One of the few advantages of a travelling job is the travel itself. Apart from the thousands of miles that you collect on your mileage accounts, the Platinum Elite status in hotels, you do get around to seeing lots of places, though the sightseeing is strictly restricted to 6pm - 12am time slots.
Courtesy one of the projects, I had an all expenses paid for trip to Denmark and Sweden sometime in the recent past. After a few tense days of waiting for the visa ( I applied for my visa 10 days before I was scheduled to leave - which included a weekend) and some innovative packing techniques later, I found myself trying to trying in vain to print my boarding pass. At this point, I seem to have a curious disability - I can never use the check-in - what with a 30 character name with 4 spaces in it, each airline takes immense sadistic pleasure in playing permutation combination with my name(s). It seems like those times when I had math problems which went like there are 4 empty seats in a row of 30 seats - how many ways can the 4 empty seats be distributed without 2 empty seats being next to each other. Well, I digress. So after some trouble and swears, I found myself being attended to by an agent - but at that particular point of time, lady luck seemed to favor me - and so I got a free bump to business class with no miles lost. So there I was, a happy camper. The flight from Tampa to Atlanta was over in a jiffy. The one from Atlanta to Copenhagen drilled into you that you were travelling to an European country. Accented english, strong smell of alcohol 5 minutes after take-off and of course the danish instructions that the stewardess was giving on how to save myself if the need to came to that. The best thing about being in business class is that, every sitting moment, you realize what you'd have been condemned to. The bend yourself into two and act as if your shoulders don't exist routine. You get a laptop charge port and free wireless and of course, the choicest juices and snacks from time to time.
Without more ado, let it suffice that I reached Copenhagen feeling at peace with the world. My feeling of cheery well being was also prompted by the fact that I was 6 hours earlier in time and so, was waking through my usual deep slumber time. But then, my reverie was broken by the number of Indian junta at CPH. My room-mate had joked that I would be detained at CPH immigration because of my Indian passport, but seeing the number of salwars and formal pants - sneakers combination, I would not have been surprised if the Immigration guy greeted me with a "Vanakkam, Thalai". An hour's travel journey and a 20 minute ferry ride later, I found myself at Helsingborg, Sweden - a quaint little harbor town which was historically owned by Denmark and Sweden for almost equal portions of time.
After doing the biggest tourist attraction in Helsingborg, the Tower Karnan, I was quite politely told that all restaurants close by 3pm on Sundays. After much roaming around I found an Irish-American pub, complete with the Bo-So and Celtics banners, I had bruschetta and a coke. Not that it was delicacy, but the devil was in the details - the bruschetta had a fine layer of turmeric powder. As hard as I can think, I cannot logically think of a way that our turmeric reached the viking territory. Perhaps one of those Vike-Dude married an Indian chick and got apart from the usual paruppu-thenga and murruku, some manjal stuff too. I say this because, the next day - I had fries, which had, as you might have guessed, turmeric powder strewn on top. And Pepsi was conspicuous by its absence and the monopolizing Coke was selling at $3 per serving. For some strange reason, the folks over there do not refill beverages and look at you like you are from some unknown place if you ask for a refill and of course, they charge for it :)
The work itself was easy - thankfully, as the team was known for its tough workstyle and they were nice enough to drive me to Bastad, the place where the King of Sweden used to hang out some years ago for summers. They still play the Swedish Open there and it was heartening to see a life size metal sculpture of the great Bjorn Borg. The beach over there was one of those pristine beaches, existing just for the rich and famous. By my limited knowledge of the modelling world, I was able to recognize 2-3 super models.
(To Be Continued)