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Friday, June 10, 2005

Chp 39. Sonargachi!

Finally, after much hesitation, I decided to check out what this Sonargachi is all about.

Sonargachi, the sex capital of the East, infamous for its prostitution and sleazy red light areas. Pick up a copy of the Newsweek or any other news magazine, and if there is an article about prostitution in India, I can bet my ass Sonargachi is mentioned in it. Tell any taxi driver “Sonargachi” and you can’t help notice a sly smile on his face.

I’ve been working here in Cal for almost 2 months now. I’ve seen places in North India that I’ve never seen before these past two months. But Sonargachi, which lies right here in the very city I go to Office everyday, has never passed before my eyes. Everyday I tell myself, “Kima, just for the heck of it, go see what’s it like”.

So one fine day, I left Office early, took a long drag on my cigarette and then told the taxi driver to go to Sonargachi. He smiled. I didn’t.

While on the way, the driver looked at me and asked whether he’ll wait for me! I was about to tell him that I just wanted to see what the place is like and I’m not going there to “do it”, but then, I realized it sounded so lame and he’s never going to believe me, so I just said we’ll see.

Even when I’m with friends, now and then, the topic on Sonargachi would spring up. Some of my friends even tease me not to go over there too regularly (typical guy’s talk). Well, here I am, about to see my first red light district.

Got into a conversation with my driver. He told me Sonargachi is situated right on the main road. And the name of that road is Mahatma Gandhi Road. How ironic! :)

He turned to me and said we’ve reached. As soon as we passed a petrol pump, for the first time in my life I saw prostitutes. Thousands of them. All lined up on the pavement luring customers with their charm.

I was disappointed. Utterly disappointed like Hell. They were nothing like what I expected to see. Maybe I’ve seen too many Hollywood movies. Coz here I am expecting to see prostitutes in laced stockings, 8 inches high heels, mini skirts revealing more than what’s necessary, black leather jacket over a teeny weeny blouse or spaghetti, deep red lipsticks and black eye liner over-done around the face and swinging a black leather hand bag wildly while chewing a gum.

Nah. They were nothing like that. A majority of them were wearing saris and salwars while a few of them were dressed in tees and jeans. And the ones wearing jeans, man, I couldn’t help notice that their jeans were so out dated. Most of them were wearing those 80’s jeans type that goes tight around the ankle and making their asses look so flat. And a whole bunch of them had too much make-up on, making them look so horrible.

As we drove past them, my dear driver who seems to be enjoying his time here, slowed downed a bit. The moment he slowed down, hundreds of these girls ran towards my taxi! I screamed at him to drive on!

Very soon we drove past the place and I told him to take a U turn and we’ll go home. He turned to me and ask whether I was not interested so I told him the truth that I just wanted to see the place. He then told me that if that was the case, then, the main Sonargachi is inside the alley from M.G.Road. and he’s willing to show me around for free!

What the heck. So we parked the car on the other side of the road after making a U turn and made our way INTO Sonargachi. As we crossed the street, he told me that the girls I saw are 50 bucks girls. I was like, what the fuck, you get girls for 50 bucks???? That’s even cheaper than the amount I spend on cigarettes everyday.

He told me that there are much better girls inside. There are 100 bucks girls, 500 bucks girls, and even 5000 bucks girls! Whoah. I asked him how many times he’s been here and he just laughed. Man can you ask for a better driver than this? He’s God sent!

As we walked into the alley, he told me not to make any eye contact with the girls or they will rush towards me. That, my friend, was a bit difficult to do. But yeah, I did try not to look at all these girls surrounding me and waiting to have sex )

Inside Sonargachi, there were buildings after buildings, which my driver told me were places where people do it. I saw a couple of guys, really mean looking and “dacoitic”, staring right at me (the tamilian word “rowdy” would best fit them). He told me that those guys are pimps and are here to see that no one makes trouble in their area. The more they stared at me, the harder I clutched my bag which had my lap-top inside.

As we passed a couple of buildings, the girls were getting more and more... sexier. Some of them were even really HOT! Those were definitely the 1G-5G girls. And there was nothing “prostitute” about them. They look just like those typical babes who you see at discs dancing seductively and flaunting their bodies. They knew how to dress up too. Nothing extravagant or over done. Man oh man, if my mind was any weaker, God knows what would have happened then.

Finally I told my driver I’ve seen enough and wanted to go home. He told me that most of the girls are inside the building and that a “madam” looks them after. LoL, sounds like one of those Jackie Collins novels. Much as I’d like to go inside one of these buildings, I remembered what one of my friends told me. He had done it with a hooker, and it seems in real life they do not scream out oohs and aahs. All they scream out is “Jaldi karo, jaldi karo”! LoLzzzz!!!!

