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One World...
An international flight to US from Delhi, spanning four airports, three continents and 25+ hrs is bound to provide content for blog, long enough, to allow you to fill in the fifty odd minutes left to board the plane. I really wanted to do this installment on-board my flight to Chicago, but with seat number of 35E (bang in the middle) it would be at cost of inconvenience to at least 4 other people, and so, this installment comes to you live from Frankfurt airport.

The flight from Delhi to Frankfurt was at 2:00 in the morning on 15th. For someone who is used to crashing no later than 11:00 PM, this was quite a test of patience. My attempts to keep myself stimulated with books and Beethoven met with moderate success. I was soon joined by colleagues who were boarding same flight, so the void was filled with empty conversation.

Once in my seat (fortunately a window) it was a regular affair. The middle seat was empty, the aisle was occupied by an old, frail, timorous lady perhaps in her 80s, who was allowed to take liberty of encroaching the extra room between us. I had a lot of admiration for the lady, who despite not knowing a single word of English, had embarked on a journey to US, and yet behaved with panache of a seasoned traveler (The adulation did diminish a little when I was requested to vacate my domain, towards the end of the flight so that she could lie down!).

The breakfast served at flight had semblance to the fact that we were crossing continents, that world was becoming a global village. So where as my coffee whitener (which being liquid, behaved a lot better than the fine powdery nestle whitener they serve onboard domestic flights, that often leaves traces on your fingers) was a German brand, the mouth freshener was marked �Packed by Bankey Bihari and Sons, Delhi�. Globalization, journey across continents, right on my plate.

I was looking forward to flying Lufthansa because of Germany�s western classical connection. Vienna, Berlin have been centers of rich western classical music heritage Mozart, Beethoven, Bach have all had something to do with Germany. The radio on-board, as anticipated, did not disappoint. The program guide for channel 3 read:

�A program for demanding classical music lover, with music played predominantly to its original length�.

The entire program lasted 3 hours, (which meant they had to go into a repeat mode). The most interesting piece was Mozart�s piano concerto for two pianos. Mozart had seen this style of music concerts at Paris where two solo violins were interspersed with rich orchestral interludes. He came back and true to his improvisational nature, experimented by replacing the two violins with woodwind instruments, violas and pianos. This particular composition of his was finished in 1779 and was a work for two pianos, the two pianos being played in our rendition by Murray Perrahia and Radu Lupu. The composition, true to the claim of the program guide, was played in totality (the entire 3 allegro-andante-allegro movements)!

Then there were other classical channels one dedicated exclusively to Opera, one to some of the recent interpretations of western classical works and yet another one to favorite pieces of (and by) Anne-Sophie Mutter, which I could only briefly sample due to brevity of time and want of sleep.

For most parts we were flying at an altitude 35,000 feet, way above any form of atmospheric activity. It was difficult to pierce the veneer of clouds and do landscape gazing. The only time my window seat came handy (besides when leaning against it to cat-nap) was during landing. The view outside was beautiful � lot of small cottages with red slanting roof-tops. The dense tree cover that allowed no view of ground underneath and for some reason, their profuse, densely entangled canopies reminded me of broccoli.

Frankfurt airport was bit of a disappointment. Firstly I had to struggle hard to find a place where I could get a boarding pass for my onward journey to US (chaos ruled, most authorities had no idea where we were supposed to go). Secondly, there were hardly any music shops! I was expecting to fill in voids in my Beethoven collection at the airport, but it seemed that I could provide the western classical famished shops there with a CD or two from my own collection. There were small designer shops selling carry-bags with pictures of Beethoven on them but none that would sell music by him (at least works I was looking for). Unlike CD shops at Amsterdam airport, which present a colorful picture of European diversity (Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, you�ll get it all there), shops at Frankfurt were a dull picture in monotony � standard (dependable?) American/ British pop/rock/hip-hop with some selection of German music.

One fact that comes across during all my international tours prominently is that world is becoming a more homogenous place. Besides Coca-Cola, McDonalds, you see people wearing same Adidas, Nike shoes you picked in India. The book stalls have more or less same authors you�d find popular back home (Grisham, Rowling (Harry Potter mania was all pervasive), Stephen King, Paulo Coelho and so on�), the music stores stock more or less the same albums (classic case in point � Metallica�s St. Anger). Would world eventually become one global republic that a lot of science fictions talk about, will it happen during course of my life � pertinent questions that I guess only time will answer. For now the more mundane question that begs answer is - would my battery last me another hour to see me through my long wait at Chicago? Not if I keep blogging incessantly. Adios!

