June 30, 2008

Via Darjeeling

All through Friday evening a friend and I were jumping around, waiting to watch the Indian “Roshomon”. I thought it would be a good break from the mindless movies I have been watching lately. It had been a conscious choice all this while, to go into movies and forget reality and just laugh all along. Thinking can be left for late night conversation with friends. Via Darjeeling as a movie will mostly be forgotten, but for those people who made an effort to watch the movie, it was worth it. After a long long time, Indian audiences are exposed to a movie that will make them think at every scene, will make them question why something is happening at a screen in front of them. The same story is repeated again and again from the perspective of different characters. The setting is a rainy night in what appears to be Calcutta. There are references made to references like Marquez and Satyajit Ray but most of them seem to be a dead end aimed at throwing audience off the track.

The same story, different perspectives, that’s what this movie is all about. The director does not want to tell us a story; it seems that he wants us to appreciate that viewpoints can differ. Kay Kay Mennon has been amazing in the movie. His expressions at the same scene for different versions have been characteristically different. Sonali Kulkarni must work on her English or stick to plain Hindi as then her powerful acting shows through. The rest of the characters however had little to do and often it seemed that their main aim were dialogue delivery at given cues and not acting. A commendable effort, I do hope we have better versions of Via Darjeeling hitting our theatres soon. NFDC, once the breeding ground of New Age Cinema in India might have lost its sheen but is still capable of churning out enjoyable surprises.

June 26, 2008

One Review and Another – Wedding Album (Girish Karnad) and Karna (Ranga Theatre)

Since I have come to Mumbai, plays have become an integral part of my life. Finding people interested in watching plays is however a problem. But when there’s a will there’s usually a way. In the recent times there have been a couple of plays that have really been above the rest and I think they are worth a mention.

A friend dragged me one night to watch the play Wedding Album. It was also the day the rains hit an unsuspecting Mumbai. But she had made the right choice. As I sat in my second most favourite seat at Prithvi, I just laughed my heart out all along the way. This was a new Girish Karnad I was experiencing. Light, at times frivolous, but hard hitting all along the way. Some might call the characters a collection of stereotypes but if stereotypes are so lovable then bring them on I say.

The story revolves around an urban, educated Indian family planning the marriage of their second daughter. The patriarch is old and depends solely on his memories to believe that things will work out well. The adoring mom, the elder siblings and even the cook are all protective of the youngest member of the family whom they adore. Each have their own share of frustrations in their lives and yet coming together for the marriage of their daughter/sister is perhaps a break from their mundane lives.

Each of the minor characters has also been sketched extremely well. The neighbourhood teenager who has a huge crush on the elder sister, the ‘suitable groom’ who has done ‘everything’ in the US of A but comes back to search in India the girl with ‘our rich cultural traditions’, the parents who want to help out in the wedding since the brother is also extremely eligible for their own daughter.

The best part about the play is that if anyone has had a wedding at their house in India, they will relive those moments, good, bad or ugly. My two cents - don’t spend your time worrying how can one agree to marry someone without meeting them, how can a family have so many dark secrets and other such earth shattering concerns. It’s a play best enjoyed if you as the quintessential Indian and look at yourself in the mirror of this play and laugh at your idiosyncrasies.

The second play I want to recommend is the play called Karna – The Generous warrior by a relatively unknown group (at least to me) Ranga Theatre. Two things made me decide that I wanted to watch this play. First of course is that it was on my favourite character in The Mahabharata. And secondly, they had a line in their promo poster, “like every 2nd actor who has not seen the kind of theatre he/she believes in.” I have seldom seen such candid acceptance of the reason to be ‘different’ from the rest.

Karna doesn’t tell you a different story. It just tells a story differently. It does not tell you the story like Vyas’ glorification of heroic traits; it doesn’t tell it like Tagore’s lyrical rendering of an unspoken pain. It tells you the story like a story would have been told hundreds of years ago, the way the Chou dancers from Purulia still tell their story. It leaves a lot of unanswered questions which even scholars have failed to decipher. Karna denoted the paradox that greatness in India is usually compared with. Did he ever repent for what he had done? Was he a hero or a misguided genius lost in his burning desire to prove himself better than his arch rival? Was he a friend or a follower? Answers that are best left to be answered by individuals in search of their own meaning of The Mahabharata.

