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Walking, skydiving, flying. All in a weekend's work

July 23, 2012 14:28 IST

A Ganesh Nadar recollects the unsual last weekend he spent in Mumbai before returning to his native village in Tamil Nadu.

Friday evenings are normally the best evening of the week as we have the whole weekend to look forward to. However, last Friday turned into a harrowing experience in Mumbai with nearly 400 Western Railway motormen going on a flash strike.

That too at the time we all go home.

Their grouse was that two of their men had become instructors, allegedly by bribing their officers. I was shocked. Bribed? And in India? Such blasphemy has never happened before! How could anyone actually bribe and get promoted? Tch tch tch. What is the nation coming to!

Lakhs of local train commuters took to the road to go home and a million were stranded going back north from South Mumbai. A colleague kept SMS-ing that his bus had moved barely 200 metres in the last one hour -- that is much slower than a file in Mumbai municipal corporation.

But he also mentioned that the good driver stopped at a toilet so that the women passengers could use it. It's quite difficult to sit in a bus for four hours -- normally you would reach Pune in that time, but today one was still in Andheri.

If two people were wrongly promoted, one can send a petition to the Mumbai divisional railway manager, the general manager railways, the chairman of the Railway Board, the railway ministry, the minister of state for railways, or his boss the railway minister. One can approach the central tribunal, and as a last resort one could get a stay on that promotion from the Bombay high court.

But the aggrieved motormen did not do any of this; instead, they chose to take revenge on the hapless commuter who pays the railways for three months, six, and in some cases, even a year in advance for a pass to avoid standing in the long line for a ticket every day.

As consumers we should sue the railways who in turn can sue their employee unions, and let us say a $10 million (about Rs 56 crore) settlement should put an end to all such nefarious strikes. But, alas, we have a docile, sheepish mentality. 

My editor chose to walk home leaving us lazy ones in the office to leave post-midnight, after the traffic had eased.

On Saturdays I never work unless there is a newsbreak. I would not normally attend a press conference, but my favourite PR manager had sent a Country Club invitation which happened to be near my place of stay. So I thought I'll give it a shot.

Country Club was launching two new scheme cards that day, priced at Rs 1 lakh and Rs 2 lakh, for which you get holidays for 10 and 30 years, respectively. Would I be alive after 30 years with all the liquor, cigarettes and gutkha? Probably not.

But the highlight of the press conference was not the cards. It was a video showing Country Club chairman Rajeev Reddy jumping off an aircraft at 13,500 feet. Not only did he jump off the plane, but he also had the presence of mind to give us his signature thumbs up, also company's slogan.

Now how was this done? The director Mani Shankar (not the Congress motormouth) who explained that it was done by two British photographers. "One jumped off 1.5 seconds before Rajeevbhai and the second one jumped a second later," he said.

Question time came, and a nosy journalist wanted to know, "So far Country Club ambassadors have always been beautiful women, how come you have a man now, (actor) Sonu Sood?"

A lady journalist interrupted, "But he is a handsome man." Rajeev bhai's reply was classic: "Don't misunderstand me, don't read me wrong either, this sport is aggressive and so I chose a fit man and Sonu Sood is very fit."

The next question was even strange. "Sir, will you be acting in movies?" The said journalist was probably thrilled over Rajeevbhai's acting skills in the sky diving video. 

After the press conference, I walked the entire stretch of Veera Desai Road in suburban Andheri and met young filmmaker Karan Gour whose Kshay, made with a paltry Rs 5 lakh budget in four years, got a well-deserved Rs 10 lakh prize money at the Shangai film festival. Previously a disgruntled IT engineer, Gour is writing the script about 'Sound' these days.

On Sunday I was scheduled to take a Jet Airways flight to Thiruvananthapuram, and surprisingly the Mumbai airport was not crowded for once. The girl at the counter was very pretty. She said, "I am sorry, but we do not have a seat for you in the economy section".

"But I have a confirmed ticket," I protested.

"Yes, you do. But we are over-booked".

"Over-booking is for the international sector. Thiruvananthapuram is in India," I offered.

She asked me to come back after an hour. I refused to take my heavy suitcase back from her. "I am sure you don't expect me to trudge around the airport with that bag."

She kept both my bags and my ticket and said, "Remember counter number 65."

I smiled, "Tujhe yaad rakhunga" (I'll remember you).

I had a very expensive capuccino at Café Coffee Day. Rs 120 for 60 ml of coffee, but it was okay as the girl who served it was very pretty, just like the girl who had refused me a seat.

Anyway, after 30 minutes or so, the Jet girl did give me a seat in the last row alongside two employees in full uniform. So they were the ones making the flight over-booked. Tch tch tch!

The plane was full of Gulf returnee Malayalees and I asked them why they did not fly straight to Kerala. They said the customs officials in Kerala airports were like leeches who sucked their blood. However, the Mumbai customs officials ignored them.

Nearly every Gulf returnee had brought along two suitcases and two cardboard cartons, as a resulf of which we had to wait for about 40 minutes for the luggage to show up on the carousal. In the meantime, the flight we came by even took off back to Mumbai.

So it was walking on Friday, skydiving on Saturday, and flying on Sunday, and now it will be home sweet home in Tamil Nadu, with regular power cuts unlike Mumbai.

Mumbai has electricity round the clock, but I am not envious. We have our own Rajnikanth.

A Ganesh Nadar