The Old Age Home

Life, Travel

A new cohort checks into an old age home.

This group is special because it includes a decorated war-veteran, who continued to serve national duty at airports across the country.

Then there’s the world traveller who sailed around the globe on a boat with her partner.

Yet another achiever went all the way to Everest basecamp and would’ve gone further but for an avalanche.

For a few of them age has really begun to catch up. They feel the cold right up to their bones and are therefore dressed in tweed coats with a scarf or a muffler to keep them warm.

Over the years, many of them turned vegetarian; but there are some who must have meat in all their meals.

Most of them still retain their enthusiasm for life, but some have become brooding.

One of them reflects on the lingering impact of his childhood years spent in a broken home. Another one recalls having angrily walked out on her parents in an act of juvenile rebellion.

Many of them suffer from arthritis. For some it is so bad that they find it difficult to even lift a leg.

Some have difficulty peeing because of prostate.

Some have difficulty peeing, because it’s difficult for them to lift a leg.

And yet, all of them are just teenagers. At the fag-end of their lives.

Man’s best friends forever.


p.s. I’ve developed the same into a comic, here.

How Vistara Handled An Accident And Gained A Lifelong Customer

Airlines, Travel

A little more than a year back (Aug 17, 2016) I was traveling with my family, including my old parents, from Mumbai to Delhi on an afternoon Vistara flight (UK 944).

While boarding the flight from the aerobridge at Terminal 2 in Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, my mother, a near octogenarian, tripped on the 5-inch level difference between the aerobridge floor and the aircraft door

As she fell, she hit her head against a side panel inside the aircraft and got a nasty gash, about an inch long,  just over her left eyebrow. Within seconds, the gash started bleeding profusely.

Even as the flight crew waiting for the incoming passengers rushed to her aid, I was angry.

Angry at everyone.

Angry at the attendant accompanying my mother for not having prevented this. Angry at my father walking just behind my mother, for not having warned her of the impending level difference in the floor, which he himself would have missed too! Angry at the airlines, the airport, the designers of the aerobridge, India’s aviation industry, everyone. And also angry at myself for seeing my mother fall down just a few paces ahead of me, and not being able to prevent it.

And while I was coping with this *why us* moment, something else was happening simultaneously, and which is why I’m writing this, albeit a year later.

As soon as my mother fell, the cabin crew and the ground staff all rushed to her aid.

Someone brought tissues, someone ice, and some others lots of more tissues.

A crew member was holding my mother’s forehead, wiping the oozing blood. Another brought water for her to drink. Some others took charge of managing the rest of the passengers whose entry into the plane had been interrupted by this commotion.

Someone took her to the nearest business class seat. More water to drink, and some juice too. And a discussion ensued on how to handle her for the rest of the journey.

The bleeding eased up, nearly stopped, with at least one member of the crew cleaning her wound non-stop. However, they conferred that even though the bleeding had stopped, as it was a fresh open wound, it would start bleeding again when in flight due to the lower air pressure.  So the passenger was not fit to fly.

Now what?

They suggested that while the rest of the family should continue with the journey to Delhi, I should get off the flight with my mother so that she could be attended to, and that we would be put on the next flight to Delhi later that evening.

There was no other choice.

So mother and I made our way back out of the aerobridge, but this time she was on a wheelchair, and a member of the ground staff was holding her head and her hand all this while. The on-duty airport doctor was summoned to the head of the aerobridge itself, while the farther flanks of the aerobridge pulled back from the aircraft, which soon began its push back on the tarmac.

The doctor came and concluded that since the gash was fairly big, it definitely needed stitches, which would require a visit to a hospital. At this stage, in my mind, I’m shadow working out  logistics of the hospital trip.

Also at this point, I hear Pooja instruct Sunil, “You will take them to the Seven Hills Hospital in Andheri East.” Then I hear Pooja call up another colleague giving instructions on withdrawing some imprest cash. Then I hear her talking to another colleague on organizing tickets for our evening flight. All this while walking with us towards the exit.

Remember, this was not a normal arrival flow exit. Entries had to be made in the security registers, gates opened etc.

Soon we were in the pre-paid cab, that Sunil had hailed for us. He himself sat in the front seat, talking to my mother all this while, comforting her.

At the hospital, he ran from one wing to another finding out whether we should go to casualty or OPD.

