Travel · Uncategorized

When cabbies go out of line


Uber and Ola have revolutionized travel and vehicle ownership. You do not need to own a car anymore and if you were finding it difficult to recruit a driver, you need not suffer anymore. The smartphone app comes to your rescue anytime and in large cities almost anywhere. We were staying at a hotel close to the airport in Udaipur in Rajasthan which limited our mobility in the main city unless we had a vehicle at our disposal. Then I tried the Ola and Uber apps. Voila, the apps sprang to life and indicated a short journey and pricing for a visit into the city. Riding in and out of the city easily made the city easier to explore and enhanced the comfort quotient. So when we landed in Jaipur, we knew that the cab aggregators would make our exploration into the shopping heartlands easy. One evening after having rushed to a recommended shopping area for gemstones called Chameli Bazaar, when we sought a cab with the help of an app, we were thrilled to find one within proximity. After having located the cab, we hopped in. After informing the driver about the destination, we had to nudge him to adjust his seat which was too reclined for our comfort. We also asked him to turn off the radio which was blaring at high volume. He adjusted his seat and then turned down the volume of the radio. I thought that he had not heard my instruction so I repeated to him that I would like the radio turned off. He turned it down further but did not switch it off. I was alarmed and I instantly repeated that I wanted the radio off. He responded that I should be okay with the radio playing at low volume. I was shocked at his insolence and sensed an instability in the driver’s behavior. I asked him to pull over the cab on the kerb as we wished to disembark. The driver pulled over the cab and continued to repeat that the radio was on low volume and that there is nothing wrong with that. As soon as the cab came to a halt, we swung open the door and rushed out. He barked asking who would pay the bill. I was going wild in my mind but peeped into the car and looked straight into his eyes and told him that Ola money would get paid automatically for the journey. By then we were contemplating taking another cab while an auto rickshaw was idling. The cab driver stepped out and approached me asking what was wrong and why were we not completing the journey. What was wrong??? I told him that we were completely dissatisfied with the way he conducted himself and that we would complain to the cab company. As he continued stepping closer to me insisting that he only wanted the radio to be kept on, I decided to make a move and we hopped into the idling auto rickshaw and egged the driver to our destination. None of us spoke for the next ten minutes. The creepiness of the cab driver had certainly affected our mental equilibrium. Although I was fuming with anger and was close to losing my cool. I was aware that we were not in the best neighbourhood and my wife was with me. I then decided to use my digital power and set about filing my complaint on the Ola app.

Would you have done anything differently?

Travel · Uncategorized

Can you call the manager?


No sooner do you use a neutral tone and administer this request, you can begin to sense a flurry of activity especially in the hospitality businesses…

I have been visiting Jaipur since the last twelve months pretty often considering I have very little business generally scheduled in India’s pink city.  First time in recent 12 months I was introduced to Hotel Marriott by a United States government team with whom I had gone for a survey. I was taken aback by the positive energy emanating from this property. The staff looked very energetic and brisk. The hotel looked busy and yet warm and friendly. Service was quick and smiles were genuine. Processing of orders was sharper and communication was precise. No one hummed and hawed over any query. If the ‘Okra’ restaurant, where the morning breakfast is served, were to be represented on a binary screen, you would see electrons zipping across the floor continuously. Customers were made to feast over a wide spread for breakfast (which continues till 11 am on a Saturday and Sunday) and you would think why anyone would spend a penny over lunch. You may resist the temptation of an early lunch but if you find the buffet still piping hot and serving until 3 pm, you are tempted especially because the pricing makes it ‘no brainer’ over a’la carte.

The server to whom I had placed my request for seeing the manager seemed to have disappeared from my vision and I was trying to figure out whom among the various suited stewards was the manager. I was imagining that my query would first make the manager call the server and question him on all my recent orders and their fulfillment. Just then, a short cheerful looking young man began moving in the direction of my table. He looked too young to be a manager handling the fleet of people buzzing in the vast Okra hall. He approached me with a serious face and I could not help breaking into a smile. “Can you call the manager,” is generally a statement which seems that it would be followed by, I would like to lodge a complaint’, I began. Seeing him nod holding the serious expression, I could not hold the suspense any longer and added, ‘but I would like to offer my compliments.’ When I had finished, he was beaming from ear to ear.