What I loved about the play was that it reminded me of how we used to think about a play - Think about every step; make modifications to the histrionics to make every scene just a little better and often going overboard with it.

The play was physically intense and extremely well choreographed but that’s perhaps where the acting takes a beating. Theatre drains one of energy with every single movement and it takes great training and talent to be able to live up to the hundreds of eyes looking at your every step.

An excellent endeavour but can improve with better dialogue delivery and acting. The raw smell of passion however makes it a definite watch.

I hate the fact I am moving away from Prithvi and closer to NCPA.

June 23, 2008

Friends, Internet and The Cell Phone

Few days back I was suddenly faced with this question – Would you be ready to give the worst possible news to your best friend when you know it will break him down completely? Yes, you know he’ll survive. He’ll hate you for a few days but then life will go on. But still that doesn’t make it right. Does it? I have done things like this quite a few times and have survived. I don’t know whether I am right or wrong though. And then yesterday while talking to another friend; I was faced with the question of choice in Friendship. Guess, at times we all need to figure out our own answers.

Yesterday for example, I needed some answers and I had to go back and search them in people who had known me for a long time and though all them agreed unanimously on what I should be doing, my heart tells me to act differently. Choices; they make us what we are.

Anyway, certain things are really irritating me these days. First is the case of the poor girl from Noida. Even in death she has no peace. India TV and Aaj Tak and the rest of the TV channels will just NOT let her die in peace. And what else, her friend has been questioned by police because she had called him late into the night quite a few times. Now I don’t know about them but anyone who’s working know that the only time you get these days are after you are back in your room, have thrown down your laptop and then called a friend in another city. We live in an age where every one of us has been thrown at different corners of the world and a late night call is sometimes the only way to connect with a past we miss so much. I guess some of the journalists or even the police at times have no idea about the importance of 4:00 am friends in one’s life. In fact, my issue is not so much with the police. Just like I analyze every aspect of a Brand’s equity, they are supposed to take note of every aspect of a crime. But it’s the journalism of thrills that irritates me.

This was the sample conversation I had with two of my closest friends from school, one over chat and the other over phone, both at odd times in the last few days.
So in one of them we spoke about the theory of comparative relativity (to our known sample set) in defining the perfect woman. Remember this was the friend I went to my first ‘without parents’ movie with. This is also the friend with whose mom my mom is kind of a best friend as they both used to wait for us after school. His mom believes me more than him at times and the feeling is reciprocated towards him by my mom. So with him I can be sure I can chat anytime I like even after a hiatus of years.

In the other chat conversation with another friend, we were discussing about his impending doom and his untimely and underage (according to me) marriage and we were discussing my supposed list of crushes in high school chemistry tuitions. Ah those were the days when if someone asked for your notes, it became news at school the next day. Were we innocent or complete duds? I don’t know, maybe both. But poor guy, while ‘the chivalrous us’ were going to make photocopies of the notes for the girl in question he was the one who fell in a mud poodle and has ever since claimed it was my fault.

That’s another story. But the point here is different. The point is we live in different time zones. And the only time we can chat is when one of us is up late. So if the journalists got to know of this they’d say, “Ahhh… see he chats till late in the night.” Oh!!! For heaven’s sake give me a break or give me enough money to make international calls and then reach late for office.

As it is so very tough to find friends these days; you never know who has someone from past acquaintances ready to fly down and make mincemeat out of you. This is where I think journalists get it right. They have clearly understood that in the morning when I am travelling to work I’d rather read about spicy details about affairs and “passion crimes” rather than know about people fighting for a social cause. Hrrrrmph. (Imagine non cigarette or bidi fumes out of my nostrils and ears)

Finally, through another piece of information stares at me from Mumbai Mirror. This is an amazing newspaper. I think when people draws up rules for the next bestseller, ‘The Guide to being a Mumbaikar’, they should make reading Mumbai Mirror a mandatory requirement if you have the habit of reading Angrezi newspaper. So Mumbai Mirror tells me, if I don’t like you and say I can’t marry you, and if you then go and jump into the sea because The Bandra Worli Sea Link is killing the view of Worli Sea Face, I might be picked up and put in custody. Forget the logic that you jumped because of the Bandra Worli sea face issue, everyone completely uninvolved will claim that I am the root cause.

