Origin of those funny messages behind Indian trucks

There has always been a huge communication problem between men and women in India – and the issue is more prevalent amongst men and women who own trucks. It is usual for women to not feel the need to stop and for men to not feel the need to start – talking, that is.

This inability to communicate has taken totally different dimension in the last 50 years or so. OK, let me not keep the suspense any longer.

Yesterday I broke into the trusted circle of Women Truck owners, and was let in on a 50-year old secret – that men and women have been communicating with each other by writing messages on the back of the trucks they owned.

I asked the Lady truck owner who had let me in on the secret, “How did it all begin?” Thats when she narrated the whole story.

She said: ” Way back in 1960, we Indian women were a bit traditional and shy and our Truck owning husbands had one major crib – they weren’t getting enough blow jobs.”

“And then?” I enquired.

“That is when the Truck Owners Association of Men figured out a way to communicate it to their wives – they decided to write ‘Blow Horn’ behind their trucks.”

“How did that help?” I was confused.

“You see the Indian men were shy too. Back then, our trucks used to be backed up in front of our houses and all the wives could see this message aimed at them every day.”

Brilliant idea, I thought to myself. And to ensure she didn’t stop I asked her: “How did you guys respond to that?”

“We also have a Truckers Association for Women…and we decided to respond with an appropriate message – we wrote ‘Keep Distance’ behind our trucks and let them lose on the roads.”

It was interesting. The women were retaliating. I couldn’t let her stop now, so I asked: “And then?”

“The obnoxious creatures that men are, they responded back by writing ‘Use Dipper at Night.’
You need to understand that by now, the war of words had spilled over to our houses as well.” I could see the anger writ large on the woman’s face.

“Did you guys get what the men meant by ‘Use Dipper at Night’? And did it help turn around the marital life?” I goaded her.

“We understood what they meant. But it made marital life worse. We women decided to not give them any sex for months.”

“And then?” I was finding it difficult to keep a straight face.

“Then, what we waited. And when we didn’t get any reply for six months, to rub it in, we got ‘Horn OK Please’ painted on our trucks…questioning them if their so called HORN was OK.”

“Wow…did this help? The men would have got angry?”

“Bullshit…they came back to us on all fours – not exactly all fours, but still. As an apology they got ‘we two ours two’ painted on their trucks.”

“And then? Did that bring the men and women together?” I asked her.

At my question the lady smiled. Apparently after reading this message, the women understood that their husbands were back on track and wanted to raise a cute little family with their wives. Needless to say, everybody was back together again and lived happily ever after.


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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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.