Friday, March 27, 2009

This is your captain speaking: you may now say your prayers

A Tunisian pilot who paused to say his prayers instead of taking emergency landing measures has been sentenced to 10 years in jail. 

His split second of mortal weakness cost 16 passengers their lives. Read the story here.

I have always felt that moment of queasy uneasiness when a plane takes off and gravity does its trick. In situations when my life is in the pilot's hand I try not to piss off the air hostesses by asking for peanuts and free mini bottles of water.

Lay off people, it's enough that they are stressed and taking orders from the man in the cockpit who, for all you know, may have had a quarrel with his wife before gearing up. At 30,000 feet, I do not want to be messing with their minds.

But this Tunisia incident does bring to my mind a certain flight to Colombo when I had the express bad luck of sitting beside a Nigerian who hated flying. 

In addition, I also met with an air hostess who despite years of training still believed that nature and God are bigger forces than man's engineering and aerodynamics progress.

The Nigerian kept mumbling "I don't like this maan...no, I don't like this one bit." 

In such situation I choose to bury myself in a paperback because 9 out of 10 times the maan is likely to make a dash for the washroom to throw up and I do not want to be the git to catch a stream of projectile vomit. I have outgrown such childish competitions with siblings.

But in this case the poor man's misery was compounded by the most violent turbulence I ever encountered.

I did the next best thing, to look around for one of those dusky, chubby air hostesses who are trained for this kind of emergencies.

Only, the one nearest to my seat was sitting board stiff in her chair, head bowed, hands clasped on her lap, muttering a prayer in Sinhalese.

Now, I don't know about others, but a praying air hostess tends to fill my weak heart with terror. They are trained for air pockets and turbulence and emergencies such, right? As an ignorant passenger you seek them out like a child seeks its mother and want to be reassured that you are not going to die.

But its a bother when they shrug their shoulder and tell you casually "you never know." 

Her candid submission did nothing for the pale and clammy Nigerian and I wanted to know what the hell did she do at training school - file her nails?

But such is life. You've got to pray when you've got to pray. Science sometimes gets its ass kicked by faith. You can jail a man for giving in to a moment's terror and faith in the supernatural but you can't mess with faith.      

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Indian reality TV - a series of 'beeps'

I have been watching MTV Hero Honda Roadies on and off for the last two years. When the Roadies started out it promised to be the mother of all biking shows on Indian television. 

A brat pack on bikes, hitting the road, fighting to survive challenges and internal politics while a camera crew clocked their every single waking moment. 

I tried following the show just for the pleasure of watching the biking across barren terrain and the challenges that must be overcome if a Roadie wants to show the stuff he/she is made of.
Sadly, it hasn't happened. 

What HAS happened is a desperate attempt to mix mature content with the sensational spice that Indian audiences really want. Grit, physical fitness, tolerance and endurance are ultimately not necessary qualities to tough it out. 

You will survive just fine if you are loud mouthed, bitchy and a bully. Why did I hope to see action on reality TV when sensational content merely means a series of "beeps" to mask cursing. 

What drives our TRP is calculated juvenile swear words, a bikini scene or two, a very suitable and a tad forced love element between contestants and bingo! You have your reality television.

For those following MTV Roadies like one possessed, the cat fights and fist fights between women contestants were the beginning of the ultimate downhill journey. 

I was beginning to sit up when the show went to the Australian outback thinking at last I will get to see some real action instead of hours and hours of inane conversation between contestants. 

That brings me to another MTV show - Splitsvilla. Last season a bunch of girls who look like they have all the time in the world to kill, fight out for the "affection" of two guys through a series of tasks.    

If I had been a feminist I would immediately write to the National Commission for Women at the sexist nature of the show. But I'm lazy by nature so that did not happen. But the protests did happen and this season it's an even number of men vs women.

I sometimes wonder if auditioning for reality TV can be etched out as a career. The CV for candidates would read - 

Former Experience: Reached the interview stage of Roadies and got rejected. Have reached the penultimate round of Nach Baliye. 

Strengths: Great at plotting. Can swear in eight languages. Can dare to lift women's skirts to seek the land of no return. Have the right amount of clueless look to reassure fellow contestants but also the right amount of cunning to back stab them at vote-outs.   

Weaknesses: Can't spell long words. No general knowledge. Continuous exposure can be hazardous.

I wonder if straight out performance based shows like Nach Baliye or Laughter Challenge are better. There's really no way to cheat on jokes or two-steps, is there? You can come in a two-piece bikini to LC, but it won't get you laughs. 

Which brings me to the end of this tome - who are we kidding with our reality TV? Unless we get meaner, spicier and more intelligent content I'm not buying this reality nonsense.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sins of the flesh - being fat in an anorexic city

Looking at thin women I have often felt what the starved might feel at a banquet they were not invited to. In short mortally hungry, dissatisfied, depressed and neglected.

It is very hard being fat in a city of plateau chested, thin waisted women, where fancy under wear is for the under sized.

Years of attempted diets have made me a crack philosopher - if you have it, flaunt it, but do keep a friend handy to set up bail. Having said that, I also admit that nothing sharpens your sarcasm like sour grapes. 

There are thousands of us out there doing the same thing every day. Cutting out on dinner, having two meager meals for six days and gorging on pizza and biriyani on the seventh. 

Most say it's a battle of the bulge, shadow boxing with an expanding hip and paunch. What it mostly is, is an ongoing fight with insecurity and demons imposed by curvaceous women who look at you with such overt sympathy in their eyes that you want to crawl into a hole and pull it in after you.

So what is it like living in an anorexic city? I have woken up every single morning for the last two years promising to go slow on the rice and egg curry. And yet, with the first hunger pang my genetic make-up modifies, the nervous system sort of gets re-wired and all well meaning signals to my brain shuts down, until it's too late.

There have been stretches of two or three weeks when I have steeled my nerves to bolt down salads, have miraculously fitted into my old pair of pants and then like seasoned dope pushers have relapsed with the first biriyani. 

I have friends and acquaintances with slim body types who wear anything they want to and eat portions of food that would shame a bird. We the bulky, heavy and neglected gape at them like love struck adolescents, secretly envy them and hope they get pregnant soon so that they can become 'One of Us'.

After much deliberation I have come to realize that I am going to probably stay this way for ever and nothing I do will make much difference. So I have secretly developed an immunity to counter sarcasm and pity from size zeros. 

Humour always helps, I pepper it with a liberal dose of laughing at myself. I still cringe every time an old friend or colleague says "wow, you look...er...different." But I never fail to add "I know!! I LOVE it that my assets are now bigger!!" 

I hate it when the best clothes come in dainty small sizes. And the ones that come in my size are like circus tents. I am uncomfortable at weddings where women wear chiffon that hug their bodies. Men almost always open a conversation with me with "Who's that friend of yours? Can you introduce us?"          

They never said it's going to be a laugh. And it isn't. But its really not that bad, this flab. It makes me freakishly strong too. I can twist open a cap of a bottle like a breeze. Men are more comfortable once they know they really do not need to waste their energy on me by preening up.

We look older than our age, which always daunts bouncers at pubs. 
It's not a bad deal. Really.

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