Time: 2 a.m. IST
Date: 20th April 2008
I sat reclined on the window seat, gazing at the vast stretches of darkness below. I was just ruminating about how the darkness rendered boundaries between land and sea, and land and land meaningless, when it happened. The plane tilted one way first, then the other, like a drunk staggering down the street. It then started wobbling violently. The deathly silence was broken only by the sound of glass hitting the floor dully. The trembling of the craft seemed to be enhanced by the collective trembling of a hundred-odd hearts that were now somewhere near the throat. The captain mumbled something in some language, which soothed none of the hundred-odd hearts, which, by now, were lodged firmly between the palate and the tongue. It was no less than an earthquake mid-air, the difference being that while in an earthquake you run out into the open, here running out would land you in a sea off the coast of Malaysia. Thankfully, the pilot leveled the flight, and the hearts commenced their return journey to the chest. Two minutes later, a life-size make-up kit walked up to me, bared her teeth, and said, “That was bad, wasn’t it?” I spent quite some time figuring out the colour of her face. As she walked past me, the colour was changing with the angle of incidence of light from white to dirty gold. (Don’t blame the champagne; it was the chamki on her face).
If reading the above paragraph makes you think I’m grossly exaggerating a routine case of aircraft turbulence, you are dead right. The fact is, I am bored, I have a pen and this notebook, and I have nothing better to do than write. I have my laptop with me, but I’m still writing in the notebook because it’s been ages since I’ve written anything substantial on paper. If you ask me to tell you the letters of the English alphabet, there’s a good chance I’ll start with QWERTY. My handwriting, which had been gift-wrapped and parceled to the dogs the day I began writing, is now going to rabid stray dogs. If things go on the way they are a little longer, I might soon become the exact antithesis of ambidextrous.
Anyway, let me continue with the travelogue. After landing at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), picking up my baggage, and flashing artificial smiles at the stewards and airhostesses (earlier variously referred to as ‘make-up kit’ and ‘she’), I walked into an eerily isolated terminal. The only people around were other passengers of MH 187. It was so quiet I could almost hear my stinking breath. I walked close to a kilometer before reaching the baggage claim area. Thankfully, Murphy kept his ass out and my bag was one of the first on the belt.
I’ve heard about Kuala Lumpur’s humidity, but having lived in Banaras for four years, and having made innumerable summer-visits to Chennai, I considered myself a seasoned campaigner. But when I stepped out of the cozy, air-conditioned airport, it struck me. The moisture hit my face like atomized pee. And it was just 5:30 a.m.! The taxi ride from the airport to Hotel Nikko lasted 30 minutes. In India, that would probably translate to a distance of 20-25 km, but here, it was no less than 50 km. I was initially preoccupied with inserting my new sim into the phone. When I was done, I looked out and saw a green wall. I looked out the other side and saw a grey wall. I looked straight, and saw a red needle resting peacefully at 130. I was half-impressed and half-scared. I’ve seen too many shows of World’s Most Amazing Videos on AXN to be completely rid of fear. When the car slowed down, the green wall disintegrated into trees, and the grey wall into metal rods.
Twenty minutes into the ride, I saw a few lights in the distance that were much higher than other lights in its surroundings. I eagerly leaned forward and asked the driver if that was the Petronas twin towers. He mumbled something in some language* which, as I realized 10 minutes later, was a yes. Two tall, imposing structures stood out against the morning sky. The Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) where Hotel Nikko is located is also home to the Petronas twin towers. In terms of height, many other buildings in the area are insanely tall, but in terms of magnificence, none of them are within a ballistic missile’s distance of the twin towers.
It’s midnight now, and as I lie sprawled on the bed, I look out at the awesome buildings across the street. It has been a long day. I walked twice to the twin towers- once with a handkerchief in hand to mop the steady stream of sweat, and the second time with a handkerchief and a camera. Dinner consisted of vegetable biriyani, mango juice, and Norflox 400 (to curb a possible revolt against the biriyani).
I’ll go to sleep now. I’ll promise I’ll type this out. If you’re reading this, I’ve kept my promise, and if you aren’t, then, well, what promise? What started off as a decently scripted article, is now almost an illegible scrawl. Anyway, good night, and wish me a fruitful month in Kuala Lumpur.
Yippee, I kept my promise!
* This is the second time I’m using this phrase. Creativity, where art thou?
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Time: 2 a.m. IST
Friday, April 18, 2008
Being in Bangalore these days, home is not too far away. All I need is a weekend, train tickets or bus tickets (if my stomach promises to hold up) or flight tickets (if those blessed frequent flier miles haven't run out). I had four distinctly different train rides in the last month; a to-and-fro Banaras-Delhi trip and a to-and-fro Bangalore-Secunderabad trip. The trip from Banaras to Delhi was in a Special train. Until that day, I considered special to be a word associated with positivity, i.e., a Shane Warne googly is a special ball, but Sreesanth's full toss is not. But I was forced to reconsider when I entered the train. How'd you feel if your first step inside the train was greeted by an intoxicating whiff of human execreta- a delectable mix of all three states of matter humans reject from their constitution? And what about the steel sink which has breathtaking patterns of paan spittle? Asian Paints must explore these patterns and start a new company called Asian Paants or something. How'd you feel when the blue seat you're about to sit on is not so blue, but has a thick brown layer which has to be breached by a newspaper / cloth / unwitting ass? What if the toilet is already caked with dried-up streams of urine and freshly deposited mounds of you-know-what? The sight in the toilet is a testimony to bad marksmanship. How do people consistently manage to miss that gaping hole and decorate its periphery? If all this wasn't bad enough, I saw a man making his kid pee on the vestibule. I really wished Sunny Deol was there to tear the vestibule away from the train.
While the memories of that train ride continue to haunt me as I write, other memories literally cry themselves into attention. Murphy is a bastard. Period. He is a genius, but he's a bastard. He knows I hate babies in trains, planes, theatres, and basically any place where I've no choice but to endure them. But he still surrounds me with groups of them. In the train ride from Bangalore to Secunderabad there were 3 babies in different stages of babydom in my cubicle. For the benefit of readers, a baby can be defined as "Human off-spring that is a breathing Bose system and a strong motive for murder." Apart from that there were a whole lot of babies in adjoining cubicles- babies that cried, babies that drooled, babies that ran around, babies interested in reading my book, babies refusing to eat, babies refusing to stop eating, babies refusing to pee, babies refusing to stop peeing. Mom says I too was as irritating as these kids. I agree. That's how babies are. My return journey however, had an interesting baby. She duly reported to me after her toilet visits as though I was supposed to keep count. She was chattering non-stop, and although she called me uncle (blame it on the beard), I thought she was quite cute.
My journey to Banaras was extremely eventful. I caught up with a lot of my classmates, juniors, and teachers. All of them had a lot of things to say, but one thing they all seemed to agree upon was my girth. "X, kitne mote ho gaye ho!" (where X = Bhaiyya, Saale, Akshay for juniors, classmates, and teachers respectively). We dined, we treated, we went to the ghaats, we ate paan, we clicked photos, we lost a digicam, we shot videos, we lost the handycam, we drove bikes, we had an accident, we stayed in juniors' rooms, we lost the keys to one room; and Oh! in the middle of all this we were given our degrees. The graduation robe made us look like wizards from some Potter flick, and the hat/cap was designed to give us a headache- a kind of retribution for all the headaches we gave our profs.
Alright, time to sleep now. I'm off to Malaysia tomorrow, so I doubt I'll post anything for another month. Till then, goodbye and goodnight!