Sunday, May 23, 2010

Air India has crash landed - R.I.P Air India !

This is a symbol of the city of Torino. I shot the image in fading light....
My daughter had flown Air India to London just the night before the horrific crash. She had told all of us what a dreadful experience it was.... barely any food on board, no beverages, seats that didn't recline, lousy service. We had made soothing noises and declared , " But we'd told you so!" Who could have imagined something this awful would happen just a few hours later?? Our national airline used to be India's boast to the rest of the world - we were so proud of it! It was ranked in the Top Ten airlines of the world. Look at it today - a disgraced and disgraceful symbol of neglect and corruption. Some of the stories I have been hearing recently have made my blood boil. Powerful politicians have stripped the airline of all its remaining assets and stripped it of its tattered dignity. It has been run to the ground with the sort of callousness that is shocking in a democracy. The mega scale of all the financial looting that has reduced a once profitable airline to the level of a pauper has no parallel in the annals of aviation history worldwide.There is nobody to take charge of or own up to any of the misdeeds - which is why the most convenient scapegoat to blame for this terrible crash is the dead pilot - a foreigner who can't defend himself. What's the bet everything will now be piled onto him and nobody else will be held responsible. The rot is deep and dangerous. Those poor victims of the crash are gone in a fiery ball. Air India will limp along ..... before the airline itself crash lands and disappears without a trace. My heart goes out to the families of those who died.... our prayers are with you in your darkest hour.
This appeared in the Asian Age...

How does one explain the ‘shaap’ of ‘khaap’ to a predominantly Italian, very earnest audience attending an Indian author’s formal presentation at the prestigious Book Fair in Turin? Frankly, I was stumped! I mean, the implications of ‘Gotra’ with all its complex interpretations is tough enough for most Indians to comprehend, leave alone crack. Imagine then, having to respond to questions posed in an alien language about ‘honour killings’ while the frail interpreter bravely soldiers on before throwing up her hands and shrugging helplessly. This was but one stumbling block during all those interminable interviews lined up by my publishers at what is undoubtedly the biggest and most prestigious book fair in Italy. Desi writers were the flavour of this one, given that India was the focus country. From the dapper Vikas Swarup ( surely a millionaire by now, post- the stupendous success of ‘Slumdog…’?) to the formidable, lathi wielding Sampat Pal representing the Pink Saree brigade, this book fair saw them all. Unfortunately, individual author- schedules are so tightly controlled by their publishers, it is nearly impossible to meet other invitees except while rushing from one interview to the next. I did manage to snatch a brief conversation with Swarup ( we had met recently at the Dubai Lit Fest ), and even chase him out of the grand Publishers’ Gala on my last night in Torino – a gem-like city known for The Shroud. It isn’t as awful as it sounds – my intentions towards our man in Osaka , Vikas Swarup, were entirely noble. I had just come back from a whirlwind tour of the city, with a significant stopover at the modest, unassuming Cathedral which houses a world famous relic – The Shroud of Turin. I was told by Pepe ( an investment banker who used to work in Mumbai), that I was especially blessed to be in Turin during the public viewing of The Shroud ( this rare viewing was organized by the local church authorities in honour of the Pope who was visiting Turin last month ). Pepe added fervently, “ The next public viewing could be after another twenty years.” Chances are, I won’t be around then…. so, thanks to Pepe, I managed to get past the long queues of pilgrims and spend time right in front of this historic piece of cloth that believers insist was used to wrap the body of Jesus Christ , after the Crucifixion.
I rushed from the viewing to the grand Gala , and was clearly in a ‘state’ – overwhelmed by the Shroud. I met Swarup and a few other desi writers making boring, desultory conversation at a round table towards the back of the huge salon. I announced triumphantly, “ Guess what?? I just saw The Shroud!” Only Swarup looked suitably impressed as he enquired, “ Where? When? How?” Since the Cathedral was just a ten minute walk away, I urged him to abandon his glass of red wine and rush before the imposing doors shut. His local minder wasn’t convinced – perhaps she wanted to relax after a hard day’s work shepherding Swarup from interview to interview. But my obvious over- enthusiasm did the trick. Swarup firmly told her to get her butt off the gilded chair and take him to the blessed Cathedral. I gave them precise directions like I was the local Shroud expert or something. Swarup didn’t need further persuasion – he was off ! It was time for me to get myself a glass of the best. I could see some of our other erudite authors engaged in deep, meaningful conversations with agents and publishers. I half wondered whether they too were trying to deconstruct ‘Khaap’. I was about to speed dial Naveen Jindal to get the last word on the subject. But decided to spare the guy. He was in enough hot water back home in India. I looked around for Abbas Tyrewala, the talented writer I’d run into at the fair earlier in the day. We’d chatted jaldi jaldi and I had narrated my Frankfurt airport woes to him ( usual SRK type story of being searched and questioned by rude cops). Abbas laughed and said cheekily, “Well…. make sure you aren’t wearing a burqa the next time.” Clearly a guy with a great sense of humour – I would have liked to hang with him. But he wasn’t around. Neither was Kiran Desai though she had been sighted leaving the Valentino Palazzo after her presentation. The ‘other’ Kiran ( Nagarkar ) an important invitee, couldn’t be spotted either. I had stopped outside the India Pavilion to hear him speak. This is what he was saying, “ Don’t get me wrong…. I don’t mean to sound pompous or pretentious… but let me go back to Mahatma Gandhi.” Okayyyyy. Let’s! I’d noticed a couple of desi publishers hanging around the India Pavilion ogling the ‘Goris’ shamelessly. And yes, I had also noticed some rather luscious looking, alarmingly young Italian ladies accompanying Tarun Tejpal. One of them blushed when she coyly introduced herself as his ‘editor’. Wow! Lucky Tarun. His book must be beautifully edited. But the one tome I was dying to get my hands proved to be most elusive. It is titled ‘The Red Saree’, and is written by a Spanish journalist. The subject? Explosive!! I understand it is a detailed, racy and well- researched bio of….. of… hold your breath….Sonia Gandhi. I want it! I want it baaaaaad!! Quick before it’s banned, folks.

