Wednesday, January 24, 2007

If Pigs Could Fly

When I was growing up, I wanted to see the world. My ambition was to be a commercial pilot because then I would get to see the whole world while working and even get paid for it. But that was not meant to be. I think I am unlucky when it comes to flying.

I have flown to a few countries in Middle East, Eastern Europe and Great Britain, have plans to go to Western Europe this year and North America the following year, yet not in a manner I dreamt it. Firstly, I had to pay to travel to these places which is exorbitant comprising approximately fifty percent of my shoe string travel budget. Secondly, to save costs I opt for cheaper airlines which usually means having a stop over which can last as long as twelve hours. I never imagined that it would come to this but being a frequent flier, I have started to hate flying be it for business (paid for by the employer) or pleasure (paid for by myself). I pray that they would invent some transport device very soon as in SciFi movies so that with press of a button I am transmitted flesh, blood, and soul to my destination.

Frequent flying and stopovers would have been bearable if not enjoyable had I not heard exciting tales from my friends. These fables were not related to travelling per se. They were more about running into attractive girls at airports or airplanes, striking up conversations with them some turning out to be good travel guides for the destination whereas others providing good company during the flight and/or transit. It never worked that way in my case.

In my earlier job I used to make day business trips upcountry in Business Class. My colleagues reportedly always ended up sitting beside some industrialist's charming daughter. I have mentioned charming over here because not all of them were pretty. But with right education, ambition, attitude and style they impressed that its not about appearances only. They may not be fair or beautiful, but they had the looks. I too wanted to sit next to some rich person's daughter. Yet I always ended sitting next to the rich industrialist himself with his starched shalwar qameez, ultra starched moustache, uptight attitude and don't get me started on his looks. Occasionally I had to travel with my boss, we used to go in First Class and the experience was even worse because we got to sit with MPAs or MNAs. With boss on one side and MPA/MNA on the other, it was like stuck between devil and deep sea.

Talking about ambitious confident girls, I am digressing, ever wonder where did all the sweet girls disappear. Wherever I look, I always find bold girls (except when I am travelling. Then I find bold men!). What happened to the shy girl of yesteryears who would never look into your eyes, taking care to only take a peek from the corner of eye, and if you catch her she would mesmerize you by blushing, speak in a voice so soft that it felt like a soft breeze, if by chance you happen to stand close to her you smell a faint perfume like that of roses (makes you realize why roses are romantic and by any another name would smell as sweet). Getting nervous she would clasp her hands, and you can swear that you have never seen a better work of art than the pattern of henna on her hands and forearms or when her choorian crinkle it felt like music to your ears. Where have they gone?

Back to the topic. When proceeding to the check in counter, I always increased or decreased my pace so that I get a chance to stand next to a lady in the queue. Though I have been successful in this feat but then again, fate had something else stored for me. As soon as I start a conversation regarding where does she study or work or spends her holidays, she gets called to a different counter meant for families or ladies only and I am left hanging between mechanics, electricians or some snooty boy who is studying in some unknown college in some nook of Europe but considers himself nothing less than a graduate of Ox-bridge. Even if you are lucky enough to strike up a conversation with girl in the check-in line, the seats that are allotted are world apart. I never really could understand how Airlines allocate seats. You never end up sitting besides the person who is behind you or ahead of you at check in unless it is someone you really don't want to sit with. Obviously you are not frank enough with the girl to present your tickets/passports together for seat allocation. She would think of you as weirdo, pervert, stalker and there is a large possibility of embarrassment at the check in counter with all and sundry to see.

Occasionally I find someone in the waiting lounge, still I never get enough time to get to know her. And more often than not, she is supposed to go on a different flight. But more than that, the situation becomes awkward with all the Pakistanis in terminal observing me. Some are pulling their sleeves up so that they can pound on me to save the damsel in distress from harassment. Some maulvi sahab with a burqa clad wife and large contingent of kids will be brushing his beard with his hand looking for the first opportunity to find me alone and preach me (tableegh) that this is Haram. And then there would be some foreign educated or still studying idiots looking to break into the conversation because if I can do it, they could too. As soon she starts to warm up to me, the PA system announces the opening of departure gates of flight and one of us has to leave.

