Category Archives: travel

IF I HAD A FOOD BLOG….

Have you any idea of how bad a food (or travel) blogger I would have been? People would have called my posts ‘flogging‘, akin to vlogging that people do to realise the cost of the webcam they bought (originally to do the dirty things the internet supposedly encouraged but they never found courage for). Do taste the flavor of my flogging, once you repeat after me, “Long Post Alert!”

I have been known to enjoy my holidays, and have blogged about them before, and a not-too-past trip to South Africa was outstanding in every way.

 So, you could say I was spoiled there with good food like braised lamb shanks.

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I even loved the exotic steak meats like the crocodile and the ostrich.

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The fearless gourmet in me even dared to sample the kind of foods even those bred on eating meats would baulk at—sample the typical jerky-style dried beef, ostrich, deer, antelope, and bigger game. 

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At Cape Town’s famous restaurantDSC01499 Mama Africa, I chickened out of 

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And all the exotic food and drink were enjoyed in backdrops that are the stuff of dreams and hallucinations.

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Don’t miss the author’s celebrated feet as he savors his cheap and excellent South African wine in the midst of the Kruger while watching elephants mate (or whatever it is that they do when not taking gigantic craps).

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So (hello, readers, are you still there?) with this African experience not having entirely receded from my mind, I ventured off recently to Thailand with minimal expectations.

I had been to that country several times before, and what would be different this time? Leela was very kind when giving me a list of places to eat, and I thought I would somehow endure the few days of holidaying in Bangkok and Phuket.

As my cynical mind suspected, I was spot on.

In Phuket, the weather was gloomy, as we saw from the hotel.

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 The room had only two verandahs with ocean views, and only one of them was air-conditioned! Gasp, I thought, what has this world come to!

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In addition, there were little animals in the room, which kind of competed for space in the tiny suite provided.

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The nearby events in Samao and Indonesia were reminders of how perilously perched our world often is.

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The Thai Engrees made things more fun.

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(come in side, but chill out side, geddit? Hopefully, the verb meant a form of leg movement!)

In Phuket’s Jung Ceylon mall, there is an excellent food court, with Wine Connection (a restaurant that serves the most incredible chocolate moose mousse and caramel custard,  unfortunately un-captured in photographs as they had incredibly short table lives) standing out for class. The KFC in there (and in other places) has a Thai curry-style fried chicken that is an experience! Such a spicy and delectable chicken dish is really unusual! My son had it every day (I kid you not), not heeding my stern warnings about trans fats and atherosclerosis.

In Bangkok, as Leela had recommended, I decided to have dinner at Cabbages and Condoms. However, I had not reckoned with the awesome traffic.

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In fact, bikes and scooters were riding gaily on the pavements, a la India. 

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 At the restaurant, the starters were exceptional, specially the prawn with peppers, the tom yum goong, and the catfish salad (it has spiced raw mangoes in it).

The restaurant, in spite of its name and its social purpose (they serve condoms in place of mints), is tastefully designed.

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I was wondering what the heck the fried thing in the salad was, though the name said it was catfish. It was as if egg fritters were fried in hot oil. Delicious and unique. The chicken tom kha soup I had was good, but slightly sweet. Not bad at all, but I love a more creamy tom kha.

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The entreé of deep fried pork in garlic pepper was disappointing (they burned the garlic, I think), but the chicken in lemongrass was excellent. In the pic, you can see the pork and the jasmine rice (including a unique red variety) in the background, and the chicken in front.

I must say I had planned to eat Tab Tim Krob, the delicious water chestnut sweet, after Leela’s post on it. I was not disappointed. This was in one of the Be Siam (or some such) restaurants.

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Bei Otto:

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Another evening, it was time to try Bei Otto, a German restaurant (possibly the only good one in Bangkok)  located in Sukhumvit. 

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A simple grill platter of German bratwurst, pork chops and veal cutlets, served with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes, was enough to sate three of us, though I had, gastronomically speaking, a relative off day. Dessert was mangoes served with cream and ice cream and a light filo pastry. Amazing. Definitely worth a visit every time!

Restaurants apart, even the food courts in the many malls of Bangkok offer uncountable treats for the foodie. I had sushi like I have never had before. Cream pastries. Cakes. Miso soups. Pad thai. Oh, I am already tired, with so many foods I have yet to list!