Celebrations · Uncategorized

And the award goes to…


Awards are a great occasion. On one hand the energy of the winners is palpable as they eagerly await the moment when their names get announced and on the other I am always intrigued by the psyche of the ‘stand-ins’ i.e. the ones who are called in at the penultimate moment to ‘come and collect the award on behalf of so and so…’
The stand-in has a distinct energy. He is unsure how he needs to behave. Should he behave as if he has received the award or should he behave as the truth stands i.e receive it just as someone who is receiving it on behalf of someone else? Now as he begins to walk towards the stage, his walk displays a tentative approach as if he is reluctantly moving towards the stage which is very unlike the actual winner who walks towards the stage with very certain quick steps. Next once the stand-in reaches the stage, he tries to restrain his smile. After all who is he to smile and what is there to smile about. He zips up his smile and then he thinks, shouldn’t he be happy for the winner, and then the smile reappears. Once perched on the spot, he forgets all that was going on his mind and assumes the role of the winner. He receives the trophy and then poses with it during the handing over of the trophy with a toothy grin as the flashlights light up the moment. Those seconds that he poses, you can see him experience ‘winning’. He maybe the stand-in for a managing director or for an actor or for a sportsman, the stand-in at that moment becomes one with the winner.
But what’s the point? Why do organizers take pictures with the stand-in of the Chief Guest handing over the trophy to the stand-in when he is a stand-in and not the real deal? Sometimes they also ask him to say a few words on the behalf of the winner. This is acceptable when instead of the Chairman of a company who was to have come to accept the award, the stand-in or in case an appropriate nominee is authorized to accept the award like the managing director and he has the credentials to say a ‘few words’ on behalf of the company but how can a lyricist say a ‘few words’ on behalf of the ‘best actress’ unless she would have conveyed it to him. At a recent film award function, since the winning singer was not present the emcee called on the lyricist to receive the award on the singer’s behalf and then made a request to the stand-in to sing a few lines of the winning song. The lyricist made the effort but the result was passable at best. One could make similar blunders if the actor on whom the song has been picturized is requested to hum a few lines on behalf of the music director. If there are several stand-ins the award evening can turn into a brand nightmare both for the event and the sponsor. Stand-ins do not stand for anything but what they are fulfilling, standing in! 100807_8_02

Travel · Uncategorized

Air water-loo!


airline toilet

When you are traveling especially by air and use the toilet, have you had a situation when the toilet was filthy as you stepped in and by the time you realized this the previous occupant has ‘fled the scene’ where you barely got a good look at him or her? Now you are in the ‘hot seat’ and you know that there are several passengers waiting to enter once you have finished answering the nature’s call. You could either step out and call out to the steward or air hostess and complain about the state of the toilet, but you risk losing your place in the queue as you walk up to the concerned person for making your complaint. If the toilet is dirty but not bearable. Here the urgency of your need to use the toilet versus how dirty is the facility moves in inverse proportion. If the need is too high, you may be more forgiving as getting to the john itself may be a blessing with the number of people in the queue.

But once you have found relief in your bladder you are now faced with a dilemma as to whether you should clean someone else’s misadventures or face the risk of being blamed as the one who caused the mess. So before you step out, you examine the mess and contemplate whether you should put yourself to the task. If the person waiting behind you is known to you or is a pretty face whom you were eyeing, chances are you would need to don a ‘good Samaritan’ act and make yourself useful in keeping public toilets clean. But if the person behind you was a non-descript type, you may not be motivated enough to act in the best interest of society. What do you do in such cases?

Travel · Uncategorized

Excuse me, stand on the right side!

Although travelators & escalators have been deployed across airports, malls, commercial complexes, tourist destinations etc in India now, users are still to get familiar in terms of using them. One would  encounter:

  • Those who have never used one. The first timers walk gingerly, need help in terms of getting on and off the travellator and they hold up a small bunch of people who are awaiting them to get onboard or are sometimes seen egging them on.Those who use them as a place of rest. So after a long walk or after a long day of meetings, or in expectation of a long walk ahead or a tiring evening ahead, these travelers prefer to stay stationery and expect others behind them to wait. They seem offended if the traveler behind them were to seek them to move aside and let them pass as if they are in ‘queue’ of some sorts. Such travelers place their carry-on luggage in such a fashion that it becomes impossible for anyone to go past them resulting in a small accumulation of a mass of people bunched behind them. Apart from seniors who occupy these strategic positions, couples block any movement for travelers behind them by assuming their positions suitable for a conversation between themselves which leaves no room for fellow travelers behind them to go past them.IMG_2775

For regular travelers this is very frustrating as if the travelers stood all on the right of the travellator or escalator, those that need to move faster will have room to move forward while those who are tired or senior or those holding babies etc could ease themselves and rest until they reach the next point where they alight. Given the increasing number of travelators and escalators which will be installed at metros, airports and railway stations in times to come, this could be a useful travel etiquette to promote.

