From the title of the post if you guessed that it is going to be a post consisting of lots of random thoughts, you will not be disappointed. I will try to make it as incoherent as possible. Or maybe there will be some coherence if I choose to restrict the post to a few of the happenings around the last week of 2021 and the first week of 2022.
In a tragic, frightening and boring 2021, at least something interesting happened towards the end of the 2021 and it spread to a bit of the beginning of 2022. I am talking from my personal point of view. It is unlikely that we will have a normal world any time soon.
It was due for a long time and it finally happened. We made a road trip to Odisha from Kalaburagi (erstwhile Gulbarga). It started on a slightly misty morning of 25th Dec. Of course we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise just half an hour on to our journey.
There is a background story to why I have used the word ‘mandatory’ in my title. While returning from Odisha we had lunch at a well known restaurant near Annavaram. It cost us about 1000 bucks to have simple vegetarian basic stuff that would leave half of our stomach unfilled. I have to mention this because I spent over a week in a state where the bharpet quality breakfast for three us never exceeded Rs. 100.
Of course the cost in this well known restaurant is understandable. It was neat and clean with a great ambience. There was an overdressed girl with bridal makeup to great us and usher us to a table. It cut down our indecisiveness and saved us from the embarrassment that ensues before settling down on a table. Don’t you usually stand confused when you enter a restaurant and you find more than one table vacant?
Should I take this table or that one? When you choose one, your wife may have another in mind and the son may choose either to go with the choice of the mother or chart his own territory. Well, to save us from all those pains of choosing a table, this usherer was a blessing without any disguise. She guided us smoothly to our predestined table. She had the air of the one who already had a premonition that three tired souls would land up with confusing looks badly in need of consensus to choose a table. She had the confidence of one who knew your preferences and had already reserved a table based on your need and preferences. Considering all these, 1000 bucks for a basic veg meal that barely fills your stomach is nothing. And think of how much employment it generates during these pandemic times.
I remark to my wife much to her annoyance, “Aren’t these girls out of place here with so much costume, make up and jewellery. They should rather be part of a film set doting around the soon to be married heroine of a rich south Indian family?” Then I learn from Google Didi that the hotel is indeed owned by one south Indian film personality. (There is also a story around the word Google Didi. But not now)
Lunch over. Another over-costumed girl with bridal make up comes to take our bill. These days UPI payment in India is very common. You pay and show your mobile, the vendor looks at the confirmation and the matter ends. But not in this case. She wants me to continue showing my confirmation screen till she can meticulously note down all the details displayed on the mobile screen.
Even after that she has unfinished business with me. She asks me my phone number. I am taken aback. I find this an unusual request. Never ever in my history of UPI payment has this happened. Of course I remember some restaurants asking this number in the guise of getting feedback so that they can bombard with their unique offers from time to time. But I am not a localite and there is little chance of visiting this hotel in years to come.
I come , I pay, I leave. The matter should end there.
“Why do you need my phone number? I ask.
“You have to give your phone number, Sir. It is m-a-n-d-a-t-o-r-y“, she says with too much emphasis on the word mandatory and without bothering to answer my why.
At other times I would have engaged in fair amount of verbal duel just for the sake of some fun. Maybe, I would have asked her to quote the law or the rule or the government guideline that makes it mandatory to submit your phone number after eating and paying your bill. But I was in a hurry and without saying anything I got up and walked towards the exit. She followed me all the while complaining to another over-costumed girl, “Madam, sir is not giving the phone number.”
I walked out nevertheless. Luckily I saw no one following me beyond the exit door in search of elusive yet mandatory phone number.
Before my homecoming tour I scanned the news channels of Odisha to update myself about the latest happenings in my home state. What dominated the news channels was really of national, international and global importance. It was more important than climate change and global warming. To cut a long story short the matter is as follows.
A boy met a girl. They got married much against the wish of the boy’s father. Later the gutless boy was pressurized to denounce the girl. The boy filed for divorce barely months into the so called registered marriage. The girl came and sat on dharna in front of her in law’s house.
Now it was like Big Boss on the streets. A golden opportunity for all media houses to increase their TRP. All media houses of Odisha deputed their reporters 24X7 on the spot. I narrowly missed seeing it live on the spot as I visited one relative’s house on a nearby street from the ground zero.
This is really such a global event, it has even inspired a Hollywood movie. Well go and watch Don’t look up. I did it last week.
Hey, I am just joking. I just found a real life local parallel to the theme of the movie that highlights our obsession with the things that provide us with some instant masala at the cost of ignoring the clear and present danger facing our planet. Well go and watch Don’t look up. I strongly recommend it.
Overall, it was a satisfying homecoming tour. Revisited a lot places associated with my early childhood. Could meet with some of the few surviving relatives my father’s generation. Even we, the 1983 pass out High School batchmates had our first official and physical reunion. It was such thrilling and emotional experience to meet some of the batchmates after 39 years.
Only regret is – as I had a packed program in Odisha and the leave period was short, I could not do the journey upto Odisha in a leisurely manner and there by missed visiting many land mark places that came with minor diversions of the route.
I will share more details of my travel in my coming weeks as I have taken a new year resolution to renew my resolution of writing at least one post each month. My last blog post was written six months back and by this time you must have realized how reliable I am in keeping up with my resolutions.
Our road trip ended with a beautiful sunset on the fourth day of the new year.