As I drove past Sonargachi, I felt satisfied in a weird way. Finally I’ve seen what Sonargachi is about. Another point to strike out from my “List of things to do before I die”. )

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Chp 38. Mumbai Shock!

30th May Monday:
Walked into Office. Everybody welcomed me back and said they missed me It was indeed nice to walk around in the Office once again. Mrs. Margaret was there as usual wishing me. My makeshift desk has been placed next to her and half the time we pass smart comments about each other. Everything is so much peaceful, now that my road trip is finally over. Until I received a mail from the Bombay Head Office telling me to be in Mumbai on June 2nd for my project presentation! WTF! I spoke to my guide who told me to relax and said he’ll speak to them. So I continued with my data analysis.

31st May Tuesday:
It’s the Month end, so every Sales and Marketing executive was busy. Meeting after meeting took place in the office. As for me, I just sat in my desk trying to come up with a pattern from all the data I’ve collected. Was about to leave in the night when my Mentor, Mr. Shankha Banerjee, the BP Brand Manager, called me and said I have to go to Mumbai day after tomorrow for my presentation! Good news is, I just have to tell them what all I have done so far and what I still plan to do. Bad news is, I have nothing much to tell them as I am still working on my Jharkhand and Orissa report.

1st June Wednesday:
Spent the whole day working on my Phase II report. Got my tickets for tomorrow 6am flight. My presentation’s tomorrow 2pm. Finally I finished my report at around 10pm and submitted them to my Mentor and also to my Guide. Rushed home. Started working on my presentation at 12 mid-night after packing.

2nd June Thursday:
Worked on my presentation till 3 in the morning. Decided to sleep for an hour since I was damn tired. I ended up sleeping for 2 hours! Panicked and rushed to the Airport. Missed my flight by 40 minutes!!!! #@$#%$#@!!! The next flight to Mumbai was Jet Airways at 1pm. Bought a ticket for that out of my own pocket. Made lots of really embarrassing phone calls to many people, which I’d rather not talk about :)
Boarded the 1pm flight. Rehearsed my presentation for sometime during the flight. Good news is, Bombay Office said they’ll reschedule somebody in my spot and its ok as long as I reach today. Bad news is, all the Big Bosses of Castrol now know about this and they will definitely have a bad opinion about me. But I do not regret it at all. Wanna know why? Well, guess who I sat next to on this flight to Mumbai? Mr. Mahendra Bhagat, the Marketing Manager of ESSAR! We ended up talking about everything that ESSAR is all about, right from retail outlets for Fuel to Hutch mobile service provider. We talked about the Steel Industries too, which is ESSAR’s flagship. And I happened to know a great deal about the situation of the Steel Industry in India due to the Strategy Project I had back in College, which was on TISCO. He gave me his card at the end of the flight!!! How cool is that. To me, it’s the next big thing to being offered an on-spot job offer!
Reached Mumbai at 4:30pm. Went directly to Technopolis on Mahakali Caves Road. Reported to Ms. Savitha, the HR Manager. Met all the other interns and boy it felt good catching up. At 8pm I was informed that my presentation’s tomorrow. Got a room at Hotel Tunga International. My dear sister came to pick me up. Had dinner at my room together. Oh by the way, today is her birthday, so I decided to do something really special. I sent her a happy birthday sms while I was in the plane, 5000 ft above sea level. James and Vikram too came to my room for dinner that night. They are the Castrol summer interns from IIM-A and MICA respectively.

3rd June Friday:
My presentation went off well I guess. The panelists consist of Mr.Sasidharan Vice Presi of Marketing, Mr.Sanjeev Kaul, GM of Automobile, Mr.Rajiv, GM of North and East, Mr.Srikanth CT Manager and Mr.Anand the General Manager of HR … Even though I couldn’t conclude much due to my limited analysis, I think they were quite impressed with some of my suggestions. Spent the rest of the day in Office waiting for my sister to pick me up. She came around 6pm and we moved into her friend’s place at Bandra. A very nice girl. Her name’s “M”. She’s like 7-8 years older than me but she’s still very hot and… exciting.
Very soon, it was time to party! Started the night at Toto’s Pub where my sister’s other fren "S" joined us. I kinda felt a bit awkward being the only guy and two really hot n sexy girls (am not talking about my sister ofcourse) dancing with me. Luckily Ganesh, my senior from Engg Coll and IIMB and also Castrol Area Sales Manager, was in town. I called him up. We went to Shooters on Lincoln road where he came and joined us. Danced a lot there and was quite drunk by then. But that’s not the end of it all. Around 2am, we went to “Avalon” at Bawa International. Fucking amazing. 800 per couple but it was all cover charge. Lots n lotsa hot hot babes all around, but I stuck to MY hot hot babes
Partied till 6am. Was completely sloshed by then. Slept as soon as we reached home (“Slept” is the politically correct word for “Passed out”. LoLz!)

