Flying High to Chennai…

Some things in life are meant to be memorable. This trip to Chennai was one of those things…

As a freelance content writer, I get to do business with a variety of people from different parts of the country / world. This particular new assignment required me to visit my new clients at their offices in Chennai.

Well – for me, this was like a two-in-one pleasure trip – because the first pleasure here was the work that I was to understand, and the second pleasure was of course meeting up with PK.

Isn’t the Goddess great!!!

The flights to Chennai and back are scheduled in a very funny way – flights out of Pune to Chennai are all in the afternoon (around 4 ish or thereabouts) while the flights out of Chennai to Pune are all in the morning (around 10 ish or thereabouts). I had to be here for a day’s rounds of meetings with different people in the office, so I had to spend at least one complete day in Chennai.

Well, then I took myself to an office of a travel agent in Koregaon Park and booked the tickets – the girl there booked the tickets over the Internet. So all I got was a printout – apparently that’s how things are these days – you don’t see those nice little tickets that one was used to seeing! 

Anyhow, the tickets in hand I went to the airport. Security requires me to not carry cigarette lighters, match boxes, scissors, and bombs with me on the plane. Well, so I figured that if I parked a cigarette lighter in my toilette case in the check-in baggage it wouldn’t be so much of a problem. Well, I was wrong. It got detected and then removed. The fella doing that was not a smoker. So I ended up telling him that he would never really understand the pain.

And the airlines give you a boarding pass. No flashy, nice ticket. 

On the airport I met a nice, young lady who worked in Pune and was flying to Chennai for work. She kept me sane during the long wait. They ask you to come about an hour early so that you are through with the baggage security check, baggage check-in, then an interesting frisking session with a lady police officer who does your security check and then all you do is wait till your flight is announced. This girl talked to me off and on during the long wait.

Now I have vertigo. So on the way to the airport I had popped half a Vertin. Just before standing in line for boarding the plane, I popped the other half. The thing with this pill is you can’t really figure out if it’s starting to take any effect or not. So one just has to pop the pill and wait and pray.

So, aboard the nicely appointed plane of Spice Jet, I waited for the take off. As the plane taxied on the runway, I clutched the arm rest, closed my eyes and began chanting the Gayatri Mantra.

I felt the plane take off in the pit of my stomach. ‘That was pretty fast’, I say to myself and open one eye and then another. Blessed with a window seat, I peered out to see the city below and then I was just speechless with wonder.

The city looked so wonderful, and so pretty from up there….

Soon we began to fly through the clouds. WOW!! It felt as if I had begun to float on something wonderful and was being carried off to some mystical fairy land…

Then the plane climbed higher and we were flying above the cloud cover. Looking out the window, I saw the clouds below me – it looked like I was flying above a quilt of cotton wool…I could also see the curvature of the globe and the rays of the setting sun going through the clouds.


Can’t even begin to describe how pretty the sights looked!!!

Within an hour and half we were landing in Chennai. The landing was quite smooth. But then the pill had worn off quite a bit. Note for next time: Pop an entire Vertin just before the flight takes off and the effect lasts for about an hour.

Anyhow, landed in Chennai and collected my baggage. Then I went to the pre-paid taxi counter, paid and walked to a taxi. Got into the taxi and witnessed the Chennai peak hour traffic jam. Tried to speak to the taxi driver – who knew a smattering of English (Thank the Goddess!!) and told him to stop at the first shop he saw to buy a cigarette lighter. I do think that the poor fellow was shocked. But he didn’t show it. He did get me a good lighter though. Then I kept on asking him where we were and trying to pronounce the names right. I think he began to like me a little – by the time he dropped me off at the Hotel, he actually smiled at me and went off.

The Hotel was a nice place. Nothing too fancy, and nothing to down-market either. The first thing I did when I entered my room was check for an ashtray and finding none, I asked the stunned waiter to get me one. Poor things!

Chennai people are not used to women smoking. Period.

Then I got in touch with the company guy and we got together for a dinner briefing of the project. (Getting to work right away – don’t I sound like quite the hotshot businesswoman!!)

En-route to the restaurant we stood at the edge of the road trying to hail a rickshaw. A couple of the rickshaw guys waved at us indicating that they were not going where we wanted to go without knowing where we wanted to go in the first place!! Then we got a rickshaw guy who was willing to go, but not without some rather Tamilian haggling for the money he would take! Finally, my friend figured it out and we got into the rickshaw.

Then PK got off work and joined us as we were paying the bill at this nice restaurant. I asked my friend from Chennai to haggle with them before PK and I got into a rickshaw back to the Hotel.

Guess, rickshaw guys all over India are the same! This made me feel kinda right at home in Chennai. After all, no trip in a rickshaw is worth it’s weight in gold if one has not haggled well and so on….LOL

Spent some time with PK cuddling up and then went off to sleep – had to be fresh for all the negotiations etc tomorrow.

