Monday, 21 September 2009

The Pink Flamingo

Ravan and I choke on our beers.

Have we heard right or has Sidekick gone mad? Does Malhotra saab really expect us to chaperone him to a strip-tease club? Malhotra saab -- the dignified, silver-haired patriarch of XYZ Corporation -- in front of whom, we sit on the edge of our seats to show respect lest he should take offence?

Ravan and I are in Dusseldorf for two weeks to participate in a trade-show and we are put up at the ritzy Ramada hotel. After a hard day’s work, we are back in the hotel and unwinding with a beer in the bar, when Sidekick, Malhotra’s Man Friday, successfully seeks us out and puts forward his boss’s request.

“It’s only 7.30 pm,” says Ravan. “I don’t think the night clubs open before 11 pm.”

Sidekick has it all worked out. We will go for a nice vegetarian dinner, he says. Afterwards, we will go clubbing.

Ravan and I look at each other, not much liking the whole idea. We have to be at work at 7.30 am the next day and can quite do without a late night out. But Malhotra saab is a VIP customer and it would be churlish to turn down his request. So we nod glumly at Sidekick and give our assent.

During dinner, Ravan explains the basics to both the guys. There will be a centre stage around which the tables are arranged in multiple tiers. The dancers will come one by one, do their routine and go back. Once we are seated, girls from the bar will come and try to sit beside us. Don’t encourage them. Their only aim is to make you buy champagne which would be exorbitantly priced. Tell them we are only having beer and they will go away. Then we can enjoy our evening in peace.

Malhotra Saab looks convinced. He nods sagely. Only Sidekick looks a bit disappointed.

But the plot runs off the rails at the Pink Flamingo, the club recommended to us by the concierge at the Ramada. The sight of so many scantily-clad women totally unhinges the normally sedate Malhotra saab. Ravan and I have hardly sipped our first beer when we see our customer with girls wrapped around him on both sides and grinning like an idiot. “What is your names, baby?” asks our Don Juan in his rustic, Punjabi accent. The girls giggle and ask for champagne.

Ravan tries to signal a warning. B-E-E-R, he mouths wordlessly, with not much hope.

Kya pharak padta hai, yaar? Champagne order karo na!” says the Casanova, who has his hands full by now.

Frankly, I do not remember much about the rest of the night and I’m sure the same applies to Ravan as well. I have a faint recollection of dropping Malhotra saab and Sidekick off at their hotel and reaching the Ramada, well past 2 am.

What I do remember vividly is the attending the briefing session the next day at 7.30 am nursing the mother of all hangovers and not registering a word of what was being said.

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Wednesday, 9 September 2009

A Century of Posts: 2

In Praise of the Stenographer

If you look back over the last 15 years or so, the stenographer as a species has totally vanished from the office scene. You do not see him anymore. The advent of the PC and the laptop, word-processing programmes with spell check features and the unblinking focus companies have brought to bear on headcount-related costs have all played their part in vanishing what was once the constant in any organisation chart..

The Biscuit tin Rider

One hot summer day in May, I find myself stranded in Mangalore without a ticket to Bombay. Lugging my suitcase, with sweat trickling down my spine, I visit the tiny offices of all the major bus operators for a seat on a bus leaving that night, only to be turned away every time. No seats are available. All buses are totally booked out...

Landing in Mangalore

The problem was that the mere prospect of landing in Mangalore airport in the ageing Boeing 737s of Indian Airlines filled me with such abject terror; I could not sleep for days prior to the flight...

Strong Medicine

It is one of those early morning departures and predictably enough it is going to be an Airbus A320 that will fly us to Bangalore. At 6.30 am, we are securely strapped in our seats and about to start taxiing for take-off when Mike surreptitiously palms something onto me.

It is a miniature bottle of whisky...

An Unforgettable Dinner

I indicated to BS that there could be a small problem: while I knew for a fact that Iyer liked beer, I was equally certain that he was a strict vegetarian. He was, after all, a Tamil Brahmin from traditional, conservative, orthodox Chennai and maybe he would have eggs at the most, but fish and meat were definitely a no-no...


The drinks menu is passed around and Subbudu first orders orange juice. Seeing the others order scotch and soda, he changes his mind and asks the waiter to bring Chivas Regal because “he has heard so much about it.” By the time the others have barely finished the first round, our man is onto his third drink and showing alarming signs of inebriation...

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

A Century of Posts: 1

Once I publish a blog post, I rarely go back and read it again.

But now that “Stepping Sideways” has completed a century of posts, I felt it is as good an occasion as any, to go through the archives and provide a link to those posts which, on re-reading, still managed to raise a chuckle. Pretty much narcissistic, you may say and I shall not demur. But, what the hell! Here are the links to six old posts that made me smile. In the next post, I will provide links to six more.

Modesty is my middle name, by the way.

The Missing Passport
It is well past midnight and all inmates of our bachelors’ pad in Vile Parle are fast asleep. An alarm goes off, but is quickly smothered after the first ring itself. My friend Moni gets up reluctantly and tiptoes softly to the toilet. Silently he finishes his shave, showers, sprays an expensive deodorant all over his body, gets into a freshly-laundered pair of trousers and puts on a spotless, white shirt...

Unsaintly Thoughts
A letter has come from the Rajneesh Ashram, enquiring about a product that the company markets. I am asked to go and make a sales presentation...

The Mumbai Local
Travelling in overcrowded suburban trains of Bombay forces you to learn many skills. Reading a broadsheet newspaper such as The Times of India holding onto an overhead strap with one hand in a swaying train compartment where people are packed in like sardines, is one of them...

Joshua’s Mumbai
Rakesh, by the way, is quite normal, compared to some of my other friends who have populated these blog posts off and on. Granted, there was that brief period in early 1990s when he declared undying allegiance to the state of Israel and started calling himself Joshua...

In Praise of the Beard
I have been having a beard for over two decades now. Many are the people I have misled into thinking of me as an intelligent, erudite, caring, sensitive human being by the sole virtue of my beard. Likewise, many are the sticky situations I have got out of with Houdini-like adroitness, by simply stroking my beard and looking thoughtful...

Ravan and the Cable Guy
Ravan explodes from his chair, draws himself to his full height and unships a few choice epithets in Hindi and Marathi, outlining the cable owner’s doubtful paternity, his unsavoury relationship with his sister, and his abject inability to satisfy his wife in bed...

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Stepping Sideways... by K. Radhakrishnan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.