At the casualty, mom goes through basic tests to assess any non-apparent damage, and gets half a dozen stitches under local anesthesia. The stitched-up wound is now hidden under fresh dressing.

Sunil meanwhile goes and gets water, juice and biscuits for mom and me.

While he’s gone, I try and settle the hospital bill. But before I could, Sunil is back and insists he will pay as he’s been instructed by Pooja to do so.

Work over at the hospital, Sunil now organizes a cab that takes us back to the airport.

At the airport it’s already evening, and as we arrive there’s Pooja and another staffer Tarun waiting outside for us.

We’re fast-tracked inside. Another of their colleagues hands over lounge passes for the two of us, so that mom can have a proper meal and rest before the flight.

We’ve been upgraded to business class, so that mom can pass the rest of the journey more comfortably. And right till we are settled in our aircraft seats, there’s someone from Vistara who’s constantly been with us.

And it just occurred to me then, that I hadn’t held my mother’s hand even once from the time she fell down earlier that day. I hadn’t been given an opportunity to do anything for my mother for the last few hours. It was one Vistara staffer or the other who’d been with mom all through. I was just walking along!

Sitting in the ample space of the business class seats, I realized how my anger of a few hours ago was long gone.


I had witnessed a few hours of empathy laced human behaviour of the highest order. I was trying to count the number of times I thought these fine Vistara staffers didn’t really need to go beyond reasonable limits of their professional duty. But each time, they did!

Ironically, I also said to myself, we were fortunate that this happened in Vistara. What if this had happened in one of those airlines that prided themselves on ‘fastest aircraft turnaround times’. We would have been big liabilities for them, spoiling their single-minded pursuit of being ‘on time’.

Much of what I’m writing now, more than a year later, was etched forever in my mind in those few hours.

Back home, the rigour of daily lives took over, and life went on.

Until, one read of the recent few incidents involving passengers and airline staff, and memories of that one day rushed back.

And then a couple of weeks back when I was traveling Mumbai-Delhi (UK 996) with my dad, I saw Pooja at the airport again. I instinctively went up to her and thanked her profusely for that one day, and what she and her team had done.

Incidentally, when we landed in Delhi, I bumped into Tarun as well, and I went up to and thanked him too. He said he remembered that incident very well. He however had to excuse himself as he was getting frantic calls as a flight from Amritsar had been cancelled and he was helping handle the impact it had on affected passengers and their schedules. Yet another day for them to be playing unsung, unrecognized heroes.

In the intervening one year, Vistara has become my first choice as an airline, and I try to fly with them as far as possible.

As for my parents… They now travel Vistara ONLY.

I can’t trust any other airline with their well being. 



June 2017: Mom and dad being helped by Vistara ground staff in Mumbai (UK 994)


Gizmode: Alternative narrative

Humour, Travel

If you have read my last post Gizmode, the bot in my pot, I hope you will appreciate this alternative narrative of the same.

If you have not read my last post Gizmode, the bot in my pot, I hope you will appreciate this post as is :)

Someday, given enough time, motivation & computing power I may make a video of the same too. Or maybe, even an audio podcast… but then the idea of suitable ambient sounds would gross you out, right? :-p

In the meanwhile, here goes…

Gizmode, the bot in my pot :: Toilet humour series

Humour, Travel

This post (also originally titled: An Ode To A Commode) is in continuation of two different threads of posts previously seen on Swadeshe:

  1. A vegetarian goes to Burger King, Korea
  2. Toilet humour series: World’s worst toilet

The intended continuity with the first link is Korea. (Any GIGO inferences are your own and not mine!) The intended continuity with the second link, has, of course, to do with the ‘substance’ of the post.

Ok, let me cut the crap (figuratively only) and get on with the post…

One could safely assume you have come across psycho-analytical articles on the power of the ‘remote control’. Remember the references to Shiv Sena supremo, Bal Thackeray, while Manohar Joshi was the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Or in contemporary politics, the equation between Sonia (yet so far) ji and Manmohan ji. Or closer home, ‘who wears the pants at home’, being replaced by ‘who holds the remote at home’. Actual power vs. perceived power.

The essence captured in one word — CONTROL. Let’s admit, all remotes, consoles, dashboards are all about CONTROL.

Think Star Trek. Think Shakaal (in Ramesh Sippy’s Shaan). Think James Bond. Think Austin Powers in The Spy Who Shagged Me.