4th June Saturday:
Woke up at 4 in the afternoon! Puked as soon as I got up. Took a long nice shower and tried to remember if I have done anything stupid the previous night. My sister’s peacefully sleeping between me and “M” and she’s not clutching a knife so I guess I behaved well with her frens. Although I did vaguely recollect getting a lot of “kim, I’d love to continue dancing with u this way but I can’t because I am ur sister’s fren” from "S"
Saturday was dull compared to Friday. My sis, “M” and I went to Trafalgar Chowk for dinner. After that we drank at home coz none of us had any strength to party. Slept by 12.

5th June Sunday:
Woke up at 9 and went out to meet Amol. We had breakfast at the coffee shop in Globus. After catching up with what’s all been happening in our lives, we went to Independent CafĂ© for lunch. Ordered draught beer along with the food. Son of a bitches served us bottled beer. When I complained, they insisted that the beer is indeed draught and not bottled. Bastards. Am a regular draught drinker and I can easily differentiate between a bottled beer and draught. But Amol didn’t wanna create a scene so I let it go. Am never gonna go there again.

My sis dropped me at the Airport around 4pm and reached Cal by 7pm. It was raining heavily and since I had my laptop in my hand baggage, I spent 2 freaking hours in the Airport waiting for the rain to stop.

Chp 37. British Petroleum - Part Two

Phase II of British Petroleum:

When I reached Cal, I submitted a brief report of my Uttar Pradesh trip to my guide. As I sat there infront of him while he went through my report, I really felt proud. Finally somebody was going to appreciate my work, which did not involve sports, DJ’ing or website/graphics design. It really felt good, especially after working my ass off endlessly for 10 days at a stretch. Then he looked at me and shattered all my dreams. It was like those moments when you’re nominated for a Grammy and the MC announces that not only did you lose but your Record is the worst ever. Although my guide did not use those exact words, I can make it out that he was disappointed. I have failed to analysis the price factor. That includes the DLP, MOP, MRP, dealer margin, net margin, scheme margin, FOC, cash discount etc of each and every product that the dealer is selling. Those are really complicated and complex issues, so I thought since I was just a mere summer trainee, I didn’t have to get into all that. How wrong I was.

So on my next market tour, I had just one target in my mind: Pricing. I was even more determined than before, but at the same time disheartened. Coz it really sux to work so hard and then realize all those hard work isn’t worth all the trouble you just took.

Anywayz, landed in Ranchi on . The place was amazing! It was like a miniature Calcutta. Lots of shopping malls, MNC fast food joints, pretty young girls, pirated hiphop music video CDs, chaat wallas, etc etc. The place is definitely a commercial hub, modernized to its max. I think the best part was the climate. Just like Bangalore. There wasn’t any need to sleep with the AC switched on during the night. Doing the local and upcountry market was very pleasant. Except ofcourse when I had to travel to Gumla. Those are the rural tribal areas infested with hardcore naxals. It was indeed scary to drive through those parts. My DSR told me not to stare at anybody right in the eye. We had to leave the place around 3pm so that we can reach Ranchi before the Sun sets. Driving through those areas after dark is pure suicidal. Fortunately nothing happened, except for a small incident where the people threw sticks at our car. LoL! I mean, it would make much better sense to throw stones at people you don’t like, but boy am I glad its just sticks. After 5 days, I left for Jamshedpur. That very next day, I read in the papers that naxals (Maoists) killed 9 people of a family of 3 at Lohardaga, one of the areas I drove through barely 10 hours ago!

To cut a long story short, I had a great time at Jharkhand. It wasn’t anything that I’d expected. Bought a lot of pirated Hiphop music VCDs, each for a mere 20 bucks.

Orissa on the other hand was terrible. Rourkela was a freaking furnace. The street is completely deserted between 12 and 4pm because of the heat wave. Man, I had to cover my face with a towel even while sitting in the auto due to the hot air burning up my face. Had food poisoning too. Thought it was heat stroke and I panicked. But the symptoms were not that of a heat stroke. Had high fever and an upset stomach. No appetite. Spend the whole day lying on my bed, with no strength to even watch TV. Finally, I rushed into the loo and puked my guts out. Within an hour, I was completely back to normal! The next day, I continued my work as scheduled.

Bhubhaneshwar and Cuttack on the other hand were completely different. Much bigger and developed than Rourkela. Watched the FA Cup final in the night. Arsenal won on penalty! Woohoo!!!!! Balasore was another beautiful place. It rained cats and dogs the night I reached that place. The highway looked really scary with lightning and thunder all around us. Spent my last two days there and finally went back to Calcutta.

I felt really proud because the data I’ve collected is way way better than what I collected in Uttar Pradesh. 18 days, 16 cities, 2 States and 1 food poisoning later, I reached Calcutta.