Aah…. The India Pavilion. Predictably tacky. Predictably unimaginative. Predictably shabby. Sooooo smacking of indifferent Babudom. Some lazy bugger in Delhi must have ‘designed’ this sad space, stuck a few watercolours on the shaky walls, got half a dozen photographs depicting ‘Cliché India’ , shot by an Italian photographer and prego! You had a pavilion! Even the politest Italians at the Fair pointed out how dreadful the India corner was and compared it to the efforts put in by last year’s focus country – Egypt. I cringed each time I had to pass the place and see the pathetic ‘entertainment’ organized between author interactions. Once I watched in horror as a local Indian woman was all set to educate the savvy Italians on how to wear a saree .I could have done a better job of that one, considering I was wearing a saree myself - plus, they’d have got my demo for free, in the larger interests of the endangered saree! Another time, I wanted to plug my ears when I heard the strains of a sitar being strummed like a guitar with a manic tabla player in over drive accompanying the musician.
This is how it always goes whenever officialdom gets into the picture. For some perverse reason, we refuse to acknowledge or recognize opportunity, even when it is presented on platter. As the country in focus, surely we could have represented ourselves better? It was left to individual writers to ‘do the needful’, as they say in Dilli, on behalf of poor India. True, most of us had been invited by our Italian publishers and not the Sahitya Akademi ( thank God for small mercies), but had some initiative been taken to co- ordinate efforts and present visiting authors to readers over a cuppa at the India Pavilion, it wouldn’t have hurt. If anything, it would have greatly enhanced our country’s value and drawn attention to the roster of very accomplished, hugely talented and radically different voices present. I understand there was a soiree of sorts organized by a certain Saurabh Kumar, Charge d’Affaires, Embassy of India, but my invite reached me after the event. Typical!!
Mera Bharat Mahaan, indeed!


