Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Eurotrip-Part 2

In wait for the blessing
You can only pour more water into a jug that is not full. So too with knowledge you can only add more to a mind which is not full or willing to accept more information, or so goes an old chinese saying I guess. Why did I say this? Ah...just that the times suit such sayings.

Day-3: Zurich-Geneva-Interlakken
We said good-bye to Zurich early on day-3 after a sumptuous Swiss breakfast. Here as in most western countries, the drivers have a limited driving time. I guess it is near about 10 hrs. after which they have to stop for the day. This includes toilet stops every 2 hours and unannounced stops if taken. They have to log into the bus's system when they start the journey and can be checked anywhere enroute to see if they are adhering to the rules. The penalties are very severe and no one breaks the rules. So we were told that all toilet stops would have to be time-limited and any extensions would take their toll on our Geneva-visit. We would only pass by Geneva and would rest for the day only at Interlakken.
 What began then was a fun day in the bus. I had earned the nickname of 'laptop'. Everyone enquired whether the laptop was safe when they saw me. We started off with David maashu rendering a few prayer songs as also did a few of the girls and some of the 'aunties'. Then along came Sachin with his 'hit numbers'. Soon the bus was rocking to 'glucosum vellam' a hit number from north Kerala. I know this 'cos Muringa(mate from IIT) sings this at most of our parties, and I tried to join in too. Then along came the 'uncle' gang and sang a few golden old malayalam numbers. Some of which they might have sung to their spouses some time back, by the looks of it. Jina ma'am then suggested an ice-breaker where each couple had to speak about their 'pennu-kanal'(a ceremony in India particularly in Kerala where the prospective groom goes to meet his prospective bride at her place). It is a nerve-wracking encounter for some and makes for very entertaining narrations. So it was pleasantly surprising to see normally shy people come forth and share very amusing pennukanal stories with the rest of the group. I was very nervous when it came to my folk 'cos I really didn't know if they had some surprise up their sleeves. I guess most children are thrilled to hear how their parents tied the knot and so was I. I listened with bated breath as they narrated their tale, most of which I already knew. Still it is thrilling each time you hear it. But there are some love-stories which make for very amusing narrations. And there were few such as well. I love to hear such stories of love, bravery, destiny, divine-intervention, chance; there are many facets to them. But each of them is a thriller in its own way. There were stories of guys waiting around while the girl had almost 47 rejections to finally marry the girl, stories of long courtship where there were n number of love-letters written, postmen befriended to make sure that letters reached pronto, in short going the length and beyond for the love of their life. Fascinating tales I say. Meanwhile the bus was taking us through the eternal post-card that is Switzerland. We passed farm-houses, neatly planted crops, cows with cowbells lazing on the fields, on the slopes of rolling meadows looking content with the world around them. Munching grass and flicking their tails, beautiful creatures they were punctuating the scenery. Every now and then we would pass a canal or a brook, twisting and turning its way through the countryside. They were picturesque making their way through the landscape, making a turn here and a turn there, their muddy banks tracing a path through the lush green meadows and fields. Infact me and Fatso had a game where we would predict the arrival of the next brook. Needless to say I won; but Fatso won the name-the-car contest that we had. Reminded me that I have been away from the field of cars for a little too long; losing my grip on the subject that I treasured when I was Fatso's age.
We stopped by the lake in Geneva where there is the tallest fountain in all of Europe. We were let out for a bit of sight-seeing and shopping. After a spot of taking snaps Albert and I decided we should roam around the city in the half-an-hour that we had. Off we set with Fatso and negotiated zebra-crossings as any local would.  As we walked by the side of the lake we saw people relaxing on the bank as it was a sunny afternoon. There were people reading, couples relaxing, their arms inter-twined looking out at the water, musing, some kissing. There is this thing with the western world that you wouldn't find anywhere in the eastern world- public show of emotions. They have no qualms in letting off their emotions even extremely personal ones in public, whereas it is taboo in the eastern world. So it was that by the lake on the streets as we passed we saw couples hugging each other, kissing with not a care for the rest of the world. I being Indian am confused when it comes to this. On the one hand I am extremely inhibited when it comes to emotions and would chose to show/express them at an extremely private level; on the other I respect the western world for their devil-may-care attitude and expressing their feelings freely for the ones they love with not a care for the rest of the world. As we walked we saw first one and then another gang of people probably in their twenties, one of them in a bride's attire, some girls all in pink, both groups extremely loud and approaching strangers and asking them stuff, hooting. For all I knew it was a marriage party or a gay-pride gang, and I wanted to stay really clear 'cos I had Albert and Fatso too. Fortunately they didn't 'catch' hold of us and we enjoyed with a tinge of nervousness the 'show'. We admired the architecture around us as we walked, some renaissance and some modern from what I could make of. We passed by a church with tall spires in Gothic style and there was calming church music emanating from inside. As we were in no way dressed for church and there was a small crowd outside posshly dressed for the occassion and due to the fact that we had very little time left before Jina ma'am would start turning purple with worry, I skipped my urge to take a peek inside. From the lake we went on a city tour and passed by the various U.N buildings. We stopped at the U.N headquarters opposite of which is the Broken Chair. We took snaps outside the U.N Hq. and tried to spot the Indian flag among the two rows of flags that line the road leading upto the building from the gate, but to no avail. Dad says he spotted it at the fourth from the start on the right row, so if anyone can confirm it let me know. We took snaps under the Broken Chair named aptly cos one if its legs is built to show that it was blown off. It is said to be inaugurated by the late Princess Diana as a symbol of the fight against the use of landmines. Diana ws an active crusader against the use of landmines and tried her best to spread  awareness about children losing their legs on abandoned mine-fields after wars. Hence the blown-off leg in the Broken Chair.

