"I don't pay taxes cuz I never file/ I don't do business that don't make me smile/ I love my aero-plane, she got style..."

I stepped out to deboard to be almost swept off the stairs. The wind whipped my hair with gay abandon and a wave of happiness washed over me. It was beautiful and wildly windy as we walked across the tarmac. It kind of washed away the feeling of frustration that I was feeling just a few minutes back.

I was with a few other journalists and we were part of an in flight training for air hostesses and flight stewards. The morning started precisely at 7 am when I woke up with a start to realise that the air hostess academy guys might just leave me behind. So there I was rushing and trying to do everything at one go. Till I was seated in a cab by 8.15am.

In some time, I found myself in the bylanes of Gautam Nagar. Something that irked me considering the fact that my destination was the airport. The driver finally deigned to inform me that we were picking up another journalist. And he wanted me to call her up. While we were talking, I realised we were positioned in front of a gurudwara. "Is this where she is supposed to meet us?" I asked him. "Madam, they told me that the gurudwara was the landmark," the driver told me.

Now a place like Delhi has many gurudwaras. So I did something for which I patted myself 2 minutes later. I asked him to read out the address. He mumbled, "Xyz". It was the name of the lady we were about to pick up. "No, the address, the ADDRESS," I repeated. I peered over his shoulders.We were supposed to head for Green Park. "We are in Green Park, are we?" I asked him sarcastically. All sarcasm was lost on the man. "No, we are in Gautam Nagar. Because I often pick up someone from here and there's a gurudwara here," he said and insisted we wait there. Till I bit out in a no-nonsense voice: "Take me to Green Park immediately." At Green Park, he stopped in front of the gurudwara and refused to budge. It was a task getting him to move. It's a wonder we reached the airport on time. It was 9.30 am and I realised that we were way too early for the entire exercise that involved the training of a melee of girls in red and guys in white.

As we checked in, it was worth watching the security guard's reaction to our Jet boarding passes. It said, From Delhi, To Delhi. It would be a first anyway, I thought to myself. It took some time for the co-ordinator from the air hostess academy to explain it to the guard, who for the life of him, couldn't believe his eyes.

Once in the waiting lounge, we were informed that the boarding was delayed from 10.30 am to 12.30 pm. I got chatting with a former Lufthansa air hostess, a part of the faculty at the academy. R was not dramatically good looking but she was a warm and pleasing personality. With her was K, a former flight steward and another faculty member. K was very metrosexual indeed -- with lipstick, foundation, coloured hair and the works.

Anyway, while talking with R, I exclaimed that I wish I had thought of being an air hostess earlier. R looked at me and said, "Why, how old are you?" My reply was a woeful, "25". She said: "You look so young. There will be no problem for you to get through the international airlines. You must try it out. I loved flying though it was hard work. I kept stopping at Frankfurt and Munich and travelled to London very often," she said a bit wistfully. I realised, she meant it, when she searched me out as we were departing and told me that she had found out that there's a vacancy at the Emirates. .

Then began a long wait...doodling, doodling, solving crosswords, yapping, yapping, munching on sandwiches, watching the students and wondering how any of them could undo 20 years in a year of training and gain all the sophistication in the world (the guys and girls were so naive that I really hope they can make it where they want to).

In the loo, I came across a little girl who I thought was in need of the hand drier. I don't know why on earth I thought so. But I did. So I tapped her on the shoulders and pointed out the drier to her. She kept looking at me in askance. So I explained it to her. And then I happened to look down and I realised that all the time she was trying to squirt some liquid soap onto her palms. Yet another gaffe to my evergrowing list.

It was 1.30 pm when we boarded the air bus. It was a doomed take-off. All we did was sit and munch further on sandwiches and cakes. And wait. It was six hours of waiting that ultimately was a let-down. The redeeming part was meeting new people and liking most of them. Another interesting highlight of the day was getting inside the cockpit. It was kind of fascinating to have it all explained by the captain -- the controls, the panel... Oh we were also given a tiny model of the Jet airbus we were on. "They are very special. We usually give them to kids," smiled a Jet Airways hostess. It's quite a cute number. It reminds me of a childhood of growing up with my brother's toy cars, pick-up trucks and aeroplanes. All those bright blue and yellow Mercs, Nissans and Gulf Airs.

But the day has got me thinking. About whether this is a calling. To be up there in the skies.


I really can't tell you why I feel so right now, but the feeling - it refuses to go away

Experience takes years. And the years teach you a lot. For instance, life isn't as you always thought it would be when you were the ubiquitous school girl with pony tails. When you thought it would be a grand affair and you would be the queen of it all. I can't even begin to count the number of things I have learned over the years.