Travel · Uncategorized

Winning or whining with wine

After two days of high energy at the smart cities conference, I decided to look for a wine that was highly recommended by my gym partner. It was a Pinot Noir from New Zealand. The manager at the Chinatown Liquor shop, when asked waved his hand at the counter beside his cash counter pointing me in the direction. I spent the next ten minutes going over all possible Pinot Noirs from Oregon, California, France and so on but could not sight the one from New Zealand that my Chinese wine expert had deftly directed me to. I was already beginning to look at other Pinot Noirs among the collection and make a choice that I would probably regret when I decided to appeal to him for the one from down under. He promptly swung into action and very briskly began shuffling the bottles to identify his prized possession. After shooting pointed fingers in the air, he conceded that the stock was over. I was a tad disappointed and now decided to go for the Pinot Noir anyway even if it had to be from another region. I picked a $ 18 wine from France and he uttered his favourite two liner; ‘for that price I would take another’. He chose another Pinot Noir and stated that it was his most favourite one. I promptly made my way to the counter and settled the bill and was happy to head to my apartment where my wife and son waited for an evening with wine and dinner. I realized that the Chinaman had indeed introduced us to a good brand of stored

The day after the next when the conference came to an end, we were passing through China Town and my wife wanted to buy some toiletries. I remembered the China man and his liquor shop and felt that it would be sensible to try and see if the Pinot Noir from New Zealand had surfaced. Eager to satisfy my taste buds, I marched purposefully to the liquor shop and began looking for it at the same counter. My wife who followed behind, seeing me on my search mission, demanded off the China man whether the wine from New Zealand had been received in stock. The China man with a faint hint of recollection regretted. With a sense of trust in his judgment, I approached him once again for his recommendation with a bottle from California. He stepped towards the counter and in his unique style averred ‘for that price I would choose another’. I then awaited his picks. This time I chose the cheaper one of his two recommendations and then proceeded to buy a small bottle of Grey Goose vodka. As I removed my credit card to pay for the purchase, he slipped the two bottles into a black slim plastic bag. Once I held the bag, I felt that it seemed unsteady to hold the bottles. So I asked,’ do you think the bag will be able to hold the bottles?’ He promptly replied, ‘it should’. I insisted that he give me another bag as a precautionary measure and he obliged. I then marched out of his shop followed by my wife. As I swung five steps from the shop towards the crossing, I felt the weight in the bag give way and I heard a loud crash. I was still holding the bag firmly in my grip but there lay another bag with broken bottles bleeding red liquid from beneath. I inspected and the two bottles which I had purchased had indeed slipped out of the bag and had a bad landing as both broke and the liquor had spilled onto the pavement. I heard a comment under the breath of a passer-by, ‘Man, I have been there before…’. A group of unsavory men began to look in my direction and I stood on my feet and made my way back to the shop with the bag with its mouth blown firmly in my grip. I entered the shop and addressed the China man, ‘the bag gave way and the bottles have broken!’ What happened next was the swiftest action I have seen in a transaction. The China man took one look at me and then moved towards the exit. I followed. He inspected the bottles lying on the pavement and picked up the bag in which they lay and then threw the bag with the broken bottles into the trash can. He then stepped inside his shop with me in hot pursuit. He reached for the same counter picked the Pinot Noir and the Grey Goose fresh bottles. Then he pulled out fresh bags, tested their strength and put the bottles in the bags all over again and handed them to me. I did not want to take chances so I put the bag with the bottles into another bag of other stuff that I was carrying, thanked him and made my way out of his shop, grateful that I did not have to fight my way to recovering my losses. On my way, my wife and I wondered what had transpired in the mind of the China man when he made the decision to compensate our loss.

I thought he won by not whining

and delighting me with the wine,

It surely was his financial loss,

but no fault of mine…