five star treatment????

When we learnt that we were going to be put up at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel during our stay in Bombay, and that too free of cost, we jumped. For five out of six of us, it would be the first time ever we would be staying in a five star hotel. But Neha didn?t seem too excited. She simply said, ?Taj Bombay? I just love the Thai food there!? We simply exchanged glances and went back to mugging for the impending exams.

A week later, as our battered black-and-yellow cab pulled into the Taj, we braced ourselves for the supposed five star treatment. By the time we had paid our driver, some housekeepers had taken off our luggage, which was hanging precariously on top of the taxi. We walked in, trying to put on the air of a thoroughbred CEO. We found a reception as we walked in but were quickly redirected to another ?just down the corridor?. Not too used to being directed around, we decided to find our own way to this new reception. Fifteen minutes passed and we hadn?t found the place. We decided to reduce the problem to a known problem. We went back to the first reception, and took the help of one of the stewards there who quickly directed us to the new reception. It was half a minute away from the first!

We then went through a unique experience as we autographed a number of forms that were waiting for us at the reception. Then we were asked to go into a small ?security room? where we had to identify our baggage! Thankfully the desk boys had unloaded everything. Next, before we were to enquire about our dinner arrangements (it was past 11 pm), the nice Mongoloid lady at the desk said, ?There was a function for you this evening but it got over. We had arranged a special dinner for you and that too got over!!?. We were shuddering at the thought of paying for our own food at the Taj. She continued, ?hence we are giving you free coupons to have tonight?s dinner at the #$!^ ? ?. (sigh of relief).

We quickly went to our rooms, dumped our luggage there and came back down for dinner. We presented our coupons and were told we could have one soup, one main course and one dessert. After spending an hour on the menu card trying to locate vegetarian dishes, we finally ordered. We then came to know what five star treatment means.

The average time taken for the delivery of a soup is about thirty minutes, with a standard deviation of one minute. The main course takes approximately twice that time, once again with a standard deviation of one minute! As for the dessert, the lesser said the better. There was an item on the menu saying ?Malai Kulfi, Rs. 215?. An order was placed after calling the waiter not less than a dozen times. Forty five minutes later, he brings a small cup with around 100 ml of hard orange ice cream with a cashewnut stuck on top. I remember Bowring Stall where we could get kulfi a thousand times better than that for one-fifteenth the price.

On the way back, we saw a fat blonde guy who someone said looked like Shane Warne. Having met Anil Kumble a few years earlier, I thought leg-spinners were a nice lot. But my opinion changed quickly after Shane (The Aussie team was staying in the same hotel as us ? such an honour right?) hurriedly scribbled his name the torn air ticket Vinod presented him. Not a ?hello, how are you?. No reply when Neha tried to start a conversation with him. Not even a smile. Gilly, your team isn?t too good at PR.

The next morning proved to be one of the most eventful of my life. Having had to come down for a formal breakfast at 7:45, I went into the bog at 7 am. I had left behind all my toiletries in Bangalore at the expert advice of a friend who?d stayed at the Taj numerous times. After brushing with ordinary Colgate toothpaste and a brush which left ulcers on the inside of my cheeks, it was time to shave. There was a small packet which said ?Gillette Series Shave Gel? and a Gillette Presto razor alongside. No brush, no after-shave. I felt let down. I like to use hot water to wash my razor while shaving so the next task was to figure out the exact series of steps in which to turn the wash basin tap so that it delivered hot water. Having failed miserably I settled down to having a shave with cold water. The skin on my cheeks goes cold whenever I think of that shave I had. I am happy to say I cut myself only once that day!

The next step in the process of my getting ready was to take bath. There was a bath-tub (no time to soak myself though) and a shower on top. Now an earlier problem reappeared. How was I going to get water at the right temperature out of that shower? Ten minutes of turning various knobs in various directions got me water at the right temperature, but out of a tap at the level of my shin. It took ten more minutes before I could turn a few more knobs and get the water out of the shower! After similarly grappling with the soaps and other solutions, I managed to present myself at the breakfast table at 8:15 sharp! It was too late for Apurv to join me in my ritual, which is the reason I believe he didn?t get the cash.

Many more such interesting events happened during my 2-day long stay at the taj. I guess if I were to describe them all to you, you would be phenomenally bored. Hence I stop here. If you were with me on that trip and remember some other goofy thing I did, let me know. I?ll write another post on that.

Gopi Gupta, Vegetarian

It was my first day in IIT Madras. As I walked into class, Prof. Iyer was taking attendance. ?Satan!?, he called out. I could see all my new classmates shuddering at the thought of having the devil himself in our class. Fortunately no one answered (one could clearly hear the collective sigh of relief). I started talking to the fellow next to me. Found out his name was Chetan and that by some quirk of fate it wasn?t called out during the attendance.

Welcome to Tamil Nadu, the land of muffed up pronunciations and spellings. The inventors of the ancient Tamil language must have envisaged the difficulty kids have in learning an alphabet. Hence, they decided to keep the alphabet of Tamil as small as possible and assign a multitude of sounds for each character. They even designed the words in the wonderful language such that there would be absolutely no ambiguity in pronunciation.

But this unambiguity was limited to Tamil words. What these scholars did not envisage was the invasion of Tamil Nadu, Chennai in particular, by people hailing from north of the Kaveri. In most of the rest of India, there is a beautiful phonetic alphabet, with each character representing a distinct sound. Sounds that are not represented by this phonetic alphabet are altogether excluded from the language. This system may have its disadvantage that kids need to learn to write 50 different kinds of characters rather than the 20 of Tamil but in the long run, its use is very efficient.

Now, with non-Tams and non-Tam words being an essential part of Chennai, we have a few delightful misspellings and mispronunciations, mostly by the locals. Thus you can have Sappadhi (chapatti for the uninitiated) for lunch and can do your project in Network Lap (network lab). And your favourite spinner may be M. MuraliTharan (a name that sounds extremely alien to one who thought MuraliDharan was one of the names of Lord Krishna). Just stand at some arbitrary location in Chennai and look around you. There will be atleast a dozen words which seemed grossly misspelt but the local goes about as if nothing is wrong with it.

Now what does Gopi Gupta, Vegetarian have to do with all this? For starters, Gopi Gupta is not a ?he? but an ?it?. It was on our hostel menu last week. On one hand, people wanted to taste this exotic sounding dish but on the other, they didn?t want to be cannibals. Finally, a few reluctantly took a few spoons of it. It was neither exotic nor human flesh. It was just our good ole? Gobi Kofta! So much for spellings.