Travel Travails: Another Five Star Story

April 30, 2011

One of the professional hazards in my job is travel. When you travel within India, Murphy’s Law operates big time! You know Murphy’s law, right? Something which states a profound truth so simply, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. While I cannot do much about airline delays, I get worked up big-time when the hotel goofs up. Like last week.

I had asked for an airport pick-up at the Delhi International airport. I normally take a cab, but landing late into the night after an over five-hour flight I did not want to be standing in a queue for a cab. But the hotel had goofed-up big time. No car at the airport.

I call the hotel and I am told the driver is somewhere around and that they will get back to me. Ten minutes of waiting and no response.

I call again.

“Sir, the driver is certainly there, but his mobile is switched off. We will call you back in two minutes, Sir!”

I get a call ten minutes later.

“Sir, I have located the driver. He is right there!”

WTF, I wonder, if he is right there, how come he is not holding the placard with my name? And I say so on the phone.

“No, no, sir, do not worry, I will send him right-away to meet up with you. Here is his name, and here is his number”

I dutifully scribble it on the back of the stub of my boarding pass. “I am at the exit gate number five right next to the CISF jawaan”

“Right away, Sir”

The driver shows up presently and he is indeed carrying a placard. But the catch is that it bears an altogether different name, that of some foreigner. And the driver proceeds to enlighten me that he has indeed been rostered to pick up the firang and he is confused as to why he has been asked to meet me and that I should proceed to the pre-paid cab counter and buy myself a cab trip to the hotel.

I am fuming now. I call the hotel again and give the guy at the other end a piece of my mind. Several pieces of my frazzled mind actually.

“What are you saying sir! How can this be? Can you give the phone to the driver, let me speak with him”

I disconnect the mobile with an angry twitch of my thumb. Get lost, I say aloud in my mind to the hotel guy.

And this treatment coming for my favourite hotel chain, I am determined to teach them a lesson!

+++

I reach the hotel and announce myself to the lady at the reception.

“Ojha, Santosh Ojha. (just like “My name is Bond. James Bond.) I have a confirmed reservation here.” I am determined to stay calm initially so that the impact of my outburst would resonate even better after I let go!

What I did not quite notice while I was savoring the thought of the outburst as I was introducing myself was the lady’s reaction as soon as I uttered my first word “Ojha”. She looked to her extreme left diagonally across the reception desk gesticulating wildly to someone who had his back towards us. She even banged on her desk and hissed, “Sir, Mr Ojha. Mr OJHA!”

The gentleman swivelled around instantly. A young, earnest looking and burly gentleman wearing a linen suit.

“Sir, sir, come with me sir!” He nearly grabbed me by my hand.

“”Hey, come where? I am checking in now”

“No, no, sir! You come with me to your room, we will complete the check-in formalities there only.”

He leads me to the lift mumbling as we walk along. The bellhop in tow with the luggage.

“Sir, myself so-and-so, sir. Sir, I am the duty manager here. Sir, I was the one who called you, I am sorry for the mix-up. That driver had no business to say what he did. And sir, I have ensured that I have given you the best room possible. And yes, of course sir, you can smoke there.” He went on and on….

Now this guy looked like an avatar of Obelix, though a little smaller in size. How can one get angry on Asterix even if he is a tad tinier and all-so-apologetic? I can’t!

+++

“Here Sir, is your room!” He opens the door with a flourish and marches into the room. The bell-hop and I stumble-in in his wake.

“Sir, sorry, sir”, he starts again.

“No, no, it is OK! These things happen. Anyway your hotels are like second home to me, so relax!” I reassure him.

“Sir, I am sorry”

“Relax buddy!”

“Sorry, sir!”

“Buddy, relax”

I was feeling sorry for this guy, he did indeed look to be genuinely repentant.

But more importantly, I wanted him and the bellboy outside my room. I was dying to have a peaceful smoke after several hours.

“Bye, sir, here is my card. Do let me know if need anything. Anything!”

I nearly told him that if he indeed wanted to serve me with “anything”, then perhaps he should send up a nubile woman to warm my bed for the night. Or for good measure, two!

I was getting really angry at his over-stay!

He did leave finally, smiling toothily and bowing to me as he left. While the bell-boy was bowing to the Duty Manager saheb!

++++

I hear a knock on my door twenty minutes later.

“Ah, the mandatory fruit basket”, I think to myself. Or maybe Obelix had indeed read my mind and sent across two nubile women. Ok, even one was fine! I slip on my T-shirt and open the door. And who do I see? The Duty Manager again! No women in tow alas! Just a room service guy holding aloft a tray with two wine glasses and a bottle of wine.

“Sir, here is something for you.”

