Category Archives: Musings

The day he loved his life

Through a half-opened side window of the bus, Karan looked out. An unusual quietness gripped the surroundings. The streets, which otherwise would be flooded with young software professionals like him, wore a deserted look. Biting his nails in frustration, he cursed his stars for making him go to the office on a weekend. He fully opened the window. A gentle breeze came to his rescue, kissed him all over his face and brushed his hair. The passion between them increased with each passing moment. His eyelids were slowly drawing the curtains to further enjoy this romantic tryst when suddenly, he felt a strong jerk. He instantly pressed his hands against the seat in front of him and managed to stave off a certain collision. But the kiss was broken, a reason enough for him to get pissed off.

He moved up from the seat and looked out through the front windshield. His annoyance turned at first into astonishment and subsequently into admiration. A stray dog had brought this mighty machine down on its knees. Out of the blue, that filthy little animal had come in front of the bus, wagging his tail graciously, walking with an elegant charm, as if the city roads belonged to him. The driver was extremely furious, threw a stream of expletives at the dog in the local dialect. To his surprise, neither did the dog run away, nor did he bother to look up. He continued his walk to the other side of the road where his comrades were waiting for him. The driver had largely underestimated 21st century Bangalore; even stray dogs here understand only one language –English.

“I salute you sir”, Karan exclaimed waving at the dog as the bus passed by him. The co-passengers looked at him weirdly for this sudden display of absurdity. He ignored the glances, took a diary out from his bag and wrote ‘Street Dog – master of his fate, captain of his soul. Had I been the leader of this country, I would have definitely bestowed upon him one of those bravery awards’.

He put the diary back in the bag. He searched for earphones in his pocket and disentangled them. Tuning to Bob Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ he plugged them in. The surreal music appealed his soul. In the next few moments, he felt his conscious slowly ebbing away, and then, all his thoughts came to rest. His mouth was wide open and drooling. His body was oscillating with each movement of the bus, rejuvenating itself before the onset of another day of hard labour at his workplace.

This trip to the better world ended when he half-heard the word ‘Garepalya’ in his sleep. He opened his eyes, blinked, and blinked again. He gazed outside. Yes, the conductor indeed had called out Garepalya, short for ‘Garvebhaviplaya’, a suburb in south Bangalore where Karan’s office was located. He immediately got up from the seat and stretched his arms to take a deep yawn. He moved his hand across his face to wipe off the spittle.

“Ten minutes late”, he observed as he checked his watch after getting down from the bus. His forehead wrinkles looked more prominently than ever before. He held his bag tightly and ran towards the entry gate when suddenly his eyes narrowed upon the small paan kiosk that stood in front of the office.

“I am going in that shit-hole only after having a couple of fags”, he declared and proceeded towards the shop.

He was one of the nine analysts hired to monitor and improve the Customer Service unit of a large multinational firm, a job he hated to the core.

“Gold-flake King – Full Packet”- he demanded and handed a crisp green coloured note to Billa Kaka, the paan kiosk owner, a bespectacled man in his early fifties.

“One whole packet in the morning”, Kaka inquired. His yellow teeth gleamed as he spoke.

“Just give me the box”, Karan responded in a slightly irritable tone. He snatched the box and lighted the first cigarette right away. He took a puff and immersed himself in the smoke to find a temporary relief from a terrible stench that saluted his nostrils from the pile of garbage right adjacent to the office building.

“What a beautiful place for photojournalists”, he imagined as he took another puff. The photographer only had to take a few photos of rag pickers, women and children, publish them in a magazine and live merrily. This is what photojournalists survive on, poor people, hungry people.

He had emptied half the packet when his lungs declared themselves full for the morning. He decided to smoke the rest of pack later. He bought a chewing gum from the kiosk and headed towards the office lift. The liftman had already seen his identity card and even before he hinted anything, pushed the button for 7th floor.

“Good job mate, your boss would be so proud of you”, he said in his mind and chuckled at the thought. The lift system in the office was pathetic. They ascended with such an aching slowness that made one certain that they would get stuck between floors.

“One two three … eighty-seven eighty eight … Ah, Survived again”, he sighed as the lift opened in front of his office.

He swiped his access card, opened the door to find a vibrant twittering and chattering from the two hundred odd call center executives charge into his ears. His workstation was all the way in the last row. He advanced speedily, exchanging brief pleasantries with the people he knew on the way through. He put the bag on his desk. He removed his laptop and charger. He got up to plug in the charger when his eyes stumbled upon Payal Banerjee, a fellow analyst in his team. Her workstation stood diagonally to his desk.

His eyes were fixed at the peacock blue bindi decorating her forehead. Perhaps for the first time in days, he found an interest to watch another person. He looked up at her little unkempt hair. He had sometimes seen her riding to office. “Helmet’s doing” he affirmed as he scanned her down. She had applied mascara over her eyelashes, which made her charming eyes look even more dramatically glamourized. She wore a plain white kurti. The peacock blue of the bindi matched with the patiala and the flats.

“An ethnic diva”, he muttered, smitten, lost completely in her charisma.

He put his hands at the back of his head and looked at her again, this time concentrating on the finer details. Two bright chandeliers dangled from her ears, radiating such alluring appeal that would get even the toughest of hearts flattened on her. A swan pendant glittered over her chest, the swan dancing in a rhythmic motion with each breath she took in and exhaled. His eyes were glued on the pendant, following its trace when she suddenly looked up. He was caught staring at her breasts. She looked at him with sheer disgust. It was too late for him to turn away. He had to get the matter straight. He had to talk to her. Bullshit.