It has been more than 26 hours since I boarded my first flight, feels a little funny that the date in US is same as it was when I took the flight from India. The UA flight from Frankfurt to Chicago did not have a good repertoire of western classical, a deficiency that was more than made up for by some of the ongoing album promotions (where an entire album is played on in-flight radio channel), my favorite one being Sarah Brightman�s latest � �Harem�. The album happens to have an excellent rendition of �The Journey Home� from Bombay Dreams, composed by A. R. Rahman. It felt good to hear an Indian name on flight to US � standing to be counted amongst the best names in the global music industry.

posted: 15.7.03 | permalink | 0 comments


In Delhi yet again (should be a fleeting visit), though I deem it inappropriate to waste yet another blog on it, especially since my affection for the city would be more than obvious by now ;-)� However, in line with past traditions, I must mention the temperature here � 29 degrees (but very sultry!).

My eyes caught this ad at the airport during the arduous wait for luggage:

�For once, your wife will make your life less interest-ing�.

Had me baffled for a while. Only once I read the fine print did I realize that it was a bank announcing lesser interest rates, provided, a couple applies for a bank loan together. Now notice this very fine and subtle pun on the word �interest� (sic!). Why do these disreputable ad-agencies unleash their atrocities on unsuspecting minds? (or should I mind my own business here ;-))

posted: 14.7.03 | permalink | 0 comments

Close call...

Never in last three years, since I started flying, have I had this close a call with my flight. A call for passengers to board the flight was made while I was waiting for my turn to check-in! Despite moderate traffic, the desk clerk was exceptionally slow in her regular chores, abruptly abandoning her seat twice, adding to my anxiety and frustration. So when I was greeted with "have a pleasant flight", it was quite natural for my flustered self to reciprocate it with a caustic "which is if I can board it ". Suddenly everyone around me appeared to be hatching a plot to keep me in Delhi for a little longer. The city it seemed would devour me; Unlike The Swan Lake, this story was bound to have a better ending and I could take the flight just in time (though sometime I feel a lot like Siegfried, more on it some other time). Next time I have a vacant seat next to me in the plane, I would spare a thought about the person who missed his/her flight (besides enjoying the rare luxury of extra space in cramped economy quarters). My spate of misery continued as I was to suffer seat 31 B (last seat in the aircraft that doesn't recline!)

Landing in Bangalore restored me to my regular, playful, jovial self. Even the routine outside temperature announcement in plane felt like a charming spell (It was a youthful 23 outside and not over-the-hill 33 that I was increasingly getting accustomed to) An instrumental rendition of "Any dream will do" from "Joseph and his technicolor dreamcoat", playing in the plane when it landed, couldn't have come at more opportune moment! Another first, I was the first person to get down the plane (can�t recall being so keen to get out of the plane *ever*) and found it a waste to be taking bus from runway to the arrival gate of the airport, when you could walk that distance (another sign that I was fast returning to normalcy). The sight of a distant runway, illuminated by diminutive, parallel, blue lights, was exhilarating. The breeze (though choked with burnt aviation fuel) seemed to have a strange kind of elating impact on me. Far away, the air shimmered like in hot desert, creating a mirage of flickering water...

A quick reflection on my inexplicable petulance of last few days revealed that though I adapt to a new place fast, I hate to be moved around once I've settled in. Live, learn, enjoy (and occasionally, blog it!)
posted: 10.7.03 | permalink | 0 comments

Memoirs of an ex-Delhiite

Cancelled Without Prejudice - these three bold words on my US Visa, a mere terse statement of fact, were to lead to a chain of events that would have me blogging after hiatus of more than 15 days.

I was visiting Delhi after a gap of more than 75 days, the longest ever time I�ve spent away from the city. A city where I was born, grew up, educated, yet a city which has ceased to be anything more than a faint, unpleasant, distant memory to me. My friends and acquaintances in Delhi, detest me for my behavior as much as I detest their city (I refuse to call it "my" city any longer). I am called change-coat, traitor and other strong names but it does little to change my opinion (being born in a free country, I am entitled to one). I see a lot of things wrong with this city. Let's start with (and leave it at that) the weather - I have always abhorred Delhi weather - the summers are mercilessly hot and last for 7-8 months. That leaves you with 4-5 months to fill in with other seasons. One month is spent in adulation of quasi-monsoon showers (and struggling with problems they bring - water-clogged roads, dead telephones, dengue/malaria etcetera), the remaining shivering in chilly winters. Moderation of weather is not something that this place can ever claim to have known yet everyone refuses to understand my infatuation with Bangalore weather, and I quote my oft used phrase (a phrase recited more to Delhiites than anyone else) to illustrate just that:

"In Bangalore, if everything goes wrong, the weather doesn't"

In Delhi my friends, the converse holds true:

"In Delhi, even if everything goes right, the weather can't"

The entire country these days is besotted with the monsoons, and so Delhi too has seen the so called monsoon showers in last two days. But the timing of the showers has been so pathetic that I wonder if the weather too is conspiring to make my stay worse. It starts raining around 4:00 - 5:00 in the morning (when matters are pleasant with or without showers), the drizzle lasting a good 2-3 hours. Then the sky is clouded till 9:00 - 11:00 after which, the clouds surrender for sun to beat down relentlessly, leaving you to grapple with not only the heat, but also with intense humidity - a grim reminder of dawn's downpour. How can then one expect me to stay nice things about the city!

