Saturday, August 08, 2009

London Diary

Checked in early at the airport and was given the good news that I had been upgraded to business class. Once I got into the aircraft, I looked first at the miserable bunch of economy class passengers and thought to myself, “Losers! I have paid almost the same fare as you guys, but I am going to have a good sleep tonight in my stretched-out seat”. And then I went to my seat in Business Class, looked at my fellow passengers and thought, “Losers! I have paid far less than you guys have, yet I am going to enjoy the same comfort.” I felt really good.

Took a train from Heathrow to Paddington. I had been told that my hotel was just 2 minutes away from Paddington. Cautious enquiry revealed that the hotel was actually 500 yards away. Converting yards into metres, a unit I am more conversant with, was difficult after a 10 hour plane journey, so I used some quick thumb rules. A cricket pitch, I remembered was 22 yards long. So, the walk to the hotel was equivalent to taking 22 runs and getting run out when 6 yards short of completing the 23rd run. It’s ok when you are just carrying a bat, but I couldn’t imagine even Tendulkar doing it for his beloved country while lugging around a suitcase weighing 15 kg, and a laptop weighing a ton. Too much of a hassle. I took one of those black cabs and was at my hotel in 2 minutes.

A friend took me to an Italian restaurant where we ordered minestrone soup. I expected to see something reddish in a tomatoish base, but what was served was almost a clear soup, with big pieces of vegetables in it. Tasted real good, but looked more Cantonese than Italian. SShhh, advised my friend, don’t get the waiter started on a lecture on what authentic Italian food was all about. I reflected on this. With imitation Italian food available all over the world, the original Italian chefs have struck back, and re-defined what ‘authentic Italian’ was. Made a note that if ever the South Indian idli becomes a global rage, Saravana Bhavan must starting making the idlis in light green colour and claim that’s how the authentic idlis have been made here for centuries. Selling is all about differentiating yourselves from the crowd.

Loitering around Piccadilly Circus, I got caught in a torrential downpour, which showed no signs of abating. Decided to get into a theatre and watch a play. The cheapest ticket, I was informed by the kind lady at the window, was £ 12.5, but I would have an obstructed view of the stage. The next cheapest was £ 25, which had a slightly better view. However, if I was a student, she said, I could get this at a special price of £ 15. Though I was mightily pleased that she would even grant the possibility of me looking like a student, I had to be honest. I settled for the seat at the cheapest rate, but closest to the £ 25 seats. I looked at my neighbour on my right and thought, “Loser! I have paid just half the amount, and here I am sitting just next to you”. Made me feel good and made up for that nagging thought that I was blowing up Rs 1000 for a view of 50% of the stage. The play itself was a riot. A spoof on “Thirty nine steps’ and a cast of 4 actors playing 140 roles in 90 minutes.

I have finally understood the psychology behind airport shopping. The big brands that are displayed there are all red herrings. You look at the £ 200-1000 price tags and feel terribly small. All of a sudden you walk into a souvenir shop and find something with a price tag of only £ 14.99. You immediately pull out your purse and buy it, grateful for the favours dispensed by Providence. Only after you have boarded the plane, it hits you that you have just paid Rs 1200 for a T-shirt that would cost you no more than Rs 200 in Chennai, including the pictures of Big Ben and the double-deckers. And the T-shirt that you bought was probably made in Tiruppur too.


Anonymous said...

Awesome writing!
Awesome lateral thinking :). Why don't you consider writing a book, Humorous but fact based book. Just thought.

P.S: I am a subscriber of your blog from a long time, but never left a comment till date. Couldn't resist leaving a comment to this particular post though.

ramesh said...

hahahaa .. sometimes you just rock old man ..

Raj said...

Anon, thanks for stepping out of the shadows to comment. You could leave a name?

Ramesh, only sometimes?

quartyc said...

didn't minestrone soup remind you of some kind of a warm unsalted sambar squeezed out of yesterday's Bisibilabath leftovers ?

Airport shopping is a good topic to research and collect statistics. London is much cheaper on alcohol wrt Dubai :)