Sunday, January 04, 2015

Over the Seas (Part I)

Guruji gazed at Vastav’s palm, consulted almanacs and made a grim face. Guruji’s scalp was smooth as an ice skating ring. A frown came on his face and he closed his eyes; no one had put him in such doubt. After a long silence when Vastav’s fate hung in balance and everyone doubted if Guruji had actually dozed off, he exclaimed “You will cross seven seas one day!” For a family where generations settled in five mile radii, this was news.
It became a part of family folklore. “We will never let him marry a foreigner.” His mother would tell relatives or “We have strictly told him, he cannot settle abroad.” She would often brief acquaintances. Her face lit with pride when she talked about it. Others reciprocated with ‘we will see to that’ look.
Vastav achieved many things but many others from the neighborhood also did. Like all kids who did not study biology, he became an engineer. Like all engineers, he passed having no idea what course was all about. Not only that, like all his course mates, he managed a job nothing to do with engineering. Everything was as inconsequential as it should be; a decent pay, an idyllic rat race and an unremarkable human being (like all) in that city.
Vastav’s family bore this with difficulty but years passed and he could manage visiting only metro cities. Through distant signs in the beginning and accusations later on, it was made clear that he was not living up to his destiny. He was turning out another humble human being and humility gave no cause for pride of family; worse it never gave rise to envy of relatives.
Vastav decided it was time to please his boss. His boss, like all bosses, worshipped perfection; his idea of perfection was himself. He believed in leading by example and his examples led to himself. Vastav worked like a donkey and smiled at donkey’s work. He brayed with gratitude when his boss patted his back. For some time it appeared Vastav was growing a tail; wagging it helps in perfect communication. He bore humiliations with grace, laughed at his boss’s poor jokes; at times he even rolled on the floor laughing (he never learnt he could write ROFL instead).
His boss asked Vastav if he wished to go abroad and he advised Vastav that he should go abroad but his boss never decided when Vastav will be sent abroad. Vastav tried to convince, cajole and claim but failed. Just when he decided to declare the grapes sour (but dreaded to tell his family so), he was nominated for a foreign training. The place was Amsterdam; even the name sounded beyond seven seas. It was not bad to have a tail!
His family immediately convened a Puja. Not only it took care of celestial concerns, it also provided an announcement platform. All his neighbors, relatives and friends of neighbors and relatives were invited. While Guruji generously distributed blessings, his family increased their awareness about Amsterdam. Kids of the neighborhood learnt that Holland, Netherlands and Shenzhen were almost same.
It took three months to plan for a ten days trip. Amsterdam was a cold place hence he was given clothes to survive at Antarctica. He was given Ayurveda ingredients with ability to keep a naked man warm in freezing cold. His supply of pickles and snacks could last a decade. A friendly neighborhood doctor studied diseases of Netherlands and gave him all medicines just in case.
Vastav’s mother had heard about the missing Malaysian plane and she instructed to inform immediately in case there was a mishap. Apart from tears and hugs, she gave a list of people to bring cheap souvenirs. Her emphasis was on cheap. Being an Indian father, who are men of few words with their son, his father’s only advice was “Avoid talking to strangers.” There was an issue with the Passport but after a processing fee to a tout and a convenience fee to an official, it became a thing of the past.
The real problem came when Vastav’s luggage was pushed through the X-ray scanner. A cacophonous “Beeeeeep, Beeeeeep” disturbed the slumber of entire security of the airport. Partly agitated and partly dreaming of reward for catching hold of a terrorist, they asked Vastav to open his stuff. Vastav took out shampoo sachets and pickles, hair gel and toilet soap and his deodorant and mosquito repellant cream. He then opened clothes folded in neat crease and shaving kit filled with cosmetics. Pockets of his trousers had currency hidden in between. There was a large box full of laddoos. His pressure cooker stuffed with Thepla packets.
The queue behind him grew like a serpent. Vastav opened his medicine bag and all those tablets, potions and bottles were spread on a sheet. After going through the prescription written by his friendly doctor (he carried it, just in case), they declared him a medical miracle. Vastav though had to bear ignominy of discussing bowel issues in a crowded place and they confiscated his large laxative bottle.