So even though the senior Ambani might claim the first right of refusal, you my dear don’t stand a chance when you are refusing someone’s marriage proposal.

(Inspired by a string of articles when ‘friends’ get into trouble for knowing a certain someone and the set of my ‘anytime can call’ friends. And of course, I am sure the judiciary will again prove to be the custodian of justice in each of the news articles referred to here. I believe in my country's law)

June 20, 2008

After Lord Krishna

He considered Lord Krishna to be a Dude. As in he thought Lord Krishna was the dude who defined what many years later people would term as dude-ism. Think about it. He had a happily married life, plotted better than most war game strategists and before doing that was the apple of the eye of an entire legion of women from one region alone. Imagine if Politics had not taken up his time, he would have been Love’s one and only Flag bearer for the entire world.

Typically we admire people for traits we do not have. He therefore was the typical Indian male brought up on the steady diet of statutory warnings “dating is bad for health” Too much time spent with friends made him a complete ignoramus on other type of relationships. So all through college he survived on the steady dope of tea at night with friends and home cooked food by mom.

As luck would have it, he had to go and take up a job. (It should be noted that Lord Krishna did not have to apply for a job). Our hero was pretty happy with the way things were going till one day his boss caught him at 5:30 on a Thursday evening.

“So what are your plans for the weekend?”

“hmmm.. errr… let’s see.. maybe a play.. or a movie. To be frank, I don’t know.”

“Are you serous?”

So in all his magnanimity the Big Boss decides that our hero needs a life. Promptly he decides to call up the dating agency and says, “I need 24 dates for my kid tomorrow. He needs to know more about women.”

And so it happened. He went to his 24 dates. And life changed for him. He realized that Lord Krishna was not just a dude. He was a cool dude. To be able to handle so many women is not a child’s play. By the time the dates ended, he was perspiring, frightened to death and almost ready to run a marathon if only to escape.

Women… they are scary.

(Disclaimer: The story is a complete figment of imagination and does not bear any semblance to any person dead, alive or existing in your imagination.)

June 18, 2008

Rains Again

Since I wrote my first post about Rains in Mumbai, it did not stop raining for the whole week. That was kind of depressing but not very scary, except perhaps on the first night. But it had its moments. Here are my top 3 favourites of the one week of incessant rains in Mumbai.

Watching the lightning play havoc across a dark sky at 2:00 a.m. in the morning – it was beautiful. The giant metal bridge connecting Mumbai with Vashi stood silently with few cars daring to venture out and the Lightning bolts having a field day. In a city like Mumbai only sea faces give you the luxury of viewing a horizon, but here I was standing alone on top of a bridge, rain splashing across my face, the water chilling my bones to numbness, my cabbie frantically calling me out thinking I intended to make the jump. That night I realized how unprepared we are for natural calamities but how stubborn we are to face anything that nature throws our way. Rows after rows of stalled taxis greeted me but there was always another one just ten meters away ready to pick a fare. Complete strangers shared an auto to reach home before the next day morning and though Mumbai was perhaps not ready for the rains I realized that Mumbaikars were.

The Nation of Shopkeepers – I see them every day at Andheri Station and every day I salute the spirit of entrepreneurship. Standing with their wares, shouting at the top of their voices, whether anyone was ready to listen or not. At Andheri Station you can find almost everything you want; so I wasn’t worried when the rains hit Mumbai. And I was right; in 24 hours Andheri station was full of people selling everything from umbrellas to jackets to rain proof mobile phone covers. The variety on offer was mind blowing. The shops were yet to get their stocks of monsoon apparels and gears. Now that’s a supply chain I would love to have working for me someday.

Being Gene Kelly – Mumbai allows you to be anonymous and do what you would not dare doing otherwise. So on a lovely windy Saturday I walked out to the bridge over Wadala and started walking (or maybe prancing) with my umbrella and my respect for Londoners grew. It’s a tricky task. You have to know how to move keeping the wind direction in mind. The wind plays havoc changing directions every five seconds and you have to anticipate from which side the next attack will come. After sacrificing one umbrella, (you guessed it right, brought from Andheri Station) and scaring away three women and four men (who thought I was going to attack them) I finally managed to understand the dynamics of walking in the rain.