“Hey, you look good today?” he remarked and immediately regretted striking a conversation with her.

There are only two things in the world that Payal is interested in – Shopping and talks about shopping. She got up from her chair and sat on his desk, cross-legged.

“Hey, you noticed. Thank you. You know, I was looking up online for a wardrobe to keep my shoes. There is a sale going on. I am so tempted. But I am a little worried too; these E-commerce companies sell such sub-standard items nowadays. I ordered a perfume a few days back worth 4000 rupees only to find that it smelled like washing powder”, her blabbering went on and on. She had a glow in in her eyes as she talked about her shopping endeavours.

“Did you apply it today?” He interrupted as he couldn’t take this nonsense anymore. This was the least offensive line he could come up with.

“What? No. Why would you say that? Do I smell bad today?” She blurted all these concerns at once and came very near to his chair. There were just a few inches of gap between them. The aroma around was enriched with sparkles of lavender and jasmine. For the next few seconds, he remained mesmerized by her sensuous persona. But he quickly jolted back to reality. He had to get rid of her.

“Well I wouldn’t say it is bad. I am just a little confused. Is it Surf Excel or Ariel?” he inquired trying to look as stern as possible.

“What? You are such an ass, go to hell” she ranted and slapped him lightly on his shoulders.

“Where do you think I am now?” he smirked. There was no turning back now. Just one more sentence and she would definitely leave him for good.

“Fuck you Mr. Karan. Excuse me, I have to work now”, she yelled, her eyes wider and redder than he had ever seen.

“You were excused all this time. But …”, he shrieked as she pinched him. For a woman for her size, she was tremendously good at this activity. There was no stopping once her fingers grabbed his shoulders. Men are expected to be alien to feelings like pain and suffering. He tried to maintain a straight face all the time. But the snob look soon had changed into a-goat-going-to-be-slaughtered look. He could not take it anymore. He moaned loudly and tapped his left hand over the desk. She finally let him off.

“Don’t try so hard to be an asshole you can never become” she barked and left to her workstation. Her eyes were a little moist. She took a paper napkin and carefully cleared off the tears, making sure that the mascara remained intact. Meanwhile, his shoulder hurt badly. He caressed the area smoothly with his other hand. When he felt a little better, he took his diary out and wrote,” Women are the most fearsome creatures on this planet. Lizards come at distant second”.

He started with his work for the day. A pile of spreadsheets opened up in his system. His job included preparing three daily reports for the management. Each report took about three to four hours. This was just the fixed part of his job. The variable part included meetings with managers, senior managers and various other clients to provide them with insights on the business performance.

“If only they’d pay me more, I could have easily made software that could do all this things. But then, I’d have nothing to do here”, he thought. Staring at Payal was one option of enthusiastic appeal. But he immediately discarded the idea and proclaimed, “I am not wasting any more of my time on her”.

“No software”, he concluded and continued his romance with numbers.

He engrossed himself deeply into his work. To save some time, he brought his lunch plate at the workstation. It was already evening when he finished the second report. By the time he completed his work, it was nine in the night. The office was all deserted except for a dozen odd consultants doing the night shift. Unlike in the morning, his took slow small steps while walking out. He did not have the patience to wait for the lift. Instead, he took the stairs. As soon as he came out, he opened up the pack of cigarettes and started smoking the remaining ones.

“Pure bliss!” he exclaimed as he took the last drag for the day.

He looked up. The night was still young. He gave up the idea of taking a bus and decided to walk all the way to his home. He advanced speedily. The road was empty except for an occasional honking by cars and auto rickshaws. The air was corroded with the emissions from vehicles and nearby factories. He was well used to it. His lungs were far worse. He passed three temples, two signals, a coffeehouse and numerous street vendors. After having covered just halfway through the distance, he was down on his knees, panting, yearning for a glass of water. He had largely overestimated his athleticism.Luckily for him, there was a park nearby. He got a bottle of mineral water and headed inside the park.

The park was well lit and lively, with families and couples occupying most of it. Luckily, he found an empty seat. He kept his bag beside him and sat there, looking at small kids run, fall, laugh and cry. A sudden vacuum gushed through his heart. He tried to remember the last time he felt happy. He could not. Maybe he had embraced this monotonous life so much that happiness seemed a distant dream now. He took out his diary and pen and started scribbling.

It has been eight long months since I’ve started working. I took this job so that I wouldn’t have to bother my parents with unnecessary worry about my future. I do not know what is next in line for me. But neither would I know if I slog in office for twelve hours a day.    

The fact of the matter is all of us, the pan kiosk owner, the lift-man, Payal and the other teammates, even my boss, are dogs, tamed to serve a more powerful dog. The only difference between us is that some dogs were more privileged than others. But hell, we are all slaves. I am 22 now, more than a quarter of my life is done and I don’t think I’ve lived my dreams for one single day. I’ve always lived other people’s dreams, first my parents, then the teachers, relatives, friends, ex-girlfriend and now my boss.

