Thursday, September 27, 2007

Jet—is this airline really set?

Okay, this isn’t an insidious effort at creating a rather tacky tagline; what it is, is a reflection of my inner turmoil. Here is why: I have always been a stalwart supporter of Jet Airways. Like most other Indians, I was both jubilant and beholden (to the airline God?) when Jet Airways started their Newark to Bombay non-stop flight on August 5th. Granted I wasn’t delighted about the exclusion of JFK, but hey, this was a sign for things to come. The august presence of my favorite “desi” airline in the skies – imagine it whizzing through euphonious brume and over Brobdingnagian oceans. For those of you who watch “Scrubs”, the main character and narrator, J.D., lapses into his day-dreaming mode every now and then. The action is archaic and trite but beguiling at the same time. So, I digressed and had a J.D. moment.

Here is how the story commences: my in-laws decided to fly Jet Airways when they visited us this past August. It seemed like the perfect choice—elite airline, professional crew well—versed with the needs of Indian parents, scrumptious food (at least in the domestic sector) and most importantly, great flying time. If I am not wrong, with the stopover in Brussels, the flying time is only 16 hours. Almost magical! I remember thinking to myself, “this is incredible-- an airline for the people by the people. Like India’s democracy.” Okay, another J.D. moment. Anyways, upon their arrival, elatedly I asked my in-laws about their “Jet Airways” experience. They expressed their immense dissatisfaction with the airline.

When my in-laws reached Bombay a couple of days ago, I asked them about their Jet Airways experience on their flight back home. I was hoping against hope that Jet wouldn’t let me down. Au contraire to popular belief, my vivid imagination and Jet Airway’s magnificent reputation back in India, the service in the international sector is appalling. The staff was conceited, inattentive and arrogant and their service was abysmal. They barely served meals and that too meager portion; they were inconsiderate of any special dietary guidelines you provided them with at the time of the ticket purchase; finally, they had the audacity to be condescending.

Well, they call themselves the “finest airline in Asia” while their attitude is reflective of the “lowest budget airline in the world”. What an oxymoron!

I wonder why Jet Airways has positioned itself like a thrifty traveler’s international airline. Have they not been able to dissociate themselves from Jet Light (the brand extension created after Jet Airways acquired Sahara Airlines)?

I do not know about others, but I am not feeling too much love for this particular airline at this time and hope I do not ever have to fly it internationally. A random quote comes to mind as I near the end of my post -- "There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane."

Copyright © 09.27.2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

If you don’t fast, will your husband die?

On Friday evening, I had gone out for aperitif with few of my co-workers to a cozy roof-top place in the vicinity of my office. It was a clammy evening so the Mojitos tasted like the “Holy Grail”. Needless to say, it was a fine soirée with a fascinating bunch of people. Since I had friends coming over for dinner that evening, I had to bid adieu to my work friends early. As it was time for me to leave, one person suggested going out again on Friday, September 14th. Here starts the story -- I explained the reason for my unavailability—“I have to fast on Friday. It’s almost a 36-hour long fast for my husband’s long life”. As I said that, I realized the faux pas in the statement. It was then that I realized that I almost felt like a sorceress—almost omnipotent. Have we (as in all Hindu women who fast for their husband’s good health and long life) been bestowed upon with these divine powers which I thought only the almighty had—the ability to be the creator and the ruler of the universe?

My riveting explanation got a second jolt when one of my co-workers, with utmost homage, astonishment, bewilderment and intrigue asked me “will your husband die if you don’t fast for him?” There is one thing I can vouch for my self-- I am rarely at a loss of words. More often than not, I have the response to the most Herculean questions. That evening, I was tongue-tied.