Within 15 minutes it started raining and people ran for cover. I had the entire bridge to me and I started being Gene Kelly all over again :)

June 16, 2008

The World is Flat

My life is full of coincidences. I was reading, rather re reading “The World is Flat” and suddenly an opportunity came my way to do a whirlwind trip of Dubai. So I boarded the flight from Mumbai yesterday night and right now am sitting in Dubai International Airport, almost confirming my belief that the world is indeed flat. I have flown out of one country, landed in another, worked through the day with nationals from different countries, window shopped at what looked like the World’s Showcase and right now am sitting outside the gate leading to the aircraft that will take me back to my Mumbai and it’s not even 30 hours since I left Mumbai.

I like Mumbai airport. It’s not very far from the main city, (depending on the traffic of course) and hopefully when it’s complete, it’ll be as snazzy and jazzy as the big International airports around the world. But the sad part about being in an airport on a weekday on Wednesday is that no one picks up your calls at 7 in the evening. I also like Dubai Airport. The wi-fi is without any hassles. You just switch on the wireless network switch on your laptop and you are connected immediately. So the net understanding I took away is that all my friends love to be online at night rather than take my calls in the evening. That’s what I call tragedy.

Why is the world flat? The main reason that comes to my mind is perhaps the seamless integration that has happened between business processes that will slowly but surely ensure that every job in the world finds the ‘best man/woman for the job’. It will no longer matter if physically you have to be in a different place for getting the best productivity. There will be ways and means by which you, in spite of being in another location, can effortlessly make the best utilization of your time and expertise.

The world will become flat also because we need the world to be flat. Otherwise how will an Indian and a Pakistani National sit in the same car, discuss the issues faced by consumers in another country and rake their brains to be ready with a solution to be presented before a multi lingual and multi cultural team presided over by someone, who while sitting in Dubai, is rooting for Holland in Euro 2008.

If you like any form of a conspiracy theory, here’s something for you. The car in which we were travelling was hit by a truck that was being driven by someone from POK. But when you realize that the poor guy is also in a foreign country trying to make his living just like the thousands of your countrymen from Kerala, you feel sorry for entire South Asia, not just India or Pakistan. And yeah. In case you are worried about the car it’ll survive but will require multiple visits to the shop. I, as you can understand, much to your joy or dismay, am very much alive and was driven back to the airport by a Somalian driver in a Japanese made car. Now that’s why the world will be flat.

By the way, there's something else. While at the airport, I checked out the insurance papers that we carry on our foreign trips and obviously seldom read them. My insurance says that I am fully covered on Emergency Evacuation and ...wait for it.... "Repatriation of remains"

You should not read such stuff just before boarding a plane. Guess I'll complete the post later.

However, there is one aspect that will ensure that there will always be a horizon in this world that my generation lives in. And that’s called Nationalism. Whenever I am stopped at an Indian airport for security checking, I feel proud to be an Indian, proud that my country’s security is under control. However, whenever I am asked proof of my identity at an International airport I feel violated and angry. Do I look like a terrorist? I ask myself. And that’s when I proudly hold out my passport with the Republic of India shining on it. I feel awesome.

While these thoughts were going through my mind, I decided to do a reality check. I always call myself a Globalized Bong who can fit in anywhere. But then like a true blue marketer, I did something we call the laddering technique. Yes, I love working in Global teams. Yet, if someone makes any comment on India I become an Indian. I love India, yet when someone passes a comment on Bengalis, I become a true blue Bong. If a Bong says anything on Calcutta, my ammunition is loaded and ready to fire. If some peppy South Calcuttan says something about my North Calcutta, I defend my part of the city with great gusto. So from the Globalized Bong, I become a small, pretty narrow minded, safe haven seeking North Calcuttan. And as I figure out, that’s true for almost everyone around me. The exodus of my generation, at least in India, has started. The next generation will be brought up in a world where their parents, of different backgrounds will start their family in a completely different city and this generation will not be as connected to the roots as you and I are.

That’s the generation that will make the world truly flat.

June 06, 2008

First Rains

Today I experienced my first rains in Mumbai. It came as a relief, helping the struggling city with a breath of freshness. A lot of people got out of their offices early, just standing under the downpour, soaking in every bit of the beautiful raindrops on their body.

People suddenly became more compassionate towards each other, they started behaving like kids. The security guard gave everyone a huge smile and not the customary (and irritating) salute. I was happily getting drenched keeping my laptop under a shade and suddenly I saw two more guys join in and then there were more. Slowly I sneaked out of the group. Let Mumbai enjoy its rains.