Zeba said...

My friend lost his parents. They were heading to Manipal to pick him. It really was a sad sad day. Regardless of whom we blame now, it's too late. He will forever be an orphan and that hurts.

Alex Engwete said...

Madame, when I first heard about the crash, I was alarmed, I thought about you and your jetting off around the world all the time. Then the news was that the plane originated in Dubai, which calmed me down, knowing you were in Europe... Nonetheless, human beings did die! I think the French got it right: they call a crash a "catastrophe aérienne"... A catastrophe indeed, for the bereaved families and nation! My heart-felt condolences!!!

goodluck said...

Read Today's Deccan Herald. Environmental support groups filed petitions against this Tabletop runway hazards but both High Court and Supreme court dismissed their petitions. Thus the pilot cant be blamed for this excuse of a runway which provides no safety net for emergencies.

Pooja Rathore said...

Ma de,
AirPlane crash tragedy really hurt god give strength to those who have lost their loved ones. It is good to have you as a blogdost your experiences (specially travel related)i enjoy your posts... very informative , intresting and lot tolearn.

Another Kiran In NYC said...

My thoughts are with those that suffered in any way from this terrible tragedy. My condolences to all the bereaved families.

So glad you could take back a singular moving experience from Torino. The shroud atleast if not the desi administration of the India pavilion.

Now I must get my grubby printing ink stained fingers on Red saree by this Spanish writer. Is it in Spanish? There seems to be no publicity material in English on the net as of today. I should get friends in Spain working on the case :) Tell us more!

Another Kiran In NYC said...

uthamanarayanan said...

Here already one comment mentioned what NGO group did to prevent the new airport , and at the end of my comment I give below another link giving all in detail.If an investigation is done who all the people holding land and building around the new airport, if at all it happens, facts may come out.You see any face, already it is corrupt.My God.

Unknown said...

I want it baaaaaad!! Quick before it’s banned.


me too me too !!!

jay-me said...

im a frequent flyer of Indian Airline too due to my financial set back and now i keep wondering if ill ever have the courage to board an AI plane again, my heart goes out to the families of the departed and i wish the authority would do something reaaaaallllly good to improve the condition of civil aviation in India.

Unknown said...


Deepest sympaties to all the near and dear ones for the loss of their
beloved Family members.
No compensation whatsoever can cover their loss.
God be with them.

Big B blog dosts, this is not picked up from his blog, but a very good movie with Di Caprio and Russel Crowe in the lead role.
If you've seen the movie, you will understand how these Movers and Shakers mold our way of life, with us suckers having no say in the matter.
Cannot believe that they do not want to hang Afzal, as there will be a fall out of law and order.

There is no party interested in the welfare of us fellow Indians.
One talks about AI. Why go far our very own BMC who had a surpless Rs.600 crore plus budget a decade back, is in a mess. I do not have to spell out how they misuse our taxes, which is the highest in the Country. Every other year they plan, as to how they should get an extra pound of flesh from the Citizen (only the ones who honestly pay up).
Suprisingly they (infact no one is)are not accountable.
Year after year our streets are flooded during the monsoons, but no one has come up with any bright ideas of salvaging this excess water for times like present day, when the City is experiencing a severe shortage of water.
We pay the highest rates for power, yet have to undergo load shedding.
I pity the people who have to suffer a cut for 6 to 8 hrs. every day.
On the Citizen's part, majority of the people do not care for the City. If the streets are misued, for instance spitting, messing etc. no one bothers. Take a look at the new BEST bus stops, the new local trains (they are no longer new, but filthy)and you will know what I am talking about.
There are Societies where the Security personnel, or in some cases the drivers wash the Vehicles with a hose pipe. These and the service providers who mess up the corridor and building premises, are pampered by the Society at large, as they cannot do without their services.
The whole of Mumbai is like a village. One has to be careful of two/three wheelers, and even heavy vehicles on the road, as they come from all sides, right or wrong side, inspite of having a divider. Most 2 wheelers ride on the footpath, when there is a traffic jam.
Laws are made to be broken. There is a 10pm deadline, but yet they burst crackers even at 12 midnight.
Please do not be under the impression that I am complaining. I am used to the noise, due to my profession.(but DETEST filth) I also have mufflers etc. to protect my enviorement, but I feel sorry for the aged and infants, who get disturbed by these dhols and crackers.
Have a very strong feeling that due to the above and countless .... ..... other reasons, our so called Ministers/Officials feel that we deserve what is doled out to us, while they take the cream.
Guess the Citizens have to change to do ones duty to the State.
Discipline is the KEY.
Jai Hind!