The street food is eclectic. You can find incredible junk, and you can find delicious local specialties like grilled bananas. I believe they sell frog legs but I never got to eat or see that!

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 So, in summary, I hope I have convinced you that Thailand is one country I am definitely not planning to visit in a long time, till next year, anyways. Especially considering that I gained ten pounds in eight days.

The only reason that I can think of is it might, just might, get me a guest post in some celeb blog like  http://www.shesimmers.com. Or maybe not. Once bitten, twice Thai, I mean, shy!

WORKING LIKE A DOC

Dear Reader,
I have been away walking working like a dog, and getting dehydrated by losing all my sweat, seram and snot phlegm for the upliftment of Asia’s poor, especially those stricken by too much of soaps, confidence tricks votes, cricket, and Olympic ceremonies.
As one picture is worth a minor political speech, have a glimpse at my miserable life of the recent past. I have been suffering patients, creditors, conferential speakers, unfaithful girlfriends and the odd female colleague intent of improving bilateral intercourse.
Sigh, and many of you or your children want to be doctors!? The shame!!


A doctor’s life is a shallow cess pool of demanding patients, as you will agree.


At one of the places where the Indian government wanted my verification about the non-existence of a premiere Hindu god.


Bridges like these would not have created any politico-religious controversy.


One of the women who throw money just to enjoy my automatic drive and presence.


One of the delegates pensively thinking (choose one of the following):
1. How could we increase India’s medal tally?
2. What would happen if we gave independence to Kashmir and made India a free market of ideas and actions?
3. How many operations do I need to do to repay my tour operator?
4. Where the fork is my food?

Depending upon various geopolitical events (essentially if I can make up for the loss of my last stock market boo-boo), I may continue this thread another time, unless any of you physically injure me as a preventive measure.

EBOLA-RE BOLA-RE

Ebola is a dreaded name. It is a deadly virus that kills virtually all it infects. It is seen mostly in Africa. The danger of Ebola to the world is because of the real threat of it being used as an agent of bioterror, as I have mentioned in my Foolitzer-winning article on Bioterrorism that appeared in The New York Times an Indian newspaper. In the said article, I reported on the possibility of scientists within terror groups hiding a deadly virus within a benign bacterium which, when treated with antibiotics, would release the virus and cause a highly infectious and lethal disease that could decimate society:

Recently, Popov has talked about an experiment in synthetic biology that fuses plague and Ebola virus. The scientific premise of this Soviet research is to hide a deadly virus particle inside the genome of a more innocuous bacterium.
In this case, infection in the test subject would result in plague like symptoms. Once the treatment (usually tetracycline) for the plague is given, the virus is expressed fully. It is feared that the resultant walking ‘Ebola bombs’ could devastate populations. Ebola, if you didn’t know, has an almost cent percent mortality in man.

Scientists have launched a major attack on the disease by successfully testing a vaccine against Ebola in primates. Human trials are awaited. To read about the challenges of producing an Ebola vaccine, read this interesting and short report.

GOAN AIRHEAD IN LIFE

This post pertains to the end of a hard week in my life (during which blogging was a casualty) that saw me catching a flight to Goa today. Nothing much, just a couple of days of conference, after which the world will remain much the same.

I reached the airport in Kolkata, and was greeted by several girls in red.
Kingfisher promises a really different flying Indian experience. I was all set to enjoy this. Well, I was greeted by Bipasha Basu in a suit that looked as if the owner was doing aortic arterial surgery a few minutes back, and wanted the world to know it.
Celina Jaitley ushered me in. Her chest was very un-Celina-like, though. She clearly had forgotten her breasts at home. I moved on to security.

“Anything to declare, Sir? Mobile, shobile kicchhu hai?” the security guy said. His like must make a lot of terrorists very very secure. It is like, when he is checking your boarding pass, he is casting lustful glances at the Celina Jaitleys of Kingfisher.
“Any mobile-shobile, Sir? Please bagey ghusaa lijiye! Aar kono liquid-shiquid you have?”
“No, I have only a bladder full of urine. Can I carry it, or is carrying liquids beyond 100 ml not allowed?”
The humor was lost on him. Bengalis are a humorless lot, it seems.

