Sunday, April 21, 2013

Up In The Air .... Part 11

On the return from Hyderabad, as we approached Mumbai, I got busy clicking photographs feverishly...

That's Mumbai in the distance - a warm glow likes embers! Perhaps, that's reflecting the spirit of the city that keeps it alive!

The "embers" of Mumbai again!

Overflying Vashi!

Crossing the Vashi Creek! You can see Airoli Bridge in the distance...
Doesn't that look like numerous diamonds strewn on the ground, glowing and shining brightly!

Over Ghatkopar...

On short finals to BOM!

The earlier editions of Up In The Air can be accessed here.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Jet Airways v/s IndiGo - The Verdict Is Out! Part 2

On the return from from Hyderabad, I took IndiGo's 6E-231, which departs at 1920 hours.
One of the hallmarks of IndiGo is its clinical efficiency and absolute on-time performance, which makes it a dependable carrier.
Despite a delay in arrival of the aircraft and a consequent delay in boarding, we were pushed back 5 minutes before schedule.

HYD looks so neat!

Pushback done! The pushback truck "Ground Force" moves back to base!

A view of the main ramp at HYD

Heading towards Runway 09L/27L - at 4.26 kilometers, this is India's longest runway!

Lining up!

And lift off! Goodbye Hyderabad!

My complimentary snack - a lime drink (nimbu paani) and a corn-spinach sandwich

The sandwich pack was interesting with stories and health tips! That was good enough to keep me occupied!

Pilot profiles in the inflight reading material!

Poking fun at JetKonnect and JetLite!

And on JetPrivilege!

Even SpiceJet wasn't spared!

Post script: A series of incidents while flying IndiGo have forced me to reconsider my loyalties. IndiGo has completely lost its plot. Read more about what happened later in 2013 and 2014 at:

Friday, April 19, 2013

Eavesdropping At BOM!

Earlier this week, I traveled to Hyderabad. Since the aircraft I was to take was parked on a remote bay at the international terminal, a long drive along the periphery of the airport was necessary.
I wasn't upset about this long drive.... I got to see a Lufthansa Cargo MD11 freighter taxiing from the cargo bays towards Runway 09-27. I was just imagining whether Felix Gottwald was on it - Felix is a Lufthansa Cargo first officer, an avid aviation photographer and has a blog dedicated to aviation - I have been following the journeys of Felix on his website for quite some time now!

On the bus, I could not but help but take a lot of interest in eavesdropping on an animated conversation between a group of American executives, who were also traveling to Hyderabad. They were apparently executives from DuPont, all middle-aged, who had arrived in India a few days earlier and were headed to the DuPont Knowledge Center at Hyderabad for some conference or an offsite.
They were kind of surprised that this was quite long bus ride. One of them commented that this was as though they were driving to Hyderabad and they burst out in spirited guffaws. In the course of their conversations, a particularly slim middle-aged guy mentioned that he had done his masters in material sciences from Cornell University. A lady who was a part of the group exclaimed "I too am from Cornell, did mathematics there. Didn't realise you too were from Cornell!"
This prompted a third guy - a portly, bespectacled guy to say that he was from Carnegie Mellon University but his son was denied admission to Cornell despite having great credentials and an extremely good CGPA. He went on to say "Had I known you were from Cornell, I would have taken your recommendation!" Did I just hear that? Ha, recommendations work in America! I was surprised.
Now this portly guy was extremely proud of his son. He went on to say that his son was very tech savvy and wanted to join FBI as a counter-cyber terror agent! Now the rest of the gang got interested. There were long conversations on how cyber terror was a real threat, on how money can be siphoned off from banks in e-fraud, etc. This portly guy was obviously enjoying the "limelight" he was getting and went on to say, "Aha! My son is like the FBI guys in 2007's Die Hard movie! He uses his iPhone to do ethical hacking. Who could think of that?"
Then the conversation turned to India. Taj Mahal it was! The group "assessed" the cost of constructing a Taj Mahal today as USD 1.6 billion! One of them made an interesting parallel between the Taj Mahal and a 26-storey home that an Indian businessman had constructed for his wife in South Mumbai. One of them found it funny that this building had 5 storeys of parking space! One guy spoke about this businessman's networth, while jaws of the others dropped in surprise. "That's a lot more than I can ever believe exists!" said one of them
Now as were headed towards new Terminal 2 of Mumbai Airport which is under construction, they all kept staring out in amazement appreciating the aesthetic and architectural marvel that it is turning out to be! They conceded that they had never seen anything as magnificent back home! 
That made me feel proud for India and for my city! Perhaps they would have liked the Hyderabad airport as well!
They lady realised I was listening to them and smiled at me. Now it was time to board!

Headed to Delhi!