I envy the stray dog of the morning; wish I could live his life. Sleep when I want to. Fuck when I want to. Eat when and what I want to, from KFC bones to pile of shit. The pressure of a belt around my neck is too much to bear. I am sick of pretending of being someone I am not. I am lost. I am tired. I wish I had the guts to walk freely and not give a damn about what society thinks of me. I wish I could just leave this stupid job and do something I like. I wish I knew what I am good at, what I should try my hands on. I wish for live in which I am hero and not one of the side characters. I wish to be the master of my fate. I wish to be the captain of my soul.

P.S: I’ll resign tomorrow.

He finished up the passage, rested the pen in his shirt, held the diary in his hand and started walking towards the exit of the park. He came out and advanced slowly, breathing deeply with each step. The road was dead. Out in the corner, he saw a stray dog roaming around. “Lucky bastard”, he said as he passed by him.

In the very next moment, a speeding car came from the other side of the road and hit the dog. The driver didn’t even bother to apply brakes to check upon the damage that was done. Instead, he accelerated the car and swiftly moved out of the sight. The car had passed through the dog right through his abdomen area. Such strong was the impact that the whine of the dog lasted barely for a second. Post that, a pin drop silence. On the spot death. The body was cold. At peace. The eyes of the dog were still wide open, staring forever at nothing in the distance. His face was distorted with the tongue hanging out. Blood was continuously oozing out from his mouth filling the potholes of the road. How much of blood could come out through one’s body?

Karan looked at him for a long time. He was holding his breath all this while. As he slowly eased the air out of his lungs , a putrid scent invaded his nostrils. He covered his nose with his hands. The road around the body had turned carmine. There were a few other dogs at the end of the road. None of them bothered to pay their last respects to their mate. They walked in the other direction, exchanging a few barks between them every now and then. No one looked back. Karan had never been so close to death in his entire life. He looked horrified. But he had to see this other side of life, where solitude was not a choice but the only option. He stood there, gazing at the eyes of the dog. Something hit him, real hard, penetrated deeply in his soul.

He turned and started walking away from the scene. At the end of the road, he found an auto standing. The auto driver, sensing his helplessness, asked for double price than the meter reading. Karan did not have the energy to argue. He agreed. As the auto proceeded, he opened his diary once again and scratched the passage he wrote just a few moments back. He then opened a fresh page and wrote “It’s better to die a little each day than to see an abrupt end to your dreams”. He took a deep sigh and looked out. A sweet expectation of unknown happiness took possession of him. The joy, the vigour, the beauty of this madness called life succeeded in getting a faint smile on his lips. He loved his job. He loved his life.

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The last proposal

Last Wednesday, out of the blue, I got a buzz from Agastya, a friend of mine from junior college. He planned a trip to Bangalore and wanted to stay at our place for the weekend. I happily agreed. The evening he came, we went to a lounge. We had a lot of things to catch up on. After the formal things like the city and job life, the next obvious question was ‘’bhai bandi mili kya’’? He was blushing like crazy as I posed this question. I got the answer and asked him to elaborate on the same. It was a cute story. I asked him whether I could share the story on my blog and whether the girl would be fine with me sharing their story. He approved of the idea of sharing their story and assured me that she would be happy to read it. So, here is the tale of Agastya and Priya.

Agastya was an IITian and to add to that a mechanical engineer. So, with an extremely skewed ratio, the chances of him getting a girl during those 4 years were almost negligible. Again, after college he was supposed to join a firm in Chennai. With nearly no hopes, he packed his bags.

The first couple of weeks there were dull and monotonous for him. The unbearable heat, auto-rickshaw people with goddamn attitude and tiring search for a decent apartment left him exasperated. In a month or so, his situation improved slightly. He got an apartment, installed an air conditioner and enrolled for his company cab. Life, then felt, a bit relaxed. But still, that forever alone feeling was bothering him.

One day, he had a new cab-mate, Priya. She was tall, slim, had high cheekbones and wore a patiala and kurti. He liked her instantly. But striking a conversation wasn’t easy. She always had her earphones on whenever she sat in the cab. After two long weeks of waiting, he finally got a chance to talk to her. She forgot to carry her earphones that day. Once they started to chat, he realized that there were a lot of things to connect to. Both of them loved reading books. They would spend hours and hours discussing about a writer’s perspective on his novel. Their Sundays would be spent in Crosswords reading and finding new books. She had an excellent sense of humour. He would get trapped in her sarcasm and satire quite frequently.

A few months into all this, they were practically inseparable. Both of them knew that they were addicted to each other. Now, western civilization gave us a lot of things. One of them is the girl’s expectation from the boy to propose her in a unique way. Rarely do girls understand that due to our huge numbers, the probability of a unique proposal decreases drastically.

With no extra talent other than reading, Agastya started to find a cool way to propose her. He challenged himself and decided to propose her with two things he totally sucked at – singing and guitar. He picked up Enrique’s Hero, a song that was very close to his heart. For the next two weeks, he would lock himself in his room and practice the chords and the vocals. One fine day, when they were skyping, he told her that he would like to give her a surprise. He took out his guitar and started with the song. As soon as he finished the first stanza, the girl burst out laughing. She even suggested him to try his luck in stand-up comedy. He was dejected, dumbstruck and embarrassed. The moment was gone and he was devastated.

But he was not the kind who gave up easily. He started to find some other way. This time though, he knew his limits to try out new stuff. He decided to keep it simple with a rose and a short speech. But again, the expectation of the girl bothered him. Would a simple rose and a couplet do the trick? He thought hard to conjure something special, a thing that could stay with her for a longer period of time. He had his eureka moment when he remembered his school time hobby, origami. He decided to make a red rose using origami paper. After about 5 hours of effort and 3 failed attempts, he finally succeeded in crafting a beautiful rose.

