Saturday, January 28, 2012

Air India can learn from Finnair!

It's been raining movies this weekend. Agneepath followed by The Descendants.Not that I am complaining about either! More from me on both. The idea is to make the most of January's last Sunday... I bet half the world is sighing, "Oh God! First month gone in a flash!" Gayaa toh gayaa. As for me, I'm in the mood to sign up for a flash mob performance of 'Chikni Chameli' outside the Mantralaya. Better still, the mob should opt for the original Marathi version - 'Komdi Palali."

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This appeared in the Asian Age today...

Maa…. Tujhe Salaam!

I’m writing this the morning after the night before.India’s 63rd Republic Day went off without an ‘incident’, and we should be so relieved. Imagine. It has come to that. For nearly a fortnight before the 26th Of January, there is an extra high alert all over the country.Which means it is not the best time to be traveling, especially if Delhi is your destination. First, you deal with the notorious fog ( surely, there’s a foreign hand somewhere?) that delays flights for hours on end. Then there’s the deadly red alert, which means further delays and mysterious procedures. Add to that, the presence of countless men in camouflage gear, bearing serious weapons and looking menacingly at weary, sleep deprived passengers. No, it’s not fun at all. The drill is slightly different in Mumbai, where the biggest Republic Day woes revolve around the ‘no booze’ rule. Restaurants, pubs, clubs and bars remain largely empty. And those die hard tipplers who can afford it, jump onto flights taking them for heavy duty r&r to Phuket ( shunned by the smart set these days, but popular with Bollywood holiday makers), Colombo or Rangoon( for the determinedly hip). Given the slight nip in the air, Mumbaikars grab the opportunity to air moth- balled shawls and sweaters and complain about catching a chill. Nobody really thinks about the State of the Nation while admiring the tastefully lit up Mantralaya. This is just as well. No matter what those bods in the Capital tell us, the story isn’t all that wonderful. And it’s slightly silly to keep pointing out the price of ‘mutter’ and ‘pyaaz’. Yes, those damned veggie prices are down by a couple of bucks. So what? The other, more significant statistics remain depressingly stagnant, and oppressively frustrating. At the moment, India’s report card isn’t reading well, never mind the fickle Sensex ka yo-yo. Or any of the other indicators of Bharat Mata’s ‘progress’ that swing as tantalizingly as Katrina Kaif’s hips in the latest superhit ‘item song’ (‘Chikni Chameli’ from ‘Agneepath’). Despite all the above, magic happens. As it did last evening, at a charming, old- fashioned Republic Day Reception , hosted by Shri K. Sankaranarayanan ,the well liked Governor of Maharashtra and his wife, Shrimati Radha , on the lawns of what has to be one of the grandest Raj Bhavans in India ( the one in Kolkata comes a close second).
I make it a point to attend these ‘At Homes’ each time I receive an invitation. Some Governors like me, some don’t. I’m guessing Shri Sankaranarayanan likes me, since I was invited for the second year running. This is just as well. I like him , too. And I enjoy the archaic drill on such occasions, replete with several colonial flourishes, like a military band playing Viennese waltzes, once they’re done with a brassy version of the national anthem. This is the moment everybody waits for. By then, a warm, melon hued sun is setting in the bay on the edge of the manicured lawns. A discreet drum roll alerts invitees to the presence of ‘Important Men’ who appear as if out of nowhere on top of a stone stairway that leads to the lawns. These represent the top brass of the State – Shri Prithivaj Chavan, the Chief Minister , and other members of the cabinet who walk right behind these two worthy gentleman. There is an appropriate hush, as members of the consular corps, visiting dignitaries ( the health minister from Quebec, this year), top cops, lawyers, business people, plus, assorted hustlers and other usual suspects stand aside respectfully to allow the slow passage of the Guv to a gilded sofa placed on a carpet over the lawn. While the Guv’s entourage follows at a small distance, various pushy invitees stalk and waylay the poor C.M.. thrusting cards into his hand, and clicking pictures with him on their cell phones ( Facebook, zindabad!).Meanwhile, a long queue starts to snake its way towards the gilded sofa, where the Guv and his gracious wife, nod and smile at people they are not likely to meet ever again. Tea is served . Coffee, too. Out of large stainless steel containers with convenient taps. Cake, sandwiches, samosas get piled on to the plates of those who aren’t busy schmoozing and sucking up to VIPs and prefer snacks over sycophancy. These form a minority. As the sun sinks into the Arabian Sea, a plaintive last post is sounded, and the tricolour comes down.Mercifully, no speeches are made. Not so mercifully, invitees complain that the parking lot this year has been shifted to Chowpatty Beach, nearly two kilometers away from the Raj Bhavan. Security issues are cited, but that explanation placates nobody. I spot India’s premier Oscar winner, Bhanu Athaiya, patiently waiting for her car. She is on an Oscar road trip across the country for a tv channel as a run up to the big event.It’s been years since an Indian won that precious Oscar. If only those dumb Hollywood guys who decide these things were to start a fresh category for the Best Item Song of the Year, India would win Oscar upon Oscar, year after year. Till such time, we’ll have to console ourselves and be grateful that Anil Kapoor gets mobbed in Agra, while Tom Cruise needs hired fans in Mumbai.
But for me, this lovely, newspaperless morning was made lovelier still when a friend sent me a link to a Youtube video that featured the good looking crew of Finnair dancing to a rollicking Bollywood track (“Om, Shanti, Om”) on a Republic Day flight to Delhi. Now, that’s what I call a real celebration. Why couldn’t Air India have thought of it first?

