Sunday, August 2, 2009

Rendezvous with Mumbai

The young and exuberant yellow-blue clad staff stood at the doors of that huge monster and was jubilant at my arrival. They cheered me with “Welcome… Welcome….!!”. Yes, I was responsible for delaying a Jet Airways flight on the ever busy Heathrow airport.

I don’t remember the exact date of this event but, sure enough, I was heading to India after almost a year and a half. Well, for many this might not be a long duration but for me personally it was just getting overboard and had to make this trip. I had a simple itinerary, Houston-Heathrow-Mumbai, with a layover of 90 minutes at Heathrow. From Houston it was United Airlines that bore my weight and from Heathrow I would be in the custody of Jet Airways.

Everything was going per plan. I had 2 bags that were checked in and one carry bag. Besides that I was carrying a laptop bag with only a laptop and it’s charger in it! I bid goodbye to roommates, to the fella who dropped me at IAH and finally with the engines roaring it was time to “¡hasta luego!” Houston. The flight took off bang on time and the journey to Heathrow was absolutely pleasant without the slightest chassis vibration.

Good morrrrrrninggggggggg Heathroww….!!! Least did I know that this was just the beginning of a thrilling 90 minutes. I got off the UA flight and walked through the gangway into the hustling Heathrow airport. For a moment I thought that this was not Heathrow, probably I have landed in Bhatinda….!! It was around 7 am in the morning and had a connecting flight at 8.30 to Mumbai. I walked per directions towards the gate of departure and had to stand in queue for the regular security check. Suddenly a heavy British accent caught my attention and this Caucasian asked me, “Sir, is there anyone else with you? ” I said no, as I was travelling alone. He jolted me saying, “I am sorry sir, you may not carry 2 bags on board!!” I was like “You must be kidding me.. where do you see the second bag?”. He told me that I could carry either the “carry-on” bag or the laptop back-pack. I said, US port of authority and United Airlines had no issues with this, so why is London making a fuss out of nothing? By this point both of us were frustrated and I had to bow down for the sake of LAW (did not have time to argue on racial grounds…. J )

He then suggested that I walk down the hallway to yet another officer who would grant (or may not grant) me the permission to take this bag on! It was about 7.15 am. I walked down the hallway to this huge hall where there were multiple huge queues. I approached a tall lady of Indian origin who spoke fluent English with a Punjabi accent. She pointed at a queue and asked me to wait for my turn. I was getting impatient and frustrated all the more.

It was my turn to explain the situation to the officer behind that small desk. It turned out that he was least interested in what I was saying probably because employees at Heathrow have to pay for their breakfast. This sucker was so slow in asking and responding that I could have had my breakfast and gone to bed having a heavy dinner. After about 15 minutes he tells me that this is the wrong place to settle this issue and I should be talking to the Jet Airways personnel who would be at the baggage belt checking in baggage.

This is about 7.40 and I have to run a cross country across the airport to reach the baggage check in area. Now I am having a laptop backpack and a carry-bag that weighs around 22 pounds (18 Kgs) and am running all over the airport. Totally exhausted my body nutrients are depleting. At around 7.55 am I reach the check in area only to realize that the check in counter was closed. Check in closes 30 minutes prior to take off.

I am shell shocked and run frantically to a security officer and he directs me to a Jet kiosk. A young lady speaking fluent English with a Gujrati accent greets me and I tell her the story. She drops “fat-man” on my saying “Yes sir that’s correct! We cannot allow you to carry 2 bags on board!” Here is the dialogue between the 2 of us:

She : Yes sir, that’s correct! We cannot allow you to carry 2 bags on board

Me : Then what’s the other option?

She : Sir we can put you on the next flight to Mumbai.

Me : Alright, when is the next flight?

She : Tomorrow morning sir!

Me : Whaaaaattttttttttt!!!!!!!!! What do I do till then?

She : Sir you will have to stay over here.

Me : What do you mean by here and who will take care of the expenses?

She : Sir you will have to bear your expenses and you cannot leave the airport premises as you do not have a transit visa.

Me : Ok. So you are telling me that some airline could not transfer correct information and I am being forced to stay over on this airport over night fending for myself? There should be some other carrier flying to Mumbai or anywhere in India in the next few hours. Put me on one of ‘em. Lady, I have waited one and half years to see this day, and I will not let it go just because some airline failed to convey this information.

She : I am sorry sir but there is little I can do. That is the restriction due to weight restrictions on the flight.

Me : So now you are trying to tell me that a Boeing 747 cannot carry addition 18 Kgs on a flight which is not at all booked and is going empty?

She : Let me see what I can do sir.

She then picks up the phone and calls up someone; it is about 8.15 am by now and I am all the more frantic!