Inside the plane

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Airhostesses: are they called something more politically limp these days? Well, like Airy Juice Assistant, Elevation Provider, Air Supplier, Frown-Air, Global Warmer, Stratojanitor, etc.?

The poor ladies! I am, as of this moment, writing a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Commission to petition the world on behalf of these airhostesses and their customers. After all, eating airline food is bad enough, but is it this bad that these airhostesses look like their backs and tummies are stitched and pressed together by mistake? Can you imagine what it must be doing to the millions of rotund men and women who see them? Can you believe that these people will be able to down their stony parathas and blotting paper kheers with a calm, coordinated peristaltic movement of the gullet muscles? These people will become mental wrecks. And the food being what it is in airlines, dental wrecks, I won’t be surprised!

Are you aware of the Murphy’s Law of Airlines? One of the laws says that the most beautiful girl in the flight never sits next to you, and if you see two of the fattest guys in the flight, you know that your seat is between theirs’. Well, I upped Murphy’s Law.
Well, would you believe who was sitting next to me, right next to me, on the CCU-MUM circuit? No, not Jyoti Basu, not Bal Thackeray, nor Bappi Lahiri.

It was a full-blooded off-duty Kingfisher airhostess, resplendent in bridal red. Actually, it wasn’t really bridal, as she was uniform-clad, but might well have been, the way she was preening for me. She was around six inches taller than me, which made my neurons fire irrationally like in a Neurotransmitter World Trade Fair. And skin, what skin! Flawless surface (as revealed by the high red skirt), pink as a baby’s ass. Skin that allowed my gentle gaze and its contained optical x-rays to penetrate just enough to reveal the blue veins carrying her warm blood to her splendidly located heart. Skin with the hair follicles of a limb waxed last week. Contour was gourmet chicken. Imagine a leg of said bird, with just a little fat under the skin, and ready to eat….finger-lickin’ good!

There is something to be said for chemistry, as Barbara Cartland always used to say. Now, we can officially say the same for particle physics. The particles of the leg of my neighbor and the particles of my left hand were engaged in an insane conspiracy to meet, come Hell or high water. I had to exercise every fiber of my volitional resources, and maintain the Terms of Service of the Kingfisher Airlines. Else, as Russell Peters says, somethin’ would have happened tonight!

Another thing is that I found it difficult to breathe. No, not in a ‘took my breath away’ sort of breathless, but different. Sitting next to such a fetching specimen of adorable Body Mass Index, I had to hold the paltry few kilos of tummy (that had recently made a new entry into my persona) in control, preventing them from revolting against the tyrannical control of my trouser belt. Naturally, with a sinking level of blood oxygen, my smile became glassy and constipated. Hardly the stuff of Fatal Attraction. I can’t lose my touch, I rebuked myself. No more of those wholesome meals and desserts, I promised.
At the end of a long flight, during which I ate some South Indian veggie breakfast and fell asleep, I was woken up by a loving, gentle shake of the shoulder. Not too hard to be matronly, and yet, soft enough to be personal and loving. Ms. Murg Lababdar herself. She was making some gestures. For a moment, I thought she was inviting me to take off my belt and copiously teach her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation techniques. I realised that she was asking me to fasten my seat belt. Eyes met in a millennial instant of recognition of a common passion.

She also seemed to realise our common conundrum, and we smiled: she brilliantly, confident in our common destiny, and I, sadly. Sad that life is only the name of a King-sized game of missed fishing opportunities. I smiled back again, confident that my day would come.

From Mumbai, I had to get to Goa. The connecting flight to Goa was another red airline: Spicejet. In the flight….

Hungry, I ordered a sandwich, which the steward explained to a young boy (in his twenties) near me, was a vegetable cheese sandwich. As I was chewing my sandwich, the boy stared at me for a very long moment. I instinctively closed my mouth and choked as if I was the Queen of England caught with a large percentage of sandwich stuck exactly in the center of the cervical esophagus. Goggle Eyes looked at my sandwich, and asked “Achchi hai?”
I nodded.
“Is it good?” he insisted.
I nodded more vigorously.
“Is it vez?” (veg?)