The next day, he called her and asked her for a dinner date and gave her the venue detail. He went there a little early and gave a hundred bucks to the waiter to give them some more time after the desserts and play a slow romantic tune. She was totally unaware of this plan. During the course of the dinner, she was cracking jokes while he was nervously waiting for everything to get over. So, as soon as she was about to finish her dessert, with tu bin bataye from Rang de Basanti playing in the background, he got down on his knees, gave her the rose he had made for her and said these lines –

“You have been someone with whom I’ve enjoyed each and every moment. Deep down my heart, I know that if there is anyone with whom I would like to experience the journey of my life, it has to be with you.You’ve given me so many reasons to celebrate life. I would like to spend my life to try and make you feel the same way. I love you!”

He was nervous and stammered a couple of times. But somehow, he succeeded in completing the lines. Now, it was her turn to get smitten by the love and the affection showered by him. She cried for some time and smiled thereafter. She still didn’t say any word. His knees started to ache. Finally, he could not bear the pain any longer, he asked her to atleast reply. She was jolted back to reality and said a yes. He got up, jubilant and contented. They both hugged each other. He whispered to her “Thank you for relieving me from this proposal business. I am never proposing again in my life”.

P.S. : The valentine’s season is approaching. Best luck to all the Agaystya’s out there. Be unique! 🙂

Of another son of the soil

I have been Sachin’s fan since I was old enough to understand cricket. I dragged my dad to the stadium long back in 2002 just to watch him play, even though the match was against Zimbabwe. We turned lucky, for he scored a beautiful century that day. I went to see him again, this time in a limited overs encounter with the Lankans at Jamtha. The stadium erupted as soon as it got a glimpse of Indian openers from the dressing room. I literally had to cover my ears, for the applause all around me was so loud. He got out cheaply, but still we cheered for him when he came to field at the boundary near our stands. The last time I saw him live in action was in India versus England test in December 2012.

Today, as the man hanged up his boots, millions had tears in their eyes. I am no different. Tears were bound to fall after listening to that speech and after the mobile guard of honour given by the team. Amidst all the emotions and the respect, I learned that he is being honoured with the highest civilian award. Immediately, I checked for the news. It said Prof CNR Rao and Sachin have been chosen by the government. As an avid fan, I should have burst out in joy. I did not.

Incidentally, I was following Anand-Carlsen Game that time. Though just an amateur player with a little competitive experience, joblessness and boredom over the weekend made me watch the game. I felt sorry for Vishy Anand, for the achievements of this man have not been short of the master; just he chose a less glamorous sport to play as an Indian.

FIDE, the world chess federation, currently has 143 countries as members.  There have been as many as 160 countries that have been members of FIDE.  There were 154 countries that played in the 2008 chess Olympiad. Anand has won the World Chess Championship five times and has been the undisputed World Champion since 2007. Imagine the determination to remain numero uno for such long time. Again, Anand was the first sportsperson to receive the second highest civilian award of India, Padma Vibhushan in 2007, a year before Sachin received. He has been the world champion since then, dominating a game played in over 150 countries. Cricket is played in 20 countries (trying to be very liberal here). Clearly, if one was to look at these stats, Anand should be the first to get a Bharat Ratna.

Let me be very clear here. I am in no way comparing these two legends. I am happy that sportspersons are included the list which consisted formerly of politicians, scientists, artists and social workers. What bothers me are the populist measures of the UPA government, firstly electing him as a member of Rajya Sabha while he still was playing for the country and now nominating him for the highest civilian honour just before a few months for general elections. A Bharat Ratna for him would be used for harnessing votes, diverting the attention of people from inflation, economic crisis, scams and what not. He definitely deserves the highest civilian award, but alongside or after some other greats (Dhyanchand, Anand to name a few).

Anyways, a big congratulations to the icon, one of my role models, Tendulkar Sachin Ramesh for being an exceptional cricketer and above that, an exceptional human being. We are honoured to live in the same era as you. We are blessed to watch you play! With a hope that the other sons of soil from playing other sports are also given the respect they deserve, I’ll sign off.

Life – Since the last post

After a long drought of five and a half months, I finally got my lazy ass back to writing. The last time I posted on my blog, I lived in room no. 320, IITH Boys Hostel, studied control systems and speech processing and had a lively junta in the neighbourhood. Today, I live in a flat in Bangalore with two of my friends from college, use excel for work and have no idea who my neighbours are. There has been a drastic shift in the last couple of months. Some things have turned out to be bad, others good.

The last month of college will surely be one of the most beautiful periods of my life. The farewell parties and get together made our bonds stronger. The first party was thrown by the junior batch of 2014. It was easily one of the best parties I’ve ever been in. From the roses and the applause at the entry to the wonderful souvenir in form of a plain t-shirt, which was supposed to be filled with quotes from batchmates, everything about it was perfect. The things that people wrote on the t-shirt made me feel happy and contended that I did spent some real good time here and that my friends believe in me. By the way, I got my t-shirt to Bangalore. Everytime I feel like a little lost, a look at all the things that people wrote and I feel quite motivated.