She : Sir if you will please take you bag and drop it in that steel frame across the hallway, I can allow you to take it on board.

Me : Alright…

I go over and simply dump the bag into the framework and look at her with agony and anger!

She : Alright sir. Let me see what I can do.

Apparently she calls up the personnel boarding passengers by the flight. Some discussion follows. It is about 8.20 am now. She hangs up the phone.

She : Sir, I think we can put you on this flight. Please wait here for some time.

As I wait a Caucasian male runs in with some kind of barcode reader. He ties one bar-coded strip to my “convicted bag” and one to the laptop backpack. He then reads the code from the strip on the convicted bag and then turns to me.

He : Sir, I will take this bag and have it checked-in with the flight directly. A staff will be here in a moment and will escort you for boarding.

I was plain elated. Din’t know how to react. I wanted to hug that lady and thank her for life. But, couldn’t do it….. she was seated behind a desk. I asked her for her email and promptly sent a “thank-you” note on reaching home. Just when the Caucasian male staff finished his sentence a male of Indian origin came running from nowhere and almost dragged me… his training forced him to be courteous!!! We just started running across the airport towards the boarding gate. On the way I could see a huge “zig-zaggy” line to the security check area. But this fella was in no mood of waiting and pulled out all the separating belts and I was placed at no.1 for the check. His walkie-talkie buzzed when we were almost done.

He : We are almost done. How much time do we have? …. Ok.

Me : What did they (by now I knew who “they” were) say?

He : We have 10 minutes to reach the gates.

Me : What if we don’t make it?

He : They leave!!

Me : No way.. not at this point!!

We are done with the check and again resume our cross country. I really felt like I was in front of an x-box maneuvering a road-roller (yeah.. right !! I had grown into a bulky mass then!!! ) and dodging the passer-by’s. As we reached mid-way a lady staff came panting and yelled..

Lady : Are you Mr. Shete?

Me : Yes that’s me.

Lady : Please follow me sir.

And she started running as if taking the baton from the male who had accompanied me so far and as if it was forbidden for him to cross over that point. I think I was emotionless then as I cannot remember what I was going through at that time. Suddenly she comes to screeching halt and asks me to board one of those vehicles they have on airports to carry seniors or physically challenged. They driver turns on the beeper and the entire hallway resounds with the siren. People make way for ME!! Within seconds we are right by the boarding gate.

As I reach for my ticket. The lady there tells me that they have done the necessary things and hands me the boarding pass stub and suggests that I hop on! As I enter the plane the crew is all gathered by the door and welcome me like a victor. That moment, I remember vividly… It was plain joy and I was filled with immense pride for pulling out this one and wonder how I could sustain such action! Once on board I realize that my energy levels have depleted and I need something to rejuvenate. Come in a vodka and sprite and am on my way cruising to Amcheee Mumbaiiiiii !!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

In the honor of the men and women who made it a memorable evening!

Un Humilde Comienzo, Un Magnífico Acabado!!

He called them on stage and some 500 odd joined their hands to honor the efforts of these good fellas! It was the final moment on 3rd April, 2009 whenThe President-GISO,delivered the vote of thanks, closing Maitri 2009formally.

The evening was packed with total entertainment. Performances brought back retro-memories, portrayed the finesse of the modern, and flaunted the grace-gait of the otherwise academic human. While melodious rhythms spanned the auditorium, the elegance of kids had the audience in awe! As the people thought about dinner they were served food-for-thought by the organizers. The event unfolded gradually and all were glued to their chairs. The chief guest decided to put his phone on hold and wait an hour beyond his commitment. The Khators, opined that, this was no less than any other professional event on the block. Simply put, if you missed this… you’ve missed something.  Un impresionante evento..!!

Why am I all praise for this… am I biased? I am not… what I saw, I am writing! (Don’t crib about the grammar.. get the idea… don’t go guessing my grades in school… !).  Yeah, some say that a lot of improvements are needed. Some dances were not upto the mark, some songs were out of tune, the lights were on during animation, fashion show lost sync at one instance, they could have got a better script for the skit, the MC’s were not confident blah blah blah……. Ok… give em a break!!! These are a bunch of students who have sacrificed a lot, put a lot at stake and yes, don’t forget the ever demanding professors with their home-works and exams. By the way,these fellas are few thousand miles away from their comfort zones and with minimum resources, with little or no knowledge where to find those! In such hostile conditions and at such low cost, they provide a total fun filled, for-family, entertainment package with dinner… dare we criticize?

To put up an apparently flawless event of three hours it takes atleast couple of months of planning, tremendous practices (improvisations…!) and debates. The entire process revolves around eliminating and weeding out the deficiencies. It is a grueling task since there are few dozen people involved. The complexity lies not in the gigantic proportions of the task, but the nature of the task itself. There are multi-thronged issues like, multiple -participation due to over enthusiasm, different time commitments of individuals at different times, availability of participants, place and props and funds for those. The list just goes on. It’s the committee that has to deal with it and without letting it percolate to the participants who work religiously towards the goal.

