- My Jet Airways Citbank Card finally came of some use and I used miles accumulated since 2007 to get myself a return ticket to Bombay where I attended the NiTyaGu wedding. Regrettably, Airport Development Fees and Congestion Charges cannot be paid for by miles.
- When introducting Konnect, Jet Airways seems to have forgotten to make provision for it in the frequent flier program. It takes as many miles to redeem a full-service ticket as a Konnect ticket. Naturally I booked full-service tickets.
- Having a full fare ticket allowed me to finally enter the Jet Airways lounge at Chennai. Alas, the lounge has no wifi, is slightly dirty, and while I was there had not only hyperactive kids but a Malaysian couple who fought over the guy tying his shoe instead of listening to the girl. The guy then made the girl cry. Am I the only person who notices these bizarre domestic disputes?
- Having a full-fare ticket also meant I got to watch 30 Rock on the inflight entertainment system (Nishit D and PGK, please note). Also, two episodes of Sarabhai v/s Sarabhai.
- Apropos of inflight entertainment systems, now that K Maran has taken over Spice Jet and is going to rename it Sun Airways, will it start offering Sun TV as inflight entertainment? If this is too expensive for a low cost carrier, will it just play Kalaignar’s poetry on the PA system? Will Azhagiri now buy Go Air in retaliation? These are burning questions.
- Bloomberg UTV has hoardings up all over Mumbai claiming to be blunt, and sharp. It is clearly the Schroedinger’s cat of Indian broadcasting. That means that if anybody actually watches it, it will collapse.
- Speaking of hoardings, I did not see a single hoarding or OOH banner that referred to the football world cup while in Bombay. I fear its obsession with Indian celebrities is now crowding out everything else.
- The banana lassi at Theobroma is awesome.
- Theobroma is now offering to courier its brownies anywhere in India. Unfortunately payment can be made only at Mumbai. This makes it useful as a gifting option where the gifter is in Mumbai, but is pretty useless if you’re in Kanchipuram and want to order. This week I shall call the Colaba outlet and ask if they’ll take payment by EFT.
- Kodhi made me (and others) watch the 90210 season two finale. This led to consequences that are too scandalous to discuss outside a W-File. Unfortunately, I am not going to start writing the next W-File until at least July.
- The grub at the Rajdhani in Oberoi Mall was seriously good. In fact, the khichdi, kadi, and jalebis were themselves worth the price of the whole thali.
- I met PGK at the reception. Like Sreesanth, he is a personable young man. Unlike Sreesanth, he is not Mallu.
- TamBrahm weddings are like ERP implementations.
- Sambhar in Chembur continues to rock.
- My Jet Airways Citibank Card also came in useful at Mumbai airport, where I got complimentary access to the lounge, which didn’t even care what my ticket was. Unfortunately, the lounge is only marginally less noisy than the public seating area, so I shifted there. Oh sigh.
- A lounge that banned children would be quite excellent. To fend of accusations of elitism and child-hatred from mommybloggers, it could accomplish this by serving alcohol and barring entry to anybody less than 18 years old. I am still not sure how it could get rid of other annoying guests, like the ones who loudlly discuss compensation schemes on their blackberries. Tchah.
- The wifi in Mumbai airport was down and didn’t start working until it was almost boarding time. I will have to add the appropriate tags to this post later, when I get home. Also, the wifi is only free for ten minutes. Oh sigh.
Jet Airways has very few domestic planes equipped for inflight entertainment; but it’s inflight entertainment systems completely pwns Kingfisher’s inflight TV (which shows some shady Zee network channels, and horrors of horrors, Kambakht Ishq). You get touch screens, video and music on demand, the flight path interface is nicer; and quite a selection of movies and TV episodes. My dad, who travels Delhi-Chennai and back twice a month these days complains that they haven’t updated the selection in two months, but this was the first time I was traveling on a Jet flight with the entertainment system, so it was all new to me.
I wasn’t interested in either the Hindi or English movies they had, so I went through the TV section. They had an episode of Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, which I liked, but somehow Ravikiran‘s raving about it had led me to expect more. Perhaps it was one of the weaker episodes, or perhaps the humour only comes through with multiple episodes. Anyhow. Sarabhai v/s Sarabhai was good, but what was really brilliant was that this flight got me on to Disney Channel shows – notably Sonny With A Chance. I loved Sonny With A Chance. It sent up soap operas, has a nerd-girl who builds catapults, and despite being a kid’s show, the writers sneaked in enough innuendo for a couple of That’s What She Said moments (“Stop blowing. Start talking.”). And they also did something I’m very fond of – setting up a joke in one segment, and then delivering the punchline much later1 (the setup involves the catapult mentioned earlier). Oh, and this is for Rahul Raguram – according to Wikipedia, Demi Lovato is a fan of symphonic black metal band Dimmu Borgir. All in all, brilliant stuff, and I think I shall thulp the whole season soon.
I also saw The Suite Life on Deck, which was funny in parts (London Tipton! Bwahahhahah!), but not extraordinary; and Hannah Montana, which brings us to the second part of this post.
So… Hannah Montana. In case you don’t already know this, in Hannah Montana Billy Ray Cyrus and his daughter Miley Cyrus play the country singer Robbie Ray Stewart and his daughter Miley Stewart. And Miley Stewart’s secret identity is Hannah Montana, teen pop-star. And frankly, the whole layers and layers of self-reference (or as the darling girlfriend puts it, “self-referencing her ass like yeah“) are a pain to sort out. The only thing worse is reading the Wikipedia entries of professional wrestlers, where trying to work out what the wrestler did as part of kayfabe, what the wrestler did as a side project, and what the wrestler got up to by accident, and what the wrestler does while he (or she) is at home leaves you dizzy.