Then there was official farewell by the director. Director’s party started off with speeches by the people of our batch for their alma mater. Director’s speech was totally awesome. One sentence by him, “IITH will always be your second home and you can come anytime here” made my eyes wet. The 2 odd kms walk from the institute to the hostel at midnight, singing songs like yaaro dosti, hum rahe yaa naa rahein kal etc. and then sitting on the middle of the road and everyone sharing interesting stories from their life was surely a night to remember.

The third get together was with the team Egnite (which by the way is now an officially registered NGO \m/). Over the dinner, we discussed about a lot of things. Our team had 12-13 people from 5-6 different states. Over the year, we had become very good friends. While returning back on auto, someone asked a question as to what do we really want to achieve in life. All of us answered as to what we want to accomplish. My respect for comrades increased exponentially after listening to their vision.

The last get together, the Spartans get together, was a day before I was scheduled to leave. We went to Athidi, the same restaurant where we had our first party four years earlier. Life is a circle they say. Our journey had to end at the same place at where it started. Just as we went and had ordered the appetizers, one of us stood up for giving a toast. This was followed by a toast raised by each one of us. By the time we finished, we had been in the restaurant for more than 3.5 hours. The waiters were instructed to tell us that it was their closing time. But they, after seeing all the emotions in the room, lend us more time to finish. The whole exercise was as if, the story of those four years, the good and the bad things, the fights and the celebrations, the struggles and the victories were played before us. By the time we left, most of us had moist eyes, all the differences among us had vanished and we only had one prayer for each other “Jab bhi milna, haste hue milna” ( translation : whenever we meet in life, have that smile of yours intact).

Life at home went quite real quickly. The first 10 days went into remembering the last four years and regretting that life would not be the same again. It is said that time is a great healer. For, the next couple of days, I had a great time hanging out with Nagpur friends. We had couple of treats and when we were out of money, we gate-crashed into marriage ceremonies. But before I could extend that phase of chilling out in my hometown, I had to pack up for Bangalore. I hardly got a month’s rest. Blaming my bad luck and cursing the company, I started to pack up for the new journey.

Bangalore – The city made me fall in love with it as soon as I entered. The weather is probably the best among all the big cities in India. My job is pretty chilled out. My boss says that the starting phase of your job is your honeymoon period. This time won’t come back. So enjoy to the fullest. It has been about 2 months since then and the work pressure is about the same. I am kind of enjoying this extended honeymoon period (don’t tell my boss about this :P).

One big difference between college and corporate life has been the number of girls around. Coming from a skewed ratio of about 1 girl per 11 boys or so, entering an organization with almost 1:1 ratio was a distant dream ( “:P” for those who are still working in an organization with less ratio). My faith in humanity has been restored. 😀

A group of around 10 of us college friends try to meet up during the weekend and plan out something. We went for a few outings, had a few bakaiti sessions and watched a lot of movies. I’ve made a couple of friends in office too. Enjoy hanging out with them.

They say the grass is always greener on the other side. When in college, we would wonder and talk about the life outside, about the things money can buy. Here, after a few months, there is one thing that I know for sure. Money cannot buy happiness. Family and friends can! 🙂

Well, that’s about the last couple of months. With a promise that I’ll continue to write more frequently, I’ll sign off! 🙂

Of a Love, and a Story

Shreya and I were best friends since high school. Infact, all of the best memories of school life have a picture of her embedded somewhere in them. We were in the same school and used to go there by our school bus. She always sat next to me. She wasn’t just any girl. Her dimples were the cutest of all I have ever seen. Plus she had a varied interest ranging from politics to music to sports. She could discuss a Felipe Massa with the same zeal as a George Bush. You see a rare species of beauty with brains. I was not gifted with so many talents. I was good at solving equations, so enrolled for IIT JEE classes after my school. She wanted to become a journalist, like the character played by Priety Zinta in Lakshya.

We made a pact during our school days that however busy our life gets in the future, we’ll meet atleast once in a week. Every Saturday evening, we would go to our favourite hangout place, a small and quiet garden near her home. We would chat about a lot of things in those couple of hours. I don’t know why but I felt a sense of belongingness when I was with her. I could share anything and everything with her.

After we finished our boards and entrance examinations, our frequency of meetings increased. We used to meet every day, spend hours and hours gazing at stars, made fun of each other, made fun of other people. Nothing in this world is more beautiful than falling in love and you cannot appreciate this as long as you experience it. When you fall in love you realize that there is so much you have to talk about. There is nothing that is stupid; there is nothing out of bounds. We would talk about anything. Just the feeling of being with her made me happy. On one such night, I accidentally told her those three words. She had an immediate spark in her eyes. She said she too loved me and added that she couldn’t imagine her life without me.

My result of IIT JEE came after a few weeks. I got admit from IIT Hyderabad. She got admit from a university in Pune. It was difficult for us to part. I got her a stuffed bear for and she gifted me a keychain of heart parted into two pieces, one for me and the other for her. We promised to keep in touch and let not the distance affect our relationship.

During my initial days in hostel, we used to have conversations for a pretty long duration. Slowly there was a steady decline in our conversations. I used to get one word reply for every question. My messages were ignored, and no messages came from her side. I thought that maybe the academic pressure forbade her from giving time to me. We would just exchange formal conversations and end our chats.