Now, people will tell you I am a fair man, with no star-like tantrums and no hang-ups. However, I maintain certain principles in life. Like not talking when I am eating sandwiches. The confusion that occurs when air and food both try to pass in opposite directions in the pharyngeal passages can cause minor calamities like death, and major ones like hospitalisation and operations. Hence, I refuse to talk, but more than this, I was generating a dislike for this muscle-bound, black haired cross between Adonis and a dolt. I decided to fix him.
I gestured for him to hold on, swallowing a large bolus of sandwich with as much saliva and gravitas as I could summon.
“?” I asked.
“Is this vez sandwich?” he asked again.
“No, it is actually pot-roasted camel testicles in tortoise sauce. It is a local specialty. Want a bite?” I asked.
Somehow, the conversation never went beyond this point. Sigh. Uncivil people.
For my previous encounter with erotic females, read this post.

(pic: indianinside.info/blog)

GLIMPSES OF BALI

I had, in the not-so-long past, posted some stuff on my trip to Greece. You could check them out here.

Bali is a place that repeatedly calls itself ‘Paradise’. Is it hype, or is it appropriate?
Find out for yourself, if these pictures can stimulate you to do so.
Please click on each thumbnail to see a fuller picture.

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Sunset at Uluwatu, Bali.

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Unreasonably beautiful.

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A brilliant photograph of a window, by the Master Himself. Likely value in 2100, as per experts: $5 million.

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Picture taken while waiting for lunch at a beachside restaurant.

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The hotel just beyond the entrance.

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Mei Goreng is one of the typical Indonesian dishes.

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A typical Balinese Hindu temple.

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The pool and the sea.

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Did I say ‘unreasonably beautiful’ before?

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Some Batik Murals.

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The Balinese seem pretty taken up with the male organ and fancy using it to open bottles!

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Art studio or bathroom?

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Young brat with a sense of humor, mimicking his father’s desperate attempts trying not to drown.

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Parasailing was one of the fun things to do.

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Among the entire crowd of tourists, only one person managed to land on water after parasailing. Everyone with an IQ of 25 and above landed safely on the sand. Except me. Geneticist James Watson has also been reputed to have sunk similarly after sailing sky-high. In good company?

WATER SPORTS IN BALI

I have told you the story of how my holiday to Bali was almost torn asunder by the fact that I have not done well enough in life to buy Raffles Class tickets.

Well, on reaching, I took up water activities with a deep breath and a steely resolve. I will tell you why later. When it comes to swimming, I have always preferred the sea of words. I always felt H2O was two parts Hell, and one part Oxygen mask. Swimming was way too advanced for me, and I weaned it out by taking to the jacuzzi. Though I have always avoided water activities beyond the shower, this was my first experience with jacuzzis.

As soon as I sat at the edge of a Jacuzzi, I felt the pleasant sensation of the water bubbling with energy and enthusiasm.

“Ah, this is life!”, I exulted and leaned back.

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I looked beside me and found a young South American woman who was built the way you would imagine young South American women to be built. Think Shakira, and you get the general idea.

“Hi”, my smile said.

“I am yours forever. Take me with you right now”, her’s replied.

Soon, smiles flew around everywhere. Shy and sensitive man that I am, I take my time opening out to a complete stranger, even Shakira. Just when global warming seemed like it was a personal experience rather than a scientific scam, I found bubbles of water exploding beneath me, with a million and a half bubbles, large and extra-large, zooming in like heat-seeking missiles to the South Pole of my testicles. My smile widened as long forgotten sensations re-awakened, and things got hotter.

I had briefly forgotten my part of the smile-exchange program. Soon, the intensity of the bubble attack increased so that I was virtually thrown up to the surface of the water, while my elbows were still resting on the edges of the tub. It was instantly obvious that the energy had rubbed off on parts of me. The Latina smiled even more widely. However, it disappeared before you could say “Your face or mine?” or whatever it is you are supposed to say in these unfamiliar situations. Her smile, as I was saying, went like money into a politician. Like an ozone hole in the stratosphere. Like free booze. You get the idea, right?

My wife had appeared behind me and, glaring pointedly at my missed opportunity, was saying, “Let’s go, we’re getting late”. Late? I felt a hole, new unexplored world slipping out of reach, as I lamely got up and followed my wife. For good measure, she gave the bimbo one of those looks that must have started the California fires.