I flew in to Delhi this morning for a 3 day break. I could not help but be trigger happy with my cellphone, as we departed Mumbai!

Rediscovering The Joy of Reading

Just today there was an article in one of the dailies on the decline in the habit of reading. But nowadays, for me, books have become my routine, my recreation, my everything - an hour of peace and solitude before I call it a day.
Given my fascination for all things African, which is quite understandable as I spent an invaluable 11 years of my impressionable years in the equatorial and savanna belts of this great continent, I went on an Africa book-shopping spree on Flipkart.
The first book I picked up was The Rain Goddess, a fascinating account of the Rhodesian bush war that started way back in the 1960s after the Unilateral Declaration of Independence. Written by an officer in Rhodesian police force, Peter Stiff, the story covers the life of an ambitious young black Rhodesian, Kephas, who was studying to be a doctor, who had a pretty girlfriend.
But with a twist of fate, Kephas is indoctrinated and gets so intoxicated by power that it gets the better of him. He unleashes his fury of terror on village-folk with his AK-47, survives on bushmeat and  takes shelter in the veld, where the monotony of the landscape is interspersed with the kopjes that regally rise up above the landscape.
Perhaps, the loss of reason, unscrupulous guile and an infinite lust for power in brilliant youngsters like Kephas explains why the once prosperous Rhodesia has deteriorated into the pitiable state that Zimbabwe is in today.

Sara Dunn's Appointment In Zambia is an exciting account of her journey, alongwith her husband, Ross, in the early 1970s from Edinburgh to Chingola in Zambia, in their brand new Hillman Hunter. They covered 20,000 kilometers in nearly 8 weeks, braving the Sahara, crossing the war-torn Biafra region, and transported their car across a tributary of the Congo River on a raft cobbled together with canoes. I could very well identify with their journey beyond the Sahara into equatorial Africa and Savanna grasslands. It was heartwarming to read about Sara and Ross' experiences in Kampala, my birthplace - a place they found extremely pleasant and pleasing! Their drive along the Rift Valley was refreshing - my family traveled on that route several times and we felt that way too - it was rejuvenating.
And then getting to Chingola in the Copperbelt was such a relief for  Sara and Ross - this area was so familiar, so much like home, once, for us!

Another interesting book I read recently was Harnessing The Trade Winds. The book, written by Blanche Rocha D'Souza, gives a fascinating account of India's links with Africa, which date back to the Vedic Age. East African highlands (Mountains of the Moon) were called Chandra Giri, the White Nile was called Shvet Ganga and the Blue Nile, Neel Ganga! Gold from Sofala (today's Mozambique and Zimbabwe) fed ancient India's insatiable hunger for gold!

The book then goes on to describe how seafaring Kutchis and Gujaratis developed intricate trade relationships with the East African region, specifically Zanzibar in the medieval ages. Their ingenuity was  a boon - not only did they profit from trade  but also gained prominence in local administration. Their sea-faring skills were "exploited" by the marauding and pillaging Portuguese, under Vasco da Gama to "discover" the sea-route to India, something that our Gujarati bhais had known for centuries prior to the Europeans!
And then came in the English, who brought in indentured labour from India to build a railway link into Uganda in the 1800s. And the rest is history...
With three books on Africa done, I have headed "home" and am now reading Khushwant Singh's The Sikhs on another industrious and affable Indian community

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bombaypolis Moments.... Part 14

After a real tough day today at around 8.30PM, as I moved into  from office, to get back home, I walked into the BKC parking lot.
There were such formidable clouds in the skies above, which looked amazing, reflecting back lights from the horizon....
The clouds, were somewhat like an omen, a harbinger of better time to come - the lovely Mumbai monsoon! That gave me a great reason to keep hopes alive, a good reason to put a spring in my step!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Another Delightful Mediterranean Adventure...

After my nightmare earlier this morning, I had to do something interesting, embark off on an adventure to beat the no-meat, no-egg Navratra hiatus!
My adventure started in the refrigerator - I found a pack of  royally purple baby aubergines and two packs of button mushrooms.
Aubergines are quite a staple in Italy, Greece and the Middle East - Lebanon, Turkey and Syria.
Now the baby aubergines were pan fried in a dash of olive oil, followed by quartered red onions.

Next the pan fried aubergines and red onions went into a Mediterranean emulsion of lime juice, vinegar and olive oil alongwith salt, sugar, copious amounts of garlic, coarsely crushed black pepper and parsley.

The pickle went into the refrigerator for an hour. And it was ready as a pleasing accompaniment for a very healthy breakfast of sauteed mushrooms and onions with satay sauce, baked beans with spinach and a  crispy pesto-spinach-mushroom "open" sandwich!

I lived up to my promise - no meats, no eggs! Wow! A nightmare led to an interesting culinary Mediterranean adventure! 
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