(Of course this is true only on one side of the great technology divide. On the other side of the great technology divide, jiski laathi usi ki bhains, still remains the power-defining adage!)

And now, presenting Gizmode, the ultimate seat of power and ‘control’.

Gizmode, the bot in my pot

Ironically this at a place where the main job is to let loose, and not to control! Control is what you do till the time you get there!

Gizmode, the bot in my pot Don’t waste your time looking for the mug, paper roll, hand shower, jet faucet or any other ‘means’ you’ve ever used at your ‘ends’!

The control is right beside you.

Gizmode, the bot in my pot Let’s start with the button that seems to be the most ‘not-wanted’ in the land of prolific production. It’s called ‘ECONO’. Let me ask you this, would you ever — EVER — want to try ‘econo’ and be at the receiving end of a feeble trickle or a faint shower? ‘Supply’ shouldn’t fall short of ‘demand’, you see!

The next set of buttons gives you an idea of the kind of control you get to wield here. It’s called ‘TEMP(erature) CONTROL’. Nice, you say. Immediately thinking of the water temperature options one has in Delhi. Icy cold in winters and scalding hot in summers!

Wait, there’s more. You also get to adjust seat temperature here! Again you think, that the closest you’ve come to temperature control on toilet seats is when the seat is left warm by the person using the toilet before you!

Gizmode, the bot in my pot Next. You can control the WATER PRESSURE! Ah! Now the delight starts. (Especially in contrast to the water canon that masquerades as a hand shower in my office toilet!) That’s not all. You can also control the DRYER TEMPERATURE! Oh! Does it mean there is a ‘dryer’ also there? Yessir, you got it!

Gizmode, the bot in my pot If you’re the kind who gets overwhelmed with choices. Play safe, go with ‘AUTO’. Which is touted as the option FOR CHILD(ren).


Gizmode, the bot in my pot Next up — NOZZLE POSITION. What’s the big deal with nozzle position, you ask? Everything, the sensitive ones would answer! :-)
[Read this interesting account of a similar Gizmode in Japan, by Xiaxue, arguably Singpaore’s biggest blogger celebrity]

Gizmode, the bot in my pot If you are already saying ‘bring ’em on, baby’ — the next set of buttons are MASSAGER and DRYER! :-D
I tell you, I don’t know of a real-life equivalent to this! The closest I could think of is a combination of the predominant Indian ‘technique’ and some amount of hedonistic perversion! Incidentally, this is first set of buttons with Korean sub-titles. Some cultural insights to be made here, eh?

Gizmode, the bot in my potThe button that comes next reminded me that all through my years of architectural studies at the School of Planning and Architecture, I never really got on top of a bidet — both literally and figuratively!

[If you are interested: Reference reading material here]

Gizmode, the bot in my potThe next button in a way is all you ever wanted to do here — WASH! Of course, if you had forgotten what you had wanted to do, the accompanying graphic reminds you suitably!


Gizmode, the bot in my pot

And not surprisingly the most prominent button that’s right at the beginning of the ‘control’ — especially if you’ve fumbled or got yourself into a mess with any of the preceding options — is STOP!


So what else would I want from this robot in my pot?

Considering that I did not eat well — (read this) — if only it could do something about my constipation!

Some funny signboards

Humour, Travel

Some funny signboards collected over time.

Shop in Seoul, Korea:
Obviously this has a cultural context. I don’t know about other places, but in India, the little finger is sometimes used as an action-euphemism for answering nature’s call! Yeah, this was not a men’s room — just an auto-accessory shop!


Shop very close to Jaipur on Delhi-Jaipur highway NH-8:
This signboard is dirty. Oh! Not for the pun in the syllabic-abbreviation S EK C — but the actual dirt on it!


On the way from Shenzhen to Hong Kong:
Ahem! What in the world do they mean by Character City? So, by implication, others are characterless cities, eh?


Shop in Coex Shopping Mall, Seoul, South Korea:
Even though this is an English word too — I read it as a Hindi word! Predictably, this shop had nothing to with India or Indians!


On the way from Shenzhen to Hong Kong:
Ok, I shall refrain from spelling that out as this blog has a family audience too! (I mean members of my family read it :-p)


Whether this disappointed you big time or interested you even a wee bit — you must check out for an awesome collection of Indian signboards by Nikhil Kulkarni.