“Do come back soon. I will miss you forever”, said the girl’s eyes.

Now, let me tell you about eyes. A sensitive sod like Mahendra has expressed some thoughts on them. If you are one of the lazy, decadent sort who, when provided every modern remote-controlled amenity in a house (remote-controlled fridge, microwave, TV, AC, bed, etc.), complains “Lekin remote dabaayegaa kaun?” (who will press the remote, but?), then let me indulge you. Don’t bother clicking that link. Save calories. Don’t heat up the globe no more.

Mahendra wrote:

If I were a tear in your eyes
I would lie on your cheeks and die on your lips

Some rascal commented:

If I were a tear in your panteyes
I would lie on your cheeks and die on your hips;

So, you know, eyes are very sensitive things. It takes a lot for a man to read the eyes of those whose every intimate thought is fleetingly reflected on them, like you can transiently see your face on the water of the toilet bowl when you just sit on the can. If your pot-belly doesn’t come in the way, that is.

The situation aforesaid and described was, people will tell you, just the thing to tell me to blow my fuse. In other words, defuse the situation. Forget about coming, I was going. If one expression could sum up the experience, it is the Indian “Dhatterigee (pooh-bah)!”

Ever since my mother was warned (by an astrologer) not to let me into water for fear of death, I have always been kept away from it. I would prefer going to mountain resorts rather than beaches. I even became allergic to sea food. My favorite girl friend quit eating prawns as a mark of devotion to me. At least, that is what she had me think, till she married a man who made millions selling prawns.

Anyways, I have ensured that my son does not suffer from his father’s handicaps. He learns swimming and loves it. I joined him at the pool, a ring around my torso, head precariously above water. Don’t you just admire the fatherly commitment of a man who can’t swim, but still dons a ring and endangers his valued life just so that his son feels happy? If there a few freebies in the form of unclad women strewn about in the pool, does it really detract from this sacrifice?

I wanted him to do more than just try to teach me to swim. I suspected it was just a ploy of his not to exercise, and I would have none of it.

When I saw him (urban telly-belly and all) make a couple of sluggish moves to swim just two paces away and then float in relieved surrender, my hackles got up. I admonished him and exhorted him to be more energetic.

I said, “Do you know, an eight year old Indian girl swam hundreds of miles across the English Channel in twenty four hours? Just imagine doing that!”

An admiring, wondering look crossed his eyes. “Daddy…”

“Ah, it’s working, Dad!” I congratulated myself.

“Daddeee?!”

“Yes, son?”

“Daddy, how did she do potty during that time?

Things rapidly deteriorated after that with jokes coming up of a tidal wave throwing back her potty on her head, among others. Enough! I will not write on this crap any more.

Postscript: The young girl, Swapnali Yadav, had actually taken less than twelve hours in a swimming marathon in Kalamata, Greece, a distance of some thirty kilometers. Trust me to get my facts muddled after the electric shocks and other tortures I was subjected to after the jacuzzi fiasco. My mom’s astrologer was right after all. Water is dangerous for me.

PURE EVIL!

So it was my long-due holiday with my first, official wife and my only official son.
The destination was, as not decided by me, Bali.
If you were on the same plane, you could have found me. Don’t believe me?

First things first, where would you not find me? In the Business or First Class. Or Raffle or Waffle Classes, neither.

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Next thing: where would you look for me? You would find me in the rear half of the plane, seated by the window. You want to find me, just ask the air hostess which passenger they have NOT served in any way, in spite of fifteen red alert SOS messages sent. Yup, that would be your man!

Other passengers, especially in the Kolkata-Bangkok or Kolkata-Singapore sector, keep pestering the air hostesses for beer and whisky. Now, you will never see me do such things. I have class, you know. I always ask for Cognac, or if I am feeling particularly proletarian at a given point in life, Jack Daniels.

You must envy me for the memorable views of the seas and the city-lights-by-night that are included in my window-seat economy fare ticket. Well, the answer is: yes, the views are breast-taking breathtaking (as in a sigh), but only in those instances where the plane’s wings are made of glass. When the plane is made out of metal, I can’t even see my own nuts because, you see, I always get a seat bang where the wing is at its most expansive and braggadocious.

