Saturday, January 19, 2008

Rant Against Airtel

Unlike a lot of bloggers, it's not every day that I rant on this blog about the products and services I consume. But this time, I really must. For the past couple of months, every time someone calls me and I pick up the phone, there is silence on the other line for a couple of moments before the caller tentatively asks for me.

The reason? Airtel had decided to honour me with 'caller tune' priviliges for free for some time. For those who have been living under a very prehistoric rock for a very long time, caller tunes are the songs that callers hear instead of the usual 'tring tring' when they call up someone. And what is my caller tune? Honestly reader, I have no idea. Since coming to this place, I haven't really been keeping myself up-to-date with the latest in the most horrible and un-original of Hindi music. So I have no idea what the song is, just that if I ever meet the person who decided to give me this song as the default song, we wouldn't exactly see eye-to-eye on musical preferences. And I believe that sentence just won me the Under-statement of the Year Award. My friends who call me are so hugely taken aback by the song they hear as my caller tune that they actually believe they have the wrong number.

I could have made use of the free caller tune priviliges and put on an actual good song, of course. But that would have meant calling up Airtel at six rupees per minute, and I was damned if I was going to do that. I should have called up Customer Care and made them cancel it, but I was too lazy to. And look what they've done now! Just when I had Rs. 36. 09 left as balance on my phone, they've cut thirty rupees for caller tune priviliges!! The thieving so-and-so's. Sunil Mittal may be urbane and all, but if he needs to steal money from his customers' pockets like this, he's not very high up in my list of entrepreneurs to emulate. Now if only I had the energy to find the Customer Care number and yell at those thiefs.
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Thursday, January 17, 2008


Have you ever driven on a road lined with hills on both sides and thought, "Hmm, I want to climb that hill." There have been many times that I've thought this. The first time was years ago, in Rajasthan - near Amber, I think it was. I saw the rocky hills on my right and remembered studying about them in a far-off classroom in Trivandrum and thought - wow, I bet I could actually climb those. And then didn't do it, of course. It happened again recently on my Kerala trip, this urge to test myself - once while travelling to the Idukki dam, and then several times on the bus ride from Trivandrum to Bangalore.

So when the adventure-related committee on campus announced a trek to a nearby hill recently, I signed up eagerly, thinking - ha, finally, I'll get to see if I can climb after all. And now, three days after the trek, I'm still not free of the aches and pains.

It began well enough. For once, I was dressed properly- trackpants, a long t-shirt and a jacket over it; my hair was tied back and my backpack had everything I needed. A long bumpy bus-ride deposited us at a dusty yellow junction, from which a yellow road snaked up to a promising-looking hill.

We set off in two's and three's, chatting leisurely as if we were on an afternoon stroll. And then the road got to a bridge over a depression. The hill was now on our left and this was where we had to go off the road. We could have climbed down into the depression and used it to cross to the hill, but no - adventurous (read - lazy) people that we were, we chose to cross on the narrow wall fencing the depression. Had any of us fallen, it would have been a ten foot drop on one side, and a dunking in a stream on the other - not much, I suppose.

I set off bravely, because the wall seemed broad enough to walk comfortably on. Unfortunately, it was only when it was too late to turn back that I realized that it got narrower in the middle. The drop didn't seem so little any more. Fortunately, Bugz in front of me was rock-steady, so I just focused on his feet and walked. Crossed to the other side somehow.

On we walked. Bugz and I had somehow gone far ahead of the loose gang we had set out with. I was enjoying myself at this point - picking my way over the stones, stretching my legs properly, looking about at the grass and the trees and the boulders. The sky was blue, the sun was bright, and I had not a care in the world.

Unfortunately, we soon started to realize that we were climbing up a hill after all. The path became steeper, so that the stones I had so enjoyed before became more like steps cut into the hillside, and each step upwards was a test on the thighs. Our breaks started becoming more and more frequent. We would keep asking the adventure-committee guy climbing beside us (who had come here once before to scout out the place) - how much further, how much further? And he would say, most irritatingly, "Oh, a long way. We're only about one-third up." Aargh.

There were a lot of things that we should have enjoyed on the way - strangely-shaped trees, a swing made of tree branches, the cool breeze, the very silence of the place, but no - we were too busy not letting one small hill defeat us. Or rather - I was. Left to himself, Bugz would have climbed up leisurely, taking frequent breaks and turning back to enjoy the view once in a while. But I was too obsessed.

Anyway, somehow or the other, we finally got to the summit, and what do we see there - a bike, an auto and a Tata Sumo! A bike, for God's sake. It would have been so much more worth it had we climbed up a hill unreachable by vehicle!

There were three temples there on the summit, populated by weed-smoking sadhus and tonnes of monkeys. Climbing up the steep stone steps to the highest temple took out the last of my strength, but it was so worth it, because I finally got to see a view worthy of its name. And the silence - oh, the silence; I've read of 'silence crowding in on your ears', but I experienced it for the first time there, sitting by the side of the stone steps, staring out at the mist-covered horizon. That's what temples should be like - simple, made of stone, peaceful; not marble monstrosities filled with self-righteous people.

On the way back down, Bugz and I rested in a large clearing surrounded by trees with lots of monkeys in (on?) them. There were large flat stones there, made warm by the January sun. I tried to fall asleep on one of them, but no - Bugz would not let me. At first, he said he wouldn't sleep because he wanted to keep an eye on "our simian friends", but then he kept waking me up with, "Oh my God! We're being surrounded. Look - there are two on that tree, and one on the tree behind us! They're going to attack us!" It was then that we noticed that some of our highly intelligent fellow-hikers had left their food packets open near the stone we were on. We decided to vacate the place asap - after closing the food packets, of course. But seriously - how dumb can people get?

The climb down passed by in a jiffy - it was so easy compared to the way up. We did it in less than two hours, with only a couple of short breaks. And it didn't feel like very long either, because we were so engrossed in conversation. We spoke of our respective relationships. He's going through a break-up, after a relationship of seven years, and since he is what he is, I don't think he would have spoken of it much with anyone. But I guess there was something about the setting - so far away from everyone and everything - that he opened up. And I felt so sad for the poor guy, even though he would have hated that. I mean - seven years! (And having heard of it in that much detail from him, I felt rather strange hearing my roomie telling her boyfriend about his predicament much too casually last night.)

So we climbed back down, we watched the sun setting behind a hill, we crossed the narrow wall, we sat on the bridge and waited for the rest of the people, we survived the bumpy bus ride back home; I slept ten hours that night. And the trip was so worth it because I didn't give up even when my whole body was crying out for me to, and because now I can finally look at a roadside hill and not want to climb it.

Now if only my body would stop aching.
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