To add to all this potpourri of issues is the fact that the organization is voluntary by nature and no one “has” to do anything. It’s the passion to do what needs to be done or the passion to excel that fuels the volunteers. Amazing things happen when this passion is at its peak. The mind stretches beyond its limits to find simple solutions to almost any problem. Some classics were seen this time too. Sand animation needed sand. Galveston grounds offered plenty and plenty was brought. No one gave a thought that it would be damp then. On the first day of practice, the sand didn’t move an inch, leave alone drawing a sketch. The VP- Finance decides to use a microwave at around 1 am somewhere in the school. On the day of the event, while two over-head-projectors were required, only one was available! Some bright mind thought of using a flexible lamp and the day was saved. A well trained couple decides to walk off the ramp for reasons best known to them. Hours of practice helps the other couples to follow them as if it were a part of the fashion show! It’s just amazing to see people being innovative and doing things impromptu.

What seems to be an awesome event to the audience is slightly less than what the performers are actually capable of putting up. If ever their best is to be seen, it is the practice before the event day. All is at stake, there is no audience pressure but the pressure of a performance is enough to bring out the best without messing around. All these efforts, stress, sacrifice and endurance culminate in an eventful evening like that of Maitri 2009 on the 3rd of April, 2009. Every year, for those who have been around long enough to see a change, there is something new, something better and it’s a sight to enjoy! A lot more can be written but its 2 am and I need to let the eyes drop down else it will be yet another lecture lost ‘morrow!


Monday, June 16, 2008

कवी माधव जुलियन ह्यांची "दूरस्थ मातेस"

A very beautiful poem composed by Madhav Julian is about a son (daughter as applicable :) ) far away from his (her) mother ...

Its a humble effort inspired from the narration of "Adhantari"!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Over a cup of tea!!

On an evening when I sit on the patio with a cup of tea, gazing at the skies painted in the finest colors of nature, I simply cannot stop the chain of thoughts, which inevitably throw me back in the past. A past which I cherish and wish it was the future! Someone has wisely put “Memories always make you sad: For if those were good, it’s the sorrow of having lost those moments and if those were sad the thought itself makes you unhappy!” So true…
The chain of thoughts is as simple as “So beautiful is the sky. I can see it as far as Galveston! In Mumbai I did not see the sky across the street. So many buildings…. My friends stay across the street! We played cricket and had wada-pav (bondas) at Mahesh thela (stall)” so and so forth it goes on. Then there is no stopping till the tea hits bottom! At the end, on the final note the fundamental question is posed, “Why did I come to USA?” A couple of years back the answer was simple, “Learn and Earn”! Now, there is a different dimension to the question and the answer as well. It’s more philosophical than practical. For me philosophy flows smoothly with a cup of tea! Even now as I write, most of the time I am wandering on the streets of Mumbai, waiting for the auto, the odd bus 210, the 7.44 train from Borivali! The nostalgia is sweet even if it eats away two valuable hours!
Today the realization dawns, why “baba” (father) wanted me to have my clothes ready to be sent for ironing, why “aai” (mother) pleaded to keep food stored and refrigerated and not to mention the care, with which “aaji” (grandmother) made “batatychya kachrya” (spiced potato chips). All comes back when its late in the morning and I must squeeze in 5 minutes to get that darned shirt ironed, when the roaches attack, when hunger hits and there is no motivation whatsoever to cook or head to the kitchen!
Little did I know before applying for the program, that there is more to it than just studying and having fun in The US of A! The first semester demanded a heavy premium!! Everything that I had to do was a new venture, including banking, cooking, utensils, setting up electricity and on top of that, the Honesty Policy which turned out to be a nightmare (although that is one thing that I will cherish for long!). We have been used to making multiple copies from a couple of original versions. I remember that, more than often the ratio of original to the last edited version was 10:4, a whopping 60 % reduction! The original copy would have 10 pages and the final version would be close to just 4! With that background, how could I solve a double integral of a partial differential of the Bessel function of the third order, all by myself!!
This was the least of all pains that I have endured so far. There were higher degree pains of funding, GATF, the graduate co-ordinator, the ever pushing boss, the course selection, finding a parking place. I had to reach university before 9 am just to get a place near Cullen Engineering. How demanding can life be !! Oh how could I forget the apartment management and their weird rules and regulations!! Gosh !! Life is that bad, is it ? I almost believed “Life is Beautiful”!
But I must agree and trust that the readers will also, that these are the experiences that go a long way in shaping us and making a strong character out of us! I strongly believe that the past 2 years have had a huge influence on my life. I have met some of the best people while working on projects, concerts, events and even team assignments! For the first time I witnessed the Indian diversity in its full blossom! Little did I know that there were more than one “South Indian” languages and that Oriya was as sweet as Bengali and there were distinctions in Punjabis, Sikhs and Sardars. The festivals, food habits, the slang, the mannerisms, so fine yet so distinct and unique! Please forgive if I have got it wrong! There is a lot more to it than what can be said or understood.
Most of my learning has come from the organizations that I have worked for and the people I have worked with. The prime ones being GISO and AID! Each having a purpose and a unique way to function! Houston has taught me a mantra, the mantra of Networking! F.Y.I. The gurus of this course are right here in Houston, who are willing to help with it!! As a matter of fact a lot of my classmates from the 2005 batch have changed! Their outlook towards life, their ways of attacking a problem, not to mention the dressing, the accent as well! The k’s have changed to khey’s and p’s to phee’s !
Sometimes it is frustrating to be a graduate student and there is this urge, to tell all my miseries to someone! But, when the eyes roll around searching for someone to talk about it, every other person I see is trying to find someone for obvious reasons! It’s sad that I can’t vent out my frustration but then, the very fact that this is a commonplace makes me feel better. Everyone is facing it and dealing with it so why not me ?? It’s really amazing that we’ve learnt ways to deal with it without succumbing to the pressure. Some find solace in music, some enjoy wine n dine whilst some spend time with near and dear ones in
person or telecommunication! This deserves a round of applause! Some have discovered latent qualities that they wish to pursue! Every individual I see is tomes of experience, a legend by itself. Each one of us has seen things in a different perspective and it would be wrong to compare each other. It’s like comparing oranges to limes on the premise that they have the same shape! Let’s not pit against each other, the victory may not be sweet! Beat your past, race against the “Me” within! Now that would be a triumph of the mind over matter. That’s got to be sweet!!
Well as my cup of tea is about to hit bottom, the thoughts of future seep in and that’s when I realize that it’s time to get back to the “Prima Meta”. There are many more cups of tea to be thought over, but I do realize that such fundamental discussion in such or higher depth is definitely not my cup of tea!
I rest my case………………