We journeyed on from Geneva and on the way we stopped and did a little shopping. That was were I picked up something dear and Fatso bought himself  and me chocolates. I also became good friends with Jina ma'am enroute and we talked about a lot of things.We reached Interlakken late in the evening, but the sun was still up as it is until late 7-7:30 wherever we went.

Interlakken- "The city between two lakes"
Interlakken is called thus because it is nestled between two lakes- Thun and Brienz. It is a small town with 5000-odd people but it is extremely beautiful as it is situated at the foothills of the Swiss Alps. We passed by one of the lakes on our way into Interlakken. We were on the bus a few yards from the water, but from where I was seated I could see the bottom of the lake. So clean and clear was the water!. Greenish-blue pristine water for miles ahead, the lake was beautiful and few houses dotted the edge and at one place there was a dock with many yachts and boats moored. There were yachts on the water too and i can only the people there for the beautiful, beautiful lake that they have. Back home I have always admired our Chalakkudi puzha as I have spent evenings on its beautiful banks with my cousin and uncle. But that has a different feel to it; this is different with it is crystal-clear, greenish-blue expanse. We were boarded at the City Hotel Oberland and the rooms were neat and tidy complete with a bath. But the view was breathtaking . The windows opened onto a backdrop of the Swiss alps in all their beauty and out over the rooftops of the quaint old houses of the town. We went out for a spot of shopping and sightseeing. We set off on one of the roads out of the town-centre and were beheld to a jaw-dropping view of the Swiss Alps- black custodians with icy slopes, on one side. There were rolling meadows that stretched upto the foothills from one side of the road. We took snaps with the Alps on the background, on the meadow, near beautiful fountains on the roadside. I drank in the beauty as I walked, the folks enjoying the view too. On the other side of the road were shops of all variety that included the very famous casino that features in that first song in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. The film was shot partly here in Switzerland and Austria. At the end of the road we came upon a quaint old church with tall spires and a bell-tower. Now we were all for getting in even for a little time but couldn't find an open door. We were just leaving after looking around the beautiful church when someone rang for the vespers. Shortly though a boy came riding on his bicycle and opened the church doors. The church was beautiful on the inside too and there was even a grotto. After a few minutes of prayer we got back out. Fatso and me took snaps around the Church and we hurried back to the hotel for our dinner at an Indian restaurant.