I thought the winter vacations would be a good time to spend more time together and start a new chapter. One evening, I got a message from her to meet at our hangout place. I went there. There was something different about her. She was not the same happy to go girl, discussing a variety of topics with zeal and enthusiasm. Rather, she was all philosophical about life and how compromise with it is the best way to live. She ended that speech with one damn hurting sentence ‘Can’t we just be friends’? I was shocked. I was numb. I just couldn’t say anything. A few minutes later, I asked her the reason. She couldn’t give me a satisfying answer. I tried to convince her, I cried, still she was adamant on her decision.

It is difficult to understand women but the men never mind trying. As she was slowly waking away, I remembered the day we got in a relationship and she said “it was impossible for her to imagine a life without me”!

Disclaimer: The above story is an act of fiction. Any resemblance to living creatures is purely coincidental 😀

Of heroes in reel life, villains in real

The verdict of the hon. Supreme court granting 5 year imprisonment to Sanjay Dutt has attracted a lot of debate in the past few days. The whole Bollywood fraternity showed support to him. Some of them also suggested pleading to the governor of Maharashtra to grant him mercy on the grounds of suffering he had in the last 20 years. Justice Markandey Katju, Chairman PCI, went on to say that because his family has sacrificed a lot for the country and his movies have revived the message of Gandhiji in the people, he should be let free.  It is a disturbing thought that so many high profiles could condemn and challenge the verdict on purely emotional grounds. I totally understand the Bollywood sentiments. They have a lot of investment on Sanjay Dutt. But such a statement coming from a retired Supreme Court judge provokes me to ask ‘Is the judiciary biased towards powerful and rich’?

The conviction of Sanjay Dutt was no ordinary. He was convicted under the arms act, which calls for punishment anywhere between 5 to 10 years. He was having 3 AK-56 rifles, 9 magazines, 450 cartridges, a 9mm pistol and over 20 hand grenades. That’s not the complete picture. He got these grenades from Abu Salem, who then used to work for Dawood Ibrahim. Friendship and deals with the underworld people, who were responsible for the 1993 Mumbai Blasts, does not seem a small offence to me. Again, even after getting arrested, Sanjay Dutt had the luxury of taking help from the best legal counsel available. This was not the case with some other convicts, who might have spent a lot more time in jail, even if their crime was less than his. On another statement by the PCI Chairman about spreading gandhigiri and doing charitable work, there is need to do this for PR purpose rather than a sense of Social Service. I believe such activities are more of an initiative to escape your name as a criminal to the one as a good person/saviour. If tomorrow, Salman Khan gets convicted for the charge of poaching of a blackbuck or hit and run case, a wave of sympathy will again run and people will call for his philanthropic endeavours. True, there might be some development done by his charities, but does that reduce the magnitude of his crime.

Thankfully, we people are driven by emotions but the law of a country is not. The Supreme Court judgement has atleast increased by confidence in the judiciary is still not completely biased by money and muscle. Hope that the people of this country also see that the constitution and the law of a country is a bigger than an individual.

The art of selling – story of my placement

The last few weeks have been a hell of a journey. This post is mainly about my tryst with the placement season. Most of the blog post was written the day after I got placed (which is more than a week ago). Blame my laziness; I didn’t take the pains to write anything after that day. Only today, after a height of boredom, I decided to get back to writing. So here is my story:

December is the month where placement season starts at all the IITs. The slots for the first few days are generally given to the core companies and management companies having a good pay check. All the technical companies had a CGPA cut-off and I could not even write the preliminary test.  So, with a screwed CGPA and little knowledge of coding, getting into big technical firms was out of choice for me. The only domain where I could fight up at equal level with my colleagues was Consultancy and Management.  Being a new IIT and the focus of Placement Cell being bringing as many technical companies as possible, I was left only with peanuts to choose from.

I started with the preparation for placements only in late October with aptitude, logical reasoning and verbal ability. Many of my friends had written GRE and CAT by then. So, I was a late starter. Also, there was an arrangement made by the placement cell to have a few sessions on programming skills. I attended those lectures hoping to atleast put up a fight when the IT companies come.

Our end semester ended on 27th of October. The first preliminary test for one of the best technical companies was on 28th. I could not appear for it because of my CGPA. The next test was on 1st of December of another big shot technical firm. Luckily for me this time, I could appear for it. But, as expected, I couldn’t get past the preliminary test. In the afternoon session, I gave three back to back tests. I came at my room at around 9 p.m., exhausted and tired. I called my parents, told them that the placement season has started and that I am trying to get one. A small conversation with them helped me gain some confidence. I looked at hot Group Discussion topics for the next hour or so and went to sleep much earlier than my normal schedule. I believe this was one of the best things to happen that day and I realized it after I got placed the next day.

December 2nd was the D-day, when Flipkart came to recruit for the post of management trainee from our college. I woke up early, took shower (at 6 am in December :D) and wore formals for the first time in my life. I was confident to put up a fight in the placement process. The placement process was an aptitude test followed by a group discussion and personal interviews. More than 2/3rd of the students eligible for placements gave the aptitude test. Sixty questions in sixty minutes. I somehow just managed to complete the test in time. I was sure of getting into the group discussion round. I was expecting around 30-40 shortlists for the group discussions. But then, news came that the Flipkart recruitment team could not come to our campus for some reasons and that there will be Skype interviews for the candidates. As group discussion was cancelled, the number of selected candidates was expected to be somewhere around 10-15. The list was to come up in half an hour. I came back to hostel to have breakfast. While I was having the breakfast, one of my friends told that I had been shortlisted for the interview. I quickly finished the breakfast and went to the institute.

