Monday, March 31, 2008

Arrivals & Departures

Don’t you just love arrivals at international terminals??? I for one am totally in love with them. The whole place is seeped in positive energy. Had to spend quite a lot of time last friday at arrivals as sis’s flight was severely delayed thanx to the wonderful operation of T5. If you just check their website they promise you a wonderful travel experience and if sis’s experience is anything to go by, I wouldn’t be travelling via T5 any soon.

Anyways, I am digressing. So I was mentioning about my love for arrivals. I love waiting by the arrivals and looking at the expression of the people. If by definition the person who arrives is the “arriver”, you don’t need a load of brains to decipher that the person who is waiting is the “waiter” ;-)

I love to observe the flock of waiters at the terminal waiting for their loved ones. The look of eager anticipation, balloons and flowers in their hands and sometimes whacky messages in huge cut-outs. I so love when little kids are also present. Usually they have the most honest expressions. Where as adults, we are more tied down by acceptable social behaviour in public; the kids are lucky that they are not bound by such silly norms. Its always heartening to see the little ones running to their grand parents / parents / cousins / or whomever they are waiting for with such unbridled enthusiasm.

I got to see this most touching scene last Friday. A father was waiting alongside me for his family. The door opened and there came his wife and two little kids; a little girl of about 4 and a small boy of about 2. The way the kids ran up to their dad and jumped on him calling him “Pappy” I felt he was the richest man in the universe. Then came the turn of his wife and they looked deep into each other’s eyes, and they hugged and kissed. The kids had made some drawing for their dad on the flight and they were busy showing their pictures to their Pappy who was looking at them very appreciatively. I could sense that I was not the only one who was watching with this scene with the utmost interest. I turned around and saw many more people smiling wistfully looking at this cute family. I am sure that this scene will remain with me for a long time.

All this positive energy really gets to me and poor hubz is left wondering how his ill-tempered shrew of a wife turns all marsh-mellowy once she lands at the airport. Conversely, I am terrible at departure terminal. Even if I am not feeling terribly sad, all the sobbing and nose-blowing gets to me and I am back to my usual ill-tempered self.

I am partial about Arrivals specifically at the International terminal as the emotions there are multi-fold. Nowadays domestic air travel is so common that emotions are akin to boarding a bus.

And if you were wondering how I greeted the sis, we air-kissed. Showing emotions in public and US….. NO WAY!!!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Impressions on Dubai

We were on a “blink and you miss it” trip to Kerala for Easter and had the opportunity to visit Dubai enroute for a day.

Till some time back, the name “Dubai” conjured up visions of wealth, rich Sheiks, dates, palm trees and of course gold, camels and desert safaris. This perception changed a bit when I got to see the wonderful movie “Arabikatha” by Lal Jose. This movie was an eye-opener. Earlier in Malayalam movies anybody coming from the Gulf was shown as having pot loads of money and arriving in a taxi with atrocious goggles, a garish bold printed shirt with the first three buttons unbuttoned, some 2-3 gold chains around the neck, a thick gold bracelet (ewwww) and baggages arranged vertically on top of the taxi, Lal Jose showed a different Dubai; where people were suffering, where people were willing to do anything to survive and support families back home in Kerala. Actually being in Dubai, we felt we were in the land of Cuba Mukundan. (Protagonist of Arabikatha). Lal Jose has done a pretty spot on depiction of the life of mallus in Dubai.

The one thing which hit me immediately on landing in Dubai was that it was an XXXL version of our own Amchi Mumbai. The amount of mallus just shocked me. Whereas here in the Netherlands, hubz and me get away with gossiping about passers-by in Malayalam, there we had to be on guard as every third person on the road was a Mallu. Added to the fact that our cabbie was a Mallu, Saravana Bhavan was playing mallu movie songs, the tamilian waiter in the said Bhavan spoke mallu; after a while I got the feeling that there were more Mallus in Dubai than in Kerala.

Well, everything in Dubai has to be the tallest, the biggest, the largest… (Hmmmm, we get the picture, don’t we?) The amount of construction, which is happening there is shocking. The malls there are gigantic. Apparently there is this group of people called “mall-walkers” who walk around the mall for exercise!?!? Covering about one tenth of the “Mall of the Emirates” I can understand that you can burn some calories by just walking around the gargantuan shopping complex.

Traffic jams are much worse than Bombay and Bangalore. Living conditions are even worser than Mumbai chawls. Our friend was considered leading a luxurious life as he had a single room all for himself inspite of the fact of shared kitchen and shared bathroom facilities. Apparently in a room like his, it is the usual norm for atleast 3 people to stay. Rents are exhorbitant and unless one has an extremely well paying job it is not worthwhile to stay in Dubai.

