The irony of conveniences

Its that time of the year again. I am in India for a short, hectic vacation which provides me ample material to rant about. So, its my due ranting time again. And before any of you classify me as a ranting no-good, let me tell you that I belong to that small group of homo sapiens who believe in bringing out the pile of rubbish swept under the carpet. And of course staying true to my actual abilities, I am not good enough to clean it up but hopefully someone good enough will see it lying around. Now let’s move on.

A few days back I was sitting comfortably in a train looking out of the train window on a platform crowded with people. While I was self indulging myself in appreciating (as a pseudo-intellectual) the diversity of the Indian landscape, a few beggars (4 to be exact) came by my window asking for alms. Two of them were old women, one was a child and the fourth one was an old man. They used various forms of begging and used multiple forms of emotional manipulation. However, my usual dogged response mechanism kicked in i.e., it is not possible to pay all the beggars (all or nothing), most of them are impostors, there are organized syndicates behind it etc. The mechanism ensured that I did not pay them a single penny. However, as usual after a few minutes my guilt kicked in for not being empathetic towards needy people. It was all the more overwhelming because of what had happened before the train journey.

I had booked 3 flight tickets and then had to cancel all of them because of a mini personal crisis (not mentioned for privacy which is in vogue these days). I had booked the tickets using Indigo and Jet Airways using Makemytrip booking site. When I cancelled the tickets, the cancellation charges were ~50% of the total booking charges amounting close to 5000 INR (quite a fair amount of money by my moderate standards). I am not going into discussions of whether it was fair for making me pay up for not using their service for valid health reasons, or for the airlines to exploit alternative sources of revenues, or for other stuff (lets leave that). If I could afford to lose ~5000 INR, I definitely could afford paying at least 4 INR to the four beggars. Somehow the hypocrisy inherent in me was magnified. I chose conveniently to ignore the ill-doings of a stronger party over a weaker one. If you look around carefully enough, the irony of conveniences in making choices affects us all the time. Maybe its time to pay attention to this irony. Its up to us to make this choice where convenience can again be involved.

Before I end my rant, I found the practice of these booking sites of asking for an additional “convenience” fee extremely insulting. Who is the convenience for ? Are there alternative forms of making the same booking (like in the railways) so that you can deem it “convenience”? The word “convenience fee” reeks of glib superiority and a condescending attitude towards the customer. I am not being naively stupid so relabeling it as “online booking” charges would make petty complainants like me happy for the nearer term. Makemytrip was a glaring example although they compensate to some extent by providing a guessing game in the form of redeem vouchers which go by the name of “MMTXXX”.

Hospitality in Lauterbrunnen Valley

I went in a group last week on a Swiss hiking holidays. I had a great time hiking around the Alps in the valley and would definitely advise and force anyone planning to stay in Interlaken to stay in Lauterbrunnen. However, even with the Alps all around us, what caught my eye was the hospitality I received at the Valley Hostel. Though this might sound as a sales pitch, it is not so. What struck me was :

  • When we arrived at around 7-30 in the evening, Susie (hostel staff or owner, not quite sure) was more than friendly. She helped us check in, asking us about our trip and plans just like a friend.
  • She took us to our room and insisted on carrying all the towels and linen herself. Now that made us feel very homely since at least I am used to such behavior when I go to a friends’ or relatives’ place.
  • Every time we had a question and we asked Susie about it, she made it a point to answer it with more than we asked for, till the point we had to interrupt and run away.

The entire behavior made me ponder how much a little thoughtfulness and friendliness can go to preserve memories. So much so that someone completely unknown ends up making a sales pitch for you

Awesome Valley Hostel staff (Susie on the left and the unknown guy on the right)

Awesome Valley Hostel staff (Susie on the left and the unknown guy on the right)

 

Free S train rides, where are you ?

Dear DSB,

               I so miss the free S train rides on the first Sunday of every month. They were the ideal opportunities for poor students like me to make those long forays into the Danish countryside. If you can, it would be nice even to have subsidized tickets on the first Sunday of every month if not completely free. After all, the best things in life are usually  free.

Yours really really sincerely,

Just another student who loves to travel and explore

Hope it doesn’t come to this