Fatso if you are reading this, you should know that we didn't take you 'cos you are not old enough for this and I will certainly take you when you are old enough. I would suggest that you stop reading here but the inquisitive idiots that you and I tend to be I hardly believe that. So read on at your own peril.

'Cos we are guys:
Me and Partner(as he shall be called) set out after dinner to visit one of the casinos or pubs/discs. The aim was simple- 1. Enter a local pub. 2. Enjoy the music and if possible shake a leg. 3. chat with a local girl(that was my personal aim..don't know if Partner had it in his mind). Now Interlakken is a predominantly German-speaking town and I soon found out that my "il y a des boites ici?" was practically useless. We asked a teenage guy and some school-girls who shrieked at the mention of beer, but they all pointed to a region down the road. And that was where we found probably the only disc in town way before the opening time of 10p.m. We roamed around till 10 and [I] entered with a pinch of nervousness. 'cos I knew the scene could ugly if the locals were not friendly and I was worried more so because I had brought Partner into the equation. My strategy was to leg it with him at the first sign of trouble. We entered to find the place pretty empty except for two bar-maids. There was some German rock music (I guess) playing and disco lights scrawling on the dance floor. We took seats near the counter. We gradually got talking to one of the barmaids, the prettier of the two and also the more friendly of the two.
Me: Comment sappelle vous mademoiselle?
Her: Uhh..What? (Dash it no French!??)
Me: You don't speak French?
Her: No. Only German and English.
Me: Nice place you have here. What is this music? Is it German rock?
Her: Thank you. Yes.
Me:  Which band? (As though I knew any except for Rammstein)
Her: I don't know. We just play it from the CD.
In walk a couple of guys and a girl, one guy on a wheel-chair. They sit opposite to us at the circular counter.  I look for signs of trouble. The girls move over to talk with the newcomers. They get talking after initial greeting kisses. The scene looks ok. Me and Partner sit enjoying the music. Grins on our faces, so far so good. After sometime the girl we were talking to returns and asks us if we'd like anything.
Me: (Pointing to a board "Our house wine Jaggermeisser") what is that? How much does it cost?
Her: Oh..that is a joke. Jaggermeisser is alcohol actually.(she goes over to the tap and reads the label as to how much percentage was alcohol) It is very strong.
Me: (Huh! she thinks we're too young?)So how old do you think I am?
Her: Twentyy-eiight -thirrrty?
Me:(laughs) No not that old. 25 actually. Me and friend Partner are from India. So what is your name?
Her: Laila(name changed). So you are staying in the town? At a hotel?
Partner: Yes. We're staying at the City Hotel Oberland. We just arrived here in the evening. So you are from here?
Laila: Yes. My father is Saudi Arabian.
Partner: your mother is Swiss?
Laila: Yes.
Me: So you have stayed here all your life?
Laila: Yeah except for teo years when I stayed in Zurich. I didn't like it there, so I returned.
Me: So when you are not working what do you do? Do you study?
Laila: I am not a student. I am a mother, I have two daughters. I actually work here only on Fridays and Sundays. They(pointing over her shoulder to the others at the counter) work here except on Sundays.
Me: Come on! Two daughters, why you don't seem more than twenty-eight! seriously?
Laila: Yes.
Me: Wow.(She could be easily more beautiful than most women I have seen in my life. Not that being a mom makes you less beautiful. But there are some signs of aging; this woman looked near-about perfect.) So when does this place get crowded?
Laila: Usually at 3-4 in the morning. Today is a Sunday. So it will be less crowded. People have to go to work the next day.
Laila took a snap of me and Partner. We said goodbye to her and returned to the hotel, happy that we could do something a bit wild.