I walked back alone, the rain cleansing me of my sins. I felt pure, I felt free and once again I felt happy.

Saari Raat

Tuesday was a Play night. It was a deadly combination - Badal Sarkar’s play performed by ex members of Hindi Drama Club, BITS Pilani. To understand the context let me tell you about the Hindi Drama Club during my times in BITS. Like most engineering college students across the world who need to sound culturally advanced, BITS had what we liked to call a throbbing dramatics culture. The English Drama Club (EDC), The Hindi Drama Club (HDC) and the Pilani Tamizh Mandaram (PTM) staged plays across the year. There were distinct class differences between the audiences.

You had to go to EDC plays to show your level of ‘cool’. You weren’t ‘pseud’ enough if you were not found discussing the play the next day. PTM won simply on the basis of sheer number of the Tamil population in BITS and the wingies (like me) they dragged to the play. HDC was the step child of drama. Pure Hindi drama had very few connoisseurs in Pilani of my times. The audience was often jingoistic coming in just to belong to the ‘group’ of Hindi speakers, a rarity that time in Pilani.

Though I seldom missed any play, my loyalties were clearly stated. I loved HDC, especially since my batch joined in full force in the cast. The quality of the plays and the performances were astounding. PTM was equally passionate about their production but EDC always left me cold. At one point of time EDC became the storehouse of snobbery, lackluster performances and a lack of direction. In fact, when I left I think EDC had reached its lowest ever ebb with HDC shining like a pinnacle of success.

There was a reason behind it. The HDC guys played who they were in their real lives while EDC tried to bring in an alien culture, mannerisms and histrionics to Pilani. Guess they never saw an Utpal Dutta adaptation of foreign plays. Perhaps, I have been overtly critical of them because my expectations were so high. The good part however is that I hear they have become extremely proficient and professional since I left BITS. Excellent news, I must say.

Coming back to HDC, a friend informed me one day that HDC had re grouped and had formed a play troupe called ‘Mashaal’ post their BITSian days and they were coming to perform in Mumbai. It felt nice. At least someone was doing something other than their daily trip to their office cubicles.

When I reached Prithvi, Bitsians had started trickling in and there were 7 of us that night at Prithvi and I was hoping it will feel like seeing a play in Audi once again. I was mistaken. Sometimes magic can’t be recreated. I wasn’t allowed to pass my usual smart-alec comments, BITSians chose to behave like ‘cultured Mumbaikars’ which made me wonder should I have come to the play alone or perhaps with just a friend. You know under such circumstances I can get my old ‘bangali bhadrolok’ self out and appreciate the play without feeling like a college guy once again. Sad, but true.

(Disclaimer – I have been an avid play watcher all my life and I assure you that I am in my best missionary school behaviour in all performances. Secondly, BITSians are an extremely well mannered tribe. It’s just that we lose it a bit if we are watching a BITSian play at our auditorium)

Coming to the play – Except Baropishima and Ebong Indrajeet I always found Badal Sarkar’s plays a little too heavy for normal human consumption. Add to that the fact that I have left behind a life where I would wonder about Camus’ views at 3:00 am in the morning with a micro electronics book under my head as a pillow. These days, I would rather follow the time tested philosophy of Prabujee and the antics of his son The Great Mimoh if I am not listening to the achievements of The Great Khali on Aaj Tak. But I meander. Forgive me.

The play however made me wonder again about human relationships. Can a man and woman be married for 7 long years yet not know about each other? Can a home withstand any deluge that might threaten to wash away its base? Can there be secrets which neither is aware of? Is a relationship anything but a compromise? Directed by Raheem (BITS ‘01), it was one hell of a power packed play. Smit (BITS ‘99) has not lost much of his acting capabilities and gave out an outstanding performance as the ‘practical’ man who loves his wife but perhaps has never tried to understand her. Nidhi (Non BITSian) as his wife was good but perhaps a little too dramatic. The natural flow of Smit’s expressions and actions clearly brought out the stark differences in their outlook towards life. Maybe, her role demanded that. Kimothi (BITS ’04) had developed as an actor in front of my own eyes but on that night he seemed a prisoner of his role. Yes, it’s true his was the most unstructured role and under-defined too but I felt that gave him the leeway to experiment more. But the leeway went underutilized.