Today morning, I got up and got ready. Woke up PK in my usual screeching-accompanied-by-dire-consequences-fashion. Poor thing! I wonder why he loves me so!!

The idea of booking me into this Hotel was that the company was walking distance from the office. So PK and I descended to the Hotel Restaurant for breakfast. The Sambar in Chennai tastes so different compared to the Sambar we are used to having in Pune. Being a lover of South-Indian food, I was quite surprised to find that the South-Indian food in the south of India tastes a bit too bland than in Amche Pune….But I hogged nevertheless….

Then walked to the office. PK dropped me to there and went off to his house to freshen up and go to work.

I went up and the work began. Met a whole bunch of people from the company. They were all such nice people. The last meeting was with the Advocate (Lawyer) to go over my contract. Did some business-like haggling and stuff there. But ended up with a wonderful impression of the old Lawyer fella. Such an interesting personality – well…I wanted to ask him for his business card, but I refrained from it. Dunno why. He had been practicing law since 1959 – and he must have seen a whole lot of stuff change. I asked him and we ended up having a wonderful conversation.

Meetings and all over, I walked back home. Spoke to the nice fellow at reception and asked him to figure out a taxi for me from the Hotel to the airport. Called up PK and am obliged to wait for him to come here so that we can romance a bit.

Life is good, na…..

Psycho in the Basement Parking of Gold Ad Labs

I normally end up going to one of the mall-cum-theatres near my house to watch a movie or two when I am feeling bored. I end up going there alone 9 times out of 10. I have never had such a weird experience in these places. Which is why, when I had one today, I was all shook up.

Well, I went to Gold Ad Labs in Kalyani Nagar to watch the 5:30 show of Khoya Khoya Chand. The movie got over around 8:15 ish and so I took myself down to the basement parking where I had parked my Scooty. Apart from me, there were some other people who had also parked their bikes there, but they all left and I was the last one to leave. Plus, my bike was not starting properly so I was kinda rolling along. As I stopped near the exit ramp to re-start the bike, I saw a strange looking man in a white shirt and black pants standing on the exit ramp. He asked me for a lift to Wadgaon Sheri. I told him that I wasn’t going to that side as I shook my head. He asked me again. And I told him again that I wasn’t going that side. He began to walk up the ramp as my bike started. As I passed by him, he reached out and tried to touch me. Since I was wearing a shawl to protect me from the cold, he couldn’t really manage to get that close, but I felt his hands through the shawl.

As I came up the ramp with the parking ticket in my mouth, I wondered if I should make a big noise about this or not. And then I saw the parking attendant walk towards me, and I began to tell him check out this weird man who was asking for a lift and tried to touch me as I came up the ramp. Loudly.

So he ran down to check. As he ran down the ramp, I saw this fellow move away. Within seconds other attendants and security guards made their way towards me and then down the ramp. I followed down on my bike.

These guys had caught him near the staircase leading towards the upper floors of the mall. Of course, this fellow began to apologize. He began to come close to me to hold my feet and ask for forgiveness. I screamed at him to stay away. Two times I screamed. Then he moved back a bit. So I moved my bike a little away from him. The creep!

Then I began to ask him questions along with the mall attendants. I asked him why he had been lurking around there asking for a lift. Did he come there to see a movie? Where was his ticket? If so, what was he doing in the basement parking for two-wheelers? Where was his bike? The mall attendants asked him his address.

The man began to stammer because of nervousness. He said that he was waiting for a friend. If so what was he doing in the basement parking, I asked. He should be waiting upstairs in the mall area. He then said that he was from Kerala and he did not know his address. Nor was he carrying any identification on him. He was, in short, caught.

Soon, the security in-charge was called. I told him and he began to slap this guy around. He asked me to give him a slap or two. I refused. I straightaway asked him if he was going to take this psycho to the police station or not. If so, I was glad to accompany him. Otherwise, he could do all the slapping he wanted. The security person asked me to go home and that he would take care of the matter.

I drove home, shaking all over, not because of the cold, but because of this entire incident.

When I remembered the signs I could feel that this fellow was a total psycho in the making. As a writer, I make it a point to observe people and traits and body language. I know about psychos, especially, from the books and movies and coupled with the fact that the stuff I write is all from the Horror or Thriller or Crime genre along with a dash of Sci-Fi thrown in for good measure. My knowledge helped me to recognize this fellow and not shy away from taking action.

Because, if he would have gotten away with this relatively small thing this time, he would have felt encouraged and tried something bigger and soon enough some girl would have gotten raped or killed.