*For instance, you can never take anyone for granted. Not friends, not anyone for that matter. There was a time when I thought friendships are indestructible. They are always there to stay. I was so wrong. I have lost so many friends over a period of time. A guy I knew pointed it out and said, "You know, maybe the problem lies with you". Is that true? Because if it is, I wouldn't know how to deal with it. But I do try to reach back to friends I have lost. There's my school friend SK. Amy, me and SK were thick till college. Till Amy decided to go to Canada and I had just S with me. Then a bunch of complications crept in, in the form of a man she is married to now, and nothing is as it was. I tried to call her when I went back home the last time. She was kind of funny and she never called me back. Her husband by the way is a professor I took tuitions from when I was in college. I still think he is a damn good teacher but I have doubts about the human being in there. I get the feeling SK is alienated from everything she is familiar and I wonder how she is actually.

I suddenly remembered a silly thing Amy, SK and I did when we were in school. We had stood beneath a tree outside my house and taken a solemn oath. I don't know if either of them would recall that evening when after an afternoon of pure mirth, one of those days when we couldn't stop laughing, we said we would never stop being friends.

*I have also learnt in these 25 years that the only people who you can take for granted and count on with your eyes closed are your parents. No matter what. For sometimes, I feel, you do need such people in your life to create a balance between the let-you-downs and the never-let-you-downs. I don't know how many times I have yelled at them and misbehaved, but they have always been there. Just the other day I told my dad that they didn't have an idea about my choice. This because he had yet again sent me a photograph of an eligible guy (a guy
who resembles comedian Vinay Pathak. Now don't get me wrong. I like Vinay Pathak but I don't know whether I would like to marry him). I felt terrible later, but still I didn't call him back. Because I knew the you-are-growing-old-and-past-the-marriageable-age thing would start again. They have their point, I want to tell them, but I can't help it if I don't fall in love with the guys they hunt out.

*There again, creeps in a disillusionment. Life is not a Georgette Heyer tale, where I could say hornswoggle to a rude duke and get away with it and even win his love. In fact, I have started wondering whether there is anything as the perfect guy out there. They say, there is a right time for everything. But is there a right guy? E says its karmic. Since she's kinda in the same boat, she commented: "We must have been kings in our past life with harems. Hence we are paying for it in this life."

*Brothers change. Mine has changed so much that I can't begin to wonder at it. The same brother who would treat me as a pesky little thing and a plaything to be toppled in her walker, has started treating me like I am his older sister. He relies on me and I think I have let him down. He wanted to marry a girl whom my mother never liked. To cut a long tale short, I didn't feel comfortable forcing my parents to accept it. It was complicated alright. Now my mother refuses to talk to my brother and I feel awful about it.

* There's nothing like young love. I met an old crush, a school friend of my brother's, who used to come over to our place pretty often. I was quite young and head over hells in love with him. Ex crush got married a year back and the other day he was in Delhi. When he called and said who he was, I almost fell out of my chair. We met up. It wasn't at all uncomfortable as I feared. I don't know whether he ever had an inclination of my infatuation, but he was very nostalgic. And for once I didn't feel like saying a sarcastic 'Oh yeah' when he commented to my brother: "AB has really grown up R. God I can't believe it." As he was leaving, he gave me a gift. The gesture touched me.

*Experience has taught me yet another thing. One fine day you just bump into someone you have never thought of laying your eyes on ever again. I have a list of such people I would want to meet and wouldn't want to meet. In the latter category would be rock photographer dude. Maybe I should forward it to my guardian angel and trust him to take care of it. And, oh yes, keep my fingers crossed.


What do you do when your worst nightmare comes true? Do you put your tail in between your legs and run? Or do you stay put and face it?

Life is strange. When I say that, I feel it in my bones.

A year back, I had met a photographer (let me call him Mr P) and collected some photographs from him for a rock band story. The day had been particularly harrowing for me. At the end of it when I reached office, I forgot the photos behind in the autorickshaw. I was racked with guilt and tension. And I wanted to be honest about it. I called up Mr P and explained to him how I had misplaced his pictures. I thought he would blow his lid. He did.

To make up for my callousness, I offered to get the prints developed. I asked for the negatives. He refused. Instead he asked me to shell out Rs 10,000 for each of the prints. Till that point I was being polite and I was making myself take everything he was saying (he said a lot) timidly. But the moment he quoted that figure I lost it. I bit out some cold remarks and hung up.

Our exchange was definitely not short and crisp as my account seems. It happened over the phone, the e-mail and then on the phone again. It was an ugly experience.

Today I called up a biker for a story. While I was talking to him, he mentioned casually that he is a photographer and a rock and roll one at that. The moment I heard that, everything kind of fell in place. In a flash. I was talking to Mr P. I was stunned. I quickly passed over the phone to my photographer who was seated beside me. I called up another biker and asked him where supposed Mr P lives. "Yes, he does have an office there," he said, confirming the place I had mentioned.

Now I have to go for the story and the shoot tomorrow. And meet Mr P. I am sure that once we meet, he will remember me.

I am scared.