Thursday, July 19, 2007


What is the PURPOSE of writing this blog? I don't know... well right now its just a break from the actual short term PURPOSE "researching".. Otherwise i have no clue about it (yeah both... blog and research!)

The men (and women ofcourse) of high stature and understanding have reiterated, that they were here on the earth for a PURPOSE . Honestly i too believe(d) it....but how close is this being to be a truth (universally), i guess, is still a mystery. So , i am confused as ever... what is my PURPOSE being here (on Earth, damn it!!)

Most of us have spent a few decades trying to figure out this PURPOSE!! Atleast the sane one's have tried.... I have spent 2 decades.. In these 2 decades i have discovered a new PURPOSE atleast a dozen times, and as usual the creator of all has given me CLUES of how that was not MY PURPOSE. As such am still PURPOSEless and looking and i believe so is the case with most of the social creatures.

I believe, the other kind of living creatures (animals for eg:) may not have this issue. They dont think !! We Do! thats the difference between having questions and having no questions!
They have 2 primary questions and purpose (assuming questions=purpose!) Eat and reproduce. No restrictions whatsoever on either save for the human intervention!

Of late i have realized that my PURPOSE is to work on thesis. But.... but as usual the creator has different intentions and is giving me all clues to deter from this PURPOSE. Sleep late, wake up late chat, blogs.... these are few of the clues.. oh yeah and Mr. Büyükkökten was the messiah sent by the creator to throw me on the RIGHT track.

At the end of the day, I am still figuring out THE PURPOSE!!!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Pahila Wahila Blog (First BLog!)

Writing what i feel, never came to me naturally and is definitely not my cup of coffee ! (i am tea fanatic!! can never say no to tea under any circumstance!) . Tried a diary, even created blog that am sure has been closed by blogger. But, better late than never!

Writing what i feel can be tricky, relieving, a good way to improve writing skills etc. but is it that necessary ? Well i feel its not.... but again what the hell! who cares anyways.. so why not? and here i am, trying to organize and write!

Writing what i feel, at first seemed to me synonymous to hypocrisy। Write what I would like to feel rather than what I am feeling। But as time teaches all that lives, i too learn't that, thats not the case. I was born in the world's largest and oldest successful democracy and am currently residing in the world's largest economy-democracy. I reserve the right to freedom of expression. Moreover whats illegal in venting out my feelings!! If worlds greatest antisocials can bring down buildings and disrupt peace in divine-holy places, why cant i write about myself... Here i am writing !!