I wonder what were the mallu people thinking in marrying off their daughters to some bloke in Dubai without even checking about the quality of life there. I guess the same question applies to people marrying off daughters to guys in US, UK and a host of other countries as well. Just because the guy is working in “foreign”, the guy is considered as a “good catch” !!!

Its quite a strange paradox that while Dubai’s emergence as one of the world-class cities attributes quite a huge chunk of its growth to the toiling mallu populace, it is the same mallus who still act as a hindrance to Kerala’s growth.

P.S. I am talking about the life of an average mallu here and not that of the super-rich.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Specs Appeal!!!

Yes, that’s right! Not a typo, not an oversight, I did write Specs Appeal. This is something, which I have by the truckloads.

Now I see you people scratching your head and wondering what is this darn thing? *taking my time and enjoying my 2.5 seconds of fame and speculation* Ok, Ok before you guys get bored and run away, let me get straight into the explanation… It’s a long story…Mind it! Rascala ;-)

As per Section 2 (d) of the Intangible Qualities Act, “Specs appeal is that extra quotient of unidentifiable matter which alters your appearance significantly with and without a pair of spectacles that an acquaintance takes 2 seconds longer to identify you”.

I have been hearing about how different I look w / w out my spectacles quite often that I came with this term “Specs Appeal” to pacify the confused / startled acquaintances.

Typical Scenario:

Day 1: Me in spectacles greeting a newbie at office.
Eljo : Hi, so everything fine? Did you get accommodation? *and similar such pleasantries*
Newbie: Yes, fine. Settled quite well.

Day 2: Me in contacts greeting oldbie *IT lifecyle is really rapid*
Eljo : Hello, so settled? *scratches head to ask questions not asked the previous day and settles on the lifesaving topic “weather”*
Oldbie : Huh? Have we met before?
Eljo : *thinking there it comes* We met yesterday.
Oldbie : Oh, its you! You look so different!
Eljo : Yeah, its Specs Appeal! Bye. *runs away before more questions are asked*

Now all this looking different business started a loooonnnggg while ago.

Cut to the Sepia tinged flashback: *background score: songs from Maine Pyaar Kiya, Kilukkam, QSQT*

Spectacles became my shadow and companion ever since 8th Std. The first pair, which I got, was an Ugly Betty type and just like her I also got my braces the very same year. All you have to imagine is a gawky spotty teenager with thick soda glasses, braces on her teeth and a ponytail and that’s exactly how I looked in my initial teenage years.

Braces don’t stay on forever but spectacles do stick on like a leech. So in a few years time the braces came off but the specs stayed on but they did metamorphosise into contact lenses by the time I turned 18.

Now don’t imagine a makeover story of how the gawky & clumsy teenager turned into a babe and everybody was gasping the next time they saw her. If there were any gasps, they were only from mom on seeing sis & me dressed in jeans for yet another family function. This would be start of her standard rant which went like this “Ho, ee kochungale kondu thottu, namade veettil pani edukkan varunna Kamakshi vare evare kalum menakanu poruthe pokunney!#$!”(In angrezi all it means is “I am fed up with these girls, even our help Kamakshi goes out better dressed”) Thankfully I had sis for company and after lots of negotiations suitable outfits would be found to be worn to the countless functions.

The funny thing is about looking different is the ensuing conversations with relatives. Now that we had been away for a long time from Kerala, most of our relatives had a couple of years old image of me with the braces and specs and then they take one look and go:

Relatives: “Ayyo, ithu Eljo aano??? Aalu aake mari poyallo, pandu engane irunnathayirunnu?” (Is this Eljo??? You have cbanged a lot since the last time”)
Eljo: “Enthu cheyyam aunty, vayasai varuvalle ;-)” (What to do aunty? I am growing old)

I do realize that you don’t need to change drastically for the above- mentioned conversation. Every annual vacation to Kerala, sis & I were subjected to the very same conversation.

Cut to present time: *background score: songs from Taare Zameen Par, Bheema, Jodha Akbar*

Though I do have my contacts I prefer wearing my specs ever so often for the simple fact that I am L.A.Z.Y. and half the time I can’t be bothered about dressing up and looking presentable.

So the next time, you see a woman running around in Netherlands in unwashed jeans, hair looking like a crow’s nest, an overflowing shoulder bag and spectacles / contacts, don’t forget to come & say Hi as in 99.9999% probability its bound to be me.

I have realized over time that having Specs Appeal is actually a blessing in disguise. I look like a homely “pavam” girl when I have my glasses on. So if I have to get something done all I have to do is wear my glasses and act na├»ve. Other benefits include hiding from the manager to whom I had promised some requirement documents. All I have to do is just do a quick flashback and check whether I worn my glasses the previous time I met him. If Yes, wear contacts, look different. If No, wear spectacles, look different. Zo Zimble, No??? ;-)