To be continued...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Part 1: Day 2: Zurich

For the blessing

Seasons may come and go, but some things are here to stay....doubt thou not, for when the heart desires and the mind agrees is where I have found peace.
Day 2:

"Mane" Issues:
A word about the reception I got from the group. Most of it were colleagues of my parents or of the same age-group, with their families. And I had specially chosen a super-man t-shirt to add to the cheek-level, for with my Bob-Marleyish dishevelled look, I was sure I would be on the danger-level according to this group. I had worn my hair all ruffled and dishevelled as what I had been doing in the insti for three months, to very good response. I was proud of the look and it made my day when I looked into the mirror at times, even though it miserably failed me on my journeys to the church. But I knew with this group it would go all down-hill and even before I started I incurred my mom's wrath and dad's disappointed looks. So to save them further embarassment I thought I would try to tame my mane. Bad idea, curly frizzy, dishevelled hair has a mind of its own and it is used to a certain liberty in life; certainly hates the comb. So it was that when I was done with the hair I looked like a French poodle on a bad-fur day, tufts of hair sticking out whichever way. Add to it the super-man t-shirt and I was somewhere between a nerd and a fool. The lengths we go to save our parents' pride. My folks would have broken down laughing hadn't it been for the extremely grave situation they were in. They were probably at cross-roads thinking about about disowning their elder son and taking only the younger one instead. Fatso was picture-perfect as this trip was one he wouldn't miss in a life-time. Finally after much thinking they probably came to the conclusion that they had to bear with the prodigal elder son. It has taken much pain to raise me up and I felt sad for the poor folks; hence the attempt to tame the hair at great personal embarassment. I was right on all counts as with each introduction foreheads wrinkled, noses twitched, fingers pointed(to be hastily put away), and long hard stares were donned at the 'different' elder son. 'Bank-aunties' had their pupils open real-wide and not-too well-hidden smirks flashed at the black sheep of the family. 'Bank-uncles' couldn't hide their disappointment for the rotten apple of the family and foreheads wrinkled riding their spectacles up real high, and the whites of their eyes which ride out only for crisp 1000 rupee notes and heavy discounts at retail-stores, were visible now with obvious disregard, for the son that turned out 'bad'. All in all I enjoyed the obvious aversion to my looks(really I couldn't agree more folks, my hair shouldn't have been tamed), but I did feel sorry for my poor folks. They are pretty decent people and they shouldn't really take flak because they have a son who wants to think 'differently' for a change. Not when the son is 25 anyway. Anyways I wanted to get out of my tamed look. And that I did to partial success and went out with a lighter heart to a full-Swiss breakfast.
Breakfast was a special affair as I loved the French breads and the various jams and the cheeses and oh! just about everything. I will never tire of Swiss/French breakfasts, though I am yet to get in terms with their cold meat. I washed everything down with a rich coffee and stepped outside with a spring in my steps to see Zurich.
Rhine Falls:
We were headed first to the Rhine Falls on the Swiss-German border. I sat plastered to the window as the road took us through breath-taking Swiss countryside. Quaint farmhouses, rows of neatly planted crops, freshly rolled grass lying on the fields. Meadow followed meadow with lush green grass, dotted with wild flowers of every hue. All growing as though someone had trimmed them to perfection. Every hedge, every field, every barn we passed was picture-card material. There is something about the Swiss countryside; it looks as though everything here grows to be beautiful and is naturally trimmed to perfection. Even the tree-lines around the farms have a definite curve about them and I am quite certain someone has taken a blade through them so that everything looks beautiful. All through there is no sign of trash of roads or anything ugly. It seems like God has given the Swiss a view of what is paradise and the Swiss, hardworkers that they are, have maintained it to perfection quite like their watches.
We reached the Rhine Falls on the river Rhine ofcourse. Quite like the Niagra falls in appearance, it was a beautiful sight. The water rising as foam at the base from twin falls seperated by a small piece of rock at the top. The spray hung in the air giving it a beautiful appearance. We took snaps and also a family snap at one of the cafes with the Falls for background. We did some shopping and I spent considerable time thinking if I should take a Swiss cow-bell. I became good friends with our tour guide, Jina ma'am, a friendship that would be further strengthened in due course of the trip. Fatso picked a Swiss-army knife while I picked the Swiss cow-bell.