I have been more than candid about my reservations with these patriarchal traditions in today’s ever-evolving day and age. I emphasize on “today’s day and age” because these customs made sense centuries ago when male and female species had defined roles—the former was the bread-winner; the latter the home-maker. In today’s world, their lifestyles are very similar—they both go to work; in most cases, a woman does more chores around the house; not to forget, at least in South Asian culture, she is the source of bond for families on both sides. Yet, she is expected to fast for her husband’s “long life” and then for some inexplicable reason, cook a delectable meal to commemorate the occasion? Nice going! Shouldn’t men give obeisance to us splendid women instead?

My other issues with it—I have seen and interacted with enough women who are complete control freaks and figuratively speaking, have a rope tied around their husband’s neck. They nag and croak like a toad, spurting out furious words, day after day but won’t indulge in a sip of water when they keep these fasts. Isn’t that an oxymoron? Call me a skeptic, but I willing to bet my next paycheck on their husband’s willingness to live. Not just that, I have met enough couples where the husband treats his wife with utmost disrespect and her life seems like a cul-de-sac. Do you really want to pray for this monster’s well-being who treats you macabrely? Well, I’d be thinking voodoo kits. Then you come across the third category where the woman is ailing and on medication yet insists on abstention. So, the health had been failing for years; the coup de grâce was the water deprivation?

Maybe my opinion makes me sound like agent provocateur, but neither am I superstitious nor am I the kind to say c'est la vie. I believe both tradition and religion are not above humanity. You need to have faith to truly follow either. If keeping a 36-hour long fast doesn’t fall in tune with your own belief system, you shouldn’t do it; if it is something that you believe in, then nobody shop stop you. Hypocrisy, superstition and societal pressure shouldn’t be the reason.

Copyright © 09.11.2007

“Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world there are only individuals” - Oscar Wilde

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Soi-disant - Am I traversing through vegetarianism?

I know this post will chagrin my family deeply. I get this image of them feeling almost abashed with their jaws dropping in despair, disgust and helplessness—kind of like “what did we do wrong?” It’s like I turned my back on my own. Okay, I did exaggerate a little there. See, my family is not umbrageous or malevolent, but it is full of soigné, comestible lovers who not only attach importance to good food but extol their ability to procure the best that’s out there. Meat definitely falls very high on their list. Most members of my family love animals, BUT dead, on their plate.

Elucidation for my epiphany: Even as a kid, I was never fond of red meat. In India, goat meat is considered a legacy (meat connoisseurs apprize it) and considered enormously popular. I recall squirming and telling my mom, “It tastes too real—like an animal”. I have vivid memories of my cousins sucking and masticating onto the bone marrow (remember, it’s a legacy). It was unintentional, but I would get queasy at the sight of them holding a bone; forget them gormandizing on it. One of my cousins’ would literally chomp on the chicken leg as if it was the flesh of the animal that he was indulging in and before you knew it, his hands would be empty. I found it extremely barbaric, but I guess he relished it.

With age and time, I have become more cognizant about how pernickety I am about non-vegetarian food and how easy it is for me to feel disgusted. One of my closest friends calls me a “fake non-vegetarian” since my list of “what grosses me out” supersedes “what gives me pleasure.” Here is what I can’t deal with when it comes to non-vegetarian food:

Red Meat
Animal meat with bones—only boneless for me.
Processed Meat
Ground/Minced Meat
Non-veg with even the remotest hint of “the animal taste” in it.
Washing any kind of non-vegetarian item
Chopping up boneless

Doesn’t quite leave much, does it?

I have to admit: my alacrity to watch “Fast Food Nation” and “Super-Size Me” has augmented my existing contemplation. When you see what goes on in the animal slaughter world (the cruelty, the debasement and the abuse), you get coerced into second guessing yourself. Is ignorance bliss? Having said that I want to make a confession-- few chicken entrées have a certain je ne sais quoi that I find very appealing -- “butter chicken,” “chilli chicken,” “boneless buffalo wings” and “chicken lollipop.”

I was wondering if there is anyone else out there going through the same dilemma and confusion.

Copyright © 09.06.2007

"I want my food dead. Not sick, not dying, dead" - Oscar Wilde