Sometimes I notice a beautiful lady sitting in the waiting area or arriving in the waiting area when the departure gates have just opened. Since I am closer to the gates I proceed to sit in the aircraft. Once inside the flight cabin, while proceeding down the aisle, I can see people craning their necks over their front seats looking behind me to spot that girl. Its so predictable and I have seen it happen so many times. As soon as I reach my seat, I stow my hand carriage into the storage cabin and get seated. If anybody is counting, he would observe that the number of necks craning to catch a glimpse has increased by one. Being down on luck that I am in these matters, I never even get to see the girl. But there have been occasions when I saw some uncouth person walking down the aisle and I have prayed to God 'not him, not him, o please God' but I think a plane has some prayer proof ceilings because of all the people, this person has been allocated a seat right beside me and he was no where to be seen in the check-in line.

I was glad to hear that they were starting a cruise from Karachi to Dubai and was looking forward to trying my luck there.

PS: After reading about cruise's misadventure and REAL entertainment provided by the entertainers of Eastern European descent, I have decided to stick with flying.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Ethical Dilemma

Its been a long time since I wrote anything. Even at the moment, I don't have much to write. However, I would like to reproduce an essay my friend jokingly wrote in reply to question for his Wharton MBA application.

Though the essay does not answer the question posed yet it is based on true events. The actual writer of the essay is not the narrator but the self proclaimed Brad Pitt lookalike.

A. Describe an ethical dilemma that you have faced in your professional life, how you dealt with the situation, and what the outcome was?

As a corporate banker at one of the leading institutions of Pakistan, arguably the best in the World, I have been confronted with several instances where my analysis and recommendations had determined the fate of major transactions. I have since left the institution. However the case I am going to describe today pertains to my personal life while working there, perhaps the darkest chapter of my brief life story as it has a very dark person in it as the main character.

One fine day on a sunny afternoon me and few of my colleagues from my previous “local” institution (can’t remember its name), were supposed to attend a funeral of another colleague’s father. I had a lot happening in my life at that time so I was not sure whether I was happy or sad! I was in love with the girl of my dreams and had recently proposed to her so I was happy, but she had given me 'thudda' (kick) on my butt which made me very sad and my self confidence had taken a massive hit. I also felt very angry because another colleague had been hitting on my girl (it was the same dark guy from this story), but he had also been kicked in the butt so again I was happy. Actually I was confused. There were times I felt that girls were not meant for me and that’s when I tried to take some of my frustration out on a local hen boy (murghi wala) and few stray animals.

Coming back to the point, we were traveling to attend the funeral. The Dark Guy was driving like a maniac and on several occasions we were close to an accident (Man I hate that guy!!!). I feared that blacky (aka Dark Guy) was driving like he was on a mission. He wanted to kill me! After all he was my “Raqeeb-e-Roosiah” (Haramzada saala). Despite all the tension I kept thinking about my love and how to keep her out of Darkness( if you know what I mean). My brain was working overtime but despite all my efforts couldn’t think of any possible solution. I wanted to cry! I was deeply engrossed in my thoughts when I heard tyre screeching. We were inches away from collision from a Green Suzuki Khyber. My black friend was involved in verbal spat with the two individuals in the other car. Somehow these guys knew each other as they kept inquiring about each others mother and sisters. Things got heated and my friend was told to get out of the car which he obliged (why would you do that. Road is clear, drive away). Out came two huge men from the other car. Each of them well over 6 feet 5 inches, whereas my friend was 4 feet sharp!

Then came the sequence of punches and kicks which my little friend successfully blocked with his cheeks, ribs, groin and other critical areas. I was out of the car first thinking what to do. During this time another colleague of mine had lost glasses and went completely blind for the time the fight took place. At that moment the back door of the car opened and out came a handsome man. Standing over six feet, broad shoulders and with long hair swirling in the wind, he reminded me of Brad Pitt from “Interview with a vampire”. He jumped towards the two scoundrels to rip their necks off when I got in his way. A thought had just entered my mind. This was the time when I could get back at Kaalia for hitting at my girl. This was the time when I could get this thorn out of my love life. Brad was surprised that why I had stopped him. I told him the little black guy likes to fight his own battles. He wont appreciate you getting involved. Brad stopped and stepped back, ordered pop corn and started enjoying “Kutam kutai… Zabardast pitai”. Finally people had to intervene to get the two parties separated. We were congratulated and appreciated by people all around for not intervening and letting our little friend stand up for himself.

That was one time when my ethics were really challenged. I had to make a choice between love and friendship. I am proud that I choose love despite the fact that I am still Khuday-line. Although I still in the state of self-denial that I am over her, but the truth is something else. I am a better, bigger person now. If she calls me now I will walk over 10 little guys to get to her!