a knife. If they have changed the bed since I left, you can always try spotting ‘Jammy was here` behind all the doors, on the window sills, and inside the bath tub.

Part Two of this series will be up by 8th or 9th of April

Other Funny Reads

# Making Love vs Having Sex
# My wife`s oral contraceptive is “No sex today!”
# Natural child birth is painful for the husband too
# A phone conversation with my girlfriend


Crossing one’s Tea

I don`t know what you are addicted to…but I am addicted to tea. Any kind of tea will do for me – be it Green Tea, White Tea, Black Tea, Herbal Tea or my favourite Japanese Tea. It is funny how an Indian sitting in Gurgaon is writing about something that the Chinese discovered and the Japanese added flavour to – Japanese tea.

Discovering Tea

It is believed that the Chinese discovered tea when some tea leaves accidentally fell into a pot of boiling water. Now my question is – who threw in the milk and sugar?

I am not the only one who is addicted to tea of any kind. Over the years, Indian culture & customs have been influenced by tea. Customs were influenced less by tea and more by tea smugglers.

Americans & Tea

It is said that an American improvised on tea and came up with the concept of “Iced Tea.” What beats me is that they did it in 1904 (at the 1904 World Fair St. Louis) when refrigerators were not available in a normal household. And even if refrigerators were available ….how did some random tea leaves fly into a refrigerator? Wasn`t the refrigerator door closed?

Americans live by improvising. Besides the telephone, I know of nothing that has been invented (or discovered) by the Americans. Why…they needed Christopher Colombus, an Italian sailor working for a Spanish queen, to discover their own country – the Americas!

American improvisation didn`t end there. Four years later, Thomas Sullivan of New York developed the concept of tea in a bag. I don`t understand the concept of tea bags…why have tea in a bag when one can have it in a tea cup?

Maybe you aren`t aware of this….in the United States of America, 90% of the tea consumed is black. And here in India 90% of the tea consumed is white (with milk that is). Ironic isn`t it – white men having black tea and black men having white tea?

Tea in Europe & how it lost to wine

According to the tea historian, whose article I have been reading, after becoming popular in China, Japan and America….tea started filtering into Europe in the 17th century. Now, my question is….if tea was all filtered…how did the Europeans ever get the tea leaves? And what a big filter it should have been. The one that I use in my house to filter tea into the tea cup has a diameter of ten centimeters.

In Europe, tea first filtered into Holland and France. In Holland it is popular to this day, but in France wine has taken over. There were a few benefits that wine offered over and above tea, and we are not talking about the alcohol content. 😉

Some of the differences that the French saw before they shifted away from tea are:

# Wine didn`t need a heating unit
# Wine didn`t need to be filtered
# Wine didn`t need milk to be added

High Tea vs Low Tea

That we know the French have ceased to be tea drinkers, let us quit talking about them and move on to something higher in the hierarchy – High Tea.

Many a times, we have received mails from our office Admin guy saying: “The CEO`s speech will be followed by ‘High Tea`.”

“Why ‘High Tea` and what does it mean,” I always wondered.

Apparently, there is a ‘Low Tea` as well, but it is reserved for the aristocrats. When tea is accompanied by only light snacks it is known as ‘Low Tea.` In sharp contrast ‘High Tea` is accompanied by heavy snacks and is a prerogative of the poor. Now that you know ‘High Tea` is a humiliating suggestion, I expect you to ignore the next ‘High Tea` invite you get.

This doesn`t mean you don`t visit the Coffee houses (The favorite beverage asked for in Coffee Houses was tea but since Coffee had been around long before tea arrived, the name stayed). It is only now that the Coffee Houses have items in menu that start at Rs 100/cup. There was a time in history when one could visit a Coffee House, and get a pot of tea and a newspaper for just a penny. What you did with the newspaper was nobody`s problem.

After such a long, boring article….if only someone can make me a cup of tea.

Other Funny Reads

# When I wanted to become a suicide bomber
# How to avoid hangovers
# Mobiles – still an enigma for most
# A lonely, desperate man