Monday, June 09, 2008

The power of a Canis Familiaris *** मुम्बई का कुत्ता

Have wings. Will fly.

Lest you think that I hop from plane to plane and travel a lot, let me explain that the scope of my travel normally extends to three wheeler and bus travel between Mumbai's eastern and western suburbs, and occasional suburban train travel, when the skies are not excessively overcast , and threatening to discharge fifteen kilometres of high dark and loaded cloud cover in 8 hours , as happened in July 2005.

As a person with feet more or less firmly planted , not only on the ground, but these days also in deep and watery potholes, I often feel a tinge of envy as I see planes coming in for a landing beyond the hill in the distance; no slush, no wetness, no wet mud splashes on your window (if not on you, in a 3-wheeler), no pushing and shoving in buses, no defining your space with unfolded umbrellas, no glaring and , hopefully, no shouting.

No more. Because of a dog.

A stray dog, the mongrel type that wanders aimlessly in crowded areas, trying to snatch something to eat from something we humans trash, the type that children like to stone and run away, and the type that often runs in a pack with other like minded homeless dogs, suddenly realized that there was this huge clean inviting expanse that he could run on to in the rain, now that a portion of the airport perimeter wall, had collapsed, thanks to the aforementioned rain.

So what's new ? This.

One dog, was able to divert 5 flights, delay 30 , and have hundreds of folks running around trying to catch him, as he frolicked on the runway. He appeared on the scene, a few minutes before another runway was to be closed, and so all these high tech, radar technology enabled folks were desperate to catch him. Of course , there were other things like cargo planes which had made emergency landings and blocked some area, but the dogs timing was, if you forgive the usage, superb.

Just think. Diamond merchants, bankers, stock exchange honchos, looking forward to landing, whizzing off to their air conditioned offices in their air conditioned cars, to make an air conditioned profit, suddenly realized that they were not landing, but diverted to say, Ahmedabad. And you could not use your cell phone.

Maybe , some of our captains of industry, no longer flying junta level planes (but their own private ones), winging into Mumbai for a meeting and a page 3 party, suddenly realized that they were going round in circles, and not likely to land soon. Think of the revenue lost per minute, collaborations left unsigned, and lets not worry about the jet fuel wasted.

The idea that the world's 3rd richest man, trying to land in Mumbai in his own jet, waiting to helicopter over to his south Mumbai abode, is unable to any of it, all due to a dog , is simply outrageously funny. Not that it has happened but the scenario simply sizzles. How very unReliable.

Politicians, some brimming with optimism after a successful visit to Delhi, others, seething with anger and discomfort after a perceived treacherous episode in Delhi, and some others, simply wasting their country's resources, flying into Mumbai with large families and even larger Z-plus securities, for a social event camouflaged as a working visit , must have wrung their hands in despair, as the air hostess announced in shudh hindi about the diversion to an airport 600 miles away. (And that state was ruled by the opposition....).

The rest kept circling round and round , giving everyone a birds eye view of the flooding , the slums, the traffic, and the uprooted trees.

Some flights were international. Some carried people from the worlds most advanced IT companies. NRI chaps returning home, participating in the newly happening "brain gain". Some were terribly embarrassed. Some were desperate, they had interviews to appear for. Some like my friend, were actually kind of relieved - this would be an unexpected off, in their heavily crowded, day-to-day routine, they were returning to. Some just took a deep breath.

But I often wonder. Knowing the nature of the population and density just outside the perimeter wall, should they be pursuing some added technology besides the brick and mortar wall ? Some kind of ultrasonic/electronic sound technology that only animals would hear and keep away ? Is building an airport only about making five star amenities in lounges, and newer technology for the air traffic controllers? For a city with a huge population, would it be a feasible solution to train and employ local lads to guard the perimeter walls to avoid such things ? Is technology all about machines, smarter, faster, bigger , or is it about trying to improve the lot of the people who live around you?

Maybe the dog has an answer. Maybe it is trying to tell us something. Maybe we need to pay attention to the little things.

Like someone said, "
The intelligence of a Poodle and the loyalty of a Lassie. The bark of a Shepherd and the heart of a Saint Bernard. The spots of a Dalmatian, the size of a Schnauzer, and the speed of a Greyhound. A genuine, Mumbai ka kutta has it all."

***Canis Familiaris : mongrel dog

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