There were 15 of us. I was 10th to be interviewed. The first person told the kind of questions that the interviewer was asking. It was mainly a resume based interview. I made some changes in the resume and highlighted my managerial abilities. I expected some questions that he might ask from my resume and rehearsed the answers for the same. My turn for the interview came. I was asked with the following questions:

1. Tell me about yourself?
I told him about my childhood and educational background, my internship at Rakshak Foundation and another Organization I have been associated with.

2. Tell me more about your internship project at Rakshak Foundation?
I was expecting this question. I had prepared a long answer for the same. I gave him my project summary on ‘Improving catering services in Indian Railways’. I explained him my research methodology, my field visits, my interaction with officials from the government, NGO and the corporate sector, my recommendations and their possible applications.

3. Tell me more about other NGO you are associated with?
Again I was expecting this. I told him that we are looking at reducing the educational disparity that exists in the country. As a part of the organization, I had a chance to interact with more than 500 students and 30 teachers. In addition, we have conducted a career counselling session at two schools. I added the vision and mission of our organization.

4. Why do you want to come into the corporate sector when your heart lies in the NGO sector? Would you continue your association with NGOs after joining flipkart?
I was taken aback by this question. He raised a valid point. But I quickly composed myself and gave examples of various personalities I met during my internship. I gave him the example of founder of Rakshak Foundation who is a senior manager at Adobe in Silicon Valley.  I gave him another example of a dynamic personality we had at one of the guest lectures Rakshak who was Director in Microsoft, New Seattle but also ran a few non-profit organizations. I added that as a person who has been lucky enough to get good education, I feel it is a moral obligation for me to do something for the society. I added that given a chance, I would like to rise in the corporate ladder as well as give back to society.

5. Do you have any questions to ask?
I said I had read about the job profile and I don’t have any doubts. Just after I finished saying this, I realised that I should have asked any random thing to prove my interest for the job. Anyways, the damage (if any) was done.

The interviewer told me that the interview was over. All throughout the interview he had this strange expressionless face. Probably that was to make the candidates uncomfortable. I was not very sure whether my answer on NGO vs Corporate appealed to him. But then, there was nothing I could do. My fate had been sealed. I came out, met my friends and told them about the interview. I was again, thinking about whether the answer appealed to him. Tensed, I went for a walk around the college. This helped me relax a bit. By the time all the interviews finished, there were only 6 of us waiting for the results.  Coincidentally, all the 6 of us were selected for the position. We celebrated there, called back our friends and rushed to the hostel. Then again, there were congratulatory messages from friends from the hostel which was followed by a small treat at cafeteria. After all the celebrations, when the news finally sunk in that I got a job, I finally called my parents and told them that I’ve been placed. My father replied ‘Motha Zhalas’ (You’ve grown up). That was the moment of the day for me!

P.S. (1): A few things that I learnt from the placement process:

Being Positive: From my experience, placement season is the toughest time of the entire four years of engineering, atleast for those who have job as the only option for the future. The rejections in the interviews, the frustrations in not being able to qualify the written test and most importantly, peers getting placed leads to high loss of self-confidence and  sometimes, depression. Just before the day I was placed, I had not been shortlisted in any of the companies. But then, only a small belief ‘stay in the game till it is not over’ let me through.

Friends are of a great help: The time I got shortlisted for the interview, I had a call from few of my friends here. They all gave me some motivational talk which enhanced my confidence. Believe me, those few words by friends at the high time were a great morale booster. I told them ‘job mile ya naa mile, fight maarke aata’(Whether I get placed or not, I’ll put up a fight).

Play on your strengths: There were people in the test as well as shortlisted for the interviews who had better profile than me. I knew my limitations. That is why I highlighted only the points which I was comfortable in my interview. In the first question, where he asked me to introduce myself, I smartly emphasized on the points I wanted him to enquire more about. I decided the flow of my interview.

Luck: I feel this is a very important factor in the placement process. Strange it may feel to some persons, but placement procedure doesn’t only focus on the profile or the achievements of a candidate but they have more things in their mind. That is why there is an aptitude test. There were many deserving candidates, some even had their profile better than all of us who were shortlisted, but they couldn’t get passed the aptitude test. The highest score in the flipkart aptitude test was 50. The cut-off was 42. I got 44. Who knows, one or two answers here and there and I would have been out.  Again, there were a few people in the interview who were as good as the rest of the selected people. In other companies too, the same story repeated itself. Having a good luck is an asset. It would be needed to connect all the dots, to crack aptitude/technical tests, get into a good technical interviewing panel and finally get through a good HR round.

The above three points that I listed can be cultivated and polished from time to time, but regarding luck, one can only HOPE.

P.S. (2): A big congratulations to all the people who have got placed and best LUCK to all those who are yet to be. 🙂

Imagining a World – The John Lennon Way

There is a reason that the Beatles is the most celebrated band in the world. Apart from the fabulous music they created, they were blessed with two of the best songwriters that got them so many numerous hits – the duo of John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney. Even after the breaking up of the Beatles, John and Paul separately continued to make some great numbers. This post is about John Lennon, or rather, one of the songs by John Lennon.

I do not have a particularly good ear for rock music (apart from a few exceptions). What I like songs with good lyrics. While I was watching the closing ceremony of the London Olympic Games 2012, I stumbled upon one such song. The music was slow and soothing and hence, it was easy to focus upon the lyrics. I liked the song immediately. The song was ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon.  Many of you might be aware of the song. For those of you who are not, thought I might share the same with all of you.