But of course, Miley Stewart self-referencing Miley Cyrus and then the whole thing becoming a recursive joke through Hannah Montana is no more self-referential than all of Bollywood, especially the Bachchan family and Shah Rukh Khan. Shah Rukh Khan plays Shah Rukh Khan in Billu and Om Shanti Om, all the My Name is Khan promos try to be cute by having them man say that his name is Khan, and so on and so forth. And the father-son in-jokes every time Abhishek and Amitabh Bachchan are in the same movie got tiresome about five minutes after they started. (Here’s an old Jabberwock post on the subject.)
Which actually makes Miley Cyrus not as bad as Bollywood. In her case, one can at least blame the self-referencing on her faceless2 corporate handlers at Disney. In Bollywood, there are no such corporate handlers, and the blame is all on the stars and the writers themselves.
The only thing that comes close is how almost every Colin Firth movie contains a reference to his Pride and Prejudice role, and even then, they’re only one off jokes and Colin Firth does not actually play Colin Firth. Except in Bridget Jones’ Diary, but every dog is allowed one bite.
Summing up: Referencing is sexy. Self-referencing is intellectual masturbation. In Bollywood’s case, though, it’s not even intellectual3.
1: Terry Pratchett is the master of this. In Thief of Time, he sets up the joke by describing the abbot of a monastery having re-incarnated as a fully sentient baby; and then about eighty pages later delivers a punchline about him being in touch with his inner child. And though it’s implausible that he planned it that way, you could argue that he sets up a joke in The Light Fantastic by magically transforming the Librarian into an orang-utan; and then eight books later, in Moving Pictures, he delivers the punchline of having a screaming ape being carried up a tower by a giant woman being pure cinema. Eight books between setup and punchline is hardcore wait-for-it.
2:OK, not actually faceless in the metaphorical sense since Disney has an active brand (many active brands, in fact); and not faceless in the literal sense since it’s very unlikely that people working at Disney don’t have faces. Though the thought of Disney employing an army of featureless golems to manage Miley Cyrus’s career is sort of awesome.
3: Similar to how Professor Ramnath Narayanswamy once told my batch “The majority of you have indulged in creative bullshitting, most of it not even creative.”
We now interrupt our current run of TV-blogging to abuse everyone involved in the Jet Airways fashla.
What the hell went wrong? What were they thinking when they fired people overnight? The only possible answers are colossal stupidity or desperation.
Desperation – we know that they haven’t been paying their fuel bills for a while. And with eight months of running losses, banks were refusing to provide working capital. And with the financial crisis on, raising long term capital looks practically impossible. They’re bleeding cash, and firing their newest employees probably seemed like the quickest way to staunch the flow.
Colossal stupidity – is a stereotype that usually goes well with HR departments and senior managements. But in this case, it looks like they really weren’t thinking the consequences through. They now have Raj Thackeray, the CPI(M), and news channels baying for their blood. That will probably pass, but they’ve lost their reputation as a good employer. When the business cycle improves, they’ll have to deal with not being an employer of choice. (That assumes they’ll survive until then.)
Back in the last recession, there were a bunch of IT companies which made their layoffs/ salary cutbacks as painless as possible and got written up as case studies. I think Mindtree was one of them. Jet Airways didn’t learn. (But then Ajay Shah has written that nobody in India even understands that business cycles exist and a recession will eventually come along…)
Jet Airways Employees
OK, being told in the morning that you’re fired and you shouldn’t show up for work is definitely a shock. More so, if it happens to 1900 of your colleagues simultaneously. But if their sob stories are true and they are sole breadwinners who have taken out home loans and are worried about how they’ll pay their EMIs, then I have to say that they were idiots. They were on probation. They knew that they’d been hired for a one year period before being confirmed. They knew that house prices were higher than ever before. They knew that they were employed by an airline that was losing money and that job security apart, salary increases were probably not coming soon. And knowing this… they went into debt. FSM preserve them.
Hopefully, the ones shouting on TV about their EMIs were a small minority who the news channels picked to add to the drama.
Dear news channels. This is not the largest layoff in India in the recent past. Banks have been shutting down their associated consumer finance/ small business loan NBFCs left right and centre over the past year, and the total layoffs in these have been much higher.
This is merely the largest layoff in India of attractive young people who speak good English. Please insert the appropriate disclaimers. And stop trying to project the temporary plight of young middle class Indians who are otherwise employable as the end of the world. Okay?
The CPI(M) is pretty much complicit in bringing Jet Airways to this state. All of last year, they sat in the way of price hikes for petrol, diesel and kerosene. So the oil marketing companies raised the prices of air fuel instead in an attempt to survive. And now Jet Airways is bankrupt and has to sack employees to survive. After this, Nilotpal Basu has the gall to go on TV and say that the CPI(M) won’t allow Jet Airways to operate from Kolkata.
Also, demanding reinstatement? Firing employees isn’t pleasant, but at least it does stem the cash outflow a little. If Jet Airways kept them on, then it would keep losing money until it couldn’t even pay the confirmed employees, who’d been on the payrolls longer. The CPI(M) seems more concerned about a thousand jobs today than twenty thousand jobs next year (and CEOs get abused for thinking in the short term!). (Related reading here.) Either the CPI(M) is (shock! gasp!) a run-of-the-mill political party, concerned only about the next election; or it doesn’t understand reality. Or both.
Because when he was asked for a soundbite, he smiled and said that he didn’t know anything because he had been at a junket labour ministers’ conference in Bali.
OK, no abusing Praful Patel. Because he’s actually refused to bail anybody out, pointed out that this is to do with ATF prices, and has generally not played to the gallery.