14 comments:

Subhorup Dasgupta said...

While it is really a nice gesture on behalf of Finnair, and a pointer to what Indian corporates can look at for inspiration, couldn't someone have advised them that the spirit of the Republic of India is not captured best in a bollywood version of Om Shanti Om? Have been following your blog for a while and love what you write.

Another Kiran In NYC said...

The Republic of India is all about Bollywood. Whether we like it or not, for right or wrong our national culture is Bollywood. That being said, Finnair had it right.

More than a comment on corporate savviness, I was suprised that the self described notoriously shy, socially awkward and uncommunicative Finns loosened enough to gyrate their hips in an acceptable bolly fashion! Mazaa aa gaya!

Perhaps next time I have dinner with someone from Finland, we can end the evening dancing to Komdi Palali!

Loved your description of the Governors "at home". Made me feel I was right there and I could almost taste the chutney sandwiches and batata wada (I hope they had that great Maharashtrian snack and it was not all just regulation samosas and choley chaat). Lovely and old fashioned and I bet it made for great people watching. Sweet strong Chai in a white china cup and saucer and the sun setting over the Arabian Sea... wah! Jai ho India.

Chintan Gupta said...

I was missing the direct posts of yours. A good read indeed and Air India :) Oh well :)

I feel like writing a tongue in cheek post too now!

Cheers

~Kashmiriyat by Chintan

goodluck said...

I was not invited. I think no governor likes me. They dont like common, unknown people. Only Thomas Hardy writes poetry about the unsung common people.

I am not whining. Justjoking.

The governor must be a tamilian. Yet no idli vada combo or filter coffee?

I like the strong, silent honest Prithviraj Chavan.

चंद्रमौलेश्वर प्रसाद said...

Read your article on Finair in DC. Happy viewing of Chikni chameli and would know more about it after the event [we are wise after the event.. as the adage goes:)]

Unknown said...

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Divya Virmani said...

Pretty good read. I like that you too saw the Finnair video. It went viral on youtube. Almost 1.8 million fans. Maybe more because this number was updated on Saturday eve.
http://divyavirmani.blogspot.com/

Kiran said...

Lolz :D Oscar for Item number. Really true, we will win every year ;)

AJAY ARORA said...

Nice read :)

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anshul said...

i love my india...........nice post ....proud to be an indian....

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Rajkumar Titus said...

When fame’s a liability

I read this lukewarm article with a feeling that we are never definitive – neither there nor here. The Bible says to one of the 7 churches (Laodicaea) –“…. you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you blew either hot or cold. If not, I will spew you out” – quite strong words indeed.

Whom are we trying to assuage? “Celebrities qualify as soft targets” because they are in the glare of the public and more so as so called celebrities are not conscious of it and make a mess of themselves by being unduly garrulous and a nuisance to others in public. People with a foaming temper ought to be moderated by compatriots be it fiancé or bosom friends – and not add to the veritable commotion.

Saif’s physical action was unwarranted and marred the peace. Let Law take its course. If Iqbal was frenetic and voluble advising his neighbours to lower the decibel (maybe he was a bit drunk – we do not know) – what’s wrong? We cannot follow the Law of Thermodynamics and go for a reaction though Saif’s was not exactly ‘equal and opposite’.

You say “famous is awful” – well that is the price for immoderation. A decent and famous man or woman is never “jeered” or “taunted”. An unruly person or rowdy in reel or real life is;and he/she then deserves it. I have never heard of a Big B treated thus. People look up to him/her. In fact the famous get away with their indiscipline and disrespect (Saif to - Iqbal’s father-in-law an old man); but a poor man succumbs. That is the fact of life. A “glamourous five star restaurant” is not immune to decorous behaviour and those (generally the pharisaical top echelons) who tend to condone it give an impetus to recurrence.

Let’s not be ashamed to say that Saif is in the wrong. He took it to such an extremity compelling Iqbal to aver that he will not accept his apology and thus queering the pitch. That’s that.

May we seriously review our patrician concepts.



Lt Col - Rajkumar Titus (Retd)
Chennai