The lyrics go like this …

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

The lyrics of the song were by far one of the best I’ve ever known. The hidden message of living in harmony and unison with each other, breaking the shackles of gender, class, culture, country, and religion is a tough thing to imagine. John Lennon imagined that. In an era where everyone cares about is my country – my life, he gave the symbol of one world – one dream.  The song is like selfless wish list of a child at Christmas. A perfect vision of a peaceful world. Truly only a dreamer could come up with such a creation.

If there is one song that I would like my kids to hear and learn as soon as they are old enough to understand the lyrics, it would be ‘imagine’. Thank You John for giving a wonderful philosophy and I wish someday the dream of the world you gave will be realized.

Oh, I actually forgot to mention the reason I wrote this blog today.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOHN!! You are being missed!

For the video of the song, see on the link below!  🙂
Imagine – John Lennon – London 2012 Closing Ceremony

Oye chotu ….

Very often in our day to day life, we get a chance to fall upon a person we know and call as chotu. We can find him at a roadside dhaba serving hot tea and washing plates, or at a cycle shop repairing the punctures of our vehicles, or near a bus stop selling balloons. I had a chance to stumble upon one such chotu, the same day when I went to a nearby village for my photojournalism assignment. I inquired him about his name, work, on whether he studies. He replied that he stopped his studies about 2 years back and since then has been working at the cycle repair shop.

I decided to look into issue of these chotus in more detail. Upon some basic research, I learned that the government of India in the year of our lord 2009 passed a bill which grants right to free and compulsory education to every single child in the country. There is another law which prohibits child labor. It states that children below the age of 14 should not be indulged in any hazardous physical work. There are some other provisions too, such as the mid-day meal scheme to provide an incentive to the children to go to school.

Inspite of all these measures, it has been estimated that about 12.6 million children (2001 census) in India are indulged in one or the other forms of child labor. The reasons might be plenty, there were no schools, there were schools but no teachers, the children were forced to work by their parents, they worked because they wanted cheap and easy source of making money and so on.

But the consequence of all these reasons is that without proper education and guidance, chotu has a very bleak future in this competitive world. The only option chotu will have after getting older is to continue the work in a similar field that he has been doing. Without skills such as English literacy and technical aptitude, securing higher skilled jobs is impossible and coming out of poverty would remain a distant dream.

To keep an economy prospering, a vital criteria is to have an educated workforce equipped with relevant skills for the needs of the industries. The young laborers today, will be part of India’s human capital tomorrow. Child labor undoubtedly results in a trade-off with human capital accumulation.

I believe India will truly be a developed country when we wouldn’t find chotus in the dhabas, cycle repair shops or bus stops but they would be in a place that would make them able to live a life of their choice. A place where these kids get an opportunity to develop physically, intellectually, emotionally and psychologically. A place called SCHOOL.

The Joy of Learning

An assignment in the photojournalism course compelled me to make trips to the villages near our campus to get some photos. For the past three years, I never got any chance to visit these villages. These things were perceived by me as something that was a responsibility of the NSS junta and others had no say in it.  We had a task to bring in pictures based on a particular theme in a village. I was initially a bit skeptical about the whole process. The most prominent question that was continuously ringing in my mind was how people would react to some alien person asking them to pose for the pictures. Again, with the very limited knowledge of telugu language, with the most prominent sentence I have said in my campus life being ‘naaku telugu raadu’ (English meaning : I don’t understand telugu :P), there was a little hope that I would convince the people and get even a couple of photos for the assignment.

The deadline for the submission was 1 week. Thanks to my laziness, the first four days went away just like that. I learnt that the other people have been going to the villages to take pictures. Finally on Thursday, I along with Saurabh decided to make a visit to a nearby village ‘kyasaram’. The village was altogether a different world. Being a person who has been born and brought up in a city, the calmness in the atmosphere there was too soothing. I started with some pictures of the farmers in their field. But then, we had to bring in pictures based mainly on a particular domain. As was already approaching dusk, there was little hope that I could explore more in the farming field. So I wondered which domain I should focus upon.

Just then, I saw a bunch of kids studying in a house. I immediately decided that it is them that I should cover. I went to them. The joy of seeing a camera reflected on their faces. I took some pictures of them posing for the camera to become friendly with them and get a chance to grab their normal expressions. Time passed. They forgot my presence and started their normal studying. It was then I got a chance to capture their expressions.

While taking their pictures, one of the highlighting things that I observed was the zeal and the enthusiasm these kids showed towards their studies. They seemed to be lost in their own fantasy world amid jack and jill, johnny johnny and other nursery rhymes, in learning the basics of number system and memorizing the varnamala. The innocence on their faces coupled with desire to learn was a treat to watch. The joy of learning, gaining new knowledge, the happiness on their faces left me thinking. Thinking when was the last time I studied only for the purpose joy of learning.

Frankly, I had a hard time to remember an instant. In a world where the first thing I do (and I presume most people too) after opening a book is to see the number of pages that I have to mug up for the exam.  And I think there is nothing wrong in doing that, given the fact that there are more things that we have to do. The problem may lie with the education system in general, or the rat race and the peer pressure that we have to face. This has become a part and parcel of today’s world and it will take another post to write on this issue. Some other time.

Anyways, I’ll leave you with a few pictures of these wonderful kids I met. Hope you like them. 🙂

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