Where is the bag????
It must have been half-an-hour into the journey from Rhine Falls to our next destination Mt. Titlis when Fatso asked for my laptop bag. It came as a sudden sharp shock to me- I didn't have it with me. Then came the sharp realisation; I had kept it under one of the chairs for the family snap at the cafe at Rhine Falls. A deathly silence descended upon the group as I related to them the loss and that the laptop held the contents of my thesis. There are no words to describe the feelings at the time, the laptop's contents were my life's work till then. There were copies but nothing could compare with the original. I was stunned and in a sense of shock. I wanted to et out of the bus right then and hitch-hike back and get the bag, but m'am would have none of it. We were too far and transportation was near impossible. Sometimes nothing works but divine intervention. One of the group, Roy sir, had just the previous evening got in touch with an old friend in Zurich and was yet to see him, both after a very long time. He called him up and the friend very readily agreed to drive all the way to Rhine Falls and get my bag back to the hotel when we arrived- provided it was still there. Tense minutes passed and I think rolled into an hour, all passed in silent prayer. I was hating myself for making such a stupid and costly mistake and also for spoiling everyone's good time. And then came the call like a God-send "the bag is still here and everything is inside. I will bring it along to the hotel when you people get back from the day's trip" said the friend. I thanked God profusely and proceeded to thank the group for their support in my hour of distress. I still remain indebted to Roy sir and his friend for all the help and for everyone's prayers during the time. That incident though was an eye-opener in more than one way which I will not discuss here.

Mt. Titlis:
We reached Mt. Titlis in high spirits. With a height of 3238 m. Titlis is the second highest peak in Switzerland and its most popular ski-resort. We took a cable car that climbs up the mountain to its summit in three stages. The last stage is covered in the rotair or a rotating cable car which rotates as it climbs thus giving the passengers a 360 degree view. It is huge and can take upto 30-40 odd passengers at one go I guess. The snow-line starts way before the summit and it was a beautiful sight to behold the mountain decked in thick snow. We spent close to an hour on the summit, throwing snowballs, making snow-angels (Fatso and I have never had the opportunity of doing any of this before). We quickly got the hang of it and had a lot of fun. I still maintain that I got Fatso with a wicked one(snowball) and that he could never really close the tally. Ha there ! we made slides in the snow and it was a treat to watch the old man get a whiff of life while mom watched on. I guess both of them enjoyed the mountain in their own way. From the summit we descended into the thickest ice-caves(artificial) in the world and went about exploring them. We enjoyed the ride back down on the cable car. On the way back it was more watching in awe-struck silence at the beautiful Swiss countryside. We had our lunch at an Indian restaurant and did a Zurich city tour before heading back to the hotel. I marvelled the clockwork working of the Swiss -be it their watches, trams, machinery, lives. In Zurich everything runs on time and the people abide strictly to the laws. Everyone is paid well and all in all the quality of life is the best in the world. I guess that is the prize for living in such strict but healthy regimen.
To be continued....

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Eurotrip-Part 1

In search of a blessing

Day One: Kochi-Colombo-Zurich

Characters making their appearance in this blog:

Fatso-not anymore like the name(but guess all younger brothers have at one point of time donned this name). The younger bro

Qasim- The neighbour...quite literally, in flight-seating and nationality.