Work and fate found me on board jet flight 9W 812 to Delhi. It was meant to be a short trip - fly in on Wednesday night, leave on Sunday morning. I usually carry with me a book or two (along with 5-6 CDs) as a matter of habit - mostly novels which I am engrossed in deeply. This healthy addiction ensures that 150 minutes of flight is a redeeming experience, even if I am unable to inveigle a window seat. As for music, since Delhi was my destination, it seemed appropriate that I carry Beethoven's late quartet works (the western classical aficionados amongst you would be immediately able to spot the profound connection). The novel for in-flight reading this time happened to be Vikram Seth's first - "A Suitable Boy", and this is where some of the not so explicable things started manifesting themselves. To start with, on page 208 of the 1400+ page novel, there is mention of my college in Delhi! The reference to my college continued for another 7-8 pages, by when it was time to land. The temperature outside the plane almost had me vainly searching for the exhaust vent of the plane's engine (on many occasions in past, I've found exhaust from wing-mounted jet engines as the culprit behind sudden gush of hot air upon getting down from plane) which I could attribute such a blast of heat to. The blast of heat continued even as I moved away from plane - that was no exhaust vent - that was the perfectly normal temperature of 35 degrees Celsius on a clear July night in Delhi. (The suffering is usually compounded by power-cuts, one of which was just announced by a SMS from my sister but I digress).

For the first time ever I decided to grin and bear it. To not call a spade a spade - to not make cynical, odious remarks about the place I was born at (if not bow in veneration). After all, how much harm could a quick 3 day stay do to me. The veneer of calmness I chose to wear towards this city, was soon to be torn away by the news that my US Visa for an upcoming company conference was rejected and that I had to stay a little longer so that I could appear before the US Consulate for an interview in person. I found my new-found virtue of patience fleeting, unable to bear the calamitous prospect of an extended stay in Delhi. I, however, decided to make the most of the upcoming weekend but even that was not to be. Saturday morning found me in high fever and a throat so bad that I could rival croaks of hoarsest of toads. By the time it was evening, it was obvious that without medication any chances of reasonably speedy recovery would be obliterated - which automatically decided my course of action for the next day. Tardy, lethargic Sunday spent in bed, recuperating, in lieu of planned "Charlie's Angles".

Fever reluctantly bade me farewell towards late afternoon and I found my natural restlessness and vigor restored in measured quantities, enough to behoove a walk in the evening. I was yearning to be on my own, away from home, simply procrastinating. So I took a bath, dressed immaculately and rode in a rickshaw to the nearest barista for my daily dose of caffeine. The rickshaw was ordered to stop a little before my destination so that I could cover rest of the way on foot. Instead of hitting barista, I found myself sauntering to college - a rather awkward detour to barista - a detour caused by strange pull of unbridled flow of emotions that had had me captive as soon as I had hit north campus. It was 8 years ago, that life presented to me two choices. I had to pick a course for my graduate studies. It was a choice between Chemistry - a subject that was my first love, and Electronics - a subject that promised brighter career prospects. I chose Chemistry and so found myself in St. Stephen's college for the next three years of my life. College was not something that I could ever get myself to enjoy - till may-be late in the third year (and by then it was time to say your customary good-byes, unless you chose to flunk :-)). I was the sorts who would rush home after classes to escape college and here I was idling in science block at college, escaping home. I found this sudden love and longing for college hard to explain. Perhaps college marked beginning of a new chapter in my life, the transition from adolescent puerility to intoxicating youth. Perhaps being in the same spot, unexpectedly after 5 years is meant to be an emotionally stirring experience. The song "memories" from the musical Cats, echoed in my head with resounding clarity (a song that was played during the farewell ritual of "Graduation Dinner" unique to my college). When the torment of sentiments became heavy to bear, I decided to resume my planned walk to barista. On my way I saw familiar sights of Faculty of Management Science with the familiar red sign on the door forbidding students from parking their vehicles inside, and the rusted, dilapidated sign-board marking the pale green building as Institute of Economic development. The tumultuous roar of the Bus engine (Bus No. 816 - a number that would have otherwise been meaningless, made me nostalgic, for I have taken countless no. of bus rides in buses on that very route to home from college) was matched by the din of several devotees in a temple across the road collectively hammering the temple bells with chants of the evening verses.

Barista is my favorite haunt in Bangalore and odd as it might seem, today it also acquired a symbolic stature of being a connecting link between my past and present.

Sporadic beeping of my cell has just announced arrival of another SMS, its from my sis again, the electricity is back at home and the dinner is getting ready, just the note I would want to end my blog at!
posted: 9.7.03 | permalink | 0 comments

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