Pune is a relatively safe city. I have lived here for so many years (20 +). I have never felt threatened by strangers on the street, because I have never had such weird experiences in my life in Pune before. I normally go all alone to movies and malls and often end up coming home late. I stay alone and have been doing so for the past 10 years or more. I have traveled in rickshaws totally drunk or stoned (long ago) and have returned home safe and sound.

I used to pride myself on being a Pune person, because no matter how much the population increased or the traffic grew or the pollution mounted, Pune was, in effect, a safe city for a woman alone, even in the middle of the night on a strange street.

I guess, times are changing and all women must learn to raise their voice long and hard when even such incidents occur, because you really don’t have labels on peoples’ faces identifying them as psychos-in-the-making.

Moving House

Well, not too long ago, my landlord and landlady told me that their son and his family were planning to come down to Pune and stay with them. Towards that end, their son had also begun looking for a job here in Pune. They gave me time till March.

And then every single day they would ask me if I had begun looking for a place. Or if I had begun saving the money. And so on and so forth. So I knew for a fact that they wanted me to go as soon as possible. So I began to look. I found a place in Koregaon Park itself.

So when I told them, they expressed such a lot of surprise. I mean, that’s how people are – first they keep bugging you to leave and then when you are off, they are surprised!

Of course, I needed money for moving. I was about to begin work for a client. I asked him for an advance amount. He promised me that he would pay me. But then at the last minute, he began to not respond to my calls and smses. I began to feel that something was not quite right.

So then I sat down and asked my cards. It was clear to me that this client was not going to pay me. I began to think. I called up PK and he agreed to lend me the money for shifting.

I mean how can people be so callous. First they promise and then they don’t deliver. And if some problems have cropped up sometime in between, they don’t even bother to inform you. After all, informing can at least allow the person to make alternative plans. Not everyone is a Tarot card reader, that they can ask the cards and find out what the matter is all about, is it? I have absolutely no sympathy for people who don’t even have such common courtesies.

Soon, things began to fall into place. PK put the money into my account. And last Sunday, 2nd of December, 2007, I moved into this 1 Bedroom Hall Kitchen (commonly referred to as a 1BHK) flat in Koregaon Park.

The surprising thing is that the broker/agent really helped me out this time! Which for me is a totally novel and unexpected event. I mean, I have changed houses so many times here in Koregaon Park. I have dealt with agents and have found them to be the scoundrels of the worst sort. This broker too is a scoundrel.

When I went to see the flat, he refused to show the place to me until we agreed on the brokerage. It was nuts, but this time, I didn’t get too involved into it emotionally. I mean, I know what the scene is. A house is a house is a house. And a broker is a commission agent is a ruthless person out to make a fast buck.

I mean, even though this person is supposed to be my broker, he acts as if he is the flat owner’s broker. Then he takes money from me and f**ks off into oblivion.

So I negotiated with him in a very interesting manner. Even I was quite surprised as to how I could do this. Perhaps, something inside of me is turning and changing.

Well, anyhows, the broker helped me get a tempo and even helped me move! Wow! I was totally shocked. I mean, I have never seen a broker do that! They just do the deal and disappear after they have taken your money…but this person stuck around and helped me move. I think I will recommend him to other people. At the end of the day, if you are getting something in return for the amount you are paying him, it doesn’t really matter, does it?

So I moved in!

Now this is probably the first time that I am in a place where I have complete control over things. First I used to live with my parents. There I didn’t have much choice in the running of the house or other stuff. Then I lived with Rahul for a while. Again, I didn’t have much choice there. Then I moved in with D. With her I never had any choice. The house used to be run as per her wishes.

This is the first time, I have a place all to myself and the running of the house and everything related to it is in my hands. I am so thrilled.

The day I moved in, me and my maid Nalu got the place in order. We unpacked everything. Then on the day after the next day, a couple of my friends came over and we went to a shopping mall to get stuff for the house – shelves, pots and pans (D had taken all of the stuff – some which belonged to me even!!), and stuff for cooking such as the spices, Rice, Dal and so on….it was such great fun to do all this! I mean, I was getting stuff for my house…it felt so great! I even got a nice little dinner set with plates, quarter plates, bowls and serving bowls with spoons!

Yeah! I know, this sounds so silly and absolutely domesticated na! Especially coming from me it just doesn’t go with the image!!!

Yeah, well! The thing is I am not really interested in household domestic chores. I would rather earn a few bucks more so that I can afford a servant to take care of all these nitty-gritties for me. And so I do.

But at the same time, that does not mean that I cannot cook or clean or run the house all by myself – I can.

Knowledge of a thing doesn’t equate to Interest in the thing, does it?

Meanwhile, my friends began to visit me and they all loved the place too! I made Pav-Bhaji yesterday and called a few friends over for lunch-dinner and we all had a grand time of it!

Anyhow, it’s been a week that I have stayed here, and finally I have some time to sit down and write down all about it… all you guys had better read it….