Everything else was smooth. Vastav lied on a large couch in the lounge and took three copies of free newspaper. He roamed around the duty free shops and took note of discounts. He also gawked at beautiful girls; the ones you often hear about but hardly see.
The final moment came and Vastav proceeded to board. The airliner was not a conveyance of his dreams. A large air tube had been stuffed by a diligent packer; you wondered so much fit in.  It was wrong to call it cattle class; cattle could not survive in this much space. Vastav maneuvered his way through the aisle while harrowed passengers juggled to place their luggage in overhead cabins.
Vastav was allotted a middle seat in the rear and by the time he reached, all others were comfortably seated. He had a well fed lady on his left with a kind face and a disturbing stare. On his right was a ten year old kid who was glued to his videogame. Kid’s mother gave Vastava a stern look as if she just warded off a pedophile. It needed an effort to get in, and Vastva knew it would need a miracle to get out. It was God’s signal for some bladder training.
The air hostesses were nothing like advertisements. They had a curvaceous body if you treat cylinder as a curve. Some resembled inverted cones. They smiled in a way only airhostesses could and started briefing security instructions; passengers yawned, looked sideways and listened to their earphones. The airhostesses continued their choreographed steps.
Vastav tried to concentrate, who knows when a plane lands at the sea. He had to watch the glowing lights, move towards the exit gate and slide from the wings. He was also supposed to blow jacket kept under his seat (he checked it just to be sure), pull the string and help himself before helping any child. The child sitting next to him stressed him; kid might become an added liability. He had to wear oxygen mask too when it automatically comes down.  
Suppose there was low pressure when plane landed on sea. How could he blow the jacket while wearing oxygen masks? Or what was to be done in case plane crash landed on land instead of sea. He decided to seek clarifications these nuances. There was a button on the top labelled stewardess and it made an amusing sound when he pressed it. He pressed it, waited, and did it again. Nothing happened. The kid next to him found it amusing and started doing it too.
The airhostess did come after an hour but this time it was to serve food. Vastav focused on claiming free liquor advertised in the menu.  It recommended cocktails but when he asked for it, she gave him vodka and lemon juice. “You can easily prepare it” was her curt reply. The Vodka shot was of help and he decided to ask some more. She said she will come back again. The kid spilled his curry on Vastav’s lap. Kid’s mother looked angrily at him and as a habit; Vastav immediately apologized and caressed the kid. The kid continued to nibble his food indifferently.
The airline offered unlimited beverage but he one had to ask unlimited times to get it. After three shots of Vodka, Vastav felt his stomach inflate but getting out of his seat was a challenge. The queue for toilet resembled one at temples on special days. His long cherished dream was finally coming true. He wanted to tell this to someone. The auntie sitting next to him did not appeal. The kid was again hooked to videogame. He looked around and saw an old man chatting with a brunette. The girl was really beautiful. She would have understood how Vastav felt but God had been unkind to him. The auntie next to him started snoring. It was an unfair world.
Vastav decided to catch some sleep instead. He closed his eyes and saw clear blue sky outside. He was passing through large clouds and he could feel fog on his face; he could smell the wind. He was flying on a king sized bed, just like Aladdin.  They were about to put him inside the scanner along with his luggage. His mother reminded him to bring cheap souvenirs. His tail was almost feet long now and his boss loved it. There was a large balloon in his stomach and he needed to pee. The brunette was now sitting next to him. She giggled and they hugged in the cramped washroom. She then shook him real hard.
“Wake up and fasten your seat belt, we will land in fifteen minutes.” A stern looking steward was standing next to him.
To be continued…

PS: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any real events or person, living or dead is partly coincidental and partly author‘s inability to veil.  

1 comment:

kumar navin said...

i am finding resemblance bro