Abbas said...

Ma'am, I suspect the 'talented writer' you refer to is my cousin Altaf Tyrewala, who wrote the phenomenal "No God In Sight".

While I would have loved bumping into you in Frankfurt and impressing you with my wit, and perhaps I will ere this life o' mine hath run it's course, alas, this time, to quote Shaggy, it wasn't me.

Love, and hopefully still talented,
Abbas Tyrewala.

許冠廷 said...


Unknown said...

Sad to hear about the Air India crash. I have only flown this airlines once in 1991 from Singapore to Mumbai and Delhi and it was a nightmare and I swore never to fly them. Same holds for Indian Airlines. Flying the private airlines like Jet was a surprise relief and brought some pride back - but the recent cutbacks and decline in service (Jet Horrible Connect) makes me wonder if Jet and Kingfisher will follow suit. I am concerned.

You know my thoughts on the govt - the corruption is so deep - is this cancer even operable?

james said...

Speaking of Babudom, it turns out the mmrd and wr both want to build railway bridges over andheri. at this point and after the chaos and expense we find out mmrd hasn't even got the permission for that essential piece of the metro? Then it turns out the new Dadar terminal, inaugurated by Railway minister Bannerjee last year is useless, not planned right. The ridiculous skywalks, the inability to sort out the sewri-nhava sheva bridge, the confusion of how to continue the bandra-worli sealink- just a few indicators of confusion and myopia in our local government. Cannot say that the Air India crash surprised me considering.....

Harish said...

The question is not whether flying in and off mangalore is safe or the lousy Air India. The question is if flying is safe in "india".

It takes a khandahar to realize we can be terrorized and hijacked. It takes a mangalore for us to realize that it was a clumsy airport. We are stunt men or what?

we have Zeroed to becoming a Frisbee in the hands of the Pra Fool Patel.

And he offered to resign? what he thought.. we will think of him to be a martyr and build a temple for him?? Rubbish. Be (hu)man enough pra fool.. stand up and fight for the cause of better airsafety. Dont stand like a fool with no spine. We have hazaar other jokers like that in our system.


America said You give me Bihar, id make it Hong Kong in a year. The angry Lalu retorted "give me Hongkong, id make it Bihar in a week.

A popular joke, doing its rounds. It is true that we are not redefining our assets. We are stuck to our Unity In Diversity, land of culture and tradition theme. It is so much a Cliché.

the fact is we are a bunch of extremely creative people dying to create a space for ourselves, but are dabaooed and phatkaued by some absolutely pakau babus.

With all respects to Mahatma Gandhi, lets not abuse him with an overkill.


yaa, those italian chokra chokris must have asked about sonia gandhi naa. They must naturally have a liking to her. which other country can flaunt having a natural citizen of their country being the Almost Prime Minister of another country.

And Khaap ka shaap what to say... all this jaat and gotra is fukkat ka locha.

Unknown said...

From the way the sari is worn by most Bollywood heroines these days, the trend seems to be towards the way it is said to have been worn originally i.e. with nothing underneath.


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