So, midway through the flight, the lunch was served and all….

Soon, everyone fell into a slumber, aided by the dim lights. You know how it is.

Suddenly, a guy (the brother of a man who is known both to me and Oemar) in front of me let out a silent stinker. A brief latent period later, a satellite fart was emitted by this gas-bag.

I know, you are going to ask me how I knew it was him. Do I have a GPS For Gas? No, but my glasses fogged up at the very center, and so it had to be he, the one in front of me.

Soon, by a physical process my class VIII teacher had caned me into learning as diffusion occurred, and the stench wafted invisibly, just as would a deadly poison released by a sect of differently sane people, like Aum Shinrikyo.

I believe this is the real WMD that Saddam Hussein had managed to mass produce before the good US President got a whiff of it. When Saddam got rid of it, the Kurds died in silence, and Bush was too embarrassed to tell the world what the real biological WMD was. The subsequent rise in global temperatures was ascribed to carbon emissions from modern society. Ha, the irony of Al Gore getting the Nobel Peace Prize for what has been Bush’s signal contribution to mankind!

If you ever need to explain the term ‘pure evil’, this is precisely the stuff what would need to be bottled and marketed to the world. You know what, those bearded scientists (with traces of the morning’s scrambled eggs on their beards), who clamor against deodorants and vaporizers because they burn holes in the ozone layer, could do with a few of these. A mere whiff is enough to depress the respiratory center in the medulla oblongata of the brain for several seconds. Persistent exposure to this noxious agent is, I am certain, responsible for many cases of unexplained sudden deaths in public places. If, on one fine day, you hear that I have been deservedly conferred the Nobel, like Gore, you know now it will be for my research on this subject. Anyways, let us get back to the episode on the plane.

My wife woke up and looked here, there, and soonest, at me, instinctly wanting to identify the culprit. When my eyes met hers’, my expression was ‘It’s that guy again!’ You know, now that I am bloggin’ and all, I don’t talk much with her; I merely express smileys. Faster and more effective: why waste words? In this case, I used the roll-eyes smiley.

In spite of many years of marriage, or perhaps because of it, she misunderstood me. With her iPod rocking on her ears, she said, “How could you do this?”
Her voice, normally quieter than a jockey whispering endearments to his horse in the hope of hitting the top spot in the race, boomed out from her lips, and ricocheted off the white walls of the plane. The neighborhood and I were jolted, in unison. Damn the iPod! Damn Steve Jobs!!

I closed my eyes in disbelief, thinking how she could do this to me. When I opened my eyes, I saw her waving a handkerchief furiously in my direction. As if on cue, the tourist class of humanity from 34 ABC to 52 DEF were all waving white handkerchieves in my direction, like a bunch of Chinese children lining the streets of Beijing, greeting a visiting General of Myanmar. Only that no smiles improved their ugly faces.

In the meanwhile the culprit got up to go to the toilet.
It was all I could do to restrain myself from throwing an airline specialty, the rolled piece of dough they call a bun or roll, on the back of his head. Good I didn’t. It would probably have killed him and gotten me in jail.

As if this was not enough, my son chimed in with a typical smartass chorus, like a qawwal follows the indignant query of the hero. You know, when the Bollywood hero asks the heroine ‘tuh kab milegi?’ (when will I get you?), the flunkey with the funny cap follows with ‘kab milegi tuh?’, all the while clapping his dirty hands….?

This boy asked, just in case anyone had not heard his mom, “Daddy, how could you do this?”

My holiday, even before it started, was completely ruined in public calumny. Initiated by my own family. Now, how could I not retaliate? I decided to disown this thumb-sucking rat, and divorce the wife….

However, considering that my family has stood by me through thin and thick (mostly speaking in waist-hip ratio terms), I decided to forgive them. Besides, after sulking for one hour, it kinda gets boring in an airplane. Not to say how difficult it is to assume an injured and morally upright posture when the neighborhood treats you like you carry the H5N1 virus.

And the air hostesses think the guy asking for the cognac is a maniac. Little do these insensitive women know he wants to drown his sorrows, and wash away his bad olfactory memories, in the nectar.

(pic: http://www.slenders.be)