The flight from Kochi was uneventful except for the fact that the Sri Lankan Air air-hostesses were a long-time dream. They showed me that more oomph factor could be extracted from the saree than I thought was humanly possible. And for one ogling adoloscent long time back at Mumbai airport it was a dream to travel Sri Lankan Airways. But save for one sexy one the rest were pretty ordinary. Sum that up with the fact that Fatso had misplaced the battery of the camera, and those of you who are not idiots of the highest degree can imagine what would have happened when a certain someone with as much guts and macho that could be conjured for a job like this, went and approached the said airhostess for a snap. A slightly surprised airhostess supressed a shy grin and very readily agreed, for the certain someone to find that the camera just wouldn't start. Guessing what had happened and cursing Fatso with all his might the certain someone conjured up his best poker-face and the special 'buffalo-hide' specially reserved for such occassions, explained to the much bemused airhostess the situation, turned on his heels and walked away from every-guy's mightmare. So yeah it was a forgettable flight.

Colombo airport was as dull as as the insides of an accountant's brain.
To be continued...

As I passed through personal security check and into the waiting-lounge, the first person I noticed was bent over an Arabic book, it seemed(for someone who doesn't know the language Arabic, Urdu and Persian all look similar). He had long hair and was wearing spectacles and donned a French-beard. Had I been a dame from the U.S stretching her legs into her late fifties, I would have crossed myself many times over and tried to skip the flight as well as I could. But since I was not all that I was curious as to what the writing was that the stranger seemed so engrossed over. A copy of the Qoran?, or some religious writing? Cos get this, I for one was for the large part ignorant of tons of literature in Persian and Arabic and its variants, other than the Qoran. I had forgotten Khayyam and his likes and conveniently forgot the fact that other books do exist in the said languages. Imagine my surprise then when I find the 'stranger' seated next to me on the plane, by the window. A few minutes passed in silence as the plane took flight and then he spoke
"Where are you from? What is your name?"
"Leo. I'm from Cochin actually-India."
"Oh..I am Qasim"
"Where are you going?"
"Zurich. I am a research student there."
"Oh really? Me too. Where are you from?"
"I am from Karachi, Pakistan. So what is your area of research?"
"Uhh..Fluid flows and yours?"
"Well it comes under Electrical Engineering."

Thus started a conversation which ran well into two of my wines and two of his apple-juices, and further. As he rightly stated it is only when we are in our countries that the feeling of India-Pakistan develop. Outside, we are just good neighbours. What I feel though is that even inside our countries we don't hate each other. It is just political interests who rake up hatred, for their own needs.

Our conversation turned to Zurich and he explained that it was rated the best for its quality of living and that it was the financial hub of Switzerland. How Geneva was more fun and how more people spoke French in Geneva. Outside we were flying over the clouds and the skies had turned dark. The conversation though was quite young and we talked on. There was some kind of mutual trust and a feeling of thrill of discussing sensitive issues with someone you met just a few hours ago; and as the overhead lights were doused over other seats and people fell asleep, we talked on with much gusto. Girl-friends were discussed, not by name, but by their stories and we laughed at each other's follies. The lack of a permanent nature in relationships of most european women as also the tendency of the western world to divorce was also brought up. Each topic was grilled and pondered over. It was by far one of the best conversations I've had with a fellow human being and the best with a 'stranger'. I feel it was not so much the wine but a certain degree of mutual trust that we accumulated, that made our conversation so deep.
"You know I first noticed you in the waiting lounge. You were reading some Arabic book. What is it?"
"Oh that. It is Persian(or was it Urdu) and it is a very famous book- a romantic novel."
"Oh really? I had no idea. I thought it must be some version of the Qoran or some religious text."
"No it is a very moving romantic novel and I have read it many times. There are some lines in there which are very beautiful."
(I intend to ask Qasim the names of the author and the book. It may take me a few years to get a grip of the language, but I am going to read it either alone or with some help and understand this beautiful novel.)
We talked about marriage, girls, work and everything under the Sun two twenty-odd year olds can discuss. I waited as he said his prayers and explained to me the sequence(one at daybreak, one when the sun is over your head, one when the sun is setting and one when there is no longer light. Correct right Qasim?). He explained to me the contents of the prayer. The conversation veered off into religion and he explained how a good Muslim must also believe in Jesus and Mary because there are two whole chapters dedicated to both in the Qoran, and how all the false propaganda is made by people who don't quite understand fully the narration in the Qoran and the language it is written in- Arabic. He corrected my notion of the attitude of Muslims towards pets and explained that it was perfectly alright to have pets as long as the animal is clean, and how dogs and pigs were unclean. We must have talked for hours and when every single topic was discussed and laid to rest, we felt it was necessary to get a few hours of sleep to compensate for the lag in time that we were about to experience on landing. I look forward to meeting you again sometime in life Qasim, and God-willing may it be in Zurich, you having found your mate and me with mine.

