Sunday, August 12, 2007

bag and baggage

A saga of 16 days, 12 places, 25 people, 70 pieces of luggage, 9 railway stations, 2 nuclear power stations, 15 PowerPoint presentations, 11 odd ‘official’ dinners, 8 ‘call on’s, 1 governor, 1 DGP, 5 IGPs, countless policemen, 4 boat rides, umpteen buses, 2 very good cups of coffee, numerous cuppa tea, 1 tea garden, 5 sea fronts, under nourished egos, varied interests, shopping, temples, elephants, liaison officers, good and bad hotel rooms, museums, palaces, coolies, trolleys, digicams, rains, idlis, dosas, south Indian version of laccha paranthas, curd rice, banana chips, AC 2-tier coaches, unwashed clothes (which were washed yesterday, my room looked like a dhobi ghat), 8 novels (Naipaul, Amis, Torday, Anita Nair, Tharoor, Calvino…etc.), 1 book of essays (The Moronic Inferno), cell phones on roaming and fatigue.

DISCLAIMER: The following account has been censored for a UA rating. Reader discretion is still recommended. Please read between the lines for the expletives that have been erased, emotions that have been obliterated, feeling have been un-disclosed, information kept secret and do remember that all views expressed belong inordinately to yours truly and do not in any way reflect opinions of any canine, feline, bovine, rodent, human, organizational or governmental set up.

Rats scurry along in the gutters under the railway tracks oblivious t the people on the platforms. People who are inhaling the putrid smell of fermenting urine and excreta left by travelers like proof of their fetid existences. “Ah! Once upon a time, I was in Gwalior. Of course, I should know. Ask the scum I crapped there!”

No, this is not an invective about the things going wrong with India on the eve of the 60th anniversary of independence. But this is true of the railway stations in India, barring Malgudi, perhaps because it’s imaginary. It must be said though in 60 years the babudom has moved from the teeming compartments that Gandhi traveled to the AC 2-tier where even vendors do not venture. The isolated steel frame, the Ambassadocracy has moved on to Mercdom! This is a tirade of much miniscule a proportion. This is about my life in the past one month.

Okay, it’s kinda cool to be a 27 year old Indian woman and claim to have lobbed a grenade. No, silly, not in Lal Chowk but at the BSF range in Indore. However once all the madness of raids, cordon and search ops got over; we were herded to Tekanpur where we saw Inspector Beethoven at work. Not a Great Dane, the great Labrador that sniffs out explosives and narcotic contraband. Then soon it was time to take the GT Express from Gwalior to Chennai. I had about two hours to kill, one hour cos we had a “buffer” time to account for traffic rush (haha!) and the other cos the train was late. Therefore I observed the rats.

Then followed a crazy mad rush to keep appointments with governors, IGs, DGs, first woman police station in India, Coastal police station, temples before closing time, slow buses (nobody in Tamil Nadu seemed to know how much time it takes to get somewhere, every time we were told it’ll take 3 hours it took us harrowing five!), Cochin Port Trust etc etc etc ad nauseum. What I failed to understand, very starkly if I may say so was at Mahabalipuram: 30 minutes to see all the architecture of the stone carved temples minus the “Five rathas” (lack of time you see), but a two hour lunch at the Taj (not that I’m complaining too much cos I feasted on squid). This went on.

Wherever we went there were also PowerPoint presentations ready and waiting for us. The worst was at Cochin, where we reached by a slow and arduous train at 7:30 pm, changed and reached the Port Trust at 8:30 pm only to be served tea along with what I now believe to be the seminal contribution of Microsoft to Indian bureaucracy. Seriously, walking into the still-being-constructed-light water reactor-way-out-of-timeline was an experience of a lifetime. The same cannot be said of the PowerPoint presentation on the stages and history of nuclear power generation in India.

Food was another issue. I don’t want to see another idli, dosa or a serving of curd rice for a long time to come. Nor do I want the smell of coconut oil in my dal or what they called the sambaar for us “the outsiders”. The appam and mutton stew at Cochin though was to die for, as was the cold cream pie aboard a naval vessel at Cochin. Methinks Cochin was the best part of the trip: the boat ride to the mouth of the river, where it meets the sea, the visit to the Dutch palace at Mattancherry and the Jewish Quarters with its synagogue where I was afraid to step on the blue china floor tiles.

Ooty was miserably cold and wet. Mysore palace was to use Lutyen’s words ‘garish’ and over top. Bangalore was overcrowded and claustrophobic with its traffic and concrete jungle, yet we managed to reach the train station with a buffer of two hours beating the traffic, oh! Lucky us! Kanya Kumari was absolutely delightful as was Madurai with us finally having some time, graciously accorded by the hosts, to visit the cities treats and eyesores alike. Ah, yes! I was in Pondicherry also, which was another hit, run, touch and go visit.

What did I learn? When you’re on the other side of the fence remember not to do this to your juniors in the service.

P.S.: for some pics check www.picasaweb.google.co.uk/xanjukta/BharatDarshan

9 comments:

Jyotirmoy Chaudhuri said...

Well, chief, looks like you have had an exciting time. It will all sink in when you put your hands in the muck, I suppose. The POLICE.

xanjukta said...

yeah.. man the real muck!!!!!

raghuram said...

interesting & funny to read- probably one of the best of the articles you posted. there are several things which we wouldn't like to do to "our" juniors- lekin ek doubt- didn't the present faculty team have similar resolutions during their probation?

xanjukta said...

@raghuram,
i guess it's true.. but i'm not sure, even in our batch i'm sure there are people who think that the faculty is doing a great job.. or else they may have selective memory like many other human beings every where..
btw, why can't i access your blog??

Abhigyan said...

I visited your blog after a really long time..one of your better (and easier to comprehend) posts...

Is the Bharat darshan a part of the training? If yeah, why does the department believe in Lalu's (and all his predecessor's) dreams more than Capt. Gopinath's (sorry am becoming elitist in the jet-age, i have spent so much money on still-expensive-compared-to-trains flights).

And did u gain all the weight u were supposed to gain??

Petercrys said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
abhay k said...

Long time...definitely one of the good posts.
How have you been?

Shaji.k said...

the view of cochin harbour is beautiful. did u see the view from taj malabar? and mattanchery is one area where heritage is well-preserved, thanks to INTACH, kerala.

Satyabrat Sinha said...

Yamma Yamma