The music from the car stereo was tantalizing, the sun was setting in a golden haze to my right as I hit the newly constructed expressway. I was feeling elated as I had just won a major contract for my business. This would indeed be a shot in the arm for my fledgling business, I thought as I cruised along happily at 80 Kms/hr. As I looked at the sun on the horizon, I marveled at the beauty of nature and thought that you can appreciate it more when your mind is calm and happy.
Life was perfect! I thought. But perfection is ephemeral, I heard screams and the screech of tyres skidding on the asphalted road and then a loud and agonizing thud as a huge truck banged into the rear of my car.
I was flung towards the front and my head banged heavily against the dashboard, I felt a searing pain shoot through me and then I was swept away from consciousness as a cold wave of air swept through my body and slowly blanked away my mind.
I found myself standing in a long queue in what looked like an aero bridge, only this was much, much wider. It was a glass enclosure and the roof and the floor were also transparent apart from the side walls. I looked out in awe at the sight before my eyes. It was a dark night but the sky was filled with moons, there were millions of them as far as the eye could see on either side of the enclosure. I looked up and then down and was amazed to see the same fascinating sight there as well.
It took me just a moment to realize that I had died and was now in the other world,. The incorrigible traveler in me was curious to know everything about this new place. I surveyed the people in the queue, they were of all ages, nationalities, men, women, children, even toddlers and infants too, strangely even the infants and toddlers as well as the very aged walked erect!
Even though it was a long queue, it was moving quickly and soon I reached the head of the queue and realized why. There were about 100 self service machines, somewhat like ATM.s laid out in a straight line and the people in the queue walked to whichever machine was free. Behind the array of machines were some 50 odd glass doors which swung open and shut as people entered them by swiping a sensor with a card they held, and on the top was a huge glow sign that read RECEPTION AREA.
Move forward Mate! There’s an empty machine, said a burly Australian who stood behind me. I made my way to the machine, a little nervous as I always was with these kind of machines, I hoped it was user friendly. It had a touch screen just like an ATM and the screen showed a numerical dial pad. As soon as I stood before the machine, a metallic voice said, please speak out your country of origin!
India, I said, proudly bringing in all the patriotism I could muster.
Hindi Ke Liye Ek Dabaye, Press 2 for English, Gujarati Matey Tran dabao and the machine went on and on giving the option for each Indian language.
I wanted to press 2 as I was most comfortable in English as most Urban Indians are but due to my nervousness, I pressed 1 and immediately the metallic voice said ‘SWARGLOK RECEPTION MEY AAPKA HARDIK SWAGAT HAI’ with an emphasis on the word RECEPTION, but I did not notice that, my mind for some reason was puzzling over the word HARDIK, it rang a bell, but I could not recollect anything, my mind strangely was blank. I noticed a CANCEL button and I quickly pressed it and worked my way through the menu options to get into the ENGLISH language mode.
I was then prompted to enter my mother tongue, state of birth, state of domicile, religion, caste, sub-caste and a whole lot of demographics including category. As I was working my way through all this data, I noticed the bury Australian who had been behind me already swiping a card and entering the reception area. It took me well over 20 minutes to punch in all the required data and press FINISH on the touch screen. A small smart card with my photo and other details popped out of the machine and I quickly grabbed it and entered the reception through the nearest glass door.
It was a huge hall brightly lit with chandeliers hanging in mid air apparently without any rod or wire for suspension, there were huge and comfortable sofa’s and reclining chairs for people who were waiting to be allotted their rooms, I thought.
In the centre of the reception hall was a big counter and behind the counter sat two beautiful women dressed in silk sarees of a hue that I had never seen before, they wore pink and red flowers in their silky and well combed hair, both of them had identical smiles on their faces as they attended to the queries of their guests.
I walked up one of them as soon as I realized that she was free. She looked up at me with her dazzling smile and said: Hello! I am Urvashi, Guest Relation Officer, welcome to HEAVEN’s RECEPTION, how may I help you?
I introduced myself and said, I need a room to stay till my next birth.
What is your score sir? She asked demurely.
Score? I said with an incomprehensible look.
Yes, we need your score first; rooms will be allotted based on that and other criteria, she said, giving me a patronizing look.
But where do I get my score, I questioned her.
Go to counter number 9 towards your right, there you shall find the Chief Analyst Chitti who will give you your score card, show him your smart card for reference, she said, dismissing me with a shrug of her shoulders.
I took the travelator to counter 9 as my legs felt tired from all the standing. I found Chitti, contrary to his name to be grey haired old man with a genial smile. He took my smart card, inserted it into a slot in his desktop and out came a thick yellow card looking ominously like the report card I used to dread so much in school. He picked it up, glanced at it cursorily and handed it over to me saying +92 %, not bad at all!
I picked up the card and made my way back to the reception, finding Urvashi busy with a frail looking teenager, I walked up to the other lady this time.
She looked up at me with a smile that bordered on the seductive and said: Hello! I am Menaka, Guest Relation Officer, welcome to HEAVEN’s RECEPTION, how may I help you?
I need a room to stay till my next birth, I just spoke to Urvashi and she had sent me to get my scorecard, I said, handing over the report card along with my smart card.
Do you have a reservation, sir? She asked politely.
Reservation! I asked puzzled, trying to recollect if there had been an online reservation option available which I had not been aware of.
No! I don’t have a reservation, don’t you have rooms available, I asked.
We do have rooms, actually many; we are never out of rooms, said Menaka flashing that seductive smile of hers.
But then why are you asking if I have a reservation, I persisted.
She gave me a condescending look and said, I think you are not understanding!
Your smart card here says you are G Category, which means you will have to wait, first preference will be given to the following categories SC-7%, ST-15%, OBC-27%, OOBC-49%, and the remaining 2% would be for the G category people.
But this is ridiculous! I burst out in frustration, do you mean to say that I cannot get a room.
No sir, I did not say that. I only said you will have to wait for some time.
Wait? How long? I asked incredulously.
A lifetime or maybe a couple of them, depends on the season, she said with disdain.
I can’t wait a lifetime! I want the room now! I want it now, I shouted at the top of my voice, people started turning towards me, and both Urvashi and Menaka were looking at me with a shocked expression for having blasphemously broken the sanctity and tranquility of HEAVEN’s reception.
I want it now! I want it now! I continued to yell.
My wife shook my shoulder, saying what you want! Did you have a nightmare?
I was wide awake. I looked at my wife, smiled sheepishly at her and said, Yes, I did.