As I waved goodbye to Qasim and to the cabin crew too with whom I had become friends, I walked into the airport metro taking me towards immigration and baggage. I stepped out into the chill, windy, evening air of Zurich and even as I put on my seat-belt on the bus, I felt a certain sense of adventure for the days to come. As the bus winded down the various roads out into Zurich city I watched the beautiful countryside pass by, blanketted in the evening light. I was at calm with myself as I drank in the beauty of Switzerland for the first time from up-close and struck-awe by the clean and professional Zurich city. Dinner was at an Indian restaurant and it was back to familiar Punjabi food. Stay though was at the Holiday Inn which was quite a nice hotel and I loved our rooms in particular. Neat and beautiful.
To be continued...

The tea-ceremony in the Shatabdi (prelogue to Eurotrip)

For Someone
As in every story it is best to hold onto a bit of suspense and those of you who are already spooked, have to hold onto your breaths for a little while longer 'cos the story needs to have a proper setting for that bit of suspense to be let out into the open. So then, this is the introduction to my maiden journey abroad and it starts from Kanpur to Delhi on the Shatabdi, also a first time for me. So it came as a surprise to me when I tilted the jug of tea and out came scalding hot water. Cripes, I had heard of this kind of thing happening in the 5-star hotels where you had to practically make tea for yourself. As I struggled to open my eyes(I had barely had 2 hours of sleep the previous night), I noticed two sachets of tea-powder and one of milk powder and two more of sugar. In my state of hazy reality I wondered whether I had to make two cups of tea for myself with the items given. Was the tea-powder strong enough? What if it was strong and I ended up making myself a cup of strong tea instead of two cups of normal tea when I badly needed a few more hours of sleep? Quite nonchalantly, pretending that I was checking out the jug i swivelled it to see if there was more hot water left for another cup of tea. The jug was built of strong stuff and didn't want to reveal its secrets. I was pulled out of my predicament when out of the corner of my eye I saw the fellow passenger giving the tea packet a firm shake and make himself a cup of tea without so much as a feeling of doubt towards the second sachet of tea. My doubts evaporating like the vapours that were rising profusely from the cup of scalding hot water placed in front if me, I proceeded to put my skills at making myself a wicked cup of tea, to good use. Having done the said exercise in ample time as if I was plain bored with it, I proceeded to stir the sugar in a deliberate manner which would have put the powdered-nosed, stiff-upper-lipped, buxom royal maidens of England of yore to shame. I attacked the packet of two marie-biscuits with the same I-don't-really-care attitude. I took one, dipped it into the tea and just as I was about to bite into it with afore-mentioned attittude the piece broke off and fell ino the tea. The attitude-pose was gone in a flash and out came the five-year-old hiding within. All manners forgotten, with much gusto I rescued most of the piece floating in the tea with a spoon and noisily slurped up the remians. The villian in me crept back into the hidden depths from where he had come and I subsided to a cocoon phase into the corner. So much for the 'attitude'.