While dozing off, I could not help but wonder if relationships are actually so complicated why do people get into them?

June 03, 2008

Mind Games

Stop playing mind games with me. I can take it no more. We have been at this for years now, trying to prove our supremacy over each other. For what? I have always accepted you are better. You were a better human being than me. Every single day of our times together.

If I been hard on you I never chose to be

I never wanted no one else

I tried my best to be somebody you'd be close to

Hand in hand like friends are supposed to

Every time we spar a new gash opens up beside the old ones. The old ones that will perhaps take ages to heal and they constantly remind me of you. So I do not mind them. Every time I break free from your shackles, you instigate me back into the game. There was a time when you inspired me. Your thoughts still do.

It’s an unfair game. My gender goes against me. Your tribe plays to crush the opponent. My clan plays without thought; we play to win, sometimes we play just not to lose. Your steely eyes numb us. We always have been the ‘real’ weaker sex and yet our chauvinism never allowed us to accept it.

Now you and me go parallel together and apart

And you keep your perfect distance and it's tearing at my heart

Did you never feel the distance

You never tried to cross no line

'CAUSE it's another dirty river and another dirty scar

And I don't know who's kissing you and I don't know where you are

So far from home don't you think of me sometime

I know you want me to play. I know you want to see me defeated, broken, begging for mercy. I know you want to bring me down on my knees from the pedestal we both stood together on. It’s unfair again since I want to see you win. And therefore, I promise you tonight that I’ll play. I’ll make you earn your victory, I’ll make you perspire, and I’ll see to it that you gasp for every breath you take. It’ll be a spectacle for those who know of this game.

And when you stand victorious over me, your sword unsheathed and bloodied, the ground unable to distinguish between our bloods, I will see the pride in your posture, I’ll note the hatred in your eyes and the love in a forgotten corner of your heart.

I know the end will come but the last thing my eyes will hope to see is not the glint of the steel but the pearl in the corner of your eye.

PS: Lyrics courtesy Dire Straits

June 02, 2008

Of Liquor and Food

Since I came back to Mumbai I again went ahead to explore the food options in Mumbai. Ever since I left Bangalore I missed the Andhra style restaurants where the waiters really wanted you to eat and leave as a happy man or woman. Thanks to JK, I was introduced to Ram Naik. This is a small South India just outside Matunga Railway Station. They serve meals here and not the usual idli dosas. It’s a relief for all those like me who are tired of eating out every night; find the guest house food to be too bland and the dabbas not up to the mark. The best part these days however is an almost out of the world mango juice which is worth every penny you spend on it.

Also I have been searching for authentic Maharashtrian food for some time. I think I have found one at Mahim near Goa Portuguese. It still requires one more visit before I put the details up on this blog.

When it comes to food I am unabashedly jingoistic. After coming to Mumbai and having vada pavs for breakfast, lunch and dinner at times I feel ashamed at the craziness we displayed for the sole McDonalds in Canaught Place in Delhi when we used to travel back from Pilani. For all those who come into Mumbai and want to have safe vada pavs they must visit the Jumbo King outlets near almost every railway station.

Coming to liquor however I come a cropper. I can give you details of every single mocktail served in any pub in Bengalooru. Give me a few months in Mumbai and I’ll be able to tell you the same about Mumbai. But the point is I somehow like the pubs and lounges of Bangalore much better than Bombay. Even Hard Rock CafĂ© I find dull and boring these days. But one day I’ll be able to give you the details about Mumbai pubs.

In my numerous visits to pubs with friends, teams and whoever joined, I have most often been the one to tell the auto or the taxi driver where to go. In fact, if it were the US, I would be the designated driver of the group. But these outings have also helped me to find out the easy getaways for the teetotallers of the world. The answer my friends is Apple Juice. Given its colour the Appy Fizz or even a normal Apple juice can easily be misconstrued as a glass of Whiskey. The other option is Sprite or Mirinda. Have a glass in your hand and you can happily pass it off as Vodka. Take the Apple Juice in your hand, go and shake your body on the dance floor and you are safe for the night. In case, just in case you have to show alcoholic content in the beverage in your hand pick up a Breezer and claim that you are having a bad day. It works. Always.

But if you are a non smoker then even I am at a loss how to save you from the passive smoking that is a given in these places.