Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Southern sojourns

It was an interview with Mira Nair that I was reading about. Asked why she called Uganda her adopted home, the director said “Love takes one to strange places.” Since then, I’ve often dreamed that one day, another jobless reader of interviews of the Mira Nairs of this world will read about Megan Fox calling India her adopted home with the same explanation. Hope is truly what the dreamers of this world live by.

Since joining the Big Bad World, I’ve realized that love notwithstanding, work takes one to stranger places still. Case in point- Trichy. Well-known for being a town(?) some place near Chennai. Hosts an NIT from where emerge the most colourful of characters, along with the grandparents of most Chennai folks. Sometime in February, also hosted Lefty who for the life of him, could not figure out how exactly he came to be there. But that’s just one story. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been familiarizing myself with the hinterland of TN and Kerala. The journey has been a fulfilling one, full of character-building incidents as you may well imagine.

Lesson 1 has been regarding the dynamic nature of our fast-changing nation. I told a colleague that we would be working, amongst other places, in Calicut, Trichy and Trivandrum. What-ho, said he, and called up his biggers and betters to relay the same to them. 15 minutes of complete confusion followed, post which, turning to me with a truly somber look, fitting one watching 8 consecutive overseas collapses, he said- “Brace yourself old man. There are 3 additional places we need to work out of- Kozhikode, Thiruchapalli and Thiruananthpuram.” Class 4 geography lesson goes here.

Lesson 2 was a much pleasanter one. The hinterland, it seems, is a prosperous one. Practically each location has an airport, and an international one at that. With 2 different terminals. And to top everything off, the connectivity to Dubai is miles better than the connectivity to Chennai. OK, so that last part wasn’t unexpected, but contrast this with dear old Bihar where Patna and Ranchi are the only 2 cities with airports. And last I checked, the Patna airport was only international because there was a weekly flight to Nepal. You will, of course, have heard of the great Ranchi airport story, where I was delayed for 2 hours because there were too many birds in the vicinity and a gun, a helicopter and a dozen AAI staff failed to clear them off.

Politicians in India are of course, the same breed everywhere. So huge posters of Amma greet you anywhere you go. However, there’s a lesson to be learned here as well. While the Noida-Ghaziabad border has a giant cut-out of an MLA who’s visage is the subject of most children’s nightmares, Amma’s cut-outs would give most Bollywood posters a run for their underworld money. There are always 2 profiles, she’s always smiling graciously, and one profile would usually have a classic finger-on-the-cheek/chin pose as well. Not very different from Amity Institute of Competitive Examinations’ pictures of their candidates who’ve managed a 5 figure rank in the soon-to-be-late JEE. Seeing those posters got me thinking- why aren’t election campaigns run like movies. Imagine BSP trailers before the UP elections- accented Hollywood baritone saying dramatically “They said a woman’s place was in the kitchen. They said a Dalit could never rule the most populous state. From the makers of multi-crore parks in Noida and Lucknow, comes the story of one woman who dared. A story of perseverance, intrigue…” you get the drift. Such a pleasant change from the mundane rallies and irritating telephone calls.

The best part about this journey of self-discovery has been the food. Specially in Kerala. Appams, aviyal, mutton and karimeen. Everyday. Let me leave that for another detailed post. I’ve also realized that Mallus are by far the most endearing people I’ve met. The accent, the lungi, the utterly-mild and helpful nature- they’re so adorable that its not a wonder that the lady with who’s story I began my tale has a Mallu-sounding surname and managed to find love in Uganda.

And now, dear readers, you must excuse me. I need to write Megan a long mail describing the wonders of Patna. Keep reading her interviews for more updates.

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