I can indeed see the something, that wine bottle. Satori merlot. “No, please, I am fine. Not to worry.”, I reassure him.

“Sir, just something from our side, just for you to remember the evening.”

I thought his phraseology was rather inappropriate. I do not want to remember this evening which was getting into midnight now, really.

“Hey, theek hai yaar! Koi baat nahin

Nahin sir, kuchh to…?” His voice trails off.

All this is happening at the door. Obelix and his flunkey in the corridor, Myself at the door making sure that these two guys do not enter the room.

“Sir, don’t you like a drink?”

“Sure I do, but I have my own whiskey. Maybe you could join me for a glass or two.”

“How can I, Sir, I am on duty. I am the Duty Manager here tonight.”

“Ok, Ok, sure.”

This was getting into a circle, and I decided to take charge.

“Ok, I shall carry the wine bottle back with me to Bangalore to “remember” this evening. And thank you for your gesture.”

“Thank you sir, thank you.”

“Thank you”, I say.

“Sir, see you tomorrow at the coffee-shop at breakfast.”

“Sure, sure. Good night!”

“And sir, ask me for anything you may need tonight.”

I bang the door shut. I have had enough of these entreaties.

+++

Given his eagerness to make me happy, maybe I should have indeed asked him again to arrange those two nubile women. Ok. Just one. Maybe someone who could make a hot cup of tea for me. Or even help me unpack by luggage. Or just someone who could sing a lullaby…..

+++

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Blast from the past: MUQADDAR KA SIKANDAR

April 30, 2011

Remember this is late 70’s and yours truly is a teenager. Like a teenager I have confused views about life, where to head to, what to do. One keeps toying with various idols, various “ideologies”, multiple ideals (heavy words for a kid!). There is no clear solution in sight. There is one beacon however in this miasma, Amitabh Bachchan. Or rather the persona of Big B those days (who was called AB still, not Big B), the angry-young-man, ready-and-keen, to take on the establishment. He, from the dregs of the society, taking on the heavyweights. Remember Trishul, Ganga Ki Saugandh, Adalat, Deewar? If he was not from the dregs, he was tortured soul personified. Mili, Namakharam, Zanjeer, etc. etc., remember?

Sorry, I digressed, I do not mean this piece to be a discussion on Amitabh Bachchan’s filmography. Let me just tell you that I loved this movie, loved enough that after watching it for the first time, I saw it twice again within seven days of its release.

Let me tell you a small story. I was born and raised in Jamshedpur, a small town in what is now called Jharkhand. After I completed my 10th in the city, I had to move out as there were limited options for +2 in Jamshedpur. My classmates and I chose Nagpur. There were two simple reasons behind this. Nagpur was just 12 hours away by train (Geetanjali Superfast Express) from my hometown and more importantly the Maharashtra Board exams (for +2) got over in March which gave me enough time to prepare for the IIT-JEE scheduled for May. Those were the rational reasons. There was one more reason, known only to me then, Nagpur had many more cinema theaters, compared with Jamshedpur. And me, a hard-core movie buff, this was incentive enough to relocate from home in Jamshedpur to a hostel in Nagpur.

The year was 1978. The year I saw many interesting movies including AB’s Trishul, Kasme Vaade and Don. And MKS!

It was during my early days in Nagpur when MKS was released. And I saw the movie on the 8th day of its release in a theater called Liberty, in the Sadar area in Nagpur, close to my college hostel. To say I was bowled over would be an understatement. This was the movie about an underdog going down fighting!

I will not go into the details of the movie, but suffice it to say that the great Kadar Khan’s “speech” in the graveyard when young AB (the hapless Master Mayur) is moping on his foster mother’s grave was inspirational:

Sukh mein hanstey ho to,
Dukh mein kehkahey lagaao.
Zindagi ka andaaz badal jaayega!”

(If you laugh when happy, chortle aloud when sad. You will then find an altogether novel way of living)

And the adult AB comes on screen soon enough riding around in South Bombay on his motorcycle dressed in a natty jacket, singing aloud: “Rotey huey aatey hain sab, hanstaa hua jo jayega.”

Sometime during the song he crosses a hearse on the street. He pauses and sings:

Zindagi to bewafaa hai, ek din thukrayegi,
Maut mehbooba hai apni, saath lekar jayegi

Enjoy this song, one of the greatest movies of AB, ever, and one the greatest songs from Amitabh Bachchan/Kishore Kumar combo.

PS: This song was placed 13th in the “Binaca Geetmala 1979”. However the top two songs were AB’s. In fact of the 39 top songs of the year, 16 were from AB’s movies.

PS2: This post was written a few months ago for my friend Atul’s excellent blog on Hindi film songs http://atulsongaday.wordpress.com